Articles about life improvement are readily available, but there’s hardly anything new in them. So this article is written in the spirit of Catch-22 – the ultimate life-improvement book. I created the list of “22 uncommon ways to improve your life” to provide you with something new and exciting you can apply in your life right now.
You can use the following ideas to immediately increase your level of health, productivity, effectiveness, and well-being. Each idea is represented by a beautiful painting. Mixing art with useful knowledge is never a bad idea.
There’s no “Limitless” pill of self-improvement
Improving your life doesn’t have to be complicated, but it takes time. Instant breakthroughs are rare, and every meaningful achievement takes months and years (just like in Kaizen – one small improvement at a time). But even one small idea, if applied consistently, may vastly change your life for the better. In this article, you’ll learn about such ideas.
How to improve your life much faster? – Ask the right questions
There’s one idea I’ve learned from Thinking Big by Brian Tracy and it served me well over the years. It’s called “The Twenty Ideas Technique”.
Basically, you write down any question you want and then compile a list of at least twenty answers to that question. Most of the time, you have to force yourself to drill it down until the very last bit, but it’s totally worth it. When you’ve dealt with the obvious, true creativity starts to emerge.
You may ask:
- How can I become a better person?
- How can I increase my income over the next six months?
- How can I do the best presentation possible during that important meeting?
- How can I be more productive at work?
- How can I improve my level of energy right now?
- How can I be happier?
This technique is great because it engages your mind and makes you think about new possibilities. And every time you start to visualize new solutions, you get unstuck and you’re “back to the game”, or “on the roll” again. You’re back at the steering wheel and everything looks more positive.
The key is to apply at least one of the ideas as soon as you’ve written them down. Your own ideas will always hold more power.
The question of questions for the “20 Answers technique” is:
Over time, I’ve collected some uncommon answers that may interest you. Please feel free to pick and choose (and apply) the most useful ones.
22 Uncommon Ideas to Improve Your Life
1. Do your creative work before your day job starts
There are owls among us, but the majority of people function best in the early morning. If you have a day job and you still want to get your creative work done (art, videos, presentations, music, writing, graphics, software, apps, etc.), I highly recommend you do it before office time.
Getting up 2,5 to 3 hours before your day job requires discipline but once you put on your flip-flops, there’s no stopping you. Gary Vaynerchuck, the social media entrepreneur talks about 7 PM to 2 AM as the time for getting side projects off the ground. I appreciate the idea, but I don’t find it very practical. I’d rather be like Jocko Willink the bad-ass Navy Seal who wakes up at 4:30 AM every morning without fail.
Your willpower and concentration are limited, and every day you just have a certain amount to spend. To me, the evening is the time for the gym, reading, and relaxing. So if you have a project you’ve been putting off for a long time, try to do it from 6 AM to 9 AM, when your mind is fresh and most creative.
2. Reflect on what you’ve learned
In the times of info-overload, it’s so easy to get distracted. There are so many things to consume that it’s hard to stop and actually think for a moment.
Instead of immediately moving on to the next thing (be it a book, a poem, a movie, an article), stop and reflect on what you’ve just learned. Challenge it, debate it, and think about how you can apply it. This will mitigate your ADD, and make you a better thinker which is one of the keys to personal development.
3. Get the food and supplements you need for healthy living
There are volumes written on the subject of food, but it doesn’t have to be so difficult. If you want to know what to eat, you should read The Food Rules by Michael Pollan. It’s really short and it will serve you for a lifetime of healthy living.
Additionally, you can use these essential ideas about nutrition:
- Drink at least three liters of water every day (if you exercise and lead an active lifestyle, drink more). Always have some water with you.
- Avoid wheat (especially bread), too much salt, alcohol, sugar, meat, and any type of processed foods.
- Eat mostly green vegetables, fruits, nuts, and a few wheat products like oatmeal.
- Take supplements to improve your health and cognitive abilities – omega 3, 100% cocoa powder, vitamins B6 and B12, and iron.
