Life’s good at blindsiding you every now and then. With a few simple strategies, like the ones outlined below, you can become adept at handling all of life’s uncertainties with aplomb. What’s important is to turn these strategies into habits, and the sooner you do that the better.
Live By Your Body Clock
Your body is more intelligent than you give it credit for. Its functions are circadian, which roughly means that they follow an in-built 24-hour cycle and can be adjusted to adapt to the local environment through external stimuli. The circadian rhythm is what accounts for phenomena like jet lag, where your body clock goes awry when you travel across time zones and can be reset to sync with the local time.
With artificial lighting at your disposal, your day doesn’t end when the sun sets. But prolonged exposure to man-made lighting, especially in high doses, can upset your circadian rhythms and mess with your energy and sleep patterns. When your bodily functions stay erratic over time, you experience higher than normal levels of tiredness and stress.
The 24-hour day/night cycle, known as the circadian clock, affects physiologic processes in almost all organisms. These processes include brain wave patterns, hormone production, cell regulation, and other biologic activities. Disruption of the circadian clock is linked to several medical disorders in humans, including depression, insomnia, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
One way to put your health on the right track is by resetting your body clock to keep it in sync with the sun’s movements. Maintain a record of your sleep cycles and energy levels for a couple of weeks, noting their variations at different times during the day. Study these records to figure out underlying patterns.
Note at which times during the day you feel your best. When do you feel the sleepiest? When do you feel hungry? Knowing these variations can help you optimize your day. When I take a 30-minute nap before lunch, I wake up refreshed and feeling good. When I make it a 30-minute nap post lunch, I wake up sleepy and irritable, and have trouble falling asleep that night. Knowing what I do, I ensure I sneak in that catnap before lunch everyday.
Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, listen to your body.
- Work when you’re at your alert best and rest when you’re tired.
- Learn to stay productive during afternoon slumps.
- Wake up and go to bed at fixed times.
- When you’re working on the computer after sunset, use F.lux to reduce nocturnal eyestrain.
- If you must pull an all-nighter, go about it creatively.
- If you’re a globetrotter, use an app like Entrain (iPhone) to acclimatize yourself to new time zones and schedules faster.
Get Back To The Basics
I worry about finding the perfect notebook for my journal. I worry about tweaking my browser just so. I worry that I haven’t read so many important books yet. Then I take a deep breath, stop my notebook-hunting, leave my browser as is, pick an unread book off my shelf and dive in. I’m grateful that I’m ALIVE.
When you’re bombarded with information and choices 24/7, it’s hard not to get caught up in the details. Inevitably, you lose sight of the bigger picture. You worry about a long list of things including your projects, deadlines, goals, health, and relationships. The best way to center yourself and regain focus is to get the fundamentals right. That holds good whether you’re planning a project, creating a meal plan, or crafting a fitness routine.
What about tools? If that’s your next question, I’d say the best tool is the one that gets the job done to satisfaction and on time. Sure, it’s nice to experiment with fancy tools, apps, gear, etc., but it’s no use getting obsessed about them. Being able to switch gears at a moment’s notice is what resourcefulness is all about, and that comes from getting your fundamentals right. One way to do that is by starting with a minimalist mindset, building up your resources as you go along, and trimming the extras frequently.
Tie Up Loose Ends Regularly
You have a list of tasks that you have put on the backburner because they involve some tough decisions or varying levels of discomfort. These often include health checkups, obligatory phone calls, fixing stuff around the house, etc. The guilt of not acting on these tasks gnaws away at your insides. The best way to assuage it is to buckle down and deal with these tasks head-on. It’s painful, but it needs to be done — like ripping off a Band-aid. The relief and satisfaction that follow will convince you of the value of this approach.
Getting those tough tasks out of the way frees up a lot of mental energy, which you can then use to sharpen your life skills or pick up a few new ones. Don’t know how to do something? Hop over to MakeUseOf to find relevant resources and solutions. For example, you can fix anything that’s broken, seek reliable medical advice, or outsource some of your day-to-day tasks.
A fun gamification app like HabitRPG can give you some incentive to tackle those unwanted tasks. I’d also recommend a don’t-break-the-chain app to keep yourself disciplined. I have been using one called Chains.cc. That and making three small changes to my day have been effective in boosting my habit-building efforts.
Baby Steps, Please!
Unlike major changes, the tiny ones do not feel daunting. You don’t have to go too much out of your way to make them, and they join hands over to time to create an avalanche-like effect. Use this to your advantage and bring in some easy steps that will make your life both simpler and better.
Now it’s time for you to weigh in. List one change that has single-handedly transformed your life for the better.