The ‘no B.S.’ hap­pi­ness plan

Sarah Knight’s un­con­ven­tional method of chang­ing your life is just what 2017 needs. Try it to make this year’s res­o­lu­tions stick

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No-non­sense tips from Sarah Knight


Hell, this year, you’ll ac­tu­ally get started in the first place.

Why? Be­cause this year you’re go­ing to get your shit to­gether. Not your phys­i­cal shit – cup­boards or­gan­ised, floors waxed, desk ti­died (though these can hap­pen, too) – but your men­tal shit. The junk that clut­ters up your mind and makes it im­pos­si­ble to set your body into ac­tion, let alone sus­tain it.

Avoid­ance. Anx­i­ety. Poor time man­age­ment. You need to gather that stuff into a metaphor­i­cal pile and sweep it out the damn door. Trust me, men­tal clut­ter is the root of all your trou­bles – whether phys­i­cal, fi­nan­cial or even ro­man­tic. And men­tal de­clut­ter­ing is the pre­req­ui­site to all the changes you want to make.

But you don’t have to take it from me. Take it from the woman who re­cently wrote to me: “I haven’t been the same since reading your book – in the best pos­si­ble way.” Or the per­son who thanked me for “the sim­ple truths you put be­fore those of us who have so much men­tal clut­ter it’s cre­ated an in­escapable maze of shit”.

These folks (and a few hun­dred thou­sand more) read my first book, The Life-chang­ing Magic Of Not Giving A F**k, and they email me every day to con­firm that their lives have in fact been changed for the bet­ter by its ad­vice: stop spend­ing so much time, en­ergy and money on peo­ple you don’t like and things you don’t re­ally want to do.

They picked up the book be­cause my mes­sage was lib­er­at­ing, it cost much less than a ther­apy ses­sion, and I’m not one of those gu­rus who’s try­ing to make you feel warm and fuzzy about the cold hard facts of life. I say what you’ve all been think­ing, and give you per­mis­sion and a blue­print to act on it. I’m more of an ‘anti-guru’, and I like it that way.


Get­ting your shit to­gether – the sub­ject of my new book – is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. It’s about or­gan­is­ing what you have left (in the form of time, en­ergy and money) and de­ploy­ing those re­sources as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble on things you must do and peo­ple you must deal with, even if you don’t re­ally give a fuck about them.

In other words, yes, you must draw a pay­cheque in or­der to live your life. But you do not have to get it from a busi­ness, boss or client that makes you mis­er­able. In­stead, get your shit to­gether and get crack­ing on that

“Chan­nelling MIS­ERY is a lot more PRO­DUC­TIVE than wal­low­ing in it”

CV. And yes, you may need to pla­cate a few fam­ily mem­bers at times, or mud­dle through a manda­tory event here and there, but you can do it all smarter, quicker and bet­ter than ever be­fore.

Giving fewer fucks and get­ting my shit to­gether was how I saved up enough money to quit my cor­po­rate job and go free­lance in 2015, sell my home in New York City, build a new one in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, and then move there in 2016. It’s how I wrote two books in two years, and it’s also how I man­age my anx­i­ety, pri­ori­tise my er­rands and stay on top of my so­cial life. The key is proper mo­ti­va­tion.


Other gu­rus want you to be the rich­est, thinnest, ti­di­est, most joy­ful ver­sion of you that you can be. I say: get mo­ti­vated by get­ting an­gry. I call it ‘the power of neg­a­tive think­ing’.

It works like this: in­stead of fo­cus­ing on what you aren’t – ex­cep­tion­ally thin, rich or tidy, for ex­am­ple – and as­pir­ing to be it, why don’t you fo­cus on what you are – for ex­am­ple, un­healthily over­weight, broke and messy – and com­mit to elim­i­nat­ing it?

It’s not the late-night 31st-de­cem­ber pros­ecco high you should be chas­ing, with vi­sions of Kate Up­ton’s body or Richard Bran­son’s bank ac­count danc­ing in your bubble-ad­dled brain. It’s the nau­seous, bloated, morn­ing-af­ter re­al­ity check that’ll give you a good swift kick in the arse to de­clut­ter your house or make a dent in your debt.

