TIME career

What Small Lifestyle Changes Have the Biggest Impact?

Answer by Evan DeFilippis, Reporter and manager at Innovations for Poverty Action, on Quora.

Twenty Minute Rule — Whenever I would come home from a long day at work or school, I was so tired the only things I could find energy to do were mindless life-negating nonsense — television, Netflix, Reddit, Facebook, whatever.

Every night I would somehow find hours of time to do these things (despite being extremely tired), suddenly get a burst of energy towards midnight, stay up way too late, and then get extremely tired the next morning. This cycle would repeat until the weekend, where I would stay up too late on Sunday, and be tired the following Monday. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Several years ago, I replaced this nightmarish routine with the twenty minute rule. Now, the moment I get home, I force myself to do at least twenty minutes of one of the following — write an article, read a book, practice chess, learn another language with DuoLingo (I try to do this on my phone, not laptop to minimize the risk of distraction), practice guitar, meditate, work on a computer programming language, or improve flexibility with stretching. Customize the activities to suit your interests, but this should generally not involve any computers.

Once you get past that twenty minute commitment, you will find that you have the energy to keep going. Over the course of a couple weeks, you will have finished a book — which, for many people, will be the first time they have done so in a long time.

If you simply don’t have energy to continue past twenty minutes, or to even start the twenty minutes — GO TO SLEEP. There is precisely no benefit to watching Netflix until you pass out from exhaustion, only to be tired the next day. You need to make it a habit: don’t have energy? Go to sleep. Do have energy? Spend it making yourself better.

Addendum:

The key to progress is recognizing that any forward movement brings you closer to your goal. Humans reliably fail to set aside time to do the things we really want to do, and reliably succeed at finding time to do the things we know won’t make us better.

When I wake up every morning, ask me what things will make me happy today, and I will tell you: being with my family, eating good food, having rewarding, meaningful conversations with friends, learning interesting things about the world, going on adventures, and so on. Now ask me at the end of the day how I spent my free time, I will tell you: Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, responding to angry internet comments.

Ask any parent and they will tell you the same thing, “I honestly don’t know what I did with all my free time before I had kids.” The answer is you did nothing, and now you filled that nothing with a kid….and if you have another kid you’ll see that there is a lot of time you’re still wasting. When people don’t plan, they aren’t ready to take advantage of opportunities that avail themselves, and so they play Angrybirds and watch Netflix because it takes less energy than figuring out something to do at that moment. I call this the “path of least resistance problem.” To make ourselves more sensitive to opportunities that can decidedly improve our lives, we need to structure our routines to make the path of least resistance difficult. One way to do this is the twenty minutes rule.

If we want to do something trivial, something that likely won’t matter in the grand scheme of our lives, like meeting a colleague for lunch, we will pencil a time in our calendars and get it done. But when we want to do something important and enriching, something we know will matter greatly in the grand scheme of our lives, like writing a book or learning a language, we say “I’ll get around to it.” We don’t pencil in the twenty minutes a day necessary to become the person we really want to be. And so we need to challenge the impulse to relegate our passions and our ambitions to something our future self will do down the line.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What small lifestyle changes have the biggest impact? More questions:

MONEY Rentals

The Top 10 Cities for Singles Who Rent

If you're single and looking for a place to live, here are the 10 best cities for those ready to mingle.

Thinking of moving to a new city? Lots of lists will help you find places with the lowest (or most outrageous) housing prices and highest incomes, but for young people looking to meet someone, there are more things to consider than pure affordability.

Rent.com partnered with Onboard Informatics to rank cities based on factors like quality of nightlife, restaurants, lifestyle (what percentage of residents do things like attend concerts and cultural events), and, primarily, the percentage of single adults.

Here’s what they found.

Methodology: All indexes were ranked on a scale of 1-1000. This list is based on cities with more than 50,000 rental dwellings, a high concentration of single adults and an overall population greater than 100,000. More details here.

  • San Francisco, CA

    It may be expensive, but the City by the Bay is safe, ranks high on lifestyle, and the average income is off the charts. Best of all? 39% of town is single.

