Follow These Four Steps To Create Your Ideal Routine

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Do you have a routine you’re currently struggling with? Your morning routine, before bed routine, taking kids to school routine, exercise routine - which one is it for you?

Many of us just can’t seem to make a new routine stick. So day to day, week to week, we struggle through our days, wishing we could get some control over this particular area of our life.

It’s often on our mind but we feel too busy or too helpless to actually make a change.

I was working with a client recently on her morning routine - when we first started chatting she was snoozing her alarm repeatedly, scrolling through her phone while in bed, and prioritising her kids’ breakfasts over her own, leaving her hungry and exhausted as she headed out the door.

She knew it was time for an overhaul.

It takes time to stick, but it is absolutely possible to get a new, ideal routine in place. So what are the steps?

1. Journal about your current routine

This is usually the most surprising and enlightening step to creating a new practice. We think we know where our time is going or where we’re going wrong, but until you write it down, it can be hard to quantify.

Pick up your phone or take out a piece of paper and write down your current routine in black and white.

Are you leaving work braindead, so skipping the gym?

Are you frantically cleaning the kitchen before bed, then watching TV to help you doze off?

Capture your current routine and from there you can move to step two.

2. Envisage your ideal routine

The perfect routine is often what we’re dreaming about day to day, lamenting that we’re never going to get there.

My client found this exercise a lot more straightforward than capturing her current routine - among other things, she wanted to do yoga each morning, have a quiet cup of tea before her kids woke up and then eat a relaxed breakfast with them once they woke.

3. Add a new activity each week

Over a few months, we replaced old activities with new, manageable ones each week.

Rather than launching into a 60 minute yoga routine each morning, we added five minute stretching videos to three of her weekday mornings (Yoga with Adriene, we love you).

She found it tough to make four breakfasts in the morning so grocery shopped for some easy options to have in the cupboard, and sometimes prepped breakfast the night before so it was ready to go once the day got under way.

Week by week, new habits were developed and the baby steps started to stick.

4. Review your progress

What’s so heartening is once you have your current and ideal routine noted down, you can chip away at the changes, then (the best part!) go back and review your progress once your new routine is in place.

To see how far you’ve come is super motivating and you can then apply this process to any part of life that’s not going as you'd like it to right now.

Which routine are you ready to overhaul? Start with writing down your current and ideal routines, then add a new habit this week to get underway.

Why You Should Do A Thought Download Every Morning

As I mentioned here, I spent most of 2016 trying to get better and more consistent with journaling my thoughts.

I have to admit I really only dabbled - I preferred doing yoga and some meditation in the morning and by the time I was ready for bed, the thought of writing pages on my inner most musings sounded exhausting.

Even though I saw benefits from journaling, including more gratitude and better sleep, it never really stuck.

So far in 2017 I have been much more consistent with the practice and am using Brooke Castillo’s strategy of thought downloads.

So how does my thought download routine work?

  1. I spend 5 minutes in the morning writing down all the thoughts in my head so I can start to look at them.
  2. I run the self coaching model on one of my overriding thoughts. I identify the circumstance/fact that has brought on the thought, then note down my feelings, actions and results from here. I often do this once for the default way I’m thinking, then once for how I would like to be thinking.
  3. I note down the dominant emotion I felt the day before, and the desired emotion I want to feel today (for example, today’s proposed desired emotion is ‘inspired’).

And what have I noticed?

  1. I am grumpy in the morning! At first I felt a little worried by my thought downloads, but now I go back and have a little snicker at how irritable I was and how I didn’t continue feeling that way throughout the day.
  2. In line with the first point, I’m learning again that my thoughts are not the truth. So if I feel a certain way when I wake up, or am thinking certain thoughts, I don’t have to carry those same ideas with me throughout my day.
  3. It’s great to have an anchor emotion to focus on. I’ve been pretty good at sticking to my desired emotion for the day but I have had a few days where ‘overwhelmed’ was my number one emotion. I can then go back and look at how I got to a less desired emotion, and how I could have thought and acted to get to the emotion I wanted instead.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this practice but so far I’m enjoying being more conscious about my thoughts and the day ahead. As Brooke says:

Let me know in the comments below if you try the thought download practice of if you have another journaling technique you use.

 

5 Ways To Break Your Tech Addiction

Every person I speak to openly admits they are addicted to technology. Phone mostly, iPad often, Netflix more frequently.

We live in a world designed to keep us addicted - any question that pops into our mind can be immediately researched on the internet, notifications give us that little rush of dopamine we need and hours of binge watching TV series can keep us comfortably distanced from what we really want to do with our lives.

