There will never be a better time so what are you waiting for?

A note found in Copenhagen // own photo

 

Why is it sometimes so difficult to get started with things? Why do you often keep on thinking about doing something but never actually do it? Why do we often think it is better to wait for a better time? What if this better time never comes?

There are probably a lot of things that you would like to explore, learn or do. You might be considering getting a new hobby or you might want to change your career path. You might be thinking how good it would be to learn a new skill. Or while browsing images on the internet you might be planning that one day you will redecorate your bedroom so that it will eventually resemble the one from the pictures you dreamingly look at.

Stop making excuses

But you never actually do anything, Instead, you come up with excuses or conditions. You say that you don’t have enough money to buy a new camera and so you have to put your interest in photography on hold. Or you allow yourself to start learning a new language on condition that you complete the course you are currently taking. Or you promise yourself that you will start jogging if you find a reliable jogging-mate. The thing is that if you continue thinking this way you will never do the things that you want to do.

Stop waiting for a better time

You cannot keep on waiting for the perfect time to start a new chapter of our life. What if this time never comes? So stop imagining the perfect moment and start acting because the best moment is now. Had I waited for ‘the perfect moment’ and for the time to feel 100% ready, I would have never started this blog. It was a new and unfamiliar territory that I have been exploring along the way. I have learned a lot by doing. I wouldn’t have learned a lot by waiting and reading about ‘how to’.

Take action now

Think about the future and how grateful you might be to yourself for taking the action now. Don’t postpone whatever it is you want do. Some preparation is always needed but, in my opinion, we learn best by action and by trying things out. And even if you are not successful, see it as a valuable lesson. At least you have tried your ideas out and don’t live in a ‘what-if’ land.

It is ok not to feel ready and it is ok to start things even if you don’t feel you are fully prepared. Be braver and forget about the urge to be perfect. Stop thinking ‘I wish I could’ because you can if you really want to.

 

What has been the best thing you have recently done for yourself?

 

Are you in your flow?

Varberg // own photo
Varberg // own photo

 

Time flies when you’re having fun.

I am sure that every once in a while each of us experiences a time when we are so engaged in an activity that the surrounding world does not seem to exist. We are enjoying what we are doing so much that we forget about the passing time and hours feel like seconds. This is how being in flow feels like.

What is flow?

Flow is a state of total immersion in an activity. It is also referred to as ‘being in one’s element’ or ‘being in the zone’. Flow occurs in different situations for different people. Some of us experience flow when we practise sports, some – when we use our creativity to produce a work of art, and others – when we try to solve mathematical problems. But what all these moments have in common is that we use our skills and our energy to the utmost.

When we are in a state of flow our thoughts are focused only on the current activity and we do not waste our energy on thinking about anything else. We don’t think about everyday matters and problems, and can raise above our everyday worries. What is more, we might even forget about our physiological needs; we don’t feel hunger or thirst, and going to the bathroom seems like a waste of time.

How to experience flow?

According to Mihail Csikszentmihalyi*, a psychologist who recognised and named the concept of flow, it is impossible to reach this state without putting any effort. Flow is a reward for taking initiative and for engagement. We experience flow more often when we are actively engaged, not when we spend time on passive activities. So instead of watching sports on TV we should start practising them, or instead of watching adventure films we should search for excitement in real life.

Csikszentmihalyi also thinks that there needs to be the right balance between skills and challenge. Challenge needs to be achievable yet not too easily. If there is too little challenge we soon start to feel bored and unmotivated. For example, some of us might find answering work e-mails extremely unchallenging and therefore will never be ‘in element’ when writing e-mail responses. On the other hand, if there is too much challenge, we feel anxious, frustrated and even defeated. This is how I feel when I try to solve a higher level of sudoku puzzles.

The challenge also needs to involve our skills. We might use the skills that we already have and concentrate all our knowledge and energy on a given task. Or we might expand our existing knowledge and reach another level of know-how.

Examples of flow

I am ‘in the zone’ when I write my blog posts. I really stop paying attention to time and to my needs, and am often surprised when I look at the clock. The other time when I experience flow is when I coach. I love meeting my clients, love the conversations we have, and it happens that we go overtime without even realising it. I can also totally ‘zoom out’ when preparing to coaching sessions; designing activities for my clients, searching for new coaching tools, reading articles or researching put me in my element.

