25 Simple Ways to Change Up Your Routine and Love Your Day
"Workin' 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin.'"
If the Dolly Parton's classic from the 80's is becoming the soundtrack of your day-to-day — you know, the same ol' routine, day after day — it is time to shake things up. Here are 25 simple ways to change up your routine and love your day.
Tight back, lack of sleep, and an overall feeling of anxiety — you know very well the negative effects that come with stress. It is time to take charge of your day by creating opportunities for relaxation and eliminating sources of stress.
1. Meditate Right at Your Desk
I'm a manly man and, for many years, I would refuse to meditate because I considered it too "girly." This was until I discovered the Calm.com site. The no-gongs-and-no-yoga-pants approach of the site made me realize that all I needed to meditate was a pair of headphones and as as little as two minutes. You can meditate without leaving your desk or on-the-go (free app available only for iPhone). Try meditating for five minutes, and you will feel the stress melt away.
2. Find Your Own "Cheers"
"Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came." Becoming a regular at a place has several perks. First, when somebody welcomes you with a smile and calls out your name, it instantly cheers you up. Second, it takes out some guesswork from a day filled with decision-making. Finally, you may get a freebie or discount every now and then for being a loyal customer.
3. Establish a Tradition
But make it a fun one! How about setting aside a daily 20 minutes for "Fruit Time"? Get together with some co-workers that want to get more fruits in their diets and agree that every day one of them is going to bring some fresh fruits for everybody to share. Another idea is to set up a tiny basketball hoop or putting station by your cubicle and make it that every time somebody comes to talk to you, they have to try to two hoop shoots or two puts. With a tradition, you create opportunities to bond with your co-workers and let off some steam.
4. Lower FOMO
As more and more people join the social media party, the more common the fear of missing out, or FOMO for short, becomes. Life is already complicated as it is. You don't need to get stressed about missing out the latest posts from your Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Start cutting back on your social media use. (See also: How to Break Your Social Media Habit)
5. Sing Out Loud With Somebody
Life is too short to take it too seriously. Take the opportunity to bust out your karaoke skills with a friend, relative, or co-worker. Turns out that scientific studies show that group singing lowers stress, relieves anxiety, and elevates endorphins.
6. Eat Breakfast
Your parents are right; breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day. Skipping breakfast keeps your body in a stressful state as your body is trying to cope with fasting and lack of necessary nutrients. Start eating breakfast, and your body will be better suited to handle stress throughout the day.
Reach Your Daily 10,000 Steps
Walking 10,000 steps a day has several health benefits. Every single year we make ambiguous New Year resolutions, such as getting in shape or losing weight. This year, make a resolution that you can actually keep track of: walking 10,000 steps every day.
7. Get a Pedometer
To know how you're doing, you need a pedometer. You can find one on Amazon for as low as $5, or check if your health insurance carrier can provide you one for free. Once you have a pedometer, start keeping a record of how many steps you walk in a day.
8. Walk It Out
My friend Alex taught me this great trick to get closer to 10,000 steps a day and to defuse any little crisis at work. Any time that something or someone makes you really upset at work, head outside and walk around the block. If you're ready to shout at somebody, then take two laps. This allows you to avoid saying something that you might regret, but it also contributes towards your daily goal.
9. Work Out During Lunch Break
I know what you're thinking, "Are you nuts? I barely have time to grab lunch!" But if you are not able to work out in the morning or at night, then exactly when are you planning to do that? As little as 20 minutes of cardio three times a week provides can provide results. You don't necessarily need a gym to work out. Some options are checking with HR if you could use a room with co-workers during lunch or heading to a nearby park, if weather permits. The whole point is to get up and start moving.
10. Walk and Talk
Got a meeting? Take a walk. TED speaker, Nilofer Merchant, has taken this initiative and is now able to log in 20 to 30 miles a week just by walking and talking. Literally getting outside of the box that is your office can lead to some real out of the box thinking.
11. Take the Stairs
In an era that it seems that every single celebrity is promoting a new fitness trend (remember Suzanne Somers' Buttmaster?), you might prefer to get back to basics. Take for example Hollywood icon Cary Grant, who said this when asked about his fitness routine: "I take the stairs." Taking the stairs makes a significant contribution to your recommended daily 20 minutes of cardio, and it requires no special equipment.
Pay It Forward
What goes around comes around. To make the odds ever in your favor you need to start playing well with others.
12. Volunteer to Do Hard Tasks...
- ...if you want to have some ammunition for the next time that you ask your boss for a raise.
- ...if you want to truly show your spouse that you care.
- ...if you want to prove to Dad that you just don't call him to ask for money.
Sound like things you want? Then volunteer more often to do hard tasks!
13. Help a Total Stranger
You know that warm, fuzzy feeling when a complete stranger does something nice for you. It can be as small as holding the door open for you on a rainy day or letting you pay for just a pack of gum before somebody unloads a car full of groceries. If you want these random acts of kindness to take part of your day, you have to lead by example. Start helping total strangers today and karma will help you tomorrow.
