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Self-improvement is big business.
In 2020, the self-improvement industry was estimated to be worth $10.4 billion in the United States.¹
But here’s the catch—most of the advice you get from self-improvement gurus is either really simple or generic to the point of useless.
So here are five completely free self-improvement moves you can make that can actually help you feel better, starting today.
Get some sun
Sunlight, especially in the morning, offers a host of benefits, including…²
- Stronger eyes (just don’t look straight into the sun!)
- Healthy weight loss
- Stronger immunity
- Boosted emotional well-being
- Higher quality sleep
As a rule of thumb, try to get sunlight before noon for between 5 to 30 minutes. Don’t wear sunglasses or view the sunlight through a window, and get out of the shade for maximum results.
That’s it. Spend 5 minutes each day in the sun and see if you notice results!
Optimize your sleep
Getting better sleep can transform your life. It can improve everything from mood to focus to your ability to build muscle.³
But it’s often low on the priority list. How many times have you heard your overachieving friend say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”?
Don’t be like them! Implement these simple strategies to get the rest you deserve…
- Get sunlight early in the day, preferably within 60 minutes of waking
- Dim the lights before bed
- Keep your room cool and dark
Above all, aim for 8 hours of sleep each night!
Kick your self-improvement addiction
Let’s face it—self-improvement can swiftly become counter productive. At first, you get that rush. You’re setting goals and crushing them. You’re noticing improvements in mood, your productivity, your physique. It’s like the answer you’ve been waiting for!
But reality slowly settles back in. You start noticing inefficiencies in your routine. Bad habits creep back in. The world is still on fire. You’re still human.
That’s where you have a choice. You can throw yourself deeper into the self-improvement rabbit hole, optimizing every moment in the hope that one day, you’ll finally feel okay.
Or, you learn the ultimate self-improvement technique of them all—self-acceptance. Sure, you make tweaks and deal with problems. But you acknowledge that, at the end of the day, you’re still human. You take the good with the bad. You do your best to treat other people—and yourself—right.
So wake up tomorrow and get some sun, first thing. Before bed, dim the lights well in advance and turn on the fan. Wake up and see how you feel. And if these tips don’t fix all your problems, don’t sweat it—celebrate the improvement, and remember that you’re still human. And that’s a good thing, because that means you’re, well, you!
¹ “$10.4 Billion Self-Improvement Market Pivots to Virtual Delivery During the Pandemic,” John LaRosa, MarketResearch.com, Aug 2, 2021 https://blog.marketresearch.com/10.4-billion-self-improvement-market-pivots-to-virtual-delivery-during-the-pandemic
² “Sunlight and Your Health,” Poonam Sachdev, WebMD, Feb 22, 2022 https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-sunlight-health-effects
³ “Surprising Reasons to Get More Sleep,” Rachel Reiff Ellis, WebMD, Jun 12, 2021 https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/benefits-sleep-more
Peak human performance.
Operating at your full potential consistently sounds too good to be true. We all want to accomplish more at our jobs and around the house. But a million little distractions always seem to throw us off course. Sure, we all have flashes of inspiration, but many of us settle for a fraction of our true capabilities.
But there’s a better way.
Researchers have discovered that high productivity doesn’t have to be limited to short bursts. There’s actually a very specific state of mind that results in stunning levels of output that’s triggered by certain psychological factors. It’s called flow, and understanding how it works may change your life.
What is flow?
Technically speaking, “Flow is a cognitive state where one is completely immersed in an activity… It involves intense focus, creative engagement, and the loss of awareness of the self.”¹ Think of it like this: what’s your favorite quarterback thinking about when he’s making a game winning play? Almost nothing else besides what he’s doing in the moment. That state of total concentration on the task at hand is what defines flow. Other sensations follow. Decisions seem to make themselves. You lose awareness of what’s going on around you. Time either seems to fly by or you see things in slow motion. And, most importantly, you feel awesome. You’re “in the zone.”
You’ve almost certainly achieved this flow state at least once in your life. But it probably doesn’t seem replicable. You were just on during that highschool football championship game or playing that local show with your buddies or giving that presentation. Fortunately, research hasn’t just described flow; it’s discovered a few factors that contribute to achieving peak performance.
The first flow key is to establish goals.
Your brain loves objectives. It loves feeling like it’s accomplishing things. Having a clear outcome in mind will help you tune out the distractions that don’t matter and hone in on what does. Identify your desired goal, outline in detail how you’ll accomplish it, and then proceed to the second flow key.
The second flow key is the balance between challenge and boredom.