People can experience flow not only when engaged in activities requiring highly developed skills but also when engaged in everyday activities. Some of us will be happiest when cooking, gardening, meeting friends or spending time with a family. Others will be in their element when writing a philosophical essay, giving a presentation at work or preparing a sales report.

What to do to be in flow more often?

If you, like me, would like to experience being in your element more often, try to engage more in activities that you are skilled for and that offer a pleasant outcome. Stay curious and be open to new experiences. Remember that flow is a reward for your engagement, creativity and attention.

If you unsure which activities give you greatest pleasure, start observing yourself. Identify the activities that make you feel accomplished and fulfilled and which give you a lot of energy. Then make sure to assign some time every day for these activities. The more often we experience moments of flow, the happier we feel. No one wants to fall into apathy.

 

When was the last time you experienced flow? What did you do? How did it feel?

 

*To find out more about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his concept of flow refer to this TED talk:

https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?

 

Time management and the importance of prioritising

time
Sunset // own photo

 

My friends ask me sometimes how I manage my time and am able to do everything I do. This question puzzles me because I don’t think I do anything exceptional.

Yes, I do consider myself organised. I work four days a week, I take care of our child, and I take care of the house. Nothing unusual, right? On top of this, I try to establish myself as a coach. This means that I run this blog and am currently working on improving my website. I constantly want to learn new things that can help me with my career; I took three courses in the past 1.5 years and now am looking for a course in writing. To me, what I do isn’t anything unusual. I believe that a lot of us could make similar lists, couldn’t we?

Having a goal

In my opinion, the key to time management is having a clarified goal. Knowing what you want helps you focus on the activities that will get you there. It can be one of those big life goals, like starting a family, building a house, moving to a new country or completely changing a career path. Or it can be a smaller goal; something that you want to achieve in the coming months or years. Once you realise what is really important to you, you can start planning your days by choosing the right activities and resigning from the ones that present little or no value to you.

Prioritising and planning

Do you know which of your activities are important and which aren’t? Have you ever had a proper look at your everyday routines and analysed their usefulness? Is what you doing every day bringing you closer to reaching your goals? I have, and such analysis astounded me and gave me great insights.

Let’s have a look at the four quadrants of time management. This approach to time organisation was presented by Stephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’*. Covey recommends focusing on important things before they become urgent, and emphasises the necessity of planning. By following this advice we should be able to limit or even avoid stressful situations because we take time to predict, plan and prepare.

The four quadrants of time management:

URGENT

NOT URGENT

 IMPORTANT

I

 

II

 NOT IMPORTANT

III

 

IV

Below is the same grid completed with examples of activities:

URGENT

NOT URGENT

 IMPORTANT

I

crises

deadlines

problems

II

planning

prevention

recreation

 NOT IMPORTANT

III

interruptions

some calls

some mail

IV

trivia

time-wasters

some calls

Analysis of your time management skills

Now it is time for you to complete this chart with your everyday activities (download).

After you have completed the grid, take a while to thouroughly analyse activities in each of the quadrants. Here are some thoughts and questions to help you with the analysis:

Quadrant 1: These activities are urgent and important, and need to be dealt with immediately. They can be a result of your poor planning. What can you do to avoid ending up in situations requiring you to make important decisions under pressure?

Quadrant 2: These activities are important but do not need imediate action. The items that you listed here require time, preperation and attention. What can you do to improve your planning and to start every task having an end result in mind? What can you do to shift your daily activities to this quadrant?

Quadrant 3: Here we have activities that are urgent but unimportant. They might be a result of the lack of planning and/or motivation. What can you do to eliminate unnecessary emergencies and to minimise the number of items in this quadrant?

Quadrant 4: In this quadrant you listed unimportant and non-urgent activities. These items bring little or no value. What can you do to minimise or eliminate time-wasters?

Once you have done the analysis and sifted through your daily activities, you should be able to start planning your days and managing your time more efficiently. And remember that your goal is to stay in the second quadrant. This means that you should focus on making plans, building relationships with people, looking for new opportunities, relaxing in order to stay balanced, etc.

