There are days when you look around and you feel like you’ve living under a dome of absolute chaos. Your house is a mess, you’ve forgotten about important appointments, and that dreaded to-do list lies under a paper mountain. How you can self-improve at all if you can’t even see past what’s piling up in front of you?
Thinking about the long-term is way too overwhelming at this point. You don’t want to put a creative cap on, but a productive one! If you want to self-improve, some of the goals you should start with must be immediate-term. This will allow you to witness yourself getting something done and gain a sense of self-trust. So, let’s get you fired up.
If you have no idea how to get started, here are three things you can do to self-improve right now. If done step-by-step, they should take less than an hour.
SELF-IMPROVE BY… TIDYING YOUR SPACE (20-30 minutes)
It’s said so many times it’s become clichéd. Clean your room. Make your bed. Shine your sink. But it’s clichéd because it’s true. You can’t overestimate how horrible your mind feels in an environment where household items and small creatures routinely get lost.
And it makes sense. In our leisure time alone, our brains process 34 GIGABYTES of information every single day! When your brain registers an unkempt environment on top of everything else, it’s overwhelming!
YOUR ACTION STEPS:
- Decide where you’re going to be doing most of your work today. Take some time to clear away any clutter that could prove distracting. If it’s in your study, take some time to clear away the mess, or put the majority of the clutter away. If you work from your bedroom, like me, make sure your bed looks neat, and your surfaces are cleared away.
- This also applies to your digital space. If you open up your computer and you’re greeted with twenty open tabs, five open applications, and a desktop full of icons, you’re already running when you should be stretching for the task ahead! Clear it away.
- Don’t be a tab hoarder (like me). If you really need those tabs open again you can go back through your history. Still worried? Open a new window, or if you’re on a Mac, or create different desktops for your different workspaces.
SELF-IMPROVE BY… CREATING A DOUBLE-PAGE REFLECTION SPREAD (15-20 minutes)
I tried this for the first time about a week ago, and it gave me a lot, and I mean a lot, of clarity. Want to check that your actions are lining up with your ideals? Draw up one of these bad boys.
YOUR ACTION STEPS:
- Write on the right-hand side what you would love your day to be like. What would Ideal You do from the moment you woke up until the moment your head hit the pillow? Don’t read over it when you finish writing.
- On the left-hand side, write down your reality. What you actually did today is a good way to get down the real truth.
- Read back through your ideal day, circling its elements/ingredients.
- Read back through the current situation, circling the problems – the actions you’re taking that are causing you to steer away from your ideal self.
- Write these poor actions down in a list, and write down next to them the ideal versions. Have a look at both columns, and think about how big a jump it would be to get from Column A to Column B.
- Think about the VERY NEXT physical step you could take to shift each of the actions in Column A. Remember: Single step. If we try to leap from A to B, it’s not going to work. Not with deeply ingrained habits. Just think about the very next thing you would do if you moved up one rung on the ladder of improvement.
- Pick 1-3 next steps, and put them on a to-do list, or schedule them in. These will be your new habits. If you’ve done the previous step correctly, it won’t feel like a slog. This is how you make change – gradually.
SELF-IMPROVE BY… SETTING UP THE REST OF THE DAY’S GOOGLE CALENDAR (15-20 minutes)
I’m a big fan of Google Calendar – the smooth interface, the syncing across devices (as opposed to writing on a scrap of paper and forgetting about it the second it’s out of sight), the free-ness of it all…
So I feel like Google Calendar can become a bit of a safety blanket for you if you set it up and rely on it like a second brain. David Allen’s Getting Things Done focuses a lot on this. The book’s whole premise is that we should stop relying on our brains to hold information – it’s not a storage device, it’s a thinking one!
Oftentimes when we think about sitting down to schedule in things, we’re looking at it from a long-ranging perspective. It doesn’t have to be this way, though! Focusing purely on the rest of your day does two jobs for you:
- minimises (nay, eliminates) overwhelm, and
- allows you to feel like you can save yourself, even if only with a tiny task you wouldn’t have otherwise done!
YOUR ACTION STEPS:
- Open up Google Calendar to a view that you find easy to work with. I personally like the day view, because you can get a good thirteen hours in on your desktop.
- Schedule in the things you know you have to do. Let’s start with basic life functioning – meals and snacks, and sleep. BE REALISTIC. This is also a great way to make sure you don’t take a bite out of your much-needed 8 hours of snooze-time.
- Put in anything that must get done today that you need to travel to – put in the task/appointment, and the travel time. Overestimate your travel time slightly in case of delays.
- Think about the three or four things you would really like to get done that you will fit in to whatever’s left of today. Pop them in, one after the other.
- This is where the flexibility comes in. Move them around, expanding or compressing the time you’d like to spend – anything so long as they’re in there and you’ll have moved the needle. Be realistic about how much time you can give to a task without burning out.
- Now take a step back and make sure you have some buffer periods and break times. If you follow the Pomodoro method, you might like to leave five minutes at the end of each half hour to quickly catch up on social media or communications, or do a quick workspace tidy.
This will keep your mind focused and on-task, and you’ll now be able to use your brain for things other than trying to remember everything you still have left to do. You’ll also start seeing how time itself is a fixed concept – but you can manipulate it to fit in your most pressing and important tasks before the day is over and you feel it was wasted.
Which one of these are you going to try to help you self-improve? Do you have any questions or reasons why you think you can’t complete them? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll modify the task to suit your needs!