I Worked Out Why You're 'Too Busy'

If you think back over the last week, how many times did you reply ‘good... busy’, when asked how you are? 

I hear it so often - from coworkers, friends, clients and, of course, I hear it come out of my own mouth too.

I genuinely feel busy - I have a job that keeps me busy, a social life, a side business, family, friends. The thing is I don’t want to feel bored and have nothing to do - I’m grateful for all in my life.

But I also don’t want to use ‘busy’ in a negative way or as an excuse.

This is unfortunately what I hear so often - not just I’m busy, but I’m ‘too busy'. That’s when alarm bells start ringing for me, and here’s why...

You are prioritising ‘busy work’

We’ve spoken a lot about the second shift here on the blog - the household labor women do after their paid job is done.

After all, if you look for it, there’s always something to do in your second shift.

Is your house clean? I bet you could take everything out of your kitchen cupboards and clean those out too (please don’t).

I really want you to think about the things you can let slide… I’ve had two examples of this in the last few days.

Firstly, I got back from my holiday to Hawaii and my general inclination is to unpack and put the washing on once I get in the door. Why? I just got back from holiday. Instead, I made myself a coffee, sat on the couch and watched a movie. The suitcase was still there the next day once I’d had a good sleep and eased back into home life a little more.

Now, once I got the washing on the next day, I heard the washing machine beep its last beep, just as I was in the middle of writing this post. My inclination? Jump up and go hang the washing out. Why? I’m in the middle of something more important to me and the washing will be there in an hour when I’m done.

If you’re not ready to let anything slide this week, at least observe when you might be doing this - either doing things you don’t care about, or interrupting yourself constantly to rush on to the next task.

You’re avoiding what you care about most

Ding, ding, ding! This is the clincher my friends and something I observe frequently.

For my brain it’s much easier to hang out laundry than it is to write a blog post.

Writing a post takes thought, effort, courage, working through fears.

Who wants to do that when I can just stand in the backyard, pegging t shirts on the clothesline?

So often we deprioritise the things that are important to us for the sake of being busy. And this can include self-care or relaxation.

For example, I noticed earlier in the year that my days were going like this - work all day, go to the gym, cook dinner, then sit down to work on my website…

Of course, I was too tired to work on my website by then and although the other tasks were still important to me, I was putting less important things ahead of my main goal.

I’ve seen this in many areas with clients - 'I have to look after my family so I don’t have time for exercise', 'I have to check my work emails in the evening after dinner, so I don’t have time to paint', 'I can’t sit on the couch when there are dirty dishes in the sink', and on and on.

The things that scare or challenge us are the things we push aside, but they are also usually the most rewarding.

What step can you take towards a scary goal this week, ahead of your busy work?

You’re letting your mind run the show

Have you ever noticed how you can do things on your to do list with pain or ease? Let me give you an example.

Some Sunday afternoons, I cook around three meals for lunches and dinners for the week ahead. I can do it one of two ways.

  1. I try and do it as quickly as possible, multi tasking across recipes, huffing and puffing around the kitchen, watching the clock, lamenting having to cook on a Sunday. I also notice I’m more likely to cut my finger with a knife when I’m in this type of mood. Sounds fun right?
  2. I put on a podcast, pour myself a drink, grab everything out that I need for the first recipe and methodically work through each step in a relaxed way. I admire my handiwork when everything is in tupperware containers and reward myself when I’m all done - with a bath, an episode of a great show or getting ready for dinner out with friends.

The crazy thing is it usually takes me the same amount of time to meal prep whether I choose option 1 or 2 and guess which one leaves me happier?

If you have chosen to do something, do you want it to be mentally painful or pain-free? Try it out this week and also have a read about segment intending for help focusing on the task at hand. 

Want to chat about this further? Book in for a complimentary 30 minute consult with me and we can look at your to do list and move you away from being ‘too busy’.

How To Get Through A Tough Time

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A major purpose of this blog is to get real with you readers and to reassure you that you’re doing a great job, even if your life is not as perfect as you think it should be.

As I mentioned back in August, I was going through a tough patch - luckily something I haven’t been through in a long time.

While in the midst of one of these rough times, it can feel all consuming, like it will never end and like you never appreciated the ‘normal’ times.

