Since going on Maternity Leave I have finally found the time to go on weekly walk with a wonderful friend. I have spent more time with my family than ever before; and I get to enjoy the feeling of time standing still as I spend precious moments with Zahra. Life can still be demanding, and sometimes overwhelming. But I know that when I return to work I do not want to return to my previous pace of life.
I don’t want to slow down to a stop either. There’s still lots I want to accomplish. But I do want to ensure I free up the time for what’s really important, which has led me to think more and more about how I can simplify my life. I don’t have this down at all, far from it. But this is the intention I am setting for my life, my map to return to when I find myself off-course again.
1) Prioritise well-being
What if Wellbeing came first on your To Do list? How would your day be different? Would you eat better and exercise more? Would you find the time to enjoy simple activities such as reading a book or going for a walk somewhere beautiful?
2) Plan to do less
I used to beat myself up and think I was disorganised, or letting people down, rather than recognising I was just doing too much. We often overestimate how much we can get done in a day. So much of our stress is self-created. Plan to do much less and enjoy not feeling time pressured, or having to let people down at the last minute.
3) Say no
If boundaries are the key to self-love, then be prepared to get uncomfortable. I’ve recently implemented a rule that my response needs to be an emphatic ‘yes’, a ‘hell yes!’ or not at all. No more wavering, hesitant, half-hearted ‘ok then’s!’, even over small decisions. The more I trust that little voice inside that knows what I really want, the louder it becomes. Yes it can be uncomfortable, I can feel guilty, but I feel far less resentful and have more time for what I truly need, or want to be doing.
4) Keep surfaces clear
If you want your home to feel peaceful and ordered, change the habit of using surfaces as a dumping ground. Have a rule that your dinner table is always clear and ready to eat at. Target trouble spots such as desks, drawers etc. and find a place for stuff.
Before you rush off to Ikea for more storage solutions, consider that you already have exactly what you need. You just need to let go of things that you don’t love, or have practical use.
6) Have a place for everything
Following on from number 5: if you have a place for everything, and put it back when you use it, you’ll never have to tidy up your house again. You’ll also not have to spend ten minutes looking for your keys.
7) Wash your clothes less often
Stella McCartney says we wash our clothes too much. It’s bad for the environment, and she believes is largely unnecessary. Laundry takes up a lot of time, especially with a family. However, this one I find really hard to do as I love the feeling of putting on freshly washed clothes. Plus Zahra yaps up over most of mine.
8) Plan for Birthdays and Special Occasions
Set a reminder for birthdays and other occasions a month or two before the actual date, so that you can buy cards and presents well in advance. No more last minute, stress-induced panic buying.
9) Cut down on trips to the shop
Running to the shops for milk, or tonight’s dinner does use up a lot of time. Meal planning is the best way to overcome this, as well as keeping a list of things that you need to stock up on. I tend to plan for 5 days rather than a full week so food is fresher, and the task less onerous. It can feel like a huge task, but having a fridge full of food so you don’t need to shop for the rest of the week, makes you feel like you are really winning at life!
10) Sort out your finances
It was only when I went on maternity leave that I found the time and impetus to really get on top of my finances. I kicked myself when I realised how much money I’d been wasting. I ended up saving around £200 a month, through switching utilities suppliers, clearing a debt, changing to a sim-only phone deal, and getting rid of subscriptions for things I didn’t use. Such as finding out I was paying £4.99 a month for a phone app.
When you’re working it can be hard to find the time to do all this stuff, but it really is worth taking some time off to get on top of it all. Pick a miserable wet day, and you will enjoy those sunny days even more knowing you are in control of your finances. Go through your bank statements with a fine-tooth comb and use comparison sites to get the best deals.
11) Clear debts
Living debt-free is a great way to live a simple life. Make a plan to start clearing debts. Avoid the trap of paying the minimum payment as the debt never gets cleared, and the interest piles on.
12) Consume less
I have this beautiful rug I bought in Morocco. It’s so thick and heavy, it’s like a small flock of sheep. As my living room is open plan, I need another rug for the dinner table that compliments this one. I’ve spent hours looking on line, as well as visiting rug shops. I’ve bought three rugs and returned them all. I missed the return date for one as Zahra arrived, so ended up selling it on ebay. Man, this rug pursuit has taken up days of my time. I won’t stop looking, but I’ll do so with less intensity. I want to create more and consume less.
Shopping around takes up precious time. Living more frugally and within a budget is an important way to reduce stress. Putting some money aside for the future can give you a real sense of achievement, as well as peace of mind.
13) Complete tasks
Our brains seem to have a completion loop, and unless we finish tasks they keep popping into our minds. Write lists and aim to do one task a day. It’s less overwhelming this way, and consistency always wins out in the end.
14) Get an alarm clock
Get an alarm clock so you can hide your phone out of reach in the morning. Start your day free of social media, and email, which can send our minds into overdrive.
15) Don’t let your phone control you
Put your phone on silent, turn off your notifications and leave Whatsapp groups. Don’t feel the need to respond to every text immediately.
16) Remove negativity in your life
Stress drains energy. Some situations and people just have to go. Surround yourself with people who understand when you have a lot on your plate, and who won’t take it personally if you have to rearrange plans again.
17) Find a way to practice mindfulness
Pilates, Yoga, meditation, a walk in nature. Find what works for you.