5 Ways to Make Life Quieter

Ever since getting back from New York, I’ve been making more of a conscious effort to slow down, get quiet, and find more peace throughout the day. I definitely believe in staying informed, but I also think it’s important to choose when to go in search of information, as opposed to getting bombarded with it all day long. Too much stimulation and information can wreak havoc on your productivity and focus, especially if you’re an introvert like me. Not to mention that it can take an obscene length of time to get back on task after distractions. In both my work life and my personal life, the quieter the better. Here are a few of the ways I consciously create more peace for myself each day.

5 Ways to Make Life Quieter >> Life In Limbo

1. Learn to Love Do Not Disturb

I cannot stand phone notifications. I have kept mine off or on vibrate mode for years now, and my social life has, amazingly, not suffered all that much. I highly recommend doing this (and so does Wired). I love that I don’t get pinged all day, and as a result of doing this I have suffered literally zero major consequences. I probably miss about 1-2 calls per month, but I just call people back! It’s amazing!

Even if you’re not in a position where you can turn all your phone notifications off, I’d encourage you to play around with them. On my iPhone I can set all kinds of combinations for notifications – for example, I have set it up so that I get iMessage notifications on my lock screen, but not Facebook Messenger ones, and Snapchat notifications just appear as a little number on the app itself. Rather than just choosing the default, play around with selecting the ones you actually want to see.

I also love using Do Not Disturb mode while I’m working and don’t want any interruptions, on both my phone and my computer (which I only recently learned how to do). I cannot overstate how much this has increased my productivity, so much so that I sometimes leave it on all day long for both devices. Boomerang, my favourite Gmail extension, recently released a new “Pause” feature for your email inbox that allows you to stop emails from coming in for a certain period of time, in case you need to keep your email open to access other information or files, but don’t want to be pulled away into new work.

5 Ways to Make Life Quieter >> Life In Limbo

2. Be Woke Without Waking Up to the News

I got this wonderful turn-of-phrase from Austin Kleon, who describes this point so eloquently in his blog post on the topic. The gist is that we do not need to read the news (or our Facebook feeds, or our emails, or check our social media feeds) first thing in the morning before we’ve had a chance to even start the day.

The way I handle this is by putting my phone on Airplane mode every night before I go to bed and leaving it that way overnight, only turning it off once I have written in my journal, meditated, and gotten ready for the day ahead. This suggestion has been controversial when I’ve brought it up to friends (ie. what if someone needs to reach you urgently?) but for now I am taking the chance. As an alternative, you could just turn off all home screen notifications or keep your phone in another room so that you don’t pick it up until it’s time to leave the house.

5 Ways to Make Life Quieter >> Life In Limbo

3. Unfollow & Unfriend

I love Instagram, and I love watching Instagram stories – they’re so fun and it’s interesting to see what people are up to! Know what I don’t like? Endless scrolling on my phone, or sitting through looooong Instagram stories that I don’t find interesting. But I find that the way that stories and newsfeeds are set up means that I want to watch everything that’s in front of me, and keep scrolling until I’ve “seen it all”. The best way I’ve found to combat this is to limit what “it all” consists of.

You can mute any Instagram story by pressing & holding the story and choosing “Mute”. I have muted many of the people I follow and have not missed their stories one bit. Some I love and am happy to watch every time, but these days I usually only have about 5 waiting for me, which feels much more manageable. I also routinely unfollow people whose posts I don’t enjoy or that I just scroll past without even really looking or reading the captions. This also goes for Facebook friends – unfriending or “hiding” people’s updates can save you a lot of time and cut down on the noise.

5 Ways to Make Life Quieter >> Life In Limbo

4. Limit How People Can Reach You

Who you follow online is one thing, but being selective about the ways information can reach you goes even beyond that. For instance, I have an email address devoted to signing up for email newsletters so that all the junk doesn’t come anywhere near my main email inbox. My regular email account is only for personal and business emails, and everything else gets unsubscribed from.

