Why You Should Do the Thing You Feel Least Like Doing

When the evenings draw in and there’s an absence of light filtering through my bedroom window in the mornings, I must admit that my energy and motivation levels can start to flag. Maybe in a former life, I was a hedgehog who was lucky enough to curl up and hibernate over the winter, blissfully aware of any gloomy weather conditions. It is so tempting to slack off doing things that take a little bit more effort, things that I don’t generally think twice about doing in spring and summer. Perhaps you feel the same?

Some things feel like too much effort…

Some days I can’t be bothered to style my hair properly, just wash it, have a quick comb through and leave the house with it still a bit damp. Other days applying makeup feels like a chore, especially if one of the kids has woken during the night and my bleary eyes don’t want to focus on anything. Or rather than fixing myself a proper breakfast that will energise and nourish me, I’ll grab a couple of sugary biscuits that leave me flagging after the sugar high wears off. All of these examples do occur in my life sometimes, plus more. It’s part of the nature of being an ordinary, flawed human.

Yet if I make a different choice, exert more of an effort and do the thing I feel least like doing, I never regret it later. Never. Pushing myself to do the thing I least feel like doing tends to make me feel heaps better almost instantly after doing it.

Why it’s worth doing them anyway…

Let’s return to the examples in the paragraphs above. When I’ve washed my hair in the morning and just get straight on with styling it, either blow drying and straightening it or trying out a different style, it looks so much better which gives me an instant lift. The same thing goes for applying my makeup. Although I go for a pretty understated, natural makeup look it evens out my skin tone and helps emphasise certain features. This makes me feel so much more positive about getting out there and facing the world, even if it only involves the school run. A tasty, healthy breakfast of eggs, muesli or fruit and yoghurt provides slow-release energy throughout the morning. A few weeks after I’d had my youngest child by C-section as well as having fought off sepsis contracted through the surgery, I had to resume the school runs again when my husband returned to work and left the house early. On reflection, I still wasn’t feeling very well at all but even so, when I took the time to apply makeup and fix my hair I felt infinitely more human and functional (even if I’d only snatched 4 hours sleep…). Taking the time to do that was a very worthwhile investment for me personally.

The same can be said of so many other things in life, too. Some have far more significant and wide-reaching impacts, also. Making the effort to exercise when you really don’t feel like it. Making the effort to separate your recyclable packaging from non-recyclables. Walking instead of driving for short distances.

How about you?

What do you think, reader? Which things do you do, either small or large, that you sometimes don’t feel like and have to muster up the motivation but are always glad you did afterwards? Please do drop a comment below to let me know 😊.

A 95 Year Old Stranger – How He Inspired Me

You know how every so often you happen to encounter a special individual who fills you with awe and a fresh perspective on life? Well, that happened to me recently.

A couple of weeks ago we returned from a (very relaxing and enjoyable) cruise holiday to Spain and Portugal. Part of the cruising experience is making conversation with your fellow passengers and we did indeed chat and get to know some pleasant and interesting people. However, one particular person held greater fascination to me than any other…

One afternoon, my parents-in-law kindly offered to look after our kids so that my husband and I could experience the Afternoon Tea in the formal dining room. On arrival, we were allocated a table adjacent to an elderly gentleman seated alone. Shortly after we were served delectable little crabmeat sandwiches and the most amazing, homemade sausage rolls in the world. Then the man looked up from his own plate of delectable goodies, smiled at us and enquired whether this was our first trip on that particular cruise ship. We replied that it was, to which he informed us (with a hint of pride) that it was his fourth voyage on the ship…this year!

He added that he was hoping to book an additional cruise holiday for the Christmas and New Year period. He affirmed that he always travels alone and enjoys the feeling of being well provided for and having minimal worries on a cruise holiday. As did I, I hasten to add: it was sheer heaven not having to think about cooking any meals or wash clothes for twelve blissful nights.

