Creating a routine will set you up for good habits in the future.
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I found you on Linkedin and love your healthy lifestyle tips! I just started a small business online but I’m feeling the struggle juggling it with my full-time job (need to pay bills) while trying to live a healthy lifestyle. I know I’m able to do it and willing to sacrifice but honestly, I’m starting to hate life a little. It sucks to feel overwhelmed but I really want to make this work!! What are some things I can do to make my life more balanced? Thanks!!
— Marielle D.
Hi Marielle! This is a great question and one that many more people should be asking because it shows that you understand the paradoxes of life and are willing to put in the work to make your dreams come true. I love that!
Disclaimer: These are just examples of my routine. What works for me may not work for you because our lives, environments, and genetics are so different. What I do with the vast amount of data I inhale daily is to take everything with a grain of salt, test different methods after doing my own research, and find out what works best for me. If I have to change something later on, that’s OK because our bodies themselves are constantly changing.
If anyone starts to hate their life, a reason may be because they don’t have a healthy routine.
We all want “freedom” and autonomy but there’s a trade-off to everything. Freedom requires discipline. That means doing things you don’t want to do and eating healthy foods you don’t want to eat.
Healthy routines ground us. We may not be consciously aware but we are wired to survive as a species and we need to be healthy so when we aren’t living a healthy lifestyle, anxiety is going to start creeping in.
But I have good news for you, your brain is incredible and it’s plastic. You can rewire your brain to like new things — even that kimchi or fish skin that you hate! And everyone’s favourite: going to a gym full of smelly people.
Guess what? Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in life if you want to take yourself to the next level. Trust me, if you’re constantly getting everything you want, life starts to get boring and you become complacent because we need challenges to grow.
I’m a serial entrepreneur and I run a digital agency along with a bunch of other side hustles. I work a lot but I don’t consider myself a “workaholic” because I love what I do.
How did I get here?
I prioritize my health and well-being, and because of that, I’m able to work productively by understanding my physiology, managing my energy, and taking advantage of the times when I’m the most creative. This gives me peace of mind to do leisurely activities because I have all the basics covered.
My healthy routine
I’ll take a spin on this question. I like to shake my routine up every couple of months or so but I’ll document my current routine for the past month, along with actionable tips and insights.
Because I’m working remotely overseas, my current daily routine is pretty boring but I’m thriving because I had a month of frolicking in the mountainous cycling paradise they call France. I understand balance and I live my life to the fullest but I can’t live without a healthy routine because I know without my health, there’s no point in accumulating wealth.
Of course, your circumstances may be different especially if you have children but hopefully, you can gain a few actionable takeaways to add to your routine.
1) Wake up with no alarm
I usually stay in bed for a while to meditate. I prefer to do at least 15 minutes if I have time but if not, I’ll do two minutes just to not break my habit streak.
It’s important to start your day in “peace” because it sets the tone for the rest of your day.
Pro-tip: you can train your body to wake up with no alarm by going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time. I like to track my sleep with my Oura ring so I can see what keeps me up at night and adjust factors when I need to. It may sound obsessive to some but I’ve been doing this since 2018 so it’s effortless since it’s become a habit.
Meditation changed my life:
- It healed my body from chronic pain and trauma.
- It brings impenetrable inner peace to my life.
- It builds resilience.
- It makes us more patient.
- Our productivity and creativity shoots up.
- Our relationships get better.
- Our lives get better.
Many top performers, thought leaders and CEOs in the world take advantage of these methods to get work done and I don’t know about you, but I have big goals in my life. I need my mind and body to operate at peak performance.
You can learn how to meditate for free. Pick a guided meditation from the free Insight Timer app. There are many under a huge variety of categories such as abundance, anxiety, healing, forgiveness, insomnia, etc. You can filter them so if you are short on time, you can set the filter to show meditations under five minutes.
Now, there is no excuse to get your meditation routine on. I promise it will change your life!
This is one of the easiest thing you can do to take your life and health the next level.
According to science, we shouldn’t be drinking coffee until 1.5 hours after waking because it causes the cortisol hormone to spike too early, causing in an earlier crash and higher tolerance over time by disrupting the natural patterns in our body.
But in the spirit of maintaining a happy, balanced life, I’m aware of all these health hacks and I do them when I can but you can’t always be so strict — that causes even more stress and anxiety.
Some people will tell you coffee is bad for you but everyone’s body is different. I always recommend stopping caffeine at 2 p.m. or even by noon for those who are highly sensitive to caffeine. High-quality coffee is the best source of antioxidants and it wakes our brains up, inducing clarity, focus and creativity.
I mainly drink coffee because it’s routine and I love the taste and feeling of having a latte in my hands — not because I need energy but you do you!
Pro-tip: Dr. Andrew Huberman brought brain-hacking into mainstream popularity. You can check out his podcasts for more brain-spiration, in relation to caffeine. If you want to do something productive with your free time, learning is the way to go because keeping your brain stimulated will make your life more fulfilled.
