Procrastinating Decluttering

The Best Time Is Now

So you’ve taken the first step in deciding to simplify your life.

Your plan of attack in creating an unbusy life will begin by decluttering your home.

But then the anxiety creeps in. You look around the room, and suddenly you realise how much crap you have accumulated. It could be 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years’ worth of stuff that you have held on to.

How on earth will you even begin such a monumental task? Or more importantly, where should you begin?

Maybe it’s too hard after all. Maybe it was a bad idea…

No, wait! Before you decide to throw in the towel and watch TV instead, let me give you some tips on how to get past the procrastination station and alleviate your anxiety and stress.

I, too, have been in this position and have felt the same way. It’s as though all of a sudden, the idea of living a less cluttered and more simplified life seems like a no-brainer and leaves you with a hatred for all the stuff you see around your home.

“What made me want to buy that thing in the first place? Did I seriously think I didn’t have enough stuff? That I needed more?”

Here are four ways that I get over the initial anxiety and stress that occurs before a major declutter session:

1. Baby steps:  Yes, making the decision to live an unbusy life and declutter the home is a major one, but that doesn’t mean you need to start running before you learn how to walk. Think of the process as one that is made up of many hundreds of little baby steps. Simply tackling one drawer, or one cupboard, or one box is enough to begin your process. You will feel less stressed and confused, and taking one baby step will give you the confidence to continue forward (when you are ready).

2. More doing, less thinking: You may notice that a million thoughts run through your head during your declutter session: “What a waste of money this was”, “Oh but I might need this someday”, “But what if…” STOP! It takes a lot of will power to silence these thoughts, but try focusing on what you are doing, rather than on what you are thinking. Recognise that these thoughts are occurring as a way to talk you out of the wonderful changes that you are making. That’s the unfortunate job of our brains: to make us second guess ourselves!

3. Remember why: Why did you decide to become less busy? Why did you want to simplify your life? What will an unbusy life mean to you? Write your number one reason on a piece of paper and stick it on your fridge, or on your bathroom mirror. When you feel anxious about your journey, go to this piece of paper and read it out loud. Or begin a ritual of reading it every morning after breakfast, before you begin your day.

4. Deep breaths: Before you begin a decluttering session, sit down, close your eyes and take in a slow, deep breath. Hold your breath for 2 seconds- then release and breathe out. Repeat this process 5 times. If you like to meditate, then you could use this time to meditate for several minutes, to clear your mind of any “inner noise”, and to prepare yourself for the task ahead. But if meditation is not for you, the breathing exercise should be sufficient enough to alleviate stressful feelings.

Often our negative thoughts and beliefs can sabotage any great new ideas we are trying to implement. Procrastinating when it comes to decluttering is one such way that our crafty minds try to stop us from moving forward. Realise that this is quite common when beginning your journey to a less busy life.

Grab the bull by the horns, start your journey with small steps and know that every step of your journey has been experienced by most of us living a minimalist lifestyle.

Now go and get rid of that crap!

My Wish For You This Year

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Happy New Year to all my readers!

My wish for you is that you have a happy, safe and restful 2015, and that you take some time to enjoy each moment that presents itself.

The beginning of a new year can be an exciting time, as we are given the chance for a “do-over”. The possibilities and opportunities for the next 12 months seem endless. But the other side of the coin is that we can feel pressured to set high expectations for what we want to achieve: it could be weight loss, giving up smoking, business expansions, radical makeovers.

Although we do not know what is in store for each of us this year, we can set intentions for the way we want to think, feel and behave in any given moment. We can focus on how we want to live our lives.

My intention for 2015 is to continue to live a less busy life- to honour each moment of each day. I want to embrace life for what it is, rather than trying to control a situation, or keep up with the busyness that many of us get caught up in.

Perhaps you are thinking of doing the same. Perhaps 2014 was a crazy busy time for you, and the year flew by and left you wondering where the time went. Perhaps you realised that life can feel like it is slipping by. Perhaps you are tired of trying to keep up with a hectic pace. Perhaps you just want to slow down.

