I’m not natively a “New Years resolution person”—but as a freelancer, I live and die by forming and keeping good habits. Over the years of not starving to death or losing our home, I’ve learned a few shortcuts to faking a disciplined life. Principal among these:
Do LESS to Earn MORE, Eat MORE to Weigh LESS—a quick-n-easy “happiness hack”
This principal principle is super-duper useful for addressing the two most popular New Year’s resolutions:
- do/earn more (e.g., start this side hustle, take up that hobby, hit the gym, etc.)
- lose weight
#1 Do LESS to do MORE: The “Stop Doing” List
For Resolution Type #1 (which require doing more with the same number of free hours that already feel over-packed), the usual approach is to try to cram in one more thing.
That is obviously destined for failure. You aren’t going to suddenly have more free hours or more energy just because you added one more item to your calendar.
Instead sit down for 10 minutes, uninterrupted, in complete silence. This is vital, and insanely hard. For real, lock yourself in the bathroom or sit in your car in the grocery store parking lot or go to the laundry room—whatever it takes to get a solid 10 minutes without distraction.
Take a hard look at what you do on the daily—especially what you do with your phone in your hand—and ask yourself if you really love doing that stuff, or if it is vital to you earning a living.
Now write a quick “Stop Doing” List. This is a bulleted list of things that just really aren’t worth your time or attention. Just an example, if I glance at YouTube, I end up loosing an easy 20 minutes watching video compilations of old Vines or “Wins/Fails.” I don’t even really like those videos; I’m just stressed out, so I glance at YouTube, and YouTube knows what I watch, and there’s a whole endless scrolling list of distractions and . . . and I don’t enjoy it, it’s no good for my family or my business or my bank account. There’s no point to it. It is time squandered.
So, Funny Fails are on my “Stop Doing” List. So are:
- Reading news items about celebrities who cannot call in air strikes
- Looking at Google News and just reading headline after headline after headline without clicking
- Facebook in general
- Looking at my Roth IRA more than quarterly
- Finishing a book/movie that I’m not eager to finish
- Looking at email on Saturday (I’m a freelance writer, not a doctor or cancer researcher—no one lives or dies because I made them wait until business hours)
- Fundraising at my kids’ schools (I know that’s controversial, but I’ve get mental health issues that make those sorts of social things literally insanely stressful for me; I earn enough to happily donate double what the PTO suggests if it means skipping shilling gift wrap or popcorn or whatever)
If your resolution is to work in a 20 minute walk every day, trust me, you can find those 20 minutes easily just by cutting out two or three phone-based distractions alone.
#2 Eat MORE to weigh LESS: Apples
When it comes to things we like but are bad for us (cheap pizza, salty snacks, pricey coffees, etc.), the usual advice is to cut back. We resent this for a variety of deeply ingrained psychological reasons (from loss aversion to just plain perversity).
So don’t cut back; load up on Good Stuff instead.
Need to lose weight? Don’t say “I have to cut out cookies” or “I have to cut calories.”
Instead, say “I have to eat a ton of fruit.”
Any damned fruit you like—sweet n’ juicy berries, melons, bananas, grapes, carrots (veg is fine, too).
But, two important things:
- Not fruit juice! Those juices are as sugary as soda pop. You need the fiber of the fruit for this to work (plus, whole fresh fruit is cheaper).
- No human EVER got fat gobbling apples, and no pre-diabetic EVER insulin crashed on baby carrots. Every time I mention this strategy, someone warns me about how much sugar is in fruit—which is true—but it doesn’t hit your bloodstream (and pancreas and belly) like refined sugar. Your body has to work to process it. If you eat real whole fruit and veg you can gorge yourself and be fine.
Buy your chosen fruit or veg by the sackful. Take some with you every time you leave the house. Pack it with every lunch. Every time you’re hungry, start with whatever your chosen fruit/veg is. Have it first thing in the morning, have it last thing for desert.
Sick of your chosen fruit/veg? That’s fine; just means it wasn’t the right one. Pick a different one. Keep trying. There is a fruit or veg out there that you will never, ever get sick of having fresh and whole. That is your special fruit; cherish it.
I am a middle-aged White(ish) American man with a sedentary job. I don’t go to the gym (I do walk a lot, because I like walking and I have a dog). I drink alcohol daily. I drink a ton of coffee. I used to smoke.
My body should be a damned wreck. But I pack away five apples per day, minimum, and am subsequently in good health. ’cause you know what? If you have three apples before lunch, you don’t feel like stuffing your face. And if you’re full of apples and then a bowl of chili (or whatever), you don’t feel bloated and logy. You feel like going for a damn walk.
And you lose weight.
This is one of those bone-simple virtuous circles. Just ride it ’round and ’round and ’round: Do LESS, earn MORE; Eat MORE, weigh LESS.