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?  

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.

How To Stop Being A Technology Junkie

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Around four months ago, I started tracking the time I spend on my phone each day … as I mentioned in that post, I do use my phone to listen to podcasts while I’m commuting (up to an hour each day), but the number waiting for me in the Moment app next to ‘hours’ at the end of each 24 hours was still pretty exorbitant.

Like many, I often feel like I don’t have enough time.

Between work, my blog, coaching, cooking, exercise, keeping up the house, catching up with friends … you get the picture right?

But then how is it that I can manage 2+ hours a day on my phone?

The conclusion I came to was that I used it for relaxation. When I had a spare minute, or finished a task, or finished up the day, I was scrolling all my feeds.

Again, and again, and again, throughout the day.

What was troubling me even more were the not so acceptable times I was spending time on my phone.

When I had a nice ‘quiet’ weekend planned, the time on my phone skyrocketed, when I could have been doing some of those activities I feel I have no time for.

And even more harmful was the 3am pick up of the phone when I couldn’t get back to sleep - because we all know, a screen is not going to lull you back into a deep slumber. 

So what have I been trying and what can you do to cut back on tech time too?

Replace the urge

Picking up devices has really become muscle memory for many of us.

Particularly while away on holiday in Hawaii, I noticed, even when in another country with beautiful views and plenty to see and do, I would still automatically pick up my phone.

While I was there, I made a conscious effort to only look at my phone first thing in the morning and before dinner each night. Since a lot of the holiday involved swimming and relaxing, that left me with a fair bit of spare time. And I filled that spare time with reading.

This is something I’ve carried into regular life and now usually read my book to unwind after work and before bed.

As you can imagine, I am powering through plenty more books these days and although (disclaimer) I do read ebooks on my iPad, I’m actually more relaxed when I’m reading fiction (hello escapism) or non-fiction (learning about new topics) than I am when looking into other people’s lives on social media.

What main activity could you use to replace the urge to pick up your phone?

Create a list of spare time activities

I also began to wonder - what were all those things I wanted to do that I didn’t have enough time for?

They varied from doing more yoga, to decluttering my house, to blogging, to checking in with friends over the phone.

Knowing what I want to prioritise helps me when I do find myself reaching for my phone during a quiet moment.

I’ll do a yoga or pilates video on YouTube, I’ll call a friend or I’ll clear out a drawer that’s been bugging me.

Most of these activities are less than half an hour but usually make me feel much more accomplished and fulfilled than looking up from Instagram Stories for the 10th time wondering why my Sunday afternoon is nearly over.

What are some activities under 30 minutes you could add to your spare time list?

Admit that tech is not evil

This was an interesting learning from cutting back on my time online. It is truly hard to get away from tech day to day.

Life really has surrounded us with devices and apart from a hard copy book there’s not a lot I do at home or work that doesn’t involve tech of some description.

I’m grateful for online resources like books, TV shows, workouts and podcasts, and if they don’t have negative consequences for me, I’m going to go for it.

In what ways is technology creating a positive influence in your life?

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? 

The Top 5 Apps for Fun, Relaxation and Organisation

I know the media is hell bent on pointing out that devices are a time and attention span sucker and I can definitely relate to that idea.

But what about the positive aspects of devices?

They provide fun via games and social media, there are stacks of apps to help you keep organised and you can even relax via the many self-development apps out there.

So what are my favourite apps?

Snapchat

Tagline: Snapchat lets you easily talk with friends, view Live Stories from around the world, and explore news in Discover. Life's more fun when you live in the moment!

Reasons I love it

1. The filters appeal to my completely immature side (go try them!)

2. It’s fun to peek into other people’s days

3. It challenges you to be more creative via video

Feedly

Tagline: Organise, read and share what matters to you.

Reasons I love it

1. It aggregates content from all the blogs and websites I follow

2. It saves me time going to each individual site

3. It helps me find great articles to share with you readers!

Stop, Breathe & Think

Tagline: A free meditation app to help you be more mindful and compassionate.

