8 Cleaners That Should Be Cleaned Before You Use Them
Simplifying one’s life is all about working smart and being efficient with our day-to-day tasks so we have time for the other more important things and aren’t overwhelmed with stuff left undone.
Another large part of living a simple life is doing things right the first time. This time of year many of us turn our thoughts to spring cleaning. Whether you typically reserve your heaviest chores for an annual spring clean or are more of a maintenance cleaner, there’s a lot to be said about using clean tools and appliances for optimum performance.
Cleaning your cleaners on a regular basis means you aren’t just moving dirt and bacteria around, you’re doing it right the first time and keeping your home and family healthier in the process.
Following are eight cleaning tools that in my opinion are worth keeping clean.
You dishwasher may do a good job at disinfecting your dishes on a daily basis but it will only work optimally if you keep it free of debris, soap scum and grease.
To kill germs, erase soap scum and cut through films of grease start by removing any debris from the bottom of the drain with a rag or paper towel.
Then pour white vinegar into a cup and place on the top rack of an empty dishwasher.
You can further deodorize your dishwasher by sprinkling a cup of baking soda on the bottom. Run a full cycle on the hottest water setting.
Does your washing machine stink? Foul odours could be caused from a build-up of detergent/fabric softener, bacteria from clothes or damp clothes left in the machine for long periods of time. Dampness in an enclosed area tends to breed mold and mildew.
Running a load of hot water won't zap all the germs, especially strains of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella from underwear or kitchen cloths which can live on washing machine walls and spread to other garments.
The best way to disinfect your washing machine is to use a combination of white vinegar, baking soda and hot water.
For top loading machines use 3 to 4 cups of vinegar to 1/2 cup of baking soda.
For front loading machines use 1/4 cup of vinegar to 4 tablespoons of baking soda.
Let the solution agitate for a bit and then sit for 30 to 60 minutes. Then start the machine, let the water drain, wipe and air dry.
As for your dryer, get in the habit of discarding lint after each cycle and at least once a month, remove the lint trap and vacuum the area.
Without proper maintenance, a vacuum is only good for moving dirt and dust around. A vacuum can get so clogged up with dust and allergens that it becomes less effective each time you use it.
The good news is you can clean your vacuum without having to take it apart.
For bagless vacuums you should be emptying the canister after each use.
For vacuums with bags, replace the bags when they are only a third full. Clean the filter by removing any build-up with your fingers and then shaking out the dust (ideally tap the filter against a hard surface like the exterior of your home, a tree or fence to remove any remaining dust). Consider replacing the filter once a year.
Make sure your rotating brush is free of hair. If you can't pull the hair out, use scissors to cut through the strands.
If worse comes to worst and you find your vacuum isn't performing up to par you may want to take apart each removable component and use a smaller vacuum to clean out the nooks and crannies.
If you notice a funky odor, give the individual vacuum parts a thorough washing (also press an old toothbrush into action as a small detail brush). Make sure all parts are completely dry before you reassemble them. The last thing you want to do is cause a breeding ground for mildew or mold growth.
Always shake off your dusters outside. To really clean your dusters you may want to use a canned air spray (typically used for key computer keyboards) to eliminate every speck of dust.
Once you’ve cleaned your floors you’ll have a dirty broom unless you shake it off outdoors. In addition to regularly removing debris from the bottom of your broom you may also want to occasionally wash the bristles with warm water and a mild detergent.
Let your broom air dry (ideally outdoors) with the bristles up. Then, store your broom on an elevated hook or upright with the bristles up to prolong its life.
We all know that sponges are breeding ground for bacteria. You can cut down on the gross factor though by disinfecting your sponges every couple of days and replacing them monthly.
To disinfect, soak your sponge in water and then place in a bowl and microwave on high for a minute. (Never microwave a dry sponge as it could catch on fire.)
Use 1/4 cup of water for scrub sponges and 1/2 cup of water for cellulose sponges.