Very often, facing a difficult task doesn’t naturally induce deep focus. It actually can make us feel anxious, scared, and avoidant. However, a mundane and simple activity, like washing dishes, doesn’t require the brainpower to trigger intense concentration.
Flow lives in the happy medium between those extremes of crushing anxiety and mind-melting boredom.
You have to have the confidence that you can actually crush the challenge at hand, but also not find it too easy or boring. Dial in your ideal difficulty level before you start a project. Expect more from your mundane responsibilities and get help for the daunting ones. Raise the stakes for your performance but make sure you don’t drown in the process!
The third flow key is immediate feedback.
Let’s say you’ve hired a coach to help you master a skill. Would you prefer them to write up an annual review on your progress or give you tips, critiques, and advice as often as possible?
Think about all the bad habits and practices you would develop without their regular oversight. You might discover you’ve been doing things wrong for a whole year if you’re only getting an annual checkup!
Instant feedback allows you to constantly refine your process and execution while also setting up micro goals for you to accomplish. It’s a simple way to add a dash of challenge to your daily routine that locks you in and helps you achieve peak performance.
Seek out frequent feedback. Ask your boss or co-workers or coach to give you critiques as often as possible. That constant stream of input will either make you feel good about what you’ve accomplished or give you new obstacles to overcome!
Achieving this state of peak performance isn’t always easy. There’s a cycle to entering flow that includes a difficult first phase. It’s hard work for our brain to enter into total focus and concentration. This first barrier is where most of us quit because intense concentration doesn’t feel great at first. But overcoming that initial resistance can open up a whole new world of productivity and performance. Use the three flow keys, push past the opening waves of discomfort and get into your zone! Sources
¹ “Flow,” Psychology Today, accessed Sept. 24, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/flow
Mastering a skill takes time, effort, and sometimes money.
Hours of dedicated learning, training, and mentorship are required to move from amateur to expert. But who has the time for that? Most of us are still figuring out our careers or how to be a better parent or partner. With our busy lives, acquiring an additional skill—no matter how beneficial or fulfilling it may be—can seem like a fantasy.
But what if there were a way to quickly become competent at a skill? It turns out that there are some simple steps you can take to jumpstart your learning process. Here are some tips for quick skill acquisition!
Skills are typically composed of smaller processes. For instance, playing a song on piano requires a few different abilities. You must be able to move each finger to the right keys at the right time, you should probably know how to read music, and possess a sense of when to play more loudly or softly. Trying to play a song without some command of those capabilities can feel overwhelming or impossible!
That’s why it’s useful to start with the end product and work backwards to discover the little skills you need to master. Once you see the micro-processes involved, you can start working forward. This might feel silly at first. Jumping between the same few notes over and over again until you’ve got them down isn’t the most glamorous endeavor! But it lays the foundation for a more complicated and satisfying skill that will pay off in the long run.
It’s easy to think making progress will be a straight line. We’re building up our little skills, getting better and better with each practice session. But pretty soon we hit a wall. There’s a problem that seems we can’t overcome. We might even start backsliding or feeling like we’re getting worse!
Don’t sweat a roadblock. It’s perfectly normal to hit a plateau when you’re trying to acquire a skill. Take a break from practice, go for a walk or take a nap, and get back to it with a fresh perspective. You might be surprised by how much learning occurs when you allow your brain to relax and process.
As nice as it sounds, multitasking simply does not work. There’s overwhelming evidence that it actually slows down your brain and wildly reduces efficiency.¹ Multitasking must be avoided at all costs when you’re trying to quickly learn a new skill. Try setting aside some undistracted time every morning or evening for a few weeks to work on your skill. That means leaving your phone in another room, turning off the TV, and telling your family that you’ll be busy for a while. Get in the zone and start practicing!
An hour every evening for a month won’t transform you into a Picasso. You’re not shooting to be a virtuoso. Instead, these tips and strategies may help you quickly acquire competence in just about anything you set your mind to. So draw up a list of some skills you want to develop and start learning!
¹ “Multitasking is dead. Monotasking is better for our health, relationships and productivity,” Wendy Rose Gould, Today, May 13, 2022, https://www.today.com/health/mind-body/multitasking-bad-productivity-monotasking-rcna26968
Chances are you’ve cooked some pretty elaborate plans to trick yourself into being more productive.
Have you considered the role your surroundings play in your everyday life? It turns out that one of the easiest ways to bring about change in our lives is actually to change our environments. What if the layout of your bedroom or the distance from your desk to the kitchen was impacting your productivity and decision making? There’s plenty of room for each of us to improve. Here’s how and why making some changes to your environment works.
