Keeping It Simple: Declutter Time, Space And Mind

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS AND NOT JUST HUMAN DOINGS!

As I mentioned in last weeks March favourites post, I recently attended a one day course organised by Guardian Masterclasses that was focused on living a healthier, happier life. Something I'm sure we all wish to do in whatever way that may mean for us. There were a number of fantastic speakers throughout the day covering all sorts of useful topics that both inspired and very usefully informed at the same time.

 Image Source: Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

One such speaker was Juliet Landau-Pope a Certified Declutter Coach and Study Skills Expert. Now I'll start off by saying that I never knew such a role even existed but with my penchant for keeping organised I'm surprised I hadn't picked up on such a job much sooner! Not only that but Juliet is a member of the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers in the UK - er hello, how do I join this association please?!

But aside from my marvelling at these very facts, I wanted to share with you today some of the very fine words of wisdom imparted by Juliet on the day. Ways to really think about the clutter in your life and how you may deal with it going forward.

Juliet identifies clutter into three very specific sections: TIME, PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL. 

Decluttering your lifestyle isn't just about clearing up the odds and ends on your desktop, it's about really thinking fully about your whole outlook and what you're choosing to allow into your work and life on a daily basis. So with spring firmly within our grasp, here are three great things to think about when it comes to refreshing both mind and space for the new season - and indeed for the longer term future of your overall health and wellbeing.

 

THREE WAYS TO RETHINK THE CLUTTER IN YOUR LIFE

1. Be Mindful Of What You Put Into Your TIME Not Just Your Space:

We often only think of clutter as physical items, which it is, but clutter can also embody what you cram into your time. Are you filling your diary with unnecessary appointments and adding mounds of jumble to your to-do list just to keep up with modern pressure to always appear busy? 

Quite a while back now I wrote a post about the so called 'Cult Of Busy' and I think this is something that still rings completely true. We live in a society where we somehow feel inadequate if we're not rushed off of our feet every single second of every single day. We add things to our lives just in order to keep ourselves busy and then convince ourselves that these things are just as crucial and important as our truly critical everyday tasks, creating extra stress at every turn.

USEFUL ACTION POINT: Why not take some time this week to sit down with your diary and your to-do lists, or whatever it is that you personally use to organise your time, and really be honest with yourself about what actually needs doing versus what is being created for the sake of being busy. At first glance you'll probably tell me that everything is crucial. But take a moment to honestly think about that - is this really true? And how can you make better choices about how you're going to use your time going forward?

Don't be afraid to have a gap here and there. As Juliet so correctly stated, we've become human-doings and have forgotten how to be human-beings. Find a point in your day where you can just 'be' for a minute and don't let the outside world make you feel guilty about that. Don't be scared to say no to unproductive activities that do not serve you. I'm sure we can all identify at least one thing in the coming month that we just don't need to do, an area from which we can claw back some of that much needed, precious time. Clear those wasted moments from your schedule and then leave them clear, don't cave to the desire to refill the space with something else.

 

2. Retail Therapy Is The Biggest Con. Is All That PHYSICAL 'Stuff' Really Making You Feel Better?

Sorry but it's true and deep down we all know it. When it comes to our physical clutter we all have far too much stuff crammed into our space. We live in a consumer driven society where shopping is now a leisure activity and we struggle daily to get away from it. Don't worry I'm just as guilty of this as the next person but we need to make a conscious effort to be more mindful of what we buy and put into our space. Not only to restrict the clutter but to save us all some much needed cash as well!

Of course it's very easy to say that we should simply declutter our space and let go of everything that's getting in our way. For many of us it's not always that simple. Physical items can hold an awful lot of weight and significance and can be hard to part with. A fellow blogger, Sophie from The Private Life of a Girl, wrote in a post at the beginning of this year that when decluttering your space you should be ruthless but not unkind and that point has stayed with me ever since. Finding a balance between what you need and what you love can be hard but is important. Being ruthless is great, but don't break your heart by overdoing it and regretting it later down the line. You can read more in Sophie's original post here: 5 Helpful Tips To Successfully Declutter Your Space.

USEFUL ACTION POINTS: Juliet had so much sound advice when it came to physical clutter. So if you're planning a re-jig of the unwanted physical jumble in your life, I'll leave you with a few points to think about before you get started:

a. Start somewhere that will have an immediate impact so that you can see the benefit straight away. For example Juliet suggests starting in your bedroom as getting rid of unnecessary clutter in that space will instantly have a positive impact on your nights rest, thus creating a desire to continue in other areas as you can already quickly see the benefits.

b. Consider - right here right now, what do I really love and really need? Focus on the present and not on the past because if everything matters then surely nothing matters? Try not to attach too much meaning to each and every item.

c. For things that you no longer need but are perhaps struggling to part with, find a purposeful and meaningful way to let go and take one small step towards doing so. For example when I moved house recently I knew I no longer had the space for the many, many dance and theatre books that I had collected during my time training in musical theatre many moons ago! I no longer needed them, everything in them would now be online anyway, but they represented a huge part of my life that I was perhaps frightened to fully let go of.