Appreciate What You Have

With a shadow of sadness on his well-lined face, the man confided that he had been travelling a lot since his wife passed away three years ago. He told us wistfully that he counted himself very fortunate to have been married to a wonderful woman for over seventy years, most of them enjoyed in good health and the last few he nursed her at home after she developed terminal cancer. He recounted proudly how their friends and acquaintances had all scoffed that their relationship would not last when they initially united. They had the last laugh though when they received messages from the Queen after 50, 60 and finally 70 years of marriage.

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

Looking directly at my husband Paul, the gentleman proclaimed that his secret to a happy marriage was to keep his wife happy and give her whatever she asked for, wherever possible, and always making her wellbeing and happiness his top priority. After his late wife reportedly experienced “a bad time” giving birth to their only child, he was adamant that she would not suffer in the same way again or put her life at risk attempting a second birth.

Be Spontaneous and Take Chances

He recounted how he and his wife once went for a week-long holiday to Torquay in Devon. On passing a small hotel with a ‘for sale’ sign displayed outside, his wife quickly became excited and animated about the prospect of buying and running this hotel. Her enthusiasm proved to be infectious, because they went ahead and bought it and instantly handed in their resignation letters to their respective workplaces. This was despite a complete lack of any experience in running a hotel, I was told! That story did resonate with me and made me decide to be open to more opportunities to be spontaneous and follow my gut instinct. Granted, this is not as easy as it used to be now that I have three small children, but you never know what is around the corner and if something piques my interest I aim to at least consider trying it rather than immediately ruling it out.

Travel and See The World

This particular gent said himself that he had left it late in life to travel the world and see the sights on cruise ships spanning the continents. Ruefully, he expressed regret that he and his wife had not travelled more extensively when they were younger and both in good health. His bank balance was apparently “very healthy” but our physical health cannot ever be assumed in the future. I must admit that since losing my own dear father prematurely five years ago and gaining more of a sense of my own mortality, I have felt greater resolve to travel and enjoy nice holidays even with young kids in tow. I know I would regret leaving it too late and missing out on the chance if my (or my husband’s) health later failed.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

Despite the sad circumstances of having to travel alone after losing his wife three years previously, the man presented as fairly upbeat. He clearly enjoyed chatting to my husband and I and described his humble one-bedroom apartment that he called home (at least, when he wasn’t on one his many cruises!) with affection and explained that it met his needs perfectly. He mentioned simple pleasures that enhance his life such as playing bridge and doing the daily newspaper crossword.

Set a Goal

On revealing his impressive age of 95, the man curved his mouth into a smile and his eyes twinkled as he said that he really wanted to reach the age of 100 to receive an additional message from the queen. Perhaps that determination helps prolong his health for longer? It certainly got me thinking that if a 95-year old sets goals in his life, then it is worth those of us far younger being intentional about the things we desire to achieve the most and figure out the most effective way of attaining them.

We never even got around to exchanging names with that inspirational gentleman, yet somehow he made a lasting impression and has encouraged me to find a fresh appreciation for all that I have in my life. In particular, I include my marriage to my husband. We have recently marked our 10-year anniversary but I hope there will be many more decades of happiness for us.

How about you, reader? Have you met any inspirational older people and if so, which life lessons have you learned from them? Please do let me know in the comments below.

 

Take Heart: Those Repetitive Daily Tasks DO Matter…

Doesn’t daily life seem to involve a great number of repetitive and mindless tasks? I feel that now more than ever before, as a stay-at-home parent. There are all the usual basic housework tasks that everyone has to fit in, but of course these need to be carried out far more frequently with preschoolers around the house. Sometimes I could swear my little ones are programmed to incessantly destroy the clean and tidy environment I strive to maintain!

What if We Just Stopped Bothering?

It’s easy to feel there is no value in performing these basic, repetitive tasks over and over again and they can certainly feel tedious at times. But what would happen if we just stopped doing them? If we simply didn’t bother to wash the dishes or do the laundry, cook the dinner, change nappies or do any of the myriad other small but not so insignificant little jobs. Everyone would be sure to notice that things weren’t done and nobody would be happy living in the resulting disarray.

