Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

“Now, it can be easy to overlook the small stuff because of how tedious and unrewarding the small details or tasks can be sometimes. However, to build up to handling the big things in life, you can’t sweat the small stuff.”

In other articles, I have stressed the importance of focusing on what you have control over in your life and not worrying about what is out of your control. I also have discussed why you should start each day by tackling small you can do to build confidence and belief in yourself such as making your bed each morning or being able to cook meals consistently each week. Now, it can be easy to overlook the small stuff because of how tedious and unrewarding the small details or tasks can be sometimes. However, to build up to handling the big things in life, you can’t sweat the small stuff.

In this post, I am going to focus on how to make the small ‘stuff’ or ‘tasks’ a little bit easier than before. While you may have no choice to get the small stuff done so they don’t become big problems later, I do believe it is easier now than ever to get the small stuff done as quickly and as painlessly as possible without sweating it too much. I am going to cover three different ways where you at home can get the small stuff done and to be done well with no issues. Between automation, making list(s) / calendar tracking, and keeping a consistent weekly or daily routine, you won’t have to worry about the small stuff because you’ll have a system ready to go that is organized and efficient to handle all your menial tasks.

Step 1: Automate, Automate, Automate

When most people think of automation, they think of giant robots handling packages in a factory or a counter where you can order McDonald’s without talking to a human being because they’ve been replaced by an interactive screen; while that is automation, that’s not the kind of automation I am talking about. You can automate many menial or annoying tasks or chores these days with the palm of your hand.

There are multiple mobile applications or websites where you can automate your payments whether its’ your mortgage / rent, your utility bills including Internet, electric, gas, etc. or even when it comes to your retirement, insurance, or other long-term commitments. You no longer need to send a check or use the mailing system to automate these chores or tasks. Bills are among the most annoying of the small stuff that we must take care of but even though we still have to pay them, it’s easier now than ever to set up a system that month to month, year to year, takes care of it for you with minimal effort.

In addition, there used to be a lot more work involved to rent a car, to get your driver’s license, to apply for a passport. I believe many of these tasks, while still tedious involve less bureaucracy than before and are more technologically advanced where you don’t need to go to the DMV, the post office, etc. You can do most of these menial tasks from the comfort of your home and that makes the ‘small stuff’ much less to sweat about.

Step 2: Making List(s) / Track with Your Calendar

Related to automating your small tasks, it’s easier now with the Internet or the digital age in general to create new portable lists or having different kinds of calendars to track your daily, weekly, and/or monthly tasks. You can easily categorize your lists by kinds of tasks whether it’s for errands, bills, family obligations, travel, work items, business tasks, etc. and keep track of what you need to still do with check lists. The best part is with the digitalization, you can keep your lists with you on the go rather than having to carry a notepad or small book with you everywhere you go to remind you of what’s on the list(s).

Similarly, to the digitization of lists, using digital calendars to mark down different work, personal, school, travel, family events is key, and you can also color code them to not mix them up. You can use various applications to set up your calendars and to set reminders, so you won’t forget the tasks, obligations, or other ‘small stuff’ you need to take care of. The best thing about calendars is you can also mark them by time and place and to put them in chronological order to not overlap.

Calendars used to be big sheets of white paper that were physically based and a bit hard to read depending on the person’s handwriting. Now, similar to lists, you can take your calendars with you on the go. It is good for the environment too as you waste less paper too when you put your lists and calendars on your phone or laptop rather than a piece of paper. Just remember to protect your privacy and make sure your personal lists and events remain personal.

Step 3: Stay Consistent with Your Routine(s)

This last step may seem a bit redundant, but you are your own worst enemy or best friend when it comes to keeping consistent with your routines. You can set them up however you want but just make sure they work for getting all the small stuff in your life done well. If you’re better at doing a bunch of things in one day, then you should do it. If you are instead a master at spreading out tasks over a week or even a month, that should be your route to small stuff completion. I recommend going through a trial and error to see if a daily routine or a weekly routine, or even a monthly routine for certain tasks would work best for you.

