using my bullet journal to create routine

2020, mental health, organisation

Hello!

I’ve been writing about my bullet journal for a long time now – flip throughs, monthly set ups, weekly spreads, why everyone should bullet journal etc etc… but you’d think in a pandemic lockdown I wouldn’t put an effort into maintaining it, right? My uni is closed, I have no deadlines to meet for anything (pretend the dissertation isn’t real…), no social plans, so why am I holding my bullet journal closer than ever?

Do I sound like a melodramatic Buzzfeed article or what?

I’m someone who craves routine – the longer lockdown goes on the more lost I feel because it gets more difficult to motivate myself to maintain a consistent routine, but that’s where the bullet journal comes in! Having a to do list every day and a meal plan every week gives each day just a little bit of structure.

I’ve not been waking up consistently at all (this morning I woke up at 7.30am, then fell asleep until 10.20am – I’ve not slept that late since I was a teenager!) but I have lunch at 12, start cooking dinner about 5.30 to eat at 6 and aim to go to bed at 9… sometimes I don’t notice the time but generally I’m in bed by 10 at the latest! (I’m a granny, I need my sleep!)

My to do lists generally have 6-7 things on them every day and include things like washing my hair (because ya gal cannot keep track of the last time I washed my hair), doing my daily Headspace meditation and recording a clip for my 1 Second Everyday video – that’s three things already! Then I have 4 other tasks that generally include a form of exercise (I know! Who even am I anymore), something uni related, something craft related and then whatever else needs doing whether it’s cleaning the house or going to a pub quiz!

The system works pretty well for me most days – sometimes I get everything done by lunch time and I’ll either start the next day’s tasks or have the afternoon off, sometimes when my brain’s not doing so well tasks will start to pile up but after a day or two of feeling low I’m getting better at recognising that I don’t want to do that any more and just tackling one task at a time (then writing them off at the end of the week because no one needs to start the week with a bucket load of tasks from the week before – reassign them to the new week!).

Sometimes if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated I’ll even set myself a properly timed schedule – this can be super helpful with bigger tasks because then I know I only have to work on them for a set amount of time then I’m done with it for the day. Even setting a timer so you get that proper sense of conclusion is great. I used our Alexa to set a one hour timer to do uni work, then my sister called so I paused it and when it resumed I carried on where I left off and after an hour I’d made really good progress and I felt really good about myself!

Obviously there are some days where the thought of even sitting at my desk is too much, but it’s working with your mindset and your emotions to make this time work best for you. We all have good days and bad days, especially when you’ve got mental health in the mix as well, but it’s listening to your own mindset and pushing yourself where you can. It’s all a balance!

I’ve been using the phrase ‘gentle productivity’ for a couple of weeks now and I really like it – lockdown is a breeding ground for bad mental health and being gentle on yourself (whether it’s giving yourself a break or pushing yourself back to your desk) is the key to having a bit of routine and normalcy and protecting your mental space.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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cutting myself a break

2020, creativity, mental health, writing

Hello!

I don’t know why every week in lockdown seems to be more difficult, but this week I’m really struggling and I can’t put a finger on why because nothing has changed.

Blogging is something I find really therapeutic – sitting down at my laptop with a blank page and just typing long, rambly posts that are eloquent and articulate and insightful makes me feel inspired and motivated, reminding me that words are my creative tool and I fall in love with writing all over again.

But on the other hand, when I’m not feeling that inspiration or I don’t have anything important to say, the blank page feels daunting in a way that takes me by surprise. Structure and schedule has always helped me – whether it’s productivity or consistency in content, having ‘upload days’ has always made me a better blogger.

Whenever I reach a point where I think ‘yeah, I don’t need a schedule, I’ll blog when I feel inspired to share something’ I go quiet for months. Without the plan to post a blog post on certain days, the ideas just don’t come to me! Routine and structure works for me but when I don’t feel passionate about what I’m writing then it’s stilted and forced and it just becomes another element for stress (even though I really shouldn’t let it be).

I’m going through a lull right now and I need to respond to that. Earlier this year I went through a period of only uploading once a week and I felt so creatively motivated that I increased it back up to two, but I don’t think I have enough creative or mental energy for that right now.