 

What are your reflections after doing this analysis? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

*This model is sometimes also referred to as ‘Eisenhower Box’ or ‘Eisenhower Matrix’ because it was developed by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the USA, served as a general in the United States Army, and also became NATO’s first Supreme Commander. He lived a very productive and organised life.

 

What if nothing in your life ever changes?

Tjolöholm // own photo
Tjolöholm // own photo

 

‘What if I told you 10 years from now your life would be exactly the same? Doubt you’d be happy. So, why are you afraid of change?’ – quote by Karen Salmansohn, author of ‘The Bounce Back Book’

 

Imagine your life in 10 years’ time. Where are you? Where do you live? What is your family situation like? Where do you work? How does your day look like?

I guess you are imagining some advancements and some changes for the better.

What if I told you that nothing in your life would ever change…

That you would wake up one morning in 10 years’ time only to find yourself in exactly the same situation as you are in today.

Your day looks the same. Your daily routines are the same. You wake up at the same time, you take the same bus to get to the same job. You still occupy the same desk at work, only that it has more coffee stains and more ink marks on its surface.

At lunch time, you go to the same place. Or you bring your packed lunch from home and eat in the same lunch room at work. The only difference is that there are more new faces around and most of your good colleagues are long gone.

Your job duties haven’t changed much. You hold the same position and perform a set of familiar routines. You don’t feel inspired and inspiring any more. Every time someone new starts working at your office, they raise their eye brows when they hear how long you have worked there for.

You take the same route back home as you have done for the past decade.

At home, your and your partner’s arguments take the usual, well-exercised path. You still haven’t resolved how to divide household duties and the issue of unloaded dishwasher comes back every other day. However, the unpainted walls in the kitchen don’t bother you any more. You have grown a habit of not noticing the faded shade of blue.

Your social circle haven’t changed much. You haven’t learned a new skill, discovered a new hobby or gone to a new place for holidays.

You look back and wish you have done thinks differently. If you had, you would probably be in a very different situation today.

What to do not to end up there?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to suddenly wake up in 10 year’s time only to find out that I wasted years of my life. This vision is exaggerated, but I am pretty sure that there are plenty of people who wish they made smarter choices or better-informed decisions when they still could.

So start changing now! Don’t wait till next Monday, next month, or next year. All it takes is some reflection and then willingness to change.

 

Which aspect/aspects of your life would you like to dramatically change in the coming years?

 

The power of habits: is what you doing today contributing to your tomorrow?

habits
Carinthia, Austria // own photo

 

Do you live consciously and are aware that even one small everyday decision might change your future? Or are you just letting your days go by? Have you ever reflected upon your daily routines? If so, what were your findings? Have you got rid of an unnecessary habit? If so, how has it improved your life?

The above questions are worth pondering about, even though the conclusions of such self-conversations might make you feel uncomfortable. If you want to be successful in life, regardless of how you define ‘success’, it is valuable to reflect upon such matters and give honest answers. Because both you and I want to be in control of our lives and not let the circumstances, habits or other people control us.

I want to live my life with full awareness therefore I often reflect on and evaluate my everyday routines. I also often ask myself: ‘Is what I am doing now going to bring me closer to achieving my goals?’

I believe in the power of everyday habits and routines. Firstly, once we develop a habit, it becomes our second nature and we don’t really need to think about it, we just do it automatically. Secondly, every little step made every day takes us closer to where we want to be – and what a great feeling that is: knowing that every day you can do something to positively affect your tomorrow!

My current habits

Here are some of the habits which I have developed over the years and which I am proud of:

