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7 Simple Tools to Improve Your Life
Q: Do you have any favorite life hacks to share?
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This week we are keeping it simple and sharing some helpful tools and practices that we have tried over the past year. These practices have helped us get back into flow, make decisions more easily, gain energy, or just start to feel better about ourselves. Feel free to adopt and use these in your life. If you have practices or tips that are making a difference in your life, please do share.
Three Wins (Mitali): This is a practice I started in early 2021 as a part of my vision exercise. I realized that I was very critical of myself and needed to start celebrating my achievements to bring my self-doubt under control. So as a part of my journaling exercise I started writing 3 quick wins from the previous day. It was simple stuff like getting a healthy dinner on the table for the family or finding time to take a bath to relieve my sore muscles. This practice also became a good reminder of the self care habits I needed to be making time for (ex. meditation, exercise, healthy meals, quality time with my husband)
The Ta-Da List (Kinnari): We're all very familiar with the To Do list and we derive satisfaction from finishing a task and crossing it off our ever-increasing list of tasks. A month ago when I was fretting about not making that much progress on my to-do list and questioning how I had used my three month break, my coach suggested creating a Ta-Da list. She said go back to when you started your break and scour for every single thing that you have done and write it down. I hadn't ever heard of a Ta-Da list but I liked the concept immediately. As someone who has a hard time remembering what I got done by the end of the day, I had forgotten almost all of the good things I had accomplished during this period. So on a long flight back to SF, I opened my journal and wrote down everything - big and small - that happened. I ended up filling four pages and was surprised by how much I had actually done. Doing this exercise made me feel a lot more at peace about the three months.
Three As (Mitali): “Name one thing you - Appreciate/Acknowledge/Apologize - about someone at the table”. My friend Namita told me about this practice with her kids and I have been using it over the past 2 years for our family dinner table conversations. It is a structure that allows for the kids to talk about their day, for us to make each other feel good by recognizing someone in the family and for everyone to feel seen and heard by the family. I have acknowledged my kid for trying out a new after-school activity, appreciated my husband for making a home cooked meal for dinner and apologized to my kid for losing my cool over a simple request.
Covid Conversations (Mitali) - At the start of “shelter in place” in 2020, I created a spreadsheet with a list of friends/social circles/team mates who I wanted to stay connected with to keep me mentally and emotionally healthy. I was deliberate about the frequency (monthly, quarterly, annually) with which I wanted to connect with these folks and how I would make the connections happen. I then went about actually doing it - reconnecting with old friends who I had lost touch with (some from elementary school!), coordinating the scheduling of different groups of friends and family on calendar, setting up video meetings, creating new whatsapp group chats, etc. It was a savior for me during shelter in place - I got the support I needed to thrive during covid and it helped me feel more connected and useful to others even when I could not physically see them. I often fall off the bandwagon and stop doing this as things get busy but every time I restart, I can feel the difference immediately. It reminds me how much I need my own set of confidantes to help me feel confident and secure through challenging times.
“... people have similar expectations when it comes to their friends: We want those who are there for us, who listen without judgment and understand what we’re going through. They may not agree with us, but they get us.
...The social isolation imposed by Covid-19 has exposed the shortcomings of individualism, incessant striving, superficiality and can’t-talk-now-text-me-later lifestyles.”
- The pandemic shrunk our social circles. Let’s keep it that way (New York Times)
The Coin Toss (Kinnari): I was meeting with my learning community group (for Inner MBA, more on that in a future post). One of the members was talking about two great career opportunities in front of her and was having a tough time making a choice. She had listed out the pros and cons of each situation and yet couldn't make up her mind for weeks. At this point, Pete (one of the group members) offered some helpful advice. He said "I'm a data nerd and I tend to geek out on creating lists/data models when important but difficult choices need to be made. At the end of it though, you have to go back to your gut. One way to do this is to flip a coin. If you flip a coin and your immediate reaction to what comes up is negative then you know it's the wrong choice, or vice versa." It was a simple and elegant way to check in with your gut. I have now used this a few times and have found it helpful in gauging how my mind and body feel. PS - Google offers a tool to flip a coin in case you don't have a physical one handy.
Three Heuristics for Decision Making (Kinnari): I tend to be indecisive so I'm always on the lookout for tips that will make me better at making decisions. The following advice comes from Naval Ravikant, a well known angel investor in Silicon Valley. I like it because it attempts to make the decision making process a lot simpler. At a high level he states:
“When faced with a difficult choice, if you cannot decide, the answer is no”. He says some decisions are really long-lived and it's important to say yes only when you are fairly certain. His brutal advice is if you find yourself with a pros and cons list, the answer is no.
“If you have two choices to make, and they’re relatively equal in difficulty (50–50), take the path that is more difficult and more painful in the short term.” In other words take short term pain for long term gains. Our brains push out short term pain and overvalue short term happiness. Cancel that tendency and lean into the pain as most gains in life come from suffering in the short term. (ex. Going for a run when my mind tells me to watch a show because my longer term goal is to be healthy).
“Make the choice that will leave you more equanimous (calmer and peaceful) in the long term.” I love this one - it’s simple and in line with my goal of striving for peace when I can. Naval talks about peace of mind being the precursor to happiness. Those that are chasing happiness are actually chasing pleasure which has a high but also a crash. A couple of years ago my friend Janice had told me how on a daily basis she asked herself “What will bring me more peace today?”. That has stuck with me. I don’t always follow it but in times of distress following peace has been my north star.
Calendar as a Dashboard (Mitali): Scheduling tasks and habits on a calendar has been life changing. I put weekly habits on there as a reminder to get notifications that nag me to do things that I know need to be done for my sanity. For some tasks I put blocks on my calendar so that I know I have time dedicated to getting things done. Looking at the calendar before going to bed helps me mentally prepare for what I need to prioritize the next day. I also look at my calendar on Mondays and Fridays to figure out where I can fit in time for social connections and to reach out to folks to get time with them.