How to actually get your sh*t together in 2019

Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

It’s the beginning of 2019, which means we probably all have a super long list of things we want to achieve in the coming year. Or maybe you finally realized that New Year’s resolutions just weren’t for you, and that’s okay too. Either way, it’s good to have both short and long term goals, and be aware of what you want in life and have a general idea of how you’re gonna get there.

When the new year was around the corner, I kind of took a step back and thought: Am I happy? Am I working towards what I want in life? Do I even know what I want in life? My answer: I’m not sure. This surprised me: I’ve always kind of worked towards things I’ve been told can lead to a happy life, but honestly, I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I wanted. If this is the case for you, that’s okay.

Realizing this, I decided to read up on what experts had to say about objective-setting and self-improvement. I surrounded myself with different people that I admired, who I felt I could learn something from. They showed me different perspectives that I can see things from, and helped me have a better understanding of myself and my personal goals. So, here’s just a quick summary of what I’ve learned in the past month.

1. Make yourself useful

We all have our bad days. The days that you literally feel like doing nothing, so that’s exactly what happens. Doing nothing just makes you feel worse, and you feel like doing nothing even more: it’s just a toxic cycle. If you’re not feeling your best, push yourself to get up off your butt and do the project you’ve been procrastinating. If it seems intimidating, start small. Do a small part of it, and bit by bit, before you know it, you’ll be done.

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I’ve heard this saying so many times before, but a friend of mine has been saying it to me so much that I’m really starting to understand it:

“Your day, year, or even life is what you make it.”

If you decide it’s going to be a useless day, that’s exactly what it’s going to be, because you assigned that title to it. If you decide that today is going to be amazing even if you’re not feeling your best, you will get stuff done, and look back on the day as a productive one.

2. Take initiative

Let’s be real, humans in general are pretty lazy. If it’s not in your job description, or doesn’t directly impact you, chances are you won’t feel like doing it. Just do it (not sponsored, but Nike, feel free to give me a call). Giving someone else a hand will not only improve your skills, but will help develop your relationships with other people. Don’t you want to be known as someone who helps others whenever possible, and is super hardworking? Of course, this is on the basis of getting your own sh*t together first. If your plate is super full, taking on more might make you feel even more stressed and could result in a break down: trust your own judgement. If you can give someone a hand without your own plate toppling over, go for it.

3. Don’t lose perspective

It’s really good to be immersed in something, whether that’s a good book or a project. However, it’s also good to take a step back once in a while. Think: Why am I doing this? How does this benefit me? If you have no answer, you’re probably just blindly working towards something that won’t actually make you happy or help you get closer to your goals.

4. Cut off people who don’t add value to your life

I know, I know, this one is something a lot of people have trouble with. Nobody wants to cut someone off. You think, “What if it becomes awkward, or they end up hating me?” It all depends on how you handle it. If you feel like someone’s avoiding you or just doesn’t enjoy your company anymore, try communicating with them first. It might just be a misunderstanding. But if it’s really problematic, it’s time to consider distancing yourself from them. It’s important to remember that in life, relationships are going to come and go. Even if you develop them well, things can still go wrong. Maybe nothing will happen, but you and the other person just have nothing in common anymore, and you’re heading in different paths. As painful as it might feel, you have to accept that this is okay, and it’s just part of life. You can still support each other, even if you’re not as close as before. It would be even worse to invest time and energy in a relationship that just doesn’t work anymore.

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

It’s a completely other story if they’re toxic. This is when you need to step back and think: What value am I gaining from this relationship? This doesn’t have to be literal value, like being able to help you with your homework. Does it make you happy to spend time with them? If you can’t think of anything, it’s probably time to cut them off.

A study published by the Journals of Ethics and Education stated that

“…friendship can also blind us to the faults of others. We may believe the friend to share the same set of values and commitments, but we can be wrong: we may see our friend through the proverbial rose-tinted glasses and fail to spot the ways in which the friend actively damages our well-being.”

