Teeny Tiny Things You Can Do to Get Ahead, When You Feel Like You’re Falling Behind (You Know, in Life)
It’s a shitty time, when you feel like your life is on autopilot, and you’re just along for the ride. You know what we mean? There are some periods where you feel large and in charge. Like you dictate how your days are spent, and you’re making strides towards your goals on the regular.
Then there are other times when it feels like your life is being dictated by everything and everyone but you. There’s a sensation of momentum – but not the good kind. Like, “the-hours-and-days-are-going-by-way-too-fast-and-you-can-never-get-enough-done” kind. Or like life is some race, and all your friends and peers (and friends of peers on Facebook) are miles ahead of you, and you’re just bringing up the rear feeling tired and awkward and inadequate.
It’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind, or always coming up short.
It’s also easy to fix that thinking.
When you feel defeated, motivation is difficult to come by – so we’ve brainstormed a list of ideas for small, little teeny tiny things you can do to feel a little more productive. A little less hopeless. To gain more sense of control in just minutes. Because let’s be real, everyone needs a little of that a lot of the time.
And we don’t have time to waste here, so let’s get to it!
Fashion & Beauty
Instead of sighing every time you pick through the clothes in your closet… Take to Pinterest.
Make a board of seasonal outfits you like and want to mimic. Then try and figure out how to recreate that look or something similar from what you have in your closet. Before you whine and make excuses, try it. You may be surprised by the number of cute outfits you can pull together that you never even thought of before! You may coordinate an outfit each night before bed; I make a list of all outfits for the week based on the weather (nerd alert) on Sunday nights.
Instead of shopping for new things (or lamenting the fact you don’t have enough money to go shopping)… Turn every hanger in your closet around on the rack. Go ahead, we’ll wait!
Now, each time you pluck an item off and wear it, you can turn the hanger back around when you go to put that item back. Once that hanger has been flipped back, you can’t wear that item again until ALL hangers have been flipped back, and all seasonally appropriate items have been worn. (The ones you don’t want to wear? Donate them.)
Instead of feeling blah when you look in the mirror… Always wear lipstick.
We have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t feel more empowered and attractive with a sexy colored lip! When you pick out your outfit for the day, choose a lipstick or lipgloss to match. Don’t leave the house without it! If lipstick isn’t your thing, maybe try eye makeup, a new hairstyle, or statement jewelry.
Money & Finances
Instead of putting off saving for your retirement… Have someone walk you through it.
Schedule a meeting with your company’s HR manager, where they can help set up your 401k. Get their advice on how much you should contribute, depending on the employer matching program. You can always up your contribution once you feel comfortable doing so, but for now, just start your account and have an amount deducted from each paycheck – even if it’s just the minimum.
These popular apps put your savings on auto-pilot. They take out such small amounts, that you won’t even notice you’re tucking anything anyway. But when you’re down to the last few bucks in your checking account, or an emergency pops up that requires some cash, you’ll have the funds you need.
Instead of relying on another person to manage your finances… Wake up, Sleeping Beauty.
Read Worth It by Amanda Steinberg and/or Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money by Barbara Stanny. These intelligent women offer plenty of warm, generous and approachable advice about the importance of understanding and feeling empowered to take control of your finances – at any age.
Work & Employment
Instead of feeling like you’re at everyone’s beck and call… Close your email.
One of the most productive things you can do at your 9-to-5? Accomplish something BEFORE opening your email in the morning. It can be a small task or making headway on a big project. During the day, while in a meeting or working through an important deliverable, use Boomerang’s Inbox Pause feature to keep nagging questions and requests at bay.
Instead of feeling like everyone knows more than you… Start reading.
Find three places to get industry news, and sign up to receive daily emails. The important part, of course, is that you actually read them. Pick outlets that are actually interesting, and just a little bit challenging. Don’t feel bad about experimenting – that’s why you’re picking three outlets to start! You may find one option dry and boring as hell, or one uses jargon that’s so beyond your knowledge level, it’s not helpful to you right now. If that happens, simply unsubscribe and pick another.
Instead of dreading every new job application… Use templates.
Find the last cover letter you wrote that got you an interview. Highlight the words related to the company and position you applied for. Then, in a different color, highlight the words and phrases describing skills specific to that job posting. Next time you apply somewhere, just switch out the highlighted words. BAM. Applying to that next job will take you all of 15 minutes.
Home & Clutter
Instead of letting mess overwhelm you and your space… Try a 20/10 from UFYH.
Unfuck Your Habitat is an awesome resource for those who need motivation or a sense of community to help declutter and clean their spaces. One of the core concepts used is what they call 20/10’s – 20 minutes of cleaning, followed by a 10 minute break. Check out their Tumblr for fan submissions, and get started on your own. If you put on a timer, you’ll be amazed by how much you can clean up in just a few minutes’ time!
Instead of spending mental energy on projects that will never get done… Use TaskRabbit.