For ‘scrub’ sponges, microwave on high heat for one minute. Add an extra minute and heat ‘cellulose’ sponges for a total of 2 minutes on high. Keep an eye on your microwave to make sure the sponges don’t dry out. Let your sponge cool down for several minutes before touching.
Alternatively, put a sponge into a regular dishwasher load of dishes, using the "heated dry" setting or soak in full strength vinegar for 5 minutes, squeeze out the liquid and let dry.
Keep several sponges on hand to serve different purposes and to avoid spreading bacteria. If you're using a sponge for pots, a sponge for counters and a sponge for dishes, try cutting the sponges into thirds to save money.
Microfiber cloths are ideal for picking up dust and debris and are certainly a better alternative than disposable cleaning cloths. You also don’t need to use cleaners with them, just water.
Toss your microfiber cloths in the washing machine with your regular laundry detergent. Just don't add any fabric softener as the oil's will clog up the fibers and render them ineffective.
A mop is like a sponge in it has the same potential to spread germs and dirt all over again if it isn't cleaned first.
If your mop has a removable head, toss it in the washing machine and run it with a cup of chlorine-free bleach and hot water.
For traditional mops, soak it in vinegar periodically and wash it with dish detergent and hot water after each use.
Squeeze out excess water and let it air dry. Store the same way you would a broom with the head up.
The biggest mistake is leaving a damp mop in a pail. It will just breed bacteria. Make sure your mop is thoroughly dry or you might as will not have cleaned it the first place.
So, what cleaner are you going to clean first?
I would love to hear your thoughts on cleaning your cleaners and any particular tips and ideas you'd like to share on the topic.
Please leave your comments below.
Do you ever yourself missing out on things you value because there aren’t enough hours in a day? I used to. I had my schedule packed so tight of ‘work’ stuff there wasn’t a lot of room for the important ‘family’ stuff.
Finding time for what’s important can be a challenge in our busy day-to-day lives but it CAN be done.
The first step is figuring out just what your priorities are. Next, you need to make some conscious decisions what you will and won't do and then commit to altering your daily routines. It takes discipline but the rewards are oh so worth it.
It really comes down to scheduling and priority management. For instance, consider how much more time you’d have if all family members got their hair cut at the same time instead of making separate trips to the hair salon over the course of a month or six weeks? (The same goes for routine medical appointments like dental check-ups.)
And what about routine tasks like cleaning the bathroom? Wouldn’t it be more efficient, not to mention easier, to quickly spray the shower after you use it instead of having to scrub off the soap scum that’s built up?
We often do things a certain way because it’s a habit, and not because it’s the best way to do it. By altering some of your habits, creating new ones, and doing away with ones that are counterproductive, you’ll find you can actually carve out more time in an average day.
Set your priorities and stick to them. Never start your day without a plan, or spend more time on the trivial and less on what’s really important. Not having a plan is one of the best ways to derail your day.
Here are a few ways I like to save time...
Group like errands together
Plan in advance. Schedule errands based on location so you aren’t driving all over town.
Don’t just buy one greeting card
Stock up on several greeting cards at the same time. Having a healthy supply of cards for all occasions saves a huge amount of time. Keep a good supply of stamps on hand as well.
Do the things only you can do and then pass along the rest to others. Think of delegating this way; you’re not losing control, you’re gaining control of your time and your life.
Do your office filing once a day
I find I’m more productive when I save all my filing to the last half hour of my workday when I’m clearing up and preparing my notes for the next day.
Simplify your hairstyle
Simple “wash and go” hairstyles are tops in my book. Having a no fuss, no muss hairstyle goes a long way to getting you up and out in the morning. I purposely grew my hair long so I could pull it back and save time on styling.
Keep your gas tank above a quarter full
Waiting to refuel when your tank reaches empty may result in adding undue stress being late for work or an appointment (which can cause a domino effect and can turn into a negative for a whole lot of other people).
