3 Ways To Balance Productivity And Ease

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I’ve been drawing on two concepts pretty heavily recently. The first is around productivity and, of course, it was sparked by my current guru, Brooke Castillo. She is all about managing the mind.

When it comes to time management she recommends scheduling the work you want to do and counting on your brain to try and talk you out of it when the time comes.

Want to clean your house on Saturday morning? You can count on your brain trying to convince you to stay in bed. Planning on a Pilates class after work? A glass at the new wine bar with coworkers sounds better. Want to write a blog post Sunday night? You deserve some ice cream and Netflix instead.

Sound familiar?

The other concept is around finding alignment, which is featuring heavily in Jess Lively’s work at the moment. When I have some free time during the day, I ask ‘what will get me into alignment?’ This pretty much equates to what feels best for me or what will bring me the most ease.

My mind used to lead me to spend that free time tidying up the house, paying bills or doing something equivalently un-fun, but now I tune in to what really sounds best, not what I ‘should’ be doing.

That currently looks like having a shower and putting a face mask on, going out for brunch or, my favourite, taking a nap. Rather than shoulding all over the place, I do what I really want to do.

So how do I marry these two seemingly different concepts up?

Honour thy calendar

Productivity is still important to me and getting things done can also put me in alignment. I just don’t want to run myself into the ground with my to do list.

So I schedule in my appointments, book time to write blog posts and block out time for exercise. When the time comes I know my brain will try and talk me out of it but I go ahead anyway, knowing that I’ve also set aside time to relax.

Set aside time for alignment

Leaving lots of space in my calendar to find alignment makes the productive times more easy to follow through on. Yes, there will always be dishes to do but when the free time comes, I don’t default to strapping on the rubber gloves.

I ask myself what feels best and go with it. And (shock) sometimes tidying the kitchen does feel like alignment - if so, I go with that too.

Regularly review your to do list

I keep a running to do list in the Notes app of my phone and I’m sure you all have different apps and planners and systems for tracking your lists.

A few times a week I look at my list and ask if the items are important to me anymore and actually need to be done.

More often than not I can cull a few items from the list - either because they’ve been there forever or because I’m mandating that I need to do them when I can actually let them go. Try it!

Does your brain try and talk you out of what you said you’d do?

And, when you have the space, do you ever ask it what feels best for you in that moment?

The Best Of The Blog, 2017 Edition

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Welcome to 2018 lovely readers!

I hope you had a great holiday season and are ready for an amazing year ahead.

If you’d like some support setting your 2018 goals (with a few weeks to recover from the excess of the holidays first, of course!), I'm running three complimentary discovery sessions in February, which you can sign up for here.

2017 was an amazing year for me and included launching my life coaching business, which I’m expanding in 2018, so stay tuned!

A huge influence on my year (and my coaching) was the amazing Brooke Castillo. I discovered her podcast in 2016, but enrolled in her more intensive Self Coaching Scholars online course during 2017. I'm so happy my post about her teachings was one of the blog's most popular last year.

There’s also a few themes coming through in what everyone is reading.

We’ve acknowledged we’ve become obsessed with being ‘busy’ and trying to maintain a tight grip of control on our routines and lives. Wanting to fill our days with more pleasure is what we're seeking.

Ease over control seems the way forward this year.

Top 5 Posts of 2017

Enjoy the top 5 posts of 2017 and here’s to more pleasure and less perfection and busy-ness in 2018.

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?

How I Finally Got Control Of My Inbox

If you readers are anything like me, you love to follow bloggers, vloggers, authors, all sorts of content creators and let’s not forget your favourite clothing and homewares stores.

With that following comes email subscriptions in the form of daily posts, weekly newsletters, sales emails, ecourses, free downloads and, subsequently, an overflowing inbox.

At the end of 2016, I was getting all sorts of ‘goal-setting for the new year’ emails, as well as reminders for all the online holiday sales and, with a busy work life and planning for my own holiday season, I was feeling quite ill every time I opened my inbox.

I had heard about unroll.me a few times but after chatting about it with Paige at Healthy Hits the Spot (who also uses it) she tipped me over the edge… and I haven’t looked back.

