Colin Nederkoorn

Things to make your life better that don’t cost money

Small changes can have big quality of life improvements

July 06, 2019

Sometimes it feels like you don’t have any control over your life. In reality you have more agency than you think. There are lots of little adjustments you can make to design the life that you want for yourself. Some of those things cost money. However, many changes require just a dash of creativity, an ounce of commitment or a pinch of flexibility. Here are some changes I made for myself:

Leave your phone’s “Do not Disturb” setting on

Have you ever watched someone whose phone has clearly taken over their life? They said “yes” to every push notification, and they are constantly being interrupted. What a stressful way to live! If you turn on “Do not disturb”, all those notifications still arrive but they arrive silently.

Never pick up the phone

Technology should serve you, not the other way round. It’s easy to feel like you have an obligation to pick up the phone when someone calls. You don’t. I haven’t picked up an unscheduled or unknown call in over a year and I’m still here.

Block off time in your calendar for yourself

If you work in a company where your time gets filled up with meetings that appear on your calendar, make a meeting with yourself to give you time to think. You might block off 9 - 11 on Monday morning, or all day Wednesday. It gives you more time to focus.

Take a personal day

Many people have personal or mental health days as part of their benefits from work. There’s nothing more empowering than every once in a while deciding “I’m not going to work tomorrow” and spending the day hiking, or going to the movies, or otherwise disconnecting.

Change your work hours to improve your commute

What difference would it make to your commute time if you went in an hour earlier and left an hour earlier? Or what about an hour later? If you can reclaim a half hour a day, that’s about 130 hours a year of time you can get back.

Join a company that is remote-first

This one might actually make you money instead of costing you money. Joining a remote-first company where you work from home or a co-working space can eliminate (or significantly reduce) your commute.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day reinforces your circadian rhythm and helps you get a better night sleep.

Exercise


Exercise doesn’t have to cost any money if you run outside or do pushups and sit-ups at home. I’ve found that I’m most motivated when going to a class with other people and an instructor yelling at me.

What did I miss? How have you made your life better without spending any money?