Ready to experience increased happiness, better health, and greater success in the year ahead?
With seemingly never-ending advice, and limited time available to implement it all, the challenge of where to begin is something we can all relate to.
#BIBetter is the perfect solution for busy professionals who want to make a meaningful transformation in their life. With 21 days of easy-to-follow habits, you will be able to tackle some of those pesky tasks that have been lingering on your list for far too long – all while improving yourself as an individual!
To maximize the fun and ensure accountability, we suggest engaging others to join you in this endeavor. You can get started on any Monday of your choosing; however, it is advised that actions be taken as required for each specific day when possible.
To better understand the science and history behind each day, take a look at our infographic calendar below. We will provide an in-depth explanation of each day, the facts surrounding it, and the benefits of happiness.
DAY 1: Floss your teeth. Do it every day for the rest of your life.
You won’t believe it, but an astonishing 50% of Americans don’t floss every day! If you belong to that group, then make today the moment when you begin this healthy habit consistently.
How can you make this behavior part of your daily routine?
Habits are best formed when we take small steps. B.J Fogg, an esteemed psychologist from Stanford University has conducted extensive research in the area and his advice is clear: start with one tooth! Floss it to get going on your journey of good oral hygiene habits.
When it comes to forming a habit, Fogg recommends beginning as small and simple as you can with the minimum viable habit. This allows us to more easily integrate the activity into our daily routine rather than expecting ourselves to do things perfectly every time. The same advice applies across all habits – even flossing! Don’t aim for perfection right away; if you focus on simply doing your best each day and work up from there, then eventually reaching those goals becomes second nature.
Not only does flossing effectively remove plaque on your teeth and gums, protecting them against damage as you age and helping to minimize dental bills, but studies have also demonstrated that it can even reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. Flossing truly is an essential part of oral hygiene!
DAY 2: Break a sweat. Do it every day for the rest of your life.
Exercise is a powerful remedy for an abundance of issues and ailments, from sleep disorders to erectile dysfunction. According to Slate, exercise has been known to sharpen memory and focus, reduce cholesterol levels in order to prevent heart disease, as well as increase libido! It’s almost like magic!
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym each day to reap the rewards of exercise. Studies have found that just a few minutes of running can add years to your life, so why not make it part of your routine today? Even something as simple and time-efficient as an interval workout lasting just seven minutes can lead to major improvements – give it a try!
Of course, longer workouts are remarkable as well.
Don’t tell yourself that you’re too busy to work out – think of the examples set by successful leaders like GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who starts his day with a 5:30 am cardio session; Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, whose 6 am training sessions occur twice per week; Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey’s regular six-mile jogs in the early morning hours; or Starbucks leader Howard Schultz’ daily bike rides. Hard work pays off!
DAY 3: Write in a journal. Do it every day for the rest of this program.
For decades, psychologists have been exploring the effects of “expressive writing” or journaling about difficult experiences. They’ve discovered that just a few moments spent jotting down thoughts can significantly improve your well-being, immunity, and even sporting performance!
Not just for personal growth, it is now being shown that writing about work can help you perform better. A Harvard Business School study found that those who chronicled their jobs saw an improvement of 23 percent in overall performance!
According to Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, “When individuals are given the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on their progress, they become increasingly empowered and confident in their capabilities. This self-belief ultimately leads them to put forth greater effort into what they’re doing and learning.”
On this journey to self-betterment, it is essential that you carve out some time for introspection and reflection on your day. Additionally, take the opportunity to consider any upcoming tasks or goals which may require preparation and make a plan accordingly. Take ownership of your life improvement adventure!
We highly encourage you to make journaling a lifelong practice if it is beneficial for your mental health.
[Related: 15 Things Incredibly Happy People Do]
DAY 4: Start reading a novel.
Let’s take some time to enjoy something that is increasingly rare in today’s world: reading a real book.
