Sorry I missed you last week…

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You may (or probably not) have noticed that I missed my blog last week.   Since I started this blog I’ve tried to consistently blog once per week.   Last week it all felt a little more crazy than usual.  My husband was away traveling for work for the week,  the home phone and internet stopped working (which is a pretty big deal when you were planning to work from home!) and one morning I whipped out my inner domestic goddess to make pancakes for the kids (on a school day no less), poured maple syrup all over them…only to be informed by my son that there were chunks of mould all through the syrup.   I caught myself trying to wipe the mould off with papertowel before finally conceding defeat and throwing them in the bin (and trying not to vomit).

Something had to give and sadly, it was this.  And quite frankly,  the inspiration wasn’t there either.  I didn’t want to cram this in as another thing on my never ending list of things to do.  It was the right thing to do.

But today…today is different.   Today, it is early in the morning.  I am sitting on our deck.   I’ve cleared a space on the table (between the possum trap …long story… kids toys, dog lead and potting mix which are currently adorning the outdoor table) and set up my laptop.   I’m still wearing my pyjamas and I’ve got my ugg boots on.  I have a cup of green steam steaming beside me and the sun warming my back.

I spent a while this morning thinking of the myriad of things that needed to be done this morning.   The different ways I could have maximised the time I had this morning (while my daughter is at a sleep over and my son is happily playing computer games).   I should have gone for a run (I could have dragged my son away from the computer and made him ride with me), I probably should at least be walking the dog,   the kitchen needs tidying up, infact, the whole house needs a clean up.  There is a shopping list that needs writing, so I can get the food shopping done before the shops get busy and we head over to a friends for lunch.  I also need to cook some food to take to a dinner we are having this afternoon.   I thought about watering the garden (poor garden,  those thoughts often come but are not often actioned) and, that reminds me,  we were going to go to the shops to get some more plants to replace the ones that died last week.

But in the end,  I decided to do this instead.  Because of all the things that I probably should be doing,  this felt like the thing that I wanted to be doing.  I missed it last week.  So it was time.   And right now, in this moment,  I’m so glad that I did.

What choices are you making about the things you should or could be doing with your time?

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P.S As always,  I’d love you to join my tribe of followers.  Simply press the button on the website to get updates when I post…just once a week (or…sometimes less?!)…

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Slow down or lean in?…I’m so confused

IMG_0888As you know, I’m a little bit addicted to personal and career development stuff at the moment,  I’m inhaling books, blogs and articles like oxygen.  I’ve become incredibly curious and interested.  I think it stems from trying to work out my own mind, which is always searching for answers  (not that I am entirely sure what the question is…which is why I keep on looking).

OK…so there are two pretty significant pieces of advice that have really hit home for me recently,  which I think I ought to be applying in my life… but the problem is, they seem to often be conflicting with each other and I can’t work out when to do which?

Firstly… there is the whole idea of sllloooowwing dooown (imagine me saying this in slow motion, not quite sure how to get that effect in writing..,..but you get the idea).  I totally believe that this hectic crazy world has us all hyped up to the max.  Social Media and internet bring everything to us at break neck speed and people expect responses immediately.   “Busy” has become the standard catch cry, and not only is it boring, but when was being busy in anyway cool?!  yet, time and time again I catch myself inadvertently busy boasting.  So hard not to be in a work meeting and comment on how busy things are, or to be the standard response when friends say “what’s happening?”… So I know this needs to change.  I need to cut out some commitments,  consider my priorities, learn to say NO thank you, No, No and No again…

Which brings me to my dilemma,  because ideal number 2,  is the whole concept of Leaning In.  As I mentioned before in my post about being curious… I have spent a large part of my life being fearful and hiding in my comfort zone  (for the record, my comfort zone is totally warm and cosy.  I have a lovely cup of tea in my hand, perhaps some chocolate caramel slice and sometimes my comfort zone even offers free massages…it’s a nice place and I really love staying there).    But I know that not pushing out of my comfort zone, means missing out on lots of life experiences.  That being curious and interested in the world ignites my passion and fire.    And when I get my whole feminist zing on…I’m all about leaning in baby…   no hiding at home living a quiet and small life.    I need to take my awesomeness to the world.   Promotion at work? more responsibilities?  Bring it on baby,  because it will open me up to new experiences and I’ll learn more.

But hold on a minute here.   How the hell I am supposed to slow down, at the same time as leaning in? I’m so excited and interested, and I’m on the look out for new challenges that light the fire in my belly…but I also have this niggling feeling in my belly that taking on more is simply going to overload me so I collapse in a heap on the floor.  That far from helping me to slow down and focus,  it will simply wind me up like an energizer bunny.