  • I put things away. Also, as soon as I purchase a new item, I find a place to store it. I make sure that everyone in my family puts things where they belong, after each use. Such a system helps us avoid mess in the house.
  • I clean my closets on a regular basis which helps me live a fairly decluttered life.
  • When I was about 10 years old my Mum taught me how to crochet, knit and mend clothes. Since then I have been repairing not only my own clothes, but also my friends’ and my relatives’. Whenever the damage occurs, I repair it straight away. This habits helps me avoid unpleasant surprises, like discovering a broken zipper on a pair of trousers I want to wear when I am just about to leave the house.
  • I save up. I always have. This habit helped me, for example, to make a down payment on my house.
  • I use my commute time (about 1 – 1.5 hours every day) wisely. I either do something useful for my career (participating in webinars, taking online courses, studying and reading) or do something for my pleasure (watching films). For me, fiddling with the phone or staring out of the window is a waste of time.
  • I often think of my career and reevaluate my professional goals. I keep a document where I write what I would like to do next and which steps I need to take to get there. For me, it is very useful to have a plan like this, and I learned that writing things down helps me visualise my aims and makes me feel accountable for them. Thanks to this habits in the past 3 years I did four courses, including coaching, project management and marketing, and I am planning to learn more.

Some things I want to try

I enjoy reading about habits of successful people and here are some routines I want to try and see if they would work for me:

  • As cruel as it sounds, I want to try to get up at 5 a.m. on week days. I work full time, I commute, and I have a small child. After getting back home from work I don’t have much possibility to do anything creative on my own so this would give me an extra hour just for myself to read or to write.
  • I would like to start a journal. Maybe 5 a.m. would be the perfect time to start writing down my thoughts?

 

It is important to realise that changing habits is a process and that implementing new habits takes time. While we might not always enjoy where we are, our habits can lift us and take us to new places. On the other hand, you might be enjoying what you do today, but if I told you that you would be in the same position in 10 years’ time, would it make you feel content? Is this contentment valuable enough to last your lifetime?

 

What are your daily routines that bring you closer to your life or career goals? I will gladly read about them in the comments.

If you would like to read more about everyday routines, you can check one of my previous posts here.

 

Let go of the things you cannot influence

influence
Varberg // own photo

 

How many areas of your life can you influence?

I will now try to list the aspects of my life that I have a lot or some control over.

Let’s start with my health. I know that I can influence my physical health by making the right food choices and by exercising. I can also influence my psychological well-being by staying positive and by deciding how much I let others affect how I feel.

I can make decisions when it comes to my career. I am able to educate myself to make well-informed choices when it comes to my professional life. It is only up to me to decide to take on another course which might advance my career. I might as well choose to be idle and enjoy comfortable life without professional challenges.

I can influence my appearance. I can choose what I wear. I can choose my haircut. I can choose to have the right amount of sleep not only to be healthy but also to look well-rested. Or I may decide to sabotage my health, well-being and appearance by going to bed late. It is up to me.

I can decide, or rather co-decide, how to bring up my child, bearing in mind that my current choices will affect her future. The way she sees herself, what she eats, how she spends her time – my choices will shape her as a person.

I can control how and with whom I spend my time. I can choose to hang around good friends who are truly pleasant to spend time with and whose company enriches me. Or I can decide to surround myself by a large number of random people whose company is fun yet doesn’t bring much value. The choice is mine.

I can decide what I think of myself and of others. I can shape my opinions. I can change my opinions should I feel like it. It is only me who decides what my thoughts are.

I can decide what I eat for dinner. I can decide which route to take to work. I can pick what to eat for lunch. I can choose whether to watch TV or to read a book. I can pick my internet provider and my mobile company. I can choose my partner. I can choose to leave him.

I cannot choose what others think of me. I cannot decide what other people decide – it is just up to them. I have nothing to say when it comes to my sister’s choices – it is her life. I cannot decide who wins the next election, even though I do vote. I have no control over the stock market and over the world economy. I have no influence whether the wars end sooner or later, or f they end at all. I don’t have much to say when it comes to political decisions; it is just out of my hands.

There are already so many choices I am making in my life every single day. There are so many areas I CAN influence. Why would I be wasting my energy on anything that is out of my control?

So here is my mantra: identify what you can control and then focus on what you can influence, change and improve. Let go of the rest.

 

How do you feel knowing that you don’t control it all, and you don’t have to? Let me know in the comments.

 

Inspiration #1

inspiration
Winter walk in Hovås // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

  • An interesting article on things we can live without. The author mentions eight categories of items which do not seem necessary. I could not agree with her more! And I can proudly say that so far I have got rid of all of my CD’s and a lot of my books, and I am inspired to keep on decluttering.

 

What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments.