3 Ways To Balance Productivity And Ease

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I’ve been drawing on two concepts pretty heavily recently. The first is around productivity and, of course, it was sparked by my current guru, Brooke Castillo. She is all about managing the mind.

When it comes to time management she recommends scheduling the work you want to do and counting on your brain to try and talk you out of it when the time comes.

Want to clean your house on Saturday morning? You can count on your brain trying to convince you to stay in bed. Planning on a Pilates class after work? A glass at the new wine bar with coworkers sounds better. Want to write a blog post Sunday night? You deserve some ice cream and Netflix instead.

Sound familiar?

The other concept is around finding alignment, which is featuring heavily in Jess Lively’s work at the moment. When I have some free time during the day, I ask ‘what will get me into alignment?’ This pretty much equates to what feels best for me or what will bring me the most ease.

My mind used to lead me to spend that free time tidying up the house, paying bills or doing something equivalently un-fun, but now I tune in to what really sounds best, not what I ‘should’ be doing.

That currently looks like having a shower and putting a face mask on, going out for brunch or, my favourite, taking a nap. Rather than shoulding all over the place, I do what I really want to do.

So how do I marry these two seemingly different concepts up?

Honour thy calendar

Productivity is still important to me and getting things done can also put me in alignment. I just don’t want to run myself into the ground with my to do list.

So I schedule in my appointments, book time to write blog posts and block out time for exercise. When the time comes I know my brain will try and talk me out of it but I go ahead anyway, knowing that I’ve also set aside time to relax.

Set aside time for alignment

Leaving lots of space in my calendar to find alignment makes the productive times more easy to follow through on. Yes, there will always be dishes to do but when the free time comes, I don’t default to strapping on the rubber gloves.

I ask myself what feels best and go with it. And (shock) sometimes tidying the kitchen does feel like alignment - if so, I go with that too.

Regularly review your to do list

I keep a running to do list in the Notes app of my phone and I’m sure you all have different apps and planners and systems for tracking your lists.

A few times a week I look at my list and ask if the items are important to me anymore and actually need to be done.

More often than not I can cull a few items from the list - either because they’ve been there forever or because I’m mandating that I need to do them when I can actually let them go. Try it!

Does your brain try and talk you out of what you said you’d do?

And, when you have the space, do you ever ask it what feels best for you in that moment?

Why Beating Yourself Up Never Works

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Earlier this week, I came home from a busy day at work and flopped on the couch with my phone.

I was tired, bone tired.

Suddenly the to do list I had in my head for that night seemed insurmountable and I resigned myself to the fact I was probably going to get nothing done.

Instead of accepting that decision and relaxing into the evening, I had a severe case of the guilts.

I hadn’t cooked dinner all week, I hadn’t exercised, I had a pile of laundry waiting and some freelance work unfinished and almost a week late.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a fun night.

Sure, I watched some TV and had an early night but the nagging voice that was beating me up stuck around for the rest of the evening.

The following night, after another busy day, I came home, determined not to have a repeat of the guilt.

I decided the best thing to do was stay off the couch (for now) and make something for dinner that could roast in the oven. Firstly, so I could get a couple of things done while it cooked and also so I wasn’t eating super early, since I’d only just got home from work.

My lamb and sweet potato fries baked while I did 20 minutes of pilates - I then made a quick salad and we sat down to eat. I asked my husband to take care of the laundry and decided the freelance work could wait until the weekend.

By 7.30pm, I was on the couch with a peppermint tea, Netflix on and no nagging voice to be heard.

Sometimes, it can feel productive or important to beat yourself up. My experience this week proved that doesn’t work.

Some days we’re not going to get our to do lists done, and accepting that without guilt is the absolute best way to go.

Some days we need to ask for help.

Some days we can just get a couple of things done.

And that’s fine, because the next day we get to wake up with purpose and goals again.

However you’re feeling right now, whether it’s super motivated or in a slump, be kind to yourself and know that coming from a harsh place is not going to help.

You’re doing a great job.  

How To Make Your Energy Last All Day

One of the biggest issues for people these days, and something I talk about often with my clients, is finding the energy to do everything we want to do.

Between the mandatory work and family obligations, let alone the plans of exercise, good food and a side business, it seems inevitable that we're going to collapse into bed each night depleted.

And the worst thing is - we still don’t feel like we got to everything we wanted to that day, so are already planning the to do list of tomorrow.

