My simple life hacks to improve your health and mental wellbeing. Get more stuff done and do more of the things you enjoy?
Want to learn some quick and easy life hacks that you can start doing to improve you mental and physical health?
As well as hacking your time to get more stuff done?
Over the past 12 months I’ve been messing around doing different things to try and improve my flexibility and my mental health by meditating.
Also trying to do more things that I enjoy.
Move from ‘tasks’ to ‘life hacks’!
I’ve been using some of these ‘life hacks’ recently. Which I’ve come up with more out of frustration than really thinking to deeply about them.
There are so many things I want to do each day. I hate the saying “well I don’t have time”. I always reply with “make time”.
Why is it some of us struggle with the same 24 hours as someone else?
Look at Elon Musk. Love him or hate him. He has the same 24 hours as you. Yet he can build rockets, electric cars and still have time to smoke weed on a podcast.
Make a list, hack it twice
To try and come up with some life hacks I looked at all the things I wanted to do each day. Here is an example:
- Stretch (want to improve my overall flexibility and reduce injury)
- Read (at least 30 minutes) to learn
- Listen to podcasts, again to learn stuff.
- Play guitar
- New business tasks (1 hour a day)
- Side hustle promotion (2 hours a day)
These are high level. If you take the ‘Stretch’ bullet point for example.
For me I wanted to improve my ankle flexibility and work on sorting out a shoulder and upper back problem I’ve had for a while. As well as improving my squat positioning.
Working on sorting these issues out takes time EVERYDAY.
So what could I do to combine these things with other stuff?
For the squat positioning work. There is a video by The Ready State where they explain that being in a squat position for 10 minutes a day improves your overall body mechanics no end.
“So I need to squat for 10 minutes a day!”
I’m also trying to read more and more. Everyday. Tony Robbins in his book Awaken The Giant talks about reading for 30 minutes a day. A lot of successful people are avid readers.
“So I need to read for 30 minutes a day!”
“What if I combine the two?”
This leads my nicely onto my first hack.
Read while in a squat position
Yep, that’s how I came up with it.
I was already reading for around 30-45 minutes a day. Instead of sat on the sofa or chair, why didn’t I just get into a squat position.
You can see in the image that I’m not entirely unaided. I’m still struggling with getting into the bottom of the squat. So I prop myself up against a sofa or wall.
Two birds, one stone.
When I was doing the squat work on it’s own. I had a timer going on my phone to try and accumulate ten minutes in a squat position. It felt more like two hours.
With this hack it seems to be a lot easier to get towards the 10 minutes mark. One thing I do is if I get too uncomfortable I do get out of the squat position. Read for say 5 minutes then go back into the squat.
I don’t time myself anymore. I just start reading.
Life hack #1. Squat while reading.
Meditate while lying on an acupuncture mat
I’ve mentioned that I have a lot of trouble with my right shoulder and upper back.
It stems from an injury I had years ago, which I think has left me with some scar tissue in the muscle between my right shoulder blade and spine.
If I’m not careful the injury can easily flare up. It was so bad one Christmas, I ended up going for acupunture for about 6 weeks.
That helped massively.
So much so I saw one of these acupuncture mats online. There was loads of reviews saying how great they are so I decided to give it ago.
Basically you just lie on the mat for ages and let it do it’s thing. It’s very strange. It hurts when you first lie on it, but then becomes comfortable and you feel really warm.
And it actually works. I can feel the soreness or stiffness in my neck, shoulder and back slowly easing when I’m lying on it
Compounding life hacks
Again though it’s something you have to do each day, so that the benefit compounds.
Another thing that compounds is meditating daily. The recommended length is around 20 minutes. I normally aim for about 10 minutes.
I’ve tried to make it a habit so many times. One thing I do is to put an alarm on my phone which goes off at the same time every day, telling me to meditate.
I use an app called Calm which is the best guided meditation app I have tried. It’s great.
When meditating I either sit or lie down. I like to lie down as I feel I relax into it more.
“Hang on, why don’t I lie on the acupuncture mat when I meditating?”
Amazing, spend time on my mental health at the same time trying to keep this bloody injury at bay.
