You're fat, in debt, bite your nails, live in a filthy hovel you call an apartment, can't find a decent job, and your life sucks. Well, maybe it isn't that bad, but if you could stand to improve things in one area or another we can help. Here are our top 10 solutions to life's most annoying and troubling problems.
Photo by Amy Gizienski
10. Your Home Is A Mess
If you don't put regular work into organising and maintaining cleanliness in your home, you can expect disaster. Dust accumulates, cords get out of whack, laundry doesn't get folded, and your things don't get put away. First things first, pick a few hours a week to dedicate to cleaning up your home. Hire help if you need it and can afford it, or find a way to actually enjoy the cleaning time. (I watch TV or listen to music.) In addition to making the time, which is the obvious fix, there are a bunch of things you can do to speed up the whole process. When folding laundry, use this two-second shirt folding method to save a ton of time. When you put away your clothing, organise it by colour or some other memorable scheme so you never have to think of where to put an item and can easily find that item later on. Speaking of organising, you should start organising before you go out and buy any organisational products so you actually know what you need (if anything) and avoid wasting money. When it comes to organising your cables, we've posted so many great ways to get those under control. For the most part you're not going to save much time on dust, but you can filter it better by turning on your thermostat fan so it picks up dust that flies into the air while vacuuming (so long as you leave the fan on for 15 minutes afterwards as well). You can also make your own reusable dust-trapping cloths to save some money.
9. You're Addicted To Technology
Well...so? Okay, okay, there's good addiction and there's bad addiction. Technology can have a large presence in your life without causing problems, but you need to know when to unplug. Realising you use your gadgets too much isn't going to get you anywhere if you don't know when you need to prohibit yourself from using them. Social situations are a good place to start, maybe allowing yourself a peek at your phone once or twice per night. When you set limits, you'll know you only have so many opportunities to check and you'll plan them well. You definitely want to unplug before bed, as keeping technology in the bedroom tends to mean you'll use it and glowing screens in the dark will not help you sleep better. It will also make serve as an early morning distraction and potentially make you late to work.
One of the best times to unplug, however, is one you might think of as the worst: when you're out in the world and walking around or simply sitting with nothing to do. One of the major problems technology addiction has caused is a lack of awareness. Like with the movie theatre, then the TV, and now the smartphone, technology transports your mind into another place regardless of where you are. If you start spending a little more time being aware of your surroundings, you might find that not only are interesting things happening all around you, but that you'll also become far more functional in various situations. We have a lot of little and big screens in our life, and they're fun, but we weren't meant to stare at them everywhere we go. Set some time aside for the world and it should help your tech addiction fade away.
For more info on why technology is so addictive and additional strategies on beating the problem, check out our full guide on tech burnout.
8. You're Being Manipulated
We're all manipulators and victims of manipulation in different ways, because we're designed to try and get what we want, but there are far too many people who take manipulation to an extreme and it is a horrible thing to encounter. First of all, it's important to identify how manipulation works and how ideas can be planted in your head, so you know if it's actually happening to you. Rarely will you be able to convince a serial manipulator to stop manipulator you, so solving the problem is a two step process: identify the problems and eliminate it. If you're being manipulated, cut all ties with the manipulator. It might be hard, but that's most often the only way to do it.
7. You Can't Sleep
Sleep is really important. It may actually be more important than food. It may even help you lose weight. If you're not sleeping well, there are so many things you can try to fix the problem. First of all, stop reading your backlit screens before going to bed! In fact, just keep technology out of the bedroom all together. You also should limit your caffeine and other stimulants. (We've seen caffeine really does to your brain.) This may be a hard change, but there are several ways to effectively wake up in the morning without stimulants. (I don't make use of stimulants and I have energy all day on most days, so I know it's possible.) Eating heavier in the morning and less at night can aid in better sleep. Here are ten more suggestions. You'll have to experiment a little to find what works, but when you take care of yourself physically, in general, you'll likely find that sleeping works just the way it should.
6. You're Poor
Apparently you'll be as happy as you're going to get with $US75,000, but if you're not quite there yet there are lots of things you can do to pick up some extra cash. If more work isn't quite what you were hoping for, just make the most of being poor (or poor-ish). Live smaller, do it yourself more often, and make use of all the free stuff that's available to you (while being aware of its true cost). If over-spending is a problem, here are a few ways you can create hurdles to curb your spending.
5. You Want To Break A Bad Habit
Breaking bad habits is really tough, whether you're biting your nails or smoking, but there are several things you can try. Thinking about your habit like a hater could help, but so can being patient and taking it slow. There are questions you may want to ask yourself, and you may find forming a good habit will make it easier to break your bad ones. I like to use my imagination (e.g. "your fingers are made out of poop, so don't chew on them") but I've only found that to be successful half of the time. Whatever methods you use, whether they're mild or extreme, you need to be able to convince yourself that the habit is truly bad. We tend to like our bad habits and see the damage they cause, but they also give us comfort. If we can't realise and fully comprehend how bad that comfort is, the habit is always going to be much harder to break.
