This post was 43 years in the making
Today’s my 43rd birthday.
For the past several years I’ve marked each birthday with a post reflecting on things that matter to me and experiences I’ve had up to that point (you can read my previous birthday posts here).
This year, I’d like to share a bunch of things I’ve learned to do to make my life just a little bit easier.
Some relate to work and some to fun, but they’ve all helped me and I hope some of them can help you too.
Here they are, in no particular order…
1. When scheduling a meeting with somebody, always be the first one to suggest the time or place — don’t just ask, “When’s good for you?”
It’s great to be accommodating, but rather than outsource the meeting time/place to when is most convenient for somebody else’s schedule, take a shot at first suggesting whenever is most convenient for your schedule.
Most times they’ll agree to whatever works best for you.
2. When you screw something up and have to apologize, be angrier about the screw-up than anybody else is.
When you mess up, people want to know you’re sorry, but they really want to know that you care.
Show them you’re more upset about it than they are and they will often ratchet down their own frustration with you as a result.
3. Be empathetic with people you interact with who have jobs that are different than yours.
If you tell somebody you wouldn’t ever want their job because it seems really hard and that the work they do seems like it’s consistently underappreciated by others, they will love you. Trust me.
4. Learn to say no. Often.
This may be the most valuable skill you can learn in life.
The better you are at saying no, the more productive you will become, the happier you will be, and the easier life will be for you.
5. Use paper plates, but real silverware.
There are a lot of times when paper plates make things easier. But when you use a paper plate, still use real silverware — it will make your food taste better.
6. Only give your email to people you want to hear from.
If your inbox is disaster, it’s your own fault.
7. Carry cash as a way to stick to a budget.
If you want to put yourself on a budget, figure out a weekly amount and take it out in cash at the beginning of the week. Then only spend that amount. It’s much easier to not overspend when you use cash as opposed to cards.
8. Pay somebody to clean your house if you can afford it.
Unless you’re one of those sick people who actually get joy out of cleaning, this will be a good use of your money.
9. Spend money on things that save you time or use your time.
Most material items don’t do either of these things which is why they tend to be a hollow use of money.
10. Don’t be cheap with your heat or air conditioning.
The easiest way to make your life easier is to live it at a comfortable temperature.
11. Turn off all phone notifications.
They’re poison. While you’re at it, try to develop these phone habits as well.
12. Don’t keep your phone in your bedroom.
Need something to wake you up in the morning? Get an old school alarm clock. You’ll sleep better if you’re phone’s nowhere near you.
13. Start turning off lights an hour before going to bed.
Our bodies adjust to the sun setting and we can recreate the same effect indoors by gradually turning off lights in your house as you get closer to bed time. It will help you fall asleep quicker when the time comes.
14. Don’t have a mail bin — deal with it as you get it.
When you get the mail from your mailbox, don’t throw it somewhere to deal with later. Handle it right away. Throw out junk mail, pay bills as soon as you get them, and don’t ever have to stare at a mail bin full of stuff you have to get to later.
15. Use Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist to find new music.
It’s the single greatest algorithm I’ve ever seen and each week’s new custom playlist always includes multiple songs I’ve never heard from artists I’ve never heard of that I love. I bet yours will too.
16. Follow fewer people on social media.
Every time I cut down the number of people I follow on social media, it makes my feed infinitely more interesting. Thin the herd regularly.
17. Ban yourself from eating at restaurants you’ve been to before every once in a while.
For two weeks, only go to places you’ve never been before and you’ll discover new places you love.
18. If a place you’re going to is walkable, then walk there.
It’s good for you and it feels good.
(Note: This one’s particularly true if you live some place like Los Angeles — results may vary if your town has slightly less beautiful weather.)
19. Let calls go to voicemail.
Don’t ever feel like you have to answer the phone just because it rings.
20. Don’t try to have inbox zero.
It’s completely meaningless how many unopened emails you have in your inbox. Don’t waste your time chasing a goal that doesn’t matter.
(Yes, I appreciate the irony of me telling you to have snail mail zero but that a packed inbox is fine.)
