Signs that it’s time to slow down

Signs that it’s time to slow down

There was a time in my life when I loved to be busy.  I was young and single. I had a social life, a full-time job, hobbies…I was killing it!  And having fun! But, as it always seems to go, all those things keeping me busy began to multiply.  I found myself adding more and more and more to my days. I said yes to everything! New responsibilities…new hobbies…new adventures.  And it wasn’t long before I realized that I wasn’t having fun anymore. Instead of crushing it, I was being dragged along by the pace of my own life.  It owned me. The life I had created was sucking the life right out of me!

 

It’s such a gradual change sometimes though.  One day, you look back and think, wow, how did I ever have that much energy?  The answer is probably that you didn’t! You just had less on your plate.

So how do you know when it’s time to put on the breaks?

 

You’re tired.

I can’t tell you how many times I dragged myself out of bed in the morning, went to work, and planned all the productive things I was going to accomplish that evening…only to come home and collapse into a chair.  I wanted to be productive. I wanted to knock down that ever-growing list of tasks shouting for my attention. But my body just Would. Not. Cooperate.

So I would sit, try to gather up some energy, do the very most important thing (maybe), and then go to bed.  Only to lay awake with all the things I didn’t get done running through my head.

If you’re not sleeping well, you’re going to be tired.  If you’re doing too much, you’re going to be tired. And if you’re tired, you’re not going to get anything done. Slow down.

 

You’re cranky.

That whole tired thing?  It makes you cranky. Now, we all have those “wrong-side-of-the-bed” days… it’s life, it happens. What I’m talking about is the ongoing, impatient, short-tempered kind of cranky that is hard to hide.

I remember one day, during my morning commute, being stopped by a red light and GROWLING.  Out loud. Alone in my car. I wasn’t running late. I wasn’t rushing to an important meeting.  I was just so angry about stopping for the 60 seconds or so it would take that light to change.

And I actually wondered to myself if I might have a chemical imbalance or something.  Why was I so angry about a stoplight?

Do you find yourself getting irrationally angry over things that don’t matter? Slow down.

 

You’re getting sick.

Do you seem to catch every little bug that comes along?  For a while, it felt like I was always sick, getting over being sick, or about to get sick.  Usually nothing serious, just those pesky little bugs and viruses that come and go…they just never seemed to GO!

Are you constantly feeling less than healthy?  Slow down.

 

You can’t make yourself sit still.

My husband is a great relaxer.  He knows how to sit down and just do nothing for a while.  I am….not so good at that. It’s not in my nature to do nothing.  But for a while, I literally couldn’t make myself sit still. I would sit down next to him, only to pop back up 37 seconds later to take care of something.  Move the laundry from the washer to the dryer…get the dog fresh water…wipe down that spot on the wall that I never noticed before (where did that COME from, anyway?). I could not just sit still.

Do you have trouble being still and allowing yourself to relax?  Slow down.

 

You don’t enjoy things anymore.

I’ve always loved to make things.  Crochet, knitting, cross-stitch…I like creating something and watching it grow.  It wasn’t even about the finished product, it was the action. (Stitching has been proven to be calming, by the way…something about the repetitive motions.)  But, when I did actually force myself to sit down for a few minutes and work on a project, I wasn’t enjoying it at all. I was working as fast as I could, just focusing on getting it done, so it would be one less “task” on my list.

Do you enjoy the things you do?  Or just do them to get them over and done with?  Slow down.

 

You can’t remember anything.

Growing up, my mom teased me about being her calendar.  I could remember everything. Names, dates, times… Then I grew up and was able to do the same thing at work.  Until I wasn’t. I realized that I had just NO memory. I could look at a number five times and still not remember what it said.  I had post-it notes everywhere. I couldn’t remember what people had said. My husband started teasing me about losing my memory.

My poor, over-stimulated brain was just smoking away, trying to keep up with everything I was throwing at it.

Are you forgetting things you used to remember?  Slow down!

 

Do any of these sound familiar to you?  If so, it might be time to take a hard look at your life and CHANGE IT.

 

Here are 4 quick tips to help:

 

1. Schedule time to stop, relax, and breathe.  Maybe 5 minutes, maybe an hour, maybe a whole day or even *gasp* a week.  Make it a priority and stick to it!