Now, I've happily donated my clothes and other items to charity on many an occasion but in this instance I needed to know these books would be loved by people with the same passion as me. In the end, via a friend who is a teacher, I donated them to a local school with a strong performing arts background, with students studying the exact same things that I was many years ago. I felt they would be loved and enjoyed and come in useful in the same way that they did for me and that made it a little bit easier to let them go.

 

3. We Have So Many Expectations Of What Life Should Be. Don't Let EMOTIONAL Voices Taunt.

Emotional clutter is a tricky one. We have so many expectations from both external and internal sources about what life should be. It kind of ties in to the time clutter and allies with our need to fill our diaries in order to make ourselves feel worthwhile. Those 'should, would, could' voices in our heads undermine our sense of worth and overwhelm us time and time again.

As I've written previously in my post about letting ourselves be we really need to stop should'ing all over ourselves. But often we don't even notice the negative voices that are guiding us through the day to day. Taking our emotional clutter into account and working to improve it can really help us to tackle the other aspects of our busy lifestyles too, so it's something worth thinking about if you're finding yourself constantly flustered and disappointed by your sense of achievement.

USEFUL ACTION POINT: These internal voices tend to gather themselves up to highest speed the more flustered and hectic that we get. One such time that they can really stress us out is as we're about to leave the house, say for work in the morning, or for a family day out. 

Take a brief moment once you're ready to leave the house but before you go out of that front door: Pause. Sit. Breathe. Focus. Just take one minute of silence and stillness to gather yourself. You'll be amazed at the difference it will make to your day and to the emotional stress that you're probably already putting yourself under despite the fact that your day has only just begun!

 

So I hope some of this advice provides interesting thought if you're considering an upcoming spring clean and know that you need to do more than just tidy out a few drawers in your workspace. Clutter is so much more than just the physical but it all ties in to creating our busy, stress filled everyday lives. Stepping back and thinking honestly about these areas might really help us all to make positive, longer term changes to our space, schedules and our minds. 

I'd love to hear from you if you have any further thoughts about clutter and spring cleaning? What ideas do you have that have worked out well for you? 

Enjoy your week everyone and hope to see you back here soon.

Louise

 


Taking Ten Minutes To Feel More Focused

A TEN MINUTE GUIDED MEDITATION TO HELP ALLEVIATE STRESS AND FIND FOCUS

With the long weekend within very visible reach today here in the UK I'm sure many of us are looking forward to logging off and forgetting about work for a few well-rested days. But what happens when you just can't switch off? When your mind is still swimming with thoughts of many things that need to be done, when messages and emails keep on pinging through on that inordinate mobile phone, when the lure of social media keeps you constantly alert and on your toes? Well sometimes we all need to just take a few peaceful minutes to refocus...

 Image Source: Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

Today I wanted to share with you a very simple, ten minute guided meditation that anyone under pressure can simply sit and absorb right here and right now to help them feel more grounded. I honestly don't believe that you need any prior knowledge or experience of mindfulness or indeed the many types of meditation in order to take this ten minutes for yourself and gain great benefit.

For today, the day before a long weekend when no further stress or pressure is going to be needed by anyone, I don't want to share a long and fact filled post about stress or the many benefits of mindfulness and meditation. There will be more of that to come on this space over time anyway so never fear! I simply wish to share this quick guided practice that I've personally been loving so much in the last few weeks. If you can spare just ten minutes today, or at some point over this weekend, to sit still, close your eyes and experience this then you may just feel a teeny little bit of that stress and those nagging thoughts dispersing. Even if it's just for a short time, it's still got to be worth a try hasn't it?

I hope you enjoy this as much as I have, click the play button below to get started, and I wish you a happy and rested weekend.

Louise

 

Learning From The Search Inside Yourself Leadership Course (SIYLI)

THE EXPERIENCE AND AN OVERVIEW OF THE TWO DAY PROGRAM AND ITS KEY POINTS

So a couple of weeks ago you may remember me writing that I was going to attend the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Course at Google HQ in London. A course dedicated to understanding and implementing mindfulness and wellbeing in the workplace through practising a series of personal development exercises and tools. It was Louise from Work Well Being who kindly introduced me to this course and I’m so thankful to both Louise and SIYLI for the opportunity to attend and take away a number of fantastic tools for my on-going work and life toolbox!

There’s so much I’d like to share with you following this two-day intensive and extremely informative session. Amongst other things we journaled, we practised meditation in various forms and we discussed and tried out different conversational and listening techniques, looking at how we might implement them in the workplace. I would certainly like to cover a few of these topics in greater detail in some future, separate posts. 

