Rethink. Reset.

Rethink. Reset.

If you’re a regular reader of Slow Your Home you probably know my family and I spent December and much of January in Canada. We had our first (magical) white Christmas, we snowboarded, we ice skated, we spent whole days by the fire watching movies and reading books.

It was one of the most incredible holidays we’ve ever had. And it was also the longest time we’ve spent together without daily pressures of work, school, home and general life stuff. We had the opportunity to view life through a wider lens and have come home both refreshed and with a very real need to rethink and reset and our priorities, goals, rhythms and habits.

Because when you’re in the thick of life, it can be hard to get a 10,000-foot view. But when you do and life opens out beneath you, it can become abundantly clear that things need to change.

Since we’ve been home, I’ve been on a resetting binge. Life is going to look really different this year, with our eldest starting school and our four-year-old at preschool two days a week. So my approach to our days and weeks needed to be overhauled. But what’s more, it needed to change because it was no longer working for us.

Resetting our Rhythms

I’ve spent a lot of time rethinking how our days, our home and my work will feel this year and resetting the rhythms that help make it all happen in a (relatively) simple way.

This means I’ve deconstructed all the things that need to happen in our mornings, our days and our weeks, and I’ve put it back together in a way that makes sense to the way we want to live and the way we want life to feel.

I’ve written before about how you can create a rhythm for your days and weeks, but essentially it means looking at:

  • what needs to happen
  • what currently happens
  • what doesn’t need to happen
  • the time you have available for these things

Then plug it in to a rhythm (which is a little like a routine, but not really) that fits your life.

(You can read the full post about creating rhythms here, and download the Rhythm Worksheet here.)

Resetting my Mornings

Early mornings are when I like to get the majority of my writing work done, and last year I fell in to bad habits. I would hit my snooze button one too many times or waste time online (Facebook, reading emails, news websites). This meant I got less done, which would leave me frustrated, and I would carry that feeling through the rest of my morning, constantly feeling overwhelmed and behind schedule.

This needed to change, so I spent a lot of time thinking about my priorities and decided to:

  • stop using my phone as an alarm clock.
  • start getting up at 4am again
  • avoid the internet completely before 9am – this means no email, no messages, no social media, no posting to the blog at all during this time.
  • finish my work at 6:30am and get the rest of the morning underway – regardless of whether I’d finished or not.
  • have a list of no more than 3 things to do every morning

We’re only in the first full week back but I can already tell you that the no internet thing is working incredibly well.

Resetting our Level of Stuff (Again)

Another thing I love about travel? You recognise how little you really need.

After coming home I decluttered even more of our stuff (mostly toys, decor and clothes the kids no longer fit into) and was amazed to see how easy it was to let go, even though we didn’t have a huge amount to begin with.

With toys in particular, it was really interesting to see how the kids reacted to having only a few things to play with while we were away. They each had a little bag of figurines, a puzzle, a board game, a soft toy and some Lego and we also packed colouring books and pencils.

They never got bored. And while part of that was being on holiday and having us around more than normal, I think part of it was also that they weren’t overwhelmed by choice. There was plenty there to keep them occupied but not so much that they didn’t know where to begin.

When we got home, I held a second packing party for the kids toys and no-one has missed a thing.

——

If January had an unintentional theme of Resetting, then February has a very intentional one of Momentum, where my new goals and habits of:

  • writing 500 words (min) every day
  • going to the gym three days a week
  • waking early (4:00am) every week day
  • no internet before 9:00am

become an ingrained part of my rhythm and where the New Year just becomes the year. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all comes together and whether I need to readjust again once we’ve settled back in to our everyday rhythm.

I hope you and yours have had a good introduction to 2015. I have a feeling it’s going to be an exciting year!

34 Responses to Rethink. Reset.

  1. Hi Brooke,

    Good luck on the reset. I find that I can do it voluntarily (usually best) or life brings a bigger and more harsh reset on it’s own.

    I find it no surprise at all tha “the no internet thing is working incredibly well.”

    Live deep.

    Dan

    • Thanks Dan! Great to hear from you – hope you’re well?

      This reset came about simply because it needed to – if that makes sense? The way I was doimg life last year wasn’t working so having the time away to recalibrate and recognise what was and wasn’t working was a key part of the whole process. And the reset feels easier than it otherwise may have, because I’m resetting to what works. It feels so good to be in a proactive and positive space rather than a reactive space like I was last year.

      Take good care of yourself! :)

  2. Hi Brooke,

    The Rethink and reset seems a great idea and I’m one for over consuming the internet too. It can be a real time drain along with TV.

    We initially tried living without a TV for a month, but then found that we really didn’t miss it at all. In fact, life seems much better without those adverts shouting at us.

    Glad to hear the No Internet is working for you and I’ll use your advice to curb my usage.

