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?

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.

34 Ways To Have Fun Every Day

In between incessantly organising our to do lists, our careers and our families are the moments when we lose ourselves and have genuine fun.

Back in this post, I pointed out that many of us have neglected to include fun in our every day and quite a few of you asked how I bring enjoyment into my day to day life.

I’m a big fan of lifestyle coach Sarah Jenks and she inspired me to make a list carved into categories (yes, you can be organised and controlling even with your fun list!).

I’ve got a few regular activities that I swear by week to week (I try a new cafe for lunch each Monday, on Tuesdays I take a pilates class then go on date night) but it’s good to have this list to refer to when I’ve got some free time or more importantly, when I’m feeling in a slump.

I hope you can steal some ideas from my list for your own lives and let me know in the comments below if you have some great ideas I might be missing!  

Pleasure

  • Get a massage
  • Take a bath
  • Get a mani pedi
  • Buy fresh flowers
  • Walk outside

Romance

  • Have a date night
  • Go for a picnic
  • Plan a weekend getaway
  • Go cycling
  • Go for a sunset walk

Friendship

  • Call a friend
  • Visit a museum or exhibition together
  • Cook a BBQ for friends
  • Go for brunch
  • Visit a rooftop bar after work

Adventure

  • Go hiking
  • Wear a new outfit or makeup look
  • Go bowling (my idea of adventure - haha)
...OK, I definitely need some new adventure ideas

Entertainment

  • Go to a concert
  • See a play
  • Go to Moonlight Cinema
  • See a poetry reading
  • Watch cooking shows (one of my guilty pleasures)

Tuning out

  • Sleep in
  • Stay in bed and read books
  • Read in the park
  • Take a nap

Education

  • Watch a documentary
  • Read non fiction
  • Go to an adult education class or do an online course

Creativity

  • Listen to music
  • Dance
  • Cook
  • Write

Which ones are you going to add to your fun list? Let me know 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.

 

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.

How I Stay Healthy At Work

As I’ve mentioned here and here, I’m well into the principles of intuitive eating.

‘Healthy’ isn’t the restrictive word it used to be to me though.

Today it’s a way of eating and moving my body that makes me feel energised, light and able to make the most of my days.

I don’t want to eat bland, healthy food that leaves me longing for more, and nor do I want to punish my body with grueling exercise.

But I also acknowledge I don’t live in a bubble.

At work there is the temptation of morning tea cakes, free pizza for lunch and a vending machine that calls my name when I’m stressed and/or bored (how kind of it).

So in order to maintain my version of healthy, I have a few tricks I use at work that keep me feeling good.

Be armed with snacks

Not having healthy snacks around me is a one way ticket to eating foods that make me feel unwell.

I stock my drawer with nuts, fruit and popcorn most weeks. This makes sure that when I’m feeling the urge, I’ve got something I can grab and snack on that will not make me feel sluggish.

BYO lunch or rotate some healthy options

After working in the middle of nowhere for almost five years, I am pretty damn good at making my lunches. You can read more about my meal prepping tips here.

However, if I’ve lost cooking motivation or I’m out of lunch ideas, I have a few local healthy options (let’s face it, 99% of them are one of my favourite cuisines - Japanese) that I rotate.

I feel just as good eating those as if I had brought my own lunch in.

Loosen the reins so you don’t splurge on Friday

On Fridays there is a different feeling in the air. I often have lunch with coworkers and a chilled glass of white wine is calling my name by 4pm.

A few years back, this was usually a slide into splurging and sometimes a whole weekend of eating and drinking to excess.

However, these days I realise I need to have this much fun every day, in one way or the other.

If I treat myself in other ways throughout the week, I’m less likely to go crazy and feel blergh every Saturday morning.

Do it if you want to, then move on with your life

This is definitely my most important tip.

If your body wants a piece of pizza, or a cookie with your coffee or a pint of beer at Friday lunch, HAVE IT.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying those guilt-free, then moving on with your life.

Don’t obsess about it, or promise yourself you’ll be better tomorrow.

Simply enjoy the moment, listen to your body and move on with your life. Seriously.

The Top 5 Apps for Fun, Relaxation and Organisation

I know the media is hell bent on pointing out that devices are a time and attention span sucker and I can definitely relate to that idea.

