“Thimble List” vs. Bucket List for Joy and Mindfulness

You know the phrase “stop and smell the roses?”

I always thought it sounded a little cheesy. But now that we’re in the seventh month of quarantine (wow!), I’m starting to think that whoever thought of that phrase has the right idea.

I used to be all about bucket lists, but I want to introduce you to the “Thimble List” — AKA “the stop and smell the roses list.” 

Bucket lists are where you put your big goals, like publishing a book or visiting a national park. These are great goals and bucket lists are an amazing way to keep track of them. 

But now that the COVID-19 pandemic has made our worlds feel smaller and slowed everything down, I’m all about focusing on gratitude — like stopping to smell the roses (through my mask, of course). 

Here’s how you can write a “Thimble List” to reduce your stress and start being more mindful.

1) Think about where you already find joy in your life.

Is your morning coffee or tea the highlight of your day? Or walking your dog in the evening? Taking a long bath? 

Brainstorm a few things in your routine that are already making you feel happy.

Then think about why those things make you happy. These are things you can add to your Thimble List, such as “notice the trees changing on my walk” and “practice gratitude for the smell of my coffee.”

2)  Keep it fresh. 

If you’re having trouble thinking about what brings you joy in your current routine, think about the things that you miss from the pre-COVID world. How can you bring elements of those things into your life? 

Add something like “start looking for birds whenever I’m outside” to your Thimble List. (I’ve become obsessed with doing this by the way and love the Merlin Bird ID app to help identify my new friends.)

You’ll be surprised by how big and beautiful familiar places feel when you start trying to notice new things.  

3) Prioritize what brings you happiness.

Once you know what small, everyday things bring you joy, make sure multitasking isn’t undermining your mindfulness. Give yourself enough time to really enjoy that bath or cup of coffee or tea.

If you try to rush through it, you won’t really enjoy it and you’ll probably be more stressed and less productive that day. 

This is similar to the Japanese idea of kotsu-kotsu, which is doing one thing at a time and really focusing on that thing.

Making a Thimble List helps you take advantage of all the opportunities for joy that are already present in your daily routine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – sometimes you need to look at your day through the eyes of an intern. It will help you gain a new perspective of how awesome it really is. 

What’s on your Thimble List? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Stop Multitasking and Practice Kotsu-Kotsu

Do you ever find yourself answering texts or emails during Zoom meetings? If you do, you’re not the only one.

Multitasking seems like a great way to get more done in less time. But it’s actually undermining your productivity and causing more stress if you do it all the time.

Why? Because humans are just not wired to multitask. 

According to psychology studies at the University of Utah, 98% of people can’t multitask effectively. 

Many cultures are ahead of the game on this. While Americans are all about multitasking, the Japanese actually have a word for doing just the opposite. Focusing on one thing at a time is called “kotsu-kotsu.” 

Are you ready to give up on multitasking and try it out? You should be.

Listen, we all know deep down that multitasking doesn’t really work. Look at texting and driving — it’s a dangerous combination.

Well, so is texting and Zooming. Just in a different way. 

When you’re not devoting your full attention to the task at hand, you’re undermining your ability to bring all your skills to the table. You’re also making it hard for yourself to find joy in your projects.

The science backs me up: It’s time to ditch multitasking. So how can you embrace kotsu-kotsu?

1. Create task-specific time blocks.

Kotsu-kotsu calls for simplifying your routine and not taking on multiple tasks at once. It also means fully focusing on what you’re doing in the present moment.

Doing one thing at a time is the first step to being completely present and prepared to find joy in your work, be more productive, and reduce your stress. 

What does this look like?

Here’s an example: make lunch for eating only. Don’t also catch up on emails! Or if you take a morning walk, enjoy that walk — never schedule a work call for that time or listen to a podcast. 

I know it’s tempting but I’m pushing you to try it. 

Making room for task-specific blocks of time is the first step to incorporating the kotsu-kotsu principle into your routine.

2. Change your mindset.

Taking that phone-free morning walk sounds great, but if you’re preoccupied with what you need to do when you get back to your home office, you’re not practicing kotsu-kotsu.

Be mindful about how you approach each individual task. Are you thinking about all the other things you need to do? Or are you completely devoted to what you’re currently doing?

Being mindful will look like different things for different people. Making lists is one key tool that can help you get into the right mindset.

