A Very Important Question

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Photo by Daniel Frank from Pexels

This week’s podcast interview is with Michelle, a dentist. Talking with her reminded me of a teaching session I attended recently at the Bishop’s training event, Shaped.

Rev Stephen Carnaby talked to us about going to the dentist. You can hear the talk here, and it’s really worth listening to because of how specific he is. He talks about having a black spot on his tooth for a while, and then how suddenly half his tooth fell off. OK, so it’s all a bit painful, but in a schadenfreude way it’s also hilarious!

Stephen says that after his tooth fell off, he started going to the dentist regularly (believe it or not) and the dentist asks him every time he goes, ‘Have you been using dental floss?’

We all know that question. I suggest that if you don’t know that question, you’re not going to the dentist regularly enough. If this is you, and you live in Southern Tasmania, let me know and I can put you in touch with Michelle. I’m sure she’ll do a wonderful job on your teeth.

I’m also sure she’ll ask, ‘Have you been using dental floss?’

Flossing is something we all know we should do. But it’s time consuming, it’s sometimes painful, and it’s uncomfortable. And it’s difficult for us to see the benefits. We only find out if it’s been helpful when we take our annual trip to the dentist (or every ten years, depending on who you are).

But there are so many things like that. Even if we just look at our physical health there are many examples.

Exercise. I know it’s supposed to release feel-good endorphins. I don’t get that so much. I exercise in faith that it’s doing me some good. The results come much later.

Eating well. It’s much easier to eat junk food. It’s tasty, it gives you an immediate reward. But healthy food, well, you need to eat it for a while before you develop a taste for it, and the rewards come later.

Sleeping. You can stay up and binge-watch Netflix and get those constant dopamine shots in your brain, or you can go to bed. The first few times you get a solid eight-hours sleep you might feel dopey in the morning, or you might have trouble getting to sleep in the first place. But after a while you’ll start to feel the benefits. You’ll start to feel more rested, more energetic. But you have to put in the effort first.

Other difficult and uncomfortable things

Flossing-type activities are also helpful for our spiritual and mental health.

Stephen talks about reading the Bible. How it is so useful and helpful to us, but only if we take the time to do it.

I have been reading about prayer, and again, if you put time aside and actually do the praying, it is beneficial. You can do it once every now and then (like flossing on the day of your dentist appointment) and it will be of some benefit. But if you pray daily, put time aside, invest in prayer times, it will be of much more benefit.

If you are not a Christian, this principle still applies to you. Taking the time to read good books, to think about the larger issues, to spend some time in silence and solitude, these things are beneficial. Especially if practiced regularly.

These are not easy things to do. They are uncomfortable. They are time consuming. They can even be painful at times. But I think that the benefits are huge if we make the effort, take the time, do the flossing.

How am I doing in all this? Well, I am nowhere near perfect here. But I am reading the Bible more each day, and taking more than five minutes to pray. I’m making an effort to go for a daily walk and listening to an audio book while I do that. I’m menu-planning a bit more so that we buy takeaway a bit less.

And you’ll be pleased to know that in preparation for this blog post, I flossed my teeth this morning. Did you?

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The cheesiest smile photo I could find.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

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What we did on our holiday

I’m back! Did you miss me? I hope not, I went to a lot of trouble to schedule blog posts and podcasts so that you wouldn’t.

But I have had a wonderful holiday. Two weeks of unscheduled work-free bliss. Well, almost work-free. Nothing in this world is perfect. But it has been incredibly refreshing and joyous.

As I get back into work again, I thought I’d tell you one of the things that we did on our holiday.

We went tulip hunting.

OK, so Moz and I see this differently.

I tell people, ‘We went up to Wynyard to see the tulips.’

He says to people, ‘We went up to Wynyard to have some time away, and while we were there we saw the tulips.’

It’s similar, but different. I really wanted to see those tulips. For a long time I’ve seen other people’s pictures, or seen them advertised. We’ve been to Wynyard at the wrong time and driven past the fields and tried to imagine them full of colour. But I haven’t been able to go and see them because when I worked at university, this time of year was always flat out.

But this year I was on holidays and when I realised that the tulips were in bloom, I organised for the two of us to travel up to Wynyard (about five hours from home) and go to see the tulip farm on Table Cape.

