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Life Kit's most-read stories of 2021

Grid of the images from six of the top ten Life Kit stories from 2021
Illustrations clockwise from left: Jasjyot Singh Hans for NPR; Krzysztof Nowak for NPR; Lucinda Schreiber for NPR; All photographs Becky Harlan/NPR

The end of the year is often a time of reflection — a time to take stock of the past and to look ahead to the exciting possibilities of the future. But this year ... well, it feels a little different.

Maybe you're just trying to get through the day. Maybe you want to move on from 2021, but you feel stuck in a holding pattern. Wherever you're at, we wanted to share the Life Kit stories that got you through a roller coaster of a year.

When we looked back at our top 10 stories from 2021, we noticed a few things: That we just might need a break — the 9 to 5 grind isn't working anymore and our focus is waning. But we also noticed that, even if we're still socially distant, we're craving connections — how to find them, nurture them and learn from them.

However you're feeling with this year coming to a close, here's to the best bits of 2021 and to a brighter 2022.

10. How to shake the feeling that you're an impostor

Illustration of a person with a theatrical mask covering their face surrounded by identical people who represent the self, taunting them and making them feel badly about themselves.
/ Jasjyot Singh Hans for NPR
/
Jasjyot Singh Hans for NPR

There is no magic cure for getting rid of feeling like an impostor, but there are some tools to help manage the feeling when it starts to rear its ugly head.

9. How to wake up early, even if you're not a morning person

Photo of a cup of coffee sitting on the counter in front of a window during the sunrise. The window appears to have rain on it and a set of keys sits next to the cup.
/ Photo illustration Becky Harlan/NPR
/
Photo illustration Becky Harlan/NPR

For some people, waking up early just feels natural. But if you're not naturally a morning person, how much room do you have to change your wake-up schedule? A few habits can help make waking up earlier less of a chore.

8. Too much focus is draining. Here's a better strategy

Photograph of a seafoam egg timer that is set to 20 minutes sitting on a stack of books in front of a backdrop of clouds on a blue sky.
/ Photo Illustration Becky Harlan/NPR
/
Photo Illustration Becky Harlan/NPR

Getting (and staying) focused can be a challenge in the best of times. But with everything going on in the world, concentrating can feel down-right impossible. Here are six tips to help you find your flow.

7. Procrastination is more than putting things off. Here's how to kick the habit

Illustration of a man at the office looking out the window and putting off the things he's supposed to be working on.
/ Krzysztof Nowak for NPR
/
Krzysztof Nowak for NPR

At the beginning of every year, we promise ourselves that we'll slay this beast. We make lists, buy journals, try new apps, but no matter what, we often wind up falling into the same cycle of delay and avoidance — putting things off, day after day. Here's how to combat procrastination however small the task.

6. You're apologizing all wrong. Here's how to say sorry the right way

Photograph of gold foil balloon letters that spell out the word "Sorry" against a light blue backdrop.
/ Photo Illustration Becky Harlan/NPR
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Photo Illustration Becky Harlan/NPR

Most of us haven't been taught how to apologize, and our efforts tend to be deleterious: vague, intrusive, demanding, or full of caveats that can leave the recipient of an apology feeling even worse. Here are six ways to offer an apology that can help heal, rather than cause additional harm.

5. How to fall in love, according to Hinge's relationship scientist

Illustration of two people sitting in front of their phones, the light cast from their phones each forms half of a heart so they are sitting in light the shape of a heart.
/ Lucinda Schreiber for NPR
/
Lucinda Schreiber for NPR

Dating isn't easy but Logan Ury's book, How to Not Die Alone, presents a plan for every type of dater and walks readers through each step of that process. Here are three things you can do today to shift your love life for good.

4. How understanding jealousy could lead to a better relationship

Illustration of a person sitting on an elevated platform watching on as their partner hugs someone else also on an elevated platform. Stars surround the people creating a connection between the three of them.
/ Jennifer Qian for NPR
/
Jennifer Qian for NPR

Jealousy is a complex emotion and can lead to everything from internal strife to unnecessary arguments. But cultivated correctly, jealousy can also be a powerful tool for change.

3. The key to flirting? It's not about you

Illustration of two people sitting on bar stools with their bodies angled toward one another. The chair of the person on the left has a peacock tail lowered and the person on the right has peacock feathers as the two people flirt.
/ Gracia Lam for NPR
/
Gracia Lam for NPR

If you're looking for a few concrete tips to help you get better at flirting, look no further. Nothing corny or weirdly creepy — OK, one slightly corny thing.

2. The 40-hour workweek isn't working. Reducing it could help with productivity

Illustration of a person sitting at their desk for four days, as the week goes on they are slowly turning away from the computer, exhibited on the grid of a calendar. Then on the fifth day of the workweek, the person is not sitting on the edge of the frame and reading a book.
/ Olivia Fields for NPR
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Olivia Fields for NPR

The five-day workweek hasn't always existed. How did we get here, and where can we go? Life Kit spoke with author and researcher Will Stronge about what a shorter workweek offers workers and organizations.

1. Burnout isn't just exhaustion. Here's how to deal with it

Photograph of a pink tulip in a green vase that's wilting almost toward the ground, pictured against a gray backdrop.
/ Photo Illustration Becky Harlan/NPR
/
Photo Illustration Becky Harlan/NPR

Burnout has serious consequences for your mental health, so it's important to spot it and address it. We asked some of the top experts on the topic for tips to recognize and address burnout in yourself and at your workplace.


We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org.

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Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.