It's been a quite a journey. I learned the hard way trying to squeeze more into my day was actually counterproductive. There was a time in my life when I honestly thought doing more, meant having more.
Being productive to me used to mean not only working smart but also filling my days with multiple tasks (many of which I would even try to attack at the same time e.g. eating in the car between appointments and listening to a business related podcast).
You'd be surprised at the length of most of my daily 'to do' lists. How I thought I'd get those things done in a day, I'll never know. My lists were so unrealistic, it’s no wonder I was worn out and disappointed in myself for not accomplishing them.
Today even thinking back on old me and all I tried to fit into an average day is exhausting. I put so much unnecessary stress on myself and didn’t even realize it.
This year's goal of living a simpler, more rewarding and stress-free life has found me looking through a new, more focused lens.
Following are 6 things I do that help me keep a handle on the busyness of my life. I hope you find merit in these things as well.
Don’t let your phone or computer control you
I also used to be in the habit of keeping my smart phone on all night in the off chance there was an emergency and my grown kids needed me for something. We also have a home phone line so why did I feel the need to keep both active overnight? Good question. I sleep much better now.
Speaking of your phone, switch off your notifications. By doing this, you eliminate unnecessary distractions. Instead, get in the habit of checking your phone only at times that work best for you, not when the notifications first come in. The same goes for email.
Also become more aware of just how much time you spend mindlessly online engaging in social media. My favorite tool to help keep my social media screen time in check is a kitchen timer. Once it dings, my time is up.
Rethink your media use
I used to be in the habit of watching Netflix on my tablet whenever I made a meal or washed the dishes. For me, it was a way to make a boring task more manageable. These days though, I'm limiting my viewing time and watching favourite shows selectively. Today, I use them more as a reward for getting tasks done than as a distraction.
Instead of automatically turning on my tablet to watch a show when I have kitchen chores to do, I’m more mindful of my mood and what I need. Sometimes I benefit more by simply focusing on the task at hand and keeping my mind free to sort through other things that need my attention. Other times, I may opt to listen to music that will open the door to creativity and positive thoughts.
By automatically escaping from the here and now with my media, I wasn't giving myself the peace and quiet, my mind needed.
I was neglecting the part of myself than needed some relative downtime to process and figure stuff out, and come up with plans so I could take action. Now that I give myself that time more frequently, I’m better able to work smart throughout my day as I’ve allowed myself sufficient time to think things through instead of filling every spare moment of my day with ‘noise’.
Explore the quiet
There are times when we can benefit from doing nothing at all – just being. Quiet time alone is such a time. Learning to spend time in solitude can do wonders for helping you cope with inner anxiety and stress.
Go quiet and try listening to yourself at least once a day even for as little as 5 minutes. The benefits of a meditation practice can be truly empowering. Even sitting comfortably for 5 minutes and slowly breathing in and out. Taking note of each breath and relaxing into it can do wonders for improving your overall wellbeing for the rest of the day. (I'll post tips on meditation and breathing techniques soon.)
Work regular exercise into your day
Whether it's taking up yoga, walking or any number of other activities to get your physical body moving, pick something new and get started. You’ll thank yourself for starting a regular fitness regime or switching up or adding to an existing one.
For me, I recently added a daily yoga practice to my regular walking routine. I've found that yoga helps me not only deal with my physical tension but also my mental stress. It’s teaching me how to focus on my breathing while stretching my muscles. Yoga clarifies my mind, increases my daily focus and enhances my productivity in ways I would never have imagined.
Power walking with a good friend has also done wonders for relieving stress and keeping me fit. Having a walking buddy is one of the best ways to keep up with the regular routine.
Alternatively, you could also do walking meditations that are equally good for keeping you fit and mindful. (BTW, I also offer life coaching walking sessions for clients who like to be on the move.)
Savour your meals
Stop eating while standing, reading, watching TV or as mentioned above, driving. Mealtime should be a time of celebration. It’s a time to eliminate distractions and focus on the meal in front of you. Set a nice table, use your best dishes, and plate your food in the way that is as pleasing to the eye as it is to your palate. Savour each bite, slowly and without distraction. Do this as often as possible.
Schedule in a day of rest
Just because everyone else is living their lives according to a jam-packed schedule, doesn't mean you have to. Make it a regular weekly habit to give yourself a day of rest. Ideally this is on Sundays. After several workdays of fitting a little self-care into an otherwise busy day, do just opposite. Book a day to yourself. Give yourself permission to enjoy it as you see fit. Spend it according to your personal values and away from anything that distracts you from the here and now. Turn off your phone, computer and enjoy some downtime. You deserve it!
If you decide not to take action and start slowing down the pace of your life where do you think you’ll be next year at this time, in 5 years, or 10 years down the road?
What are you waiting for?
What do you need to propel yourself forward?