The Birthday Post: Lessons Learned This Year

It’s the most magical time of year! Well, for me... my birthday! As I mentioned here, I do love to celebrate and my birthday is no exception.

I have to be honest though - my birthday is losing a little shine as I get older but I’m trying to hold on to the fun and am grateful for every year (and fine line on my face - ahem).

You can catch up on previous year's posts below:

Previous Birthday Posts

So what has the past 12 months taught me? An immense amount again, I’ve got to say. So let’s get started…

1. Thoughts control everything

This feels like a true life long lesson for me and I have Jess Lively and Brooke Castillo to thank for introducing me to the Self-Coaching Model.

Brooke’s underpinning theory is that your thoughts create your feelings and your thoughts are just reactions to external circumstances.

How we interpret any situation is completely up to us and how we view our lives is completely up to us.

If you think you have a boring, uninspiring life - guess what, you will feel depressed that you do. If you direct your thoughts to a life filled with gratitude and fun, positive feelings will follow suit.

One of Brooke’s worksheets is here and I urge you to give it a try - write down the top three feelings you most feel every day, then choose what you’d prefer your top three feelings to be each day.

Even in the hard times you can direct your thoughts where you want them to be and your feelings will follow - sometimes slowly, but they will follow.

You are one thought away from the feeling you want.
- Brooke Castillo

2. Nothing happens perfectly

Hello, flashback to lesson 1 of 2014. I learned this again in the past year.

Between having to change my overseas travel plans, to having a mini personal crisis in the middle of my studies, to missing out on achieving one major goal I wanted to this year, it all just reminded me that we can plan and scheme, but life just happens as it will sometimes.

The sooner we let go of the perfect picture and let life unfold in its messy, sometimes unforgiving way, the better.

We never taste happiness in perfection, our most fortunate successes are mixed with sadness.
- Pierre Corneille

3. Never give up on learning new skills

Here’s a secret - I’ve always regretted not studying for longer at university. I was itching to get out of study and into full time work and years later, ha, how silly I realise 21-year-old Georgie was.

This year I returned to study life coaching and have enjoyed and surprised myself at learning this new skill - it’s totally different from my day-to-day job and has taken hard work, but I’m learning so much. You can get on my coaching wait list for 2017 by sending me a message here. 

I also changed career industries almost two years ago and was on a steep learning curve after over eight years in my previous industry of publishing.

I felt in over my head but over the last year I’ve tried to remember that I constantly surprise myself - well maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise anymore - I actually am capable and can learn almost anything with time.

Every artist was first an amateur.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. Keep a record

Any kind of record. I was a diary keeper as a teenager and am pretty sure I just wrote about boys... I have no idea if those diaries are still around but I hope they are fully cremated and never seen again.

Between this blog, my journaling and The Holiday Council I do every December with Molly Mahar, it is truly gratifying to go back and read how I felt at a certain time, to see how far I’ve come with my goals and to watch myself evolve in general.

Almost nothing makes me feel happier.

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.
- Joan Didion

5. …It’s all an illusion anyway

Bear with me on this one readers. I read Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach almost ten years ago and revisited this fairly philosophical book in the past year.

It’s a simple story with a pretty complex theme to get your head around - it might not be for everyone but the underlying message is that life is only as difficult as we make it (hello lesson 1) and as far as we know, the world we live in could just be an illusion.

I know it’s a bit way out, but it helps me let go of the inane - we’re not going to be here forever and the quicker I flow with my life the more present I’ll be. So here’s to another year ahead...

The world is your exercise book, the pages on which you do your sums. It’s not reality, although you can express reality there if you wish. You are also free to write nonsense, or lies, or tear the pages.
- Richard Bach

And because I love Meghan Daum and music and this quote makes me tingle, here’s one last message for you.

Thanks as always for being here readers and happy birthday to me.

“Listen,” Older Self might say. “The things that right now seem permanently out of reach, you’ll reach them eventually. You’ll have a career, a house, a partner in life. You will have much better shoes. You will reach a point where your funds will generally be sufficient—maybe not always plentiful, but sufficient.”
But here’s what Older Self will not have the heart to say: some of the music you are now listening to—the CDs you play while you stare out the window and think about the five million different ways your life might go—will be unbearable to listen to in twenty years.
They will be unbearable not because they will sound dated and trite but because they will sound like the lining of your soul.
They will take you straight back to the place you were in when you felt that anything could happen at any time, that your life was a huge room with a thousand doors, that your future was not only infinite but also elastic.
They will be unbearable because they will remind you that at least half of the things you once planned for your future are now in the past and others got reabsorbed into your imagination before you could even think about acting on them.
It will be as though you’d never thought of them in the first place, as if they were never meant to be anything more than passing thoughts you had while playing your stereo at night.
- Meghan Daum

How To Plan Your Work Day (And Week)

As a self-proclaimed time management strategy junkie, I've talked about how one of the ways I handle a stressful work day is by using the Productivity Planner.

A large part of my job is project management, so not only am I managing my own time, but also the time of my creative teams and often my external clients too.

The Productivity Planner, like it’s predecessor, the Five Minute Journal, has a super simple layout and beautiful design aesthetic, as well as plenty of inspirational quotes from well-known productive people. So how does it work?

Forward plan your week

Every Monday morning, I sit down with my coffee and start to fill out my tasks for the week - the planner asks you to pick your top 5 tasks, then your secondary 5 and then the 5 tasks you can complete only if you get the top 10 tasks done.

I also fill out the one action that will make my week more productive, which is good to pin down with a clear (and hopeful - ha!) mind on a Monday morning.

