Not every breakthrough requires months of planning and a drum roll. Your typical day presents many chances for little leaps of progress. And sometimes those are the most satisfying of all.
1) Become a Company Leader
Don't try to do everything. Pick your three strongest assets and overdeliver, says Karl Speak, coauthor of Be Your Own Brand: Achieve More of What You Want by Being More of Who You Are. Of course, those assets will be in line with the boss's wishes and the company's goals, so you'll become a brand that's promoted. Grab any chance to enter competitions or attend industry conferences. When you win an award, remember to thank not only your boss but also the underlings who toiled to make you look so good.
2) Break 90 in Golf
You're not bad--look at those pars on your card! It's the 7s and 8s that wreck your day. To avoid water, bunkers, and out-of-bounds play (that's stroke and distance, pal), always tee the ball up on the same side as the hazard. That makes it easier to aim away from trouble, says Steve Johnson, director of instruction at Hank Haney Golf in Lewisville, Texas. Playing smart--not heroically--means you'll hit more greens. "The longest putt is better than the shortest bunker shot," he says. Bonus: This strategy will save you a handful of shots without any tinkering with your swing (a way bigger project).
Read more: 6 Secrets To A Better Golf Game
3) Remember Where You Left Stuff
Simply change the way you think of your keys, or your phone, or your sunglasses. Imagine the item as a grenade that will explode wherever you place it. Anything linked with vivid action and emotion (like that flowery bra your girlfriend wore in 10th grade) is easy to recall. This tip comes from a two-time winner of the USA Memory Championship. Some guy named, uh . . . shoot . . . oh, Ron White!
4) Run Effortlessly
Instead of counting seconds, count heartbeats. Presetting a time goal, like a 7-minute mile, can undermine your training program because you may push yourself when you shouldn't be pushing. "Instead, let how your body feels be your guide. If you train this way, you'll end up achieving the improvements you desire," says Dave Smith, head cross-country coach at Oklahoma State University. With this as your norm, push it once a week by running at 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. (To find your max, subtract your age from 220.) Sandwich 15 minutes of this hard labor between 15 minutes of running at a relaxed pace, and you'll soon be running faster with less exertion.
5) Connect With Your Teenage Son
The teen psyche seeks safety behind a powerful force field that shields it from criticism and embarrassment. To break through, you have to earn respect using fairness and love, says Tom Sturges, author of Grow the Tree You Got: And 99 Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Adolescents and Teenagers. One way is to "unequivocally own up to a mistake in front of your kid," Sturges says.
"You're teaching him how to fess up, minimizing future battles. And he'll also see that you're a fair guy." And here's a trick to use when you're upset with your son: Put a quarter on the table and say, "I love you the size of this room. I'm upset with you the size of this quarter. Can we just talk about the quarter?" You're showing respect by not attacking or trying to change him. But keep the quarter. Bribery doesn't work!
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6) Complete the NYT Sunday Crossword
Practice on Wednesday's puzzle. It's the same difficulty level as Sunday's, just smaller, and you'll learn to decipher themes and recognize recurring answer words, says Amy Reynaldo, author of How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. And that stable of words often includes Elon (North Carolina university), etui (needle case), and Eno (record producer), along with Erie, eerie, area, aria, arena, erase, and aloe. Also, when you're stumped, remember the Wheel of Fortune principle--l, r, n, s, t, and vowels are the building blocks of words (j, q, and v are used sparingly).
7) Reach Enlightenment
This one starts simply: Say "hi" and "thank you" as frequently as possible, says Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program. Engaging with others and showing gratitude helps flesh out the characters in your world (they're not drones!) and makes it a richer, friendlier place. This eases you out of the attack mode your busy life may seem to require.
"You have a level of fulfillment because you're a part of things," says Salzberg. "You don't see people as chess pieces." You can still be competitive, but when you know your opponent -- and possibly like the guy -- there's no need for bludgeoning or blood.
8) Forget Her
It's okay to have memories of Ms. Was. Yes, you should defriend her and delete her cell number, but total erasure is impossible, says Scott Bea, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
"The more you resist the memories, the more they'll push for attention, like that Katy Perry tune stuck in your head." Set aside 5 minutes in the morning and evening to let your thoughts occur, Bea advises. Don't act on them, and over time they'll lose their potency. Then wash your car or hit the gym. Any activity that engages multiple senses takes you out of your ruminating head and puts you into real time. Plus, all fun comes through the physical.
"No one ever says, 'I had a fun time thinking last night,' " says Bea.
9) Leave Stress at the Office
You have one routine when you start work in the morning: coffee, Facebook, e-mail, Facebook. Establish another one for day's end and use it to help yourself decompress, says Teresa Amabile, Ph.D., a professor at Harvard business school. After you finish your last task of the day, make a plan for tomorrow and start your ritual to signal the end of office hours. "Do something you find enjoyable and relaxing. The first few times you try these rituals, really force yourself to disconnect from work," says Amabile. For example, listen to a specific singer or band every day on your commute home (Adele, perhaps?), or work out for 30 minutes after you arrive home, or drink a glass of wine at 7 p.m. each night. Eventually, you'll effortlessly detach at the sound of "Rolling in the Deep."