Your brain is efficient Making decisions is draining. (Heard of “decision fatigue”? It’s real!) We can only make so many choices per day before we start to run out of steam and need a rest. But we’re faced with countless choices every time we wake up! Should I go back to sleep? Should I shower or brush my teeth first? What will I wear to work? Should I try out that new shortcut to the office? It can become stressful for your brain to struggle with a choice every time one of these little prompts presents itself. That’s why we rely on decision shortcuts called habits.
A habit is just a routine that you regularly perform. Most of the time we don’t even notice that we’re engaging in a habit because it’s second nature to us. And there’s a reason for that. It’s your brain saving energy by going on autopilot to perform an action without having to make a decision. That way you can use the bulk of your mental power on unique and important problems that might pop up during the day, not on thinking about when you should brush your teeth!
Trick yourself into making wise decisions What does your brain’s love of shortcuts have to do with your environment? Let’s look at an example.
Your alarm clock is right next to your bed. It goes off every morning at 7:30am. It doesn’t take you long to figure out that you can smack the snooze button and go straight back to sleep with hardly any effort. Before long you’re hitting the snooze button every time the alarm goes off without even thinking about it. You’ve trained yourself to sleep in later by making your alarm easier to turn off. But what if your alarm was on the other side of your room? What if to silence it you had to stand up, walk over, and hit a button? That simple change could give you the jolt that you need to wake up and get your day started on time!
Take a look at your surroundings and ask yourself what kind of behavior it encourages. Is it more convenient for you to grab a soda from the fridge or fill up your water bottle? When you work at home, are you in the middle of distractions like the kids playing or too close to the TV? At work, does your office layout lend itself to productivity or socializing with your co-workers?
It might take some legwork to get started, but try to arrange your life in a way that makes wise decisions easier. You might be surprised by the results!
Study after study has shown that hopping in the shower and turning the handle towards C can have tremendous benefits.
It’s claimed that doing this can boost your mood, enhance metabolism, and increase focus. One experiment even found that ice baths and breathing exercises can reduce the impact of illnesses like E. Coli.¹
But why? And more importantly before you dive into a frozen lake, how?
The science of cold showers and ice baths is actually pretty simple.
Cold showers suck. They feel terrible. The first drops of arctic water that blast your back or face seem to turn off your brain. Your heart starts racing. Your vision may get blurry. You start thinking, “how can I make this stop?” In other words, you enter full on survival mode.
And that’s one of the best things you can do for your body.
Why? Because your body floods with chemicals to make sure you survive.
Dopamine levels soar. That’s the chemical that makes you pursue goals, like getting out of the shower alive.
Adrenaline surges through your body. That’s the chemical that makes you want to move and scream and focus and escape.
Your body starts torching calories. That’s so it can maintain a stable body temperature.
And those chemicals and processes persist once you turn off the water. That fight-or-flight response gets replaced by a profound sense of calm focus that can last for hours.³
That’s not counting the mental toughness benefit. Every time you step into that stream of cold water, you’re training yourself to endure something unpleasant. You strengthen your ability to overcome fear and to do hard, yet beneficial, things.
There are some critical factors to consider…
Don’t take cold showers too often.
Eventually, you’ll get used to shock and minimize the benefits. According to Andrew Huberman, a Stanford professor, you should aim for 11 minutes in cold water per week.²
Don’t expose yourself to dangerous situations.
Diving into a frozen lake on your first day could lead to panic and even death. Start with an uncomfortable, but safe temperature in your own shower in your own house, and build up your tolerance.
Don’t take cold showers if you’re trying to build muscle.
Cold showers are perfect if you need to eliminate muscle soreness. But it also impacts muscle hypertrophy, slowing growth. So if you need to quickly recover from workouts, take cold showers. But if you’re trying to gain mass, opt with your normal shower routine instead.
Cold showers provide a host of benefits, from boosting your mood to aiding in weight loss. But it’s important to start slowly and increase the intensity gradually to avoid any negative consequences. So if you’re looking for a way to improve your mental toughness and boost your productivity, add a cold shower to your routine. Just make sure you do it safely.
¹ “MR ICE: Men’s Health Chills With Iceman Wim Hof,” Alex Harris, Men’s Health, 27 Apr 2022, https://www.menshealth.com/uk/health/a758182/big-read-mh-chills-with-iceman-wim-hof/
² “The Science & Use of Cold Exposure for Health & Performance,” Andrew Huberman, Huberman Lab, May 1, 2022, https://hubermanlab.com/the-science-and-use-of-cold-exposure-for-health-and-performance/
³ “Cold Shower for Anxiety: Does It Help?” Kristeen Cherney, Healthline, June 22, 2022, https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/cold-shower-for-anxiety
It’s not your imagination—your cramped, beige cubicle might be torpedoing your productivity.
