Top 8 Methods of Effective Self Improvement
Self improvement is an on-going process of refinement that is a joy to engage. When that process of creativity and improvement gets frustrating or overwhelming, here are a few effective self improvement methods you can give a try to keep engaging the art of refining your character in a fun and effective way.
- Develop a habit tracking practice.
- Take 30 minutes every week to reconnect with your big interests.
- Break down all your interests into activities then put those activities on a calendar.
- Find an inspiring book to read about your field of study
- Stop setting overt goals for a few days and just document your day’s activities. Trust that your subconscious knows the way.
- Read a book out loud to someone who loves you.
- Build an altar in your house or yard and light a candle to invite new creative energy into your life.
- Identify which part of the self improvement cycle you are in at this time and relax into that energy.
Develop a habit tracking practice.
One of the most successful apps of our times is the language learning app Duolingo. This powerful tool struck gold when it gamified the language learning process. When I experienced the power of tracking my progress in relation to such an infinite field as learning a language, I started to see the benefits of tracking daily engagements in all my interests. Gamifying our habits is just plain fun. I can’t tell you how many times I managed to do a set of push ups just because I wanted to fill in the little “accomplished” bubble in my habit tracker journal. At the end of the year it can be very uplifting to see your perseverance. It is also helpful to legalize not pursuing an interest if you never got to it. Seeing patterns of our daily behaviors can really help us take stock in what we prioritize and why. It also gives us a sense of order and method as we proceed through the ocean of never-ending self improvement activities.
There are lots of online ways to track habits. Here is a habit tracker by Gridfiti that I love which uses the <link>Notion.so</link> platform. Notion is a free online extravaganza of structuring oceans of information. It has beautiful visual components and is sharable. If you like the pen and paper method, you might like to create your own habit tracking journal with Canva.com. Here is a downloadable example of the habit tracker I designed and use daily to maintain effective self improvement methods throughout the week.
Take 30 minutes every week to reconnect with your big goals.
Setting up the habit tracking game inspired by Duolingo led me quickly to discover the value in weekly and daily goal setting. Even if we do not meet the goals we set, setting them is a huge help in figuring out which direction to move in. Setting goals ensures that we will at least be heading in the right direction because we have clarified where we want to get to. The purpose of setting a goal is not so much about making sure that goal gets accomplished as it is about identifying with greater clarity what we want to spend our time on and why.
At the end of the week take a moment to reflect on how that week flowed then jot down what you hope to have happen in the coming week. Identify your main area of interest and then see how much time you actually dedicate to that intention. If you are consistently not getting to the things you identify as your aims for the week, it is definitely time to release the activities you think you should be doing (but which you will forever put off because you do not really want to do them) and identify truly what you really want to spend your time on.
One helpful tip for identifying big goals is to not have more than one big goal at a time. We have many interests all the time but dedicating time to specific fields of interest is vital to really being able to connect with that material. Dedicate three months to one big goal. So that you do not try to do too many things.
One month has roughly 4 weeks. Assign at least 4 weeks to a goal and let that be the primary focus in your life for that time. We often take courses in topics for this very purpose- to compel us to make consistent dedicated time to study an interest. While courses are always excellent, we can initiate that structure in our lives ourselves any time. Identify what one area of activities you will focus on for the coming month and then for the month, put aside any other interests until 30 days is up.
Break down all your interests into activities then put those activities on a calendar.
After you have decided on one goal or interest for the month, make a list of all the activities involved with that one big goal. What is needed to get started? Buy supplies? Clear a space? Learn a process? Drive to a location for a class? Break down every activity involved with the goal and then place each activity onto your calendar. Even if you do not get to the activity that day, you will remember it needs to be scheduled at some point.
If you find you do not do what you put on your calendar to do, ask yourself why. It may be time to read books about overcoming resistance such as: <link>The War of Art by Steven Presfield</link> or <link>The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron</link>.
If you still feel overwhelmed by how to structure your day, consider the 8-hour segment process I developed to help me with my own goals. The 8-hour segment process recognizes that we have about 8 hours of high performance time each day. Divide these 8-hours into four time segments of roughly 3 hours. Then recognize that the first and second segments (9 am to 12 and 12pm to 3) are the times in the day when you will have the most energy and the highest attention span. (If you are a night owl, please alter the 3-hour segments to be evening oriented!)
When it comes to developing effective self improvement methods, we need to acknowledge that our attention can really only focus for a maximum of 3 hours at a time before we need to take a break or change activities. The first 3-hour segment will be what receives our highest level of energy for the day. The second has less energy, the third 3-hour segment has even less until finally it is bedtime. Assigning yourself one major activity per day for the prime time segment ensures that you will give that chosen activity your full focus. Trying to do too many tasks in one day causes a block in progress and a dispersion of focus. Choose one main activity and be realistic about how much time it will take. Then add another hour to that time as mental transition time.
Find an inspiring book to read about your field of study.
We can not sustain effective self improvement methods if we do not make time for a continuous learning process. Reading books or listening to them in audio form is an essential habit to establish for life-long self improvement. Create a book list then systematically read them. You can gamify the tracking of your book reading with a habit tracker!
