I’ve tried countless self-improvement strategies over the years.
Most of them were fruitless. Some were somewhat useful. And a few were life-changing.
The strategy I’m going to tell you about today belongs in the latter category.
It’s super-simple, and yet it can have a considerable impact on how you think, feel, and perform every day.
To understand how it works, I first need to emphasize…
The Power of Keystone Habits
Have you ever noticed how some of your habits tend to “spill over” and affect other aspects of your life? These are your keystone habits.
As an example, one of my keystone habits is running.
Whenever I run consistently, a series of positive knock-on effects follow: I sleep better, I’m way more productive, I eat healthier, and I feel better in general.
Conversely, whenever I don’t run consistently, my sleep suffers, my productivity declines, I eat more junk, and I feel much worse.
Just like a keystone at the top of an arch holds other stones in place, running is one of the keystone habits that keep the rest of my life in place.
If I remove running from my routine, all of my other habits come crashing down, too.
The Keystone Habit Calendar
It’s easy to let your keystone habits slip out of place. But they’re actually also pretty easy to keep in place.
I’ve found that if I just track these behaviors, I’m way more likely to keep doing them. So, I’ve devised a simple tool I call the Keystone Habit Calendar. It looks like this (click the calendar to download it):
Here’s how it works:
- Write down your keystone habits in the top row.
- Check off each habit as you complete them each day.
- Celebrate every checkmark.
This simple tool can be remarkably effective because:
- It creates clarity. You’ll have a visual representation of precisely what habits to focus on every day.
- It offers rewards. Each checkmark creates a sense of accomplishment that helps reinforce the behaviors.
- It provides feedback. The checkmarks in your calendar become valuable data that you can use to improve in the future.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? So, what habits should you track in your calendar?
Energy, Work, and Love
There are countless habits you could add to your daily routine. But if you’re anything like me, adding a lot of them gets overwhelming quickly.
And that’s why I like to keep my habit tracking as simple as possible. I pick no more than three behaviors to track, but I make sure they’re all keystone habits.
That way, I’ll give myself the best chance of completing them all, whether I feel like it or not. And as I keep adding checkmarks to my calendar, all the other behaviors I want tend to fall in place by themselves.
The best categories I’ve found for choosing my habits are energy, work, and love. So, at the start of each month, I pick a keystone habit for each of these areas.
Then I do my best to complete these habits every day. At the end of the month, I analyze what went well and what didn’t. And when the next month rolls around, I repeat the process.
Let’s look at the categories of energy, work, and love - and how you can choose your keystone habit for each one.
Your Energy Habit
To feel great and perform at your best, you’ll need as much energy as possible. So, ask yourself, “What is my #1 energy habit right now?”
For me, the answer is running. If I consistently hit the trail throughout the week, I can tackle everything I do with much more energy.
Here are some other examples of keystone energy habits:
- Go to bed before 10 pm.
- Have a green smoothie in the morning.
- Walk 10,000 steps.
Your Work Habit
To serve others as best as you possibly can, you’ll need to continually optimize your work. So, ask yourself, “What is my #1 work habit right now?”
For me, the answer is writing. If I spend each morning undisturbed doing focused writing, I can improve faster and help as many people as possible.
Here are some other examples of work keystone work habits:
- Do the most important task first thing in the morning.
- Execute one hour of deep, uninterrupted work.
- At the end of the workday, write down your most important tasks for tomorrow.
Your Love Habit
To cultivate deep and meaningful relationships, you’ll need to be present with those around you. So, ask yourself, “What is my #1 love habit right now?”
For me, the answer is meditating. If I take a break every afternoon to meditate, I can give the people around me my full attention.
Here are some other examples of keystone love habits:
- Leave all your work-related stuff at the office.
- Set your phone in flight-mode and put it away after 6 pm.
- Turn off all screens in your house two hours before bed.
Let’s Do This!
If you want to create your own Keystone Habit Calendar, you can download a free one here (no sign-up required). Then follow these steps to get started:
- Print out the Keystone Habit Calendar.
- Put your energy, work, and love keystone habits in the top row.
- Put your calendar someplace where you’ll see it several times a day.
- Each time you’ve completed one of the habits, check it off in the calendar.
- That’s it! Now all you have to do is keep tracking and improving month-by-month.
The Keystone Habit Calendar has been a game-changer for me, and I hope it will be for you, too. Have fun!