Category Archives: Hacks

Why Showing Up Is Not Enough

by Jessica Dang rss | t f | g+

I often read advice about how to be successful. Up until now, I must have accumulated hundreds of books, biographies, articles, and essays about success – what it means, and how to ‘achieve’ it, all the while hoping to find a common theme that would tell me the universal truth about the one thing that apparently makes life worth living.

I admit, it’s probably not a good habit to read about it too much. Spending a lot of time reading about it means that I’m spending less time doing the kinds of things that would actually make me successful. Besides, after all these years, I’m still looking for an answer.

I have learned a few important things, however, so it hasn’t all gone to waste. There are certainly common pieces of advice that have come up more than a few times in my readings. One of these is the importance of showing up.

the myth of showing up

Almost everyone talking about success talks about showing up. They say that if there’s one thing in common between all the men and women who have been ‘successful’ in the past – those that have discovered, or invented, or achieved something great – it is that they showed up. They got out of bed every day, even if they had to drag themselves up, and went to the laboratory, or office, or racetrack, and climbed whatever mountain they had to, physical or metaphorical, to reach their goal. They were there when it happened (whatever it maybe be).

But it makes me wonder – is that enough? Does saying that they were simply there miss another crucial element to their success? After all, when they arrived at the door, or the foot of that mountain, they didn’t just stand there.

They took the first steps, they moved forward, and they carried on. They didn’t give up.

They weren’t just there when it happened, they made it happen.

That’s why showing up is not enough. You can’t just get out of bed in the morning and sit your ass down on a chair and expect miracles to happen. Yes, it can be hard to do that, but almost anyone can just show up. It’s what you do after you arrive that matters.

If you’re going to work every day, or to the studio, or lab, or playing field, or wherever it is that you’re hoping to achieve greatness, and your heart is not fully in it, you’ll never get to where you want to be. You have to be present and aware, which means you can’t just be there, you have to be there. Do you get it? You have to put your heart in it, get in the flow, look forward, see the bigger picture, strategise, be one step ahead, push hard, then push harder, and most importantly, do the goddamn work itself. There’s no getting around it.

It’s a medicine that easy to prescribe but hard to swallow. If you have been chipping away at something for a while, and you’re not getting anywhere, it might be because you thought showing up was enough to get you to the top, but it’s not.

It’s like expecting to be lifted up a mountain by the force of nature just because you arrived at the foot. It won’t happen. The only way to the top is to climb up, one step at a time. Yes, there are ways to do it more quickly, and efficiently, there are tools you can use, and maybe there’s a shortcut, like a bus that would drive you halfway up, but unless you find it, you’re going to have to do it the hard way.

So yes, showing up is important. But there’s more to it than that. If you want to condense the hours and hours I’ve spent educating myself about success into just a couple of words, it would go something like this:

Show up. Put your heart in it. Do the work. Don’t give up.

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Spontaneous Disconnection

I’m back! You can follow my shenanigans on Twitter.

Since I started Minimal Student, my once a week posting schedule has forced me to reach for my laptop at least once every few days to write posts, answer email and reply to comments. Not to mention all of the other habits I’ve developed whilst being connected, like constant checking and refreshing like a crazy person.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely cherish all of you guys, and I’m not against technology or the internet in general, but as the last few months of my year abroad approaches, I decided to spend some time travelling.

And so I did. In three weeks I visited ancient temples, rock gardens, a castle, I photographed cherry blossoms, attended festivals, had a mud, herbal and oxygen bath (all separately), did karaoke all night and went to the biggest aquarium in the world, amongst other things. Sometimes I travelled alone, sometimes with companions, but never with my laptop. No facebook, no twitter, no blogging.

I spontaneously disconnected.

At first it was hard. Bad things have happened to my blog when I had left it before, not to mention dozens of other worries I had: What if someone tweets a really inspiring quote? What if I don’t untag an unflattering picture of me on facebook? What if all my readers leave me?

I know that to some people, not having the internet is almost horrifying. I have to admit that I had a few worries too, but I soon forgot about them as I got lost in my travelling. After a few days, my online presence (or lack of it) didn’t even come to mind at all.

What I learned is that we worry way too much about staying connected. We crave updates and notifications and we think we need all information at our fingertips all the time. It feels nice to know that people want to contact you or they need you in some way. But we only crave it to inflate our egos.

When I finally got back and found the time to log on, I realized that I hadn’t lost all of my readers (in fact, I had even gained some) and although I had a lot of various notifications, none of them were very important at all.

I went against my fears, they never came true, and I was rewarded with the time of my life.

how to disconnect and disappear (even for just a little while)

1. Disconnect your real self from your online self. Despite what people think, you are not who you are online. You exist as a genuinely amazing person without all of the extra fluff and anonymity of the internet to big you up. You don’t have to tell everyone what you’re up to all the time, neither do you have to know what everyone else was up to. Be strong and realize that people won’t miss you as terribly as you thought, but that’s okay. At least now you can…

2. Go somewhere, and just do something. There’s no point disconnecting if you’re not going to do something better to replace it. Pick a place, a person or a goal. Admit that the internet was distracting you and but now you can do whatever you put your mind to. Work on your life goal, or else do something worthwhile.