Upon waking, I sit outside on the patio with my coffee and journal with as much skin exposed as possible in the sunlight for at least 20 minutes before I even put on a hat, sunglasses, or SPF. Even if there is no sun, you’ll get much more benefits from the “sun behind the clouds” than being indoors, behind a window.
Even my future husband (don’t tell my boyfriend! 🙊), Dr. Andrew Huberman, stated:
”Getting sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning is absolutely vital to mental and physical health. It is perhaps the most important thing that any and all of us can and should do in order to promote metabolic well-being, promote the positive function of our hormone system, and get our mental health steering in the right direction. That morning sunlight in your eyes should be a non-negotiable thing 360 days out of the year.”
When you get up in the morning, you really want to get bright light into your eyes because it does two things:
- It triggers the timed release of cortisol, a healthy level of cortisol, into your system, which acts as a wake-up signal and will promote wakefulness and the ability to focus throughout the day.
- It also starts a timer for the onset of melatonin.
Pro-tip: Make sure to supplement with a high-quality vitamin D (best combined with Vitamin K) if you’re not getting enough outdoor sunlight, or if you live in the north where winters are dark. Do your own research but I take high amounts of vitamin D (5-10k IUD daily depending on the season, and more if I’m starting to feel sick). Always consult with your doctor before starting any new supplements.
I love the comfort of moving thoughts from my head onto paper. I don’t have a plan but I write whatever I feel like that day. Examples:
- My intentions for the day.
- A few gratitudes.
- An insight I gained from my morning meditation.
- Random doodles.
- A thought dump that can end up being pages of illegible words but the whole point is getting it down on paper.
Science says writing literally removes thoughts from your brain, clearing your head, and making space for new thoughts and ideas.
Try to maintain a daily journalling practice and let me know what results you see. I promise they will be profound.
- You don’t need a fancy journal. I used a fancy, bulky one daily for three years but because I was travelling a lot this summer, I bought a blank hardcover notebook with grids so I can write and doodle.
- I realized I like to do random brain dumps because my day is already so busy and I don’t need any more structure. Try everything and find out what works for you. There is no right or wrong way.
- I do recommend a high-quality journal with thick paper because it makes for a better experience.
6) Deep work
I love doing a few cycles of deep-focused work in the morning. I’m also in flow state and it’s a great feeling because everything seems effortless.
I like to do my creative work or any high-priority work in the morning when I’m the most alert. Getting the hardest things done at the beginning of your day also set the momentum because knowing you achieved something will energize you to do more.
You also get more done in a fasted state, reducing brain fog because your body isn’t wasting energy digesting food.
7) Meal #1
My first meal can vary anytime between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. depending on my schedule. When I was in my 20s, I unknowingly intermittently fasted for years because it worked with my schedule. In my mid-30s, I began to appreciate the importance of eating a healthy, protein-rich, savoury first meal of the day.
- It keeps my blood sugar stable
- It keeps my hormones balanced throughout the day.
- It prevents me from snacking at night (this was a game-changer!)
Tips from a holistic nutritionist
Please ditch the sugar! We need to put an end to eating sugar-laden pastries for breakfast because it’s no longer cool. However, if you do decide to eat a pink donut or a buttery croissant once in a while, eat it after you have a meal with protein, fibre, and healthy fat such as an egg and a salad with avocado.
I love my croissants and we need to maintain guilty pleasures and there are “hacks” to do it better.
I’m a holistic nutritionist, and we always say: “Don’t eat naked carbs” because the glucose (sugar) will quickly absorb into your blood, causing sugar crashes and insulin resistance over time (for example, diabetes).
You want the glucose to slowly absorb into your bloodstream, and the protein, fibre, and healthy fats will slow the absorption, stabilizing your blood sugar — meaning stable energy throughout the day without a crash until your next meal.
Bonus: Eliminate-the-muffin progression strategy
However, If you’re just jumping into a healthy lifestyle, don’t worry too much about the bigger picture, and focus on the small daily goals instead. For example, if you’ve been eating a muffin every morning, try this instead:
- Eat one muffin every other morning.
- Once this becomes easy, designate a Muffin Monday and Muffin Friyay after a savoury breakfast. You can even throw a Humpday Muffin in there if you need to add an extra step.
- Then it progresses to only a Muffin Monday.
- And finally, full elimination of said muffin. Ciao.
It’s beneficial to understand the foundations early on but don’t feel pressured to implement everything at once. Work with a nutritionist to set smaller attainable goals to rewire your brain.
8) Clean → Move → Back To Work
Back to work! I love my work. I do lighter admin work, editing, or anything that doesn’t require a lot of creativity after meals because digestion uses up a lot of energy. This is the reason for the famous “food-coma.”
Pro-tip: At least 10 minutes of movement after meals can bring your blood sugar levels down by 10 points. This is a significant finding for those who want to take care of their metabolic health.
Because it’s important to move after meals, I make sure to get up, clean, and do a few stretches before sitting down to work again. I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s simply become a habit a.k.a. an effortless thing to do and I’m motivated by the fact that I am taking care of my health. So don’t mind me if you see me shuffling around my house like a maniac after meals.
