10 ways to create better balance in your life

You probably have a lot of stuff to do in your day to day life. We’re all cramming our lives with more and more stuff, more and more things to do and to be and tasks to cross off our to-do-lists. Sometimes, things can get overwhelming, and it feels like all the things you have to get done are taking over your life.

So, how do we battle this feeling of never having enough time and rushing from task to task? Here are my ten suggestions:

  1. Prioritise

It’s an oldie but goodie: You have to know what your most important things are. And yes, you have to choose. The easiest way to do this is to write down all the areas you have to get stuff done in. You can divide your life into categories, i.e. writing/school/family/fitness etc. or you can divide it into the roles you have to play, i.e. writer/student/daughter/runner etc. This is up to you, whatever suits you best. And you can have as many categories/roles as you want (although obviously, the fewer the easier), but you HAVE TO number them. Yes, that’s right, HAVE TO. There’s only one thing that can be your number one priority! Your priorities can shift over time, but if you have them listed by number, it will be easier to know what choices to make to advance your top priorities. For example, if you have written ‘writer’ as your number 1 role, you know that you must choose writing over number 2, daughter, if you have to choose between writing and family time.

 

  1. Plan, plan and plan some more

Get a calendar or any kind of system that works for you, and then use it! Make sure to write things down in a way that makes it easy for you to keep the big picture in mind while still getting the little things done from day to day.

  1. Determine time

You need to know how much time you will spend on your different roles every day. Go back to your prioritised list of roles from #1 and then determine the amount of time you want to spend on that role every day. I.e. if ‘writing’ is your top priority, and you want to spend 2 hours on that, you might need to take some time from #7, working out, for it to work. However, when making your time plan, make sure to leave time for transport, meals and some downtime as well.

  1. Tackle “Personal Assistant” tasks every day

Make it a habit to tackle all the little tasks – what I call “Personal Assistant” tasks – every day, so they don’t sneak up on you and become a huge, overwhelming pile. This can be things like calling your dentist, answering e-mails, grocery shopping or cleaning. If you do just a few of these tasks each day, you’ll not be caught on Saturday with a messy house and a lot of small things you have to spend all day doing.

 

  1. Delegate

Find out if there are some of your tasks that you might be able to delegate. This can be to an assistant or a colleague, but also the little things like asking your roommate to do the dishes if you’re pressed for time or your friend to buy a book for you when they’re at the bookstore – anything that can save you time, really. Remember, though, to be nice to people! And that every little thing counts – you might be able to write a blog post in the time that you would have spent at the library!

 

  1. Say ‘no’ to non-essentials

If it’s not on your priorities list, it probably shouldn’t take up space in your life. It’s as simple as that, really. If you’re spending an hour a day scrolling through Facebook or watching “Say Yes to the Dress”, yet your top three priorities are writing a bestseller, becoming a top lawyer and spending time with your kids, you could probably do without the distractions until your work is done for the day. Along the same lines, if you’re prioritising your family and work, you will have to say ‘no’ if your friend wants you to go out on Wednesday night and you have family time and/or work planned. It’s that simple, and that hard.

 

  1. Schedule fun

When that’s said, however, make time for some fun in your schedule. If you work all the time, even on fun things, you’re going to burn out at some point. To avoid this, put something fun into your schedule as well. This can be all sorts of things, whatever makes you happy and gets you away from your work, whether that is fishing with a friend, a day at the museum with your family, or a night under the covers with Netflix.

 

  1. Schedule inspiration

Along the same lines, you need to keep yourself inspired. This is best done in small doses every day, like the practical things, so that your lack of inspiration doesn’t pile up until you feel all uninspired and can’t remember why you do what you do. The best way to keep yourself inspired is to find out what inspires you and then set a reminder every day to seek it out. This can be whatever you like, whether that is fifteen minutes of Pinterest, a walk in nature or a Ted talk.