3. Cut the chains. When you come back (if you decide to!), you’ll see just how many things used up you time and attention online, although you didn’t need it. If you survived the disconnection, perhaps all of those things weren’t so important after all. Cut off all of the relationships that don’t give back as much as you give in, unsubscribe to all of the blogs that are wasting your time, the newsletters that clutter your inbox and any services and sites that you don’t use.

If you’re brave enough to take up the challenge, disappear from the interwebs for a few days, a week or even two. (You’re permitted to tell a few people in case they think you’ve leapt off a high place).

Go do something amazing … then, don’t update your status.

How I’m living a millionaire’s lifestyle and how you can too

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The breeze is running through your hair. It smells so sweet and fresh. The sound of the sea waves parting under the boat is regular and calming. The sun is setting over the mountains and the sky is tinged in a deep pink and orange. You take a deep breath and there is just one thought running through your mind “Ah, this is the life“.

That was my weekend. (Photo credit: me☺).

A few weeks before that I was watching the sunset from the top of a mountain in Shikoku, Japan, and who knows where I’ll be at the same time next weekend – an ancient town, a modern city, talking to locals, eating ramen or a thousand other things that the world has to offer.

But I’m no millionaire. In fact, I’m far from it. I don’t have a regular job and I don’t own a stick of furniture to my name. I’m living off a few tutoring gigs, a small scholarship and the generosity of the Japanese people.

So how can I afford to do all of these amazing things?

The answer is simple. It can be summarized as:

You don’t want to be a millionaire.

Sound ludicrous? “Of course I want to be a millionaire! What kinda crazy person doesn’t?!” It’s a bold statement, but hear me out.

I’ll repeat it because it’s very very important that you know this. Deep down, you don’t want to be a millionaire.

That’s because you want what you can do with a million bucks, not the cash itself.

There is a crucial difference. I’m going to be bold and just assume that if you’re reading this then you care more about experiences vs. stuff – you care more about living life, not working it, and you would rather do/go/see wonderful and amazing places or things with/to/for other people,  instead of owning material objects.

If you don’t, and you care more about accumulating expensive things you don’t need, stop reading now, pop over to minimalism 101 and if you’re still here then you can read on.

One day, (when I’m a millionaire) I’ll…

People literally spend their time, money, health, relationships, effort and lives burning themselves out trying to make a million dollars or something close to it, without realizing that the goal isn’t an arbitrary amount of cash.

It’s not much of a generalization to say that there are too many people stressing themselves out trying to do too much, just so that they can earn enough money to buy lot’s of stuff… but even worse than that, they doing it to save up for ‘one day’.

I’m all for saving up and being prepared for the future, but this meaning of ‘one day’ isn’t good enough for me. It implies that I slave over a job I don’t like right now, just so that I don’t have to do it later. It implies that I have to wait about sixty five precious years be able to do the kind of stuff I had really wanted to do all along.

These people don’t realize they want a lot of money precisely for the reason so that they can quit there jobs, fly to a beach and relax in the sunshine.

What they’re really saying to themselves is “If I had a million bucks, I would….” and so they work all there lives to get that million and they forget that they could just do whatever comes at the end of that sentence for a fraction of the cost. Common answers are:

  • quit my (soul-sucking) job
  • take lessons in… [insert dream hobby/skill]
  • sip cocktails on a beach
  • go on a cruise/mountain climbing etc.
  • go to x city (London, Tokyo etc.)
  • go backpacking

or even:

  • have everything I ever wanted

For me? Done. Done. Done.

Okay, so this plan won’t work if you’re goal is to roll around in a million one dollar bills, but for most reasonable or more importantly extraordinary goals, a couple thousand is more than enough. And this is not to say that everyone hates their job, just there are many people putting it first whilst forgetting what it is they’re working for in the first place.

Finally, I’m not saying we shouldn’t save up for when we’re too old to be able to work – just that we don’t know if we’ll even make it that far, so we should be prepared if we do, but live life whilst we know we have the chance.

Minimal Student’s guide to conquering the world

Making the realization that you don’t want the money, you want what you can do with it is the first step, next you just have to take the initiative. Let’s compare the costs of a few of the costs that we pay for just practically staying still:

  • a car, plus tax, insurance, gas for a year = from $2000+
  • rent of an apartment/shared house in a medium-big city = av $350 x 12 months
  • two seasons of av. Christmas presents expenditure =$500+
  • an smart-phone contract =$299 + av. $30 x 12 month contract (normally 24)
  • bi-monthly shopping trips expenditure per year = $120 x 6
  • gym membership = $20 x 12

Total cost per year = approx $8000+

(of course prices are approximate and vary from country to country and based on currency)

versus: skipping having a car/phone/gym contract, keeping only a small apartment (or storing stuff at parent’s house), and being forgiven for not buying a few presents – the cost to fly from America to London, then around Europe (Paris, Berlin, Rome etc.) for about 10 days:

  • approximate flight total* = $2000
  • hostel/hotel = av. $20-30 per night x 10 (free if staying with friends)
  • food = av. $15-25 per day x 10
  • other/travel/misc costs = $10-$25

Total cost of around  = approx $2500

*Not calculated but flights between European cities can be dirt cheap if booked last minute since airlines will take almost anything you can give them for left-over seats just before take-off, which can be as low as $25!

And that was calculated for an extensive (albeit quick) tour of Europe all the way from another continent!

