Written by TKS Toronto student, Isabella Grandic.
I slap this quote everywhere. I think about it all the flipping time because it’s so TRUE.
If you snooze your alarm every morning, you’re not going to become better at waking up without an alarm.
If you’re unkind to the people around you, you won’t become kinder.
If you’re always late to hand in assignments, you’re not going to become better at not procrastinating.
I’ve spent the past two years relentlessly trying to become a better, kinder and smarter person. One thing I found so notoriously frustrating about self-help books, blogs, etc. was I didn’t know where to start.
I began experiencing the most growth when I started doing small things consistently.
When it comes to action items, I’m like a monkey with a banana. Thrilled and loving life.
Over the years, I’ve tried thousands of things. Here’s a compiled list of 77 small things you can do now.
In your head, literally count “one, two.”
Interrupting, even if you agree with someone, makes them feel unimportant. We all hate getting interrupted. It breaks our train of thought.
There is nothing we love more than hearing our own voices, so let others hear theirs! Make long, deliberate pauses after your points, in case others want to respond/chime in.
Have your voice + communication sound “interesting.” To keep the other’s ears engaged, ensure there’s no pattern in your speaking. Keep it interesting. Our ears demand variety in sounds. Keep your voice exciting!
This video says it better than I can:
If you end your sentences on a “high” pitch, you’ll seem skeptical of what you’re saying. End them on a lower pitch. You’ll sound more confident. As a girl, this has worked wonders when communicating with my male counterparts.
My last name is “Grandic” — you can use your imagination to think about the nicknames I got called in middle/high school 🙃. Very few people say my last name correctly. And those that do know because they asked how to say it. I can’t explain how happy it makes me feel when other people say my full name correctly, especially when I’m used to everyone getting it wrong. To everyone, their name is one of the most important words. Be respectful of it. Say it often. Say it right.
In my freshman year, I had an impactful drama teacher. I’ve learned so much from him. One of the first things I learnt is how to do a proper handshake. Look the other person in the eyes. Firmly grab their hand, but not too firmly. Generally, match their intensity. Shake three times.
Open your eyes widely and look into people’s eyes. I’ve struggled with this for years. But, it will change your relationships.
“Yes,” “Um,” “Awesome,” “True,” “I agree,” “Really cool” — GET RID OF THEM. Don’t interrupt people with words that don’t mean much.
Think about it: if you were talking to the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, do you think they’d say “awesome” in the middle of your statement?
People will see you as unconfident, needy and trying to “please” them.
Especially as a girl, this has been a profound change.
If you had a conversation with Obama, do you think he’d fidget? Throw his hands everywhere? Touch his hair? No.
It comes off as distracted.
Clear your mind. Don’t think about what you’re saying next. Actually, listen. If you do one thing from this blog, do this.
That way, the other person knows you were listening — and you get to ensure you caught everything.
Or, if you’re really up for the challenge, don’t argue with your parents. Either way, this habit has helped me stop reacting to things that don’t need my attention. Although I want to point out the “stupid” things my brother is doing, I try not to.
Instead of arguing, try to understand. Try to talk less. Ask questions. Be curious.
Ask more questions. Talk less.
Respect other people’s time.
Respect people’s time. Set an agenda, have questions prepared, and do your research. Have an outcome you’re driving towards.
Be as undistracted as possible, so you can centre your attention on the person you’re communicating with.Never multi-task — people will see the delay in your facial reactions, or that your eyes are flickering around.
Try not to let other people go unheard. Get everyone’s thoughts. I got this from the IKEA effect, which I highly recommend reading about. I’ll include a resource at the end.
The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created. IKEA sells its furniture unassembled, not only because it’s cheaper, but because we “love” things we’ve built more than what others have built.
When other people “act” like us, it’s like their part of our “tribe.” We’ll trust them more.
Humans hate being wrong. We actively try to cover up our “mistakes” with stories.
For example, if you failed a test, your mind would want to blame it on other circumstances. You failed the test because your mom made you stay up late. Or, because one kid was distracting you. Weird how things are never our faults 🤔.
Our brains are fundamentally uncomfortable with being wrong. So, trust me, the person you’re talking to will not like it when you say “you’re wrong.” They won’t change their original belief, but, they will change how much they like you.
This is part of being vulnerable. It’s hard for us to admit our mistakes, which is why you should do it. You will create a safer environment to work in, and you’ll become more respected by your teammates.