- Drink warm water with wheatgrass powder (or wheatgrass juice) first thing in the morning. It will alkalize your system, and give you more energy.
- Eat the superfoods: flaxseed, berries (all kinds), kimchi, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, walnuts, almonds, cottage cheese, eggs, lettuce, cabbage, apricot, peach, olive oil, tomatoes, avocado, garlic, carrot, grapes, any type of seafood, soy products, dried fruits, peas, fava beans (don’t forget about chianti), kiwi, pears, apples, beet, melon, watermelon, and sunflower.
4. Answer all the emails during a set time of the day
Compulsive checking of the email is the scourge of humankind. It automatically puts you in a reactive mode and instead of doing your job, you serve other people’s agendas.
The problem lies in the intrinsic pleasure of emailing. Getting (or even expecting) new messages releases a bit of the feel-good hormones into your brain, and makes you addicted to the activity.
Research shows that on average we check our inboxes about 15 times a day. You can vastly improve your productivity, and lower the amount of stress in your life just by reducing that number.
If you’re addicted to email, you may want to counteract your natural tendencies. You can use browser extensions like Site Blocker or Stay Focused to allow checking your email only during certain periods of the day.
You can also put the email-related activities on your to-do list, and try to visit your inbox only once or twice a day. Many of us, of course, have to check our inboxes during work. In that case, you can at least do one important task before opening your email.
5. Use the plane mode during your most productive work sessions
Don’t allow constant messaging to break your concentration and interrupt the flow of your work. Let’s say you’re in the middle of an important task and you’re crushing it. Suddenly, your phone lights up. You see it with the corner of your eye and try to ignore it. But after a few seconds, it becomes irresistible. You check your phone and there, low and behold, you have a new follower on Twitter.
This kind of common behavior makes you much less productive. It takes around 10 to 15 minutes to fully go back to work after an interruption (especially from a call). So when you do your hardest tasks, put your phone into plane mode. You will get a double dose of belly-warming buzzes after you switch it back on.
6. Set a specific amount of time next to each activity on your to-do list
This is one of the best productivity hacks ever. It doesn’t work for everyone, but if you can comply with it, you can get much more done. When creating your to-do list, set the amount of time each task should take.
Next, when you work your way down the list, turn on the timer (like the Online Stopwatch) and race against the clock to finish your job in time. You’ll be more motivated, and less distracted because you’ll be in the “work mode” where checking social media is not allowed.
Pro tip: if you have two monitors, but the timer full screen on one of them. I’ve found that seeing the timer ticking makes the whole technique more effective.
7. Set appointments with yourself in the “Temples of Productivity”
The usual workplace is very distracting, and many studies show that that working in a shared space makes us much less productive. It turns out that a private office or the closed doors policy isn’t so bad after all.
Nowadays the creative work moves away from the office and many of us become freelancers. Home is a comfy place to work, but it can be distracting as well – there are things in the fridge, the bed, and other marvelous inventions.
If it’s hard for you to concentrate at home, you can use the “Temples of Productivity” to get your job done. The Temple of Productivity may be a nice library or your favorite local cafe. It’s much easier to maintain high productivity there. Promise to yourself that you won’t leave until you do two or three hours of productive, uninterrupted work. You won’t believe how much you can get done during that time.
8. Put a cap on your alcohol intake
I love this quote from Hitch-22:
“Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing. The only worthwhile miracle in the New Testament—the transmutation of water into wine during the wedding at Cana—is a tribute to the persistence of Hellenism in an otherwise austere Judaea”.
Drinking is definitely a part of the good life, but many of us drink too much and then regret it. If you want to live an energetic, productive life, you should take an honest look at your drinking habits.
Drinking takes a toll on your sleep: it interrupts your sleeping patterns and prevents you from going into the deep sleep phase (REM) which is essential for regeneration.
Then, there are hangovers, dehydration, sleepiness, lack of motivation, and other undesirable side effects. To avoid them, you can simply make a decision about how much are you going to drink on any given occasion.
