By Brad Thomason, CPA
How was yesterday?
So what are you going to do differently today?
Such a simpleton’s perspective, and yet…
When we look around and don’t like what we see, it’s all too easy to assume we’re stuck with it. There’s probably not much you can do today about a job you don’t like, a financial difficulty (whether present-day, or looming out in the future, like an under-funded retirement), or stress about the people in your life. Even if you could do something today, in the strictest and most dramatic sense, you probably shouldn’t. Moves on those fronts, sort of like revenge, are best served cold and after much rumination.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all. Here are eight quick suggestions for things you can do today or tomorrow to slant the odds of being able to beat yesterday.
1. Get up early enough to watch the sunrise. Even though sunrises happen every day, fewer people see them than see sunsets. As such, the scarcity variable is met, and the experience seems somehow more valuable. If you see the sunrise you will feel that you are ahead of everyone who’s still in bed. You will probably also feel a little silly that something like that can give you a sense of superiority. But it will, and it does so without hurting anyone else. So that’s a pretty nice confluence of benefits.
2. Eat a big breakfast. The Mayo Clinic reports that a big breakfast, with plenty of protein and complex carbs (i.e. not three bowls of Fruit Loops), may help to moderate feelings of anxiety throughout the morning. Even if you get stressed out before the day is done, having it hit you in the morning is especially deflating. Buy yourself some time where you can get it.
3. Stay hydrated. Being even a little dehydrated can start to affect digestion and make you feel icky. Bad moods follow soon thereafter. Plenty of water keeps all of that stuff working like it should, and largely outside the realm of consciousness. One less thing to distract you can help you to endure the stuff you can’t control, for longer into the day.
4. Clean something. Same drill you gave your kids when they had to straighten up their rooms. Don’t worry about a plan, just find one thing that’s out of place and take care of it. Then find the next thing. Sometimes it’s amazing what you can do in 15 minutes; and when the 15 minutes are up you can move on to something else, within the glowing feeling of having made progress. In fact, you can get a long way into a day by rolling from one 15 minute task to the next, even if the only reason it’s a 15 minute task is because you arbitrarily stopped.
5. Exercise. But don’t be dramatic. Something, pretty much anything, is better than nothing. A big mistake that many people make when they start exercising is to think they can undo years of inactivity with a short six, or eight, or twelve week program. You can’t. So don’t even try. The benefits of exercise – like retirement assets – are composed of cumulative effect, received over a sustained period of time. What you do today, tomorrow, next week is not going to have a major impact long-term, so don’t even try. Well, not a major positive impact. Though you can certainly manufacture an injury with negative long-term impacts. To reiterate: something is better than nothing, even if it’s just a walk around the block or a single set of sit-ups or push-ups during a commercial while watching TV.
6. Make a list of things you need to do. This is one you win, irrespective of how long the list ends up being. A short list can leave you feeling like you’re not as far behind the eight ball as you feared. Even if it’s a long list, having it all captured in one spot is the first step to setting them up and knocking them down. A little organization goes a long way in settling the nerves and directing focus to where the attention and efforts need to be.
7. Make a second list of what you want to accomplish by the time the year is through. These are broad level objectives, which don’t require any detail right away. Rather, it serves to define a “body of work” for you to think about and progress toward as the coming weeks play out. Having such a document is very useful in those moments when you know you ought to do something, but can’t recall exactly what’s next in the line-up. Going back and touching the list every few weeks can help you get quickly re-centered, reminding you of decisions you made but which have drifted from top-of-mind amidst the daily ebb and flow of new information and developing/emerging situations (and annoyances).
8. Get to bed at a reasonable hour. Even if you just lie there and focus on relaxing and thinking back over the day. It is tough to force yourself to go to sleep earlier than you usually do. But if you know that going in, you can lie there without getting frustrated that you aren’t falling asleep. And as a result, don’t be surprised if you actually do fall asleep faster.
Big problems aren’t fixed quickly or simply. But addressing seemingly minor pieces of the puzzle can be an easy path to making sure that one bad day isn’t followed by another. Sometimes, breaking the string is all that’s needed to get into a better spot to be able to make some progress on the big stuff. Small investment, big return.
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