Jane Andersson recommends the Swedish concept of lagom (just enough) as a key to making a meaningfully productive life.
A meaningful life with just enough of what matters
Jane Andersson is a journalist at Swedish Television, Sweden’s largest television network. She is also a wife and a mom to two daughters. She enjoys reading, traveling, and planning.
A typical day
Jane works with local news, so she gets up very early in the morning–as early as 3:15 am. She jumps into the shower, gets dressed, makes herself a few sandwiches, and goes to work around 4 am. At 4:30 she starts work, which is to create four editions of local news for a large part of southern Sweden. She has some stories pre-made, but others she has to do on her own. She reads all the other news outlets, select stories from her area, selects clips from their archive, edits, records, and broadcasts the show.
Jane works on the first versions between 4:30-7 am, makes updates to the news between 7 and 9 am, and then works on other tasks such as responding to emails and supervising interns and new staffers between 9 and 11 am. Her workday ends at 11 am, which is the upside of getting to work at 4 am.
After work, she runs errands, has lunch with friends from time to time, goes to the gym, and then goes home to sleep for a couple of hours. In the evening, she spends time with her husband and reads a lot.
She’s an early bird so you'd think she would go to sleep early, but that isn't the case. Surprisingly, she gets into bed around 11 pm and reads for about an hour before actually going to sleep around midnight. Then her day starts all over again around 3:15 am. You can say she divides her sleep into two chunks, and it works for her.
When she wakes up from her afternoon sleep, she feels refreshed and she can do a lot of things, even hang out with friends or go to the movies. With her schedule, she feels she's able to have more quality time than with a schedule that requires her to work during the daytime. Every fourth week or so, she has to work both days of the weekend as well. But when she doesn’t have to work on weekends, she gets a lot more sleep.
Biggest Productivity Challenges
Jane’s biggest productivity challenge at work is that it's virtually impossible to plan because the news determines everything. All those great productivity advice that you shouldn’t multitask, or that you should check your email only twice a day doesn’t work for her. Sometimes, she feels like she’s doing everything all at the same time. She advises that journalism isn’t for the type of person who likes knowing what she has to do in advance.
When I asked Jane how she does manage to work with unforeseen events that call for her attention at work, she responded that that’s a hard question. When she goes into work in the morning, she is well aware of what she needs to do, but she doesn’t know how she will do it or what the content will be. Having been a journalist for three decades, so she’s learned to just go with it.
When she uses her planner, she uses it to make her “real life” outside of work go more smoothly. She says that work is a big part of our lives, but it is not everything. There are a lot of logistics outside of work that you have to take care of, and she likes to plan for those parts. We agreed that having a plan and order in our lives makes it easier to go with the flow.
At home, Jane’s biggest challenge is clutter. She and her husband have been living in the same house since 1989, so they have accumulated a lot of stuff, but they have agreed to spend this year decluttering.
Nowadays she doesn't have a hard time saying no, but she did when she was younger. Like a lot of us, she wanted to show that she was good enough and that she could achieve things, and she also wanted people to like her. Now, she knows she's competent and she doesn’t have to prove it each and every day. Also, it's more important to her now that people respect her–and that requires her to say no sometimes.
Tools Jane recommends
Jane is a pen-and-paper person, so she uses a paper calendar. She feels that she remembers things better when she writes them down by hand. At work, she uses Microsoft Outlook.
She has two mobile phones; one for personal use, and one for work. This set-up works for her since she can turn her work phone off when she isn’t working. Also, because of this boundary she’s set up between her private phone and her work phone, she isn’t disturbed by all the intense news notifications and work email pinging at her while she’s on vacation.
Jane has many apps on her private phone such as apps for buying tickets, paying bills, journal her exercise, checking the weather. She uses Goodreads to record the books she’s read or get ideas of what to read. She also uses an app called Grateful in which each evening she records something good that has happened to her that day. When she's not feeling good, it makes her feel better to flip through all the good things that happen each day.
