Inspiration: September 1

Every week on Friday, I share a list of the most interesting and inspiring content I’ve read lately here on my blog. You can expect thoughts on productivity, happiness, balance, spirituality, politics, and more. Subscribe here to get updates. See archives here.

Inspiration: September 1 >> Life In Limbo

A friend of mine told me about the existence of Mail Merge last week and my eyeballs almost fell out of my head. I am now actively looking for places where I can use this ingenious system in my life.

I am happily using Todoist lately to keep track of my to-do list, but I’m experimenting with adding Google Keep to the mix because I learned it lets you easily collaborate on notes with friends. I am also trying to use Google Photos more, because their search function is amazing (ie. Search “beach” and all the photos from the beach come up without you having needed to tag anything! Ahh!) What do you guys use for your to-do lists?

I haven’t been listening to The Lively Show much lately, but I enjoyed the most recent episode about the Law of Attraction.

Lots of great suggestions in Elise’s recent episode on getting out of a creative rut.

This week I finished the book Intuitive Eating, which I loved. Whether or not you struggle with eating, I think there are some awesome tips in here that relate to mindfulness and presence. There’s a quick rundown of the myths about this way of eating on Refinery 29 here if you’re curious!

Have you ever wished you knew just the right thing to write to shut down someone saying bigoted things on Facebook? If you tag White Nonsense Roundup in the comments, they’ll help you out!

Related: This week I did a big cleanup of my Facebook friends list and I highly recommend this. I had been ‘friends’ with so many people I didn’t even know or recognize. Byeee!


This week has flown by. On Tuesday, I went to the CNE and the John Mayer concert with my friend Sonja, who had kindly gotten me tickets for my birthday! That was a super fun day. One of my favourite parts was riding the Sky Ride and looking out over the fairgrounds and the city beyond. Plus, John was incredible – I have naturally been listening to this playlist all week. I am looking forward to a weekend spent relaxing, reading, and doing nothing, to recharge. I hope you have a wonderful weekend too! xo.

On Doing Nothing

This sentence popped into my head yesterday:

Seek out places where it feels easier to do nothing.

I was at my mom’s house in the woods this weekend when this idea occurred to me. I had spent the day doing the following: reading a book, eating a snack, playing with the dog, talking to my mom, making dinner, and going for a walk. All I did, all day long, was some combination of those activities, and that’s it.

Do Nothing to Do Something >> Life In Limbo

What made the day especially magical was that I didn’t feel that guilty push/pull I normally do when I’m at home on a sunny Saturday in the city. On those days, it’s as if I’m afraid of “doing nothing”. I feel like I have to be productive somehow, even when I’m relaxing. (No, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but it’s true. Can anyone relate?)

But that day at my mom’s, like all days at my mom’s, I didn’t feel guilty for sitting in a deck chair reading a beachy summer novel. I didn’t feel like I “should” have been going for a run, or exploring a new part of the city, or checking something off my to-do list. I didn’t feel depressed that I felt like having a nap or that I wanted to sit on the couch for awhile to decompress. All day long, I never once noticed the time. Things felt simple and easy. I was perfectly content. 

Do Nothing to Do Something >> Life In Limbo

This is why one single day at my mom’s house can feel like a weeklong vacation: it’s a place where it is actually easier to do nothing than it is to run around trying to do “something”. The internet connection is unreliable, so it’s not easy to watch TV. The house is down a long windy road, so it doesn’t feel convenient to run errands or really go out at all. The driveway is hard to find, so you can’t exactly order a pizza if you feel lazy. It’s quieter than most places. It’s more peaceful than most places. There are a handful of simple activities that you can do, and those are your options. You don’t feel overwhelmed by all the choices available to you, because some things are easily ruled out. You don’t feel guilty for “doing nothing” because you don’t have much of a choice.

I’m reminded here of Gretchen Rubin’s Strategy of Convenience: “To a truly remarkable extent, we’re more likely to do something if it’s convenient, and less likely if it’s not.”

At my mom’s house, it is far more convenient to do “nothing”. But of course, “nothing” is not the right word for what I’m describing. Here, “doing nothing” refers to what remains when we stop rushing, stop hustling, stop worrying, stop fussing, and just slow down. Here, “nothing” is what’s left over when we turn off our screens and stop making so much noise. In the space that remains, we end up laughing more. We play more. We talk to each other. We linger over meals. We move slowly. We’re more present.

Do Nothing to Do Something >> Life In Limbo

Rob Bell writes, “What seem like the small things are actually the big things”. He’s absolutely right. And similarly, by doing “nothing”, we actually make room for what is meaningful, important, and precious:

Quiet. Groundedness. Peace. Connection. Stillness. Grace. Rest. Satisfaction. Joy. Presence.

So let me amend my original thought:

Seek out places where it feels easier to focus on what is meaningful, important, and precious.

For me, that’s reading, writing, being with the people I love, and spending time outdoors. I tend to get pulled away from these things by unimportant things like movies, social media, busywork, distractions, or a fear of missing out if I choose to opt out of things in order to “do nothing”.

I’m still in the process of figuring out ways to exploit the Strategy of Convenience in my daily life (without being at the cottage in the woods) by making it less convenient to get sucked into bad habits and easier to get pulled into good ones: keeping my phone plugged in outside my bedroom, logging out of Facebook on my computer, having a stack of library books on the table to make them easier to grab. The intentionality is helping, as is the thought that “doing nothing” makes room for the most important of “somethings”. 

How do you remember to focus on what’s important? What are the ways that you help yourself carve out time to do “nothing”?

PS. I also like this post from my friends over at Mindshift Ninja which has some similar ideas & strategies.

Inspiration: August 25

Every week on Friday, I share a list of the most interesting and inspiring content I’ve read lately here on my blog. You can expect thoughts on productivity, happiness, balance, spirituality, politics, and more. Subscribe here to get updates. See archives here.

Inspiration: August 25 >> Life In Limbo

A.J. Jacobs has some great thoughts for his students (and all of us, really) for the back-to-school season. He’s so cool.

One idea about how we can resist with a sense of humour and zero violence. This gives me hope.

Still feeling hopeless? Here’s an enormous list of tangible ways we can support people of colour and combat white supremacy. I have barely begun reading it but there are so many good ideas here.

Let’s celebrate the back to school season by buying some cool school supplies like other creative people!

The Incredible Jessica James was super good, but warning: it is not a TV show! It is a movie! Do not be heartbroken like I was when I sat down to watch the “next episode”!

Oprah is so interesting and inspiring to me, for a million reasons. This interview was really good. I also endorse Making Oprah and the Super Soul Conversations podcast.

Seth’s post on behaviour addiction is #relevant to me. If you missed it, I wrote about dimming the volume (especially on technology) earlier this week.


The week has flown, friends! It’s definitely getting cooler here in Toronto, especially in the evenings, which is making me feel all that back to school excitement, even though I’m not in school. What a great time of year for a fresh start, for establishing some great routines, for buying more plants for your house, for pulling out your cozy clothes. This weekend I’m planning to watch one more outdoor movie and hang out at my mom’s with the puppy. I hope you have a wonderful weekend too! xo.

 

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?