I was vacuuming my house today (yes, exciting) while listening to a podcast (are you guys into the Audible Esther Perel podcast on relationships? So fascinating!) when I felt super thirsty, hot and overall pretty tired. Old Georgie would have told me to suck it up and keep going until the job was finished. Yeah, she was pretty nice.

New Georgie listened to her energy level. She grabbed a glass of water, her Kindle and sat on the balcony for 10 minutes, taking a break before returning to the housework. She sounds much nicer right?

It’s taken me a long time to learn this but ‘pushing through’ is no longer the best way to get my to do list done and is a surefire way to run out of steam. So what can you do instead?

Change your self-talk

As I mentioned in the scenario above, my self-talk didn’t used to be the greatest. I thought I was super motivated and resilient but, really, I was just treating myself like shit to get things done.

Now, I get to the same destination, but treat myself much more nicely along the way.

I’ve also adopted the mantra ‘I have plenty of time’.

When staring down the barrel of a busy day, I remind myself that ‘I have plenty of time’.

I can either stress and huff and puff through every activity, living out of the moment and fretting about what’s next on the list, or I can do one thing at a time in a relaxed way, with the same result...and so much less stress. Try it!

Get into alignment

Hello Jess Lively. She is all about alignment (I think she recently mentioned she takes around 2-3 hours to get into alignment before she starts work). I’m not at that level but I definitely take time to think about this concept before launching into my next activity.

Tonight, I knew I had to make dinner, then jump on the computer to write to you guys.

Instead of ‘pushing through’ again, I cleared up the kitchen, made myself a peppermint tea, lit a candle, got comfy and settled in to write from a much nicer mental space.

I love to write so why make it a ‘have to’ when it’s a ‘want to’?

Check in with yourself regularly

This is probably my favourite tip and so bleedingly obvious, despite all my years of not doing it.

I learnt it as part of my intuitive eating journey with Paige Schmidt, and although it was specifically related to food back then, I now use it for general day-to-day use.

Depending on my schedule, I try and take a short break mid-morning and mid-afternoon, as well as my regular walk at lunch. I step away from my desk, grab a cup of tea or water, and just take a few minutes to reset my brain.

It helps me refocus on my tasks and particularly helps if I’ve been in a perpetual cycle of email/chat/phone for the last hour or so.

It’s no wonder we don’t feel productive if we never check in with ourselves or step away to recalibrate.

Try these tips this week and let me know how your energy levels go. Have a great one!

Why I Ditched My To Do List In Favour Of Self-Love

I’m very excited to be featured on a fellow coach, Bailey Opsal's blog this week, talking about the challenging topics of self-love and self-care.

All too often, in conversations with friends and clients, self-love is a concept they struggle with.

It’s not that they hate themselves, it’s that they think the more they push themselves or berate themselves, the more pleased they’ll be with themselves ... and that will somehow lead to self-love. It kind of sounds logical, but also quite harsh.

I used to fall into this camp. Sure I had fun and took care of myself, but the repetitive to do list of everyday life took precedent - I had to exercise a certain amount, there was always a list of things to do around the house and guilt and anxiety would set in if I wasn’t on top of everything.

I eventually figured this busy work was surely not what life was about.

Similar chores and to do lists would always be there, but I no longer wanted to make them the focus of my life or thinking.

I decided the things I loved to do had to come before my to do list.

So what does that look like?  

Yoga

If you remember this earlier post, you’ll know that I resisted yoga for a long time. In line with my busy to do list, yoga seemed boring, slow and did not burn enough calories for me back in the days when that mattered to me.

Now, I do it every day in some shape or form. It’s usually first thing in the morning and has worked wonders for waking me up and stretching out my creaky body after sleep.

You’ll know my favourites are Yoga With Adriene and Tara Stiles - try these short videos from Adriene and Tara if you’re interested.

Yoga now gets me out of my own head and slows me right down.

Reading

I used to read like a crazy person when I was younger - to the point where my sister was horribly embarrassed by me always carrying around a book.

Like many avid readers I know, the plight of social media and the short attention spans that come with it, meant I wasn’t reading nearly as much as I was buying books.

Over the last 6 months, when I catch myself on my phone, checking Instagram for the 10th time, I remind myself that reading would be much more fulfilling and again, will help me switch off.

I read a combination of hard copy books and download onto my Kindle app obsessively (are you guys all over the free sample chapters on Amazon’s Kindle store? Try before you buy!).

I’m currently reading The Course of Love (I am obsessed with Alain de Botton) and The Year of Magical Thinking (heavy going but Joan Didion’s writing is incredible).

