Controlling your smartphone habit

Controlling your smartphone habit

  1. Turn off notifications

You don’t have to completely uninstall every app on your phone to take a break. Simply turn off notifications from Twitter, Facebook, etc. in your phone’s settings or within the app itself. Give yourself the power to choose when you look at the app instead of reacting every time it summons you.

  1. Put it away

During times when you don’t want to be disturbed by your phone or tempted to check notifications and scroll, put it in a drawer, or in a different room. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s so much easier not to look at that dictatorial little screen every two minutes if it’s not immediately to hand – or indeed in your hand – all the time.

  1. Not in the bedroom

We both know that if you put your phone on your nightstand it will be the last thing you look at before sleeping and the first when you wake. You’ll also be tempted to check it if you get up in the night. Make resisting temptation easier by buying an old-fashioned alarm clock, putting a book by the bed, and leaving the phone downstairs, in the kitchen, or in your bag.

Decluttering when the task is overwhelming

Decluttering when the task is overwhelming

1. Divide and conquer
Make a (very) long list of all the parts of your home you wish to declutter. Itemise on a small scale. List large drawers individually, same with cupboards. The kitchen might go like this: spice rack, glasses cupboard, crockery cupboard, top drawer, middle drawer, pots and pans drawer…

2. Break it down
If the list is very long, it can help to sort the items into categories: perhaps one for jobs that’ll take under 20 minutes, one for jobs of up to two hours, and another for jobs of over two hours. With the list sorted in this way, you can choose what to tackle when you have the necessary time to take on the task, so if you find yourself with a spare 10 minutes while you boil some pasta, you might find yourself crossing the spice rack off your list!

3. Do the smallest job right now!
Find the smallest item on the list that requires the least time to declutter and do it straight away. The instant joy of crossing an item off the list and having started the war on clutter will give you a boost and the motivation to tackle…the next item! Little by little…

Enjoying time with your kids more

Enjoying time with your kids more

1. Concentrate
Nothing ruins time with my kids more than when I attempt to multi-task. They hate it when it’s “their time” and I am not giving them my attention; and, once they are off at school or in bed, I always regret when I wasn’t 100% present during the time we had together. Managing their dinnertime, for example, can be a fun moment to chat and talk about their day, but it is spoilt when my attention is split and I leave the table to hang up laundry, answer a quick email, or take out rubbish. In general, weekday time slots with the kids are short and precious. Make them the true focus of that time and it will be more enjoyable for everyone.

2. Disconnect
Don’t let technology pull focus. Of all the things that compete for my attention when I’m with the children, the most insidious and unrelenting is the smartphone. In the evening, put your phone on silent, stick it in a drawer or – whisper it – turn it off, to ensure you give your undivided attention to the people who are actually in the room. In most cases, your colleague won’t remember that she went to voicemail and you called her back later. Your friend won’t even notice that an hour elapsed between her text and your reply. But your kids will definitely be aware of how you made them feel during the golden hours between school ending and bedtime – seen and heard and important, or like they play second fiddle to your Android.

3. Flow
Try to get into it. Sometimes finding the strength and patience to make yet another Kapla tower or play an umpteenth game of Connect-4 it can feel like a superhuman act of will. In those moments, it sometimes helps to get genuinely super-enthusiastic – even if it’s just pretence at first. Get serious about winning the game, make your structure look like the Eiffel Tower, mix and match toys to create new ways of playing (my kids like making a massive “village” by combining the train set with the toy cars and the Playmobil saloon and farm). If you can find some true kid-like enthusiasm you might just tap into that Holy Grail of feelings: flow – that sense of being in the moment, connected and committed to what you’re doing. If you can hit that spot, everyone will have more fun and time will fly.