When I give out my business contact information, I never include my phone number, and as a result am able to field inquiries more easily (for me!) over email. For some people, the opposite might be true – you might prefer to only give out your phone number instead of your email address to new contacts. Whichever way you decide, stick to it, and things will quiet down as people learn they can only contact you in a limited number of ways. This is one of the ways we set expectations!

If you use Slack, set it up to automatically Snooze Notifications overnight once your work hours are over each day. Set yourself a personal rule that you don’t check email in the evenings after a certain time of night. Let all calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail. Wherever you can, protect your time and your energy as much as possible. 

5. Have Leisure Time Without Screens

Last but not least, try to find ways to relax, rest, and restore without looking at screens. Trust me, my default setting is to “relax” by surfing the internet or watching a show online, but I always feel more rested if I go longer periods of time without using screens. Having periods of time when I don’t look at my phone literally feels like a mental vacation.

For me, these kinds of screen-free leisure activities include going outside, reading books from the library, listening to podcasts, knitting, napping with my phone in the other room, cooking while listening to music or an audiobook, doing yoga, going for a run, and writing.

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Has life felt noisy for you lately? What are some ways you make your own life quieter and more peaceful?

 

On Setting Expectations

On Setting Expectations >> Life In Limbo

I’ve been working full-time as a creative freelancer for more than a year now. Working from home and setting my own schedule is pretty great, but believe it or not, there are some downsides to not having a boss to tell you what to do. There’s no rulebook when it comes to working for yourself, so you spend a lot of time wondering, Am I doing this right? Is there a better way to do this? Hello? Anyone?

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve found an amazing creative community here in Toronto, and that I am now able to work exclusively for incredible companies and individuals. Both of these groups of people teach me something new almost every single day and continually challenge my thinking on so many ideas around work, productivity, balance, and happiness.

That said, a lot of my work habits and routines are a weird mishmash of tidbits I’ve found on podcasts, a whole lot of trial and error, and asking myself good, thoughtful questions.

One of my favourite questions to ask lately is:

Is this the expectation I want to be setting?

Put differently: Is the action I’m taking right now what I want to teach people to expect from me going forward?

It’s amazing how much this one little question clarifies things for me and helps me set boundaries without needing to have a “tough conversation” with someone, either in a professional or personal context. Whether or not you work for yourself, this question can be helpful in all kinds of different settings.

On Setting Expectations >> Life In Limbo

Here are some examples where I’ve recently let this question inform my choices:

At work

I try to never answer a work email after  “quitting time”. Whether or not I’m working that night on other projects or at my computer, I don’t want to set the expectation that you can expect a response from me outside of work hours. I also turn off Slack notifications after work, and close the app entirely during periods of the work day when I want to get down to business and not be distracted. Responding more slowly means that people won’t constantly expect you to respond right away! It’s like magic. It goes without saying that you can’t totally drop the ball and expect to keep your job, but pacing your responses is something we can all do, within reason. I’d go so far as to say it’s something that we all have to do, in order to keep our sanity.

Over Text

For a few months, there were days when I’d find myself having long text conversations with friends and family during my work hours. Yes, I set my own schedule, but the truth is that I know what my productive hours are and messages pinging in all day makes it really hard to stick to them! I now try to respond later in the day, for example on my lunch break, to avoid the “instant-messaging” type of conversations during hours that are crucial to my productivity. Putting my phone and computer on Do Not Disturb mode helps with this immensely so that I don’t have to resist temptation: I don’t even know the messages are coming in until I’m in a better place to respond to them.

With Friends

When I first moved to the city, I was so desperate to hang out with my friends that I would always offer to come to their homes or locations that were convenient to them. This would sometimes mean that I was going an hour and a half out of my way for a short visit. Of course, I don’t regret any of these meet ups – I love my friends and have been so happy to live in a city where I’m nearby so many of them. What I do regret is setting the expectation that it will always be me who will travel out of my way to meet up. Balance is important in any relationship, and it is up to me to communicate my expectations by suggesting places closer to a halfway point or in my own neighbourhood.