Ideally, as soon as they exhibit that behaviour. Do this for any little thing you notice. This has helped me show my appreciation + love for other people, which leads to better relationships on the team. Everyone loves to be appreciated and feel important. You have the power to gift appreciation.
Go the extra mile. Don’t just critique, recreate. I once gave my friend extensive feedback on his blog — It probably came off as a little direct, but he didn’t like the feedback. So, I went in an implemented it and showed him the new blog post. He loved the feedback.
Sometimes we take criticism too personally, and we don’t understand that the other person is trying to help. Go the extra mile — show people that you’ll put in the effort and that you care.
Plus, “showing” rather than “telling” makes the next steps for the person more clear. Our brains are bad with uncertainty. When we see something in action, it feels more attainable.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this mistake. Just because some derivation makes sense to you, does not mean that everyone else will understand. Everyones’ brains work differently. Bring people through your process. They will appreciate your result more, and they’ll be more likely to accept it. Even better, they may notice a flaw or offer a new way of doing things. You could end up with a better result.
Try to communicate with more sentences. Don’t make things over-complicated laundry lists.
Writing is about re-writing. Editing is probably more important than writing the first draft.
In general, work in terms of other people whenever you can.
Work in terms of other people. Ensure your emails (and all communication, for that matter) have “you” written more than “I.” Think about their incentive.
Ex. “I would like this task to be complete by Friday.” →
“What do you think about completing this by Friday? Will that work with your schedule? Let me know if you need help or support.”
Make things about the other person. They’ll love you for it.
Insist. Don’t give up. Hold tight. Give the other person control.
You can start by doing this for ordering food with another person. Let them choose the place.
You might find it difficult to empathize with other people entirely. It may come “unnaturally.”
I’ve worked around this by writing down what it’s like to be the other person. It helps to view things from their perspective and write it out since you can be more “thoughtful” about it.
Put your empathy on paper if it doesn’t come naturally.
After 24h, you’ll typically settle down. You’ll be in the right headspace to reply.
Again, wait till you’re in the right mental space.
“Is that so?” is an instant way to end the conversation.
Ex. “Isabella, you would look a lot nicer if you did x,y,z.”
“Is that so?”
They won’t have much to say, and the conversation can just move on.
With a pen and paper, write down your feelings. Let them out! If you have lingering emotions, this will help get them out without making things worse.
Sometimes it’s helpful to write letters forgiving other people. You can mail these, or not. It just helps get rid of long-suppressed feelings.
I try to write letters once a month. I never mail them.
… and everywhere. People don’t smile enough. People don’t get smiled at enough. You can change someone’s day by smiling at them. I started developing a habit of smiling by using grocery stores as a “trigger” to smile ear to ear.
When you tip someone (financially), leave a nice note. Say “I hope your family is well,” or something along those lines.
I try to go the extra mile. Leave notes with tips. It’ll take a few extra seconds, and it will make the tip 10x more appreciative.
I’m trying to build the habit of typing “please” instead of abbreviating it to something like “pls.”
Again, practice going the extra mile. Sending a letter is more thoughtful than sending a text. My friend & I started communicating solely via mail — and it’s strengthened our relationship.
Accept compliments. Thank people for them. It feels awful when you compliment someone and they “ignore it” to be polite, but they don’t end up saying thank you.
It can be the most awkward thing ever, but be kind. Thank the other person. Don’t make them feel stupid for complimenting you.
I used to scream at my Alexa. But then I thought, “If I can’t talk to Alexa in a civilized way, how can I get better at talking to others in a civilized way?”
It might seem odd, but practice being kind to everyone, including your artificial intelligence voice system. Remember, how you train is how you perform.
Make it non-negotiable. If you leave your meditation until later, you might never get to it. I got this advice when I interviewed Director X, and I never looked back.
My nice notebook has my goals for the day, my more structured thoughts and is generally really “clean.”
My legal pad is a mess. It’s where I dump my thoughts and brainstorm.
This helps me:
It’s limiting to always “format notes nicely.” But it’s also limiting to have all your notes as unstructured scribbles.
I try to do this every morning. I sit and empty my head onto my legal sheet. Start your day with a fresh mind, not one cluttered with junk and useless thoughts. SCRIBBLE.
I always try to publish and share. It’s limiting. I used to share all my reflections to all the people I trusted. I was sharing so often, that I wasn’t letting myself genuinely think about how I actually felt.
Because I was sharing, I knew people would read my thoughts, so I tried to “perfect” them.
