Time Management Doesn’t Exist

Unless you’re Doctor Who, it’s impossible to manage time.

Give up trying and manage your life instead.

STOP TRYING TO ‘FIND TIME’

When we talk about trying to ‘find time’ for something, what we mean is craming even more into our already full and over-busy lives. If we want to make better choices in our lives, about diet and exercise, how we relax and enjoy ourselves or how we spend our money, then we will help ourselves if we stop filling every minute of every day with more ‘stuff to do’.

Relaxed and stress free people are less selfish, less angry, more generous, more considerate and more connected with others. Taking on more and more ‘to do’s', squeezes out other things from our lives, time for: reflection, imagination, inspiration, relaxation, fun, and if we’re not careful even sleep! We might not even notice ourselves loosing these things at first, until we suddenly think one day – when was the last time I played my guitar?, spent time just playing with my children?, or simply daydreamed while watching the clouds?

Most time management books and courses focus on using time more and more efficiently, so you can get more and more done. Why ? Is the purpose of your life just to do as many things as possible ?

Swim against the tide a little – slow down and do less !

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

Life is complicated and sometimes difficult, but every day is filled with new possibility. We can change our direction and rhythm – our tomorrows needn’t be always dictated by our yesterdays. Many people drift into depression gradually, becoming trapped by routine, stuck-in-their-ruts, and loose touch with all the enjoyable parts of life. The key thing is to realise that you can make things different.

Even the act of mentally deciding to take control and direct your life can be tremendously liberating and empowering. Give yourself permission to change your life and you’ll feel better as a result.

Avoid the temptation to blame chance, events, or others – of course things go wrong and bad stuff happens, but how we choose to react is up to us.

MAKE GOOD CHOICES

Imagine yourself at the end of your life, looking back – what do you think will seem important ? What would you like to have achieved ? What would you like your relationships to have been like ? What kind of person would you like to have been ?

How can you live your life so that you will get to that point ? Having a sense of clear vision for your life will help prevent the feeling of ennui and being adrift in the world.

We’re all different. Take time to consider what the most important things in your life are, and what you want to spend the rest of your time doing. Identify some key goals and objectives to work towards.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION

But life isn’t that simple – one of the contradictory things about it seems to be, that although it’s important to have goals and objectives to strive towards (no matter how modest), to give life a sense of purpose. Much of the joy and happiness in life comes not from achieving goals, but from the process of working towards them.

Very often we can become so focussed on reaching our objectives, that we forget to appreciate the journey.

And ultimately our whole life is ‘journey’.

 

Three different videos – for whether you’re feeling in need of inspiration, spirituality or poetry !

The Power of Time Off               Shells                                         The Road Not Taken

Stefan Sagmeister                      Rob Bell                                     Robert Frost

Photo by Shining Darkness

Forget About the Price Tag

Anyone thinking that being ‘green and ethical’ is expensive, and only for those who are better off, is kind of missing the point.

It’s really about making better choices, not filling our lives with rubbish, and hopefully being happier as a result. Moving to a ‘greener and more ethical’ lifstyle should cost us all a lot less !

 

SAVE MONEY AT HOME

Even if you don’t feel like wearing a jumper at home to keep warm you can save energy. Turn down your hot water thermostat by a degree or two and bleed your radiators so they work efficiently. Reflective panels, or even silver foil behind them will also help radiate heat back into the room. Only run the washing machine and dishwasher when full and get to grips with the economy cycles and settings. For most washes try turning the temperature down to 30 degrees. If you have cheaper electricity at night (Economy 7) consider running your washing machine and dishwasher then to take advantage. If you have central heating room thermostats make sure they are in the right place, and not set too high. Clean the coils at the back of the fridge to keep them efficient and keeping your freezer full also helps. Close doors and windows properly and hunt out draughts and seal or block them. Use curtains and blinds to keep in heat when cold, or shut out sunlight when hot. Consider turning off the heating in some rooms if they’re barely used for periods.

Get free or subsidised loft or cavity wall insulation. If you own your home and have a south facing roof, consider signing-up for free solar panels – the installer takes the government grant (feed in tariff), but you save the electricity. It goes without saying, but turn lights off when not in use, and use efficient lights and bulbs. Consider using a multi-socket on groups of electrical appliances so you can turn them all off/on easily and avoid leaving things on standby – plugging TV recorders and similar items that need to be left on into a different socket. Consider getting a wireless energy monitor to encourage you to save more electricity, or sign-up to trial a smart meter from your energy company, free of charge.