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In all of these cases my choices reflect my own values and are specific to my life. That’s why the question is so open-ended! Maybe you want to set different expectations from me, and that’s great too: the point is to be intentional about your actions. For you, maybe it’s about re-assessing how often you organize events for your friends, or how much money you’re charging clients, or how often you’re cleaning up after your roommate. How we speak, act, and respond to people teaches them how to treat us in ways both big and small. Clarifying what we desire or require from others in any given situation, and then acting accordingly, is a way of being more proactive about our lives.

Let me know some ways you try to be mindful about the expectations you set for others in the comments! I’m always hoping to be inspired to put great ideas into action in my own life.

11 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions (All Year Long!)

11 Ways to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions (All Year Long!) >> Life In Limbo

We’re almost halfway through the year, so it’s a great time to check in with your goals or resolutions for the year. How have you been doing? Have you been doing them?

Even if you’ve forgotten about your goals entirely, the year is not over yet. Not even close! It’s not too late to re-evaluate, re-configure & re-commit to your goals. Here are my top tips for sticking to your goals right up until December 31st (and beyond!).

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

On my list of 26 things I’d like to do before my next birthday, I included the item “collect quotes”. Not only was this very vague (more on this in a bit), it also conjured up fantasies for me of how best to go about completing this goal. Maybe I could make a beautiful collage on my wall! Maybe I could sit down and hand-letter all of the quotes and later bind them into a book! Maybe I could write each of them on a slip of paper and put them into a lovely jar!

But then I realized that it was a month after I created the list and I hadn’t written down a single quote. All of the above would be amazing options, but waiting until I could implement one of those plans would slow me down or even completely prevent me from following through on this goal. So, I opened up a Google Doc, titled it “Jar of Quotes”, stuck it in my Bookmarks Bar and went on with my day. Maybe later I’ll make it into a beautiful book, but for now I’m just happy I’m doing it at all.

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How to Use The Airport Test to Make Better Decisions

AIRPORT TEST

Yesterday I listened to an episode of The Lively Show interviewing Pat Flynn. One moment from the interview really stood out to me – in fact, it literally made me stop in my tracks, turn off the episode, get out my notebook and write down my thoughts.

Pat has just written a new book called Will It Fly?, which is about testing out your business ideas to see whether they’ll take off and be successful or never really get off the ground and flop. His techniques are designed to stop you pouring time and money into ideas that aren’t going to work.

One thing I found very interesting about his approach was that he suggests not only market-testing, but self-testing. That is, he’s not only interested in whether a particular idea is a good fit for your audience and the marketplace, but whether it is a good fit for you. In the episode he shared one type of self-test in particular that I found very powerful, called the Airport Test.

Here’s how to do the Airport Test:

1. Imagine that five years from now, you run into an acquaintance at the airport whom you haven’t seen for the past five years. They ask you how things are, and you truthfully respond with, “Things are absolutely amazing! They couldn’t be any better.”

2. Get out a piece of paper and divide it into four sections

2. Write down the four most important areas of your life as headings for each buy cheap sildenafil citrate 100mg section – for example, family, professional, health and finances.

3. Fill in each section with the ideas that come up for you as you imagine that airport scenario and how it would feel to talk about all the wonderful things happening in your life.


What I love about this exercise is that it includes an emotional component. You have to think about what would make you feel like everything is going beautifully in your life, and that makes it a little easier to imagine what those things might be. I ended up having some insights and ideas that I didn’t even see coming.

I also love that it makes things clearer and it becomes easier to see the bigger picture. You can see what you want the general themes of your life to be, which can help you to decide between various options starting from today. It can help you identify whether a certain job, activity, or relationship is going to get you closer to that vision of the future or steer you further away from it.

Of course, dreams change over time and we should try to stay open to new opportunities and types of growth. I also think it’s important to trust your gut and check in every so often to see if you feel differently. But I think having a guide, even a rough one, to where you want to go can help you make start to make smart, thoughtful decisions right now.

Ps. Here’s another of my very favourite techniques for making better decisions, and how I try to live more intentionally.