6 Fast and Proven Ways to Get Your Sh*t Together
Welcome to Get Your Sh*t Together Week. It’s the post-summer period when we’re desperately trying to organize, streamline, and generally prepare for the busy months ahead. You know the feeling—work is ramping up, school is back in session, and your lingering vacation days are about to be swallowed by the upcoming holidays. To help quell your panic, we’ve devoted this series to making your life easier, giving you the best hacks for organizing, dressing better, getting healthier, treating yourself like the queen you are, and general adulting.
To kick things off, we consulted the experts for tricks that simplify the back-to-reality process when snapping your life into gear sounds daunting. In fact, author Sarah Knight literally wrote the book on the subject: Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying About What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do. Genius, no? Below, peep some of the low-effort, high-payoff tricks for getting back into gear, and check back with us every day this week for more inspiration and ideas.
1. Switch Your To-Do List to Your Urgent List
We all have that insane list in a notebook, in our heads, or in the Stickies app on our desktops with every little thing that’s ever crossed our minds—from “throw out the garbage” to “throw Grandma a surprise 75th birthday party next year.” It can be paralyzing. “The trick from my book that gets highlighted the most [by my readers] is definitely the ‘Must Do List,’” says Knight. “It involves taking a long, unwieldy to-do list and chopping it down to the must-do-today list, which usually takes it down to two or three things. The one step in between is making decisions based on urgency.” But what about all the guilt you feel about the other things you feel you really should also be doing, like finally framing that print your uncle gave you for graduation? Coincidentally, Knight also wrote the book The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck. (You might give her TED talk a watch.)
2. Find Your Zone
Research shows that your environment is pivotal when it comes to behavior. For example, this study with more than 3,700 school children found that environmental qualities such as the naturalness of the space (light, sound, temperature, air quality) improved grades by up to 16 percent. And—superserious, but true—when heroin-using Vietnam vets returned to the U.S. from war, very few continued to use, which experts attribute to the change in environment. In my case (drugs aside), I produce way more work in an environment without the distraction of my kitchen and with the inspiration of a few dozen other busy bees at the tables next to me. When I spend the day in the quiet yet bustling co-working space Spacious, for example, I freakin’ kill it.
3. Think of Projects Like a Coloring Book
Another trick that comes straight from Knight: “When I say life is like an adult coloring book, I mean I break things down [into] small, manageable chunks,” she says. “One example is how I left New York and moved to the Dominican Republic, which is a big life change, but I just did it in small steps. Then suddenly you’re packing all your boxes.” Or (to use a personal example from my life) if you want to, say, adult-up your apartment, take it one piece of furniture at a time...instead of telling yourself for months on end you’ll do the whole thing in one weekend, next weekend. Sigh.
4. Get Rid of Old Stuff with Less Heartache
Should you not have KonMari-ed your home (we know you did), let us underscore that a less cluttered environment is almost always going to make you feel more focused and clear-headed. But sometimes it’s hard to part with your stuff. A study published in Journal of Marketing showed that “encouraging consumers to take photos of sentimental possessions before donating them increases donations.” In other words, if you tend to hoard old cards, CD booklets, sentimental jewelry or clothes you will never wear again, and random tchotchkes from your youth that you can’t seem to let go of, try taking a picture of them before you haul them to Goodwill.
5. Fall Asleep Faster
No surprise to anyone with insomnia, but studies show that without a good night’s sleep, your emotional state can become…a little unhinged. The most important thing to do to get decent rest, experts say, is to really get into the mood for bed, meaning, yes, put away your phone, smell some lavender essential oils, take a bath, or any other tricks from these 15 scientifically proven ways to get a better sleep gathered by Business Insider.
6. Be Around People with Their Sh*t Together
A well-reported review at Dartmouth showed that students with high-scoring roommates improved their GPAs just by being around someone with better academic habits. Assuming that the infectious ability of our social network extends beyond grades, apply the same to your current goal. If you’re trying to cut back on drinking, for example, you’ve probably got to spend less time with your booze-hound friends from college and call up buddies who have a more diverse, less alcohol-centric idea of a good time. You can also follow these five tips on how to cut back on drinking.