A structural fix is something that you pay for up-front and which then continues to serve your life with zero or little in the way of ongoing maintenance costs.
Some examples, feel free to add more:
-If your computer is swapping (you hear the hard drive churning) during normal usage, get more RAM! Getting an SSD hard drive is also a good idea. Swapping out to disk is like sending a sailboat across the Atlantic to fetch your stuff, whereas RAM is like getting it from your pocket.
-Buy everything you can find that can optimize your sleep. Some ideas: blackout curtains for your sleeping quarters, Zeo device, supplements known to aid sleep (melatonin, zinc, stuff like that), Philips Golite, earthing mat, etc.
-Get a good digital scale with bodyfat measurements and all that jazz. Make a habit to enter it into a suitable tracking tool. Hacker's Diet is good for weight. Even better if it auto-tracks the data for you.
-Truecrypt is a security tool which can on-the-fly encrypt your entire hard drive. Instant security fix.
-Use RescueTime and similar applications to enforce less procrastination.
-Get a kettlebell for your bedroom, office, car, etc. They can be used for all kinds of spontaneous exercise. Which adds up over time. Other alternative: exercise bands.
-Make a list of your favorite healthy recipes and keep in your Dropbox. Helps a lot with diet adherence.
-Get a pedometer (foot step counter), or install a suitable app on your smartphone. Measuring this is likely to increase how much you walk during the day.
-Get a workout buddy. Increases show-up rate a LOT.
-Get several different gym cards, if you can afford it. If you don't feel like going to one of them, maybe you feel like going to another. One day you may want the hardcore powerlifter gym, the next day you need a more relaxed ambience. I personally have 1 gym membership, but use an a la carte approach, ie I go to different gyms and get a one-time ticket.
-If you can afford it, get a cleaning lady (or a Roomba).
-If you get an expensive haircut, take photos from all angles. A cheaper hairdresser may be able to replicate it later.
-Go see someone with a lot of anatomic knowledge (physio, Active Release Therapist, Rolfer, Graston practitioner, Feldenkrais, etc) and have your muscular imbalances corrected.
-Spotify Premium is well worth the money. Access to almost all music on all your devices. Saves a lot of time for me. Same with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Audible, and things like that.
-Whenever possible, get private tutors and coaching. You'll learn much much faster than on your own.
Fitbit + beeminder (fitbit to track steps, beeminder to ensure you walk enough)
I just got into beeminder. I'm geeky enough to see the potential benefits but I can't seem to wrap my brain around how it works. There isn't a lot of help on their website. I would love to figure it out. Any help?
I've been using it for over a year, and their support is super responsive. How can I help? You can see my beeminder - http://www.beeminder.com/jolly for inspiration. Figure out what you want to track, figure out your bare minimum for that goal, and enter it in!
I just don't get it. I think I'm using it wrong. For example, I want to set a goal of arriving to work an hour early at least 4 out of the 5 working days of the week. I want it to start immediately. So, if I come into work late tomorrow I want to be forced to come in to work an hour early for the rest of the week. If I miss even one day that week I want to be forced to cough up money.
When I set up a goal like that in beeminder, it seems like it allows me too much wiggle room.
Does any of this make sense?
Hi! Danny of Beeminder here. Do you mean that each day's datapoint is binary -- 1 if you succeeded in getting to work at least an hour early and 0 if you didn't? That works beautifully on Beeminder. If you want to be on the hook immediately (no safety buffer) there's an option to uncheck when you create the goal. There might still be *slightly* more play than you want, given the width of the yellow brick road and all, but once you're skating the edge of the road it should enforce exactly what you have in mind.
Definitely let us know -- email@example.com -- if it's not behaving as expected. That helps us a ton in figuring out how to make it less confusing for newcomers.
Already mentioned by Jolly, but I'd like to underline that Beeminder is a fabulous tool to drive improvement for anything that can be numerically quantified. It's a data nerd's dream. http://beeminder.com. The akrasia horizon and the penalty system are very well thought out.
- Punctuality. (Come early at least 5-10 minutes on every commitment, follow up on "let's have coffee sometime next week", and do things now when it comes to your mind rather than later)
In the hustle and bustle professional world, punctuality is a given when deals are negotiated, widgets are cranked, and shares are traded. Though not many people I know take that same urgency into a non-professional setting. This is a structural opportunity you can work on to stand out.
I get a lot of "we should get together some times" on Facebook and emails but honestly, most of those people just say it for the sake of saying it and don't follow up, This one of my pet peeve with people. Nowadays, when people say something like that, I would be specific and set up a solid time and actually meet. This scares off some people, but those are not the people I want to spend time around, as it says a lot about their personality. The ones who follow up stay in my life and are worth working with.
