Downshifting the TO DO List

blue bell alarm clock

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I had written a completely different post for today about working in 10-minute increments to get things done: clean the bathroom for 10 minutes; write for 10 minutes; exercise for 10 minutes. That’s my strategy, in a nutshell, for successfully managing my daily TO DO list.

But then I thought, “Who cares?” Honestly, I don’t even care about most of the things on my list! So why do I worry so much about getting everything done? The real purpose of downshifting is to work less and enjoy life more. Here, I really want to address that “enjoy life” part.

Even though I started downshifting my career over 15 years ago, I still struggle with enjoying my life outside of work. If I’m not working at my job, I constantly feel the need to be performing some type of household chore, or running some stupid errand. I feel guilty if I’m not legitimately “busy” all the time.

I try to just sit on the porch and read a book in the afternoon, or take a nap, but I always feel like I should be doing something else. I rush through tasks so that I can move on to the next thing, hurrying for no reason, never being fully present in whatever I’m doing. And most of the time, I’m not even aware that I’m doing it. This is the part of downshifting that I still need to work on.

That’s where my 10 minute rule does come in handy. Setting limits on how much of my time I’m willing to sacrifice for the things I have to do — cleaning the house, washing dishes, paying bills, doing laundry — frees up more time for the things I want to do — taking long walks, reading, writing, playing with my dogs. And sometimes I even allow myself to enjoy these things!

I just need to learn to relax and not feel guilty for enjoying my life! After all, if we’re not here on earth to be happy and enjoy ourselves, then what’s the point?! That should be #1 on everyone’s TO DO list.

~PEACE~

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How I’m Beating Resistance, One Word at a Time

fashion legs notebook working

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My biggest writing hurdle has always been consistency. I get “inspired” to write for a few days, or weeks, then lose my motivation just as quickly, and avoid the blank screen for months, even years.

The longer I stay away, the harder it is to get back. I’ve abandoned plenty of half-written blog posts, and filled dozens of notebooks with my private handwritten ramblings, but my blogging has remained at a standstill for over a year.

Why does this happen?

Anyone who’s ever embarked on a creative endeavor knows the paralyzing fears and self-doubt that plague most all creators. In The War Of Art, Steven Pressfield even gave them a name: RESISTANCE.

The voices in our head are rarely positive or encouraging, and we believe the cruel lies they tell us. Our inner critic feeds our fears and tears us down until it’s easier to just give up than to create.

So what am I gonna do about it?

One of my strongest beliefs about developing good habits is that making small, incremental changes is far more effective for producing permanent results than big, drastic, all-or-nothing efforts. To quote one of Gretchen Rubin’s Secrets of Adulthood:

“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

Slow and steady really does win the race. This approach has helped me manage my finances, health, and home for years, so why not apply it to my writing?

That’s it! I will steadily chip away at my fears / writer’s block / RESISTANCE by writing at least 100 words every day for the remainder of 2018. A hundred words isn’t too intimidating or time-consuming. They don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written. 

Honest words. My words.

I will dig my way out of this deep, dark hole — ONE WORD AT A TIME.

And if you find yourself languishing in the same hole, I hope you’ll start digging too. 

~PEACE~

The Importance of Finding Your Tribe

As I strive to embrace simplicity, turn my back on mindless consumption, and form positive habits in my daily life, I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle every day. All around me, friends, family, coworkers, and even casual acquaintances question why I want to live this way.

Why don’t I want to eat a bag of Cheetos and a box of cookies every night?

How can I possibly be satisfied with a 3 year-old cell phone and a 5 year-old TV?

Why don’t I want to go to Wal-Mart?

How could I even consider giving up such a “good job” at the post office, when I’ll be “all set” with a pension for life if I just “hang in there” until I’m 60 years old?

Why don’t I want to make more money?  

Why am I giving away half the clothes in my closet?

Sometimes, in my darker moments, I even start to ask myself those same questions.

Then, every once in a while, I meet someone who gets it. Or I listen to the latest episode of The Minimalists’ podcast. Or I read a new blog post from Leo Babauta or Joshua Becker or Courtney Carver. And I remember that I’m not alone. I’m not crazy. I just want to do things a little differently. I want to live my life a little more deliberately.

If you’re following this blog, then chances are, you’re interested in living a simpler and more purposeful life as well. Some of the people around you probably don’t understand. But remember that there are plenty of us out here who do. Those are the people you have to surround yourself with. They are your inspiration and your allies.

