The Best Of The Blog, 2017 Edition

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Welcome to 2018 lovely readers!

I hope you had a great holiday season and are ready for an amazing year ahead.

If you’d like some support setting your 2018 goals (with a few weeks to recover from the excess of the holidays first, of course!), I'm running three complimentary discovery sessions in February, which you can sign up for here.

2017 was an amazing year for me and included launching my life coaching business, which I’m expanding in 2018, so stay tuned!

A huge influence on my year (and my coaching) was the amazing Brooke Castillo. I discovered her podcast in 2016, but enrolled in her more intensive Self Coaching Scholars online course during 2017. I'm so happy my post about her teachings was one of the blog's most popular last year.

There’s also a few themes coming through in what everyone is reading.

We’ve acknowledged we’ve become obsessed with being ‘busy’ and trying to maintain a tight grip of control on our routines and lives. Wanting to fill our days with more pleasure is what we're seeking.

Ease over control seems the way forward this year.

Top 5 Posts of 2017

Enjoy the top 5 posts of 2017 and here’s to more pleasure and less perfection and busy-ness in 2018.

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?

June Recap and July Intentions

Happy second half of 2017 lovely readers! How was your first half? What have you got planned for the rest of the year?

June (like May) felt super long to me again - when I went back and reflected, I felt like I’d worked a lot, socialised a lot and rested a lot - not a bad trifecta. So let’s recap on how I went with my June intentions and start some planning for the second half of the year.

June Recap

Enjoy quality time

I feel like I really nailed this one - I had a great trip to Sydney to catch up with some friends early in the month, then went on to one of my favourite weekends of the year - the Winery Walkabout in Rutherglen.

I have been going for at least 10 years and can only remember being washed out with rain once. Given it’s winter and super cold up there, that is a pretty amazing strike rate.

I’ll let the photo do the talking but it was so nice to catch up with friends and family and take it slow with some delicious food, coffee and, of course, Bobbie Burns Shiraz.

Do one weekend hike

Thanks for holding me accountable readers, because I finally did this one! I walk regularly, but the real intention here was to go somewhere different.

I started off researching some of the best walks in and around Melbourne and, surprisingly, many of them I have already done. This includes Dights Falls, which I did many weekends over five years when I lived right near there.

It made me realise we often take our routines for granted, and here are all the walking guides heralding the amazingness of a walk I did all the time like it was no big deal.

I didn’t venture too far, but did a great walk around Banksia Park in Heidelberg and ended with brunch at the lovely Heide Museum of Modern Art. A beautiful Saturday!

Bonus: you guys also know I’m a little obsessed with Alain de Botton so I wanted to share this passage he posted on Facebook about walking last week:

The shortest trip: On Going for a Walk around the Block

A walk is, in a sense, the smallest sort of journey we can ever undertake. It stands in relation to a typical holiday as a bonsai tree does to a forest.
But even if it is only an eight minute interlude around the block or a few moments in a nearby park, a walk is already a journey in which many of the grander themes of travel are present.
The need to go for a walk begins from the same place as the longing to take off to another country: with a desire to restart our minds. We sometimes cannot work it all out by staying rooted in one place. We have stared at the screen too long, we have been bumping into the same inner obstacles without progress, we have grown claustrophobic with ourselves.
That is why we need the sight of the three oak trees and two robins by the river or the maelstrom of the high street, where we linger outside a grocer’s shop and wonder (inconclusively, yet again) what a yam might taste like. The better part of our minds has a habit of getting exhausted and sterile. It is scared as well. Some of the most profound thoughts we need to grapple with have a potentially disturbing character. An inner censor tends to kick in and blocks the progress we were starting to make towards ideas that - though important and interesting - also presented marked threats to short-term peace.
While we walk, the mind is no longer on guard. We’re not supposed to be doing much inside our heads; we’re mainly occupied with following a path around a pond or checking out a row of shops. The ideas that have been half-forming at the back of our minds, ideas about what the true purpose of our lives might be and what we should do next, keep up their steady inward pressure - but now there is a lot less to stop them reaching full consciousness. We’re not meant to be thinking and so - at last - we can think freely and courageously.
The rhythmic motion of an easy stride helps to separate us from the ruts of our current preoccupations and allows us to wander more freely though neglected regions of our inner landscape. Themes we’d lost touch with - childhood, an odd dream we had recently, a friend we haven’t seen for years, a big task we had always told ourselves we’d undertake - float into attention. In physical terms, we’re hardly going any distance at all, but we’re crossing acres of mental territory.
A short while later, we’re back at the office or at home once again. No one has missed us, or perhaps even noticed that we’ve been out. Yet we are subtly different: a slightly more complete, more visionary, courageous and imaginative version of the person we knew how to be - before we wisely went out journeying.