Reasons I love it

1. It’s kept me accountable to meditation longer than any other app

2. The interface is super cute and easy to use

3. It motivates you with rewards and tracks the total time you’ve meditated (hello 9 hours + 36 mins for me so far!)

Kindle

Tagline: Read Kindle books on your computer, tablet, or mobile phone with Kindle reading apps.

Reasons I love it

1. Again the interface is super easy - you can bookmark, highlight favourite quotes and look up words in the dictionary as you read

2. I can sync it across devices so it always knows what page I’m up to

3. 1-click ebook purchases are amazingly easy (not sure if this is a pro or a con actually...)

Google Drive

Tagline: Get access to files anywhere through secure cloud storage and file backup for your photos, videos, files and more with Google Drive.

Reasons I love it

1. It’s replaced the Notes app for me as a place I can track any lists I’m using

2. I can put personal and work documents in the same place.

3. I can share docs with my husband so we can both update them

Let me know if you download any of the above apps. And, tell me, what are your favourites?

The Day I Officially Broke Up With Dieting

As I’ve mentioned lately here at Where The Light Plays, I’ve been engaging in more ‘intuitive’ eating strategies. I’ve also moved away from reading about health and fitness plans and trawling through their associated social media accounts. Now it’s time to tell you a major reason why.

But first a quote from the author Geneen Roth (and if you have the time, go and read all the quotes from Geneen Roth please):

“Diets are based on the unspoken fear that you are a madwoman, a food terrorist, a lunatic…The promise of a diet is not only that you will have a different body; it is that in having a different body, you will have a different life. If you hate yourself enough, you will love yourself. If you torture yourself enough, you will become a peaceful, relaxed human being.”

That’s what I believe dieting is really about - torturing ourselves, telling ourselves we’re not quite good enough and talking nastily to ourselves until we measure up.

I’m sure many women have had these thoughts:

‘I’ll be happier when I lose a few kilos’,
‘I need to lose some weight and tone up for this event’,
‘When I have the perfect body, then my life will be perfect too.’

Now here’s my story.

Over 10 years ago, I graduated high school. 

During my closet declutter (thanks to reading The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up) I came across the dress I wore at my graduation and thought...hmm, maybe I should try it on?

A potentially dangerous practice I know. But guess what?

IT FIT.

Enjoy the major flashback and daggy current day photo below.

I felt happy. And astonished. And angry and defeated. All at once.

I wouldn’t say I’ve continually been obsessed with dieting (and like most people have never actually ‘succeeded’ on any eating plan) but goddamn I’ve thought a lot about gyms and boot camps and quinoa and ‘starting afresh’ on Monday since I first wore that dress at the end of high school.

And guess what? It was for nought.

I am pretty much the same size I was back then.

I’m not telling you this to rub it in. I’m telling you because I was surprised. And because I realised I had wasted an enormous amount of energy and time.

If you take anything from me sharing this pretty personal experience, take this:

Don’t waste as many years as I did wishing you were a few kilos lighter. Don’t waste the amazing organ that is your brain reading about calories and HIIT workouts. It is not worth it and no one ever really finds success in this area.

Go and call a loved one. Go and read your favourite book. Go for a walk outside. Go and live your life. And for god’s sake, go and throw out all the dieting junk that has never brought you any fulfilment.

You deserve better.

Want to know more about intuitive eating and how it has helped me find my natural weight? Health coaches Paige and Simi run a brilliant course I've taken called Finally Free. I'll tell you more about how I've used their techniques to find freedom in future posts.

And here's one more quote from Geneen

“It's never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale. We are unrepeatable beings of light and space and water who need these physical vehicles to get around. When we start defining ourselves by that which can be measured or weighed, something deep within us rebels. 
We don't want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves."

The Birthday Post: 5 Lessons Learned

Well happy birthday to me! Another year has passed and I’m following my blogging tradition of summing up the lessons I’ve learned over the last 12 months. You can read last year’s post here

Let’s do this:

1. I measured my success by how much fun I’m having.

I’m going to post more about this in the future, but as we move deeper into adulthood, do you think we have we forgotten to have fun?

Between work, fitness, mortgages, kids, are we just slogging through life? I definitely was - or more specifically I was slogging it through to Friday, then finding solace in a pizza or bottle of vino.

