How These 3 Tech Tools Can Cut Down Your Time Online

A common issue I hear from my clients is the guilt they feel for the amount of time they spend online.

Whether it’s distracting them from their business, their kids, or derailing their mornings, endless scrolling seems to be an easy time suck without much reward.

Since starting maternity leave and having my baby girl, I’ve noticed an increase in my online time too.

Once she was down for a nap I found myself flopping onto the couch and zoning out with Instagram.

Before I knew it nap time was over and I hadn't achieved much at all.

I’m all for relaxing throughout the day, but I was starting to feel like a zombie and needed some tools to drag me out of this tech slump.

Forest (aka pomodoro timers) 

With a tagline like ‘stay focused, be present’, the Forest app is perfect for keeping you off your phone and in your life.

It’s basically a pomodoro-style productivity tool - you set it for a chosen amount of tech-free time (25 minutes is the default) and it will plant a tree for you.

If you pick up your phone and go into another app, the tree dies. It will send you gentle warning messages and remind you to put your phone down as the timer counts down.

I set this after baby girl goes down for a nap and am often amazed at what I can get done in 25 minutes.

Shower, dishes, laundry, often all done by the time I come back to my phone. I can see myself using this once I go back to work too.

And the best part? You can actually use the coins you accumulate from each tech free break to plant real trees on earth!

Guided meditations

Insight Timer is my latest favourite guided meditation app.

With a tonne of different teachers and types of meditation, I use it for morning meditation, drifting off to sleep and also used it for those middle of the night feeds, as there’s actually meditations for mindfulness when feeding your baby.

One of my favourite meditations is ‘Take back your online life’ by Tony Brady (and there are other tech related meditations on the app that you can try).

It reminds me of how distracted we all get online - we start looking at one thing, then go down the rabbit hole of endless information. I’ve taken one of Tony’s suggestions and now use a very simple tool to monitor online time…

Your phone timer

Yup, just the regular timer on my phone is the latest tool I’m using.

I’ll set it for 30 minutes before I open social media and put my phone down when the timer goes off.

It’s helping me understand how quickly that 30 minutes can fly by without much to show for it, and I’m able to get on with my day knowing I’ve had my fix (for now anyway…).

Time online is known to give us that special dopamine hit as messages, likes and new posts draw us in.

I’m savvy to the fact that online life has its benefits but don’t want to forget these days because my head was buried in my phone.

What tools do you use to manage your online time?  

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?

The Birthday Post 2017: 3 Mantras To Live By

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Another year, another million lessons ... when I think back to where I was a year ago at birthday time, I haven’t fundamentally changed (remember this post?) but I have definitely learnt more and more.

Although I check in regularly on the blog, I feel like over the last 12 months I’ve been less into tracking goals and consistently reviewing where I’m at.

Circumstances at work and in my personal life have meant I haven’t had as much time for these activities, so when I came to write this post, I wasn’t sure how easily it would come.

What I did realise though was that I have continued to do a lot of reading and self coaching and from that has stemmed some mantras that I’ve been carrying with me.

I don’t use each of them every single day but they have been immeasurably helpful throughout the last year and, right now, I think they’re definitely keepers for the future too.

I’m going to summarise what each of them have meant to me and I hope you’re able to start thinking about some mantras to carry with you too.

Mantra 1: 

It’s just my brain, it doesn’t mean anything.

Holy what?! Thank you Brooke Castillo. She mentioned this one in her Self Coaching Scholars course and I have drawn on this many, many times in the last year.

If I wake up in the morning feeling unable to face the busy day ahead, if I start to worry about how a client meeting went, if I look in the mirror and am sure I’ve gained a heap of weight, if I’m sure someone is saying something behind my back… I just come back to this mantra. “It’s just my brain, it doesn’t mean anything.”

We are so often sure our thoughts are facts and that how we feel about situations is absolute reality. But really your brain can choose any which way to go.

This has taken the edge off many situations and helped me step out of my head almost immediately.

Mantra 2: 

My purpose is to appreciate being alive.

My purpose?! The meaning of life?? Heavy stuff I know, but questions we’ve all asked ourselves at one stage right?

Again I did some self coaching on this over the last year and was encouraged to come up with a one sentence statement that covered off what I thought my purpose might be and, more importantly, a purpose that felt good to me.

When I looked around at my situation - born where I was, into the family I was, with the education I was given, surrounded by the people who’ve entered my life, the angst over choosing my purpose started to drift away. I already really have everything I need and although there will be pain and hard times, it’s all part of the human experience and even the hardest emotions can be valued.

When in the midst of an existential crisis about major decisions or what the next stage is for me, I remind myself of this mantra and I’m brought back to the moment, knowing I am lucky and that I don't have to take life quite so seriously. 

Mantra 3: 

In the end, we all die. It’s over before we know it.
We will have controlled very little.
None of it will mean much.
So we might as well lay it out.

Not to end on a totally morbid note, but this one is all sorts of amazing. Again, I pulled it from my current guru Brooke Castillo.

