2023 is my year of ease – i.e., I want more ease in my life. If you’re similar, here are practical strategies I’m using to get more ease in my life. Enjoy!
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Episode 9. Year of Ease
[Upbeat Intro Music]
Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!
Hey! Welcome back! So if you are on my email list and you’ve been with me since the beginning of the year, you might know that 2023 for me was then and is still currently the year of ease for me. I’m sure it resonates with people. My guess is if you’re listening to this, it resonates to a degree.
After the last, what, three plus years and the crazy stuff from a global and a country level, and then also just my personal life, which has been all good things. It’s all wonderful things, but it’s been tiring. We moved back to Minnesota from California. We moved from a rental house to a house we bought. I think we changed my oldest’s school three different times. We’ve had two different set-ups with my littlest one for daycare. They’re all, for the most part, good things. This is not a complaining thing. It’s just that good things can be tiring too. Really, things that you want in your life, things that are wonderful, can still be exhausting.
And so, it’s just been a tough last couple years, not in a deeply dark way, but just in a “I’m tired.” Our youngest is a year and a half. We’re coming out of a lot of a lot of baby/pregnancy/that kind of stuff, and I feel like I personally am coming out of that and kind of catching my breath and coming back out into the light from my baby cave and things like that, and because of that, I was like both I have the energy to do more, but I also just want life to feel more easy, and not even necessarily easy. Easy’s the wrong word. I want more ease in my life. I would like things to feel like they’re running smoother, get out there, not be so isolated, but then also, again, just have it feel like ease. That’s the best way I can put it. I know I’ve said ease like 20 times now.
When I reflected on how do I get there, what does that look like from a practical perspective (if you haven’t gathered yet, I love practical solutions), for me, what it came back to is realizing that I feel like I have ease when I have energy and when I have energy reserves. Because I feel like something I noticed that I’ve shared on Instagram and in my email list and things like that is that I often can feel okay. I’m like, “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m doing great,” and then a big curveball hits, like a loss of childcare, and I quickly am not okay. I’m quickly more teary than I want to be and things like that. What I’ve realized is that, through no fault of my own, I’m not assigning blame, but it is what it is. It’s been what it’s been for the past couple years.
I didn’t have a lot of wiggle room emotionally. I didn’t have a lot of emotional reserves there, and on the whole, I’m a pretty positive person. So that was fine when things were going decently well. But if I kind of got my hopes crushed a little bit, even if it was just a loss of childcare and suddenly my plans for the day that I had been looking forward to weren’t gonna happen, it hurt. While I don’t blame myself for that, it also was surprising how much it hurt, and it always kind of startled me in a weird way about how much I could get derailed by relatively minor curveballs in the scheme of life, like you’re like, “Why is this affecting me so much?” I just realized it was tiredness and a lack of emotional reserves.
And so, when we were coming into 2023 about six months ago, which is crazy, I really was just trying to think how can I avoid that to the same degree. How do I kind of shore up my energy reserves. And so, I’m just gonna give a bit of an update on how that’s going for those who’ve been here and just fill you in if that’s something that you’re interested in doing in your life as it relates to time management, but also more just energy management.
First Component – Get Clear on Activity Levels – 4:25
So, the first thing I did is really just getting clear on the level of activities that we have in our life, and this is kind of more straight up time management. I mean, it relates to my energy management as well. But it is more just like where is your time going. Particularly when kids are home, if you have kids, but even if not, what are all the activities you’re doing every evening.
And this definitely happened also when I did not have kids, and also before I was married and kind of living that single life. There are different ways you can take this. So when I say activities now in my life, that’s like kid activities after school, but when I was single it was also like meeting up with friends after work for drinks or doing an art class or being on a softball league or things I used to do. There were things I used to do that could very quickly fill up my calendar. Again, all really fun and exciting things, but cumulatively when you add them all up, very tiring things as well at times in your life.
So whatever your activities are in your life right now, it’s really thinking about not just even, “What do I want to do,” but, “How much do I want to do?” How many nights do I want to be out every week versus how many nights do I want to have no plans and I just get to come home and relax. That goes for, again, if you’re a mom, if you’re not a mom, if you’re single. Whatever your situation is, taking a step back and just saying, “How many nights a week would I like to come home after work and not have anything to do?” Obviously we all have things that we probably need to do, but you know what I mean. No big activity that’s structuring our time. Something that we can have a little more free flow, not as structured and rigid.
That’s just something to consider when we’re thinking about the year of ease and maintaining energy is thinking how many nights do I want to come home? Therefore, how many nights am I open to going out? From there, then you can make your selections on whatever that looks like for you. Whatever might fill you up and things like that.
