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?

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? 

 

How To Find Gratitude At a Job You Hate

I know I’m one of the lucky ones... I actually like my job!

But rest assured I’ve been in some less than desirable roles in the past, where I’ve been struck down by Sunday blues, slumped through the week and drowned my sorrows in a wine on a Friday night.

Although I enjoy my work now, I learned that even in the worst circumstances, you can make the most of your week.

Yes, it can be depressing to dread your tasks or feel fed up with your coworkers. Yes, it feels uninspiring at (all?!) times but no, that doesn’t have to be the absolute focus of your week.

So how can you rise above a job you hate?

Quit living outside of the moment

Jess Lively talks a lot about this one - if you wish away your work days and weeks, you are literally living outside of the present moment for 40 hours a week or more.

We don’t have infinite time ahead of us and we all know how quickly each hour, day and week passes when we look back. Wishing time away doesn’t serve you so it’s time to...

Fill your days with active choices

Now I’m not expecting you to lavish every joyous moment if you’re in a boring or uninspiring job, but please remember, you do have choices.

Even if you can’t change your day-to-day tasks, you can change the peripheral circumstances.

Beautify your desk with flowers, new stationery, photos of loved ones; plan fun lunches each week; listen to audiobooks on the way to and from work. Frame the lower moments with things you enjoy and you’ll notice...

What you focus on grows

If you focus on the mundane tasks of your job or spend your time obsessing about painful colleagues, those aspects of your life will grow and grow in your mind.

If you focus on the tasks you do enjoy or on the activities surrounding work that bring you happiness, that’s where your thoughts will start to default to each day.

And if all else fails…

Take responsibility for making change

Change can be terrifying at times, but if you’re sure you’re unhappy and find yourself wallowing each and every week, then you have to take charge of your circumstances.

I’m living proof that you don’t have to be unhappy in your job and if you keep searching and persisting, you will find a place you're happy to turn up to each day. Please believe me!

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What can you do this week to appreciate your job? What’s your number one tip for those stuck in bad career circumstances? Let me know in the comments below. 

 

June Recap and July Intentions

Well June has come and gone and it felt like a swift one! We had a long weekend here in Australia which involved an annual winery jaunt, but after that I decided to hit the health and fitness trail, only to be struck down by a stomach bug in the last week of the month.

So a tumultuous month, that’s for sure! But how did I go with last month’s intentions?

June Recap

Keep the juggle calm

A stomach bug will keep you very calm. I’m not the greatest patient so relinquishing control and spending a few days in bed was tough but needed.

It’s good to remind ourselves that it’s ok to lose momentum and ditch routine, and you will often feel more grateful for your day-to-day when you return.

I have a lot of catch ups planned in the next month so although I’m trying to space them out to avoid any franticness, I’m also grateful I have lots of people to spend time with.

Do a financial review

Ok, so there was one Asos haul…Although I enjoyed my life changing magic of tidying up clean out, it has left me with only a couple of winter jacket options so I needed to top up a little. Needed being the operative word!

Other than that, I’m staying calm around money, paying down debt at a steady rate, and trying not to splurge on weekends. It’s working so far!

July intentions

Seek out winter warmers

The number of winters we get to experience won’t be endless so July will be about embracing the chill and the activities that come with that.

With our Healesville weekend coming up, there will be roast dinners, red wine and fireplaces in my future.

I’m also spending my weekday mornings enjoying coffee while looking over grey skies, and that’s helping ground me in winter too.

Put first things first

If you’ve read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you’ll be familiar with this principle. Prioritising important things to me like study and blogging will be a focus in July.

If I don’t break things down into smaller to-do lists I can feel overwhelmed and end up doing absolutely nothing towards my goals, so I’m going back to basics and will plan out what I want to do each week in July.

How’s your June been? Any fun plans coming up for July? Let me know below!

 

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.

How You Can Beat The Dreaded Sunday Blues

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a victim of the Sunday blues. Around 3 or 4pm on a Sunday, I start to feel a dark cloud move over me. My days of freedom are almost over and I start questioning if I’ve ‘made the most’ of my time off. I start to worry about the unknowns and to do lists of the weekdays ahead and a general feeling of malaise washes over me.

A few months back, I decided I was fed up with this feeling and I wasn’t going to let it control my Sunday afternoons... So how did I do it?

I did all my chores on Saturday

Sunday afternoon used to involve doing groceries, meal prepping, cleaning and other errands. Does that sound like a time to look forward to? Yeah, didn’t think so.

I’ve switched it up and now do most of my weekend jobs on Saturday, leaving Sunday less of a day to dread. Saturdays have a different feel about them, so I’ve found it less of a pain to do my errands on that day. And waking up on Sunday with a very short to do list is worth it.

