How These 3 Tech Tools Can Cut Down Your Time Online

A common issue I hear from my clients is the guilt they feel for the amount of time they spend online.

Whether it’s distracting them from their business, their kids, or derailing their mornings, endless scrolling seems to be an easy time suck without much reward.

Since starting maternity leave and having my baby girl, I’ve noticed an increase in my online time too.

Once she was down for a nap I found myself flopping onto the couch and zoning out with Instagram.

Before I knew it nap time was over and I hadn't achieved much at all.

I’m all for relaxing throughout the day, but I was starting to feel like a zombie and needed some tools to drag me out of this tech slump.

Forest (aka pomodoro timers) 

With a tagline like ‘stay focused, be present’, the Forest app is perfect for keeping you off your phone and in your life.

It’s basically a pomodoro-style productivity tool - you set it for a chosen amount of tech-free time (25 minutes is the default) and it will plant a tree for you.

If you pick up your phone and go into another app, the tree dies. It will send you gentle warning messages and remind you to put your phone down as the timer counts down.

I set this after baby girl goes down for a nap and am often amazed at what I can get done in 25 minutes.

Shower, dishes, laundry, often all done by the time I come back to my phone. I can see myself using this once I go back to work too.

And the best part? You can actually use the coins you accumulate from each tech free break to plant real trees on earth!

Guided meditations

Insight Timer is my latest favourite guided meditation app.

With a tonne of different teachers and types of meditation, I use it for morning meditation, drifting off to sleep and also used it for those middle of the night feeds, as there’s actually meditations for mindfulness when feeding your baby.

One of my favourite meditations is ‘Take back your online life’ by Tony Brady (and there are other tech related meditations on the app that you can try).

It reminds me of how distracted we all get online - we start looking at one thing, then go down the rabbit hole of endless information. I’ve taken one of Tony’s suggestions and now use a very simple tool to monitor online time…

Your phone timer

Yup, just the regular timer on my phone is the latest tool I’m using.

I’ll set it for 30 minutes before I open social media and put my phone down when the timer goes off.

It’s helping me understand how quickly that 30 minutes can fly by without much to show for it, and I’m able to get on with my day knowing I’ve had my fix (for now anyway…).

Time online is known to give us that special dopamine hit as messages, likes and new posts draw us in.

I’m savvy to the fact that online life has its benefits but don’t want to forget these days because my head was buried in my phone.

What tools do you use to manage your online time?  

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?

Do You Love Looking At Your Calendar? If Not, Try This

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It’s Sunday evening and you take a look at your calendar for the week ahead.

You’ve either booked in something every night and feel exhausted already, or you hear crickets chirping from your planner, with nothing to look forward to but work, work and more work.

Over the past few years, I’ve managed to get my diary into a state I’m really happy with.

The structure changes from time to time, depending how busy I am at the office, what season it is, or how I’m feeling health-wise, but I’ve collated my top tips to help you look at your planner and feel excited for each week ahead.

Set weekly parameters

First, you need to set some ground rules. They can be flexible and a trial for now.

Why not try a month with an initial calendar framework, and set a date in your diary to review how it’s going after that month has passed?

After a super busy start to 2017, I was feeling spent and tired by the end of each week, so started trialling the following parameters:

  • A maximum of 2 weeknights out per week  
  • Booking at least 2-3 exercise sessions a week - usually 2 in the evenings and 1 on the weekend
  • One free weekend day or evening to recharge

I put the exercise blocks in my calendar but they could be moved flexibly depending on the week. Also, when friends asked for dates for a catch up, I was able to quickly see if I already had two nights booked out in any given week.

Be mindful of your weekends

I have seen this often with my coaching clients (and myself!) - we get to the weekend and jam pack our calendars and to do lists in an attempt to play catch up or pack some fun in after a long work week.

Before I started managing my calendar more wisely, I would wake up on a Saturday, go to see my trainer, do my groceries and errands, meet a friend for lunch, head for a wine in the afternoon, then move on to dinner and a night out with friends...

Sounds like a fun day right?

It usually was, but it also left me feeling exhausted come Sunday morning.

