How I Finally Got Control Of My Inbox

If you readers are anything like me, you love to follow bloggers, vloggers, authors, all sorts of content creators and let’s not forget your favourite clothing and homewares stores.

With that following comes email subscriptions in the form of daily posts, weekly newsletters, sales emails, ecourses, free downloads and, subsequently, an overflowing inbox.

At the end of 2016, I was getting all sorts of ‘goal-setting for the new year’ emails, as well as reminders for all the online holiday sales and, with a busy work life and planning for my own holiday season, I was feeling quite ill every time I opened my inbox.

I had heard about unroll.me a few times but after chatting about it with Paige at Healthy Hits the Spot (who also uses it) she tipped me over the edge… and I haven’t looked back.

Step 1. Let them count how many subscriptions you have…

You sign up to the unroll.me service and they count how many subscriptions you have sent to your email address. I came in at a whopping 70 subscriptions. No wonder I was feeling ill.

Step 2. Unsubscribe

I then went through and ditched all the ones I either never read or never even knew I was subscribed to. Bye bye 32 subscriptions - and the sick feeling was starting to fade.

Step 3. Roll up!

This is the best part. You can roll your email subscriptions into a daily digest (or ‘rollup’) that you receive at a specific time of day (I get mine around 7am each morning).

You can then read all your emails in the same place at the same time. And more importantly you don’t have to open and read the ones you don’t have interest in that particularly day.

Step 4. Keep your favourites in your inbox

I do have some subscriptions I like to still receive as regular emails, either so I never miss them or because I like the format they come in, so you can opt to do that too.

Step 5. And breathe...

Let me know if you’ve found a way to manage your email subscriptions or if you try unroll.me, let me know what you think!

 

Three Steps to Overhaul Your Calendar Today

When you open up your calendar, whether it be at the start of the week or each morning, let me ask you - do you feel excited for the days ahead or do you feel a heavy sense of dread as you scan your appointments?

I know I’ve felt a mix of these emotions over the years. In general I was looking forward to the week, but sometimes there were appointments that brought a creeping sense of apathy or, in some cases, misery.

So how do we ensure we’re filling our limited, busy days with activities that energise and excite us?

Here are my three tips:

Accept you are in control

This is a major step to a calendar (and, let’s be honest, a life) that you love.

Accepting that we are in control of all of our choices can be challenging for some people.

You may not be loving your job but please remember you did choose to accept that job and you do choose to show up every day for it. You may be dreading the family dinner on Sunday night, but you accepted the invitation and no, you don’t ‘have to go’.

So when you survey your current calendar, bear in mind that you have created this life and you have chosen each and every appointment you see before you.

Wipe the slate clean

You may not have to get 100% literal here, but when you look at your calendar for the week ahead, imagine there were no appointments in there. Zero.

Just 168 hours that stretched ahead of you.

Each white space represents a chance for you to add activities of your choosing, within reason of career or family commitments (which again, remember, you've chosen).

Want to get up and write before work? Want to go on an hour walk at lunch? Want to book in to see your best friend every single Saturday afternoon? You can! Which leads me to...

Listen to your intuition

When adding activities in or choosing to scribble them out or delete them with one click, try doing a gut check over the next month.

Picture each activity in your mind and think, ‘Do I really want to do this?’... ‘Is this the best use of my time?’ … ‘Does it make me happy?’

This may not be black and white - for example, going to the dentist may not fill you with excitement, but maybe the thought of clean teeth and ticking it off your list for the year does. Maybe you want to prioritise spending time with your partner or good friends over house cleaning and errands this month.

And the overarching message?

Please don’t feel guilty for choosing what you want - no one else is doing to do that for you and we only get so many blocks of 168 hours in this lifetime.

I hope this helps you stuff it with moments that fill you with anticipation in the lead up and happiness in the aftermath.

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!


Time Management Series: Make The Most Of Your Commute

 
freeway_web.jpg

Ever get to about Thursday and wish you could add a few more days to the week?

Running out of time to get tasks done at work, adding to the running grocery list in your phone, hearing about another TV show/book/podcast/restaurant recommendation from a friend - the time struggle is real.

Where The Light Plays wants to help out. I’ll share a monthly time management post on how to claw some precious minutes back in the day. Today, we’re looking at the power of the commute. And if you work for yourself or from home, thank your lucky stars!

Audio books

This is one area I personally feel a fair amount of guilt. I have so many books I want to read - from classics to personal development titles, my bookshelves and Kindle are rammed with unread tomes.

Enter the audio book. Once you get over the number of hours it will take to listen to the book (up to 20+hours anyone?) plug your headphones in and get on with your commute.

I do find super detailed and in-depth books can be a little difficult to listen to via audio - we all have to focus to cross the road or step on the train, so sometimes I miss important details. But it’s a great way to get consuming literature. My favourite so far? Animal Farm by George Orwell.

