“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home…” – Boris Johnson (UK Prime Minister), 23rd March 2020
Life has changed drastically recently.
This year we’ve all had to adapt to a new way of life. No matter what our circumstances. But despite the challenges it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s always something you can do to make life easier. And I’ve learned that simplifying life is one of those things. It allows you to adapt more readily and be ready to face any challenges head on.
Even when you’re juggling financial pressures, kids being at home, getting back to your original workplace or continuing to work from home, the simple life can help you to be more productive at work.
Here are some things to help you get started…
Declutter to feel better
Now I know this isn’t always easy. You may have a very small home, kids running about undoing the tidying you’ve just done, or simply don’t like clearing up. But keeping things in order can help you get more work done.
My workspace is in the corner of an open plan living area. So I can see most of my flat from it. If there’s clutter about it’ll often remind me of the million non-work things I need to get done and I’ll get up and do it instead of work. Not good when you’re trying to get that copy to your client by yesterday!
There doesn’t even have to be lots of clutter for it to be distracting. If there’s one thing lying about that reminds me of fun, oh dear. I will not boil that beetroot now… I will not boil that beetroot now… I can live without a cheese and beetroot sarni ‘til dinner…
And decluttering helps when you’re not working too. To maximise the chillout factor of not working it helps if you can close the door properly on it at the end of the day. But if you don’t have the luxury of a separate room to work from try hiding your work stuff. Yep, I know. Slightly random but throwing a blanket over my desk at the end of the day really works. And because I don’t have to commute, the time I take putting my monitor under the desk, filing papers away etc is a great end of day ritual. It separates work and the rest of life nicely.
Which brings me to the next point…
Create space mentally to feel in control
Tidying up your physical space can help unclutter your brain. So you’ll end up with more time to focus on work stuff and be far more efficient when you do. According to Psychology Today you’ll feel less scattered and anxious and more confident or competent in the things you do.
I’ve been following what I call ‘the one-thing rule’ for a while now. It’s where you focus on one thing at once, totally concentrate on it for an allotted time and make sure you complete it before moving on to something else. Depending on your circumstances it may be quite a challenge, but just aiming to do one thing at a time will help you focus more overall. And don’t beat yourself up if you can’t stick to it. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had a bad day and can’t concentrate on anything at all!
But you are more likely to be successful with ‘the one thing’ if you plan it in. I generally add one work thing, one fun thing and one life chore to my calendar every day. And do my very best to complete each. It’s simple, easier to achieve than a big, long list and I feel like I’m getting stuff done. This feeling of control is so powerful mentally and motivates me to get everything else done too.
Adding things to your calendar will also help you maintain boundaries. When you know your work hours and your home-life hours it’s easier to be disciplined and stick to the plan. And the satisfaction that comes from this is huge: “Yay, done that thing and that one. Now it’s time to get on with this!”
So my last point…
Enjoy the simple things of life
As you can see simplifying makes you more efficient and less overwhelmed. So you’ll free up some time no matter how busy you feel. I urge you not to just work longer because you can but use at least some of your free time to focus on people who’re important to you. Or do something fun or relaxing. We really need a bit of fun right now with mental health issues on the increase and life thrown into uncertainty once again.
But also, shock horror, there’s time to do nothing! Which is extremely pleasurable once you get used to it.
Although it’s not easy, especially at first, try just slowing down and engaging with the simple things of life in your downtime. You’ll find it refreshes and invigorates both your body and mind. And once you relax there’ll be positive knock-on effects in your work time too. (Alex pang has written a brilliant book called Rest: Why you get more done when you work less and I’ve written about how ‘deliberate rest’ can help you here).
So why not try…
- a countryside walk
- relaxing over a family meal talking to one another (no devices allowed)
- reading inspirational novels
- a bit of crafting
Remember, by making a few simple changes – decluttering physically, doing one thing at a time and maintaining boundaries – you can free up mental space to enjoy your life more. And become more productive at work.
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