When you have a meeting with someone, always be the one to bring cookies/food/drinks/whatever.
This may be a Swedish-culture thing, though. Maybe it's more uncommon in the rest of the world to bring snacks to meetings?
It's quite hard to think up examples - what springs to mind is stuff like setting up good habits (exercise, eating, etc), which in truth require most of the effort to get started - however they do of course require ongoing maintenance.
One-time fixes with permanent effects are harder to recall, maybe because they don't require any thought to maintain. The main categories there would be:
- physical stuff you buy
- changes to your digital setup
- skills or mindsets you adopt.
Let me see:
- spending time learning keyboard shortcuts for your most-used applications. Even better, customise them so they meet your needs.
- set your home screen on Chrome to be your Todo list (Trello for me). It's the best place to start your day.
- a recent one: getting an extension like "controlled multi-tab browsing" which lets you put a limit on number of open tabs (for me, 8) seems to cut down mindless surfing quite a bit.
- reading Getting Things Done will permanently improve the way you approach tasks. Best insight from the book: when faced with a large task you keep putting off, define the next concrete step to take.
- make your email communication more efficient. Eg, when asking someone for meeting, suggest 2 or 3 times in your first email - this saves the back and forth on when and where to meet. Focus on specific, direct questions.
- useful mindsets to adopt: assume "willpower" doesn't exist - to change habits, focus on changing your environment and observing your emotional cycles. Joshua Spodek's blog has lots of good material on the second part. Key point is that getting pumped up and excited rarely works long-term; beating yourself up never works. Be patient with yourself, observe what situations make you slip up from habits, rationally think about how to deal with those situations in future. I call this a "structural fix" because once you learn these principles, you won't forget them.
I don't know if it counts, but if sometimes your phone doesn't have enough battery life even though you've installed an app like JuiceDefender, get a second battery for your mobile device and bring it with you.
Maybe it is obvious, and I'm sorry if this is the case.
How about using Stickk.com for any projects/hobbies/tasks you are struggling to keep up or get started on... Put a contract on yourself.
Brushing my teeth while showering. Saves me from forgetting to do so and/or remembering later and disrupting something else I'm doing at the time.
More things like this.
This works great for repetitive Amazon purchases of any kind. First step is optimize by taking 20-30 minutes to research the best for your money. Second step is to either:
a - subscribe on a cycle if that options available (Amazon Subscribe & Save), or
b - enter the purchase link URL into your calender and set as recurring reminder
I do this for lots of things currently including dog food and coconut water.
I wrote a quick piece about this a couple years ago and just reposted into my community section if your interested:
This discussion inspired a blog post from me: http://becomingawesome.com/index.php/2013/02/structural-improvements/
Here are the structural improvements that have me thinking:
Jason Shen has achieved tremendous success in athletics, technology entrepreneurship, writing, and living an outstanding life. To promote his recent GiveGetWin deal on The Science of Willpower, he sat down to tell us how he started learning about willpower, the state of what's known scientifically about how willpower and the brain work, and how you can start improving your life right away by implementing a tiny habit, thinking and systems, and using some powerful thinking tools. Enjoy:
Developing Willpower by Jason Shen, as told to Sebastian Marshall
Willpower has been an undercurrent in my entire life. In gymnastics, you have to use your willpower to overcome your fear of an activity and go for the skill you want, to get over the fear, to push yourself to finish your conditioning and strength training a part of you doesn't want to…
It didn't come automatically to me. When I was a student, I wasn't automatically self-disciplined. There were actions I knew were useful, like doing my homework in one session without getting distracted, or not throwing clothing on my apartment floor. But I wouldn't always do them, and I didn't know why.
I started to learn those answers during a student initiative course at Stanford called The Psychology of Personal Change. That's when I first started reading academic papers on the topic. In academia, willpower and self-discipline is often called "self-regulation," and in 2009 I started to get really serious about it from an academic perspective -- and saw gains from it in my personal life.
In my experience, there are two thresholds that someone looking to become fit needs to pass under:
First, you need to get started. Simple, yes, but it’s often the hardest part. Any barriers you have to working out, like driving to the local gym, increases the likelihood that you’ll sit on the couch and watch reruns of Lost and eat junk food instead. Us runners have a natural advantage over gym-rats in that we’re able to tie our shoes and run out the door. Even in subzero temperatures you can reduce your time freezing by running to the nearest warm treadmill. By the time you get there your body temperature will have comfortably insulated you from the cold and your body will be ready for action.
Some suggest setting up your gym at home, if you can afford the proper equipment. This breaks down all the barriers and gives you no excuses for reneging on the daily workout. That being said:
Second, you need to fit it into your daily routine and find ways to obligate yourself to stick to it. Some ideas: