Do You Love Looking At Your Calendar? If Not, Try This

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It’s Sunday evening and you take a look at your calendar for the week ahead.

You’ve either booked in something every night and feel exhausted already, or you hear crickets chirping from your planner, with nothing to look forward to but work, work and more work.

Over the past few years, I’ve managed to get my diary into a state I’m really happy with.

The structure changes from time to time, depending how busy I am at the office, what season it is, or how I’m feeling health-wise, but I’ve collated my top tips to help you look at your planner and feel excited for each week ahead.

Set weekly parameters

First, you need to set some ground rules. They can be flexible and a trial for now.

Why not try a month with an initial calendar framework, and set a date in your diary to review how it’s going after that month has passed?

After a super busy start to 2017, I was feeling spent and tired by the end of each week, so started trialling the following parameters:

  • A maximum of 2 weeknights out per week  
  • Booking at least 2-3 exercise sessions a week - usually 2 in the evenings and 1 on the weekend
  • One free weekend day or evening to recharge

I put the exercise blocks in my calendar but they could be moved flexibly depending on the week. Also, when friends asked for dates for a catch up, I was able to quickly see if I already had two nights booked out in any given week.

Be mindful of your weekends

I have seen this often with my coaching clients (and myself!) - we get to the weekend and jam pack our calendars and to do lists in an attempt to play catch up or pack some fun in after a long work week.

Before I started managing my calendar more wisely, I would wake up on a Saturday, go to see my trainer, do my groceries and errands, meet a friend for lunch, head for a wine in the afternoon, then move on to dinner and a night out with friends...

Sounds like a fun day right?

It usually was, but it also left me feeling exhausted come Sunday morning.

I started to pluck out the activities I loved doing and put in some that weren’t in my routine yet.

Firstly, I loved catching up with friends on a Saturday, but three catch ups in one day was just too much. I preferred the evening catch up so would usually suggest that to friends where possible.

Although I liked my Saturday morning routine, I really loved (and still love) a slow morning on the weekend. I make sure to block Sundays for this - I get up, make coffee, read my book, then take a long walk along the river.

Considering six mornings a week I’m working to a timeframe and pretty tight schedule, this type of morning is so appreciated. I love the quiet and slow pace of this practice.

How are your weekends looking at the moment?

What activities do you want to keep and what is missing from your weekends?

My four tips on creating a new routine can help you too.

Look at your calendar and ask yourself this tough question

Now that you’ve set some parameters and addressed your weekend planning, it’s time to look at each booked activity and ask yourself the most important question - ‘Am I happy this is in my calendar?’

If it’s a workout, it’s easy to roll your eyes at that question, but if the answer is a firm ‘no’, can you try a new class or take a friend for a walk with you so you actually look forward to your appointment?

If it’s a catch up with friends and the answer is no, you have permission to cancel.

Whether it’s because that week you don’t feel like going out with certain people or it’s a bigger issue to address, the key is to love looking at your calendar, not respond with ‘meh’.

If you could replace a ‘meh’ catch up or activity with something that makes you say ‘yes’ to the question of ‘Am I happy this is in my calendar?’, what would that activity be?

I’d love to hear how these tips help you improve your calendar and, even better, I’d love to see what your calendar looks like once you’re happy with it! Please shoot me a message here and share.

How To Actually Get Things Done

We’re crazy for productivity right?

Many of us are carting around our to do lists in our phones, in notebooks, in our brains.

The satisfying tick of an item off our to do list gives us the rush we were looking for, but sometimes the list seems to outweigh the time and energy we have right?

Not necessarily true.

Often the time we spend thinking about our to do list or procrastinating on it, could actually be spent getting things done.

So what’s the best way to satisfy that time management urge and avoid the guilt of not getting through what we were planning to get done?

Put it in your calendar

Whether it be at the start of each week or longer term for a larger project, list out each task that needs doing, then pull your calendar out and actually schedule each one.

Writing a big long to do list at work for example, then getting to Friday afternoon realising you haven’t done 75% of it, is a sure sign you need to actually book things in.

Estimating how long each task will take is also super useful and helps spark our competitive side.

