In the past, I’ve written about tidying your desk, your wardrobe, and your files, all in the name of productivity. But I’ve managed not to touch on how to organise what is probably the other major piece of digital real estate, your phone. I recently upgraded and saw the move to a new phone as the chance to have a clean slate. So, I spent weeks organising and reorganising my phone to get the most out of it. Today, I’m sharing the insights I discovered so moving wiggling apps on a screen doesn’t have to take over your life too*.

*These tips are based on how iPhones arrange apps.

 

THE HIERARCHY

The most basic guiding principles for arranging your apps is to follow this hierarchy of importance. In order of importance, apps should go in the dock, the top two rows, the middle two rows, then the bottom two rows. Personally, I have phone, text, email, and Spotify in the dock as they are my most used apps. Then in the top two rows, I put the apps I have to or should check more frequently, working my way down to least important.

EASIEST TO REACH

There are some spaces on your screen that are just physically easier to reach, and so more efficient to get to. To find what they are for you just pick up your phone and see where your thumb naturally rests. This is its default position and the handiest place for you to put important apps. Then attempt to reach each of the four corners of the screen, and find out where your most comfortable range outside of that default position is.

For me, my thumb naturally rests in the upper centre of the screen, and my reach is best from the top left to the bottom right of the screen. I feel like this is likely to be true for most people who hold their phone with their right hand. But I would definitely suggest you have a go yourself, if for no other reason than it’s kind of fun. So, I put my most used apps in each section in the spaces that are easiest for me to reach.

PAGES

Before this upgrade, I never really used different pages. I just had everything on one screen. Now I’ve divided my phone into work and fun. So one page has all of the apps I use for work e.g. calendar and the other has all of the apps I use for fun and blogging e.g. social media. This has meant that I don’t get as distracted when I’m working, and when I’m blogging it’s much easier to move between the apps I need to stay on top of things.

FOLDERS

In my opinion, you’re probably either a folder person, or you’re not. I am a folder person. Just the idea of having my apps grouped and filed away gives me a sense of calm. I use folders to group together apps I don’t use often (find my phone, compass etc.) but are useful every once in a while, to reduce the amount of clutter and distraction on my screen.

ANTI-PROCRASTINATION

If you’re looking to hack your phone for productivity, you’re going to pretty much reverse all of these tips. Put the apps you don’t want to use e.g. Facebook in hard to reach spaces on lower rows. Hide them in folders and separate procrastination sources that way it’s harder to flick between them. Another great way to slow your fingers down is to keep moving your apps around so you don’t develop that level of muscle memory that just has you reaching for Instagram as soon as you pick up your phone.

How have you organised your phone importance? Colour? Use? Emojis? Do you have any top tips?

I have, like many people right now, been interested in pursuing a more minimal lifestyle. I’ve spent hours reading The Private Life of a Girl and The Minimalists, cut down my wardrobe and my excess. I’ve become more mindful of everything I buy from food to books. I’m definitely not a poster girl for a minimal lifestyle. I probably still have too much. But I’m trying and I’m conscious of the affect my consumption has on my own psyche and the wider world. I’m doing it in my own way, which I personally think is more important than following any “rules”.

But the one area I haven’t explored is my creative practice. On the one hand, I’m excited to embrace minimalism wherever I can. On the other hand, I personally think some elements of producing creative work just can’t exist within a minimalist frame. All creative work comes from collecting information and inspiration from other sources, the more the better, that act of collection, of active consumption of as much as you can seem diametrically opposed to minimalism. Similarly, to make good work, you have to make a lot of bad work. You have to keep making and producing and putting more into to the world, which again can’t fit into minimalism.

That said there are things we can do as creative to work more simply and be more conscious of how much we’re consuming and wasting. Here are the five ways I’m trying to incorporate minimalism into my work.

WORKSPACE

Having lots of things in your works space can serve as a distraction, and a handy excuse to hoard. So, I have cleared my desk almost completely. All that stays there now is my laptop, my notebooks (sketchbook, journal, diary), my pot of pens and a jug of water. These are the essentials I need pretty much whatever I’m doing. Then I bring in whatever else I’m working on and just focus on that one piece of work or collection of images. As someone who’s very tidy desk, tidy mind orientated it’s made me a lot calmer and meant that I work much more efficiently because I’m not rifling through papers or feeling like I don’t have enough space. That said I do still have prints I love up above my desk – as I said, I’m not perfect with this decluttering malarkey. Have a think about the things you actually need to have to hand, you might find that by clearing away the excess you, as well as your desk, find a new focus.