Did I need to write a whole blog post about why I’m going from two blog posts a week down to one a week? Absolutely not – I doubt anyone would have questioned it or noticed. But getting it out of my system is therapeutic for me and in essence; this post is as much about asking too much of ourselves as it is my personal relationship with my blogging schedule. If I’ve helped reassure one person that they’re not the only one struggling, especially creatively, as lockdown gets longer and longer, then I’ve used my platform for a purpose. If it doesn’t ‘help’ anyone in the way I see influencers talking about all the time, then it’s helped me, and that’s enough.

So I’m going to go back to one blog post a week. Because lockdown is getting to me and my creativity is shaky at best anyway.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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8 weeks in isolation

2020, lifestyle

Hello,

Today marks 8 weeks since I last went to uni and the last time I left the house for anything other than buying food.

8 weeks.

56 days.

In the first few weeks, I actually felt okay – it was nice to have my boyfriend home instead of away with work, I could properly focus on my uni work and I was feeling relaxed and productive.

Then the bulk of my uni work finished and I could feel my reason for getting out of bed slipping away – with no end date in sight, my uni deadlines changing every other week, the projects I do have suddenly feel far too big and my anxiety is heightened in a way it hasn’t been before.

But I’m trying my best not to complain because I’m so fortunate to be safe and healthy and not have to work and so on, but then I feel like if I bottle up everything I’m feeling it just gets worse and it’s an ongoing cycle. I just wanted to make sure I put in writing that I’m incredibly grateful for all the key workers that are putting their lives on the line so that so many of us don’t have to.

Although most days look pretty different there are a few core things that are the same so I thought I’d talk you through what an average ‘day in the life’ in quarantine looks like for me.

  • Whilst I tried to maintain my early morning routine, sleeping hasn’t been particularly easy so I’m letting my body sleep for as long as it needs to. Generally I wake up between half 8 and 9 but when I’m feeling a bit more settled I’m normally up by 7.
  • first stop – breakfast! I like having toast with butter at the moment but I imagine I’ll get bored and look for something new to try in a few weeks, on the other hand I’m a creature of habit and could probably quite happily eat the same three meals a day forever.
  • After breakfast and watching some YouTube, I might do a quick meditation or I will go back upstairs to get dressed.
  • Sometimes if the weather’s nice we’ll go for a walk – we’ve found a lovely 5k circuit through the woods which is nice to walk but whilst the weather can’t decide if it’s raining or brilliant sunshine we’ve not been rushing to go out.
  • From there I generally start on my to do list – I like to do my uni work first because I have more brain power in the morning, but if I’m not feeling it I’ll just take it slow, do what I can and if I don’t get everything done, I don’t and that’s fine.
  • With lunch sometimes I’ll video call my mum and my sister, sometimes I’ll play Pokemon on the Switch with the boyfriend and sometimes I’ll just watch YouTube videos. I’ve got like 250 videos to catch up on so I’m not short of things to watch!
  • In the afternoon I’ll carry on with my list if there’s still stuff to do, otherwise I’ll take things a bit slower – do a couple of smaller tasks, maybe something a bit crafty, we’ve starting having movie afternoon’s which has been lovely, especially as my uni work isn’t as much.
  • Then, as a creature of habit, I always make sure dinner is ready for about 6pm – sometimes I have to start cooking at 5pm, sometimes I don’t have to start till 5.45pm.
  • Generally I try to finish my ‘working’ day by the time I start dinner then in evenings I will either play video games with the boyfriend, play Sims 4, maybe I’ll do some writing, I had my first bath in literal years the other night so I went up to bed early and treated myself to a little pamper (the plug mechanism then stopped working and we had to drain it using measuring jugs… but that’s not the point).
  • Then my ‘evening routine’ starts at 9pm, I’ll get ready for bed, do any skincare I can be bothered to do, write in my journal, then read until I fall asleep.

Fairly boring and monotonous but I’m just taking it slow and not putting too much pressure on myself! I’m going to try today to make a proper morning and evening routine list to make skincare more of a proper habit because it feels like I’m treating myself and taking care of myself every day rather than once a month whenever I get round to it.