I know this isn’t exactly a scientific analysis but you get the idea. Travel is much cheaper than most people expect and definitely cheaper than people are afraid of. If people just got rid of even one or two of the things from the above list, they would be putting themselves in the position to have a memory-creating adventure of a lifetime.

People who are paralyzed by ‘money troubles’ are using it as an excuse. If your dream is to travel around the world, you can do that for less than the cost of a year’s rent in a medium-big city.

If you look in the right places, plane fares are only a couple hundred at most to fly from one part of the world to the opposite side, but most people pay that in gas and insurance for their cars (in one year). Go on, I dare you right now to google flight prices from wherever you are right now to wherever in the world you want to go. Boat cruises and over-night buses are even cheaper.

As for accommodation, I’ve stayed in places ranging from semi-luxury hotels, to bed and breakfasts to an overnight Karaoke bar (in fact, in the latter was probably the most fun I’ve ever had). The trick is to save money by staying in ‘nice’ places in a cheaper city and then very cheap places in expensive cities. If you’re worried about ‘having a good night’s stay’, in my experience I’ve found that this trick balances it out because if you pay more in not-so-posh places you’ll get something adequate instead of gross and if you pay cheap in popular cities you’ll get something adequate, not overpriced.

It’s not about how much you make, but the life that you make with the money you have

If your excuse is that you ‘don’t have enough time’ well, that should be a good indication that should cut down a few commitments. Re-prioritize, say ‘no’ to a few hours of work or other extra responsibilities and put yourself first, at least for a few weeks. If your time is in that much demand that you can hardly break away, well, that’s more proof that you deserve a break.

And if you’re not really interested in travelling, there’s plenty of other options too. Go out and do something nice for yourself or with your friends or do something different, and memorable.

If helping people in need is what you want to do, you don’t have to be a millionaire for that either. You can change lives with just a few dollars or even just giving away some of your time. Figure out what you want and get creative!

I’m sorry if you were looking for a ‘get rich quick’ how-to post, but this isn’t an invitation to spend like a millionaire, it’s an invitation to live like one – which ultimately means to do all of the things you’ve only dreamed of doing. Of course, you might not get to stay in five star hotels or rent a penthouse suite, but you have to be open to compromises which are always better in the end than making excuses not to go at all.

So basically, this is what you will need:

  • guts  – it takes bravery to admit that you don’t really need a million bucks, or a massive flat-screen TV with cable subscription, or a fancy sports car, or massive house.Let other people do all the earning and waiting until they’re grey and old, waiting for life to happen to them, while you start enjoying your life right now.
  • a plan – it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just spend 20 minutes doing a quick Google search of costs/prices of the things you want to do. Is it as bad as you thought it would be? If not, keep working on your plan, cut a few bits here and there, but even if it costs a lot, it’s worth not abandoning the idea if you can save enough to do it within 2-3 years, almost anything is better than waiting 40 years!
  • to reduce your current life overhead costs.

What you don’t need:

  • ‘one day’ disease
  • to be wasting money on dream-unrelated stuff
  • a million bucks

Get a piece of paper and write down the answers to these questions now:

  1. What would you do if you had a million dollars?
  2. Is there a way I can do it for less?

If the answer to question 2 is ‘Yes!’ or even a ‘maybe!’ then you’ve got a chance.

What’s stopping you? You only live once, go out and live your millionaire lifestyle now!

What is will your millionaire lifestyle be like? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter


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minimalism 101

I’m very happy to announce that this week, I was featured in the UK The Times newspaper magazine.

It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my short lifetime, and it’s incredibly humbling to realize that there are people who will listen to someone like me has to say.

So, with honor, I would like to say, welcome The Times readers!

This post is for you, but also for my current readers as well as my friends and family who I have kept this blog a secret from for so long. It’s a complete definition of what in the world ‘minimalism’ is, I predict that only a small percentage of people will actually read this post from beginning to end, but I can guarantee that you will be a different person by the end of it if you do.

If you’ve never heard of minimalism before, I should warn you that I’m going to make some pretty bold statements, but if there is anything this blog has shown me, is that there are also many people apart from myself who absolutely believe them to be true.

what is minimalism all about?

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

Minimalism is all about having enough. It’s about having only what you need, no more, and especially no less.

‘What you need’ can refer especially to your possessions, but can also include your commitments, relationships, work and lifestyle.

All our lives we’re told that we want to have more money so that we can achieve ‘our dreams’ of owning a big house with a pool in the back, a fancy sports car and expensive shoes so we can gain the label of ‘success’. We’re told to know the latest gossip, watch the latest shows, know what everyone is doing on facebook, and jump from relationship to relationship otherwise we’re labelled ‘loners’. We’re told that we should always be ‘busy’, because if we’re not busy we’re being lazy. We’re told all of these criteria and more about how we ‘should’ live our lives and what we should have so that we can be ‘happy’.

But that’s not the whole story. In real life, there are people that have and do all of these things, and yet they’re no happier than the people who don’t. And there are people who have none of these things and are very happy with their lives. Clearly this means that it can’t be the above things that make people happy.

But despite this, there are people who wake up in the morning only to look forward to an hour of sitting in their car in bad traffic, then sitting at their desk doing a job that makes them bored or tired, then going home exhausted and sitting in front of the TV, then spending their weekends spending the money they earned to buy things that ‘make them happy’ when all they’re really doing is perpetuating the cycle.