UNIFORM

I’ve written before about my work uniform. I have a set collection of clothes I wear for work, and now my free time too. It’s not so much a capsule wardrobe. It’s probably not quite small enough, and I don’t swap anything out seasonally. But by limiting my choices and only having things I actually enjoy wearing in my wardrobe, I have saved so much time, reduced my decision fatigue, and also felt way less of a need to buy new clothes – other when that heat wave took London! Plus getting into my set uniform always gets me into the right mindset for work.

RESOURCES

I know I said earlier that constantly creating is, at least to me, not in keeping with the minimalist mindset, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce the amount of waste you produce. Make the most of all of your resources and use them cleverly. That can mean anything from using both sides of sketchbook pages to reusing old artworks in cards or gifts, collecting scraps of paper to make rough books, reducing the amount you print, working more digitally, or even just working in batches to get the most out of whatever you’re using. I’m attempting slowly to do all of these a little bit more, and I really am finding that my bin is filling up far slower and I’m approaching my work in new ways which is actually making me more creative in my work.

CURATING

Just because you create loads, doesn’t mean you have to share it all. Curating what goes on display and only showing the pieces you really love or that have a story to tell is a really nice way to both up the quality of your online (or physical) presence and embrace a more minimal, thought through approach to your work. This is something I’ve been working on a lot in creating my portfolio.

SAYING NO

Minimalism encourages you to focus on only consuming what you need and what makes you happy, things of quality. I think the same logic applies to work as well. You should only take on the jobs (within reason, taking into account the fact you have to earn enough to live) that you are going to find fulfilling. Before you say yes to taking on a new project, ask yourself: do I have enough time, mental space, and energy to do this? Will I enjoy working on this project? Will I be left with an outcome I am proud of? Is this something I really want to do? I’m still not very good at this, but I’m trying, and eventually, I’ll get there.

Are you trying to live a simpler lifestyle? What’s working for you?

Spending your day typing or drawing all day can be hard on your hands. They get tired. The muscles get sore. They stop performing as well. Just like athletes we need to take care of the muscles that we need to be able to perform well. That’s where giving yourself a little hand massage comes in*. As well as being a great remedy for aching hands, it’s also the best way to relax, wind down, and work a little bit of self-care into your day.

It’s something I like to do at the end of my working day before I settle down and get cosy, and it helps signal to my body it’s time to relax and it leaves my hands and wrists feeling soooo happy.

Before I get started, the most important thing to do is to get comfy. In my opinion, all good things start with pyjamas. Then I take off all of my jewellery and slather on some hand lotion to make my skin feel nice and soft and to make it easier to massage my hands. At the minute, I’m loving the Aesop Resurrection Hand Balm It works really well and smells gorgeous, but you can pretty much use any moisturiser or body oil you have to hand.

The first thing I do is I give my hands a bit of a shake out. I let them fall loosely then give them a quick wiggle. I wave my fingers about, as if I’m doing some really over dramatic fake typing. Then I stretch my fingers out as wide as they will go and then ball them into a fist a few times.

I generally work all the way through one hand, then do the other from here on. But if you prefer you can do each stage on both hands then move on. As with anything I ever recommend, do it in whatever way works best for you.

I start by manipulating my wrist. Bending my hand forwards and backwards, holding my palm between the fingers and thumb of my other hand. Then I put my thumb and middle finger in the little gap between my wrist and my hand and wiggle my hand from side to side.

Next, I work my thumb in little circles horizontally across my palm, starting at the top near the join of my index finger. I repeat this across the whole of the palm.

Then, using my thumb I work up my palm in little caterpillar motions up my palm. I place my thumb at the heel of my hand, on the side of my little finger, with the nail pointing towards the finger than scoot it up. I repeat this across the whole of the palm.

After that, I make circular motions, quite firmly, on the drumstick-y bit of my thumb from both sides of my hand using my other thumb and middle finger working my way all around that big muscly bit.

Next, use exactly the same technique working my way up each of my fingers starting at my little finger working my way over to my thumb.

Once I’ve wiggled my way up all of my fingers, I work my way back across, finishing each set of circular motions by pinching and applying a bit of pressure to each of my nails.

I finish my just giving my hand a general rub over, as if I’m washing my hands, then repeat the first shake out motions.

*Obviously, prevention is better than a cure. So, as well as giving yourself these little massages to keep your hand muscles in tip top shape, please please make sure your desk is set up in a way an office HR manager would be proud of. It’s good for you!