Reading fiction sharpens one’s empathy and develops a more compassionate individual due to its ability to simulate social experiences. Numerous studies suggest that literature can help form moral values and, ultimately, make you a better person in the long run.
Numerous studies indicate that reading aids in preparing you for life’s experiences.
Reading a good book is often thought of as an isolated experience, but actually, it’s quite the opposite. According to Scientific American, engaging with literature can sharpen your social skills and better equip you to forge meaningful connections – whether with friends or even love interests!
CEOs have been known to gain wisdom from fiction: Elon Musk famously credits “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” with transforming his life while Jeff Bezos has highlighted “The Remains of the Day” as having a similar impact.
If you’re looking for good reads, your writers have a few recommendations: Herman Hesse’s “Siddartha,” Zadie Smith’s beloved classic “White Teeth,” and George Saunders’ acclaimed work of literary fiction, “Pastoralia.”
We strongly suggest that you partner with a friend and peruse this life improvement course together – not only is it more enjoyable, but helps keep each other accountable. Once you’re done reading, carve out some time to share your thoughts on the material, and voila! You’ve laid the foundation for an amazing book club journey, one in which we hope all of you continue to partake.
DAY 5: Go on a lunch date with a colleague you don’t know well.
Have you ever taken the time to think about how many career-enhancing relationships are actually available right in your own office? Networking doesn’t simply mean grabbing a coffee or cocktail with potential clients, employers, and mentors – there may also be invaluable connections within reach that could prove mutually beneficial.
Instead of noshing on your meal at the desk or with a colleague, why not take some time to get to know someone else by asking if they’d like to join you for lunch? It can be an excellent way to build new friendships and explore common interests.
Beth Weissenberger of the Handel Group understands that there is much more to office politics than manipulation and gossip. As a corporate coach, she has assisted executives from GE and The New York Times in navigating complex company dynamics for maximum efficiency and success. Through her guidance, these professionals have come to recognize that building meaningful relationships with their co-workers is an essential component for thriving in any workplace environment.
DAY 6: Go to a museum.
This assignment isn’t only designed to be enjoyable – although we do encourage you to enjoy the process! It’s also here to help you learn and grow.
By visiting a museum, you can gain numerous cognitive benefits that will help you become more imaginative and knowledgeable. So if your goal is to become well-rounded, then there’s no better way than a museum visit!
Spending time in an art museum not only stimulates creative thinking but also cultivates problem-solving skills and open-mindedness for both children and adults alike. Studies have demonstrated that after visiting an art museum, youth exhibit enhanced critical thinking abilities as well as a greater level of social acceptance.
Research conducted by the University of Queensland in Australia suggests that visiting a museum can be just as revitalizing and renewing as taking time outdoors, helping to reduce mental exhaustion and reestablishing your capacity for focus.
Visiting museums provides an exciting adventure that stimulates the brain, thereby providing immense cognitive advantages and even potentially fostering qualities associated with creative achievement – particularly openness to experience. This is one of the Big 5 personality traits which has been linked to successful creativity.
For those who are passionate about discovering new cultural experiences, take the time to visit a museum you haven’t been to before. Even if your most recent experience was from a class field trip – approach this one with an open mind and see what knowledge awaits! Make sure to jot down any thoughts or reflections afterward for future reference.
DAY 7: Volunteer.
From health benefits to an improved quality of life, helping others through volunteering can provide a range of rewards. So why not choose from the many causes that need your assistance today?
Per research from Harvard Business School, being generous and altruistic can bring about an equal amount of joy as if one were to double their household income. This indicates that the satisfaction derived from giving is priceless!
The feeling of connection one experiences when helping others is tangible, as it activates the release of oxytocin in our brains. Oxytocin not only boosts happiness levels but also lowers cortisol’s stress-inducing effects on our bodies.
One of the most remarkable aspects of volunteering is that, even if you decide to do it for self-serving reasons, you are likely to enjoy it and come back again. In this way, everyone wins – both yourself and your community!
