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An Instruction Manual for Yourself

An instruction manual is a written guide that provides step-by-step instructions on how to use, operate, or achieve something. You might not always need it, but it’s nice to have around just in case.

Think about some of the things you own that come with instructions: electronics, kitchenware, board games, and so on. Even your clothes come with instructions, like the ones you usually ignore that say “Dry clean only.”

Now consider the idea of a personal instruction manual. This is a document that covers all the essentials of caring for yourself and getting the best value from yourself.

If you lost yourself, you could read the manual and know what you need to be found. You could say, oh, I see what happened. Look, you got a little off-course here. We need to get you back on track.

Having an instruction manual for yourself could help you better understand your own strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. It can also help you make better decisions and stay focused on what’s important to you. Additionally, it could serve as a reminder of what you want to achieve in life.

Overall, a personal instruction manual could help you live the life you want.

Instruction Manual Sections

What might you include in your personal instruction manual? Perhaps it outlines your values, goals, and habits, and serves as a roadmap for your life. Or maybe it’s just a simple one-pager, i.e. here’s what you really need to know.

A typical instruction manual also includes warnings (“wash in cold water” or “don’t eat the plastic!”). Naturally, your personal instruction manual might do the same.

Stretch after exercise and foam roll before bed.

Introverts, look out for being overstimulated.

Everyone, make sure you’re hydrated.

An instruction manual also offers troubleshooting advice for when something goes wrong. Yours might include items like:

When in doubt, take me for a walk.

Are you sure you drank enough water?

Maybe there’s something you need to stop doing.

A proper instruction manual also demonstrates how best to use something.

Take a phone or computer, for example. If you have a ton of tabs open in your browser, even a fast computer tends to slow down. If you take thousands of photos, eventually you need to delete some from your phone or you’ll run out of room.

Like a phone or computer, you have an incredible ability to store and process information—but as impressive as it is, this ability still comes with hard limits.

Understanding your capacity is perhaps one of the most useful functions of a personal instruction manual.

Because it’s a personal manual, it’s designed for you. It doesn’t matter if other people are seemingly able to store more information or maintain more open browser tabs; you need to know the limits for yourself.

In short, knowing yourself allows you to better care for yourself, find yourself when you get lost, and get the best use of yourself.

What kind of personal instruction manual would you write for yourself?