Small improvements can all add up to make a big difference. And we’re talking small improvements here. Tiny ones. It’s clear that the idea of marginal gains has had a huge impact in the world of professional sports and performance. I wanted to find out how we can take some of these learnings and apply them to our own lives to make things a little easier, our routines a little healthier and our minds a little clearer. Here are five things simple things you can improve that will make a difference to your life in a small but meaningful way.
Below I’ve included some of the simple upgrades I’ve made recently that have all combined to make big shifts in my life. I also asked Twitter and included some of the top recommendations from my followers, too.
It’s worth mentioning that of course not everyone is going to have the cash to invest in great bedding and fancy pens. For some people these things won’t be a priority at all. But the idea is that it’s about picking and choosing just a few things to upgrade and seeing what kind of difference that makes to how you work, live and feel. Just take a look at the list below. If you couldn’t give a crap about coffee, that’s not the upgrade you need to make. Make upgrades that matter.
Let me know in the comments below if there’s anything you’ve upgraded that’s really made a difference to your life or all of the little things that combined have, too. I’m sure there are literally thousands of other products, ideas and new routines to add to this list, so I’d love to read your feedback.
I spent the past six months travelling around Thailand and found that, after moving between different beds most nights, the thing that made the biggest improvement to my sleep during that time was the quality of the pillow. Not annoying lights, mattresses, bedding or even mosquitoes and loud geckos. But the pillow.
Sure that could all be down to personal preference, but on returning to home I made a concerted effort to put some thought into the type of pillow I’d use from now on. I think investing in a pillow that’s a little pricier is a good shout anyway. I ended up buying a pillow that uses a mixture of cooling technology developed by NASA (yes actual NASA, this is a NASA pillow) to regulate your temperature, memory foam and ultra-fine synthetic fibres to give you a pillow that’s firm yet soft, cool yet cosy.
When I asked Twitter about the marginal gains my followers make, bedding came up time and time again. Most people agreed that a pillow makes all the difference, but @smacula said mattress toppers do, too.
They’re a great way to add a bit of luxury and if you’re renting you can take them with you to upgrade even the most sub-standard and springy of mattresses. Ikea has a great range of mattress toppers, the most affordable is the TALGJE (£40, Ikea), which comes in a range of sizes and thicknesses.
I recently upgraded from my trusty (see also: rubbish) free Apple in-ear headphones to something more substantial. And judging from the response to this feature on my Twitter feed, headphones are one of the smallest yet most significant upgrades we should all be making.
Unless you’re a serious audiophile, chances are you rarely consider your headphones as important as larger electrical purchases, like laptops or phones. And this is because many of us under-estimate how much we use them, so automatically default to using the free ones that come with our iPhones (guilty!) or others that are heavily discounted.
But putting in a little more effort to find out which you should be buying and investing a little more money into them can make a real difference. The key is figuring out what you use your headphones for.
Sat at your desk all day long and hate being distracted? Go for a big, noise-cancelling pair of over-ears. Enjoy fitness? Find a style that’s specially built with an active lifestyle and lots of sweating.
Both @paulruk and @katiecollins told me they’ve recently upgraded their headphones. Katie said, “I swapped from wired headphones to dedicated sports wireless headphones and it has changed how I exercise and how I feel about it.”
#3 Niggling little ’round the house’ jobs
There are so many things we should all probably get fixed around our houses, but don’t. This especially seems to be the case for those who are renting and alerting your landlord to something just seems like a right faff unless the walls are quite literally caving in.
On Twitter, @rich_trenholm told me, “I got a mould-resistant shower curtain & a dehumidifier, which stopped the damp in my flat & stopped me feeling ill all the time.”
Sure most of our cases may not be as extreme as that, but I think we underestimate just how much taking the time to fix things can impact our day-to-day routines. The problem for a lot of us is the investment just doesn’t feel worth it. As if fixing that broken door or leaky tap doesn’t sound half as exciting as spending it on things and experiences.
If there are just loads of small things that need fixing and you don’t live alone, try this suggestion for DIY bingo. If it’s cleaning you need to tackle, check out our essential home cleaning kit guide. If it’s something you really can’t fix, just bite the bullet and get someone in to do it. No time like the present, eh?
If you’re a coffee-lover chances are you wouldn’t always opt for Starbucks over a much tastier, independent alternative, right? So then why do so many people buy the crappy instant stuff to use at home? @dwroboheadz told me one of his biggest life upgrades was simply buying “good ground coffee instead of instant”.
If you appreciate good coffee, make some small shifts so you can brew the great-tasting stuff at home without always relying on popping out for some and spending too much money.
Ahh stationery. Many of us who write regularly day-to-day, whether that’s huge features or just notes, know that a great notebook and pen really matters. But we rarely invest the time or the money in buying good quality stationery. This is also despite the fact it’s pretty much scientifically-proven a Paperchase binging session increases your sense of happiness and wellbeing by a whopping 500 percent (it’s not proven FYI, just anecdotal).
When I asked Twitter about simple upgrades, the resounding answer was buy Moleskine products. Sure we all know the brand’s notebooks are better than pretty much anything else on the market. But it can sometimes be hard to justify forking out so much cash for what is essentially just a load of paper — a load of paper that’s eight times the price of a simple ruled notebook from WH Smith.
The thing is, it’s always worth it. The paper feels better, the notebook itself lasts longer, it can be thrown in a bag and not fall to bits, plus it’s a Moleskine. It’s the hallmark of quality and, just like Katie’s comments about headphones, using one just makes you feel better.
It’s also worth getting some decent pens that makes the writing process so much more pleasant.
This article originally appeared on Lifehacker UK