DRILL SERGEANTS KNOW IT. So do mothers and psychologists. Take care of the small things – maintain that rifle, clean your room, say you’re sorry – and life improves in big ways. Little fixes cut stress and build a reassuring sense of control.

“Once I have success with one goal,” says psychologist Tim Pychyl, “it increases my happiness, wellbeing, satisfaction and self-confidence. And that motivates me.”

It’s like the broken-window theory that cops swear by: if you fix little eyesores, the community pulls together to overhaul everything in sight. Try it in your life, starting now.

Fix Your Posture (while you work)

Use the 20-20 rule. “Trying to sit up straight all day is impractical and will only tire you out,” says professor of ergonomics Alan Hedge. Every 20 minutes, stand for 20 seconds and stretch or shake things out. “Just 20 seconds away from your computer screen reduces fatigue and increases blood circulation,” says Hedge. Now you’ll have the power to sit up straight.

Recharge Your Workout (and find your abs)

Do something that seems crazy: a one-sided workout. Unilateral training will trick your body into reaching new levels of strength and muscle, says trainer David Jack. One-sided exercises demand stabilisation, so you’ll strengthen your core, improve coordination and (ironically) prevent muscular imbalances. Add these exercises to your workout: single-arm dumbbell bench press, single-arm shoulder press and single-legged squat.

Start by performing eight to 10 repetitions with one side of your body, and then switch sides and repeat to complete the set. Rest for a minute and perform two more sets. Complete three sets for each exercise. For an extra boost, mix up the order of your unilateral exercises every four weeks, and adjust your rep ranges a few times a week. You’ll have to decrease the weight you lift initially, but you’ll soon pack on new muscle.

Fix Your Budget (and save your credit rating)

New concept: read your bills. Do you understand your cellphone plan? “Most people don’t thoughtfully take the time to analyse what they’re spending their money on,” says wealth manager JJ Burns.


Analyse how your plan compares to your usage. Not using all your minutes or making many outgoing calls? Opt for a different plan. Prepaid plans can be cheaper.


Do a year-over-year analysis of bills. Unexplained jumps? Make sure your meter’s not being misread. It’s not unheard of to be refunded or credited by Eskom and Telkom.


Make one extra payment every year to save thousands of rands of interest and pay off your bond earlier.

Stuff you buy

Anytime you buy something from a company that offers a refund if they lower the price within 30 days, take them up on it. Set your calendar to remind you to call them 28 days later.

Stop Procrastinating (like, now)

Do not make a to-do list. Do not research power tools. Do not clean your desk. Just dive in. That’s according to Pychyl, who has studied procrastination. Your to-do list is just another delaying tactic with a short-term rush. “We relieve our anxiety by making this false schedule,” Pychyl says.

Procrastinators aren’t necessarily bad at time management, he says, “they’re just not willing to deal with the discomfort of getting started.” But starting will ultimately make you feel better about working. “Our emotional wellbeing and our satisfaction with life,” he says, “is based a great deal upon the successful pursuit of our goals.”

Fill Your Walls (and cover that stain)

You don’t have to pay thousands to a starched, sniffing gallery owner for original paintings. But you really should replace your Alice in Chains poster and Guns N’ Roses flag. Starving artists are everywhere, dying to be taken advantage of. Check out local art schools and shows put together by newly minted Masters of Fine Arts, says Alan Bamberger, an art appraiser and author of The Art of Buying Art.

Affordable alternatives include antique prints and maps (rifle around in your family’s old boxes of “junk”, you may well find some treasures), framed photographs

Fix Your Kicks (and save money)

Instead of spending R500 on new shoes, spend less than half of that on new soles or heels for your favourite pair. Not a bad price for saving something you really like. Plus, there’s no breaking-in period.

Clean The Coffee Stain (before your 9.30 meeting)

Find a sink fast, says Neil Doveton, Men’s Health fashion director. Use soap and hot water and blot out the stain, pouring the water through the fabric if you can (take the damn shirt off if you’re in the loo). “Whatever you do, don’t rub it,” says Doveton. Blot dry with paper towels, or if there’s a hand dryer, crank it up.

Untangle That Mess (because it looks like hell)

Unplug everything. Label each cord. Screw your power strip to the underside of your desk, or to the wall. Tie off excess cordage with cable ties. Reattach your (wisely labelled) connector cords, gathering them as you go and bundling them with more ties or even carabiners to minimise tangle. Now,don’t you feel better?

Repair Your Scratched Bumper (yourself!)

Examine the scratch to see if there’s still colour left in the groove. Yes? Good – you’ve only scraped the clear coat, a finish that protects the paint from sunlight and gives it that glossy sheen. You’ll be able to fix it yourself, says Dennis Parks, author of The Complete Guide to Auto Body Repair.

Buy a clearcoat polishing compound. Using a soft cloth dabbed in the compound, buff out the scratch, using circular motions. If the scratch has chipped the paint, clean the area with a wax and grease remover. This removes dirt and will help the new paint stick. Then pick up a bottle of touch-up paint at a local auto-parts store.