Only have 1 hour to write that report? Chances are you’ll get it done within the hour in a race against the clock.

Accept you probably won’t want to do it

Understanding this has pretty much changed my life.

Whether it’s the gym, cleaning or doing a large task at work - I have the best of intentions and when I get to the scheduled time, I think ‘hmm, nah…’.

Once I accepted I was often going to feel like that, I was able to just notice it and make a decision to press on anyway.

It’s a little cliched, but who has ever worked out, looked at their clean house or finally solved a major work problem and regretted it? I didn’t think so.

Accept that your mind is going to try and talk you out of getting things done, and keep going anyway.

Congratulate yourself

Something I’m quite hopeless at is actually pausing to celebrate when it’s called for.

I’m usually on to the next project or idea, when as I wrote here, if we don’t stop to acknowledge milestones, they’ll easily be forgotten.

Make a concerted effort to congratulate yourself in some way after a long week, a big work project ending or a home renovating job coming to an end.

This will make it all worth it and help you reflect back on the effort you’ve made.

Will you put your to do list in your calendar this week? Let me know how you go!

3 Reasons To Let Go Of Control

Now if I know you reader, you are leading a busy life balancing a mix of career aspirations, family commitments, your health and fitness, hobbies and a fun social life.

You likely want to find satisfaction in all of these areas and, with that hope, comes a certain desire to control your life - through a to do list, an organised calendar or a running list in your head (or all of the above).

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to live a well-rounded, fruitful life but with that desire to control every aspect of your life comes pretty big risks.

We can easily let ourselves down by missing an item on our list, others might not measure up to the image of our perfect life and it can just bring a whole heap of stress and anxiety with it.

Although I love to stay organised and work on creating a great life, I have also learnt to let go of some of the control I used to so tightly hold on to.

So why should you let go of control?

We are not living life on a points system

The brilliant coach Amy Young said this quote and I remember it daily.

Sure, ticking things off our to do list feels good, as does an organised schedule, but remember - there are no points for any of this.

 The experiences I’m more interested in prioritising involve fun and connection with other people, not scrubbing my bathroom floor or answering every email in my inbox.

At the end of January with an empty public holiday weekend ahead, I thought to myself ‘I could declutter the house this weekend and get everything super organised’.

My next thought was ‘Hey, I’ve got nothing on this weekend - I could go visit my family for a few days and go swimming, go on long walks, eat out and catch up with them’.

Guess which one I chose? I’m pretty sure I’m going to remember that weekend more than I’d remember a Marie Kondo-ed linen closet.

Control never lasts

How many times in the last year have you finished your to do list? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

We obviously don’t want to let our lives and households fall apart, but adjusting to the idea that I’ll never really be up-to-date with my to do list is something I’ve come to accept.

I remind myself that it would be worse to have nothing to do, no aspirations and be sitting around bored with an empty to do list.

I have things I want to do, blog posts I want to write, TV shows I want to watch, places I want to visit and I don’t need to come at them with a sense of control - just a sense of curiosity and appreciation.

Controlling others is fruitless

Trying to control others is one we’ve all indulged in, I’m sure.

Our partners, kids, coworkers - if everyone could just behave as we want them to, life would be so much easier right?

A big lesson I’ve learnt is - you cannot control anyone, only your own thoughts about that person.

An attempt to control someone may seem like you are helping them or making life easier for yourself, but accepting others as they are is much more likely to serve you.

Think of someone trying to control your actions, nagging on you to change, telling you to act in a different, unnatural way. Even if you agree to it, you will most likely go back to what you wanted to do in the first place.

Other people are exactly the same.

Letting go of the need to control others lets you off the hook stress-wise as much as it lets them be who they want to be.

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What are you trying to control in your life? How can you let go of that grip over the next week?

3 Steps To Becoming A Morning Person

You can believe me when I tell you I was never built to be a morning person.

As a teenager I remember cringing as my dad chirped ‘Morning!’ while I dragged myself out of my bedroom to the kitchen, wishing I could lay on the floor and sleep for another two hours.

In my 20s I was obsessed with shortening my morning routine - doing as much as I could the night before, skipping breakfast and getting the latest train to work as humanly possible.

