Day 16 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Daily Meditation

I like what this post (#19) had to suggest regarding meditation, because meditation is one of the things I put near the top of my priority list (along with yoga, running and writing, the three other things I basically never do) but have a hard time fitting in. This suggestion is a really workable approach.

Here’s what they say:

“What follows is more a mindfulness exercise, but one that is incredibly effective: Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. And think of your five senses. Touch: what can you feel at this very moment? Taste: what can you taste right now? Sound: what can you hear? Smell: can you smell anything? Sight: what do you see in front of you? Be specific and really explore your senses. Slowly take stock of each of them – one by one.”

Right now, I can…

FEEL that it must be about 23 degrees Celsius in this gym. Good thing I got enough sleep last night (thanks melatonin!) or I’d be dozing off. I can also feel the hard bench under my bum, and my wool socks are itching a bit around the cuff.

TASTE a bit of an aftertaste from the green onions I had on my chicken wrap. I am thankful right now that I didn’t use red or white onions!

HEAR gymnastics coaches speaking loudly, kids squealing, parents chatting and beams & trampolines & the vault pounding, bouncing and vibrating.

SMELL nothing much, but a faint smell of lavender from the Oh! Baby Body Lotion I just put on my hands. (ALERT: Shameless plug! I work there and love their stuff!)

SEE about three dozen parents browsing on their smart phones and gossiping with one another. Below the viewing deck where we’re all sitting, I can see some jumping, tumbling and balancing going on.

The only issue with this is remembering to do it each day! I love the idea of working more mindfulness into my life (and I like to use different ways of doing this), but with any of the methods, it is a matter of remembering to do them. I need to build the habit! For now, I am going to write FEEL, TASTE, HEAR, SMELL, SEE on the palm of my hand to help myself remember.

Meditation written on hand

Other ways I try to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into my routine? Savasana before and after yoga class (or for an even deeper zen feeling, Yin class); trail running (as mentioned though, I haven’t done that for a while — hoping this month marks my return); free writing; sitting quietly in the woods; visualization before going to sleep or after waking up (I use exercises from The Best Meditations on The Planet).

Tomorrow, I’m going to employ Kanban boards in my writing practice – I’ve got the poster board all ready to go!

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

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Day 15 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Eat That Frog

This is a really fantastic tip, perhaps the best out of all 28 I’ve chosen. I’m going to quote Ruth of Living Well, Spending Less here because she just says it so well. I might even print this quote and hang it on my wall:

I read a book a few years ago that totally changed the way I approached my daily task list.   It was called Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get Things Done by Brian Tracy.  It got its name from a quote by Mark Twain, who famously once said something to the effect of “if you eat a frog for breakfast, chances are that will be the worst thing you have to do all day.”  The point of the quote—and the book—was that if you start your day by tackling your hardest but most important tasks, even if you don’t do that much for the rest of the day, you will still have accomplished a lot.

Life moves fast and it is really, really easy to get sucked into mundane–though essential–tasks of the everyday.  We spend our time putting out fires or escaping into the time-wasting vortex of social media and email.  It all seems so important, so urgent, but before we know it, we’ve spent the whole day reacting to other people rather than proactively reaching our own goals.

My own life changed dramatically when changed the order in which I completed my task list.  Most importantly, I stopped checking email first thing in the morning, and instead focused those first few hours of my day on long-term projects and goals.  As a result, my productivity skyrocketed and I was finally able to start accomplishing the things I really wanted to.

So I’ve been eating that frog. Almost every day. Like Ruth, I was starting my days with mundane but essential tasks, things that took very little brain power but would allow me to cross items off the to-do list. Later in the day, when my brain was fried and I was due for a break, I’d be left with all the hard, unattractive, time-consuming tasks … and inevitably I would put most of them off for another day.

Now I start with the handful of essential tasks that must done early in the day and that I don’t particularly love. Tedious work chores, we’ll say. A bit of email, some social media management, and a load of dishes thrown in for good measure. Sometimes, also, a load of laundry.

Next, I look at my list and see if there is anything that I am dreading doing today but that absolutely must be done by the end of the day. I do that thing, or those things, first. I reward myself between tasks with coffee, a snack, headstands or a game of Tetris on my phone (these are my current rewards. They’ll likely change in summer.). Next up are the small, easy tasks — like returning Facebook messages or making appointments — that I’ve been putting off for days or weeks because, as mentioned in an earlier post, I hate communication. Obviously if I’ve been putting some things off for weeks, I don’t always get through all these.

And then I can choose what to do! I am working on making sure that working out and writing are next on the list, but that’s still to come. Well, the workouts, anyway. The writing is going okay.