Are you looking for a meaningful way to give back? Look no further than Volunteer Match – the perfect platform to help connect you with opportunities where your service can make an impact.
DAY 8: Connect your life to a spending app.
Money can be quickly spent without the proper oversight, and if you don’t account for it properly, you’ll find yourself spending far more than necessary.
That’s why startups are revolutionizing the game. In recent years, a few companies have created apps that make budgeting simpler than ever before – giving it an “ugh-free” experience!
To better manage your finances, we highly suggest utilizing Mint, LearnVest, or the straightforward Level Money. Registration with any of these options should only take about an hour – an effort well spent for a lifetime of financial progress!
One of the most popular apps in this space is Mint, which has been developed by Intuit – the creators of Quicken. With its web and mobile app versions, you get a comprehensive view of your financial state with easy access to all your bank information, credit card statements, investments, and other monetary sources.
Looking for a way to become proficient in personal finance without breaking the bank? Look no further! Our comprehensive educational system will have you learn all that you need to know about managing your finances quickly and at absolutely zero cost.
It’s no surprise that over the past three years, Mint’s “Goals” feature has enabled more than one million of its users to pay off an impressive total of $20 billion in debt – a testament to how well it works!
To explore the top-rated budgeting apps, click here.
[Related: 50 Places You Should Travel to in 2016]
DAY 9: Get rid of *almost* everything you haven’t worn in a year.
While you may hold a special place in your heart for those distressed jeans from college, that doesn’t mean they should be seen by the public. Chances are there are at least one dozen articles of clothing sitting idly in your wardrobe that have outlived their purpose. Donate them and make room for something new!
Shed the emotional attachment to your clothes and pass them on to someone who will genuinely benefit from them, like organizations that reuse fabric from torn apparel. You can donate these items to places such as Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or Vietnam Veterans of America.
Not only can you give back to your community and do good for others, but don’t forget about the financial gain. If you have a fashionable item that has been collecting dust in your closet and could use some extra cash why not try out sites like Tradesy, Twice, or Threadflip?
Decluttering your home not only eliminates the chaos but also creates space for beautiful new clothes that you’ll love wearing.
DAY 10: Get your email under control.
In 1946, Gertrude Stein penned “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”
If only she could fathom the trials we must undergo today…
But there are some strategies that you can follow to achieve ‘inbox zero’ or, if not attainable, something close – and it’ll require dedication from your end.
Start by canceling subscriptions for all those emails that you never read – it’s as easy as a few clicks from the bottom of each email. Alternatively, Unroll. It lets you combine different newsletters into one digest or unsubscribe with just one click! After that, deactivate your social media notification emails and start enjoying clutter-free inboxes again.
Conquer your inbox! Start by deleting or archiving any outdated newsletters, discounts, or bills. Then reply to any message that can be responded to swiftly in five minutes or less. For messages requiring more time and attention, create a system for organizing them efficiently. To avoid feeling overwhelmed with emails, simply store them in a folder labeled “respond later” and allot some time to reply. Or alternatively, utilize an app like Boomerang which will bring back messages into your inbox after a set amount of time – it can similarly be used for scheduling outbound emails.
Take the time to find a solution that works for you. You probably already know what it is; you just need to take action and do it this time. If all else fails, try “declaring email bankruptcy” – beginning anew with an organized method of managing your emails.
To stay organized and increase productivity, use filters to segregate essential emails from nonessential ones. You can then automatically archive the latter category of messages, such as receipts and promotional material, without having to delete them altogether.
DAY 11: Reach out to three people who you haven’t talked to in years.
Our social world consists of three distinct levels of interpersonal ties: weak, strong, and absent.
According to Mark Granovetter’s 1973 research “The Strength of Weak Ties” at Johns Hopkins University, it is not the close bonds you share with family and friends that can ultimately lead to success, but rather those weak ties you have developed with acquaintances.
