Everyone wants to live their best possible life—that’s for certain. But actually figuring out how to do that? Well, that’s a little tougher. The truth is, while big, sweeping changes certainly have the power to revamp your quality of life, the smaller, more sustainable actions and hacks can help you better enjoy your day-to-day—and they really add up over time.
These little tricks and habits can help you be more productive, feel happier, work more efficiently, and generally get more out of life. And for more great ways to change your life for the better, know the 100 Best Anti-Aging Secrets.
Create a “Tickler File”
A cluttered desk can seriously derail productivity and make you feel like things are out of control when you’re trying to focus.
“Most paper clutter comes from papers we need some time in the future,” explains Frank Buck, author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. “The Tickler File is an age-old business tool. It makes paper disappear and then resurface exactly when you need it. Grab 31 hanging folders and label them 1 through 31. Each file represents a day of the month. Take papers one at a time and ask, ‘When do I need to see this item again?’ Drop the paper in the file for the appropriate day.”
Check your folders once a day and so you’re dealing with documents only when necessary. Gone totally digital? This concept works for email inboxes, too. Simply create a Tickler File folder and 31 subfolders inside. And for more amazing hacks, check out these 10 Genius Tricks for Falling Back Asleep in the Middle of the Night.
Take a 1-Minute Nature Break
“Slow down on your way out the door in the morning, or take a moment to look at the sky while on your lunch break,” suggests Candra Canning, principal at Live Bright Now. You only need 60 seconds to reap the brain benefits of being outside. “Science proves that your brain and body chemistry get the same benefit as if you were gazing at the Grand Canyon. Taking in the details can connect you back to yourself which will leave you relaxed and confident.” Looking for a longer escape into the great outdoors? Try one of these 6 American Epic Adventures.
Look Over Your Day The Night Before
Always line up your day the night before, says Dr. Gayle Carson, coach and speaker. “It allows you to walk through your day, so if you walk into the office and someone asks ‘Do you have a minute?’ you will know if you do or don’t.” Bonus: If you make a to-do list at the same time, you’ll find that you’ve just done the Genius Productivity Hack That Will Improve Your Sleep.
Do Something Social at Least Once Per Week
And more often, if you can. “Isolation breeds discontent,” says Raffi Bilek, a psychotherapist and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. “You don’t have to be the life of the party; having just one or two close friends keeps you feeling connected and alive.” Research shows that human connection is what keeps people happy throughout their lifetimes, so time invested in friendships is well spent. If you’re looking for a little friendship inspiration, check out these 20 Celebrity Friendships You Never Knew Existed.
Reach Out to People Whom You Haven’t Been in Touch With Recently
While your close friends and family are important, research suggests that “weak ties,” or people who are more acquaintance-level connections, are the ones who can actually help you out the most in terms of developing new contacts, improving career prospects, and generally meeting new people. Set a goal to get in touch with one person you haven’t talked to in awhile per week, and you’ll find your personal and professional networks growing faster than ever before. And for more ways to live a super healthy life, here are the 40 Ways to Get Your Best Body in Your 40s.
Schedule Family Time
If you always wish you could spend more time with your family, this one’s for you. “Family is all about focus,” says Arman Sadeghi, a business coach. “For most of us, family is the most important thing. However, most of us simply don’t schedule enough time with our family, so that time is what always gets squeezed out. Instead of allowing that to happen, actually schedule the time with family, including scheduling date night with your spouse or an evening with the kids.” And if you’re looking for a little date-night inspiration, here are 50 Non-Cliché Date Ideas.
Do Your Most Creative Work in The Morning
“During morning hours, cortisol acts as your energy hormone and your focus and concentration are better than any other time of day,” says Debra Atkinson, a productivity, fitness, and wellness coach. Use biology to your advantage and leave more mundane tasks for later in the day. If you’re not a morning person but you’d like to be, here are the 30 Best Ways to Get More Energy Before Noon.
Speak From Your Diaphragm
“Speaking from your diaphragm automatically causes you to speak with more authority by slightly deepening your voice and increasing your voice stability,” says David Bennett, a certified counselor, relationship expert, and self-help author. “Most people would be surprised how speaking with a little more authority will positively impact their work and social success.”
