It turns out…
it’s a lot easier to start an itzy bitsy habit instead of a gargantuan habit. So instead of embarking on a marathon, start with a tiny step like keeping your running shoes by the bed. The point is that it’s a lot easier to train your brain to go into auto pilot in the morning to walk the dog than it is to go out on a 10-mile training run for a marathon. The first time you try a new habit, you barely leave a mark in your brain, similar to footprints left across freshly mowed grass. By the time you’ve been practicing a habit like brushing your teeth, you have a full on, coast-to-coast railroad track laid down in your brain and there is no stopping it.
I’ve actually been walking two miles every morning that I am home. I roll around in bed and think, “Ugh, I don’t want to go out in the heat and humidity. It’s my birthday, take the day off, just go have some coffee and watch TV.” But somehow my brain is hard wired now, get up, brush and floss my teeth, put on my shorts and t-shirt, put on my sneakers and head out the door. I am on auto pilot. Nothing, not even my sloth brain can convince me to stop. Small habits turn you into an unstoppable robot that is on autopilot. This is my morning routine and there is no stopping it. Ever.
So the secret…
as espoused by Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold, is micro resolutions. Make one tiny change that you can easily handle and over 30 to 60 days, it will become a habit. The secret is to only take on one or two at a time (no MORE!). Once it is a habit, it’s like driving to work–you won’t even think about it. It will be unbreakable.
How to use this planner
My suggestion would be to read through the entire planner to see all the various itzy bitzy habits outlined. After reading or skimming the habits, decide which one or two of the 5 main areas you’d like to work on: eating habits, physical habits, organizational habits, mindfulness habits, or keystone habits. Once you’ve established which areas of your life you’d like to work on, print off the last page of the planner and fill in the one or two areas you want to work on. Next up review the sections of the planner that apply and pick out up to 10 itzy bitzy habits to establish in your life. Now commit to up to two habits (no more!) on the last page of the planner and give it a dead line for it to be on auto pilot and keep track of your progress. Once you have up to two habits in your new routine, add up to two more. Rinse and repeat.
25 Itzy Bitzy Eating Habits
Changing your eating habits is really tough. Most of us want to jump into the deep end of the pool and start some rash cleanse regime followed by eating grapefruit morning, noon and night. That is a diet; deprivation. The problem with diets is that most folks see it as a short term fix. So I’ll diet until I lose 20 pounds and then I can jump off the wagon again. The key to itzy bitzy habits is that small changes have more longevity.
Most of these habits below are set up so that when your will power is lacking, like at the end of the day or after a glass of wine, it will be a habit. This way, you never eat in front of the television so you never grab a box of Oreos or a bag of Cheetos. The other habits are all about scheduling, so that (when you might be low on self-control) you will be on autopilot to make that Kale Soup for dinner because it’s already purchased and planned out instead of driving through the fast food lane. Pick out one or two of these and then add after you have the first two changes down. Do NOT bite off more than you can chew (literally); HA HA!
1. Drink a glass of water before every meal.
2. Make a fruit smoothie for breakfast every weekday.
3. Clear the table once you have finished a meal.
4. Take three slow deep breaths before eating.
5. Don’t eat in front of a screen.
6. Don’t eat baked goods (including birthday cake) at work.
7. Plan your weekly meals on Sunday.
8. Make a grocery list.
9. Put your fork (or hand) down between each bite.
10. Eat at a table (as opposed to a desk or while working).
I know what you are thinking.
Why not pick up three at once? I mean, I can eat at a table, put down my fork between each bite and plan my weekly meals on Sunday. I know you can. The problem is they won’t stick. Get a few weeks of just two of them and then add one or two more. This is not a sprint folks! This is the long haul. Here are some more:
11. Banish all food from your car.
12. Eat dinner on salad plates.
13. Keep extra food and bread on the stove.
14. Carry a bottle of water in your purse or backpack.
15. Fill your office candy dish with candy that you dislike.
16. When at a party, drink a glass of water after each alcoholic drink.
17. When at a party, bring your own beverage.
I also realize that you may already be doing some of these.
That’s great. Just add one or two more. Acknowledge that you already have some great habits and add two more for the next three weeks. Save this for later or print it out and pick out two more when you have processed your first few. This is how habits are built to last.
18. No food outside of the kitchen or dining room.
19. Split entrees with a friend when eating out.
20. Put out your credit card before they bring the dessert menu.
21. Eat the same thing for breakfast during the workweek.
22. Eat before grocery shopping to stop impulse buying.
23. Shop for only the items on your grocery list (no Oreos, etc.).
24. Eat with your non-dominant hand.
25. Be the slowest eater at the table.
If you can accomplish one or two of these itzy bitzy habits for a month or two, you will be on auto pilot. You won’t have to think about it anymore. You know how difficult it is to break a bad habit, so once it is engrained in your brain, you will never have to remember to take three slow deep breaths before eating. Trust me, I have done most of the things on this list (not all at once) but over the last few years. Now I don’t even think about it.