I avoided a hangover

Guilt, regret, anxiety, irritability. Sound familiar? A few too many vinos on Saturday nights were leaving me in a pretty terrible mood come Sunday. The journal Alcohol and Alcoholism characterises hangovers as “general misery” with symptoms including drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal complaints, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability and anxiety. No wonder I wasn’t loving Sundays.

Although I still enjoy a drink, I make sure to drink lots of water and try and steer clear of my beloved red wine, which according to the same journal, causes the worst hangovers

I did any work early in the day

I try not to make a habit of doing extra work over the weekend, but some weeks I need to play catch up, and other weeks I know doing some work on Sunday will get me set up nicely for a busy Monday ahead.

Again to save it hanging over me, I’ll try and do it early on Sunday, usually late morning. And if it’s not required, I steer clear of the work laptop.

I talked about it

Yup, I asked around. So many of my friends confessed that they too feel the Sunday blues. Just talking about it left me feeling less alone and made a distinct difference to my outlook at the end of the weekend.

It’s been easy to send a message over to a friend and see how they’re doing on Sunday afternoon. We usually check in and remind each other there’s no need to feel down.

I gave myself permission to relax and have fun

Despite feeling the need to be super productive on Sundays to get set up for the week ahead, I’ve recently let this belief go. I lead a busy life, so now feel no guilt for lying around watching cooking shows (one of my favourite guilty pleasures) or going out for a long lunch with friends.

Allowing time for rejuvenation will increase your motivation in the long run.

Do you suffer from the Sunday blues? What are your strategies for beating them?


How To Create A Sanctuary At Home

My husband and I bought our very first home a little over a year ago. After the inevitable hell of packing, moving all our earthly belongings, and the bruises and tantrums that came with it, I remember flopping on the couch on our first weekend morning at the new place.

One of the selling points for us when choosing the house was the huge amount of light that fills the upstairs living area. I looked across the sundrenched room, admired my husband as he read his book and sighed with contentment. I was home.

Since that point, I’ve been slowly working on getting that feeling back as often as possible when I’m at home. Between jobs around the house, long hours at work and social commitments, it’s easy to rush in and out of the house with nothing more than a cursory glance.

But if you can create a sanctuary at home, your mental and physical health will thank you.

Here’s my checklist for creating a relaxing space at home.

Belongings

Plants - they purify the air and even help reduce the chances of falling sick.

Lighting - I am obsessed with lamps. There’s nothing better than turning off harsh lights after dinner and reading or watching TV by dim light. It’s also scientifically proven to help when preparing yourself for sleep. And why not use them in the morning to ease into the day too?

Candles - it’s almost as relaxing to smell a hundred candles in the store when choosing one to buy. Don’t underestimate the decadence you can feel with the right candle lit.

For you

Comfortable clothing - transitioning from work, or being out of the house in general, is important. It’s winter here so warmth is paramount, but even in summer, a breezy dress for around the house feels great.

Your favourite drinks or snacks - herbal tea, wine, fruit salad, pungent cheeses. Whatever makes you feel special, make sure you have a supply at home. And don’t forget to dish it up on your favourite plate or in your favourite glass. 

 

Spa paraphernalia - check out my pampering routine here. If you’re a bath person, make sure you have an aromatic bubble bath on hand. If you’re only into showers, a rich, moisturising body wash will make a regular day feel unique.

Activities

Journal - writing is a great way to unwind and get any stressful ruminations out on paper.

Read - when I’m not constantly distracted by my iPhone (!), settling down with a great book really helps me escape a busy day.

Netflix - and if all else fails... go on, you’re allowed.

What are your best tips for creating a relaxing space at home? Share with me below.

 

Light Links: April

 
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How was your April? Mine was a great one - work has been busy but fulfilling, I've had some balanced weekends catching up with family and good friends, and life with Pickles the kitten is always sweet.

Grab a cup of your favourite coffee, tea or wine and enjoy some of my favourite links this month. And do let me know which one strikes a chord with you in the comments below.

See you in May! 

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We're starting off with something to bring ease to your weeknights: three easy, fresh and tasty pasta dishes. Sending this to the husband now. Hint hint...

Working too hard? Ok, who isn't really? I'm not guilty of all of these points, but holy moly numbers 3 and 4 stuck out to me.

I think I've always known I'm an HSP (highly sensitive person). Here's why we need rituals

You ladies know I'm now living the pared back life in my wardrobe (and yes, I promise there are more posts to come like that!). Here's some more realistic tips on building a minimalist wardrobe

Do you read Cupcakes and Cashmere? Her blog is massive, but she seems really down to earth. I'm always into behind the scenes posts - here's one on the tech and apps Emily uses day to day.

I could pretty much recommend every episode of the podcast The Lively Show, but this one stood out to me because of the bravery and honesty around, I'm sure, a fairly taboo topic. An interesting story about dealing with painful sex

Where I'm At: Interview Series - Nat Carter from New Outlook Fitness

 

Welcome to the next interview in the series, 'Where I'm At'. It's a voyeuristic, yet helpful look into the lives of women who are finding where the light plays within them.

