Life can be hectic. Life can be painful. Life can be joyfully messy.
I’m sure you can remember one of those days where you sit down and look at your diary and can’t even remember what happened the day before. It felt busy but you haven’t DONE anything special or made a real progress on any project you are working on. You’re exhausted and are craving some Me-time.
It’s where things get tricky because you feel too busy to take Me-time, but not having the Me-time makes you less productive and less creative. When you run your business or your household, it’s easy to feel like everything is getting out of control and that you are pushed left and right without any way to feel better.
Oh I know the feeling. I can tell you this though, you can get back on your feet and make your day easier and more enjoyable. You can fill your own tank and do better work. The key is having some routines in place to support you.
I’m a multi-passionate individual and have been self-employed for the last 17 years, moving to a new country 10 years ago. Moved flat 9 times after I broke up with my partner in just 3 years. I often have to stay in hotel rooms when I work. I can work days, nights, weekday, at the week-end. That’s what happens when you work in film.
So many reasons to lose my marbles as my English friends would say. Even more so as I’m an introvert that really values having a nest to regain energy and sanity from my work as it requires interacting with lots of people.
Over the years, I have developed a set of routines to ground me wherever I am and baby-steps to build a better life.
I believe there’s a lot to gain having routines in place and creating baby steps to build them is a great way to start. Nothing’s too small that you can’t see a result.
Here are some of my routines. I can assure you, if you start by picking one, then add another one every week, your life can feel quite different.
MY EVENING ROUTINE
I prep my day the night before.
Leaving the choice of clothes to the morning is a dangerous thing. Discovering a stain or that your trousers don't fit anymore or a button has got missing on this shirt last time you washed it isn't good. So I prep my clothes the night before. That means I can check if anything needs ironing for that big presentation, and I also avoid losing time or getting stressed by unexpected problems.
I also prep my breakfast table with all I need to get it ready. It's like a little loving gesture for myself.
It's faster to prep breakfast, it makes me feel like someone cares (even if it's just me.) Not having to make too much effort to start the day BEFORE I have my coffee is always hugely appreciated. When the alarm clock rings at 3.30am as it often does for me, not having to waste 5 minutes to put together mug, spoon, coffee and coffee press is amazing.
I take a moment while I brush my teeth to think of what I'm grateful for.
I can't really leave that to when I'm in bed because I tend to fall asleep as soon as I lay down. Literally. Knowing how much good it does for me to feel grateful every day, I have now associated brushing my teeth with being grateful. so up to 3 times a day, I clean my teeth and my heart. I am not for multi-tasking but this one is a winner.
MY MORNING ROUTINE
I am a huge believer in habit-stacking. "What is it?"- I can hear you ask. Habit-stacking is building small habits on top of another so that both stick better. Like being grateful when you wash your teeth. Chances are, you are already used to brushing your teeth every day. You won't forget to do that, so adding a new routine that you do EVERY TIME you brush your teeth helps you create that new habit.
In the morning, my routine is well defined:
I put the kettle on, I feed the cat, I do a few squats while it gets to boiling point, I pour my water in a coffee press, I do some abs exercise while the coffee brew. I prep my coffee with butter and coconut oil to make it bulletproof. It's nourishing, great for my brain power and not having to wonder what I'll have for breakfast is fantastic. Studies have shown that you lose willpower every time you have to make a choice in your day so I take out the little options that were not making a real positive impact on my life. I do have the odd other breakfast, usually, on days off when I know my willpower won't be tested that much.
When I work from home, I drink it on the sofa while reading on my phone, and the cat often graces me with a cuddle and a loud purring. That's my routine, I give myself that time to start the day with something that fills my needs, pleases me, fulfills me. I fill my own tank.
Honestly, at the end of the day, there's never enough time or energy for it.
Starting the day filling my own tank means I can be more present with other people, in my work, without feeling depleted or exhausted emotionally.
Life as a single self-employed lady is hard enough as it is, I want to do my bit to make it nicer, I want to be more kind to myself. Having a couple minutes of exercise helps me take care of my body and maintain it in a good state. You wouldn’t believe how these couple minutes have helped me lose a bit of belly and gain some well needed core strength.
WHEN I’M BACK FROM WORK
Having routines to "settle down" is really good to help you switch off from work at the end of the day.
