What is the best piece of advice you got that worked nearly right away?
May 23, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I've been an avid collector of tips, tricks, and approaches to solving problems. There are heuristics that I look for that ofthat can have real positive advantages and accelerated productivity for people. In the early, I read a book called How to Win Friends and influence People, a classic of interpersonal management, and found that the advice to "become genuinely interested in other people" worked nearly instantly to improve my relationships with others. Still, other approaches have worekd as well. I used to play little league baseball and couldn't hit for the life of me until someimagine that there was a speck on the ball being pitched to me and to try and hit that speck and not the whole ball itself. The effect was instantatneous as well.

Still others:
In on Influence, the author speaks of the importance of Reciprocity and that people have a natural tendency to want to reward those who have dthe past. I tried it and it worked extremely well.

A book on how to stop worrying suggested that a good method of falling asleep was to consciously go over every muscle in your body and tell it to "Relax".

When reading Alan Lakein's How to Take Control of Your Time and Life, his tip to set clear long term and short-term goals was revelatory and immediately had a profound effect on how I organized myself.

Harry Lorayne's The Memory Book gave me principals of memorization that worked nearly instantly as well.

Isaac Asimov said that when he got stuck writing a book, Harlan Ellison, his editor told him that mean that he should just move the plot forward and start at a later point in time. Asimov who published nearlyback.

Are there are other examples of advice whether in your occupation or just in hobbies that when you used them nearly instantly showed positive results and thus encouraged you to use them again?

Don't worry if the advice seemed very esoteric. I'm just extremely curious about what things that people have told that worked very quickly and changed people's lives and approaches in the process.

Thanks Hive Mind
posted by RapcityinBlue to Education (87 answers total) 344 users marked this as a favorite
 
Listen when someone tells you something about themselves. Not just listen, but write it down later. Keep it in mind when you interact with them.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:27 AM on May 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


Most projects will either take 90 percent of the available time to get to 50 percent completion, or 50 percent of the time available to get to 90 percent completion. Identify them early in the process and you'll be able to deal with them at the endpoints.

For many tasks -- in particular, housecleaning -- it's better to do 5 minutes of work every day than to do 150 minutes once a month.

Ask yourself when you start getting annoyed at someone, "As the hero of his or her own story, how is that person seeing this interaction?"

Go to the bathroom as soon as your body tells you it needs to.
posted by Etrigan at 11:27 AM on May 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


Let's say you're suddenly thrust into a group of children (under 10 years old) whose names you don't know but need to learn. Little kids get their feelings hurt (it's fleeting, but I'd rather avoid it) if you call them by the wrong name or forget their name, so a good way around that is to intentionally call them by a very obviously wrong name for humorous effect.

As an example, for the first few Girl Scout meetings I held before I started figuring out who was who, I just called them things like "Howard" and "Stanley" and "George". It seemed to go over well.
posted by phunniemee at 11:28 AM on May 23, 2013 [24 favorites]


Go to the bathroom as soon as your body tells you it needs to.

When people are being extremely rude or behaving boorishly or just being inexplicably weird in general, I justify it in my head by convincing myself that they just really need to poop, and are very cranky because of it. No one likes to have to poop and not be able to do it.

It's helped me develop a Mother Theresa level of compassion and sympathy for the assholes in my life.
posted by phunniemee at 11:32 AM on May 23, 2013 [57 favorites]


Anxiety. When feeling anxious imagine you are growing a protective bubble or donning a protective suit of armour. This also works when you feel threatened or someone is paying you unwanted attention.
posted by BenPens at 11:33 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ask for help as soon as you realize you need it. Not three weeks after you realize you need it.

Don't ignore the power of Facebook.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:35 AM on May 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Keeping a rubber band on your wrist to punitively snap when you find yourself chewing on your fingernails really will get you to stop long-term (even after having the habit for 20 years).

Putting a piece of scotch tape over a mosquito bite really will relieve the itching.