For today I thought I’d begin with an overview of the two days, a run down of what was covered and some of my personal thoughts and feelings having let the learning start to settle in over the last week or so. If you’re considering taking part in a future course then I hope you’ll find this an interesting and useful insight. 

Search Inside Yourself

SO WHAT DO YOU EXPERIENCE ON THIS COURSE?

The course is designed to bring forward techniques to help manage the fast paced environments in which we often find ourselves at work and in our lives, in a more thought out, mindful and meaningful way. Helping us to step back and work through problems that perhaps don’t have an immediate solution, to try and find a little more peace, self-awareness and understanding in difficult and challenging situations.

Over the two days our two experienced tutors, Laurie Cameron and Simon Moyes, assisted and guided us through a number of practical exercises as well as sharing their knowledge and expertise. They also discussed the neuroscience that is steadily becoming available to explain and complement the meaning behind mindfulness training and the given exercises.

In a theatre style, conference setting, we were talked through a number of slides, interspersed with opportunities to get up and partner with fellow attendees and practice differing exercises. There was plenty of opportunity to share how we felt about each exercise, ask questions and take short breaks to absorb each step along the way.

The course is designed to make you feel very safe and at ease. Don’t think that you’re going to have to stand up in front of a group of strangers and divulge personal information about things that bother you at work and in life. You do work in pairs at times but in a very safe environment and when it comes to feeding back to the group and the tutors it’s very much up to you whether you choose to bring forward your thoughts and feelings or if you wish instead to sit and absorb from others around you, as well as reflect on each moments revelations for yourself.

 

PERSONAL THOUGHTS AND MY EXPERIENCE

Personally I very much enjoyed actually sitting back and taking it all in without feeling the pressure to be sharing to social media, taking photographs or commenting in any way if I didn’t feel the need – a common blogging problem at most things I usually attend, and although that’s not something that I dislike at all it was nice to have a completely absorbed and in the moment approach instead. Reminding me that perhaps I need to behave in such a way far more often! After a little persuasion to my mind and body, I was gradually able to find myself truly in the moment and take in what was happening instead of negotiating external pressures and ideals.

When we began our first exercise, a short attention training exercise designed to help us focus our wandering minds, I could physically feel my digitally strained, computer and iPhone focused body and mind fighting against me! My back and shoulders were tense and angry; the mind was still lost in a myriad of early morning commuter woe, concerns over where my phone was in my bag and why couldn’t I remember the name of the person sat next to me, again?! As well as, had my current blog post published itself as instructed whilst I was on the train and when would I get a moment to check and share it to social media. These are the sorts of things that bother me daily! My mind definitely didn’t want to focus and my body was letting me know that it had no interest in sitting up straight and focusing without causing me a lot of tension and unwanted pain. Initially I thought to myself that this had the potential to be a very long two days!!

But by the end of the first day, and without realising it had even happened, each exercise and meditation, the calming, streamlined and more focused approach, had already had an incredibly positive effect to both mind and body. Physical pains and mental chitter chatter had started to ease, and that night I slept like an absolute dream – something that I’d been struggling with in the lead up to that week. So the foremost thing that I took away from day one, aside from a heady desire to share each and every little morsel I had learned and an excitement about just how much of it really made such perfect sense; is a feeling of greater peace and an ability to actually rest.

 

SOME OF THE TOPICS THAT WE COVERED

Emotional Intelligence is really the key to the course and the skill upon which you are trying to build. Self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and social skills all collide to enable us to better interpret our own emotions and those of others around us. We looked at this in greater detail, trying to grasp ways of improving our emotional intelligence and how we can apply this in both the workplace and in life.

Mindfulness is such a growing topic and beneficial skill. But of course it’s easy to be mindful when everything is calm and you feel collected and on top of things. The true trick and challenge is learning how to maintain it when that calm, stillness has been well and truly disturbed. When everything is coming at you at once and you need to make decisions despite pressure and stress being ever present. Through learning how to cultivate the mind, set an intention for what you wish to achieve, apply focused attention and invite an open awareness of yourself and your surroundings, learning how to be a little more mindful in your everyday work can really enable the following:

  • Stability in the midst of a storm - sit like a majestic mountain.
  • You become more aware of what is happening and why, training the witness, the observer in you.
  • Paying attention in a different way, with calmness and a greater clarity.
  • Understanding and choosing to respond in an optimal way even amidst the craziness of life.

It’s like training the body in the gym, but training the mind instead. It takes practice, repetition, to build a muscle that will react in a certain way when you need it to. The brain and the mind are just as susceptible to such training and this course gives you ways of building upon that.

Leadership and how we can try to lead with greater compassion was also a key theme. How do we influence others as well as ourselves? How can we lead with a desire to help someone else succeed and communicate in a more insightful and compassionate way?

