The Vital Nine Categories of Habits

Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life, and a significant element of happiness. About forty percent of what we do each day is shaped by habits, and if we have habits that work for us, we’re much more likely to be happy, healthy, productive, and creative.

The habits people most often want to cultivate fall into nine areas, the Vital Nine:

Energy: exercise and sleep

  • Go to bed at a particular time every evening
  • Go for a daily walk
  • Exercise at least 4 times each week
  • Read for 30 minutes before bed
  • No caffeine after a certain time

Productivity: focus, work, progress

  • Write “morning pages” every day
  • Hold a particular day of the week as a meeting-free day
  • Sign up for a language-learning app and do the exercises suggested
  • Turn off the internet for two hours each afternoon

Relationships: connect and deepen

  • Read to kids every evening
  • Start a group to discuss a different podcast each month
  • Schedule a weekly call with parents
  • Plan Friday date nights

Recharging: relax and rest

  • Read 20 minutes a day
  • Schedule breaks throughout the day
  • Play guitar for 30 minutes each day
  • Attend a weekly yoga class
  • Take a daily nap

Order: clear and organize

  • Make your bed every morning
  • Spend 10 minutes tidying up before bed
  • Follow the “one-minute rule.”
  • Each month, donate items you don’t need or use anymore
  • Participate in a “buy nothing” month

Purpose: reflect, identify, engage

  • Keep a daily journal
  • Meditate every morning
  • Volunteer once a month
  • Start each morning with a spiritual reading
  • Compost or eliminate single-use plastics

Mindful Consumption: eating, drinking, spending, scrolling

  • Take medication daily, before first cup of coffee
  • Limit social media to 30 minutes per day
  • Plan meals for the week
  • Track spending for a month
  • Swap afternoon coffee for green tea
  • Limit alcoholic beverages to the weekend

Mindful Investment: save, support, experience

  • Donate each month to a cause you care about
  • Invest in equipment to make exercise more convenient
  • Save a certain amount each month toward travel
  • Spend at least 3 hours per week in nature

Creativity: learn, practice, play

  • Take an art class
  • Explore a new neighborhood every Saturday
  • Knit whenever watching TV
  • Every Sunday, watch a classic movie
  • Attend two live performances a month

Of course, the same habit might satisfy different aims for different people. For one person, yoga might be a form of exercise; for someone else, a source of mental rest; for someone else, a practice of spiritual engagement. And people value different habits. For one person, organized files might be a crucial tool for creativity; another person finds inspiration in random juxtapositions.

If you’re not sure, don’t worry about choosing the “right” category for an aim you want to pursue. There’s no right category for any habit or aim, and there’s no right way to design your Happiness Project—everyone’s Happiness Project is unique to them. Choose the areas of your life that you most want to work on, and find the tools that work for you to help you achieve your aims.

The Vital Nine Categories of Habits