Life hack #2. Meditate while lying on an acupuncture mat.
Put a resistance band on your standing desk
I’ve used a standing desk for years.
My wife and I moved into our new house in Feb 2019. After a few months we started looking at sorting me out with a new cool standing desk.
We knocked together one from a load of scaffolding poles and whacked an IKEA desk top on there to finish it off.
Again, using a standing desk has helped with my posture, flexibility and improved the tightness in my hip flexors.
I’m writing this post in October 2020, in the middle of the Corona Virus pandemic. I’ve been working from home since March so the standing desk and home office is getting a lot of use.
I thought “what can I do to help my flexibility when I’m working?”.
When I was going to the gym before the lockdown I had loads of different strength resistance bands in my gym bag.
“Aha, I know I can just leave one of the resistance band looped round the desk”
When I stretch
So if I’m on a call where I don’t need my webcam on and don’t need to be in front of the laptop. I loop the band round one of my ankles and start trying to improve my ankle flexbility.
It’s also great if you just want to take a 5-10 minute break. You can loop the end round your wrist and do all sorts of back, chest and shoulder stretches.
With working 9-5 and spending a lot of spare time at a computer trying to get a side project off the ground.
Being able to do some stretching when I get 5 minutes is great.
You can even get into resistance stretches while you are working.
Life Hack #3. Get yourself a standing desk, put a resistance band round one of the legs and stretch.
Stretch as your rest between sets
A lot of the workout routines I have done in the past talk about stretching before and after a workout.
Which I’m all for.
Why should it only be before or after. What about during?
One thing I have started doing over the past few months. Is spending time in a stretch position as my ‘rest’ between sets.
So if I’m in the ‘garage gym’. Doing a push/pull exercise routines using some gymnastic rings. I not actively working my legs. But I want to improve my lower body flexibility.
I’ve set myself a goal to be able to do the side splits and front splits, left leg and right leg forwards.
What I do now is instead of resting for 30 seconds to a minute. I get into a stretch position until I ready to do some more reps.
I’ve found I actually do more stretch work now doing this simple hack than before.
The guys over at The Ready State say you need to hold a stretch for over two minutes each day for it to be effective.
Spending another 30-40 minutes on top of your 45 minute exercise isn’t practical for most people.
That’s why this hack is great.
How I use this hack
Lets say I’m doing 4 sets of ring pull-ups, aiming for 5 reps. It’s a tough exercise to do. So you need to rest for a minute or so after each set.
Instead of standing around. After each set, I get in a front stretch position for at least 60 seconds. Right leg forward after set one. Left leg forward after set two…and so on.
So by finishing my first exercise. Not only have a worked a muscle group, I have done the 2 minutes I need for each leg to improve my front splits.
I do this with a load of different stretches throughout the full workout.
There is no point standing around waiting when in your rest break. May as well make the most of it.
Life hack #4. Stretch as your rest break when doing a workout.
Running/exercising while listening to podcasts
I’ve listened to podcasts for years. Love em. I use to mainly listen when I was commuting, or in work to zone out all the office noise.
I’m sure I heard about a study of the impact of listening to educational podcasts. The study said that listening is nearly as effect as reading.
You take in the information and process it. Very interesting stuff.
I was finding that if I was listening to a podcast while I was working or concentrating on something else. The key points didn’t seem to sink in.
So I needed to find another time when I wasn’t distracted to listen to things I wanted to learn from.
Again I turned to exercise. I try and go running a few times a week and had worked up to doing 10km runs. Which took about an hour.
Perfect time to listen to podcasts. No distractions, nothing else to do other than run and let your mind process the information.
I found I was going through a lot more podcast espisodes and really taking in the info. Next I started putting them on in the garage gym as I was working out.
Same thing, your mind isn’t as distracted and can listen to what is being said.
It’s a great to work on both your body and mind at the same time. Again, doubling up on how you use the time.
Life hack #5. Listen to podcasts when exercising to also learn new things.
Plan your week out. Including all the life hacks and fun stuff you want to do
“If it’s not measured it can’t be managed”. I don’t know if I’ve got the quote exactly right. You get what I mean though.