The reason that’s important is because if you are like, “Yep, we are open — I am open for five nights a week every single day. We can do stuff after,” then that affects what you’re saying yes or no to. Where if you’re saying, “Actually, we want to come home without any plans two days a week or three days a week,” and granted, I’m coming at this from a little kid angle. Those with older kids who have a ton of school activities/school extracurriculars, you might be laughing at me listening to this. But still, think about, creatively, how could you make this work for you. Whether it’s we’re talking school week or also we could be talking the weekend.
How many nights do you want to be home during the week, because that will suddenly change where you’re like, “I thought I could do these four activities, but if I can only do one or two, then I’m gonna pick these two that are most favorite to me, and I’m gonna let the others go for the sake of having some downtime and some relaxation time.”
Now, weirdly, for this phase of my life — I know this isn’t for everybody, but this phase of my life with a one-and-a-half-year-old and a five-year-old, the flip of that is also I do actually like having activities planned for the weekends. I find that it helps the weekend flow. When we have no plans, especially coming out of a Minnesota winter where you’re really stuck inside if you have no plans, that can really almost be the reverse where the days really drag and there does not feel like a lot of ease going on. And so, I’ll throw that out there that, for me, it’s kind of a flip right now.
In my life right now, after the school time, I really like less. We do one activity during the week and one kind of structured activity on the weekend. So I do gymnastics with my daughter and then we do soccer on the weekends. My youngest doesn’t do anything yet, so it makes my life easy. That’s really all I can do.
I will also throw out there for context — I’m rambling a lot. I’m making this a little bit about me, but I just want to kind of give you insight into what I consider is just know that I’m solo parenting the bulk of the time. With my husband’s ER shifts, he’s gone a lot of the time and at random times. A lot of evenings he’s working and things like that, so for me, that means I have to kind of go into this planning from I will be alone. If I end up getting help from my parents or my husband’s home and can keep the kids and things like that, that’s the cherry on top. That’s awesome. But I have to plan as though I’m going to be alone and then hope to get some support.
But that’s also why when I plan, I really err on the side of less because it’s just a lot. It’s a lot for me to be solo parenting and chasing a one-and-a-half-year-old while the five-year-old’s in gymnastics and all that kind of stuff. So taking all that with a grain of salt. Just throwing that out there for you.
I really went down a rabbit hole there, sorry. Hopefully it’s useful just in terms of what you might want to think about when you want to do this stuff and kind of own your reality. So, to bring it back to an actual takeaway that might be useful for you is really getting clear on what your reality is and working with it and saying, “If you are like me, okay, I solo parent a lot. This is really tiring for me. Let me just work with that right now knowing it’s not forever, knowing that will change, but for now, what does that ideally look like.” And for me, I have really come to the conclusion that I can really only do one activity during the week and one activity on the weekends with my kids at the ages they are. I’m sure that will shift next year. But being very aware of that right now helps me manage it all.
Then on the weekends I flip that and really go for one morning activity and one afternoon activity each day if I can (at least one a day, if I can’t do two), and it really helps the weekends go by smoother. Even sometimes those activities are just walking over to a playground and letting the kids run around with a picnic maybe, things like that. But that can really, really help with making the weekend go by.
Now, on the flip side, you might be like, “My weekends get overbooked entirely.” You might not like that, and so, this came from a client. I thought this was such a great idea. She had a tendency to overbook herself with social events because they were fun. She got to see friends. She’s a very social person. It was awesome. But what she decided to do was block two hours every single weekend day that just said, “Unstructured time,” and it was a visual reminder to her to protect two hours somewhere on each day of her weekend to have time at home, to relax, to not have anything planned to do so that she could relax and have some breathing space. It was a visual reminder to herself not to book herself. Sometimes we need those visual reminders in our calendars to save us from ourselves. So I thought that was such a great way to do that, and so, just sharing that with you on this kind of stuff.
If you’re like, “We are really all over the place,” just a reminder we’re talking about a year of ease and how to really protect our energy. The first thing I wanted to talk about was the activity level that you schedule yourself for, particularly on the fun side or the extracurricular side and really not just being like, “What do I want to do,” but also, “How much time would I like to be home,” and use that to inform yourself, then, of what you say yes to because why I think that’s so important is if you’re like, “I want to be home two nights a week, three nights a week, four nights a week,” whatever it might be, “I want to be home for two hours every single day on the weekend,” knowing that will help you, then, see, “Okay, I can’t do four nights of things, so I’m only gonna do two nights of things, so I’m gonna pick the two things that mean the most to me.”
