• Photography © Norm

    Your alarm goes off. You grab your phone, your eyes half open as you eyeball your like count and messages. After spending a few (or maybe not so few) minutes seeing what needs seeing, you skyrocket out of bed to begin your day—as if the day itself was on a Machiavellian mission to do you in. Between your day to day responsibilities and the unexpected and inevitable surprises of life's mishaps, your day seems to end in the blink of an eye . . . but somehow you haven't managed that much. Feel familiar?

    In this day and age we're all connected. Think about it. How much of your available time is spent staring at a screen: scrolling, liking, replying, pinning? . . . As if the world was going to implode if we didn't. A 24-hour day to us is not even close to what it meant to our parents and their parents (who were present every moment of their lives).

    We spend so much of our lives plugged in that we forget the power of doing one thing at a time—mindfully—from start to finish. I'm not saying that time spent on anything non-work related is time not well spent. What I am saying is that in order for us to better get a hold of our must-do's, we need to give everything its space and time.

    Your days as well as mine are torn between work, life and rest—and neither should suffer because of the other. Putting everything in its place guarantees that not only will your day be well spent, but that you're not suddenly overwhelmed and overrun by your commitments.

    The feeling of accomplishment is immediate when you give things an allotted time for completion . . . and that will only encourage you to move forward, knowing that the time you have available is more than enough.

    Seeing time this way (and not worrying about technology to the point of it becoming a nervous tick) has given me a breather not only in my day-to-day living, but it has also definitely made me more present and less anxious about my daily routine.

    Please share your thoughts with us.

  • Photography and Styling © Karina Dimas

    For most people home ends on the outside of one door and work starts on the inside of another . . . but that's not the case if you, like me, work from home.

    We are the envied few, viewed as the lucky hipsters who get to work from bed. We lived in a falsely romanticized life by those who believe we get to work from cozy beds decked out in Egyptian cotton, free to work or play at our leisure.

    The testy truth is that working from home is far from glamorous. It is instead an endless race to meet deadlines and oftentimes a setting aside of the conveniences a home office might bring. It wraps around us like ivy and makes us feel guilty for enjoying the everyday things that others working outside of home enjoy: An 8-5 schedule, an hour-long lunch or even a 30 minute break away from our computers.

    So yes, working from home is one thing, but managing it successfully is another. It is very common, in fact, for most of us who work from home to feel like we'll never get a hang of it. We often use all of our energy and resources burning ourselves out, only to accomplish the same level of success as others who do less.

    I've personally found in my own pursuit of success on the work-from-home front that the secret to doing it successfully is inviting in a contradiction and holding to structure as if we were working outside of home.

    The 2 main areas where we need those limitations are:

    01. Space Designing a specific space for work might burst your expectations bubble and feel trivial if you believe the best thing about working away from an office is the freedom to work anywhere you want—but in assigning one space for daily work, whether that be a room, a workshop or a section of your living room, you automatically also create the ability to switch on and off work by acknowledging that as soon as you step away from that space you finish work and when you are in it . . . to log into it.

    Doing this doesn't take away from your freedom to occasionally spend a day of work at a cafe, to do it from a hotel room or even while on a plane ride to your vacations. It simply gives your brain an automatic way to switch off from your responsibilities.

    02. Time This one is a hard one but it is probably one that's the easiest to take for granted or to not value, depending on your schedule.

    Having a set time to work and structuring your online hours in extremely important—even for us creatives who might have a fantastic idea in the middle of the night or might feel a rush just before meeting a deadline.





    Time is were we have the most freedom when we work from home; we don't have to comply to a set schedule, we just have to put the hours in. So, playing with that freedom and missing the mark is often what happens. Delimiting your time can bring you not only a feeling of accomplishment every day but also actual accomplishments. Why? Because you will be giving your 100% to each task without the interruption of a billion other things.

    If you determine a clear work schedule and commit to it, you will welcome the daily pauses and breathers with a whole lot more peace of mind—and that will help you make the wheels spin with more ease on a daily basis.

    In short, freedom cannot survive without structure and structure deserves a little bit of freedom. To succeed at working from home, we need to understand where our limitations lie and enjoy our work and the fruits thereof fully and freely.

    What is your secret?
  • Photography © Nina Holst I wanted to tackle a topic that I know interests most of you and after a bit of lurking I came to the realization that Productivity is general concern, and rightly so. Most of us who blog are usually multi-passionate which puts a lot on our plates every single day.

    Having a custom strategy is important to ensure that you don't have deadlines coming out of your ears, it's also essential in preventing burn out – but sometimes just taking the time to build a realistic plan is far from possible.

    I'm not an expert when it comes to time management and productivity but I haven't gone insane... yet. I believe that at least qualifies me to tell you which bits and pieces of productivity advice have worked for me when I didn't have a strategy or at times when life's challenges have thrown that carefully planed structure out the window:

    01. Write Sh*t Down

    Dave Kolo's WSD productivity method is the thing that makes the most sense. If you have something in writing to remind you of what you're supposed to be doing and when you're supposed to do it chances are, you will do it.