Please, if you only take one thing from this experiment of mine, let it be Eat That Frog! This is the winner! (I would say “so far,” but I just feel pretty confident this will win over all. We’ll see.)

Tomorrow, I meditate! Really!

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Half-Point Check-in: Guess What? My Life WILL NOT Be Simplified.

It resists. It’s ornery. This project is great, I love learning new life hacks, but for crying out loud it hasn’t simplified my life even enough to make space for writing a daily blog post about simplifying my life. OR, aiming to write a daily blog post is counteractive to simplifying one’s life. Hmmm.

I did, I’ll admit, take on a new job around the time I stopped posting these regularly (which was what… Day 10? Day 7?). Life has been rather, er, nuts since I took on the extra responsibilities.

So I apologize for posting these so sparsely. I’m busy trying to fit in workouts (not happening) and do a better job of homeschooling (this, thankfully, is happening. I hope to post some things about that soon.) and write more. I am writing more. Just not blog posts.

Day 14 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Limit Communications

I love limiting communications! For someone with a communications degree, I sure dislike communication. I hate phone calls the most. Emails are next. Followed by Facebook messages, then voicemails, and finally text messages. I mostly love in-person interactions. But sometimes I run away and hide behind an end-cap before they can start.

The original tip comes from, again Paleo Mama, on her 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life post. Such a great post! She said:

“Our lives these days are filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail, Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it. Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of the day, for a certain number of minutes (I recommend twice a day, but do what works for you). Only do IM once a day, for a limited amount of time. Limit phone calls to certain times too. Same with any other communications. Set a schedule and stick to it.”

I love it! Yes please! This is a work in progress but I’m happy to keep working on it. I used to always have both of my email accounts running in the background all day while I worked. I’d hear that “ping!” and immediately go check the new message.

Now I’ve identified the best times for me to check the different emails. Usually that means I check them all before 9 am (takes less than 5 minutes, most days), and then each of them again in the afternoon (this one often takes longer for some accounts but I’m on the clock, pay-wise, for most of this time).

I only check Facebook messages once a day, in the late afternoon, and voicemails, if I get them, are for the evening. I generally avoid phone calls but when I do have to make one they are scheduled into work hours (freelance), so I don’t really count those. Any calls for appointments are made on homeschooling days after Neko’s done her work.

I highly recommend this tip. If anything, it has helped with the nagging anxiety I find I get from always having messages coming in.

Tomorrow I will EAT a FROG. No not really. But I’ll be trying a tip called “Eat That Frog,” and I’m pretty excited about it. Stay tuned.

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Day 13 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Cook Ground Beef in the Slow Cooker

Another one I’m skeptical of. I’m actually pretty skeptical of a lot of things involving the slow cooker. I don’t make much in mine, aside from the odd soup on a day that I’ll need dinner ready when I get home. Oh, and black beans – it’s handy for cooking dried beans (then I freeze them in quantities of two cups).

Also, the photo for this tip on the original blog post is quite off-putting. Hence, I am not including a photo. You can all imagine what a crockpot full of raw ground beef looks like; and then, a crockpot full of cooked ground beef – right?

Well, I wouldn’t say this one is a gamechanger. But it did save me from standing over a greasy stove for half an hour or longer, cooking six pounds of ground beef in a frying pan… wait. What on earth would I even put six pounds of ground beef into? My Le Creuset French oven, I suppose (oh my, that sounded snooty – she’s a loaner, folks!).

All in all, this was indeed easier than cooking all this ground beef on the stovetop, and once it was cooked, I put it into freezer bags in 1-2 lb portions and then used it for meat sauce, tacos and chili.

Okay, fine… this was a winner. I’ll do it again.

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Day 12 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Prep Your Smoothies

As mentioned, I was skeptical of this one. The idea is to combine all the fruits and veggies in the quantities which you’ll need them, and then freeze together. But since we make smoothies that also include fish oil, water kefir, chia and hemp seeds and fresh fruit, it didn’t seem like this step would save us much time. Turns out I was wrong!

This tip comes from PopSugar‘s “DIY Smoothie Packs” post. The claim? “You can prep a whole week’s worth on Sunday night so a nutritious fiber- and protein-packed breakfast is just minutes away. It’s a great way to not only ensure a healthy start to your day, but you’ll save money since you can buy greens and fruit in bulk and won’t have to worry about them spoiling by the end of the week. Aim to use your smoothie freezer bags within a few weeks to avoid freezer burn.”

