How to design your life

I recently stumbled across the article how to design your life. But the problem was it didn’t say much. I was hoping for some practical tips and hints, but instead it outlined some broader principles- still good, but vague.

I’ve decided to write the article I was hoping to read.

Step 1. Go on vacation

If this is not an option, at least take a long walk, drive or run. Try to do something that you don’t normally do to get away from your house-away from your everyday life. This will give you perspective and a clear head. It’s easier to see the little things in life that annoy you when you’ve not had to deal with them for a day or two. Try to rid yourself of all distractions when you start- if you’re too hungry or tired or distracted you won’t get very far.

Step 2. Make a list

Write down anything that pops into your head that you’d like to change about your life and start writing it down in a list on a big piece of paper. (I suggest a notebook- not a loose sheet- but hey, it’s your life.) It might help to incorporate any running to-do lists you have- but don’t just think small stuff. Walk around your house- this will help jog your memory as to things you’ve been meaning to get to. For example when I walked into my bedroom I remembered that I wanted to buy framed mesh to hang my earrings on so they wouldn’t clutter up my dresser. Don’t just think of things you want to buy and projects you want to finish, but also more general goals such as spending more time with family. What would you like to make a priority in your life that up to this point you’ve just been to busy to make happen?

Step 3. Revise and strategize

Now you’ve got your working draft- the guts of the beast. Go through your list and make notes of the practical ways you can implement these broader themes. Want to shop locally? Become a member of the local food Co-op, or a regular at a farmers market. Tired of your jewelry? Organize and host a jewelry swap (or for guys, a tool swap?) Want to have a more consistent bedtime? Set an alarm when it’s time to go to bed and wake up at the same time every morning too. It’s much easier to tackle these life principles if you have practical hooks with which to grab them.

Step 4. Just do it

Now comes the final and most important step: action. Now take all of the practical ideas you thought of and schedule it. Put it on the calendar, write it on a sticky note, or get a tattoo- whatever your preferred method is to remember things. I love the checklist and I haven’t found many people who don’t. Writing your list in such a way that you can come back to an item and check it off is extremely satisfying- and perhaps motive enough to get things done. To give yourself the final push off the dock, think through what has been holding you back from accomplishing these things before. Time, money, help, laziness? If money is an issue try to find ways to barter for services- ask friends. Sometimes even small businesses are willing to accommodate a trade if you can give them adequate goods in return. There won’t be a “yes” until you ask. If time is an issue, you’ll have to cut something else out of your life. It’s as simple as that. This list was created for a reason and if you’re serious about making it a priority, then that means something else has to go. A wonderful book recommended to me dealing with this is margin. Remember to come back to the list frequently for updates and revisions. Over time you’ll be able to not only mark your progress, but reap the rewards of a life well-designed.

I hope this article has motivated you to write your own list and begin the process of designing your life. If I’ve helped you at all I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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With a passion for communicating through design and an OCD level of pixel-perfection, Hannah continually seeks to refine the poetry of her code.
January 15th, 2013 // // , ,
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