But what about the positive aspects of devices?

They provide fun via games and social media, there are stacks of apps to help you keep organised and you can even relax via the many self-development apps out there.

So what are my favourite apps?

Snapchat

Tagline: Snapchat lets you easily talk with friends, view Live Stories from around the world, and explore news in Discover. Life's more fun when you live in the moment!

Reasons I love it

1. The filters appeal to my completely immature side (go try them!)

2. It’s fun to peek into other people’s days

3. It challenges you to be more creative via video

Feedly

Tagline: Organise, read and share what matters to you.

Reasons I love it

1. It aggregates content from all the blogs and websites I follow

2. It saves me time going to each individual site

3. It helps me find great articles to share with you readers!

Stop, Breathe & Think

Tagline: A free meditation app to help you be more mindful and compassionate.

Reasons I love it

1. It’s kept me accountable to meditation longer than any other app

2. The interface is super cute and easy to use

3. It motivates you with rewards and tracks the total time you’ve meditated (hello 9 hours + 36 mins for me so far!)

Kindle

Tagline: Read Kindle books on your computer, tablet, or mobile phone with Kindle reading apps.

Reasons I love it

1. Again the interface is super easy - you can bookmark, highlight favourite quotes and look up words in the dictionary as you read

2. I can sync it across devices so it always knows what page I’m up to

3. 1-click ebook purchases are amazingly easy (not sure if this is a pro or a con actually...)

Google Drive

Tagline: Get access to files anywhere through secure cloud storage and file backup for your photos, videos, files and more with Google Drive.

Reasons I love it

1. It’s replaced the Notes app for me as a place I can track any lists I’m using

2. I can put personal and work documents in the same place.

3. I can share docs with my husband so we can both update them

Let me know if you download any of the above apps. And, tell me, what are your favourites?

Have We Stopped Having Fun?

Do either of these weekdays sound familiar?

Work all day, gym, get home, do chores, cook dinner, prep for the next day, check work email, sleep.

OR

Wake up to screaming children, get them breakfast, get them ready, drive them places, return home, clean, slurp from a cold cup of tea, prep dinner, pick children up, give children dinner, get them to bed, check social media, sleep.

Do either of these weekends sound familiar?

Wake up, exercise, groceries, lunch, cleaning, gardening, catching up with family, sleep.

OR

Wake up from large night on the tiles, lament the world, regret behaviour from the night before, mope around all day, eat fried food, sleep.

If any of these routines sound like your life - firstly, you’re not alone. Our to do lists are a part of our reality.

We’ve made career, family and lifestyle decisions that have led us to these day to day movements. But a couple of elements shine through with these routines:

  1. We are determined to keep control of our lives.
  2. We neglect to include any fun in our days (or we save it all up for Friday night when we can finally relinquish the tight grip we’ve held on our lives all week).

Back in this post, I mentioned that over the last year fun has become a huge priority for me.

I was finding myself caught up in the minutiae of keeping every aspect of work, home and health together and never really taking time to enjoy my day (other than when it resulted in an enormous hangover).

So what can we do to bring fun and joy back into our lives?

Create a fun list

Start a running list of everything that you enjoy doing. From taking a bath to visiting a museum to going for a walk while listening to a podcast, this list is going to serve as your idea catalogue.

Some category ideas to help you get started could include - friendship, romance, adventure and relaxation - and let me know if you’d like a peek at my list.

Schedule something that brings you joy EVERY SINGLE DAY

Yes, every day!

Why do we hate Mondays? Why is Wednesday called hump day? Why do we have Sunday night blues?

It’s because we have nothing to look forward to on those days.

The night before each day (while you’re doing some of that humdrum prep we already talked about) look ahead to your calendar and see if there’s anything you are looking forward to the following day.

If the answer is no, go to your list and choose something you’d like to do, no matter what time of day you can fit it in.

Focus on your most dreaded or boring days

As I experimented with this idea, I noticed that Mondays and Tuesdays were the days where I was lacking the most fun.

I’d had my fun and prepped for the week on Sunday but Mondays and Tuesdays were about getting serious and churning through work and a couple of gym sessions.

Now I have regular fun booked on these days.

