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Blog: Simplify Your Life
Stop And Smell The Roses

Matt and I just returned from a 7-day camping trip on the Colorado Trail -- we were both exhausted after selling our business and needed a chance to re-boot. We left the cell phones and computers and responsibilities at home. We hiked, we didn't think twice about sitting down for an hour or more just to enjoy a beautiful view, and we weren't in any particular hurry to get anywhere. We moved at a much slower pace than we normally do in everyday life -- and it was wonderful!

Back Into The Real World

I am one of those people who tears through each day at 90 miles an hour -- I like to have a lot of irons in the fire, and I always think that the faster I go, the quicker I can reach the end of my to-do list. But it's a real Catch-22. The more I speed up, the more chaotic things seem to get, the more frustrated I feel, and the less I accomplish in the long run. Sound familiar? But I learned a few lessons on the trail that I hope will allow me to stay slowed down, even as I jump back into all of my daily schedule.

We all face endless deadlines and responsibilities -- but working until you burn out is not the way to get it all done. When you've reached your limit, the old "nose to the grindstone" thing just doesn't cut it. Pushing yourself harder and harder when you're already spent is completely counterproductive. The goal is to avoid those meltdowns where you stare blankly at a piece of paper or computer screen and can't even focus on the words! I have found that simply stepping away -- taking a break to regroup and recharge -- gets me back on track. And one of my favorite ways to walk away from it all is to spend some time outside.

An Instant Mood Lifter

Have you ever noticed how physically good you feel when you're in the out-of-doors? Fresh air, sunlight, flowing water, green plants -- these all do wonders for your mood and energy level. I could go into all the scientific explanations for why this happens -- negative ions and vitamin D and increased oxygen intake. But you can just feel that surge off energy, as  compared to the grogginess that comes from artificial lighting and stale indoor air. I have never felt so good as I do now, after a week away from toxic indoor environments.

Getting out into nature also requires that you move your body -- put those creaky old muscles to work. For the last couple of months, Matt and I have been so focused on selling our business and starting the new site that we fell out of our good exercise habits -- but 7 days of hiking has kicked us back into gear. Even though I collapsed comatose into my sleeping bag every evening, I have more energy now than I did before hitting the trail. That's the irony of exercise -- the more you wear your body out, the more stamina it develops. This is why office work is so tiring!

A Different Pace

When you're outside, time seems to slow down. Just take a walk through the park and see what I mean. You find yourself "strolling" while in nature -- your body instinctually knows to leave that determined "I've-got-things-to-do" stride behind when you step out the door.

Little things catch your eye -- a flower, a funky-looking bug, an interesting design on a rock -- things you might miss when moving at your usual pace. You pause to watch some kids play or decide to sit by the lake and just be. Time has no meaning -- you are completely in the moment. You have moved out of "chronos" (chronological or sequential clock time) and into "kairos" (natural time).

It's rare that we allow ourselves to take a complete and total break from EVERYTHING, but this 7-day trip was exactly that kind of opportunity. Usually, when Matt and I take a "vacation," it simply means trading one type of go-go-go for another. Our vacations are filled with museums and zoos and walking tours through the city, photos and sights and experiences. Quite often, they are just as tiring as a day of work! It's not like us to have absolutely no schedule, no agenda, no particular goal in mind. But wandering through the woods gave us a chance to see what life would be like if we didn't have to think about ANYTHING -- it was a blissful and enlightening experience.

Recharging Your Batteries

Right about now, you're saying, "Hey, that would be swell, but I've got too much to do to waste time prancing around outside." I promise that you will actually be more productive with the rest of your day than if you had spent that "break" time working. You might have been overwhelmed and exhausted before -- now you are relaxed, focused, and ready to dig back in. Anger and frustration melt away, and you can better deal with life's annoyances. If this sounds too flaky and new-agey, give it a try and tell me if I'm wrong. Make a conscious effort to get outside for even 15 minutes each day to escape the craziness. But even if you can't, there are lots of ways to temporarily "disengage" and find your center:

  • every time the phone rings, take two deep breaths before answering it
  • each hour, schedule 5 minutes to stop what you are doing and have a good relaxing stretch
  • take a REAL lunch break -- no more saying that you are "too busy" to eat or stuffing junk food in your face while on the run
  • take your work outside -- write a letter or read a business journal on a park bench -- or even plug your laptop in at one of Starbucks' patio tables (it's not nature, but it's still outdoors!)
  • if you're a homemaker or work from home, get started an hour earlier so you can take a break during day to do something enjoyable -- play with your kids, have a cup of tea on the back porch, read a book, dig in your garden, etc.

The only thing that's hard about stepping away from your day is giving yourself permission to do it -- all the work will still be there when you get back. Don't wait until you've pushed past your breaking point to stop and smell the roses. Consider it preventative medicine and schedule some "down" time every day -- you'll thank yourself for it.

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posted on: 1/5/2010 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Simplify Your Life

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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