Create Your Ideal Schedule
If you’re constantly struggling to fit everything in, write out how you would like your day to look, suggests Eric Bales or Bales Dynamic Coaching. “The list should include all activities you would like for the day to be considered ‘successful.’” Once you do this, the clutter will start to fall away. And if you’re looking to re-haul your appearance, know the 15 Men’s Hairstyles That Will Make You Look Instantly Younger.
Use All of Your Vacation Days
Seriously, just do it. “Time away from work actually helps you become more productive when you return,” notes Maura Thomas, a speaker and author of Personal Productivity Secrets. “The importance of taking vacation time is supported in numerous studies. They recharge your enthusiasm and creativity. If you don’t use your vacation time, or if you never unplug from work while you’re off, your performance will plummet, and so will your happiness. So the next time you’re feeling stressed at work, ask yourself how long it’s been since you’ve been truly away— physically and mentally—from your job. I’m betting that you’ll see a connection.” And for help getting even more away time, know that This Secret Trick Leads to More Vacation Days at Work.
Group Phone Calls Together
Instead of spreading conference calls out throughout the day, book them all in quick succession. “It takes as much time to make one phone call as five,” Carson says. “It’s a flow.” Plus, if you have another call lined up afterwards, you’ll have a reason to keep each call to its designated amount of time rather than letting it take up more of your day than necessary. And for more on managing your communication flow, here’s The Brilliant Reason You Should Leave Your Out-of-Office On All the Time.
Visit Museums Whenever You Get The Chance
Change Your Environment
Always work at the same desk? Try a new one. Tired of your apartment? Move! “Our surroundings can cause us to develop depressive thoughts and feelings, thus causing us to believe life can never get better,” says Saudia L. Twine, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist. But the truth is, you have the power to adjust your surroundings. Use it.
Cut Out Distractions
“How much of your day is spent being reactive?” Thomas asks. “If you often feel like the day flew by but you didn’t make any real progress on your plans, you might be allowing too many distractions to steal your attention. If you’re always distracted, you’ll get used to being always distracted, and you’ll find yourself bored in the ‘quiet times.’” Sound familiar? Allow yourself to have some distraction free time each day—no phones, no interruptions from coworkers or family members—to work on the things that are most important to you.
Yes, really. “By doing so, a positive and open approach is projected,” says Darlene Corbett, a speaker, licensed therapist, and coach. “Smiling often creates greater success both personally and professionally. I suggest to my clients that they practice this on a daily basis until it becomes part of their repertoire. They report back to me that they actually feel better by smiling more often.” For help smiling, here are 70 Brilliant Ways to Be Instantly Happy.
Write Down All The Things You Ever Wanted That You Already Have
Feeling like you want more from life? “Write a list of all the things you have now that you once wanted, such as: getting a boyfriend/girlfriend, getting married, graduating from college, getting a job, buying a house, having kids, or visiting a certain city,” suggests Jennie Vila, a life and career coach. It’s more likely you’ll feel satisfied if you reflect on how far you’ve come.
Break Big Tasks Into 15-Minute Chunks
“So often we are conditioned that we need to ‘grind it out’ or push through mental blocks in order to complete tasks, when really all we’re doing is frustrating ourselves,” says Keisha Rivers, Chief Outcome Facilitator at the KARS Group. “Our minds naturally need to shift gears at times, so we have to incorporate a natural break into our activities. If you’re working on a report or trying to comprehend a lot of reading, build in a 5-minute break every 15 minutes.”
Stop thinking about doing good as just a resume-builder. Research shows it can actually be a mental game-changer, and may even reduce anxiety and depression. Get involved in a cause you care about, and reap the feel-good benefits. Bonus: Volunteering is one of the 50 Best Life Changes to Make After 50.
