For me the Lighter Life is driven by simplification of my life and my stuff, each day and every day. Sometimes you need to do the big stuff, for me it was losing 70lbs, and tossing over half my stuff; but for the days in between, it’s the small acts, the small rituals, the life hacks and habits that make all the difference.
Not everything I do each day, can or should work for you, nor will anyone else’s routine work perfectly for me. Take what works, leave what doesn’t, and feel free to use the comments section to add the rituals that work for you.
Take Your Second Cup of Coffee to Go: My father grew up on a small farm in rural Jamaica, one of my earliest memories of that place is standing in the outdoor kitchen watching freshly roasted beans being ground by hand. To say that Coffee Culture is part of my culture is an understatement – I Love my Coffee, and I like to savour it. I take my second cup to go so I’m not late or rushed getting to work. As a Canadian, I also enjoy the warming affect of a cup of Java on a Winter’s morning, in the summer I add more almond milk to cool it down a bit.
Plan Your Meal Prep Before You Shop: I plan my meals for the week and build my shopping list from my menu. I usually do this exercise with the flyer from my local Longo’s open on the table, mixing in fresh and seasonal ingredients and looking for ways to incorporate sale-items. In the winter, a sale on Mushrooms for example might lead me to put Barley and Mushroom Risotto and Quinoa-Cream of Mushroom soup on the menu. I waste less food, save money and eat healthy homecooked meals.
Use Calendar Blocking To Plan Your Week: I have two calendars one for work, and one for almost everything else; in my personal calendar my work day plus my commute time are blocked off each weekday, I’ve also blocked any activities I need to do to get ready for work, like packing my lunch; my work calendar fills in the work-day, and I also include any personal appointments occurring during or within one hour of the work day, so that I can be aware of the travel time to those events. Blocking allows me to see what I have time for in my day and allows me to plan to complete tasks early if I’m going to be busy around the deadline. I’ve cribbed most of my Calendar Blocking process from Amy Landino and highly recommend checking out this video for more how-to information.
Use an App to Track What You Eat: One of the tools that helped the most in my weight loss of 70+lbs was keeping track of my calorie intake using an app on my phone – I use My Plate but there are several good options that can work for you. In the end, its less about the calories than it is about forcing myself to be honest about how many servings I’m really eating – just because you ate it in one sitting doesn’t mean it was only one serving. I also track my steps using a hybrid smart watch from Fossil – which I love because I can get subtle alerts without everyone I meet with knowing what’s happening on my phone.
Meal Prep: I meal prep everything I eat from Sunday Dinner through Thursday Dinner (I’m lucky to have my eggs made for me most mornings, but I will boil a batch during meal prep if I need to make my own breakfasts). Fridays are “cheat days” for me, and on Saturdays I cook a fresh meal – Saturdays are also my grocery day – my meal prep also includes my lunches (more time in the morning to savour my coffee) which I take to work every day, Soup in the Winter and Salads in the Summer.
Wardrobe Prep: Decision Fatigue is a real problem that affects so many of us in the modern world of too many choices, one of the ways I combat early morning decision fatigue is by having my work-day outfits assembled and ready to wear. Every Sunday I pick out an outfit for each work day taking into account any meetings or activities in my calendar, and of course the weather forecast. I’ve also been known to pick out multiple week’s worth of clothes when I’m traveling for work or scheduled to work through the next weekend.
Keep a “Can Watch TV” List, Instead of a “Must Watch TV” List: I keep a list of shows I “can” watch taped to the side of my TV, if something on the list isn’t on TV, or there isn’t a new episode to be caught up on, I simply turn the TV off and look for ways to do something productive. I also keep a list of 20 things to do instead of watching TV and a basket of note books, puzzle books, drawing materials, etc. near my bed so I always have materials at hand to create something in the time I’m not wasting staring at a glowing box – h/t to my buddy Mike Pietrzak for the idea to create my list of alternatives.
Don’t Drink Alcohol on “School” Nights: One of the best ways I’ve found to keep motivated to be productive well into my evenings is to avoid consuming Alcohol Sunday-Thursday Nights; my “can watch” and 20 alternatives lists are completely useless if my capacity to be productive is diminished. As a bonus, I sleep better when I go to bed without alcohol in my system, so this tends to increase my productivity at work as well.
Make Your Bed Daily: look, I know that there is a popular school of thought that says making your bed every day gives you momentum and a feeling of accomplishment, and I don’t think that’s entirely wrong; its just not why I make my bed each morning. I make my bed everyone morning, because a) it makes my room look neater, and a tidy environment lowers my stress levels, and because b) every night I get to come home and relax into a neatly made bed – I will do anything to add to the likelihood of a good night’s sleep, because I NEED my 8 hours most nights to be the best version of myself during the days.
Fill Your Gas Tank Every Sunday: Living in Canada, the last thing you want to do is find yourself needing to fill up late at night, in the freezing cold, after a long day at work. I heard once that “every time we don’t procrastinate, its our present self giving our future self a gift” – for me filling up my tank while running my weekend errands saves me having to do it when I’m tired. This is a double treat when I’ve been away on business and forget I’ve done it, there is nothing better than coming home to one less thing that needs doing.
Track Your Finances Weekly: I’m not the best with money, I can manage my client’s money just fine, but would benefit from bringing some of that Not-for-Profit budget stretching into my own life. Tracking my finances weekly (in a simple spread sheet file) helps me see where I’m spending my money and where I’m on or (too often) over budget, simply put, knowledge is power and keeping tabs on my finances reduces the amount of time I spend thinking about money the rest of the week.
Weigh Yourself Daily: First, let me say, that everyone’s weight changes day-to-day so don’t freak out if you gain a half pound (or more) from the previous day. All sorts of things including, sugar, salt and water intake can impact your daily weigh-in, and for us ladies, there are a few days a month that just aren’t always so kind. But, what you can learn from this practice is how various activities and foods impact your weight, and you can spot negative trends early. I log my weight in my calorie app, so that I can keep track of how many calories I should be eating as my weight drops and to keep track of my progress over time.