Step 1. Let them count how many subscriptions you have…

You sign up to the unroll.me service and they count how many subscriptions you have sent to your email address. I came in at a whopping 70 subscriptions. No wonder I was feeling ill.

Step 2. Unsubscribe

I then went through and ditched all the ones I either never read or never even knew I was subscribed to. Bye bye 32 subscriptions - and the sick feeling was starting to fade.

Step 3. Roll up!

This is the best part. You can roll your email subscriptions into a daily digest (or ‘rollup’) that you receive at a specific time of day (I get mine around 7am each morning).

You can then read all your emails in the same place at the same time. And more importantly you don’t have to open and read the ones you don’t have interest in that particularly day.

Step 4. Keep your favourites in your inbox

I do have some subscriptions I like to still receive as regular emails, either so I never miss them or because I like the format they come in, so you can opt to do that too.

Step 5. And breathe...

Let me know if you’ve found a way to manage your email subscriptions or if you try unroll.me, let me know what you think!

 

Segment Intending (aka trying to live in the moment)

As you guys know, I am a big fan of Jess Lively. I’ve followed her for over 5 years now, from her original blog, Makeunder My Life, through to her Life with Intention work and for the last couple of years, her fantastic podcast, The Lively Show.

In the past few months, Jess has started speaking quite a bit about the Law of Attraction and Abraham Hicks. Now, I never saw The Secret and am still not sure how much I believe in the Law of Attraction, but after Jess’ recommendation, I listened to the audio book on a 6 hour drive over the holiday season.

One useful concept I did take from the book was what Abraham calls segment intending. So what exactly is it and how can it help you?

What is segment intending?

Essentially to me, it means living in the moment or the activity you’re undertaking. Abraham defines it a little differently as setting your vibration and pre-paving your path before moving into an activity, but let’s go with my definition for now.

So if you’re getting up in the morning, having breakfast, taking a shower and getting ready, you go into that phase of the day aware of the activities and concentrating on each, one by one.

It may seem obvious but how often in the morning, instead of focusing on your routine, are you spinning out on your to do list, checking your email or social media, or already trying to think of what to have for dinner?

Why is it useful?

If we’re not conscious about the activities we’re undertaking, depending on how you’re built, you’ll often be living in the future, constantly thinking about what’s next on your list, or dwelling on the past, overthinking past conversations or worrying about something that happened yesterday.

Those simple morning activities may not seem that exciting day in, day out, but, let’s remember, you’re only going to get a certain number of mornings in this lifetime, so let’s not wish them away.

What if you concentrated on your breakfast, preparing it slowly, exactly how you like it, and enjoying it at your kitchen table, staring out at your garden?

What if you bought amazing scented shower gel and luxurious moisturiser and enjoyed your shower routine each morning?

What if you filled your closet with clothes you love wearing, picked out your outfit and accessories and shoes, and dressed feeling fantastic for the day ahead?

Suddenly your mundane, rushed morning routine doesn’t seem so bad right?

Where have I seen benefits?

As I’ve been more aware of segment intending in my life, I’ve mainly noticed benefits on my commute, at work and surprisingly, at the gym.

Commuting often seemed boring to me or (quite obviously) a means to an end (i.e. hurry up and get me there!).

Rather than wishing this time away, I’m much more relaxed in traffic or on a busy train, listening to my music, looking out the window and just being where I am at while travelling. I know I’ll be busier once the commute is over, so enjoy the down time.

At work, I’ve talked about getting easily distracted by email, chat and urgent requests.

I haven’t nailed this by any means yet, but I’m trying to just do one task at a time or work on one project at a time. I then try and let there be a specific time or times for checking emails and chats. Wish me luck continuing this one as it’s a toughie...

Last but not least, my visits to the gym have seemed much better and worthwhile since hearing about segment intending.

I do enjoy working out but was often rushing through exercises, keeping an eye on the clock so I could get out of the gym within a certain time and planning my dinner and to do list in my head for once I got home. Sounds pretty stressful right?