A glass of water between cocktails/beers/glasses of wine really will prevent a hangover.

Speaking of water: When you think you're hungry, a lot of times you really are just thirsty.

Actively keeping a list of things people mention wanting/needing throughout the year really will make the holiday season shopping much less stressful.
posted by lovableiago at 11:35 AM on May 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Write every email as if you expect it to be forwarded to that person's boss, and their boss' boss. Include a summation of the problem, and the proposed/given solution. If actions are required, state plainly who must take them and by when. And the consequences of action/inaction, if necessary.

Measure twice, cut once.

Remove the bolts that hold the door over the slot of the HVAC unit. I've never really seemed to need the door.

Pay yourself first. Open a local bank or online bank account, and roll a few bucks into it from your check every pay period, and leave it alone. After a while, start building a CD ladder that you check every X often (I do it monthly in $50 increments on the same day of the month). Do your darnedest to self-escrow.

Figure out what your kid/spouses "thing" is, and find a way to roll with it or compromise in a way that respects everyone. I read on the parenting threads here from time to time (well, everywhere on the internet) that you should force* your kids/spouse to do things more your way on stuff that really doesn't matter (toilet paper hanging direction, balling socks instead of folding).

*they say "work with XYZ to [outcome your better way] but to a huge control freak like me it feels like forcing.

Never miss a chance to nap, ride a train, or let someone teach you something new. I've learned more about bats and racial/gender equality in the sixties through the eyes of my children this year than I learned on my own. I've learned more about my childhood and my family via a long train ride through a horrible series of rainstorms that would have been insane to drive through.

Pet the dogs if they are pettable/non working dogs. Pat the babies and give the older siblings praise or admiration that has nothing to do with their status as an older sibling or relative "biggness" to the younger sibling.

Make [it] into a game. It=everything.

Don't believe everything you read about saints or sinners. The louder the lauding, the deeper the look is needed.

Stroke the kitties, pat the horses, make faces at the fish. Feed the birds.

Wander.

Wonder.
posted by tilde at 11:38 AM on May 23, 2013 [38 favorites]


Buy gifts in advance when they go on sale or strike you - and then REMEMBER WHERE YOU HID THEM. I now wrap things, put a "code" on them and keep the decoder list in a super seekrit place and put task reminders to get it out as I get closer to get it out/mailed.
posted by tilde at 11:40 AM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


For photography, the advice to zoom in on/get closer to my subject markedly improved many of my photos (there are of course many photographs where that approach wouldn't improve them, too, but on balance this was the sort of immediately useful advice that made photographs go from "meh" to "hey, that is pretty good" a lot more often).

Along the lines of Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey's advice to "Seek first to understand, then to be understood" was also super valuable and reaped immediate rewards.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:41 AM on May 23, 2013


Smile when you pick up the phone.
posted by yohko at 11:42 AM on May 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


If you have lost something, start tidying up (while, of course, looking out for the thing). Compared to the natural impulse to tear the room apart looking for the thing, this (1) helps to keep you in a calm and patient state of mind, (2) makes it much more likely that you'll find the thing, and (3) leaves you with a nice tidy room/house whether or not you find it.

Thanks to my mother for this one. Never failed me yet.
posted by pont at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2013 [51 favorites]


Look at the front wheel quick release of the bike ahead of you when in a paceline (rather than the rear wheel immediately in front). Dramatically changes the dynamics of the paceline.

Use a pull-saw for plywood and other soft woods. To some extent this is a gear suggestion, rather than a technique one, but it's one of those extremely simple things that changes everything.

Let the hammer do the work, don't have any force applied to it for the final portion of the swing.
posted by straw at 11:50 AM on May 23, 2013


Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Question authority.

