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?
Distractions, they are all around us. It’s so easy to get sidetracked from the things matter most. Learning how to minimize our distractions and focus more on our priorities goes a long way to improving the quality of our life.
Focusing our days on what really matters can be a challenge as is learning how to zero in and be productive. It takes discipline to manage our time wisely but it can be done.
I’m still learning how to make the most of every day but I have found some small successes along the way. For me, taking a few minutes at the end of each day to write down my schedule for the following one, does wonders for helping me stay on track and work toward my goals.
Having an action plan not only gives me an outline and a direction for how I want to spend my day but it also helps me decrease the time I spent on unimportant activities.
Following are my personal recommendations on how best to harness the power of a schedule.
Plan to do something every day you enjoy
I know I’ve talked previously about the value of scheduling in ‘me’ time but it really is important and needs your daily attention. Every day, schedule a block of time to do something you really enjoy. It doesn’t matter what it is or how much time you spend doing it. What’s most important is you give to yourself daily. Even five minutes spent doing something that fires you up will do wonders for improving your life and your relationship with others. You’ll be better able to tackle the rest of your day and give to others once you’ve given to yourself first.
Align your actions with your priorities
I may be old school but I’ve found putting pen to paper to be one of the best ways to figure out and stay on top of what’s most important to me. Journaling has helped me find clarity in what my priorities are and then writing down my daily schedule has taken it one step further.
When I write down my action plan for the following day, I am acknowledging not only what needs to be done but also what my priorities are. Without a written plan, it is easy to neglect what’s important and fill my schedule with meaningless stuff.
If you’re in the habit of neglecting what’s most important, it’s time to re-evaluate and take an honest look at your life and the changes you need to make. You have the power to change and live according to your priorities. We all do.
Increase your productivity with batch tasks
In any given day we have responsibilities and tasks demanding our attention. Without a plan of action, we can easily waste valuable time transitioning between activities in different locations. The best way I’ve found to minimize the time I spend transitioning between one activity and the next, is to group my tasks with other like tasks. For instance, I’m now in the habit of scheduling in personal task time before or after appointments I have with my lifestyle coaching and consulting clients. When I’m booked to be in a particular area of the city I live in, I will make a plan to run a personal errand before or after a client visit. It’s practical, makes sense and saves me a great deal of time by not having to go out and run the errand later.
Give some thought to how best you can schedule your tasks so they flow better and free up time for other things that really matter.
I’ve always thrived on a deadline. Maybe it’s my background as a photojournalist, but I’ve found a deadline to be a very powerful tool in getting something accomplished within a specific time frame. When we’re faced with a deadline, it is human nature to up our game and increase our effort significantly.
I am a natural procrastinator. Procrastination is one of my personal weaknesses. I use self-imposed deadlines as a way to avoid procrastination and take immediate action. When I write down my daily schedule, I also put time limits on my tasks. Further, I use the Pomodoro technique (the ‘timer’ method, I’ll explain more about it in a future post) to better help me focus the time I spend on each task.
Take one small daily step toward a BIG goal
We all have dreams. The difference between a dream and a goal is the action we take. Achieving short term goals are one thing but it’s accomplishing those big goals that can really challenge us. The only way I’ve found to achieve the large goals I’ve set out for myself is to make regular, daily progress towards them.
One of my personal goals is to downsize and relocate after my husband retires and our youngest son is finished his university studies. We’ve been in our home almost 27 years and we’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. Every day I do at least one thing that works towards my goal. (An action step may be as simple as removing an item or two from my wardrobe or culling my collection of gift bags and making a donation to a local charity.) My deadline is about five years down the road but the action steps I’m taking now will help me get there, without a lot of stress, panic and stuff to have to deal with when it comes time to make a move.
Every night schedule a small action step for the next day. Before long you’ll find those daily action steps have moved you much closer towards accomplishing your goal and the effort put forth, was not only manageable but rewarding as you’re seeing positive results for your efforts along the way.