If you ask these people what they look forward to the most the answer is usually something like their next vacation abroad, or they’re saving up to buy something big and special, or they’re waiting for their retirement… all of which are things that only occur occasionally, whilst the rest of the 90% of their lives are spent… just waiting.

a new way of thinking

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.
-Vernon Howard

What’s the secret to happiness? This topic has been researched extensively, but I know many people have already found the answer.

It’s minimalism.

Do you think I’m making a pretty bold statement here? It’s up to you, but here are my reasons.

Essentially, minimalism is about breaking out of the mould of always wanting more. It’s about finding happiness in what we have already, instead of chasing something that is always out of reach. Once one gains something they’ve wanted for a long time, they only find temporary happiness.

Think about all of the times you’ve gotten what you wanted, do you still want them now? Of course not, because you got it. But my guess is that you want something else right now. So you have moved on from that thing you orignially wanted so badly. Don’t worry, everyone does it, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but minimalism helps you break out of exactly this vicious cycle.

Why do people want things, like the latest gadget, car or in-season clothes? Most of the time it’s to boost their ego, or to show off how much money they have, or to fit in or to confirm that they are doing well in life. These people aren’t bad or selfish, in fact, I used to be exactly like that because we hadn’t been taught any other way. But now I have, and I’ve stopped worrying about what others think of me and started making some real friends who love me for who I am, not what I have.

realism or idealism?

Well that’s all well and good, but I have to pay the rent and my credit card bills“. I get this remark a lot, because people are focussing on the the wrong issue. They think minimalism is about being practically homeless – with few possessions, looking ugly and hoarding all of their money, but that’s not it at all. I have always said that minimalism is different for everyone, and it cannot be measured in set rules like that. Sometimes, it’s impractical for people to give up their jobs, especially if there are people who rely on them. If you have kids and you’re wondering what this has all got to do with you, I would suggest checking out Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker (somebody who I’ve looked up to for a long time and had supported my blog in it’s early stages), who manages very well with being a minimalist and a parent.

But there is always something you can do. If you downsize from a huge house, you can probably afford to live in a better location. If you just get rid of the clothes you know you’ll never wear, then maybe it won’t be so hard to open and close your wardrobe. If you spend less time watching trashy TV shows you’ll forget about in a week, or films you’ve seen before, then you can spend more time with friends and family or developing a skill or doing a hobby. If you spend more time cycling than driving, you can spend less time worrying about traffic, your health and the environment.

You don’t have to give up everything, it’s about reducing to what you really need. You can still dress fashionably without wasting money on brands, watch TV that is actually worth watching and drive a car when you need to. Just do what feels right for you. If you know me, or any other minimalists, you’ll just see a regular person. We’re not that different on the outside, just the inside.

Some people think that minimalism is against human nature. They think that if humans stop wanting more, things will stop progressing. If people have no ambition and drive, then ideas and innovations cease. People will stop working hard and just stick to their lowly jobs. This is not true. You can be happy with everything you have, and still improve yourself and society. The difference is this: as long as you are happy right now and not basing your happiness on obtaining the next thing or stage, then you’re practising minimalism, because you’re already happy. From then on, you’re working because you love what you do, not so that you can obtain happiness – because that kind of thinking never works, you will always be hanging on for ‘the next thing/stage’ , and when you get there, there will be another thing and then another thing… We should have more faith in human nature than thinking it is to be greedy.

Every human being is born to be happy. That is our life purpose. From those born poor or rich. Even the bad villains we see in movies are just trying to find happiness in their own way.

We deserve more than to be constantly waiting for happiness.


Live simply so that others may simply live.
HH Dalai Lama

A post that has been consistently popular since I published it is ‘Why minimalism brings happiness‘. People are looking for an answer.

But what is happiness exactly? How do we know if we are ‘happy’?

What happiness means is different for everyone, and in my opinion there isn’t one complete definition, but for me, happiness means that

I am feeling how I want to feel, I am doing everything I want to do, and I am at peace.

How do I want to feel? I want to feel good about contributing as little as I can to the waste and pollution of the Earth. I want to feel good that I have enough time and money to give away to people who need it more than me. And finally, I want to feel that I’ve made a positive impact, no matter how small, on the people around me and thus a difference in the world. No matter what, I’m determined to leave this world in a better state than how I entered it, that is what happiness means to me.

why I became minimalist

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

So let’s keep it simple. Apart from being happy, I became a minimalist for three reasons. For my:

1. Health. Minimalism keeps me healthy. Just check out my previous posts on a minimalist diet, my minimalist kitchen, minimalist exercise, cycling, runningand so on.

2. Study. I am a student, who is in love with her major. Through minimalism, I’ve been able to be where I want to be. If you want to find where I am, check out ‘the big reveal – my year abroad‘.

3. Dreams. Finally, I became minimalist so that I can eliminate distractions from my life. Without things that don’t matter cluttering up my life, I can focus my time, efforts and money on my dream of being able to travel the world because I am a firm believer of experiences over possessions.

I am happier now than I have ever been. And I predict in the future that I will be even happier than I am now. Hopefully, my happiness will never stop because I find myself wanting something I can’t have, or because I put my life on hold to get something I want. Of course there will be ups and downs, but what can I say, I’m an optimist.

An optimist is a person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.
Mark Twain

make a difference

When I started this blog, I did it anonymously because I thought it was so that I could chat about minimalism with people who felt the same. But in the Times article, my identity has been revealed to everyone, including my family and friends who had very little idea about what I was up to. Why did I agree to reveal myself in the article? Believe me, it wasn’t for fame or recognition or anything like that, I don’t care about that stuff.