I’ve talked about control on the blog before, and I know many of us are grappling with this day to day - controlling our routines, controlling our relationships, it’s pretty exhausting right?

The other aspect to this mantra I appreciate is the underlying reference to the fear we all feel.

We don’t want to launch our business, or post that photo on Instagram, or tell that person how we really feel, because we are afraid of being judged or feeling negatively.

Whenever I feel that fear, I refer back to this mantra and know, in the scheme of things, I’m just a speck on the historical timeline, and the least I can do is experience life fully, including fear, rejection, all of it.

--

Happy birthday to me and remember to lay it all out my amazing readers!

September Recap and a break from Monthly Intentions

Welcome to October! (aka my birthday month!)

Q4 of 2017 is here and I’m ready to see the year out with a bang... despite the blog post title.

September felt a big sluggish for me - there was lots of rain around and some of those nights on the couch I wrote about last post. But thanks to Brooke Castillo’s September Self Coaching Scholars topic of ‘How to get it done’, I still managed to get a lot done!

So let’s look back at the month and talk about the plan for Q4.

September Recap

Start regular Pilates practice

This one went really well for me. The practise of paying for and booking classes ahead of time has been a big motivator for me, rather than having a gym membership where no one minds or notices if I don’t turn up.

If you’re struggling with consistent exercise, I’d recommend booking and paying for classes ahead of time to help you get there.

I’ve been going twice a week and it’s been great for my office desk body in terms of both strength and flexibility.

I’m booked in for another fortnight’s worth of classes so will see if I continue beyond that, but I think the answer will be yes.

Tackle life admin

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So much life admin for me at the moment! Sadly I forgot all about my tax return until I re-read last month’s post (oops), so will get on to that in October.

I did follow Brooke’s method of writing a big list of what needed doing and putting it in my calendar. I got around 80% done I’d say, and the rest of the time my brain talked me out of it.

I’m not feeling too bad about that though, since I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have even gotten that 80% done without this intention.

Q4 plans

I’m planning on being pretty busy with work, coaching, Self Coaching Scholars and life in general for the rest of the year so won’t be setting any specific monthly intentions here on the blog.

I am going to focus on blogging about the topics you readers like the most - time management, routine ideas, good old imposter syndrome and relaxation.

Let me know in the comments below if I’ve missed any topics you’d like to hear more about in late 2017.

Otherwise, have a fabulous October!

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.  

Stop Feeling Guilty for Relaxing

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A few years back I was working with my health coach Paige and was pretty deep in the self-development churn.

My husband was heading away on a business trip to sunnier climes so I joined him and mostly had the days to myself while he was at the office.

Paige emailed me between sessions to see how I was doing.

I had grand plans to relax on this holiday and my first day was blissful - a long walk, spa, a cold beer with lunch on the beach, reading all afternoon, but by the second day I was struggling … I told her I’d already powered through the goals we’d set at my last session and was itching for more to do.

She then asked me a question that has really stuck with me since - “Do you plan to spend a significant amount of your life resting?”

Um, yes, was my response.

Yet here I was on day two of my holiday sitting with uncomfortable feelings like boredom, guilt and restlessness.

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, here’s how to combat your phobia of relaxing:

Schedule relaxation time

A good type A personality trick right?

I found, for example, when I had ‘nothing’ to do on a weekend day, I felt quite guilty for lounging around. I think this was because none of it was very intentional and I hadn’t actually committed to my plan to do nothing - it was just happening by default.

So now, if I want to make plans, I do - brunch, walks with friends, shopping, all still fall into relaxation for me. Or, if I have a few errands and chores to do, I schedule them for the morning, then schedule in an afternoon of reading my book, watching Netflix or scrolling social media with no issues.

It feels better for me to relax after having been productive, or to relax with other people rather than alone.

Sit with the uncomfortable feelings

As I mentioned, I do struggle with the feeling of boredom or, more specifically, not being sure what I feel like doing.

We run around so much in our lives - working hard, running to appointments, keeping our houses in order - and when we do feel any boredom a device is there to distract us immediately.

Sitting with hard feelings is something Brooke Castillo taught me and it’s really about realising there’s nothing to fear in any emotion.

Boredom to me might feel a bit icky and might make me a bit restless but I can handle that.

Given everything else I have going on, the feeling of boredom is a good thing to come up for me once in a while and after I’ve accepted that I can move on to the things I think I never have time for.

We’re not living life on a points system

I absolutely love this concept (thanks Amy Young).

I’ve talked about it here on the blog before, but if we’re lucky enough, we’re always going to have a to do list, a bucket list and a bunch of cupboards that never stay cleaner longer than a week.

So when I have nothing to do, I can easily create something to do - but who is watching and who is going to pat me on the back for ticking these things off?

Life is much more interesting when lived with pleasure and enjoyment and compassion for ourselves, not when we’re churning through a to do list or adding to that list for the very sake of it.

I do plan to spend much of my life relaxing, and I’m ok with that. How about you?

Why There's No Such Thing As A 'Right' Decision

Do you remember that Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors?