People tend to right to-do list for their jobs and shit they want to get done round the house or in the garden.
Do people put in things they want to do for them?
I started doing this.
Using a weekly planner from the BestSelf co which has 6 months worth of pages allows you to plan everything.
The days run from 6am to 9pm. You can see in the image above that I plan a bit longer than that.
I make sure I start the day with exercise and stretching. Which involves life hacks 4 and 5.
For the most of the day I put in work stuff. I block out lunch and then 45 minutes of reading using life hack 1.
Work again then I finish the working day with some mediation, see hack 2. Then spend the rest of the hour playing the guitar.
Later in the evening I block out more reading (hack 1 again).
Plan to have fun!
Some days I make sure Friday or Saturday is blocked out for a bit of fishing. Things like gardening or going walking on a Sunday morning is also put down.
It can be hard to make sure you are getting enough of your “me time”.
As you can see I block in health stuff as well as hobbies such as guitar, fishing and walking.
It helps you make sure you are enjoying yourself as well as working hard.
Life hack #6. Plan everything, especially you fun stuff.
Time boxing your life hacks
Do you spend ages doing a task, trying to get it right or make it perfect. I been guilty of this more than most.
Let’s say I’m working on a new home page for a website and I want to redesign the header section.
In the past I’ve spent hours going back and forth trying to get it just right.
“Just get it done”. “Progress over perfection”. Are two sayings I’ve been trying to live by.
I use a technique now that first started being used by software developers to help them focus for short periods of time. Then have a short break. Allowing them to get back into focus and get difficult work done.
The Pomodoro Technique
This form of working is called the Pomodoro Technique. If you would like to know more, you can get a copy of my free eBook that runs through what the Pomodoro technique is. Click here to grab a copy.
What I do now if I want to get something done it to time box it to 25 minutes. Set a timer and focus on getting it sorted in the time period.
This has worked so well over the last 12 months. First it puts pressure on you to get it done.
Second you get into a better frame of mind to get it whatever you are doing done to a high standard. Once your 25 minutes are done that’s it. You can’t work on it anymore.
This helps you with the progress over perfection saying.
A thing to note: To use this effectively you need to break down your task into chunks that can be achieved in 25 minutes.
Going back to my web page redesign example. I broke it down into working on the header section for 25 minutes.
Then onto the features section for the next 25 minutes. Doing this sort of task breakdown stops jobs you need to do seem massive and aren’t that bad once you think about it.
A home redesign took me a morning instead of days using this life hack.
You can find the online timer I use here.
Life hack #7. Break down things you want to do into small chunks and time box how long you spend on them
Bonus Life Hacks
I just wanted to give you some quick life hacks I’ve implemented over the last few weeks.
These had also had a big impact on me.
Quiet time on your phone
I got fed up of my phone pinging with emails. Outlook’s Android app has quiet times.
So I setup the email notifications to only go off between 9am-10am in the morning. And between 4pm and 7pm at night.
It has made a massive impact. I don’t get distracted as much during the day.
Switching off emails
Basically as above. If I’m on my computer or laptop and I want to focus solely on one thing.
I switch all my email apps off.
Switch on ‘airplane’ mode
I’m repeating myself now. When trying to write this blog post my phone was going daft. WhatsApp message, text, a phone call.
If you are trying to get stuff done, get rid of ALL your distractions. Airplane mode isn’t just for when you are flying off on holiday.
Use it everyday. You will be surprised at much more focused you become.
Night mode on your phone
I tend to have trouble switching off and getting to sleep at night. Most screens give off blue light which is a stimulant and can impact you when trying to get to sleep.
I found a setting on my phone which dims the screen and puts a blue light filter on between sunset and sunrise.
This has really helped. I’m not tossing and turning as much when trying to get to sleep.
Just need to work out how to do it on the TV now.
Conclusion to my life hacks
There you have it. 7 life hacks I’ve been trying to implement in my life. Helping improve my overall wellbeing.
Hope this post has helped you out and got you thinking about the hacks you can come up with an add to your day.
Let me know what you come up with. I may steal them :).