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11 Habits that Will Make Your Life Simpler

11 Habits that Will Make Your Life Simpler

More and more we are realizing that simpler is better: that when we simplify our lives the better they get. From a young age I realized that happiness was in simplicity, but it took me many years to realize how to make it work — to realize that the adoption of routines and habits could make my life better, not boring.

Here are 11 habits that I have adopted over the years that have contributed to making my life easier, and a lot happier!

Give Your Kids a Routine

To many parents, living with routine is a normal part of life. It took me until the birth of my third child to accept and adopt routines. I was 24 when I had my first child, too young and cool to accept structure in my life. I loved spontaneity and resisted routine. It took me ten years to realize I wasn’t doing myself any favors. Stick to bedtimes, mealtimes and bath times. Kids feel more secure in the structure and you get to have more relaxed free time for yourself.

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Plan Your Week in Advance

Use a calendar and plan your week. Include all appointments, meetings and work that needs to be done. You are much more likely to do the work if it is scheduled in your calendar. Your calendar is the number one tool to beat procrastination.

Write Things Down

Get everything out of your head weekly. Write down all your tasks, responsibilities, ideas, goals and dreams. By getting everything out of your head you are not going around with an overloaded brain, which disturbs your focus and ability to think clearly.

Use a Task Manager

When you get everything out of your head, you should get the tasks you need to do either into a task manager or your calendar. Tasks that are date- or time-specific should go into your calendar and all other tasks can go into your task manager. I use Evernote to store my tasks, it has the added benefit of capturing everything and giving you a place to store reference items, such as social security numbers or any other details that you may need at a moment’s notice.

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Stay Clutter-free

Clear out your home and your office regularly. The less stuff you have the less complicated your life will be. Keep it simple when it comes to personal belongings; don’t hang on to stuff that is neither useful nor beautiful. The more I clear from my house and my office, the lighter I feel. There is less to tidy and sort through each day, giving me more free time to do whatever I want.

Clean as You Go

My mommy always told me, “Clean as you go.” I was never good at taking advice, but when I finally decided to accept her wise words I started to benefit from more free time at the weekends. Always wash the dinner plates after dinner. Get the kids to clear up their toys after they finish playing with them. Try and stay alert to what needs to be put away. Tidying as you go will keep the place neat and organized.

Plan Your Meals

Plan out your meals for the week before you go shopping. It will save you time in the shops, save you money because you will eat everything you buy, and save you a lot of stress by having it all planned out. Weekly shopping and weekly meal planning are great ways to save time and money.

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Create a Budget

Keep tabs on what you spend each day and enter it into a spreadsheet for later analysis. Write in everything you spend money on in the month and look to see if you can make any savings. When you know what you spend, you can make an informed decision about whether your current spending pattern is the best way to spend your hard-earned cash. When you know how much you want to spend on shopping, entertainment, presents etc. — stick to it.

Disconnect

Having down time is essential for our health, wellbeing and sanity. Make sure you have times where you disconnect from electronics and you live in the real world for a period. Time out in nature will do you and your body good. Take back the control of your life and create a regular habit of disconnection.

Learn to Say, “No”

Helping others is a noble trait, but it is also important to recognize when helping others is making you suffer. Get into the habit of putting yourself and your family first. If you say, “Yes,” to helping someone at work, does that mean you have to say, “No,” to reading a bedtime story?

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Be Present

The more we can live in the present moment, the simpler and happier our lives will become. As Lao Tzu said:

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the moment.

Learn to simplify your life and be grateful for all the things that you have in it. Happiness does not come from more possessions and more achievements. Happiness is in simplicity.

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Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

More About Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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