If your inner voice is telling you that the way you are approaching your life is not the best way, maybe it’s time to listen.

There is ALWAYS a better way.

Many of you know that I was laid off from my job of 10 years in late November. I decided I would embrace my time not working, and that I would enjoy 2015 and live a slower pace.

Well, the first six weeks of being unemployed created a mix of emotions. Although my body was trying to tell me to slow down, that silly voice in my head was saying that it wasn’t right for me to simply enjoy not doing anything. The guilt started to set in- my husband would come home from work each day absolutely exhausted, while I spent the day pottering around the house. Or reading a novel.

I’m a modern day woman who has been used to juggling a career and motherhood, and household responsibilities. I felt a bit “naked” without having a career anymore.

In fact, as stupid as this sounds, I felt like I had lost a part of my identity.

That’s when I realised that for many of us, our careers are our identities. Think about when you meet someone for the first time. What’s one of the first questions you might ask the other person? “So, what do you do?”

And for the first time, I do not have a concrete plan for the year. We have a big vacation planned for the family later in the year, and I am focusing on finishing my degree. But workwise, no plans at all.

And that’s ok. Because life is about enjoying each moment, and not just focusing on what we want our futures to look like.

It’s ok to think about the remaining 11.5 months of 2015 and think “I have no idea what is in store for me this year, but that’s ok because I will enjoy every moment”.

This shift in perception requires changing the mindset- going from thinking about tomorrow, or next week, or next month, to thinking about today.

Thinking about now.

If you want to slow your pace down, start off by changing your perception towards time. Think about the present moment- are you enjoying what you are doing right this minute?

If you would rather be reading a novel than washing the dishes, then give yourself permission to stop and read.

If your child has asked you to play a game with him/her, then give yourself permission to stop what you are doing and go play that game.

If your friend has called you right in the middle of household chores, stop, sit down and have that conversation.

Focus your efforts on how you want to think, feel and act in each moment of 2015.

The rewards for changing your perception will be plentiful, I promise you. Living the life you were meant to live will result in new opportunities and possibilities presenting themselves to you. You will notice a shift in your mood, your attitude, and your energy. You will start to attract opportunities that reflect your change in mood.

Now that sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

It sounds a whole lot better than setting to-do lists, new year’s resolutions, or goals.

Please stay in touch, and let me know if you have decided to live a slower pace, and how this has changed your life. Throughout 2015, I will continue to share with you tips and ideas on how to live a less busy, and more meaningful life. You deserve it!

Happy new year!

 

Natalie

5 Ways To Reduce Paper Clutter

Clean Desk

Image: Ultra Linx

 

Paper clutter is annoying.

And the more we try to get rid of it, the more it somehow creeps back into our lives: statements, bills, invoices, flyers, brochures, letters, printed documents, forms etc…etc…which is sometimes hard to believe, given we live in a world with sophisticated technological devices and solutions.

Moving to a less busy life involves scratching beneath the surface of busyness, to look for the not-so-obvious things that are contributing to our hectic lifestyles. Paper clutter is one such thing.

Think about the last time you checked your mailbox and found a bill or bank statement. You had to open the envelope, and either action the item or file it away for another day. Did you place it in a folder or drawer, or did you leave it in a pile with other paper documents? Did the pile increase until one day, you had to look for that document and couldn’t find it amongst the pile of paper clutter?

Paper clutter is also a physical reminder of the some of the tasks and issues we may be dealing with in our lives, and sometimes we like to file things away for another day because we don’t want to deal with the issue at hand.

Credit card statements remind us of the money we have spent, or maybe the money that we don’t have to pay for the things we have purchased. It could trigger emotional responses relating to financial stress.

Flyers and advertisements may remind us of things we need to attend to but “haven’t got time for”.

Paper clutter also impacts on our environment- think about the resources that have been used up in producing paper (both mechanical and chemical resources- did you know that paper is bleached?), the ink used to print the documents or the plastic used to cover magazines to make them waterproof. Yes paper can be recycled, but according to Clean Up Australia, producing 1 tonne of paper consumes 20-full grown trees however recycling the same amount of paper only saves 13 trees.