Nothing is permanent, every living thing suffers and dies, and what you think of as a "self" does not actually exist.
posted by divined by radio at 11:56 AM on May 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


Even the dullest, stupidest person you meet is doing the best s/he can.
posted by Cranberry at 12:03 PM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mixing audio: If you want to figure out the loudest element, turn the volume all the way down, then slowly bring it back up. The first thing you hear is the loudest.
posted by dubold at 12:07 PM on May 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Expanding on Cranberry's advice, you can always learn something from everybody — about them, yourself, or the world.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 12:09 PM on May 23, 2013


When learning someone's name, repeat it three times. It'll stick with you better.
posted by jillithd at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Create a rule/filter in your e-mail client that holds all outgoing mail for 5 minutes.
posted by evoque at 12:24 PM on May 23, 2013 [33 favorites]


The person you are and can be is not limited by the person you have been, or by what has happened to you in the past; only by the person you want to be.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 12:33 PM on May 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


If you have lost something, start tidying up (while, of course, looking out for the thing).

Oh, something I learned from my kids: If you drop something and can't find it from where you're standing or sitting, get down on the ground immediately and look where you dropped it. Nine times out of ten, the change in angle reveals it.
posted by Etrigan at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Show up; pay attention; be honest; don't be invested in a particular outcome.

The above set of facets make almost any human encounter/endeavor go well -- which one is difficult varies with the day/person/issue.
posted by acm at 12:41 PM on May 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


the very first comment, listen when someone tells you something about themselves, is very similar to what i consider one of the best pieces advice i've ever gotten. i first saw it on the green and it made sense the first time i saw it and has helped me immensely.

listen when people tell you who they are.

it probably won't be as direct as when they tell you something about themselves ("i served in afghanistan" "when my mom died" etc.), but it really made me look at people differently and in a good way. it's helped me to both see the good in the people and to also set boundaries. as with all advice, YMMV.
posted by sio42 at 12:44 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read this one on the Internet- don't leave for any ticketed event until everyone in the group takes out their ticket and puts it against their forehead.
posted by wittgenstein at 12:45 PM on May 23, 2013 [22 favorites]


Corollary, from my military supply days: Don't sign for possession of anything that you haven't had the chance to put your tongue on.

"No, sir, don't actually put your tongue on it -- just make sure you've been that close to it."
posted by Etrigan at 12:47 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. You can't control much that happens in the world but you can control your emotional/intellectual reaction to it.
posted by neilb449 at 12:48 PM on May 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


When you can't decide between two options, toss a coin, but before you look at the result, ask yourself if you're secretly hoping for one of the outcomes. If so, that's your answer.

When you can't decide between taking an action or not taking it, err on the side of action, except when motivated by anger.

If you feel like everything's terrible and your life's gone wrong, there's a good chance you're just hungry or tired. Have a sandwich or a nap.
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:56 PM on May 23, 2013 [23 favorites]


GET MASON JARS. BE HAPPIER.

Breakfast: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Lunch: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

As a blender jar.

As craft storage.

As snow globes.

I know, that's very deep.
posted by houseofdanie at 12:58 PM on May 23, 2013 [87 favorites]


The thing you're cooking probably needs more salt. If it definitely has enough salt, but still doesn't taste right, it probably needs either a little sugar or a little vinegar.
posted by neroli at 1:04 PM on May 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Don't carry any cash unless you intend to buy something. Try to only pay for things with cash. Your impulse purchases will be much rarer.
posted by neilb449 at 1:07 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you don't ask, the answer will always be a "No." So….. ask!
posted by HeyAllie at 1:19 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Buy gas when it gets down to a quarter of a tank.
posted by yohko at 1:20 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another cooking one: Always finish with an acid. A squeeze of lemon or lime or a dash of (good) vinegar will liven up whatever you are making.
posted by BrashTech at 1:29 PM on May 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


... the advice to zoom in on/get closer to my subject ...

Ditto that. The way I heard it was, "Fill the frame."
posted by Bruce H. at 1:32 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


On a motorcycle: look where you want to go, not down at the ground.
posted by scratch at 1:36 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Two for C programmers:

Use assert (). It will find bugs.

