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How Happy People Work Their To-Do List

How Happy People Work Their To-Do List

To-do lists. Everyone in the world seems to be running on their own intensely private and personalized schedules that fifty years ago would have seemed insane, and even nowadays seems a bit beyond the pale. Let’s face it, organization is a key skill that everyone needs to possess these days.

So, how do the happy people do it? Those poised, serene and cheerful people who seem to glide through life, crossing item after item off their to-do lists and seeming to be at one with a mystical and never-ending source of joie de vivre.

As someone who’s coming to terms with the finer points of personal organization and the to-do list, I took a look at how happy people run, work and prioritize their to-do lists and found some fantastic tips and techniques which help them stay productive, calm, and most of all, happy people.

1. Start Early

Even if you’re not an early riser, make a habit of rising early. Not only will you feel a lot better with more under your belt by starting early, but are plenty of other side benefits that honestly make the early rise all the more important in terms of to-do list.

You’re more likely to experience silence and quiet times in the early morning, which will help you focus and channel your energies into getting your to-do list done while other people are still asleep.

2. Reward Yourself Often

Treat yourself throughout the day for getting stuff done. Filed all those reports? Go for a walk in the park. Finished that article or called your aunt? Treat yourself to a sweet treat for lunch.

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Treating yourself often with special things you like offers a nice incentive to keep up the productivity without splurging and losing your productive state of mind. Plus it’s an awesome excuse for that sweet little something or indulgent purchase.

3. Tackle The Hardest Thing First

There’s generally one big task that can be the main focus of an entire day and it can seem daunting to even tackle it. It’s very easy to tackle all the smaller tasks and then save the big task for either later on when we’re less motivated, or save it for another day.

Therefore, go ahead and make it the first thing you tackle.  When it’s out of the way, you’ll instantly feel on top of your stuff.

4. Factor In Procrastination Time

We all procrastinate. It’s fine – we all do it – but the key is stop letting your natural procrastination become a total drain on your time for that day.

Don’t overload your schedule if you know that you’re going to be scrolling through Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter throughout the day and know it’ll get in the way. That way you can enjoy your scrolling relatively guilt free.

5. Add Some Basic Things To The To-Do List

It’s a little psychological trick, but it’s one that’s sure to get you more motivated in the morning when you can look back and see a few things already crossed off.

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Even if it’s something as simple as ‘have a morning shower’ or ‘remember to do some stretches in the morning,’ you’re kickstarting your progress and your day-to-day productivity improves.

6. Add Some Silly Things Too

Be whimsical. Be funny. Go ahead and add the fun things you want to do that day and incorporate them into your to-do list. Life is short, and this will help you to make each day much more enjoyable.

Schedule a one-person dance party or going to an ice cream parlor or a karaoke session. Having fun should always be part of your day, and this little technique will make your to-do lists more interesting and give you a boost.

7. Look To The Weather

The weather is pretty unpredictable, so planning ahead for whatever that comes your way might well be part of what makes a day great. If it’s going to rain, make time to chill out in a cafe with a good book, some tea and a treat. If it’s sunny, go and lay out to get a tan or grab an ice cream in the sunshine.

Find time to kick a big patch of leaves in the autumn or stock up on hot chocolate and good movies for the winter. The weather can affect us and our daily lists, so make sure to keep an eye out for what’s coming ahead climate-wise and save some room for fun to-do list activities.

8. Break It Down Into Categories

One great way of tackling your to-do list is to break it all down into categories and sub-categories.

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Happy people do this to help themselves see the wider picture; each task seems more achievable when it’s broken down into segments you can conquer one at a time. Your to-do list and your commitments will all look much more doable once you’ve boiled them down to the smallest possible tasks.

9. Make Sure You Have Time For Replenishment

Human beings, someone wise once paraphrased, need to be restored, replenished and rejuvenated on a daily basis. The art of self-care has to be part of any successful person’s to-do list.

Happy people are generally happier because they make sure to keep this kind of self-care a part of their daily lives. Make sure you schedule in time for some me-time, and the rejuvenation you feel will make you tackle the rest of your to-do list with renewed vigor.

10. Do It To Music

Music is a great motivator, and nothing can spur us along more than having our own custom soundtrack blasting through our ears and giving us a much-needed boost to get through our tasks.

Go ahead and create custom playlists for certain situations: big, bold and confidence-boosting tracks for when the tasks you’re doing are tough, and calm and serene for when you’re feeling cool and collected and on the top of the world.

11. Don’t Add Everything

If you’re a recovering perfectionist like me, it can be extremely hard not to fill your to-do list with daily chores, work duties, personal obligations and other tasks that don’t really need to be done that day.

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Make sure you never go over a certain limit – a single page of A5 notebook paper, for example – lest you find yourself adding much more than you could ever do.

12. Go With The Flow

To-do lists are fantastic and all, but sometimes you just have to let them go. Having a to-do list every single day can be exhausting, and some days you just have to play things by ear and see what happens. Going with the flow can lead you to fantastic opportunities you might not have had the chance to do otherwise.

Let’s say you’re walking through your city, to-do list primed and ready, and you spot a fair going on. That to-do list will still be there when you’re done, but the fair won’t be.

Go ahead and experience what life has to offer and enjoy everything you can. Let go of the to-do list, even for one day a week. Otherwise you might find yourself trapped in a rut with a scrap of paper that controls you, rather than the other way around.

More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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