I’ve always been a bit obsessed with productivity and life hacks. The idea that simple changes can make a big improvement to your life has fascinated me for years. However, I’m not your typical productivity nerd. I happily slip in and out of all my habits. After all, life isn’t about to-do lists.
Last year, I became a foster carer. One morning I woke up as a single dad to 3 children. It was a bit of a shock to the system. But it’s been surprising how my ‘how-can-I-improve-my-life’ approach to things has helped not just me, but also the kids and our life together.
Here are some little things that make a big difference; the ideas that have stuck, and the ones I return to most often. They’ve all helped me massively. I hope they’ll help you too.
Eat well. Sleep well.
It all starts here. Seriously.
When it’s all going very wrong, I often find myself coming back to this.
Am I eating well? Am I sleeping well?
The reality is that, way too often, the answer to one (or both) of these is no.
After suffering a relatively serious injury to my back a few years ago, I decided to make some big lifestyle changes. Hiring a nutritionist, buying a Nutribullet, eating as many home-cooked meals as possible, and drinking lots of water; all made such a big difference.
- Go see a nutritionist. They’re not that expensive and the good ones are amazing.
- Drink plenty of water, but don’t do it from a plastic bottle. Get one of these instead. I’ve
now got 4. Make it really easy to drink water and you’ll likely do more of it.
- Buy a Nutribullet or some other smoothie-making device. I can’t imagine there would be an easier and more effective way to get so much good nutrition into your body.
- Treat sleep as a priority. Get the amount and quality that you need.
Depending on what’s happening with the kids and work, I often need to have a week of killing it. I don’t do rushing around, as I end up chasing my tail and getting into a complete mess.
But I when I need one of these weeks, I have to be beyond organised.
- Get a good email app. We all spend too much time on email, at least make sure that the software you’re using isn’t getting in your way. Airmail on Mac and iOS is my preferred choice (and I’ve tried them all).
- Get off your email! I really do view most of my time spent on email as wasted time. Long emails don’t achieve anything. Just reply and get the hell out of there!
- The main tools I use to help me stay away from email are Todoist (basically a task manager, but so awesome!) and Bear (a notes app, that’s just a joy to use).
- I can’t list the above without including a notepad. I love anything Moleskine but really, anything will do. Nothing is as easy as a pen and paper (but my Bear app is a close second, as I’ve always got my phone with me).
Control your own time
Whenever I find myself rushing around like a nutter, I remember that busy is a decision. The goal isn’t to have nothing left on your to-do list. It’s about constantly making choices about what you should do with your time.
What’s the one thing I should be doing now?
It’s also one of the main reasons email is so toxic. Working from your inbox allows other people to control and prioritise your time. Don’t let them!
- Keep a diary and block out time for the things you want to do. It’s easy to see why calendars are more effective than to-do lists.
- Look for ways to save time on small repetitive tasks. The little two-minute tasks you do every day all add up. My favourite example is switching the lights in my house on and off — I now use the Philips Hue bulbs and other similar devices. Not that expensive. Saves so much time and hassle.
Have an abundance mindset
I really embrace the abundance mindset; the idea that in life, we can choose between viewing the world as abundant or limited in terms of love, relationships, wealth and resources. I guess it could be used to think about money, but I like to use it when thinking about time.
There’s plenty of time out there and these little things help me see that.
- I get my car cleaned every week. I vary the day, to time it with the wonderful weather we experience in South Wales. But it’s a luxury that keeps on giving. If my car is filthy, each time I use it/look at it I find myself thinking… I don’t have time to wash it.
- My latest abundance hack is buying fresh flowers for the house. Just a single, small, cheap bunch from the supermarket. They’ll last all week, and each time I pass them I find myself feeling lucky that I have the time/money to have them. Plus they do look nice.