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6 Factors Besides Salary That Boost Happiness

6 Factors Besides Salary That Boost Happiness
Hand with Money

Money is obviously an important factor when one considers issues like quality of life but it may not be the only thing. I find that those who describe themselves as “happy” are not always wealthy but have integrated other balancing strategies in their lives, placing income within a larger picture of work-life balance. It turns out that the Wall Street Journal agrees with this, as does workplace author Penelope Trunk, author of Brazen Careerist, The New Rules for Success. Trunk argues that one’s sex life may be just as important as their level of income when it comes to happiness. Here are some other factors which can boost one’s level of personal peace and happiness. Hint: no dollar sign required.

  1. Decrease your commute. I spent ten years driving nearly an hour each way to work, not uncommon for many American workers. Then, I made the decision to pay more for a home and live six miles from work. The effect has been significant as my wife can stop by work anytime and I cash in on more sleep, all the while adding to the lifespan of my car.
  2. Routine your luxuries. A few years ago I started ‘routining’ my luxuries. Instead of stopping by Starbucks every morning on the way to work for a pick-me-up and racking up a huge bill each week, I decided to go out for breakfast one day per week. I’m a Tuesday morning guy now and my wallet thanks me for it. Sticking to one day a week makes a lot of sense (and cents) for me.
  3. Scale down the to-do list. Rather than beating yourself up over a to-do list that rarely decreases, scale back on expectations. This doesn’t mean decreasing quality but rather starting the day with this question, “What are the 2-3 most important tasks that need to get done today?”
  4. Tune out the noise. A minute of quiet goes a long way. Some times that you can decrease the noise might be: during a commute, walking at lunch or during a break, stopping on the way home to read a chapter of a meaningful book, or at some other quiet time during the day when you can close the door and be alone with your thoughts. I find this discipine difficult but never failing in its reward.
  5. Do nothing for one day. It wasn’t long ago that stores were closed on Sundays. My family has made a conscious decision to do nothing work-related for one day each week. It’s taken us about a month to get it down as we enjoy working, shopping and running errands. Spending time together, watching movies, reading and playing games has taken up what commerce used to and we’re now looking forward to that “day off” each week.
  6. Declutter and simplify. Clear the deck and pair back, not for some moral reason (although one could make a case) but for practical peace of mind. The more things, the more space they take up in your home and in your head. Toss what you haven’t used in a while and go for simple. Whether it’s a family room, your automobile or even a back yard, less is more.

Mike St. Pierre is the creator of The Daily Saint, a productivity blog focusing on work-life balance. thedailysaint.com

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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