By Ali Luke
Having just started a blog with the tagline “getting more from life”, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do this myself! A lot of personal development or change advice focuses on the longer term (especially in areas like finance or career), but here I want to look at squeezing the most from the little moments and how to feel satisfied and fulfilled in the shorter term.
Some of the suggestions below are things I’m already doing, some are ones I plan to do. I’d love to hear some of yours too, so please do add to this list in the comments, if you have any favourites that I’ve missed out!
Getting More From Each Day
1. Have a “quiet time”
Spend just ten minutes of the day in prayer, meditation or silent reflection. (I find that the best time for this is first thing in the morning, before breakfast.) You might want to read a passage from the Bible or another holy book, or you might simply sit quietly and think about the day ahead.
2. Open a book
You probably won’t have the time to read a whole novel or non-fiction book in a day – but you can at least open one. Once you’ve read a page or two, you’ll probably be motivated to keep going.
Most of us don’t get enough exercise. I find that I’m not great at sticking to a gym routine, but I make the effort to walk for at least 45 minutes (usually at least an hour) each day. It’s physically and mentally refreshing, and it keeps me from feeling cooped up at my desk.
Laughing regularly is believed to reduce stress. Find an excuse to laugh at least once a day: watch an episode of a favourite comedy program, or look for web comics or humour blogs that you love. Don’t see this as a waste of time – see it as a way to give yourself a happiness boost and an inoculation against stress.
E. E. Cummings once said “the most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” How very true. I try to be never be too busy to laugh, or too serious to smile.
5. Say “I love you”
Those three little words mean so much to you and to the person who hears them. Tell your partner “I love you” every day, or call your parents, grandparents or other close relative.
Getting More From Each Week
6. Switch off your computer for a day
Since you’re reading this on a blog, I’d guess that you spend a fair bit of time online each week. Many of us live in a state of hyper-connectedness, which can make life feel frantic and rushed. Like our broadband connections, we feel like we’re “always on”. Each week, find a twenty-four hour period to switch off your computer and unplug completely.
7. Write a letter/card
Sitting down to handwrite a letter or card can be as refreshing as a period of quiet time. When people are inundated with emails and other electronic communications, receiving a real letter in the post is an absolute joy: anticipate how they’ll feel as you enjoy writing.
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8. Try a new recipe
Do you eat pretty much the same menu each week? Dig out some of your recipe books and make it a goal to try one new recipe each week. We did this at the start of the year, and discovered a number of new favourites.
9. Write in a journal
I’ve written before about keeping a journal, and it’s a habit that I find very helpful – when I manage to stay committed to doing it. A daily journal might feel like too much, so try setting aside 30-60 minutes once a week to sit down and write about your thoughts and experiences.
10. Finish a book
If you’re reading a bit each day, you should be able to finish an average length novel or book in a week. Pick something you enjoy rather than something you feel you should read, and ask friends for recommendations if you’re not sure what to try. Make it a paper book, not an ebook: the reading experience is different when you can curl up undisturbed in a chair.
Getting More From Each Month
11. Write a list of achievements
Something I’ve been doing on a monthly basis since the start of 2008 is keeping a list of achievements. This takes me perhaps ten minutes each month, but it’s been a huge help in not only encouraging me to strive for new achievements but also in helping me recognise and celebrate my progress.
12. Do a thirty-day trial
The idea of thirty-day trials has been popularised by Steve Pavlina and other personal development bloggers – and for good reason. Committing to something like a new diet, an exercise regime, or daily meditation is much easier when you’ve got an end or goal in sight. If there’s something that you keep meaning to do but find it hard to face starting on, try a thirty-day trial.
13. Learn something new
Each month, set yourself a specific goal about learning something new. It doesn’t need to be something big: perhaps you want to learn to use a new software package, or learn the absolute basics of a new language. It could be something hobby-related: this month, I’m teaching myself to knit.
14. Have a work-free weekend
Many of us find that work spills over into the weekend. Perhaps you have too much to do in the office, or perhaps you have a side business that takes up a lot of your free time. Maybe you’re studying for a degree or other qualification, and often spend your weekends on that. It’s not always possible to keep every weekend work-free, but having at least one work-free weekend each month can really help to improve your quality of life. You might even want to extend this further and shoot for A Weekend Unplugged, avoiding computers, television and cell phones too.
Finally, find some time, even if it’s just an hour or two, to volunteer some of your time each month. Church and community organisations are often great sources of opportunities to really get involved and make a difference.
Volunteering is unique in that it gives you a very pure opportunity to connect with people that you may never have met otherwise. I am always surprised by how much I learn about myself through relationships I never would have forged if I hadn’t volunteered my time.