You should not get frustrated if you need to add to your routine(s) or take things away when you no longer do them. Maybe you prefer automating grocery delivery on a different day instead of going on a Saturday when you have karate practice; you should be comfortable with adapting your routine as new tasks and even new hobbies fill your schedule. The key to consistency is to keep doing what you have to do every day, every week, or every month to keep life going right as much as you can control. Making sure your bills are paid on time, saving up for your rent or mortgage by keeping a set budget, or showing up to your soccer practices each week and not skipping will all make huge differences in your life.

To improve your overall life satisfaction, I believe it’s necessary especially as you get older to embrace these three steps to help you overcome the small stuff that could end up derailing you in life if you don’t take care of them and don’t do so consistently. You may think you only need one out of these three steps, but I think all three steps are great to utilize to some degree.

They also really complement each other as well as you can set your calendar to what bills you pay through an automated application each month and make a routine of following that system you set up for not just a month but a year and beyond. To not end up sweating the small stuff, you got to plan and strategize in advance to make sure you don’t even have to think about the small stuff in the future because you’ll already have planned to have each menial task, chore, or errand set up to be taken care of without waiting until the last minute.

The Utility of Making Lists

“A key productivity hack that really works wonders in our fast-paced, modern era, which involves both discipline and consistency is to make a list. It is also an excellent habit to build upon and one that only requires your laptop and a ‘notes’ application or just a simple pen and piece of paper.”

A key productivity hack that really works wonders in our fast-paced, modern era, which involves both discipline and consistency is to make a list. It is also an excellent habit to build upon and one that only requires your laptop and a ‘notes’ application or just a simple pen and piece of paper. Lists have a reputation of being tedious and time-consuming, but what is actually more time-consuming is spending minutes or even hours trying to remind yourself what tasks or items you actually have to do.

List making is a good habit to build upon for a number of reasons. You hold yourself accountable and there is no shirking away from what you have set for yourself. The biggest misconception when it comes to lists is that they are all the same and focused on a to-do list. You can make lists for other reasons ranging from your progress at the gym with different weights you’ve lifted and what you hope to accomplish next to your future goals in life and what you hope to do in your ‘bucket list.’ Lists not only involve things you have to do whether its grocery shopping, what bills you have to pay, or what errands you have to run but also what career / business goals you have, what your exercise regimen looks like or where you hope to travel to in terms of next destinations.

Making lists is part of exercising that daily discipline that you need to have in order to put yourself on a path to success. It’s easier to accomplish your goals or your tasks when you remember what they are. You may have an amazing memory and feel you don’t need to have any lists at all but having that reminder especially if you have a due date for a pending school assignment or a work task can really help you especially if your memory fails you, which is always possible.

The impact of technology in our lives has made our attention spans that much more limited or distracted so I believe that the utility of lists has increased in response. There are many more things on our plate that we have to pay attention to that we may not have time to remember them all. Lists can help us organize these tasks from most urgent to least urgent and give us some peace of mind since you would likely have these lists stored in a place such as in an application on a computer or in a folder if you’re more traditional with pen and paper.

Not only do lists help to organize our lives, our goals, and our tasks, but lists also hold us accountable just by the fact that they make clear what you have done or what you have not done. There is no arguing with a list because you have either done it or not done it. You can indicate in a list your progress towards the goal or the task but it’s better to simplify it to be blunt to ask of you whether the item is completed or not. If it isn’t done yet, you can go back to it to see how much you have left to do, whether it’s been started yet, or how much you have left to finish. That kind of blunt accountability, which can be lacking in our society, is going to be staring you right in the face, so there is really no hiding from a list because it does not sugarcoat anything or try to come up with an excuse.

I also would like to point out that making too many lists can hinder you from achieving all you would like to get done each day, each week, or beyond. You should be careful not to make too many lists or have too many notes where you start to forget what actually is most vital to get done. I would recommend instead to make one list only for a specific part of your life such as one for exercise, one for work, one for business, one for errands, and perhaps one for future goals. That’s five lists right there on a specific subject so not to become too cluttered or difficult to implement. Lists can help you out a lot up to a point but can become burdensome when you have a dozen lists for ten different parts of your life.