    02. If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now!

    Is part of Davi Allan's GTD philosophy. Why write it down or stress out about it when you can get it out of the way? Quick calls, short emails or even small household tasks. Get them out of the way before seeing them in writing overwhelms you. Now, this is only successful when you focus on 1-2 tasks. There's no point in this if you end up spending an hour doing 2-minute tasks.

    03. Eat your frogs

    "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." – Mark Twain.

    Certainly Mr. Twain didn't paint the prettiest picture but it's great advice for those of us who constantly feel pushed to the point of not knowing where to get started completing our tasks. Work on the most difficult task first.

    Simple.

    04. Focus

    This is something I've always done, even before reading more about productivity. My approach is similar to the Power Hour technique. It's about limiting yourself to focusing on one task for 1 hour – my only exception is that I change the time-frame according to my needs.

    This works only if I don't reply to messages, personal emails or even worry about other work that might be queued. If you're a natural multitasker and you're happy juggling things all the time, this will be difficult but it's done wonders for me.

    After completing the task, I allow myself the time for out-of-work activities for 10 minutes, I use those to stretch, fill up my water bottle or maybe send out a quick tweet about something completely unrelated to work and then carry on with the next task.

    05. Relax and drink water

    Believe or not one of the things that stop us from being highly productive is that we are in constant reaction mode, to the point in which our productivity becomes sporadic through out the day without letting us maintain a healthy pace.

    We're also trained to think that caffeine equals alertness, therefor ups our productivity. The reality is that caffeinated drinks not only make our stress hormone go off the charts it also dehydrates our bodies. Dehydration causes mental fatigue which results in lack of concentration. I make it an every day ritual to drink at least 2 liters of water and you should too.

    Not taking care of our minds and bodies is the perfect road to hitting brick-walls. When you are not working it is important that you give yourself true relaxation time, be as intentional with the "doing nothing" part as you are with the work. Make it a practical and mental exercise to disconnect from your lists and deadlines.

    Whether you want to take your weekend off or a couple of hours of your every day, this will change your complete approach.

    Try it.

    You can apply one or all of the tips above by determining if it fits your lifestyle or not. The key thing to understand is that we will either run our day or the day will run us. Reclaim your productive life back by making it work for you.

    How do you keep yourself from getting distracted throughout the day?

    For more advice, tips and a full productivity strategy: Purchase my book 30 Days To Minimal Blogging.
  • Photography © Ana Degenaar When it comes to leading a balanced life, I'm a true believer that while this is a very romanticized and idealistic thought in my own personal life, perfect balance is seldom achieved. This would mean I'd have to give equal attention to everything and everyone at all times... and being that circumstances are constantly changing, this might never be the case.

    The reality is that we only look for balance because we live in constant pressure. If we learn to live intentionally we immediately take that out of the equation and automatically learn to live in the in-between.

    A couple of years ago, I was working 20-hour days both at home and outside of home and doing extra hours, often consisting of 8 hours on a Saturday and 8 on a Sunday. Needless to say, I didn't need to have someone telling me I was going to have a breakdown. I did. 


    Life and work are sometimes a matter of redefining and reshuffling to me. The same way I rearrange my living room, I rearrange the how, when and where I do things. Focusing too much on balance itself deviates from doing what’s important when it's needed.


    I’ve always thought about this subjet with a bit of guilt - that is until I realized there's nothing wrong with shifting my focus and giving my undivided attention to what feels to be the most important thing to me at that time. In order to do that, I needed to learn not only to be very perceptive and aware of the needs of those around me, but also my own needs. 


    For the most part, this advice will sound like a list of no-brainers but more often than not it’s the simplest, most practical things that we overlook that brings us the highest benefits:

    You
    The first shift you need to make is realizing that taking care of yourself is not selfishness – it in fact allows you a sense of readiness when it comes to taking care of things and people other than yourself. There's no point in trying to achieve so much and slide towards a breakdown.

    Limits
    Just as kids need boundaries, we – the infamous breed of workaholics, also need them: carefully planned 8-10 hour work-days with breaks in between and a way to draw a line between work time and personal time are crucial.

    I’m not saying you should have it all together but you should strive every day to see your work tools (desktop, laptop, iPad, iPhone) as your "place of work", understanding that if you’re off the clock, you shouldn't even be near those tools. Making a pledge to simple shifts like: Neither will you eat at your desk nor take it with you while I'm on holiday.

    
Move
    Although I find exercise to be of utmost importance in my life, this point has nothing to do with it. It has to do with being stuck in your office for long periods of time.

    This little change will make an incredible difference in your life.

    I frequently use my office for my design work but once I'm in the replying to emails stage, I move to a different location every day. I set my times and I dedicate myself to that – fully aware of what I’m doing.

    These tiny shifts of location can help you, honestly, not to lose your mind.

    Relax
    When a pressing matter consumes your every waking moment or you get sick (as with every other human being), you need to learn to listen what your body is trying to tell you. Be safe that the internet will be OK without you and that you will be OK without it.

    If something goes terribly wrong, then you'll have the time to explain yourself, apologize and move on. Of course, I could only get to this point after getting sick and realizing that although I am a very responsible and hardworking person, we all experience misfortune and have our ups and downs.

