We are into December, can you believe it! For those of us in New Zealand, summer holidays are approaching and we can start looking forward to lazy days at the beach. How wonderful. In the meantime, a few busy weeks lay ahead of us with lots to get done at work and home, as well as social occasions to fit in. So, how can you stay sane in the lead up to Christmas, and enjoy your time off? It is the surprisingly simple things that can really make the difference: be savvy at work, take pleasure in everything, track your achievements and practice gratitude. Here’s how…
Be savvy at work
Sharpening our time-management and prioritising at work or home is a sure-fire way to smarten up our productivity and help us make the most of summer – especially if it means a few more opportunities to escape the office at a respectable time to fit in delicious things like an early evening swim at the beach! It’s also about upping your satisfaction quota – experiencing more achievement and completion makes us feel good.
The fastest way to experience more of this is to avoid getting caught up in email, minor emergencies and bitsy admin tasks to really focus on the important stuff. This is not rocket science, but it’s surprisingly tempting to spend the morning doing-doing-doing, without strategically focusing on the one or two things that will have the biggest impact.
Don’t be fooled by what is essential and what is important. Yes, we have to respond to certain emails, we have to complete paperwork and we need to return phone calls (essential stuff). However, how do you decide which emails to respond to? Are you managing expectations – even with clients – about when you can get back to them? Are you prioritising your own business planning and strategic activities, or simply running around after everyone else?
When we know we are getting the important things done and leaving the office (or coming to the end of a busy day at home with the kids) having completed some valuable tasks, we can go in to our evening feeling greater satisfaction that allows us to then enjoy our evening or weekend much more fully.
Savvy things you can do right now
1. Get clear about what is essential and what is important – take some time today to check in with yourself about what those things are – what is essential (have to’s) and what is important (valuable business- and client-contributing activities).
2. Take five minutes at the end of each day to set out your to-do’s and priorities for the next day. This downloads important tasks out of your head, on to paper and helps you relax in the evening. You can then begin the next day with clarity and purpose, knowing what the most important activities are and starting there.
3. If you have an important job to get done, do it first thing, before you even open your Inbox . I dare you!
Take pleasure in everything
Standing on the beach yesterday morning, my feet were sinking into the sand, the breeze was fluttering over my skin, the sun was glistening on the water as the waves gently sidled up to the shore before running away again. I felt taken in by the ocean, the air, the warmth of the sun. The whole of nature was holding me. I was completely immersed in the moment.
Later that day I reflected on how easily we can miss such delicious experiences even in our day-to-day activities by rushing through life from one activity to the next, one meal to the next, one place to the next. We merely skim the surface of our experience.
Spend this summer really soaking up life, taking it all in. I believe it is really how life is meant to be. We weren’t blessed with our senses of sound, sight, touch, smell and taste to simply fritter away our experiences!
1. As you are enjoying a meal, allow your whole attention to rest on the food in front of you. The smells, the colours, the tastes. Be totally present with your awareness. Take your time with mouthfuls, savour the flavours and textures. Try it with a sun-ripened strawberry. They are plentiful right now for those of us in NZ. They are like a little ball of sunshine and a perfect way to practice experiencing joy in your mouth!
2. As you take a walk, bring your attention to the feeling in your body of the movement, the energy flowing, the enjoyment of being outside. Notice your surroundings. Take in the trees, sky, sunshine, flowers and birdsong. If it’s raining, feel the freshness of the air, the invigorating coolness. Allow yourself to soak up the whole experience.
3. Slow things down. Enjoy the simple pleasures of a cool glass of water, hugs, smiles from people, the thank-you at the shop when you are paying for something, holding hands or a warm bath.
Track your achievements
As well as capturing your to-dos at the end of the day, logging what you’ve achieved is a powerful way to experience more satisfaction – a much more delicious way to go into your holidays! We move so quickly with modern technology that we can hit ‘send’ on a proposal we’re emailing out and then open our inbox to get on to the next thing, without really experiencing the completion of the proposal that we’ve just spent three days writing. How unfulfilling and unrewarding. Let’s change that this summer.
What you can do
1. At the end of each day (right after you’ve logged your important to-do’s for the next day!) notice three things you’ve achieved in your day. They may or may not have been on your original to-do list that morning, which doesn’t matter. Simply log what you have done.
2. Capturing these achievements in a notebook or on your smartphone or PC makes it even more concrete – you can see them, you can read them, it feels good!
3. Get in to the habit of sharing your achievements with your nearest and dearest – hubby, friend, flatmate. Ask them what they’re pleased to have achieved today, and share yours. This is a great way to enjoy even more satisfaction and contentment.
If you have any desire at the moment to up your happiness levels, this is one of the fastest ways I can think of to do just that. Appreciation feels incredibly good and is one of the most healing vibrations for your body – a delicious way of acknowledging summer, yourself and life. It is also a great way to get good-feeling neurotransmitters flowing – which not only feel good but help you perform better. Author of The Happiness Advantage, Harvard researcher and lecturer, Shaun Achor explains “your brain at ‘positive’ is 31% more productive than your brain than at ‘negative’, ‘neutral’ or ‘stressed’ ... your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise.” Bring on the happiness!
Daily appreciation tips
1. I know I’ve talked about this appreciation diary practice in previous issues, but it’s still as good as it ever was! Each evening in a notebook capture:
Three things I’m grateful for today …
Three things I’m appreciating about myself today …
2. Be sure to write down your gratitude. When you practice appreciation you are training your RAS (reticular activating system) in the brain which sorts for important information – you can quite easily train it to notice the good things in life, and research has shown time and again that happy people are really good at this.
3. Take a moment to appreciate people as you go through the day. Notice how good it feels to thank someone at the checkout for packing your groceries so carefully. You might be surprised at what flows back to you when you demonstrate appreciation so fully. It could make for a rather delicious day!
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