Well in fact, this was great timing! We are drinking green smoothies for breakfast every day, which means every morning one of us spends about 15 minutes gathering a couple different kinds of frozen berries and usually another frozen fruit (mangoes, peaches or pineapple); juice, coconut water, water or water kefir; hemp and chia seeds; spinach or lettuce; fish oil; as well as a fresh banana and avocado; then mixing those all up in the blender. The reason I was skeptical was that the frozen ingredients were such a small part of this equation. But this turned out to save us a lot of time!

Here’s what went into each large freezer bag: one banana, at least two cups of spinach (making it easier to buy large quantities of organic spinach and store without it getting slimy), a handful of raspberries or pineapple, and berries or other fruit to fill.

In the morning, we dump the bag in, add chia and hemp seeds (which we have pre-mixed in small jars near the blenders – less thinking!), measure out 2 tsp of flavoured fish oil (by NutraSea), carve out half an avocado and finally dump in at least half a pint jar of water kefir, which is also stored right by the blender, where it sits to ferment. It’s still a lot of steps, but now it takes 5 minutes or less. This is great!

Not the best photo, but aren't the colours pretty?

Not the best photo, but aren’t the colours pretty?

The easiest way is to make smoothies for breakfast on Sunday, and prep all the bags for the week at the same time. Healthy breakfasts for the week – check!

Tomorrow I’ll cook ground beef in the slow cooker. No photos, I promise!

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Days 9 and 10 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Read Walden and Check the Week’s Forecast

As suggested by The Paleo Mama in her post, 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life, I started reading Walden on Day 9. I already owned it as I’ve meant to read it forever. Henry David Thoreau seems to be my kindred spirit – I would love to live in a cabin in the woods for two years. Growing up, I always said I’d like to grow up to be a hermit in the mountains. Of course as I grew older I realized that I’m a study in contrasts – while I would still love to live as a hermit, the options are a) hermit deep in the country or b) living in the action in the city. Suburbs, small towns, acreages on the edge of the city, not so much my thing. So the city wins, but if it were just me all on my own, I’d probably be hunkered down in the woods. For at least part of the year.

It remains to be seen what Walden will teach me about simplifying my life, and chances are it’ll take me a while to read this, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy ruminating on what Thoreau has to say.

Walden

On Day 10, I took another suggestion from the previously quoted Perrie Samotin on Stylecaster and planned a week’s worth of outfits according to the forecast.

This worked well in that it took any planning time out of my outfits, and out of packing for a night away at Justan’s mom’s place, however I’m not convinced yet that this outfit planning is helping me any. I think this is mainly because at least 3-4 days of my week are spent mostly at home. I rarely have to rush out of the house in the morning. Therefore, I’m taking up precious nighttime minutes when I generally watch funny shows, write, have a bath or do yoga, with outfit planning. Alternatively, I could be spending five minutes in my unhurried morning, when I don’t feel like doing those things, or can’t justify them, picking out my clothes. I have a feeling the more general, big-picture tips I’ve seen on Pinterest about purging and simplifying your wardrobe to make your favourite outfits more obvious and accessible are more helpful to someone in my situation.

Also, I’m sometimes known to spend a couple days at a time in yoga pants and a tank top. So there’s that.

Tomorrow I’ll try setting a timer for my work tasks. I like the looks of this tip – I think it will help me stay focused on each task and ultimately get things done more efficiently!

Find the Pinterest board with all these tips and more here.

Day 8 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Reset Your Habits

In another tip from her post, The Time Jar: 5 Time Management Tips That Will Change Your Life, Ruth of Living Well, Spending Less says:

“I read another book recently called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business that has also greatly impacted how I structure my day.  One of the many interesting points the book made is that our brains are wired to form habits.  These habits can become good or bad, but once something has become a true habit, a different part of our brain takes over and we begin to perform that particular habit on autopilot.  This means we no longer have to use mental energy to perform the task, which leaves our brain free to focus on getting other things done.

I used to get frustrated with myself because it seemed like I would start out my day so well, but at the end I would just fizzle, with no energy left to put towards any sort of productive endeavor.  After reading this book, I realized that because my willpower in a given day is limited, the more good habits I create for myself, the more willpower and energy I will have leftover to use towards other things.

I decided to make a list of the things I wanted to do automatically every morning.  My list included drinking a glass of water, planning my day over a cup of coffee, having personal devotion & prayer time, then writing for at least 90 minutes.  After several weeks of doing this every day, I finally stopped thinking about it.  I would find myself in the kitchen drinking my water before I was even fully awake.  It takes almost no effort to get my day started off right, and at the end of my writing session, when I take a morning break, I still feel refreshed and ready to conquer the rest of my day.”