    The Good

    Single Adults: 39%

    Non-Family Households: 58%

    Average Household Income: $104,540

    Safety Index: 822

    Lifestyle Index: 736

    The Bad

    Median Rental Rate (1BR): $2,920

    Nightlife Options Index: 374

    Restaurant Option Index: 236

     

     

     

  • Manhattan, NY

    When it comes to nightlife, lifestyle, and great food, nobody tops the Big Apple. Like SF, cost is a (huge) factor, but if you can afford it, there’s nowhere better.

    The Good

    Single Adults: 38%

    Non-Family Households: 60%

    Average Household Income: $125,205

    Safety Index: 896

    Lifestyle Index: 781

    Nightlife Options Index: 1000

    Restaurant Option Index: 1000

    Frequent Coffee Shop Goers Index: 1000

    The Bad

    Median Rental Rate (1BR): $3,800

     

     

  • Washington, D.C.

    It’s a company town, but that town is very single and very safe. Average salaries are also high, but there isn’t much nightlife or fine dining to spend that disposable income on.

    The Good

    Single Adults: 38%

    Non-Family Households: 58%

    Average Household Income: $93,637

    Safety Index: 776

    Lifestyle Index: 652

    The Bad

    Median Rental Rate (1BR): $2,300

    Nightlife Options Index: 173

    Restaurant Option Index: 228

     

     

     

  • Boston, MA

    The Hub’s restaurant and nightlife options don’t exactly compare to New York, but it’s a safe, fun city where one-third of the adult population is single.

    The Good

    Single Adults: 33%

    Non-Family Households: 55%

    Average Household Income: $76,661

    Safety Index: 719

    Lifestyle Index: 671

    The Bad

    Median Rental Rate (1BR): $3,150

    Nightlife Options Index: 192

    Restaurant Option Index: 224

     

     

  • Seattle, WA

    The second West Coast city on the list boasts lots of restaurant goers, good cultural events, and rentals in the neighborhood of affordable—at least for a big city.

    The Good

    Single Adults: 30%

    Non-Family Households: 57%

    Average Household Income: $88,211

    Lifestyle Index: 732

    Frequent Restaurant Goers Index: 616

    The Bad

    Median Rental Rate (1BR): $1,584

    Nightlife Options Index: 302

    Restaurant Option Index: 199

  • Philadelphia, PA

    Philly can’t stand up to higher-ranked towns in most categories, but the rent isn’t too bad, more than a fourth of the population is single, and the nightlife is better than all but a few cities on this list.

    The Good

    Single Adults: 26%

    Median Rental Rate (1BR): $1,295

    Safety Index: 686

    Nightlife Options Index: 502

    The Bad

    Restaurant Option Index: 340

    Frequent Restaurant Goers Index: 439

  • Minneapolis, MN

    The most notable of the Twin Cities has lots of singles and lots of rental housing. Nothing too special as we approach the back of the list, but Minneapolis stands her ground in most categories.

    The Good

    Single Adults: 25%

    Non-Family Households: 57%

    Median Rental Rate (1BR): $1,395

    Lifestyle Index: 643

    Frequent Restaurant Goers Index: 555

    The Bad

    Nightlife Options Index: 149

    Restaurant Option Index: 108

     

     

  • Portland, OR

    Portlandia‘s home is safe, fun, and great for people who like to eat out. The rent is also relatively low compared to other listed cities.

    The Good

    Single Adults: 24%

    Median Rental Rate (1BR): $1,335

    Safety Index: 632

    Lifestyle Index: 668

    Frequent Restaurant Goers Index: 585

    The Bad

    Nightlife Options Index: 383

    Restaurant Option Index: 168

  • Jersey City, NJ

    Jersey is safe and good for restaurants and culture, but the price of rent might make you think twice.

    The Good

    Single Adults: 23%

    Average Household Income: $77,804

    Safety Index: 766

    Lifestyle Index: 623

    Restaurant Option Index: 512

    The Bad

    Median Rental Rate (1BR): $2,480

    Nightlife Options Index: 421

  • Chicago, IL

    Chi-Town has the cheapest median rent on the list, with high nightlife and lifestyle ratings to boot. It’s also safer (on the whole) than you probably think.