Spending time with people

If you’re ever feeling too much up in your own head, my best advice is to go and spend quality time with someone else.

Sure you might want to talk about what you’re going through or your to do list might be nagging at you, but inevitably you’ll gain some perspective and either be distracted, or realise we’re all going through similar things.

If I can’t catch up with people in person regularly enough, I try and call them in the car on the way to or from work and make sure I check in with those most important to me.

Playing games

Those who know me, know I have a penchant for video games… yes, yes I know...

My favourite for years has been The Sims (stop laughing) which I dip in and out of a few times a year. I also love hidden object games (Google them!) - they are great for switching your brain off and relaxing. I have also recently made a triumphant return to playing Mario Kart.

Listening to music (and having dance parties)

Although I have an obsession with podcasts (my current favourites are The Life Coach School Podcast and On Being), I recognised a while ago that absorbing information constantly isn’t always the best for me switching off.

What is good for switching off my brain is listening to music - I try and do that in the car more often than not, and love going through my back catalogue of music on the computer at night and dancing around the living room when called for (much to the confusion of my cat Pickles).

What can you do this week to step away from your to do list? 

I also have one coaching spot opening up in June - contact me here for a complimentary 30 minute consult if you'd like to talk about how you can find fulfillment outside of your to do list. 

How To Actually Get Things Done

We’re crazy for productivity right?

Many of us are carting around our to do lists in our phones, in notebooks, in our brains.

The satisfying tick of an item off our to do list gives us the rush we were looking for, but sometimes the list seems to outweigh the time and energy we have right?

Not necessarily true.

Often the time we spend thinking about our to do list or procrastinating on it, could actually be spent getting things done.

So what’s the best way to satisfy that time management urge and avoid the guilt of not getting through what we were planning to get done?

Put it in your calendar

Whether it be at the start of each week or longer term for a larger project, list out each task that needs doing, then pull your calendar out and actually schedule each one.

Writing a big long to do list at work for example, then getting to Friday afternoon realising you haven’t done 75% of it, is a sure sign you need to actually book things in.

Estimating how long each task will take is also super useful and helps spark our competitive side.

Only have 1 hour to write that report? Chances are you’ll get it done within the hour in a race against the clock.

Accept you probably won’t want to do it

Understanding this has pretty much changed my life.

Whether it’s the gym, cleaning or doing a large task at work - I have the best of intentions and when I get to the scheduled time, I think ‘hmm, nah…’.

Once I accepted I was often going to feel like that, I was able to just notice it and make a decision to press on anyway.

It’s a little cliched, but who has ever worked out, looked at their clean house or finally solved a major work problem and regretted it? I didn’t think so.

Accept that your mind is going to try and talk you out of getting things done, and keep going anyway.

Congratulate yourself

Something I’m quite hopeless at is actually pausing to celebrate when it’s called for.

I’m usually on to the next project or idea, when as I wrote here, if we don’t stop to acknowledge milestones, they’ll easily be forgotten.

Make a concerted effort to congratulate yourself in some way after a long week, a big work project ending or a home renovating job coming to an end.

This will make it all worth it and help you reflect back on the effort you’ve made.

Will you put your to do list in your calendar this week? Let me know how you go!

3 Reasons To Let Go Of Control

Now if I know you reader, you are leading a busy life balancing a mix of career aspirations, family commitments, your health and fitness, hobbies and a fun social life.

You likely want to find satisfaction in all of these areas and, with that hope, comes a certain desire to control your life - through a to do list, an organised calendar or a running list in your head (or all of the above).

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to live a well-rounded, fruitful life but with that desire to control every aspect of your life comes pretty big risks.

We can easily let ourselves down by missing an item on our list, others might not measure up to the image of our perfect life and it can just bring a whole heap of stress and anxiety with it.

Although I love to stay organised and work on creating a great life, I have also learnt to let go of some of the control I used to so tightly hold on to.

So why should you let go of control?

We are not living life on a points system

The brilliant coach Amy Young said this quote and I remember it daily.

Sure, ticking things off our to do list feels good, as does an organised schedule, but remember - there are no points for any of this.

 The experiences I’m more interested in prioritising involve fun and connection with other people, not scrubbing my bathroom floor or answering every email in my inbox.

At the end of January with an empty public holiday weekend ahead, I thought to myself ‘I could declutter the house this weekend and get everything super organised’.

My next thought was ‘Hey, I’ve got nothing on this weekend - I could go visit my family for a few days and go swimming, go on long walks, eat out and catch up with them’.