I may be stuck in the ‘90s but I tend to still use it as a reference in my life - ‘This is like Sliding Doors’, I’ll say when a friend is making a decision or when I’m confused about which option to choose.

For those who don’t remember it, the premise of the movie is a ‘what if’ scenario. In one reality Gwyneth Paltrow’s character jumps on a train home, finding her husband cheating on her and in the other she misses the train and is none the wiser.

Now the outcome of the movie is (spoiler alert) that things end up the same anyway, which isn’t necessarily my belief, but I’ve been thinking a lot recently about making ‘right’ decisions, doing things at the ‘right’ time and living life ‘right’ in general.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Libra but I’m fairly indecisive and love to overthink my way around every decision I make (and even made, past tense, sometimes). I really don’t enjoy this about my brain but I’m consciously aware of it and am working on not dwelling on each and every decision quite so much. Here’s what I’ve realised:

There is no right decision

This has sunk in for me this year and has kind of blown my mind. I was pretty certain for a lot of years that you could make right or wrong decisions but now, bar doing something really horrible in my life, I’ve realised that there is no such thing as a right or wrong decision - just a decision in itself.

How would I know what was right or wrong anyway?

I can’t do a Gwyneth Paltrow and live both realities in parallel so I just have to back myself and know each decision will lead where it’s going to lead.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I really enjoy my job. Although I also enjoyed my last job and particularly loved the people I worked with, I knew it was time for a change of industry, and felt some guilt about only staying in my last job for around 18 months. The job before that (are you following?) I’d been at for five years and I initially felt it had been a waste to move to a new one, only to move on again so quickly.

Except, if I hadn’t moved to my last job, I may never have heard about my current company and be where I am now. So rather than obsess over making that wrong decision between jobs, I can see it as the right decision quite easily. Which leads me to...

You can find good or bad in any decision if you look for it

Our brains have been trained to obsess about major decisions that need to be made, and who hasn’t heard of the good old pros and cons list?

If those lists help you, I’m all for it, but it’s also proof that you can find good and bad in any decision. It’s what you focus on that matters.

Last decade (gulp) I moved to London and, for certain reasons, had to leave my boyfriend back in Australia to do so. I could have obsessed about what leaving him meant for our relationship and where that would leave us in the long run, and, although it was difficult, I did my best to focus on what I wanted to experience in London and where I wanted to travel in Europe.

Looking back now, I would have missed so much if I’d only focused on the negative side of my decision to live there and am so grateful I was able to do it from a place of backing my own decision.

Indecisiveness stops you from making your next decision

Whether you’ve recently made a decision or are coming up to making one, spending your time in a place of worry or regret is not fun, and also not particularly useful.

What worry and regret do is keep us stuck in the past or obsessing over a current decision and, if we’re stuck, we are stopping ourselves from moving forward with new decisions.

I relaunched my website in May, and I spent a lot of time at the start of the year worrying about how I’d pull it off - I tossed and turned over whether I should have hired a designer and web developer to completely redo it, or whether working on it myself was ok for now.

After launching on 1 May, I was so happy to have the new website out there and have now been able to move on with other decisions and parts of my business - working with coaching clients, being featured in interviews on other websites and, I know in the future, I will probably relaunch again when I feel the time is right.

Are you making any tough decisions at the moment? Or are you spinning out over a decision you’ve already made? Book in a 30 minute complimentary chat with me so we can talk through it.

 

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.

 

My Nighttime Rituals

The post I wrote in March about dealing with sleepless nights has been a popular one here on the blog, leading me to believe many of us wake up at all hours, worrying about what’s going on in our lives.

I’m doing well these days and don’t find myself tossing and turning while fretting about work or my personal life too often.

I put it down to knowing I have strategies to lean on if I do wake up, and also my pre-bedtime rituals.

So what do I get up to of an evening?

My skincare routine

Skincare has become a non-negotiable for me, but not necessarily one I would have previously included as part of my wind-down routine.

However, years ago, a good friend of mine who lives in Sweden and is possibly one of the most relaxed people I know, told me that her favourite time of day was when she took her makeup off at night.

She would stand for at least 20 minutes, going through her ritual and just reflecting on the day.

Although I’m not patient enough to hang around for 20 minutes, I do find it therapeutic to wash the day off and feel pampered and relaxed as I head towards bedtime.

My yoga routine

If you do one thing from this post, do this!

I’m often at super sleepy stage by the time I drag myself off to bed, but I do my best to stop for 10 minutes and do some yoga. I have never regretted it and usually feel on the next level of relaxation and completely stretched out from the day.

You guys know I love Adriene from YWA and recommend her 7 minute routine, or the 20 minute one if you have some extra time at night.

You can thank me later after your amazing night of sleep.

My reading routine

I struggle with consistency here if I’m honest, but ditching social media for a book sets me up for a much better night of sleep.

As I mentioned here, reading is a real act of self-love for me and most importantly helps me switch off.

Whether you escape to another world while reading fiction or try another way of thinking if you’re reading non-fiction, put the day aside and try a new book instead. 

What are your before bed rituals?