When I was a teenager, my dad decided that it would be a good idea for the family to take up downhill skiing. The fact that we lived on the flat Saskatchewan prairie hundreds of miles from even a hill did not deter him.
We were duly outfitted with skis, boots, snowsuits, goggles, and special ski gloves, and off we went to the nearest ski hill. It was just a hill, situated in the Cypress Hills of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, several hours drive from home. The Saskatchewan side had one slope with a rope tow for getting back to the top of the hill—a good place to start for a bunch of novices.
Once we felt we’d mastered the single slope, which took mere minutes to descend, for our next excursion we moved on to the Alberta side where a ski resort of perhaps three runs stood in a park at Elkwater Lake.
By our second or third season as skiers, we branched out to the big time and drove over six hours to the Rocky Mountains at Banff to ski. Eye-popping, mogul-bashing slopes covered half a mountainside. And there were real chairlifts and a ski lodge complete with overpriced cafeteria food.
Somewhere along the line, it dawned on me that these ski excursions were a lot of work. Getting up in the cold, dark, wee hours of the morning, piling on loads of bulky gear, and dragging skis and heavy boots to the bottom of the hill wasn’t my idea of a really great time. (I'm the indoorsy type.)
Sure, the skiing had its fun moments, and for some members of the family, those moments far outweighed the exertion of getting there, and reversing the procedures, tired and hungry, when the winter sun sank below the nearest peaks.
After I left home as a young adult, I skied only a few more times. Usually, it was with friends from university, or when my family came to town for another skiing expedition. I even skied in the Swiss Alps, on the Matterhorn once. It was spectacular and I am forever grateful for having the experience.
We do things, sometimes for the sole reason that we do those things. It’s what our crowd does, or the family does, and we continue without questioning the value it conveys to our lives.
After I skied at the Matterhorn, quitting halfway through the afternoon to sit in the sun at the lodge, I realized that the cost of skiing, in terms of energy, effort, discomfort, and money, was simply too high compared to the pleasure and joy that I derived from the activity. I made the decision not to be a person who skis. I’ve never skied since that day more than thirty years ago.
Am I saying you shouldn’t ski? Of course not. If you love it and it’s worth it for you, by all means, have at it and enjoy yourself.
My point is whether the cost versus the return on your investment in terms of emotional commitment, time, energy, and money—if that even applies—is worth what you receive in return.
We are fortunate to have choices about how we want to spend our lives. In order simplify life, and therefore have more ease, we all need to look at what is costing more than it’s providing.
Wishing for more time, energy, or money for what you truly value is a great place to start, but without paring away those pursuits where the expenditure is greater than the payback, we’re destined to remain in that place I call hopeless hoping. We want things to be different, we wish they were, but we don’t know where to begin to change them.
(If you’re not clear on what you truly value, my program, The Wish Plan, can help you find that out.)
Instead of carrying on doing the same stuff you’ve always done, just because you’ve always done it, why not measure the out-go against the in-come? It might surprise you to discover that a lot of your daily joy is draining out of you because your simplicity balance sheet is out of whack.
By stepping back and viewing habits and activities in light of the impact they have on our lives, positive and negative, we can ascertain whether on not to continue to pursue them, or would dropping them make your life more meaningful.
Working at home can mean your ultimate success or your worst nightmare.
You’ve kicked the 9-5 job to the curb and have joined the ranks of those blessed few who get to work at home. You crawl out of bed your first morning of freedom and are at your desk bright and early.
You may already have your time planned but it you don’t, it’s a good idea to put some schedules and systems into place. Trying to accomplish things with a loosy-goosey day plan (which is no plan) isn’t going to contribute to your success.
Without structure inherent in a job environment, it’s up to you to impose structure on your own time. The easiest way to do this is to write a daily schedule. Start by listing your main goals, and then break those out into a task list. By assigning “appointment” times, or duration times, to each task, you can stay on track without getting lost in the many choices you may have.
A great way to accomplish a lot in an efficient manner is to batch similar work together. For example, if you have appointments out of your home office, arrange for them all to be done on the same day, thereby saving travel time.
