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8 Self Improvement Skills to Learn that Have Lifelong Benefits

8 Self Improvement Skills to Learn that Have Lifelong Benefits

Everyone gets to a certain point where they learn the same thing: Life is hard. There’s so much to learn, and, as you get older, so little time to do so. However, though there are endless bits of knowledge and and abilities that a person can learn throughout his life, there are many self improvement skills you can focus on to ensure that the rest come a bit more easily to you.

1. Time Management

In a time in which your phone is constantly beeping, your TV or radio is most likely on while working, and you have a million things to do before 5:00 rolls around, time management is of the utmost importance. There are a variety of ways to make your time work for you, rather than the other way around. When you make the most of your time, you have the benefit of being successful in balancing your work and your life with ease. Managing time now means freeing it up so you can do the things you truly enjoy. It’s more difficult than it sounds.  Make a to-do list the night before, and make sure you follow through with this list. If you set out to complete a task, don’t let any interruptions (other than major emergencies) stop you before you finish, or take a break at a predetermined time. Also, set time aside to do all the other things that would have interrupted you throughout the day; you’d be amazed to see how little time you waste checking your phone if you do it all at once rather than sporadically throughout the day.

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2. Empathy

Being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes is an incredibly important skill to master in your quest for self improvement. Doing so will benefit your life in a variety of ways. People will tend to flock to you if you show that you care, and that you always have a shoulder to lean on. Empathy is tough to learn, just look at the stereotype of today’s CEOs. They are known (fairly or unfairly) for being callous individuals who don’t care about other people’s problems which may spill into them having nothing in their personal lives to show for their professional success. On the other hand, empathetic and caring individuals who may not have the highest-paying jobs in the world make intangible connections with others throughout their life, which is a sense of wealth that transcends monetary gains. Learning how to show empathy comes with relating to the other person’s situation. When someone is talking to you, ask yourself, “How would I feel if this happened to me?”. Start from there and soon enough it will be second nature.

3. Mastering Sleep Patterns

Along with time management goes mastering sleep patterns. Many of us have uttered the phrase “there’s just not enough time in the day” at least once in our lives, and have felt overwhelmed by all the mandates of our busy life. But sleep is a basic need of survival. We can’t afford to discount it. High school students have to wake up at 6:00 to get to school by 7:00. College students spend all night studying (or partying), and have to get to a final by 9:00 the next day. Adults have commuting time to account for, and parents are up all night with their newborn babies. We simply don’t spend enough time at rest, and we suffer for it when the 2:00 slump hits us every single day. Maintaining a routine sleep pattern may be tough, but it’s absolutely imperative that we learn to do so in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and focus on complete  self improvement. Simple ways to employ good sleep habits include going to bed and waking up at the same time (even on weekends), unwinding before bed without the use of screens (cell phones, televisions, or even tablets), and not consuming caffeine within 6 hours of sleep.

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4. Positive Self-Talk

One of the most important skills a person can learn is to be nice to himself. It sounds easy, but for many people, it really is not. It’s much easier to beat yourself down than to hold yourself up. In a world in which many people only care about each other on a superficial level, it’s easy to get the feeling that “no one cares,” and let that feeling build up into other detrimental thoughts within your own mind. Just as we need to be kinder to our physical wellness by getting enough sleep, we also need to be kind to our emotional self as well. Taking the time to meditate on your positive traits and abilities may sound like a waste of time, but it can do wonders for your self-esteem throughout your lifetime. A great rule of thumb is to treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. Self improvement starts with treating yourself well.

5. Consistency

Most everyone experienced this phenomenon growing up: During the first week of school, you felt gung-ho about your studies, and knew “this was the year” you were going to do better. By the end of September, however, that feeling had passed, and as you fell into a routine, you came up short of your self improvement goals. Being consistent is hard. Putting in the same effort on a daily basis, Monday through Friday, for the entirety of your life is definitely an intimidating proposition. However, keeping consistent makes each day easier and easier, whether you realize it or not. Remember the last time you skipped leg day? How hard was it to come back to it the next week? They say it takes 21 days to make a habit so you will have to remain consistent until the habit has formed.

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6. Asking for help

There’s a ridiculous misconception in today’s professional world that everyone is supposed to know everything. It’s simply not possible. What we do need to be able to do is admit we don’t know something, and find the answer through a variety of means. Living in a world in which answers are at our fingertips means we are able to network with some of the most successful people in the world, and many of them will be willing to help out if we just take the time to reach out to them. Showing you have an interest in improving your skills and abilities can take you much further than pretending that you know everything. While it may be difficult to try for the first time, asking for help actually builds trust because it shows that you value the opinion of another person. Not only does asking for help make you a better employee, it also saves you a lot of time in the trial and error phase of business!

7. Knowing when to stay quiet

In a world where everyone can have a voice through social media, this one is a must. We all want our voices to be heard, but sometimes it’s just not the right time to open our mouths. When we’re upset, our instincts are to vent to anyone who will listen. However, those that are listening might be doing so for ulterior reasons which could end up digging a deeper hole for you than the one you were already in. Especially in a world in which everyone is trying to get ahead of their colleagues, you should never give others ammunition that will end up holding you back. A great way to know when to stay quiet is to take a moment to step back and ask yourself if you are being fair. Also, if you have to ask yourself you likely already know what you are saying is not going to contribute.

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8. Listening

This goes along with asking for help. Let go of the notion that you know everything. You never know when someone else will come up with a solution to a problem you’ve been having, and you don’t want to miss out on it because you blew them off for “not knowing what they’re talking about.” Advice and perspective can come from the most unlikely sources, so it’s important to keep an open mind (and ear) to everyone around you. Just remember — you have one mouth and two ears so use them in that proportion. This means listen twice as much as you speak.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm6.staticflickr.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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