A long time ago, Sam Sykes tweeted this idea:
Roomba, except it is a little robot that comes into your room and says “hey, man, you’re doing okay” and I guess maybe he has a glass of water for you
I thought: what a great idea! Now I didn’t build a special Roomba, but I did build a list of Apple Scripts that offer something similar. If you are curious, you can see them here in github.
I found them useful when working from home during the pandemic. Hey, every little bit helps.
According to this, unlikely: ‘Most of us are too busy to be better’: the lazy person’s guide to self-improvement | Life and style | The Guardian
So if you only take 10 minutes to try and improve, not much will happen. But do 10 minutes every day. 10 minutes every day adds up to 60 hours a year. 15 minutes is over 90 hours. You can improve noticeably if you do that.
So what can you do in 10 minutes? Well, HIIT exercise, for one thing. A drawing can be done in 10 minutes: do 365 of them and you will get better. Stretching can be done in that time and you will be more flexible by then. Pick any area you are interested in improving, and practice to be better every day, and you will see improvement.
A strong defense of self help books can be found here: On Self-Help Books | The Book of Life.
Essentially the argument is that the genre has been overtaken and is associated with people like this:
And not associated with this:
We need a list of good self help books, classic and current. Unfortunately, even lists with the so called best self-help books of all time are lacking in literary qualities. That’s a shame.
I think we need a new list of self-help books then, a list stretching from the classics such as the Dhammapada and the Bible and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, all the way to present day books like In Search of Meaning. A new list of books that help us live better lives but that are good as books themselves. It’s time for such a list, and time for the current list of self-help books to take a backseat to this new list.
This is a good piece: How to Be Thankful For Your Life by Changing Just One Word. I have thought about it often since I read it. You can get to read it too, but in short, write down all the things you “have to” do or “should” do and think differently. Key passage:
You have to wake up early for work. You have to make another sales call for your business. You have to work out today. You have to write an article. You have to make dinner for your family. You have to go to your son’s game.
Now, imagine changing just one word in the sentences above.
You don’t “have” to. You “get” to.
You get to wake up early for work. You get to make another sales call for your business. You get to cook dinner for your family. By simply changing one word, you shift the way you view each event. You transition from seeing these behaviors as burdens and turn them into opportunities.
Get. You get to. Better still, you are lucky to get to. Write down the inner dialog in your head and see if you can edit it this way.
The cliche, you don’t know what you got until it’s gone, holds here. Know what you got. Think about it in a new way.
And what is it: Say nice things – to yourself
It sounds ridiculous, and you may feel ridiculous if you try it. If so, consider this:
- you likely say terrible things to yourself all the time. “I can’t believe I did that…that was stupid…I am an idiot…etc”. You get the picture. If saying nice things about yourself is dumb, that is dumber. So get over yourself.
- athletes, from amateurs to the elite, talk positively to themselves ALL THE TIME. Indeed, when I played sports in school, we were admonished to “Talk it up!” all of the time. It made the team better: it made us better. Great athletes are great partially because they are always talking positively to themselves
- I mean, you are already standing there in the mirror brushing your teeth. Put that big brain of yours to work. Do better with it. Talk it up! 🙂
One way is by getting a copy of Molly Cantrell-Kraig’s new ebook: Amazon.com: Circuit Train Your Brain: Daily Habits That Develop Resilience eBook: Molly M. Cantrell-Kraig: Kindle Store.
It just came out, and it can just be the thing you need if you are struggling through a difficult time.
A gentle program to get you out of your rut in 30 days can be found here: NYT Programs – 30-Day Well Challenge.
Recommended especially for people who are a) in a rut b) overwhelmed with other things to do.
If you are struggling with adversity, then read this: Read This If You’re Going Through Adversity – Darius Foroux.
There are four rules in it:
- Do something good. By this, do something that makes you say, “I love life”.
- Ask for help. You know you need help when you are getting to the stage it all becomes “too much”.
- Write down your biggest fear. Get it out of your head and on paper. Write about it. You will be surprised how it shrinks on paper.
- Create a plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be: I will do A and then based on that I will do either B or C. There! You have a plan to deal with things.
- Shorten the timelines. This is one I am adding. Often when we think of adversity we imagine it never ending. But it will. Don’t believe me? Go over past adversity. Even long running adversity. It always ends. It ends sooner than we think. This doesn’t mean you should passively wait it out. Write down how long you think this adversity will end, then make a plan, ask for help, tackle your fears and do something good.
Good luck. Need more help? Read the article linked above. And congrats. You were likely facing adversity when you searched out and read this, and you decided you needed to get help. You’re already on your way to doing something about it. Well done!
A small, handy guide to dealing with your emotions:
If you struggle with stress and don’t know where to start, start here: Reduce Your Stress in Two Minutes a Day – Harvard Business Review – Pocket. It is general advice, but even adopting a few of these practices in daily life should help releave your levels of stress. It is especially good advice for driven people who need to succeed in the areas of life they focus on, but find that their usual approach doesn’t help them when it comes to stress.