This past year I’ve prioritised fun and I make sure I have something enjoyable to look forward to every, single day.

Examples of this include taking myself to lunch each Monday (rather than working through my lunch break while chowing down leftovers) and taking a bath on a Wednesday evening with a good book and a margarita. Don’t judge me, I’m having a blast ;)

2. I toned down on self-improvement.

My love of podcasts goes deep and whenever I’m alone I’m listening to one. This includes during my commute, on my lunch break, at the gym and while cooking.

What I didn’t realise was the insidious nature of the content I was listening to.

Many of the podcasts I listen to are about self-improvement and productivity, and often involve interviews with people who have written books or created courses on ways to improve yourself.

I was finding myself thinking ‘ooh, I should do that/buy that book/sign up for that course’ and it was exhausting me.

Even though you think you’re improving yourself (and that's got to be a good thing right?) there’s a time and a place for just ‘being’. Prioritising relaxation during your spare time is so important.

Nowadays I turn on some great music, or listen to a more ‘story-telling’ podcast, aka This American Life: activities that I find enjoyable, but that don't drive me to try and fix myself.

3. I broke up with diets.

Holy smokes, this was a big one for me. Let me know if you’d like a more in depth post on this, but thanks to the help of Paige Schmidt, I have at last broken up with trying to change my body. As a woman this is huge, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I unfollowed all health and fitness accounts on social media, I unsubscribed from any healthy eating plans that were turning up in my inbox promising huge changes, and I now follow intuitive eating principles.

I’ve been eating as I please and doing the exercise that sounds good to me for about 8 months now and lo and behold (even though I very rarely weigh myself now) I haven’t gained any weight.

In past years, I would have been struggling with what I ate, forcing myself to do exercise I thought I 'should' be doing, and hoping I could shift the scale by at least a few kilograms. And for what?

4. I asked for help around the house.

Another big one for me. In line with the superwoman / maternal gatekeeping mentality, I was keeping it all together at home, trying to keep the house clean and working through a seemingly never-ending list of tasks around the house.

My husband has never been against splitting the cleaning, but I would either try and take it all on myself or criticise him for not doing enough / not doing it 'right'. Sound familiar?

So at last I asked for help. We drew up all the jobs that need doing and how often, and we split them 50/50. My to do list around the house is much more manageable and I can depend on my husband to do his share.

5. I focused on my relationships.

Relationships have been a big focus for me in the last year. Since using the Stop, Breathe, Think app, meditation has helped me get out of my own head and focus on the happiness of others. A la the self-improvement lesson, we can sit around pondering if we’re doing life ‘right’, or we can shift the focus outward.

When I go out to dinner with my husband, go on a walk with a girlfriend or call a family member for a long chat, I fill myself up and can focus on the bigger picture. It makes me grateful and it makes me happy.

What have you learned in the last year? Let me know in the comments below.

 

My Social Media Purge

 

Around two months ago, I went through a total social media purge. It was spurred on by my goal this year to no longer stress about my weight, and involved wiping my phone clean of any diet / fitness / health-related accounts that were not creating positivity in my life.

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Feedly (my blog reader) were trawled for accounts along these lines, and I also deleted any apps that were bringing me down – namely, MyFitnessPal.

Motivation Turns to Demotivation

In the following weeks, the epiphany struck. Accounts I thought were ‘encouraging’ me, like Lorna Jane, Tone It Up and Tracy Anderson, were really just blasting my subconscious day after day with perfect meals, sculpted abs and twice-daily workout check-ins.

And you know what? The overarching feeling was that I was not good enough. Not even close to being good enough.

I wasn’t cooking clean enough meals or meal prepping enough food. Working out three times a week was not going to cut it, if I was going to reach these aspirational heights.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Moments of Clarity

Since the social media cleanse, my mindset and outlook have improved remarkably. I am no longer absorbing messages of health and fitness perfection every time I look down at my phone.

I actually now feel a jolt when a random photo or article shows up in my feed of someone at the gym in perfect neon workout gear.

