Author Sarah Knight wants you to stop giving so many f-cks and help you get organized enough to tackle the goals that actually matter to you, not the ones that outside voices—your friends, your Insta feed—tell you *should* matter. We sat down with the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F-ck and the newly-released Get Your Sh-t Together (Hachette Canada, $24), to learn all the wisdom from the bestselling author—who overhauled her life a few years ago and now lives full-time in the Dominican Republic. Sound appealing? Read on.
Stop giving an everloving f-ck about New Year’s resolutions (see also: “spring cleaning,” “back-to-school,” etc.)
That means letting go of the idea that there are particular times of year when you should be working on self-improvement or reinvention, which Knight calls a self-defeating proposition since that New Year/spring has sprung burst of energy soon wears off.
Figure out what your goals really are with the what/why method
This is a two-step process. First, ask yourself what is wrong with your life. Then, ask yourself why it’s wrong. Answering these questions super-honestly will lead you to your actual goal. For example, if your answer to question #1 might be I don’t spend enough time with my husband, your answer to question #2 might be Because I’m always staying late at work. A potential goal, then, would be stop working so much overtime.
Embrace your inner Negative Nancy
Forget the ol’ self-help chestnut of constant positive thinking because just imagining yourself with the body of Gisele or cooking prowess of Martha isn’t going to get your there. But if you’re really effing sick of being broke from all the takeout you buy and want to learn to cook, let that be your inspo. “Whether it’s that you feel you’re too fat, broke, messy, look at how they make you feel and channel those feelings into action,” says Knight. “The power of negative thinking certainly helped me. It got me out of a career, a lifestyle and a city which were making me extremely unhappy and depressed in different ways. Anger really is a great fuel, so why waste it?”
Now that you’ve figured out your specific goals, break ’em into smaller chunks
Knight says any task, big or small, can seem overwhelming if your plate is already full. The way around that is to break it into smaller steps. If your goal is to leave work on time, your incremental goals might look something like this. Day 1 of Operation Spend Time With My Husband: time yourself to see how long it actually takes you to leave the office (more on that below). Day 2: go through your work calendar for the next month and see which late afternoon meetings you can reschedule, then reschedule them and promise to not accept or schedule a meeting after, say, 3 p.m. Day 3: create a meal plan so that you aren’t stuck in the dreaded “aarrghhh we have no groceries” vortex of after-work food shopping. The more specific and measurable your small goals, the better!
Time yourself doing stuff so you can stop being late
You know those peops who are legit always late? The ones who say they’re jumping in the shower and they’ll meet you at the restaurant in 15, then don’t show for more than an hour? (It might even be you.) Knight says these people aren’t intrinsically self-centered mofos, they just straight-up don’t have a handle on how long it takes them to do sh-t. If you are one of these people, it’s probably because you don’t know how long it takes you to shower and put on your makeup in the morning or catch the streetcar to the subway. If you’re going to improve your time management, you’ve got to know how long it takes you to get dressed. Time to bust out your stopwatch and actually determine where your time is going.
If slimming down is one of your true goals, you gotta eat less, move more
If, after you used the what/why method of goal-setting from tip #2, you determined that you really want to shed a few pounds, Knight recommends simplifying since all diets are essench a long, overly complex way to enforce the same basic rule: eat less, move more. Applying this basic principle to your ultimate goal of losing X number of pounds means breaking it into those smaller, digestible goal-chunks, so the incremental goal for day 1 of Operation Lose 15 Pounds might be to stop picking up that 600-calorie danish from ’Bucks and make breakfast at home instead. Remember that streetcar you catch up to the subway? Walk there instead for a bonus morning 15-minute cardio burn.
Give. fewer. f-cks
This means writing up your “f-ck budget” so you can figure out what you genuinely care about (like your family, your two closest friends, and pizza) and what you really don’t, no matter how hard you try (the book club your sister-in-law keeps trying to sell you on, Downton Abbey, brunch)—and be brutally honest. Then, you can occasionally do things that you don’t really want to do, like join your sweet sis-in-law and her workmates for a discussion about that boring-ass new book they have going on, but know that giving a f-ck there will deduct another f-ck you can give elsewhere because, as Knight says, we don’t have unlimited f-cks to give so dole them out sparingly.
Stop “should-ing” all over yourself
Literally eliminate this toxic word from your vocab, something Knight says she had to do in order to turn her back on a 15-year career in the pursuit of happiness: “If I had remained focused on what I thought I should be doing, I would still be working at a corporate job.” Saying see-ya to “should” is really about the dangers of yard-sticking—that is, comparing yourself to others to a detrimental degree. If you’re guilty of that, make a real effort to stop. It’s freakin’ liberating. If your yard-sticking behaviour is rill bad (does trolling Instagram send you into a jealous rage Y/N), make stopping it one of your goals and draw up an incremental plan for conquering the self-defeating habit.
Say no in the most honest, polite and, most importantly, direct way possible
A big part of giving fewer f-cks and living according to your true goals is learning how to say no gracefully. “If you know you don’t want to do something, respond ‘no’ right away. Don’t leave the host hanging until the day before the party. Certainly don’t say ‘yes’ if you really don’t want to go and then cancel at the last minute. That’s an asshole move.”
Make lists. Lots of ’em.
Knight says this is a big part of mental de-cluttering. “Take the idea of making a procrastination journal where you write down every single thing that you did while you were procrastinating the thing that you were supposed to do. You’ll look at it and realize all the things you did to avoid your more important task, Oh my god, I pruned the flowers, I cut my nails, I changed out the old laundry filter, I called my mom who I never call. List-making is both a mental organization tool and also it allows you to confront your bad behaviours when you see them right in front of you.”
Then stop knocking the easiest, least urgent tasks off your to-do list first
Doing a bunch of the smaller, easier tasks on your to-do list before tackling the bigger beasts just creates an illusion of productivity. “If none of those little things were due until two weeks from now and you avoided the thing that’s due tomorrow, you really haven’t helped yourself at all. You’ve contributed to further anxiety about the stuff that you didn’t get done and you haven’t used your time wisely.” So stop doing the dishes and sorting the mail and start working on your long-dormant website or Bunzing that huge pile of winter clothes already. #sorrynotsorry
Learn how to procrastinate responsibly
Knight calls this the “must-do” method and it goes like this: make a running list of everything you have to do that week, from teeny (getting your car washed) to huge (turning in the final manuscript of your book). Then every night before bed, look at the list and think about what needs to be done in order of urgency. The things that must get done the next day are the only ones you should do. Everything else gets pushed to later. “It allows people who are prone to procrastination to continue to procrastinate, just on the things that don’t need to get done today.”