Sometimes life feels like a treadmill, doesn’t it? The routine, whatever yours may look like, can become monotonous and repetitive. It can also be incredibly stressful, because there always seems to be so much to do. Yet I think we all want to be living an intentional life.
For some, being organised – having a routine and sticking to it – is dull. Like a straight jacket, a routine can feel restrictive and only useful as a means of crushing spontaneity.
I beg to differ. Big time.
I find that, by keeping on top of my organising, when I do have some time to myself I can be more intentional with how I spend it. I have a little headspace to pause and ask myself,
“What do I need from the next 30 minutes?”
I’ll tell you what organisation is not – it isn’t being the person everyone relies on to get things done. That route leads to exhaustion, burnout and resentment.
And there is no quicker way to a lack of fulfillment.
When I talk about organisation, what I mean is not just being able to fit everything into my average day. It’s also about making a choice about what I want to fit into the time that I have.
This is what I mean when I talk about intentional living.
Now, please don’t panic but we’re working up to using the ‘no’ word and I know many of us will find this hard.
We can do it.
There is an endless list of things that we could be doing with our time – literally endless. As mothers we often feel that much of it must be done – particularly when that old favourite “mum guilt” rears its ugly head.
I have found, however, that there is a freedom and a quiet joy in giving myself permission not to do certain things.
I know this may seem impossible.
Bear with me, I have a process.
Be intentional: categorise
When it comes to the seemingly endless list of tasks I have on my to do list, I like to try and categorise them into three groups – things I should do, things I could do and (my favourite!) things I want to do.
Let’s start with the fun one: want. The things we want to do are the things we enjoy – spending time with friends, eating out, windsurfing, exploring your creativity (whatever it may be!). If life was a bit different and we didn’t have to earn a living (which the majority of us do) we’d probably spend all our time doing the things we want to do.
My least favourite next: should.
I hate this word.
It has dominated my inner narrative for most of my life. I feel there are certain things I should do or ways I should behave – because I am a woman, a mother, a friend, a daughter.
Because I feel they are expected of me. We can all relate to this.
The ‘Should Imp’
Years ago I came to visualise this inner voice as a sort of devil on my shoulder – my ‘Should Imp’ – sitting up there and whispering in my ear. It would say things like “Oh Erin you could go out and meet your friends, but you really should stay at home and do your homework” or “Well you could start writing a blog but you should probably dedicate any spare time you have to something more worthwhile”.
Unsurprisingly, I’m not a big fan of the Should Imp. For too long, I allowed him to stop me from living an intentional life.
How have I learned to silence him over the years? Through re-categorising the things I should do as things I could do. And then choosing, with intention, whether I actually want to do them.
Will completing these tasks add to my sense of achievement or fulfillment today? If the answer is no, they don’t get done.
Scary, I know.
We are conditioned to get it all done and be grateful about it. These days having your cake and eating it too is more like baking your cake, watching others eat it and clearing up afterwards, all whilst having to be grateful about it.
Time to reframe
So how do we reframe this inner narrative – silence the Should Imp, so to speak?
It goes something like this:
Impy: “Oh look, there’s a train set on the floor and the bed hasn’t been made. You should really have a good tidy up. You know what, while you’re at it why don’t you just clean the whole flat?”
Erin: “You make a good point, buddy. But as these two hours are my only free time for the next few days, I’m going to go out for a run. When I get back I’m going to have a lovely long shower, brew a pot of coffee and do a face mask. Then I’m going to do a bit of tidying and a bit of cleaning, so the flat doesn’t look like a bomb-site, before sitting down for half an hour with a book.”
Impy: “But Erin you really should—”
Erin: “Nope! Buh-bye!”
Yes, the flat could have done with a deep-clean – what house in which a toddler resides couldn’t?! But what I needed was some exercise, some time to relax and a bit of cleaning and tidying thrown in so that the state of my home didn’t stress me out. A deep-clean wasn’t a priority for me at that time so I ignored the voice arguing otherwise.
You can choose
For me, the whole point of being organised is to live my life intentionally. Now, you can’t do that if you’re being all things to all people.
If you take that route, there is no space left for you.
Intentional living is about curating your days so that they are filled with more of what you enjoy – the things you want to do.
The more you do this, the more you will find fulfillment in your day-to-day life.
And for those list-makers out there (I love a list) this is the fun part – everything that you successfully move from your ‘should’ category into your ‘could’ category and then choose not to do, because it isn’t a priority, can go onto your ‘To Don’t’ list.
It’s like a ‘To Do’ list but made up of all the things you’ve decided are not a priority for you right now. It’s the most empowering thing I’ve ever written.
Choosing not to do something because it will not serve me is incredibly freeing.
Try it and let me know how you get on – I’d love to hear from you.
And remember – to be organised isn’t dull or unimaginative. It just makes sense, when you truly think about it.