We know it ain’t good for us, so how can we begin to heal our technology addiction?

Keep a tech time log

Back in 2014 I kept a time log and discovered I was spending 2 ½ hours of my free time A DAY scrolling the internet. Terrifying right?

I’m much better now, but I’d encourage you to do the same - note down how often and for how long you’re reaching for your phone each day this week.

Don’t jump on first thing

If you start your day scrolling through feeds, checking emails and Googling, how do you think the rest of your day is going to go?

Will you feel centred, focused on your goals and productive? 

Or will you be distracted, a little scattered and focused on others’ needs all day?

I think we know the likely answer.

Try and start the day with something more useful to your development - read a book, do some meditation or light stretching, journal or go for a walk. Your phone will be there when you get back, I promise.

Schedule your scrolling

This is a tough one, I’ll admit. Our default mode when we have any spare moment (even when driving, as noted by Louis CK here) is to reach for our phones.

It’s hard to fill those in between moments with anything but our devices, but music, a useful podcast or some deep breathing will serve you better than constantly flicking through your social media apps.

After you’ve done your time log, try scheduling some time in the morning and evening for more focused use of your phone (and time).

Turn off notifications

My life would be so much worse if I hadn’t have done this years ago.

I’m still so astonished by how many people have every notification on in their phone and, more importantly, how often they look at those notifications while I’m talking to them.

Turn them off people, you can thank me later.

Use the red light at night

I’ve only started using this one in the last week or so and can’t wait to see the benefits to my sleep. Turning your phone to red light (the iPhone instructions are here) makes your brain think it’s night time and helps us fall asleep more quickly.

If you’re finding it hard to cut out bedtime phone usage all together, this could be the tip for you.

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Are you brave enough to keep a tech time log? What ideas will you implement in your life this week to break your tech addiction?

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

The Habits I Forgot To Keep

How good are you at keeping habits? I have a few ingrained ones - daily yoga, keeping hydrated, getting organised the night before work.

But I also have a few that have come in and out of my life and just haven't stuck long-term.

Or more specifically, I only call on these practices when I need them and that's usually when life gets a little challenging.

I think that's interesting - I wonder if I kept the habits going regularly, if those challenging periods would be more infrequent? 

So what have I been working on habit-wise? 

Meditation

I remember discussing meditation with a friend once - I said I didn't notice much of a difference when I did it regularly but always noticed a difference when I didn't do it. She said 'Alert - I think that means it's working!'. Ha. 

Meditating for 5-10 minutes each morning is making me feel more grounded and less likely to rush ahead with the day's stresses.

My favourites are Gabby Bernstein, the free UCLA Meditation Centre tracks and I've just downloaded Insight Timer to try.

Journaling

Remember my Five Minute Journal period? So that habit hasn't continued for now...

I have however been sleeping quite badly of late, waking up at all hours and not being able to fall back asleep. So the last couple of weeks I've been doing a brain dump before bed - writing down anything that's worrying me and letting the negative voice run riot.

Lo and behold, I'm sleeping much better.

I highly recommend trying this out from time to time - if only for the fact that when you read back on your thoughts days or weeks later, you usually realise they were not true and never came true. Hello perspective.

Planning my week

Once I'm into the week, I find I'm juggling work, study, blogging, exercise and relationships and that sometimes leaves me feeling a touch overwhelmed.

Although I have it all in my head, I've found recently that getting my week down (digitally for me, not on paper) on a Sunday gives me a clear picture of what's ahead and where I'll have pockets to fit in the things I really want to prioritise. Simple but effective!

What habits have you let slide? Let me know in the comments below if you're planning on bringing them back.

 

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.

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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

 

How To Create A Sanctuary At Home

My husband and I bought our very first home a little over a year ago. After the inevitable hell of packing, moving all our earthly belongings, and the bruises and tantrums that came with it, I remember flopping on the couch on our first weekend morning at the new place.

One of the selling points for us when choosing the house was the huge amount of light that fills the upstairs living area. I looked across the sundrenched room, admired my husband as he read his book and sighed with contentment. I was home.

Since that point, I’ve been slowly working on getting that feeling back as often as possible when I’m at home. Between jobs around the house, long hours at work and social commitments, it’s easy to rush in and out of the house with nothing more than a cursory glance.

But if you can create a sanctuary at home, your mental and physical health will thank you.

Here’s my checklist for creating a relaxing space at home.

Belongings

Plants - they purify the air and even help reduce the chances of falling sick.

Lighting - I am obsessed with lamps. There’s nothing better than turning off harsh lights after dinner and reading or watching TV by dim light. It’s also scientifically proven to help when preparing yourself for sleep. And why not use them in the morning to ease into the day too?