20 Itzy Bitzy Physical Habits
Most of the clients that I coach are looking to increase their physical activity. Increasing your physical activity is one of the best ways to pump-up your brain function, your emotional field and it’s an endorphin rush. I’ve had clients call or text me because their boss just yelled at them and the first thing I tell them is to go take a walk. Getting outside and in the elements connects you to the world. It makes you get back into your body instead of lingering in your head.
26. Put your sneakers by your bed.
27. Walk first thing every morning.
28. Park your car in the farthest parking spot.
29. Wear your fitbit all the time.
30. Do 10 squats as you brush your teeth.
31. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
32. Set an alarm on your phone and get up and walk around once an hour.
You’re thinking these things are WAY too easy and it won’t make a difference.
The thing is as Darren Hardy wrote in The Compound Effect, that even if you decide to walk an extra 1,000 steps every day, two weeks from now there won’t be an observable difference but after two years? If you average 2,500 steps a day and all things hold constant, you will lose 13 pounds. So you won’t need new pants for a while but you are still having an impact on your body (and mind).
33. Walk the grocery cart all the way back to the grocery store.
34. Have walking meetings instead of sitting.
35. Go up and down your stairs ten times every morning.
36. Take the long way to every meeting.
37. Commit to driving to the gym three times a week (going in is optional).
38. Walk instead of using people movers or trams at the airport.
39. Spend down time at airports and train stations walking the terminal.
I’ve done #38.
I had a 2 hour layover in Terminal B at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta. I walked that terminal at least 10 times and had over 3 miles racked up. I thought it might be obvious that I was walking aimlessly. I didn’t even get as much as a funny look. People are worried about their little world in public places so unless I was doing the Macarena, I doubt anyone would have noticed.
40. Sign up for yearlong challenges like 2015 (miles) in 2015.
41. Walk your dog.
42. For shorter distances, skip mass transit and walk.
43. Spend 10 minutes on an exercise dvd 3 times a week.
44. Sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair for one hour a day.
45. Walk to the farthest bathroom in the building (or house).
There are so many great benefits from movement.
As written in John Ratey’s book, Spark, movement helps your body utilize energy more efficiently, regular movement helps you be more social, calm down, fight depression, improve focus, and make better decisions. The payoff from one itzy bitzy habit is HUGE.
25 Itzy Bitzy Organizational Habits
The idea for this list started with the wonderful book by Caroline Arnold called Small Move, Big Change. The book starts off with Caroline recounting how as she enter her parent’s home, she hung her keys on the key hook. She was an adult and not living in the home anymore but she was on autopilot in hanging her car keys on the hook. I don’t know about you, but I always end up looking everywhere for my keys. The very first itzy bitzy habit I started due to this book, was to put my keys in a plate near the garage door. It took a few weeks but now even my husband puts his keys in that dish. Groceries and purse in hand, I still drop the keys in the plate as soon as I enter my house. Boom. Habit created. Now we are on autopilot and there is no need to think about it.
The point of these newfound habits is for it to become unconscious.
When you spend anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks working on some small change, you are hardwiring it into your brain. Once it’s hardwired, you do it unconsciously. There is no effort needed anymore. The key plate has been around for over 6 months and I really don’t even think about it anymore. So let’s get started on organizing your life one itzy bitzy habit at a time.
46. Put your keys immediately into a key plate, bowl or hook (obviously).
47. Put your shoes or slippers in the same location.
48. Put your clothes away immediately upon changing (this is for my kids).
49. Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher immediately (this is for my husband).
50. Make your bed.
51. Plug your cell phone in immediately after you get home.
52. Wish your friends happy birthday daily on Facebook.
53. Put packages and groceries away immediately.
54. Take out the garbage when it’s three quarters full.
55. Clean up as you cook.
The other reason you want to improve your organizational habits is that it frees up space in your head.
Clutter is contagious.
Once a dirty coffee cup is left on the kitchen counter, it starts attracting dirty plates, forks and used napkins. Visual clutter is the same as mind clutter. You can’t think as well if you have clutter in front of you. You are given a 100 units of energy every day. So don’t blow them on making decisions about what to wear or what project to work on next. If you prepare the evening before, the next day goes smoothly. President Obama has two colors of suits to eliminate making minor decisions about what to wear. Don’t waste your precious 100 units on making minor decisions.