Think of Yourself The Way You Want to Be Seen
This may sound easier said than done, but the more you believe in your ideal image of yourself, the more likely others are to acknowledge that version of you. “Research of attachment theory has shown us that we each develop a mental grid which guides our beliefs of self and others,” Twine explains. “This grid determines how we perceive, evaluate and respond to others. If we see ourselves in a negative light, it affects how we think, feel, act and function in our personal and professional environment.” Hone in on things you like about yourself, and you’ll notice that others start to do the same. And for more healthy habits, know these 70 Brilliant Tricks for Boosting Your Confidence.
Have a Morning “Before Phone” Ritual
“Whether it’s checking your email, social media or even the news, the moment you open your phone in the morning is the moment you dive head first into the rat race for the day,” says Dave Cantin, an entrepreneur. “If that’s the first thing you do in the morning, you’ll struggle to find time to gather yourself and self-reflect. Stop this snowball effect by creating a calming, inwardly-focused morning routine where you determine your goals for the day, state a few things that you’re thankful for, and take four or five deep breaths and smile.”
Monotask instead. “Wherever you are, be there,” says Lisa Sansom, a positive psychology coach and consultant. “Don’t be on the phone in meetings; be in the meeting. If you’re checking email, then focus on checking email. If you’re at a social event, be at the social event. Your brain is configured to devote conscious attention to one thing at a time—so do that.”
Wake Up 30 Minutes Before Everyone Else
Get a leg up on the day by rising before your family does. “Use that time to sit quietly and focus on what you want your day to look like, jot down what is most important to accomplish and relax as you sip coffee or tea,” says Diana Fletcher, life coach and stress reduction expert. “This time you take to focus in the morning will save you hours in your day. You won’t waste time on trivial things because you have already decided what is the priority and what outcomes you want.”
Do Your Worst Before You Do Your Best
“For many people, fear of imperfection is paralyzing,” notes Erin K. Tierno, a psychotherapist. “All too often, people interrupt their capacity for productivity by imagining all the ways their work product will fail to meet whatever standards they have imagined are the bar by which they will be measured.” One trick to getting those wheels moving again is to imagine producing the worst version of whatever you need to produce, and working through the implications of that. It might sound weird, but this liberates people from their fear of judgement and practice continuing on in the face of fear. “More often than not, people recognize through this exercise that they will actually be okay even if the worst really does happen and, more likely, what they’ll produce won’t even come close to their imagined worst outcome.”
Identify One Good Thing About Every Challenge
“Choose one challenge you are facing in life right now and identify one thing good about it,” Canning recommends. “Using your energy and brain power to ponder and search for the silver lining in seemingly negative things can give you an overall positive attitude and help improve brain health. There have been numerous reports on how positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind, allowing you to build new skills that can provide value in other areas of your life.”
Appreciate The Now
Most people are always looking for what’s next, but constant pursuit is a recipe for disappointment. “Be happy with the person that you are and the life that you have today before trying to chase all of your dreams,” Sadeghi says. “Many people spend a lifetime in a perpetual chase for happiness, always thinking that the next accomplishment or milestone is the one that will finally bring it to them. It might be more money, getting married, having kids, getting divorced, sending the kids to college, retiring, or one of millions of other things. However, the secret to life is that if you do not learn how to be happy with the person that you are today and the life that you have today, you will never find happiness.”
Learn The Art of Active Listening
Being a good listener is one of the keys to developing meaningful, fulfilling relationships. If you want people to trust you and feel comfortable sharing their concerns, issues, and triumphs with you, the best thing you can do is learn to listen well. The principles are simple: Listen intently, take in what the other person is saying, never interrupt, and then paraphrase what you’ve absorbed and repeat it back to them.
Seek Out Challenges
Science shows they’re what make life fulfilling. “Some research suggests that a certain degree of stress helps us to be more productive, happier, and efficient,” says Scott Amyx, author of Strive: How Doing the Things Most Uncomfortable Leads to Success. “For instance, Richard Dienstbier’s theory of mental toughness suggests that experiencing some manageable stressors, with recovery in between, can make us more mentally and physically tough and less reactive to future stress.” Basically, experiencing stress regularly and overcoming it helps you to view stress as a manageable thing, one that you can develop coping skills to deal with.