It reminds me of when I get a cold - sore throat, runny nose, the works - and I realise I was never grateful for all the days I was healthy with a clear nose and fully functioning throat! 

So during this period I read, listened and soul searched through as much self-help collateral as I could find.

And you know what? There was no quick fix... sorry readers. 

But - I did pick up a few strategies that helped ease the pain and that I will remind myself of in future hard times.

Treat yourself like your best friend

When going through a tough time, it’s so easy to beat ourselves up and berate ourselves about getting over it as quickly as we can.

Negative self talk can come in - voices telling you that you're being weak, too emotional, too easily affected. None of this helped me.

What did help was imagining one of my best friends coming to me with a problem - would I tell her to get over it and stop being so stupid?

No, I would listen to her and make her cups of tea, and take her on long walks and hop on the couch with her to watch her favourite movies. So what did I do? I did all these things with myself.

Another thing I found helped was doing things that made me feel capable - getting involved in a tough work project or helping a friend or family member with a task I have skills in. It helped distract me and made me feel useful and worthy.

Don’t deny the negative emotions

Again, it’s so tempting to mock ourselves for feeling down and in turn try and bury any negative emotions.

Sure, thinking positively and expressing gratitude helped me, but fighting against the negative emotions did not. They were going to be there whether I kicked and screamed against them or not.

As Dr Russ Harris notes in his amazing book The Happiness Trap, we can make room for negative emotions even if we don’t like them, and they will often start to come and go without too much fuss. It also seemed at times that I was addicted to these negative emotions because I was constantly replaying negative scenarios associated with my problem. Again, fighting aginst that did not work. 

Molly Mahar also said a great quote that helped me with during this time and that was to ‘trust that when you are ready you will start to climb out’...

Accept the different seasons of life

I won’t post any frivolous quotes here but I’m sure you’ve heard the concept - how can we appreciate the positive seasons of life without the negative?

Not every year or season of life is going to be up, and if anything a slump makes us appreciate the neutral, so-called 'boring' times of life, or even better, the happy seasons.

It’s the nature of being human and I accept there will be plenty more crazy seasons to come. If you are going through a dark phase, I want you to know it will pass and one day you will look back upon it and it won’t seem as all consuming as it does right now.

Hang in there, be super gentle with yourself and put one foot in front of the other, day after day, and eventually it will be ok. I promise.

34 Ways To Have Fun Every Day

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

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

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

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

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

Pleasure

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

Romance

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

Friendship

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

Adventure

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

Entertainment

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

Tuning out

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

Education

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

Creativity

  • Listen to music
  • Dance
  • Cook
  • Write

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

5 Lunch Break Ideas to Increase Your Productivity This Week

For my entire career, I’ve always been a huge proponent of taking my lunch break.

In fact I’m quite commonly known around the office as the one that will always go out for a walk at lunch, and have befriended many coworkers over the years who want to join me sporadically or regularly.

Clearly not every day or week lends itself to taking a full lunch break but, when possible, I try and recharge.

I find my afternoons are much more productive and I can reset my energy levels for the rest of the day.

Here are 5 ideas to try out this week.

Enjoy a book

Escapism is a great way to recharge your brain. After a busy morning, reading fiction can help you step out of the work grind and even strengthen brain connections and cognitive function

If you can’t find a cosy spot to read, download an Audible book and listen to it as you take a walk around the area.

Eat without digital distractions

This is a tough one that I continually have to work on.

It’s very easy to scoff your lunch while scrolling through all the Instagram marble bathroom or smoothie photos you’ve missed from the morning.

The problem is you very rarely enjoy your food and it’s easy to either eat past fullness or not feel full at all as you haven’t savoured your food.

I find it hard to stare into space while eating, but talking to coworkers at the office kitchen table is a good alternative and, as an added bonus, it helps build relationships.

Meet a friend

Use your lunch hour to catch up with a friend for lunch.

Chatting about topics other than work projects and enjoying a proper break at a local cafe will leave you ready to focus for the afternoon.

As an added bonus you won’t have to cram as many social engagements into the evenings and weekends if you utilise your lunch break for catch ups.