Even though those closest to you may care for you sincerely, they often share the same resources and knowledge that are available to you.
Make an effort to reconnect with three acquaintances from your past whom you’ve lost touch with. It’s not only a positive experience on a personal level, but there is potential for both of you to be beneficial in some way through this connection.
When deciding how to reach out, you have the choice between calling, sending a letter, or texting/an online message. However, if it’s uncertain which approach is most suitable for your situation then emailing might be the best option as it provides much-needed speed while still allowing room for meaningful communication – and you can always organize another call or get together afterward.
DAY 12: Go see a live show.
Steve Jobs was known to declare that those who had the most understanding were those with the largest “bag of experiences”.
If you’re looking to broaden your knowledge and understanding of the world, attending performances of art forms such as classical music, theater plays, dance shows, and rock concerts is an incredibly fast way to do so.
Attending live shows is an excellent way to connect with your culture and experience something new, whether it be a rendition of classic material or never-before-seen performances.
Live performances can have a lasting impression on audiences. According to a 2002 survey, those who attend shows build an appreciation for other cultures, foster strong connections with the community and unlock their creative potential.
Connect with the people you cherish most by making your international trip a fun group outing or a romantic date.
DAY 13: Go on a trip to somewhere you’ve never been before.
Let’s make some memories and hit the road!
Exploring unfamiliar places, even if it’s just the next town over, is incredibly great for your mental and physical health. A study conducted in 2013 discovered that travel can reduce the chances of a heart attack, alleviate depression symptoms, and improve brain functioning!
As philosopher Alain de Botton eloquently states, travel opens us to a broad world of possibilities.
“It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves,” he wrote in “The Art of Travel.” “The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.”
DAY 14: Make art.
If the numerous cave paintings discovered worldwide are any indication, humans have been creating art for more than 40,000 years. This speaks volumes about our innate appreciation of beauty and creativity!
The visual and literary arts are far more than just aesthetically pleasing; they have the power to evoke emotion, inspire thoughtfulness, and facilitate meaningful connections.
Over the years, an abundance of psychological research has demonstrated that creating art can be hugely beneficial for one’s mental health and happiness.
Research suggests that creatively expressing yourself through visual art has the following effects:
• By reducing negative emotions and cultivating positive ones, improved well-being can be fostered.
• Enhanced flow and impulsivity, articulation of sorrow, positive self-image, and interpersonal relationships are just some of the benefits you can expect to experience.
• Significant decreases in distress and negative emotions.
As you may recall, the act of writing has been proven to improve your overall well-being, significantly reduce anxiety levels and even strengthen your immunity.
Now that we have an understanding, let’s get to work on crafting a masterpiece. This will take some time and dedication; at least 90 minutes of your day is necessary for this task. If you are skilled in the art of sketching, draw a still life set up from items found on your kitchen table. Those who don’t prefer pencils can opt for pastels – create something abstract! Or if language is more appealing to you, jot down poems about moments that happened over the course of last week.
What truly matters is to simply create.
DAY 15: Figure out the lifestyle you want in the future.
Crafting a plan for your life is an overwhelming task due to the sheer number of variables, as both Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn and Tim Cook from Apple have pointed out.
Have you ever heard of “lifestyle design”? If not, then it’s time to introduce yourself! It is the most efficient way to make life plans and has already been endorsed by renowned author Tim Ferriss in his book entitled “The 4-Hour Workweek”. Lifestyle design is an invaluable resource for any productivity enthusiast out there. Rather than stressing over the status you wish to obtain, it is better to concentrate on what type of life you would like to live. Thinking about lifestyle design includes reflecting on which components are needed for us to thrive – such as money, mobility, time, and relationships- and how we can combine them together.
So on this day let us dream big and come up with a plan for the lifestyle you desire one year, five years, or even ten years from now. The perfect day exercise is the ideal way to carry out that envisioning process. Here’s what Chris Guillebeau, author of “The $100 Startup,” suggests:
To make this classic practice come to life, you must detail your dream day from morning to night. Start by jotting down the time you wake up in the morning and how you fuel yourself for breakfast all until what activities fill each hour of the day as well as who interacts with you throughout it. The more comprehensive your plan is, the better!
