Can making your bed in the morning and keeping a to-do list get you closer to the life you want to lead? Sociologist Dr. Randall Bell, author of the upcoming book Rich Habits Rich Life: The Four Cornerstones of All Great Pursuits, says yes. Bell argues that there’s a direct link between daily habits and success.
“Success is about what you can control,” he says. While we don’t have any control over the weather, global economies, or morning traffic, we do have total control over our daily habits; our rituals and routines that define who and what we are. Here are some of the daily rituals Bell says can set you on the path to success.
Whether reading before bed, on the train to work, or on your lunch break, setting aside some time to lose yourself in a book has proven to have immense mental, emotional, and health benefits. In 2013, a team of neuroscientists at Emory University published a study in the journal Brain Connectivity that showed reading a novel can improve brain function.
After reading the page-turning novel Pompeii, researchers noted participants showed heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with language, as well as the central sulcus, the primary sensory motor region of the brain showing that reading about running, for example, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act. These neural changes persisted for up to five days of the participants reading.
Another recent University of Liverpool study showed just 30 minutes of reading a week can improve mood. Further, 20% of readers were more likely to be satisfied with their lives. Reading has also been shown to improve sleep and boost self-esteem.
“Every successful person I’ve seen deliberately takes a lot of quiet time where they get away from the digital drugs and the constant text messages and take quiet time,” says Bell. Albert Einstein was famous for hiding out for a week or two without speaking with anyone so he could be alone with his thoughts.
Spending some time in solitude, meditating, or simply being alone in your thoughts allows you to reboot your brain and unwind, and can help you work through complex problems that have been plaguing you. Joseph Murray, an associate professor of education at Bucknell University, found students who engaged in quiet reflection performed better than those who studied in groups.
It turns out your mom was right when she told you to make your bed in the morning. “When you make your bed, it’s a statement to yourself that I have respect for my space,” says Bell. “It puts us in a productive mode and starts our whole thinking right.” So before you leave for work, be sure your bed sheets are tidy.
“A goal not written is only a wish,” says Bell. Writing down goals cements your commitment to them. Written long-term goals and daily to-do lists cause us to be proactive, plan our days, and think ahead to what we want to accomplish, rather than going through each day as reactive, responding to whatever comes along, and getting distracted from our long-term goals.