This blog is my way of expressing the message of minimalism. It isn’t a cult, or a religion to follow, and I never preach or push about it in real life. Minimal Student blog is my way of spreading the word and to making the small change in the world that I have always wanted. I just want others to be happy, and if this is the way they’ll find it, that makes me even happier.

where to go from here

I’ve linked to a few of my past posts above but they are by no means all of them. If you want to read more, check out my most popular posts or read a little about me. You can also check out a few series I’m currently working on Simple Philosophies, 5 Life Lessons and Minimalist Meditations.

I have already mentioned some of these blogs above, but just in case you didn’t check them out, I want to thank the following people who have inspired me:

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. Thank you for reading and thank you for your helpful comments and encouraging emails. If you find any of the posts helpful to you in some way, please help me keep Minimal Student going by making even just a tiny teeny donation.

If you can’t see the donate button, please click here!

Have you changed even just a little since the beginning of this post? I look forward to hearing from you.

My minimalist morning routine

Just because I’m a minimalist, doesn’t mean I’m an early riser.

Are you surprised?

I used to be a strong supporter of the idea of waking early (I still am) but I have discovered over the years that I have so many reasons not to (even though I very much admire people that do). For example, my brain tends to be more productive in the evening. If I try to go to bed too early, I know I will probably waste a good few hours tossing and turning around in bed thinking about things I have to get done, when I could have actually done it.

Also, I am absolutely blessed that I live only a few minutes by walk + bus away from my university, so I really don’t need to get up early. If I push myself, I would probably make myself unnecessarily tired during the morning, which is usually a crucial time for me. I’ve found what works for me, which is not too early, but not too late either. You may think I’m trying to make excuses, but being the non-conformist that I am, I would prefer to do what I feel is right, rather than what others tell me.

my morning routine

I’ve been getting a few emails about it, but to honest there’s nothing superhuman or special about it. I have to leave by 8:45, so by trial and error I worked out a routine which I can comfortably follow to the minute. I tried to minimalize as much as possible, so after a month of practising, this is what I came up with:

7:30-: Get up, bathroom, brush teeth.

7:45-: Exercise, put away futon.

8:00-: Make up

8:15-: Hair

8:25-: Change clothes

8:35-: Breakfast

8:45-: Leave house.

That’s it. Simple – exactly the way I like it.

A few tips that I can offer are:

1. Get a pleasant alarm clock. Although my iPhone doesn’t work in Japan (long story) I still use it everyday to wake me up. I have an app called Alarm Tunes which allows me to pick any song I want as the alarm. That way, I can choose nice ‘pick-me-up’ tunes to wake up to, which gives me a pleasant start to the day. If you don’t have an iPhone/iPod, I know you can buy little clocks that you can upload mp3 tracks on to.

2. Don’t miss exercising in the morning. Even if it’s just ten jumping jacks, don’t leave it out. I find just doing five minutes of stretching makes all the different for the rest of the day. If I ever forget or didn’t have enough time for some reason, I definitely feel sluggish or tired for hours. My morning stretch is possibly more important that remembering to brush my teeth.

3. Don’t dawdle. Sometimes I put on music because I can listen to it at the same time as getting ready. But I never watch TV in the morning because it’s almost guaranteed to slow me down in some way. The more time I spend getting ready, the more time I could have spent sleeping, who needs more motivation than that?

4. Pack the night before. It’s such a simple tip, yet it works so well. I just put everything I need in my bag before I go to bed so all I have to do is slip on my shoes grab my bag and go. No running about looking for stuff and NO forgetting anything as I’m halfway up the road. There’s nothing worse that having a bad feeling you’re forgetting something and only remembering past the point of no return :)

5. Whatever you do, have a system. If you’ve ever met me, you know I’m a pretty laid back person. I usually like things to be spontaneous and different (my weekends are usually free for whatever life in Japan wants to throw at me) but when it comes to my mornings I’m the complete opposite. I like efficiency. I really do love my sleep and besides that I have better things to do than to waste too much time flaffing about. So even if you don’t have a specific agenda to complete, just trying to wake up at the same time and leave at the same time most days is quite an achievement, it will at least reduce the chance of you waking up stressed and rushed which really does put most people in a bad mood.

So to sum up, the most important thing about your mourning routine is that it sets you up well for the day. Try to find a good that suits you and your own preferences and circumstances, whether your an early riser or not. Every day is a brand new beginning and a chance to live differently, so take it on wholeheartedly and have a nice day!

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How to transform your life in 5 steps


“Live the life you love and love the life you live” – Bob Marley

There are two kinds of routines. One you’re unhappy to be in, and the other you’re happy to be in.

A few months ago, my typical week consisted of late night library hours and cramming in studying and assignments between a ton of social commitments. There was a period when I got up at noon whenever I could and I didn’t eat too well either. I felt like I was stuck in a rut and I couldn’t get out. I had so many commitments and responsibilities that I was having a bad time just trying to please everyone.

After a few weeks, I had enough. This wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I wanted better grades. I wanted to start running again. I wanted more.

So I decided to buckle down and radically change my life.

