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One of the things that drove me full tilt toward the simply START living rebrand was to facilitate a work schedule that fits with the rhythm of life now. One that enhances life… and definitely doesn’t end up swallowing it whole.

I’m slowly coming around to the notion that in order to keep my head above water, this life stage requires a carefully balanced mix of creativity, family time, self care and downtime. In all honesty, the last year has felt like one of the trickiest I’ve had to navigate thus far and has brewed storms that have felt pretty tough to weather. At the time of writing, the waters look far from calm and so I’m attempting to equip myself with whatever wet weather gear metaphors you might care to conjure up. Can you tell it’s raining today?

One consequence of all of this is that, when I sit down to the normality and (relative) sanity of work, I want to find joy - so much more than I did before. I want to be in charge of my schedule and not let it be in charge of me. Manoeuvring this blog and my content creation work into a more defined criteria that takes into account the rest of life’s demands may sometimes mean that I’ll have to turn down a few opportunities, miss out on others altogether and potentially narrow my income streams to a degree. But I made peace with that way before work on the rebrand even began - FOMO is not a condition suffered by the minimalist midlifer.

If you’d asked me a few years ago what my vision of “being successful” looked like, the answer would have been described so very differently to the “success” I aspire to now. The past has passed and the future needs to include flexibility on both a daily and seasonal basis when it comes to work. I want it to include permission - one that I grant myself when I recognise the need to be kinder and take time away from work when needed, whatever the reason.

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When it comes to that infamous (and let’s face it, downright elusive) work life balance, experience has taught me that the best approach is to kick any of those secret sauce life hacks swiftly to the curb. And hard. There’s no set formula that cuts it for me because every week generally looks different when it comes to work and family life priorities. And it sure as hell should be different when I take stock of how I now feel on a day to day basis.

Learning to live with grief, taking a spin on the merry go round of peri-menopausal hormones and dealing with the consequences of the actions of others will all switch up your mood on a regular basis. To ignore those feelings and attempt to plough on regardless is a surefire path to inertia at the very best... burnout at the worst. So wherever possible I try to short-term plan, go with the flow a little more… and I learnt a long time ago that it was best to abandon the concept of trying to shoehorn myself into some fanciful image of a go-getting productivity goddess. I believe by the way, that she is really just the fictitious lovechild of Instagram and Pinterest… and only exists in an imaginary hashtag governed world to which none of us should ever wish for access to.

False gods and fake worlds aside, how does all of that translate into ensuring that, when I am raring to go and feeling a bit more energised, I’m able to harness that enthusiasm and put it to good use? And on the flip side, how best to remember that not everyday will be a Get Shit Done day and that I need to lose the guilt factor that comes with those quieter times?

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Here’s A Few Things That Help When I’m Attempting To Create A Work Schedule That Fits With The Ebb & Flow Of Life...

I dropped the guilt about carrying forward items on my To Do lists a long time ago. Also, making those short and long term lists way more realistic helps with this. Attempting to become some sort of blogging powerhouse was the worst thing I ever tried to do a few years ago. Being realistic about who I am and what I want to achieve as opposed to what I think I should achieve is a game changer.

At the end of each work day, before I allow myself some time in that fertile void, I try and remember to make a mental appraisal of all that I did in the course of the day. Including anything that cropped up that was never on a list in the first place. This helps me foster a small but nonetheless satisfying sense of achievement.

Whilst the nature of what I do can mean a variation in work priorities from week to week, having a few core routines and some set time slots helps me to be able to stay on top of all the routine stuff. When I can I defer to those and when I can’t, I try to be more of a “fly by the seat of my pants kinda Gal”. I bloody love me a bit of routine and structure but I also know that I do need to go off piste for a bit of variety every now and again. And it won’t kill me.

I need breaks. Gone are the days of chaining myself to the desk - especially now that the desk has been moved upstairs into a new work space. Walking Biscuit is always the perfect excuse but this summer I also started taking a coffee break out on the deck and sometimes eating my lunch out there too. The phone stayed indoors and a book was my companion instead. Some afternoons I just took my laptop into the garden and sat under the shade of an umbrella to just free flow write in Google docs… which leads on to the point below.

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Through the process of setting up simply START living I’ve learnt that what works best for me is to draft content and write outside of the website editor. Free from distractions of thinking about post structure, links, images and all the other bumpf that has to be included, the words seem to flow so much better in a simple Google document. I turn off the music, close all the other windows on the Mac and just write. It feels like pure joy.

I need to recognise and again remember, when I’m at my most productive - it’s between the hours of 8:00am and 12:00pm if you were wondering. This links to the point above about free flow writing. If there are no imminent deadlines then I try to use this time to write. If however there’s a task that I’ve been procrastinating the crap out of, then this is when I should be tackling it - generally, this is a deadline task. Clearly the older I get, the more deadline averse I become.

I tend to work much better with an organised work flow system and more importantly, this is only the case if I’m pernickety about keeping it updated. What it means is that when I want to take an off piste afternoon or have a day off, so long as I make a note of the next priority tasks for when I resume, I find I can relax and enjoy the break from routine a lot more.

I need to recognise when I’m in a creative slump, step the hell away and do something about it. See above. And below.

I need to take a day or half a day off sometimes. Simply that. And because I can, I will. Without guilt.

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A Few More Things I Want To Try In September

There’s a small paragraph in The Empowered Entrepreneur * (a book I enjoyed immensely during those garden lunch breaks), about not checking emails as your first job of the day. As Elizabeth Cairns cleverly points out, why on earth would you let someone else’s priorities dictate your schedule when they can easily wait until lunchtime. I LOVE this! Especially as that morning slot is my most productive. Its mine and I intend to reclaim it!

I’m currently reading Digital Minimalism * as recommended by Jessica and will be taking this to Cornwall with me to finish. Just thinking about trying to be more intentional with my use of Instagram in particular has made me realise how many times I mindlessly pick up my phone and scroll. In his book, Cal Newport refers to our phones as digital pocket slot machines… and it made so much sense. But instead of coins, we’re generally gambling with our feelings and allowing certain Apps to stack the odds against us. When you look at it like that…

So… I’ll be thinking about other inspiration inducing activities and attempting to do more of those. Instagram scrolling and hanging out on Pinterest is not sufficient. Taking myself, my camera and my music off to the beach for a walk is.

When it comes to workflow organisation, I currently use a structured series of iNotes but I might try switching to Asana and see if it feels more efficient and user friendly. If I do, I’ll report back.

During the school summer holidays, I’ve had a few hours here and there to get some work done and by and large, have been able to use them to good advantage. One of the reasons being that right from the outset, I told myself that the only real priority was to get the first Simply Living Letter out and write a blog post each week during the summer break - apart from when I take my own holiday. I stuck with that promise and as a result, have really enjoyed the times when I’ve sat down and written something. Compared to summer holidays passed, this one has been something of a revelation.

And on that note… it’s now time for my own summer blogging break! We’re off to Cornwall and my one and only mission is to fully recharge my batteries and linger in the joyous, late summer lull that inevitably precedes my favourite season of the year.

There’s been a real deliciousness to the languid moments I’ve experienced this summer and I fully intend to indulge in many more before a new term and that new season begins. I may (or may not) be popping up on Instagram for the next couple of weeks - I’ll guess I’ll see how the mood takes me. But I’ll be back to posting here in early September and as per every year at this time, I’m really looking forward to a return to routine and all the autumn goodness that’s waiting tantalisingly around the corner.

See you in September and make sure you take the time to savour every last moment of your summer!

Amanda x

Photography: Tino Renato via Death To Stock 

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