Illustration: Naomi Elliott

BREATHING SPACE

Little things you can do to make a big difference to your day

Tying your hair up when you need to get shit done, saving the pennies and the pounds, and doing the five-pint challenge (that’s water, not beer). There are tiny tweaks that can transform your day, says Alice Tate

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By Alice Tate on

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Small things can make big differences. We all know the saying and can cite plenty of examples to support it but, on a day-to-day level, how often do we make the effort to try something new, breaking habits and actively going about changing the odd thing for the benefit of the bigger picture? While I wouldn’t go as far as saying I live a life of habit, in reality, in a lot of ways, I guess I do.

There’s no denying that there’s a lot of power in micro actions, though. Wellness expert Aleksi Hoffman dubs them "the brainchild of help". Micro actions are small, actionable and easy to do, she explains: “The power of accumulating small good actions over time is remarkable.”

So, on that note, I quiz my friends and spend a week taking on the small things with big results that they rate.

“I always start a new week with new nails,” my friend says. “And tie your hair up when you need to get shit done.” I find both ideas work really well and I genuinely think I’m 40 per cent more productive with my hair up – what is the science behind that?!

“Do the five-pint challenge,” suggests another friend. Not the pub, but five pints of water every day, ticked off on a chart. I keep my chart at my desk, score a little satisfaction every time I tick off another one and, ultimately, feel far more alert.

“Cook from scratch,” a fellow blogger tells me. Now this one definitely resonates. It’s so easy – too easy – to hit the supermarket after work and pick up a ready-made meal, but there’s serious gratification – and it’s obviously healthier – to cook it all from scratch. Sure, it takes an extra 20 minutes but, since I’ve started clamping down, I’ve felt far more capable in the kitchen and I’ve saved money, too.

A strategically minded friend also suggests breaking down the big jobs on my list. Again, I find this to be surprisingly effective. Big tasks don’t seem so overwhelming 

“Put smaller things on your to-do list to balance out the bigger jobs.” I now swear by this trick – there’s nothing more disheartening than having a to-do list with nothing ticked off, so having a few quick-to-tick-off tasks tricks me into feeling so much more productive.

The same strategically minded friend also suggests breaking down the big jobs on my list. Again, I find this to be surprisingly effective. Big tasks don’t seem so overwhelming and I’m not spending anywhere near as long procrastinating and putting them off. Nothing falls through the cracks, plus I end up having lots of ticks on my to-do list, which always makes me happier.

My sister is a great saver, always has been. Pocket-money records should go on her LinkedIn. Whenever she’s got spare change in her purse or pockets, she empties it out into a jar at home. Not just coppers, but silvers and golds, too — I've even seen notes in there sometimes. She says it stops her spending mindlessly on silly little things. No kidding, at the end of the month, she’s often approaching triple figures.

A week of focusing on the little things made me realise how, yes, they do impact the big things. They might say take life by its horns, but I’d say a more achievable approach is to take it one little chunk at a time. Because, just like the piggy bank, a lot of a little adds up, right?

 

THE POOL’S MICRO ACTIONS THAT HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE

 

“I get my sister to choose my outfit. Getting someone to suggest what you should wear switches things up a bit and Issy inspires me to wear new combinations I’d normally wouldn’t wear.” Elle Turner

“When I’m on my way home, I think of three good things that have happened in the day. It stops me focusing on the one negative thing that’s happened, which always tries to leave work with me.” Frankie Graddon

“This year, for Lent, I gave up taking the bus (two stops) to and from the Tube station and walked instead. I am sure it made barely a dent in my fitness, but mentally I was SO much calmer, just avoiding that little bit of commute – and it was liberating not having to cram on to the bus or get worked up when one was too full to let me on. And I wasn't even late to anything.” Lauren Bravo

“Sometimes, I get in a cooking rut and end up making the same thing every night. So I visit a supermarket that I’m not so familiar with, when I’ve got time to wander – I always find different things to eat this way.” Lucy Dunn

“I always take a digital-free lunch break. To avoid temptation, I leave my phone behind on my desk.” Vicky Bird

“I generally don’t look at my phone until my commute starts. It just means, in the morning, I can breathe for half an hour before the world invades.” Lily Peschardt

@ALICETATE_

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Illustration: Naomi Elliott
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