What’s New in Your Life?

All improvements are good, yet some changes can give us a lot more mileage in life. Adopting ‘intentional and examined life’ habits can greatly improve the quality of our existence. What changes do you intend to bring in the new year?

New Year with New Habits

As I reflect on the year gone by and the new year arriving, I consider some changes that benefitted me greatly in the past and some that I’d like to bring forward more fully into the new year ahead. I hope this blog might provide some ideas about what changes you may also want to introduce into your life ‘reset’.

1. Declutter your Stuff, Declutter your Mind, finally Declutter your Life

Understand the correlation between the amount of stuff you have and your energy spent on them, when you can spend on more important-people

Clutter steals your time and energy. You spend time constantly putting away stuff, taking out, reshuffling, and looking for things in a crazy mess. You may consider choosing and only keeping your favourite items and sell/donate the rest. Reflect on the observation that you always seem to choose your favourite ones be it a cheese grater or spatula. So why do you keep them all? Just in case?

Declutter, De-part with stuff in order to allow for more space-literally and figuratively

Things that you didn’t use at all this past year would be good candidates to consider letting go of.

Things that you may want one day but not right now are also good candidates. If you have two or more of the same or similar items that generally serve the same function, consider your less favored one for donation.

If you’re like most people, you probably have zillions of knickknacks that you don’t even put on your shelves or those that you didn’t realize that you had. They can be de-prioritized and de-parted away. Prioritization requires de-prioritization.

Decluttered space Photo by jordi pujadas on Unsplash

Next, develop a system to organize your stuff that works for you

When you can see what you have at a glance, like opening a kitchen drawer and instantly finding the tool you need, that would be a good system of organization. You’ll also find your things much more easily when you have less. Decluttering works.

Having dividers or compartments is an excellent way to organize one’s life – again literally and figuratively. Having one big drawer with all the kitchen stuff in it vs you have the dividers that separate knives, peelers, scissors, spatulas, etc. voila, you suddenly can find things easier. Or you feel overwhelmed at work. You use D dividers (4Ds explained below).

I find this Woman’s Day article helpful with one exception: I generally advise myself and others against buying yet more stuff to organize things into and instead re-purpose what we already have. Challenge yourself to find something within your home boundary as substitute for new organizers instead of buying yet more. I bet you can – most of the time.

For example, I re-purposed some of the plastic packaging (instead of recycling them) to create different compartments in the freezer for frozen veggies, fruit, rice & noodles, etc). I use re-purposed cardboard boxes and other sturdy food packaging for dry goods in the pantry to organize noodles, rice packages, cans, etc.

Decluttering shines a light on our bad habits

Hopefully, once you have decluttered your possessions, you will realize that you have bought stuff that you didn’t need and that didn’t add much value to your life and instead, taking up valuable space at home and in your mind-space. This awareness will likely reduce your unnecessary consumption and help reduce your spending in the future.

If not quarterly, I’d do decluttering at least once a year. Queue your favorite podcast episodes and spend a couple of hours decluttering. We need constant reminders of how we bring more stuff home.

Clutter is nothing more than a decision postponed

I read somewhere that clutter is nothing more than a decision postponed and I couldn’t agree more. Once those decisions are made, the empty decluttered void allows for more space in your mind.

Try the 4 Do’s to de-clutter your email inbox

I often helped my colleagues who were paralyzed by their inbox of hundreds of emails -some read and some unread, some answered and many waiting to be actioned. That overwhelming feeling of being so far behind can easily haunt you and leave you sleepless. If you are in the same situation, try this:

  • Create a folder in the inbox called ‘archived’ and dump all of the contents of the inbox into the folder except for today and yesterday’s email.
  • Read those emails still in your inbox and decide for each email which of four categories to put them into (i.e. the 4 Ds – a well-known organizational tool and concept). The 4 D categories for your emails are: Do it now, Defer to a specific date (using a task), Delegate or Delete. What you’re not allowed to do is to leave the email in your inbox. You must pick one of the four Ds. One email at a time, a decision is made and the email is actioned then filed away – either responded to (Do it now), tasked away (Defer), forwarded to a colleague (Delegate), or in the trash (Delete).
  • Appropriate folders are created for our records for later and most of the emails will be filed away into these folders. And all your archived emails will still be in the Archive folder if you ever need to review them again. If not, leave them there and start fresh.
  • At the end of each day (you decide on a time i.e.4:00pm, and consider emails that come in after the cutoff as the next day’s), you should have ZERO emails in your inbox, all actioned via the 4Ds and filed away in your folders. Every day you finish your workday with an empty inbox, you feel like a brand new person. You feel light and stress-free.

Now try the 4S’s to de-clutter your home

Decluttering of anything in your home should look similar to how you go about handing your email inbox. We need a very clear and distinct (not confusing) organizational space (folders), and every item has been decided upon (the 4D strategy) but rebranded the 4 S’s for your home organization: Store, Sell, Someone else’s gift (donate), Send off to landfill (garbage). 

A well-organized space provides you with the same sense of freedom and empowerment as an empty inbox at the end of the day.

Stuff at home can be overwhelming too. Once you’ve organized your closet using the four S’s, you’ll have some things in paper bags, others in suitcases, some in boxes, some labelled ‘to donate’, some ‘sell’, some ‘recycle’. Then why not sit on it for a few weeks and see if you miss any of them? Hopefully not too long or it becomes another delayed decision. 

2. Establish Planning Habits

Planning is an alignment tool towards your best life

Planning makes us more focused towards meaningful results. When we go from day to day, with our heads buried in the daily grind and especially in a work inbox passively, we act like zombies or robots. If you can conjure up the image of either of those creatures, you will see that it is not an ideal life, yet a lot of us live this way – unthinking, automatic. An examined and intentional life starts with reflecting, adjusting, decluttering and planning.