Decrease time spent in line
Stuck in a long line at the bank or grocery store? Opt for the line that’s next to an unopened till, that way if it does open, you may be able to move from last to first.
Keep your wardrobe functional
Wash and wear is the way to go. If you’re serious about freeing up more time consider getting rid of any clothing that demands special care. If it doesn’t go in the washing machine, it doesn’t go in my closet.
Watch less TV
I rarely watch television anymore and when I do I'm selective. I make a plan to watch a specific program and then turn it off. Alternatively you could record favorite shows and watch them at a more convenient time. Being able to fast-forward through the commercials is a huge time saver.
Stop mindless surfing
I never surf the Internet or spend time on social media without a clear objective and setting a timer. I rarely ever read email forwards and if I do, it is over my lunch break and not at the start of my workday.
So what actions are you going to take today to start freeing up your time so you can focus more on your priorities?
I welcome your feedback.
Please comment below.
Do you procrastinate?
I used to. It’s one of my natural tendencies. While I thrive on the pressure of deadlines, I also acknowledge the self-sabotaging behaviour of leaving things to the last minute. Over time I've made some positive changes to the way I do things. These days I'm better able to stay on top of what needs to be accomplished in any given day from both a business and personal perspective.
The first step to combat my chronic procrastination was to alter my mindset. In other words, I had to get my head in the game. I took an honest look at how my habits supported or stopped me from accomplishing what I set out to do. I gave some thought to my priorities and set myself up to succeed.
I got rid of negative routines like checking my email first thing in the morning before tackling some of the priority items on my daily 'To Do' list. I also learned not to beat myself up but instead encouraged myself to make some positive changes and to be open to shifting gears in a way that allowed me to accomplish the tasks at hand now, instead of later.
While I haven't conquered procrastination completely, here are some helpful tips I've picked along the way in my efforts to stop wasting time and get more done. I hope you too find them useful.
Don't let fear get in your way
Deal with fear by staying in the present. Remove the focus from yourself and onto what you need to accomplish. Take the time to prepare for the task at hand. Believe in yourself. Let go of expectations. Forge through the fear and take that first step. Move forward one step at a time. You gain confidence by experience. Don’t allow fear to hold you back – take action and see what happens.
Break down BIG projects
If you have a lot on your plate and you can’t delegate – break it down. Get the details out of your head and into a plan of action. Start with one small step you know you can do and then commit even as little as 10 or 15 minutes to get started. Take action. The key is to set yourself up so you can succeed one small step at a time.
Get advice from someone in the know
Don't remain frustrated. Instead seek the expertise of someone who can help. If you're unsure of what to do, call in someone who has some experience with the matter at hand. Don’t spin your wheels (and waste countless hours and energy) trying to figure something out yourself when you can seek help. Find the help you need and take action.
Delegate or motivate yourself with a timer
Stop putting things off simply because you hate doing them. Either delegate or commit to doing it and get it done ASAP. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and just dig in. Try to get your most dreaded tasks accomplished earlier in the day so they're behind you and you can move forward in a positive manner. Think of how great you'll feel once your task is behind you.
Focus on the key action steps
Take an honest look at what you need to achieve today and what actions you must take in order to accomplish all you need to do. Keep it simple. Focus on your primary action steps and don’t allow yourself to get side tracked.
Take it one step at a time
When you focus completely on the goal at hand, you increase your efficiency 100 percent. Set a time limit for your task, accomplish it and move on. We are more productive when we are working against the clock. Setting time limits and adhering to them will be a work in progress but it's well worth the effort once you see the improvement you’re making.
Keep moving forward
Unlike standing still, taking action propels you forward. Sometimes it may feel like you're taking one step forward and two steps back but it is movement nonetheless. Keep going. Be consistent. Don't give up and start procrastinating again. The more consistent action you take, the better the results.