Thanks for reading, and for being on my team. I hope we can continue to help and inspire each other to follow our own paths to meaningful living. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always rewarding.

~PEACE~

Cool Podcasts for Downshifters

I recently started listening to podcasts during my half-hour commute to & from work every day. I know, I know… I’m arriving at this party a little late, but this is by far the best new thing to happen to my daily routine in a long time! Why didn’t I think of this before? Now I’m arriving at my day job energized and motivated, with my mind full of new input for my writing and creative pursuits. By the time I get home, I’ve usually jotted down a few new ideas and resources that I can’t wait to research and start working with.

Plus, podcasts are FREE, and soooo much safer than trying to read a book while I’m driving.

Since I’m just getting started, this is my very short list of the podcasts that have inspired me so far. I hope they’ll do the same for you. If you know of any other great podcasts that have helped you find balance, simplify your life, improve your writing, pursue your passions, live a healthier life, or form good habits, please share!

The Minimalists Podcast

In their new podcast, just launched last month, The Minimalists Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus discuss living a meaningful life with less stuff. This is the podcast that convinced me that podcasts were a good idea, so if you need convincing too, start here.

The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins

As he does in his books, Jeff Goins shares thoughts and ideas that will help you to pursue work that matters, make a difference with your art, and discover your true voice. Episode 003, “How to Chase a Dream Without Quitting Your Job,” is a must-listen. His guest list is a who’s-who of today’s heavy-hitting inspirational speakers and authors. The episodes featuring interviews with Gretchen Rubin (018) and Tim Ferriss (004) are among my favorites so far.

Speaking of Gretchen Rubin…

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

The #1 best-selling author of The Happiness Project shares her practical advice about happiness and good habits in this “lively, thought-provoking podcast.” Sometimes it gets a little corny, and her topics are widely varied, so I’m picky about which episodes I listen to, but Gretchen’s honest tried-and-true advice usually manages to enhance my happiness in unexpected ways.

And Tim Ferriss…

The Tim Ferriss Show

“Self-experimenter” and best-selling author Tim Ferriss “deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc.), digging deep to find the tools, tactics, and tricks that listeners can use.” I haven’t had a chance to listen to many episodes, but I love everything Tim does, and his wide-reaching guest list – from Seth Godin to Jamie Foxx – is guaranteed to engage and inspire.

Over It And On With It with Christine Hassler

Life coach and author Christine Hassler coaches live callers on the problems – and opportunities – we all face in relationships, careers, health, transitions, finances, life purpose, spirituality, or anything else they have questions about. She uses her signature balance of practical tools and spiritual principles to help us all overcome the obstacles that hold us back from living the lives we were meant to live.

All of these podcasts, and thousands more, are easily accessible via the iTunes store. Happy listening (and learning)!

~PEACE~

Balance – Duh!

So I’ve reached the end of my month of daily blogging, and I have to admit, I’m glad it’s over! Don’t get me wrong. It was a great challenge, and I’m certainly proud of my accomplishment, but sometimes I felt like I was neglecting some other important areas of my life. Sleep, exercise, reading — all things I enjoy and need — were pushed to the back burner on more than one occasion.

Thinking about Downshifter’s Journal all the time occasionally detracted from my ability to be fully present and live in the moment. Pleasant diversions became annoying interruptions. The looming daily deadline sometimes got in the way of enjoying time with friends and family.

But it was SO worth it! I learned a lot about prioritizing. And focus. I learned that I can accomplish a lot more in a day than I previously gave myself credit for. Now I’m looking forward to relaxing for a few days and catching up on my reading. And I fully intend to maintain a regular, although probably not daily, blogging habit.

I’m hooked!

~PEACE~

Next Month’s Challenge

Now that my post-every-day-in-May challenge is almost over (so sad, I know), I’m looking ahead to next month and thinking about what else I can do to improve my quality of life in 30 days. As I mentioned in last week’s post on decluttering, my plan for the month of June is to follow the Minimalists’ suggestion and remove 465 items from my home by June 30th. I’m already scoping out my closets, drawers, and cabinets, and tallying up all of the stray articles that have outlived their usefulness and need to be discarded/relocated. I love getting rid of stuff. It’s cheap therapy. This should be fun!