In any list you make, focus on a main goal you wish to achieve for the day and then start to branch out to include weekly tasks and then long-term goals that may take months. Organizing an individual list around immediate, medium-term, and long-term tasks is an effective way to stay on top of each part of your life that will need attention. Having five lists, for example, can be helpful too where you might start the day looking at your exercise task(s) to complete, then move on to work/school, then see about errands, and then see what future goals you are working towards that you can start on. Organizing lists is about as important as making lists to begin with and it’s very important not to make too many lists where you feel like you can’t keep track of them all or have too long of a list where it distracts from your other lists that you’re working on.

You may be thinking to yourself right now, why do you care about making lists so much and why have lists at all? Having list(s) is about building structure in one’s life. You can create good habits from following your lists and you can organize your life in a meaningful and productive way. Also, you alone can hold yourself accountable with lists as it’s only you who knows about the list and is responsible for completing the goals and the tasks that you set up for yourself. No one else is going to hold your hand so it’s up to you alone to be reliable, responsible, and solely in charge of ultimately crossing those important items off your list(s) to help make your life a better, happier, and healthier one.

English Corner – Colons

The colon is very useful in the English language, but it is also considered to be a bit underused as a means of punctuation within the world of grammar. You have to understand the circumstances for which a ‘colon’ can be used as well as a few examples of when it can show up in a regular sentence. If you can master colons, you can definitely count yourself as being advanced as an English learner. It will take time, but I hope that this tip will help you get a little bit better in making the colon work to your advantage as a writer.

What is a colon? Well, a colon indicates the meaning of what you want to say as well as to list what is necessary for the reader or the listener to understand. Colons and semicolons are very different in terms of meaning and use. They should never be used in the same sentence and are very rarely used together.

There are a number of uses for colons, but the three top ones would be the following:

Use #1: To introduce two or more items and to list them together separated by a comma(s).

Examples:

  1. You should do the following tonight: Practice your instrument, study for the test, and help clean the dishes.
  2. He got what he wanted today: A big promotion and an increase in his salary.
  3. Remember what we talked about: work hard, tell the truth, and always give it your best effort.

Use #2: To start a letter or an e-mail to somebody.

  1. Dear Mrs. Jones:
  2. To Whom It May Concern:
  3. To My Beloved ________:

Use #3: To introduce a quote or a short summary of a few sentences:

  1. John F. Kennedy once spoke: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
  2. The author of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, wrote in the second chapter:

“Tom Sawyer went back to his bed and stared at the fence where Jim was painting for Tom’s father. Tom wondered whether his father and Jim were friends or even if they spoke to each other.” (Not a real quote from the book, just an example)

  1. The Presidential candidate was quoted as saying: “I agree that we must move forward on fighting climate change in order to create a better future for our people.”

As you can see now, there are three main uses for colons as well as some rules that have to be observed. Let us now look at some of the important rules for using colons and how to make sure that we abide by them.

Rules of Colon Usage

  1. Colons are used in the middle of most sentences and are usually followed by a list of items or words belonging to the same or similar categories.
  2. Colons can also be used between two sentences especially if the second sentence relates to the meaning of the first sentence.
  3. A colon should always be used to introduce a numbered or a bulleted list, such as for grocery items or different types of grammar concepts.
  4. As mentioned earlier, colons can be used to introduce a quote from a speaker who was reported to have said the following words and sentences. This kind of long quotation does not need quotation marks if you have already introduced who the speaker is and what they are talking about followed by the comma (:).
  5. Colons can also be used at the beginning of a letter or an e-mail in both formal and informal settings for co-workers, bosses, friends, and family members. From seeing the examples above, you can note that instead of a comma (,), a colon (:) is being used instead to introduce the salutation or the greeting for the reader of the letter or e-mail.

These are the main rules for how to use colons and it’s important to keep in mind that a colon can:

  1. Never start a formal sentence.
  2. Never end a formal sentence.
  3. It is rare to have more than one colon used in a single sentence.
  4. Colons can be used between two sentences provided there is no period (.) separating them.
  5. While not very prominently used like a comma or a period, this form of punctuation has its uses which you should know how to utilize.