2.  Make a list of all of your responsibilities.  Yes, I know, that list can look overwhelming when it’s all written down.  It’s also the first step to see what can be cut out or delegated to someone else.

3.  Ask for help.  It’s perfectly okay, fine, and acceptable to admit that you can’t do it all!  Don’t be afraid to reach out for help!

4.  Face big life changes.  If your job is the problem, it may be time to explore other options.  If it’s your location, consider changing it and make steps to make that happen.  If you simply have too much on your plate, let a few things go. It’s a scary prospect. (Believe me, I understand!)  But big changes can lead to great things!

Balancing Productivity & Self-care

Balancing Productivity & Self-care

Balancing productivity & self-care

Be more productive!  Make time for self-care!  If you’ve spent any time on social media or reading magazines lately, you’ve probably had both of those phrases drilled into your head.  But…how can you find the time to do both? We’re going to answer that question, as well as setting up some realistic expectations for how balancing productivity & self-care really looks.

 

You’ve probably felt it before.  That neverending push-pull of knowing you need to get things done and also knowing that you need to take care of yourself.  It’s hard to balance…how do you decide when you’ve been productive enough, even if there is still more to do?  How do you decide if you’re taking care of yourself or just avoiding things that need to happen? Which is more important, being productive or taking care of yourself? How do you make those decisions?

This is something that I’ve personally struggled with, oh, my entire life or so.  Being productive has usually won, in the past. Getting stuff done comes first, and taking care of myself is an after-thought…if there is time.  But that mindset is something I’ve been actively working on and I’d like to share some tips I’ve learned along the way.

How to balance productivity & self-care

1. Schedule in time for YOU

If you tend to be a slave to your to-do list, actively scheduling time for fun and self-care is the best way to actually make it happen.  You already schedule in time for the tasks that HAVE to be done, so try also scheduling in time for the things you NEED to do. Time for doing things that are good for YOU, like exercise, eating well, and hobbies that soothe and recharge.  Give self-care time importance in your day, instead of fitting it in only after everything else is finished.

2. Don’t overschedule

I have a tendency to waaay underestimate how long things will take.  So, I’ve pulled back…like, a lot. Instead of trying to get 47 things done every single day, pick out the 3 most important.  Make sure those get done! Then let the rest fall into place.

Fair warning: If you have a habit of overscheduling, It. Will. Feel. Strange.  And a little wrong. Especially at first. But when that happens, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Did the most important things get done?  Can the rest wait? If the answer is yes (and it probably is), remind yourself that everything is fine and you’re just breaking an established habit of being overly busy.

3. Self-care = productivity

Taking time for yourself…it feels like a slow down.  Like you’re not making progress. But by making the time to take care of yourself, mentally, physically, and emotionally, you will actually become MORE productive.  Giving yourself room to breathe and recharge will make the time you spend getting things done so much more effective. You’ll be focused, energized, and ready to tackle what needs to be done, instead of slogging your way through.  Try it!

4. Reframe how you think of productivity

For the longest time, in my mind, being truly productive meant getting more and more (and more) done each day.  If I wasn’t doing something productive, I was just wasting time. But it’s really about quality over quantity.  Just getting things done doesn’t mean that you’re doing them effectively. And being productive does not mean working until you have nothing left to do.  Aim for quality productive time instead of trying to fit more and more in.  Getting fewer things done, but done well, will save you so much time in the long run!

5. Stop giving in to “productivity guilt”

Just because you’re not doing something productive every minute of each day, that doesn’t mean you’re being lazy or avoiding responsibilities. Let go of the guilt. Let go of the “shoulds”. Take the pressure off yourself and remember that just because you have the time and energy to be doing something “productive”, it doesn’t always mean that it’s the best way to spend your time.  Accept that it is absolutely okay to take time out, just for you!

6. It’s okay to just stop, even if everything isn’t done

This is where scheduling comes in. And I STRUGGLE with this. Not getting everything done DOES NOT mean that you failed.  More than likely, it means that you’ve overscheduled. Unless it’s absolutely imperative that something gets done right now, it’s okay to decide that you’re done for the day and just stop. For a little more help with this, check out this post.

7. Identify your peak hours

We all have times of the day that we’re naturally more productive.  And times that we’re consistently less productive. Identify when those peak productive hours are in your day and use them to your advantage!  