I started to pluck out the activities I loved doing and put in some that weren’t in my routine yet.

Firstly, I loved catching up with friends on a Saturday, but three catch ups in one day was just too much. I preferred the evening catch up so would usually suggest that to friends where possible.

Although I liked my Saturday morning routine, I really loved (and still love) a slow morning on the weekend. I make sure to block Sundays for this - I get up, make coffee, read my book, then take a long walk along the river.

Considering six mornings a week I’m working to a timeframe and pretty tight schedule, this type of morning is so appreciated. I love the quiet and slow pace of this practice.

How are your weekends looking at the moment?

What activities do you want to keep and what is missing from your weekends?

My four tips on creating a new routine can help you too.

Look at your calendar and ask yourself this tough question

Now that you’ve set some parameters and addressed your weekend planning, it’s time to look at each booked activity and ask yourself the most important question - ‘Am I happy this is in my calendar?’

If it’s a workout, it’s easy to roll your eyes at that question, but if the answer is a firm ‘no’, can you try a new class or take a friend for a walk with you so you actually look forward to your appointment?

If it’s a catch up with friends and the answer is no, you have permission to cancel.

Whether it’s because that week you don’t feel like going out with certain people or it’s a bigger issue to address, the key is to love looking at your calendar, not respond with ‘meh’.

If you could replace a ‘meh’ catch up or activity with something that makes you say ‘yes’ to the question of ‘Am I happy this is in my calendar?’, what would that activity be?

I’d love to hear how these tips help you improve your calendar and, even better, I’d love to see what your calendar looks like once you’re happy with it! Please shoot me a message here and share.

September Recap and a break from Monthly Intentions

Welcome to October! (aka my birthday month!)

Q4 of 2017 is here and I’m ready to see the year out with a bang... despite the blog post title.

September felt a big sluggish for me - there was lots of rain around and some of those nights on the couch I wrote about last post. But thanks to Brooke Castillo’s September Self Coaching Scholars topic of ‘How to get it done’, I still managed to get a lot done!

So let’s look back at the month and talk about the plan for Q4.

September Recap

Start regular Pilates practice

This one went really well for me. The practise of paying for and booking classes ahead of time has been a big motivator for me, rather than having a gym membership where no one minds or notices if I don’t turn up.

If you’re struggling with consistent exercise, I’d recommend booking and paying for classes ahead of time to help you get there.

I’ve been going twice a week and it’s been great for my office desk body in terms of both strength and flexibility.

I’m booked in for another fortnight’s worth of classes so will see if I continue beyond that, but I think the answer will be yes.

Tackle life admin

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So much life admin for me at the moment! Sadly I forgot all about my tax return until I re-read last month’s post (oops), so will get on to that in October.

I did follow Brooke’s method of writing a big list of what needed doing and putting it in my calendar. I got around 80% done I’d say, and the rest of the time my brain talked me out of it.

I’m not feeling too bad about that though, since I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have even gotten that 80% done without this intention.

Q4 plans

I’m planning on being pretty busy with work, coaching, Self Coaching Scholars and life in general for the rest of the year so won’t be setting any specific monthly intentions here on the blog.

I am going to focus on blogging about the topics you readers like the most - time management, routine ideas, good old imposter syndrome and relaxation.

Let me know in the comments below if I’ve missed any topics you’d like to hear more about in late 2017.

Otherwise, have a fabulous October!

Why Beating Yourself Up Never Works

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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.  

How To Actually Get Things Done

We’re crazy for productivity right?

Many of us are carting around our to do lists in our phones, in notebooks, in our brains.

The satisfying tick of an item off our to do list gives us the rush we were looking for, but sometimes the list seems to outweigh the time and energy we have right?

Not necessarily true.

Often the time we spend thinking about our to do list or procrastinating on it, could actually be spent getting things done.

So what’s the best way to satisfy that time management urge and avoid the guilt of not getting through what we were planning to get done?

Put it in your calendar

Whether it be at the start of each week or longer term for a larger project, list out each task that needs doing, then pull your calendar out and actually schedule each one.

