You might remember that about three months ago I wrote about building a better life for free. The time since then has been busy with new ideas and new ways of doing things, and I’ve really been enjoying the process.
I still think that some of the most important things we can experience or achieve in life are about making decisions and building good habits, instead of throwing money at problems. Perhaps I even think that more strongly than I did before. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t pay for a course, or some tickets, or anything else, but the intention and the attitude shift has to begin at home – and it costs nothing.
Since my last update I’ve had three sessions of life coaching from Lisa Marie Rees, and it’s been a great help. She’s very down to earth and she provided me with a useful toolkit and a whole range of ideas for getting organised with my business. Part of that involved carefully monitoring activities at set times of my working day, and I realised very quickly that I was spending my best ‘thinking time’ doing administrative jobs, and the important, creative, interesting stuff was getting bumped to less productive times of the day, or falling off the bottom of the list altogether. A bit of an eye opener!
The other thing we noticed was that I’d been a bit backwards in coming forwards over the last few months, and hadn’t been seeking out new clients, nor had I been looking for new PR companies to collaborate with. Things were feeling a bit stagnant, if I’m going to be honest. I was given targets for sorting that out, and having another person involved made me feel a lot more accountable so there was no ‘oh, I’ll get around to that at some point…maybe…’ going on.
This made me realise that I needed a regular accountability partner, so I’m currently doing a skills swap as part of this with another writer friend of mine. Since then I’ve been hitting all my targets and working hard on something that’s going to be launching soon. Will let you know more about that when I’m happy that it’s the best it can possibly be.
Skills swaps cost nothing unless there are materials involved, so they’re generally very thrifty indeed. If you know someone who’s an expert in something then approach them about swapping, and think about what you can bring to the table in the spirit of fair exchange.
Accountability partners, likewise, are usually free too. Mine is under strict instructions to send me a very arsey email once a week if I’m not meeting my targets – make sure it’s someone whose opinion you really respect, and you’ll do anything not to let them down. Trust me.
I’ve also been reading Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott, which is all about working smarter rather than harder as far as I can tell. There’s a lot of information about ways to streamline and simplify, and it’s all been worth trying. I’m only half way through the book so far, but when I’m finished then maybe I’ll review it. If you’d like to read more about it then let me know!
Now, I know books are generally not free, but I had a National Book Token so I cashed it in. Mostly I keep things like that back for treats, but I was feeling inspired to try something different with work and shake it up.
Anyway, it has reinforced my rediscovery that my brain still works best at certain times of the day, and there are other times when I should be taking a longer break, ticking a few boxes or doing the filing. I’ve turned my daily schedule upside down, and am now ruthlessly ring-fencing my best time for my best thinking. This means the to-do list actually has fewer items on it, the phone’s completely switched off for hours at a time, and I’m only answering email twice per day, max. More’s getting done, and I’m generally happier with what I’m up to.
I’m also ignoring time wasters and avoiding non-essential meetings during working hours, as suggested by Graham Allcott. In the past I would have replied nicely to vague or dodgy emails etc etc, but there are so many sharks out there who want you to do a day’s work for £25 or ‘exposure’, or try to get you to make concealed / undisclosed sponsored posts knowing fully well it’s against the law. It’s straight into the virtual bin with them now, delete and forget. The same goes for people who use my contact form and ignore my simple, basic, polite request to read the ‘Work With Me’ section first.
I don’t have time to tell five different people every day that no, I won’t share their infographic, or host their not-great content on my site for no money. If they can’t be bothered to skim through the quick article as asked, I can’t be bothered either any more. I have other things to be getting on with, rather than being taken advantage of or approached for services I don’t offer. This has freed up a lot more time to communicate and work with the good guys and gals who behave in a pleasant and professional manner, so it was 100% worth it.
Aside from work, I’ve also been setting goals for home life, and my personal stuff. May and June have been about fixing up the house and garden, most of which was about using a bit of elbow grease and things we already own. For July I’m doing some organising and decluttering, starting with the home office.
Later in the summer I might brave the horrors of the loft, which is full of loads of junk that was mostly here before I moved in. If I do that bit by bit then maybe I won’t have to hire a skip or pay the council to take things away.
And on a personal level, rather than take on too much and end up feeling overwhelmed, I’ve been concentrating on getting four portions of fruit every day. This is largely free thanks to having some established plants in the kitchen garden, but otherwise I’d get down to the market or the nearby Lidl and take advantage of any special offers.
Next month I’ll be working on my fitness levels. I’ve found that having one ‘project’ like this per month is the best thing to focus my mind and get into a good habit.
Are you building a better life for free yourself? What have you been getting up to recently?