Faced with unlimited career, personal, and health advice and little time to spare, it’s hard to know where to start.
#BIBetter is a 21-day self-improvement program designed for the busy professional, featuring a few habits that will make a big difference and a bunch of tasks that most of us have been putting off for too long.
We recommend participating with at least one other person, so you have more fun and keep each other in check. You can start on any Monday and should complete actions on their specified day when possible.
The following slides go through the days and the science behind them in detail, while you can also reference our infographic calendar.
Believe it or not, as many as 50% of Americans say they don't floss every day. If you are one of those people, then make today the day you start doing it consistently.
How can you get in the habit?
Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg is one of the foremost researchers on habit formation. The takeaway from all his work: Floss one tooth.
As in, if you're trying to form a habit, it can helpful to start as small as possible, with a minimum viable habit. The point, Fogg emphasises, is to insert the structure of the activity in your day, rather than doing it perfectly every time. This way of thinking works for all habits, and it works for flossing, too -- and if you floss the whole mouth, then you're doing even better.
Indeed, this core dental hygiene technique will clean your teeth and gums of plaque, protecting your teeth as you age and saving you on dental bills. Research suggests that flossing may even prevent heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.
When you think of networking, you probably imagine grabbing a coffee or drink with a potential client, employer, or mentor for the benefit of your own career. But you might be missing out on valuable relationships in your own office.
Rather than eating lunch at your desk or with a buddy, strike up a conversation with an acquaintance and see if they'd like to grab something to eat.
Corporate coach Beth Weissenberger of the Handel Group has worked with executives at companies like GE and the New York Times, teaching them how to navigate office politics for maximum productivity and success. Office politics shouldn't mean gossiping and manipulation Weissenberger says. They should be about building meaningful relationships with the people you spend all day with.
The point of this assignment isn't just to have fun, though that's encouraged.
Museum visits come with a list of cognitive benefits that should help you be more creative, literate, well-rounded.
After visiting an art museum, students show stronger critical thinking skills and are more socially tolerant. Adults show similar benefits.
Visiting a museum can relieve mental fatigue and restore the ability to focus in the same way that the outdoors can, according to research from the University of Queensland in Australia.
Even more, going to a museum is a novelty-seeking venture, which triggers your brain to be open to learning. Not only does this provide long lasting cognitive benefits, it's also connected to one of the Big 5 personality traits -- openness to experience. This is the trait most associated with creative achievement.
If you are a frequent museum-goer, try to pick one you haven't been to before. If your last museum experience was a class field trip, go with an open mind. See what you learn -- and write about it later.
Money is dangerously easy to spend, and if you're not tracking it, you'll spend it even faster.
That's where startups come in. Over the past few years, a handful of companies have built super easy-to-use apps that take the 'ugh' out of budgeting.
The most beloved of these is Mint. Owned by Intuit, the makers of Quicken, Mint is a web and mobile app that gives you a complete overview of your financial health -- letting you tie in your bank, credit card, investments and the rest of your dough.
Even better, a robust tutorial system will teach you how to become literate in personal finance in no time. Plus it's free.
And it works: Over the past three years, Mint's 'Goals' feature has helped over one million users pay off over $US20 billion in debt.
For more on the most popular budgeting apps, head here.
In 1946, Gertrude Stein wrote 'Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.'
If only she knew what we face today ...
But there are some tricks to getting to inbox zero or at least something more sustainable -- though it's going to take some work.
First, unsubscribe from all the email newsletters you've signed up for that you don't read -- in most cases you can do it with just one or two clicks at the bottom of each email. You could also use a service like Unroll.Me, which lets you combine subscriptions into a digest email or unsubscribe from everything you forgot you even signed up for with one click. Next turn off your social media notification emails.
Then tackle that inbox. First delete or archive everything you can -- any old newsletter, Groupon deal, or receipt. Then answer any message that can be responded to in under five minutes. If there are things that will take longer to respond to, use a system. File those emails in a 'respond later' folder, and schedule a time to do so. You could also use an app like Boomerang that can make an email pop up in your inbox again after a certain amount of time -- you can also use it to schedule emails to send later.
Adopt an approach that works for you. Chances are you know how, you just haven't taken the time to do it before. And if it's all too much, then declare email bankruptcy and start anew.
Going forward, try using filters to group important emails or automatically archive ones you don't want to delete, like receipts, but don't want in your inbox either.
There are three interpersonal ties in society: weak, strong, and absent.
The 1973 study 'The Strength of Weak Ties' by Mark Granovetter of Johns Hopkins University found that it's not the strong ties you share with close friends and family that will most often get you ahead, but rather the weak ties you share with acquaintances.
Even though the members of your inner-circle may care about you deeply, they also tend to have access to the same people and information that you do.