Soon, I felt so much better as my routine became more revolved around what I wanted. Now, everyday, I get up early, I run for a few miles, shower, read a book, write, strum my guitar and study. Every couple of days, I go out with my friends or family and do something fun, like going to the park, out for a meal or to the cinema. I love the way I live now because it’s stress-less and allows me to have a lot of time to myself so that I can do whatever I feel like.

Granted, I wasn’t exactly living a horrible life before, but it was far from ideal. I made a decision to change my life, so I did.

what not to do

The worst thing to do when you don’t like things the way they are is to simply complain about it. Lot’s. I know that life isn’t always rainbows and roses, but complaining about it won’t help you because:

  • Complaining is infectious. It makes you look like a negative person. People will begin to drift away from you if you drag their mood down, even if it’s only a little.
  • Hardly anything bad that happens to someone is aimed directly at them. Most of the time the universe does random things, good and bad things can befall everyone. The universe revolves around no one.
  • Rarely does complaining actually make things disappear.
  • Shouting at someone means that person believes their problem is more important than respecting another human being.

People complain because there is a dissonance between what is and what the person thinks it should be.

Okay, so sometimes we have to vent a little. And we don’t have to like everything the way it is, but that’s ok, as long as it leads to positive action. A person has to be proactive to change what they disagree with. In other words, if they really don’t like things they way they are, they should do something productive about their situation, instead of moaning about it.

how to radically change your life

1. Mentally commit. Firstly, you have to decide you want to change, and then stick to it. There’s no point in being weak willed when it comes to radically changing you life. It’s easy to slip back to what is easiest – which is no change at all. Once you’ve decided that you’re sick of the way you’re living right now, you can look forward to how you’re going to change it. Start telling people that you want to change, and you’ll find yourself doing it so that you won’t let them, and yourself, down.

2. Make specific goals. Have clear aims about where you want to be by when. Write them down in big letters and stick it somewhere you can see everyday.

  • “I want ___ grade by ___”.
  • “I want to earn ___ by ___”
  • “I want to be ___ by ___”

Commit them to memory. Use them as mantras.

Break goals down into how you will achieve them. If you want to have really good grades this year, how good? How many hours study will you do a day/week? Then, stick to it and keep going. If you are persistent, a breakthrough is inevitable. If your goal is measurable, don’t forget to reward yourself when the time comes.

3. Say no. Learning how to say no to others is learning how to say yes to yourself. It sounds selfish, but it’s not. Yes, there are times you should spend with others, but it’s your life, you should be doing the things you care about. Don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to. Don’t make promises that you can’t fulfil. Real friends would understand that you have your own needs and they should respect whatever you choose to do.

4. Minimalize. Throw out anything you don’t need. This includes commitments with people/clubs that your heart isn’t into any more. Get rid of the things that make you unhappy. Get rid of the things that aren’t making you happy. Get rid of things that are cluttering up your space and taking up your precious time and effort. The purpose of this is to get rid of all the things that don’t matter that are distracting you. That way, you can focus on your goals.

5. Be fearless. Don’t just stick with whatever other people are doing, go for your own thing. Do what you love. Set one crazy goal. If you don’t challenge yourself, you’re not making a real change. Ditch your comfort zone and go for it. Don’t care what other people think. Dare to be different.

how I applied these steps to my life

When I started this blog, I had no idea that people would actually read it (thank you!). I wrote a couple of posts about minimalism because I felt more committed when I told other people. I wrote down specific goals about what I wanted to achieve with my grades and with incorporating minimalism into my life (like halving my wardrobe). I said no to partying as much as I used to and I felt tons better for it. I had more time to focus on what really mattered. Finally, I dared to be different from other students. I didn’t want to be the typical broke/alcoholic student, nor did I want to be a social recluse. I challenged the conventional way of thinking – I refused to have a car even though I had a choice and I found my own brand of minimalism. I chose the life I have now, I’m really happy with it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Are you living your ideal life? How did you/will you get there? Let me know in the comments!

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5 ways to kick start and feed your reading habit


“Not all readers are leaders but all leaders are readers” ~ Harry S. Truman

For a lot of people, reading is ‘boring’. To them, books remind them of something they ‘had to do’ at school. Until recently, I didn’t realize the extent people actually rejected reading, as if it was something to avoid. I’ve seen dozens of facebook profiles with “don’t read” or even a “you’re joking” in the favorite books box.

Do these people know how much they’re missing out? I mean, what about all that fantastical adventures, beautiful romances, emotional turmoils, romances, tears and guilt? What about all the battles, betrayals, heroes and villains of the past that you haven’t heard of? What about all the fascinating things about the world that you don’t yet know about? From reading, you can learn the lessons of geniuses, revolutionaries and from the greatest leaders of all time. So the real question isn’t “why should I read”, it’s “why shouldn’t I?”

how to develop a reading habit

1. Know where to start. If you’re not already an avid reader, you might feel a little overwhelmed at the choice of books available. In that case, why not try some reliable lists, for example:

2. Get it cheap. You don’t have to spend a lot of money at all. Never pay RRP for a book. My first point of call is always Amazon, but the Book Depository is usually cheaper for new books and worldwide delivery is free. Of course there’s also the library, charity shops, sites like Paperback Swap. If you know people who read, you can borrow or swap with your friends, family and even professors (who are especially helpful with hard to obtain/expensive books in your field).

