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Lifehack’s Guide to Gratitude, Giving Thanks, and Thanksgiving

Lifehack’s Guide to Gratitude, Giving Thanks, and Thanksgiving

Gratitude, Giving Thanks, and Thanksgiving

    It’s Thanksgiving time in the US, a time for reflection on the blessings that make our lives worth living. Over the years, Lifehack’s writers have has a lot to say on the topic of gratitude, giving thanks, and – of course – Thanksgiving.

    The Power of Giving Thanks

    Change the World, One Thank-You Note at a Time
    When Esquire writer Tom Chiarella decided to send handwritten thank you notes to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers who had touched his life in some way, he found a personal reward he wasn’t expecting: “I began to look at the day as a series of opportunities for thankfulness rather than obligations to a calendar.” Read Craig Child’s comments and then click through to the original Esquire story.

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    Power of Gratitude
    Vishal Rao sees gratitude as the key to keeping a positive outlook – and thus the force behind powerful change. “The power of gratitude works on the brain, he writes. “It helps release the negativity in our mind.”

    Universal Values to Be Grateful For
    We are nothing without the values we choose to live by, says Rosa Say. Expressing gratitude for the values that shape our relationships, or careers, and our lives is one step in “taking possession” of those values and making them a clear and conscious part of our approach to life.

    How to Be Happier with What You Have
    Does wanting more mean you have to be unhappy with what you have? Scott Young believes not, and shares tips to help us appreciate what we have while working for our dreams. Have a lot of interests, so a setback in any one won’t mean you lost everything; experiment with different ways of filling your time to find the way that works best for you; and don’t worry about living up to other people’s standards.

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    The Importance of Thank You
    Chris Brogan highlights the meaningfulness of expressing gratitude to the people who help you on your way. “Thank the people in your life who add value,” he writes, “and make sure you spread a little good karma that way. Be kind and generous in your thanks, and the results will almost always be favorable.” To make it easy, he offers a set of tips on giving thanks simply and effectively.

    A Powerful Thanksgiving

    Reap Joy from this Thanksgiving Holiday
    Another post on giving thanks from Rosa Say, who finds American Thanksgiving to resonate well with the Hawaiian concept of mahalo. Instead of decrying the artificialness of a day when we’re supposed to be thankful, Say embraces the forced gratitude of the day, sending notes and emails to friends around the world and thanking them for being part of her life. What a great (and yes, joyful) way to make a difference in the lives of the people you’re closest to – and your own.

    Thanksgiving and the Stories We Tell Ourselves
    My contribution to Lifehack’s pool of Thanksgiving-themed posts focuses less on thankfulness and more on what we can learn from how the Thanksgiving story – the Pilgrims, the Indians, the shared feast – defines us as a people. Stories, I argue, shape our lives in profound ways, even when they’re not true, or not true yet. Real change, then, might well start with changing the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and about the world we live in.

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    Thanksgiving How-To Guides
    A quickie post linking to Thanksgiving-themed how-to guides on eHow.

    TIme Management on the Turkey Day
    When we talk about Thanksgiving, we emphasize the relaxed day with our family, watching the football game or the Thanksgiving Day parade, and of course we pay homage to mom’s pumpkin pie or Aunt Louanna’s special stuffing. We tend to forget the tremendous tactical effort it takes to get all that food on the table at 4:00, hot and steaming. Leon Ho links to a post at FoodieView that offers a few tips for those facing the holiday from the kitchen counter.

    Top 10 Things to Do for Mom’s PC Over Thanksgiving
    For the techie among us, Thanksgiving is more than just a day for sharing good food and good times with your family – it’s also the day we will be called upon to service our parent’s computers. Leon’s post links to a list of good ideas for souping up Mom’s (or Dad’s, or grandma’s, or whomever’s) while you’re home for the holidays.

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    Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans, and to everyone else, thanks for reading. I hope you find a moment or two to be thankful on this and every day.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

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

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

    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.”[1]

    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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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    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 6 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.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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