I was a high-achiev­ing, high­func­tion­ing, high-stress hu­man to-do list for 30-plus years. And I didn’t find my way out of that trap by man­i­fest­ing good­ness from the uni­verse or aim­ing so high that I was des­tined to fall short. I did it all one small, man­age­able step at a time.

It’s the present-day ‘an­noy’ where you’ll find the mo­ti­va­tion that re­ally keeps you on track. I traf­fic less in as­pi­ra­tion, more in des­per­a­tion. Seriously, look­ing at last year’s credit card bills with a gin-soured stom­ach is a great way to as­so­ci­ate ‘over­spend­ing’ with ‘feel­ing like crap’. That’s the power of neg­a­tive think­ing, and it re­ally does work.

It worked for my friend Lisa when be­ing broke month af­ter month be­came her mo­ti­va­tion for fi­nally ask­ing for the pay rise that she de­served – and get­ting it. It worked for some­one else I know who left her boyfriend of five years, in­stead of spend­ing an­other sin­gle hour feel­ing unloved and in­ad­e­quate.

Chan­nelling mis­ery is a lot more pro­duc­tive than wal­low­ing in it. Stop com­plain­ing about your job and start look­ing for an­other one. Get mad at your credit card bill, and then get even. Fo­cus on the neg­a­tive in your life to find your way to­ward the pos­i­tive.


While writ­ing my new book, I con­ducted a sur­vey to find out which parts of their lives peo­ple need the most help man­ag­ing. I got re­sponses such as:

Over­whelm­ingly, peo­ple iden­ti­fied the ‘an­noy’ in their lives – the mess, the debt, the de­spair. All they have to do is har­ness its power to turn ev­ery­thing around. And hon­estly? It’s much eas­ier than you might think. Get­ting your shit to­gether takes just three steps: 1. Strate­gise:

Make a plan to achieve your goal, and break it into small, man­age­able chunks. 2. Fo­cus: Sched­ule time to com­plete each chunk. 3. Com­mit:

Tackle them one at a time. For me, it was out with an­noy – in the form of con­fer­ence calls and cold weather – and in with the joy of au­ton­omy and back­yard palm trees. Out with too much to do and too lit­tle time, in with re­al­is­tic goals and small, man­age­able steps to­wards achiev­ing them. And out with all that men­tal clut­ter: the worry, guilt and mis­placed sense of obli­ga­tion that over­shadow your abil­ity to fin­ish what you need to do and get started on what you want to do.

Stop spend­ing time, en­ergy and money on things you can’t con­trol, and al­lo­cate it only to things you can. You’ll never al­ter your boss’s in­fu­ri­at­ing man­age­ment style, so if you don’t like it, get a new boss. I couldn’t change the cli­mate of the north­east­ern US, so I changed where I lived. Sure, mov­ing to a for­eign coun­try was a big goal, but it was made up of a dozen (okay, three dozen) smaller, eas­ier goals, such as googling daily tem­per­a­tures to help nar­row the field of where to live. When you look at it that way, there’s no rea­son why you should be cry­ing into your Bloody Mary on New Year’s Day, over­whelmed by the prospect of iden­ti­fy­ing what you want out of life and go­ing af­ter it. Take a big bite of that cel­ery stick and get to work. (See, you’re health­ier al­ready!)

My change started with be­ing too damn cold. For you, maybe it’s be­ing too broke, or fed up with a job you hate, or an apart­ment or a re­la­tion­ship you’ve out­grown.

This year, put that frus­tra­tion into ac­tion. Mo­ti­vate.

Set a goal. Strate­gise, fo­cus and com­mit. Whether you’re aim­ing for big life changes or small, daily vic­to­ries, if you get your shit to­gether, you can make them hap­pen. Sarah Knight is the au­thor of in­ter­na­tional best­seller The Life-chang­ing Magic Of Not Giving A F**k, and Get Your Sh*t To­gether

(Quer­cus, £12.99 each)

For more life-chang­ing ad­vice, go to REDONLINE.CO.UK

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