    • Yeah, TV can be such a big time and energy suck can’t it? We got rid of cable a few years ago and never watch commercial TV (I can’t deal with the ads either – plus the kids aren’t constantly being bombarded with the best new toys and must-haves now, which is another benefit). So now it’s Netflix/iTunes for one or two series at a time. It’s a much more intentional way of consuming entertainment because we need to sit down and choose to put on Walking Dead/Breaking Bad/GoT/True Detective/insert current favourite here. Plus the quality of TV has gone up significantly! :)

  3. hi Brooke, just wondering – how have you managed to train your body to get up at 4am and be alert and ready to write? I’d love to be able t I do this regularly as I would accomplish so much more but I don’t know if my body could take it!

    • Hi Sarah! It’s been a weird journey into the 4am wake-up to be honest. I started it about 2 years ago when my kids were still really little and I had no time at all during the day to write. So initially it was a huge force of will kind of exercise, where I knew that if I didn’t get up, my writing would not get done that day. (It helped that I was writing a book at the time, so I had a distinct project to work on and a reason for the early alarm). I just forced myself up, and over a few weeks it became easier to get up. I know some people advocate setting the alarm 3 minutes earlier every day until you reach your ideal wake-up time, but I was too impatient for that! I just made sure I went to bed earlier (I’m a bit of a nerd and go to bed between 8:30-9:30pm) and got some decent sleep. And over time I adjusted.

      Last year I was less successful in getting up at that time, and it just became a habit to hit the snooze button. So this year I’ve built a rhythm around wake-up that works really well:

      – put my alarm on the other side of the room so i need to get out of bed to turn it off. The hardest part is not getting back in to bed for a quick 5 minute snooze.
      – shower and dress
      – put kettle on and stretch/sun salutations while it’s boiling
      – make tea (our coffee machine broke and I’m finding a green tea first up is actually better at waking my brain up)
      – into the office where I have a short to-do list that I just dive straight into (i usually write it the night before)

      It just takes the guess work out of things and means I have no doubt as to what I need to work on. I think that’s probably the most important part of the whole process – taking the guess work out of the morning. It’s too easy otherwise to just say, “Oh, I’ll do that later,” or, “I don’t want to do that.”

      GAH! Sorry for the essay-length reply! Let me know if you have any more questions about it. Happy to share what I can. :)

  4. Awesome post! I too find that I can’t get near the Internet or computer first thing in the morning or I’m feel like I’m behind all day.

  5. Thank you for sharing.
    Last tear I fell into bad habits too especially wasting time online (Facebook, reading emails, news and getting sucked into vacuum of internet window shopping). This meant I also got less done in the time my boys were at school…or nothing some days.
    Not much changed in the last 4 days back at school.
    I am inspired to set myself limits after reading this .
    I’ve been de-clutering too and that will take me a long time having accumulated a lot of junk and toys with twins .

    • Thanks, Trish! It was those days where I had a long to-do list and realised at 5pm that nothing on it had been achieved – they were the worst. It took me going on a lengthy holiday to realise just how much that mindless internet time was costing me though, it can be a tough habit to break. Good luck with setting yourself some limits too. I found that once I knew why I was setting the boundaries it was much easier than I expected. (Eg. I tell myself the reason I’m not getting online before 9am is so I can get my writing and housework done early and have the rest of the day for more fun things – coffee, other fun projects, time with my son. It seems to help!)

  6. Hi- I’m glad that I’m not the only person in the world who enjoys holidays because there is less choice! Less clothes to choose from. One or two books carefully chosen. Only a couple of toys for the children (if even). Our minds feel rested because they’re free- free of clutter, more open to chatting and enjoying each other’s company. We have time for fun!
    And yes- the phone as an alarm has a way of migrating into the bed with us, on constant snooze! I’m with you all way about a proper alarm clock. Small thing but with maximum impact!

  7. Great post, and timely for me. I’m currently the full time earner while my husband stays at home with the smalls (eldest in daycare three days a week). I would dearly love to carve out some sacred time in the early mornings but, after waking up a few times in the night to the cries of the smallest one (and sometimes feeding her back to sleep!), I find that sleep is more of a necessity for me in order to make it through the day at work. So, I’m going to start being more mindful and aware of what I do in the evenings and how I waste time there, and hopefully this will naturally lead to a shift in my morning routine. I’d love to occupy my days in a state of active, open attention on the present – rather than feeling like I am chasing my tail from the minute I wake up and then, in the evenings, rushing the kids to the finish line (ie their bedtime!) only to flop on the couch. We do have a rhythm, I guess, but it’s a bit like an intense repetitive techno beat rather than a gentle waltz :)

    • I think it’s just a matter of establishing what works for you and your family too, and importantly, what works in the current phase of life you’re in. Last year was tough for us because our youngest was having mild sleep issues and we were getting broken sleep as a result, which is one of the reasons I slipped back in to the ‘hit the snooze button again’ habit. But then it simply became a habit, so the rethink was really valuable for me.

