7 Habits That Have a High Rate of Return in Life

Saw this on Twitter the other day and had to share it around:

habits high return in life

[This was first posted 4 months ago and STILL getting shares!]

So true, right? Especially that first one?


I’ll tell you why: it’s hard, haha…

But still worth trying for, of course!!

Thought it would be enlightening to go down the list and see how well we’re all doing with these or not…

I’ll fess up first:

Sleep 8+ hours each day (C)

Pre-baby I was averaging 7 hours a night! Which isn’t too bad? Now it’s more like 6’ish with a couple wake-ups in between, but each week is (thankfully) getting easier again… And I feel like going to sleep around 10 or 10:30 gives you *better* hours of sleep than starting the process at 1am or 2am like I used to? My dreams are at least much more vivid now! Haha…

Lift weights 3x week (F-)

The one area I’ve failed at the most :( Not only have I not picked up a weight in years, but I haven’t done much physical exercising either, outside of chasing kids on the playground or going on my daily walks… And I just read that not exercising is worse for you than smoking, diabetes and heart disease! Scary!

Go for a walk each day (A+)

Ironically I AM GREAT at this :) I go on at least one walk every single day, and some days even 2-3 depending on how many calls I go on (one of my favorite productivity hacks!). And the best thing is that it doesn’t require much planning or taking showers afterwards or anything – which I surmise is half my issue with working out :(

Save at least 10 percent of your income (A+)

YUP! Usually more than that most years, but almost always at least 10%. Even if you blew every other penny of your money at least you’d be sitting on a nice nest egg! And one that keeps growing and growing at that.

Remember the story of the magical penny? That turns into $10 million if you double it for only 31 days?

doubling penny millions

We’ll never find investments that can do that for our $$$, but the message is pretty clear: compound interest is a mother.

Read every day (A+)

ANOTHER YES!! After 20+ years of ignoring it like a big ol’ dummy! It was actually the blogging world that got me back into consuming and learning again, and now even more so since I’ve switched to *physical* books which I swear make things sink in 10x better?! Been addicted to reading ever since, and even moved on from only picking up *finance* books too ;)

Drink more water and less of everything else (B-)

I was actually thinking about this the other day and literally made a list of all the liquids I consume in a normal work day (NERD ALERT!!). It looked like this:

  • 5am-6am: water
  • 6am-8am: coffee
  • 8am-9am: orange juice
  • 9am:11am: more coffee!
  • 1pm-2pm: milk (so good with peanut butter & jelly!!)
  • 2pm-6pm: 4x-7x glasses of water (inspired by the same James Clear)
  • 6pm-7pm: milk w/ dinner (I was told drinking so much milk is weird, is it??)
  • 7pm-9pm: a beer or glass of wine

So that’s what – 5 different liquids throughout the day? Water, coffee, orange juice, milk and the Good Stuff? ;) I marked it down as a B- here because I drink way more water in total than anything else, but I think the real challenge would be nixing the coffee addiction… It just tastes and feels so good!! Did you notice there was NO SODA listed though?? Pretty proud of that one… Gave it up for a month straight over a decade ago and haven’t looked back since…

Leave your phone in another room while you work (A)

Or even better – when you’re AROUND OTHER PEOPLE! I swear these phones are going to be the death of healthy relationships, ugh…Ā  And while I don’t physically remove mine from the premises while I’m working (gotta keep it close by in case of kids/baby emergencies), I am pretty good at not looking at it while I’m in “hustle mode.” Same with twitter and emails and other social media stuff too. The “chunking” work style works pretty well with this stuff!


Alright, so looks like we’re about 5 or so out of the 7 here – that’s not too bad? Even though the one main one we’re missing could kill me?! ;)

Run down the list yourself now and see how it makes you feel… Anything surprise you one way or the other?? Does it make you want to change anything?

This guy is the MASTER of habits and productivity experiments, and you can learn more about him and his thoughts over at his blog –> JamesClear.com. He also just dropped a new book last week around all this stuff too: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

atomic habits by james clear

Here’s a note about it from Amazon:

“If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

Here, you’ll get a proven system that can take you to new heights. Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.”

And lastly, here are two other posts that James helped inspire over the years… He actually used to run a personal finance blog called PassivePanda.com back in the day if anyone remembers that one?

