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7 Surprising Habits of Unhappy People

Photo courtesy of Melissa Maples

Here at TinyShift, we’re constantly looking for ways to make life better. In the Mindful Mondays series we ran last year, we discovered that one really effective way to increase your overall productivity is by creating effectual habits. It turns out that you need significantly less brain power to perform activities that are habitual as opposed to things that require decision-making.

Because of this, forming as many good habits as possible will help you free up mental energy to focus on important things, whether professionally, personally, or a little bit of both. As there are more than enough people telling you to eat healthier or to exercise more, I decided to take a look at it from the other end.  Here’s a list of common behaviors that you’d be better off avoiding. If you’ve already developed a proclivity for one or more of these, well, it’s in your best interest to quit while you’re still ahead.

  1. Living in fool’s paradise - Spending a little time daydreaming is ok, but if you don’t keep at least one foot on the ground, you could end up missing out on the best parts of your life.
  2. Over-moderating yourself – I know, I know. You’ve finally managed to get yourself under control, and now we’re telling you to let loose? Not exactly. Being able to effectively self-moderate is an important life skill - just don’t limit your creative potential at the same time.
  3. Burning the midnight oil – Everyone pulls a late (or all) nighter once in awhile, but if you turn it into a habit, you could actually end up with a circadian rhythm disorder, which is far more unpleasant than it sounds.
  4. Self-slandering - Rest assured; there will always be someone who’ll try to bring you down in life. It’s your job to be your own biggest fan and loudest cheerleader.
  5. Betting your bottom dollar – Whether you get the Annie reference or not, constantly hanging all your hopes on a brighter tomorrow won’t get you very far. For habitual procrastinators, the perfect tomorrow they’re hoping for never actually comes, leading to a whole lot of nothing. Make things happen today instead.
  6. Mindlessly clicking on the “boob tube” – Research shows that adults who were raised with the tv on all of the time are much more likely to suffer from obesity and insomnia.  They’re also usually inclined to continue the excessive screen time ritual with their own children.
  7. Seeing stars – Starbucks, that is. Caffeine addiction is at an all-time high right now. What may seem like a simple energy boost can actually lead to high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, cardiac problems, stomach ulcers and even death. It’s also a habit with a hefty price tag, so quitting will give you the additional benefit of a fatter wallet.

None of us is perfect – I myself struggle with a thinly veiled Starbucks iced latte obsession which causes me to burn the midnight oil when I allow myself to indulge. The important thing is that I’m able to check myself.  If you have a behavior that could become a bad habit if left unchecked, repeat after me: everything in moderation. Even moderation.

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11 Ways To Do More of What You Love This Year

Photo courtesy of Mohamed Malik

“This year is the year I’m going to make myself a priority.”

That is what I said to myself last year at this time, and the most important thing I did after that was follow through on my promise to myself. This year, you can do it too, no matter what difficult situation(s) you’re dealing with at the moment. It is extremely important to find ways to do more of what you love, and you can start by using the list below as a guide. I promise you that you won’t regret it.

  1. Create “Me” time. Make a conscious decision to schedule time that is specifically designated to doing things that you enjoy. To ensure that your “Me” time activities are honored, put them on any calendars that you share with your significant other or family members who require prior knowledge of what you’ll be doing in the near future.
  2. Participate in activities that feed your soul. Take some time to analyze what things give you the most enjoyment. If you’re finding that you don’t seem to have enough time to do all the fun things you used to do – prioritize. Quality really does win over quantity in this case.
  3. Live in the now. Putting mindfulness practices into action in your life will increase the number of things that give you intense pleasure. When you get good enough at mindful living, even the simplest activities will bliss you out.
  4. Love the one you’re with. Simply put, look for the happiness that already exists in your day-to-day life. Falling in love with your spouse all over again or getting to know your children on a deeper level are two examples of finding joy right in your own home.
  5. Get proactive about being productive. Train your brain so that you have the most effectual habits and productive routines, leaving you with more free time for leisure activities.
  6. Learn to let the word ‘no’ come more easily. Saying ‘no’ can be quite a challenge for some people, but consistently saying ‘yes’ to everyone’s needs but your own will leave you overscheduled and overstressed.
  7. If you were dealt a bad hand, trade in your cards. If too many things are making you unhappy in life, you’re highly unlikely to derive much pleasure out of anything. It’s never too late to make changes – even significant ones.
  8. Share your enthusiasm with your loved ones. Try to get your family members excited about the things you love doing. If you can get them on board, you’ll get less complaints and demands for your time.
  9. Ask, and ye shall receive. Sometimes, you simply have to ask for time to do the things you love. Try it and see what happens.
  10. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. As I recently told my son, “Never give up on something you really want.”
  11. Read This Year I Will… This book will help you follow through on your promises to yourself, giving you the skills you need to attend to your happiness.

