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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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~

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~

Following My Own Advice

I’m always preaching about the importance of getting enough sleep. And I’m usually pretty good at practicing what I preach. But for the past 3 or 4 nights, I’ve been averaging less than 6 hours. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. for work requires me to go to bed pretty early in order to get my 7 to 8 hours every night, but lately I’ve been staying up way past my 9 p.m. bedtime! Today, I’m really feeling it. My brain is foggy, my body is achy, and my stomach was upset all morning.

As much as I would love to dazzle you all with a brilliant and insightful blog post this evening, I’ve really got to pack it in and GO TO BED. Hope you’ll consider doing the same. Your body will thank you.

Tomorrow is a new day. Goodnight!

~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~

 

 

A Perfectly (Un)Productive Sunday

I started off with big plans for today. Sunday is my only day off from work, and today was an exceptionally sunny and warm day for early May in New Hampshire. I had a friend lined up this afternoon to come over and start painting my front porch.

Today was Mother’s Day. The local restaurant that we usually go to for Sunday breakfast was totally packed. It took over an hour to get our food. Not a big problem, I thought. They were doing the best they could. Breakfast was followed by my weekly trip to the grocery store, which went pretty smoothly, then a visit with my mom. But my mom wasn’t home. Apparently, my brother stole her and took her out to lunch. The nerve.

Around 2:30, after I finally got together with my very popular mother, my painter friend called and claimed to be having the same type of day. Things just weren’t aligning properly for this painting project to get off the ground today. I told him not to worry about it. Tomorrow’s a new day. So I spent some time outdoors, visited with my neighbors, and had a much more relaxed afternoon than I had originally planned.

For some reason, the universe didn’t want me to be too productive today. And I think I’m pretty OK with that.

~PEACE~

In The News: Being Too Busy Makes You Sick!

Our local TV station recently ran a feature on the dangers of “busyness” and the harmful effects it can have on our health:  Being Too Busy Can Make You Sick.

According to Dr. Charles Carrier, an internist at Catholic Medical Center, stress can really do a number on us physically: chest pains, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, depression, digestive issues, and more. And when our lives get too stressful and busy, we often neglect the activities that help keep us healthy —  mainly sleep, exercise, and good nutrition.

What does Dr. Carrier suggest we do? Slow down. Give something up. Learn to say no. Get adequate sleep (6-8 hours). For more info, check out the full Interview w/Dr. Charles Carrier MD.

Psychologist Dr. Denise Moquin hits the nail on the head: “You can’t underestimate the importance of quality of life.” She urges us to evaluate our activities and the demands on our time and make sure that they are in alignment with our values and priorities. For more info and helpful suggestions to take back your time, watch the entire Interview w/Dr. Denise Moquin.

We have a choice. We don’t have to live this way. Downtime is important!  I can’t say it enough. I’ve always felt like I require more downtime than most people, to the point where I thought there must be something wrong with me. Now I’m learning that I’m just human. We all are. Get some rest!

~PEACE~