Put Things You Enjoy on Your Calendar
“Most people schedule the things they don’t like: getting up for work each day, boring meetings, etc.” Bennet says. “Schedule good things too: time with friends, dates, and ‘me time.’ This will give them the same priority in your life as more stressful events.”
Utilize The Cloud
“One of my favorite aspects of the smartphone revolution is the interconnected nature of devices,” says Luke Hughes, a life coach. “Using phone notes that are synced to WiFi or phone data, you can write down all your ideas under subheadings for different projects. Then, at a later date, you can return to these ideas on your laptop or permanent workstation when you have the time and motivation to research them further. This cross-pollination between devices is ideal for busy working professionals who work on several projects at once.”
Disengage From Things That Aren’t Progressing
Stuck in a rut in a relationship or on a big project? Check out for a little bit. “For many, being in control of every relationship and situation feels essential to coping with what life throws at us on a daily basis. Unfortunately, trying to be too in control can actually help things become out of control,” Cantin explains. “Avoid being overwhelmed with stress by working to step away from conversations, anger and, toxic people when you’re only engaging for the sake of engaging, and not because you’re actually making progress. Then, use the time you saved to focus on your friends and family, hobbies, and self-care.”
“Offering simple but meaningful gestures on a regular basis—like saying ‘thank you’ or ‘you are welcome,’ holding the door, or stopping your car for a pedestrian or another car—can make another human being feel good and improve your mood markedly,” says Corbett. Give it a try and you might just find yourself having better days more often.
Read at Least One Book Per Month
As it turns out, reading has major benefits, particularly when it comes to fiction. Research shows it can make you more empathetic and creative, two qualities that are certain to improve your overall quality of life. You can start with with the 40 Books Every Man Over 40 Should Read.
Turn Off Your WiFi
Keep getting distracted by incoming emails, meeting requests, and calendar alerts? Set aside some time to turn your WiFi connection off, put your phone on airplane mode, and get down to business. You’ll be surprised at what you can get done in just a couple of hours of offline time.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Write down a few things every day that you’re grateful for. They can be trivial, like what you had for dinner, or major like your health. “Research shows that people who engage in this practice have greater life satisfaction, feel better, and live longer,” Bilek says.
Listen to Upbeat Music
Going through a tough time? Turn up the tunes at home, while you work, or in the car. Research shows that people were more successful at thinking happy thoughts while listening to upbeat music.
Spend Less Than You Earn
One simple way to worry less about money? Make sure you’re not overspending, which is sometimes easier said than done. “In today’s accelerated (and online) world, it is a disciplined practice to monitor your spending, and we can quickly find ourselves spending much more than we earn,” says wealth expert Leanne Jacobs. “Take regular inventory of all your automated monthly spends and memberships that might be eating up all your cash flow and leaving you in a deficit at the end of the month.” For more money advice, know the 25 Daily Habits Rich People Swear By.
Be Yourself, Even When You’re Not Sure How It Will Go Over
“It is my belief that there is no one practice that will improve your quality of life more than operating and expressing yourself authentically,” says Mike Shereck, an executive coach and business consultant. “While this is more easily said than accomplished, authenticity and being authentic are definitely access to a life well lived.” What does it take to be yourself? “You may want to begin by telling the truth about where you are inauthentic. Where are you justifying yourself, or spending time looking good, or being right about something?” When you stop pretending to be someone you’re not, you’ll feel more happy and comfortable than ever before.
Learn to Say “No”
“We’re pressured to do more, participate in more activities, attend more events, and connect with more people every day,” Rivers points out. “Sometimes, it’s best for you to just say no to some things in order to recharge and rest. A rule of thumb is if you are not absolutely thrilled or excited about doing something, then don’t. If there is no compelling reason and you end up spending all of the time you’re there thinking about what you could be doing at home or imagining what you could be doing instead, then just skip it and do something you actually enjoy instead.”