By creating the blueprint for your perfect day, you can start to take actionable steps in order to realize it. This is an exercise that should be taken seriously and thoughtfully – as such, you may find yourself making more intentional decisions about how you spend your time and what areas of life demand focus. Whether or not many changes are made, this process will bring a great deal of self-awareness into play.
Now take out your journal and plan out precisely what your ideal days will look like at various points in time throughout your life.
By taking this action, you’ll be better positioned to identify potential opportunities and act on them quickly.
DAY 16: Take control of your online passwords.
While this assignment may not be enjoyable, it is essential.
Online threats are a real danger – passwords can be stolen, databases hacked and personal information taken. Not only does this pose risks to our finances but also results in the potential for the loss of invaluable memories that cannot be replaced. Sadly, the majority of people fail to adhere to sound advice on password security − like regularly changing passwords after a data breach and not reusing them across multiple sites. Moreover, many have an unfortunate tendency to settle for simpler, less secure options when it comes time to choose one.
As a precaution, use this opportunity to swap all of your passwords and make sure two-step verification is enabled on every single account. Additionally, it’s recommended that you generate backup codes in print form and securely store them somewhere safe.
To ensure your online security, why not utilize a password manager such as 1Password or LastPass? These platforms are incredibly easy to use and can create and store secure passwords for all of your online activities.
Though the setup may not be enjoyable, if you remember just one “master password,” your life will become much smoother and safer. Let the manager handle all of the other pieces while you enjoy maximum security with minimal effort.
DAY 17: Make a financial plan for the future.
All of us have dreams that we hope to turn into reality, and these aspirations are rarely inexpensive.
Are you ready to start a family? The USDA estimates that raising a child born in 2012 through age 16 will cost around $250,000 and college tuition can skyrocket up to an added $200,000 at some universities. Make sure your finances are prepared for the journey ahead!
Even if you don’t have children, it’s advised that everyone should keep at least six months of savings set aside for times of need. This is in addition to retirement funds which are estimated to last about 30 years throughout your lifetime. Establishing an adequate amount of backup money can help secure a more stable future and peace of mind!
It’s time to think ambitiously! Make your goals a reality by creating a timeline that includes:
Your financial objectives. These could include significant investments or accomplishments such as becoming debt-free, buying a house, financing your wedding ceremony, and taking that dream vacation to the French Riviera.
It’s crucial to understand your income inside and out, whether you already possess a budget or not. Don’t forget to factor in every single source of money that enters into your life; from take-home pay to any other sort of revenue stream.
Are you struggling with credit card debt, student loans, a car loan, or even a mortgage? These payments are obligations that should be taken into account when mapping out the amount of money to allocate toward your goals. Don’t let these debts bog down your progress and take over your financial future!
In order to reach your objectives swiftly and effectively, assign yourself time-sensitive deadlines that take into consideration both your debt and income. How much money must you contribute each month to hit this deadline? With the right planning, reaching your goals is not only painless but also achievable!
Streamline the saving process by having money from your paycheck or checking account transferred into savings accounts directly through a bank, and connect those same accounts to free services such as Mint and LearnVest. This way you can have an eye on both your finances and progress in one place without any hassle!
DAY 18: Rigorously update your LinkedIn page.
Refreshing your LinkedIn page is not only a great way to get ready for your upcoming job hunt, but it also encourages you to critically think about and evaluate your career journey.
Now, give a quick glance at your page with the eye of a recruiter. Primarily, ensure that your photo is clear and professional-looking; it should accurately reflect how you have chosen to appear in your industry. For instance, if you are targeting an occupation on Wall Street then be sure to dress formally while tech employees from the Bay Area will most likely look more appropriate wearing something like a nice T-shirt.
