The last couple years were not for the faint of heart. With that in mind, we gotta do what we can to make 2018 thismuch easier, thismuch more pleasant, thismuch more mellow for ourselves and those around us. So here, apply these simple life hacks to your everyday. They take very little time, not a single nickel and just a touch of courage. You got this.
No giving up sugar/carbs/dairy/alcohol/coffee/fun necessary.
Enforce the one minute rule.
Hanging up your coat, texting your mom back, making your bed, tossing your junk mail, sticking your coffee cup in the dishwasher. It’s all so easy. So why do we let little messes pile up until it’s mayhem?
Here’s the deal: if something takes less than a minute to complete, do it right then and there. I was introduced to this concept by author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin over a decade ago and my coats have been hanging up nicely and my brain has been slightly calmer ever since.
Without much effort, the one minute rule will simultaneously clean up your life and psyche. Once you get in habit of dealing with the little things – taking that empty Topo Chico bottle out of your car and placing it directly into the recycling; paying that bill online as soon as you rip open the notice – you’ll find time and brain space to tackle the big things.
Repeat after me: keys, phone, sunglasses.
Or whatever it is you’re always losing. Something about 2014 had me lock my keys in my car a couple times, and ever since then, I’ve made a mildly OCD point to know exactly where my keys, phone, and sunglasses are at all times. Every time I’m about to leave the house or my car, I identify where those three items are and announce it out loud as I place them in their appropriate spot.
How embarrassing, huh? You know what’s also embarrassing? Locking your keys in your car for the third time in three months. Or frantically searching for your phone because you absentmindedly tossed it in a coat pocket that you’ve never tossed it in before.
Say you’ve just parked, heading into wherever you’re heading into. Grab your phone, put it in the exact spot it should be (a certain pocket in your purse, for instance) and say “my phone is in my purse.” Same with your keys or sunnies or lipstick or wallet or whatever else it is that you’re afraid of losing. It’ll signal your brain to remember its location and you’ll never be scrambling to find the important things again. Try it.
Make a “You Know Better” list.
Tonight, on an empty stomach and tight timeline, I pulled into the Parking Lot from Hell at Trader Joe’s, where cars were circling for a spot. I sighed to myself, “I know better than this.” I know better than to go to a grocery store with a nightmarish parking lot at 6:00 p.m. the day after a holiday, particularly when my schedule allows me to go at 10:00 a.m. on a Wednesday; when I could park horizontally across three spots just for the hell of it.
I also know better than to text You Know Who after I’ve had a couple cocktails. And I know better than to eat 300 French fries. We all slip up. Grace is key to surviving these days. That said, I keep a page in my journal devoted to situations I’ve been in called You Know Better – not to shame myself, but to make a conscious effort to make smarter decisions. Isn’t identifying and admitting to problems the first step of recovery?
If you’re feeling distracted, turn off your cellular data.
I started implementing this tricky little maneuver when, month after month, I’d routinely used 90% of my data limit with 10 days left on my phone cycle. The habit stuck for another reason.
By turning your data off, you only receive notifications and texts and can only access apps when you’re on wifi. So, likely, at home or at work. But when you’re someplace else, all the in-between places, when you probably shouldn’t be checking your phone anyway – while driving or at lunch with a friend, for instance – you won’t receive notifications. Without the dings, I don’t check my phone as often, ultimately saving me from time-sucking distractions and, “Oh, I wonder what that Parisian woman who never seems to be working is up to on Instagram?”
(…and I don’t go over my data limit.)
Carry three things on you at all times: a book, a notebook, and water.
Recently, I saw an elderly woman waiting to meet with a banker ask if there was enough time to go out to her car and grab her book. She had two minutes until her meeting; she wanted to read two pages.
You may need to become a bag lady to do it, but carrying these three items with you day-to-day is worth it. You’ll be shocked at how often you have 15 minutes between appointments and can pull out your book instead of refreshing the same three apps. Or whenever your little one screams something funny in an aisle at Target, you can scribble it down, instead of insisting you’ll remember it later. (You’ll never remember it later.)
The water? Self-explanatory. If you have it on you, you’ll drink it. If you don’t, you won’t. I won’t get into how we’re all dehydrated and a few more ounces of water could help with indigestion, headaches and achy joints, but you get the idea.
Learn to love your commute.
I could whine about how I hate warming up my car in Minneapolis winters and sitting through three rounds of red lights at the Dean Parkway intersection that gets backed up because distracted drivers don’t pay attention to the green arrow. Instead, I treasure my solo time in my car, listening to enlightening podcast interviews or the latest Sufjan Stevens song for the thousandth time.
Like it or not, it takes time to get places. May as well enjoy that time.
Take the backroads through charming neighborhoods instead of the bumper-to-bumper highway. Turn off those obnoxious drive-time radio hosts who play the same 10 songs. Stockpile podcasts about topics you’re interested in – Richard Simmons, injustice, science, whatever!
Stop saying sorry so much.
Disclaimer: apologizing when you truly feel sorry for something you did or said is the grown, mature, empathetic human thing to do and I appreciate everyone who can do this, gracefully or not, when they mean it. Say you’re sorry if you’re sorry.
Unfortunately, we all know countless people, particularly wonderful women, who say sorry simply for existing. It waters down necessary apologies and encourages a culture that empowers those on the receiving end to think, “Yeah, you should be sorry for that completely understandable and normal thing you’re apologizing for.” Let’s change that.
Instead of: Sorry, I’m rambling.
Say: Thank you for listening.
Instead of: Sorry, I’m 30 seconds late.
Say: You beat me! Thanks for waiting.
Instead of: Sorry, I’ve been so down lately.
Say: Thank you for being a good friend.
If you’re not the chronic apologizer, gently call out those close to you who are. Next time a friend says sorry when they shouldn’t be, say, “For what?” They’ll freeze and you can follow up with, “No need to apologize.”
Make a list of your greatest allies.
Again with the lists! There’s an entire page of my journal full of the names of my friends who are endlessly supportive of my big and wild and anti-white-picket-fence dreams. I reference this every time I feel like a total failure or even when I only feel like a mild failure.
Just seeing the names of my beloveds often helps, but don’t be afraid to straight out ask for support from your top allies if you need. Feeling dejected? I text Jess. Needing wise words? Brian. That’s what they’re there for.
Side-note: Did you know if you purchase a journal at Shinola, they’ll monogram it for free? It’s my go-to good gift idea.
Find a sauna. Sit in it.
Sometimes I drive 15 minutes to my gym solely to sit in the sauna for 10. It’s the laziest, most luxurious thing I do regularly.
Admit social anxiety is hard. Then be social anyway.
Say I’m invited to a party. I’ll excitedly say “I’ll be there!” and then, day-of, dread every minute until it arrives. After I drag myself out the door, finally arriving not too early and not too late, I sit in my car for 20 to 30 minutes, thinking about how I once was cool and now I’m totally not cool, what happened to me, go inside you bonehead, before my fingers get cold and I’m out of people to text and I finally go inside. Once I’m in, I’m good.
I’ve never once thought, “Wow, I wish I would have stayed in bed and continued to feel crippling anxiety.” I’m always happy I went. Even a bad party is a good story. And every time gets a little itty bit better.
Just like 2018 is going to get a little itty bit better. Happy new year, folks.
Megan McCarty is a writer, editor, etc.-er who has written about life, love and – shh, don’t tell her mother – s-e-x for Garance Doré, Apartment 34, Rue and more. While based in Minneapolis, she’s always ready, willing and oh-so-eager to pack a bag, board a plane and wander new streets.
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