Last week I asked my sister what she was most looking forward to doing when she moved into her new house. She answered straight away: “Eating dinner in the bath.”
Her words came back to me today and made me smile, partly because of the absurdity of her answer and partly because of what it represented. Having dinner in the bath is really living life on your own terms: doing something other people think is crazy just because you want to.
This week I had lots of things that I thought I should do. It was supposed to be a quiet one, time to catch up on sleep, do my laundry, clean, tidy, write and reflect. But as soon as I arrived back in Oxford on Sunday night I received a text message: do you want to go for shisha? Which of course turned into shisha and wine and a late night.
On Monday night I ended up having a pub dinner and conversations that lasted until it got dark. On Wednesday night a throwaway remark by a friend – “I haven’t had a whisky sour in ages” – saw us camped out in a cocktail bar for most of the night. I returned home and collapsed on my bed. “Oh shit,” I thought as the room span around me. “I needed to do that laundry.” But it turned out I didn’t, because I wore a running bra under my work clothes today and nothing bad happened.
I have a nasty habit of trying to schedule every moment of my life in advance. I plan, I make lists, and I turn down fun to cross things off them.
This week has shown me that I can relax a little: not plan anything, not set expectations. Wonderful things can happen when you leave space for a little spontaneity. You’ll still do the things that matter (that laundry is in the washing machine as I type) but there’s a lot of things that don’t.
I’ll get more sleep when my friends aren’t in town. I’ll write when I feel inspired, not when I feel I ought to. This might lead to more infrequent blog posts but they will be the ones worth reading. Or it might not, because you don’t know what will happen when you leave space. It is okay to do whatever the hell you want to do in the moment, even it that’s eating dinner in the bath.
Last Autumn, I decided to invest in a decent pair of boots for winter. I boot them new and spent far more than I would usually on a pair of shoes. But it’s been worth it: I’ve basically worn them every day.
I’m trying to make a move to owning fewer clothes of better quality. Wearing the same pair of boots every day makes my morning easier by taking a choice of out my routine. Having fewer choices about things such as what to wear leaves me the emotional energy to make better decisions about things that matter a lot more, in my work and in my relationships.
By now, I’m sure you’ll have all seen the I Forgot My Phone video that’s been doing the rounds online.
I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago where I admitted how much I love switching my phone off while I’m travelling, and he confessed that there was no way he could stay that unconnected. So my first thought upon watching I Forgot My Phone was to post it on his Facebook wall, feeling smug about how I was not addicted to my phone.
Then I thought about the weekend I just had.
How I couldn’t wait in line to be served without tweeting about it.
How I couldn’t enjoy a drink with my sister without sharing it on Instagram.
How we couldn’t enjoy a night out without posting it to Facebook.
In fact, I can’t remember the last time I watched television without idly browsing the internet, the last day out I had without taking a picture of something funny to share online, or the last time somebody told me some news that I hadn’t already seen on my newsfeed.
It’s all well and good being able to disconnect for while on holiday, but what about the other fifty weeks in a year? How is permanently being connected to social media affecting my interactions offline?
I’m going to try leaving my phone in my bag and enjoying the moment, and taking a step back from social media to try and answer these questions.
I realised something the other day.
I’ve always got multiple tabs and lot’s of different documents open. Even though I manage to get everything done, I flit constantly between one task and another. It’s haphazard, chaotic and on a busy day it can make my head spin.
I can’t listen to a whole song without skipping to the next. I can’t watch television without also reading my twitter feed.
I can feel my attention span decreasing.
My mind wanders when I talk to somebody. It’s been months since I finished a novel. I’m reading emails when I’m on the phone. I can never completely relax. But more importantly, I haven’t been giving my friends my full attention.
I need to regain my focus.
So I’ve started to concentrate on just doing one thing at a time. Having one document open until it’s finished. Then closing it and opening the next. Working through my list slowly and methodically, valuing the sense of achievement that comes from crossing things off.
I’ve been learning that right clicking and hitting ‘open in a new tab’ is not my friend. Instead I open that page, read it all, and then go back. Or sometimes I decide it isn’t of value, so I choose not to procrastinate by opening it.
It’s been painful. I’ll go to open twitter while something else loads and then stop myself. Seriously,what is so wrong with me? Why am I so afraid of being left with my own thoughts for 20 seconds?
I have to make an effort to work like this, but I’m hoping it will become easier. It already seems more rewarding. I’m calmer and feel more productive.
I’ve already been thinking about how I can carry this ‘One Thing At A Time’ mantra into other areas of my life:
- Not listening to music while I walk to work.
- Cooking with fewer ingredients.
- Turning off my phone for periods of time.
- Wearing one outfit until it needs to be washed, rather than buying into the idea that I can’t wear the same thing for two days in a row.
- Carrying only what I actually need in my handbag, rather than planning for all eventualities.