22 | Self-improvement, productivity and creativity tips | Get in touch — maxphillipswrites@gmail.com

Organize your present and lend a helping hand to your future

Photo: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

If I let you peek into my iPhone’s Notes app, you’d see a rough exercise plan I follow and ingredients for a recipe I made last week. There are random dates, article ideas, passwords for mystery accounts, books, a failed weekly schedule, and potential holiday destinations for a time when we can travel again. If my phone had a soul, it would be the Notes app. Like my brain, it is a scattering of thoughts, loose organization, and aspirations.

It isn’t complete chaos, however. Despite being loosely structured, it brings balance to my life. …


If you make an effort, most people will appreciate it

Photo: Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash

I wasn’t a fan of retail work.

I did it because I needed the money to fund my teenage escapades and keep me busy while I decided what to do after graduating from university. What I thought was a dreary era I’d erase from memory turned into some valuable life skills I still use to this day.

Over the years, I worked in food shops, restaurants, clothing stores, and a health supplier. I faced countless eye-rollers, numerous screaming kids, some delightful people of old ages, and some archaic management styles.

Most of all, I learned about people.

1. People show their true colors when something doesn’t go their way

For every hundred customers, there are about ten grumpy ones. …


Spoilers for “The Pursuit of Happyness”

Photo by Stephen Olatunde on Unsplash

There’s a quote from Chris Gardner, portrayed by Will Smith, in the 2008 film The Pursuit of Happyness that stood out to me:

“It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?”

It’s that very pursuit that binds the film together. It resonates because it’s true. Life isn’t a montage of happy moments, despite what Instagram might want you to believe. …


#2 — Someone will always be better than you at something.

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Life is an endless stream of copy and pasted days.

In the UK, the government recently announced the third in a trilogy of lockdowns. As usual, I will be waking up, writing, exercising, and sleeping. All without leaving the house.

Yet, despite this, I don’t feel my life is plateauing. My goals are changing, and my attitude toward work continues to glow. While this is a combination of many things, it originates from a few realizations, or as I like to call them:

Mini-epiphanies.

#1 — Habits Originate From Hobbies

When you enjoy something, you will naturally want to learn more about it.

Habits, on the other hand, can be frustrating. When focusing exclusively on habits, you worry about how long they take to last. Health psychology researcher Phillippa Lally found that, on average, 66 days to form a new habit (although it can range from 18–254 days depending on the person). …


“Loneliness is as bad for you as smoking.”

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

Okinawans live very differently from the rest of Japan. Among other things, they heavily lean on their ‘moai.’ Blue Zones describes a moai as a group of five friends who “meet for a common purpose to gossip, experience life, and to share advice and even financial assistance when needed.”

Families typically form a moai at a young age, as they put children in groups of five. According to Live Science, you lose half and gain new friends every seven years (roughly). In a moai, the group can stay together for upwards of 90 years. The question must be asked:

What is the glue that holds a group together for that long? …


What I’m telling myself amidst the UK’s third national lockdown

Photo by Ahmed Zayan on Unsplash

You don’t get handed motivation.

The first lockdown consisted of sun-basked days and wishful summer thoughts. The second (in November) was brief, filled with the hope of a typical Christmas. Now the third is devoid of all motivation, taking both my birthday and Valentine's Day out of the equation.

All hope seems lost.

Motivation often feels like a fickle thing. It seems to pass by in fleeting moments before taking too long to find its way back to us. Like most things in life, your mindset is critical here.

First, change your approach to motivation.

There is no such thing as “not having motivation.” It isn’t something you are given; it’s something you earn. …


Don’t confine yourself to one identity.

Photo by Dalton Touchberry on Unsplash

When I graduated from university, I had no idea what I was going to do.

I acquired a good grade and was excited about what the future held. I assumed I would follow the path everyone I knew went down: graduate, get a job, begin a career. Sadly, it didn’t go that way.

I ended up in a spiraling pit of misery — endlessly applying for jobs I didn’t want, without knowing what I wanted. I never got further than the first interview and quickly became dejected.

It took me a while to realize that I had only been following one path and made it impossible to grow as a person. …


It all starts with the little things.

Image by Mylene2401 from Pixabay

I’ve nearly always found holidays to be stressful. Between buying presents on a limited budget, worrying about coursework deadlines, and splitting my time between parents, I’ve often felt more stress than excitement for Christmas.

Moreover, according to NBC News, 45% of Americans would rather skip the holidays altogether to avoid the stress that comes with them. It begs the question, then:

Can a break be relaxing?

You Usually Hit the Fast Forward Button Instead

Whether it be exams or job applications, I’ve nearly always had an overarching worry loom over me in years past. …


The best realization I came to in the past year

Photo: Piotr Łaskawski/Unsplash

Financial guilt takes two forms, according to the CEO of financial education startup Invibed Dani Pascarella. Writing on Forbes, she outlines them:

  1. The guilt you feel when spending money moves you further into debt and causes you to miss your saving goals.
  2. The guilt you feel despite not being in debt and hitting your saving goals. This usually originates from what you choose to buy.

I’m mainly going to focus on number two in this article. I’m not talking about crippling guilt associated with debt, rather the feeling that you could be using your money more wisely.

I usually hate buying things, but in the past year, I came to a startling realization that changed all of…


Why you should never hide who you are

Photo by Марьян Блан | @marjanblan on Unsplash

A lot of people attempt to hide their inner geek.

Being called a “geek” or a “nerd” was once considered derogatory. In an attempt to fit in, people put on a facade and hide their passions. These people are worried about being ostracized from the “norm.”

Then, some people are comfortable with who they are, knowing the many benefits their identity has on their life.

When someone says “you’re a geek,” they say:

“Yeah, and what?”

It isn’t a secret. It’s their identity.

There is nothing wrong with lacking the confidence to broadcast your interests. But there is so much to gain from wearing your passions on your sleeve.

Particularly now, as typically “geekish” things such as Star Wars and comic books have become mainstream, being comfortable in your skin has never been more rewarding. …

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