For example, my peak productive hours are between 1-5 pm.  I am not a morning person and trying to get quality work done first things feels like trying to run through deep mud. During the afternoon, I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders, so I use that time to get the important tasks done.  

Once you’ve identified when your personal best hours are, use them for the important, tedious, or most energy-consuming tasks!  Save the mindless tasks for your less productive hours…or use that time for some good, solid self-care!

8. Shake up your routine

If each day leaves you feeling out of balance, try revamping your daily routines.  What can you move around? Try out a new routine for a few days or weeks and see if a different schedule works better.  It may take a few tries, but it won’t take long before you find a routine that works for you!

9. Understand that you may have to let a few things go

It’s pretty likely that you’re going to have to give a few things up.  Most of us have gotten into the habit of packing our days so full that we simply have no time left.  

At one point in my life, I wrote down all the things that I would like to get done each day…work, household chores, etc.  I put down a realistic time that each task would take and added them up. The result? 14.5 hours a day! And that didn’t even include time for eating, showering, or relaxing.  No wonder I was feeling rushed, frustrated, and behind schedule all the time! So I picked a few things to let go of. Delegated a few others. And have a much calmer life because of it!

I bet there are a few things on your schedule that you can easily give up.  Some things may be harder. And some are non-negotiable. If you need a little help with this process, check How to Prioritize Your Day in 6 Steps

10. Create distinct “spaces” for productive time and self-care time

Find some ways to signal to yourself that this is productive time and that is self-care time by setting up specific locations or signals for each. 

For example, if you work from home, try to pick one area to work in. When you are in that area, you know that it’s time to be productive.  If you tend to relax in the living room, don’t fold your laundry on the couch.  

Even if you have a small space, you can use signals like changing the lighting or burning candles when it’s time to shift from productive to self-care time. 

By doing this, it will be easier to remind yourself which mode you’re in at the moment.

 

And one final note on balancing productivity and self-care: 

Being balanced doesn’t mean that every single day of your life will feel balanced.  Each day may not (and probably won’t) be balanced evenly between productivity and self-care. Balance happens on a much larger scale.  Some days will be busy. Some days will be easy. So instead of trying to force each day to be the perfect mix of getting things done and taking time to relax, aim for an overall balance in your life.  Know that you’ll have busy days and accept them.  But also even those days out by making time during other days to take care of YOU!

 

How do you balance productivity and self care?

How to prioritize your day in 6 steps

How to prioritize your day in 6 steps

Do you ever feel like your whole life is juggling tasks and to-dos, while falling even farther behind?  It happens, right? So today, we’re talking about how to prioritize your day, make sure the important tasks are getting done, and end your day feeling calm – even if you’re in a busy season of life.

Why you need to prioritize your day:

I don’t want to be as busy as I am right now.  I just don’t. My goal is to have a calm, slow-paced lifestyle.  A manageable workload. Time available for spontaneity.  And while I’m actively working toward that, now is a very busy time in my life.  But that doesn’t mean I have to be overscheduled and overwhelmed – neither do you, even if you’re also at a busy point in your life. 

So what can we do when our list is a mile long and there aren’t enough hours in the day?  Prioritize.  But how can we prioritize our day? We all know what that means, but how to do it gets a little fuzzier.  So I’m going to share with you my method for prioritizing my day (and even have a little time for fun).  A method for tackling that dreaded list, without the overwhelm!

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you: 

You wake up in the morning and everything that you need to do today starts bouncing around in your mind like someone dropped a bucket full of bouncy-balls in there.  You start on a task, only to get distracted and stop when you remember something else that HAS to be done right now. You sit down about halfway through the day and wonder how you’re possibly going to manage to get it all done.  Sound familiar? Yeah, it does to me, too.

Now, what if: 

You wake up in the morning, sit down for 5-10 minutes and write down a quick list.  You arrange that list and KNOW before the day has really even started what you need to do, what will probably get done, and what may not make the cut today, but will get done eventually.  You know that the urgent tasks will be taken care of and that you might even have time to go out to dinner without feeling guilty or even farther behind. Sound better?

Prioritizing your day is not only a way to make sure that everything important gets done on time, but it’s also a method of adding calm to your life, especially during the busy seasons.  Everything may not get done today or even as fast as you’d prefer, but you will be more relaxed because you know that if it’s important, it will get done (and the rest will get done eventually).  So let’s talk about how to prioritize.

