“Mom?” he said, his bright green eyes looking into my pale blue ones. “Can we go to the park with the triple slides today?”
My stomach dropped as my mind immediately went to the calendar I keep catalogued there. Our week was full… well-child checks, work-related appointments and meetings—oh and I couldn’t forget to pick up the strawberries for the kindergarten party on Friday.
But those darn green eyes. I didn’t want to see the disappointment in them when I told him that not only could we not go that day, we couldn’t even squeeze it in that week.
You know this feeling, right? It could be anyone asking you to fit one more thing into your Jenga-style schedule.
It’s especially conflicting when it’s something you really would like to do but you know it’s going to be crowded out by all of the noise in your life.
Over the last few years, I’ve weeded my schedule and to-do’s to the point where it is much more plausible for me to say yes to a Wednesday afternoon park trip or a Friday morning meet-up with a good friend.
It feels like the right pace for this time in my life.
And since I have PLENTY of the traditional definition of “noise” in my life (thank you, Green Eyes!), I am all about reducing the metaphorical noise—and keeping it that way.
I believe everyone should take life at the pace that fits them. If you thrive on a full calendar, carry on!
But if you want to find more windows of time in your schedule and less noise in your head, here are the things I’ve found that make a significant difference in my own life. I hope they do the same for yours!
Live a Different Way: 10 Practical Ways I Reduce Noise & Distraction
1. I’ve taken the time to define my most deeply held values.
As has long been a tagline of this online space…
Let why you live determine how you live.
The exercise of narrowing down our family’s values into a family purpose statement was revolutionary for me. I could finally say with clarity what my whys really were.
2. I do my very best to live by those values.
For me, our family purpose statement is as much a personal statement as it is a family one. It’s the thing I come back to over and over again when I feel like life is a little off and I know I need to get back to what matters.
why —> how
3. I curate my social media feeds with care.
On a more practical level, I love these words from the Storyline blog and have long been a subscriber to the concept of only following people and pages that make me feel good about myself and the life I’m building:
“I don’t feel guilty unfollowing people anymore. I am confident it’s my responsibility to be monitoring what I allow into my mind and to choose to be content.”
4. I try to consolidate my online reading time.
Although I do my best to keep internet browsing in check, when I do scan my feeds and find articles that catch my attention, all I have to do is click once, and Pocket saves the article, which I later can access from either the browser on my computer or their app on my phone.
This keeps me from having a dozen tabs open at once that I’m planning to come back to. (THANK GOODNESS for fewer tabs!) It also helps me chunk my internet reading into more purposeful blocks of time. When I have ten minutes, I can put up my feet and read a couple of great articles. But the rest of the time, they’re out of sight and out of mind, neatly tucked away for a later date.
PS. I have no affiliation with Pocket; it’s just a useful service!
5. I look for times when I can let my mind wander.
Speaking of technology, I love it, but it’s also a crutch for my brain. Whenever I find myself with a moment of idleness—whether I’m standing in line, walking from one place in my home to another, or driving the kids around—the pull is there. That pull to check something on my phone or turn on an interesting podcast.
But when we’re continually pulling out that crutch, we’re not letting our minds wander. Without those distraction-free moments, we can’t process our thoughts or generate as many ideas.
6. I take naps. Guilt free.
It’s time to come clean: I take a nap more days than not. It’s a habit that started when I had babies and desperately need to catch up on sleep, but it has become something I love and look forward to.
They’re relatively short and unmistakably energizing. For those minutes on the days when I can manage one, life is noise-free. 🙂
7. I look for “jolts of joy” that I can add into my life.
Because reducing noise isn’t exclusively about what you’re taking out of your life… There’s room for adding in some good. For instance, my growing collection of indoor plants (#plantlady) and the unreasonable amount of joy they bring me. They cost little and take up almost no time, but they give me this sense of wellbeing that is hard to explain.
What simple things will bring you an unexpected flash of joy whenever you do or see them?
PS. I use instagram to document these little joys, so feel free to meet up there! @ericalaynco
8. I hire a babysitter.
Three to six hours a week of solo time make all the difference in my life. And I’m careful not to allocate much of this time to errand-running or to-do crunching. I use the quiet and the change of pace to clear my head and fill my soul back up. (And you know, write posts like this one!)
Beyond babysitting, hiring anything out (as the budget allows) takes one more thing off your plate and may help you quiet your mind. Think: a meal service, a cleaning service, a trusted babysitter.
9. I exercise. In particular, I look for exercise that I enjoy.
I remember running on my favorite trail, soaked from steady rain, watching a rainbow stretch from one side of a reservoir to the other. Or lying flat on my back after a great barre workout, taking a few deep breaths and feeling incredibly grateful for my life.
Exercise can be such an effective way to work through our thoughts and find more focus. The key, I think, is finding a type of exercise that feels less like a chore and more like self-care.
10. I try not to make productivity my top value.
Productivity is an endless loop; my to-do list grows as fast as it shrinks. When I allow productivity to be my top value, I find myself unable to engage at a heart level with my family and unable to dampen the noise in my head and my life.
I love these words for anyone who wonders if their efforts to quiet their life are futile:
“At first glance, it may appear too hard. Look again. Always look again.” Maryanne Rodmacher
Always look again.