You are in control. By scheduling your days, you’re also managing your priorities, focusing on what matters most, and better managing your time by deciding how you spend it.
What will be on your schedule for tomorrow?
So what is 'simplicity' and how can it make a difference in how you live your life?
Simplicity is defined as "...the quality or condition of being plain or natural."
To me, a simple life is a rewarding one. It's an intentional way to live on my own terms.
Do you crave an uncomplicated life? One that is simple yet full of joy?
Imagine the freedom there would be in no longer feeling the need to keep up with the Joneses because you're happy and content with what you have.
A simple life is free from complexity and yet rewarding in its simplicity.
It's simple, yet full. Not full of material trappings but rich in what you value most.
When we simplify our lives, we discover there's actually more in having less, owning less stuff and doing less of what really isn't important.
To me, simplicity is about removing everything in my life that personally distracts me from being truly happy. Sure, I've got responsibilities just like the next person but I balance my responsibilities with the things I enjoy and that matter most to me.
It's an intentional lifestyle that promotes the things I value and demotes the unimportant stuff. I recognize there are some things I can change and some things I can't. I deal the best I can with the things I am unable to change and make the most of the things I can, like harnessing the power of my schedule and adding the word 'no' to my personal vocabulary.
What do you personally value the most?
Imagine the freedom there would be in disengaging from your fast-pasted life and instead focusing on what's most important to you; your health, your family and your happiness.
By removing the excess and keeping only the most significant, we actually add more, not less value to our lives.
A simple life is also a reliable one. It's a combination of mindset and routines that add up to a lifestyle that is consistent, dependable and deeply rewarding.
Yes, simplicity itself is counter-cultural. It flies in the face of the traditional definition of success; where material possessions, money and appearance are coveted.
Simplicity is like a hidden gem. It is smaller, quieter and full of calm. It's all about slowing down and consuming less while enjoying more. It is also a more sustainable and eco-friendly way to live.
Living a simple life is two-fold- it is both internal and external. Purging yourself of physical clutter is only part of the process of clearing your life of excess and simplifying it. It's your inner self, your mindset as well as the new habits and routines you form that will have greatest impact on how you enjoy your days.
So please follow me on my journey as I continue to discover and share tips on how to simplify and find more personal value in less.
Stop wishing you had more time to yourself, instead take action and make yourself a priority. Put yourself on your priority list. You deserve it!
Carving out a little ‘me’ time on a regular basis is easy to do once you let go of the guilt and acknowledge the value of time to yourself. Ultimately time to yourself is a win-win for everyone in your life.
When you’re tired, stressed out and pulled in multiple directions, it’s challenging (if not impossible, some days) to give your best to those you care about and to all the tasks you need to accomplish in a day.
‘Me’ time is not selfish; it’s a necessary element of self-care. Without healthy self care, we’re often ill equipped to handle other aspects of our lives which includes caring for others.
Following are my personal recommendations for how to build some ‘me’ time into your busy schedule.
Look at What’s Wasting Your Time
In order to carve out some ‘me’ time, you have to first look at the how you spend your time. What are your biggest time wasters?
Conduct a time audit for 48 hours. Write down how you spend your day. Don't leave anything out. It can be a real eye opener to discover how many times you check your phone or the length of time you actually spend online.
Reduce the number of distractions; be diligent with your time by setting a timer when going online or menu plan instead of making daily trips to the grocery store.
Learn to Say ‘No’
Stop doing things you don't really want to do. There’s tremendous value in saying ‘NO’. Use the word to your advantage. If you don’t value an activity and it doesn’t bring you joy and satisfaction, why do it?
Commit to Daily Self Care
It doesn’t matter whether you take 15 or 30 minutes out each day for personal time, the key is making yourself a daily priority. It is up to you what you do - take a bath, listen to music, mediate, go for a walk etc.
The key is to block off the time for yourself so you have a daily chunk of time that’s completely free of responsibility, where you can be mindful and focus on yourself and your well being.