Figuring out what kinds of lists will serve you best and then staying accountable to those list-making routines will help you declutter your brain and stay focused on the present. 

This is something I talk about in my LinkedIn Learning course, “The Power of Lists to Get Stuff Done.” You can check that out here. 

3. Elevate your space. 

It’s really hard to be present and have a good mindset if you’re working in a messy environment. Having a clean, organized, intentionally-designed home office space is key to making kotsu-kotsu part of your routine.

You also need to have the right tools and tech. A raised computer to minimize neck strain and noise-canceling headphones are two simple ways to upgrade your setup.

I actually have a course on the tools you need to give your work-from-home office a productivity makeover. You can check that out here.

I hope these tips help you think about using kotsu-kotsu in your daily routine. Do you have tips for ditching multitasking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Checklist to Take Your Remote Office on the Go

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BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

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If you’ve been working remotely because of the pandemic, by now you’ve probably got some of the basics down — where in your home you work, what your hours are, and what you wear. (Although I have my opinions about the Zoom shirt…)

If you want some guidance on putting together a great home office, you can check out my LinkedIn Learning course Organizing Your Remote Office For Maximum Productivity

But what happens when you need to take your remote office on the go?

It’s important to do some planning so that you can be productive wherever you are.

2) Take a look at your tasks.

The first list you need to make is a list of everything you need to get done while you’re away from home. 

Go day-by-day and figure out what your tasks are. I like to make a daily to-do list for every day, including while I’m traveling. Be reasonable about what you can actually get done each day. 

And remember, it’s okay if your list has “watch a movie” or “read a chapter of a book” on the list — you need to plan for relaxation time too! 

These daily to-do lists are key because from here you can decide what needs to come with you on the trip.

2) Make a list of what equipment you need.

These are the items you can’t work without having. For me, that’s my laptop, my phone, a tripod, and a microphone. I’ll need these every day to get my work done. 

See what you reach for in your home office and add it to the list. 

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NEW COURSE: Want to learn more about how to adjust to working remotely? You can check out my new LinkedIn Learning course, Organizing Your Remote Office for Maximum Productivity. Click here for access!

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3) Test that list!

Once you’ve identified what you need, try working a day with just those items. Is there anything you thought you’d need that you don’t use? Or things you didn’t think you would need that are essential? 

If there are specific tools or items that you only need sometimes, take a look at your calendar and make sure you’re aware of what’s in store for the time you’ll be away from home. Then you can tailor your essential items list to what you’ll be doing each day. 

4) Plan for connectivity.

Most of us need WiFi to get work done, so you need to do some research before you leave to make sure you’ll be connecting to the internet.

Remember that funny scene from the movie RV when Robin Williams is wandering around a campground trying to connect to the internet so he can send a presentation while he’s on vacation? You want to avoid that situation.

Call ahead to where you’re staying to see what the WiFi situation is there. You should try to bring a backup internet source if you can — connecting to a hotspot using your phone is one option. 

5) Go with the flow!

It’s inevitable that something will happen that you can’t predict. And that’s okay!

It’ll help you feel more relaxed if you accept that you can’t control every single detail when it comes to taking your work on the road.

Whether you’re going on the road for a business trip or a working vacation, planning is key to staying productive when you’re away from home.

You can check out my LinkedIn Learning course for even more ideas on how to take your remote office on the go.

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BRAND NEW: Want to learn more about how to adjust your office setup to working remotely? Check out my new LinkedIn Learning course, Organizing Your Remote Office for Maximum Productivity. Click here for access!

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Four Ways to Focus on Your Goals During Lockdown

BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

Do you feel overwhelmed by all the “helpful” content all over social media and the internet? I know I do. Everyone is sharing information on the positive things we can do during quarantine. 

From baking bread to learning new yoga routines, it seems like tips for being more productive and learning new skills are everywhere you look. 

Lots of people are feeling the urge to use this time to do something new and productive. But sometimes it just feels like there’s too many options. The pressure of all those things to do can be really stressful!

And you definitely don’t need more stress in your life — especially not during a pandemic. From adjusting to working from home to figuring out how to maintain healthy relationships with roommates or family members, everyone is figuring out how to stay sane and productive. 

That’s why it’s especially important to be mindful about what kinds of content you’re engaging with right now. 

I filmed a video with my four tips for clearing the clutter and making time for what you really want to do.

