Reclaiming the little moments

Don’t get me wrong, once I get on the train, I pull out my phone or iPad and start reading or listening to my podcasts, just like the rest of ’em. And I check my personal phone a bit more often than I should at work. But… BUT! One thing I want to do in this Busyness month is to reclaim the little moments.

I’m talking about the little snippets of time… waiting in line, being in the elevator, arriving early at an appointment. Those unplanned moments in between the big events where I’d be tempted to whip out my mobile phone to keep myself busy or entertained.

I’m not too bad at this, to be honest. I do most of my driving without listening to the radio; one time I was on a long drive with some friends, and one of them asked to put the radio on because she couldn’t stand the silence. I never use my phone when I’m crossing streets or walking in public places (unless I’m looking at directions) or getting on/off public transportation — I admit I get a bit annoyed at people who do that and during rush hour and end up slowing down everyone else. (Sometimes, I peek at what they’re doing on their phones that’s oh-so-important — it’s usually a TV show, Facebook, or a game.)

I realised that these moments of time are too brief for me to do things efficiently anyway, and filling it with junk information wasn’t helping my case. I need a bit more time to get into the zone for me to properly read whatever book I’m reading, or to respond to an e-mail, so in these short moments, I usually resort to random articles or Instagram. And really, they don’t add that much value to my life… I’m letting myself fill my time with unimportant crap and feeding an addiction to junk news or social media. I realised that somehow, I had put “be updated on my Instagram feed” and “see what’s going on fluff news websites X, Y, Z” on my to-do list. Now I’m taking it back.

(For the record: One of my biggest fears in life is becoming someone who can’t even do #2 without their mobile phone.)

Starting a morning routine

So, one of the tips on getting rid of Busyness was to start a morning routine. It was pretty good timing that I’d just finished Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning.

For the past few years, I’ve been talking about how I wanted to become a morning person again. (I blame grad school for my wonky hours.) It currently only takes me 20 minutes to get out the door; a <30 minute train ride to work, and I could get away with arriving at a semi-respectable 9:30 AM after waking up at 8:30 AM. But I wanted a more relaxed morning which wasn’t characterized by the frantic-ness that started my day.

So yeah… I got into it.

To be honest, what it prescribes doesn’t seem revolutionary. It told me to wake up an hour earlier than I usually would, and do six things:

  • S – Silence. I do 10 minutes of meditation using the Headspace app
  • A – Affirmation. I reread an affirmation I’ve written down. I’m not a huge fan where people spout off things like, “I’m the greatest! I’m the best!” so I concentrate on how much I’m growing as a person instead
  • V – Visualisation. I have more focused daydreams about good things I want to happen
  • E – Exercise. I actually do this last, because it’s easier for me to do all the non-active things first. Since I do my “real” exercise routines in the evenings, this is a short 5 minute stretching session to iron the sleepy kinks out
  • R – Reading. I spend ten minutes reading. No, it’s not something related to decluttering, just reading anything
  • S – Scribing. I started a gratitude journal a couple of years ago, but didn’t write in it regularly. I’ve now used this time to make sure I do fill out my gratitude journal

It’s been a little over a week since I started, and I’m proud to say I’ve done it for 9 days now! I’ve been waking up at 7 AM (except for weekends) so I have around an hour to do my morning routine. My goal is to start waking up earlier and earlier, so come tomorrow I’ll be setting the alarm at 6:45 AM.

So how do I feel so far?
I feel pretty good. Look, if you go on Amazon you’ll find a gazillion reviews about people who are raving about this. I’m not at that point, at least not yet. But I’ve noticed that I’ve been more focused, I’ve had more willpower to do things I don’t like doing, and I’ve spent less time procrastinating or wasting time online. I’ve also started sleeping earlier, which is great — I always hated myself when I dropped off at 1 or 2 AM, even on weekdays!

The thing is, it sounds simple, and it is. But what it does, is gives me a psych hack — it primes my day. By getting all that stuff done in the morning, I get a better sense of, “oh, my morning was so productive, I’ve got this” and I feel a renewed sense of energy to tackle the things I have to do.

This is something I’m definitely continuing. I gotta admit, I do get a bit sleepy during the day sometimes, but I’m hoping my body clock should readjust itself in a few weeks. 🙂

On busyness

Oh man, there are just so many things I related to with this month’s theme — busyness. It’s probably the single biggest reason why I decided to sign up for the course.

To be honest, I’ve always been pretty busy… I’ve always had a lot of hobbies that I genuinely enjoyed spending time on. But I do acknowledge that there have been times I’ve been caught up in a tornado of frenetic activity and have had to step back for sanity purposes.

I’ve gone through “yes” phases and “no” phases in my life. There are times when (usually when I’ve moved somewhere new, or feel like I’m in a rut) that I say “yes” to everything. Relationships are important to me, and I know that meeting new people and building those connections can take effort. So I’d say yes to pretty much every invitation to birthday drinks or events or activities.

Then sometimes I get tired of it, and realise that I want to only spend time with my good friends and not shoot the sh** with random acquaintances, so I become more selective about the things I want to do and the people I do it with.

There’s definitely a balance between the two, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with oscillating from one end to the next depending on my circumstances. I guess the challenge is making sure that the “yes” phase doesn’t turn into a frantic bid to cram as many things into my schedule and overwhelm my life.

“When you are busy and your day is planned with back to back activities and obligations, you have the illusion of control. There is no room for the unexpected.”
-Courtney Carver

That quote really struck me… I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past. I used to schedule something for each day of the week so I wouldn’t “waste” my time on not doing anything at home and ending up bored. But I realised I wasn’t letting life surprise me. Some really awesome moments of my life have come from a friend suddenly messaging me if I was free that night. I would’ve missed that if I was just rushing around from one thing to the next.

The endless loop of always getting ready

Sometimes I spend so much time (and money on things) getting ready, I never end up doing the thing I’m getting ready for.

I was at the supermarket with someone (who shall not be named, to protect their identity) two months ago who had recently gotten into mindfulness colouring. They spent so much time in the stationery aisle, and bought all kinds of pens and books. Since then, they have coloured the grand total of one time, and didn’t end up finishing it either.

I’m the same way about a lot of things… I love getting ready for the life I imagine myself living. I can spend hours online perusing things for my ideal lifestyle. I’ve bought pretty stationery to organise my months and a bespoke notebook to help me keep track of the top three things I’m grateful for each day. I’ve purchased apps to help me become healthier for the time I turn into a wellness machine. I’ve bought furniture and kitchenware for moments of quiet reflection on the balcony, which never seemed to arrive.

After the colouring book incident, though, I’ve realised… enough.

So I stopped getting ready for the life I wanted, and dived in headlong. No more spending time looking for inspiration on beautiful living spaces; or what stationery was out there to help make sense of my life; or what the latest app is to help motivate me. I’ve already got all the tools I need.

I’m typing this on the balcony. I’ve always wanted to spend time relaxing here, and now I actually do it. I eat meals here when I can… I enjoy being able to look out and catch the final rays of light in the evenings. I savour having more time to think about things. I take my laptop out here sometimes and “work” in the open. (I think being out in the open-ish air makes me not want to mindlessly surf the Internet as much I usually do, haha! So that’s a plus.)

So here’s to stop getting ready, and actually being ready!