fluid, functional, flexible

Systems – a fancy name for getting shit done

Published February 20, 2014 in Life - or something like it - 0 Comments

I have a lot of work credentials. I’m a personal trainer, massage therapist, yoga teacher and life coach. I don’t put it on my business card, but I’m also a master procrastinator. For the longest time, I’ve been intending to write articles for this site, full of pithy wisdom about exercise, health, stress management, life and wellness. Why haven’t I? Great question – and I really have no answer.

Sure I could say things like “I get up at 5am to run my business – give me a break”, or “I’m a single parent and enormously time poor”, and you could counter with something along the lines of “but Emma, isn’t it true you often have chunks of time during the middle of the day? Why don’t you bash out some words during that time”. And honestly, I’d have very little comeback.

But over the last few days, something’s changed. I’m ready to change my style from “woman running in front of a speeding train” to something a little more productive. So, consider this the beginning of a relationship where if you’re prepared to give me some of your time, I’ll pass on some of the wisdom I’ve gained from working with thousands of people’s bodies over the last twelve and a half years. Hopefully it’ll be a mutually beneficial thing!

One of the things I’ve noticed during my years in the fitness industry is no one has enough time to do all the things they want, or need to in order to live a really great, balanced life. Or they’re able to tell themselves that’s the case with a long list of excuses. You may be sensing a theme here, and yes, I’m one of those people. I’m also great at self sabotage, but hey, that’s another article altogether. As mentioned before, I get up at five, spend most of my day fixing people’s bodies in one way or another, parenting my teenage daughter, and struggling with the finer details of running my own business – like tax, admin and a constant array of rescheduling clients. Because my natural state is disorganisation, I have to limit the opportunities to screw things up. So I’ve come to realise I need systems.

I like using the word systems, but really it’s just a fancy way of saying “things that make your life easier”. A system can be anything from where you put your keys when you come home to a more complex diary style arrangement that sends you reminders throughout the day (just a heads up – this is waaaay beyond my capability).

Basically systems save you time, or in my case, time and anxiety. And sometimes money. My systems are about remembering who I’m seeing and when in my work day, what I’m eating while I’m at work, whether I have gym clothes in my car, clean massage towels at my clinic, and enough food in the house for my hungry daughter. For many years, I flew by the seat of my pants. And it seemed like it worked okay. I spent a lot of time with an elevated heart rate and generally made life harder for myself than it needed to be. I’m not sure what’s different about this year – maybe it’s turning forty four, or maybe I’ve grown up enough to see there might be a better way of doing things, and I’m not too proud to change my bad habits. So here, in no particular order, are some things I do which give me extra time, save me feelings of nausea or frustration, generally make me feel like I’ve got things under control, and I’m not so much of a hypocrite when I give people great advice I can’t take myself.

I mentioned the key thing before. So simple, and saves me untold time and grief. I bought a bag which has a clip for my keys, because of my inability to remember where I might have randomly put them. It also works with umbrellas. I have one in the house, and one in my car – because the one in my car won’t help me if it’s pouring with rain when I walk out of the house. And vice versa. I also make sure if I use the one from the house, I take it back inside when I go home. Sounds ridiculously easy, but it really makes a difference.

Because I can be at work from 6am to 8pm some days, food is mega important. If I’m training, it’s the difference between gassing straight away, or doing a great session and not losing my mind afterwards. I can spend a huge amount of money buying take away, or I can spend a small amount of time cooking and dividing food on the weekend. Recently I’ve rediscovered my slow cooker. I buy a big chunk of lamb or pork, rub it with spices and throw it in the slow cooker overnight. Or first thing in the morning. Ten to twelve hours on low is perfect. At the end of that time, I have enough protein for a week of lunches for both Maya and I, often with a couple of meals left over if I get home and can’t be bothered to make anything else for dinner. Because summer’s been so ridiculously hot, I’ve been using my slow cooker outside by running an extension cord to my shed, which stops the house from heating up. And it makes me feel like Jamie Oliver, only his shed is a lot more attractive than mine. You could also do this with a whole chicken, but if you put one of those in a slow cooker, put it breast side down so it stays fabulously moist. Eight hours on low – perfect.

