How I got productive

A few months ago, I was frustrated. I felt like I had no time left in my days, was pretty much always tired or easily distracted and had the ability to lose track of what I was doing within less than a second.

I was a grade A scatterbrain – and sadly, there’s no award or job description for that – I checked.

My problem was too many different noises going on in my head at the same time, which meant my head was so full and unreadable, that I wasn’t actually thinking anything through.

It was only when I had a few days off work sick and forced myself to switch off (and appreciate the value of duvet days) that I pinpointed this problem. I also decided that it was time to do something about it, and I think I’ve finally cracked it…

My approach used to be to attack everything all at once. I’m talking housework, actual work, arranging social plans, researching projects, photography and especially blogging. My brain was refusing to let me focus on one thing at a time without chiming in with ‘you forgot that’ or ‘how about we now do a bit of hoovering’. Breaking things down into chunks or tasks in my head, started to make everything seem a lot doable.

Mental lists are fine, physical lists are even better and they give a greater sense of achievement when you get to cross things off.

This is where self-discipline had to start kicking in, because a list is only as good as the person using it. I found forcing myself to complete each thing on my list in order before moving on to the next thing ridiculously hard, but once I got it into my routine, it changed everything.

Perfect example, right now, I’ve given myself an hour to write this post in my lunch break. As long as I set realistic timeframes, it helps to keep things on track, especially when I have a deadline or when I’m working on something with a lot of stages.

Big part of learning to look after myself and something that’s helped me to be 1000000000000% more productive (try saying that percentage, I dare ya) is knowing when to shut the Mac down and take a step back from a situation.

If you think about something for too long, you start to get unproductive with it, so I gave myself a computer bedtime, started enjoying a good Netflix sesh again and found that the hours I was working and doing ‘life things’, were much better spent.

I may not be Marie Kondo, but these five things have helped me organise pretty much all aspects of my life, and I’m here for it. Use them wisely, or, if you are Marie Kondo, don’t – you’re good.

Duvet days are important

It’s without a doubt that life is hectic these days, and it gets ever more challenging to make plans with yourself, never mind other adult human beings. Before the risk of complete burnout starts to set in though, I want to talk about possibly the most basic and underrated self-care concept; the duvet day.

By definition, this involves a few simple ingredients:

  • A duvet/blanket
  • A bed/sofa
  • Comfortable clothing/PJs
  • A TV remote (with TV connected, preferably)
  • Snacks & drinks of choice

A buddy to share all of this with is also an optional addition, along with video games & books – depending on how you’re feeling at the time.

Personally, I like to get up, shower, get into clean ‘comfies’, set up a little spot in my living room, and binge watch a series or two (movie marathons are also great though).

For anyone wondering about the general purpose of a duvet day, it’s about giving your brain a well-deserved life nap and putting yourself into a relaxing situation where you can switch off from the outside world for a day.

It’s also a great way to make time to reflect on what’s going on in your world, and having some time to yourself in this way even once every few months can put things that you might feel you don’t have time to think about into perspective.

Think of it as a mini holiday without the stress of travelling, and if you’re still thinking of a New Year’s resolution that doesn’t involve starving yourself or cutting the fun out of life, but has the potential to make you feel pretty fucking great, ‘HAVE MORE DUVET DAYS’ might be the one for you.

The value of ‘doing you’

We hear a lot around the subject of ‘self-care’ and ‘self-love’ these days, but how many of us are good at giving ourselves the space and time we need to actually follow through with it?

The idea of simply looking after yourself may seem like a necessity to most people, but more often than not, our lives run away with us and we find stress creeping into our daily routine.

These stresses, which manifest themselves in many different, inconvenient ways, can affect not only our own wellbeing, but also that of our friends, loved ones and even acquaintances. Basically, not where any of us want to be.

Over time, stress can lead to more serious symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, mood swings and erratic behaviour, which if left unresolved, impact the way we interact with others in our day to day lives.

Preventative practices of self-care are the best possible defence against these things and while it isn’t about putting yourself before others, it’s about making sure that your health and wellbeing take priority so that you’re emotionally and physically equipped to care for others.

In the words of RuPaul, ‘if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else.’ AMEEEEEN.

Everyone needs space to breathe from time to time, and looking after you means listening to the signs your body is giving you and not pushing yourself to the point of burnout. So take a break, have a lie in, break at the candles or disappear off to a different country for a week (I often find that helps). Just do you boo.

What mindfulness means to me

There’s no doubt about it, mindfulness is officially a ‘buzzword’ – but what does it actually mean? It’s obviously a very subjective thing, but personally, I find it very easy to talk about how I see it and how it impacts my life…

For me, mindfulness involves taking a step back, genuinely experiencing the moments in your life, and in turn, finding positivity and happiness in things that may otherwise go unnoticed. It can be anything from feeling the sun on your face to having a fucking good burger – it might even be washing the damn dishes…

It’s simply taking the time to have a moment & say ‘‘you know what, I’m happy right now.”

Another prong to the ‘mindfulness fork’ (#selfcarecutlery), is about being aware of your impact on others around you. It’s very true that you can’t please everyone all the time (you’re not Nutella), but taking time to think about how you interact with friends, family, colleagues and even strangers is only going to bring some of that sweet karma around your way.

I’ve been making mindfulness a big part of my day for the past few months, trying to make actions as meaningful as possible and I feel like it has made me a more positive and appreciative person overall.

I feel like I can enjoy the ‘little things’ more these days.

Everyone has their own ideas on what mindfulness means to them, and I guess that’s the beauty of it in a way, as long as it keeps people thinking about their own mental wellbeing and the world around them.

I have ‘bad’ skin

Since age 11, I’ve had a pretty turbulent relationship with my skin. My dermatological history is littered with various doctors, opinions, experts and disappointments. I’ve been on the pill, antibiotics, cream/gel treatments and even the demonic Roaccutane. Twice. (If you’ve had any experience with it, you’ll know – that shit sucks).

And, unfortunately for me, the love/hate situation is ongoing…

It’s really hard to describe the effect acne has on your wellbeing. For me, it’s a constant distraction and I’m always thinking about whether my skin issues are noticeable, whether light is hitting me in an unflattering way (fuck you downlighting, no one likes you) or whether I have any concealer on me at the time in case of a code red. Honestly, even typing the word acne makes me feel a bit sick in my mouth. I hate it.

The feeling of having to put a whole new face on every day just to feel like yourself, is what I can only describe as exhausting. It changes who I am as a person unmeasurably; I just can’t be ME with my full, aggravated, red face showing. And that is a really hard truth to deal with sometimes.

What I wouldn’t give to wake up without the overwhelming urge to hide in a hole, dive for my makeup bag and avoid all human contact until the end of time. The effort and energy that it takes to stay positive and not stress out (and make everything a million times worse) is huge, and I’d be lying if I said that my biggest battle hasn’t always been internal. I’m actually writing this on a particularly ‘bad’ skin day and have nearly gone full meltdown on more than one occasion already. It’s 7.30…

The worst thing about it all, is the impact it has and how often it manages to ruin your state of mind. Thinking you’re a strong person and then catching sight of your reflection and having the personality sapped out of you in literally seconds is not fun.

Also, telling someone that they ‘look fine’ can actually just make things worse because you can really feel like you’re being lied to by family and friends – it’s irrational, but it’s there, and it can put a huge strain on relationships.

All this being said, I want to end on a positive here, because acne should never win.

To anyone suffering even a little of what I’ve described: You’re beautiful. And it will never define you. Don’t let any bitch dull your shine.

To the lucky ones: Be kind – whether it’s to those with acne or any other skin related issue. You never know the effect your words may have.