10 Simple Ways to Get Your Life Together
A wise and dear friend of mine once said, "You can't think yourself into living right; you have to live yourself into thinking right." It was a revelation to me at the time, though it went against nearly every pop-psychology cliche I'd heard or self-help advice I'd read in books. But it makes perfect sense; change doesn't have to be overwhelming to matter. Often the best thing we can do to change the course of our lives is to change the course of our days — to stop analyzing, stop trying to find just the right answer, stop trying to muster the perfect motivating moment — and simply begin. (See also: 25 New Things to Do Today)
And when it comes to making a change in our lives, size doesn't matter. What matters is action — no matter how small — that leads to the next action. Over time, one small success builds on another, motivation grows, and greater things follow.
With that simple recipe in mind, here are 10 ways you can make your life feel more together right now. Start with one or two; see how they make you feel and where they take you.
1. Make Your Bed
I've always thought that the tone of a day is set early. Admittedly, making the bed is a small gesture, but it can inspire bigger things. Maybe once the bed is made, you'll feel like brewing your own coffee instead of swinging by the coffee shop, you'll pick up donuts for the office, or you'll remember to get gas before your long commute home. No matter what, when you walk in the door at the end of the day, there'll be a pristine bed waiting for you. (See also: 15 Life Hacks That Will Save You Time in the Morning)
2. Get a Haircut
A fresh haircut helps us feel better about how we look, and that's a powerful thing. Maybe that new cut will be complemented by a crisp ironed shirt, polished shoes, or an extra-close shave. Maybe it will give you the confidence to start a conversation with someone new, speak up at a meeting, or grab dinner with the boss after work.
3. Make a Savings Deposit
Even a small deposit in a savings account is movement in the right direction. Don't get hung up on numbers to the extent that you discourage yourself from saving and planning for the future. Watching that balance gradually grow is a huge motivator and one that builds its own momentum. (See also: Which Type of Savings Account Is Right for You?)
4. Wash Your Car
Most of us spend so much time in our cars that they become nearly an extension of our homes. Cleaning and organizing our cars can help organize our days and avoid the mental clutter that physical clutter can lead to. Give your car a good wash, vacuum the interior, wash the windows, and toss out any accumulated trash. You'll be surprised just how well the old buggy cleans up and how good it can make you feel.
5. Balance Your Checkbook
Whether you do it the old-fashioned way or online, balancing your accounts and knowing how much money is at your disposal is empowering. And though it may often seem like a chore, understanding the status of your checking and savings accounts (whether that status is good or bad) can have a reassuring effect. If there's work to be done, you know exactly where your energies should be directed. If things are humming along smoothly, you may find that you have much more cash available to save.
6. Remember a Birthday
Few acts demonstrate being on top your game like remembering a birthday. Don't depend on a reminder and don't simply wish someone well on Facebook. Buy a card and send it the mail, bake a few muffins, or pick up the tab at lunch. Small gestures of remembering leave big impressions.
7. Go for a Walk
Thoreau said, "Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow." Especially in our hyper-connected and world, unplugging and going for a walk is the ultimate form of free therapy. Walking can help clear your head, process the events of the day, plan for tomorrow, and provide the exertion and relaxation that lead to a good night's rest. Work to make walking part of your day and consciously gauge the before-and-after difference it makes in your perspective. (See also: 25 Reasons to Take a Walk)
8. Read a Good Book
Your imagination is a muscle and nothing exercises it quite as well as reading. In a way that watching TV never can be, reading is active. When we immerse ourselves in a good book, we forget the troubles of the day, we learn something new, and we travel outside our own world for a while. It's a painless and inexpensive way to positively bookend our days.
9. Clean Out Your Wallet or Purse
Tired of rummaging through the chaos of your disorganized purse or trying to find some cash in a wallet the size of a burrito? Park yourself next to the paper shredder; it's time for some light filing. Cleaning out the detritus from our wallets and purses honors our time and our energy. Decide what's essential to carry with you and create an easy filing system to organize the rest. Choose a smaller purse or slimmer wallet to discourage future titanic totes and whale wallets.
My dentist always tells me that if a person has to make a choice every day between brushing and flossing, he recommends the latter. Thankfully, we're usually not presented with an either/or scenario for our dental hygiene. If you haven't already, embrace flossing as an important part of your daily routine; you'll keep your teeth and gums happy and make denture makers sad.
Feeling like our lives are together begins with small gestures we do for ourselves and some we do for others. After all, doesn't attending to the details of our own lives leave us a bit freer to more broadly help others? Or maybe the true marker of being a "together" person is knowing that there really are no details — that the smallest things matter and the subtlest achievements can build the biggest change.
What little things do you do each day to feel more together or organized? How do they change your mood or motivate bigger achievements?