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

calendar-overhaul-where-light-plays.jpg

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.

Follow These Four Steps To Create Your Ideal Routine

ideal-routine-where-light-plays.jpg

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.

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

life-admin-september-recap.JPG

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!

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.

 

The Happiness of Doing Less

In discussions of late with girlfriends, the idea of doing less has been coming up more and more.

We used to pride ourselves on hitting the 6am spin class, grabbing dinner and wine after work and stuffing our weekends full of catch ups with every ex-coworker and high school friend we could find.

It may be (read: probably is) age but this routine doesn't seem to have the same appeal as it used to. Slowing down, breathing and being more discerning about what we say 'yes' to is now at the forefront of our minds.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by commitment and don't know how to slow down, try some of these tips:

Form routines

A morning and evening routine crafted just for you will really frame your days and encourage self-care and pleasure.

Write out the activities you want to help wake you up in the morning and those that will end your evening on a relaxing note (a long walk? cooking a delicious breakfast? yoga before bed?) and start to implement them week by week.

Pick your appointments

Finding time to catch up with those important to us seems to be getting more and more challenging.

Diarise monthly or bi-monthly catch ups with friends, make sure the appointments are scheduled at relaxed times that suit both of you and feel free to say no to those relationships that you don't value as highly as others. Yes, really.

Avoid the highlight reels

Gazing on social media with a severe sense of FOMO can undo all the joy of doing less.

But remember - social media is everyone's highlight reel - we usually don't see them trimming their toenails, running late for appointments or dreading the next appointment they have to go to.

So if it makes you feel worse, stay off social media or remove those that bring any feelings of anxiety.

How can you do less in the next week? What can you say no to? 

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!

Blog Instagram | Twitter | Facebook Pinterest | Bloglovin'

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.

Lacking Motivation? How To Find Energy When You Have None

girl-hat-where-the-light-plays-city.jpg

From talking to readers of Where the Light Plays, I get the feeling many of you share common traits. Some of these include commitment to career, health and relationships, getting the most out of your days and weeks, and looking for efficient ways to complete and achieve more tasks and overall life dreams.

I can relate a lot to these qualities, but I am also aware that the momentum behind this drive can wane from time to time.

Some weeks we’re just not hitting the level we’re expecting to. Some nights after work we can’t face the out of hours plans we were looking forward to that morning.

Rather than being hard on yourself or wallowing in a lack of motivation, try these strategies for uncovering energy when you thought you had none.

Do something small

I recently discovered Alexandra Franzen and her mantra ‘Today is not over yet’. Take it easy on yourself when you’re lacking energy and settle on a small task.

Put the laundry on. Book that appointment. Email a friend.

Take a small step and know you’ve done your best. You won’t feel time is wasted and sometimes it can propel you to do other things. And if it doesn’t? Go back to the couch. You have my permission.

Set a timer

This reminds me of my older sister -

“Go and grab me <insert a random thing she couldn’t be bothered to get herself> from my room. I’ll time you”.

I’m pretty sure her strategy was for personal gain and utilising her baby sister as a slave, but a little competition never hurt anyone.

Think you can’t clean your house in 30 minutes? I dare you to try. Think you can’t get in and out of the gym in 40 mins? Time yourself! Whatever you’re dreading, set a friendly timer and get moving.

Create a reward

Yes, yes, more mind games. If you’re feeling depleted but still have a number of tasks that need doing, think of what you’d prefer to be doing right now.

Drinking wine? Having a bubble bath? Going out for dinner with your partner? You can have all that… just as soon as you get at least some of your to do list completed.

Try a different routine

If this kind of lack of energy is a regular occurrence, it might be time to take a wider view of your circumstances. Is housework on a weeknight just never going to work for you? Shift it all to Saturday afternoon. Are you anti-life admin tasks? I truly am!

Stop bemoaning adulthood and batch your taxes, budgeting, healthcare, etc reviews in together so they’re wiped out in one fell swoop. Monitor your moods and schedule recurring activities accordingly.

Look at the basics

Again, this is part of a bigger picture review. If you’re not enjoying sleep, exercise and nourishing food in equal proportions, you’re probably never going to live at optimum capacity.

