Although a creative person at heart, I’ve always been quite fascinated by ‘productivity’/organisation and am a big fan of experiencing joy and magic daily WHILE getting things done. In case it need stating, I’m far from any kind of ‘life expert'(!), but I’ve got a feeling it would be fun to share some ideas for those who, like me, are keen to rev up their daily routine.
I had the urge to challenge myself to write up my 35 best tips (I was aiming for 30 but got carried away) for making little moments count, so that you can make the best of your time but also (crucially) not fall apart or beat yourself up when it all goes to pot… Some of these things I do daily, and some I’m including below as little reminders to myself to do more of, because I know they work!
Here are my 35 favorite tips to getting stuff done WHILE finding joy & peace (disclaimer, they will range from ‘verging on life-changing’ to ‘rather silly’, with a dose of ‘kinda radical’ in between):
- Never knowingly get dressed in the morning without simultaneously dancing in front of the mirror; two minutes of dancing per day is infinitely better than zero minutes. Bonus: have a playlist ready and waiting.
- Drink your favourite tea (or beverage of choice) while glancing over your diary/plan for the day. (Pre-empting the actions of your day gives you focus – and, if you’re anything like me, also a brief chance to rein in any delusions your previous self may have had about how much can be done in one, singular day.) 2a: Choose the three things you want to do (or be) in order to feel satisfied by bedtime, and prioritise those. Let go of the rest.
- Practise ‘radical honesty’. This doesn’t mean going around randomly insulting people, unprovoked, but it does mean refusing to misrepresent your own feelings or beliefs. It’s amazing how often and how easily we do this. Consider making a commitment to yourself that, when asked, you will only speak what is true (to your best knowledge), and that you will also speak up when you are unhappy with something; this is productive in that it promotes authenticity and therefore real connection, and it’s joyful in the sheer sense of liberation it can evoke within you.
- Add something green to every meal. Your body will thank you.
- If you have plants, take a moment to look properly at them to notice any changes or new growth each time you water them. (If you want to give them names, I won’t judge you.)
- Listen to an informative youtube video or podcast while washing up (I do this every evening so that I wake up to a clean/clear kitchen in the morning; perhaps horrifyingly to some people, I don’t wash up in dribs and drabs as I go through the day); I’ve heard of this practice being referred to as ‘putting the kitchen to bed’ – cute! The next morning, take a minute to clear the draining board while the kettle is boiling.
- Go and drink a pint of water. Repeat multiple times per day.
- If you’re learning a language, do five minutes of a language-learning app in between bigger task blocks…
- … or listen to the radio in your target language while doing some stretches (bonus points for pretending you fully understand their jokes and laughing along)…
- … or watch a film with subtitles (indulgent and productive at once? What’s not to love!)
- Consider specially allocating a day or afternoon (etc.) to actually brainstorm what matters to you in your life; what are your values and what do you actually want to spend your time doing/achieving/working towards. Your values might have changed since you last thought about this, or perhaps you’ve never taken the time to do it. Once you’ve thought about what you’re choosing to spend your time on, think about how this is going to work for you (do you like assigning certain tasks to certain days of the week? Do you want to go with the flow more? Do you want to keep a list of weekly goals somewhere to remind you to stay on track? What do you want to let go of?)
- Similarly, consider what ‘success’ actually means to you. (I did this recently, and realised that, for me, ‘success’ is not actually about ‘actions’, ‘posessions’ and ‘goals’, but much more to do with states, feelings and experiences. Journalling on this can be quite fun and revealing! You might discover you’re already quite successful in your own eyes (who knew?), or you might instead uncover a few areas you’d like to address.
- Put something wise, beautiful or interesting at eye-level in your bathroom, positioned so you can see it while on the toilet or in the shower. (I highly recommend some passages from the amazing spiritual text A Course in Miracles, which I’ve been baffling my bathroom guests with [/treating them to] for the last year or so.)
- Go outside and walk in the fresh air every single day (this can be a tiny potter to put the bins/compost out, a big ‘proper’ walk, or something in between). Take photos of interesting/beautiful things you spot along the way = relaxed exercise.
- Go and put some lip balm on. What’s not productive about well-cared-for lips? 🙂
- Make it a strict, personal rule that you will from now on never catch sight of yourself in a mirror without smiling at your reflection before looking away. (Think you look awful? Smiling at yourself will remind you of the simple fact that you are absolutely fine – if not rather wonderful! – as you are.) Little note: Self-love has been a buzzword for a while, and is actually the opposite of being ‘selfish’; in fact, it’s a simple truth that we can only love others to the same degree that we have the capacity to love ourselves (woohoo, going in deep!).
- Indulge in the art of micro-goals: do one sun salutation per day. Just one. No big deal. One is better than zero (see first tip). Congratulate yourself afterwards.
- Every time you brush your teeth, look into your own eyes in the mirror and think something kind about yourself. (Above my bathroom mirror, I have a painted piece of wood with the following line from Roald Dahl’s The Twits written on it – a line which some of you may also have spotted on display at a few of my market stall set-ups: ‘If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.’)
