Monday miscellany: reclaiming my time & reader favorites

I have a busy few days of appointments, calls, and errands ahead of departing for London in early November. Since leaving my corporate job in 2016, I’ve relished the fact that my time is (mostly) my own, and tend to feel anxious when the schedule starts to fill up.

Time management, with less stress

My prior career was very pressured and deadline-driven, and required constant multi-tasking and airtight time management. Those skills have served me well, but at times can be hard to let go. I sometimes have to remind myself that just because I’d set out to have certain tasks accomplished by a certain time of day, the only “deadline” is one that I’ve imposed on myself.

Reader favorites week of 10-16. Merino cashmere sweater, cropped puffer, croc effect booties, cigarette trousers
Some of last week’s Reader Favorites:

I’ve been aware for some time of the negative effects of anxiety and stress on health. So I’ve been trying to shift my mindset away from the “always-on-a-deadline” setting. And since Doug’s passing, I find that some days I just can’t get my brain to settle down and focus. But instead of trying to force it, I’m allowing myself the space.

Breaking tasks down into smaller increments helps, as does keeping a calendar or checklist for the day. Somehow knowing that the “to-do’s” are not infinite, at least on any given day, helps. (And it’s such a great feeling when everything on the list has been checked off.)

Reader favorites week of 10-16. Cashmere cardigan, quilted barn jacket, straight-leg corduroy pants, sleek sneakers
More Reader Favorites from the last week:

Most weeks I spend 40-50 hours on the blog or blog-related tasks. That includes not just writing posts, but social media support, doing “back-end” maintenance (like updating old links), and reviewing various analytics. That last one is what helps me to understand what topics are of most interest to you, and what styles you like best.

Reader favorites, as chosen by you

Here are more of the best sellers from the last week…(the Chanel nail color is “Fabuliste,” and I’ve purchased that one for myself too! Now I just need to make time for a manicure… 💅)

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  1. Dear Susan,
    I so needed to read this today. My dear husband passed away this past July after a long battle with cancer. I have always used a check list to get things done. However, some days I just need to take a break from my to do list. Take care.

  2. Oh my goodness, you are my twin! A career of high-pressure, executive jobs left me wanting nothing but a clear calendar! Still, I persist in scheduling my tasks whether they involve commitments to others or only myself. We find that during our annual long trip (2 months in Europe each autumn) we delight in not having appointments. No medical, no social, no errands except the joy of picking up something to cook for dinner and deciding what time to leave for a hike or catch a train.

    Just this morning I had to remind myself that it is OK to change my plans and move a non-urgent task to a different day. No one but me would care!

    Have a wonderful trip!

  3. Susan — each day I look forward to your column. It’s a delight to see the outfits your put together and your colour tips are constantly with me in my shopping choices. Helpful in the main. Though I was quite sure you spend a good deal of time on your blog, it was somewhat of a surprise to me that it is actually MORE than what an employer typically asks of their employees. Your final product is testament to the hours you spend curating not only your wardrobe, but helping us curate ours. Many thanks. Happy travels.

  4. I’m now 75% retired from law practice and simmering down is not easy! But I’m embracing casual dressing! Thanks for all inspiration through the years. One comment. You don’t talk about Quince which has the most beautiful and properly priced cashmere
    Hoodies out there. (Among other things). Have a look. I own 2.

    1. Hi Jan, you’re welcome. I’ve featured several Quince items in recent weeks (there’s a v-neck in the widget below), and yes, they’re quite good!

  5. Same! I recently started feeling overwhelmed by all that’s involved in caring for an older house — improvements, routine maintenance, essential repairs, emergency fixes, seasonal tasks, etc. So, I created an Excel spreadsheet with weekly, monthly, and annual tasks, and am working through the first months to tweak and update it. There’s something surprisingly reassuring about printing out the month and checking off the tasks, adding or subtracting as I wise up. (And for those who don’t use Excel, this would totally work with 12 pieces of paper that you update and modify — I find organizing everything by month works best. The ultimate to-do list!

  6. I’m traveling so my comments got lost. Thank you Susan for all that you do. I’m so impressed that you were able to work during your husband’s illness and passing. This is a marvelous post today. I look forward to your upcoming trip abroad

  7. I was watching a video earlier this morning, and the presenter talked about to-do lists. Her take: to be effective, it should have a maximum of 3 items on it. She explains that things you habitually do every day, like take your vitamins or do a load of wash, are not the kinds of things she is referring to. Rather, these are extra things, like call the dentist, or maybe prepare your packing list. That practice also prevents you for loading up the list with “easy stuff” that can in fact get in the way of accomplishing the critical things. And if you score and get rid of the 3, then go ahead and add another. Makes sense to me.