How can these two things work together?

OK…so I’m hearing the voices of all those guru’s out there that I keep reading..and I’m thinking their telling me that I need to search deep inside for my inner purpose and values.  These things will help guide me to make the decisions about where to lean in and where to lean out.   But there is so much more complexity in the realities of the every day. I’m started to get confused about the voices in my head,  I know what my goals and priorities are, but sometimes they overlap with each other.  I can’t tell the different between the voice that tells me to stay in my comfort zone through fear and the voice that is telling me to stay in my comfort zone because I need to give myself some space, to say “no” because it is ultimately what is best for me.

One recent example is when I thought I may need to go to New York for work, be inspired so I can then go on to inspire others…which is something I’ve been wanting for so long (totally on my vision board peeps)  but it was at a time when my husband was also away with his work which means it was possible…but going to require a lot of outside help and be exhausting for all of us.  So if I “lean in” and just make it happen..it clashes with my family values, wanting to spend more quiet afternoons at home with my family,  baking anzac biscuits and sitting in the sunshine with my tea.  I don’t want to palm the children off to friends, family and random others and  I don’t want to come home and be jet lagged and grumpy.

So who should I listen to?  Is that the voice of reason helping me to make wise choices that are going to keep me calm and grounded,   or is it fear keeping me in my little happy comfort zone?  Fear that my friends/family will think I’ve asked too much, fear that my kids will be upset with me, fear that my husband will be annoyed?  Or on the flip slide,  am I just being driven by fear that I will lose my status at work if I say I can’t go at this time?

I know there is no silver bullet easy answer here.   It is going to take trial and error,  wrong decisions and u-turns.   It reminds me very much of all the diet and exercise information there is out there.   Do I eat sugar or fat? carbs or no carbs?  It can be really confusing.  But at the end of the day,  if you spend enough time listening to your own body, continually reading and learning then experimenting…you’ll figure out what works best for you…and just for you.

So I have to patient with myself on this stuff too.   Nothing is ever that cut and dry.  The idea is just to keep practicing.  To make conscious decisions (even if they turn out to be the “wrong” ones),  rather than just floating through life like a stick in a stream…not even noticing when you get stuck on a rock.

I don’t think that is possible for a serial over thinker like me…although… right now, when my brain is about to explode with too much thinking, floating like a stick in a stream is perhaps exactly what I should be doing.

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Why not having a plan makes me anxious…

IMG_0772Hello Sunshine!!   I was so excited this weekend when the sun came out from behind the clouds and the sky was shiny blue.  My mood lifted instantly.   It feels like it has been a long winter here (actually I read somewhere that it has been the coldest winter in 15years), and my mood slumped along with the sunshine.    It is amazing the difference the warmth makes to your state of mind.

My husband has been away this weekend and I have to confess to being a little anxious as to what the the weekend would hold.  Actually  (lets just keep rolling out the confessions), I am always a bit anxious about what is going to happen at the weekend.  I realise this is perhaps a little strange, as the weekend is when I should be the most relaxed…right?   But it is not.   If I am leading into a weekend that is jam packed full of activities,  I feel much better.  Sure…it might be chaotic…but I know what I’m in for and I can plan around it.   It’s the unknown that gives me the heebie jeebies (side note:  can honestly say I am not sure I have ever had to actually write that down.  Had to look it up.  And, for your reference, the official definition is  “A feeling of minor fright, anxiety, nervousness, apprehension, the willies”- yes people,  the weekend gives me the willies.  Thank you Urban Dictionary)

Kelly Exeter from A life Less Frantic,  talks about creating “white space” in her life to help to stay calm.  A serial scheduler (much like myself),  she has been guilty of trying to schedule too much in her days which doesn’t allow for things to not go well (which inevitably will happen at some point).   So she purposefully schedules time in days when nothing is planned…white space… to give her some flexibility (apologies to Kelly if I am not articulating her theories correctly,  this is Claire’s interpretation, which admittedly could be a little warped).

ANYWAY,  as you may have guess, I’m a little uncomfortable with white space.

Every morning (give or take a day or two), I write a list of the things I need to do.  I prioritise them and then I schedule out most of my day.  There is no whitespace (don’t judge me too harshly,  it’s not all work stuff, I schedule in fun stuff too!) because what will I do with this white space if I haven’t thought about that already?  What if the kids just hang off me saying “I’m bored”?  if I haven’t scheduled out the chores maybe they won’t get done or I’ll forget something important?  What if we miss out on doing something because I didn’t organise it?

Writing this down sounds a little crazy,  but these are the things that go around in my head.   I’m not hugely spontaneous, I like a bit of time to make decisions.  But I realise this is probably not the best approach and it means that I don’t have room for life to just….well…happen.