A few years ago I decided this couldn’t be the reality of the rest of my life. Feeling grumpy and sluggish was no longer how I wanted to start my days.

Now, I get up 20 minutes earlier than I need to and take all the time I need to get ready for the day ahead. So how did I do it?

Ease into it

My transformation into a (somewhat) morning person did not just happen miraculously one day. It took lots of trial and error and alarm tweaking.

I mapped out what I wanted to get done in the morning and how much time it would take to comfortably do each task.

For example, I didn’t want to skip breakfast anymore and, in fact, I wanted to take 15 minutes to eat it while reading my favourite blogs.

I started building that, and all my other ideas, into each day.

Think of the five things you’d like to do in the morning before your day kicks off and start slowly moving your alarm clock back to accommodate them. Try it for a week and if it doesn’t work, mix it up the following week.

Do something for yourself first

This concept is a major factor in becoming a morning person.

Whether you work full time, have a family, or have a number of other commitments each day, if you get up and launch into those tasks first thing, it won’t set your day up to be centred and purposeful.

For me, I take 20 minutes when I wake up to meditate and do some yoga stretches - old me wouldn’t have believed I’d have the energy to do this each morning, but now, I know I won’t feel myself if I don’t do these things.

It’s good for my mind and body and sets me up to move on to my to do list.

Have something to look forward to

If you’re finding you are having to drag yourself out of bed each day, it’s likely you’re stuck in a routine that doesn’t inspire you much anymore.

Yes, we have all chosen the set up for our day-to-day lives, but that can still become monotonous, no matter how much you enjoy your family, work or home.

If you plan (and even calendarise) something fun each day, you’ll wake up knowing you’re planning a mid-morning coffee from your favourite cafe, or going for a walk with a good friend, or going for dinner with your partner after work.

Here are 34 of my favourite ways to have fun if you’re needing inspiration.

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What can you add in to your morning routine this week? Can you even set your alarm a little earlier? Let me know in the comments below.

Three Steps to Overhaul Your Calendar Today

When you open up your calendar, whether it be at the start of the week or each morning, let me ask you - do you feel excited for the days ahead or do you feel a heavy sense of dread as you scan your appointments?

I know I’ve felt a mix of these emotions over the years. In general I was looking forward to the week, but sometimes there were appointments that brought a creeping sense of apathy or, in some cases, misery.

So how do we ensure we’re filling our limited, busy days with activities that energise and excite us?

Here are my three tips:

Accept you are in control

This is a major step to a calendar (and, let’s be honest, a life) that you love.

Accepting that we are in control of all of our choices can be challenging for some people.

You may not be loving your job but please remember you did choose to accept that job and you do choose to show up every day for it. You may be dreading the family dinner on Sunday night, but you accepted the invitation and no, you don’t ‘have to go’.

So when you survey your current calendar, bear in mind that you have created this life and you have chosen each and every appointment you see before you.

Wipe the slate clean

You may not have to get 100% literal here, but when you look at your calendar for the week ahead, imagine there were no appointments in there. Zero.

Just 168 hours that stretched ahead of you.

Each white space represents a chance for you to add activities of your choosing, within reason of career or family commitments (which again, remember, you've chosen).

Want to get up and write before work? Want to go on an hour walk at lunch? Want to book in to see your best friend every single Saturday afternoon? You can! Which leads me to...

Listen to your intuition

When adding activities in or choosing to scribble them out or delete them with one click, try doing a gut check over the next month.

Picture each activity in your mind and think, ‘Do I really want to do this?’... ‘Is this the best use of my time?’ … ‘Does it make me happy?’

This may not be black and white - for example, going to the dentist may not fill you with excitement, but maybe the thought of clean teeth and ticking it off your list for the year does. Maybe you want to prioritise spending time with your partner or good friends over house cleaning and errands this month.

And the overarching message?

Please don’t feel guilty for choosing what you want - no one else is doing to do that for you and we only get so many blocks of 168 hours in this lifetime.

I hope this helps you stuff it with moments that fill you with anticipation in the lead up and happiness in the aftermath.