 

WHAT SORT OF EXERCISES DID WE TRY?

Attention Training: Clearing and focusing the mind through meditative exercises to help bring about a sense of self-awareness with more clarity and calmness.

Journaling: Free flowing, writing without self-censorship. Allowing the pen to keep moving no matter what and getting everything out and down onto paper.

Mindful Listening and Conversation: Learning how to stay present and focused on what the other person is saying. Actually really hearing the other person, not letting the mind wander and not interrupting.

Mindful Walking: Truly experiencing walking, the environment around you and having an awareness of the movement that you are making.

Empathetic Listening: Active or reflective listening where you are listening with true empathy. Learning how the person is feeling about something that has or is happening to them without projecting your own thoughts or feelings.

 

THOUGHTS SINCE FINISHING THE COURSE AND LOOKING TO THE FUTURE!

This is potentially the sort of course that you come away from full of ideas and new experiences that you can’t wait to implement but low and behold, life kicks back in and a few weeks down the line you find you haven’t really had the time to give the course or its techniques a second thought. Except something about Search Inside Yourself really stays with you.

Firstly the team don’t just send you off into the big wide world again without checking in to help remind you of what you learned and what you might have forgotten to look back at and hopefully start feeding into your everyday life. There are a number of resources available and each week for a month following the course, you receive an email with various prompts and advice. Checking in and helping steer you back on track. Alongside that you are invited to attend a webinar at the four-week mark to reconnect with the course leaders, solidify where you’re at and where you wish to be going forward.

Secondly the benefit of this course is that many of the techniques stay with you and they tap in at moments when you most need them. Of course meditation, mindfulness and other techniques that complement these ideas require regular practice in order to really gain meaningful benefit and make a real difference. Yet just gaining a greater awareness really helps on a day-to-day basis when you start to feel the strain of a heavy workload or a particularly stressful situation.

I took so much from the two days and will certainly be working further on everything I learnt going forward. I will definitely share a little more about some of the techniques in future posts as promised. For now I hope this has been a useful starting point and overview.

If you’re interested in learning more about Search Inside Yourself please visit the website to find out more: Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. There are many upcoming public programs happening worldwide this year with further courses in Europe including Amsterdam, Helsinki and Paris. Take a look at the calendar to learn more and to register if you're interested in taking part for yourself: Public Programs Calendar 2016.

Farewell for now everyone and enjoy your day.

Louise

 

*My place on this course was complimentary as part of working with the program to learn more about these techniques that I feel are so relevant to the work I love to share on this blog. All opinions are completely 100% my own and if I hadn't enjoyed the program and felt it was worth sharing with you then I wouldn't be writing about it here today.


Checking In On Your New Years Resolutions

HOW YOU REALLY CAN MAKE YOUR AILING RESOLUTIONS RE-STICK LIKE GLUE!

Back in January I watched a great webinar put together by Bupa focused on behavioural science and applying it to help keep to your resolutions for the New Year. There were many top tips for how you can train yourself to make your resolutions actually stick - for once! Now that we're firmly embedded into the year of 2016, and perhaps some of our best laid plans from January have already started to wane, I thought it might be useful to revisit this webinar. Watching it again recently was very beneficial to me and it may well help you too if you're struggling to stay on track.

 Image Source: Pexels 

Image Source: Pexels 

In the webinar Behavioural Scientist Sarah O'Farrell focuses on how you can form long term sustainable habits and achieve your goals. With many useful and actionable tips based on scientific fact and research Sarah offers a number of simple ways that we can all implement right now to help us actually hold fast to our resolutions and future plans. Whether that be work or lifestyle goals, she considers everything from healthy eating and exercise regimes to understanding your willpower and getting into the practice of mindfulness.

There are three key areas of focus:

  • Sustaining Healthy Eating Regimes
  • Creating Positive Exercise Habits
  • Generally Finding More Energy For A Motivated 2016

Sarah looks at creating lifelong habits, taking small goals and using them to achieve bigger ones, understanding willpower and how to build your willpower muscle, the vital importance of a good nights sleep and how to achieve it, as well as how mindfulness can minimise stress and speed up your physical and psychological recovery. It's a really, really useful watch and I for one have many pages of notes scribbled down from what I picked up and want to put into practice!

For today I thought I'd share the link for anyone interested in watching and learning more. Over time I think I will have to share a few more posts on some of the areas covered as they serve as interesting areas of discussion in their own right - especially the section on sleep, something I know we all struggle with especially during periods of high stress.

So for anyone feeling a little disheartened that their grand new year plans haven't quite hit the mark as hoped, don't give up just yet. Watch this video and learn more about some actionable ways you can form longer term, healthy habits. I hope you find it as useful as I did.

Louise