When we’re busy, these aspects are often the first to suffer. However, without a strong foundation you can wind up exhausted and in no mood for either the necessities or more important things in life.

Put yourself first, recharge and the energy will come.

Like this post? Please share with your friends!


Light Links: February

 
The newest family member - Pickles!&nbsp;

The newest family member - Pickles! 

It's the last Monday of February (and the last Monday of summer here in Australia) and we're a couple of months into the year. It's going pretty great for me so far, but there's lots of things I hope to work on in 2015, including one of my favourite things - this blog.

February was full of quality catch ups with friends and a new addition to our family, a rescue kitten named Pickles. He's pretty amazing.

Here are some interesting links I've found over the last month. Enjoy your week lovely readers.

I'm not sure how realistic this is, but here's a take on the perfect routine for your work day. Yeah, power naps still don't fly at my workplace.

Do you regularly criticise your body? I know I do. Hopefully it won't take illness to appreciate it - here's a beautiful take on how we view our bodies from Susannah Conway

A breakthrough for me in February - I deleted the MyFitnessPal app from my phone! This article reminds me why.

I forgot to share this one back during the holiday season, but it's just as relevant throughout the year. Ditch the pressure of planning an amazing holiday, stay home, stay off social media and relax

And for a laugh I'm sure we can all relate to - The 12 emotional stages of a pedicure

My new 2IC here at the blog.

My new 2IC here at the blog.


My Pampering Routine

 
Yes, I watch YouTube in the bath...

Yes, I watch YouTube in the bath...

Self-care is the latest buzz phrase on lifestyle blogs. And to be honest, I’m all for it.

Carving out time for a pampering session can be difficult at times, but it’s so worth it – whether I’m recharging after a long day mid-week, admitting my old age and spending Friday night in the bath with a red wine, or going through my routine on a Sunday eve to feel equipped for the week ahead, here is my current routine.

Hair

Please note, washing my hair is in no way a relaxing activity, so I don’t include it in a tranquil pamper routine. Do you ladies feel the same way?

Body

Never a huge bath taker as a teen / young adult, since the advent of iPads and YouTube, I find whiling away time in the tub a breeze.

My secret? I watch a heap of YouTube videos to relax. I am a huge fan of Lisa Eldridge, but I’ve also recently come to love Vivianna Does Makeup. Their British accents relax me and there’s something weirdly mesmerising about watching someone else put on makeup. Weird, but it works!

Lifting weights can leave me sore, so I love to put Radox Muscle Soak in the bath, along with anything from the I love… range (currently on Mango & Papaya). For sore muscles, I also love massaging in some clove and mint Muscle Magic from Endota Spa.

frank

I recently started using Frank Coffee Scrub. It leaves my skin feeling amazingly soft, but it does turn your bath to dirt, so save it for towards the end...

When I’m indulging, my favourite ‘moisturiser’, for both body and face, is coconut oil. It is seriously so good for your skin, and smells amazing. I also sometimes use it as a hair treatment.

Face

Thanks to Lisa Eldridge, I am having a long love affair with Bioderma Crealine. Dubbed ‘the lazy girl’s cleanser’, I absolutely love this product and use it to take off every skerrick of makeup and dirt during my pampering routine. Super gentle on your skin, it also takes no time at all. I have fairly dry skin so I then put on Endota’s rosehip & myrrh face mask – you can also wear it overnight as a night cream.

Kate Somerville products are supre expensive, but really do work. I forked out for the Dark Circle Corrective Eye Cream and I love it. You only need a teensy bit so this bottle is going a long way. I have used some Dermalogica sample eye creams recently too, so might try those next.

I then slather on Ren’s Frankincense Night Cream which smells amazing and is a lovely smooth consistency. I’m also a bit captivated by Malin + Goetz products at the moment, so am trying out their Vitamin E moisturiser.

As you can see, I do love to have an array of products around for the routine! Some work, some just make me feel good via smell or nourishment.

Either way, soaking in the bath and smothering creams on seems to relax me so I’m sticking with it.

What do you do for self-care? Do you use any lovely products I should be trying?