Habits That Help Me Stay Healthy + Productive

I’ve come to the conclusion that my spirit animal is actually a plant. Here in Minnesota we’re now in the deep freeze (hard to believe that it was in the 60s only a month ago!) I really don’t love the cold, but the sun is finally shining again this week, and I find myself feeling so much more motivated and feeling that it’s easier to be productive. With that and the craziness of December, I have had to make an extra effort to keep my self-care going in order to survive (let alone thrive!) until winter break. Check out last week’s post for some great self-care resources.

I relate to these plants trying to grow toward the light!

I relate to these plants trying to grow toward the light!

But, even more basic than self-care is my routine - the set of habits that keep me healthy and accomplishing what I need to each week. Here's what I'm doing:

Daily habits/routine:

  • Getting up at 7am on all work days to utilize my most clear-thinking hours in the morning

  • Regular exercise first thing in the morning (so that I don’t have a chance to think about it and choose not to)

  • Vitamins

  • Scheduled practice time - I’m usually at the piano by 9am

  • Sleep - I try to be asleep by 11pm so I can get enough sleep, varying levels of success on this

  • Non-work hours - I try not to work after I get home from teaching around 8pm, unless I have a deadline. I’m not going to be doing quality work at that hour, and rest is important!

  • Taking more breaks (for walks if it’s warm enough, stretching, or snacks)

Other regular habits:

  • Acupuncture - every couple of weeks or so - this is as relaxed as I ever get!

  • Scheduled rest days - Usually Fridays, although now I have trio rehearsal in the morning, and other work activities seem to be sneaking in lately. In any case, I try to make sure I get some quality cat-on-lap couch time.

Batching activities together:

  • Batch cooking on Sunday so I have food ready to go for the week (this helps me avoid shoving random foods into my mouth throughout the day)

  • Plan all lessons for the week on Monday.

  • Weekly check-in on Monday to make sure things like keeping financial info up to date, keeping my computer and space organized, updating my website, etc. get done on a regular basis. Everything on there doesn’t happen without fail, but having it on the calendar every week ensures that those things don’t get neglected for too long.

  • Writing on Tuesday or Wednesday

Staying organized:

  • Trello - I use the app Trello to house all of my to-do lists, structured in columns (Today, Working On, This Week, Next Week, Waiting On, Planning Ahead, Done. I’m a really visual person, so I like being able to drag each card from one list to the next.

  • Reminders - I have many set (using the iPhone app), so that I can avoid forgetting aboutupcoming important activities like quarterly tax deadlines.

  • Scheduling to-do list items - I experimented with scheduling each hour of the day for a while, which, to my surprise, ended up being freeing, because I had to focus on one thing at a time. I eventually stopped doing that in favor of a to-do list written in chronological order and generally scheduling to-do list items for a specific day, which works pretty well (when I stick to it)!

Habits I’m still working on (baby steps!):

  • Yoga - 10 minutes at a time, 3 times a week

  • Meditation - I used to be in a great habit of 5-7 minutes per day (not much but still helpful), motivated by the number of days in my streak on the Insight Timer app, but have struggled to get back into it. Maybe I need a more consistent time of day.

  • Stretching - I need to be better about taking care of my body so that I avoid repetitive stress injuries.

  • Always getting enough sleep

I’m always assessing and tweaking how my routines should work. I can’t imagine how overwhelmed I’d be without these systems - they automate ways to stay healthy, and free up space in my mind that I can then use for creative pursuits.

My winter break starts at noon on Saturday, so I’m now confident that I’m going to make it! I wish you all restful holidays with as little stress as possible.

What are your essential habits that help you stay healthy and productive?

Rebecca Hass

Pianist and composer