Patience is a virtue. Or so you’re told.
You know that some of your goals won’t get achieved overnight. You’re prepared to be persistent, and bang away every day to achieve your goals. To deliver results.
Some people have oversized celebrations for interim successes, but those seem hollow. It feels like pulling out of a marathon race at the ten-mile mark to celebrate your progress. What’s the point?
And yet…sometimes there is enjoyment in winning the little battles. When you’re gaining an edge on the competition. Or even your peers. When you’re getting farther. Faster.
You don’t have a lot of time and you don’t want to get sidetracked from your most important daily and weekly tasks.
I think you can gain an edge on others in tiny regular bursts of focus. Of accomplishment. Of discipline.
Habits. Small ones. With a purpose.
Here are 15 habits that take one minute or less to help you gain energy, efficiency and productivity. Daily. They’ll also help you become more effective over time. They’ll build confidence. And momentum.
One minute. That’s all it takes.
Powerful, Healthy Habits in a Minute. Or less.
1. Say a positive affirmation. Positive affirmations are positive statements or phrases that serve to counter the negative thoughts that we all have. Your subconscious mind, where 90% of your brain function occurs, can’t tell whether something in the past actually happened, is just your interpretation of something that happened, or your own voice saying something as fact. Positive affirmations help us to reprogram our subconscious and eliminate lots of head trash that isn’t serving us well. (Some examples: “I will succeed today,” or “My work improves the lives of others.”)
2. Get up and walk. In 60-seconds you should be able to take 100 steps. It may not make a dent in your daily 10,000 step goal, but it will do wonders for your health. Don’t limit your walking to one concentrated hour once a day. You need to get up and move hourly. It will help eliminate the aches, pains and general joint issues that can develop when you sit too long.
3. Wait one minute before you press send on that long email, or more importantly, the emotion-filled email. When you’re on a roll and cranking out the emails, you get a shot of dopamine when you hit “send.” You’ve accomplished something. You’re productive. Until you realize that you left out some necessary information. Or copied the wrong person. Hesitating for even thirty seconds to make sure that the content, tone, audience, etc., are all appropriate, can save you significant time and stress from trying to address omissions or mistakes after the fact.
4. Save your eyes by employing the 20 second rule. We all spend so much time staring at screens of one kind or another (smart phone, laptop, television, iPad, etc.), Eyecare professionals recommend that for every 20 minutes of screen time, look away for 20 seconds, by looking at something 20 feet away. The problem of endless screen-starring has been exacerbated by the increase in virtual meetings and the related Zoom fatigue. Give your eyes a break.
5. When stressed, shut your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Humans spend way too much time torqued up in a stress response / fight or flight mode, and they carry the residue because they got mad in traffic on the way to work or a customer pushed their buttons two hours ago. The response worked well when we were avoiding being eaten by an animal in the wild. It’s unhealthy to stay in that mode for more than a few minutes. Shut your eyes, take deep breaths and feel the sensation of air going in and out of your nostrils. You’ll relax…and then wonder what got you so upset in the first place.
6. Drink sixteen ounces of water when you wake up. During the night our bodies dehydrate. According to the Journal of Biology, the human brain is made up of 73% water. Hydrating it first thing in the morning gets your brain firing on all cylinders and prepares you for the day. If you start the day with your brain working sub-optimally, you make bad decisions…and it goes downhill from there.
7. Ask “Is this the best use of my time right now?” right before you begin to get consumed by a task. We often jump into activities out of habit, or without a lot of planning. When you are clear about your priorities for the day, and aware of your high-return tasks, you have context for evaluating how you can best spend your time. Asking this question allows you to course correct. When you’re thirty minutes into a google search or looking for a lost form, this can save you from hours’ worth of wasted time.
8. Sit up straight, with your lower back against the back of the chair. As a society, our posture stinks. We spend way too much time hunched over our laptops or staring down at our phones. Your back, neck — and even your hips — weren’t designed for these awkward positions for extended periods of time. The alternative is to get a stand-up desk (and actually stand up when you use it!).