So I’ve been trying a little harder recently,  to let myself move into a weekend without having too many things on the plan.   Sure, I still have a list of the chores I would like to complete at some point.  And I try to schedule at least one thing per day for the kids amusement and time for exercise.  But that is it.  And it has been a weird little experiment,  firstly because I do struggle with it so much (seriously what is wrong with me), but also because I am getting more and more examples of where having that space has worked out great.    The neighbours popping their heads over the fence and inviting the kids for a play “if they are not doing anything?”…actually,  they are not!   The sudden decision to stop at the coffee shop with the kids for some lunch, after our shopping.    Spending an afternoon lying in bed reading my book, while my daughter watched TV as she wasn’t feeling 100% after a cold… because we could, as nothing else was planned.

So this weekend, I didn’t have too much in plan and I was on my own, which was worrying me.  But then the sun came out.   I went outside and breathed the fresh air.   I randomly decided to prune/destroy our mop tree, which was out of control and we had been meaning to do for months.   My daughter was invited next door for a play.  My son went over the road to the playground to play with friends.  Then I suddenly stopped and realised I had an unexpected moment to myself!! Quick, sieze the day.

Poured myself a cuppa,  sat on the front deck and well….just sat…. it lasted all of about 10min,  but it was lovely…

Do you leave enough “white space” in your days to embrace unexpected moments in life when they happen?

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P.S…just for the record…I had an absolutely awful day, the day after I wrote this.   A volatile combination of tired cranky children and tired cranky mum.   It was an explosive end of a long week, and lets just say I won’t be winning any parenting awards for my mothering skills on that day.  But I am choosing to focus on the pockets of goodness,  the moments when I was doing OK AND the fact that I did pull myself together and redeem things before a VERY early night for everyone.   Every day is a new opportunity to learn!

My top ten list to awesomeness…

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OK team…. here it is… after my post last week,  I have scoured my resources on well being, work life balance etc etc and I have netted down that advice into….

MY TOP TEN LIST TO ACHIEVE WORK and LIFE AWESOMENESS

1) SLOW DOWNWhether it be a 40min meditation session with calming oils and mantra’s…or a simple cup of tea in the sunshine.   The experts seem pretty agreed on this one.  Keep your mind calm and reduce the intensity of your day.

2) MOVE DAILY –  Again,  how and to what intensity isn’t really the point…just get moving.  I love the advise that you should make the commitment simply to put your shoes on and go outside.  The rest…is up to the moment.

3) NOURISH YOURSELF –  Lying on the couch, snuggled up with hubby, eating whole packets of biscuits is one of my favourite pass times and I’m not going to stop doing it.  But I know that giving my body as much of the things it needs on a regular basis is going to help it to be at its best…so I need to drink the green smoothie before the biscuits?

4) USE YOUR STRENGTHS  – I had a massive turning point in my career when I did the VIA strengths survey and identified my strengths.  It helped me to focus in on the things I enjoy and put more of them into my life.   You don’t have to do a formal survey though,  just think about the things you love to do and you are good at…then make sure you are doing them, regularly.

5) MAKE TIME FOR LOVE – This is good old advice from Mum.  Spending time on work , with the kids and with friends is great.  But don’t forget to foster the relationship with the person you have chosen to share your life with (or making time to find that person).

6) CREATE BOUNDARIES and stick to them.  What are your non- negotiables?

7) GET ORGANISED –  This had to be on my list.   A clean up on the outside can help you clean up on the inside.  Get those “to do” lists out of your head and onto paper.  Do you have a system? Do you have a schedule, how are you fitting in the most important things?

8) GROW YOUR VILLAGE – As I’ve said before…it takes a village.  Take the time to consider who is in your village? How are you helping them, how can you let them help you?

9) EXPRESS GRATITUDE –  Taking the time each day to reflect on all the wonderful things you are thankful for puts a shiny light of positivity over your every day.

10) HAVE FUN  When did life get so serious?  My childhood was spent laughing until my sides hurt.  I want some of that back please.

It was actually quite hard to keep this list down to 10, there were so many things that I had to cull…but if I had too many more it would have seemed daunting and unachievable.  One thing that I kept adding in and then taking out…was having a vision.  It is not that I don’t think it is important, infact, the opposite…I think is the overarching thing that you are working towards and this is just the top ten list of the things you need to do on a daily/weekly basis to keep you sane as you work towards your vision.