Establishing planning habits – Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

Start the year with planning

You may want to start by reflecting on your previous year. You can learn a lot from your own successes and failures. Did you have a goal for the year? If so, did you achieve it? If not, why was it unsuccessful? How would you do things differently this year? Keep in mind that “How” is just as important as “What”.

How would you define a successful year? Did you finish a certificate program to get closer to a diploma on your way to earn a better salary or promotion? Did you manage to establish a workout routine that you can claim with any regularity? Did you secure a volunteer position and are now part of a community group? Did you reduce unnecessary spending by 20%?

You goals must have whys

Whatever it is you want to achieve, big or small, you need to start with why. If your ‘why’ is not strong enough, you are unlikely to be motivated to achieve it. You are likely to have multiple goals around your life – work, money, relationships, health and so on.

Your goals should be reflected in your calendar/agenda throughout the year

Goals are reached one step at a time and often need to be planned, in your calendar. If you want to volunteer in the local community, throughout the year, you will first need to carve out some hours with the search, hours dedicated to the application process, hours dedicated to evaluating your options, and finally, hours/days to actually do the volunteering of your chosen position(s).

Start the week with planning

Reviewing the previous week provides good guidance for a better planned week this time around. You wanted to search for your gardening learning platform but didn’t do it. That’s ok. If you want to move this task to this week, that’s fine. How will you make sure to not postpone it this week? And if it happens again, well, then maybe it is a matter of not having enough passion for it. Deprioritizing clutter that is not a high priority is just as important as fitting in your true passion and priorities.

Weekly planning should track you towards your yearly goals. Let’s say you wanted to lose 20 pounds this year. How does that annual target translate into your weekly goal? If you need to lose a half-pound or less, what needs to happen this week? What do you want to have achieved at the end of the week?

If you want to organize your closet for the new season, you can carve out a time to do that in your calendar. If your goal is to have a weekly expense report, which will help you to review your spending, you would need to designate some time in your day to do the expenses.

3. Start your day with Meditation & a Better Frame of Mind

The quality of your life entirely depends on the quality of your mind.

Sam Harris

Just like we need physical exercise for a healthy body, we need mental workouts for a healthy mind too. Even ten minutes of regular meditation can make a difference in your day. Meditation over time will gradually train you to be more mindful, less reactive, kinder and more compassionate. Wouldn’t you want that for yourself? This not only helps your life but also everyone around you including your loved ones. Even strangers will benefit from your daily mindful practice.

There are lots of ways to get started. I personally signed up for a 10-day silent meditation retreat in the middle of nowhere where we meditated for 14-15 hours per day, talking to no one, no mobile phones, no internet, no contact with the outside world. Yeah, it was hard. And probably not recommended for everyone as a way to start in on meditation (and it nearly killed Håkan who was home alone wondering how the retreat was going!!!)

But coming out on the other side, I realized how valuable mindfulness is so this is what really started me earnestly on this path. However, it is Sam Harris’s walking up app that helped me become a regular meditator. As he said himself in his book Waking Up, you need a good mentor on your meditation journey.

4. End your day with Reflection

Evening Reflection is an idea that comes from the Stoic teachers. Spending 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each day, you can ask yourself “What did I do well today?” “What could I improve? What could I do better?” and finally “What do I need to do if I want to be the best version of myself?”

We cannot undo what has already occurred, but we can learn from it. I’d like to stress the fact that what we did well is just as important as what we could do better. We can learn from both, rewarding and reinforcing our best behaviours and improving from our less than ideal behaviours. We can always be a better person – my motto. Here is a great video to learn about the Stoic evening meditation.

Addiction to Social Media -Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

5. Seek Independence from Social Media

Are you addicted to social media? Is your device the first thing that you give attention to in the morning and the last thing before you go to sleep? What contents are you consuming? Are you consuming indiscriminately? What would you be doing instead if not for social media?

If you haven’t yet, you may watch Netflix’s Social Dilemma. What are the consequences of our growing dependence on social media? Silicon Valley insiders share how social media influences the users, hence reshaping our civilization. What do we make of the division between the Trump supporters and non-supporters?

If you cannot manage your time using Social Media in small doses, I suggest that you take a break for some time and do a Social Media detox. See if you can connect with your friends away from the platforms. Going deeper with fewer friends may add more value than broadcasting a photoshopped life to the many ‘friends’ that we have.

We need to claim our life back and declare independence from social media. It is already dividing and fracturing our society.

6. Prioritize Your Life

Your money and work support your life, not the other way around. Constantly prioritize the right thing over secondary things. Live your life like this is your last year. Incorporate this reality into your lives and take life preciously – ours and that of our loved ones.

Did you say something mean to your partner and regret it, yet you haven’t corrected it yet? Did you promise your child something but postponed it indefinitely? Are you spending your life energy every day at a job that you dislike?

Sustainable Living – DIY homemade goodness

7. Live a Sustainable Life

It supports our planet, and every being on it. Even more importantly, it ensures your quality of life. Paying attention to nature and living harmoniously with it is a great way of living. It is truly grounding.

As well, a balanced way of consumption is an expediter to financial freedom. Your happiness, fulfillment and enlightenment guaranteed! (ah, on a side note, if you haven’t, watch the movie called ‘Enlightenment – Guaranteed’- it is entertaining and yes, enlightening)

8. Take your Wealth Building Seriously

Having more money left each month is important. Even more important is investing it wisely so that it grows wealth for you efficiently. Money sitting in a chequing account won’t grow. Actually, it grows negatively if we factor in inflation. Investing in the right instruments (in equities, real estate, or both) will give you a much better return. Start now.

9. “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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Stuff, Money, Work and Life.

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