So we can see that the impact of paper clutter extends beyond the obvious of having too much junk in the house.

If we all make a conscious effort to either reduce paper clutter or eliminate it completely, we will have less clutter in our homes, feel less stressed and busy, and contribute to protecting our environment.

Here are 5 tips on reducing busyness through eliminating paper clutter:

1. Digital bills and statements

Contact your local energy/water/telecommunications suppliers and bank to ask if you can receive your bills and statements online. If you are in Australia, visit B Pay View where you can easily set up digital bills and statements, and can elect to receive reminder emails and SMS prior to your bill due date to prevent late payments. This also saves you getting late payment reminder letters when you have forgotten to pay!

2. No Junk Mail

Place a “No Junk Mail” sticker on your letterbox to stop the delivery of catalogues and other advertising material. Some organisations ignore this request, however if this is a problem for you either contact the organisation or find out if there are local laws or standards addressing this issue. If you are in Australia, it is actually illegal to place advertising material on car windscreens!

3. Deal with paper immediately

When you receive a bill or statement, deal with it straight away. If it is purely “junk”, place it in a recycling bin. If it can be paid straight away, then pay it! If not, then find a folder, box or some other storage solution to keep all such documents together in one place. Once the bill has been paid, then file it in another storage solution if you still need to keep it, otherwise shred the document before putting it in a recycling bin. Shredding personal documents prevents the theft of documents thrown into bins, which can be used for identity theft. Remember also that most companies keep your records on storage for a number of years, so if you are concerned about throwing out bills you may later need for reference, keep this in mind.

4. Say no!

The easiest way to prevent paper clutter is to say no! If you are out somewhere and someone tries to distribute a flyer to you, politely say “no thank you” or quickly read the flyer and return to the distributor. Self-serve cash registers in some supermarkets now give you the option to choose whether or not a receipt is printed for you. You could even use the camera on your phone to photograph information that you would otherwise receive in paper format!

5. Embrace technology

 Modern technology not only allows us to shop and bank online, and receive electronic communication- we can use apps to plan and diarise our days, view calendars on our phones, Google maps for directions rather than street directory books. We can purchase electronic versions of novels, send digital images to each other, take and store photos. Take some time to explore all of the technological options available to you: research some new apps that may help you eliminate clutter. Our local schools communicate via email and SMS, and even school lunches can be ordered via an app. Use Dropbox or Evernote to store files, documents and information that you can then access from any device anywhere in the world- saves you having to waste paper printing documents. Many government departments are beginning to accept scanned copies of documents rather than print outs. Some airlines no longer require you to print plane tickets purchased online. The possibilities are endless!

Reducing paper clutter may take some time and effort initially, and may require us to step out of our comfort zones. But the rewards are far greater, with a home or office free of paper clutter, allowing us to spend time and effort on things that are far more important than sorting and filing.

What are some ways that you are reducing paper clutter in your home or workplace? What apps do you use to help you transition from paper to paper-free? Share your suggestions!

5 Ways To A More Intentional And Less Stressful Christmas

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“Where has the time gone?” seems to be one of the most common statements spoken at this time of the year.  Although we recognise that time is precious, sometimes we get caught up in the busyness of the holiday season that we forget to treat our time as precious.

But having a less busy life isn’t just about freeing up more time for ourselves. It’s about creating a more meaningful life, and making choices that allow us to spend our precious time in the most valuable way for ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. This all contributes to a less stressful Christmas!

Today I share with you some simple ways to use your time more intentionally this holiday season, so that you can create a more meaningful and less stressful Christmas for yourself and your loved ones.

 

5 Ways To Have A Less Stressful Christmas

 

  • Put more thought into gift purchases

 

Be more intentional when you are buying gifts for loved ones, by thinking about the person you are buying for. By being more intentional in your gift purchasing, you are also giving the gift of thoughtfulness and care, something that is priceless. Thoughtful gift purchases also reduce the likelihood of the gift ending up in landfill! Being intentional with gift purchasing does require more time and thought- set aside some time well before Christmas. Leaving everything to the last minute leads to a stressful Christmas and a higher chance of impulse shopping.