Second Component: Sleep – 12:06
The other main component I wanted to talk about other than just activity level is sleep. Now, I’m 38, so maybe you don’t have to think about this as much if you’re younger than me, but as I‘ve gotten older, I would say probably, for me, it’s like getting older and having kids, so losing sleep. Sleep is so, so critical. It’s so critical. When I get a good night’s sleep, my ability to function the next day, even two days, is so much more stable, emotionally and in having those emotional reserves, than if I’m not sleeping well.
So I have really started taking intentional actions to protect my sleep, which has ripple effects over the next day or even two days on how I feel, the work I can do, how much I can focus, all of that kind of stuff. So, for me, I’m trying to do better at getting into bed early. I will say I’m struggling with that one a little bit more. Weirdly, I am a very early-to-bed person, but for a variety of reasons, I’m struggling to do that as much these days. So that’s something I’m still working on. I don’t pretend that I have that solved entirely.
Also, the big one I actually am doing really well on is drinking. Now, I’m not a medical person. I don’t even have judgment about drinking because I’ve really enjoyed drinking throughout my life. I’ve been a very social person in settings where drinking was social. And so, I’m just throwing it out there that I have zero judgment when it comes to drinking. That said, I have noticed how much drinking affects my sleep, particularly as I get older. Even half a glass of wine does affect my sleep, which is a huge bummer. It just is. But again, we embrace reality. It is what it is, and we work with it.
So for me, what I personally have decided to do this year, and I actually started it, I think it was around maybe a little bit before Thanksgiving last year, and it really has been a game changer, unfortunately. Fortunately and unfortunately, cutting out drinking most of the time has really, really been awesome for my energy levels and my ability to work when I get that time right now.
So I’ll just throw that out there for you to consider, just a nudge that if you are low on energy more often than you would like to be and you are enjoying wine (and I totally get it) to unwind at the end of the day, just an experiment you could run is to say for the next month (this is what I do) I don’t drink unless I’m doing something social. I don’t do very much social stuff, so that can be I can go a month without drinking at all or I can go once a week I might drink. It just kind of depends on what we’re doing. But it has been really game changing because the vast majority of the time I’m not drinking so the sleep quality I’m getting is big.
I will also say what’s unfortunate — even though it’s good, it’s just a bummer because I really do enjoy having wine or having a beer — is that the depressive effects of alcohol are more noticeable to me when I do drink, and it doesn’t mean major depression or crying or anything like that. That’s not what I mean. But what I mean is I wake up the next morning, and things bother me a little bit more than they normally do. Because I’m not drinking most of the time, I’m like, “What is going on?” It feels almost like PMS-y because I’m like why is this affecting me so much that my daughter said this to me or this person cut me off in traffic or whatever it might be. Yeah, those things bother me, but they don’t really get under my skin as much as they do after a night where I’ve been drinking.
So I’ll just throw that out there to you as well that when we’re talking about wanting ease in our life, it’s kind of strange to me how much drinking can just really kind of commandeer my emotional reactions to some things, and I don’t think I fully noticed it as much because maybe it was just more my normal. Like if I was drinking a couple nights a week, even just having a glass of wine, how I reacted the next day felt more normal to me. Where now when I’m not drinking when I have those mornings, I’m like it’s not even a hungover thing. I’m not even drinking that excessively. I feel physically fine, but things are getting under my skin in a deeper way. It’s very weird. I have no idea the science behind it, but an important data point that I have picked up on when I’m striving for life to have more ease in it, that’s important. That’s obviously a relevant point.
I’ll also point out that even, similarly, when I don’t feel physically any different in the morning, maybe a little bit more tired if I’d been drinking, but otherwise I feel like — sometimes we talk about drinking and it’s like excessive drinking verses not. I mean like a glass of wine. If I wake up the next morning, I don’t feel physically different other than maybe a little bit more tired. I also, though, can still struggle to motivate to work or do anything, candidly, in a harder way. It’s harder to motivate after I’ve been drinking. So this is all a real bummer thing to explain because I, again, really enjoy drinking, so it’s hard when I’ve started — because I’m not drinking I’m noticing these things more when I do drink. Just throwing it out there for you just to share as a data point for you to consider that is just a real bummer. But if you are looking for ease in your life, that no drinking or drinking less frequently and more intentionally, it can have a real impact on your sleep and your quality of your sleep that I’ll just throw it out there for you to consider.