Guess which one I chose? I’m pretty sure I’m going to remember that weekend more than I’d remember a Marie Kondo-ed linen closet.

Control never lasts

How many times in the last year have you finished your to do list? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

We obviously don’t want to let our lives and households fall apart, but adjusting to the idea that I’ll never really be up-to-date with my to do list is something I’ve come to accept.

I remind myself that it would be worse to have nothing to do, no aspirations and be sitting around bored with an empty to do list.

I have things I want to do, blog posts I want to write, TV shows I want to watch, places I want to visit and I don’t need to come at them with a sense of control - just a sense of curiosity and appreciation.

Controlling others is fruitless

Trying to control others is one we’ve all indulged in, I’m sure.

Our partners, kids, coworkers - if everyone could just behave as we want them to, life would be so much easier right?

A big lesson I’ve learnt is - you cannot control anyone, only your own thoughts about that person.

An attempt to control someone may seem like you are helping them or making life easier for yourself, but accepting others as they are is much more likely to serve you.

Think of someone trying to control your actions, nagging on you to change, telling you to act in a different, unnatural way. Even if you agree to it, you will most likely go back to what you wanted to do in the first place.

Other people are exactly the same.

Letting go of the need to control others lets you off the hook stress-wise as much as it lets them be who they want to be.

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What are you trying to control in your life? How can you let go of that grip over the next week?

Are You Working A 'Second Shift' Each Day?

My love for author and time management researcher Laura Vanderkam runs deep. I’ve read her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and I avidly follow her blog and any articles she writes that pop up on publications like Fast Company and the New York Times.

Laura has stacks more books you should check out and I have no doubt you’ll appreciate her mix of real data and realism. She doesn’t buy into people bemoaning they have no time but also doesn’t want us to fill every second with productivity - pleasure and creating memories are just as important.

The 'Second Shift'

I didn’t realise how long I’d been following Laura until I sat down to write this post. In 2009, Laura introduced me to the concept of the “second shift”:

“Back in 1990, sociologist Arlie Hochschild coined the phrase "second shift" to describe the household labor married women did once they came home from their paying jobs.”

I’m sure many of you can relate - you rush in the door from work with your to-do list for the evening already swirling in your mind - dinner, kids, housework, your side business - whatever it is, it’s crucially important and you’ve got to get going on it as soon as you get in the door.

I talked through this concept with one of my amazing coaching clients recently. Although this work can be seen as important and can make us feel positive about our homes and lives, if we’re running from one shift to the next, there’s not a lot of time for pleasure or down time or even some semblance of calm in our days.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many of us collapse in a heap on the couch or in bed at the end of the night and call that ‘down time’, but how would it feel to enter the second shift feeling rejuvenated and with some fresh motivation?

My evening routine almost always includes rest when I get home and I’d like you to try this out too.

The Challenge

This week, when you get home from your day out or enter the evening in general, I want you to take 30 minutes to 1 hour between your shifts.

Do something that brings you pleasure - read a magazine in the backyard with a glass of wine, do some yoga stretches - whatever it is, do it just for you.

If you have a busy family life that doesn’t allow for much alone time, read stories to your kids, or watch them play in the backyard while you get that wine and magazine time in.

The world won’t end if things run a little bit later each evening and I’m sure the memory of these times will far outweigh the to-do list.

Let me know in the comments below - what will you do between your shifts this week? 

 

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?

3 Steps To Managing A Stressful Work Day

When was your last work meltdown? Unfortunately the occasional stressful day at work is pretty much unavoidable.

With so many modes of contact, numerous meetings, deadlines and interruptions, it’s a wonder we’re keeping it together at all in the workplace.

A few weeks back I arrived at work and within half an hour was already feeling quite stressed. Emails were pouring in, people were dropping by my desk and our internal chat tool was going into overdrive.

So what did I do?

I stepped away from my desk

When you’re drowning, it can seem counter intuitive to drop everything and walk away. But this is by far the best tactic when you're feeling overwhelmed at work.

Go to the bathroom, grab a glass of water, or walk to the cafe and pick up a coffee.

This will immediately create space in your mind (I usually remember an important forgotten task during these times) and give you perspective. On this particular day, sipping a glass of water in the kitchen reminded me to go back to my desk and then...

I made a brand new to-do list

I realised I was likely stressed as I had not quantified where I was at and had not planned my day properly.

If you do no planning, you’re easily caught up in minutiae and distracted by interruptions.