    The Good

    Single Adults: 23%

    Median Rental Rate (1BR): $1,150

    Safety Index: 665

    Lifestyle Index: 604

    Nightlife Options Index: 869

    Restaurant Option Index: 507

    The Bad

    Frequent Restaurant Goers Index: 475

TIME celebrity

Another Celebrity Wants To Tell Us How To Live Better

2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter
Reese Witherspoon attends the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Jon Kopaloff—FilmMagic/Getty Images

Reese Witherspoon is set to launch a new lifestyle company. Think GOOP, but even blonder.

The fashion press is full of speculation that Reese “do you know who I am?” Witherspoon is joining the legion of entertainers who have branched out into the lifestyle business. Which is great, because what the world needs is another lithe, impossibly charming blonde woman to recommend different types of kale salads to normals.

Women’s Wear Daily reports that the actress has hired C. Wonder president Andrea Hyde to be the CEO of her new brand. Hyde has years of experience in management and branding, including time spent at Burch Creative Capital, Kenneth Cole and Gap Inc. The unnamed venture, which will emphasize the Oscar winner’s style and country-fried beginnings, will launch in 2015.

Witherspoon is just the latest in a long line of stars to join the lifestyle business. It’s become a rite of passage for celebrities like her pal Gwyneth Paltrow (the founder of GOOP), Blake Lively, Jessica Alba, and Cameron Diaz, all of who have found a measure of success in advice giving and product designing. Is this because their film careers were stalled or because they’ve accumulated so much valuable life experience they couldn’t help but share their recommendations for bespoke home goods? You decide.

[h/t The Cut]

TIME Advertising

Dove Says Even Your Armpits Are Beautiful, Because Dove Loves You Unconditionally

Their new ad is the pits

Another day, another soapy Dove ad aiming to make women become more “body-positive.” This time they’re trying to convince women that their armpits are beautiful, because everything is beautiful, even your sweaty pits, and Dove is here to tell you about it because they’re you’re best friend! And they make deodorant.

Just watch this video of women reading a letter to their armpits.

“You can be a softer, smoother, more beautiful little armpit — you deserve our best care ever, and don’t you ever forget that.” Take out “armpit” and replace it with “woman,” and you get Dove’s basic philosophy.

Now imagine the waiting room advertising casting call: “You, sir, will be buying a new car! You, miss, will be reading a letter to your armpit.”

The worst part is the billboard, scheduled to appear in July, that will tell New Jersey residents they should be flattered that their state is often compared to an armpit. The billboards feature a confident blonde women giving innocent drivers a faceful of her super-groomed armpit. “Dear New Jersey,” the ad says, “When people call you ‘the Armpit of America,’ take it as a compliment. Sincerely, Dove.”

adco-superjumbo

First of all, Dove just went from friend to frenemy. What kind of toxic passive-aggressive blather is that? That’s like saying “Dear Charlotte, When Sara from Bio called you a horse-faced bitch, take it as a compliment. Sincerely, Marissa K.”

Secondly, as a native of the Garden State, I would rather suffer that particular slur with the quiet dignity of a besieged martyr. Please don’t make us storm the streets, Les Miserables style, raising our arms against the injustice of armpit-slander.

That armpits are gross is one of the only remaining basic human truths: love is good, death is sad, chocolate is delicious and armpits are disgusting. Don’t take that away in the name of deodorant sales. Besides, I don’t want to “cherish” my armpits, I just want them to not smell horrible. Not having to think about how they look is one of the only good things about armpits. What’s next, armpit concealer?

I shudder to think what might happen if Dove moves to the lower half of our bodies in its quest to make us beautify each and every one of our parts. [h/t NYT]

TIME Lifestyle

This Digital Condom Will Electrocute You for Pleasure

Condoms
Getty Images

Only for the truly adventurous

If the condom slingshot wasn’t enough to get you in the mood, two researchers from Georgia Tech have teamed up to spearhead a new approach to safe sex: digital condoms that literally shock you.

Vice reports that the project is called the Electric Eel, and it’s an open source digital condom wired with electrodes and hooked up to a microcontroller. Once charged, the condom emits low levels of electrical impulses in an attempt to match the feelings of condomless sex and increase stimulation.