  1. Review regularly

Make sure you regularly (once a month is what I prefer) look back on how your time management is working, whether you feel balanced or frazzled and determine what you need to change as well as what is working. Reviewing is the only way that you can know if what you’re doing is working! So look back, take stock, and adjust accordingly.

 

  1. Self-care

Last but not least, you need to take care of yourself. As they say in the flight security instructions, you have to help yourself before you help others. It’s literally impossible in the long term to be a good mom/employee/boss/writer if you don’t feel good yourself. So make time in your schedule EVERY DAY to do something for yourself, whether that is using a great shower gel in your morning shower or taking the night off to watch a movie at home. Make a conscious effort to do something good for yourself every day, and promise me not to feel guilty about it – just look on it as necessary maintenance to keep your life running smoothly.

 

These are just ten ways to create a little more balance in your life. There are a lot of things out there for you to try, but I think that the most important thing to do is to be aware of the way you balance your time and take time to prioritise and adjust as needed.

5 reasons to take a walk

I love walking. It’s relaxing, inspiring, rejuvenating and meditative, all at one time. And I think that taking a walk might be one of the most productive non-productive things you can do for your writing life. You might not think you have time to walk, but let me tell you: you don’t have time not to. Here are five reasons why:

  1. It helps with writer’s block

On those days where you just can’t seem to get anything written down, the ideas keep swimming around in your head, just out of your grasp, and you overall just feel like flipping the table and burning your work, a walk might be the answer. A walk will move you out of the situation (literally) and can clear some mental space to think. And when you get back from your walk, you just might feel like writing.

  1. It gets your body – and your brain – moving

Does anyone else have those mornings where it’s just not happening? You know, when you have your butt-in-chair down pat, all of your supplies and some good tea, music, candles, anything that sets the stage for writing – and it just doesn’t happen. This happens to me a lot, especially when I have taken a few days (or weeks) off from my writing. Then I sit there, staring blankly at the screen or paper, sometimes for hours, while nothing happens. When this happens, I always try to make myself take a walk because I know that whenever I do I come back feeling more ready to work – or at least like I have a ‘fresh start’ to try again.

 

  1. It takes your mind off your story

As a writer, it’s easy to go a little stir-crazy sometimes. Especially if you’re a full time writer, spending your days and weeks holed up in your little office, scribbling (sounds wonderful, by the way – go you!), you might sometimes feel like there’s nothing in your brain but bits and pieces of stories and plot and characters and settings and clever lines and covers and publishing and… No wonder we go a little crazy sometimes. When my writing life becomes overwhelming, I take a walk. It helps to have a change of scenery because this usually creates a change of my thought pattern as well – and sometimes, it’s a big relief to ‘get away’ from your story for a while.

 

  1. It lets you think about your story

Yes, I know I just said that walking lets you get away from your story when you’re overwhelmed. But walking can also help you get back into your story when it feels far away or hard to grasp. Just take a walk, think about your story. Maybe say a few lines of dialogue out loud or try to ‘cast’ people passing by as minor (or major) characters. Or just take a walk (in a familiar place, so you don’t get lost) and think your story through, see the scenes. More often than not, I come back with new ideas for my story.

 

  1. It’s input

When you’re a writer, everything you do can actually be considered input for your writing. People you meet, food you eat, places you go – everything can inspire something, and everything you experience will be a part of shaping you as a writer (scary and brilliant, right?). Sometimes, though, our lives are uninspiring. In those cases, I find a walk to be a great solution. Not just any walk, though: This has to be a ramble, an adventure – go somewhere you have never been, walk in the opposite direction of your usual route, really take time to look at the trees, the houses, everything around you. If you do this, I can almost guarantee that some detail will inspire you.

 

So if you’re at all stuck in your writing life, tired of writing, or overwhelmed by it, take a walk. Take a long walk, a short walk, a fast walk, a dawdling walk, an introspective walk, an exploring walk – just walk. And don’t forget to bring pen and paper to scribble down any insights about life or writing you get along the way!