When you reach your “quota”, you can start drinking water with lemon. Don’t ever let anyone make you drink if you don’t want it, and don’t mix different types of booze. There’s a quote by Jim Rohn worth considering:
“A fine glass of wine is part of the lifestyle. But a bottle of wine? Probably not”.
Of course, if the evening is going really well and you don’t have to work the next day, you can ignore all of the above.
9. Be on good terms with your coffee
Coffee is a wonder drug and it has to be used with care. Most people drink coffee in the morning just to get going. Others like to drink it just for the strong aroma, and delicious taste. But coffee may also be your secret weapon.
When I’m able to carve out two or three hours for productive work strong Arabica is always in high demand.
Drinking too much coffee, however, immunizes you to its wonderful effects, so it’s a good idea to limit your intake to one or two cups a day. Drugging yourself with coffee when you’re tired is a bad idea. It’s actually best to use it in the morning when you’re totally rested.
10. Use Coach.me to reach your goals faster
I’ve learned about Coach.me from Tim Ferriss. I think it’s a great website (and app) for life improvement and developing new habits like exercising, playing musical instruments, meditating, or writing.
What makes this app so effective? It increases your motivation by letting you share your quest with like-minded people. You can ask questions, find your training buddies, and keep track of your achievements.
By installing the app on your phone, you’ll be reminded about your daily dose of activities. If you’re really serious, you can even get a coach for as little as $15 per week. I think that Coach.me is a great tool for personal improvement, and it’s definitely more effective than trying to develop new habits on your own.
11. Write down your one-year vision
I’m sure that you already have a list of goals for the coming year and you’re reviewing it regularly. If you want to make the whole thing more vivid, you may also want to write down your overall vision for the year.
What exactly do you want to achieve? Where are you going to be within the next few months? Make it attractive, and add graphics to it, so every time you read it, you feel energized to go after your dreams.
12. Practice visualization – even for 10 minutes a day
Visualization is probably the most effective life-transforming activity which you never practice. Forget about all the crap you’ve learned from “The Secret” – there’s no Ferrari landing at your doorstep just because you thought about it hard enough.
But when used correctly, Visualization is a powerful tool for self-improvement. It helps you to get focused on the things you want in life.
You can use the following method:
- Put the 10-minute visualization on your to-do list.
- Play your favorite song and use the headphones (it’s best if you play a track without lyrics, as they might distract you).
- Take a look at your goals list and really focus on what you’re trying to achieve.
- Close your eyes, and think intensively about the goals as already achieved, but also about the process of achieving them. The key here is the emotion you put into the process.
Try this technique and you’ll see that after your session you’ll have lots of motivation to achieve your goals. You’ll also start to notice new opportunities to achieve them.
13. Practice the “Golden Hour”
The golden hour is a classic idea from the self-help genre. It’s your first hour of the day, and it’s one of the secrets of most successful people.
With a proper morning routine, your whole day is going to be much more productive and exciting. Here’s my golden hour drill:
- Drink a glass of warm water with some wheat-grass powder
- Meditate for 20 – 30 minutes
- Get a quick, nutritious breakfast and healthy supplements
- Write down (or take a careful look at) your goals
- Watch a quick, inspirational video on YouTube (only one)
- Get to work, and finish your most important task for the day (in other words: Eat That Frog!)
14. Buy a green pen and use it to plan your daily rewards for goal-achievement
It could be as simple as a nice meal, or a movie, or more elaborate, as a massage or an evening at an expensive restaurant.
The “green” activity should be the last one on your to-do list. Even if you don’t complete all the other tasks, don’t beat yourself up. Get your reward anyway. The key is to condition your brain to expect rewards for accomplishment and live the good life, instead of a life of constant work.
15. Do at least one long yoga session per week
Yoga is one of the best things you can do to get more energy and balance in your life. I recommend you get at least one long yoga session every week. Ideally, it would take place somewhere in nature. After your session, you’ll be totally rejuvenated, stretched out, and relaxed.
