The new year is here and it’s time for a change. It’s time to forget all of your excuses and to find the path to your better self. If you really want to improve your life though, you’d better not rely on the magical new year’s resolutions. Because you’ll fail.
The new year’s resolutions are more of a selling trick than anything else. Supermarkets, gyms, clothing stores – all of them are trying to convince you that you can do better and you should do it now.
But what’s the transformation you’re striving to? That’s the first thing you should ask yourself. The answer will determine the possibility of actually changing something.
Most of the people tend to choose quite indefinite new year’s resolutions, like “I’ll eat healthier” or “I’ll be more active”. The vaguer the promise is, the easier it is to break it. When you lack clarity in your commitments, it’s easy to forget them. It’s even easier to stick to the already established well-known daily routine. That’s why the desired change never comes – you can’t expect different results by doing the same thing.
But what would happen if you set a clear, measurable and achievable goal? For example, instead of claiming that you’ll eat healthier, you can say to yourself “I’ll eat 200 grams of fruit and vegetables per day”. That’s a different thing, isn’t it?
When setting unrealistic goals, you bring yourself down. You’ve made a promise you can’t keep and this can make you feel like a weak, unreliable or even lousy person.
To save you from this vicious thought circle, I want to share with you some ideas that you can use to improve your life while avoiding the necessity of making useless new year’s resolutions.
Choose one idea from the list below and promise to yourself you’ll try to adopt it as a habit, starting today.
Every week you can track whether you kept your promise by putting a sign in your agenda, calendar or habit tracker. The act of monitoring your progress will motivate you to be strict in including the specific activity in your routine.
Within a couple of weeks, you’ll adopt this behaviour as your habit. Then you can move to the next idea from the list.
So, forget about new year’s resolutions! Try one of these life-changing ideas instead.
Have one day per week without social media
If you want to be productive and to keep your focus on the things that matter, you should use social media wisely. Whatever your niche is, it’s crucial to get yourself out there and to reach your audience via different channels. But this doesn’t mean you have to spend hours and hours taking care of your Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus accounts.
There are two things you can do to optimise the social media management process without paying to a virtual assistant or an agency. First, make a monthly plan. This may take you a whole day, but afterwards, you’ll know that your social channels will rock! Decide where you’d like to post the most and how often you should do it. Prepare the type of content you share in each social media.
This sounds like a lot of content but here comes the second part of the optimisation: repurpose your content. Don’t try to make up something entirely new and different for all of your channels. Get rid of the idea that you already posted this on Instagram so you can’t use it on Facebook. Your audience is different in each social media – the people following you on LinkedIn are definitely not the same as the ones checking your Pinterest boards.
Goes without saying that you shouldn’t just copy and paste the same post all over the Internet. Adapt your content taking into consideration the specifications of the particular platform and don’t be afraid to make the most out of one good idea, picture, article or video.
Prepare coffee at home
Instead of dropping by the closest cafe for a takeaway coffee, prepare a cup of the refreshing drink at home. Even if you don’t have a coffee machine, there are multiple ways to take advantage of the coffee beans. I’m using an AeroPress, but you can also make a Turkish coffee or use a French press.
Preparing a cup of coffee in the afternoon has the status of a ritual for me. I take a break, stretch a bit, enjoy the pleasant scent and spoil myself with a warm drink.
If you don’t like black coffee, you can always add some milk. In case you want your coffee on the go, use a thermos cup. This simple routine change will save you a lot of money and will make you feel like you’re letting yourself have a well-deserved break.
Wake up at the same time every day
Building a routine is crucial for your concentration. Waking up at the same time every day can be stressful for you, especially if you’re working as a freelancer. But getting up early in the morning is a significant part of the zen lifestyle.
As I’m anything but an early bird, I take my time in the morning to wake up and to get ready for the day. I do some yoga, have breakfast, take a shower. Only then I’m fully awake and prepared for the challenges of the day.
Do you want to adopt the habit of getting up earlier? Then you have to go to bed on time. If your lifestyle allows it, try going to the bedroom at 10 p.m. the latest and leave all of your devices behind. Reading a book or writing in your journal will help you relax and feel sleepy in no time.
Take care of yourself
It may sound weird but taking care of yourself should be part of your daily or at least weekly habits. And – attention! – brushing your teeth or taking a quick shower doesn’t count.