To make an impression, your Summary section should be succinct yet impactful. Keep it concise and omit any bulk of the text to ensure that readers can quickly skim through it with ease. Make sure you include who you are and what unique qualifications or assets you bring to the table in a compelling way!
To make sure your page stands out, don’t be afraid to add a bit of personality to your content. Also, link back to websites or social media pages that showcase the work you have done! Doing this will help you attract more visitors and give them an engaging experience when visiting your website.
To maximize your success on LinkedIn, be sure to take a look at our comprehensive list of activities you should already have in the works.
Additionally, take this opportunity to update and polish your résumé in an orderly format that is current and clear.
DAY 19: Reach out to two people you admire but have never met.
You would be astonished to learn about the meaningful connections you can initiate with influential people by simply sending an appropriate email.
To be explicit, having coffee with President Obama may not be in the cards for you presently. Yet, why not think about a few of your favorite authors, business owners, performers, and athletes as potential guests? Your greatest probability would likely come from trying to connect with someone who is currently out of the limelight; they won’t have their inbox overflowing with press invitations!
Personal finance guru Ramit Sethi advises sending an email that contains a brief introduction of yourself, establishing common ground (for example, mentioning how this person has motivated you), and then inquiring with a query.
Aim for brevity, and remain humble. Additionally, ensure whatever you ask this person cannot be answered by a quick Google search.
Once you establish contact with this individual – whether through an emailed response or perhaps a cup of coffee – don’t forget to follow up.
According to Sethi, it’s through honing your networking skills that you can separate yourself from the average and become wildly successful. He believes that investing $100 in a year for a coffee catch-up with people who could potentially help propel your career is an incredibly valuable use of money.
DAY 20: Spend at least three hours in nature.
You’re so close.
This next assignment should be enjoyable and also provide you with some major advantages.
Step out of the house and explore nature—a park is a great place to start, but if you can go on an outdoor trek, even better!
Immersing yourself in the great outdoors provides a wealth of well-being benefits, including reduced stress levels, restored mental energy, and improved vision. In addition to these advantages, it also helps stimulate creativity!
Japan’s psychiatrists are prescribing their patients “shinrin yoku,” or wilderness bathing, to reap its numerous benefits.
Venturing out into the open air is not only beneficial for your health, but it’s also incredibly enjoyable. Why not break a sweat with friends and do something that will leave you feeling invigorated afterward? It’s an experience that brings physical and mental satisfaction!
If you’re pausing to contemplate the past few weeks and questioning if it’s time for some new habits, or a drastic transformation to achieve your ambitions – then you’ve already taken the initial step in making positive progress. Now is your chance to ask yourself: are you on a course?
DAY 21: Cook an ambitious dinner using unprepared foods.
Make the most of this last day and both enjoy it with friends as well as sharpen a key skill.
Mark Bittman, the winner of a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award and best-selling author, has said that cooking at home is “the solution to everything.” Studies have shown that people who eat homemade food with real ingredients tend to be more health-conscious and save money. Additionally, research suggests that food tastes even better when you put in the effort to make it yourself!
At its core, our mission is to promote the consumption of “real food” – nothing processed or pre-packaged that only requires reheating. According to a number of research studies on various diets, this method proves to be the most beneficial for one’s health and well-being. Nourishing ourselves with fresh meals helps us stay fit and healthy!
When it comes to defining “ambitious,” the choice is all yours. If you’re a novice in the kitchen, cook something basic; if you have more experience, try your hand at an ambitious dish!
After you master the art of cooking, it can be unbelievably fulfilling and stimulating – so much so that you won’t want to stop. As author Bittman said: “It’s as varied and challenging and rewarding a task as exists.”
Enjoying a meal with friends is an incomparable way to strengthen your bonds. Make sure to share the tales about how life has taken a turn for the better during the past three weeks – it will be something they remember!
This article was initially published on Business Insider.
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