 

SAVE MONEY IN THE KITCHEN

Many of us could do with eating a little less food full stop, but it’s also true that most of us waste a great deal of what we do buy. Minimise waste by using things before they go off, making use of leftovers in soups/stews/casseroles etc, storing things better (not always in the fridge), and controlling portion size to reduce waste off the plate. You might also be able to minimise wastage, save money and make life easier by buying and cooking in bulk and freezing meals – having something ready to go in the freezer will also reduce the temptation to eat out or get a takeaway when you’re tired or rushed. Some people take part in communal cooking clubs -cooking in bulk then swapping dishes with each other.

Knowing the cost of things when shopping for food helps, as does shopping from a list, and the classic ‘not shopping when hungry’ to limit impulse purchases. Keep a range of healthy (and cheaper) snacks at home, in the car, and at work, to avoid so much splurging on snack foods. Making your own lunches in advance also helps. Avoid routinely buying expensive high street coffee by investing in a flask and making your own. Never buy bottled water – take an empty water bottle with you to fill from the tap. While you’re at it give-up buying paper towels, and simply use washable tea towels again.

Meat is generally an expensive item, and it also has a significantly greater environmental impact than non-meat foods, so consider expanding your range of non-meat cooking and eating a little less. Perhaps consider trying meat-free Mondays.

Try to buy locally produced food that’s in season – it’s often cheaper and keeps your money in the local community. Even better, if you have the space and time, grow your own food. If you grow enough you can always barter your excess with your friends.

Try turning the oven off a few minutes before the end of cooking, the heat will remain, and you’ll save a few minutes of electricity. Afterwards opening the oven door will allow the warm inside to vent and help heat the kitchen, and reduce the length of time the oven fan has to run to cool the oven after turning the oven off. When not in use be sure to turn appliances such as the cooker, dishwasher, washing machine and microwave off, rather than leaving on standby. Use hot cooking water from cooking to scald weeds, but avoid letting too much steam escape into the house – as it presents both a damp and mold hazard, humid air also takes more energy to heat than dry air.

 

SAVE MONEY SHOPPING

Turn mindless shopping into mindful shopping – don’t buy things impulsively, or recreationally. Keep track of what you’re spending, and how much you’ve got left in your budget – credit cards can make us loose touch with the value of money. Consider how many hours you’ve had to work to pay for what you’re spending. Ignore the pressure to overshop – buy one get one free is only good value if you really need two! Allow yourself time for a reflective pause before committing to buying – ask yourself: do I really need this, do I need it now, what if I wait before buying it, where will I put it, can I share someone elses ? If you’re a problem shopper consider self, or group help.

Know the origin of what you’re buying as much as possible. Try to make ethical choices wherever you can, often ethical items are no more expensive than non-ethical items – such as Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, which is now Fairtrade. Ethical Consumer magazine and many other sources give ethical summaries of various products. Check out smaller ethical providers and retailers, who often have no high street presence, but can be found easily online. Wherever possible buying things that will last, or can be repaired or upgraded, will be both cheaper in the long run, and have a lower environmental footprint.

For some items like books, newspapers and magazines, consider whether you really need to buy at all. All newspapers have online editions, most of them free, as do many magazines. Books can be borrowed free from public libraries, many of which now have their catalogues available for online searching. Borrow from a friend, and pass on books of your own that you’ve finished with. There may be a local book swap club or store, or you could investigate online book swapping.

Buy things second hand where you can – charity shops can be variable, but bargain hunters know which ones are best. Car boot sales, jumble sales, or yard sales are other possibilities. Scan local sources, or use Ebay, Amazon or other online retailers who sell second hand items, like computer game, DVD and electronics retailer CEX. You may even be able to get what you want free from Freecycle. Alternatively consider renting rather than buying – easier than ever in the digital age. Try to sell-on or give away your own items when you no longer need, rather than sending them to landfill.

Consider getting more involved in challenging overconsumption, sign-up with Buy Nothing Day, Commercial Alert , the Christian Reclaim Christmas Group Ready-Steady-Slow, or even the very silly Rev Billy.