Choose to be that amazing

Just the other day, I was swooning over some photos of Dita Von Teese, whom I adore, on the internet. She was wearing a giant dress and just generally being #flawless in her own, perfect way. Then I saw that someone had commented, asking ‘why does she get to be that amazing?’

That set me thinking. Dita (or whoever you adore for their amazing style or life or achievements or just general attitude) don’t get to be that amazing. They choose to be that amazing. In Dita’s case, she chooses it every day when she takes the time to dress and wear makeup and have perfect nails and carry herself as she does. Someone else, say, Anthony Robbins, chooses to be that amazing by being invested in his clients and his own development, striving to be better every day.

No one ‘gets’ to be that amazing. They have to choose it, strive for it and work for it. And so do you.

However you define that amazing, there are ways to reach it. But you have to want it and be willing to work for it.

Think about it for a minute:

  1. What signifies being that amazing to you?

What are the traits or behaviour you admire? Try to find a couple of role models that you love, whether for their style, their work or their general attitude. Then think about the things that make you admire them – is it dedication, getting up at 5 AM, wearing colourful dresses or something completely different?

  1. How can you achieve this?

Think about how you can emulate this in your own life. Can you get up at 5 AM, wear more dresses, show up like a rockstar at work? Can you do what you admire today, or can you make an action plan to get there – i.e. buy some dresses, start getting up a little earlier.

  1. What can you do today to work towards being ‘that amazing’?

What is something you can do today? Either emulating someone you admire, do the thing you want to do, or just start with a small step in the right direction.  Whatever you do, do something!

We don’t all have to be like Dita von Teese or Anthony Robbins. But we do all have to strive and work to get to a place where we feel that amazing. So start noticing what you admire and who you think are that amazing. And try to ask yourself what it is, exactly, that you admire and think about how to incorporate it into your own life.

Now, go out and feel that amazing!

The 3 best purchases of 2016 and the power of red lipstick

I recently had someone ask me what my 3 best purchases of last year were. First, of course, I got to thinking about how a lot of things really don’t mean that much, and, you know, all that “I shouldn’t be buying so much stuff I don’t need, I can’t even remember it anyway” etc etc.
But then, I thought about it on my walk home and I realised that there were actually a few things that I really remembered buying in 2016, things that meant something to me.

1. The first thing was a new desk. I looooove my desk. It’s a pretty standard IKEA desk, but I had had my eyes on it for a long time, and as a writer and student, I feel like a great desk is really important to me. It’s big enough, it’s something I enjoy looking at, and it’s got a drawer for all of my little bits and bobs. What more can you wish for?

2. The second thing I thought of was a ring that I bought myself on my birthday. It’s, again, nothing extreme, but it’s a silver ring with garnets that I bought in Prague and it’s – again – pretty, and it makes me happy to look at every time I wear it.

3. The third item that I really remembered buying? A tube of red lipstick. I bought my first MAC Ruby Woo lipstick last summer, and I’ve basically worn it every day since. I’ve recently switched to a cruelty-free brand of lipstick, but the impact that wearing red lipstick has had on my everyday life is quite extreme. I basically feel like superwoman with red lipstick. So yeah, a great purchase.

And it got me thinking. Minimalism is somethig I aspire to, and it’s definitely a worthwhile answer to stress, over-consumption and constant clutter. But there are also some things that we buy that really matter, and it’s not always what we expect.

The never-ending TBR list and why I’m re-reading Harry Potter

Like many book lovers, I’ve got a to be read-list that stretches to infinity. One of the things that can make me all melancholy is to think about how many books I will never have the time to read in this life, however much I read.
Yet, even with this knowledge I still choose to re-read my favourite books from time to time. As you can see from my previous post on re-reading, I believe there are benefits to re-reading.

One series I return to in particular is Harry Potter, because these books are so big, so multifaceted that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of reading them.
Last year, though, I did something special: I speed-read the Harry Potter books in a week. Yes, it was on a dare, because one of my friends didn’t believe that I could. But boy, did I enjoy it. The sheer magic of being sucked into the world like that was exhilirating and exciting.
And so, this year, Harry Potter 1-7 is what I’m bringing on my summer vacation. 2 weeks, 7 books, and hopefully some very happy hours spent reading in new locations.