Write Things Down
If you’re an ideas person, you’ve probably come up with some pretty great ones on the go or while you’re working on something unrelated. Pausing to jot down what you’ve come up with is totally worthwhile. “I keep a notebook of various projects,” says Stephanie Crane, a licensed master social worker and life coach. “Each page is a different project and I just jot down the various pieces to that project. Then, one at a time, I tackle those items until the list is done, and I can rip the page out of my notebook. It feels awesome to rip out that sheet of paper, crumple it up, and throw it out!”
Stop Working on Weekends
“Unwinding with friends, family, and hobbies reduces stress and energizes your brain,” Thomas says. “But you lose those benefits if you spend evenings and weekends wrapping up ‘just one more thing’ for work, or constantly emailing.” Give yourself a true break every weekend, and you’ll enter each work week feeling rejuvenated and inspired.
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it doesn’t make it any less true. One study showed that people who meditated for 15 minutes per day were more likely to make better, less biased choices. Plus, brain scans confirm that meditation helps improve focus. And if you’re trying to find your center for the first time, here are the 10 Best Ways to Focus Better During Meditation.
Go For a 10-Minute Walk Without Your Phone
There’s nothing that can’t wait 10 minutes—even during the work day. “Challenge yourself to notice anything that surprises you, that you didn’t notice before,” Canning says. “Allow yourself to be amazed by simple things. New evidence reveals that this exercise gives you new perspectives which scientists call the ‘overview effect,’ which can give you new insights, new possibilities, and your own ‘ah-ha!’ moments for a better frame of mind to approach problem-solving.”
Know Your KPIs
Measuring success becomes a lot easier when you know what your metrics are. “Always maintain a list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that allow you to see exactly how business is doing on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, even if you had no contact with anyone at your company,” Sadeghi recommends. These KPIs should cover different areas of your business or job, from small daily indicators to the most important financial indicators. Once you have clear goal posts in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy your wins more easily.
Stash Away Clothes You Haven’t Worn in a Year
“Don’t keep clothes in your closet that you don’t wear,” says Katherine Wertheim, a certified fundraising executive. ”It’s depressing. Put them in a closet in another bedroom, store them under the bed, or something else.” Waking up each morning and choosing your outfit from a closet full of clothes you love sets you up for a good day.
Delete Your Social Media Apps
Want to be more present? Delete the social media apps you use most frequently from your phone. That way, you’ll only check them when you really want to instead of opening the apps reflexively whenever you’re bored, giving you more time to relax and engage with other people in real life.
Buy New Clothes When You Want To
Yes—there’s scientific proof that investing in some new threads can improve your mood and help you feel more confident, so go ahead and treat yourself.
Set Financial Goals
“Instead of waiting until the end of the year to total up your annual earnings, set the amount you will earn for the year on January 1,” Jacobs says. “There is something powerful about committing to a set amount of money you intend to create for the year ahead. It’s a different way of thinking, and one that will set you apart financially!”
Try “Brain Clearing”
“If you have something important to get done, but you just can’t seem to get your head in the game, grab a piece of paper and a pen and try ‘stream of consciousness’ writing,” Thomas suggests. “This helps to eliminate mental clutter and uncover those intellectual gems you know are in there somewhere. Don’t censor yourself, and don’t try to organize as you write. Just write whatever comes to you, and chances are, before too long, your brain will find its way back to that important thing you’re trying to get done.”
Be Clear About Your Boundaries
The only way people in your life will behave the way you want them to is if you tell them what you want. “Boundaries are limits that define acceptable behavior, and you get to decide what is acceptable to you,” explains Heather Vickery, a transformational life and business coach. “Figure out where you need boundaries, communicate them and then discover guilt-free freedom.”
Limit Yourself to One New Commitment Per Week
“We are like hamsters on a wheel, always go-go-going, and it’s completely overwhelming and stressing us out,” says Kevin Strauss, a workplace wellness specialist. “More than likely, you’re doing so much in order to feel valued. However, with fewer ‘must do’s,’ you’ll be less stressed and able to do a much better job on the few priorities that truly matter.”
And for more tips on becoming your best self, check out The 50 Best Ways to Be a (Much) Better Man.
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