In an ideal world, you’d be doing what you love and loving what you do every day. However, if you can’t do both (all of the time, anyway), take action to ensure that you spend time doing what you love as often as you possibly can.



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The Illusion of Control and Why You Need to Let it Go

Photo courtesy of Elsie Esq

The illusion of control is a very real psychological effect that has been studied and debated by renowned psychologists for years.

The arrival of “super-technology” and phones that are nearly smarter than humans have given us constant access to every aspect of our lives. Information is instantly obtained; gratification is never delayed. Questions are answered in mere moments with text messages, mobile email, and the internet. We are immediately alerted to any and all changes in our friends’ lives, our watched eBay items, and our bank accounts.  It seems there is nothing that can’t be solved, figured out, or Googled.  And, if Google doesn’t know – maybe Siri does.

What many psychologists have debated over the years is whether feeling totally in control of all of life’s situations is a good thing or a bad thing. Originally dubbed a ‘positive illusion’ in 1988, controversy has since arisen. Will our ever-increasing control over certain aspects of our lives lead to higher productivity levels, better pay and more happiness? Some say that positive illusions, like feeling more in control, can motivate people to follow through on tasks they might otherwise have abandoned.  Others have a much different opinion.

The opposing point of view is that the illusion of control is, in most cases, just that: an illusion with no basis in reality.  However, this phenomenon, whether real or not, can lead to a very powerful and very real desire to have control over everything, leading to high levels of anxiety when things don’t go as planned, which quite honestly, is what most of life is about.

For some, the need for control can become quite controlling in itself.

What we must keep in mind about our ability to control our lives is most simply stated in the serenity prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

In other words: Be realistic.  Making positive changes in your life is the greatest and most beneficial form of control you definitely can assert. By letting go in situations you simply can’t control, you’ll be able to be more present, getting the most of everything life has to offer.


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A Five-Step Approach for Effective Multi-Tasking

Photo courtesy of Leo Chuoi
Working from home has afforded me the ability to spend more time with my children. While I wouldn’t have it any other way, by no means is working from home easier than working outside of the home.  My previous job allowed me a quiet, organized desk with all necessary documents within easy reach, but it also took up 10 hours out of every day. Working from home affords me the luxury of spending more time with my family, but requires my brain to work more efficiently in order to multi-task.

While many people – not just working parents - often wear more than one hat simultaneously, few can do it seamlessly. Effective multi-tasking is considered an oxymoron by some, but with this reasonable five-step approach, it can be done, within limits.

  1. Plan, plan, plan.
    This is the single most important piece of advice when it comes to juggling multiple projects and people at the same time. Split your day into segments dedicated to appropriately grouped responsibilities, and adhere to the plan.
  2. Leave personal items for later.
    When I first started working from home, I often got sidetracked by non-urgent items. Now I schedule an hour at the end of every day for tasks that don’t need immediate attention so that I can dedicate more of my brain power to paying projects.
  3. Learn to “let go.”
    While this may seem like the opposite of following a strict plan, effective multi-taskers delegate some of their responsibilities. In my case, I assign many house duties to my children, with specific instructions to ensure that the jobs are done right. They invoice me for their work, and I hand out paychecks. This allows me to delegate while also teaching the value of hard work.
  4. Work in layers.
    The human brain isn’t naturally wired to actively focus on too many similar tasks at the same time. However, you can complete multiple tasks together, as long as they are relatively simple and use different areas of the brain. Completing auditory and physical tasks simultaneously works well because they aren’t wired on the same brain pathway, and they won’t cause you to burn out.
  5. Perfect the art of focusing.
    Multi-tasking is not for the weak minded and should only be performed when you are well-prepared. You can slowly “train” your brain to juggle, but only if you are working at your best. If you find yourself unable to focus on what you’re doing, you’ve combined too many things, and you’ll need to subtract a task so that your work doesn’t lose quality.

Naturally, certain tasks simply do not allow for multi-tasking and must be completed separately in order to receive your full attention. Regardless of your situation, however, you can learn how to use your time more effectively. It won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on a rock solid plan to bundle your work in layers, your brain will become more efficient, leaving you to enjoy more hours out of every day focused on life.

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