On rereading

Sometimes, it’s necessary to return to a book in order to understand it or really get into it. It took me, as I remember it, 3 tries before I got into The Fellowship of the Ring, which has later become a favourite.
So that’s one thing. Sometimes, you’re just not ready for the book – either because you’re not in the mood for that kind of story or because you’re not at the right place or age to appreciate it.

Other times, however, it’s more about rereading it to re-experience it – and that’s fine – but sometimes it allows you to discover all new aspects of the book. Perhaps because you’re now closer to or farther away from the plot, but I think it is more likely that it’s because you’ve changed.
That’s why you should take the chance of re-reading some of your old favourites. They might not be what you remembered, but they might be much more.

How to have an awesome writing day – every day

 

If you’re unhappy in your writing life, and even worse, if you’ve accepted being unhappy because you’re hustling towards the next big thing, we need to talk: that’s not okay. That’s not how your writing life should be lived: slogging through, hoping for better days ahead.

Your writing life is a complicated thing. It won’t always be exciting, inspired and on fire, but it can be okay, every day, if you make it so. Below are five thoughts on how to make sure it is still a good writing life, even on the grey days.

  1. Appreciate your writing life

Wake up happy. Take time to be aware of how privileged you are to be a writer, even if it isn’t a full-time job. Appreciate your writing life for what it is, instead of dreaming of another one. Comparison is huge with writers, and so, unsurprisingly, is melancholy. Be happy with what you have and appreciate that your writing life is different from anyone else’s. Make sure that you take time each day to smile at your computer screen or and really notice that you have a writing life, and that it is amazing.

 

  1. Make time for focused writing

It doesn’t matter how long, just make sure that you get some focused writing done each day – or most days. This doesn’t mean that you have to lock yourself in a shed in the garden and write for five hours. What it does mean, however, is that you should consciously write every day for whatever amount of time you can carve out, without answering your phone or your kids or checking Facebook. If that time today is three minutes, so be it. That’s fine. Just get it done, and I promise you, your writing life will thank you. After all, there isn’t any writing life without writing.

 

  1. Read

Well, ideally, this should be a book that inspires you and teaches you something new, either fiction or non-fiction. However, I know that finding the time to read a book everyday can be almost impossible, so, I’m going to let you off the hook immediately: Read whatever you want, when you have time. But try to prioritise it. Reading is the food of writing, and I know for myself that if I don’t read at all, my writing dries out. There are many shortcuts to reading more, for example you can download the Kindle app to your phone and read on the go, carry a book to read while waiting in line or maybe read while your coffee brews. Really, anything is better than nothing, and if all you got around to reading today is a blog, don’t sweat it. Just keep in mind that your writing life will probably flow better and be happier with some reading in it. Just saying.

 

  1. Take in inspiration

A lot of inspiration. Seek it out every. damn. day. Find out what inspires you, and go there every morning as a way to wake up, or every lunch break to make sure that you’re still on fire or… Just do it whenever it fits into your day. Try Pinterest, blogs, books, vision boards, manifestos, walks in nature, whatever floats your boat, and make sure that you schedule it into your day. A word of caution, though: there is such a thing as inspiration overload, and like vitamin pills, it seems counter-intuitive, but too much inspiration is actually detrimental to your writing health. So make sure that you create more than you consume: Don’t spend your writing time all on Pinterest, and then don’t have time for writing. Get inspired for your writing life, but make sure you put the inspiration to good use.

 

  1. Think like a writer

Even on days where you don’t write, you can still think like a writer, and, more importantly, see the world like a writer. Always carry a notebook, and notice the small details that only writers see: How the people around you move, interact and behave, how the birds look a certain way when they sit on your windowsill, how smoke curls from a cigarette in flowery twirls… Really anything can be useful. Hone your ability to observe and put it into words, even if it’s just inside your head. The great thing about this is that it can be done anywhere, anytime. So the next time you’re stuck on a bus, frustrated at not writing, take a minute to watch some little detail and write a sentence or two about it in your head. You’ll be amazed at how your skills improve, and your writing life will benefit next time you get time to write.