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10) See Your Abs
This breakthrough must start in your mind; your midsection will follow. Adjust your thinking to next spring, when you'll unveil your newly ripped body. "The average deskbound guy has 16 to 20 percent body fat," says Alan Aragon, M.S., a Men's Health nutrition advisor. "At a minimum, he has to chop that in half to see his abs, and that can take 4 to 6 months." You can do medicine-ball twists all day, but if you don't change your diet, you won't see your abs. Don't just cut calories -- cut carbs. In a recent University of Alabama study, dieters who modestly reduced their carb intake shed 11 percent more abdominal fat than those who followed a lower-fat diet. Slash your carb intake in half -- and minimize what Aragon calls filler calories: beverages, desserts, refined-grain products. Your carbs should mostly come from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. He also advises eating 1 gram of protein per pound of your target body weight. At the same time, attack that slab of fat with core exercises three times a week (see MensHealth.com/mhlists/ab-exercise-upgrades). When spring arrives, you can reveal your abs in all their glory.
11) Wake Up Without an Alarm Clock
A regular routine and a full night's sleep make it easy to wake up on time. Set an alarm for 1 hour before you plan to go to bed, says Donn Posner, Ph.D., director of behavioral sleep medicine at Lifespan Hospitals in Providence, Rhode Island. When the alarm sounds, mute the smartphone, dim the lights, and do something that relaxes you. But don't give up the morning alarm cold turkey: Not setting it can make you so anxious that you wake up too early, says Posner. Instead, use the alarm as a wingman to help you regularly open your eyes just before it goes off.
12) Nail the Trey
Stop worrying about release and rotation. Shooting starts with strong legs to provide foundation and lift, says Hubert Davis, a college basketball analyst at ESPN and a career .441 three-point shooter in the NBA . "Without leg power, you won't light it up," Davis says. Weak legs mean your arms have to do too much work, which can lead to a flat shot. When you practice, begin with 10 hard minutes to simulate a game: Do lunges, squats, stair running -- anything to drain your legs. Then start two steps behind the line and spin the ball back to yourself so you can start low, catch, step in, rise, and shoot in one fluid motion, says Davis. You'll find a rhythm you can replicate in a game.
13) Make the Client Commit
At the crucial meeting, be on your best "third-date behavior," says Andrew Benett, global CEO of the advertising giant Arnold Worldwide. You're still polite, attentive, and respectful, but it's time to loosen up. If you rib your colleagues in the office, do the same during your presentation. It's a sign of confidence, chemistry, and honesty -- qualities any client wants in a new creative team.
"It's better to be truthful about who you are than to pretend you're someone else," says Benett. But this easy rapport must come with total command of the material. Your pitch should prove that you know more about the client's industry than he or she thought possible. Then present ideas that weren't on the client's wish list -- a new technology, a loyalty program -- but that address the company's needs. Any schmo can promise increased business. You'll win the day with thoroughness and extra effort.
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14) Cook Up a Fresh Idea
Write down all the images and words associated with the topic at hand. Now forget all those -- they're unusable. That's the approach of Matt Ryan, president of global brands at Euro RSCG Worldwide:
"It encourages looking forward." For example, beer: We've seen guys having fun, women dancing, goofy roommates, freshness, coldness. Can't use those. Okay, then how about an endorsement by a fictional dude known as The Most Interesting Man in the World? That's never been done. Thus was born the Dos Equis campaign, created by Ryan's firm. See? It works.
15) Eclipse Your Office Rival
Ratting someone out only makes you look ill-equipped for a job. "You have to put a knife in your rival without leaving your fingerprints on the handle," says Don Asher, author of Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn't, and Why. Don't publicly criticize his flaws or privately dwell on his strengths (which will only make you insecure). Instead, pinpoint his weaknesses and make those your strong points. Is his follow-through poor? Make promptness a priority. Does he leave 10 minutes early? Stay 15 minutes longer. You'll prove you're superior without seeming petty.
16) Satisfy Her Desire
Ask questions in bed that don't require thought ("Faster or slower?" "Like this?"). She'll feel grateful to be asked and emboldened to tell you, says Sheri Winston, C.N.M., author of Women's Anatomy of Arousal: Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure.
17) Tell Your Dad You Love Him
If "I love you" wasn't a common phrase around your house, it can be hard to say out loud. So don't bother. Instead, show your love by noting a specific connection, says Scott Haltzman, M.D., a psychiatrist and author of The Secrets of Happy Families: Eight Keys to Building a Lifetime of Connection and Contentment. Pick a recent event as a springboard and say, for instance, "Now that I'm a father, I'm grateful for what you taught me. You were a great model." That's what every father wants: the knowledge that he was heard and had an impact. He doesn't need the three-word tearjerker -- but with the ice broken, the opening is there if you want to go for it.
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