I tried not to get my hopes up. I thought this experience might have been over-advertised. I expected the flowers to be lovely and colourful, but not anything super awesome or overwhelming.

But they were awesome. They were beautiful.

There is something about standing in a field surrounded by colour, by bright colour, by natural colour, by nature’s beauty. There is nothing like it.

I took a billion photos and so did Moz and I’m only bombarding you with a few of them. They don’t capture the feeling. I guess you have to actually be there. They remind me of the feelings I had though.

More colourFields of colour

Walking through the fields of colour was joyous, it was refreshing, it was delightful.

The good book says, ‘See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.’ So true.

Annette Young, in our podcast interview this week, talks about being in nature and how God spoke to her through it. For her, the Overland Track and Wine Glass Bay were the places where God blew her mind and made himself real to her. Those places have a different kind of beauty to the highly tended beauty of the tulips, but both kinds are refreshing in their own way.

I think it’s so important to get out into nature and listen to what it’s telling us. And I’m glad I got the chance to do that this holidays.

Do you make a priority of getting out into nature? What lessons has nature given you? Where is your favourite part of creation? Let us know in the comments.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Can we have it all?

out of officeYou know, we can’t do it all. Not all of the time. None of us can.

Sorry to start the post with such a strong pronouncement, but I’m hoping it’s not too much of a shock for you.

I think that each of us wants to have every area of our lives sorted out beautifully all the time. Each of us is striving for:

  • Good family relationships
  • A satisfying career
  • A healthy body
  • A vibrant spiritual life
  • An exciting social calendar
  • And the ability to eat unlimited amounts of chocolate

But it’s just not possible to be there in that paradise at all times. No, not even that last point.

Not even if you quit your job and start your own business from home. Even then it’s impossible to have all of it, all of the time.

There is no silver bullet. And believe me, I’ve spent a fair bit of time searching for one.

This week’s podcast interview is with Professor Matt King, and I asked him about his work-life balance. I know that in academia, the pressure to work long hours is intense. And Matt is trying to balance that with a young family and some ministry opportunities as well.

He said something really wise.

He said, ‘I’d prefer for some parts of my career to be diminished than to just respond to the pressures of being more, more, and more. … At the moment, my personal research is taking a hit. … It’s about priorities.’

So there’s a difficult path for each of us to walk. Which thing do we compromise on right now? Which thing do we concentrate on? What is the aspect of our life that needs special attention, and what needs to be dropped lower on the list for the time being?

Perfection will come, but not until the next life. For this life we are stuck in an imperfect, fallen world and that means making some hard decisions.

I think I may be worse at this than a lot of people. I love being needed. I love it when someone sends me a text and says, ‘Can you help out?’ Whether it’s ministry or editing or just being there for a friend, I love to help out in a crisis. But this means that my schedule fills quickly, that my life gets too full, and that I run out of time for myself, for my family, for my spiritual growth. I need to continue to learn that sometimes it is important to say no.

As I write this, I am frantically working on getting all my jobs finished so that I can take two weeks of holidays next week. I haven’t had a proper holiday for a long time, so I’m really looking forward to it. And I’m intending to book this type of holiday into my schedule regularly, even if that does mean saying no to some editing jobs, or saying no to some ministry opportunities. It’s not easy, but it’s very, very important.

How do you set your priorities? Do you feel the pressure of being ‘more, more, and more’? How do you deal with it? Do you take holidays?

 

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

When a To Do List is the Worst Thing To Do

doing your best

I got up on that awful Monday morning, got dressed and ready to go, and sat at my desk to begin my day’s work.

First, I wrote out a list of things that I needed to accomplish in the week. I usually write that in my bullet journal. I write about the projects I’m focussing on and the tasks that need to be accomplished. So the list has things like:

Write DM3 (that’s the latest novel in the Deadly Miss series that I try to write something in each day – that’s one of the project-type tasks)

and

Book car in for a service (a task that doesn’t really relate to any special project)

Then I turned to my day planner. This has the day divided into hours and I can plan my day with it, using the tasks I’ve written in my bullet journal. Having the time allocated to certain projects or tasks usually helps me to work when I need to, and to not put too many tasks into any one day.

Usually it helps me to get my work done.

Usually.

On this particular Monday morning, I finished my list in my daily planner, looked at the day and the week, and realised that I wouldn’t get it all done. Again.