The purpose of this habit is to stop being focused on other people’s well-being and to pamper yourself instead. Take a minute to notice how you feel and what you’d like to do.
Do you need some time to quiet your busy mind? Or you want to reward your body? Depending on how much time you have, you can choose the activity that suits your mood the most. The possibilities are endless – doing sports, having a beauty treatment, reading, taking a bath, having a cup of tea or meditating for a couple of minutes.
Double the steps you make
It’s never been that easy to track your physical activity! Install Google Fit on your smartphone or use one of those fitness trackers to count your steps.
According to the study How many steps per day are enough for adults? normative data indicate that healthy adults typically take between 4,000 and 18,000 steps per day. Aim for the golden middle or 11,000 steps per day to make sure you don’t spend too much time sitting at your desk, in your car or on the couch.
If you’d rather do some sports, that’s even better! Jogging, biking or attending a group activity in the local gym – the choice is yours. As long as it brings you joy and makes you sweat, you’re on the right path.
Keep your workplace tidy
Throw away the papers you don’t need and organise your sticky notes in a planner or put them on a special board. Clean up your keyboard and mouse, get all the cables in order.
Once you’ve done this, try to keep your workplace as tidy as possible. Put a bin next to the desk – it’ll help you throw away the unnecessary notes instead of piling them up.
Keeping your home office area or your desk at work tidy will open up some mental space you could use for getting more productive or creative. Working in a chaotic environment doesn’t boost your creativity as some (lazy) folks like to say. Quite the opposite though – the genius ideas which want to come to you can’t really find you in this mess.
Turn off the TV
I’m not using my TV for actually watching television for more than ten years now. I was still a teenager when I realised what a waste this is. It’s a never-ending stream of information you don’t want and you don’t need.
If you want to watch a movie or a show, go to Netflix and pick up a title based on your preferences. If you’re going to have some background noise while doing something else, listen to music or to podcasts.
Whatever it is, you should make the decision. Don’t let somebody else choose what kind of information you receive. The black box is there to form your opinion and preferences if you allow it to do so.
Declutter your phone and computer
Like the notes on your desk, the programs on your desktop also tend to pile up. Go through all of the things you have installed on your devices, one by one. When was the last time you used this program? Have you ever used it?
Uninstall the software you don’t use on a daily basis. If you think “I might use it someday” about something, it’s better to delete it now. You can always install it again if the urgent need to use it has risen all of a sudden.
In the long term, always think twice before installing something new. Will you actually use it? You can spend the time you’ll save from installing this app and registering for it on something more productive.
Become a volunteer
Try supporting a local charity for a couple of hours per week. Discover the joy of meeting new people who share the same mindset and back the same cause. It’s rewarding to do something positive and to provide help where needed without expecting anything in return.
Furthermore, if you choose for a niche that suits your personality, you’ll actually get a lot of self-development opportunities in return. The possibility for growing as a person will give you a great sense of fulfilment – greater than any paid job can possibly provide.
Organise your email
Even if you don’t realise it, your email is among the biggest time-wasters which influence your workflow. The push notifications for receiving newsletters that you don’t remember subscribing for sum up. Turn them all off and establish a rule for checking your email only a couple of times per day.
You can also delete some old and useless correspondence and organise your emails into folders or with labels. Also, whenever you receive a newsletter which you consider annoying, immediately unsubscribe from receiving further emails like this. The aim is to receive only messages which add some value to your work or personal life.
Invite the minimalism in your life
The first step to a more minimalistic lifestyle is getting rid of most of your stuff. An excellent place to start from is your wardrobe. Donate or sell at least half of your clothes and accessories. For each item you possess, ask yourself “Have I used this at least once in the past 3 months?”. If the answer is negative, then the next step is obvious.
Continue with this healing process going through your kitchen, storage room, bathroom. Throw away the stuff you can’t donate or sell, like cosmetics or worn out items.
Another effective measure against burying yourself under a pile of stuff is buying only what you need. If you spend your money consciously instead of impulsively, you’ll end up with fewer things and more money. You can buy yourself experiences with it or you can invest it in your future.
I have to warn you that inviting minimalism in your life, especially if you’re of the I-might-use-this-someday type, is extremely difficult. But it’s worth it! Decluttering your life starts with cleaning up your home. Whenever you feel like it’s time for the next step – calming your mind – you can come back to The Zen Freelancer, the quiet space for busy minds.
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