So, to keep me on track I’m going to choose one item from the list each month to focus on…and I will also do a special “setting my vision” session (this may well involve scissors and sticky tape),

Follow my Facebook group for regular updates on how I go with that (I have a sneaky suspicion things may not quite go as smoothly as I have in my head right now)….and if you are not already subscribed, I’d love you to join my wordpress tribe of awesome followers (just click on the follow buttons on my website here) so you can keep track of my status with my weekly blog posts.

First up…. time to SLOW DOWN….wish me luck

claire2

Working Mum’s…well…we kick butt!

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I loved this article “Working Mothers are the most productive in the workplace”...

I mean, I always kinda knew this, but so nice to hear that maybe some research backs it up!

As much as I constantly beat myself up, for not doing a better job of juggling all the million and one priorities that I seem to have committed myself to on a regular basis (and some which I have no recollection of committing to, but I probably totally did because I can’t even really remember what I  had for breakfast let alone what I agreed to do)…the reality is, I have become pretty super awesome at using every piece of available time productively (to the point that now I have to learn how not to feel obliged to spend every waking hour cramming in more…but that is a story for another day).

It reminded me of a post a wrote late last year…because as i reflected on my end of year results, I made a startling realisation “I am successful BECAUSE I work part time, not DESPITE it”…  and that is because I have learnt to be uber productive.

I remember this sad and sorry story,  from the early days in my career,  arriving at the office in the early hours of the morning only to find the carpark had not opened yet.  So I had to sit on the side of the road and wait because the carpark didn’t open until 6AM … What the?  What was I thinking?  Why was I already at work at this ungodly hour of the day?

I am sure at the time I thought that arriving at work so early demonstrated that I was highly committed.   I probably did a couple of hours work, then spent more time talking to my colleagues about what they had done at the weekend, perhaps swanned out for a coffee (well, it would actually have been diet coke…I was totally addicted), then faffed around in waste of time meetings for the afternoon.  After which I would realise I still had crap loads of work to do and I would stay at the office until 7.30pm getting it finished…then feel tired and grumpy the next day because I had done a 13hr day but my to – do list was still just as long.

These days, I bet I could deliver the same amount of work in a half day sprint of work….partly it is maturity, partly it is knowledge and experience…but mostly it is because I have been forced to be more productive and to learn to prioritise like a pro. I simply cannot be at the office at 6am (well, actually, that is not exactly true because sometimes now I have to do conference calls at this hour…but I really do just roll out of bed, shuffle to the study with a cup of tea…and do the call in my pyjama’s…no video conference calls at this time please), but whenever I start my official work I make sure that I am very focused and driven.

It really is time to shake of the shackles of the “ideal worker” and remember that being in the office from 9-5pm doesn’t make you a better or more productive employee…I’m so glad that message might actually be starting to get through.

I always knew we ROCKED!

claire2

Daylights savings…I don’t like you very much right now…

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Why, oh why, do we have daylight savings?

As parents, we all dread the shifting of the clocks…just as we have our children in lovely bedtime and morning routines,  we have to shift it around again and hope they don’t notice.  I’ve heard the advice that you should start shifting the clock 10min’s at a time for 6 days before then the transition will be easier but I always forget to do this.   Although admittedly, typically, it hasn’t been a huge issue in our house (which I smugly attribute to our sometimes anally retentive bedtime routines…which I totally know deep down is not the case but I’m going take it anyway).

However…not this time.  And you know why.  This time, it’s not only the kids that have been affected…it’s me.

You see, morning time had become my happy place.   As my kids get older, they have started to sleep a little bit longer.  I was starting to be able to rely on the fact that they wouldn’t wake up until at least 7am (Amazing, I know!!).  So I started setting my alarm at 6am.   This morning time is MY time and I love this time.   Usually I try to do some exercise,  I can’t leave the house as my husband is typically already heading off to work,  but I can test my co-ordination with some aerobics DVD downstairs,  or use the rowing machine, or do some lame weights.  I never feel like doing it at first, but I always feel awesome afterwards.  If I’m lucky I’ll squeeze in a cup of tea, and start to think about the priorities of the day.

I hadn’t realised how much it was helping me to stay less stressed during the day,  until I lost it.

My kids have been getting up consistently at 6am since the time change.   Today, my son got up at 5.20am.  UNACCEPTABLE.   Their usual morning routine begins with “I’m hungry”,  “can I watch TV”, “what are we doing today?”, “I don’t want to go to school”, “I don’t want to go to school  holiday program” or some variation there of.

Bloody day light savings.