I had been through many weeks like this, where there were just too many tasks for the time available. And here was another one. And I couldn’t see how the work could get done.

I couldn’t handle it.

I went to bed and cried for half an hour.

Sometimes lists are a really good idea.

Sometimes crossing the tasks off makes you feel so productive and useful.

But sometimes the list just shows up how much you’re not getting done. How far you still have to go. How overwhelming life is right now.

Sometimes a to do list is (gasp!) a bad idea.

I got out of bed eventually, and I made it through the day and through the week. But for that week I ignored the daily planner, and just worked off the list of tasks and projects in the bullet journal.

That is, I sat at my desk, knowing that I had half an hour or two hours or whatever, I looked at my lists of tasks, evaluated whether I should be doing a thinking or non-thinking task, and just had a go at whatever took my fancy.

And I got through the week. I got heaps achieved. I felt great about it.

I didn’t knock everything off my list, but for that week I went easy on myself. If I achieved anything I gave myself high praise. If I missed things, I didn’t let myself worry about it. The aim was to get through the week with my mental health intact, not to get everything done.

This week’s podcast interview is with Amber. Amber suffers from a couple of fairly severe mental illnesses and she shares with us how we can help those we know who are mentally ill. But talking with her also made me think about each of us, and how we can help ourselves stay mentally healthy.

In the same way that we eat healthy food and exercise to keep our bodies healthy, each of us can also do things that help our own mental health to stay tip top. (And, of course, in the same way that we go and see a doctor when our physical health is breaking down, any of us may, at some time, need to see a specialist about our mental health.)

Sometimes the thing we need to do is give ourselves a break, like I had to do in the ‘no to-do list’ week. Sometimes we need to put down our phones and have a break from social media for a while.

I also think it’s important to think about what we’re putting into our brains. The Good Book says, ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable –  if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’ (Philippians 4:8) We can help ourselves to stay mentally healthy by reading good books, watching uplifting shows, talking about positive things.

What do you do to take care of your mental health? Have you had to give yourself a break at one time or another? Have you found that sometimes to do lists don’t work? What excellent or praiseworthy thing do you like to think about?

 

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Joining the Dots

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I love talking to retired people on my podcast. In fact, sometimes I need to remind myself to keep the balance by talking to some younger folks as well. But the older ones among us are often the wiser ones, and they can look back on their lives and join the dots to see how experiences early on have been used later to help with the projects they have been called to.

The podcast interview with Greg Foot this week is like that. He can see, looking back, how his teaching work contributed to the work with World Vision, and how that helped when he came to work with Scripture Union, and how all of it has come together to contribute to his ministry work in the Anglican church now. There are also some amazing stories of timing and risk.

But when it comes to my own life, when I’m looking forward, when I need to decide whether to leave a house or stay where I am, whether to change jobs, or move cities, or move into a new ministry, I can’t always see the way those dots connect. And I’m sure it’s the same for you.

Don’t worry, I’m not moving house or job or anything right now but I am fascinated by the question of change.

Sometimes when you’re feeling really uncomfortable in a situation it means that change is on the horizon. My wise aunt once told me that change can’t happen without discomfort. And that’s all good. But sometimes discomfort means that you should stay and pray through the situation. And sometimes you need to talk with the person causing the discomfort so that they can make a change that they need to make. Sometimes you only need to change your own attitude and everything else should stay the same.

How do you know when your discomfort means it’s time to jump?

We can’t know for sure. We are living forwards in time, we can only look back to see what happens once we’ve made the decisions and taken the risks. And I even believe that there isn’t necessarily a Plan A for every situation. Sometimes the choices are balanced and we just need to lean one way or the other and take what comes.

I do believe that there is One who knows the future, and who can cope with every choice we make and turn it to good. And that helps me live my life now with a lot less anxiety and fear.

How about you? How do you make decisions about the future? Do you have a story about a time that you just needed to jump and hope that the parachute held? Can you already see the dots joining in your life?

 

There is a bit of change here – I’m trying something new. Each week I will write about something that links with the podcast. You can hear more of my thoughts in the interview each week, and get a musing on some aspect of the podcast through the blog. Let me know what you think!

You can receive this blog in your inbox each week either by following on wordpress or by signing up to my newsletter at http://www.ruthamos.com.au. You can support me at patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month.