3. Read everyday. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, it will all add up week by week. Always try to have a book handy somewhere to pull out when you’re standing in line or sitting on the bus. Or you can keep a book by your bed to relax you into sleep (not put you to sleep!). I usually look forward to evenings when I block out a bit of time, make a warm cup of tea and snuggle in my duvet with a good book for a few hours. Even the thought of it makes me smile :)

4. Aim. You could read casually or you could set up a goal. If you choose a field, by reading one book on it a week, you can become an ‘international expert’ within few years. If that’s a little too much, you can easily make up your own goal such as two books a month (1 book per 14 days), or twenty books a year (about 1 book per 20 days). By having an aim, you can more easily write/decide your list(s) and possibly get through many more books than you would otherwise.

5. Balance and diversify. Almost everyone has a subject/genre that they are really interested in. It doesn’t have to be an ‘academic’ subject either. Whatever it is, choose it and read as many books as you can find about it. However, you should also have a go at something completely different – how do you know you won’t like it until you’ve tried it? Why not wonder into a completely different part of the library, randomly picking up a book and reading the blurb or first page? You never know, you may discover a new passion. The key is to balance depth and breadth.

So, try not to think of reading as a chore. It’s not homework. It’s not work at all. It expands your horizons, pushes your imagination and can change your life. Don’t miss out, kick start your reading habit today.

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island” – Walt Disney

Do you have any more ideas on how to read more? Or any book recommendations? Or maybe you’d like to share what you’re reading right now? Please comment below!

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5 steps to get started with barefoot running

Lately, barefoot running has become a new craze in what I like to ‘The Minimalist Circle’ :) It sounded so interesting, that I decided to give it a try a couple of weeks ago and have been doing it regularly ever since.

what is barefoot running?

Barefoot running is what it says on the tin. It’s running without expensive trainers because that’s how humans have run for thousands of years. It’s getting back to nature by ditching shoes (a modern invention) that have changed how we step as we run. Originally, humans ran by stepping with the ball of the foot first and then the heel would follow. Nowadays, the design of shoes mean that we all tend to step heel to toe (the opposite way around). When you’re running, if your heel touches the ground first, your entire weight is impacted upwards into your knees with every step.

Try running around at home barefooted for a few minutes. Notice how quickly you revert back to the ‘natural’ way of running (ball of foot first).

If you tried that exercise, and found it to be true, your body is aching to go barefoot running!

When I first tried it, I was living in a city, and there was no way I wanted to have broken glass jammed up my feet, so I decided to mix it up a bit.  I would run in trainers to the park and then run wearing socks on the grass. The park is huge, and kept very clean, so there was little chance I would step on something unpleasant.

Fortunately, at home, I live by a beach. From experience, I’ve found that running on sand is a completely different kind of running, because the ground is so soft. So I had always run in trainers on the concrete pavement parallel to the sea. But, having grown up by the ocean, I know that for a certain time after the tide has gone out, the sand is solid from the moisture and is more suitable for running, so I run barefoot there often too.

the benefits

According to Wikipedia (take that as you like) there is some research evidence that found that:

barefoot running is healthier for feet and reduces risk of chronic injuries, notably repetitive stress injuries due to the impact of heel striking in padded running shoes, in addition to other purported benefits.

However, I should give a word of warning. Although there are a few medical authorities advocating barefoot running, it may not be for everyone. It depends on a number of factors, such as where you live and what your own body is like. Personally, I’ve experienced a lot of benefits from running barefoot, and have heard other positive accounts, but that doesn’t mean that it will be the same for everyone.

The best thing to do is to just try it out a couple of times and see for yourself. I’m not saying you have to make a complete switch and do it all the time, maybe you can just sprinkle it between your normal runs.

5 beginner’s tips for barefoot running

1. You don’t have to go barefoot all the way. Actually, you don’t have to be barefoot at all! If you feel uncomfortable, try running in socks on grass. I’ve found it to be just as effective as running barefooted anyway.

2. Keep in mind, you don’t look as silly as you think. To be honest, at first I did feel a bit silly, and I was really concious of people ‘looking’ at me as I ran in the park. But after a while, I got used to it and realised that nobody was really ‘looking’ at all – it was just in my head. And anyway, so what if they look? It’s not illegal, and who knows, they could really be thinking ‘that looks fun!’ and want to try it themselves!

3. It doesn’t just feel different, it feels better. I couldn’t believe it at first, but it really does feel more natural. By just taking off those (expensive yet) encumbering shoes, I felt really free, just like a kid again. Although I’m not quite ready to throw away my running shoes, I definitely use them a lot less now.

4. Realize you don’t need expensive running gear. Apart from regular running shoes, I also found that I don’t need expensive barefoot running shoes. There are a few options available, such as the Vibram brand, but in my opinion, that’s just buying more running shoes! I know that for a lot of people, the shoes are great because it means they can run barefoot on concrete/roads etc. but I think it’s much better for people to just try out barefoot running with socks on grass than using the shoes as an ‘I-don’t-want-to-commit-because-it’s-expensive‘ excuse not to do it.

5. It’s hard at first, but don’t give up, because it’s worth it. It may not be as cushioned and lovely to run on grass, soil and twigs but then again, why not try something different? If everything was easy, it wouldn’t be exciting now would it? For me, doing things differently and outside my comfort zone gives me a rush, and is much more fun than doing the same things the same way over and over again.

Please don’t just read this post and think ‘that sounds nice‘ and leave it at that, why not try it today?