Now I still distract myself a little with music or podcasts (no one wants to focus that much while lifting weights) but I’m much calmer, working through each exercise, making sure I have all the equipment I need set up, and taking it easier on the clock watching.

I focus on what I’m listening to or the routine at hand and actually leave the gym feeling kinda rejuvenated and chilled now.

Can you work segment intending into your life this week? Even trying it for your morning routine, commute or work day will likely help. Let me know how you go in the comments below. 

 

The Cat Lady Post: What My Cat Has Taught Me About Life

Day 1 with Pickles

Day 1 with Pickles

I’m going to start this week’s post with an incredibly depressing but profound quote.

I read a Guardian article about crime writer Henning Mankell who was facing his imminent death from cancer in 2014.

The quote goes:

“Fear is natural and based on the simple truth that what distinguishes us humans from other species is that we know we are going to die. The cats I have owned during my life have never been aware of their own death. They haven’t even been aware that they were alive. They have simply been there, day after day – hunting, lying around, miaowing. Acknowledging one’s fear of the unknown is realising what it means to be a person. Our existence is basically a tragedy. Throughout our lives we strive to increase our knowledge, our abilities, our experiences. But the bottom line is that all of that will be lost in oblivion.”

Heavy going right? But an interesting comparison of humans and their pets. I am a huge advocate for having pets – particularly rescue animals. 

Two years ago, my husband and I went looking for a cat to add to our family and were led to Pickles, a black cat who had been found very sick on the streets with cat flu.

He was taken care of by the Lost Cats' Home and now us and we can’t imagine life without him.

I’m sure you’ve heard the theory about why pets are so good for humans and in particular why it is so hard to ever lose them.

Relationships with pets are usually all positive, for a number of reasons... and here is what Pickles has taught me about life so far:

Accept people as they are

Our relationship with pets is so special because they accept us just as we are.

They don’t try to change us, they don’t mock us or put us down.

They love us just as we are.

Pickles is there for me through good times and bad and his love for and acceptance of me never wanes. His behaviour towards me stays consistent and it’s always positive. Whether I've I'm grumpy in the morning, have had a hard day at work or am just feeling glum in general, he's there for me in a consistent non-judgemental way.

Slow down

I remember when we first got Pickles, one of his major demands (!) of me was that when I got home from work, I was to lay on the bed so he could lie on me and purr and cuddle after a day away from me.

I must admit this was a struggle for me to start with – I was very used to coming home and getting on with cooking dinner, or cleaning up, or doing something else on my to do list.

Instead I’d come in the door and Pickles would demand I relax and cuddle with him. A pretty amazing way to end the work day and start my evening.

Don’t forget to be silly

Pickles loves to sleep a hell of a lot (did you know cats sleep for 16-18 hours a day? Inspirational really) but he also loves to be silly.

He did this even more so as a kitten, but one of my favourite times of day, is when Pickles will run around the house like a maniac, leaping off furniture, tearing up the hallway or bouncing across our bed.

It never fails to make me laugh and reminds me how much I love to make jokes, be immature and take a break from the seriousness of everyday life.

Thanks Pickles, I owe you so much.  

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.

How I’m Making Weekends Work For Me: The Follow Up

A couple of months back, I came up with a strategy to try and make weekends as enjoyable as possible. The overall aim was to batch errands together, ensure I got plenty of down time, and have lots of fun on Sundays in particular.

I thought I should circle back and see how I’ve been doing and, if I’m being completely honest with you readers, I haven’t done great. But, I can find the lessons in why my plans aren’t working so well. So what have I discovered?

There is no such thing as a typical weekend

...and I’m ok with that. I’ve had some weekends away, I sometimes want to catch up with friends on Friday nights and take it easy on Saturdays, and sometimes I’m willing to skip the supermarket visit altogether on the weekends.

I think this is a positive realisation - most times I’m listening to what my intuition feels like doing, and that’s not always able to be rigidly scheduled.

I like doing Sunday errands

Remember my post way back when about my ‘holistic lifestyle coach’? Well, he’s still around and I see him for a group session most Sunday mornings. It keeps me honest on Saturday nights and it’s still one of my favourite times of the week.