Hire non-professional help at a reasonable price to take care of that one thing that’s been nagging the heck out of you. Maybe it’s painting a room in your house, getting rid of a heavy piece of furniture, or minor home repair. If you’ve been putting it off for months, just pay someone and get it done already!
Instead of stressing out over redecorating a whole room (or your entire place!)… Start with one replacement.
Forget vision boards and matching every single color and textile before making a decision or purchase. Just choose one element in your home – the one thing that bothers you the most – and replace it. If you’re redoing the whole room, don’t worry about what the rest will look like. Just start with one item (a new light fixture, painted walls, new curtains or more attractive bedding). When that’s done, move onto the next.
Instead of ignoring your health… Take a vitamin.
It can be gummy – we won’t judge. Leave the bottle somewhere you go/near something you go to every morning. You probs have some idea of the nutrients you’re not getting enough of in your diet. If you want a second opinion, visit your doctor and ask for a blood test. Or, if you’re lazy 😉 take a personalized quiz online like this one from VitaMe, or this one from FitKit (both require an email address).
Instead of jumping from one diet or health craze to the next… Break one bad food habit.
What is that one food or beverage you regularly eat that you shouldn’t be having? (If multiple options come to mind, just pick one.) Let it go cold turkey – but not before choosing a slightly healthier replacement for it, so that it won’t be missed. For me, it was swapping out soda for Lacroix. For you, it may be ice cream for Chobani flip yogurts, McDonald’s for Chick-fil-a, or Lay’s potato chips for literally any of these better options.
Instead of constantly feeling bloated and gross…. Stop drinking from straws.
When you drink your Starbucks iced coffee or fountain drink with a straw, you’re sucking in more air than is usually ingested when drinking from a glass or mug. This can absolutely lead to discomfort, especially if you’re drinking from a straw daily. Pop the lid off your to-go cup or trade in your water bottle with a built-in straw for a different style cap. You’ll feel the difference immediately.
Instead of avoiding the gym like the plague… Get the Mindbody app.
This app will help you out in three different ways. First, it helps you to find cool new classes in your area to make the idea of working out way more appealing. Never tried indoor cycling? MMA? Rock climbing? This app will get you thinking about more creative ways to move your body and get your heart rate up. Secondly, it allows you to plan and schedule your classes in advance, as all schedules are kept up-to-date in one easy location. And third? You can pay for class through the app – which means there’s no bailing last minute!
Instead of always reaching for your phone… Keep something else within arm’s reach.
Choose what you want as an alternative. If you like to read, a book is an obvious choice. Coffee table books are also fun! Maybe you like to write? If so, a journal or college-ruled notebook is a good choice. Magazines are a good go-to. Or, if you like to get a little artsy, a blank notepad or adult coloring book is an awesome option. Whatever you pick, keep it by your bedside table or on your coffee table, where you’ll be more inclined to flip a page than to scroll endlessly.
Instead of constantly grinding and striving… Schedule your next vacation.
Just for you. You can choose what that means to you by asking yourself, what do you most want out of your next break from work? That may look like a trip home to see family, exploring a new place for a few days with your significant other, or a reunion trip with your girlfriends. It may look like a week-long staycation with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s and Netflix. It may be a weekend immersed in nature, or solo travel. Whatever you like, and whatever you can afford – cross off those dates in your calendar and get the ball rolling.
Getting Your Life Organized
Instead of having a million little to-do’s constantly buzzing in your mind… Try a “brain dump”.
In other words, sit down with a pen and paper and get everything out of your head. This is more therapeutic than it is practical – at least to start. The key is letting go and letting the tasks flow. There are no limits. You can include items from work, around the house, or related to friends and family. It can include daily responsibilities, annual to-do’s, and things you want to do in your freetime, but haven’t made the time for. If after exhausting your mental list, you organize the results of your brain dump and create a plan of attack, a brain dump can also be really productive!
Instead of just talking about good habits you want to build… Track them.
Have you ever tried to make a new habit, and realized a few days or weeks into it that you’re really not sure how well it’s been sticking? Like, you have a general sense of “Hey, this seems to be going well!” or “Uhmm I’ve probably been slacking more than I should”. But that’s all you have to go off of. For you, we say download a habit tracking app (we like HabitHub) to keep you honest and on target.
Instead of tackling an insurmountable mountain of tasks every day… Aim for one important one.
Create a list of things that need to be taken care of that you never seem to have time for (think: scheduling an appointment or calling customer service, writing a letter or email, or researching something). Then, choose a time every day where you’re able to put a few minutes aside and tend to one of those nagging to-do’s. It may be pre-breakfast, post-morning workout for some; a lunch break for others; or on the commute home from work for the other others. Schedule a reminder in your phone at the same time each day, and knock that ish from your to-do list!
Did we hit the nail on the head with any of these pieces of advice? Let us know which ones you’re planning to try in the comments!