A new way to divide (and conquer) your to-do list

success meme

I’m trying something new in the organisational process. I’m always ready to try something new, I’m always hoping that I’ll find that thing, that perfect thing, that will give me more energy and make my days go more smoothly. And right now I think I’ve had a bit of a brainwave, even if I do say so myself.

The problem.

I work from home, running three businesses.

  • My editing business – academic editing, technical editing of insurance reports, that kind of thing.
  • My fiction writing – the R. J. Amos business.
  • And finally, my non-fiction author business (Ruth Amos): this blog, the podcast, and books.

The difficulty I have is figuring out what I should be doing at any one time. In some parts of the day (usually the mornings) I have energy, I can think, I can do creative work. Other times (after lunch, anyone?) I’m tired, I can’t think well and I need drudge jobs to do. Jobs that I can do with music on in the background, or jobs that require a bit of waiting around for things to load. Jobs that don’t require my undivided attention and creativity.

So, when should I do the different jobs that my different businesses need me to do?

It’s always easy to prioritise the editing jobs – they are money in my pocket, and they are jobs that other people need done.

But if I always do those jobs first, if they always take up my time when I have energy and I can think, then I’ll never get books written. And that would be a problem because I quit my job to write books.

Also, when I get to the tired times, I often don’t have enough brain to decide what to do with my time. I have enough brain to do a job, just not enough to think about what that job should be.

The solution (I hope).

I have decided to break my to-do list into two parts: thinking jobs, and non-thinking jobs.

All the writing comes under ‘thinking’. As do the phone calls, planning, academic editing, and recording of podcasts. All the things that need energy.

Under ‘non-thinking’ are tasks like posting promo material, website maintenance, the less technical editing, book formatting, reading, and listening to podcasts.

This is a change for me because now ‘writing the blog’ comes under ‘thinking’ but ‘posting the blog’ comes under ‘non-thinking’. A job that once was a single task has been divided into two. The same with the podcast. I need to record the introduction in the morning when I have energy, but the editing together of the different audio segments, and the posting online, those things don’t require the same energy and come under ‘non-thinking’.

I am hoping that dividing things this way will help me to make the most of my creative hours, but that it will also help me to make the most of my tired times. That having the list already divided in this way will help me to decide quickly what I should be doing, rather than letting me aimlessly scroll social media while I try to figure out which task I could summon up the energy to concentrate on now.

Social Media

Speaking of social media, dividing jobs in this way should also help me stay away from that distraction when I have the brain for creative things. It’s pretty creativity-zapping, the social media entertainment flood, and I need to stay away from it while I’m trying to do my thinking tasks. This means that you won’t get happy birthday messages from me until the afternoon, but I think you’ll cope.

I will go onto Facebook or Twitter when it is time for me to post promo things, when it’s time for me to let you know that my blog is ready, when it’s time to post a newsletter, but try to stay off when I’m concentrating on the ‘thinking’ tasks. I think it will help.

So that’s me, how about you?

Have you tried something like this? Are you as addicted to to-do lists as I am? Are you a morning or afternoon or evening person? When do you do your creative/thinking tasks? Let me know in the comments.

Hello! I’m back!

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This is us on one of our mini-adventures at the Thumbs in Orford

You haven’t heard from me for a while here at the blog. The last month or so has been a time where I’ve concentrated on my editing business and my family, and everything else has had to take a back seat. I have been blessed with a very big editing job with a very tight schedule and it has been important to put that at the top of my list of things to do. Weekends have been spent going on mini-adventures, taking time out, and installing a dishwasher. All very important things. 🙂

It was very easy to prioritise money-making activities, but I knew I needed to keep going with some of my author business too, and in that area I decided to concentrate on writing my novel. So you’ll be glad to know that 17,000 words were added to the latest Deadly Miss novel in the month of August. Well, I don’t know if you’re glad to know that, but I certainly am. It helps me to know that I’m making progress.

But all the other parts of my business – the blog, the podcast, the marketing, even the interior formatting of the novel that is complete all of these dropped off the bottom of the list while the money-making went on. I mean, if I had worked 24/7 I probably could have got it all done, but I decided not to do that. I believe in weekends and I love my sleep.

However, I have missed sharing with you all on this blog, and I’ve really missed the podcast, and I’m so glad that the work has settled down a bit and now I can get on with those things again. Podcast recording is happening again, and soon I’ll have more episodes to share. And today I can write my blog.