It really is all about the small habits in life! But be aware that both the good ones and the bad ones compound on us!

Links to Amazon above are affiliate links…

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  1. Merry for Money October 29, 2018 at 5:55 AM

    You made a list of liquids consumed haha…ok yes that’s a little nerdy :)

    I think I will give myself a C for water and a fat fat “F” for leaving phone in another room. Those are the exact two habits I’ve been trying to correct for a month without much progress. Maybe I need to pick up that book :)

    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 6:31 AM

      Maybe try to rock one this next month coming up, and then the other the next one? I always hear that focusing on just *one* new habit is better than a lot at the same time, but so hard to try and do :)

  2. Kate October 29, 2018 at 6:06 AM

    This is my all time favourite system!

    No Snacks
    No Sweets
    No Seconds
    Except (sometimes) on days that start with “S”*

    *Saturday, Sunday, Special Days (birthday, religious holiday, etc)

    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 6:32 AM

      Hah – that’s good!!

      “Also known as the “Grandma Diet,” the “Why Didn’t I Think of that Diet,” and the “No $ Diet”

      Great website :)

  3. Brent October 29, 2018 at 8:14 AM

    No sex? Even Archie Bunker took Edith upstairs every Saturday.

    Glad to see you pumping out the great content still J

    Hope the babies and Momma are doing well too.


    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 9:47 AM

      I bet you could swap in the lifting weights daily w/ sex and it would accomplish the same message ;)

      Kids and mom are doing great – thanks for asking! Baby a healthy (and fat) 5 month old now, and mom back to work again while I make sure everyone stays alive during the day. Always an adventure!

    2. Cubert October 30, 2018 at 7:08 AM

      I’m glad SOMEONE brought this “S” word up… Man, when you have kids, and you’re working hard to save that 10% (or 50% plus in our case) that’s the tricky 8th habit to keep.

      1. J. Money October 30, 2018 at 11:48 AM

        Yeah it is, haha….

  4. Rachael October 29, 2018 at 8:48 AM

    As a Wisconsinite, I support your milk consumption! I actually grew up having milk with every meal and my mom still typically orders milk with meals at restaurants.

    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 9:49 AM

      YES! THANK YOU!! I have a friend who teases me about it and never even thought it was weird until then, haha… But I guess most people don’t drink milk much after they grow up?

  5. Joe October 29, 2018 at 9:55 AM

    You’re doing pretty well. Nice job. I think saving 10% is way too low. I’d change that to 20%.
    I drink just coffee and water, usually. Sometime I sneak in a glass of wine or beer, but that’s pretty rare these days. Sleeping is tough. I get about 6-7 hours per day and probably should try to get 8+.

  6. Adam October 29, 2018 at 10:42 AM

    My liquid intake nearly tracks the diet Kate describes above: I drink water every day and a beer or three on weekends. On Saturday I had an espresso for the first time in a very long time thanks to lunch with my brother-in-law, who knows his stuff when pulling espresso shots… but caffeine is generally not for me anymore.

    Here’s to not missing soda! The closest I get is an occasional splash of seltzer in my whisky.

    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 12:11 PM

      Nice!! And even more so without all that other coffeine too! I know I could do it if I had to, but so far just not wanting to try haha…

  7. Dr. Dividend October 29, 2018 at 11:00 AM

    This is an astonishing list. While I love knowing that I excelling Iā€™m certain areas, such as saving, lifting, walking, and drinking water. I find that I put off my sleep leaving me a bit I rested in the morning. And the one Iā€™m really struggling to deal with, reading everyday! I was in the routine of this, but fell out very quick. I am hoping to get back into the rhythm and routine of this again.

    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 12:12 PM

      Maybe cracking open a book before you go to bed every night will help with *both*? :) It usually puts me into good sleep mode!

  8. B.C. Kowalski October 29, 2018 at 11:04 AM

    I’d agree with most of these, though I lift weights 2 times per week with 2-3 rigorous yoga classes mixed in there, as well as walking (and a couple of boxing intervals with jump rope sessions thrown in there). I found my body doesn’t recover fast enough for three times per week. And I love walks for listening to podcasts!

    Big time on the water! For me, it’s coffee, water, homemade kombucha. Never soda. Sometimes the water has some apple cider vinegar mixed with glutamine for recovery, or BCAA. And I agree with most of the others, but of course save much more than 10 percent.

