Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of January, and hopefully unscathed. We were with you all the way through, and we’ve loved seeing your posts on social media sharing your new year’s resolutions and goals.
January can be a tough month as we try to shoehorn new habits into our already busy lives; we’ve had our own ups and downs, and we’re sure you have too! If you’ve been struggling to form new habits around your resolutions, check out last week’s blog which was about how to form strong habits.
If you’re struggling with staying on top of things, here are our top tips to help you stay organised and keep up all of those good intentions from the new year.
Multi tasking is a myth! When we think we’re multitasking what we’re actually doing is toggling between tasks. Each time we switch to another task, it can take us up to five minutes to re-focus our thoughts and get back into what we were doing. Added to this is the fact that this toggling between tasks raises our cortisol levels. So not only are we wasting precious time re-focussing our minds between tasks, we’re also raising our stress levels.
Instead, commit to focus on one thing at a time. You’ll find that if you can sit and focus on one thing before moving on to the next, you will actually get through your to-do list more quickly.
Edit your to-do list - and be ruthless!
How many of the things on your list really need to be done? What can you delegate or outsource? When we begin our day faced with a big list, it’s demoralising. When we know we’ll never reach the end of the list, we don’t feel very motivated to begin! When there are so many things on our list it is tempting to multitask - but as we’ve just mentioned, multitasking makes us less productive.
Instead of getting bogged down in the minutiae, cut your to-do list down to two or three things per day. When our to-do list is short, we feel more positive about reaching the end, so we’re able to get more done. It sounds counter-intuitive, and it is, but it works.
Get up earlier
In his book The Miracle Morning
, Hal Elrod suggests getting up super early, before anyone else is awake. In the quiet stillness of the early hours, you can plough through so much that you wouldn’t normally manage to do during a normal day. This might be meditating, like our co-founder Fay is doing this year
, or making a start on that book you’ve always wanted to write.
There’s a whole movement of people who get up at times that would make your eyes water. If you can’t bear the thought of getting up one or two hours early, start with setting your alarm just fifteen minutes early and use that time to do something that will help move you towards your goal. You can slowly move your alarm earlier and earlier so that you have more time to work on what you’re doing. Get a bullet journal
Bullet journals are the latest big thing. A blank notebook with a dotted grid, these are entirely customisable journals which can be used to track goals, tasks and events. There are endless ideas and designs online and you can really go to town on customising your journal with habit trackers, lists and diagrams. This is a great way of keeping on top of your progress and ensuring you get things done. It can be easy to think you’ve only missed one or two days of a new habit, but a daily habit tracker sheet in your bullet journal can give a clear picture of how often you’ve done what you wanted to do.
A bullet journal is also a great way of scratching that creative itch, and of winding down at the end of each day. Google bullet journals for never ending inspiration. We love this video from vlogger Lily Pebbles which explains the bullet journal format really well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWt8HkOsW14 Plan ahead
Plan ahead as much as possible, so that you know what’s coming up. This might sound like it makes life really boring, but it can be incredibly helpful in staying productive and organised, especially when we are trying to fit new things into our schedule, or to maintain willpower.
Our willpower is a finite resource, meaning that we only have a set amount of it each day. This is why we can eat a super healthy breakfast, but then by the evening we’re eating cake and chocolate: we’ve run out of willpower. Added to this is the fact that making decisions uses up glucose in the brain; we soon run out of glucose, and find it harder to make what we might consider to be “good” decisions.
If we can plan ahead with things like our meals and outfits for the day or week (and have things ready and waiting for us), we take away the need for willpower or decisions and those resources are available for other things, like being creative, or concentrating on our goals.
This might sound silly, but if you look at hugely successful people like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, they are wearing more or less the same clothes in every photo you see. That’s not because they lack style but because they know that time and energy spent deciding on a t shirt to wear is time and energy not being spent on their latest project. Write everything down
Yes, we know we’ve just told you to edit your to-do list, but it’s also worth keeping one big, master document of things you need to remember. Every time you think “I must call my sister about that family thing” or “I need to buy vanilla essence so I can try out that new recipe” just dump it on one massive list, and then later on, when you have a few spare minutes or you’re compiling this week’s shopping list, you can consult your big list.
The app Todoist is great for this as you can have the app on your mobile device and just keep an ongoing project for “things I need to remember to do.” You then get the added satisfaction of ticking things off as and when you deal with them.
Break your goal down into manageable chunks
If you’ve decided that this year you’re going to redecorate your living room, that sort of goal is likely to sit unchecked on your to-do list for months as you struggle to find the time to deal with it. Spend a little time with a big piece of paper and a pen, and write down every little thing you need to do in order to complete your big goal. So in our example, you might list things like “get colour charts from DIY shop, measure walls, visit a flooring showroom to research options.”
Make each task as small as possible, ideally something that can be done in just a few minutes. Keep this list as an ongoing document, and aim to tick off just one or two things from it each day or week depending on the nature of the task. Decorating your living room is probably a weekend thing, so you might say that this Saturday you’ll head to a DIY shop for colour charts, then go to a flooring showroom to take a look at your options.
Next week you might get some tester pots in your chosen colour, or spend some time looking at wallpaper designs. Each step is quite small, but it’s bringing you closer to your end goal - and it allows you to feel like you’re actually making some progress on your goals.
You really can say no to things, and the world won’t end. So many of us agree to do things, even pretend we’d love to, when inside we’re secretly wondering how we’re going to fit it all in. We seem to worry that if we say no to something we’ll seem rude or unfriendly or uncharitable.
The simple fact is though, that there are only twenty four hours in the day - and we do need to spend some of those taking care of ourselves. If you feel terribly guilty about saying no, try offering an alternative instead: I can’t do that, but I could do this instead.
Alternatively, just practise saying no in a very pleasant way: “thank you so much for thinking of me; it sounds like a really great idea/cake sale/outing/work project. At the moment I’m pretty overstretched, and I’d hate to let you down so I’ll have to say no for now but do keep me in mind for next time.” People will understand, because they are probably in the same position. Any guilt that you feel at the time will quickly be replaced by the feeling of relief and empowerment you get from not doing something you didn’t want to do.
For most people, January begins with a flurry of resolutions and declarations about being more organised, more healthy, more calm and so on. By the end of the month many of us are floundering though, as we struggled to fit our new resolutions into a life that was already over-stuffed with obligations and requirements. Our tips are designed to help you to organise your life so that you can do the things you want to do, and feel good about them.
Don’t forget to share your progress with your goals on social media using the hashtag #MyScentered2017; we’d love to see what you’re up to!