Listen to music

A good way to give your eyes a rest from screens is to plug in some good tunes.

You could enjoy music while lying in a nearby park, taking a walk (we’re seeing a pattern here) or browsing local shops.

Again it will help you get out of your own head and escape into whatever type of music works for you.

Pamper yourself

Self-care is a very positive way to spend the middle of your day.

Get a manicure, a short shoulder and neck massage or try out some makeup at a local cosmetics store.

The focus is on rejuvenating yourself and feeling fresh when you return for an afternoon of work.

What helps you recharge on your lunch break?

 

Light Links: August

Spring is finally on its way to Australia. Longer days and sunshine do make a difference to my mood, no matter how I try and accept winter.

I’ve been trying to inject some more fun into my days this month. I’ve been making sure I schedule fun catch ups and self care early in the week, so I’m not always hanging out for the weekend.

Some of those self care occasions involve reading my favourite blogs. My favourite links from this month are below - enjoy!

Wondering how to simplify your days? I need to focus on #4.

I think Mindy Kaling is my hero. Here’s an essay from her on confidence (and her interesting view on mistakenly labelling people as ‘workaholics’). Plus Stephen Colbert loves her too = win. 

If you personally need some ideas on self-care, read this. I love the cute flow chart.

This one was very popular on my social media this month - what to do if you’re feeling burnt out and unmotivated

On that note, I’m off on holidays for a week! For all you planners out there, here’s some ideas on how to make the most of a day off.

And if you’re interested in holidaying like it’s 1999, read this:

“You bring a paperback book and a fancy new yellow Sony CD player. You have a drink, read a little and relax.When your friends show up, you snap a few group photos with a disposable film camera (there’s no such thing as a selfie yet) and hope they turned out O.K. It’s heaven."

How The Reminders App Helped Me Follow Through

I’m sure you have them - those tasks on your mind that you promise to do every day, week, month. Exercise, meditation, flossing?

Then suddenly it’s 11pm , the end of your day and you’re too exhausted to even consider them.

I have quite a few of these tasks and struggled with the disadvantages and guilt of never completing them. Little did I know the answer was under my nose the whole time.

I needed to remind myself … yup, it was that simple.

Rehab - I said no, no, no

I have a problem with my right hip.

Bizarrely it stems from being a giant child (ok, not a giant, but very tall) and standing badly in order to appear shorter than I was.

Years later the problem has presented itself as an uber tight hip flexor and a weak glute.

Cue hip pain, lower back pain and generally feeling about 20 years older than I am.

My rehab tools  

Luckily I have an amazing osteo who is sorting out the problem. Unfortunately he expects me to do exercises in between our appointments.

Cue I can never be bothered, or I just forget. Every day. Every week. I forget.

It was hard to know if I’d ever get better if I didn’t do the recommended exercises. So now, every second morning, I do my rehab. And every day I drag myself off the couch at 9pm and stretch my hip flexor.

After 2 weeks of commitment I can see a huge improvement. After a month, I should be pain free.

Avoiding exercise

This is how the mind chatter goes for me -

‘I’m too tired from work to exercise’;
‘It’s cold’;
‘I’m needed at home for <some untrue reason>’.
The fit ball theme is strong...

The fit ball theme is strong...

Since I’m pretty sure I’m never going to be a morning exerciser, I have to accept I will go to the gym after work.

And, like many of you I’m sure have also experienced, when you do the exercise, you end up feeling a million times better than when you started.

Usually I regain the energy I thought was lost after a long work day and I don’t really care that it’s cold out anymore.

So far the reminder is getting me there at least a few times a week.

Prying myself from my devices

The more articles I read on this topic, the more terrified I become. But checking your phone one last time, or reading an ebook (that usually leads to Googling something the book triggers) is just so tempting.

In the US, there was a recent study on iPad readers versus book readers:

iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night and had shorter REM sleep compared to the book readers, researchers found. The iPad readers also secreted less melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep. They were also more tired than book readers the following day, even if both got a full eight hours of sleep.

I usually bargain with myself at 10pm when this message pops up, but most of the time I’m trying to stay consistent with putting devices away at least an hour before I go to sleep.

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As for the benefits?