  8. Your post today really resonated. I am someone who likes to find purpose in each day and a checklist definitely helps. I use one of those tablet style weekly planners, with vertical columns for each day. I fill in appointments, exercise classes, then the other things I want to accomplish. What isn’t accomplished on one day gets moved into the next. I know you’ve probably already done this, but I’d love to see a post about the various jeans brands, at different prices points, out there at the moment. The search for great fitting jeans, without breaking the bank, is my ongoing holy grail. Thanks.

  9. I enjoyed the beautiful photos of your recent trip with your sister and was happy to know you had taken the time with your family. I have thought of you often since your dear husband passed. We all need space and time to BE, and we each have to find what method gets us there. You work very hard for us, and you are appreciated more than you know. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

  10. Hi Susan, I can really relate to still setting deadlines. lists and tasks for oneself, even though I’m retired now. I’ve experienced first hand the toll stress takes on your health, I wish I’d realized that when I was younger! Your post is so timely, as after a too busy week I’m wiped out today and just want to wipe my calendar clean. Taking care of yourself and your health is so important as you deal with a loss like you’ve had, but I know how hard it is to do. I so enjoy your blog, it’s part of my stress relief!
    Take care.

  11. I have a very similar story to yours – stressful career and then a caregiver to a family member after retirement. It has taken me a while to decompress from all of it – in fact, it is still a work in progress. Like you, I can’t let the schedule/timeline thought process go. One thing that has helped me is to make things that are either fun, relaxing, or healthy part of my schedule. I walk once a week with a friend and I take pilates, and I treat myself to either a meal from a new restaurant or browsing at a favorite store. I wish you the very best, and I always enjoy reading your posts and I have learned a lot from your postings.

  12. Hi Susan,
    Thank you for such a wonderful post today focusing on the subject of time. I have always been someone who has been driven by anxiety and therefore constantly pressuring myself to get everything on my daily to-do list done. You are so right by pointing out that the “to dos” are not infinite, at least most of the time. The other thing that I would like to thank you for is the fact that you spend 40-50 hours a week on your blog or blog related tasks. Having never done a blog, I had no idea that there was this much time and effort involved. I truly appreciate all that you do!

  13. It took me awhile after retirement to change my stress alerts. I had to remind myself that I had no superiors to please and that time was not limited. A dozen years on, I’m better at dealing with my own self-imposed deadlines. BTW, I am drawn to the quilted jackets this season, but it’s just not cold enough here to buy one.

  14. Please give yourself the time needed. Self-care is real-and you deserve the best you can do. Your readers will be here when you are ready. As I have followed you for several years, you feel more like a friend with good suggestions than a stranger. I bet lots of others feel the same way. Take the time.

  15. Thank you for your always wonderful columns, Susan.

    Not sure if you can allow this tip for readers in the comments but the Vince brown (nutwood) trousers are heavily discounted at Nordstrom Rack.

    I just received my pair, and I believe they are the same style as the ones being offered full price at Nordstrom (the video and photos are the same). Maybe the pair I got are last year’s version but I’m very happy with them.

    Happy and safe travels.

  16. Thank you for this post! I was browsing on Pintrest for ideas on color schemes for a trip to Seattle in a couple of weeks and didn’t really find anything that inspired me, so I am happy with what you posted. You always have great ideas and I love your style so this was spot on! Thank you!

  17. I hear you, as I had a deadline driven job as well. But because I don’t (cannot haha) earn money with my blog, I have less pressure than you in my retirement. Still, the ‘need’ to produce a post every single week, sometimes weighs on me. You know I always have quite a lot of photos and lots to tell and that takes time. But then I remember how much joy it also gives me and I relax. Key for me is, to have at least 2 photo shoots on my computer so I know I have ‘material’. That gives me piece of mind.

  18. Really enjoy your blog and fashion suggestions, your thoughts and observations! On top of keeping your wonderful blog vibrant, you and your body are grieving. You are stressed and your brain and body are weighted with this burden. Thinking, feeling, planning and living are more difficult during grief. Schedule time for you to do nothing and rest, take a walk/chat with a friend, try some yoga, garden, cry, and be gentle with yourself.