Over the last year or so, I’ve found these worthwhile pieces on how to think about life and how to improve it. If you find one of these worthwhile and it improves your life as a result of you reading it, then I think collecting and writing about these is worthwhile.
- If you are feeling lonely and want to understand and deal with it better, consider this: The Science of Loneliness: How Isolation Can Kill You – New Republic
- One idea you can consider: talk to strangers. Hello, Stranger – NYTimes.com
- If you need new ways to live a better life, courtesy of a famous person….7 Steps to Living a Bill Murray Life – Vulture
- Or if you like to write, try to improve your life via writing: Writing Your Way to Happiness – NYTimes.com (I am guessing some writers would not agree with it)
- If you struggle to be happy, this could help: Everyone wants to be happy. Almost everyone is going about it wrong. – Vox
- If you want to be more optimistic, consider the big picture, presented here: A Cockeyed Optimist – NYTimes.com
- If you think you are working too much and are often thinking of cutting back, this could help you: Keynes’ 15 Hour Work Week Is Here Right Now
- Lots of good ideas via a collected stream of tweets, here: Things @GhostfaceKnitta Learned in 2015 (with tweets) · valerieinto · Storify
- Why should you give away money and be happier: Giving money away makes us happy. Then why do so few of us do it? – Vox
- Don’t hesitate when it comes to improving your life. You have less time than you think. See this to see why: These graphics will make you rethink your life – Tech Insider
- Being laid off will happen to everyone. If that’s you now, and you are struggling with it, consider: Advice For the Recently Laid Off – Medium
- Self Confidence makes for a better life. Here’s how to become that way and more so: The Truth On How To Become Self Confident
- Change your mind, change your life. How? One way: Rewire your brain: Why Practice Makes Perfect: How to Rewire Your Brain for Performance
- If you struggle with your thoughts (e.g., worry too much), read : BBC – Future – Why we should stop worrying about our wandering minds
- Sometimes the way to improve our lives is not to have more, but to seek less and not be caught up in the trappings of status. To live a simpler life, like this: Here’s why one of the world’s richest men wears hand-me-down clothes – The Washington Post
- More on how to live with less. Living With Less. A Lot Less. – The New York Times
(Image from one of the articles linked to on NYTimes.com)
For anyone starting out on the road to being an independent adult, the book Adulting (from Hachette) is a good guide to have. It is packed with tips – 468 to be exact – on pretty much any experience you are going to go through in your early 20s. If this is you or someone you love, this book will have an obvious appeal.
It’s not just for young people though. I think all adults could benefit from parts of the book, especially if you are having to start out on some adult experience that is either new to you or something you haven’t done for some time. It’s good advice, and good advice never goes out of date.
Even if you don’t need good advice, read it just for the humour. It’s a very funny book. (Note, there is a fair amount of profanity and references to sex, but if that doesn’t bother you, then you’ll be fine.)
Finally, if you want to have a better understanding of what life is like for that young person you know, this book can help you achieve that.
By the way, if you want a preview of it, you can check out the Adulting blog. Also very good.
I was killing time in a bookstore last night and I thought it looked good. I ended up reading it from cover to cover.
Do you ever get stuck in this loop?
If so, then the Atlantic has an article for you. According to this article, The Procrastination Doom Loop—and How to Break It – The Atlantic,
Delaying hard work is all about your mood.
And it goes on to talk about how to defeat this.
Seven additional suggestions I have on defeating this doom loop:
- set a regular schedule of tackling difficult tasks and stick with it.
- dilute the difficulty by giving yourself a ridiculous amount of time to do it. If it will likely take 20 minutes, schedule 2 hours and just sit there and do nothing else until you get it done.
- set up a reward for getting it done.
- set up significant negative consequences for not getting it done. You might need help from a friend or coach here.
- log the positive feelings and thoughts you feel after you get it done. Review that often.
- log the negative feelings and thoughts you have before you do it. After you do it, analyse what you wrote and revisit your thinking and feeling. You will likely find it wasn’t as bad as you had expected.
- have a list of things you are procrastinating on. For example, if you have two things you are avoiding, try to avoid doing one of them by doing the other. It’s better to get one thing done than getting none done
You are stressed. You decide: I need to manage it. That decision alone can help bring down your stress levels.
Your next step it to take action. If you have no idea how to do that, start here: Make stress management as routine as brushing your teeth viaThe Globe and Mail.
Teeth brushing won’t cure cavities and simple stress management techniques like these won’t cure significant problems in your life that are causing you to be stressed. But just like teeth brushing can prevent cavities, simple stress management can help alleviate some stress.
Unless you have a carefree life, these stress management techniques are worth reviewing.
Can be found here: 100 Tips to Improve Your Life – 99U.
I challenge you to go through this list and not find anything here that you could apply to your own life. You will likely find at least five. If you find none, maybe your life is already perfect. 🙂
The 99U is a great source of guidance on any number of topics. I have even written some articles there.