Here are some of the best habits or life hacks I've developed over the past few years:
- Max out my retirement. I've actually been doing this since I got my first full time job (or a few years thereafter. Can't remember. It was *a long* time ago. ;-)) Because of that early start, it doesn't even feel like my money. It gets deducted, and is gone. Poof. Not saving isn't an option. now, I realize this isn't an option for everyone, but the earlier you can get this started, the better off you'll be due to compound interest, of course. I've actually upped my game on this over the last two years, and used a January bonus to max out my 401K in the first month of the year. Again, super challenging & I'm lucky enough to have this bonus, but it's great to get it out of the way earlier on in the year.
- Stop using electronics (at least) an hour before bed. This is probably the most life changing of any of my good habits. It started about a year ago, when I realized that every night I was struggling to fall asleep & never sleeping well - I'd have anxiety dreams during the short time I was able to sleep. I now stop a minimum of an hour before bed. This has multiple good results. I get in more reading, it stops me from working so late, and I get amazing sleep. I also get to bed much quicker than I used to. Seriously, try this. If you are using a laptop or a tablet or phone before bed (or, maybe TV, although that was never an issue for me), try it & see if it gives you better sleeping habits.
- Get a minimum of 8.5 hours of sleep a night. I can't achieve this when I travel, but stick to a consistent sleeping schedule every other day. I go to bed around 9:00 pm most nights, and wake up around six. I do this even on the weekend. Staying consistent helps me fall asleep easier. Sleeping is particularly critical for me, as it helps me keep my lupus symptoms in check.
- Track my fruit & vegetable intake. This is a virtuous cycle. If I track, I work harder to get more fruit & vegetables into my diet. When I eat more F&V, not only am I generally eating healthier, I'm also less hungry (all of those foods typically fill you up, at a lower calorie cost), which enables me to reduce my calories, helping me lose weight.
- Prep meals on weekends. When our kids were first born, we spent *a lot* of money on dining out. We weren't good budgeters back then either, but I'd estimate a minimum of 5x what we are spending now. Mostly on takeout, quick restaurant meals, etc. We had a big turning point when we started to prep protein on the weekend. Protein is the critical path for us, as it takes the longest to prepare. You may find that full meals is easiest. Because I have lots of varied taste buds & levels of health in our house, we prep the protein on weekends, plus make larger dinners than be served as leftovers during the week. A few "protein prep" meals would include: browning ground beef for tacos, grilling beef or chicken kebabs, grilled chicken breasts, hamburgers, etc. We freeze all of the protein, and then defrost it quickly & are able to make an easy weekday dinner. Options would include: tacos (chicken or beef) & quesadillas, pasta with chicken, rice & beef, etc. This has saved us so much time & energy (not to mention money) over our previous methods!
- Push yourself. It's hard to quantify this, but I do try to look for opportunities to push myself out of my comfort zone. I've embraced this a bit more as I've gotten older. Recent examples include: moving to another state, leaving my long time employer (17 years), international travel (although not by choice, but have embraced it as much as I can for work), running, biking to work (a total fear of mine). I don't love all of it, but pushing myself means I'm looking for opportunities to improve my life and getting over my fears, and it can be pretty powerful.
I'm sure you have your own amazing good habits - please share! I'm always looking for inspiration on how other people manage their time, lives, money, fitness, etc.