Lessen the Burden

With regard to the housework, I try to get my children involved in helping with it where possible. They have helped unload the dishwasher and pair up laundered socks since they were two years old, for example. For jobs that can only fall on me, I often play a podcast or some music in the to make it more pleasurable. Sometimes I dawdle  which makes things worse, so using a timer to force me to tidy faster works well.

Those Small Actions Add Up to Something Significant 

On reflection, life itself can be seen as a long series of small actions that need doing, a large percentage of them repetitive ones. Getting on and doing them as and when needed oils the machine that is life and keeps things running smoothly. In some cases, the many repeated small actions contribute cumulatively to the creation of something wonderful: changing all those nappies, reluctantly reading the same story by request, preparing nutritious meals and countless other routine actions result in a healthy, happy child and eventually adult.

Make Time for Little Luxuries and Simple Pleasures Every Day

This is crucial. There should always be time for petits plaisirs as the French would call them, no matter how busy we are. Sometimes when we are frantically racing around to get everything done, we fail to notice the beautiful things that are right in front of our eyes. Challenge yourself to spot the little things that lift your spirits and that you feel grateful for. You will notice a shift in perspective that helps you enjoy life more no matter how much drudgery some days may seem to involve. I wrote about enjoying simple pleasures and would encourage anyone to make a mental or physical list of their own.

Get Organised!

I find that when I plan my days carefully I achieve more and feel more positive as a result. If you prioritise the tasks that are most important to you and get them out of the way, you will gain a sense of achievement and remove that sense of unease that follows you around until you can tick it off your list.

Ultimately, I tend to agree that “a tidy house equals a tidy mind” as per the old adage and know that I feel more peaceful and calm if my surroundings are tidy and serene. This positive impact on my mental health is a powerful motivator and it is just a case of planning my time carefully and remembering to slow down and smell the roses no matter how busy I am.

Do you have any other tips on how to ensure you enjoy life even at the times when much of your daily tasks are mindless and/or repetitive? I would love to hear them 🙂

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Do you prioritise your priorities?

Do you Prioritise your Priorities?

I know already I’ve blogged about to-do lists and getting stuff done fairly recently. But a couple of weeks ago it dawned on me that the days and weeks are zooming by, the year doesn’t feel at all ‘new’ any more, yet I didn’t seem to be making much progress on anything that I really wanted to. The sense of dissatisfaction and annoyance that resulted at the end of most days prompted me to find a solution.

Writing

One of my priorities this year is to write more. Both continuing to write blog posts once a week, as well as working on a lifestyle book. I’d been just about keeping up with the blog posts, but had barely spent any time on the book despite having planned out all the chapters.

Part of the challenge is that I don’t have any childcare for my fifteen-month-old baby, but it was time to stop using that as an excuse and work around it. Thankfully, she has been sleeping much better recently and has set nap times. I have now allocated morning nap time to write every day. Perhaps it’s not the best way to do it, but I aim to write 500 words daily. That may sound paltry to full-time writers, but if I manage it consistently from Monday to Friday it equates to 2,500 words a week or 10,000 words a month. Well on the way to completing a whole book within the space of a few months. From acorns great oak trees really do grow!

Exercise

Although I’m not completely sedentary, I hoped to increase my exercise levels a little this year. On weekdays I always achieve 16k steps minimum just from doing the school and nursery runs as well as generally running around after my toddler. I decided to make the journeys a little more effective by sometimes adding a little sprint (with the pushchair) from our house to almost the end of our road. To ensure I don’t get lazy and opt out of the sprint I often deliberately leave the house a couple of minutes later than it would take to walk it. Sometimes I add an additional short sprint a couple of minutes after the first one, creating my own interval training in a way.

Reading about Jennifer L Scott’s rebounding at home post recently instantly appealed. Like me, Jennifer has three young children and she admitted that finding time for regular exercise can be tricky. She explained how she had recently bought a rebounder (or mini trampoline designed for exercising) and found it was perfect for fitting in short bursts of exercise into her day.

