Hibernating for winter

As the season turns, the nights draw in and wintery winds bluster outside, my thoughts turn inward. I go into a process of self-evaluation – thinking about how the year has been, what has gone well and what changes I would like to make. Winter is a time for nourishing yourself, checking in with your values and starting to plan your way ahead for spring. Just like the plants outside it is time to shed old growth, blow away the dry crackled leaves and shrivelled blooms. The skeletal forms of plants are revealed, and inside each spindly twig is the green pulse of future growth. For me in my life this is about getting in touch with spirit and the life force that drives me. I naturally want to bring light into my home, and bring people together to celebrate, eat and share warmth and happiness together. I begin to think about what I will need to get me through winter and start to plan for when the season turns again. For me this is about formulating new goals and thinking positively about the changes I want to manifest in my life. So where am I at? and What will those be? Im giving that some thought at the moment and my next post may have some conclusions!In the meantime I’d love to hear from you. What are your key challenges for the coming year? How do you go about planning to achieve those things?

Out of Chaos ….Order?

..Is it really over a month since I published my last blog? Hmmmm…so much for my ambition to blog every week. I would set myself a New Year’s resolution to resolve this, but actually my resolution is to only do what is realistic and to stop beating myself up for not achieving as much as I hope and aspire to.

Just before Christmas my world spun out of control. My son came down with a bad case of D&V (diarrhoea and vomiting) which meant that the precious time that I had carved out to concentrate on my fledgling business was unceremoniously abandoned in order to nurse him and deal with the overflow of laundry (TMI? – sorry). My 5 year old daughter broke up for the Christmas holidays early and required a constant schedule of entertainment and outings. Amongst all this I attended a family wedding which took me away from my precious ones overnight for the first time ever. It was a wrench but made so worth while by being part of a very happy family occasion. It was the first time that my Father travelled away from home since being seriously ill last year, and so a very significant milestone for us all. My cousin married his childhood sweetheart by the shores of Loch Lomond. The beauty of the place was staggering.  The inclement stormy weather of the previous week broke, to bless the happy couple with snow tipped mountains, crisp sunshine and shimmering winter waters. I managed somehow to do my Christmas shopping almost entirely online – only venturing out to a Christmas Craft Fair and to the Columbia Road Flower market – which is my annual treat to get me in the Christmas spirit.

During those weeks I lost track of time, and my own goals. I missed appointments, I found myself overwhelmed by trying to get everything ready for the Christmas festivities and lost all focus on my own plans. I will just paint a little thumbnail portrait of how life has been. Just before Christmas I reached my Chaos Threshold.  It was almost not possible to walk through the front door because of the immense amount of clutter in each room. Our so called living room was full of boxes and papers that I had got stuck half way through decluttering.  Our kitchen was overflowing with dirty dishes, and bags of laundry and recycling. It was hardly possible to find a clear surface to make any kind of meal. So mealtimes were increasingly whatever I could bosh together as quickly as possible from the fridge or cupboard without having to do too much prep. I was staying up too late, and going to bed way after midnight and frequently then being woken by the baby through the night. Then having to get up and get the family out of the door for school and work by 8 am. I was ragged, I was bone tired, I was borderline deranged. Despite this I somehow managed to do a very good job of appearing to be quite together to anyone that I met outside the home – however inside I felt fraudulent.

I increasingly feel that I have to try and get a grip on my household situation and that this might be the key to regaining some mental stability, so have taken up with the Flylady. The Flylady advocates a ‘join the dots’ kind of approach to household management with small 15 minute tasks which are organised according to a monthly, weekly and daily schedule. Apparently where I have been going wrong is that I tried to tackle the whole house in one go and as a result got burnt out and frustrated – and then abandoned the whole project. Clearing a way through the accumulated detritus of 5 years post children is a mammoth task and one that I will not be able to accomplish in a day or a week. I envisage that it will take months, and possibly even (gulp) up to a year.

The way through, however, as with all big problems is to break it down into small manageable chunks. Flylady has a mantra which is “I can do anything for 15 minutes”. So this is what I am doing – and it has made a difference. There are now increasing areas of each room which are useable! My daughter is excited to have gained a place to do drawing and play dough projects on the now visible dining table. My son is utilising the newly cleared hallway to practice on his new scooter. My other half walked in the other day and said that he felt his heart lift when he walked into the house that ‘smelled clean’. My next challenge is to get the whole family engaged in this new method of looking after the house, and to my surprise it isn’t as difficult as I thought. My other half has actually deigned to do the dishes after dinner before going and collapsing. My daughter voluntarily decided to blitz her bedroom so that she could have her friend over to play. And my 18 month year old has developed a strange fascination with the broom and Mr Henry.