21. No TV in your bedroom.
See: Everything I said about not having a phone in your bedroom.
22. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day — even on weekends or days when you don’t have to work.
Our bodies like routines and you don’t develop a routine by altering it every few days.
23. Pick the right person to marry.
Not easy to do, but highly recommended.
24. Don’t fight for little things. Do fight for big things.
This is true in your work, art, and relationships.
Don’t get hung up on things that don’t matter much, but dig in your heels when it comes to things that do.
25. Always help people advance their career.
Pass on their resume, recommend them, give them advice. It will come back to you in the long run.
26. Learn a flexible and valuable skill in college (or after college if you didn’t in college).
The skills you develop are more important than the credentials you carry. Develop a true skill will make everything else in your career easier.
27. Make monthly mixtapes or playlists.
You’ll always have music to listen to that you love and an easy way to take a fun trip down memory lane.
28. Upgrade for extra legroom on airplanes for any flight longer than two hours.
You’ll never regret it.
29. Spend money on convenience as opposed to extravagance.
Money spent on things that make your life easier will serve you better than money spent on things that make your life more impressive.
30. Use Google alerts.
If you have interest in a particular subject for work or fun, set up Google alerts to have new information about it delivered to you. It’s the easiest way to know more (and know more quicker) than most people about that subject.
31. Don’t get into negotiations.
Figure out what you think is fair, what you’re willing to give up and what you need to get in return. Make that offer and be willing to walk away. Don’t play games and try to “win.”
By the way, here are some more thoughts about how to get what you want in a negotiation.
32. Focus your efforts on things you can control.
Try not to worry about the things you can’t.
33. Choose an aisle seat at the movies.
Having nobody next to you far outweighs being centered to the screen.
34. Choose a window seat on an airplane.
You don’t have to get up whenever other people in your row want to get up and you don’t get bumped by every passenger who walks by during the flight.
35. Remember your opinion is as valid as anybody else’s.
Just because somebody disagrees with you or criticizes your work, doesn’t mean they’re right.
36. Watch lots of comedy.
Laughing makes everything easier.
Bonus points if you learn to actually be funny yourself because that will make things even easier for you.
37. Employ the “You took it last” rule.
When my brother and I were young, we developed a system to determine who would be responsible for putting the chips (or whatever we were snacking on) back in the pantry when we were done eating them.
Basically, whoever took the last chip was responsible for putting the chips away.
It turned every snack session into a game of chicken, trying to guess at what point it was safe to take another chip based on when you thought the other guy was going to stop eating.
Stressful? Maybe. But, it made it easy to figure out who had to get up off the couch, so it definitely made life easier.
38. Don’t let decisions linger.
If you’re not sure you want to do something, don’t delay the decision for no clear reason. Decide whether to do the thing or not as quickly as possible — when you delay for no real reason, you just let the anxiety around the decision build and make things harder than they need to be.
Decide and live with your decision.
39. Be confident…and humble.
Confidence will make everything you do easier.
However, if you don’t combine that confidence with an equal dose of humility, you’ll turn people off and things will actually become more difficult.
40. Question things.
There are a lot of “rules” in life that aren’t actually rules.
When you question things, you’re able to customize your life in ways that make things easier. It makes you realize you have more flexibility and control over things than you realize.
41. Don’t screw people over — especially your friends.
Especially your friends and colleagues. They can make your life easier in all sorts of ways if they trust you.
42. Figure out a template for all your passwords.
Create a template that makes each password you use unique, but easy to remember.
43. Find a place to keep track of your ideas.
Whether it’s an app, a blog, a diary, or a birthday blog post, keep track of your thoughts in some way.
They’ll deliver value to you in ways you can’t imagine and if nothing else, they’ll become an easy way to remember where your mind was at a particular time in your life.
And Finally, My Birthday Wish…
When I’m not writing epic birthday blog posts like this one, I’m busy writing my weekly For The Interested newsletter.
It’s a collection of ideas designed to help you get better at your work, art, and life.
I’d be thrilled if you’d click below to check it out and subscribe or tell others about it if you already are a subscriber.