I’m reading way more (hard copy) books. I don’t think I’ve been trying this long enough to notice huge improvements in my sleep (I’m a pretty good sleeper to be honest) but I’ll keep you posted.

What tasks could you use reminders for? Personally, I totally need to add flossing too. Maybe next week - nobody’s perfect right?

5 Christmas Staycation Ideas

 
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With Christmas just days away, most of our workplaces close down for a period of time.

Time off work is always a winner, but it can be a pricey nightmare to travel at this time of year. I also know a lot of people’s Christmas celebrations revolve around the city they live in, so they can’t stray too far.

Enter the staycation.

I was lucky enough to have my own staycation a couple of months back. A short break between jobs and extra time around the house sounded blissful to me, but as a Type A personality, suffering from bouts of imposter syndrome, I know I have the tendency to ‘potter’. Also known as: cleaning, cooking, doing boring errands and catching up on my long to do list.

All worthy activities that feel nice to tick off the list, but not exactly a break.

I planned out some activities to keep me occupied and away from the vacuum cleaner and also set some ground rules to bring ease to the period and make it feel different to my everyday routine.

First, the ground rules:

  • Enjoy a minimum of 9 hours sleep each night (what a rule!)
  • No cleaning
  • No social media, just email and my blog reader Feedly
  • No worrying or guilt

Then came the preparation…

I knew as a Type A, I couldn’t sit around a dirty house all week with no food in the house. The first morning of the staycation, I stocked the kitchen and gave the house a clean. I recommend the same for you if it will make the rest of your time off more enjoyable.

Now onto my top 5 staycation activities for you to try:

Make spa water

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This was a random one I’d read about on a couple of blogs about staycations, but it’s become a fast family favourite.

Making flavoured (or spa, as I’ve dubbed it) water is meant to give the impression that you’re on holiday, drinking something a little tropical and different to the norm.

My personal favourite was sliced cucumber and lemon infused in a jug of water (or mineral water if you prefer some fizz). Stick it in the fridge and enjoy for a couple of days, refreshing as needed. Lemon water is also meant to be great for your digestion and immune system.

Some other combinations I’m keen to try – fresh mint and lime, orange and mango slices, and blueberry and pomegranate. Delicious.

Catch up on media (not social!) with no guilt

Whether it’s piling up books beside our bed or in our Kindle, saving articles and emails to go back to one day, or making a list of the movies we need to see before we die, these fun lists start to morph into ‘have tos’ rather than ‘want tos’.

When I’m busy at work, it’s hard to find the time to enjoy these things, and even when I do, I know I’ve got other things I ‘could’ be doing. Time to ditch the guilt and indulge. Lie around for hours watching box sets, escaping into a book, or catching up on all the Serial podcasts. Take advantage of the time off, and no shame ladies.

Try those classes you never get to

Not all places are open over Christmas, but if you search ahead, you can totally tick some New Year’s resolutions off before the end of December.

Head to that yoga class you always skip (or even do the 10am one on a Tuesday that work always prevents you from making!), try a photography or cooking class – anything you would try on a vacation when you have the time.

Enjoy a 'do nothing' morning

These are the absolute best. Turn off your phone, do not set your alarm, even stash all your clocks out of sight.

Let your body clock wake you up, then stay in bed. Read, stare at the ceiling, do whatever works for you. Again, no guilt!

Visit new cafés and restaurants

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Another benefit of the staycation is the time to visit those cafes and restaurants you read about or saved in your phone during the year. On my staycation, I drove across town in the middle of the day (hello, no traffic) to try a new organic café. I honestly never go to that suburb and would rarely drive that far for lunch, but… I had the time…

Plus, often people travel out of town over the festive season, so you might find busier restaurants are easier to get into. Just check the opening hours.

And remember you’ve got at least 9 hours sleep ahead, so again, indulge with no guilt.

 

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone and even if you can’t take time off, consider a weekend staycation sometime soon! You deserve it.

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?

10 Lessons Learned This Year

 
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Happy birthday to me! Yesterday was my birthday and I thought I'd share some pretty personal deliberations from the last 12 months.

