The following post details 5 ways I simplify my day. They give me peace of mind.
If you look at list based posts on the internet, they tend to display 10-20 options for you to choose from. It’s a probability game that at best 1 tip out of the 20 works for at least 1 person reading. This style of writing is popular because people love to have more options to choose from. However, I believe knowing what has consistently worked over time is better than having too many options to handle.
Since I’m writing about simplifying life, I’d rather not inundate you with things that are “cool” but I have never practiced. The following 5 things I do regularly and have tweaked based on years of experimentation.
This experimentation has come from having varied “schedules” in my life up till now : TV reporter following stories during Chicago winter | International business consultant on a plane most weeks | Start-up exec glued to my computer and phone.
Now, I run a consultancy and don’t always work with companies where I live. That means I need to be able to be in touch yet set the right boundaries so I’m not always waking up at 2AM to do something.
The following has helped me simplify my days:
Simplify with Post it Planning for Next Day (or Index Cards)
At 9:00 PM, I take a moment to write 3 things I want to do the following day. When I first started, I filled that post-it note with a laundry list of todo’s that stressed me out when I revisited the note in the morning. I started to limit it to 3 things, but I noticed that all of those things spanned one category: my work. Work is a big part of my life but it is not everything I want out of this human experience. I changed the system up like so:
1. One activity I want to achieve in health
2. One professional activity
3. One fun or uplifting activity
I used to write this note just before bed but sometimes I would be so tired that I’d forget or postpone this activity till the morning. It never works for me to tackle something first thing in the morning. I feel better easing into my morning.
I realized that if I set a general time frame (for me it’s 9PM) to make a basic plan for the next day, it’s out of sight and out of mind. I have the rest of the evening to do what I want to do. Plus, my mind does not have to keep churning about the next day as it frequently did when I did not use post-it planning.
This does not mean I do not keep a list of things to achieve at work separately. It means I only allow one thing to come into my perception that I want to focus on the next day.
Low-tech: Paper & Pen
Simplify with Momentum App to focus on one thing.
Momentum is a wonderfully simple focus app for your computer. Here’s how it works – The moment you sit down at your computer and open up Google Chrome, the app asks you the one thing you want to achieve using the computer today. It’s not a boring text box. It’s beautiful landscape picture of some extraordinary place in the world with an attached text box you can fill out.
Here’s the “aha” moment – Every time you open a new tab say to goof off or maybe to legitimately do some work, you get the same landscape picture with text box you filled out in the morning to remind you to do what you meant to do this morning.
I like this better than apps like Rescue Time that boot you off of social media if you’re spending too much time on it. This is a problem I haven’t had, however, I do open a lot of tabs to perform “research” and that can get excessive.
Momentum is that nudge that tells me – “Hey Tina, remember you’re doing this one thing on the computer today. If not, you might as well be outside. See this pretty place!”I often write my professional goal from my post-it note in the Momentum text box in the morning.
Momentum is a Google Chrome plug-in so it only works when you use Google Chrome for search.
High-tech: Computer and Google Chrome
Simplify with Short meditations.
When I first started meditating, I would sit silently for 1 minute after I had showered. It’s all I could fathom doing, which is ok. Start a daily practice with where you are at not where other people tell you to be at. They don’t know you – remember that. You know you. I think I meditated for 1 minute for a few months before I increased the time to 3 minutes and then to 5 minutes.
I realized since I was sitting silently for short periods of time, I was sensitive to the sound that indicated that meditation time was over. I hated the iPhone timer sound no matter which sound I tried. I wanted something gentle but powerful like a gong.
The Mediation Time iPhone app is just that. It’s simply a meditation timer without all the cognitive load many meditation apps currently have. I’ve used most meditation apps on the market now. The extra information about meditation led me to click through the app instead of spending that extra one minute to meditate.
I think guided meditations have their place but not many resonate with me. Most start at 10 to 20 minute increments of time. When I started meditation, I perceived 10 to 20 minutes to be too much. I don’t think that now but everything is a matter of how you perceive time. I needed something shorter without a lot of talking in between. Since I couldn’t find it, I just stuck to 1 minute after shower meditations.
I use the Online Mediation Timer when I’m in my office. I keep that tab open most days so I can see it and know that it’s there for me.
High-tech: Smart Phone or Computer with Internet access
Simplify with a CD Alarm Clock to wake up in a good mood.
I use a CD alarm clock to wake up in the morning. I have an alarm clock without back lighting because the ambient light bothers my sleep. I use a CD alarm clock because the radio is subject to chance. With the radio, I can be woken up by an upbeat song, a sappy song, or an ad. With a CD, I choose the song and can switch it around every now and again. Currently, I’m listening to the Beatle’s- Here Come’s the Sun. It varies.
I used to use my phone as my alarm clock. However, every time I did this, I’d always reach for my phone to check email the moment I woke up. This was stressful because I was processing so much information without feeling fresh for the day – e.g. brush my teeth, drink warm water, shower, etc. I would invariably rush through getting ready when I checked email first thing in the morning. However, if I got ready leisurely it only took an extra 5 minutes! (I’ve repeatedly timed this.) That means that rushing in the morning was a mindset thing for me. I’d stress myself out to hurry up so I’d get an extra 5 minutes, which in the grand scheme of things was not going to matter. Plus, I would start work feeling behind. That’s no way to seize the day.
When I travel for work, I have hotel room service bring me hot water or peppermint tea when I want to wake up. It’s an old consulting trick. Wake-Up calls are easy to hang up on, but you have to get out of bed for room service. If I’m traveling for leisure, I use my cell but I charge it away from my bed so I have to get up to turn it off. I keep a glass of water not too far from it so I drink water instead of going back to bed.
P.S. Some people don’t need alarm clocks and wake up when the sun rises…amazing! I’m still working on it!
Medium-tech: CD Alarm clock
Simplify with an “I’m Alive” note.
I keep the post-it note that I wrote the night before by my bedside with a pen next to it. When I wake up, I write “I’m Alive” on the post it note to remind myself that while I will likely accomplish the three things on my post-it, my greatest achievement is well…breathing. I get to be human for one more day.
I know to some of you this will sound silly. However, if you’ve ever seen death up close as I have witnessed through the suffering of family & friends or gone through a sheer freak accident (I was in a car accident that displaced my left hip for a while), then you’ll understand.
It’s ok if you don’t get me and think this is hokey. I’m just telling you what works for me. This works because it stops me from going down pathways of thought that makes me think I should be better.
While there is room for improvement for everyone, don’t start your day off feeling guilty or unworthy.
Existing and setting the right intention for gratitude helps you and the world more than you think. You look for the positive attributes of human nature instead of the negative ones.
Low-tech: Paper & Pen
P.S. Self improvement should always come from within. Often times, we try to change other people to our liking. We lie and say we’re helping them improve for their own good but really we’re just trying to make someone into something we desire. It ends bad for both parties. The most difficult part is when this pattern happens over decades. I find cultivating self-love is the only release from this pattern.
I hope you have simplified days that, in general, make you you happy.