    BUT, with the phone I take a different approach – it’s always on silent. Always. In fact the best I can do for productivity, when it’s really time to buckle down, is to put on Spotify on my headphones. But silent mode keeps any distractions away. It also means I am not instantly responsive, and I am making people get used to that. I have one friend who would FB me all day if I let her, so I go long periods of time without answering her because otherwise it’s a never ending stream.

    But that speaks to something that should be on the list, especially for people who start collecting a degree of fame/noteworthiness (for me it’s local): barriers. When I interviewed Anthony Centonio of Real Men, Real Style I learned about the layers of barriers he built to access him, so that he could really get work done. For him it means personal assistants, but for me the silent mode and leaving my phone on the charger from about mid-evening on helped me carve out needed me time.

    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 12:14 PM

      Yess!! All good things to think about!! I started this thing where I only log into email every few hours and then batch up responses, but then don’t hit *send* until hours later. Exactly to do that same thing – not be 100% accessible at every minute of the day. Not out of fame or anything, just more so productivity! The only problem is if I forget to hit send and then don’t email the person back :( But that’s only happened a few times.

      1. BC Kowalski November 2, 2018 at 10:46 AM

        I found out on a day I was sick a couple of weeks ago in which I worked from home instead, that my set up at home has fewer distractions built in. I had slack on my phone but as I mentioned had my phone turned silent, and no work emails dinging as they come in. Also, no one in real life to distract me. I only worked about 5 1/2 hours because I was sick but got done an amount of work that would have taken me 8-9 hours at the office. I mentioned this to my boss and how it worked out that way at a past employer too, when out office flooded, hoping to plant a seed of the idea. Instead, she instantly said “oh yeah, if you want to carve out a morning sometimes where you work from home instead of the office, go for it.” Woohoo! But it also made me look at how I can keep my office environment a little more distraction free.

        I would say you are getting famous, J! I also like that you take the time to respond to people on here – it’s kept me a loyal reader for sure. But it’s a really good idea to keep that stuff bunched up in blocks. I try to do the same.

        1. J. Money November 2, 2018 at 1:41 PM

          I try man! Community is key!

          (And good job planting that seed!!)

  9. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life October 29, 2018 at 11:29 AM

    I don’t know in what way these all have a high rate of return but I’m doing most of these already:

    1. I did this once in the last year – between pain and insomnia alone I’d struggle to get these hours in but add a kid and two dogs, and that’s not happening anytime soon. A shame.
    2. I lift my kid – that counts! Yours should too!
    3. At least once, if not twice – dogs get me out the door!
    4. Thank goodness yes.
    5. Every night but it can definitely sabotage #1
    6. I only drink water, occasionally a bit of milk, these days, so this is easy.
    7. Nah, I have to be on call for kid emergencies so I keep my phone with me but I’m awesome at ignoring it when it’s not an emergency situation. It’s been on silent since the kid was born :D

    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 12:17 PM

      That is true about lifting kids :)

  10. Tony October 29, 2018 at 3:06 PM

    Remove that barrier with working out. Just don’t shower. Ever again. There, now you’re saving the environment, too.

    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 5:56 PM

      It really is the showering that stops me!

      But I just did something for the first time in forever today – probably because of publicly shaming myself here — I TOOK A RUN!!! For 10 minutes straight!! Haha…

      And then yes, I showered afterwards :) I think I just knocked off the minus on that F – hah!

  11. Mrs. Picky Pincher October 29, 2018 at 3:48 PM

    OoohOoohhh the phone one is good!! I recently started working for myself and I’ve been trying to minimize distractions. I do need my phone for work (ugh), but I did get a stand for it on the other side of the room. It’s really cut down on my mindless Instagram time while still letting me know when I have a call or client text. It’s all about compromise!

    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 5:56 PM

      Good! Keep experimenting with it until you find a good medium!

  12. Jason Butler October 29, 2018 at 3:55 PM

    I’m doing alright on most of them. I need to drink more water though. It’s easy for me to drink water in spring and summer, but for some reason, it’s a struggle during the cooler months.

