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How Happy People Work Their To-Do List

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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