Finding a silver lining in every raincloud

Finding a silver lining in every raincloud

1.Think about what would be different. When life throws you a curve ball, it’s tempting to think about all the things that would be much better if it hadn’t. If I hadn’t flunked that test, I wouldn’t be studying for retakes right now. If I hadn’t missed the train, I wouldn’t be waiting for the next one in the rain right now. Try tipping that thinking on its head and asking what’s good right now because of the mess up. As a result of cramming for the exams twice, I’ll really know my subject inside out. By missing that train, I may have got soaked, but I am enjoying a stunning rainbow, plus I have a great excuse to get into my pyjamas and drink hot chocolate when I get home.

2. Look for the lesson. Some believe hardship is the universe’s way of teaching us something we need to learn. I simply believe that in any situation, we can choose to look for the lesson. Standing in a queue is a chance to practice patience (or read a book!). Difficulties with a demanding manager are a chance to learn how to stand up for yourself in a professional context. An argument with a spouse can be the path to an open and vulnerable conversation about recurring issues that ultimately teaches you how to respect each other more and act more lovingly.

3. Use what you discover. When faced with troubles and difficulties, consider the ways in which, one day (perhaps in the far, far distant future), what you are going through now will serve you. Perhaps money worries will turn you into a more careful spender and assiduous saver. Maybe heartache will make you slow down in relationships and ensure the person you date is really worthy of your time and effort. Everything that happens to us is contributing to making us the person we will become. I choose to see the building blocks of future me in both my achievements and my struggles.

Finally tackling a nagging task

Finally tackling a nagging task

1. Identify your “why”. Any task is easier when you have a clear idea of why you are doing it. Finishing my family photo album “because it’s already May and I really should” just doesn’t do it for me. However, remembering the joy we all shared when we showed our kids the album I made last year gives me the push I need. Ask yourself: What value am I honouring by completing this task? How will doing this serve me? What impact is not doing it currently having?

2. Break it down. Very few tasks consist of a single action. Most of the time they can be broken down into a series of smaller, more manageable ones. Maybe you need to clear out and reorganise the kitchen. Even to a decluttering junkie like me, that’s a mammoth undertaking, but if you break it down into steps, it’s easier. Day one, you do a drawer. Day two, another drawer. Day three, you do the crockery cupboard. Then the pots and pans. Doing it bit by bit offers you a regular feeling of accomplishment without requiring you set aside an entire day to get it all done at once. This method also avoids what I call “culling fatigue” – that flagging feeling you get half-way through a big clear out where you lose interest and start making quick and easy instead of good stay/go/donate decisions.

3. Reward yourself! This is the best one. Just because you think you “should have” completed this job ages ago and you’re annoyed you procrastinated so long doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a treat for finally getting it done now. Whether your pat on the back is a run along the river once you tidy the tool shed, a cream cake after you file your taxes, or a home manicure after you’ve cleaned the car, make sure you celebrate and congratulate yourself on your victories and achievements – however small you may consider them.

Creating more memories

Creating more memories

1. Adopt a holiday attitude – When we are on holiday, everything around us seems interesting, beautiful or memorable. A building, a park, a meal in a restaurant, even a bus ride. In the right setting, all of these things become photo-worthy. But what if your whole life were like that? On your daily walk or jog, as you by your newspaper or as you wait to take your kids into school, take a second truly to look around you and see your life as if you were a tourist in it. I guarantee you’ll notice something that is usually relegated to the status of hum-drum backdrop and find it astounding.

2. Put down your camera and pay attention – Psychologists have found that we remember less that which we photograph; that, far from helping us recollect a scene better, the act of taking a snapshot actually means we pay less attention to what we’re seeing. So, before you whip out the smartphone to capture a beautiful image for posterity (or, for the really brave, instead of doing so at all), take a moment to look at what you’re about to immortalise and take it in 100%.

3. Take a memory picture – A wise friend told me before my wedding to stop occasionally during the day to commit a moment to memory. I followed her advice and, to this day, I can still shut my eyes and find myself right back there in my dress, champagne in hand, listening to the band playing Summertime. When you come across a breath-taking moment in your life, stop and look, then mindfully close your eyes, like the shutter of a camera. Give your picture a caption, attach to it the smells and sounds around you. I’m sure that the next time you need a happy memory to brighten your day, reaching for the family photo album won’t even be necessary.