Ideas might be turn off email for periods of time, take regular breaks or batch tasks.

Prepare for each day

Once you have those 15 tasks nailed down, you move to the daily workday planner and continue to fill out a fresh plan each morning.

Not only do you choose your number 1 most important task to complete that day (and again the subsequent secondary tasks you can complete if that gets done), but the planner also encourages the Pomodoro technique.

The idea is that you work for 25 minute intervals, then take 5 minute breaks in between. So you estimate how many 25 minute blocks you need to get your task/s done, then being the race against time.

Look back on Fridays

Finally on a Friday afternoon, I complete the weekly review - no coffee this time, but a glass of wine about an hour away...

I note down what went well, what I learnt and (the most important part I think) what didn’t get done on my list and what will flow over into the next week.

That part of the review is particularly insightful as it reveals where I’ve procrastinated, where people haven’t gotten back to me on time or where I am or the team are letting projects slip.

What do you think of the Productivity Planner principles? I’ve been following them fairly consistently throughout 2016.

Would you like a follow up post with my learnings (and failings) around the process so far this year? Let me know in the comments below. 

My Newest Habit: Journaling

As I mentioned in this post, January has seen me trying out a new practice in both my morning and evening routines.

Inspired by The Five Minute Journal, the prompts of its pages provide a simple and swift way to enjoy your days more.

Gratitude and looking forward

In the mornings, you’re asked to think of what you’re grateful for and then what three things would make that particular day great.

Some examples I’ve written include lunch with a friend, a yoga class, a productive day at work, a relaxing evening with a movie, etc.

I enjoy this practice because rather than feeling sleepy or grumpy about getting up and starting the day, you are immediately putting a positive spin on the day ahead.

I also usually check in on the journal when I get home from work. I can then see what I’d hoped would make the day great when I was starting my day, and try to make sure it happens before the day is out.

Looking back

I don’t always remember to do the evening questions, but when I do, I’m prompted to think about what went really well that day and what I would improve.

What may have seemed like a standard work day, with a night at home doing the regular chores, now has a much more positive spin when you think about what went well.

You can also start to see patterns of the areas where your days don’t go so well. For example, feeling swamped at work, missing a workout, not connecting in relationships, etc.

As you can tell, my mindset has definitely been shifted in a positive way, and I’m also more conscious of what I want day to day.

Do you journal? Has this inspired you to try it out?

 

January Recap and February Intentions

How has the first month of 2016 been for you dear readers?

Mine has been pretty great - with no specific intentions and a fairly free schedule, I’ve been able to enjoy the warm weather, take my time with thinking about 2016 and I’ve also been practicing a fair amount of gratitude (more below).

So here’s what’s changed at Where the Light Plays this month:

Journaling

I’m pretty sure I was 16 the last time I kept a journal. And it was mostly to document my crushes…

I’ve mentioned them a few times but I’ve become even more obsessed with Alex and Mimi Ikonn lately. On the surface they lead a pretty glamorous life but their backgrounds, outlooks and goals are very sincere.

I’ve been wanting to pick up The Five Minute Journal for a while but the overseas shipping is pretty exorbitant. Apparently this will change soon so I think I’ll still purchase my own copy when the time is right.

The great thing is the authors, Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramdas, actually give the planner away for free on their website. So I mocked up my own journal to start trying out this habit in January.

journaling-ikonn-cactus.jpg

And? I truly love it. It puts me in a great frame of mind when I think about what I’m grateful for each morning and makes me more conscious about what I want from that day.

I can check in on the journal after work to make sure I’m on track with what I wanted, then I practise gratitude before bed. I totally recommend trying this (even without buying the journal).

Productivity Planner

The obsession with Alex and UJ continues… again, for free.

As you probably know, I’m always up for trying new strategies to be productive and manage my time at work. I’ve been using the Productivity Planner worksheets to plan my week on a Monday morning, listing out my most important tasks. I then complete a review of the week on Friday afternoon to see how I’ve tracked with the goals and what I’ve learned and want to take forward into the next week.

A few weeks in and I’m finding this a very useful tool with a particular benefit being you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot by the end of the week.

Kittens!

Newsflash - I’m not the hugest risk taker in the world.

Luckily my husband has more of a taste for getting us out of our comfort zone, so persuaded me to agree to looking after two kittens for a week while his coworker was away on a business trip in January. I was pretty concerned about our current cat being put out and the general disruption to our house.

In the end it was such a rewarding thing to do - to know they didn’t have to go to a cattery, to get to hang out with two beautifully natured kittens and to help our cat socialise with other cats.

The lesson? The best fruit is out on the furthest branch, so take a risk!

February Intentions

And as for February?

Focus on home decor

We moved into our house almost two years ago now and I’ve been wanting to update some furniture, buy some rugs and do the final declutter ever since. February is my month to get this done!

I’m depending on Gray Malin and Danielle Moss for online inspiration. Check out my Pinterest boards here and here.

Plan a holiday

I’m very excited that we have an overseas trip planned this year. Almost 4 weeks in the States and Mexico is on the cards and I can’t wait! Time to trawl accommodation sites and plan sightseeing and (mainly) eating and drinking in each city.

If you have any Austin or Mexico City recommendations in particular, please let me know below!

Do my rehab

I spoke about this in an earlier post, but I have a niggling, continuing hip problem that gives me pretty bad lower back pain from time to time. I have a series of rehab exercises I need to do a few times a week but I always find an excuse not to do them.

The benefits definitely outweigh the time it takes me to do the exercises so I’m committing to three times a week through February.

What are your February intentions? Let me know below or over on Facebook