9. Do one minute of intense exercise. Walk up a flight of stairs. Do ten push-ups. Do five if that is all you can do. Hold a plank for a minute. It clears out your brain. It provides a stress re-set. It gives you shot of energy. Don’t worry if people are watching. This is about your health, not their opinions. Some people will follow your example. Some will want to, but will be too concerned about what people will say — and they’ll get more sloth-like by the day.
10. Meditate for a minute. Shut your eyes, clear your mind, focus on your breathing — long, slow and from your diaphragm. Rub your thumb against your fingers and feel the ridges of your fingers. It will help you focus and clear your mind of clutter. Yes, this may sound like #5, but you don’t have to wait until you’re stressed to benefit from meditation. Over time, you’ll get more comfortable extending the time you devote to this habit. If you decide to make this a three-minute habit, that’s not a bad thing.
11. Write a thank you note. Not an email or a text. A handwritten note. Reach out to someone who has had an impact on you — offered support, given you an idea, offered encouragement, or made a valuable introduction. Be specific about what they did that you are thankful for. When you take the time and acknowledge someone, it validates them and lifts them up. The simple act can keep them emotionally connected to you. Sometimes when I have done this, the recipient had no idea that they’d impacted me to such a degree. It has strengthened our relationship and created new opportunities for us to deliver value to one another.
12. Get things out of your head and into a notes file. I use the Notes app on my iPhone. When you hear an idea or have a thought to do something, write it down. Later you can schedule time to evaluate what actions to take. By writing it down when the thought comes to you, you avoid the brain damage of trying to remember all the details and ideas that surface during the day.
13. Cross one thing off your to-do list. If you’re like most people, you have items on your to-do list that you will never get to. It sits there as a distraction. Cross it off the list. You’ll have the satisfaction of saving yourself time, and the daily tease you get from the “important, but not important enough to make my top three priorities.” Let it go. If you want to get a real rush, cross off two items. Now how good did that feel?
14. Get uncomfortable. As a leader, you’re battling forces every day — inertia, apathy, distraction, to name a few. You have to keep pushing yourself. Incorporate minute challenges into your daily routines. Use your opposite hand to brush your teeth — while standing on one foot. The challenge of the opposite hand fires your brain to think more creatively, and the daily effort to improve your balance will help when all your friends are housebound geriatrics — and you’re still driving and running marathons. Well… maybe you’re still walking to the mailbox unassisted. Other challenges — get the water in your shower as cold as you can for one solid minute. Hold your breath for thirty seconds. Little wins build confidence.
15. Leave an outrageous tip. You will feel good making someone’s week — or month. I’m not talking about a 15 or 20% tip, but a 50% or 100% tip. During COVID, one in six restaurants in the US closed and will not reopen. Some servers are making rent payments and feeding their children with the money they collect in tips. If someone gives you outstanding service, and you get the sense that they may need the money — be extravagant. You don’t have to wait for a reaction or even a thank-you. You’ll know. You made a difference. And it only took a minute.
Success Beckons in Sixty Seconds
You understand the concept of delayed gratification and you know that major results take time. But that doesn’t mean you have to be passively patient.
You don’t want to get lulled to sleep and let other people seize the opportunities out from underneath you.
You can play the long game and still be relentless about taking action each day.
It would also be helpful to know that you’re getting an edge on your competitors. An edge on the rest of the world.
One-minute habits can positively impact your body, your mindset and your effectiveness. Dealing with stress. Impacting others. Impacting today. Preparing for the future.
Pick a single one-minute habit to start. Begin today.
Add a second one tomorrow.
Do them daily. Without fail.
Other people waste minutes, if not hours of their day.
You’ve now got ideas on how to use the minutes in the day to your advantage. For your success.
Sixty seconds at a time.