There’s a time-lag technique for simultaneous interpreting I learned when I volunteered at grassroots Social Forums in several European cities some years ago: listening to the echo of the speaker’s words in your head and translating that. It works because the words have embedded in your brain and they already have meaning to you, so all you do is to say that (in the output language). It’s a great technique but it needs a lot of focus and it’s tiring.
Trying to get organised during lockdown feels a lot like that – constantly trying to catch up – but the difference is that, being at home, we can also be constantly distracted. So here are five lockdown lifehacks that I’ve adapted from my experience as a life coach.
Step 1) Accept your feelings of guilt – and let them go!
Some of my clients describe waking up in the morning already feeling a failure. That list of 120 urgent items on last week’s To Do list still aren’t done! With the odds against most of us at the moment, that feeling is both widespread and understandable. But does it help to simply reassure each other that we can lower our standards?
I don’t think so.
Instead, treat feelings like little children. Acknowledge their ups and downs but don’t forget who’s in charge! You still have the will to choose your actions, however you are feeling. Your emotions will change as you change your situation: don’t put the cart before the horse! Now you’re ready for Step 2!
Step 2) Create space to think – you need it!
Chuck Zones are temporary storage areas that I recommend to all my clients. No matter how fastidious we are at tidying up, we can all get messy. Not all of our clothes go into the laundry basket at the end of the day, and we can’t always be bothered to hang them up or fold them away. The same happens when we come back home and empty our pockets or bag. A Chuck Zone can be a chair, a drawer, a bag or a box – just not on the floor or impairing the function of another item of furniture.
Designate one for clothes, one for papers and one for everything else.
Then you can make your space functional in seconds and, when you have the energy, you can relocate the items to a more permanent place.
Creating space also means ringfencing some time. Even if all you can do is hide in the only room in the house with a lock for 5 minutes, that’s still enough time to do Step 3.
Step 3) Plan tomorrow today – you’re already ahead!
The problem with suddenly adopting a completely different daily routine is that you may not be prepared for it.
Scenario: used to getting up at 10am and having three black coffees and sugary cereal before you sink into an armchair to watch kitten videos on Instagram till lunch, you drag yourself up at 5:30am, remember you forgot to buy the must-have ginseng tea before your hour’s yoga. And slink off back to bed.
The answer? Don’t try drastic changes. Small, incremental steps are more sustainable. Do whatever you need to today to prepare to do what you want tomorrow. Start with food shopping – which takes us to Step 4.
Step 4) Get the good food in first! And DON’T crash diet!
I wrote a slim booklet about FAT and fitness (it’s also an audiobook). But here’s the skinny: food is our fuel for life and body fat is necessary to store energy, warm us and to protect our vital organs. Calorie counting seems to largely benefit the dieting industry and I don’t recommend it. Your body may end up panicking and storing excess fat – and then you’re back to square one and sighing on the scales. Just get the good food in first (especially fruit and vegetables) and you won’t feel the need to fill up the corners with snacks. Now you’re ready for Step 5.
Step 5) Employ the Rule of Three – it works like magic!
You’re in the space you’ve cleared, during the time you’ve claimed, and all ready to plan tomorrow today. How do you do it? What about all those items on that impossible To Do list? Do you really have to just work your way through them, one at a time, one after another?
No. Not if you use the Rule of Three:
1 – urgent task
2 – important task
3 – reward
Tear up that To Do list. Just tear it up! You were never going to do all that stuff anyway and, if you use this 1-2-3, you won’t have to. Why? How does it work?
Worry is like a background computer programme. It can interfere with normal functioning. Doing an urgent task calms your mind and makes you feel responsible. Taking advantage of that lull, when the nagging voice in your head shuts up, by doing an important task, means that you’ve prevented another emergency and you begin to feel more organised.
Rewards can be anything from reading a magazine for five minutes to soaking in an aromatherapy bath for an hour. Rewarding yourself acknowledges the work you’ve done and your dignity as a human being. You’re not a cog in the machine. This is your life you’re living – paid and unpaid work included! It also switches your ‘at work’ beta brainwaves to the ‘at rest’ alpha variety – and that can slide into the more (day)dreamy theta state. Where you get your best ideas.
To Do lists are linear and atomised: one at a time, one after another. There’s no organic connection. Yes, you can get things done but problem-solving benefits from playfulness, creativity and fun.
Example: today I had a broken plastic pail at the back door, a round plastic food tray, a pile of woody hedge trimmings round the back of the hut, a bag of plastic bags in the kitchen cupboard, a wheelbarrow full of dried moss raked off the front lawn and a packet of coriander (cilantro) seeds and another of cress I wanted to plant. Seeing the first five as assets rather than rubbish to be removed, I combined them, also using some twine, to make a hanging basket and a flat mossy tray, and sowed the seeds.
Using these 5 lockdown lifehacks frees up not only your time and your space but the crucial quality we all need to get things done well. The Greeks call it Arête, the Germans call it Kraft, the French call it va va voom, the English call it get-up-and-go: here in Scotland, we call it gumption.
Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing her image Woman Reading Vintage Drawing into the Public Domain.