 

  • Spend quality time with your loved ones

 

We can often get caught up in the busyness of Christmas that we neglect to set aside time for our own families. By reducing our busyness, we can be more intentional and create time to spend with our loved ones. When we are running around trying to meet the demands of everyone else at this time of the year, we are forgetting to meet the needs of our own children. And we often create busy lives for our children- READ MORE ABOUT THAT HERE. But when we spend quality time with our children, we are not only strengthening family bonds but our stress levels decrease. This contributes to a less stressful Christmas!

 

  • Say no to distractions

 

December is a busy time for Christmas parties, and you can find yourself quickly filling your calendar with end of year celebrations. But how many of these Christmas parties should you attend? Try to prioritise the events that you decide to attend- the obvious ones would be your workplace and any events with your immediate family and friends. Many clubs or organisations you are associated with may host a Christmas party too, however it may pay to say no to some of these additional distractions. You need to save some time for yourself, which leads to my next tip…

 

  • Don’t forget about “You”!

 

A hectic holiday season often results in people becoming run down and getting ill at this time of year. Late nights, stress and poor eating habits (and too much booze!) all contribute to a weaker immune system and the possibility of getting sick. Try to make time for yourself each day, even if it is just for 15 minutes. Take a relaxing bath, go for a walk, phone a friend or spend some time cuddling your kids. There needs to be a balance between the time you give to others and the time you have for yourself. If you are giving more of your time to others, there is an imbalance and you will suffer as a result. Parents have been conditioned to feel guilt whenever they make time for themselves- this has to stop!

 

  • Let Go Of Expectations

 

It’s easy to get caught up in what we think the “perfect” Christmas should look like and be. If we let go of our expectations and spend December living more intentionally and in the present moment, we can learn to spend our time in ways that add value to our lives and those of our loved ones. Just because we have celebrated Christmas a certain way in the past, does not mean that we have to follow the same traditions and expectations if they no longer fit with our current lifestyle. Be honest with yourself: what works well, and what doesn’t work so well? A perfect Christmas is not what you see in magazines or on TV, but it’s what you make it. Don’t strive for perfect, strive for special. For more tips on how to create a less stressful Christmas event, please read HERE.

 

We can make small changes to the way we approach the holiday season. In doing so, we create a more fulfilling time of year that allows us to focus on the important aspects of the celebration of Christmas. We can create a less stressful Christmas just by making some wiser choices and being selective about the way that we want to approach this time of the year.

We can choose how we spend our time, so let’s be more intentional with our choices.

How are you intentional with your time at Christmas? What are some ways that you are creating a more meaningful celebration this holiday season? Please share!

 

 

Are Our Kids Too Busy?

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Image: followtheseinstructions

 

Piano, drawing, swimming, language classes, dancing, karate, football, tennis: our children are spoilt for choice when it comes to after school and weekend activities.

There are also play dates, birthday parties, vacations and outings to attend, not to mention somehow fitting in around six hours of schooling per day plus time for homework and studying for exams.

This is without factoring in time to just be kids, to play, or read, or spend time cuddling up with mum or dad.

Are we overscheduling our children and bringing them up to believe that busyness is the only way to live? Are we passing on some of our time-poor habits and misconceptions about what it means to live a meaningful life?

Are our kids too busy?

When my eldest daughter was our only child, I admit that I used to schedule something for her to do almost every day. Each week we attended a mother’s group gathering, a swimming lesson, and a “Gymbaroo” class, and when she was a little older we also started attending playgroup.

I was constantly having to drive around to different places, and would sometimes sit at playgroup half asleep, having worked late the previous night  and then being woken up early by our daughter, only to have to be at playgroup around 9am.

Fast forward a few years and two more children later, and the activities became less of a priority, mainly due to financial constraints but also a lack of time. My youngest only started her very first activity, swimming, about 8 weeks ago!