4. You're Burnt Out (Or Getting There)
First things first, you need to actually recognise that you're burnt out. Sometimes you can get so overwhelmed by what's going on that you're just tired and don't even know what's wrong. Chest pain, frequent headaches, pessimism, skipping meals, a drop in productivity, frustration, poor concentration, and chronic fatigue are all common signs of burnout. So what do you do about it? Sometimes a vacation is a good place to start, just to gain back a little bit of your focus. When you return, however, you need to implement measures to find balance in your life. Small, strategic changes are key to finding that balance, rather than making enormous life-altering decisions. You'll find that big changes are harder to adjust to and can bring a lot of anxiety. Ultimately, many little things will have a greater impact than a big one. Planning real breaks into your day is a must. You may also find that setting aside specific time, later in the day, is best for tedious tasks you don't like doing or find distracting (e.g. email). Changing your work environment can also make an impact on how you feel, but the important thing is that you see taking the necessary steps to avoid burnout as a number one priority in your life.
For a lot more information on burnout, be sure to read Burnout And How to Deal With It.
3. You Hate Your Job
I know very few people who don't hate their job, and sometimes it's because their job is eating away at their humanity day by day and other times it's because of their outlook. If you're in a situation where your job is terrible, you probably need to quit. We've posted a guide to leaving your soul-crushing job and plenty of advice on what to do afterwards. In order to figure out where to go next, you're going to need to decide what you want to do. If it's something within your field, get your resume in great shape and start sending it out. When you get interviews, be prepared, but don't assume your interviewer is prepared. If you want a job outside of your specific field, all that is still relevant but you also need to know how to get one when you have no relevant experience. If you can be smart, charismatic, and clever, you should do just fine.
But what if you don't want to leave your job even though it's making you miserable? It might just be your outlook that's weighing you down. You may be out of balance and burnt out, which we've already covered. If you've dealt with those problems already, check out these methods for making your work life better.
2. You're Fat And Unhealthy
If you live in Australia you can at least know that you're not alone. Being overweight is a—there's no way to avoid a pun here—big problem and it's a tough one to solve. If you need or want to lose weight, there's really no getting around the need to diet or exercise. The key is simply finding a diet and exercise routine that you'll actually stick to. Your instinct may be to try and move quickly so you can expedite the process and be nice and thin really quickly. This is a bad idea. If you're obese, you'll lose weight pretty rapidly if you eat healthy food and get some physical activity. For those of you trying to lose those last few kilos, you have a harder task. Either way, you need to put a plan together that you'll actually stick to. It should be hard work, but it should be hard work that you want to do and not hard work that you loathe every single day.
So how do you put that plan together? It's impossible to say what will or will not work for you but we can talk about a few options. First, cognitive-behavioral coping skills can be a good way to form a plan. They'll help you focus on your eating, rather than make it an activity that takes a backseat to watching television (for example), regularly remind yourself of your goals, and help you stay positive. Some people find that apps and accountability (to, say, an online community) make it much easier to lose weight. (Here are some app suggestions for Android and iPhone.) You lose a little privacy in the process, but it's a pretty reasonable price to pay for achieving a fairly difficult goal. Personally, I think it's important to put togethe a psychology profile before you start your diet and exercise routine because you're human and if you only functioned by logic you would simply stay healthy all the time. Because you're also a very emotional being, you're going to have cravings that aren't necessarily physical. Personally, I have a weird psychological obsession with cupcakes. Profiling yourself is a good way to expect these issues and figure out solutions before they occur.
Whatever you do, just make sure it's something you can commit to or it's completely pointless. Try new foods and physical activities to find ones you like. This is one problem you can't beat until you can find a way you can enjoy the hard work it takes to beat it.
1. You're Unhappy
This is a very personal problem that is going to have a very personal answer, and likely one or more of the previously discussed problems are contributing factors. That said, happiness doesn't have to be something difficult to achieve. You will be happy most days if you take care of yourself physically (e.g. regular physical activity, a healthy diet, enough sleep, etc.) and you do things that make you happy. The problem often is actually knowing what will make you happy, since humans are terrible at predicting the future and it can be hard to simplify most decisions. Here are a couple of ways to figure it out and put together a plan you can stick to.
First, here's what I did. I'm a generally happy person, but I wasn't for about a decade. I made a lot of decisions that I thought would make me happy, figured out most of them made me more unhappy, and then decided to come up with a new plan. I used to have a friend who treated me poorly, and the first step of that plan was putting an end to that friendship. I realised we had a lot of similar behaviours, and those behaviours were making me unhappy, so I adopted a policy of doing the opposite of everything I thought she would do. My life has been a straight upshot ever since. To simplify things further, I make nearly all my decisions based on the answers to two questions. First, I ask if saying yes to this choice will make me happy. Second, I ask if I think saying yes is the right thing to do. If both questions are yes, I do it. If not, I don't. Sometimes I'm afraid of what I might be missing when I say no, but that fear diminishes every day because too many good things happen.
But I'm not everybody, and so what I do isn't necessarily the best option for you. Other options include focusing on the little things,systematically replacing the bad things in your life on a weekly basis, making $US75,000 (but not more), not being a perfectionist, not faking happiness, and thinking about what made you laugh today.
Life can be tough, but if you commit to yourself and prioritise the things that matter you probably won't even notice.