Get to Know Your Inner Critic

A while ago I wrote about dealing with negative self-talk. That spot check process for the way you’re talking to yourself remains relevant and is something I still use. But, since then, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about it, and I have some more to say on the topic about the root of your inner critic and how to ultimately understand it rather than just battling the negatives as they come up.

The first thing to note is that your inner critic was originally created to try to help and protect you. When you’re little you’re told all sorts of things that you should be to be good, to be liked, just to be accepted. Sometimes those things came as negatives. So, your brain created your inner critic. A little voice to pre-emptively tell you to do things a certain way, a voice that internalised what it thought was necessary for you to be loved. It critiqued your performance. It told you you couldn’t do things before you tried because it was trying to stop you from getting hurt by failing.

It tried to help in a misguided way. But that voice doesn’t know when to stop.

The more you listened to it, the bolder it became, the more right it thought it was. Until it got to the stage where it wasn’t just giving you little nudges it was kicking you when you were already down.

Or at least that’s my voice.

When I started to think of my inner critic as something shaped by the environment I grew up in, as something that started by trying to help, it was much easier to understand why it said certain things. For example, my inner critic is at its worst if I make a mistake in front of people, especially if I was meant to know what I was doing e.g. if I’m cooking a meal, or leading the way on a walk. When I was at school, because I was supposed to be clever, my making a mistake was seen as a much bigger deal (we’re talking laughter, I think someone once cheered when I didn’t win something academic) than me getting something right. So, the most shameful thing my inner critic can think of me doing is showing another person that I get things wrong. So, that’s when it’s at its meanest.

But I’m allowed to get things wrong. That’s what I would want to say to my younger self: “you’re allowed to get things wrong, what’s important is that you’re learning and trying”.

I can’t stop the fact that it feels awful to get something wrong. But when my inner critic turns it into a spiral of shame and negativity, I’m aware enough to be able to say to it “I hear you. I know why you’ve said that. I understand. But it’s actually okay now. I’m going to keep going”

As well as having the potential to be really mean, your inner critic also has the power to be really sneaky. Inner critics can either make the bits of ourselves we’re most uncomfortable the focus of our attention or it can try and make them disappear. Sometimes these disappeared qualities, are referred to as being disowned, which I think is just the right level of emotive.

To find your disowned selves, try thinking about someone you really personally don’t like, the person who you tear down in your mind and makes you feel self-righteous and superior. I know that person exists. What is it that you specifically judge about them? Are they arrogant? Are they greedy? Do they always flake? Do you think they’re super needy? Ugh you would never do that right?!

Eh probably not, quite often the biggest flaws we see in someone else’s character are the flaws we’re most frightened of having. We’ve hidden them. Disowned them.

This works the other way too. Who do you admire most? Who’s on a pedestal they could never fall from? Are they loyal, or caring, or hard working, or smart, or just plain good? So much so that you could never be as good, you could never be like them. But you could be, and you probably are.

You are neither as high and mighty or as lacking, as you think you are.

We’re all probably much more complex than we give ourselves credit for. We also have to learn to accept the fact that we’re not without flaws.

The most powerful tool you have to work with your inner critic and disarm it, is to understand why it’s saying what it is and to understand and accept all of yourself, even the embarrassing bits. This is also the hardest thing to do, so please give me all of your tips.

Personally, I think it’s impossible to get rid of your inner critic, as much as certain self-help books and articles might have you believe otherwise. You’re always going to have moments where you wish you’d done better, said something smarter, or at least not something quite so silly. That’s actually a good thing. It’s so important to be aware of your own shortcomings. If you don’t know about them how can you work on them?

But there’s a difference between critiquing your own performance constructively or at least understanding it constructively, and just beating yourself up. And there’s a difference between always listening to that voice and letting it control you, and hearing it but letting that sound wash over you most of the time.

But that’s easier said than done.

But I’m working on it.

If this is a topic you’re interested in, or if you just generally like a bit of a pep talk I can highly recommend Brené Brown’s 99u talk from a while ago. Her honesty and advice is really refreshing, and it’s what got me back into trying to work with rather than against my inner critic. A lot of what I’ve been reading is also really well summarised in this article.

How’s your relationship with your inner critic?

If there’s anything I’m known for in the office other than being the resident grad, and my sparkling personality, it’s my journal. Whenever I move office, I get at least a couple of comments on it a day, because it sits open on my desk, it’s orange and I guess people are intrigued by my tiny handwriting. So, I figured, if it’s interesting enough for office folk to ask about it, it might just about be interesting enough to share with you guys.