The thought of driving three children to activities was too much, and now we are trying to cut back on how much time we allow our children to spend in scheduled activities. Life is more “go with the flow” with lots of “chill out time” as well as the usual fun kid stuff.

I think as parents, we all try to do the best we can with what we know- each of us has different circumstances, needs, knowledge and experience, and so my views on children and busyness are not meant to offend or make parents feel guilty.

But imagine just for a moment, how different your life and your kids’ lives would be if the pace slowed down just a little?

Instead of rushing off to another activity, using this time to sit at home with a good book or cuddle up and talk?

Instead of scheduling something every day during school break/vacation, allowing the kids to have a break from their friends and to learn that it’s ok to have a day at home not doing much?

Instead of thinking our children need to start an activity from a very young age, waiting a few years until they are old enough to discover their talents or interests?

A happy childhood is rarely about the number of experiences a child has been exposed to, but the quality. Think back to your own memories of childhood: what are they?

For me, it was playing outside with my siblings and the neighbourhood kids, climbing trees and riding our bikes and not going home until dinnertime. It was reading Enid Blyton’s “The Enchanted Wood” and daydreaming about being lost in a forest with magical trees and worlds beyond imagination.

I played netball for 18 months and hated it. I never attended dance classes. I rarely had a play date with friends and birthday parties were attended by my siblings and cousins.

Do I feel like I had a deprived childhood? Do I feel like I missed out on anything? No!

Was I ever bored? Yes! Children need to learn it’s ok to be bored sometimes. Children need to learn that sometimes, you just have to sit and wait patiently for a few minutes without thinking you need to constantly be entertained and busy.

Busyness and constant distractions and entertainment do not add more meaning to our children’s lives: it prevents our children from learning what it is to truly live a happy and meaningful life.

Busyness gives children the wrong idea about what brings happiness to our lives, and what it means to be successful.

Let’s lead by example and start to slow down our own busy lives- lets embrace a journey of unbusyness, and show our children what it means to truly live a meaningful life.

Let’s embrace the years of childhood and enjoy the simpler things in life. Let’s stop living up to society’s expectations of what a childhood should look like.

Someday, your child will thank you for doing so.

What steps are you taking to slow down the busyness of you children’s lives? Share your comments!

 

 

Today I Left My Job

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The following is a post I wrote on Tuesday morning at 4am.

I couldn’t sleep and was inspired to write.

Today I left my job.

After 10 years with the same company in the same job, it was time to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new.

I had set a goal to leave my job by the end of 2015, but back in August the company announced a restructure of our department and I was given the option of a new job with unfavourable conditions, or a redundancy package. I took the latter.

So here I am at 4am, unable to sleep because of mixed emotions: excitement that I have finally left work and will not return to the workforce for a while, and also disbelief that this has actually happened! For the first time in my life I do not have a job! I’m unemployed!

If my redundancy had occurred five years ago, I would have been a complete mess.

But today, there is so much excitement about what lies ahead. Although I have a few exciting plans for 2015, largely my life is in the hands of the universe.

Universe, it’s time to show me what you’ve got!

What I am looking forward to the most is the different turn that my unbusy journey may take.

When we experience a life changing event it’s a good time to look deep within ourselves, and also at what is going on around us, to decide which path we will now take. It’s also a good time to let go of any tendency to control the next stage of our lives- if we don’t know what we want to do, let the universe do its thing and give us some guidance.

By taking the time to pay attention to what is going on in the present moment, we can uncover lots of information about what we should be doing next.

Paying attention, instead of keeping busy, means there is no room for distractions and noise that might try to convince us to stray from our journeys.

There is no room for regret of the past or fear of the future, or else we will miss what is going on in the here and now.

There is no room for second guessing ourselves.

For me, my life will be at its least busiest!

There will be more time for lingering, more time for pausing, more time for celebrating and more time for resting.

Now that I won’t be in paid work, I am peeling back the layers of busyness even more. What lies beneath the layers? Only time will tell!

Have you recently experienced a recent life changing event? Have you reached the crossroads of your unbusy, or even busy, journey? I’d love to know!