When comparing a variable and a constant, put the constant first. if (LIMIT == value). When (not if, when) you accidentally leave out one of the equal signs, thereby turning the comparison into an assignment, the compiler will gag on assigning to a constant.
posted by Bruce H. at 1:40 PM on May 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


For analysis and solving of problems: Determine what the problem is.

It sounds overly simplistic, but many times that step is skipped.
posted by yohko at 1:52 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read this article in the NY Times a few years ago, and was struck by the phrase "Most Respectful Interpretation." So often, we (okay, I) don't do that - I am prone to jump to conclusions or imagine subtext where maybe there isn't any. So stopping to consider the MRI of what a person has just said/written has been very helpful for my own stress level and my interpersonal communications.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:53 PM on May 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


When dealing with any repetitive task that has a high consequence of failure, use a checklist. Like they do before you take off in a plane. They started doing this in surgery and discovered it cut down on errors more than 50% (I think) and sped things up. So if you don't want to screw up, use a checklist.
posted by bartonlong at 2:14 PM on May 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


If someone tells you he (himself) is an asshole, believe him. Don't make him prove it.
posted by rpfields at 2:26 PM on May 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


From an experienced reference librarian, when I was starting out in the profession - Never, ever punt when responding to someone. Tell what you know, and identify what you need to find out.
posted by mmiddle at 2:28 PM on May 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Echoing what bartonlong just said but in a more specific manner: Make an excel template that includes anything that you think you'd want to pack when away from home. Pretend you're leaving tomorrow. You can include separate sheets for lists that might be a bit different (weekend trip, camping, week-long vacation) or you can include them all on one list. The main point is that you include everything that you would likely want to bring, even the small stuff.

When it's time to go on a trip, open up this excel template, save a copy, and delete everything that you aren't going to bring and add the maybe one or two unique items that you couldn't have predicted. It's so much easier to do this than to try to remember ALL THE THINGS each and every time. Since starting this a couple years ago I haven't forgotten something on a vacation once.

Don't be afraid to add to the template as time goes on.

(I guess this doesn't work RIGHT away, but close enough that I thought it qualified)
posted by Defenestrator at 2:29 PM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


When trying to understand people with difficult (to you) accents, repeat what they said, in your head. You'll get it, and without that awkward 'What, did you say xx' and getting it wrong. You'll seem a bit slow at first, but you get quicker and the conversation flows better.

Trying to sleep? Put your book with the eyeline reading area above your eyes so you're looking up. They get tired and want to shut by themselves.
posted by symphonicknot at 2:37 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Be nice to people - it gives you the upper hand.
posted by mani at 2:43 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


If something doesn't fill a real need in your house (or life) or if that something doesn't make you happy if only because it is beautiful, has happy memories around or makes you feel good about yourself, why are you keeping it? The less junk you have in your life either physically, spiritually or emotionally the easier your life will be.
posted by wwax at 3:00 PM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


How not to fall when getting off the chairlift when sbowboarding: wait until you almost feel that its too late, then lean forward and let the lift push you! Have never fallen since! (Why did it take 10 plus lessons for someone to tell me?)
posted by heybearica at 4:05 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


From meditation: if you are suffering, or in discomfort, stop trying to run away from it, or shove it down, or soothe yourself. Feel the pain. Go with it. Sit there and focus on it. What does it feel like? Just be with it.

I can't overstate the impact this has had on all areas of my life. The thing is, once you face discomfort and embrace it, it diminishes, as does its power over you and you can just... go on.

Honestly, life changing.

Caveat: I'm not talking about unbearable pain, like surgery or anything, more the daily pains and discomforts of life. Which are manifold and profound.

