As fashionable as has been to shun New Year’s Resolutions in 2019, there’s not many people in my life who aren’t trying to get their shit together. So, when I spotted various Instagrammers mentioning An Edited Life: Simple Steps to Streamlining your Life, at Work and at Home I thought it only magnanimous to take a look and share the some of the insights with the time-poor of you out there.
An Edited Life is the first book written by online content creator Anna Newton.
If Anna isn’t on your radar, then you may not know that her blog is ranked as the 5th biggest lifestyle blog and that she co-hosts the chart-topping podcast, ‘At Home With…’
It’s an interesting progression to note – social accounts that were started some time ago become more focused, often rivalling their blog as the ‘Grammer’s’ source of income and place to share ideas and commentary, before spinning off into a book/ product/ new career. While I have some well-rehearsed concerns about what it means for women and work (essentially that it is an outcome of the traditional world of work making it impossible for women to participate fully once they are mothers), it is undeniably a place of power and autonomy and we should celebrate that.
I digress. @theannaedit has written a life organisation manual. I should start by saying that Anna’s book probably isn’t aimed at a tired 40-something mum of two with a business and a house which is a bit like one of those puzzles Santa brought in the 80s with one square missing and then you move the other squares around to complete the puzzle: if I put the hoover there, WHERE THE FUCK DOES THE RECYCLING GO?
Anna’s audience are younger and cooler and have less stuff and a huge crush on Ryan Gosling. If that’s you, and life organisation is a goal, then this could be the book for you. That said, if you’re old and tired and have many, many children, there are still some excellent nuggets of advice in there – here’s my five favourites:
1. Take time to reflect
Anna suggests sitting quietly or taking a walk and thinking about “where you’re currently at in life, with work and in your home”. She suggests not just thinking about where you feel the need to make changes, but also what is going well. Which is great advice because we often aren’t very kind to ourselves, focusing on the things we haven’t done, or the pile of Lego hidden under the coffee table (*glances left*), rather than giving ourselves credit. It’s a common trait, but that mindset shift is a really important step. It’s something I work on with my coaching clients – how can we positively and confidently express what we are great at, rather than apologising all the time.
2. Sort your diary out
Anna is *really* big on time management. And she’s right. I asked a few friends how they tackle this. And the consensus was when they aren’t too stressed, they spend ages writing lists and updating calendars. But when they’re up against it – when time management counts most - they don’t take the time to make a to-do list or schedule. And then they drop all the balls. I think Anna would disapprove. She has a whole page of paper and app calendar recommendations which were entirely new to me.
3. The one hour desk spring clean routine
Anna says – “By stripping back your desk-side clutter and creating a space free from distractions, planning your time and getting stuff done in the work place gets a whole lot easier.” She suggests you sort out according to four categories of stuff - piles of paperwork, decorative items, useful stuff (I’m guessing post its and staples?) and stuff you don’t need (which you get rid of). Then re-jig your desk layout so it feels fresh and ergonomic. And finally sort out your storage (I don’t think she means shove your bank statements in a cubbyhole 'til it’s full).
I would add that if you don’t have a desk space sourcing a tray to put your ‘desk accoutrements’ on is a jolly good idea. Have somewhere to stow it when you’re off duty and you will immediately feel in work mode when it’s out. Sounds facile, but it’s actually very pleasing. I also have the same kit but in a large tote for when I’m working in my local coffee shop. But then I’m just rad.
4. The importance of saying no
Anna has a whole section on feeling ok to say no. In her case, she is thinking mostly about declining invites, but of course the advice resonates more widely – we all feel obliged to say yes, and keep saying yes, until we fall over. She also says if you going to say no, then do it. Don’t be a flake, just be honest from the get-go. It’s advice I’m going to heed.
5. Set goals
Goals are an expression of the life we want to lead. What’s really interesting is what happens between being in your twenties when you dreaming about moving to New York or whatever, and your 30s and 40s when you struggling to remember what it was you wanted so much ten years earlier.
I spend a lot of time with my coaching clients helping them to revisit the goals they nurtured in their teens and twenties – it’s depressingly common to loose touch with them under the weight of partners and children and mortgages and parents and… So many of us don’t even put ourselves on the list.
The questions I ask my clients are:
1. Why aren’t your goals as important as anyone else’s?
2. How would you feel if you could see your daughter repeating this pattern in 20 years?
It’s easy to feel we don’t have choices, but many of us can re-shape parts of our life to live accordingly to deliberate priorities we set, rather than living in a self-perpetuating fug (I need to earn this much to pay the childcare and the mortgage and the cleaner which I need to allow me to work this much… and so on). Anyway – Anna’s right - step one is about allowing yourself to re-connect with your goals. Nice work Anna!
An Edited Life by Anna Newton (Quadrille, £16.99) is out now