I feel refreshed by the break from the bits and pieces that make up my life. And even though I’ve been working flat out, I’ve also been able to take some time to think about my business structure, my life structure, and the way I want it all to work. The next couple of weeks I’ll be working on setting priorities, and working out how I’m going to spend my time, as I put all of the little bits and pieces back into my daily schedule. You might hear more about that as the weeks go on.

So there’s not much of a message in the blog today, except to say, ‘Hi! I’m back! I missed you all!’

Or maybe the message is that sometimes when life gets full or messy or difficult, it’s OK to drop some parts of your life, and know that you can get back to them later. We don’t need to do all the things all the time.

How are you? Has life been particularly busy for you, or are you in a quiet time right now? (Do quiet times even exist?) How do you go about setting priorities?

Failure and Value

Failure

I have been thinking lately about goals and achievements. About productivity. About getting things done. I think it’s good to examine your productivity and to set goals for yourself. It’s good to feel like your life is moving forward and that you’re making a difference in the world.

But what if you don’t feel like that at all?

What if you feel like your life is on hold? Or that you’re slowly moving backwards?

What if you can’t see any difference you’re making in the world?

What if, for whatever reason, this season of life requires you to sit in the background and achieve nothing?

What then?

It’s so easy at times like those to feel like you’re failing, or even worse, to label yourself as ‘a failure’.

I felt like it was really important this week to say that your value is not because of what you do. You are valuable purely because you are, because you exist.

One of the things I love about my Christian faith is that it says that ALL people are valuable because they are made in the image of God. Therefore, no matter what you are doing, no matter who you are, you, yes, YOU are valuable. Absolutely precious. Of inestimable importance. Worth dying for. Worth giving everything for.

You are loved. In all your flaws and imperfections, you are deeply loved.

I could go on, but this is getting mushy.

I am reading a book by Dr Dweck about the Growth Mindset and it talks a lot about how you can see yourself as the sum of your achievements, but that it is so much healthier to instead look at how hard you try, at whether you are putting in an effort. (And for some of us, the effort required to open our eyes in the morning is all we have.)

I also heard a wonderful quote on the Simple podcast, (episode 202). It says, ‘It’s not hard because you are failing, it’s hard because it’s hard.’

Are you finding something hard today? Maybe the fault is not in you, maybe the thing you’re working on (say parenting, or completing your uni studies, or going to work) feels hard. And it feels hard because it is hard. You’re allowed to feel like something is hard.

Tsh Oxenrider, the host of the Simple podcast, also commented in that episode that a couple of times a week she asks her children, ‘What did you fail at today?’ She says that failure means you are trying and that’s a good thing. This is the attitude she wants to build into her children.

So all of this has come together in my mind. I want to be someone with a growth mindset. I want to be someone not afraid to learn from failure. And I want to remember that I’m valuable, even if I’m not obviously succeeding at something.

So, let me ask you, what did you fail at over the last few days?

I can tell you that my house-cleaning this weekend was no where near as good as our regular cleaner’s job. That the last couple of times I’ve tried to spruik my book it hasn’t resulted in a sale. And that when I went to the gym last night I didn’t do weights and opted instead just to walk on the treadmill. But at least I cleaned, spruiked, and went to the gym. I’m trying. So I’ll take that as a win.

And even if I hadn’t done those things, I’m going to remember that I’m valuable just because I am. And I hope that you can remember that too.

heart

A surprising benefit of mindful eating

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It’s a crumpet kind of day today.

I’m doing a new thing when it comes to how I eat. And it’s bringing me an unexpected benefit.

I know you’ve gone through a journey with me about what I eat, looking for allergies and so forth. But this is not about what I eat, but about how.

It’s based on a set of guidelines in a book called Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. I didn’t really get a whole lot out of the book, though it was interesting. But at the very end of the book she has a section called The Eating Guidelines which I am finding very helpful.

In these guidelines she suggests that we eat sitting down in a calm environment and without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, books, and even intense music.

It is very tempting when you have a lot of work to do, to eat your lunch ‘al desco’ – at your desk, while you are working. I have also found, while working at home, that it’s tempting to just watch a little TV for a break while I’m eating my lunch. Or to listen to a podcast, or to read a book for a break while eating. But doing any of these things means that I don’t really taste the food that I’m eating. I’m in another place in my head, and I don’t even know, once I’ve eaten, whether I’m full or not.