For anyone starting an adventure with yoga, I highly recommend Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. Adriene is a really wonderful person and she uploads new Yoga videos every week.
16. Plan your weeks with greater care
Since it’s your life, you need to think things through a little. Make it special instead of ordinary. What one new thing are you going to do next week? Go as wild as you want. Don’t let another week slip without some memorable experience. In the words of Jim Rohn – “Go watch, go see, go do!”
17. Prohibit access to your most distracting websites during certain periods of the day
Are you wasting your precious hours on YouTube, social media channels, or news websites? You can fix that problem with a simple browser extension like Block Site.
Just install it, and block certain websites for a set period of time. Your mornings will become so much more productive without all the distractions.
18. Use the Rapid Planning Method
I’ve first learned about this method from Tony Robbins, and I’ve used it with great success. It’s one of the best ways to set your goals and actually take action on your plans. The effectiveness of RPM lies in its simplicity.
Try to do the following exercise and you’re on your way:
- What’s my outcome? What exactly do you want to achieve? Crystallize it and write it down in terms of the outcome, not the activity (“I’ve finished this project by this time” not “I’m working on this project every day”.)
- The purpose – What’s the big why? Why do you want to achieve your goals? What are your reasons? Write them down! You have to put some emotion behind your goals. They need to be vibrant and lively. They need to activate your imagination.
- The massive action plan. Break your goal into smaller, manageable tasks. Create a list of all the activities you have to get done in order to achieve your outcome. It’s called back from future thinking, and it’s the best goal achievement technique. First, you visualize the outcome, then you think about the exact steps that will get you there. Then you write down the plan and start taking action immediately.
- Celebrate. When you achieve your goals, it’s great to celebrate and enjoy the moment for a while. You’ll associate achievement with pleasure and take a small break from work at the same time.
19. Use some common sense ideas on personal finance
- Money is the measure of the value you provide to others.
- Real wealth means being grateful for what you already have.
- Give more value to others than you would ever expect to get back.
- Your personal finance goals should belong to the “must”, and not “should” category.
- In order to be happy with your money, you need to feel that you deserved it through service to others.
- Give 10% of your income to charity. You’ll understand that there’s more than enough money in the world.
- Have some play money. Go on and spend some cash on pleasurable activities. You don’t have to be such a penny-pincher.
20. Use the brainwave music to your advantage
Do you know that you can change the frequency of your brainwaves just by listening to music? There are four main types of brainwave activity in the brain – Delta (sleep), Alpha (relaxed awareness), Theta (high brain activity) and Gamma (anxiety, excitement, agitation).
The best state for high productivity is Theta and you can achieve it by listening to certain pieces of music. There are many great Theta tracks on Amazon. If on the other hand, you want to achieve a state of relaxed alertness, perfect for learning or meditation you may try the Alpha waves.
21. Use AnyMemo (or similar app) to grow your vocabulary
I’ve used Anymemo to learn and memorize more than 5300 sophisticated words in English. Anymemo is a simple flashcard app. It’s based on the spaced repetition technique and it will let you expand your vocabulary in no time.
With some effort, you can master any word list. Right now I’m learning Spanish and I’ve already absorbed more than 1500 new words.
I highly recommend a flashcard app because the words you learn actually stay in your long-term memory. Later, when you read a dense novel like David Copperfield, you’ll understand almost every single word.
22. Use Audipo (or similar app) to listen to audio three times faster
Are you a bit frustrated at the length of some books and podcasts? With apps like Audipo you can pick any track you want and speed it up by 300% without losing quality.
For really heavy stuff like The Name of The Rose, I couldn’t really use the app. But if you listen to a regular podcast, you can easily understand everything at 200% speed. It’s one of the best time savers of all time.
So here they are – Tips-22. I strongly suggest you pick at least one of the bunch and apply it immediately in your everyday life. I’m also quite sure you have some other unusually effective life improvement tips. Please share them in the comment section below.