The researchers hope new innovations in condom technology will help mitigate the epidemic of young people who eschew condoms due to the fact that they can dull sensation. For more info, check out this (mildly NSFW) video.

TIME Lifestyle

This Survey Shows How Men and Women View Porn Differently

Results show that women are from Venus, men are from whatever planet watches porn all the time.

Cosmopolitan surveyed men and women’s porn viewing habits and discovered that men watch porn even more than women think men do.

Here are some things we learned from the results, which are based on a survey of 4,000 men and 4,000 women:

  • 21.3% of women prefer same-sex porn to heterosexual porn, compared to 1.8% of men.
  • When it comes to porn actresses, the most important characteristic men are looking for is youth. 47.4% picked “young” as the quality they look for, followed by 40.1% selecting “large breasts.” Men could choose more than one category, and “MILF” had a strong showing at 30%.
  • .1% of the female respondents had done porn.
  • 7 out of 10 men watch stuff on porn they wouldn’t do in real life, which is comforting considering some of the funky porn genres on the Internet.
  • Only 7 out of every 50 women like to watch things they wouldn’t do themselves.
  • 2/3 of men orgasm faster from watching porn than they do from real life sex.
  • 8% of men prefer masturbating and watching porn to IRL sex.
  • 68.3% of women aren’t bothered by their male partner’s porn-watching habits, as long as they don’t interfere with the relationship.

Overall, the survey highlighted that, while men are more voracious porn consumers than women, women aren’t as grossed out by X-rated videos as one might think.

TIME Lifestyle

How Long Does Your State Last?

Dorm beds: often sites of rebound sex.
Dorm beds: often sites of rebound sex. Qusai Al Shidi—Flickr

Americans don't exactly take their time in the sack

If New Mexico’s looking for a catchy tourism slogan, may we submit “New Mexico Does It Longer?”

The state, home to the fictional Walter White, contains the longest sex-havers in the nation, according to data collected by the Spreadsheets App and published in map-form by Nerve.com, a mobile app that helps people measure their time between the sheets. People in New Mexico do it for just over seven minutes on average.

Alaskans aren’t nearly so patient: the coldest state also has the shortest sex sessions, clocking in under two minutes. Two minutes is barely enough time to get every article of clothing off! Get it together, Alaska. Then again, maybe Alaskans aren’t even bothering to take their clothes off since the weather is so cold.

Here’s the complete list:

1. New Mexico – (7:01)

2. West Virginia – (5:38)

3. Idaho – (5:11)

4. South Carolina – (4:48)

5. Missouri – (4:22)

6. Michigan -(4:14)

7. Utah – (3:55)

8. Oregon – (3:51)

9. Nebraska – (3:47)

10. Alabama – (3:38)

11. Delaware – (3:33)

12. Hawaii – (3:28)

13. Wisconsin – (3:22)

14. North Dakota – (3:18)

15. Arizona – (3:17)

16. Maryland – (3:15)

17. Mississippi – (3:10)

18. Rhode Island – (3:09)

19. Connecticut – (3:07)

20. Texas – (3:06)

21. New Hampshire – (3:04)

22. Wyoming – (3:03)

23. New York – (3:01)

24. Pennsylvania – (2:58)

25. Maine – (2:58)

26. Washington – (2:51)

27. Iowa – (2:50)

28. Illinois – (2:49)

29. North Carolina – (2:47)

30. Tennessee – (2:46)

31. Kansas – (2:38)

32. California – (2:38)

33. Massachusetts – (2:31)

34. Florida – (2:29)

35. New Jersey – (2:28)

36. Indiana – (2:26)

37. Virginia – (2:23)

38. Oklahoma – (2:21)

39. Colorado – (2:21)

40. Minnesota – (2:19)

41. Ohio – (2:18)

42. Louisiana – (2:17)

43. Kentucky – (2:14)

44. Arkansas – (2:08)

45. District of Columbia – (2:08)

46. Nevada – (2:07)

47. Georgia – (2:07)

48. Montana – (2:03)

49. Vermont – (1:48)

50. South Dakota – (1:30)

51. Alaska – (1:21)

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