I zoom out of the session, collect my groceries for the week and usually maintain enough momentum to come home and prep some food for the week.

It’s my routine and my the plan to move everything to Saturdays has just not worked.

Plan ahead for fun

Does that sound like a contradiction? Stick with me.

I really find if I don’t plan some fun activities ahead of time, I end up on the couch scrolling through social media, then look around and wonder where the weekend went.

When I plan for some time outside if the weather is good, make a date with a friend to have brunch, or drag myself into the city for some shopping, I feel I’m making better use of my down time and feel even more refreshed come Monday.

So there you have it. Tell me - are you a weekend planner? Are you in the errands camp or the fun camp? Let me know below.

 

The Happiness of Doing Less

In discussions of late with girlfriends, the idea of doing less has been coming up more and more.

We used to pride ourselves on hitting the 6am spin class, grabbing dinner and wine after work and stuffing our weekends full of catch ups with every ex-coworker and high school friend we could find.

It may be (read: probably is) age but this routine doesn't seem to have the same appeal as it used to. Slowing down, breathing and being more discerning about what we say 'yes' to is now at the forefront of our minds.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by commitment and don't know how to slow down, try some of these tips:

Form routines

A morning and evening routine crafted just for you will really frame your days and encourage self-care and pleasure.

Write out the activities you want to help wake you up in the morning and those that will end your evening on a relaxing note (a long walk? cooking a delicious breakfast? yoga before bed?) and start to implement them week by week.

Pick your appointments

Finding time to catch up with those important to us seems to be getting more and more challenging.

Diarise monthly or bi-monthly catch ups with friends, make sure the appointments are scheduled at relaxed times that suit both of you and feel free to say no to those relationships that you don't value as highly as others. Yes, really.

Avoid the highlight reels

Gazing on social media with a severe sense of FOMO can undo all the joy of doing less.

But remember - social media is everyone's highlight reel - we usually don't see them trimming their toenails, running late for appointments or dreading the next appointment they have to go to.

So if it makes you feel worse, stay off social media or remove those that bring any feelings of anxiety.

How can you do less in the next week? What can you say no to? 

3 Ways To Destress In Any Situation

Signs of stress can express differently in different people.

For you it might be increased heart rate or a sinking feeling in your stomach. For others it’s feeling out of control with a scattered mind and loss of concentration.

Whether it be at work, home, or any other situation, here are my tips for regaining clarity in a stressful situation:

Realise they are only thoughts

Often when we’re stressed we feel like we’re letting someone down - our family, our boss, ourselves. But often we have no hard evidence of this and it’s simply a thought we’re having.

I’ve been loving delving into Brooke Castillo’s teachings recently and she constantly reminds us that our feelings are caused by our thoughts and our actions are caused by our feelings.

One more time:

Our feelings are caused by our thoughts and our actions are caused by our feelings.

Here’s an example.

The thought ‘I am falling behind on the housework because I’m too busy’ may bring feelings of inadequacy, stress and overwhelm. Our actions might then be to frantically try to clean the house (when we’re already tired) or to flop on the couch and beat ourselves up with more negative thoughts.

If we realise they are only thoughts and we can change our thoughts, this will often have a major effect on the reduction of stress.

So try reframing the thought - in the example above you might change the thought to ‘I’ve been really busy lately so I should have a quiet night. I’ll get to the housework when I have the space and time to do it.’

Get organised

Although the example above advocates ease, if you have the headspace, getting organised will often ease the stress going on around you. You might clean your desk at work and start a fresh to do list, or you might try some decluttering at home to free up space.

Once you’re coming from a clearer physical space, you can often see things afresh and start to deal with whatever was stressing you to begin with.

See people

AKA get out of your own head...

As mentioned in my first tip, the stress we feel is pretty much always caused by our thoughts. If we’re alone, with plenty of time to let negative thoughts take over, often the stress won’t dissipate.

Try going to an exercise class, catching up with a friend for coffee or going to lunch with coworkers.

The very act of talking to others about new topics will give you perspective and changing your environment will help reset the stressed feelings.

How do you deal with stressful situations? Let me know in the comments below.