Initially, I tried to push through….I would not be deterred… and on the first day of early morning family rising,  I pursued my own morning routine.   I started in the usual fashion with some exercise downstairs.  My son decided to follow me and lie on the couch right next to me, so that he could continue whinging directly into my ear.  Not to be out done, my daughter grabbed her drawing (great, she’s keeping herself amused), and proceeded to lie down directly in front of where I was stepping, and then spread her coloured pencils out under my feet.   No…stay calm Claire…you can do this, you can reclaim your morning…just zone them out.

But it didn’t work,  I wanted to throw something across the room (maybe one of the children).

The next morning was worse.   They decided to start fighting with each other and I couldn’t concentrate above the blood curdling screams I could hear from above,  which left me running to the rescue to discover my daughter languishing on the floor, rolling, screaming because my son had dared to “touch” the side of her plate.

My morning ritual has been shattered.

I forgot what it was like to start your day with someone elses demands instead of your own.  So I’ve given up.  Stopped exercising in the morning. Started just getting straight into the usual morning routine, making lunches, cleaning up the kitchen.  I intend to do some exercise later in the day but later never comes.  And I’m pretty amazed at how much that has seeped into everything else I’m doing.  I’m stressed. I’m walking around with a perpetual sinking feeling in my stomach.  I’m over it.  I’m flat like a pancake (sadly I don’t look like one).  I’m eating like a horse.  I can’t be bothered doing anything in the evening other than smashing some TV (Netflix…oh how I love thee).

And then today I was reading this blog,  about productivity (great tips by the way) and I connected the dots between the loss of my morning ritual and the collapse of my entire world.

It also reminded me that one of the keys to finding balance, is to constantly be re-evaluated and reviewing your system.  Sure, I get that you have to have a system…but the key, especially when you have kids, is that you have to be flexible enough to change it when things change around you.

OK…so, I’ve identified the problem, which now means I can find a solution.  Yah!  But does that mean I have to get up even earlier!?!?   Reclaim my morning at 5am (ouch),  or do I try to get the kids to bed later (oh no, my TV time)?   Do I tell the kids that mornings are Mummy time,  and they are allowed to watch TV until I am ready (they are old enough to respect that…right?!).

Anyone got any ideas?

claire2

Life can be confusing…shake it off

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Shake it off…shake it off…

This week (wait, this month) has been hard work.   I feel like I say that a lot though.  Sigh.   Work is intense,  exciting but intense…requiring so much of my energy and focus.  I am aware that the balance right now is shifting in works favour, but it is only for a short time…isn’t it?

Someone asked me a work earlier in the week why I work part time.  It was an innocent question but it sent my brain into an overdrive spiral and it keeps popping up in my mind.  Why DO i work part time?  I am fiercely protective of my part time work,  but why do I do it?   When I sit with this question for a while,  the answer is that I want to also be a good mother.  I don’t want to be the person picking up the kids at 6pm from afterschool care 5 days a week, just before they lock the doors.  I want to have headspace to be there for my children, to remember all these years, not think back later that I should have spent more time with them.  I want to be able to help them with homework and support them in their hobbies.   I want to bake cookies and pick them up from school.

Which is why I am now so confused… because if I’m honest with myself,  has part time work allowed me to do these things recently?

I am there to pick the kids up from school,  but I’m often juggling work calls and answering last minute emails trying to close out my work day.   I find time for us to sit and do homework but the kids just whine at me because they would rather be watching TV and we spend 30min arguing instead.   I yell at the kids to move faster in the morning because I’m conscious of how much work that needs to get done in my short day and I’m anxious about getting my work day started.   I’m sitting at BMX training, while my daughter plays on the ipad and I’m thinking about the work trip that I need to go on next week.  On my “day off”, I usually spend the day trying to catch up on chores not baking cookies, feeling guilty because I should be on top of these things if I am working part time.

I’m confused,  exhausted and now I’m unsure if I’m making the right choices.   Is my balance all wrong?

The alarm went off at 6am this morning,  but I shunned my usual exercise plans and stayed in bed with a blissful cup of tea and my book (please exercise gods,  do not strike me down with big butt lightning).   At 7.30, I woke my sleeping kids from their slumber (yes, they were still asleep…it’s a miracle day).  “Cuddles Mummy” says my daughter.   And so I sit on her bed as she snuggles into my shoulder.  I smell her hair, I feel her warm little body wrapped around mine…and I feel myself fill up with all her warm sunshine.  All the emptiness and worry that I was feeling was completely washed away.  So I carry my little monkey out for breakfast.  We get the music pumping for some breakfast pyjama dance party action (I mean, why not?  dance party anthems really help the getting ready for school process I feel…).   And as Taylor Swift pumps out “Shake it off”…we bounce around the room, and I really do shake it all off.

Things aren’t always perfectly balanced, sometimes it can be tough….but I think we’re gonna be alright.

claire2