Time became my most valuable treasure when there was a threat to my long-standing rental agreement on planet earth. The most important aspect just became time. You are healthy until you aren't. Two brain surgeries and defying a terminal diagnosis skilled me up some.
I am not too busy; I am a productive person with a full life. There is a time to eat, a time to play, a time to sleep, a time to work and a time to pray. There is a big creamy dollop of self-care in the mix, too.
Reshaping how you feel about time and having enough of it can be often tinged with overwhelm, anxiety and exhaustion in a busy world. All the things we have to do can subconsciously build-up becoming an oppressive shackle we see too late.
I don't often feel overwhelmed with the fullness of our life. It's a skill set I had to learn, and it is with cautious optimism that I write it down so it may be useful to someone else out there.
Many people ask me how I 'get it all done with a large family, successful businesses, a homestead to which I am a mother to many adopted farm animals (including three ridiculously sweet alpacas), a writer, epilepsy, narcolepsy and an inoperable aneurysm that requires tender loving care as I try my dandiest to send it on its way. People can deliver the question with a note of intrigue, concern that I may be burning the candle at both ends or admiration. The answer is that time is a commodity, and I spend it wisely, and in the voice of Moira Rose, I spend it on my bailiwick.
You are reading the words of someone who literally counts each day as a blessing. So wasting Time is counter-intuitive and equivalent to pouring gold down the toilet.
There is stuff to be done, people!
Your long term success for healthy life promotion, smiling more and living a full life depends on it. The bonus is feeling good about purpose, meaning, inner achievement, and science tells us this is great for living longer and healthier. Who can argue with that?
This is where the inner conflict around self-discipline can kick us up the butt. We need to break it down into bite-sized pieces to help deflect the overwhelm.
Self Discipline Without Self Punishment
Self-discipline starts with managing realistic targets for ourselves, and this becomes the building block of a routine. Why are routines good for us? According to the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, the consistent presence of structure, routine, and regulation within a day positively shapes us. Keeping it really simple and small to begin with make this achievable rather than setting yourself up for disappointment or unrealistic expectations.
In another study, Ouellette and Wood found that repeated goal congruent behaviour and self-control formed good habits and positive feedback. Tick! The goal-setting theory lies within the domain of purposefully directed action. When we set goals and achieve them, we feel good. Simple. Start small too, steps not leaps are the building blocks; when we use goals like muscles, they build up and get nice and strong and next thing you know- self-discipline has us feeling the warm and fuzzies. No pressure!
Routine brings rhythm and habit into our day to day life. Rhythm is important, and studies also show the human body responds positively to a natural, synchronized routine system. Our minds depend strongly on patterns and healthy habits to stay healthy. When we create a routine, a rhythm to our life, we are more likely to achieve our goals without too much effort- energy conservation right there, right? When I say goals, I mean- the stuff you want to do or change, aspire to or get at.
An in-depth study titled Routines and Meaning in Life shows a life characterized by routines is associated with a more meaningful life through extraordinary experiences and its daily living.
For example, each morning, I get up at 5.30 am, meditate, stretch it out in a yoga class, exercise class, write, sit in prayer time, along with a healthy breakfast, all enjoyed by 7.00 am.
I know some people who have a run, shower and massage ritual with essential oils every day. It might be the act of sitting with yourself in the quiet. People in my house are just starting to stretch their arms and yawn to the new day, and I'm good to go. I can hear people telling me to piss off now, but your body will get used to it and love you for it. Our bodies respond well to routine- you will get used to it.
This time allocation is brilliant for creatives too. The space in between is when we touch the ether, and ideas drop into form.
This is in beautiful alignment with the next one- non-negotiables.
Set Aside Time Blocks of Non-Negotiables
What are non-negotiables? Nothing interferes with this one. For example, you may decide to use an hour every Monday morning to make all of your phone calls or appointments; no other outside interruptions are allowed to interfere with this- it's not up for negotiation.
Your non-negotiable might be setting your alarm at 5.30 am and doing the self-care regime. We use NN's on holidays- there must be a day of fishing or hiking and time each of us gets to spend recharging or having some alone time. Each of my vacation days begins with a routine of Yoga, meditation and prayer, then the rest of the day is up for grabs. It starts with a question- what are the things I want and need to do?
It is your time. I never get time for myself is no longer in your vocabulary.
Sunday nights in our house are family Hygge nights, and it's non-negotiable.
This practice of blocking time off also gets your brain prioritizing it as necessary, rather than an event or task easily swayed by others. Particularly helpful in families with demands from others, by using non-negotiables you are scaffolding yourself with self-care with this one.
Boundaries and non-negotiables are incredibly powerful in life in general.
Keep a Rythmn (not a schedule)
Some people, myself included, have time blocks for the whole week- including all the main aspects of my life. Media events are booked often a month or two in advance, along with appointments with doctors and kids stuff. I often organize catch-ups with friends well in advance too. It isn't non-flexible- it can bend and shape with life- because that's the way life is, and flow needs to be an element too. You can even make a block for "nothing" if you want to. If it's a non-negotiable, it goes in the "NN" category. I like to remove the word schedule and use daily rhythm with time allocations.