 

SAVE MONEY TRAVELLING

Minimise the amount of travelling you need to do by grouping tasks and errands together. Make sure your tyres are at the correct pressure, both for safety and economy, and consider your driving habits – if you do enough mileage you might consider getting some eco-driving lessons. Obviously walk, cycle or use public transport where you can, and it might be practical in some circumstances to car share, either for regular communiting, or simply in giving your friends or neighbours a lift from time to time or offering to pick-up some shopping for them if you’re going into town – we often bemoan both the number of cars on the road, and the lack of social contact in society, but sometimes struggle to do much about it.

It’s often more fuel and cost efficient to get shopping delivered, than making a special trip to the store. All major UK supermarkets now do home delivery, with the cost depending upon distance, demand and time of day. Sometimes delivery can be arranged for free.

If you’re able, consider discussing working from home with your employer – to save you both travel time and fuel costs. It might be that you’re able to do without your car at all, saving road tax, maintenance and servicing and depreciation, as well as fuel. It’s always possible to hire a car for holidays and other specific trips, and in some places car share clubs may be available.

Photo by Chris Parker UK

10 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Inner voice saying ‘work harder, do more, have more, be more’ ? Always tired as a result. It doesn’t have to be that way.

1              Identify What’s Important

Moving to a simpler way of life requires the letting go of non-essentials, so that you can focus on what’s important. Look at all parts of your life and decide what you value most.

2              Evaluate Your Time

What are you doing with your time ? Is the way you spend your time in-line with your priorities ? Do you spend enough time with family, friends, and by yourself ? Re-evaluate your commitments – eliminate time wasters and do what you love.

3              Create More Free Time

For many of us, our lives are simply too full. Free-up time in your day by reducing your commitments and including and protecting more free time in your schedule. Cut down your to-do-list. Consider making a don’t-do-list of things you can happily do without. By reducing the number of our activities we can reduce stress, and get more out of what we do.

4              Reject Status

Question your motives, and reject anything you are doing for recognition or approval in the eyes of others. Concentrate on substance not image and stop feeding your ego. Buy and do things based on their utility or enjoyment to you, rather than prestige.

5              Give Up Some Control

Focus on controlling yourself and your own thoughts and actions, rather than wasting energy seeking to control others or events. Don’t focus on irrelevant details, and don’t aim for perfection – know when to let go and move on.

6              Relaxed Efficiency

We need to balance our desire to be more efficient and productive against the risk of becoming obsessional about it. Develop a simple system for managing tasks and commitments, and make using it a habit. Try to reduce the amount of time you spend multi-tasking. Limit your distractions and try to create a relaxed ‘flow’ state by fixing your attention on what you are doing.

7              Question Your Dependency on Material Possessions

Recognise the difference between the things you need and want, and learn how enjoy things without owning them. Minimise and de-clutter to surround yourself with less stuff, carry less stuff with you. Get into the habit of giving things away – de-accumulate.

8              Limit your Inputs

Think about how much information you process everyday – media, email, news, reading, TV. Our brains weren’t designed to handle so much information and it can result in overload and stress. Question the value of your inputs and impose boundaries, eliminating any non-essentials.

9              Slow Down

If we’re over-committed and rushing through life we risk missing the quality of the moment. Practice the art of ‘being present’ and pay attention to what is happening now, rather than mentally reviewing the past or worrying about the future. Make an concious effort to eat, talk, breathe and walk more slowly, to help ground yourself in the present.

10           Appreciate Life

It’s easy to be grateful for being alive – what’s the alternative? Try to actively practice gratitude – grateful people are happier, less depressed, less anxious, less stressed and more satisfied with their social relationships. If we spend more time thinking about what we already have, we will be less inclined to constantly want more, and as a result feel more generous towards others.

Photo by Dan Zen, via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES –  The Year of Anti-Consumerist LivingMeet Tammy Strobel, 10 Ways to Have Enough Money and Stuff

Cleaning Out My Closet

“Where’s my snare ? I have no snare in my headphones.”

It’s an interesting metaphor when you think about it – the rapper Eminem was singing about dealing with neglected emotional baggage from his past in his song Cleaning Out My Closet, and most of us can relate to that. There’s a connection between our own feelings and the shut-away and neglected clutter we surround ourselves with.

Stuff isn’t just stuff. Stuff is emotional.