Make a list of the things you wanted to do before quarantine. 

If all this content is causing you stress, think about whether you’d have wanted to try these hobbies and tips before lockdown. If the answer is no, try to remember what you always wished you had time to do. Give yourself some a few minutes to brainstorm, and then see which of those goals is still viable with the restrictions of the pandemic. From there, you can decide which couple of things you want to try first. This isn’t just something that will help you during this time of crisis — it’ll be crucial as you design your post-pandemic life.

Find themes. 

Once you have a list of things you’d like to try, think about what themes show up. Are multiple items on your list related to getting involved in your community? Do you want to work on mindfulness? Are you hoping to be a more adventurous cook? Identifying these categories is a helpful trick for seeing which pandemic trends actually align with your existing interests. 

This is something I talk about in Listful Living. If you’re feeling overextended or burned out, it’s time to start thinking about which commitments and activities fit with your priorities. And what was a priority pre-pandemic might not be anymore. 

Cut down on screen time.

If you’re in the habit of spending your free time scrolling through social media, you’re probably seeing all kinds of ideas on how to introduce more positivity and productivity into your quarantine routine. All those options might make you feel pretty anxious. 

If this sounds like you, maybe it’s time to cap your screen time. When you find yourself mindlessly reaching for your phone, think about whether you’d feel better using the time to work on one of the projects you’ve already written down. Seeing lots of new ideas can distract you from what you already know you want to do. If you need help thinking of ideas, give yourself a set amount of time to search the internet for inspiration.

Keep track of the content you connect with. 

Lots of the positive content that’s out there can be helpful — but only if you have a way to interact with it that doesn’t cause more stress. If you do see something online that you think sounds interesting, keep a list of ideas. That way, you can keep track of things without feeling like you need to do it all right now. Maybe you saw a productivity hack that would make sense for you in a few weeks. Maybe a friend told you about a yoga routine she loves, but you’re just not feeling up to it right now.

Whether it’s a notebook or an app, keeping a running brainstorming list of all the best tips and ideas you come across will help you unload and focus on what you want to be doing right now. It’s key to think about what you need in your life today, not a week from now. If there’s an idea you love but aren’t ready to try, put it on hold until it makes sense for you and your life. 

Everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently, so what’s helpful for other people right now might not fit with your needs. Acknowledging this will help you prioritize the things that do fit. 

By spending less mindless time online and creating a system for keeping track of the interesting tips and new hobbies you come across, you can start taking control of your time. 

Do you have any tips for prioritizing your goals during lockdown? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. 

BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

Top Tips To Be a Better Person

BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.

Doing acts of service can feel like a big challenge – just one more thing to add to your already long to-do list.

But what if making time to be of service to yourself and your community could actually make you happier and more productive?

My friend Kate Hanley is all about the idea that being generous and making small changes in your life pays off. 

Kate is the author of a book called, “How to Be a Better Person” and she also hosts a daily podcast of the same name.

She’s an expert on how to make small but meaningful changes in your life that will have a big impact. 

You can check out our full conversation here. 

Here are some highlights from the conversation::

 

Make it seasonal. 

When you’re trying to come up with plans for doing service or helping your community, take the season into consideration. For example, one of Kate’s goals is to start a compost bin. Leaves are really important for composting, so fall is a great time to start helping the environment in this small but important way. 

 

Let people know you care. 

Kate loves sending thank you notes, because it’s a small gesture that can make someone’s day. Sending a note will remind you to slow down and give thanks to the people in your life, whether it’s your child’s teacher or a new client. I can’t agree enough with this – I still send paper thank you notes whenever possible! 

 

Think local.

Being a better person doesn’t mean you have to save the whole world! Instead, look in your community for ways to give back and make a difference. Drop off some canned goods at a food drive or attend a pasta dinner fundraiser. These acts of service will help you feel more connected to your community. 

People often talk about self care in terms of things you done alone or for yourself, like setting aside time to read a book or learning how to say “no.”

But like Kate says, self care also means being mindful of yourself in relation to the people around you, whether that’s your family, co-workers, or neighbors.

When you feel good about your place in your community, you put yourself in the best position to be happy, healthy, and productive. 

BONUS FREEBIE: Want even more ways to stay organized, productive and less stressed? Click here to get access to my List-Making Starter Kit. It will boost your efficiency and get you back to doing more of the things you love.