What are you doing to yourself? This is one big question that you always have to ask if you find that you’re not getting ahead in life.
Sure, there could be dozens of other reasons why you’re not getting ahead, but if these are things that are out of your control, there’s not a lot of point in worrying about them. It’s the things that you can control and change that you ought to focus on so that you can turn things around.
These could be tiny little things that take a minimum of effort to change, or they could be big, ingrained habits that will take a lot of effort to break. But either way, the power is in your hands!
The first step is recognising what you might be doing that’s keeping you from getting ahead. Once you can see that clearly, it’s time to make changes. So if you have these six daily habits, you’re holding yourself back in life, and it’s time for that to end.
1) Staying up too late
I’m starting with this habit because it’s the one that I’m still guilty of the most. I know how detrimental it is to stay up late at night, but it’s a real struggle to resist doing it.
There are just so many things to do in a day, and I wish there was an extra hour or three each day just to get it all done. I love learning, listening to music, and reading late at night. I also like to do creative projects like writing and art when it’s late. Like many people, I feel more creative later in the day.
However, we humans have evolved on a planet that has extremely consistent 24-hour days, and our interior clocks (aka circadian rhythms) are in tune with this cycle down to the cellular level. So, the average human sleep-wake cycle follows this 24-hour period.
So, how many of those 24 hours should you spend sleeping? Sleep experts recommend seven to eight hours a day for adults to be in good physical and mental health. And these sleeping hours are made up of roughly 90-minute cycles. We should get four to six of these cycles per night.
If you stay up too late, but you have to get up at a set time in the morning, you’ll do two naughty things to yourself.
First, you’ll cheat your mind and body out of the sleep they need. And second, you’ll risk your alarm waking you up before the end of one of your sleep cycles. If that happens, you’ll feel groggy and confused for a while. Try to break this habit to take proper care of yourself!
2) Hitting snooze
Why do you consistently hit that snooze button? It’s probably because you didn’t get enough sleep at night, but also because you’ve interrupted yourself in a sleep cycle, and you don’t feel ready to get up.
The natural breaks between sleep cycles are the times when your brain comes back to alertness. If you get enough sleep, your body will naturally want to wake up in the morning at the end of a cycle.
You don’t need an alarm. But if not, you’ll wake up to that cringeworthy electronic beeping that rips you from your peaceful slumber. You peek at the time and think, “I could get away with another ten minutes.” But hitting snooze and going back to sleep doesn’t do the trick.
Here’s why. You’ve already broken your sleep cycle, and you were probably in deep sleep if you woke up feeling groggy. When you try to go back to sleep, you’re going to re-set and start a new cycle, which starts out with light sleep. That light sleep is low-value sleep if you even truly get back to sleep at all.
It’s frustrating because you snooze and snooze again but gain almost nothing from it. But you do waste your morning and often make yourself late. So stop hitting snooze; get to bed on time, and you won’t need to anymore anyway!
3) Skipping meals
There’s a raging debate going on these days over which meal is the most important of the day. For a while, everyone claimed it was breakfast.
However, a lot of people don’t have breakfast, or at least don’t eat very much, and still have energy and don’t gain extra weight by eating more later in the day. But in general, skipping meals when you’re hungry is still a bad idea.
If you’re not hungry (be honest!), then you likely don’t need the calories, and that’s fine. But if you are hungry, your body could be crying out for sustenance, and it’s not something you should ignore.
If you’re trying to lose weight, just keep your meals small and eat lower-calorie foods like vegetables to fill you up. This helps keep your blood sugar levels consistent instead of going up and down like a rollercoaster.
If not, you’ll run out of energy easily and not be able to get your tasks done and achieve your goals. Then, you’ll probably reach for those high-sugar snacks to boost you back up. This is a vicious cycle that you can easily break by eating three or more small meals each day.
4) Not limiting screen time
If you have the daily habit of falling into multiple online rabbit holes, you’re really holding yourself back. “Rabbit hole” sounds nice, if a bit disorienting.
I think these moments should be called black holes because they suck up all your time and energy, leaving nothing behind. Don’t get me wrong. The online world is rich and incredible. There’s so much out there (in there?) to do and explore.
If you’re using your resources to learn and grow, that’s excellent! But if you’re staring at your screen for hours a day just to scroll through social media posts or chains of ten-second videos, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Aside from likely shortening your attention span, you’re just wasting an incredible amount of time that you could be using to do productive things. So set yourself a time limit and follow it. You’ll suddenly find those extra hours you’ve been wishing for!
5) Staying still
They say that sitting is the new smoking, and I doubt it’s an exaggeration. We all know that exercise is great for your body—it’s what it was designed for!
Regular exercise helps keep you from gaining weight, makes you strong, improves your brainpower, and protects against diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and even dementia.
Why wouldn’t you exercise? Well, it’s hard. There’s a show you want to watch. You have things to do. I understand, but staying still and inactive is really holding you back from good health and even oxygenating your brain.
Look, I’m a writer, so I know what a challenge it is to stay active during the day. My job is to sit, stand, or even lie down in one spot and write, and I do this all day. But to protect myself against all the negatives of inactivity, including just feeling sore and lousy all the time, I set an alarm.
When it goes off, I have to drop what I’m doing and do some stretches and squats or take the dog for a quick walk. No matter what, I have to get up.
Do I lose precious work time? I’m fastidious about logging my hours, and since I started doing this, my productivity hasn’t changed one bit. This implies that when I’m sitting, my brain and concentration are better, making up for the lost time. And do I feel a whole lot better physically? You bet!
We all have stress in our lives. Believe me, I know. But there’s a difference between dealing with stressful things and stressing too much about things that you shouldn’t.
Stress can even be a positive motivator. Surely, when a deadline is rapidly approaching, you complete your work quickly. But excessive stress and worry are not things you need in your life. “All fine and good for you to say,” I hear you thinking, “But how do I simply eliminate stress from my life?”
I know that’s not possible, but there are ways to minimise its effects. First, you have to stop worrying about things that are out of your control. If there’s nothing you can do, worrying won’t help.
And second, you need to find time to relax and de-stress. This can be an occasional spa day, morning yoga, meditation, sports, or any other positive form of relaxation that helps you relax.
If you have these six daily habits, you’re holding yourself back in life. But while a few might be really challenging to break, most take only a little effort and discipline to change. Once you do, you’ll find you have more energy, focus, and free time, plus better health.