Candles - it’s almost as relaxing to smell a hundred candles in the store when choosing one to buy. Don’t underestimate the decadence you can feel with the right candle lit.

For you

Comfortable clothing - transitioning from work, or being out of the house in general, is important. It’s winter here so warmth is paramount, but even in summer, a breezy dress for around the house feels great.

Your favourite drinks or snacks - herbal tea, wine, fruit salad, pungent cheeses. Whatever makes you feel special, make sure you have a supply at home. And don’t forget to dish it up on your favourite plate or in your favourite glass. 

 

Spa paraphernalia - check out my pampering routine here. If you’re a bath person, make sure you have an aromatic bubble bath on hand. If you’re only into showers, a rich, moisturising body wash will make a regular day feel unique.

Activities

Journal - writing is a great way to unwind and get any stressful ruminations out on paper.

Read - when I’m not constantly distracted by my iPhone (!), settling down with a great book really helps me escape a busy day.

Netflix - and if all else fails... go on, you’re allowed.

What are your best tips for creating a relaxing space at home? Share with me below.

 

Gratitude 101

 
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Do you feel like you’re always reaching? Like when you buy that thing, or get that job, or finish that goal, you’ll be happy? I’ve heard these aspirations called many things including shiny pennies, carrots, vision boards, bucket lists.

On the flip side, I’ve also read a lot about gratitude and living in the present moment. No longer reaching and living a life of ‘I am happy now’, not ‘I’ll be happy when…’

Back when I started looking into positive psychology, I shared the strategies to a more satisfying life from Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, researcher and author of The How To Of Happiness. Even though they sounded simple, I wanted to look further into her research.

A good proportion of the tactics she discusses come back to gratitude – being grateful, expressing wonder at the world around you and counting blessings. Research has shown that practising gratitude regularly can have a huge effect on your outlook, disposition and overall happiness.

The truly fascinating part of Sonja’s research is that she has ascertained that:

  • 40% of our happiness is in our control and can be influenced by intentional activity
  • 10% is based on circumstances outside of our control
  • 50% is genetically determined.

Only 40% control makes me want to work harder, so gratitude is a new focus. When I say working hard, the premise is actually to be satisfied with your life as it is, but that can be harder work than I thought...

Below are some of my favourite practices, and some I’m yet to implement:

Five grateful thoughts each morning

This is perfect for the newbie to gratitude or those that feel they don’t have enough time to be grateful (an oxymoron?). Every morning before I get out of bed, I list the first five things that pop into my head that I’m grateful for. It sets a good frame of mind for the day and stops me moaning that it’s too early to get up.

Mantras and affirmations

Taking a mantra through your day is something I learned from Gabrielle Bernstein’s book May Cause Miracles. The book is based around daily practice in meditation, but also gives you an affirmation to use as needed over the course of the day. You can either set a few reminders in your phone or go back to it when you’re feeling overwhelmed or when you have a quiet moment. A few of my favourites are:

  • I’m grateful for this moment
  • I could see peace instead of this
  • I am responsible for what I see

I could go on and on with these ones… And she also has a very cute app that you can use as your alarm.

Journaling

I’m not a regular journal-er but it’s a popular gratitude practice. Writing down at the start or end of each day what you’re thankful for helps ground you and is great to refer back to on a not-so-great day. Plus there’s so many nice journals out there to choose from right?

Photos and quotes around your home

Ok, I’m not a big fan of the ‘dance like nobody’s watching’ sign, but there is strong research into the fact that having an uplifting quote around the home and surrounding yourself with photos of family and friends increases gratefulness. The photos in particular remind us of the amazing people in our lives, the places we’ve travelled, the celebrations that stood out. Even when we’re in the humdrum of everyday life, reminders of these can keep us grounded and increase our satisfaction with life in general.

   Some moments I like to remember.

 

Some moments I like to remember.

Gratitude letter (and visit...)

I’ll be honest and tell you this one terrifies me a little. Martin Seligman, pioneer for positive psychology, developed this exercise. You think of someone who has made a major impact on your life, write them a gratitude letter and visit them to read it in person. I would love to hear if anyone has done this or is interested in doing it. I imagine it would be a hugely powerful experience.

Celebrating moments

I am so guilty of this one and am working on this for 2015. I am a goal setter and luckily most of the time, a goal achiever. But what I forget to do is stop and celebrate each goal, rather than rushing right by on to the next one or brushing it off as not a big deal. Living in the present moment is about celebrating these achievements, for yourself and others. And why not take a photo and put it up in your house to remember it?

I’d love to hear how you practise gratitude? Or if any of these are enticing you to start?