REMINDER: Don’t forget my upcoming December Challenge: 31 Days of Random Acts of Kindness. Contribute  your suggestion for a random act, and look out for my upcoming PDF printouts to use for the challenge, starting December 1.

 

December Challenge: Random Acts Of Kindness

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“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

We often get so caught up in our everyday lives that we think we are too busy to stop and help others around us who are in need, or we think that the world’s problems are too big for us to help solve.

So for the month of December, I would like to set a challenge for everyone reading this- each day, choose ONE random act of kindness to perform.

I have created a list below of 20 random acts of kindness, and need another 11 to make up 31 acts, enough for each day in December. This is where you can contribute to this challenge- comment after this post, a suggestion for a random act of kindness. I will then select the best 11 suggestions to add to my list.

Once the list is finalised, I will create and provide a PDF of all the acts, which you can then print off, cut up, fold and place in a jar or container. Each morning in December, take one random act out of the jar and make it your mission to perform this act sometime during the day.

The idea is to help us pause each day in December, which is traditionally a busy month in the year for many people.

Creating a less busy and more meaningful life means taking the time to help other people, and to play a role in making our planet a better place to live in. When you spread kindness to other people, you are sharing more positive energy around you, which leads to others sharing positive energy around themselves. Kindness is infectious- it makes you feel good about yourself, and makes others feel good about themselves too. It starts a domino effect!

Here is the list I have created so far:

Open the door for someone

Pay for someone else’s coffee

Smile at a stranger

Let someone queue in front of you

Write a lovely anonymous note and put it in a neighbour’s mailbox

Pay for someone’s parking ticket

Give your neighbour’s dog a toy

Write an inspirational quote on a piece of paper and leave it on someone’s car windscreen

Say hi to someone you often see but never speak to

Get your children to write and post a letter to their grandparents

Donate a book to your library

Pay a compliment to a work colleague

Write a thank you note the next time someone does something nice to you

Call someone you have not spoken to in a long time

Write a note to your spouse listing all the things you love about them

When packing your child’s lunchbox, leave a little note for them

Offer to look after someone else’s child for a few hours

Next time you’re at the supermarket, ask the person serving you how their day is

Share your umbrella when it’s raining

Send a Christmas card to someone you don’t see very often

Ok now it’s your turn. Write one random act of kindness you would like to see on our list- whether it’s an act of kindness to others, yourself, your workplace, your school, the planet, your neighbourhood…

Share below and let’s see what wonderful list we can come up with for our December Challenge!

The Value Of What We Own

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We often think about the value of things in terms of their monetary value- is this dress on sale? Can they reduce the price for me? That’s a great 2-for1 offer. When we are decluttering our homes and getting rid of the stuff we have accumulated, we may have difficulty determining what should stay and what should go based on the monetary association we make.

Think back to the last time you decluttered your home and couldn’t part with something because it felt like a waste of money to get rid of it.

Although it is important to remind ourselves of the actual cost of a purchase we made, we must learn to think about the value the item has brought to our lives. This helps us sort out what is adding value to our lives, and what is simply “getting in the way”.

How Else Can We Measure Value?

I have always been an avid reader and previously had a large collection of books. During the beginnings of my unbusy journey when I was decluttering my home, I started to think about the value of everything in my home. Yes the books I read had brought me joy and increased knowledge, however there was no longer value in the books sitting on a shelf gathering dust. These books could continue to offer great value to other people if I decided to let go of them. I thought about someone else reading the book and experiencing enjoyment, and this was enough for me to decide that it was time to give away almost all of my books (except a select few that I re-read every few years).

A similar principle can also be applied when we are thinking of purchasing something or bringing an item into our homes. Living in a less cluttered home is not just about how much you can get rid of, but also how you can stop bringing more things into your homes.

If I am considering purchasing something, I spend a couple of minutes thinking beyond the cost of the item itself. I think about the potential value that the item would add to our lives. This is something I am currently doing as I begin to think about Christmas and what to purchase for our kids. They want new Barbie dolls- would this bring more value to their lives? Going by past experience, they would play with them for several weeks before forgetting about them and moving onto something else. I don’t see this purchase as adding significant value, but rather creating more clutter.