Their daily rituals, ways of managing stress and advice to you, the readers, are captured in these interviews.

Nat Carter is a PT and fitness expert based in Sydney. I’ve been following Nat’s blog, Natalie Carter Talks Fitness, and her social media for a few years now. I was really attracted to her uplifting, realistic approach to health and fitness and am very excited to have her on the blog today. Nat works specifically with women to help them created leaner, stronger, fitter, more confident bodies and trains both online and face-to-face with outdoor training groups.

I’m pretty sure you’re going to love Nat too – her views on work/life balance and everyday living are very similar to the values of Where the Light Plays. Enjoy!

What is your usual wake up time?

First my alarm goes off at 5.30am then at 5.32am I physically get out of bed.

Weekends can be 7 or 8am. I’m not good at sleeping in.

How do you like to start your day?

I would like to start my day by having a coffee, lolling around in bed, then a workout, then breakfast, but my early morning sessions with clients mean my ritual is alarm, strong long back coffee, out the door, train them, small breakfast then train myself then breakfast number two, followed by more sessions and sometimes a second workout for myself.

Tell us about your commute.

I don’t really have a long commute. Everywhere takes me 15 mins each way. Long commutes don’t work for me – they are personally soul destroying.

I’m lucky I have the ability to work anywhere. I’m the proud owner of big black ute and I freaking love it. It makes me feel powerful on the mean streets of Sydney.

Do you like to plan your day ahead or allow some spontaneity?

I like both. There’s a few things like email, updating social media, writing, training and working with my clients that are part and parcel of each day.

But then I do like to mix it up each day – maybe a sail, a swim, wine and cheese, read a book and other “me time” activities. If you don’t get it by now, I’m a strong believer in work/life balance.

How do you spend your ideal lunch break to recharge for the afternoon?

Not having anyone telling me when to eat and how long I get on a lunch break is the best kind of work freedom I think anyone can have.

I eat lunch at home most days – I love it! Ideally though I could really get used to long lunches at really amazing restaurants, but I wouldn’t get a whole lot done that way.

What kind of workout schedule do you (try to!) adhere to?

I’m most productive from 6am–2pm, so I generally cram everything into those hours, including my own workouts. When you have a business it never really just stops, but the great thing I remind myself is my choices belong to me and me alone.

I used to work with clients from 6am–7pm, 5 days a week, and that led to burnout, little time for myself and made every day feel like Groundhog Day. Now I work less, earn more and feel so much better!

I keep my workouts different and mostly outdoors. I’m lucky I know what I’m doing (being a PT) so I can generally stay on track and motivated. Variety is the key for me.

How do you like to end your day?

Watching a nice sunset, wine, food and couch with my partner and the cat.

What time do you doze off?

I’m such a nanna, 9–9.30pm.

What do you aspire to every day but never / rarely actually do? (you can tell me, we all have them!)

Meditation and yoga! I feel so much pressure (mainly from Instagram) but I actually hate both of those activities so I think “why bother?”. I also hate doing what everyone else does just because it’s cool. I prefer reading, having a massage, being on the water or just being silent (I love being by myself).

Any advice for women trying to find ease in their every day? (Ed: I freaking love this answer)

Do what you love! Don’t feel bad if you choose to stay at home with the kids or if you want to be the corporate bossdog – go ahead! Remember you have the power to control your day.

Work with the clients you want to work with, the ones that bring out the best in you so then you can in turn bring out the best in them. Set up your day to get the best out of yourself.

Always do a workout – even if you think it’s too short or you don’t have time, just do it. You always feel like a powerhouse afterwards and you perform better during the day. You will never regret looking strong and tight – never ever!

Network with other women. A problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t bitch, but you get my drift.

Earn your own money! The freedom, joy…ah! It’s amazing!

Finally, can you give us your quick go-to recipe after a busy day?

Nothing is easier than a protein-rich stir fry. You think calling for takeaway is quicker but it’s not – this is!

Super Quick Stir Fry

  • Brown 150g of chopped meat/chicken/fish with an onion, ginger and garlic and move it around constantly
  • Add 3 cups chopped veg (colour always wins here) and keep moving it
  • Next a few splashes of soy sauce
  • Then a sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • Finish with a flourish of sesame seeds
  • Serve with rice, noodles or just on its own.
  • Simple, quick and keeps your waistline in check. Splash out with a small glass of vino or a few small squares of dark chocolate.

Thanks Nat! Go and follow her now at:

Blog - http://www.nataliecartertalksfitness.com/

Instagram (if you are a fan of wine, cats and sweaty face selfies, definitely go here!) -instagram.com/newoutlookpt/

Twitter - twitter.com/NewOutlookPT

Nat can also be found at New Outlook Fitness, her Sydney-based fitness company.