    1. J. Money October 29, 2018 at 5:57 PM

      Same… I find keeping a large ass glass or water bottle around helps with it though :) Especially if you fill it to the top and tell yourself it must be gone within XYZ time or whatever… Hard to ignore so long as you place it in front of you!

  13. Deanna October 30, 2018 at 10:46 AM

    Man I love your blog! It’s like the money blog for people who have to live in the real world.

    I’m actually pretty terrible at this list. The only reason I get 8+ hours of sleep is really because I’m pregnant and now I’m at the point where my body will just make me take the sleep wherever I get it, work or social obligations be damned! Whoops. But I am a champion of drinking more water and less of anything else – a half-caff in the morning, and then nothing but water for the rest of the day.

    I just put a hold in the library for a book called Deep Work, since I swear my ever-growing phone addiction is causing me to be less able to focus when I really need to. Plus, I do like to read before I go to sleep at night, but it only really works for helping me fall asleep if it’s a physical book. There’s just something about those ebooks…

    1. J. Money October 30, 2018 at 11:53 AM

      That’s possibly the best compliment I’ve ever gotten here – thank you :)

      And congratulations on the baby!!! Such an adventure for you coming up!!

      (I’ve heard excellent things about Deep Work too btw — he also writes a fantastic blog if you haven’t checked it out yet: http://calnewport.com/blog/ )

  14. OFG October 30, 2018 at 6:13 PM

    My husband still drinks milk quite often, but he likes his with ice cubes, which I thought was super weird until I tried it myself. Do you drink it straight or on the rocks? One of my kids loves the white stuff and the other wants nothing to do with it. I think the handy-dandy dietary pyramid still suggests three servings of dairy a day so those big glasses almost have you covered.

    1. J. Money October 31, 2018 at 6:44 AM

      ICE CUBES????

      Haha… No – can’t say I’ve ever tried that before (it’s already pretty cold being in the fridge for so long?) but let me give it a shot today and report back ;)

  15. Kris October 30, 2018 at 7:39 PM

    My sleeping habits are awful, part of it my fault for sleeping late and the other for my 2 year old waking me up early in the morning. I get to bed around midnight and I should try to go an hour or two earlier. Then around 5 or sometimes 4 in the morning my 2 year old wakes me up because he either wants to play with his toy truck or wants to eat. If I get lucky, I will get around 6 hours on the weekend since I could sleep in later in the morning.
    Part of the reason for me going to sleep so late is my darn phone, it’s hard to put down. I need to find a way to put it away and not think about it. Maybe I should use your suggestion and put it in another room like the kitchen or living room.

    1. J. Money October 31, 2018 at 6:52 AM

      YES!!! TRY IT!!! Or if it’s too hard, just get into bed *earlier* so by the time your obsession is over it’s still pretty early, haha… (Although I find it’ll still keep you up longer as screens mess with your brain, so maybe try picking up physical books or something else entertaining that can help fill the void before you go to bed? :))

  16. Raina October 30, 2018 at 9:50 PM

    I’m half way through his new book and it is rocking my world!
    Habits are everything and I’m realizing setting yourself up for good ones are the key to success over the long term waaaaaayyyy after willpower has run out.

    1. J. Money October 31, 2018 at 6:53 AM

      Awesome! So glad to hear!! Now make sure to *apply* what you’re learning so it all goes to good use! :)

  17. Robin October 31, 2018 at 11:11 PM

    Going to have to give myself between D and F on all. A lot of room for improvement. In mid-Aug had started a 100 day challenge that required at least one 30 minute walk each day. Got up to day 56 before I got off track (travelled and got to destination late and just forgot about it). Might be easier for me to start back with that – just really need to get it done early. I drink water, coffee, tea, milk and occasionally soda – definitely need to cut some of that out. So maybe tomorrow I’ll start back to taking at least one walk a day and eliminate at least the soda and tea (sweet tea that it).

    1. J. Money November 1, 2018 at 9:55 AM

      Good plan :) Walking also slows down time a lot more and allows you to think/reflect on things! Like life and goals and happiness!

  18. Marsha Dickerson-Jones November 1, 2018 at 8:26 PM

    Good stuff! This is exactly what I’ve been missing. Routine Routine Routine

  19. Danielle Ogilve November 4, 2018 at 8:54 AM

    I think I’d get a C/D average on this entire list! Need to start getting better! Been trying to do better with the water too!