Not everyone you let into your life deserves to stay. They don’t necessarily have to be a bad person; if a relationship is causing harm to you and your well-being, be like Elsa and let it go.

Now, if they’ve done something bad to you, don’t call them out in front of everyone. That’s how it gets awkward. Instead, take the high road, and distance yourself from them. If you don’t give them access to your life, they won’t be able to harm you.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

— Eleanor Roosevelt

5. Know yourself and your limits

It’s obviously good to be ambitious, know what you want, and be willing to work towards your goals. However, this is on the basis that you know your limits. If you want to become an expert in a subject in a week and you know you’re not going to have enough time to look into it, maybe reconsider. If you expect too much in too little time, you’re just going to end up being devastated and feel hopeless. Know that it’s not you, it’s the goal. You have to know yourself and what you’re capable of. Be realistic, set goals, and you’ll get there eventually. Don’t rush yourself, and enjoy the process.

6. Don’t procrastinate

This is a big one. Everyone does it: “I’ll just go on instagram for 10 minutes. I’ll start on that in a bit.” Before you know it, the minutes have turned into hours, and you still haven’t done anything. Things like instagram and youtube, as enjoyable as they are to use, are designed to be addictive. You’ll be watching a quick educational video, and bam, 3 hours later, you find yourself watching a gorilla eat ice cream. How did this happen? It’s totally normal, but you need to control yourself and know when to stop. Let’s say you have a huge assignment due tomorrow, and school just ended. Make yourself go to the library. I’ve been trying this out, and it’s totally working for me. After school, instead of going out with friends or going home and binging Netflix, I force myself to go to the library until I’m done what I need to do for the day. Once you’re in a workspace like the library, it’ll feel wrong to not be productive. Give it a try. Get rid of all distractions, and turn your phone on do not disturb. It is the digital age, so you can definitely also download some apps to help you stay focused.

Here’s a little something for you to try, known as the Pomodoro technique. It’s a time management method, and all you need is a timer.

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A good idea would be to make a list. For example, let’s say I have two small things and a big thing to finish. If I know I’m going to stay here until everything’s done, I’d finish the small things first. Not only does this give you a sense of accomplishment and productivity that’ll motivate you to keep going, it lessens the workload left. Instead of, “ugh I did a bit of all of them but I haven’t finished anything,” you’ll get “hey two down, one to go!”. If the big task seems intimidating, break it down into smaller ones. If you’ve just finished two, you’ll be confident you can do more.

7. Know when to take breaks

I’m not just talking about work. Although, studies have shown that people who take breaks in between working are far more productive that those who don’t. According to a recent study conducted by the Draugiem group, the ideal ratio is 17 minutes of break for every 52 minutes of work.

Source.

Another thing is taking breaks for yourself. Whether that’s a social media break, or a break from certain people. Social media, although a very useful tool to some, can really have a negative impact on your life. It might teach you to compare yourself to others, or think that your worth is based on a number of followers or likes. This is why it’s good to take a break and see if social media gives you worth: if after the experiment you feel happier, and that social media was a source of unhappiness for you, maybe it’s time to reconsider your choices. If, however, you feel like social media is simply a good way for you to connect with people and share your thoughts, go ahead! Just be careful, because too much of anything can be harmful. For reference, you can read about Kathryn Budig’s one week social media cleanse here.

As for taking breaks from people, this one’s a little more tricky. As humans, we feel the need to blend in, to feel accepted. Therefore, as we’re busy blending in, we might lose ourselves, and our own views and opinions. Sometimes you have to distance yourself from others to be able to find yourself and know what you truly stand for, no matter what others think. Have you ever found yourself agreeing with someone even if you didn't really think that, just because you didn’t want to be the odd one out? Over time, you’ll end up actually believing that. But do you really feel that way? No, you don’t. This is why it’s good to take a break from others’ opinions that, although interesting, can make you lose yourself. Know your core values and what you believe in, and don’t let anyone change that.