Decide How to Spend Your ‘Me’ Time
Self-care activities are a personal choice. If you’re not sure about the best way to make the most of your time, think of the kinds of things that make you feel rejuvenated, relaxed and happy. Consider the activities and varying time frames you may have available to you.
Start a list of things you would like to do if you had an extra 15 minutes, a half hour, an afternoon or an entire day to yourself. Keep adding to your list when activities come to mind and then start scheduling time into your calendar.
Schedule in Self Care Like Any Other Activity
At the beginning of each week, take a few minutes to plan for the week ahead, include not only what you need to accomplish but also slot in your personal self-care time. Treat your ‘me’ time like you would any other appointment and make it non-negotiable. Write it in pen, not pencil.
Whatever you decide to do make it something you look forward to. A few moments of pause in your everyday can do wonders for your overall well being.
Happy ‘Me’ time!
I welcome your comments below re: what you do for self-care and how often you book 'me' time.
Do you want to make this year, the year of positive change?
If you share my vision, want to live your best life and be the best you, you can be without all the excess, please follow my journey. I would love to hear from you about the changes you would like to make in your own life and how you're overcoming your hurdles and continuing to move forward.
I've personally found that there are three key factors in living your best life, keeping it balanced and getting out from under all the clutter a.k.a. all the unimportant stuff. For many of us, our lives our full of stuff we don't need, too much stress and busy schedules yet, lots of wasted time.
I've learned, you need to look within, have the right outlook and become disciplined to consistently work towards your goals, in order to achieve.
Take an Honest Look Within
You won’t make any headway with your desire to change unless you take an honest look at the patterns that created them. Believe it or not, even clearing your physical clutter starts from within. It’s an inside job that demands you address your emotions first. You can’t make a dent in reducing your stress, your packed schedule and your physical stuff until you feel it is safe to let go.
Change Your Mindset
Clearing the unnecessary from your life is a process. It isn’t something you simply fit into your schedule. It’s a lifelong journey. It will ebb and flow. You will have your ups and downs and your journey will be a very personal one as it’s is all about letting go of not only material things but also thoughts that have been getting in the way of living your best life.
Surround yourself with positive people, seek out inspiration and remain open to change.
Positive change won’t last if you rush it. Clearing yourself of old habits and behaviors won’t happen overnight. Slow and consistent effort is the key to finding the life you want under all that physical and emotional clutter.
Do some soul searching. What are your values and your priorities? Be honest with yourself. Take some time to be mindful about where you've come from, where you'll be if you don't make some changes and where you CAN go. The possibilities are endless. Then make a plan, set some manageable goals and take it one step at a time.
Believe in yourself. You CAN get out from under, LIVE your BEST life, and on your terms. You just need to make the decision to get started and keep moving forward.
Did you make New Year's Resolutions?
Instead of making a set list of resolutions, my personal game plan is to focus more on what makes me happy and to take the time to nourish my soul. I am simply aiming to be the best I can be and grow new, more positive habits throughout the coming year.
As a professional organizer and life coach, I help others clear and declutter their lives but unfortunately I’ve put my own needs on the back burner in order to help others. I know I can’t be of good service to others unless I take care of myself first. So, in an effort to help others live their best lives, I’m walking the talk myself and focusing on clearing the unimportant so the important can speak take centre stage.
This year I want to…
LIVE INTENTIONALLY and be mindful of how I am spending my time.
SLOW DOWN my pace of life while continuing to move forward.
STAY OPEN to new experiences, information and ways of doing things.
LEARN TO LET GO as I peel away the layers of my former self (internally and externally) that are no longer serving me.
BE THE MOMENT more often. In other words, I want to take the time to stop, feel and enjoy the present moment.
KEEP THINGS SIMPLE instead of allowing myself to become overwhelmed and bogged down with details, I want to simplify my surroundings and daily routines.
I welcome you to do the same in your own life. I honestly believe there's much joy to be found in living an intentional life.