Ever felt like a headless chicken running around in circles getting nowhere? My life used to just like that. Every minute was filled up, from the moment I awoke until the minute I went to bed. I did so many things that it used to stress Mr T out just watching me. And det with all the running around, never ending to do lists and the constantly on the go life style I didn’t feel like I really got anywhere. Sure I got things done, a lot actually, however time to relax, to have fun to enjoy life that simply wasn’t there. And if I did get time to relax I didn’t know what to do and felt guilty if I did. It was a vicious circle, an exhausting vicious circle. Do you know the feeling? It’s horrid. For me it actually lowered my self esteem because I never felt like I really got anywhere because there was always more to do.
That however was until I learned to simplify. Now don’t get me wrong I still do my to do lists and my goal setting, it’s just I simply do them with a different attitude. Through Google- fu and some gentle coaching I discovered that the way to simplify was made up of the three ‘r’s’ Rest, Repetition and Rhythm. Honestly these three things have completely simplified my life, given me (and Mr T) peace as well makes my working hours and r and r so much more effective. I still work hard, just intensively some of the time, not crazily busy all the time.
Now just to clarify when I talk about simplifying my life I am not talking about a form of minimalism. I mean simplification of my everyday life and rituals, my planning combined with the forming of new habits and installing a routine and rhythm to my everyday. And yes I can hear you brain clicking out of ‘I am interested’ to ‘Argh I hate routine’ mode, just wait. I know it all too well, I too have been a routine hater ever since the day they gave me insulin and told me all my meals had to be at the same time everyday. However the routine is more like a fixed rhythm. Just like music some parts of the music repeat and regular intervals and other parts are more fluid. And honestly it is both exhilarating and releasing.
So if you want to be more effective and free up more time simultaneously! Then I highly recommend you read these steps to a simple and effective life and then more importantly go out and try them. After all planning is only half of goal completion, action is the most important part.
NOw this whole simplification came about in my life thanks to one of my personal coaches. She asked me “when do you take a break during the day?” I was like break??? -hah! I just keep on going, I keep on running until the engine is empty, and then I relax. (Even as I said it I could hear how unhealthy it sounded.) So together with my coach we brainstormed ways I like to relax and discussed how long I could seriously dedicated to resting each day. We ended upon agreeing that I would read or draw for at least 15 minutes a day (doodling on my phone and computer was not relaxing enough). Then my coach pushed my boundaries and said she wanted this break to be in between my working day and my evening at home. UGH! However after some persuasion I agreed. Now everyday at 5pm my work day ends and I dedicate 30 mins to reading. (Yes 30 mins, at the start I didn’t believe I could do 15 but now I have found 30 mins after work and before making dinner is the optimal time for me to wind down and recharge).
To start your simplification of your life find a time you will rest everyday, workout how you can switch off and dedicate AT LEAST 15 mins to it. Keep to the same time everyday. (I do this also on weekends as well as work days). Some people may say okay well I am on public transport at this time or I have the kids so I can’t make me time. Sorry my friend but that is your victim talking. Make time. A bus journey can be made relaxing with a book, or music or even and audio book, making a wind down time everyday for the whole family to get a recharge is a gift to all of you not just yourself. Be creative and figure out a solution for you. It is after all the minimum of 15 minutes you can give yourself that.
Everyday we make thousands of unconscious and conscious decisions. What to wear, what to eat, who to call, when do we shop. It can get so tiring. The whole time you are making these decisions you are using mental energy which lowers your battery. If you think of it as though your mental energy per day is like your phone battery, each decision lowers the bar. So what if you could save some of that energy instead wasting it on millions of decisions. You can!
I got this idea from Steve Jobs, who wore the same outfit everyday to eliminate the ‘what do I wear ?’ choice from his morning routine. I don’t wear the same outfit everyday, however I have made a repetitive system around the preparing of meals and shopping of food in our house. It started with taking the decision to shop only once a week which eliminated all of those minutes of waiting in line on the way home. Then I decided to make one big batch of food every sunday freeze it down and fill our freezer with ready made home cooked dinners. It worked well, however I noticed that part of my day was often filled with wondering what we were going to eat that evening. So I now make a weekly food plan. I do this before I go shopping. Every day we have the same breakfast and lunches (although in the plan I switch it up a little, sundays were made for brunch right!) and then I plan which evening dinners I will use in that week. It has made thinking about dinner so much easier. I just follow the plan. Now I use only 10 mins a week tops on the ‘what to eat’ question. So much easier and gives me so much more time. The added bonus of this is that when I go food shopping I now save money and time because I know exactly what I need and don’t get distracted. Also that plan is a guideline if we fancy pizza one night then we do get pizza but now it’s fun not stressful.
At home we do this not just with food but with laundry and house cleaning too. A great way to start is to make a list of the decisions you make in your everyday. Try it for a few days, then look at your lists and see where you can simplify? Where can you minimise your decision making? Where can you save your energy? And remember don’t try this a few times and then say oh well that didn’t work. Remember it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit. Stick at it and you will feel the benefit of extra mental energy.
Once you have started to get some rest and repetition into your life the last step in the simplification process is to define your rhythm. If you like me love lists then you will love this. There are 3 steps to building your rhythm.
Step 1: I start every month by making a month list of the things I need to do. This list is under four headings
Life – doctors appointments, mechanic visits etc
Work – er.. that should be self explanatory
Me – the things I want to do for me
Social – social engagements etc
(You can also include a family section).
Step 2: I make my weeks schema from this list. On my skema are areas that are fixed, like the food shopping, laundry (we also have date night). Then there are areas that are blank when I pencil in tasks from my list. This has been so effective that I now actually have 7 evenings off (not entirely easy when you are self employed). I know what is coming in a week and I don’t have the constant must remember to do x, y and z running around in my brain. All that mental energy freed. Remember yours is particular to you. You create your rhythm with fixed parts and the free movement.
Step 3: Every morning I make a todo list from that days plan on my week schema. Sometimes unexpected things come up and the plan altars a little but it doesn’t matter. using this system I KNOW I have more than enough time to do everything I need and want to do.
It really is that simple! I have so much more mental energy. Infact I often find myself wondering how did my workload get so light. It didn’t I just simply started to be really effective with my time and efficient with my energy. Have a play with this over the next few weeks and see if you can simplify your life and find a rhythm. I’d love to hear any tips and discoveries you make on your journey here so please write in the comments how this worked for you or visit the Re:Root Facebook page.
Have a lovely simple and effective week – enjoy your journey <3