10 habits that helped me in 2020

This year was unlike any other. I have it basically as easy as anyone — I’m not in an at-risk group, I have two young kids that keep me on my toes and I’m grateful that I have a good job that I can do from home. But even then, it’s still a mental game to not go crazy stuck inside my house. Some days are much better than others and I’ve found there’s a handful of habits that have really helped. Sharing here in case they’re helpful to others:

  1. Wake up earlier: Morning routines are always important but having some time to myself before I need to take care of the kids is the most important thing I can do for my sanity. Waking up even 15 minutes early makes a difference (and I aim for 30–60 minutes if possible). Over time I add more and more things to my morning routine but that time to myself is key. It’s worth going to sleep early for this.
  2. Stretch 1st thing: I’m getting old! Early in 2020 I had a sore back and started realizing that my friend Rachel’s mom was right, “You’re only as old as your back.” So the first thing I do every morning is stretch. Even five minutes makes a huge difference. I’d started this earlier in life so if you’re reading this and you’re still young, start now!
  3. Breathe! I read this book on Breath and it’s really helped how I think about that activity we all do all day, every day of our lives. Basically, breathe through your nose and start learning how to do various forms of pranayama (breath work) — how you breathe really matters. Check out this Wim Hof video for a guided, more intense form of breathing too.
  4. Walk each day: When your day gets busy, you have to STEP AWAY FROM YOUR COMPUTER — A WALK WILL REALLY CHANGE THINGS. 10,000 steps is a great goal and all but I find that it’s harder to do that than just forcing myself to walk without my phone for 30” each day.
  5. Enjoy the simple: Turns out living in your house 24x7 requires a lot of cleaning, doing dishes & laundry. I try to treat them more like meditation since I might as well make the most of them. Learn to love the routine.
  6. Add some Infrequent Joys: These are things you don’t do every day but that you can get better at by just doing once every week or so. For me it’s been baking bread. Even doing it once a week, turns out that after like 40 weeks you get better… and you get to eat it at the end! These aren’t daily habits so they’re less pressure but they are something to look forward to.
  7. Drink less coffee: I started tracking my mood and it turns out that every day I was more stressed was because I had more coffee (it shouldn’t be shocking that using too much stimulant would do this but alas). I now try to keep it to one (large) cup a day in the morning which really helps…
  8. Take social media off your phone: Look, you aren’t going anywhere so you don’t really need these apps on your phone. Having that extra friction of having to go to a laptop to use social media really helps me focus — without that I found I was on Twitter all the time… When the world goes back to normal put it back on, but until then, give yourself some space.
  9. Meditate before bed: I used to read before going to sleep (did that for decades) but instead I now meditate and have found it (a) helps me find more time to meditate (which I always wanted and never did) and (b) it helps me sleep better. Give it a try :)
  10. Be gentle on yourself: Recognize that some days you’ll be more motivated than others and that’s OK. Some days you’ll feel on top of the world, and others you’ll just be counting down the hours — take advantage when you have energy and then be forgiving when you don’t. It’s all about cycles — when you lose track, go back to zero and repeat.

That’s it and they’re all free :)

If you’re reading this, you made it through 2020!! Hurray! Wishing you a happy 2021. On Twitter — @gasca; and here’s a list of other work I’ve written.

PS — here are two articles that I’ve also found helpful: On the topic of mindsets for dealing with long-term uncertainty we can learn from dog sledding (tldr: take breaks BEFORE you need them). And we can also learn from astronauts how to live in confined spaces (tldr: exercise a lot + structure your days).

San Francisco | @gasca on Twitter