I prefer to read in the first and the last segment of the day. I read in bed before getting up and I read in bed before falling asleep. Reading in bed is a big signal to my brain that reading is a relaxation activity that I do not need to be sharp for. If something in what I read needs to be remembered, I bookmark it and get to it later. Reading first and last each day is a great way to inform my next day’s output sessions. I fall asleep to the educational material and I warm up into it the next morning. Reading at these times relaxes my brain because I do not expect myself to pay close attention or be precise. I let the author be the expert and I relax into being the student.
Stop setting overt goals for a few days and just document your day’s activities. Trust your subconscious.
Day planners used to really stress me out because they invariably became reminders of what I did not do that day. We always write down our ideal agenda for the day and then that day usually unfolds in an unpredictable and wild way. I’ve literally sat down to write out an agenda then gotten up from my desk and proceeded to not do a single thing on that list. It is as if a completely different person is writing that list who has no contact with the person who is going to live out the day.
That is why I stopped giving myself instructions on what to do and started just documenting at the end of the day what I actually did end up doing. This reversal of documenting helped reduce feelings of claustrophobia and straight out defiance behavior on my part. Now I think of the process as tracking the wild animal (me) as she goes about her unpredictable day. And to my surprise, I did manage to find my way to the activities that needed to happen to keep my goals on track. And what’s more, I felt much more interested and way less resentful because I stopped feeling like I was pulling myself by a leash to the activities. Let yourself find your own way to the day’s activities. This also has the added benefit of being completely surprised by spontaneously taking up an activity that was nowhere in our conscious mind but which was extremely helpful and fun to discover.
I set up my calendar pages to incorporate both what I aim to do each day as well as what I actually did that day. The differences are often hilarious. And when they do align I usually eat some chocolate.
But I eat chocolate regardless.
Eating chocolate is one of the most effective self improvement methods available which needs no explanation.
Read a book out loud to someone you love.
Reading out loud has uncountable neurological benefits as well as humbling, character building capacities. Hearing your own voice attempt to present information in an understandable way can help with building confidence with public speaking as well as make strong synapse connections in the brain. It is fun and challenging and very exciting when you start to experience improvements in your oration skills. Reading aloud to yourself or someone else is the cheapest and most effective self improvement method you could find! Give it a try with an easy text first then work your way up to complex language. Get a book of poetry from the library or read a gripping mystery over coffee each day out loud. If you are a writer or a public speaker, this activity is an essential tool to engage daily.
Build an altar in your house or yard.
That’s right. Up to now I’ve been pretty Newtonian about listing all our effective self improvement methods but now I have become a bit quantum. A bit New Age. And I do so proudly, because, I ask you, which Age would you rather live in, the old one or the New one? I’m all for the new one so let’s end with a bit of mystic mystery.
But ironically, if we are completely honest, altars are not new. They are ancient tools that come very much from the old, old, ways. Altar building has stood the test of time and that’s no accident.
But what is an altar and why should you consider engaging in such an activity?
An altar is a visual expression of a desire to connect to a higher source of wisdom. Every religion in the world builds altars but they are not inherently religious. They are inherently psychological tools to help us contemplate that which is beyond our current awareness. So clearing a space and constructing an arrangement of items for no other purpose than contemplation actually has practical value in the realm of self improvement. The reality is, you are a huge mystery. How you work and how the people around you work is and will forever be… a mystery. Building an altar consciously acknowledges that you recognize the mystery of life and you seek clarity and guidance from a larger source. If you do not know if such a source of wisdom actually exists you probably experience levels of loneliness and anxiety that could be remedied by allowing yourself to consider the possibility of higher realms of energy and wisdom. Building an altar is an excellent way to begin dialoguing with the thought processes keeping you separate from the universal creative field that is available to you at any time.
Altar building is an invitation into a new way of thinking. Or rather, it is an invitation to think less and feel/sense more. I teach people to build altars using the 4 basic elements as a foundation. So in the clearing you make on a table or a shelf, place a bowl of water, a candle, a stone, and some sort of fragrance to burn like sage or cedar or incense sticks. The four elements are the ultimate reality check. Everything and everyone in your life comes from fire, air, water, and earth. Recognizing the four “simple” components after a long, complicated day of interweb socializing can bring your mind quickly to a state of calm.
Making the altar how you like it is a tiny but powerful way to feel a sense of autonomy in your life. Arrange it how you feel it needs to be. Place any other objects that you feel called to add. Move those objects around from day to day and experience a unique conversation with energy and intuition.
An altar is a visual request for guidance and help in your self improvement process. It is like a window or a door in your life that you open to let a mysterious, cosmic breeze blow through the daily routine. It is an invitation to contemplate the grace of the mystery and to let that grace guide your own actions. It is also a fun, creative expression of beauty you can build anywhere you go.
Want to discover more self-improvement methods? Join a Constellations workshop and discover a fun, powerful way to learn about yourself and your loved ones.