So take some time to reconnect with three former friends or associates that you haven't talked to in years. Not only will it feel good to get back in touch, but there's a chance one or both of you will be helpful to the other.
It's up to you whether to call, send a letter, or send a text or online message. If you're unsure, email is probably the best choice as it represents a good compromise between efficiency and the potential for a meaningful message -- and you can always arrange a follow-up call or meeting.
Steve Jobs used to say that the people with the most insight were those that had the biggest 'bag of experiences.'
If you want to add to your bag of experiences, a fast way is by seeing performing arts: classical music, theatre, dance, rock concerts, and the rest.
Live shows are also a way to tap directly into your culture, whether seeing new performances of old material or stuff that's never been done before.
Shows affect people. A 2002 survey found that attending such events increases cultural understanding, increases sense of connection to the community, and inspires personal creativity.
Go with friends or make it a date if you want to make it a bonding experience, too.
If the cave paintings dotted around the world can tell us anything, it's that humans have been making art for over 40,000 years.
But the visual arts aren't just nice to look at, and the literary arts aren't just nice to read.
Decades of psychological research shows that making art has all sorts of benefits for people's well-being.
The research suggests that creating visual art has these effects:
• Improved well -- being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones
• Improvements in flow and spontaneity, expression of grief, positive identity, and social networks
• Reductions in distress and negative emotions
And as we've mentioned before, the act of writing improves well-being, reduces anxiety, and even boosts your immune system.
With that in mind, let's set to work with creating a work of art. It's going to take some time -- we're asking for at least 90 minutes. If you have some sketching skills, draw a still life on your kitchen table. If you're less practiced, use pastels to create some abstract art. If you're prefer to stay linguistic, drop a few poems describing the scenes that have happened in your life over the past week.
What matters is that you create.
This assignment may not be fun, but it's important.
Passwords get stolen, databases get hacked, and sometimes that means that someone can steal all your personal information -- which not only can be a financial risk but also can result in the loss of irreplaceable information and photos. Unfortunately, almost everyone fails to follow good advice on passwords, not updating passwords after data breaches or as often as recommended and using the same passwords for multiple sites, in many cases using overly simple passwords.
At the very least, you should take this occasion to change all your passwords and make sure you have two-step verification enabled for everything, with backup codes printed and stored in a secure location.
You just have to remember one 'master password' and let the manager do the rest. Again, it won't be fun to set up, but your life will be vastly easier and safer if you do.
Updating and improving your LinkedIn profile not only prepares you for your next job but also forces you to examine your career objectively.
Take a look at your page right now and view it the way a recruiter would. First of all, make sure your photo is a quality portrait that presents you the way you want to look in your industry. If you're going for a job on Wall Street, for example, you should be in formal wear; if you're a Bay Area techie, it's probably best to appear in a nice T-shirt.
Your Summary section should give a clear and concise description of who you are and what you have to offer. Get rid of any large blocks of texts, making sure that everything is easy to scan.
And make sure your page isn't boring. Use your personality in your writing and make sure you link to your relevant social media pages and websites, as well as any work you would like to share.
You can check out our full list of things you should be doing on LinkedIn but probably aren't.
And while you're at it, now is also a good time to update your résumé so that it's current and organised in a clean and concise way.
You'd be surprised at the connections you can make with highly influential people just by sending the right email.
To be clear, don't expect to set up a coffee date with President Obama anytime soon, but consider some of your favourite writers, entrepreneurs, artists, athletes -- anyone influential that you would enjoy hearing from. You're going to have the best luck with someone who is currently out of the limelight, since they will have an inbox that isn't flooded with media requests.
Personal finance author Ramit Sethi recommends sending an email that follows this format: Introduce yourself, reach a commonality (i.e. explain how has this person influenced you), and then ask a question.
Keep things concise, and be humble. And make sure that whatever you ask this person can't be answered with a simple Google search.
Once you get in touch with this person -- whether you get a single-line emailed response or a meeting over coffee -- be sure to follow up with them.
Sethi says that refined networking skills separate the mediocre from the truly successful and that the best $US100 you can spend in a year will be on grabbing coffee with those who can help you advance your career.
You're almost there.
Your penultimate assignment is another that should be fun and also have some important benefits.
Go outside -- a park will do, but if you can go on a hike, even better.
Spending time in nature lowers stress levels, restores mental energy, improves vision, and provides a creativity boost -- along with much more.
For those reasons, psychiatrists in Japan are prescribing their patients shinrin yoku, or wilderness bathing.
Not only is going outside good for you, it should also be enjoyable. You can combine breaking a sweat and spending time with friends and do something that should leave you better off afterward.
Take some time to reflect on the past few weeks. Do you want to adapt new habits to your life? Do you need to make a radical change to reach your goals? Are you already on the right track? If you're asking these questions, then you're in the right mindset.
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