Research has shown time and again that your work environment plays a critical role in your level of focus, analytical thinking, and creativity.
So if you have the freedom to do so, here are a few ways to spice up your workspace to maximize productivity.
Alternate sitting and standing
It turns out that standing desks aren’t just a fad—they can actually boost productivity.
According to Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, research has shown that halving your sitting time at work can reduce back and neck pain and boost cognitive performance.
And best of all, you don’t need a fancy contraption to make it happen. Simply stack some boxes or books to lift your computer and monitor—voila! Now you have a standing desk.
At the start of your day, increasing your light exposure can boost your focus. Why? Because your body and brain are conditioned to respond to sunlight. It’s a powerful trigger that your day has started and you need to get it in gear!
So first thing, go outside and sit in the sun for a few minutes. When you’re in the office, turn on overhead lights, lamps, and ring lights. If you can, work by an open window. You might be surprised by the impact it has on your alertness and focus.
Just be sure to tone down the intensity as the day wears on so your body knows it’s time to settle down, relax, and hit the hay. Bright light exposure when it’s too late can be detrimental to sleep, especially looking at your phone less than an hour before you want to go to bed. The light shining in your eyes tells your body that you need to stay awake.
Leverage ceiling height to switch mental gears
You read that correctly. The height of your ceiling can help you toggle between analytic mode and creative mode.
High ceilings tend to promote creativity and brainstorming. Low ceilings promote analytical thinking.
It’s called the cathedral effect, and for good reason. Think about how you would feel stepping into the Chartres Cathedral vs. say, your basement. One creates awe, wonder, and an appreciation of beauty. The other forces you to zero in on only what’s in front of you, like that load of laundry you forgot about.
So as a rule, try to do your creative thinking in high, open spaces. Do your analyzing in closed, dull, non-distracting spaces.
Try one or two of these strategies over the next week and see if they impact your productivity. I’d love to hear about your results!
How do you handle job stress?
Sticking to a solid workflow? Meditation? A stress ball in each hand?
Whichever way you choose to lessen the stress that 80% of American workers experience, there’s another stress-relieving tactic that could make a huge difference:¹
Relieving financial stress.
Studies have found that money woes can cost workers over 2 weeks in productivity a year!² And this time can be lost even when you’re still showing up for work.
In short, you’re physically present at a job, but you’re working while ill or mentally disengaged from tasks. It can be caused by stress, worry, or other issues – which, as you can imagine, may deal a significant blow to work productivity.
So what’s the good news?
If you’re constantly worried and stressed about financing unexpected life events, saving for retirement, or funding a college education for yourself or a loved one, there are financial strategies that can help you – wherever you are on your financial journey.
Most people don’t plan to fail. They simply fail to plan. Think of a well-thought out financial strategy as a stress ball for your bank account!
Contact me today, and together we’ll work on an financial strategy that fits you and your dreams – and can help you get back to work with significantly less financial stress.
¹ “Workplace Stress,” American Institute of Stress, https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress.
² “The Real Costs of Employee Financial Stress—and How Employers Can Help,” Greystone Consulting, https://graystone.morganstanley.com/the-parks-group/articles/graystone/thought-leadership/financially-stressed-employees
We all know that work can be stressful. But did you know that it can actually kill you?
Workplace stress has been linked to a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.¹ And worst of all, it can even lead to death—an article from 2012 reported that women in high-stress jobs were 40% more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.²
That’s right—those long hours at the office, those tight deadlines and “crunch seasons,” those berating sessions from your boss, they’re all adding up. And they may have lethal consequences.
So what can you do about it? Here are some tips:
1. Talk to your boss. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your workload, discuss it with your boss and see if there’s anything that can be done to lighten the load.
It’s no small task. For many, their boss is the source of the stress! That’s why it’s critical to prepare beforehand. Write down how you’re feeling and how work stress is damaging your life. Come up with a few ways your boss can help relieve the stress.
Often, these conversations go better than expected. Boss’s realize that pushing employees to the brink is a foolish strategy.
But know this—there’s a real chance they won’t get it. Worse still, they may blame someone else, or even you, for the problem. In that case, it’s time to consider a new opportunity.
2. Take breaks. When you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes to yourself to relax and rejuvenate. Go for a walk—it’s the go-to strategy for great writers and artists. Download a meditation app and take a 10-minute breathing session.