Second caveat: it was instant for me, but I had been meditating for a while when this was explained to me, so perhaps I was a bit more receptive to the idea than I might otherwise have been.
posted by t0astie at 4:55 PM on May 23, 2013 [22 favorites]


Well, this is one somewhat inspired by the baseball tip. When I was learning to ski I read on a women's ski forum someone recommended the slogan "push the bush" with regard to keeping your weight forward on the skis. That one was a keeper. I still sometimes whisper "push the bush" to myself when I am skiing. Also "I am Batman," but that's more for fun and recreation than for keeping my weight forward expressly.
posted by mermily at 5:17 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obvious: Hold your arms out, then pull your hands toward you when catching something thrown to you.

Esoteric: If your challahs aren't coming out of the oven looking pretty, you're probably pulling too tight when you braid them. Drape the strands loosely over each other and never pull or stretch the dough.
posted by Mchelly at 5:19 PM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, also, this fun but effective Ladies' tip for good posture: Up, not out.
posted by Mchelly at 5:20 PM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I signed up for the Army, I asked my recruiter for advice.
He said, "Shut up and listen."

When I told my best friend I was going to "boot camp" he said,
"Don't think about it while you are there, just do it. When you are done, look back and decide if it was worth it. If you think while you are there, you'll make yourself crazy."

Those 2 pieces of advice saved my life.
posted by Ignorance at 5:44 PM on May 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


Keep your mouth shut
posted by radsqd at 5:47 PM on May 23, 2013


Learned riding a motorcycle: look all the way to the END of the turn. Your line will follow the curve and you won't be surprised by the unexpected.

Can also be used as a metaphor (probably the most useful application).

Above all: don't panic -- there will always be time for that later.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 7:03 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Win with class. Lose with more.
posted by hockeyfan at 8:16 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one is going to be impressed by what you have on your bookshelf. If you've read it, and plan to read it again, keep it on the shelf. If you think you'll need to refer to it again, keep it on the shelf. If it has sentimental value, keep it on the shelf. If none of these qualifications are met, get rid of it.

Never loan books to people. If they ask you to borrow them a book, just give it to them.

If you give a new book as a gift to someone, inscribe it.

Those old books you see at garage sales and flea markets and thrift shops do not have feelings; they are inanimate. They do not need to be rescued by you.

Learning all this took time, but it made moving a lot easier.
posted by Wrongshanks at 8:18 PM on May 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


For overcoming fear - think of the "me of tomorrow". If I want to do something but fear is holding me back, if I chicken out I know the "me of tomorrow" will be annoyed at the "me of today". So I think of that and do whatever fear is holding me back from, mostly so the "me of tomorrow" won't be cross with the "me of now".

Not sure if that makes sense the way I described it though.
posted by Admira at 9:14 PM on May 23, 2013 [19 favorites]




Say or think something positive and energizing to yourself as soon as you wake up.

"Let's do this!" "Yea!" "Here we go!"

It sets the tone for the day before anything or anyone else can, and it stays with you throughout the day.
posted by tenaciousd at 10:02 PM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Building off of what Admira said, I may not want to do something but I want to have done it. And the only way to have done something is to do it. I use this a lot in hiking. I don't want to hike up that whole mountain, but I want to have hiked up it. And then I get to the top and the view is awesome and the endorphins are flowing and then I remember why I do it.
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:13 PM on May 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


Don't expect the people in your life to know how you're feeling or what you're thinking if you don't actually tell them.
posted by islander at 12:57 AM on May 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


Never cut what you can untie.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:01 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find that if I'm stuck on something, the way out is to just start doing something even if it's obviously wrong. By acting immediately, you get yourself out of the mental hole you're digging for yourself and the results of your actions will feedback into the eventual proper course.

For example, I am learning how to write original music. At first, I would spend hours (hours!) just staring at a blank sheet of paper waiting for inspiration to come. Nowadays I will start out just noodling on the guitar or simply talking out loud to myself and something will stick. Often, those first exercises never make it in to the final product, but they kickstart the creative process.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:55 AM on May 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have shared google spreadsheets for the following items, which both my husband and I can see/edit at any time:

- car maintenance: put in what got done, date, mileage. Also, keep a folder with car receipts. Stick every receipt into that folder the moment you get home with it. This will greatly improve your ability to resell the car at a higher price, and will keep you sane should you need access to these documents.