Writing a big long to do list at work for example, then getting to Friday afternoon realising you haven’t done 75% of it, is a sure sign you need to actually book things in.

Estimating how long each task will take is also super useful and helps spark our competitive side.

Only have 1 hour to write that report? Chances are you’ll get it done within the hour in a race against the clock.

Accept you probably won’t want to do it

Understanding this has pretty much changed my life.

Whether it’s the gym, cleaning or doing a large task at work - I have the best of intentions and when I get to the scheduled time, I think ‘hmm, nah…’.

Once I accepted I was often going to feel like that, I was able to just notice it and make a decision to press on anyway.

It’s a little cliched, but who has ever worked out, looked at their clean house or finally solved a major work problem and regretted it? I didn’t think so.

Accept that your mind is going to try and talk you out of getting things done, and keep going anyway.

Congratulate yourself

Something I’m quite hopeless at is actually pausing to celebrate when it’s called for.

I’m usually on to the next project or idea, when as I wrote here, if we don’t stop to acknowledge milestones, they’ll easily be forgotten.

Make a concerted effort to congratulate yourself in some way after a long week, a big work project ending or a home renovating job coming to an end.

This will make it all worth it and help you reflect back on the effort you’ve made.

Will you put your to do list in your calendar this week? Let me know how you go!

What To Do When You're Low On Energy

Confession: over the last few weeks, I feel like I have run out of energy.

Between the clocks changing, work slowing down and the weather feeling much cooler, I’ve fallen out of routine and, to be really honest, feel like a bit of a slug getting around most days.

Now, this is not my style at all. I enjoy being busy - catching up with friends, exercising, working on my business and writing to you guys.

So you can imagine my brain started going a little crazy when those activities fell away and I found myself nodding along to the Netflix notification that my next episode would be starting in 10 seconds.

‘What’s wrong with you?’
‘Get up and do something’
‘You are way behind on your to do list’

Thanks brain! But of course, berating myself wasn’t working or making me feel any better. I took a new perspective and tried these steps instead.

Be kind to yourself

Instead of beating myself up, I took a step back and looked at what was going on.

I’m not a robot who is going to feel the same way and do the same things every day for the rest of my life. I’m going to have ups and downs and feel different week to week and year to year.

Once I accepted this, it took a big load off and I could just accept that I wasn’t running at full steam at the moment.

Appreciate what you had

A few weeks ago, pre-energy slump, I was probably begrudging my busy schedule and responsibilities - and ironically, now I missed them!

The grass is not always greener and I know when I’m back to feeling energetic again, I’m going to bear in mind how much I missed that busy life I created for myself.

Just do something

The other night, while feeling tired after work, I thought: 

‘I’ll just get the laundry on, and will make it a bit more fun by listening to a podcast while I do it.’

After that, I knew I could sit down again and rest.

Lo and behold, once I got the laundry on, I started doing a few other things around the house, then felt ready to reply to some emails I’d been putting off.

My energy level rose as I went and after about an hour of productivity, I was ready to chill out again, knowing I’d made some progress. Don’t push yourself here but doing small things can make you feel much better.

What do you do when you’re in a slump? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook.

 

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!

 

Best of Where the Light Plays 2016

Happy new year readers!

I sincerely hope it was a good one and you're looking forward to 2017. And, if it wasn't, or you're not, I hope you realise the construct of years is not such a big deal and you just keep going for today...

Looking back at the blog in 2016, I feel like I have learned a lot and am thankful to say, the posts full of those learnings were most popular with you readers.

From working on my negative thinking with Brooke Castillo's self coaching model, to continuing with intuitive eating (thanks Paige!), through to the eternal struggle of being super productive, while also making time for pleasure and relaxation - I'd say I've been working on it all. No wonder I needed this holiday break!

Enjoy revisiting your favourite posts below and thank you for coming by week after week to read my musings.

I truly love writing here and can't wait to connect with more of you in 2017. I'm taking a couple of weeks break, then will be back with more ideas for you to try out for the new year. 

I'd love to hear in the comments below or over on Facebook what posts you'd like to see in 2017.

Top 5 Posts on Where the Light Plays 2016

 

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?