Make yourself a priority
You're important. Practice self-care by giving yourself permission to take breaks and to rejuvenate between tasks. Decide on how long your breaks will be and what form they'll take. Pushing through when you're exhausted is counterproductive. Regular exercise and a good night’s sleep needs to be a priority. It's easy to procrastinate when we're tired and run down. Instead pace yourself by taking frequent breaks but be discipline to get back to the task at hand once the break is over.
Pick one task and get started
Select a task you’ve been putting off like clearing the clutter from your dining room table that has become a catch all for everyone’s stuff. Set a timer and get moving. Trust me, you’ll feel great when the nagging task is a thing of the past.
What have you been putting off?
Have I inspired you to take action?
If so, what is your first task or project you're going to tackle?
Please comment below.
Are your evenings a blur of extra curricular activities, household chores, and getting ready for the next day?
You’re not alone.
Meltdowns – they happen more often than not on weeknights and during the most challenging part of the day when we’re juggling schedules, dinner prep, chores and homework. The cause of the meltdowns is simple – family members are after tired, hungry and irritable at the end of a long day.
But what’s a family to do?
Following are some weeknight survival tips for families who have had enough of weeknight chaos and are looking to make some simple yet positive changes.
GET ON SCHEDULE
First off, you need to backtrack. Getting behind schedule is a major factor to weeknight dilemmas. The problem is we often miscalculate how long it takes to do something and to travel from point A to point B.
Work in reverse
If you begin with the end in mind you can usually figure out what it will take to meet your deadline. For instance, if your kids have an 8:30 p.m. bedtime, you’ll want to make sure dinner is finished by 6:30, the food needs to be prepared and on the table by 6 p.m. Factor in sufficient time for homework, chores, and extra curricular activities and if your kids are really young – bedtime stories.
Add a cushion
No, I’m not talking about a sofa cushion – sitting on one too early in the evening will slow down your productivity and can actually add to your stress. There will be time for relaxing later. What I’m referring to is a time cushion – a buffer if you will, where you guard yourself against the worst-case scenario. By factoring in a 10 to 20 percent time cushion you’re better able to deal with the unexpected.
Have a game plan
Spend some time on the weekend planning for the week ahead. A good weekday/weeknight game plan includes menu planning for weekday meals (including school lunches and having a plan for when you're going to shop), reviewing what's on the family calendar and possible batch cooking for the week ahead.
Don't let others hold you up
Not allowing others slow you down can be challenging especially when you run into chatty co-workers or friends in the grocery store on the way home. One of the most effective things to do is to pull out your car keys, wave the keys, take a step back and say, “It’s been nice talking to you but I’ve got to run.”
Weeknight efficiency is all about staying on task and keeping to a schedule that works. Try not to get too distracted by things that come up but when they do, just try get back on track as quickly as possible.
Outsourcing at home can be as beneficial as it is at the office.
Adding another pair of hands into the mix can make a huge difference to the ease of your weeknights. Delegating can be as simple as having an older child play with a younger sibling while you’re making dinner, getting help folding the laundry, or having your spouse or child walk the dog.
Depending on your family situation you may want to consider outsourcing to a neighbouring teen who would appreciate the odd baby sitting or dog walking job.
Get your kids into the routine of using labeled folders to organize permission slips, homework, tests etc. so you can relax and review their paperwork after dinner when things have calmed down.
“I’ve got to do…”
Do you really? Granted there are times when you really need to do things like laundry but often we add unnecessary stress by just feeling we’ve got to do something when it really doesn’t need to be done just then.
Sometimes if you can shift things around to a time when you’re more clearheaded and not as tired, you can be much more productive even if it means getting up an extra 15 to 20 minutes earlier to throw the laundry into the dryer or make lunches.
“I can’t survive without multitasking.”
Can you survive the stress caused by forcing your brain to try to do two things at once? You see, trying to do too many things at the same time impedes our efficiency. Sure something simple like preparing veggies and chatting about your kid’s day is one thing but more involved tasks cooking dinner, folding clothes and helping your kids with their homework, or any tasks that have you running back and forth is counterproductive and unhealthy.
