7 Itzy Bitzy Keystone Habits That Will Transform Your Life.

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:

1. 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.”

2. 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.

3. Get some kind of movement first thing in the morning. Spend just 10 minutes walking or running or doing push ups. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

5 Ways Making Your Bed Will Make You a Better Person

Full disclosure, I am a reformed bed maker. I never made my bed as a kid, teenager, college student, newlywed or mother. Ok. I made my bed after washing my sheets, but beyond that or having company over, never. I would think, I’m so busy, there isn’t enough time, no one will know the difference. Then I dated a guy for several years who was probably best described as OCD. I learned a lot from this guy including, how to do perfect laundry (hint: hang everything immediately), how to make the perfect margarita (hint: fresh lime juice) and how to make your bed every day. Actually it wasn’t literally how to make your bed but more so the habit of making your bed. I began to appreciate the Zen of making your bed and, eventually, it became my habit as well.5 Ways making your bed will make you a better person

At least once a week, I leave the house before my husband is out of bed. When I arrive home, if the bed is not made, I feel let down. So no wonder that meeting didn’t go well. I immediately repair the situation and make the bed. Whew. Relief. As my husband says, the shui is back, as in feng shui. Feng shui is an eastern philosophy of positive energy flow. Regardless of what some Taoist said 3,000 years ago, a made bed feels better.

So here they are. The rationale behind making your bed everyday:

1. Productivity. Charles Duhigg’s, The Power of Habit says “Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.” This has been true for me. I am more productive when my bed is made. There is a sense of satisfaction that if I can make my bed, I can get all sorts of things accomplished. It’s the added advantage that it’s normally accomplished first thing in the morning and sets the rest of your day up for success.

2. Head. 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.” I get this. Here is one of the largest objects in your life and it is at peace. There is space. Make your bed to clear out your head. It allows you to address those things that need to be tended to.

3. Chain reaction. Small habits start a chain reaction of big transformation. Duhigg says, “Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes.” Keystone habits beget other habits so if you eat a nutritious smoothie in the morning, you skip going to Starbucks, you read a book instead of watching TV and on and on. It’s like lighting a fuse to momentum. I write better when my bed is made. I feel like exercising, eating better, working harder, being better. So a two minute task can do all that? Let’s do a temperature check. Is your bed made right now? What is the chain reaction either way?

4. Impact. In Gretchen Rubin‘s blog Make Your Bed, she says,” Especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, picking one little task to improve your situation, and doing it regularly, can help you regain a sense of self-mastery. Making your bed is a good place to start, and tackling one easy daily step is a good way to energize yourself for tougher situations.” It seems so small. So mundane. It’s almost like it builds resilience. Hmmm. Instead of having a V-8, make your bed.

5. What is. When I first married my husband, I struggled with trying to get him to make the bed. He frequently slept later than I and my expectation was that last one out of the bed makes it. Well, this was not a priority for him. I held a lot of resentment if he didn’t make the bed. I’ve let that go. As Byron Katie posits “Love what is“. I can spend all day wishing and praying or nagging and cajoling or I can let go and love what is. Find the joy in tasks like making the bed. There are plenty of other tasks that my husband does so ‘what is’ might be me making the bed. ‘What is’ are the two minutes in my life to embrace the simple elegance of making the bed. Set yourself free and love what is.

My kids, as young adults, still don’t make their beds. And I’m not about to twist their arms. The minute they head back to college or their apartment from vacation, I head up to their rooms to make their beds. I don’t know if there can be better energy or chi by proxy through my efforts but I sleep so much better knowing that in the bedrooms above me, there is order and space. Do you make your bed on a regular basis?