Confession? I hate the term ‘self-improvement’. It reeks of MLM scams and weird bearded old men selling audio cassette tapes to chumps in the 80s. Basically the plot of On Becoming A God in Central Florida – by the way, if you haven’t watched this, do it. It’s outstanding and Kirsten Dunst’s character should be life goals for everyone.
The self-improvement space is freaking weird though. It’s either full-on cult level creepy (think The Missing Crypto Queen) or impossibly chiselled, glistening wonder hunks (or hunkettes) who are basically joyless robots that work out 8 hours a day and live on protein shakes they try to sell you with every Instagram post. Which leaves most sensible people going ‘Yeah… nah. I’m cool thanks.’ and throwing self-improvement in the fuck-it bucket.
It’s hard to write in this space without sounding like a total wanker. My life is far from perfect but it’s also very far from sucking and the reason why is very boring and simple. I have daily habits and systems that I stick to fairly religiously and I’m a reasonably happy, healthy and successful person. I’m also consistently happy, healthy and successful. I have unavoidable setbacks just like everyone else (Oh hey COVID-19! What’s up loser?) but my daily habits and systems prove time and time again to keep me on track.
Habit building is also a package deal – the more of this good stuff you do, the more it will penetrate into your life and generally make the whole thing better. Promise.
Not all habits work for everyone but here are a few you might like to start with. They’re all small, very achievable and I’ve personally observed thousands of people get mad results doing them.
You don’t have to try them all but if you’re feeling like a hot mess, this might be a good place to start.
Here are 17 tiny habits that are pretty damn ace.
1. More action
Whenever you find yourself feeling slumpy and gross turn it around by thinking ‘Action!’. That could mean getting up off the couch and cleaning the kitchen, it could mean putting your phone down and grabbing a book instead, it could mean popping your sneakers on and going for a run. Action is literally the only thing that causes change – so go do some stuff!
2. Raise your heart rate at least every other day
Exercise is a huge struggle for a lot of people so let’s make it really simple. 1 x thirty-minute walk on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Done. Go up a hill or go fast and make sure you get huffy puffy. Boom. Done.
3. Listen more than you talk
I absolutely love the sound of my own voice, a trait I believe many of us are born with. I’ve been concentrating on this for a few years but I really try to properly listen when people are talking. More specifically, I try not to cut people off when they’re talking. My partner is a master at disciplined conversation and people seem to like him a lot so I’m trying to emulate that. I quite like it. It makes me seem mysterious and as an over the top extrovert I’ve never been anything close to mysterious.
4. Follow the 7-word diet
Eat food, mostly plants, not too much. I definitely don’t want to simplify or stigmatise healthy eating but this is a pretty good rule of thumb if you follow it consistently. Allows for a few bevvys with your sticky dumpings on a Saturday if you chase it with some salads the next week. Easy peasy.
Anything – magazines, books, journals. Hot tip – can I suggest NOT reading on your phone? If you can get something physical in your hands it stops you tapping out of that article you’re reading and just ‘checking’ Facebook by which stage you’ve lost 20 minutes of your reading time. Kindles are fine – they’re basically books because you can’t get social media on them.
6. Say no
Practice this with me.
‘Oh thank you so much but that’s not going to work for me.’
Be polite and firm.
7. Break your attachment to your phone
I haven’t had Instagram or Facebook on my phone permanently for years (I install and uninstall a few times a week) but I recently removed all internet browsers from my phone and no joke, it’s changed my life.
I still have Medium and Feedly to read actual blog posts and articles but I find I can tap into one of those for 20 minutes and easily tap out. It doesn’t have that addictive quality to it that social media does. My maps, camera and messages still work, I just don’t have the ability to waste time scrolling mindlessly and it’s very excellent. I suggest you try it.
8. Do something you love for 20 minutes
You MUST schedule your downtime. For example, I work fairly non-stop from 8 to 2.30 pm (I have a very quick lunch break) so I can clock off early at 2.30 pm. Then I enter the courtroom of Judge Judith Sheindlin, where the people are real, the cases are real and the rulings are final. I crochet while I watch. I absolutely love it. It’s immersive and restorative. And Judge Judy is legit one of my mentors and checking in with her every afternoon is an excellent reminder to be a bad-ass.
9. Stand up every hour on the hour
If you have an Apple watch, it will tap you to remind you to do it, if you don’t just set an alarm. There are lots of reasons why this is a good idea so just do it okay?
10. Get dressed properly
I know a lot of us are working from home for the first time ever – trust me when I say tracksuit pants kill productivity. I know some people out there will be proudly pumping out their best work having not showered for two weeks, but most people work better when they’re fresh. Wear something comfortable by all means but maybe wear shoes and brush your teeth. Makes the world of difference.
11. Turn off the news
For real. You won’t miss anything. Turn it off for a couple of days. You’ll be fine. It’s basically the same every day anyway. ‘Trump said something weird, COVID-19 is still ruining our lives and a house burned down a few streets away from you.’ If something huge happens, you’ll find out about it.
12. Drink water
Get a 700ml bottle and drink one at 9am, one at lunchtime and one when you finish work. Done.
13. Share at least one meal a day with another person
We used to be terrible at this before we had a kid but now we sit at the table every night and eat as a family and it’s lovely. We used to eat dinner either in front of the TV or separately as we were off doing our own thing. If you live alone, consider Facetiming or Zooming someone for a chat.
14. Decide what type of person you are in the morning and concentrate on being that today
I’m a bit of mindset enthusiast and I truly believe you can change the tone of your day if you set an intention. Try something like ‘I’m the type of person who prioritises daily movement’ – repeat it throughout the day and see if you skip your workout. Or try ‘I’m the type of person who always looks on the bright side’ – repeat throughout the day and see if your attitude stays positive. It seems a little bit weird and kind of self-indulgent but take a moment to think about who you want to be today and focus on that.
15. Let it go
If something is bothering you and it can’t be fixed in 5 minutes, let it go. You gain nothing from letting it ruin your day.
16. Do a ten-minute tidy morning and night
My almost two-year-old is obsessed with trying to put her own shoes and socks on and refuses help from me ‘No! Mine! I do it!’ so when she’s trying unsuccessfully to shove her little marshmallow feet into her shoes I do a quick whip around and shove her toys back in her room, stack the dishwasher and pop on a load of washing. After ten minutes she’s ready to let me help and I’ve used that time to tidy the house. Bonza. At night, my partner does a quick today while I’m giving the kid a bath. It keeps the house workable with not much effort.
17. Say your goal out loud
Choose the big thing you want to get done that day and say it out loud. ‘I’m going to complete my report!’, ‘I’m going to run 10km!’, ‘I’m going to meal prep for the week!’. Holds you accountable.
Just a few little habits that might kick you out of your funk!
Also, you should totally sign up for my newsletter. I’ve started sending weekly newsletters again and they’re full of useful things and don’t forget Crochet Coach has a free trial offer if you fancy making all your Christmas presents this year.
I bloody love your newsletters and the positive vibe and handy tidbits they carry. Keep them coming……
I TOTALLY needed to read this today!!!
Another excellent list to live by and even if I don’t do it all, it’s in my consciousness and it will be familiar to me next time I see/hear it. I rely on you for the dip-feed of self-improvement (that word again), Carly.
This list is superb. I do a number of these but need to do more. Love your words Carly.
Great list and so well and funny written. Thanks Carly!
I saw the title of this somewhere (my Inbox? Facebook?) and instantly wanted to read it, but couldn’t for some reason – I’m so glad I finally did! There are heaps of tips here I can incorporate into my life. Thanks Carly, love it!