Third Component: Mindfulness Through the Chaos – 18:02
The last thing I’ll throw out there when it comes to ease and wanting life to feel more full of ease is really being mindful of when your brain is feeling a little bit more frantic or jumpy. Hopefully that makes sense to you. You know that feeling I’m talking about where you kind of just can’t focus on one thing. Even when you’re done working for the night, it’s not just a work thing. It’s like your brain’s hopping around. Even if you’re trying to listen to a podcast you’re like, “Well, maybe I’ll listen to this audiobook, and maybe I’ll do this instead,” and things like that. I notice that about myself.
When that happens, if I can get off social media and also stop listening to things at all, which is probably not what someone who just launched a podcast should be sharing to say don’t listen to podcasts. I mean, I love podcasts. I will come back to them. But in those jumpy, kind of more frantic mental states, I just throw out there that I think we’re not quiet with ourselves very much. At least I’m not. Maybe it’s just me, and you’re like, “Yeah, that’s just you,” but I tend to, if I’m going to walk my dog or I’m going on a walk outside or I’m driving anywhere or I have a bored moment, I am listening to something or looking at social media or looking at the news or doing something, always having information blaring into my brain. I have found that’s not always a bad thing. There are phases where I love it. I absolutely love it, and I love learning, and it’s just such a great way to make a lot of mundane things really interesting. Those are not the times I’m talking about. I’m talking about those weird times where you feel yourself being more jumpy and frantic, I have found real value in just going quiet.
So when I walk my dog, I don’t listen to anything. I do have my phone with me because people need to be able to get in touch with me because of kids and stuff. But I really try and stay away from having information coming into my brain all the time, and also, I will say the phone is useful because you will have those random things that come to mind of, “Oh, I need to do this,” or, “Oh, I should do this,” or, “Here’s an idea,” and it’s nice to be able to have your phone to be able to capture those things but then put it away, and use that Siri thing that I talked about in the last episode to capture information but be able to put it away.
I just throw that out there that when we strive for ease, sometimes that involves reducing input and reducing all the information coming at us. And so, if you find that you’re feeling that not-ease/jumpy/frantically feeling, really being intentional about, “Let me go for a walk,” and actually hear the nature sounds and look around more and just almost let my brain absorb what I’m doing more instead of kind of transporting my brain to a different place by listening to a podcast or an audiobook or things like that. If I’m driving, let me be quiet and let me not listen to things and really be able to hear what comes up and just be more present with myself instead of transporting myself off into something.
Recap – 21:11
So that is a bit random. I hope that’s helpful to you. But if you are similarly looking for ease in your life, to recap, really think about your activities. Don’t just think about what do I want to do, but also think about what kind of unstructured time do I want in my life, really making that practical. How many nights a week do I want to just be able to come home after work with no plans? What do I want my weekends to look like also, from an unstructured standpoint versus a structured standpoint? You always can change this. It will change during phases of life, but just kind of really taking a step back and thinking about that and then making decisions on what you do with your time in light of that.
Then also, if you want, protecting sleep and really thinking about what does affect you sleep-wise. Also, I didn’t mention, I really can’t have caffeine or dark chocolate after 1:00 or 2:00 PM. So just throwing that out there as well, that as you’re thinking about, “What affects my sleep,” for me, things I’ve noticed are caffeine, chocolate, and then also, as I mentioned, drinking. I’ve really tried to make intentional decisions that work for me that help protect my sleep, which obviously has obvious ripple effects on my energy level, which then has ripple effects on how much can I focus, am I motivated to do things, how positive do I feel. All of that kind of stuff trickles back to sleep, and so, that’s important. And then something I need to keep working on is getting into bed earlier and doing things like reading a real actual book instead of my phone and really being able to feel my body get sleepy and then go to sleep when I need it.
Then the last part of it was giving yourself quiet when you need to feel a little bit more solid in who you are and a little more steady. When you’re feeling that frantic, jumpy feeling, it’s giving yourself the space to kind of just be by yourself and not have so much information being thrown at your brain all the time.
So I hope that helps! That’s my bit of an update or catch up, if you didn’t know I was trying to do that this year, of the year of ease and how I’m trying to work that in. I know that it might not be calendars and practical strategies in that way that we’re used to thinking about with time management, but it is really critical from a time and energy management and just kind of from an enjoying life perspective. So throwing that out there for you for what it’s worth.
I’d love to hear what you’re doing. If you have similar goals, what strategies are you using to get there, and I would truly love to hear from it because it’s something that I’m noodling on. I’m not an expert on this stuff, but those elements of it, like the practical side of how to feel more ease in your life, is something that is just really interesting to me and has really been valuable and I’ve felt the benefits of it already. And so, I like sharing about it and learning more about it as well!
So, reach out to me, whether it’s on Instagram or email at ke***@ke********.com. All right, I’ll talk to you soon!
[Upbeat Outro Music]