“Tetris taught me that fitting in will only make you disappear.”

— Unknown

8. Don’t let anyone define you

A lot of us feel the need to fit into the description of you that other people provide. Let’s say that in your friend group, you’re the funny one. People expect you to be funny. You feel pressured to be the one to come up with witty comments, and you get so lost in trying to fulfill this expectation that maybe the artistic, or musical side of you, never sees the light of day. Because jokes is all you are, right? No. Wrong. What’s important to keep in mind is how you define yourself. What kind of person do you want to be? We as people are constantly changing, and squeezing yourself into a definition of what people expect of you is a surefire way to block out opportunities and prevent yourself from exploring yourself and your potential.

9. Break bad habits

We’ve all got bad habits. Habits you’ve tried to break numerous times, but to no avail. The most important thing is to recognize what triggers them. If you bite your nails because you’re anxious or stressed, try another alternative. Meditation, writing your thoughts down, or listening to music are great ways to relieve stress. Whether it’s breaking old habits or forming new ones, it takes time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take baby steps, set goals for yourself, and find ways to stick to it. Some things that have worked for a lot of people in breaking bad habits:

→ Tell a trusted friend about your resolution, and have them help and monitor you

→ Focus on one habit at a time; don’t take on too much

→ Find motivation: If you’re trying to break bad spending habits, think of a small reward. Let’s say for every $100 you save, you can splurge on something small. Having small rewards keeps you motivated, and makes you happier.

→ Find something to replace your habit: If you’re trying to be healthier and want to reach for a cookie, go on the treadmill. You might hate yourself for it, but your body will thank you later. Not only did you not fill up on sugar and preservatives, you got your heart pumping.)

→ Remind yourself (set reminders, put up signs in your room, etc. If you’re always seeing it, you’ll be more motivated to do it)

→ Keep track of how you’re doing: If you’re doing badly, you’ll see it in your results and strive to do better. If you’re doing well, it’ll make you happy to see results and want to continue.

Here’s a quick video that outlines how to break bad habits:

10. Don’t be afraid to go your own way

Basically anyone who was anyone wasn’t someone who blended with the crowd. Know what you want, and stick with it.

“We so desire to blend in, to acclimate to society, to be a part of the herd, that we will do almost anything to avoid standing out in a crowd. Failure to separate yourself from the herd is why most people never achieve success. You want to separate yourself from the herd, create your own herd, and then get others to join it.”

— Thomas Corley

Let me tell you a story. So, we have this guy. His father passed away when he was seven, and he dropped out in elementary school to support his family. As an adult, he tried his luck with law, business, entrepreneurship: they all ended terribly. Really, no one believed in him at this point. Why can’t you just be like a normal person and get a stable job? Stop trying to make it big, it’s never gonna happen. Ten more years. He founded a ferry boat company, lamp manufacturing company, bought a motel — all failed, and the motel burned down, along with his hopes and dreams. Ugh, just give up already. But he didn’t, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, he started his own restaurant. Bad luck wasn’t done with him yet: his recipe got rejected over 1000 times. Eventually, he made it big. His recipe for fried chicken became a huge hit, and became what is known today as KFC. Our guy, Colonel Sanders, stood his ground despite any challenges that came his way, and it’s how he founded one of the largest fast food chains even today. He wanted to do big things, and despite what anyone else had to say, he did.

Some of this might sound cheesy or overused, but if you really apply any one of them to your life, you could make a huge difference, and take a huge step towards the person you want to become. I’m not perfect. No one is. I’m not saying I’ve mastered all these things, but I’m trying. Isn’t that what life is about? Isn’t life just a journey of self-discovery and improvement? Stop saying 2019’s gonna be your year; take the year and make it yours.

Thanks for reading! As always, I’m totally open to feedback, so leave a comment :)

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Sophie Yang

Sophie Yang

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