Colons are a tricky subject but once you understand both the main uses and the main rules, you will be well on your way to creating better sentences and more detailed quotes from the use of this punctuation. Similar to semicolons, colons are an advanced topic that separate an advanced English grammar learner from an intermediate learner. Once you can list items, introduce quotes, and start an e-mail off right, you will know that you are using colons correctly and for the right reasons.

English Corner – The Utility of Commas

The Comma is an integral part of any English language sentence and while it may not come up all the time, it is likely to come up many of your sentences especially if they are longer than 10 sentences. The comma helps us to avoid run-on sentences or sentences that are too long-winded, which will distract the reader, and take away from the meaning of your sentence(s).

Commas should be used moderately to not to introduce many pauses within your sentences. You should be looking to use conjunctions in lieu of commas or with them depending upon the context. What you do not want to do is not use commas at all or use them too much. There is a key balance there that a writer in the English language must learn through trial and error as they develop their grammar proficiency.

What a comma (,) does in not just English but in other languages as well is to break down sentences into individual clauses with the comma acting a pause in the action to let the reader catch his or her breath. Commas are used in several scenarios but none as so important as forming a list of two or more items. In a list type of sentence, the comma is effective in separating the people, places, or things into an order from first to last to differentiate them.

If there are two or more items in the list, the comma will come before the conjunction (and, but, or) to finish out the sentence properly. This kind of arrangement forms the basis of the ‘oxford comma’, which is still being debated by English grammar scholars, but for which is popular with some English language students and is advocated for by certain teachers. The comma + conjunction combo is not only just for the oxford comma but for a wide variety of sentences.

If you had to summarize the main uses of commas in sentences, they function in terms of being placed between items for formal lists and they also establish separate yet interdependent clauses within a single sentence. The supplementary uses for commas involve being used between parts of speech such as adjectives, adverbs, and before quotations. Commas can also be used for dates related to days, months, and years in terms of how it is written.

Let’s break down the different uses of commas but listing a few examples for each type of popular usage:

Main Uses

1.      Building lists

·        Not only was Jenny captain of the Varsity soccer team but she was also President of the Chess club, and a member of the National Honor Society.

·        Felix had several things to get from the supermarket today: eggs, milk, bread, meat, and soft drinks for his daughter’s birthday party.

·        I think my grandmother, Jean, will be there along with my grandfather, Patrick, and my mother, Eunice.

2.      Separating the clauses

·        Jack wanted to go out with his friends to the movies, but he couldn’t do so because he had to finish his homework.

·        Lying to other people is not a good idea, and it often hurts other people’s feelings.

·        They were lost in the woods, hoping to get home by morning, but they were out of food and without a compass to guide them.

Supplementary Uses

1.      Adverbs and Adjectives

·        However, he was not guilty of the crime they thought he committed.

·        Moreover, they apologized to him and let him go free.

·        The dreary, sad day was encapsulated by the rainy weather.

·        President Franklin Roosevelt was fervent, unwavering in his belief in the American people’s ability to contribute to the war effort.

2.      Quotations and Dates

·        Mr. Johnson told his students, “You should always know how to use commas in sentences.”

·        LeBron was dismissive of the reporters stating, “I scored 50 points and did my best to help the team win the game.”

·        Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky, United States.

·        Independence Day happened on July 4th, 1776 as the United States declared its independence from the British Empire.

As you can see from these examples, commas play a really important role in both English writing and in English grammar. There are several main uses and supplementary uses that the English language learner should be aware of. You must be able to practice each of these comma uses regardless of the purpose. In order to use commas properly, you must write your own sentences, make corrections if necessary, and get feedback from your teacher or your other classmates.

Each comma use is important whether its to separate sentence clauses, making a list of items, putting them with adjectives and adverbs, or using them for quotes or dates in those type of sentences. Without commas, you won’t have a complete sentence and you’ll run the risk of having a run-on sentence, which is what you want to avoid as much as possible in mastering English grammar and writing.

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