I really want to make exercise part of my routine too but it feels like a lot right now and I don’t need any extra pressure right now, I’ll do what I can when I feel up to it.

We’re all handling isolation differently and I’m loving seeing peoples routines and updates on Instagram so I thought I’d share mine too! I’m big on routine and like doing things at the same time every day so even though we’re eight weeks in, everything is still changing and adapting. Maybe I’ll end up with a school like timetable every day and that’s what will make me feel best, but I know that my boyfriend doesn’t feel the need for a routine like that so we’ll figure out a balance between us.

I hope you and your family are all happy and healthy, sending all my love in these trying times.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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unfitness – what’s going wrong?

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

I’ve talked about my personal health and fitness journey for years now – I used to do a ‘Monday update’ post where I essentially made excuses for why I didn’t eat well or exercise and I don’t know why I thought posting this to the internet once a week was a good idea but it happened.

You may be thinking “Surely that’s what this post is doing right now?” but I like to think that the way I write about health/fitness/anything is a bit more generic and less personal, whilst anchoring it in my own ‘journey’. I don’t need to justify myself, but there it is.

So asking myself ‘what’s going wrong’ is a bit like saying ‘I’ve got a gym membership (that I haven’t used), why aren’t I getting fitter?’ – it all comes down to personal discipline, finding what works for you and making time for it. However, in a world of masters degrees, maintaining a house, keeping mental health in check and maybe even having a social life, it’s difficult to find ‘time’ for fitness.

And the reason I say ‘time’ is that as someone who prides herself in being incredibly organised and running to a pretty successful schedule, there’s always time – the motivation is always the tough bit.

I’ve been using the Nike Training app for a long time – it can schedule programmes based on what goals you want to achieve, there are lots of different workouts based on what level you are and what equipment you have and a lot of it is accessible for free which is fantastic. But, and I’m really trying not to think of this as making excuses, I did have minor dental surgery at the beginning of the month and I can honestly say that having an infected wisdom tooth is the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life, so ‘pushing past’ that to workout was not something I was prepared to do.

I quite often talk about ‘mental energy’ (which sounds much more mystical and exciting than it is now that I write it down) – usually my phrase is ‘I don’t have the mental energy for that’. What this means is I usually have the time, but I don’t have the mental headspace to think about or do the thing (in this case, exercise) on top of everything else I’ve already got going on in my head. We all have our own energies, some people can make that energy go further but particularly when mental health comes into the mix, that energy source is severely depleted so you have to prioritise where that energy is going to go.

So all of this sounds like one long excuse and to be honest, it kind of is. But I’d like to think it’s putting into words what a lot of people feel.

Whilst looking back and reflecting is incredibly useful, the important bit is to use that to make changes moving forward. What am I going to do now?

Realistically, I’m not going to change much right now – my priorities are my masters and looking after myself when my head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton wool. I’d like to start doing more steps in the day because I’ve been wearing my fitbit everyday for several years and my lifestyle at the moment is more sedentary than ever before, but there’s only so much I can do when everything is driving distance away.

My priority with fitness, regardless of how often I workout or how many steps I do a day, is to not beat myself up about it. Because I don’t have the mental capacity! I’ve got bigger things to be worrying about than the fact I didn’t do the six minute workout because I don’t know where my sports bra is and I’m not doing a workout that involves jumping without one.

I’m giving myself a break – there’s time for exercise and losing weight when I have more money and time, right now I have to put the energy I have into the important things in my life; my masters, my relationship and my house.

So my advice? (That I’m totally not qualified to give)? Give yourself space – focus on self improvement as much as you can, but your career or your studies or other aspects of your life are as important to improve in as your fitness if that’s what you want. In the long term, if I look back on this moment in 50 years I won’t be thinking about how little time I dedicated to exercise, I’ll think about the amazing friends I made studying in Oxford, the time I spent with my god-mother’s daughters and my family, the adventures I went on with my boyfriend/fiancé (it still sounds weird) – I won’t think about the time I only did 2000 steps a day or skipped a workout for an extra hour in bed.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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making yourself a routine

2019, lifestyle

Hello!

