7 Wonderful Non-Covid Things We Learned in 2020

What a year! Yes, it was terrible and awful and no one felt good about it, but on the other hand, time is a human invention and everything bad about 2020 will continue straight into 2021, because the end-and-begin points of a new year are arbitrary and meaningless.

So, um, happy New Year? 😅

But 2020 wasn’t all bad! Here at Smarter Living we learned a ton of great stuff this year that had nothing to do with anything in the news. A few tips on better managing your money? You got it! Want to stop procrastinating so much in 2021? Read on!

Below are eight of our favorite pieces of advice, knowledge and wisdom we picked up this year.

Complaining is sometimes good for you

The trick to doing it right starts with understanding how the word “complaining” is often misused to describe a variety of behaviors, with some being more harmful or helpful than others. Teasing apart these distinctions requires vocabulary that varies between experts, but there are roughly three categories: venting, problem solving and ruminating, otherwise known as dwelling. Knowing which behavior you’re engaging in, and with what purpose, can help you establish habits that will not only make your complaining much more strategic, but also help improve your emotional health and build stronger relationships with the people around you. Read more >>

You should stop saving your money

OK, to be a little clearer: Stop actively saving your money. Automate it so you just don’t have to think about it. This is what I mean by mindless saving.

Your paycheck should be making pit stops before it hits your account, getting a little smaller with each stop. The priority of these stops, and the amounts saved, will vary based on your current financial life, but the general idea is the same: Automate your savings so you never even have to think about saving anything. Take yourself completely out of the equation — you can’t miss (or spend) what was never there. Self-control is a myth anyway, so just don’t bother with it. Read more >>

It’s fine to leave your phone plugged in all day

Some people just plug their phones into a charger (or toss them onto a wireless charging pad) whenever power is available. Others fastidiously keep their batteries between 40 percent and 80 percent, never allowing a full charge, guided by the belief that a battery will last longer as a result.

After speaking with battery researchers and the experts at iFixit, reviewing studies on phone replacement trends, and analyzing some user data from Wirecutter staffers, we’ve found that although micromanaging your phone’s battery is likely to extend its life to a small degree, the results might not be worth the inconvenience in the long run. Read more >>

If you procrastinate, stop trying to manage your time. Manage your emotions.

The psychologists Timothy Pychyl and Fuschia Sirois have discovered that procrastination isn’t about avoiding work; it’s about avoiding negative emotions. We procrastinate when a task stirs up feelings like anxiety, confusion or boredom. And although it makes us feel better today, we end up feeling worse — and falling behind — tomorrow.

This means that if you want to procrastinate less, you don’t have to increase your work ethic or improve your time management. You can instead focus on changing your habits around emotion management. Read more >>

Being a good person is simpler than you think

According to Cheryl Strayed, author and former “Dear Sugars” host and columnist: Cultivate a sense of optimism. Remember to be grateful. Be happy for others when good things happen to them. Stop complaining about the people, jobs or situations that make you miserable, and find a way to change it or end it instead. Go for a walk every day. Goodness is action. It’s being kind, honest, considerate, respectful and generous. It’s holding love in your heart. Read more >>

To have a better night’s sleep, slow down in the evenings

Excitement makes it harder to sleep. “Smartphones and laptops are just too exciting,” one sleep expert told us. “So many people find it easier to go to sleep after reading a book than after trawling the internet. Do more quiet, relaxing activities in the hour or two before you plan to sleep.” Books, audiobooks, just listening to music or even meditating are all perfect — though make sure you don’t mess around with your phone too much.

Similarly, exercise, big meals and bright lights — especially sources of blue light like screens — should be avoided an hour or two before bedtime. Not only do blue lights suppress melatonin, which makes it harder to fall asleep, but they also diminish the quality of sleep you get through the night. Read more >>

Self-awareness is key to emotional intelligence

This simply means being able to identify your own emotions and how they work. Are you anxious in loud environments? Do you get angry when people talk over you? If you know these things about yourself, then you’re practicing self-awareness. This can be more difficult than it sounds, but simply being aware of yourself is all it takes for this step. Read more >>

What did you learn this year that will help you in 2021? Tell me on Twitter @timherrera.

Thanks, and happy New Year!

— Tim

What We’re Reading

I’ve been poring over my favorite annual Wirecutter post: their year in review. Top guides they published, favorite things they bought, great deals, top-requested stuff … I love it!

The New Yorker’s best jokes of 2020 post is lovely. (So is their post on the movies that matter this year.)

This thread explaining jokes from “The Simpsons” is inspired.

And if you haven’t read it yet, this story in The Times from Smarter Living pal Michael Gold about New York’s pandemic Christmas is simply excellent.

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