- house maintenance: exact same deal as car maintenance. Also, if you own a house and go to sell it, you can write off any work you did to "improve" it and you will have these handy receipts should you get audited.

- monthly budget: half the excel spreadsheet is broken down into columns of how much can be spent in each category and how much has been spent in each category so far this month. The other half is broken down into categories where literally every purchase is recorded. If you update your purchases every single day, it will take you less than 5 minutes (if it takes more, you have too many accounts open). This will change your financial life.
posted by corn_bread at 7:39 AM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Whack the side of the ketchup bottle, not the bottom.

When trying to open stubborn jars, knock the edge of the lid on the floor or cutting board, pretty hard.
posted by straw at 8:14 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Use a checklist--when I was in residency and had to keep every damn thing I needed in my pockets as I ran all over the hospital in a sleep-deprived state, I had a mental checklist that went something like "stethoscope, keys, pager, money, smartphone, to-do list". It kept me from walking away from stuff many a time.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:36 AM on May 24, 2013


When talking to a kid you haven't seen in a while, don't ask about school... ask "What are you into now?" Kids like talking about their hobbies and interests, and they'll be really happy you asked.

If someone's having difficulty (breakup, death in the family, etc) try to help in a practical way. Bring food, fold their laundry, mail a package. Emotional support is really nice, but it's the mundane stuff that often gets overwhelming in those situations.

If you have to use a microphone, position it at your chin, instead of right in front of your mouth. The sound will fall into it, and you won't get that annoying pop when you say "p" words. You might have to talk a week bit louder, but it sounds way better. Works for singing too.

When you're bowling, keep your arm straight as you release the ball.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 8:46 AM on May 24, 2013 [17 favorites]


Keep a pair of warm socks near any place you regularly sit barefoot for long periods (i.e. your desk at home). Otherwise the effort of getting up to find them is too much - "My feet aren't that cold" - and I regret it when my feet are like icicles later.
posted by danteGideon at 9:11 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Using a small carabiner as a master keyring for my various sets of keys has been weirdly transformative. It's strong, reliable, makes it incredibly easy to add or remove keys so you don't schlep along a gigantic handful of metal when e.g. you're only going to your office. And besides holding your keys, it clips to anything: the strap of your handbag (so you don't have to root around fruitlessly for it), the handle of your water bottle (when you're out on a run) etc. Small, but you know, it's the little things.
posted by idlethink at 11:26 AM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]



Using a small carabiner as a master keyring for my various sets of keys has been weirdly transformative.


Building off of this idea, my key chain is a small carabiner and a bunch of cable rings.

Each class of keys has its own cable (house keys on one, keys to another building on another, car keys on another, work keys on another, etc) and they're all different colors to identify them immediately (or allow other people to find the keys they need when borrowing them, e.g. you want the one on the purple band).

It makes it really easy to break down. Car in the shop? I can snap the car key off superfast. Just taking the dog out and only need the house keys? Snap them off superfast. Etc. No fiddling with the metal split rings, no fussing to separate key types in a hurry.

It has changed my life.
posted by phunniemee at 11:33 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thought of another:

If you're wrestling with two courses of action, over an extended time, then probably the harder one is "right." (That is, if the easier one were right, you'd just do it and move on, no internal battle, right?)

So often true, if often also, you know, hard.
posted by acm at 11:50 AM on May 24, 2013 [26 favorites]


When you're bowling, keep your arm straight as you release the ball.

Yup - and aim the ball at the arrows on the floor part way up the lane, not at the pins.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:02 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're doing something for the benefit of someone else, first ask them if that's what they actually want.
posted by dickasso at 3:32 PM on May 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Rubber Duck Debugging.