On Sundays I make a bunch of coconut flour muffins and freeze them in ziploc bags. It takes about five minutes to make the batter and forty minutes to cook them. During that forty minutes I can hang out my washing, organise my training clothes for the week, do the washing up – whatever else needs to be done. Making twelve doesn’t take any more effort than six, and gives me two weeks worth – which means I only need to do it every two weeks. You don’t have to use coconut flour, and you don’t have to make muffins. But it means I have something quick to eat between clients, or before training and stops me from wanting to go outside my food plan.

At the bottom of the page, you’ll find my super lazy person’s chicken soup recipe, and a couple of ideas for your chunk of insanely good slow cooked meat. Check them out if you so desire.

My other Sunday morning task is a big grocery shop. In my former disorganised life, I shopped every day. Or rather, I went to the supermarket every day and roamed the aisles with no idea what I was doing, spent way more money than I needed to and came home with very little useful stuff. Now I have a master list, which I add to depending on what I’m cooking during the week. I might make a couple of extra trips to pick up fresh veggies or some grass fed steak, but I rarely run out of anything. I’ve also found having a well stocked kitchen gives me a huge feeling of pleasure – a total bonus! Extra bonus – I buy coffee and listen to my favourite music – it takes the sting off the Sunday morning thing.

All that’s left is to make sure my computer and training clothes are ready to take to work. With both personal training and massage, rescheduling is a guarantee, so even if I have the perfect day in my diary, reality is a different thing. I can either get furious about things changing, or go with it and use the time to train or work. Which is why I’m writing this now. And I know the psychological difference between being prepared and feeling like I’m wasting time is totally priceless. So charging my laptop, and throwing four items of clothing and a towel in a bag is the tiniest investment of time which gives me huge rewards on many levels.

As a bonus time saving tip, I’ve almost given up on Facebook after I realised it was causing me anxiety and taking up more time than I like to admit. I’ve looked at it twice in three weeks and honestly, I don’t miss it. The people I need to be in touch with are still around, but in a more tangible form.

So there you go. A few things to save time and stress. What works for me might not work for you, but if you spend some time thinking about your habits and the day your way usually runs, you’ll probably find at least two things you could systemise. Which gives you more time to do things you’ll enjoy doing, would benefit from doing, or don’t have enough time for now.

Super Easy Recipes:

I’m currently obsessed with burrito bowls, so I combine my falling apart meat with rice (I dig medium grain, but you can go for whatever you like. I cook enough for three days and keep it in the fridge), either refried beans (can), or black beans I’ve soaked overnight (two minutes tops to organise), then throw in the slow cooker in the juices from the meat (six hours on low – also insanely easy).

I put it all in a container the night before, then add tomato, avocado, red onion and coriander just before eating it. You could also throw in capsicum, cucumber, baby spinach – whatever you want. Or make a giant salad and add the protein. Or something completely different – like risotto, or some kind of stir fry – there’s nothing limiting you except imagination. You could also change it around every day so you don’t get bored.

Or you could make chicken and vegetable soup. I use a whole chicken and take the skin off. You can save even more time by not doing this, but it’s just how I prefer my soup. I add whatever veggies I have in the house – onions, carrots, and celery are mainstays, and I freeform with mushrooms, broccoli, capsicum, leek, and whatever leafy things are around at the time – kale, silver beet, spinach. Add stock, some green lentils or a tin of chickpeas, rice (brown, arborio, medium – you decide), canned tomatoes if you like, and enough water to cover it up. Put it on a low heat, with the lid partly on. And with no further effort, in about six hours (maybe a little bit more), you’ll have a huge vat of soup you can divide up and freeze. Or if your slow cooker is big enough – hey, you know what to do.

Good luck!

One of my favorite low tech outsourcing devices - kitchen whiteboard.  Sure the "laundry basket for the child" has been on there for a few months, but hey, when I find it, I won't forget it!

One of my favorite low tech outsourcing devices – kitchen whiteboard. Sure the “laundry basket for the child” has been on there for a few months, but hey, when I find it, I won’t forget it!