Your Turn to Cleanse

I think this cleanse could work for so many of you, and not just in the area of health and fitness.

Are you into fashion? Or interior design? Or travel?

Are the accounts you’re following in your interest area making you feel motivated and positive? Or are they making you feel less than, like you’ll never achieve the perfection beaming at you from your iPad?

Go and look through your social media accounts now and really assess the content you’re consuming. I think you’ll be back to thank me.

Ahh, much better.

Ahh, much better.

My Favourite Health and Fitness Instagram Accounts

And if you are into health and fitness, here are six inspirational accounts that make me feel great when I’m looking through my Instagram feed.

If you do purge, please leave a comment below and let me know any benefits!

Light Links: February

 
The newest family member - Pickles! 

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.


9 Things I'm Doing To Make Every Day Feel Like A Holiday

 
seth godin

I spent a week on holiday in far north Queensland (FNQ) recently. Queensland is Australia’s favourite state for sunny beach holidays. I hadn’t been up there in a number of years and my focus was to wholly relax and check out some local attractions (while avoiding crocodiles and jellyfish – yes, really, see below). 

jellyfish

 

It was such a rejuvenating week and I got to thinking – what about it was so great? And how can I bring those aspects into my everyday life so I don’t have to travel to find that holiday feeling? Here’s what works for me and what I’m making time for in my weekly schedule.

Cycling

My husband is really into cycling and often asks me to go riding with him. Although I enjoy it once I get going, I tend to be lazy as it’s not as natural and as relaxing an activity as it is for him. On this trip though, we made the effort to get beach cruisers and check out the coast and surrounding areas. I really loved it, felt relaxed doing it and know it’s a great way to get around our local area in Melbourne.

cycling

 

Yoga

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a total yoga convert. I do a little each day but rarely commit to an hour long class. They offer yoga on the beach in Port Douglas and I felt so brilliant after taking classes while we were away that I’ve been going to at least one class a week at home.

Walks

Just like I’ve refused some cycling proposals in the past, my husband (and a few of my friends – looking at you Jules!) don’t love to 'go for walks' as they see little point... I understand that view but I love getting out in the fresh air and a FNQ beach doesn’t go astray on the stroll either. I think it’s a great time to chat and relax, so now we're home, as I compromise on the cycling, the husband compromises on the walks for me.

Going out after dinner…for ice cream

Now life’s all about balance, so I certainly didn’t spend the whole holiday on a bike or in a warrior pose. I have very fond memories of family holidays, grabbing an ice cream after dinner and wandering home along the beach. It’s a great mid-week treat after dinner, and makes a regular weeknight seem more special.

Board games

Yup, I love board games. We spent a couple of nights ensconced in Cluedo – one of my favourites as a child. My major tip is: do not try and solve the case after more than 3 glasses of champagne. My confidence levels did not match my actual abilities or memory. After requesting a board game for my birthday, I’m bringing them back at home and it’s a great alternative to electronic devices every night.

Reading

I read a lot in my job and that often leaves me ignoring the stacks of books I want to get onto at home. And leads me back to those devices I mentioned. I read three books while I was away – a real jump for me in recent months. It felt great to escape into some fiction and productive to read non-fiction longer than a blog post.

Minimal social media

You’re getting the picture yeah?! I’d check it for ten minutes in the morning, then maybe another ten minutes before we went out for dinner. And you know what, I didn’t miss that much. It felt great to leave it behind and I’m still working on that now we’re back home.

fruit salad

 

Fruit salad

FNQ has some amazing tropical fruits. Taking the time to make a big batch to last us a couple of days was so worth it, and something I want to do for breakfasts at home now we’re in spring and summer.

9 hours sleep

No alarms on holiday meant I could see how much sleep my body wants. And that greedy thing wants 9 HOURS! Aaaah. Ok, I’m putting some of it down to taking a break after working hard but yup, it pretty much wants up to 9 hours sleep. Considering that would mean a 9.30pm-ish trip to bed and reduced time apres work, I’m not sure I’ll get this many hours all the time, but on weekends and breaks, I’m going to give it a go.

What do you like best about holidays? And how can you bring those behaviours into everyday life?