      If you’re looking at your time – particularly the evenings now – maybe list out all the things that need to happen, all the things that you want to happen, all the things you’re currently doing and see what the differences are. It might just be that a simple change is all it takes to free up some of that time and get the rhythm down to at least a folk song pace. :)

  8. Hi Brooke, am curious about how getting up so early works out with your husband? I’ve been getting up at 5.30am and would like earlier, but already am in bed so early, any earlier and I would barely see him during the week as he leaves at 7am and not home until almost 7pm. We rarely watch TV so what time there is, is well spent, but yeah, I’m just curious about when you fit your partner in, if is not too personal a question :)

    • Hi Pam! Honestly, it’s mostly about give and take. My husband works quite long hours too, and the weekdays are tough. Our kids are in bed by 730-ish which is about when my husband gets home. We typically have an hour or two hanging out, occasionally one of us needs to do some work, otherwise we will read or watch a TV show and he might hit the PS4. I’m in bed pretty early so I can do the early mornings, and some nights it’s really not ideal because we simply don’t get to see each other (thankfully though, these aren’t too common).

      We usually do get to have breakfast together though, which is a really nice way to start the day. And weekends are left mostly open, with neither of us scheduling much work and no sport/dancing/activities. We always make sure to do something together on the weekends (visit farmer’s market, go for a bushwalk, visit the beach etc).

      Sorry for the long answer, but I guess I would say that we make the weekdays and weeknights work for us as best as we can given the stage o life we currently find ourselves in, and then make the weekends a time of connecting and hanging out and relaxing and enjoying our time together. Hope that helps? :)

  9. Love this post. I really love getting up early and feel I do get a lot accomplished. I will have to try the no internet thing in the morning. I know it is taking a lot of my time. Thanks

  10. Hi Brooke,
    Lovely to have you back! I starting trying to get up at 6am to get things done but I do not think it was early enough as I felt rushed to get everything that I wanted done. I’m thinking 5am might be a better option. It is a bit challenging for us because my almost three year old still sleeps with us and often wakes up looking for me and gets quite upset. I’m hoping to break that dependence on me to help him sleep! It is tough though. Thank you for the inspiration to keep trying and working innour rhythm until we find our sweet spot.

    • How about keeping some projects next to your bed which you can do while in bed when you wake up? Examples: reading, writing notes and essays, paperwork.

      I’ve learned to honor and cherish my kids’ dependence on me and to be creative in meeting all of our needs while being together. Lots of growth and healing for me in learning this.

    • Thanks Pru – it’s great to be back! And I hear you about the challenges of a child who sleeps with you. We spent a lot of last year working on a similar situation and it can be really tough. It might take a little time, but keep trying. And the advice that everyone gave me (which drove me mad at the time but proved to be exactly right) “It really is just a phase and will pass soon enough.” Good luck, and let me know how you go.

  11. Brooke, this is such wonderful inspiration! I, too, find that vacations change my perspective on what I really need with me. Sometimes, this reminds me I need less than I think. Occasionally, that I actually do need (or at least thrive with) more (or at least, different!).

    I love your no internet before 9am policy! My daughter switched schools to a school rather far from my home about a month ago, and with her already in only half-day school, this was a major blow to my productivity at first (I used to come home for a 2.5 hour stretch with no children, and suddenly, I have 2.5 hours at a McDonald’s cafe….ummmmm….). And I’ve been ASTONISHED how much more productive I’ve been in that 2.5 hours without internet (oh, I could have it, but I don’t let myself, which is easier when I’m NOT home!). I was actually disappointed to have a snow day recently, because I lost my writing time and just couldn’t quite recreate it at home. Amazing how that which we most dread can turn into the greatest gift, too!

    • Yes! I hear you Andie! I’ve also taken to the coffee shop when the kids are both at school/preschool and purposefully chose one without free wifi. It means I have no option but to write and it’s amazing how much more I get done when not constantly pulled in 35 different directions.

      Sounds like you’ve made your situation work perfectly for you! Nice job :)

  12. Hi Brooke

    I’m an early worker too but 5.30 is my earliest rise time. My query is more or less the same as Pams ..which is how you manage the other end of the day in order to get enough rest?

    Love this site btw … Kindred spirits

    Heidi

    • Hi Heidi, Thanks so much for your kind words! As for my evenings, they’re pretty boring in all honesty. A good kind of boring though I guess! Once we get home in the afternoon, the kids play while I do dinner prep and get the house sorted. We occasionally have an activity (dancing, yoga) so I work around that on those afternoons but typically we have dinner, do the bath, book and bed for the kids and then my husband is usually home by then. We make a conscious effort to hang out for a while together, but we also both need our down time, so will often find me reading or occasionally writing while he reads or plays PS4 for a while. We view the weeknights (for better or for worse) as a time of getting more self-oriented things done so that the weekends can really be about family. Honestly, it’s not perfect, but given our current situation and circumstance it’s truly the best we can do. Which means we’re OK with it.

      We do, however, always have a really great series on the go, either on Netflix or iTunes. We probably only watch 2-3 hours of TV a week and are currently watching Sons of Anarchy (and The Walking Dead comes back next week!) I know it’s not an active way to spend time together, but these are things that we both genuinely enjoy watching and we can enjoy doing it together. It’s kind of like a date night, without leaving the house!

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