1. There's never a perfect time.

In the last 12 months, I've bought my first home and started this blog. Two big steps I was putting off until the 'time was right'. The time is right when you make it right - I'm so happy in my new home (yes, even with the extra outgoing $$ each month) and I love getting lost writing for and tinkering on the blog.

2. Wheels of brie don't solve your problems.

More broadly, I've noticed over the last year that when I'm stressed, I often turn to food. After a hard day at work, I tend to give up on my healthy dinner plans and turn to comfort foods or childhood favourites. Don't tell anyone but that includes bags of Allen's lollies, cheese, salami, cheese and more cheese. It never makes me feel any better and when I come out of the food coma, I realise that I need to deal with stress and issues by confronting them head on. Not by stuffing my feelings down with food.

3. Slow down.

Over the last few years I've tended to cram my evenings with activity - whether it's catching up with friends, exercising, cooking, tidying the house, I would rarely ever stop. My husband will attest to me not being able to sit for longer than 10 minutes before I think of something else I need to do. This year, I've made the effort to slow down and recharge in the evening. Reading a book, taking a bath, doing some yoga - these types of activities make the evening minutes stretch longer and my heart rate come down after a busy day... I particularly like the below yoga sequence from Kimberly Snyder:

4. Stop listening to that little voice that says you're not good enough.

I'm going to delve into 'imposter syndrome' in a future post, but I'm learning to ignore the negative little voice in my head more and more. The voice that taunts me with the to do list I haven't gotten to yet, or leaves me lying awake in bed stressing about what might happen at work the next day. Speaking only positive words to myself makes a huge difference and hey, if Maya Angelou had to work through it, I know it's worth my time to overcome it. 

5. Take time for yourself in the morning. 

Similar to number 3, slowing down in the morning has made a huge difference in my daily routine. I'm not brilliant in the mornings and rush through my routine with a kind of disdain for being required to get up to an alarm again. It's clearly not the best frame of mind to start each day with. Implementing 10 minutes of yoga in the morning has changed my attitude in the mornings, as has lingering for 15 minutes over breakfast - only reading a couple of news articles or blog posts, rather than trying to keep up with every social media feed first thing.

6. Lean on your girlfriends.

My closest girlfriends will agree that I have a distinctive trait. More often than not, once I've figured out the solution to whatever my current problem might be, I'll run them through the issue over a glass (let's be serious, bottle) of wine. I take them through the whole story and, usually that week or day, it's come to a head and has just been solved. They have had little idea that it's been happening and, being the great friends that they are, wish they could have helped earlier. Between me and the internal voice I mentioned in number 4, I've always felt a need to solve my own problems. More and more I'm calling on girlfriends, scheduling that wine much earlier in the piece and leaning on them for help.

7. I don't want to be a nag. And it rarely gets the result I want.

Ok, ok, I'm guilty of nagging my husband. It's no fun for anyone but sometimes I truly can't help myself. I received a newsletter from Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project last year and have hung on to her great idea for home life ever since - under-react to problems. Don't ignore them, just under-react. As Gretchen points out, sometimes the things you nag about are only as annoying as you allow them to be. 

8. Dig deep, and don't settle, career-wise.

One exercise Sage Grayson introduced me to this year is creating a list of 'must haves' and 'must not haves' when it comes to your work. I was at a crossroads in my career this last year and keeping these two lists clear in my mind helped me when making the decision to move jobs. There's no point compromising if you're going to end up in the same confused state again in another 12 months. Stick to your standards, ensure you ask for what you want and don't accept what doesn't work for you.

9. Worries rarely eventuate.

I have been trying to learn this for years. My sister is a psychologist and literally took me through this 10 years ago. But hey, we've got to get there ourselves sometimes right?! A little trick I've used recently is if I'm going to bed with a head full of worries, I write them down. No matter how crazy they sound. The best part of this is, not only does it help get them out of my head so I can sleep, but I read back on them a week or a month later, and usually NONE of them have eventuated and they are fairly irrational worries looking back. I'm still allowed to have them but I'm noticing more and more that they're unnecessary to dwell on.

No more of this!&nbsp;

No more of this! 

And the most important lesson:

10. Every year gets better.

It's true people. The years are getting better and better. And if I've cemented these 10 lessons over the last year, I can't wait to see what happens over the next 12 months.