“Electronics save my sanity.”
Electronics as a whole do little to ease daily stress. In fact, studies have proven just the opposite is true. Spending too much time on your computer, cell, or watching TV can ramp up your anxiety level and is a prime distraction away from what should be your priority – your family.
Do yourself and your family a favor - don’t text or answer your cell, check your email, or zone out in front of the TV during weeknight family time. Also consider the example you're setting if you don't.
So having said the above, what are you going to do to simplify your weeknights?
If things are running along nicely most weeknights do you have an pearls of wisdom you would like to share?
I welcome your comments below.
We all have things in life we want. Some of these things maybe dreams while others are goals. The difference between the two lies in our action or inaction.
For years, I collected books on simplifying and rarely cracked a cover. Instead, I let the books pile up and collect dust. Why did I buy them in the first place?
I was tired, overwhelmed and wanted to simplify my life but not to the extent I was ready and willing to actually make it happen.
I was too busy and caught up in the here and now to take any steps to turn my dream of a slower, more fulfilled life into reality.
Instead, I continued along with the everyday. Days full of activity and responsibilities with a few healthy self-care habits spread here and there that made me a happy yet not I was taking any real action toward what I desired most.
Can you relate? Is there something in your life you play lip service to but find yourself not taking action on?
What's wrong with this picture? It boils down to the simple fact that talk is easy, action is not.
I had to figure out what was holding me back. I knew what I wanted; I just didn't know how to get there.
For me, it was a personal health scare (and no doubt in part, also turning fifty) that brought about some soul-searching. The time to make some positive changes in my life was now.
First, I needed to clear myself of everything that was holding me back. I needed to find a way to let go of the heavy stuff that had been weighing me down. I had to take an honest look at my daily habits and routines. What was working and what wasn’t. What was positive going forward and what was holding me back. In short, I needed to open myself up to new experiences, opportunities and be willing to establish new habits and routines, and get rid of the old.
Before I could make any external moves in the direction I desired, I had to take the internal action of exploring what I needed and wanted. Personal reflection gave me the answers. I walked and sat in quiet until I knew what it was I needed to do.
It was only when I took an honest look at was holding me back did I find clarity and coupled with that, the ability to clear the stuff that had been getting in my way.
While I didn't personally have an outward abundance of material items to free myself from, I did have to explore why I was continuing to do nothing towards what I claimed to want.
Coaching and supporting others in their goal of removing the unnecessary in their lives comes naturally but when it came to looking at my clutter, it was a real challenge.
For me, clutter was found in day-to-day busyness and a jam-packed schedule. Somehow I ended up filling my life of unimportant stuff. So much of the important stuff rarely saw the light of day.
Sure my life was organized and I regularly practiced self-care. I am a professional organizer and life coach, after all. I had neatly organized closets, cupboards and storage shelves full of stuff; lots of family and friends whom I would make the time to get together with on a regular basis but I was also putting everyone else's needs above my own.
Can you relate? Many women can as it is our nature to nurture.
It was only after I took an honest look at what was holding me back and causing so much dissatisfaction, was able to move forward, set a game plan and take action.
I admit it isn’t easy. I’m a work in progress. I still have a lot to learn but by going inside myself and exploring both the negative and positive, and by accepting not ignoring the feelings I have, I'm able to stop the habitual cycle of my negative actions.
By addressing my internal needs, concerns and acknowledging my feelings; I have gained wisdom and the knowledge that some of my negative feelings were actually causing my actions or as it were, inaction. By ignoring these feelings I would have continued spending more time on the negative.
It’s only in letting go, am I able to move forward. To free and unburden myself of the unnecessary so I can focus on the necessary.
In quiet, I continue to learn how to better direct to myself. How to continue go right not left, as I travel the paths of my life.
Through mindfulness and meditation I'm learning how to align my conscious and subconscious mind and break the negative patterns that I had lived with for so long.
