What I Learned From Logging My Time For A Week

I’ve talked about Laura Vanderkam many times on the blog - she is a time management author, who interviews and gathers time log data from a variety of people.

Her message is to essentially prove to us that we have more time than we think.

I agree with her concept, but when my brain starts to feel overwhelmed, I’m always pretty adamant I’m too tight on time and can spin out over that.

After recently reading her book Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, I decided to follow her suggestion and keep a time log for a week. You can download her time log spreadsheet through her subscription form here.

I actually tracked my time almost 4 years ago to the day (you can time travel back and read that post here if you like).

And … yeah, I was worried about spending 2 ½ hours a day on the internet back in 2014 … let’s just say we’re closer to 5 hours now.

I’m going to blame maternity leave and will be working to reduce that for sure. Especially now the new iOS tells you how many times a day you pick up your phone (go and look in your settings - I was shocked!)

So, I tracked my time in 30 minute increments for a week (she also offers a 15 minute increment option but that was a little too intense for me), and here’s what I learned:

Tasks don’t take as long as I think they do

I noticed how little time things take in a number of ares of my life.

I am kinda hamstrung by baby nap times at the moment so once she goes to sleep, I’ll relax for ten minutes or so, then shower, put laundry on, etc.

What I noticed when I was logging my 30 minutes was… I was doing a lot in that 30 minutes.

Like all of those things! I thought I needed loads of time to get them done but in fact, I could relax, shower and put the laundry on and be back to a cup of coffee within half an hour.

Something I lament over is how long it takes to cook dinner - again, not that long… usually less than half an hour for most of my recipes.

And one more hilarious observation for the road…

I kind of loathe straightening my hair. Well guess what? It takes me 6 minutes to straighten my hair. I probably whinge in my mind for longer than 6 minutes about doing it! No longer…

I get enough sleep

Sadly I don’t get the 10+ hours I probably used to get on weekends pre-baby, but after filling up all those 30 minute cells with sleep overnight and into the morning, I am actually getting enough sleep. I get at least 6 hours and mostly 7.5 hours. So although

I feel within my rights to feel a bit tired day to day, it’s nothing to stress over.

I read a lot

I love having the Kindle app on my iPad (go and download some free Amazon sample chapters now!) but I never felt like I was reading enough.

Not only did I realise I read quite a lot (...like sometimes up to 2 hours a day) but tracking my time encouraged me to read more.

Writing ‘reading my phone’ in the 30 minute block wasn’t quite as inspiring as actually reading a book and logging that.

I exercise more than I think I do

I haven’t tracked my exercise in a long time so usually just decide day to day what I feel like doing.

Once I tracked my week as part of the challenge, I realised I was working out more than I thought and the variety was broader than I expected.

Baby and I go walking a lot but I also do a mix of weights, pilates, yoga and barre at home.

And again, my brain often spins out about exercise - telling me I don’t have the time. But once I realise it only takes one 30 minute slot in the spreadsheet (or maximum two) in the scheme of my day I can usually fit it in.

I unwind with TV and movies (when I say I don’t)

In this era of binge watching shows on Netflix/whatever streaming service you’re into, I am often left quiet in conversations as friends and coworkers discuss the latest trending series and how many episodes they powered through on the weekend.

I have a bit of a complex about spending too many hours watching TV so often don’t watch many shows.

When I tracked my time, I found I was watching something each day, usually in the evening, but again kinda decided on the spot.

I started a new series (Younger - 6 years late to the party), am still working through the latest season of The Handmaid’s Tale and watched an Amy Winehouse documentary.

So the story I was telling myself wasn’t so accurate - I am watching things that interest me each week.

Conclusion: (as Laura predicted) I have more time than I think!

Have you ever tracked your time? Is it something you would try?

Why Beating Yourself Up Never Works

beating-self-up-where-light-plays

Earlier this week, I came home from a busy day at work and flopped on the couch with my phone.

I was tired, bone tired.

Suddenly the to do list I had in my head for that night seemed insurmountable and I resigned myself to the fact I was probably going to get nothing done.

Instead of accepting that decision and relaxing into the evening, I had a severe case of the guilts.

I hadn’t cooked dinner all week, I hadn’t exercised, I had a pile of laundry waiting and some freelance work unfinished and almost a week late.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a fun night.

Sure, I watched some TV and had an early night but the nagging voice that was beating me up stuck around for the rest of the evening.

The following night, after another busy day, I came home, determined not to have a repeat of the guilt.

I decided the best thing to do was stay off the couch (for now) and make something for dinner that could roast in the oven. Firstly, so I could get a couple of things done while it cooked and also so I wasn’t eating super early, since I’d only just got home from work.

My lamb and sweet potato fries baked while I did 20 minutes of pilates - I then made a quick salad and we sat down to eat. I asked my husband to take care of the laundry and decided the freelance work could wait until the weekend.