Quality not quantity

Living a less busy, and more minimalistic life can be defined differently according to what each individual values. It isn’t about the number of items in your home, but whether what you own adds value to your life. This is a very personal interpretation- what one person values might be considered junk by somebody else.

If you are beginning your unbusy journey and decluttering your home, focus on getting rid of the things that do not add value to your life rather than how many items you want to get rid of. Initially this will be an easy task as you will find many things in your home that no longer serve you.

The difficulty comes later on when you are left with more sentimental items or those you spent a lot of money on. This is where it helps to assess the value of the item to you- sometimes a piece of furniture is of high value because it brings you great comfort. Other times a piece of furniture is unnecessary and is a “space filler” in the room.

5 Tips For Assessing Value

The next time you are assessing the value of something during a decluttering session, ask yourself the following questions. You can also use some of these questions to assess whether a potential purchase would add value to your life.

  • What do I currently do with this item? Is it being used? When was the last time it was used?
  • Does this item currently make my life better and if so, in what way?
  • Could this item offer more value to somebody else?
  • Is this item worth the time I am spending looking after it and storing it?
  • Is this item worth the space I am giving it in my home?

Is there anything in your home that no longer adds value to your life? Or is there something you cannot part with because of the value that it adds?

One Task At A Time

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A few weeks ago I was studying for exams, trying to memorise the definition of a deferred tax asset, while stirring a pot of bolognaise sauce for dinner. All was going well until I suddenly caught myself making a mental list of the ingredients for the sauce, which caused me to forget the accounting definition I thought I had just memorised.

Such is the life of a multitasker, juggling more than one task at the same time, and very poorly I might add.

I decided to put aside my studies and concentrate on dinner instead, focusing my attention on perfecting the bolognaise sauce. Accounting definitions could wait until the right time when I could dedicate myself physically and mentally to the reading required.

Along with being busy, multitasking has become a modern day badge of honour to be worn with pride while doing twenty other things at the same time. Somehow we have equated multitasking with being skilled, organised, and productive, however this is further from the truth.

A 2009 Stanford University study into multitasking found that those who multitasked were easily distracted and had trouble organising and storing information in their brains. Their performance was lower when compared with subjects who did not multitask.

Researchers found that heavy multitaskers also had difficulty filtering information, which meant that subjects struggled to perform tasks as they had difficulty sorting relevant from irrelevant information relating to their tasks.

Think about the last time you tried doing more than one thing at the same time, for example, reading a text message on your phone while you are in the middle of a conversation with someone else. Did you read the message, and then fully return to the conversation you were having, or did your mind continue to focus on the message?

When we multitask, we spread ourselves too thinly- we distribute our efforts, time and knowledge over many smaller tasks. We neglect to focus our attention on the one task, therefore we don’t give fully to what we are doing in the present moment. This leads to spending even more time trying to accomplish tasks that may have been completed more quickly if we had devoted ourselves to single-tasking instead.

What Multi-tasking Is Really Doing To Our Lives

By multitasking, we lose the opportunity of finding the beauty in an otherwise fleeting moment. Our mind is so caught up in the tasks that we are performing that we are distracted from other possibilities- the chance to connect with another person or a lesson that presents itself in a situation.

Multitasking can impact on the quality of our work and therefore our careers- think of times when you have been speaking with a client over the phone and at the same time, have been typing an email. You find yourself not being able to fully listen to your client who is speaking, and you cannot completely focus on what you are typing at the same time. If this was a potential client you were dealing with, you may have missed an opportunity to connect with your client, or to offer something of value. You may have missed the sale!

How You Can Gain From Single-Tasking

Single-tasking is focusing on undertaking one task at a time wherever possible, as opposed to multitasking.

Here are some ways that I have gained from focusing on single-tasking:

-I am not as physically drained as I was when I was working on more than one task at the same time

-My mind focuses less on irrelevant tasks or thoughts, because I am able to prioritise. Yes I get fewer things done each day but I choose things that are of higher importance, and focus more energy on these things.