If something's not working, find someone to act as tech support. Explain the problem to them so they can help you solve it.

Note that it doesn't have to be someone who will know the answer; it doesn't have to even be a real sentient being - a rubber duck works just as well as a knowledgeable colleague. The magic is that, as you explain what's happening and list all the things you've already tried to fix it, you become aware of the things you HAVEN'T done and any other possible causes you could try to fix.

This is especially good for computer and mechanical problems, but it sometimes works for other things, too.
posted by kristi at 4:18 PM on May 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


HALT: Never make an important decision whe you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:44 PM on May 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Nonviolent Communication is a book I would recommend for you.

The part that helped me instantly in my conversations was replacing words of judgement with descriptions. A good example of how to do this is the video "How to tell people they sound racist" by Jay Smooth. It extends to pretty much all judgement words, though, even things that seem relatively innocuous or mundane.

Examples from the book. Compare: "You work too much." vs: "You spent more than sixty hours at the office this week." Or: "My father is a good man." vs: "For the last 25 years, my father has given one-tenth of his salary to charity."

It makes a surprisingly huge difference.
posted by aniola at 9:26 AM on May 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


From a poster in the breakroom of an old job site:
No matter how you feel when you wake up in the morning, get up, get dressed, put your shoes on and give it a try.
It became a mantra of sorts that got me through some hard times.
posted by honeyx at 10:04 AM on May 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


don't go grocery shopping when hungry. i found it has immediate effect on my grocery bill and level of junk food in-taking...
posted by kingfish at 7:24 PM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Always fill your gas tank every Sunday. That way, you'll never find yourself short of gas and having to hit the gas station as you are hurrying to work Monday morning.
posted by fings at 2:53 PM on May 26, 2013


Always drop your keys in the same place.

A bowl or a hook are top recommendations. Mine go on the hall table or on a patterned tile/coaster on a shelf near the door (home vs university room). They make a distinctive noise whenever they hit either of these, so I know I've put them down there. I pass the key-spots regularly in going about the place so I happen to be able to easily spot if I've put them there or not - and if not, I get to search for them then in idle moments and put them where they should be, rather than not noticing till I'm trying to leave. I've just reinstated them from travelling after typing the above, in fact.
posted by lokta at 3:48 PM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Squeaky wheel gets the grease.
If you want something then ask for it. People won't know you want/need something unless you tell them. Be prepared for them to say no and accept that answer graciously. Be appreciative and gracious if they say yes. Seriously, this is good advice. I had a heater installed in my office because I was freezing cold and I tend to fall asleep when I get cold (Yes, I know, I'm backwards.) I told my manager, next week I had my heater. In the wintertime when it is cold and my office is mosty toasty people are always "Awww, why do you get a heater!!?" and my answer is always just "I asked for one."

Take people at their word.
Remove any belief in hidden messages. Don't read in to things. Listen to what people say and take it at face value. Don't allow people to make you feel guilty for not 'reading between the lines' and figuring out what they actually meant. If they say they are "Fine" then accept it. If you doubt whether they are actually "fine" call them on it (ie. "Your behaviour makes me doubt that you are fine, but if you say you are then I will believe you.") but continue to behave as though what they said is true. The longer you do this the more people realise that they need to be honest with you. People stop playing games because it doesn't really work unless the other person engages in it. The people who are really invested in game playing and manipulation will show their true colours much more quickly, saving you a lot of trouble.


Expect people to take you at your word.
Your partner/spouse/significant other/best friend/parent/sibling/every person on the planet has no effing idea what the freg you are thinking. As obvious as you think it is, it isn't. Even if it IS obvious, everyone doesn't want to make assumptions and look like an ass. Learn NOW to tell people how you're actually feeling and what you're actually meaning. Dropping hints or alluding to things is annoying and counterproductive, especially in romantic relationships. If someone asks you how you feel and you say "Fine." when you aren't, you don't get to be upset when they don't offer you comfort, support, and understanding. The sooner you learn to be clear and direct with what you're feeling and thinking with the people around you, the sooner you life will suddenly become way less complicated.