Time allocating like this sounds anal-retentive, I know. But before you roll your eyes again (sheesh) it was amazing how my body and mind positively responded to this in rehabilitation after brain surgery. I was blind and learning how to walk and do basic tasks for months; I couldn't read a book, study or watch TV to pass the time. So I partitioned the day into blocks, breakfast, meditation, physio, coffee time, living classes, OT sessions, lunch, afternoon sleep, visitors, afternoon tea, meditation, long shower, audiobooks... you get the idea. This process helped me track time and progress, with something to look forward to each day. My meditation abilities became reasonably impressive and were imperative for pain relief.
Today, nine years later, I have time set aside for rest every day.
If you are faced with a serious health crisis - you will have to. Why wait?
Get It Out of Your Head!
The reward for writing ideas down and getting shite out of your head are aplenty! A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that tasks we haven't done distract us, and the simple act of making a plan to get them done can and does free us from this anxiety successfully,
"Simply writing the tasks down will make you more effective."
You may want to keep a journal, a personal favourite of mine too. Sometimes this can be overwhelming, so a productivity journal is a game-changer. Ponderings have these at our online store- designed around all the things I had to remember on my road to recovery.
Brain Dump On Your Microphone!
Don't have time to write? Use the microphone on your smartphone notes app to record everything from shopping list items to ideas, worries, things you need to do etc. It turns your voice into words that can then easily be emailed, printed or even sent as a text to someone (convenient for reminding housemates to bring home goodies).
Blinklist- have that book you want to read? Perhaps The 7 Habits of Highly effective people by Stephen R Covey- jump over to Blinkist. You can read or listen to the primary key insights of a non-fiction book in 15 minutes or less. I know, right? Complete book summaries read to you, and you might like it and want to read more.
Exercise -we all know it- exercise is good for you. My personal recommendation? Fiton. This affordable app is diverse and has quality, intuitive features. Every workout you can imagine from meditation mind workouts, Yoga, boxing, dance classes and insane hits from 5 minutes to an hour, beginner to advanced. It also features deliciously healthy recipes and advice in one space; this takes the pain out of meal planning for my large family too. The reminders and encouragement on this are levelled up. When you make it part of your daily routine, the feel-good factor is amplified. Bonus points- Halle Berry is on there too.
Time Savers continued...
Podcasts are my go-to for listening to the selection of outside influencers I want to give my attention to; listening to these while on the treadmill or an early morning beach walk is time conservation at its handiest.
Youtube- often a summarised version, the key gold pieces of podcasts, movie recommendations, which makeup to buy- Youtube is my go-to for quick tips, advice, reviews on products easy access on the go information. Don't know how to apply the new primer? Jump on it. Need to grow your own vegetables and companion plant them to keep away the bugs? Want to quickly learn how to use Adobe Photoshop? Whoomp- there it is.
The Ponderings App- apologies for the pitch but the whole reason we made it was for this topic alone. Our digital team created this as a passion project and a productivity hack for us all. I wanted one place to read about real people, quirky stuff of the curious kind, find recipes, go to meditations we curated from around the world, get inspired, how to meditate and all the good shite. It cost a fortune, it was worth every penny and even has a chatzone for subscribers, discounts and coupons from our sponsors. It will continue to grow and evolve. You can access the app on any device simply by going to App.ponderings.com.au on your website browser. No need for downloads.
Give It Up To Gain
When the calendar felt like a doomsday clock; I had a wish list of things that would make my life easier and give me more time. I realized that if I wanted something badly enough, I would need to give up to gain.
My wish? A cleaner half a day a week. I needed her more than my long-held hair and beauty regime. The money I chose to save on extras like this I used for my dear Kylie. She is a miracle worker and does the heavy stuff that makes the house feel nicer and reduces background stress. (I also couldn't really see the toilet bowl.)
You might have something you want to give up to gain. Smoking in return for health, news in favour of documentaries on positive living. You might give up the beers and give the money to the Salvos, and it makes you feel amazing- you catch my drift.
Less time worrying, more self-care and the exhilaration of achieving your goals from using your Time with meaning creates a life doing the things you enjoy.
Being conscious of the value of your time and using it sustainably helps you have a more awesome, less harried and far more fulfilling life. Time is precious, and none of us knows how much we have in this story, so go forth and claim yours.
Your soul's journey in this time and this place must be honoured. There is no compromise on this, it's not a matter of if; it is a matter of when. So take that clockwork chaos and turn it into a life with purpose and permission.
Do you know someone who might get something out of this? Download the e-book version the download button at the very bottom.
References and Resources for further reading
Brazendale, Keith & Beets, Michael & Weaver, Robert & Pate, Russell & Turner-McGrievy, Gabrielle & Kaczynski, Andrew & Chandler, Jessica & Bohnert, Amy & von Hippel, Paul. (2017). 10.1186/s12966-017-0555-2.
If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. Jim Rohn