You can also look after social media posts of all kinds in one session, say from 9:00 until 10:00. This not only focuses your attention on the task at hand, but it eliminates some of the temptation to click over to Facebook or Twitter to check out what your friends are saying several times a day.
Keep work in the work space
Regardless of what type of work you do, whether sitting at a computer, or sanding cabinets in your shop, it helps to separate home life from work by keeping work in the space meant for it. Believe me, if your work gets spread all over the house and your kids are moving your papers or tools, you’re opening the door to lots of family conflict.
Don’t eat at your desk, and don’t sleep in your office or workshop. Stop trying to do more than one thing at a time.
Beyond that, it’s a good idea to make it clear in your own mind when you are “at work” and when you’re home. While people often believe that the temptation is to do too little work when you work at home, for entrepreneurs the opposite is generally the case. It’s far too easy to work all the time, especially when you love what you do.
In Part 3, we’ll discuss those pesky distractions and how to rise above the din.
Creating new habits isn’t easy. Here are six simple tricks that will make it a little easier. Use them until you’ve internalized your new creative habit and don’t need them anymore.
Schedule It And Put It On The To-Do List
Sometimes we forget to do that new thing we were trying. Maybe we forget that we’re supposed to be writing first thing in the morning instead of reading the news, or that we need to get that daily walk in that charges up creative energy.
Schedule your new creative habits or make them part of your daily to-do list until they become something you do automatically.
Make It Public and Be Accountable
Let family and friends know what new creative habits you’re trying to establish. They will call you out if you don’t stick to your plan and get you back on track.
You may even go as far as sharing it publicly on Facebook or write a blog about your new journey. Knowing that others read it and know about it might be just enough to keep you going when you feel like throwing in the towel or slipping back into old routines.
Piggyback On A Habit You Already Have
Whenever possible, add the new habit to one you already have. For example, if you fix a cup of tea or coffee at 4:00 pm, and you want to get in the habit writing in your journal, make the new ritual to do your journalling while enjoy your tea.
It’s much easier to amend an existing habit or ritual than creating an entirely new one.
Make Slip-ups Costly
Here’s a fun idea. Put a jar on the kitchen counter and each time you slip back into your bad habit or forget to stick to the new one you have to put five dollars in the jar. It will quickly help you remember to skip wasting time surfing Facebook instead of working on your creative project. For extra motivation donate the money to charity at the end of the month or hand it over to your spouse to go spend.
Find A Partner and Help Each Other Along
Find someone with the same or similar creative goal. This could be a writing partner or fellow artist. Keep tabs on each other and encourage each other to keep going. It’s much harder to skip if you know someone else is depending on you.
Make It A Group Challenge
If one accountability partner is good, a whole group is even better. And they don’t even need to be local. Find a supportive group creative online and challenge each other to stick to your new habit for the next 30 days or so. Not wanting to be the first one to give up will keep all of you going until you establish that new habit.
Give these simple little tricks a try. Keep using the ones that you find helpful until you have made new creative habits you can stick with without the help of any tools or support.
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Making good decisions is not the easiest thing to do especially when faced with multiple options. One way to simplify the process is to consider fewer options at a time.
Works with children
When my children were young I discovered that my life became much easier and theirs much happier when I limited their options rather than giving them more choices. Something as simple as offering the breakfast cereal in my right hand versus the one in my left was a big enough decision. No need to open the cupboard and show all eight kinds in there. That took far too long and frustrated everyone.
Works for me too
This simple trick can be used equally well in adulthood. For example, instead of asking where in the world I want to vacation, I could begin with only two options—ocean or mountain. If I choose ocean, the question becomes, east coast or west?
From those limited options, northeast or southeast? On the beach or on the water? Now I can call my travel agent and book that cruise and it only took minutes to decide.
See how much easier it is to make a decision when you narrow down the options? Give it a try.
Where I share creative ideas, uplifting thoughts, and spread sweetness to make life pretty.