Better yet, it’s best to go for a 20- to 30-minute walk after meals but this isn’t always feasible so housework it is.
Here in the south of France, it feels lovely to be back at the gym because in Vancouver I only cycle outdoors and work out in my home gym. Never had a problem with that but I’m also a lover of change. You don’t need a gym to stay fit but sometimes it’s nice to be in a motivating environment around like-minded people.
Pro-tips at the gym to maximize productivity:
- Get off your phone. In fact, we should do this more often, everywhere.
- Listen to a podcast or audiobook. I listen to music when I’m mentally exhausted but I love listening to my forever-growing list of audio content I want to get through.
- The gym is not a place to socialize. Get in there, do your thing, and leave! But if you don’t have anything to do after… then, do YOU but I would imagine most serious people at the gym don’t want to be bothered. Life is busy and we prioritize fitness, but it’s not our entire lives and we have other things to do.
- STOP WASTING TIME between sets. Unless you are lifting super heavy, you don’t need to sit there for five minutes on your phone. I do mobility work or foam rolling between sets if I’m not doing supersets of tri-sets (stacking exercises one after the other).
- Go full-body. I never do cardio at the gym when I’m home in Vancouver because I ride my road bikes but when I travel, I only do HIIT (high-intensity interval training) on cardio machines that work my entire body such as the rowing machine, the versa climber, and the elliptical. I pair that with lifting heavy weights. But if you like running or spinning, treadmills and stationary bikes are awesome — the secret to maintaining a consistent fitness routine is doing things you love. Once you have that momentum going for you, you will naturally gravitate to trying new things.
10) Client work
Since it’s morning in Vancouver, I’ll do most of my client work at this time (closer to the evening) even if they’re in different time zones, I like to batch them.
I discovered a secret a while ago: my focus, creativity, and productivity peak after my workouts — especially after one of my usual two-hour bike rides (being outside is a bonus because nature therapy is real). I try to take advantage of these as much as I can.
Powered by endorphins and other brain chemicals, I can do four hours of work in less than half the time.
Pro-tip: I’ll make myself a protein shake and sip on it as I work to feed my muscles for recovery.
11) Meal #2
Did you notice I wrote the meal number instead of labelling it breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Every day is different and what works for me is to eat two large meals. I do have snacks in between. You need to figure out what works for you when it comes to meal timing and that depends on your nutrition goals. Are you trying to lose weight? Build muscle? Healing from an illness?
More nutrition pro-tips:
- Protein is king! Ever since I increased my protein intake, I’m staying satiated throughout the day, snack less, get lean very quickly at the gym (with a combination of HIIT and lifting heavy weights), and my energy levels are through the roof. Peter Attia recently did an amazing podcast with Dr. Don Layman on protein intake. Pro tip: listen to this at 1.5x the speed while you’re working out.
- Fibre is king! Most people don’t get enough fibre in their diet but you need it gets things moving and most importantly, keep your gut microbiome diverse and healthy.
- Healthy fats are king! OK, the throne is getting a little crowded but it’s big enough.
- Healthy unrefined carbs are king! I’m sure we can squeeze in one more of “Your Majesty” up there. Don’t let conventional wisdom tell you all carbs are bad. Healthy carbs such as quinoa, sour dough bread, and lentils are a great source of fibre and keep you full.
Consider working with a licensed dietician or nutritionist because everything beings with what you put in your body. Food and your environment are the cause of many illnesses and it can be reversed with a healthy lifestyle and diet.
12) Relax and shut down
I’ll use this time to:
- Read books, and articles, or go through my RSS feed.
- Scroll LinkedIn or Twitter (my social platforms of choice).
- Journal random thoughts and gratitudes.
I know, I know… we shouldn’t be on our phones at least two hours before bed and I try but if I don’t, I don’t beat myself up. I’m human and my day is busy. Learning and engaging with my community is also important to me and if I don’t have time to get to it until the end of the day, that’s what I’m going to do.
- Avoid blue and bright lights after sunset like the plague. I always wear 99.9% blue-light blockers after sunset, and I make sure my environment is dim to prepare my body for bed. Taking care of your circadian health by living in accordance to the sun cycles is crucial for long-term well-being.
- Go outside when the sun is setting because it will further adjust your circadian rhythm. Here is another of Dr. Andrew Huberman’s wise teachings from one of his podcasts:
”Viewing light circa sunset adjusts the sensitivity of the cells in the eye such that it buffers you against some of the negative effects of light late at night. So, I call it sort of my Netflix vaccination — I can watch some late-night movie or TV or be on my screen a little bit later provided I got some sunlight right around sunset.”
Remember, rules are meant to be broken, and creating a routine should be seen as a guideline as to how you want to live your life. It also helps you create good habits for your future.
Stay flexible as circumstances change because adaptability is also an important superpower to cultivate. Nothing lasts forever and since everything changes daily, we have to adapt to everything as they happen.