Our stuff defines us. It reflects our interests, tastes, means and especially aspirations. Why we choose to buy what we do is the basis of the entire advertising, marketing and sales industries, but that’s not the subject of this article.

This article is about why we choose to hang on to our old stuff, long after we stop needing it, and why we sometimes simply hoard it away somewhere out of sight and forget about it.

It’s also about when I cleaned out my own wardrobe a couple of months ago.

I’m actually a pretty organised person most of the time, but for some reason my wardrobe has a habit of being a bit of a dumping ground for stuff I don’t have a proper place for – not just clothes, but assorted books, magazines, papers, unopened things in boxes, letters, old shoes . . . you get the idea.

I do clear it out from time to time, but I felt the need to really empty it out. I went through everything in there (and anything left lurking on my ‘floordrobe’) and ended-up getting rid of nine carrier bags of clothes, as well as a large amount of other forgotten and misplaced junk. Most of it went off to charity shops, some for recycling and one bag was destined for landfill. The photo above is the ‘after’ – I didn’t dare show the ‘before’ !

It’s not just me.

According to a recent QVC survey, the average British woman has 22 unworn outfits hanging in her wardrobe. If true, this means that across the country there are over £1.6billion of unworn clothes hanging in women’s wardrobes! If we assume men are equally as bad, then that’s a clothes rail hung with never worn clothes stretching from London to New York nine times over. That’s a lot of ‘stuff’ just hanging around unused; what would Gok Wan say! And you don’t have to be an environmental scientist to realise there’s a huge environmental footprint associated with the growing, dying, making, transporting, packaging and retailing all those clothes.

The trend in society is to live in households with fewer and fewer people, but with more and more storage for our stuff, and if we can’t cram it all in there are companies happy to rent us storage space for all our extra stuff we can’t fit into our attic! We need to reduce our constant buying of things just because we enjoy the buying part. I’m firmly of the opinion that a sustainable future must see us all buying and consuming less. If we had a better grasp of what we already own, better managed and organised our belongings, took better care of our clothes and other things, repaired things occasionally and bought new things in a more mindful and considered way, we might find our lives a little less filled with clutter and perhaps even be a little less stressed as a result. Additionally we’d save ourselves a lot of money – which we might be inclined to put to some other beneficial use, or use to buy better quality and more sustainably produced clothes. Less is more, and all that jazz.

Psychologists say the extent to which we tend to surround ourselves with clutter and junk is connected to our underlying beliefs about life, especially how we feel about the future and the past. Everyone takes some comfort in familiarity and routine, and change can be stressful, and supposedly the more optimistic we feel about the future the easier it is to embrace change positively. If you think all your best days are behind you, it seems logical to try to hang on to them. As we get older it gets harder, our worlds often shrink, he world seems more scary and being optimistic about the future is harder.

There is an mental condition known as Diogenes Syndrome, named after an Ancient Greek philosopher who lived in a barrel. It describes extreme compulsive hoarding behaviour. It’s more common than you might think, in my last six years working in an Environmental Health Department I’ve encountered it a number of times. It reflects a person’s inability to cope emotionally, and their retreat from a wider world they simply can’t cope with into a smaller existence they have more control over – often just a corner of a single room. This tendency to retreat into our own little space with all it’s comforts of routine seems to affect us all to some degree. I think it’s something we’d be well advised to actively fight against, becoming less fearful and more embracing of change, and less willing to define ourselves both by our past, and by our stuff.

I’ll be continuing with my own decluttering journey throughout the year – simplifying and minimalising wherever I can. If you’re minded to do the same it would be great to hear how you get on. There are several people who make their living as professional declutterers helping other people dejunk their lives – you’ve probably seen them on TV. If you’re after advice on decluttering your life try these websites.

There are limits though – a man called Dave Bruno has created something called the 100 Thing Challenge, to combat the Western consumerist lifestyle and promote a life of simplicity, characterised by joyfulness and thoughtfulness. I can’t see me getting even close to 100 items any time soon, but the stories on his blog are quite inspirational.

If you want to go even further you could follow the example of the artist Michael Landy. In 2001 he catalogued and then destroyed everything he owned, saying it was “an examination of society’s romance with consumerism, and the amount of raw material and energy that goes into making things”.

It might be easier for now, just to tackle your cutlery draw.

So did clearing out my closet change my life ?

Honestly . . . yes, a little bit.

 

Photo attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/puuikibeach/5208654120/