One of the things I consistently find myself yearning for in day to day life is a routine – when I left school I found it weird so at uni I made myself a more structured routine. Then again when I finished uni I struggled taking each day with no plans and no idea of what would happen.

When you’re freelance, self-employed, unemployed, a graduate struggling to find a job, whatever reason for being home a lot, often on your own and an expanse of uncertain future in front of you, the weight of that uncertainty can make it hard to find a reason to get out of bed. The only definite timings you have are breakfast, lunch and dinner and that’s assuming you’re not sad binge eating, snacking all day and have a healthy relationship with food.

So here’s where the routine bit comes in – I’ve always been the person who thrives on structure, will pull a to do list of things I need to do out of the air and keep myself busy so I thought I’d share what works for me. This is a little disclaimer that it’s exactly that – what works for me, everyone is different; some people don’t care about routines, some people really struggle to stick to a plan they’ve made and sometimes other factors come into play, I’m just sharing what I do to structure my days.

There are some tips to how I motivate myself to get out of bed every day and give myself a purpose.

#1 – writing to do lists

Is this a shock to anyone at this point? But seriously – making my monthly goals which feeds to my weekly bullet journal spreads and daily to do post-it notes make it so much easier to make a routine that doesn’t become stale too quickly because each day is different from the tasks I set myself. I then feel more productive and feel mentally prepared to do it all again the next day.

My lists are filled with things like filming videos, writing blog posts, working on my freelance career, but also includes things like doing the laundry, selling that pile of stuff that’s building up in my room etc. Obviously I can’t write a list of things that you could put on a list because it’s so personal, but if you don’t have projects to work on or you struggle to think of things you could put on a list then even things like having a shower, making lunch, making your bed can be a place to start – it’s something to tick off (which is so satisfying) and you can build on it from there.

#2 – have set times for food

It sounds ridiculous, but if you can give yourself time markers throughout the day it just breaks the day up a bit. I aim to eat my breakfast by 9am, I let myself go for lunch at 12pm (I normally count down the minutes) and then depending on what we’re having for dinner I usually start cooking about 5pm for dinner at 6pm. That’s when I stop for the day – I come out of the office, leave my computer and have some off-screen time. Which is ironic because instead of looking at my computer screen I watch TV and scroll through my phone but it’s a work in progress, I’m cutting down my scrolling! An attempt was made!

#3 – plan stuff for the future

This isn’t so much for having a routine but for keeping yourself sane – whether it’s a diary, a bullet journal or a digital calendar on your phone, getting through every day when you have to make stuff up for yourself to do is so much easier when you’ve got days with friends or a weekend away or a job pencilled in, especially if you’re unemployed and don’t have any friends that live nearby, having something to look forward to can make finding a routine in the now much easier.

It’s a bit like #2  – rather than breaking up the day, it breaks up the future so rather than this expanse of ‘no plans’, there’s something coming up. Obviously this is based on the things that I struggle with – some people see a blank calendar as relaxing or exciting but it scares me, to be honest. What I’m saying – take these tips with a pinch of salt!

#4 – have a space to work

This one I struggle a bit to explain, because for me it meant not being in the living room, not being in the kitchen and not being in my bedroom but I know that a lot of people don’t have the luxury of turning a spare bedroom into an office – I definitely didn’t at uni! But if you can find or make a separate space to work on your tasks I find that really helpful. At the moment, I’ve got a little office space at home but when I was at uni I found going into a local cafe or into uni (not the library, it was soul destroying) really helped my productivity.

Sitting somewhere as comfortable as the sofa is probably not going to work in your favour if you’re trying to get out of the slump of binging Netflix and having an afternoon nap. Also then, the sofa is not a work environment and it can be exclusively for binging Netflix and taking an afternoon nap.

#5 – have a strict sleep schedule

I don’t mean strict in the extreme way that you can’t stay up late sometimes and adapt, but having times to wake up and wind down make a routine and structure so much easier.