The other temptation that I have is to eat snacks while working in the afternoon to get myself through. Just a handful of nuts. Or a snack-sized bag of chips. Or a square of dark chocolate. (Or all three.) Just to make the afternoon’s work easier to handle. Again, this means that I don’t really notice what I’m eating and it probably means that I’m eating more than I should be.

I decided, a couple of weeks ago, in the interest of increasing my health and well-being, that I would try Roth’s guidelines.

I mean, feeding yourself is a basic right, right? And I know I’m trying to squeeze into each day more than each day can handle, but if I can’t take the time to eat, then something is out of whack. And if I have to bribe myself to work in the afternoon then maybe I should just stop and take a nap instead.

So I decided to change things a bit. I haven’t changed what we do as a family for the evening meal, but for my own breakfast, lunch, and whatever snacks I have, I am making a new pattern.

When I am eating, I am only eating.

Mindfully eating, if you like.

I sit at the table, I look out the window, I taste the food, I don’t rush, I just eat.

And the benefits have been amazing. Not to my body so much as to my brain.

Every time I go to eat I am strongly tempted to scroll through social media, or to listen to a podcast, or to write notes on something, or read a book. But I fight the temptation, prepare food that I look forward to eating, and I sit at the table.

And slowly my brain calms down. I feel more rested. I remember those things that I was going to do, but didn’t write down on my list. I think through the plot of the story I’m writing. I pray.

One time, looking out my window, I saw a flock of cockatoos chasing a hawk. I would have totally missed that if my eyes had been on my phone.

It’s like, you know when you get in the shower, or you finally lie down to sleep at night, and all the things you were trying to remember or think about come back to you. Well, I get that when I eat my lunch. And then, if I need to, I can do something about them in the afternoon.

I’m sure there will be benefits for my body as well. But I’ve just been stunned by how beneficial this has been for my mental wellbeing. The break, the calming down, the unwinding during the day, it has made my life calmer and quieter, and it hasn’t really affected my output at all.

So let me encourage you. You are worthy of a lunch break. Take the time to eat and enjoy your food. You might find some unexpected benefits.

Geneen Roth says to ‘Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.’ I hope that all of us can take the pleasure in food that it was created to give.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Lessons Learned: One Year On My Own

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It is one year today since I started working as a freelancer full-time. I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the year and the lessons learned.

This time last year I had just come back from a trip to visit my lovely sister in LA. I had seen her living her freelance composer life and had been very impressed. Now it was my turn.

I had big plans. My freelance life consists of three businesses: the Ruth Amos author business (non-fiction), the R. J. Amos author business (fiction), and the Fix My English business (editing). The idea was that the editing would help pay the bills as the author businesses got off the ground. I had listened to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of books and I was eager to put it all into practice.

And it’s been a fantastic year.

There have been ups and downs – I wouldn’t recommend losing all thyroid functionality in the first year of starting your own businesses for one thing. But it’s been a joy to be able to run with my ideas, to see where they lead me, to experiment and try new things. I have launched two books in the last twelve months, both big highlights of the year for me. I don’t think that I have it all figured out by any stretch of the imagination, and I’ve heard that the second year of full-time life at home is more difficult than the first. I guess we’ll see. I’ll let you know this time next year.

Anyway, here are some lessons I have learned in the last year:

1) Having backup savings is really important.

Every piece of advice you see when you’re thinking of going freelance tells you to have at least three-months and even six-months worth of expenses saved. I could not agree more. It has been a great comfort in the lean times (like over the summer where I didn’t get an editing job for four straight months) to know that there’s a cushion to fall back on. It takes the pressure off and allows you to be creative in your activities and to think more long-term when you are planning your future undertakings. It takes away the panic, and we know that panic leads to bad decision-making.

the writing den

2) Streamline Online.

All of my work is performed on the internet. Without the internet I wouldn’t have any of my businesses. This has meant that I have needed to learn some online marketing techniques. And it was around January when I realised that the editing online personality I was trying to build was different from the author online personalities and that one of them had to go.

I tried keeping the editing on LinkedIn and just advertising the author businesses on Facebook and Twitter. That worked better, but it was a lot of marketing work for very little return.