I also have an idea that I’d like to quit drinking for 30 days, but that will have to wait until June 7th, because I have a family wedding on the 6th. I can’t even begin to explain how much I really hate weddings, plus alcohol always makes my in-laws more tolerable. I don’t expect this challenge to be nearly as much fun as decluttering.

Of course, I’ll keep you all up to date on my progress. If I learned anything this month, it’s that accountability partners are an important factor in staying motivated and following through on my promises to myself. Thanks for the help!

~PEACE~

From The Guardian: Why tidying up could change your life

“The junk in our homes clutters our minds as well.” I wholeheartedly agree!

Why tidying up could change your life | Life and style | The Guardian.

I love the suggestion from the Minimalists that we take a month and remove 564* items from our homes:

“This is a way to declutter in daily steps. On day one throw out, sell, donate or recycle an item. On day two, two items. On day three, three items, and so on. After 30 days, you’ll have removed 564 items.”

That may be my new challenge for the month of June. Stay tuned.

~PEACE~

*I did the math, and it’s actually 465 items. Still a lot of stuff!

 

Sorting Out What Really Matters

We all only get 24 hours in each day. Most of us are so busy just living our lives — going to work, running errands, paying the bills, making dinner, mowing the lawn — that we don’t get the opportunity to figure out what truly matters to us and what we really want to do with our time. Our lives often seem to be dictated by outside forces and obligations, rather than by our own conscious choices.

Before I committed myself to writing a blog post every day this month, I read a post by James Clear that really made me think about my priorities and how to organize my time to better reflect them. “What are the core values that drive my life?” As I thought about this question, I realized that one of my professed core values — creativity — was sadly underrepresented in how I spend my time. I quickly set out to change that.

Another resource I always turn to for guidance in addressing these “big picture” questions is Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog. One post I found particularly helpful was “The Anti-Bucket List,” where he reminds us that “we can do meaningful work, right where we are.” And “if you don’t know what’s meaningful to you … isn’t that what you should be pursuing instead of a bucket list?”

So think about it. What really matters to you? And how are you going to incorporate those values into your daily life? Write your list, and revisit it often to add, subtract, and see if you’re still on track.

~PEACE~

Freedom From Choice

For me, the foundation of a simpler, streamlined life is built on good habits. In her new book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin asserts:

“A habit requires no decision from me, because I’ve already decided. Am I going to brush my teeth when I wake up? Am I going to take this pill? I decide, then I don’t decide; mindfully, then mindlessly. I shouldn’t worry about making healthy choices. I should make one healthy choice, and then stop choosing.”

I agree with this approach, and have had some success with using habits and routines to save my time and brainpower by eliminating some of the decision-making from my day.

When I eat the same healthy breakfast or lunch every day, I have one less thing to agonize over during the course of my day.

Dressing in the same basic work “uniform” saves so much time — no more staring into the closet trying to figure out what to wear every morning!

My friend Norm starts every day by going for a run, without fail. It’s as much a part of his morning routine as showering and brushing his teeth.

Why reinvent the wheel every day when there are so many aspects of our lives that we can put on autopilot? By eliminating some of these mundane decisions, we can free up our minds, and our time, to focus on more interesting choices and opportunities.

Honestly, though, the only downside I’ve found to this method is that I do get bored sometimes. A soothing routine can start to feel like a rut after a while. I crave variety in my diet. I get sick of wearing the same old clothes all the time. So once in a while, I make the conscious decision to mix it up, at least for a day or two.

But after I get it out of my system, I usually return to my same comforting routines and good habits. What can I say? When you know what works for you, you stick with it!

~PEACE~

 

 

Two Weeks In!

I’m almost two weeks into my commitment to write a blog post every day for the month of May, and I haven’t let myself down yet. In addition to the great sense of accomplishment I’ve gotten from setting a goal and sticking with it, I’ve learned a few other things along the way.

  1. The momentum of a daily habit is a powerful force.
  2. No matter how busy some of my days turned out to be, I could always find a tiny bit of time to write — no excuses!!
  3. The WordPress community is filled with so many amazing, inspiring, and talented writers/bloggers.
  4. Having people from all over the world read my writing, and respond positively to it, is such a high!
  5. When I focus on something that I love to do, everything else in my life seems to fall into place and go more smoothly.
  6. If I can do it, so can you.

After my monthly challenge is over, I WILL continue to write and work on Downshifter’s Journal every day, although I’ll probably post a little less frequently. But then again, let’s see how I feel in 2 more weeks…

~PEACE~