You turn back to your desk after each interruption and wonder ‘where was I?’.

Once I wrote down what needed doing, I could drop the ‘crazy busy’ act and realise that yes, I had lots to do, but it was going to be manageable.

I did however have to recognise that maybe it wasn’t all going to be managed and completed today.

This meant I needed to regroup and then...

I used the Pomodoro technique (AKA you can’t do everything today)

I’m not completely strict with the Pomodoro technique but I take on its high level ideas.

The concept is that we all have peaks and troughs during the day and we can’t expect ourselves to work at 100% capacity, 100% of the time.

The Pomodoro technique quantifies this as 25 minutes of work on one task followed by a 3-5 minute break (preferably away from your desk).

I’m also looking forward to getting a copy of Alex Ikonn, Mimi Ikonn and UJ Ramdas’ new Productivity Planner. The planner looks great and advises you to only pick 3-5 important tasks for the day and structure the work day around completing those in the short Pomodoro bursts.

The idea that you’ll only complete 3 tasks in a day may scare people at first but, in reality, your time is best spent ‘single tasking’ these important items, rather than multi tasking small, less important tasks and basically only keeping your head above water.  

What do you do when you’re overwhelmed by stress at work? Let me know in the comments below and share this post if you think it will help others.

Time Management Series: Working From Home Effectively

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I love working from home.

Now.

For years I couldn’t find the sweet spot between productivity and comfort, but I’ve finally nailed it.

Any time I need to really dig into a project, whether it be a process document or a heap of files I’ve got to trawl through, I work from home. I also use the home office option if my to do list has grown out of control, and being in the office has turned into a sea of meetings, phone calls and desk visits.

Working from home also has the benefit of allowing you to function during business hours with the rest of the world. You know what I’m talking about - doctors that aren’t open late, tradespeople that need to come at 10am. Life admin waits for no one to get home from work.

If your workplace offers a working from home option, take advantage, either sporadically or on a regular weekly basis. But do take my advice before you set your alarm a little later and fire up your laptop at home.

Before you leave the office

Make a to do list

This step is incredibly important before you head home from the office. Yes, it’s all well and good to create one from home at the start of your day but that’s where things can fall apart. You don’t have someone’s contact details, you left a pile of papers on your desk, or the files are on a server you can’t access from home.

Spend 15-30 minutes creating your hit list before you leave work and make sure you have all the resources you need. Speaking of which…

Make sure your technology is robust

Nothing makes me want to weep quietly on to my keyboard more than slow VPNs, progress bars telling me it will be another hour before my file downloads, or watching the spinning wheel of death.


This is such an important tip. Before you leave the office, make sure you have easy access to all the files you need, via dropbox, USB, your work server if it’s fast enough - whatever it takes, please, please make sure the files you need are easily and quickly accessible.

Depending on your work setup, also make sure you trial connecting to internet and VPN at home before you schedule in your first day working remotely. It’s a huge time waster otherwise, and once you’ve got your setup, you’ll be set for future days at home.

On the day

Get dressed

Yes, you can enjoy the perk of sleeping in a little as you won’t have a commute, but make sure you shower, get dressed and do your minimum hair and makeup routine. Your subconscious will think it’s a Sunday otherwise and your efficiency will start to wane before you’ve even gotten started.

Don’t do errands and housework

Again, it is a perk of working from home to be able to do some jobs around the house, or pop up to the bank or post office, but I wouldn't dabble in this until you have your routine down pat.

Yes, you can put the laundry on but then you have to hang it out. Yes, you can do a quick vacuum but then you’ll be reminded you need to mop as well. Suddenly it’s 4pm and you've done zero work. Stay away from the housework. If you need to do errands, schedule them on your lunch break but then I’d rather recommend…

Go out for lunch

In a similar vein to falling prey to pottering and housework, it’s also easy to stay on the computer from dawn to dusk and wind up feeling bleary eyed and exhausted at the end of the day.

A perk I do enjoy when working from home is heading up to a local cafe and dining in, feeling like I’m connected to the rest of the world for an hour. Grab a takeaway smoothie or coffee once you’re done, and head back to your desk feeling refreshed.

Complete an end of day review

Around 30 minutes before the end of your day, complete a workload review. Not only will this show you how much you’ve achieved that day but may also reveal some gaping holes in your plan. What couldn’t you get to because you needed to be in the office? What tasks were so much easier at home without distraction? This will help shape plans for future days working from home.

Did you find this post useful? Let me know in the comments below.