- While cooking, sing, as incompetently as you like. (I’m a big fan of Bosh cookbooks for healthy comfort food – it’s my go-to recommendation for new vegans – and I also find these emails are full of delicious-sounding food inspiration.)
- Always make at least double the recipe you’ll need for one meal, so that you can freeze/refrigerate it for a future meal (= half the amount of time you spend cooking). I write this about to have a third delicious portion from a recent broccoli/potato/garam masala/coconut cream soup extravaganza…
- …Invest in some eco-friendly containers for this purpose. I love pyrex (or similar) glass with silicone lids (they don’t stain or develop any kind of smell like old-fashioned tupperware can, and they can be frozen or heated with the lids off).
- If you’re a snacker, like me, but also a bit of a health freak, consider a weekend baking ritual. It doesn’t have to take long; I’m talking half an hour including prep, and you can make all manner of healthy sweet treats to see you through the week. Healthy flapjack? Refined-sugar-free cookies? I’m a big fan of this lady‘s work among others.
- If you’ve got a less enjoyable task ahead of you, see if you can combine it with an enjoyable one. For example, if you have some boring life-admin tasks to do, could you take your laptop to a café and enjoy it with a cup of earl grey?
- Pray, meditate, or both. Don’t be scared to invent your own version of what these things mean; you do not need a ‘lesson’ in any of them, to take on any unhelpful definitions imposed upon you by others, or to train under a guru, just find what works for you. As a very basic guide, I recommend speaking out loud (while practising radical honesty!) then remain silent to listen/receive. You may be surprised at what happens.
- Take control of the time you spend on your mobile phone by becoming aware of your usage and setting particular intentions beforehand. One example which may or may not work for you: decide to reply to all text messages or emails at a certain time once or twice per day (say, 3pm, or 1pm and 7pm). This is a form of ‘batch tasking’, whereby you put your attention onto it fully at pre-ordained times, rather than responding to things distractedly throughout the day and flitting around willy nilly between people/events/memes/whatever people are sending you. Safely ignore anything which isn’t urgent (most things probably aren’t!), and respond in your own time (you’re only leaving people ‘hanging’ for a short period, so you don’t have to feel like a terrible person!). You could even tell people in advance that you are going to be doing this, if you like. This frees up your mind and allows for less distraction from the things you’ve identified as being important for you to achieve or do that day (see 2a!).
- That said, a note about ‘control’: realise that you are not necessarily in it. What a gift!
- If you’re ever feeling a bit down on yourself for not having ‘done’ much, write a list at the end of the day of things you have done, and tick them off. Ha! Trust me, this is a pleasing thing to do. ‘Picking up the clothes from the floor’ or ‘cooking dinner’ absolutely counts. If you’re feeling scattered, this is also a really good way to remind yourself of what you’ve done.
- That said (and this is cheesy I know): remember that we are human beings, not human doings; we are not supposed to be doing machines.
- Multitask less. It’s not all that brilliant; in fact, some studies have shown that it doesn’t even particularly exist (OK, yes, we can listen to music while driving, but what is actually more often happening when we think we are multitasking is just very quick switching between tasks). Do one thing at a time, well.
- Understand that if someone is attacking you in any way, shape or form, it is coming from their fear (fear can be disguised as anger, irritation, impatience, sadness… you name it). Understand what their underlying fear may be, and have some compassion for them, before deciding how to respond. If your immediate response was to react or defend yourself (disproportionately or otherwise), have some compassion for yourself.
- Tidy or declutter one thing every single day. Give yourself the gift of not making this a big deal (don’t start a week-long clearing-out-the-entire-house commitment if you realistically only have five minutes; in fact, five minutes is perfect!). Start with one windowsill, or, if your windowsills are hectic, half of one.
- … That said, if you’re aware that you probably need to spend an entire day kick-starting your way towards a clearer environment, try to find the time to actually do that; it’s amazing what a clear surface/room/space can do for the mind (hint: it clears it).
- Think about what monthly habits might bring you joy if you were to implement them. Earlier this year (admittedly pre-lockdown), I made the decision to visit the beach once per month, for my own sanity and joy. (I love Oxford, but it is a tad landlocked.) You’ll already know about my love of visiting the sea if you’re following the Leafology instagram account. For me, being by the sea is rejuvenating, fun and brings clarity and perspective – I always take a pen and paper with me in case of any epiphanies that need to be written down, especially if there are any decisions or problems bubbling away inside my mind. What’s your thing?
- Ask for help. Knowing your strengths and, in turn, your weaknesses, can be liberating as well as productive; we are not all made the same (isn’t that a relief?) and yes, you can choose to learn to do the things you currently find difficult or don’t know how to do, but in some cases you might find it a better use of your time to simply swap your skills or just ask for someone else’s help.
- If, like me, you are highly sensitive to scent, consider making a room spray with natural ingredients designed to either energise/clear or relax you, and put one in your car. The aromatherapeutic benefits of this are obvious, and it’s no secret that you can engineer this so that different scents can be associated with different tasks, potentially making you more productive or better rested. For example, certain essential oils (like rosemary) are said to boost memory!
… What do you think? Let me know your favourite tip from the above and make sure you sign up for the monthly newsletter if you haven’t already! And if you have any tips of your own, I’d LOVE to hear them!