And for those more detailed books? Stick your current read in your tote bag and you’ll be amazed how much you can get through either on your commute or while waiting at various points throughout the day.

Podcasts

I am a complete podcast junky. I know which days my favourite podcasts are coming out through the week and make sure they’re in my phone before I walk out the door in the morning. They are great when you’re commuting, if you walk at lunchtime (do it!) or even at the gym as a good distraction from the pain of lifting weights. My favourites are:

train_web.jpg

Emails

In line with my discussion on eating frogs, getting into work and being consumed by email can leave you achieving very little of what you set out to complete for the day.

My solution when I know I’m drowning in email? Check them on the train - file those you don’t need to respond to, respond quickly to those that you can and flag any that need your attention, preferably later in the day. Then when you arrive, you can get straight on to your to do list for the day and know emails are somewhat taken care of. The theory of ignoring email until later in the day terrifies me so this is my happy medium.

Phone calls

Last year, I finally upgraded my first car. I was skyrocketed from the early ‘90s to the mid-’10s and the world of bluetooth. “Oooh” I hear you say. OK, I was a little behind.

I love it! When I’m driving to work, or to see a client, or to visit friends on the weekend, I make some phone calls. I know it’s not as common anymore but calling someone for a chat cuts through the social media and reams of text messages, and usually leaves me in a better mood.

How do you make the most of your commute?

And as part of the new series, in what area do you need the most time management help?


How I Save Time, Money and My Health: Meal Prepping

As resistant as I am to it sometimes, one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, time-, money- and health-wise, is start meal prepping.

    

It kind of happened by accident. At my previous job, the office was in a less than desirable location, with only one cafe in walking distance. Yes, one. And we called it ‘the truck stop’. Think fried food, bad coffee and soggy foccacias. Appetising!

I had never really brought my lunch to work before this job. I knew I should be saving the $$ but it seemed fairly boring and tedious to me. Ah, how age makes us embrace the boring and tedious!

When I started at that job, I was super lazy with lunches. Two minute noodles, cuppa soups, dry rice cakes - let’s just say I was not looking forward to lunchtimes.

So I started to Google recipes you could cook in bulk and freeze. It took some time to get in the habit, but I can honestly say that (most weeks) I’ve never looked back. Below are my main learnings from a few years of meal prepping.

 

Make your list

Planning is key. Over time I have built  up a bank of recipes that I enjoy and can make in bulk for lunches. I always thought I could remember the tasty things I had made, but I’d generally end up googling new recipes from scratch each week, which wasted some time.

I’ve now got a running Google Doc that I add to as I find recipes I like, and each week (usually around Thursday or Friday, as I grocery shop on the weekend), I go into the document and see what looks good for the following week. This also includes any dinners I might be cooking at home.

Now I’m not completely strict, so I usually make one dish in bulk for lunch, have it for three-ish days, then buy my lunch for a couple of days.

I make a grocery list in my phone and then when I’m out and about on the weekend I pick up all the ingredients I’ll need.

Bonus tip:

If you’re thinking of getting into meal prepping, I’d also recommend grabbing some new tupperware containers. They’re fairly inexpensive and it’s more motivating to use new ones, rather than having to hunt around for random lids of old takeaway containers you’ve had for years.

 

Set the scene

I usually set aside around an hour each Sunday to get the cooking done. But, like most ‘good’ habits, sometimes we lose momentum.

If I’ve had a few too many vinos the night before or I’m just fed up with being a grown up (does anyone ever feel like that or is it just immature me?!), I bemoan the idea of spending time on a Sunday stuck in the kitchen.

When this kind of thinking strikes, I gently remind myself that it’s only one hour out of my whole day and I try and set a motivating environment.

I’ll make an icy smoothie to sip while I cook, I’ll find a fun Spotify playlist to listen to or, when I really need motivation, I’ll put on a Nigella cooking show and let her propel me forward.

And if I really can’t face it… see below...

 

Get a step ahead (inadvertently)

Like most habits, I try to allow for some flexibility in the meal planning. If a friend wants to grab dinner on a Monday night or we have a farewell lunch at work on a Friday, I don’t say no because there's a tupperware container waiting for me in the fridge.

If I won’t get to eat a meal I’ve made, or if I’ve cooked extra, I throw it in the freezer and watch the containers build up.

Then when we’re away for a weekend and I have no time to cook, I can defrost a few containers for the following week’s lunches.

Also, if we’re too tired to cook in the evening or my husband is out, I can pull something out and voila, dinner is served.

This also works on those Sundays when I really can’t face the cooking - I know something will tide me over from the freezer and give myself a break if I need it.

It does take some discipline and preparation, but I no longer feel guilty about spending money on lunches and I can make much healthier choices with the right planning.

Want a peek at my recipe list? Want to share some recipes you like to cook in bulk?