56. Plan you clothing the night before school or work.
57. Schedule your day first thing in the morning for 10 minutes.
58. Schedule your week Monday morning for 30 minutes.
59. Schedule a project out in small chunks over time.
60. Schedule training for a 5 k race on your calendar.
61. Straighten a room as you leave it (this if for my husband and my pillow fetish).
62. Store your reading glasses in a case (like this one from Thirty-One).
63. Keep one pen or pencil on your desk.
64. Keep pre-prepared client/customer/employee files ready for use.
65. Empty your car of trash every time you park.
66. Keep reusable grocery bags in the trunk of your car.
67. Keep business receipts in a designated section of your wallet.
68. Pay bills on a designated day of the week.
69. Water your plants on a designated day of the week.
70. Clear your desk at the end of the day.
I’m sure many of you already do some of these things so “Good for you!” It’s all about building on your already unconscious habits. Heck, that’s why the list is so long, so you can find one nugget to implement. Pick one and give it a few weeks for it to become your next autopilot.
25 Itzy Bitzy Mindfulness Habits
As Shirzad Chamine says in his 15 minute meditation resource (which is free by the way), “We spend so much time in our head, we can forget we even have a body.” When you think about it our head is about 10% of our body mass but we spend most of our resources and time staying up in our head instead of really occupying our body. Whether it’s a worry loop of “did I close the garage door this morning” or “don’t forget to buy ground coriander” or rehashing the disagreement you had with your partner, we spend a lot of time in our heads while our bodies are just going through the motions.
I love the analogy that Dan Harris uses in his book, 10% Happier, when he experimented in all types of meditation. “Meditation helps you get behind the waterfall (of thoughts).” As I like to say in my workshops, you want to stay out of the back of your head or your limbic system and stay in the front of your head where the prefrontal cortex is. Your best thinking is in the prefrontal cortex. The best way to stay there is to try and be present. Mindful.
So here are the 25 itzy bitzy habits to keep you in the present:
71. Smile when you enter a room.
72. Wiggle and account for your toes.
73. Take three deep breaths.
74. Feel the temperature and texture of the air as it enters and leaves your nostrils.
75. Touch your thumb and index finger to feel the ridges of your fingerprint.
76. Listen for the farthest sound you can hear.
77. Listen for the closest sound you can hear.
78. Feel the weight of your body on the chair as you work.
79. Meditate for 5 minutes in the morning.
80. Try yoga for 5 minutes in the morning.
Being more mindful is also about eliminating distractions.
As Dr. Hallowell describes in his book, Crazy Busy, we all just skim through life. We don’t take time to ponder. I skim emails, texts, articles, and Facebook posts. We are in a constant state of distraction which creeps us back into our limbic system and out of our best thinking. So the next few itzy bitzy habits are about eliminating distraction so that we can get back into the present.
81. Turn off all notifications from social media and email.
82. Have a technology sabbatical after 7 pm.
83. Keep your phone in another room (or off) when connecting with others.
84. Set up rules for spam so it goes to your junk folder.
85. Set up blocks of time to work on important projects.
86. Set up blocks of time to answer emails and phone calls three times a day.
87. Set up emails as tasks so that your inbox is not your to-do list.
88. Touch an email once and decide what it is and handle it.
89. Listen to instrumental music while working.
90. Use Luminosity every morning for 5 minutes.
Another key factor with being present is actually being awake and well rested.
Getting between 7 to 7 and a half hours of sleep a night is critical to success. Zoning out at work or at home with the folks that you love is not healthy. I’ve worked with a ton of clients around sleep I’ve talked with Executives who aren’t able to work as effectively because they aren’t getting enough sleep. This is not a personal issue, if you have employees coming to work zoned out from lack of sleep, they are not doing their best work. So here are some more itzy bitzy habits around being well rested.
91. Go to bed by a set time 15 minutes earlier than before.
92. Leave your technology in the bathroom or kitchen (not in the bedroom).
93. Set your alarm to wake up 5 minutes earlier.
94. Read a fiction book for 15 minutes before going to bed (it helps create dreams).
95. Write 5 things you are grateful for in a journal at the end or beginning of the day.
You might be wondering about the last two habits.
When you are grateful, you are more positive. It’s difficult to be grateful and worry at the same time. By reading a fiction book at the end of the day, it helps kickstart dreams. If you watch the latest from CNN, you are more likely to have restless sleep and start the worry cycle again. Spark some whimsical dreams by reading some classics by Mark Twain or Charles Dickens.