If I truly want different results, I have to stop doing the same things over and over again.
Today I’m focusing on 'exclamation mark' living. I want to live my best life and encourage others to do the same. To make changes first in mindset then in lifestyle via a commitment to change, as well as the discipline and consistency it takes to get there.
I honestly believe living outside your comfort zone is the best way to grow and achieve. Staying within the safety and comfort of old habits will do little to increase your happiness or propel you forward.
Align your heart, mind and actions; and positive things will happen.
Stop wasting time gathering ideas of things you want to try like recipes, crafts and DIY projects (e.g. the ones you collect on Pinterest boards but never do), and start taking action today on the things that speak to you and move you in the direction of achieving your bigger goals.
Make the time for self-evaluation. Really listen to your internal self - your needs and desires, your strengths and weaknesses. Trust that you have your own best answers.
Start today to live your priorities and stop living against your values.
Remember, a goal without action isn’t really goal at all.
What are you waiting for?
What kind of balance are you looking for? Do you feel the need to declutter or do you want to minimize?
To me, simple living is all about ease and freedom. Personally, I’m a work in progress. I have a house full of organized stuff and while I keep it reasonably decluttered, I still feel the need to minimize.
Part of my journey in simplifying my life has been inspired by my work as a professional organizer; and by the experience I’ve had with helping and encouraging clients to pare down their belongings to only what's most important.
By working with people of varies ages, incomes and backgrounds; I’ve learned just as much from them as I hope they've learned me.
Each client has his or her challenges but they all had one main thing in common when they first reached out to me - they were experiencing some level of overwhelm. They were typically either drowning in clutter or were ‘crazy’ busy with responsibilities and lacked the necessary time/priority management skills to get off the treadmill of their life. Regardless of their personal back story they needed to regain some balance.
Most people who reach out to me admit to feeling both full yet empty. They’re exhausted and worn out from trying to keep up with the day-to-day yet feel empty and unhappy with all the stuff in their lives, be it excess material possessions or jam-packed schedules.
While spending my days helping other people deal with the physical and emotional clutter that is weighing them down can be personally rewarding, it can also be physically exhausting and emotionally draining when I don't take my own advice and keep my own life in check.
This is one of the main reasons why I decided to proclaim this year as one of change. In order to take care of my own wellbeing and better serve my clients, my own life needs to be free and simple. I needed to go one step beyond decluttering and actually minimize it.
Even as a professional that works in the field of organizing, it is taken me some time to recognize the importance as well as the difference between 'decluttering' and 'minimizing'.
To declutter is to remove unnecessary items from an untidy or overcrowded place.
Clutter itself is defined as scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.
On the other hand, to minimize is to reduce or keep to a minimum.
Minimalism therefore is a style characterized by extreme simplicity.
So, where do you fit in to the above? Do you want to remove the unnecessary from a busy home and calendar or, do you wish to make your life super simple with only a select few possessions?
Most people fall somewhere in the middle, like me.
While I don't aim to live a minimalistic lifestyle, I do wish to live simple one. One that is intentional and balanced based on my own personal values and priorities. I wish the same for my clients. I never direct or instill my own values but instead educate and encourage them to find their own answers within themselves.
Creating a simple and less stressful life doesn't happen overnight. That said, with each passing day I find it's easier to transition between work and home life activities because of some of the simple things I've put into practice in my own life.
Each day I strive to replace negative habits with positive ones. I take the time to both meditate and practice yoga. I’m also in the process of simplifying my personal daily ‘to do’ list, my wardrobe as well as my family menu plan. (I will be writing more about these things and future posts).
Give some thought today about what you can do to improve the balance of your day-to-day. Maybe you can take some small steps forward towards a simpler, less stress filled life.
I would start in one room or one corner of a room and declutter some surface stuff. Box up the items you no longer want and then make a decision as to what you want to do with those items. Ask yourself two simple questions.
Do I need this?
Why do I have this?
Let the answers guide you to your next steps.
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.