I find the idea of limited will power interesting. I had never really thought of it that way. I definitely know I have limited resources, and I can’t force myself to do everything on my To Do list.

The morning isn’t the issue for me. In the morning, I have to get out of bed. Things get moving pretty quickly in our house most mornings, and while I’m definitely the slowest one to roll out of bed (or usually close to the slowest), I still have to get up right away and get started. There isn’t much space for new habits in the morning, as my morning habits consist of some work, usually (checking the social media streams for different businesses; or checking emails for my different jobs); making coffee; and getting breakfast for myself and sometimes other people. I’d love to add yoga into the mix but for the most part, I think that it’s best if I just leave that for another time of day. In the past week, I have added the habit of setting an intention at the start of each day, and I like that and want to keep it up. I’ve also started drinking a jar of water kefir before I have coffee, and I’ve found that that makes me feel good as well.

So, today, I thought about some other habits I’d like to build, that wouldn’t just stress me out more; and when I could build those habits.

One time of day when I tend to be a bit lost, and have time but not a lot of reserves, is after I’ve picked up the kids from school. I only pick them up three days a week, so it’s not like it would be a daily habit, but maybe I could meditate in my office for five minutes right when we get home. Even on the days that I don’t pick them up, I tend to be around home and winding down right around 3 pm.

So in closing, I will continue and/or start the following habits:

  1. Set an intention for the day (before getting out of bed).
  2. Drink a jar of water kefir (right when I get up).
  3. Meditate for five minutes in the afternoon (around 3 pm).
  4. Write down five things I’m grateful for (before dinner).
  5. Choose my outfit for the next day (before bed).

I’m excited about tomorrow! I’m going to finish reading Slaughterhouse Five so I can start Day 9 of this experiment: Read Walden by Henry David Thoreau! I even own it! And I’ve never read it! But The Paleo Mama recommends reading it as one of the tips on her list, 72 Tips to Simplify Your Life, so I took that as a great nudge to get going on it.

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Day 6 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Do One Complete Load of Laundry a Day

Here is what The Stressed Mom has to say in her post, 10 Habits For a Well-Run Home:

Do one complete load of laundry a day. From start to finish. Build a habit of grabbing everyone’s clothes after bathtime and tossing in wash. and then toss in dryer before bed. Or in the morning when you get up. Take 5-10 minutes to fold and put away that load (or have your kids do it!) One load a day may or may not be enough for your family, but doing at least one load every day will help you stay on top of the pile.”

I actually kind of started doing this most days before the week even started. I tried to wait until today, but it appealed to me so much (it makes me feel like a real weirdo to say that) that I just did it most days for the last few days. I didn’t grab everyone’s clothes after bath time, I just grabbed the laundry from upstairs whenever I thought of it, and I usually washed a load based on a piece of clothing that one of us needed or something that should be washed right away, but then collected everything else I could find to maximize that load.

The clothes that belong to the adults are being folded and put away the same day (only a few items a day, so it doesn’t take long), and each child’s clothes get deposited in their room for them to fold and put away (or shove under the bed, whatever). Things like towels or blankets that go in the linen area near the laundry room get folded while the kids bathe, since the big tub is right in the next room.

I’d say based on the past week or so, I like this system. The laundry never feels overwhelming and there is far less searching for the things we like to wear most often. I call this one a win! Thanks, Stressed Mom! (And I hope you’re a little less stressed now, too.)

The pin is here: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/174092341821037097/

And the full board, of course.

Day 5 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Work Fast

Today’s tip is another from the productivity infographic pin by Anna Vital: How to Work Fast.

From an infographic by Anna Vital.

From an infographic by Anna Vital.

Here’s a slew of tips for getting more work done in less time. These are some good tips, although, I realized once I was doing them, they are specifically geared toward a certain type of work.

I think that these are great tips for a university student writing a paper. Most of them centre around writing, especially writing a draft. There is also the tip about writing 140-character emails, which, frankly, is tough. I think that the point is to keep it concise so you don’t lose people.

To follow the tip of keeping the lights bright, I worked in the sunny living room (that was nice). I put on music, which I do always find helps me to be more productive. And when I work at a desk, I usually make an effort to have it clear, though now I’m making more of an effort.

There was nothing groundbreaking that came of these tips today, however I’d say that for anyone doing a lot of writing, these could be really helpful. I’ll continue to aim for bright light, music and a clear desk for my writing environment in the future.

Tomorrow at work, I’ll get up every 45 minutes and move around, as suggested by this pinned piece from Buzzfeed.

As always, feel free to check out the entire Pinterest board for this series.