July Intentions

Take a break from winter

After two almost freezing mornings this past weekend, I am feeling very excited to step away from Melbourne winter for a little while and head to Hawaii for the first time.

The combination of beaches, beautiful scenery and over the top American meals is just what I need for a mid-year break. If you guys have any recommendations, please let me know, I’d love to hear them!

Focus on tech free time (again)

In last week’s post, I talked about using Moment, which tracks the time you spend on your device. Back in May I started reducing my tech time on weekends, but I feel like I’m ready to extend this to weekdays too.

As I said in last week's post, I’m not overly concerned with the amount of time I’m on my phone but more the dependency I have - picking my phone up 20-25 times a day seems pretty excessive to me.

I’m going to use Hawaii as a reset point to start focusing on reading again and not depending on social media so much, particularly while I’m away having a break. Let’s see how we go…

Do you have any tips for reducing time on your phone?

Let me know in the comments below and have an amazing July!

Three New Tech Tools I'm Using

Going crazy on downloading apps is a phase that has passed for many of us, but I still do a lot of reading about tech, often through Fast Company, and try and take on the tips I read when they resonate with me.

Over the last while, I’ve been trying a few tools I thought I’d share here on the blog.

Moment

Moment is my latest online experiment, and although it’s an app, it actually encourages you to monitor and eventually reduce your screen time.

Moment runs in the background on your phone and tracks how much time you spend on your device each day.

Over the last week of using it, I’m averaging around 2 hours on my phone per day and I have mixed feelings about that number.

I presume it’s tracking me listening to music or podcasts, or using maps in the car, which makes me feel better, but the Insights section of the app reveals that 2 hours means that 18% of my waking life is spent on my phone and I’m apparently picking up my phone around 25 times a day.

I’m just gathering data at the moment, then will see where this leads me...

Momentum

Kudos to the husband who first introduced me to this one… or really I saw it on his computer.

Momentum is a Google Chrome extension, that brings up a new photo, the time and a to do list every time you open a new tab in the browser.

Their aim is to promote focus, productivity and inspiration, and although I’ve become very used to the function after almost a year of using it, I do find the new daily landscapes pretty relaxing, and being reminded of the time helps me stay focused at work.

Night Shift / f.lux

There is stacks of research reporting the dangers of too much tech time, particularly before bed.

When I saw a kinesiologist last year, I was having real trouble with waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back to sleep.

She suggested f.lux, a plugin that reduces the brightness of your laptop screen (aka filters out blue light, which affects the hormones that help you sleep) as the day moves into evening.

The iPhone and iPad have a similar setting called Night Shift and I think the combination of using both of these have helped me sleep better.

Considering the other option my kinesiologist offered was blue blocker glasses, I’m glad these tools worked instead.

Will you try any of these tech tools this week? What are your favourites at the moment? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments below or over on Facebook.

 

May Recap and June Intentions

Although 2017 seems to be passing quickly, May actually feels like it went pretty slowly for me as I look back on the month.

I relaunched my website on the first day of May, which feels like quite a while ago now, and I wanted to pause and say a huge thank you for your support with launching my coaching business.

I have one coaching spot free in June and would love to chat to you for 30 minutes (complimentary!) about your goals for the rest of the year and see if we’re a good match. You can read about my coaching package here and contact me over here. I’d love to hear from you.

May was otherwise busy with coaching sessions and celebrating the birthdays of some of my favourite people.

Now we’re into the start of winter here in Australia, so let’s see how I did last month and how I’m going to keep warm in June...

May Recap

Have tech free time on weekends

Why do I so often forget how amazing this practice is? If I’m not mindful, my default, switch off mode is to pick up a device and browse social media for umpteen minutes and hours.

Over the last month, I’ve made sure to put my phone on the charger as soon as I go to bed so I’m not scrolling right before I sleep, and I’ve also been going device free for at least half a day on the weekends.

I’m so much happier and present when I do this.

At night I’ve been reading (see what I’ve been reading over here) and on weekends, mixing some productive errands with simply relaxing with Pickles.

Start weekend hikes

Yeah, no… this did not happen... 

Despite my best intentions, other plans or rain got in the way of my hiking dreams.