Contrary to my expectations I am not feeling resentful about instituting a new set of routines in our lives. Rather I can see that having some structure to the menial tasks of the day will help me to work out what and how to delegate so that actually it will not all fall to me (as it has previously done) to somehow address it all.  So, having gradually felt some kind of order creeping into my chaotic life I am going to see if I can apply the same technique to other areas of my life, i.e. my glorious career, my general health and fitness, our finances and planning in R&R for the whole family for the year.

I am really curious as to how others manage to balance the boring menial stuff of life (dishes, laundry, cleaning etc) against making and achieving goals. How do you do it? How do you keep your household from descending into chaos?  Do you have any tips for others who are currently in the kind of mess I described? Do tell!

… Creating time and space


Just recently I attended a meeting for women entrepreneurs.It specifically was set up to support women with children who are also runningtheir own businesses. We were asked what the single greatest challenge was tosetting up our own business. There was one answer that everyone withoutexception gave. This was simply to FindThe Time! Another common theme was dealing with Procrastination.
I am the Queen of the ‘To Do List’ and I typically I writemy To Do list in the morning when I finally get kids off to school and OH out the door! I am remarkable for the depth and detail of the List, which my OH finds hilarious. However as a result I can feel that I have way too much to deal with in the limited time I dohave available. So, then I tend to get involved in other things and divertedinto a morass of daily routine tasks. As a result my To Do List is remarkablein how little it changes from month to month, and even dare I say it – from year to year.
So in my drive to manage my time more effectively I havebeen delving into advice and expertise of those who have found some solutionsto these problems.
Top Tips for FindingTime

1. Take time out forConnection
My Fabulous Coach, Corrina Gordon Barnes of ‘You Inspire Me’,recommends that you give yourself at least 10 mins a day to meditate, read thepaper, talk to the flowers in your garden or window box, go for a walk, or lighta candle or say a prayer. The point of this pause in the day is that it givesyour psyche a chance to calm down and to step away from the hurly of running sofast that you never really get anything significant done. In that time you giveyourself a chance to gain perspective, to focus on the big picture and toconnect to whatever drives and motivates you. This brings clarity to ‘The List’and for me often helps me to really narrow down my list to one or two realpriorities that I need to focus on.

2. Divide up your TO DO list into the Covey Quadrant
This idea, from the well known book by Stephen Covey, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, is that you take your master list and break it down into manageable sections and these include:

DO IT NOW:
Your Do it list is the things that must be done ASAP otherwise the world will crumble apart… ie pay bills, get your child’s parents evening appointment slip in, make that important phone call etc etc
DIARISE:
These are important things but ones that can be done in the future. So get your diary out and write down the deadlines that are coming up
Buy birthday gifts, send cards, get a report written, make appointments to see colleagues etc
DELEGATE
Is there anything in your world that is taking up time but someone else could do for you? Simple changes in routine could free up big chunks of time for getting on with your DO ITS! A simple example from my life is not doing all the school drop offs and pick ups – my Other Half is happy to do his share, I just have to put him on notice soon enough that he can sort out the logistics with his workplace.
DUMP!
What things do you get up to that eat away your time?
Examples from my life –
Checking email / facebook multiple times per day
Playing my favourite online game (yes – I have to face it, I am slightly addicted)

3. Turn your TO DOlist into a DO IT NOW List
This tip comes from a hugely inspiring book called “How to save anhour every day – guaranteed” by Michael Heppell.He recommends that you write a list of only 5 things in the evening. Thepremise is that you only write down the things that you know you willactually do. You limit yourself to 5 important things that areachievable and you do this at the end of each day. While you sleep yoursubconscious can plan your strategies for completing your task list. By limiting the list to 5 items, you avoid becoming boggeddown in overwhelm, which is for me is the first step towards dealing withprocrastination! Which brings me on to the thorny issue of dealing with timewasting.
4. DON’T DO IT list
Again, a tip from Michael Heppell – killing the time wastersin your life is a major step towards finding time to do things that have morevalue to you. He suggests drawing up a list of things you have decided not todo, or to limit your time for doing. For example this could include:
-       Havinga social media detox
-       Limiting the time that you are available online or checking your emails
-    Choosing certain tasks that you will pay or ask someone else to do in order to free up your time -i.e. cleaning, gardening and taxi-ing family members around
5. Dreaming - Make a list of thethings that you would love to do if you just had an extra hour of time in yourlife?  
For me that list includes:
·     Reading a book in bed
·     Making time to see precious friends
·     Having a whole bath without having anydisruptions or an audience of children
·     Having time to work on my business ideas to turnthem from dreams into reality
·     Gardening
It is really important to have that list ready and waitingfor two reasons –
1)   Motivation – if you know what it is you are working towards it makes it so much easier to get it done.
2)   Sothat when the time comes you know what to do with your spare time!
Feedback from you…
>  How doyou make space in your life for the really important things?
>  Have youany top tips for women trying to juggle work and life to find that elusive‘balance’?
>  Do youhave any practical tools that you use to manage your time well?