    There’s a time to be productive but there’s also a time to feed our bodies and our souls and the latter shouldn't be at the mercy of how much we are able to get done in a day.


    Wrap It Up
    At the end of each day, go through all the things in your productivity list. If there are things you didn't manage to do within those 8-10 hours, simply move them to the next day.

    Closing off your day means you have already gone through your set work hours and that you need to regroup. Forcing yourself to work further can result in sloppy work and work that you’re not proud of. Don't be ashamed to log out – confident that you did everything you could and enjoy some special time of cell regeneration, otherwise known as sleep. 


    Restart
    When you start your days, Do not jump in with both feet too fast. Waking up early and allowing yourself a leeway of 30 minutes to 1 hour can benefit you more and make your mind and home less frantic in the morning.

    Easing into your routine is something you can condition yourself to. Maybe even try a few minutes of meditation, sitting in the quiet and stillness of the morning. 


    After these bits of advice, the most important advice I always give, is to do whatever's best for you and your family. Remember that all of this will one day pass... so treasuring everything in the mix, not only work is important. 


    Be honest to yourself and to the ones who rely on you. You cannot do everything but you sure can do enough.

    How do you maintain balance?
  • Photography © VittVittVitt I pride myself on my ability to happily survive Mondays and usually have all the energy in world to dive into my to-do lists when the day starts and go as far as to look forward to it on Sunday evening but let's get real... Monday also means all those precious hours of rest and weekend fun are painfully over. I've developed a system that makes things easier for me and has helped me enjoy the day... As much as one can enjoy Monday that is.

    First and foremost I have to mention and admit I'm a bit OCD so the first thing I do before bed on Sunday or early Monday morning (if I had to put in an extra hours of work on the weekend) is to re-organize my office and take some fresh flowers to place on my desk in order to set the mood for the next morning. There's truly nothing worse than walking into a messy office when you're about to dive into all the emails and work that was left from the weekend.

    My next step is to create a Monday to-do list with only 4 items, which usually consists of the 4 most important things I have to do every day work-wise. I usually get more than 4 tasks done but it helps keep my sanity intact.

    As contradictory as this may  sound, I do not sleep those extra 15 minutes on Monday. I try my best to wake up early, get dressed and ease into the work piles comfortably.  I segment my work hours as I do every day but... I also let myself indulge a little with good music and a bit of day-dreaming.

    Bottom line, there's no reason why we shouldn't enjoy Mondays and look for practical ways to make the day meaningful and productive.  The key here is not to bite off more than we can chew and to remember that even if the littlest efforts leave you feeling drained there are always ways to reward yourself after a long day of work... Take out, a nice bubble bath and a glass of wine come to mind as I write.

    How do you survive Mondays?
  • Photography © Hay Ever since I was in Uni I enjoyed studying and working on projects at nigh because it was quiet and the possibilities of getting interrupted by anything (except the garbage truck) where very slim. I don't know if it's that I'm a little A.D.D. but when I get interrupted it's very difficult for me to re-take that point where I stopped and just move forward.

    Now that I'm getting older I'm trying to make it a priority to sleep more. When I say that, I mean sleep 8 hours like a normal person as opposed to sleeping 4 like I'm used to. My reasons and motivations are plenty but being fully awake to be with Emma is the strongest one I can mention... Ok! Also aging gracefully is a concern.

    Being a methodical creature, I have worked out a system that fits my life as a globe. It allows me to be a lot more productive in my daily routines to cavort at home with Emma and partake in some serious work scheming at night. This might work for you too.

    1. Before I even start my projects, I gather all the things I will need to work. That includes coffee (to get my creative juices going), a watch, a notebook (how genius is that one?), pencils and anything that would make me comfortable.

    2. I set my timer and stick to working only 2 hours at night. You'd think this would make somebody stressed of rushed but in my case it makes focus. If I know I have 2 hours to work I know leaving all distractions behind is a must and I'm able to decipher codes a lot quicker when the clock is ticking. What now?

    3. I keep a notebook in case my mind is haunted with other ideas while I work. It is kind of a trashcan for me. e.g. If I'm working for a client who owns I catering business, my brain can't help but think about what to serve for Emma's birthday. Basically the notes keep me from wandering about any other programs or sites on my computer and reminds me of getting my act together and finally making some serious party-planning.

    4. I always work with sufficient light, I already wear glasses but the thought of damaging my eyes any further pains me. It is also proven that the lack of light causes stress and headaches and nobody is a fan of those, right?

    5. The morning after is for damage control. (This also works if you had a "tapas" night and copious glasses of "vino" the previous night). After scouting for all kinds of creams last year as I approached 26 I found that Orlane's Anegese 25+ was truly one of the things I needed in my skincare routine, precisely because I was working at night so much. It is tiny and pricey but I only use a drop every morning after cleansing my skin and it works wonders on puffy eyes and sleepy faces in general.

    My main advice is that you only stay up late if you truly have to. There's nothing that can help you recover your precious time of rest and not sleeping well can take it's toll on the strongest person alive. I've learned to be wise with my time and say NO to my urge of getting things done so quickly.

    Any tips you want to share?


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