Stay tuned for June...

June Intentions

Enjoy quality time

I have two trips planned for June, one with friends and one with family - both who live in other cities.

Although that rules out much downtime on those particular weekends, I am excited to spend time with those close to me in person.

There are lots of celebrations in place and it will be a great break from everyday routine. Not a hard intention to meet!

Do one weekend hike

I’m not sure this will equate to staying warm in winter, but at least one weekend hike has got to be possible in June.

I have been walking on the river behind my house as always, but am going to plan at least one weekend day late in the month where I try out a new area. Wish me luck!

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What are your plans for June? Don’t forget to get in touch if you would like a 30 minute complimentary coaching consult to start planning out the rest of 2017.

 

April Recap and May Intentions

Ah April, such a nice month for me. In Australia we have a number of public holidays in April, which meant two four-day weekends and plenty of down time, as intended!

For those of you new to the blog - welcome!

Each month I set intentions (not goals - thanks for the word, Jess Lively!) and then recap how I went.

It keeps me accountable (thanks readers!) and upholds the goal of this blog - that perfection isn’t possible, but little improvements are.

To take a trip down memory lane, head here to read previous months’ recaps and intentions.

Now let’s review April and see what’s ahead for May.

April Recap

Smash time management

As I mentioned, time management was the topic for Brooke Castillo’s Self Coaching Scholars in April and the theme of her podcast too, if you’d like to get some of her amazing content at no cost.

I did pretty well with this goal in April - I made sure I prioritised the day to day things that make me happy (exercise, meditation, spending time with family and friends) but also made time for my big goal - relaunching my website today!

I wrote out all the tasks I needed to get the website completed, estimated how long each would take, calendarised them and it worked!

If you’ve got something huge on your to do list or something you’ve been putting it off - try the same method and let me know how you go.

Embrace down time after a busy 6 months

Long weekends = mission accomplished.

Easter saw me indulging in a rare weekend of lazy brunches and lots of Netflix, while the following long weekend saw me go off the grid to the country with (gasp) no internet or phone reception. So good!

I of course realised how much I depend on my phone (and found myself searching for it out of habit a number of times on the trip, even though there was nothing I could do with it once I found it).

I also discovered that there wasn’t that much waiting for me when I got back to civilisation and my phone - no urgent messages, no hugely important social media updates that I’d missed ... which leads me to my May intentions.

May Intentions

Have tech free time on the weekends

After my long weekend offline, I’m keen to try this every weekend… but not all weekend of course - that’s way too scary!

I’m going to experiment with taking either a day, or two mornings or afternoons off my phone each weekend.

Recognising the insidious addiction many of us have to our phones doesn’t particularly stress me out, but I think it’s good to be aware and, in particular, try living in my life, rather than in my phone or the lives of others.

Which leads me to thinking about what I’m going to do with that time…

Start weekend hikes

Those who know me well know that I love to walk as much as possible. It clears my head, allows for great, relaxed conversation when I have company and is obviously pretty good for me too.

I’ve always walked the trail behind my house but have also many times over the years bookmarked links to great walks or hikes around Melbourne.

Each weekend, when time allows, I want to spend at least half a day doing a walk in a new area - and if I’m alone, I’m allowing myself to listen to podcasts on my phone, but no scrolling through social media!

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What’s your plan for May? Do you have success with tech free time? Let me know below!

 

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?

My Most Embarrassing Technology Sins

You don’t have to look far these days to find an article full of recommendations about ‘switching off’, staying present, connecting with people in real life, reading ‘real’ books, and so on, and so on.

I have no qualms admitting I’m addicted to my phone (and, let’s be serious, my iPad too).

But I still go out for dinner with friends, I still read ‘real’ books (not as much as I scroll my feeds, but hey) and I don’t own an Apple Watch.

Today, to make us all feel a little better, I thought I’d repent on everyone’s behalf —  here are my current worst technology sins, warts and all.

I check my phone before I get out of bed

Yes, it’s true. I used to avoid doing this, but these days, I can’t fight the feeling.

And the first thing I do when I wake up is feed my cats in Neko Atsume. Yes, it’s true. I love video games and I love cats so there you have it. Sin one down.

I cut my finger and suffered through the phone-holding pain

A couple of weeks back I managed to slice my finger while cooking, right in the crook of my index finger, where you apparently hold your smartphone.

Every time I held my phone it hurt — the leaning of the phone against the skin, the bending of my finger, everything really.