I wash my hands, I drink a glass of water, usually prep a cup of tea. I tend to take off my rings, that I always put on my bedside table on a little ring holder I got from Muji. Simple. Always the same place.
When the day is finished, I also put my glasses and my watch next to this cute ring holder.
When I work and stay in a hotel. Same principle occurs. The bed table has all my bits. I put them on as I wake up and put them back there when I go to bed.
I prep any trip and always have things to do if I arrive iearly.
We tend to plan trips to the minimum because arriving too early make us feel like we are wasting time or money because that cafe looks really tempting when you know you have 20 minutes before your clients arrive.
- I have books and podcast A-PLENTY in my phone. I look forward to read if I arrive early. I put a timer on and get into a good book for a bit.
- I can go for a quick walk if I am in an area I know. It's a good way to start the day with a few more steps. It's good for my health, good for my nerves. Moving, walking is one of the best things you could do for your health.
- I can send an email or a message to a friend to keep in touch.
- I can pop on a Facebook group to answer some questions or go on Instagram and leave some comments.
If you are afraid of forgetting the kind of things you can do during those times making a little doc of things you can do in 5 minutes or less on your phone is pretty useful. A Google doc or a page in your diary is handy for that.
That's a tip I have learned from David Allen and his GTD method. Many people find the method too hard to keep up with but having a list of tasks by context is a game changer, I swear!
I USE APPS TO CHECK WHERE I HAVE TO GO.
Waze has been a joy to use and saved me many times. It shows you how to go from A to B and various routes to do so. It's crowd-based informed so you can tell the apps things as they happen. It's a really clever little app that can as well let the people you're meeting with how you're doing on the road. So useful when I drive home for a dinner and the cook can check on me to put the dish in the oven.
I MAKE LISTS. MANY LISTS.
I hate having to think for things I do often. I hate forgetting things. So I make lists.
I have one for when I have a few days of work away, so I don’t forget underwear or socks (yep, happened once, had to go and buy underpants at the local supermarket).
I have one for the type of jobs I can get (the things I need to take with me when I work in my make-up job are really different if I go to a period film or a corporate shoot with men)
I have one for when I go see my Mum in Paris (You don’t want to realize you have forgotten your passport or your Euro purse once you've nearly arrived at the Eurostar. NOT a good feeling)
What kind of list could you create for yourself to relieve your stress?
I MAKE A WEEKLY REVIEW.
Another piece of advice I got from the Getting things done methodology is to making a weekly review of your life and work.
THAT is crucial for me. I have many many balls in the air at all times as I have two businesses.
Every week, I sit down with my coffee, my diary and my notebooks and I look at the past week. Did I do all I wanted? Is there something great I forgot to write down?
How is next week looking? What should I remember to do? How do I want to feel? What are the actions that will make my business go forward? What should I take care of?
I have created a simple weekly spread in a notebook so that I don't need to write the full questions every week. I like to keep things minimal to be efficient. I use keywords (earn, care, events, create...) to helps me remember the areas of my life I want to be taken care of. If you come and visit me on Instagram (@righbraingeek), you can often have a pick at my review.
It's my weekly map, my anchor, my lighthouse. I can see where I am going, I feel more in control. I act from my priorities instead of reacting to things. It doesn't mean I do all the things on my to-do list or that I do everything in the time I was wishing for.
It means I am always aware of my priorities and I choose to do the things in alignment with these.
That's where I get my peace from. That's how it feels good for me to live my life.
EVERY STEP TAKEN GETS YOU CLOSER TO THAT FEELING OF FLOW
You can see in the list, they are not big Herculean tasks. You can all start one of these today. Maybe more. Start small, take the one you feel you be easy to set-up or the ones you feel you would get the most immediate results from and add more once the first one feels natural. You will feel better, refreshed, in flow. I bet your loved ones will notice the difference. They may ask you how you do it.
And you? What are your routines? Have you tried to build baby steps to get results?
Leave a comment below.
I would love to hear from you.
Pascale Recher shares her tips to build a wholesome business that feels good and looks good on her site The Right-Brain Geek.
You can also listen to her podcast where she invites purpose-driven individuals who have created a business in alignment with their values. You can subscribe on iPhone and Android at http://www.therightbraingeek.com/rightbraingeek-podcast/and find her on social media, she’s @rightbraingeek everywhere.