-I gain more from the present moment- by listening to my daughter read and not doing anything else at the same time, I am strengthening my connection with her. I am also able to correct any mistakes she is making, or can start a conversation about what she is reading, which further extends her learning. I wouldn’t be able to do this if I was cooking dinner at the same time!

-I can invest more of myself into the task at hand, therefore improving my quality of work. By setting aside time to study for exams when I am not being distracted by anything else, I am able to focus more, and absorb more information, leading to a more successful study session.

By prioritising, focusing on the present moment, and investing more of yourself into what you are doing, you can learn to shift your mindset from tackling many different things at once, to approaching each task individually. Retraining your brain to think in terms of single-tasking wherever possible and limiting multitasking, will create a shift in the quality of work that you are producing. Your productivity will, in fact, increase. You will make fewer mistakes, be less busy, miss fewer opportunities and gain so much more by being present in the moment.

Have you made the change from multitasking to single-tasking, and how has this impacted on how you approach tasks? Let me know!

 

Slow Down Challenge: Plant Something

Plant something

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Sharon Harding from Rediscovered Families. Thanks Sharon!

“There is a cost to a hurried life sans rest stops. And there is a richness to a more deliberate pace.” Jeff Goins

Life can be hectic and busy at the best of times, but life as a parent can get frantically busy.

We have so many different things competing for our time and attention. There are errands to run, places to be, and extra curricular activities to fit into our overcrowded schedules. On top of that there are the endless demands of our homes and gardens. Then there is the approaching holiday season.

ARGH!

The trouble is when we live frantic lives we can end up moving through life in fast-forward mode. Which really isn’t much of a life at all.

Our lives are not a race to the end. They are journeys of wonder that should be savoured and enjoyed.

If we can slow down just a little perhaps we can start to enjoy that journey with our families. Families that slow down tend to

  • Experience less stress
  • Enjoy a greater sense of creativity
  • Learn to appreciate the small things in life
  • Have the space to develop deeper relationships

An effective way for families to slow down is to make some space for a slow activity, something that can’t be rushed. One such activity is planting. You simply cannot hurry a seed. It will germinate and grow at it’s own pace. You can’t really hurry a garden either. It will develop and evolve over time.

Planting is also a really fun thing to do with children. There is something almost magical about germination that delights and amazes them. And you get to play in the dirt! It doesn’t get better than that!

This is the perfect time of year to plant something.

  • If you are living in the southern hemisphere you are right in the middle of the growing season and I am just a tad jealous!
  • If you are living in the northern hemisphere there is still time to plant bulbs.
  • If you don’t have a garden try planting something in a pot. It works just as well.

When you go to plant encourage your children to pause for a moment and hold the seed or bulb in their hand. Express amazement that everything the plant needs to grow is contained in that one tiny seed or bulb. Wonder how big the plant will grow. Imagine what it will look like. While you are planting invite your children to talk about previous experiences of planting and growing seeds. You might ask

  • How long did it take the plants to grow?
  • What was the first sign that the plant was growing?
  • How can we help the plant to grow?

When planting with your children remember to keep it simple. If you are planting a garden it doesn’t have to be picture perfect. It doesn’t have to be a huge project. In fact a few plants are better than none. While you are planting release the pressures of everyday life for a brief moment. Just treasure the precious moments with your children and enjoy a slower pace of life for a little while.

Some resources to help you

Dirt and Boogers posted The Beginner’s Guide to Planting with Kids.

It has all kinds of helpful advice and links.

Houzz posted Gardening with Kids: How to Plant Bulbs. It gives you some interesting information and has some amazing pictures.

So tell me what will you plant this week? In what ways do you find that gardening helps you to slow down and simplify your life?

If you would like to read more of my work you can catch up with me at Rediscovered Families. I write about building relationship and creating deep connections with your family. You can also catch with me on Facebook and Twitter. We have lots of fun over there and I would love to have you visit.

Play in the dirt