I was instantly convinced after reading her post and ordered a rebounder. Often I simply jump for a couple of minutes, but have found numerous rebounding workouts on YouTube which are good to follow sometimes, too.

Sometimes I jump whilst watching a film or TV in the evenings to make it more of a productive use of my time.

Getting  everything else done…

Before I stared planning for my priorities, I tended to do house-related chores such as hang out loads of washing and put dry washing away as soon as I noticed it needed doing, ditto for making phone calls and sending emails. But now, these chores simply have to fit in around sacred writing time. Who cares if there’s a pile of dry laundry to be put away? It can wait. I won’t feel any worse for leaving it a couple of hours as it can be fitted in at any point during the day while my kids are awake, but the same can’t be said for my writing which is why I have to carve specific time out for that.

How about you? Are you managing to find time for the things you decided were important on the first of January? If not, perhaps it’s time to take stock and revisit your priorities so that you can be sure you really do priorities them.

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Why you need a 'done' list more than a 'to-do' list

Why you need a ‘done’ list more than a to-do list

Isn’t life busy for everyone these days?

Less physical work, but a higher mental load

In addition to working a paid job or staying at home to care for children, there are myriad small tasks to be carried out. Phone calls to make, online accounts to log into and take some form of action on. Emails to send and reply to, both to companies and acquaintances.

Although modern life is less tiring in terms of physical tasks (I for one remain eternally grateful to the inventors of washing machines and dishwashers), the time and energy saved on the manual tasks of old seems to have been replaced by a significant number of smaller tasks which may not require physical effort but still take up headspace when they accumulate.

The problem with to-do lists

By nature, I am (or at least strive to be) an organised person. I’ve long been a user of to-do lists. As a carefree student, to-do lists were a mere couple of items hastily scribbled on the back of my hand each morning. Gradually though, things have changed and my to-do lists seem never ending. At any one time I have as a minimum an A5 paper sheet listing jobs to be completed for the day plus others that might be accomplished at a push (though I invariably kid myself on that front), plus an A4 sheet of jobs that I would like to tackle at some point (ideally as soon as possible, though often months and months pass and the same jobs get carried over to the next list :/ )

It sounds like a first world problem (and I appreciate that it is, in the grand scheme of things) but I too often end a day feeling overwhelmed and with a sense of dissatisfaction that I didn’t complete half of the tasks that I intended to. That’s not to say that I didn’t achieve anything- it’s just that keeping three kids amused and alive and the basics of keeping the house tidy end up taking most of my time.

Also significant is that other, unplanned tasks spring up unexpectedly each day, many of which require swift action.

Introducing the ‘done’ list

It was a few years ago that I suddenly came up with the idea of a ‘done’ list. Basically, this involves retrospectively jotting down tasks that you complete, either soon after completing them or at the end of the day when you review your to-do list. Any and all tasks can be added; from hanging out a load of washing, to making a phone call that was made a necessary course of action from a letter received in the post that day, to preparing dinner. As soon as I started practicing this, it made a noticeable improvement to how I felt about my accomplishments on a given day as it was easy to see in black and white the long list of (albeit small) things I had got done.

What Went Right Today?

On a similar theme, a friend introduced me to the concept of reviewing ‘what went right today’ (WWRT) just under a year ago. She wrote a great article about it here. WWRT involves taking time at the end of the day to list the positives that came out of it. Naturally, some days there will be more than others. The friend who suggested the WWRT idea is a fellow member of a Facebook group for mums of babies who were due in the same month. Most days, we all check in and focus on the positives, even if there are only slim pickings such as having kept the kids alive that day. Yes, a dry sense of humour if often required, or at least it was in the newborn months. Of course, other days WWRT is a chance to celebrate good news or major achievements, such as receiving a job offer.

Do you have any tips to share about how you organise your to-do lists? I’m always on the lookout for ideas on how to manage mine more effectively.

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