Put all your matching bedding (Fitted sheet, flat sheet, pillow case) inside one of the pillowcases. That way when you need to change your sheets you just grab one of the bedding packets, knowing that everything you need is there.


Go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time every day, including weekends. Consistent regular sleep schedule is what the body wants and thrives in. This seems really simple and dumb has CHANGED MY LIFE. I now fall asleep more easily, get more restful sleep, wake up more easily in the morning, and I am more alert and awake during the day. I don't set an alarm clock on the weekends but still wake up at basically the same time naturally. Basically, everything is awesome now that I have a very regular sleep pattern.


Keep ziplock baggies in your purse/car/etc. Those things come in handy more often than you'd believe.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:51 AM on May 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


When looking for flights online do so in private browsing mode (Incognito mode for chrome which is accessed by command+shift+n), or make sure you remove all cookies/cache.

Installed cookies will cause the price of the flights to slowly increase in price over time. Try it and see for yourself! It's already saved me a couple hundred dollars.
posted by ghostpony at 8:59 AM on May 28, 2013 [22 favorites]


mmiddle: "From an experienced reference librarian, when I was starting out in the profession - Never, ever punt when responding to someone. Tell what you know, and identify what you need to find out."

Corollary: If you have access to a reference librarian, take advantage of it! I consider myself to be an excellent researcher, but good reference librarians are wizards or something. They'll find sources that you've never even dreamed of.
posted by schmod at 11:28 AM on May 28, 2013


Variation on some previous themes but I had kind of an epiphany when I processed that this journey of life is about the beauty and wisdom bestowed by both suffering AND the joy. Trying to avoid the former and tallying up the latter is a terrible waste of time.

I actually enjoy the good parts more, now, and I lean in to the bad, better.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:58 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Put yourself on the list for cancellation appointments. I've saved several hundred dollars yearly on that, either in no losing wages or getting a "get your butt in here in an hour" discount.
posted by tilde at 12:08 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes the bad mood you're trying to stop yourself from having or talk yourself out of having will go away faster if you just let yourself have it.

Travel. Stay in youth hostels where possible (but spring for the private rooms if you can afford it).

Make messes when you cook - wipe up spills on the floor, but don't worry about spills on the counter, your apron, the stovetop, etc. You can clean it up later. And for some reason, letting yourself make messes lets you be this zany madcap devil-may-care person in the kitchen, and I am convinced that lets you be more daring and more adventurous as a cook.

Many of the problems you encounter may have an element that has a surreal, Monty-Python quality to it. Keep an eye out for that - it can you laughing about your lot rather than moaning about it.

Set up automatic bank transfers to make WEEKLY payments to both your savings and your longstanding debt. Whatever you need to pay or can afford to pay monthly, divide it by four and make that much of a payment weekly. It will be smaller, and thus less noticeable; it'll be spread out so you'll feel it less; and it'll be automatic so you won't have to a) remember or b) feel the anxiety about it when you do. It'll just happen when you aren't looking.

Learn to make things by hand. Anything. Clothes, food, wrapping paper, slipcovers, bowls, tables, liqueurs, candles, whatever. If it's just for you, it won't matter if it's not perfect; and if it's decent, people will be really impressed if you give it as a gift (for some reason, that same "you made this with your own hands" thing that gave your mother such a thrill when you were seven never really goes away).

Always buy lemonade from kids selling it on the street.

Never pass up the chance to lie in a hammock for a while.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:58 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


To improve your posture while walking and standing, imagine a balloon is attached to the crown of your head. This will give you a nice, upright, yet relaxed posture.
posted by exceptinsects at 4:59 PM on June 4, 2013


give yourself a pat on the back whenever you come to an awareness that you've drifted away--it's great to be back!
posted by wallawallasweet at 5:48 AM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


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