And if you’ve already tried it, how did it go? I would love to hear what you think about barefoot running in the comments!

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Moving back home – 5 ways to get rid of unwanted things

^ My life possessions!

Finally, it’s nearly time to move out of our beloved dorms back home and enjoy a well-deserved summer break. But moving home can be a pain, especially since we’ve all probably gained more stuff during the course of the year.

Moving from home, all of my stuff only just fit into the car with the driver and me as the passenger, so I don’t have much extra room for the books and clothes I’ve gained. On top of that, I’m going abroad after this summer, so I want to get rid of as much as I possibly can before I leave. That’s why I’m doing a complete re-haul of all of my possessions.

Every now and again, I take a look around and ask myself ‘what should I do with all this stuff?’

Picking up each individual item, I try to mindfully put it into one of the following categories:

1. Donate. First stop – charity shops! They’re a great way to get rid of stuff, whilst doing wonders for your karma. I’ve got a whole bag of clothes waiting for me to give to various local charities. Sometimes it’s hard to give things away, but I just tell myself that I’ve had my time with the item, if I’m not going to use it any more I may as well pass it on to someone who will. Just keep in mind that charity shops aren’t dumping grounds, if they don’t think something will sell, they’ll probably chuck it away, in which case you’re better off with the following options.

2. Sell/Give away. If there aren’t many charity shops willing to take your stuff, don’t forget to ask around your flatmates, friends and family if they would want a few of your things. If they’re not as minimalist as you, you’re bound to have a few people take up on your offer. Also, some university bookshops can help you sell your old books, otherwise hit up amazon or ebay in advance to offload some weight before you leave. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

3. Recycle. Since many students would be moving out at the same time, hopefully the student dorm officers will have set up various recycling bins, even for old clothes and shoes. The bins are less fussy than charity shops, since the contents either usually go to be recycled or are shipped off to third world countries. Don’t forget to recycle all of those notes and sheets of paper you’ve collected over the year. Be really strict, if you  don’t think you’re ever going to need them again, why keep them? There’s no use transporting it home, only to collect dust and be thrown away when you graduate.

4. Re-purpose. A lot of the time, if you’re creative enough, you can turn things you don’t need into things you do need! If you’re good with the old needle and thread, you can cut up jeans to make shorts, turn old t-shirts into a pillow or even a laptop case, and if you’re like me and lack sufficient creativity, just cut them up into cleaning rags! There’s a whole range of possibilities out there, including customizing shirts with printing (which make great birthday presents), or even making sock puppets for baby cousins :)

5. Throw away. The last wasteful resort should be avoided if possible. If there’s nothing you can do with it, you can simply throw it away. It’s probably better for you to get rid of something you don’t need than to hold on to it. Please make sure that whatever it is, it’s disposed of in the least polluting way. Although it doesn’t happen too often, I always feel a bit guilty when I have to put something straight in the bin. At least every time it happens it makes me think a bit more about buying new stuff later! If you haven’t already, please check out The Story of Stuff – it’s enlightening.

So school’s out, but don’t worry Minimal Student will still be going. Please help me share the love by recommending MS via Stumbleupon or Digg etc!

And I would love to hear what you guys decided to do with all your unwanted things, please share in the comments!

Minimalist surfing with chrome

A few months ago, I did a post about minimalist web surfing. Back then, my primary browser was Firefox, although I was using Chrome intermittently.

Since Chrome released extension support, I’ve fully switched over and have been happy with Chrome for a few months now. Here are the extensions I use to keep surfing minimal.

1. AdThwart. A very intuitive ad blocker. With this extension you can also block particular elements of a page, even if they’re not ads. For example, I like to block chat/twitter boxes from sites, as well as wordy sidebars and footers. I’ve even managed to block the Facebook ‘Like’ button from websites by adding my own filter in the options menu.

2. StayFocusd. This extension does a pretty good job at keeping surfing time to a minimum by making it hard to change the amount of time you’ve allowed yourself to diverge for a day. During my exams, I let myself have 8 minutes maximum per day on sites such as facebook. If I wanted to increase it or went over it would kindly remind me that I have better things to do!

3. Simplified Gmail. Behold the minimalist glory:

Unlike HelvetiMail for Firefox (below), Minimalist Gmail actually get’s rid of even more buttons as well as the header at the top of the page. The search bar appears only when you hover over it. You can also use your own custom theme (I chose white and blue).

^ Not-as-minimalist gmail in Firefox

4. For Google Reader users you have the choice of Google Reader Compact which gets rid of all the extra text, Lucidica which changes the (ugly) default blue theme for a minimalistic white or Helvetireader 2 which goes bare minimal with a silver theme. Personally, I recommend Lucida, not because I need the buttons that Helvetireader gets rid of, but because it’s better looking. Shallow, I know :)

^ Original Google Reader

^ Google Reader Compact extension

^ Lucidica extension

^ HelvetiReader 2 extension

Just a quick note about going minimal with browsing, you’ll probably have to learn a few keyboard shortcuts to do the kind of things that the buttons were there for, but in my experience just learning one or two is enough, I haven’t run into problems at all because of this.

Have you got any more ideas? I would love to hear your tips to make surfing more minimal!

Update: For gmail and Google calendar I now use Minimalist for Everything (Chrome) and for Google Reader I use Reeder for Chrome. Beautiful!