By 7.30pm, I was on the couch with a peppermint tea, Netflix on and no nagging voice to be heard.

Sometimes, it can feel productive or important to beat yourself up. My experience this week proved that doesn’t work.

Some days we’re not going to get our to do lists done, and accepting that without guilt is the absolute best way to go.

Some days we need to ask for help.

Some days we can just get a couple of things done.

And that’s fine, because the next day we get to wake up with purpose and goals again.

However you’re feeling right now, whether it’s super motivated or in a slump, be kind to yourself and know that coming from a harsh place is not going to help.

You’re doing a great job.  

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?

Where I'm At with Ashten from Just Go Left

Welcome to the first 'Where I'm At' interview of 2016!

Today's interviewee, Ashten, writes a super inspiring blog over at Just Go Left. She posts about the ups and downs of real life, accepting adulthood (one of my fave posts!) and many other useful posts about health and lifestyle. She's also the social media queen for the intuitive eating program I follow, Finally Free.  

I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did - it's an honest one about the balance we try and find in our everyday lives. 

What is your usual wake up time?

On a weekday, I’m usually awake by 5 a.m., so I can go to the gym. And yes, I’m one of those crazy people who work out in the morning but in my defense, this is the only way I can fit it in.

On weekends, I don’t set an alarm nor do I have a set wake-up time. I like to wake up slowly and enjoy my mornings, since I’m so rushed during the week.

How do you like to start your day?

I like to start my mornings slowly, but during the week I don’t have that luxury.

When my alarm goes off at 5 a.m., I get dressed in the work-out clothes I laid out the night before, brush my teeth, grab the work-out bag I packed the night before and go downstairs. There, I grab the lunch I packed the night before and the coffee I set to brew at 5 a.m., make a quick breakfast and head out the door to the gym. 

I’m usually there from 5:45 a.m.-7:45 a.m. (this factors in time to shower and get dressed) and then I head to the office.

Did reading that make you absolutely exhausted?!

Don’t worry, my weekends are SO MUCH more relaxing.

I wake up slowly, have coffee and take my dog Gatsby to the dog park before coming home to work on my blog and spend quality time with my boyfriend Kyle. We take long walks with the dog, catch up on our DVR and do A LOT of relaxing. Clearly weekends are a lot more fun.

Tell us about your commute.

Okay first of all? Commuting is THE WORST.

I know I’m not alone in my feelings towards it.

I work in Downtown Atlanta, and getting there can be an absolute nightmare when traffic is bad (and it’s always bad in Atlanta, in case you were wondering). My drive can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, if I’m leaving from my house. But, when I leave from the gym it takes me about 10 minutes…which is even more motivation for me to get to the gym in the morning!

PS: if you’re like me, I found this blog post extremely helpful in surviving the commuter life.

Do you like to plan your day ahead or allow some spontaneity?

I like a little bit of both, but if I’m being honest my weekdays don’t allow for much spontaneity unless it’s a random dinner with a friend after work.

My weekends are a lot more spontaneous, once the “adult” things (like grocery shopping and laundry) are done.

How do you spend your ideal lunch break to recharge for the afternoon?

My ideal lunch break would look like me going into my kitchen, making something healthy and satisfying and getting to enjoy it at my dining room table. Maybe taking Gatsby outside for a short walk afterwards, before starting work again.

In reality, my lunch break is usually spent at my desk. But, to combat any “overwhelm” this might create, I try to have relaxing music on and soft lighting. I also try to bring food I can enjoy so it feels like a treat during a long day.

You’ve mentioned your morning gym routine so I’m guessing you have a pretty great workout schedule?

I try to get to the gym every morning during the week, and take long walks with Gatsby on the weekends.

I do not do the same workout at the gym every day, nor do I put pressure on myself to work out harder or better than anyone else. I do what feels good and what I enjoy.

How do you like to end your day?

I like to set myself up for success for the next day. This looks like packing a lunch/my gym bag and laying out my gym clothes for the next day.

When that’s done, it’s all about self-care. I take a bath, lie in bed with Gatsby (sometimes Kyle if he’s not working late), read or watch Netflix.

Weekends we like to watch Netflix and have Moscow Mules (our favourite cocktail)

What time do you doze off?

This is kind of embarrassing but I’m usually asleep by 9-9:30 p.m. That 5 a.m. alarm comes really early and I need at least 8 hours of sleep. (This is 30...)

What do you aspire to every day but rarely actually do? (you can tell me, we all have them!)

Quiet time. I would love to integrate that into my daily routine but I honestly just don’t have time. Bad excuse, I know. Maybe I need to make more time.

Any advice for women trying to find ease in their every day?

Try to do one thing every day that’s just for YOU. Doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it makes you feel good. If you can’t show up for yourself, you’re no good for anyone else.

Can you give my readers your quick go-to recipe?

This breakfast recipe has saved me SO many times. Bonus? It’s totally healthy AND easy!

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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.