So how can you prioritize your day?

I’m going to teach you how to prioritize your day in 6 steps, each day, so you can be both calm and productive during the busy seasons in life.  It will only take 5-10 minutes, so it’s well worth the time spent!

Before we start, though, here are a few questions to ask yourself, in order to determine what is truly important, not only for your day, but also for your long-term goals:

What habit or habits are you trying to establish?
What is important for achieving your goals?
What is important for your daily life? 
What is important for YOU?

Now, with those questions in mind grab a piece of paper, or even better, a small dry erase board or an app like Trello.  We’re going to be moving things around a little bit, so knowing that, choose whatever method works best for you.

Step 1 – Jot down a quick list of everything you’d like to get done today.  

Everything.  Fair warning, it might look a little overwhelming.  Don’t worry, that’s not going to last.

 

Step 2 – Break down the big tasks into smaller steps.  

Get specific.  For example, instead of writing down “clean the house”, break it down into “clean the bathrooms, vacuum the carpet” etc.  I know, I know, it looks even more overwhelming now, but stick with me.

 

Step 3 – Make a note of anything that needs to get done BEFORE something else on the list happens.  

Certain tasks need to happen in a certain order (just like when you were in school learning algebra – which I am STILL hopeless at – if you miss a step, the rest just won’t work).  So, anything that needs to happen in order for or before another task can happen needs to be noted.  

 

Step 4 – Sort your list into categories.  

This is the fun part, guys.  We’re going to split that list into 3 sections – The Non-Negotiables, The Important, and The Back Burner

 

The Non-Negotiables:  

These are the things that either have a set, scheduled time – like appointments and going to work or class – or tasks that absolutely have to get done today – like paying that bill that’s due today or running to the store for toilet paper because you are literally out.  The Non-Negotiables are the tasks that absolutely have to be done and can’t be delayed (at least, not without some unpleasant consequences).

 

The Important:

These are the tasks that really need to be done, sooner than later.  But, worst-case scenario, they CAN be delayed if they have to be. This includes tasks with a deadline approaching and things that you are trying to make a regular habit of doing (or doing on a specific day of the week). 

Sidenote here – I include self-care and exercise in this category.  It NEEDS to be done. It needs to be a priority (I even wrote about that in this post) and the best way to make that happen is to PLAN for it to happen. But it can be a little bit more flexible than the Non-Negotiables.

 

The Back-Burner:

Finally, these are the things that you’d like to get done, but are flexible and can easily be delayed if they need to be.  No real consequences if they get pushed back. This also might include some of those linked tasks, because you can’t do those until another task is finished.

Another note – The reason I suggest you make a new list every single day is because some of these items you just wrote down?  They will change priority level. If you had paying a bill on The Important list and it’s now due tomorrow, guess what?  It’s now a Non-Negotiable. If you had washing the sheets on the guest bed on The Back Burner and you just found out someone will be visiting this weekend?  It’s now Important.

 

Step 5: Arrange your list  

This is the easy part.  Now that you have your list separated into three categories, we’re going to arrange your day.  Write down anything from The Non-Negotiables, because those are getting done no matter what. Assess (honestly) the time you have left in your day and move on to The Important.  Try to limit the important items to only 3 tasks. If you have time and energy for more, you know where to find the rest, but by limiting to only 3 tasks, you will be much less likely to feel overwhelmed.  (You can read more about why that works in this post.) And finally, if you have time left, add a few tasks from The Back-Burner.  If you don’t? Well, don’t. They can wait and that’s why they’re on The Back Burner, simmering away until you’re ready for them.

 

Step 6 – Relax, because you have a plan!  

Even though you’re still busy, you will feel calmer and less overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done, because you know what really NEEDS to be done.

 

Two more quick tips:

Delegate if you can:

If you see something on your list that you can ask for help with, ask.  If your husband can run by the grocery store, ask if he minds. If your kids can vacuum the house, let them.  You may be Wonderwoman, but you don’t have to save the world all by yourself.

Plan for breaks: 

Especially if you have a long task.  We lose focus after an extended amount of time, so be sure to add in time to take a break, even if it’s only 5 minutes.  It will allow you to reset, refocus, and get back to it feeling fresh.

