Thursday, August 16, 2012

My 14 Ways to Live a Better Life … Starting Today!

You’ve probably noticed that the market is saturated with self-help guides, audio books, and outrageously-priced seminars by motivational speakers. This is simply proof that most people enjoy receiving advice from others.

Here are a few “tips” that I’ve discovered on my own. Some of them are a bit humorous, but most of them are common sense. I think if you do your best to take them to heart, you’ll start to notice a clearer head and a bigger smile on your face.

1. Wake up at a reasonable hour. Everyone’s schedule is different, so if you work the night shift, your “reasonable hour” may be noon, but it’s a good idea to wake up before you have to. When I was in college I had the horrible habit of crawling out of bed ten minutes before I had to be in class. Although nearly everyone I knew at the time did the same exact thing, looking back, I see how stupid it really was. If I have a ten o’clock appointment, I wake up at seven so I can get in some exercise, take a shower, and eat breakfast before I run out the door.

2. Think of something that you have to look forward to. Once the alarm goes off and the initial confusion of “Ugh, it’s already morning!” has ended, think of something cool that you have going on in your life at the moment. Yeah, it sounds hokey, but it’s pretty helpful … and I’m sure you can think of something. Come on, anything! It can be as simple as, “Oh yeah! It’s Thursday, and that means it’s almost Friday! Weekend, here I come!” or something even better, like “The FedEx man is gonna deliver my new flat screen TV today!”

3. Look in the mirror. I’ve seen plenty of people in the movies and on TV shows who look at themselves in the mirror each morning and say things like, “You’re awesome!” or “You can do it!” before they start their day. I know this sounds relatively insane, but it helps—and I speak from experience. If you can’t tell yourself that you’re good at something and actually believe it, why should you believe anyone else who says it?

4. Take a shower and get dressed. This may be a no-brainer, but spending five or ten minutes in the shower will help clear your head and make you feel a whole lot better. Hopefully you can even find clean clothes to wear. (You know, ones that were hanging in the closet as opposed to the ones that are still in the laundry basket on the floor, wrinkled and covered in cat hair since Fluffy decided to take a nap on them.)

5. Scan the news online, read the “real” newspaper for a few minutes, or tune into the news channel on TV for a few minutes. However you get your news is up to you, but it’s a good idea to stay on top of things that are going on in the world, even though lately most of the news makes everyone angry. You shouldn’t be ignorant about issues that may affect you personally, and you’ll want to have firsthand knowledge as to what’s happening in case someone asks you about it later or tries to force their opinions on you as “the truth.”

6. Eat breakfast. Eating breakfast is a biggie that a lot of people skip, so be sure to eat something. A container of yogurt, a banana, maybe a granola bar as you run out the door … just be sure to eat. You’ll need energy to get through the morning. I like Starbucks just as much as the next guy, but a cup of coffee is not breakfast—even if it has chocolate syrup in it and whipped cream on top.

7. Make a to-do-list each day. I run my own internet business and mainly work from home (or a hotel, or wherever “home” may be at the time) so it’s a huge benefit to know what I have going on each day. Even if you spend your days at the office, you’ll still want to have some kind of agenda to follow. Set up a schedule on your Blackberry or write things down on a legal pad, but do it somehow … or you’ll wind up forgetting something important.

8. Get to work safely. Again, I only work from home, but if you drive to work – or ride your bike to work, or take the bus or train – do it safely. This is also why it’s a good idea to wake up relatively early. Rushing leads to speeding and speeding leads to tickets or fender benders … which will make you even later than you were going to be in the first place.

9. Take a deep breath and count to 3 when something starts to bug you. Co-workers, clients, things that aren’t going as smoothly as possible … there are dozens of things that can easily start to drive you nuts at the drop of a hat. You don’t want to wind up getting so frustrated with someone or something that you wind up going postal, so close your eyes and take a deep breath as you mentally count to three before you say something you may regret. Most likely, whatever’s bugging you isn’t as bad as you think it is.

10. Periodically take a break … away from your desk! Be sure to walk away from your desk every few hours. You’ll wind up getting frustrated if you sit there staring at your monitor nonstop, and your eyes will start to hurt. Getting up for five or ten minutes every three or four hours will not blow your entire day, believe me. You also need to take a break and eat lunch. Sitting at your desk with a Snickers bar that you got from the vending machine doesn’t count.

11. Tie up as many loose ends as possible before the work day ends. We all know that some days you’ll wind up working later than expected, but don’t make it a habit or your boss (or you) will start to assume that you really do work twelve hours each day even though you get paid for eight. Get as many things done as possible each day, but try to leave on time. There’s always tomorrow.

12. Eat dinner. I had to stress the importance of eating breakfast and lunch, so of course I’m going to remind you to eat dinner! And if today is one of those days you wind up putting in some overtime, get up from your desk to eat dinner. A carton of Chinese take-out every night of the week will begin to affect your waistline and your mood. Try to eat dinner with other people, if possible. Everyone should have friends. (You know, besides Fluffy the cat, even though I’m sure he’s cool.)

13. Enjoy a hobby after work. Whether it’s taking a bike ride or a walk, watching a movie, reading a novel, it’s a good idea to have some sort of hobby besides work! Spend an hour or two doing something that you enjoy to help get your mind off of work.

14. Unwind a bit before bed, and get ready to repeat the cycle tomorrow! Whether “unwinding” involves the above-mentioned hobby or something else, take time to chill out for a bit before hitting the sack. This will give you the ability to get a good night’s sleep, wake up, and do it all over again … and if this happens on Friday night, you probably don’t have to go to work tomorrow! Even better!

Yes, some of these fourteen tips might seem a bit common sense. The funny thing is they really work. I guarantee that implementing them into your daily routine will make you feel happier and more excited about the possibilities that each day brings!

James Boehm

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