First off, I would like to say that I’m not sure if what I do is technically a bullet journal, is there an official definition? Can someone let me know? But it does keep me organised and make me feel much more together than I actually am which is all I can ask it to do.

My journal has been through many incarnations and permutations as my life and career have changed. Initially, it was inspired by the homework planner I had to carry around in school. Then it was just a book of lists. Then back to being a day by day to do list in a diary. Then it was my attempt to make something like the journals I saw on studyblrs. Then after all of that, it came out as something that worked for me. Something that included all of the things I needed my lists, my habits, my key dates, in a format that worked for me still day by day but in an undated notebook on dotted paper, that looked how I wanted it to neat and practical but still attractive.

It’s an ongoing process still though, and I’m sure that as my life changes so will the journal I use to organise it.

I think journals are just so personal that I didn’t really want to do a top tips style post because the only tip I have is try things out and make a journal that works for you. So instead, I thought I’d share a few of the bits and pieces that make my journal my own and why I choose to do them in the way that I do.

TOOLS

RHODIA WEB NOTEBOOK WITH DOT GRID PAPER IN ORANGE

I previously used various incarnation of Moleskine, squared, diary, A5, pocket, but as soon as I used my first Rhodia Notebook I wasn’t going back. First, let’s discuss the paper.  It’s so smooth. There’s n no bleed through, there’s no feathering. It is a pleasure to write on. Second, dot grid paper is the only way to go. It allows you to line up your writing whilst giving you plenty of freedom and still leaving the page mainly free compared to squared pages. Third, it’s orange! The soft touch hard cover wears really well, and is always easy to spot in the office. It’s also worth noting the elastic fastener, ribbon and back pocket are all properly sturdy as well. In the past, they lasted me around 6 months, but with the style I’m using I think it’s going to be more like 9 months to a year. It’s safe to say I’m a little bit in love with this notebook, even now that I’m on my 5th I think.

PILOT V BALL 0.5 IN BLACK

There’s nothing too special about this pen. It just writes really nicely. It’s smooth and comes out with a good even deep black line. 0.5 is the perfect width for the size of my handwriting and the size of the dot grid.

POST-IT NOTES

I like to include any lists e.g. shopping or packing lists, any schedules, or any other miscellany on post it notes. It separates them from the main body of my journal and means they can be moved around or taken out in the case of my shopping list. I keep a stash of yellow square post its in the back pocket of my notebook. But I try and change the colour up as much as I can because it’s probably the only fun element to my journal. I am particularly partial to the light pink rectangular ones for schedules or longer lists.

COLOURED NOTE BLOCK

The calendar that’s stuck into the front cover of my journal is a new addition. I realised I was struggling to joy down dates further in the future than a week and I was having to turn to digital solutions, so I decided to make a little calendar. I like having a centralised monthly spread rather than waiting every month to draw a new one out. Mine is made out of 12 pages of one of those coloured note blocks and I love it. It’s just big enough to include everything and just small enough not to intrude on my journal. I am toying with the idea of including a calendar in my first few pages of my next journal though.

 

WHAT’S INSIDE?

WEEKLY SPREAD

Every week I do a weekly spread with, surprisingly enough, a list of the things that I have to do that week. This takes up the whole left-hand side of the page. The right-hand side also includes a bar tracker for my habits (exercise, writing in my journal, and making something), a list of the blog posts I want to work on that week, my overarching work goals, and a little notes section. I give my week view a full page of its own because my to do list normally takes the full height of the page.

DAILY SPREAD

I can normally fit two daily spreads per side now that I’m at work every day and my personal to do list isn’t as long. This means I get more use out my journal and my pages look fuller. Just as in the weekly spread, the left-hand column is a to do list. The right-hand column is habit tracking with tick boxes for my weekly habits plus making sure I eat enough veggies and drink enough water. Underneath my habits, I like to include a work to do list. I have a separate notebook for all of my rough work notes that I take in meetings or when I’m planning out presentations, so that work to do isn’t normally too long. I usually have to put some kind of notes in the middle as well as I think of ideas or other things to add in.

DECORATION

When it comes to decoration I don’t really have any. I box my dates and hand rule a line between days as you can see, and there are icons for my habits but otherwise I don’t really decorate my bullet journal. I love seeing beautiful BuJos where people illustrate their weeks and include stickers and washi tape, but that’s just not for me. My journal is just about sorting my head out and keeping things neat and simple.