14. Mail a Letter
Put away the computer and smartphone. Grab a piece of paper and write a letter to somebody special in your life. It can be a sibling, cousin, or friend that you haven't talked with in a while. Write the address of that special somebody on an envelope and mail it to him or her. Knowing all the effort that you went through is going to put a smile on that person's face.
15. Listen to a Friend
These days, with IM, SMS, and email, you may feel that people are talking at you and not with you. This is why is important to take the time to actually meet up with a friend for lunch or dinner and mostly listen to them. We have two ears and one mouth, and there is a reason for that. By listening more and talking less, your friends are going to appreciate you even more. (See also: Lead by Listening)
Endless reply-all email chains, meetings about what fonts to use in internal flyers, and last-minute assignments are all examples of how your workday can be thrown off balance. Reclaim your day.
16. Dedicate a Time for Big Picture Stuff
After working with the same people for a couple of months, you start noticing patterns. A report that is due at the end of every month is always turned in late. A contract renewal deadline that happens every three months is never met. The list just goes on and on. This is why you need to carve out a time to stop everything and take a look at the whole process. By focusing on your goals for an entire month or semester, you have a better understanding on how things are interconnected. That way you will work smarter, not harder.
17. Turn Off Email Alerts
Avoid "Oh look, there's a squirrel!" syndrome by turning off the instantaneous email notifications on your smartphone and computer. You have enough on your plate as it is. According to an August 2010 Nielsen Online report, Americans spend about 8.3% of their time online in email. Focus on what you need to focus so you can finish it faster. The emails are not disappearing; they can wait.
18. Get Away From Your Desk
You desk job might be killing your creativity. Take a cue from composer Erik Satie, writer Saul Bellow, and novelist Haruki Murakami, who all keep a very active lifestyles throughout the development of their master works. While you don't have to start training for the next triathlon, you can begin by committing yourself to standing up from your desk 10 times per day. Regular physical activity has been linked to the creative process. So, go ahead and stand up for a more creative day!
19. Learn to Say "No"
The reason that your to-do list is ever-growing might be that you are not saying "no" enough. Do you really need to attend every single meeting that lands on your work inbox? Sometimes just by asking about why you need to be there, the person requesting your presence might realize that you don't have to be there at all. If you're still having a hard time gathering the strength to say no more often, picture how much better would your projects turn out if you just had more time to work on them.
20. Start Delegating Tasks
Another way to "invent" more time in your schedule is to get help from colleagues. You have to learn to choose your battles; you cannot take on all of them at the same time. When delegating a task, clearly state the deadline and provide all necessary resources for a successful deliverable. Also, remember to be polite when asking for help and say thanks after the task is done.
Fatten Up Your Piggy Bank
Saving, schmaving. That is how most people feel as they try to stretch every paycheck. However, saving money on a daily basis can be much easier than you think. The key is to take baby steps.
21. Rethink Your Cup of Coffee
If you are a daily coffee drinker and you buy a cup every single day, then you might be spending between $3 to $5 per day. That adds to $90 to $150 per month! You can still get your daily fix by making your own cup. Since the usual ratio for a cup is an ounce of coffee for every 16 ounces of water, this means that a pound of coffee can give you 40 cups. You can get a whole pound of coffee for about $4 to $15 at any grocery store, and that will last you for a whole month.
22. Start a Recycling Program
Help Mother Earth by collecting the recyclable aluminum, glass, and plastic containers at your office. All you need is three large containers, three signs to indicate what goes where, and some bags. Set a regular pickup day and take the recyclables to redeem the deposit fees. Think globally, save locally.
23. Set Up a Service for Coworkers
If you have a hobby that you enjoy a lot, you might be able to cash in on it. For example, if you love growing fresh vegetables in your backyard or have a mango tree that produces more than you can handle, then you can set up a weekly or monthly delivery service for your coworkers. They get fresh fruits and vegetables, and you get money for your savings account.
24. Know Your ATMs
If you're like me, you never have any cash on you. I often struggle to find a dollar for a vending machine and dread those cash only signs. This is why you should know where to find the ATMs within your network that are close to your home and workplace. Visit your bank's website on your smartphone, and bookmark the URL that lists all ATMs that won't charge you an extra fee for cash withdrawals. It's your money; you shouldn't have to pay to get it.
25. Make Weekly Deposits to an Emergency Fund
Setting up an emergency fund is hard. If I was to ask you to make a $520 contribution to your emergency fund right now, you would say "Yeah right." Let's try another way. How about $10 a week for a whole year? That sounds pretty feasible and provides the same results as the lump sum deposit. This little trick gets you closer to building that well-needed fund for a rainy day.
What are some other ways to change up your routine and love your day?