The key is consistency. Taking routine breaks at the same time every day not only gives you something to look forward to, it also normalizes taking a break in the eyes of your boss.
Again, if your boss gives you grief for taking care of yourself, it’s time to consider moving to a new job.
3. Get organized. Make a list of your tasks and priorities, and try to tackle them one at a time. Break large projects into small components you can knock out piece by piece.
Why? Because feeling overwhelmed is a huge part of being stressed. You know the feeling—you see a reminder that you need to finish a large project and your heart sinks. Suddenly, all you can think about is how much you have to do in such little time. Often, it feels easier to shut those feelings down and procrastinate, which only makes the problem worse.
When you have a plan of action, it’s much easier to stay calm and focused. You know exactly what needs to be done and when, so you can put your mind at ease and get to work. And knocking out small pieces of the project motivates you to keep pushing forward.
4. Stay healthy. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and get enough sleep.
It’s tough to stay healthy when you’re feeling stressed, but it’s important. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Eating nutritious foods keeps your energy levels up and your mind clear. And getting enough sleep helps you stay alert and focused during the day.
If you can’t seem to make time for your health, try this: schedule your workouts into your calendar, just like you would any other meeting. And set a bedtime alarm to remind you when it’s time to turn in for the night.
5. Seek help if needed. If you’re struggling with stress and it’s impacting your health, work, or personal life, it may be time to seek professional help.
There are many great therapists who specialize in stress and anxiety. They can help you develop healthy coping strategies, establish boundaries, and manage your stress in a more productive way.
In the end, workplace stress is a real threat to your health—and even your life. But by taking some proactive steps, you can protect yourself from its harmful effects. So don’t wait—start making some changes today.
¹ “Workplace Stress: A Silent Killer of Employee Health and Productivity,” Corporate Wellness Magazine, https://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/workplace-stress-silent-killer-employee-health-productivity
² “Work stress increases heart attack risk by 23%,” Christian Nordqvist, Medical News Today, Sep 14, 2012, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/250289#1
Are you one of those people who always seem to be putting off tasks?
It makes sense. Life is hectic. Schedules are full. Sometimes, it seems like you hardly have a second to brush your teeth or have a real conversation. And so important decisions get pushed further and further into the future.
That’s fine in some cases. Do you need to decide how to organize your garage right now, at this very moment? No.
But with your finances, procrastination can cause disaster. Why? Because time is the secret ingredient for building wealth. The sooner you start saving, the greater your money’s growth potential. Likewise, the sooner you get your debt under control, the more manageable it becomes.
And with your money, the stakes couldn’t be higher. After all, it’s your future prosperity and well-being that’s at stake. Procrastination is downright dangerous.
That urgency, however, doesn’t make it easier to start saving. In fact, you may have noticed that finances suffer more from procrastination than anything else.
There’s a very good reason for that. Procrastination is driven, above all else, by perfectionism. Failing feels awful, especially when you know the stakes are high. Your brain sees the discomfort of trying to master your finances and failing, and decides that it would feel safer to not try at all.
It’s a critical miscalculation. Attempting to master your finances at least moves you closer to your goals. Procrastinating doesn’t.
Think of it like this—50% success is infinitely better than 0% success.
The key to beating procrastinating, then, is to conquer the perfectionist mindset and fear of failure. It’s no small feat. Those habits of mind are often deeply ingrained. They won’t vanish overnight. But there are some simple steps you can take, like…
Break big goals down into tiny steps. This relieves the overwhelm that many feel when facing important tasks. As you knock out those small steps, you’ll feel empowered to keep moving forward.
Don’t go it alone. Procrastination thrives in isolation. Seek out a friend, loved one, or co-worker to hold you accountable and share the load—even if it’s just a weekly check-in to see how each other are doing.
Work in short, uninterrupted bursts. Set a timer. Put down the phone. Work. After about 15 minutes, you’ll notice something strange happening. Time starts to either speed up or slow down. Distracting thoughts vanish. The lines between you, your focus, and the task at hand start to evaporate. You feel awesome. This is called a flow state, and it’s the key to productivity. Make it your friend, and you’ll notice that procrastination becomes rarer and rarer.
Now that you know the cause of procrastination, try these tips for yourself. Set a 30 minute timer. Then, break your finances into tiny action steps like checking your bank account, automating saving, and budgeting. Work on each item in a quick burst until you’ve made some progress. Then, talk to a friend about your results!
Just like that, you’ve made serious headway towards beating procrastination and building wealth. Look at you go!