Last year, I found myself rushing around a lot of the time. I was always trying to get something done, achieve something, tick something off a list – often just boring things, like cleaning the kitchen, dusting the house, putting washing away. The last week I worked before Christmas, I felt like I hardly had time to sit and breathe, as I was working late and rushing in and out like a crazy person. It didn’t help that I spent a lot of time travelling for work last year, so I missed a lot of weekends, which meant I tried to catch up with things at other times.
Over my Christmas holidays, I realised that I really needed to slow down. I’ve been doing various bits of work on self-development, and read a number of self-improvement books, and have become a bit clearer on what I need to do to feel calmer and more me. In the main, I need to be more present, more mindful about what I am doing and how I am doing it, really focussing on the thing I’m doing rather than trying to do ten things at once. I’ve also realised that I want to be more conscious of the environment and world around me, rather than just living in my busy little world.
The first challenge is working out what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to. It’s not always easy, especially where other people are involved, or if you’re a crazy person like me that always has a massive ‘to do’ list.
My general rule is really simple, and one that my husband follows without even thinking about it really: say ‘yes’ to things I think I want to do and ‘no’ to things that I don’t want to do or that won’t help me in any way. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s completely changed my mindset.
It hadn’t really occurred to me that it really is okay to not clean the bathroom quite as soon as I really should, or that it doesn’t really matter if the skirting boards are dusty. That’s the type of thing I would have noticed ‘needed’ doing and made sure it got done. Now, however, I’m trying to prioritise what really needs doing (e.g. paying my credit card bill on time) and things that will add value to my life. If the kitchen is a total mess, cleaning the kitchen might actually add value and I’ll do it. But if there are just a few crumbs, maybe I’ll leave it and read a book instead.
Since saying ‘no’ (mostly to myself in all honesty) has allowed me to create more time for myself, I’ve luckily been able to say ‘yes’ to a few more things I wanted to do. I’ve started going to parkrun on a Saturday, I did an aerial yoga workshop, went climbing with friends from work, and even started this blog! Not all of these things were necessarily in my comfort zone, and that’s another thing I’m working on (slowly). I may have hidden behind my ‘to do’ list in the past as a way of not stepping outside my comfort zone. Now that my list is shorter, I can’t do it – and it’s opened up new worlds of fun!
Saying ‘yes’ also involves a little bit of effort – for example, I love playing board games, but it sometimes seems a bit too much effort to get up from the sofa and set one up. When my husband and I take the time to do it though, we get so much joy from playing the game together that it’s really worth it. The trick is keeping this in mind when deciding whether to play.
The second challenge for me is making sure I take time to rest and relax. I’m not good at just sitting reading, for example. I love reading, but I usually find something else that ‘needs’ doing. Putting it on my newly streamlined ‘to do’ list helps.
This isn’t going to change overnight. I’ve started the process, and I’m already a lot happier as my life outside work is so much more fun and enjoyable. It’s something I hope to be constantly aware of and working on so that I fill my life with pleasure.