The problem with self help posts

5 min readJun 30, 2021

I am a big fan of self help and personal development posts. I read dozen of posts a week in order to get inspired and learn new habits and ideas that could enhance my life.

But some posts have an opposite effect on me. They make me feel that I don’t do enough, that I am wasting my time and that I am very far from aquiring the habits that will make me a better person.

And here I will take as example, a post named “10 Small Habits That Have A Huge Return On Life”. As the title of the post says, it is just about small habits, so in theory it is very easy to aquire and apply them on a daily basis.

First of all, I want to mention that I am not criticizing the post itself. I am a fan of the author, I follow him on medium since many years. And I like the ideas exposed in the post if I adapt it to my life and personal context.

Let’s analyze the recommendations of the author and what are the issues if I apply it to my daily life without any change.

Recommendations of the post

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
  • ​​Exercise: 3 times per weeks (I guess that 15 minutes per time is the minimum).
  • Sleep: 7–8 hours a night
  • Read: 60 minutes a day
  • Write: 30 minutes a day
  • Walk: 30 minutes a day

The habits described above are really very interesting and beneficial for our life.

But what bothers me is the way they are exposed especially the time that I need to apply them and the frequencies.

We need minimum 2 hours to do all this habits plus 7 hours sleeping.

Can we really do all of this “small” habits in a day? Can we really read for 60 minutes a day? Do we have free 2 hours every day just for our “habits” ?

​How I spend my day

If I take my personal example, this is how I spend my day:

  • In the morning: 45 minutes between shower, getting ready and coffee
  • In the evening: 15 minutes for getting ready to sleep
  • Work: 8 hours (+2 hours of commute for the days that I am working on site => 3 days per week)

The total is 11 hours plus 7 hours sleeping = 18 hours per day for my work/sleep routine.

So I have only six hours left in my day.

If I spend two hours every day dedicated to the habits described in the post, I will have less than 4 “free” hours.

That means that I have 4 hours to prepare my dinner, wash the dishes, clean up a little bit, spend time with my hausband, call my parents, watch/read the news, read and treat my important emails and the most important to REST between tasks.

​The real life

Photo by Brandon Lopez on Unsplash

As I explained above, if everything goes smoothly I will have four free hours to live. But in the real time, it does not happen like in theory. Many facts are not taken into consideration:

  • Transition time and technical constraints: in many cases switching from a task to another needs time. For example, if I want to do workout, I need to put my fitness clothes. And if I go to the gym, I will spend time commuting. And after the sport, I need to shower. So the 15 minutes can easily become one hour.
  • Rest: We are human and we need time to transit between 2 tasks. When I finish my work I spend a few time on my sofa doing NOTHING, because I am tired and I need to rest. After exercising, I need to rest. When I go to sleep, I need time to fall asleep.
  • Restroom time: It is a detail, but a “normal person” goes to the restroom 6 to 10 times a day with an average of 2 or 3 minutes each time (10 minutes a day minimum).

So it is unrealistic to say that we can do all those habits in only 2 hours. We are humans and not robots.

Also, four remaining hours of free time is very few when we have a family. A parent can spend easily 30 minutes feeding his kid.

And in real time sh*t happens, we need to handle the unexpected events.

Finally, I am not here to say that this habits are good or are bad. And I am not looking for excuses for people who does nothing to enhance their lives. What I want to say is that we cannot apply all what we read without taking into consideration our own lives and consideration.

It is important to adapt self help recommendations to its own life and constraints:

  • It is very benefical to exercise, but if we cannot exercise for 30 minutes, 7 minutes of “Full body workout” could be enough. And if we don’t have 7 minutes, we can just spend 4 minutes a day for a HIIT tabata session.
  • Reading is very good, but not everyone can read for 60 minutes a day. The most important is to read, whatever the time or the amount read: 2 pages, 5 minutes … it is ok.
  • If we cannot write/journal for 30 minutes a day, we can do less. There are many micro journaling technics that takes only 2 or 3 minutes. We can also do a brain dump for only 5 minutes.

And if we cannot do everything, it is not the end of the word. We can retry/resume the day after.

The most important thing is to try and DO OUR BEST. My best is different from your best. Everyone has his own rythm and constraints. So my routine, my good habits are different from yours.




IT working girl. Interested in many topics such as project management, self help, tech and trading. Writes in French and English