But do you think I stopped checking my phone? No way.

I ignore people at lunch so I can read my phone

I don’t do this every day, but if I’m having a particularly busy morning, I do like to escape to the work kitchen, eat my lunch and zone out on Instagram.

Sometimes this involves rudely ignoring a co-worker who’s trying to strike up a conversation with me.

I know that makes me a bad person, but sometimes I just need my fix.

I fall asleep to YouTube videos

In line with my zen way of waking up in the morning, over the last few weeks I’ve found myself depending on YouTube vlogs to put me to sleep.

I guess this is the same as watching TV in bed (also a no-no I’m sure) but it does feels wrong, particularly when you wake to find the iPad tipped onto your arm in the middle of the night. Whoops.

Anyway, my favourites are Vivianna Does Makeup and The Lindquists. Enjoy!

Ok, now that my shame is out in the open, tell me — what are your worst, most deplorable technology sins? Please share below!

 

The Importance of Single Tasking

Do you ever feel paralysed by the list of errands awaiting you every Saturday morning?

Do you ever look up from your computer at lunchtime and realise, not only have you got nothing done, but you’ve added ten more items to your list?

One technique I’ve become pretty disciplined about over the past year is single tasking.

Fun fact: the word 'priority' is derived from French and Latin terms and the term was ALWAYS used as and intended to be singular.
As in, the plural ‘priorities’ doesn’t actually exist. We’ve just adopted it because apparently you can have more than one 'number-one important must-do thing to do' at once.
Crazy right?

We’ve certainly glorified the idea of multi tasking over past decades and then wonder why we feel frazzled and overwhelmed. We think we’ll get more done by doing three things at a time, but we are mistaken.

So what do can you do?

Pick ONE priority.

It’s singular remember? Pick one task or errand to focus on until it's done.

Leave buffer.

As you’re planning your day and which priority to work on next, try and leave buffer in your schedule.

If you finish early and can have a break, even better.

Hands off technology.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. Trying to regain concentration after reading a SMS or checking Facebook is a challenge you don’t need.

Don’t believe me? Read this to understand your brain on technology and also try playing the game to see how multi tasking is hurting you... 

Reminding yourself throughout the day that priority is a singular term can help keep you grounded. And I’m sure your productivity will increase because of it.

Does single tasking scare you? What’s your number one priority today?

October Recap and November Intentions

We are almost through October so it’s time to review my intentions for the last month.

Cut off technology at 10pm (and read hard copy books)

I am getting better with this intention. I’ve been reading this great book, which is basically short interviews with interesting Londoners. It does entice me to read every night but I still find myself often taking ‘one last look’ at social media. Disconnecting from technology is a work in progress for all of us I think.

Enjoy the daylight

Unfortunately I injured myself earlier in the month, so I haven’t been able to do much exercise, including going to the gym. However, walking has been doable so I’ve been walking along the river most nights after work before we sit down to dinner.

With the clocks moving forward in Australia, it’s been beautifully light and warm, so I have definitely felt an increased appreciation for the daylight. And with less wine than I intended to enjoy last month, which is probably a good thing!

Revel in upcoming events

An expressive birthday moment with friends...

An expressive birthday moment with friends...

Over my birthday weekend I made sure to sit back and enjoy special moments with friends and family and not let them pass by too quickly.

Unfortunately the music festival I was going to was cancelled but I still have plenty of upcoming fun activities to practice this technique on.

November Intentions

Schedule quarterly shopping days

Uh, how fun does this sound? This year I’ve been planning my budget a little better and putting some extra money away for clothes and beauty.

It’s starting to build up and I figure rather than making spontaneous online shopping hauls (hello Asos), I should make a day of it and go into stores, try on and buy great products and finish with a meal or drink with a girlfriend. Who’s with me?

Eat more frogs at work

I ebb and flow with this concept, but back when I wrote this post, it was working really well for me. It’s a very busy season at work so, rather than fall behind, I’m going to try and get my ‘ugliest’ task out of the way first thing.

Whether that be a phone call I’m dreading, a report I’ve been putting off, or plugging my headphones in and getting my inbox back under control, it will put me in good stead for the rest of the work day.

Plan for the holidays

Yes, it’s nearly that time again! Between work and social events, I usually do a frantic online shop (are we seeing a pattern here?) in early-mid December.

This year I’d like to think ahead, work on some great, thoughtful gifts and also get a food and drink list started to make this season extra special.

What are you planning to get done in November? Let me know in the comments below.