Your daily choices drive the trajectory of your life, and habits are just your daily choices on autopilot. But staying on autopilot over time affects the sum quality of your life—for good or for bad.
Here is a daily, monthly, and yearly breakdown of habits, both mundane and meaningful, that when integrated into your routine will increase the quality of your life. Autopilot is a good thing when you’re pointed in the right direction.
1. Go to bed on time all the time.
Prioritizing sleeping for seven to nine hours each night is the best thing you can do to maintain the health of your brain and body, both daily and over time. Sleep rests and recharges your body, enabling you to function better during your waking hours.
2. Carry a book with you everywhere.
Reading makes you smarter as well as more knowledgeable. You may feel too busy to read, but the busiest among us prove that is no excuse. Bill Gates reads about 50 books a year, and Warren Buffett has claimed to read 500 to 1000 pages a day, accounting for 80% of his day. How is that possible? Stephen King, another prolific reader, has been spotted with his nose in books at baseball games or in line at theaters, proving the point that there is time to read throughout all our days. With a book on hand, you can now fill that time.
3. Write in a journal.
Writing in a journal every day helps you get perspective on your day, your life, and your feelings. You don’t need to be an experienced writer to keep a journal; just try writing a couple of lines before bed. Journaling every day before bed or in the morning before work allows for reflection, a habit easily lost in the hassle of the day.
4. Run or raise your heart rate for 30 minutes.
The benefits of exercise are almost inexhaustible, but few of us regularly plan exercise into our day. The easiest way to make sure you exercise every day is to make exercise an integral part of your day rather than just a pit stop. If possible, start riding your bike to work, or take a 30-minute walk after lunch or after dinner. Make your exercise unavoidable.
5. Unplug from work and the internet.
The easiest way to do this is to turn off your phone at a certain time each night, like after dinner, and keep your computer out of relaxing spaces like your bedroom or living room. Consciously shutting off the digital distraction of email or social media notifications gives you the time to relax and focus on other things that are more important to you.
6. Save first, spend second.
When making a budget for the month, plan how much of each paycheck you will put in savings, then calculate the rest of your budget. Setting aside money for savings first enables you to save more and use the rest of your monthly income more wisely.
7. Check investments and manage loans.
The beginning or the end of each month is a good time to check in on any investment accounts and adjust where needed, as well as make any loan payments.
8. Clean every room in the house.
You should clean each room in your house at least once a month. The easiest way to accomplish this is to clean a room or a couple of rooms, depending on the size of your house, each weekend. Don’t forget to get the baseboards and clean under furniture or appliances, too.
9. Wash and declutter your car.
Along with cleaning every room in your house, you should show your car some love each month or so by taking out the trash and washing it. This is a good time to also check if it is overdue for an oil change.
10. Update and back up your digital assets.
Every month you should round up all your pictures, documents, or videos that you wish to keep—whether they’re from social media or elsewhere—and store them in the cloud and on an external hard drive. The internet really isn’t forever, and you shouldn’t trust third parties to always be there to host your personal stuff.
11. Go to the doctor.
The importance of a yearly physical grows as you get older. You may have been able to skip the yearly physical when you were in your early twenties with few repercussions, but skipping a physical as you grow older can have dire consequences, especially in regard to the prevention or diagnosis of potentially terminal illnesses.
12. Go somewhere new.
Just because you’re now an adult doesn’t mean you’re no longer allowed to live a little. In fact, as an adult, you should embrace the ability to visit new places and people. While it may take more planning than those planned-for-you trips at school, it will be well worth the time and money.
13. Visit your hometown.
Nothing makes you feel older—and wiser—than visiting the haunts of your youth in your hometown. Not only does it allow you to reflect on time gone by, but it also may help you reconnect to the hopes you had for the future while you were young. Remembering those dreams in the context of your adult life can be helpful in determining what you want to accomplish in your near future.
14. Flip your mattress.
Mattresses become less supportive overtime and should be replaced every eight to 10 years. But you can minimize the wear and tear on your mattress by flipping it once a year.
15. Do your taxes.
If you still submit your taxes under duress on April 14, stop. Instead, this year, try submitting your tax returns by the end of February. By beating the rush, you will get your tax refund earlier and save yourself an unnecessary headache.
16. Check your credit.
Even if you are not seeking a loan, checking your credit report regularly is important not only to know why debts are dragging your score down but also to check for credit fraud. You can check your credit for free at http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
While the majority of these tasks are mundane, they are the tasks that help shape the quality and security of your life. It is only when you feel safe and secure in your life that you are able to thrive.