On Mondays I always take myself out for lunch (with or without friends) to a new cafe in my work area. Previously I would have brought whatever food I’d prepped on Sunday and raced back to my desk to keep working. Now Mondays feel special because of having this scheduled in the middle of the day.

And now every Tuesday night my husband and I go out for dinner to try a new restaurant near home. We share the responsibility of choosing a place and always have a great time - chatting about our week and mixing up a somewhat boring weeknight. It doesn’t have to be expensive ($10 pho and ramen anyone?) and I highly recommend it.

If you’re already having a blast every day then more power to you, but if you’re feeling like something is missing in your daily routine, adding fun could turn things around.

And I’m more than certain our best memories are not created while cleaning or working late at night - they’re created in moments of joy and happiness.

How do you include fun in your day to day life? Let me know in the comments below.

The Birthday Post: 5 Lessons Learned

Well happy birthday to me! Another year has passed and I’m following my blogging tradition of summing up the lessons I’ve learned over the last 12 months. You can read last year’s post here

Let’s do this:

1. I measured my success by how much fun I’m having.

I’m going to post more about this in the future, but as we move deeper into adulthood, do you think we have we forgotten to have fun?

Between work, fitness, mortgages, kids, are we just slogging through life? I definitely was - or more specifically I was slogging it through to Friday, then finding solace in a pizza or bottle of vino.

This past year I’ve prioritised fun and I make sure I have something enjoyable to look forward to every, single day.

Examples of this include taking myself to lunch each Monday (rather than working through my lunch break while chowing down leftovers) and taking a bath on a Wednesday evening with a good book and a margarita. Don’t judge me, I’m having a blast ;)

2. I toned down on self-improvement.

My love of podcasts goes deep and whenever I’m alone I’m listening to one. This includes during my commute, on my lunch break, at the gym and while cooking.

What I didn’t realise was the insidious nature of the content I was listening to.

Many of the podcasts I listen to are about self-improvement and productivity, and often involve interviews with people who have written books or created courses on ways to improve yourself.

I was finding myself thinking ‘ooh, I should do that/buy that book/sign up for that course’ and it was exhausting me.

Even though you think you’re improving yourself (and that's got to be a good thing right?) there’s a time and a place for just ‘being’. Prioritising relaxation during your spare time is so important.

Nowadays I turn on some great music, or listen to a more ‘story-telling’ podcast, aka This American Life: activities that I find enjoyable, but that don't drive me to try and fix myself.

3. I broke up with diets.

Holy smokes, this was a big one for me. Let me know if you’d like a more in depth post on this, but thanks to the help of Paige Schmidt, I have at last broken up with trying to change my body. As a woman this is huge, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I unfollowed all health and fitness accounts on social media, I unsubscribed from any healthy eating plans that were turning up in my inbox promising huge changes, and I now follow intuitive eating principles.

I’ve been eating as I please and doing the exercise that sounds good to me for about 8 months now and lo and behold (even though I very rarely weigh myself now) I haven’t gained any weight.

In past years, I would have been struggling with what I ate, forcing myself to do exercise I thought I 'should' be doing, and hoping I could shift the scale by at least a few kilograms. And for what?

4. I asked for help around the house.

Another big one for me. In line with the superwoman / maternal gatekeeping mentality, I was keeping it all together at home, trying to keep the house clean and working through a seemingly never-ending list of tasks around the house.

My husband has never been against splitting the cleaning, but I would either try and take it all on myself or criticise him for not doing enough / not doing it 'right'. Sound familiar?

So at last I asked for help. We drew up all the jobs that need doing and how often, and we split them 50/50. My to do list around the house is much more manageable and I can depend on my husband to do his share.

5. I focused on my relationships.

Relationships have been a big focus for me in the last year. Since using the Stop, Breathe, Think app, meditation has helped me get out of my own head and focus on the happiness of others. A la the self-improvement lesson, we can sit around pondering if we’re doing life ‘right’, or we can shift the focus outward.

When I go out to dinner with my husband, go on a walk with a girlfriend or call a family member for a long chat, I fill myself up and can focus on the bigger picture. It makes me grateful and it makes me happy.

What have you learned in the last year? Let me know in the comments below.