I’ve since made an effort to write private thoughts, that no one will ever see, every day. While still sharing thoughts with other people.
This sounds like a silly one, but it works wonders. All you need to do is bring your attention to the sensation of your toes. This brings your attention to your entire body as it travels down to your feet. Whenever I find myself drifting in thought, or not being present, I think about my toes which “wakes” my attention up.
Don’t keep things bottled. When I feel upset, I usually just blast chasing cars and go on a walk.
Yes, actually talk to yourself in the mirror. It works.
Look yourself in the mirror and pep-talk yourself. Say something kind. Empower yourself.
Schedule time in your week to go on walks to think.
I learned this 1.5 yrs ago, and it has since completely changed how I read books. It’s not about finishing the books you start. Read the books you need. The books that give you value.
Look, I’ve tried kindle. It can be convenient. But, I still haven’t found that it replaces the joy of a physical book.
I always have a pen next to me when I read a book. This helps me read actively. And it makes re-reading easier. Again, you need to buy your books to mark them up.
When you finish a valuable chapter in an addictive book, one of the least-intuitive things to do is to re-read it instead of reading the next chapter.
Hear me out. Just try it. Next amazing chapter you read, re-read it right away.
Whenever I want to work on something, I make it my lock screen.
Don’t clutter your phone (or any part of your life, for that matter).
Grab a marker and do this:
This is a tab where you can compose an email without getting distracted by your inbox.
Use this link, and sign in to your email to set up.
Your phone’s colours are bright and addictive. Putting it in B&W makes it all the less interesting. Here’s an article on how to do that.
I LOVE re-arranging furniture and cleaning rooms. I thrive off of novelty. If you’re someone that likes trying new things, I recommend experimenting with your living space.
So it’s the first thing you do in the morning. Start on a hydrated note.
For the past two months, I haven’t slept with my computer or phone in my room. If you’ve made it this far in this article — I’m telling you right now, this is the thing to do.
Commit to it. You’ll start and end your day on a happier note.
With your electronics out of your room… you’ll need a way to get up. Here’s an alarm clock that doesn’t have a snooze button.
Instead of doing several different things in one day, I try to give my days themes. Each day I can stay focused, and I get more done at the end of the week — and I feel better.
For me, different rooms have different purposes. When I enter a room, I use it as a physical signal to focus on a specific priority. You can also section priorities within a room. For example, in my bedroom I sleep on my bed, do school work on my desk, and read books on my chair.
If you’re working on more than 3 “priorities,” you likely won’t do them all well. Do less achieve more.
Don’t wait until later. If you bought the alarm clock, you’re ahead of the game.
If I am feeling unmotivated to do something, I start by reminding myself why I’m doing it. And not the surface level why. The “big” why.
Example: Feeling unmotivated to finish my biology assignment.
Why this matters: I need it to finish my biology course.
Why this matters: I need my course to graduate high school.
Why this matters: I need to finish high school to go to university.
Why this matters: I am pursuing my education so I can one day help impact people and solve problems.
Now, it’s not some bio assignment due in 3 days. It’s a step towards my journey of impacting people.
I’ve never been a Pomodoro guru. I usually “take a break” after I’ve achieved an outcome. This alone tripled my productivity over the years.
If you really want to do something, bet on yourself. Give a friend $1000 that they can cash in if you fail at x,y,z.
This one is extra tough during the quarantine. I find myself more prepared for my day when I FEEL more prepared. When I FEEL put together, clean and sleek. Is it just me?
This includes sending newsletters, delivering deadlines, etc. At the least, be on time. Practice being early.How you train is how you perform.
I’ve been doing this for almost two years now. Each week, have a person to research and learn something from them. Great examples to start with: Derek Sivers, Sara Blakely and Mathilde Collins.
Re-do what the best have already done. To learn technical subjects, I like to re-write and re-draw their papers in my own words.
I use medium as my teaching ground. You’ll find a way that works best for you.
Buying a whiteboard was one of the top 10 investments I’ve ever made.
The Charisma Myth [book]
Getting to yes [book]
Some of my top self-improvement resources [Supplementary Read]
Setting good goals [Supplementary Read]
IKEA Effect [Supplementary Read]
Hugging is important for your health. [Supplementary Read]
Compose-only email [Email hack]
Make your phone B&W [Phone hack]
Buying a whiteboard [Amazon]
Un-snoozeable alarm [Amazon]
Legal Pad [Amazon]