In the end I decided to go a different route for my editing business, working with other businesses who source the work (academic and technical editing) and not trying to do all the marketing myself. This was less satisfying than doing it all by myself, but I had to decide which business I wanted to build up, and that is my writing, of course. I just had to let go of some pride.

So now I am myself on social media, like I am myself in my books. A bit silly, hopefully fun, caring about my friends, sharing ups and downs, sharing about God.

And as far as the editing is concerned, well, now that I’m not trying to do it all myself, I’m actually getting work and managing to make some money. So that turned out to be the right decision.

time money

3) Flexible time does not mean unlimited time.

I was very fortunate coming into this work that I had been trained as an academic. In the work I had done before I didn’t have anyone clocking me in or out, I was responsible for getting the work done. Working for myself was similar, and I knew how to discipline myself to focus. I have not been spending my days lost in social media, YouTube, or Netflix as some warned me I might be. But I have enjoyed the flexibility of being able to get out for a coffee with my friends and doing extra activities at church during the day.

When the editing load was light, this was fine. But as my business has grown and the workload has increased I have realised that I need to be much more careful with my extra-curricular activities. I think I need to read ‘My Year of Saying No’ again, prioritise, and then say no to some of my activities.

Priorities

Related to this:

4) Book holidays first.

The year has a rhythm. Unfortunately in Year One you don’t know what that rhythm is. As the year passed I didn’t know when would be a good time for holidays so I didn’t book any. In freelance work, if you don’t have work to do for a client, then you have work to do to get the next client. I just kept going with the writing, marketing, editing, podcasting, all the bits and pieces that just roll on week by week. This, of course, has led to me feeling very tired and lately I have realised what a bad idea a holiday-less year is. So I have now booked myself two weeks of holidays to be taken in a few months time when the Very Big Editing Job I’m working on now will be finished.

I have a bit clearer idea of what the rhythm of the year is like now, but even if the next year turns out to be full of opportunities for the whole 52 weeks, I realise now that I don’t have to take all of them. I will be booking holidays and sticking to them in the future. Rest is important.

teapot and cup

5) Exercise must be booked in too – incidental exercise doesn’t just happen.

I work from home. My desk is about ten steps from my bed and another few steps from the bathroom. I don’t have to walk up two flights of stairs to go to the staff loo anymore. I don’t have to walk the three blocks from the carpark to the office. I don’t have to wander down the hill to the café to get a coffee at lunch time. If I am not careful I can walk less than a thousand steps in a whole day.

I have started using the pomodoro technique to help with this. This is a timer app I have on my phone. It runs for 25 minutes during which I work solidly, then it gives me a five minute break during which I jog on the spot, stretch, hang washing out, clean up the kitchen, and so on through the day. This is not enough, of course. I need to also make sure that most days I have a good hour-long walk, or head to the gym for some weights.

I want this lifestyle to continue on a long, long time. And to do that I need to take care of my body, give it good food, and good exercise. I am not just a brain and fingers, I am a whole person, spirit, soul, and body and I want to look after all of myself.

walking into sunset

6) Keep talking to your friends and family.

So much has changed this year and the change is continuing. I think that change is the only definite thing in my life.

In all this it has been essential to keep talking with Moz, to get an outside opinion on it all and to keep him appraised of all my goings on. He is not my boss, but it always helps to have a friend to share with and to be accountable to so that you don’t end up going off on a tangent accidentally.

The weeks slip by, the months follow them, and before you know it, a year has passed. By talking with Moz on the way through I have been stopped from spending too much time on the wrong activities, or pushing the wrong agenda for too long.

I have other family members I talked with regularly too that help me to see my life from the outside. And while I work online, I need to meet with my friends in real life and keep a grasp on what the real world is like. As I said, I love my coffee dates and the things I do for church.

Communication is essential. Community, both online and in-person is one of the most important things in this world. I hope that I am helping build that by what I write and what I do.

So there are a few things I have learned this year. There is so much still to learn. When I was brainstorming this list. I could think of so many things that I still don’t understand. So many lessons that I am in the middle of learning. Hopefully they will make it onto a ‘lessons learned’ list for a future year.

Thank you for being a part of my community as I walk this journey. I am hoping I will have many more years doing this, it’s great fun!

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They (usually) come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!