Personally, I start planning to go to bed at 10pm, by the time I’ve actually got up from the sofa, changed into my PJs, brushed my teeth, read a couple of chapters of my book I’m ready to settle down for sleep between 11pm and 11.30pm. I’ve also recently started not looking at my phone after I’ve plugged into charge before I start reading (except to update my Goodreads progress) and that’s really helped too.

I am to be up between 6.30am-7am but that doesn’t always happen, I’m usually out of bed by 8am at the latest and having that structure is so helpful for my routine.

It’s all a work in progress – I’m still learning, I accidentally spent three hours watching YouTube with breakfast the other day but I mentally reviewed it and planned a way to combat it. It’s about self awareness, noticing the things that aren’t helping your routine and deciding how to work on it.

I hope this has been helpful, it’s turned into a proper long ramble but these are my favourite kinds of posts!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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“under pressure” – why I disappeared from the internet

2017, lifestyle, student

Hello!

When I started this blog (over three years ago now, wow) I knew it would be a fairly big ask – I was in my last year of sixth form, I was applying for uni, I was already making YouTube videos once a week. But I didn’t make a big deal – it was somewhat unfamiliar territory so I didn’t make a big deal about pushing myself. Between September and December 2014 I wrote 8 posts.

In the new year of 2015 I started what I called the ‘365 Pages’ project, where I wrote a blog post every day for a year with each post being ‘Page 1 of 365’ and so on. I didn’t actually write a blog post every day – there were a couple of days I missed and I actually went away on an charity work expedition to Ecuador for four weeks and managed to pre-write over 30 blog posts and schedule 9 or 10 videos too (I’m still very proud of this, don’t know if you can tell).

So as my blog has gone on I’ve piled on the expectations of myself. It’s really not unusual for me to ask too much for myself. As the year of blogging ended, I decided I wasn’t going to have a schedule – I was going to have lots of ideas and write fairly regularly?

Yeah, no.

That didn’t happen so I planned a schedule – I think I uploaded three times a week and then I didn’t do that anymore. I don’t remember how my blog schedule changed between the end of 2016 and the entirety of 2017 but by September this year I just stopped. Third year began and blogging and making videos and basically everything else (like my diet and mental health, lol) took a massive backseat.

Third year has been really intense – in the 12 or 13 weeks that made up my first semester (I lost track, to be honest) I had 11 deadlines, pretty much one a week, I didn’t have time to do anything like cook myself food, I was in university 40+ hours a week every week, alongside running a society and rehearsing for a drama and performance showcase and trying to maintain friendships and a relationship and it was a lot.

Following the final result of my second year, I was driven for third year – I’d done the maths, I knew exactly what I needed to do to get the grade I wanted from my last year of university (so far). But that made me very stressed when suddenly I was faced with the reality of actually working at that level.

I don’t know if I’m writing really ominously or pretentiously or if I’m just not making sense at all, but not all the pressure came from myself. Third year is intense – obviously, it’s my last year of uni so it’s meant to be challenging and I thought I was ready but clearly not.

Maybe by asking myself to do as much as I can for third year, writing for my blog, making YouTube videos, running a society, being part of a performance society and having a job was putting too much pressure on myself? I was made redundant at the end of November so that’s one thing off the list and I’ve taken a step back from drama and performance until after Christmas. Sonar Film has been manic and I want to sit and have a day focusing on that over the holidays and I’m slowly working my way through uni stuff.

Writing all of this out really helps me, which is partially why I love writing on my blog and why I’m determined to get back into blogging and YouTube.

I’m someone who thrives on routines – writing and making videos as and when ‘I feel like it’ doesn’t work for me at all because I’m not someone who gets inspired to write things as and when.  So I’ve planned a new routine.

I have so many blog post ideas and I’m going to write as much as I can before I go back to uni properly at the end of January and I’m excited about it.

My aim for my blog and my Youtube channel is to take the pressure off a little bit – so that I have time to do it around my uni work but enjoy it as a welcome break from my degree. I don’t need anything else to be stressed about!

If you have any tips for maintaining a blog and a million other commitments do leave me a comment, I need all the help I can get!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

 

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