 

What tips and trick do you use when prioritizing your day?

How to find time for a moment of calm…even when your schedule is packed!

How to find time for a moment of calm…even when your schedule is packed!

Need to add a moment of calm into your busy schedule? 

You can do it!  We’re all busy, some more than others.  But no matter HOW busy your life is right now, you really can find time in your day for a calm moment or two.  Here are some simple ways to make your day (and your mind) a little calmer.

 

Think Small

Adding some calm time into your already busy day can seem…well…overwhelming.  It can feel like just another thing to add to your to-do list!

But you don’t have to find a huge block of time in your day for a calm moment. In fact, don’t try that!  The idea here is to reduce your stress, not to add to it.

As little as 5 or 10 minutes will do wonders for your mindset.  Seriously.  If you’re a morning person, get up a few minutes earlier than normal, drink your morning coffee while looking out the window.  As soon as you walk in the door at night, set a timer for 5 minutes, and just sit.  Lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes, if you have to.  But carve out a little time in your day to just BE.    

 

Use a planner or journal

Is your mind constantly full of things to remember and things to do?  I think of things that need to be done at the strangest times…in the shower, while folding laundry, and occasionally, in mid-sentence!

That’s why I’ve found it SO helpful to use a planner and a notes app.  When something that needs to be done pops into your head, while you’re making dinner, trying to fall asleep, fixing your hair in the morning, write it down.  Once it’s on paper, you’re free to forget about it.  Yay, less brain clutter!

Now, you’ll want to find the method that works best for you (and that might take a little trial and error).  Some people swear by bullet journals.  That method doesn’t work for me, personally. I get too hung up on making it look pretty!  But if it helps you, do it! 

Other people have great results by scheduling out every minute of their day. I tried that for a while, but it added stress – too much “scheduling” leads me to feeling overwhelmed and behind.  But, if that type of structure helps you, go for it

I typically use a gratitude type journal for my daily and scheduled tasks.  I sit down for 5-10 minutes every morning, while drinking a cup of coffee, and plan out my day.

I’ve had really good experiences with both the Panda Planner & the Inner Guide Planner.  

busy tips
calm things
how to calm

Edit your to-do list

This goes hand-in-hand with my planner. I have a long history of being a chronic over-scheduler.  I want to get so many things done, done right, and done right now, that I have a tendency to add everything to my list for the day. 

And you know what?  There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done!  (It took me longer to figure this out than I like to admit.)  

So instead, I now pick 3-5 things for each day.  I get those done first, then if I have time and energy, I can always add more.  And if not, I am “allowed” to just be done.

I promise you, and I’m speaking from experience, the world will not fall apart if the bathroom gets cleaned tomorrow instead of today. 

It’s SO much more freeing to know that you accomplished everything on your list!

Check out this post to learn more about exactly HOW I edited my own to-do list.

 

Light a candle

I love candles.  Real, battery-operated, jar, pillar candles.  Doesn’t matter what kind it is, there is always something peaceful about a glowing candle.

Give yourself a few minutes to just sit with a candle and enjoy the glow!

Find something that smells nice or looks pretty…or, even better, both.  Light it (or switch it on) and enjoy!

 

Listen to an audiobook

I’ve always loved to read.  A good story is a fantastic way to momentarily disengage from daily life.

But if you’re already short on time, it can be hard to find enough time to get lost in a book.  So let someone else read it to you!

Buy an audiobook, subscribe to Audible, or check your local library.  I’ve been using the Libby app through the Cleveland Public Library to listen to books while I do some of the more monotonous tasks in life. (Hello, housecleaning…I’m talking about you!)

Productivity and relaxation at the same time!

 

Make calm moments a priority!

Finally, make moments of calm a priority in your life.  Don’t wait until everything else is done to relax.  Because you know what? It. Will. Never. Happen. 

Instead of waiting until things are calm to enjoy a calm moment, make it happen!

Make it a point to do a few tasks, then stop.  Sit down for a minute.  Take a breath.  Notice something beautiful.  Let yourself just be.  Then, you can jump back into the demands of your day, feeling a little bit calmer, more peaceful, and just generally happier.  Don’t feel guilty about it.  It’s perfectly fine to take a break!

How do you add moments of calm to your day?