 

All of these tips are little, useful parts of putting together a writing life that is consistently good, not just on the big days like publishing days and 5,000-words-days, but also on the boring, normal days where nothing special happens. Just always remember that even on the non-special days where you feel like nothing happens there is actually something extremely awesome happening: You are a writer. You choose your writing life every day, and that is always awesome, no matter how boring it might feel in the moment.

Now, go out and be a writer today, and remember to appreciate the boring, awesome, precious everyday days of your spectacular writing life.

Expectations

We excpect so much. Of ourselves, our parents, our friends, our cats, our children, our imaginary future.
It can add some flavour to your day. It can make you do great things and demand more of the world and get happier; get closer to where you really want to be.

It can also break you down, make you an impatient, annoying, dissatisfied perfectionist that can’t do anything or let others do anything without deeming it “not good enough”.

So ask yourself: not good enough for what? Sometimes, things are really not good enough. But most of the time, that image of “not good enough” has a lot to do with how it doesn’t match your expectations. So let them go. Be fierce in what you long for but open to more than one way of getting it. That makes it a lot easier to move forward.

Book recommendation: The Desire Map

I read The Desire Map for the first time last summer. I think I ran into the term ‘Core Desired Feeling’ for the first time several years ago, and it kind of stuck with me. Then I saw a quote on Pinterest that said ‘How do you want to feel?’ and it really got me thinking. And then I ordered the book.

And I LOVED it. I think it’s an amazing book! It taught me a lot, but more importantly, it made me think a lot and really question my goals and the way that I go about achieving them.

The premise of the book really is the question: How do you want to feel?

Danielle’s theory is that every goal you’re chasing is really because of the feeling you think you’ll experience when you accomplish it. Brilliant. Stunning thought, right?

The goal of the book is for you to find your (current) Core Desired Feelings, the feelings that you want in your life every day. These feelings can (and do) change, but they’re what you can use as a compass for what to do – daily and in the long term.

The first part of the book is about the method, about the tools and the way you do it – or the way Danielle does it. Then, the second part of the book is a workbook that’s made for some serious soul-searching in the best sense of the word.

A good thing about this book is that it’s not preachy. It doesn’t tell you how to live; it just tries to help you to find out how you want to live. And there’s a lot of focus on not judging your desires, which is refreshing.

I have to tell you, it’s probably one of the books I’ve ever read that has resonated deepest with me and definitely one of the few “self-help books” that have impacted the most on the way I live. (By the way, it’s not really a “self-help book”. You’re not broken and Danielle doesn’t think you are.)

You should read this book if:

  • You love setting goals (don’t worry, you can keep your goals) but they don’t really make you that happy/fulfilled
  • You want to be more content in your day-to-day life, not just on the ‘wow’ days
  • You want to connect more deeply with yourself and your desires
  • You want to be an overall happier human

What’s not to like, right?

The book, for me, is so brilliant because it addresses both the way you set long-term goals and the way you live your everyday life – the combination, I tell you, is magic!

Seriously, go out and find the book and go read it. It might just change your life.

On living abroad

I’ve been living abroad since September 2016. I’ve studied abroad in the UK and now I’m doing an internship in the UK, away from all my friends and family and the comfort of home.
And today I just wanted to tell you: It’s hard, it’s scary and a lot of days are lonely and difficult.

But it’s also really worth it. I’ve met people and had experiences and opportunities that I would never have gotten if I’d just stayed at home.
And I’ve developed more resilience, a stronger sense of self and a super-tuned bs detector along the way. I find it hard to get out of bed some days, while on others, I soar.

Living abroad is a crazy rollercoaster ride that no sane person would want to be on most of the time.
So, if you enjoy the kind of amusement park rides that make you feel a little sick and very, very happy at the same time?
Go abroad.