7 Itzy Bitzy Keystone Habits
Keystone or Cornerstone habits are small changes that have a big impact as posited by Charles Duhigg. It’s a small change that has a ripple effect. Like when you start exercising for 15 minutes in the morning. It ripples out to the rest of your day. You feel more energized, you are more productive, you aren’t in a crabby mood and make better food choices. Research has shown that about 50% of habits are unconscious. So the key is to make these keystone habits unconscious. You don’t want to stop and think about it.
We all start the day with about 100 units of energy.
Each time you have to stop and think and make a decision, you’ve lost one more unit. You don’t get them back. So if you depleted all your units of energy by miscellaneous decisions like “what should I wear today” or “what should I have for breakfast” you are using up those valuable irreplaceable units of energy on minor decisions. So when you sit down to work on that big proposal at 3 PM you are spent. The sooner you can incorporate the itzy bitzy keystone habit into your life, the better.
Here they are:
96. Make your bed. Your bed is probably the largest piece of furniture in your life. It takes up a lot of your visual field. When the bed isn’t made, it’s visual clutter. It’s a downer. A made bed on the other hand is a productivity starter. Karen Miller in an article called Your Bed is Your Head, says “Transform your reality. Face what appears in front of you. Do what needs to be done. Make peace with the world you inhabit. Take one minute—this minute right now—to enfold your day in dignity. Tuck in the sheets, straighten the covers and fluff the pillows.”
97. Get 7 hours of sleep. When you are well rested, you think better, you have more energy, you procrastinate less and you have a more positive attitude. The problem is that it’s easy to get sucked into watching “The Walking Dead” or binge watching “House of Cards” on Netflix. When you are at the end of your day your energy and will power are gone. Set up a bed time and stick to it. If you can add 15 minutes of reading a fiction book and keep your technology out of your bedroom, all the better. Set a bedtime and stick to it.
98. Get some kind of movement first thing in the morning. Spend just 10 minutes walking or running or doing pushups. Get your blood flowing. Maybe it’s yoga or walking in place. Put your sneakers next to your bed. Queue the exercise dvd the night before. Set out your gear the night before so that it’s effortless to get up and go. As a client of mine decided, she set up her coffee to automatically brew the night before to save time in the morning to get in some exercise. Move.
99. Separate from the Judge in your head. Give your Judge their voice. As instructed by Shirzad Chamine’s Positive Intelligence, I have been reframing my judgments by giving The Judge a voice. So instead of thinking “I think I look fat in this dress”, think “the Judge thinks I look fat in this dress”. Or “I didn’t get that job because I’m not good enough”, think “the Judge thinks I didn’t get that job because I’m not good enough”. Now the Judge is out in the open and, most importantly, you realize it’s not you. Having a positive outlook versus a negative defensive outlook will transform your life. Out your Judge.
100. Give up on perfectionism. Perfectionism is paralyzing. Regardless of what your mother told you, you are good enough. Mistakes are for learning. You will never regret that your spice rack isn’t alphabetized but you will regret not spending quality time with your partner. Giving up on perfectionism gives you more space to connect to others and isn’t that what life is all about? So don’t worry if your proposal isn’t perfect. Send it off.
101. Try some kind of meditation. At the beginning of your day or at the end or maybe on your lunch hour, find 5 minutes to slip into your body and out of your head. I have to tell you that I have been practicing Shirzad Chamine’s 15 minute meditation for the last few weeks. After meditating, I do three brain challenges from Lumosity. Since starting this new meditation, I’ve been achieving high scores on Lumosity. That’s tough to do since I have been using the app for over 2 years. Clearing out my head helps me think better.
102. Try habit stacking. As James Clear writes in his article, Habit Stacking: How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones, “This is a concept called “habit stacking” because you stack your new habit on top of a current habit. Because the current habit is strongly wired into your brain already, you can add a new habit into this fast and efficient network of neurons more quickly than if you tried to build a new path from scratch.” It’s kind of like a two for one. As Clear recommends, fill in this sentence:
After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
So after I meditate, I will play Lumosity. Before I go to bed, I will lay out my exercise gear. After my shower, I will make my bed. Try stacking your habits.
These itzy bitzy keystone habits are much easier if you just try a small slice. One tiny step. So try meditating or exercising for 5 minutes and not 15 to start. I remember getting back to running after surgery a few years ago. I started with just getting out the front steps. The next day, I walked to the mailbox. Within a week I was back to walking two miles. As Darren Hardy says in The Compound Effect, “slow and steady wins the race.” These habits over time will compound and the half a bagel you cut out of your diet today will equal an 8 pound weight loss two years from now.
Time to make some decisions.
It’s time to kick start your itzy bitzy habits. Print off the next page of the planner. Select which of the five areas you want to work on (don’t bite off more than one or two). Then select the ten or so habits that you will embark on in the next 4 or so months. Pick the first two, schedule an end date and track your progress.