Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

Though I loved working from home, I now realize that it came at a cost – in March and April I destroyed most of the good habits I had worked very hard to build over the last few years. I stopped working out with my trainer for social distancing reasons, and thus stopped working out (I really need external pressure).

I have not written much in April. During the market-crazy volatility in March, I worked super-long hours and wanted to make sure I got enough sleep. I let myself get up at 7am instead of 4:30. Since I usually write early in the morning, that habit has been interrupted. I’ve been working proactively over the last two weeks to restore old good habits and create some new ones.

I dusted off my favorite book on habit building, Atomic Habits, by James Clear. Here are a few thoughts from this wonderful book.

There are three layers of thinking on changing habits:

First, the most superficial layer: setting goals or focusing on results. But if you look at successful and failed athletes, they had the same goals. Goals do not set us apart, our systems do. (By the way, the same applies to investing). In fact, goals often can be at odds with our long-term success and happiness. Once you accomplish a goal, then what? We should enjoy the journey more than the destination. Goals (destinations) do have value, as they set a direction.

This brings us to the second layer of thinking: systems, creating an environment and processes that help us achieve our goals. For me to start writing, I need to get up early. I go to sleep early. I stop drinking coffee at noon. I have an earlier, light dinner. I take a hot shower before I go to sleep. (I wrote a book review on Why We Sleep; read it here). I set my alarm clock for 4:30.