Monthly Archives: November 2014

Productivity paralysis? 6 daily habits that help you get shit done

Daily habitsA little while ago I made a big life change, leaving my grown-up job for the greener pastures of freelance writing. It’s been a few weeks, but I’m still struggling to get into my productivity groove.

My current daily routine looks something like this: press snooze button, rush out of bed, quick shower before husband leaves for work (optional), throw down strong coffee. Yell at my kids to get their bloody shoes on cos we’re late and mum was supposed to start work 10 minutes ago. Throw sobbing children at childcare worker. Drive home erratically. Procrastinate. Check email. Check Facebook. Drink more coffee. Check Facebook again.

At the end of most days I tally up my ‘productive’ work hours and feel crap about myself.

So obviously I need to form some new daily habits.

Here are 6 daily habits I’m implementing this week in the hope they become as routine as my morning caffeine palpitations.

1. Green exercise
Working at home is bloody hard. I often fall prey to creativity-sucking cabin fever. So I’m getting out and doing some green exercise. A brisk walk/bike ride/stretch in nature can positively impact your health and wellbeing, relieve stress, and promote concentration and clear thinking. I’m sure there is a park or a little grassy area close to you, so no excuses. Get out there.

2. Mindful eating
I’ve got work to do – ooh what shall I eat? Chocolate or an apple. Yes, chocolate. Shit, no chocolate. I wonder if apples and peanut butter are a good combo?

Eating has become a form of distraction for me. I eat in front of the computer or on the go. I make dodgy choices. So I’m making a conscious effort to eat food that makes my body happy and to sit down when I’m eating (away from smart devices). I’m also trying to eat more slowly. Chewing until each bite liquefies makes your food more easily digestible, allowing you to absorb the maximum nutrients. Taking your time also helps your body notice when it’s full.

3. Meditation
I may have mentioned this – meditation doesn’t come naturally to me. I need short, guided meditation or else my chatty mind gets all anxious. I’ve been a fan of Headspace for a while, but my daily meditation habit has become more like weekly. So I’ve signed up to a paid program for some additional incentive and scheduled meditation minutes into my work calendar. The other issue is that when I do manage to meditate, I fall asleep. Which probably means I need to…

4. …Get 8 hours’ sleep a night
According to sleep experts, 6.5 to to 9 hours of solid sleep every night can lower stress levels, may reduce weight gain and can even lower your chances of premature death. Fewer than 6.5 hours a day and your risk of dying early increases by 10%. More than 9.5 hours and your chances of dying increase even more than if you sleep too little… Who would have thought that a lie-in could be life-threatening?

The time you go to bed is important too. According to the 24-hour chi cycle, the gallbladder detoxes the body from 11pm and 1pm, while the liver detoxes most effectively from 1am-3am. So get to bed before 11pm and help your body flush those nasties out.

5. Breathe
I sometimes feel like I’ve been holding my breath all day. Shallow breaths deprive the brain, blood and cells of oxygen, affecting concentration, making you feel grumpy and stressed, and stimulating the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Focus on your breath for a moment. Breathe deeply in and out of your nose. Fill your lungs. You’ll get an instant dose of calm.

6. Digitally disengage
This is the biggest time-sucker for me. I work at a computer and spend so much time on social procrastination – flicking between writing, checking email, Facebook, blogs, the weather. It stops me facing the difficult stuff – the stuff I’m actually supposed to be doing. Be a hard arse with yourself. Close your browser and email. Turn off all notifications for Facebook, Twitter etc. If that’s still not working, unplug your modem or go somewhere that has no internet connection/WiFi – apparently these strange places do still exist.

Each of these daily habits takes just minutes to do. They may add up to an hour a day, but think about all the time you’re currently wasting on unproductive ‘stuff’ and you’ll see it’s an hour well spent.

Start small. Choose 3 habits and give it a week. Let’s get into the productivity groove together and get into a new habit – making shit happen.

Wanna find out how my ‘habits’ week went? See my Happy Habits Update (warning: it gets messy…)

Image courtesy of gratisography.

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The change challenge — how to handle stepping into the unknown

Change is a challenge. Get unstuckUntil very recently, I had a day job. It was writing, but it wasn’t really. It paid the bills but it left my creativity account empty — a little overdrawn even.

The job took more than it gave. It gave me numbers on a screen. It gave my family some financial security. But along with my creativity, it took away my confidence, my time, my head space, and my sense of self-worth.

And I let it. For five years.

Dramatic eh?

But that’s done now. I’m freelancing. No more depressing commutes. No more tears. No more sinking Sunday feeling.

So why do I feel so numb?

I expected to feel immediately elated by the change. To feel different from day one. But although I’m glad I’m not at the day job, I just feel overwhelmed, a bit blue and (inconveniently) a little bit stuck.

A change is as good as a rest, they say. But that’s bollocks — real change is scary, confronting and bloody hard work. Because it’s stepping into the unknown.

Here’s how I’m coping with the challenge of change.

Focus on the positive
In the first week of freelancing I had some less-than-average feedback on my work. It had never really happened before and it was a shock. It made me question my drastic career change. I also received three beautiful ‘no changes required, love your work and thanks’ emails. But I focused on the shit feedback and let that define my beginning. Flip it. Embrace the good stuff. Be grateful for each small success. If you’re struggling, write the positives down. By acknowledging only the positive, it becomes the star of your show. The negative fades into the background.

Change takes time
We’re bombarded with media that tells us we can get the perfect job/man/figure in JUST ONE WEEK! You know that’s unrealistic, but someone’s doing it. Right? Wrong. It’s spin. No one is doing it. No one. When you measure your progress during change against a benchmark that’s pure fantasy, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Real, lasting change takes time. Take it step by step and day by day. Give yourself time to adapt. Breathe. Nurture your change and let it grow.

Stop expecting perfection
For 5 years I built up a fantasy of what it would be like when I finally made the change and left my job. It would be perfect. I would wake at 6am to do yoga, meditate, have a nourishing breakfast, be present with my kids, then glide serenely into 8 hours of creatively fulfilling, well-paid and well-received work, taking breaks to sip green tea and snack on super foods. The reality? A little different. My  expectation of perfection wasn’t realised, so I felt disappointed, resentful, angry, unsatisfied and unseen. In the choppy waters of change, unrealistic expectations weigh you down. Release them.

Pin it to win it
This may come as a shock to you but I was once unemployed for a couple of quite depressing months. I put up a proper old-school cork board. I cut out photos from magazines and pinned them up on my vision board for inspiration. It sounds wanky, but it helped. When you’re struggling with the day-to-day of change, it can be fun to visualise your future success.

Keep going
If you want to make change work badly enough, you will — despite the inevitable stumbles and slip ups. Guilt about failure can be debilitating. Be your own best friend. Be kind to yourself, encourage yourself, celebrate your progress, however small. If you persist, you will succeed.

Change is challenging and scary. But what I’m trying to remember is that not changing is even scarier. Embrace the uncertainty. Life isn’t meant to stay the same. There will be highs and lows. Your job is not to control the ebb and flow — it’s to learn to ride the waves.

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Image courtesy of gratisography.