When Jane and I first connected over email, she shared with me that she had chosen a word of the year. I loved her approach and asked her to share a little bit more about that. Last year, her word of choice was Balance. To implement that word in her life, she started using an app called Life Cycle that allows you to track how you use your time. It uses GPS to track your location to detect where you are spending your time. She likes it because it helps her to visually see if she is creating balance in her life.
This year, Jane’s word of the year is Luxury. This doesn’t mean she wants to walk around dripping in diamonds and sipping champagne. She wants to focus on the small luxuries of life. For example, she received a lovely teacup from her daughters for Christmas. It’s in her favorite colors and has a golden rim. She uses this teacup at work, even though she could use any old mug. Whenever she sees this cup at work, it reminds her of her daughters and it makes her happy.
Jane thinks we should cherish beautiful things more than we do because they bring the feeling of luxury and joy. For these reasons, she wears lipstick and nail polish every day. It gives her more energy because she's treating herself like she matters.
In our emails back and forth, she also mentioned the idea of buying less but better. Jane says she’s in the stage of life where she has everything she needs, but it's still nice to buy things for yourself. That’s when she thought she should buy less, but in better quality, so it lasts longer, and also use what she has instead of buying new things. She reminds us that caring for the environment is another good reason we cannot go on consuming the way we do.
What happens on a day when everything gets away from you?
For the first time on this podcast, a guest responded that she does NOT have days like this. When I asked her what her secret is, she introduced the Swedish concept of Lagom which is roughly translated as “just enough.” It means “perfect,” but not in a demanding, perfectionistic way.
About 20 years ago, Jane had so much going on in her life that she got sick and had to take a month off work to recover. Once she recovered, she went to a stress coach to get advice on how to cope. The coach explained that it's possible to get addicted to stress. Whether consciously or subconsciously, it's possible for people to put themselves in stressful positions just to get the kick of managing to accomplish things in that stressful condition. Jane says she has this tendency. The coach then explained to Jane that she needed to be careful because if she fell back into those old “doing too much,” high-stress habits, next time she would fall harder.
Since then, Jane has tried very hard to stay away from the “drug” of adrenaline, especially as she gets older, and the way she does this is by seeking a life of Lagom. So she avoids having those days where everything gets away from or overwhelms her because before she gets to that point, she takes a step back. She looks at her plans, and her to-do list, and asks herself, “Is this Lagom? Is this manageable? Or is it just a wish that I would do it?” That's how she determines whether she’s seeking out the kick of the stress drug.
Jane shared another insightful story about stress. When she had first started out as a host, there was some kind of technical difficulty on her third morning of work. When she asked her co-worker whether she should be nervous, he responded, ‘’No, why should you? It wouldn’t help at all.” This lesson has followed her all this time: If you can’t do anything about it, there's no use in getting upset or stressed out about it.
What’s on the horizon for Jane?
In a few weeks, Jane will receive new interns at work. She also has plans to travel to Stockholm and meet journalism students to give a talk about why they should apply for internships at Swedish Television.
Last thoughts from Jane on making a life that matters
I’m a Swede, and we look at equality a little differently from those of you in the United States. I think you should put your partners to work a little more. The one who lives at home with you should not ‘help’ you. They should do their part of it, and that is half. Not less.
I also recommend a book about emotional labor called Fed Up by Gemma Hartley. She wrote an excellent article about emotional labor in Harper’s Bazaar (link below) that went viral.
My final piece of advice is to be kind to yourself. Do something just for yourself every day.”
What do you think?
Had you heard of the Swedish concept of lagom before? Any questions for me or Jane? Please share your questions, comments or ideas in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
Connect with Jane
More about Jane
Jane is a news journalist at Sweden’s biggest television outlet, Swedish Television. She works in Malmö in the south of Sweden, where her work is to produce four different editions of local news for the south of Sweden. Her job also involves onboarding and coaching interns. At home, she's a wife and a mother to two grown daughters.
Jane loves to read books and to travel. And she loves planning! She has all sorts of apps on her phone and notebooks, and she loves to listen to podcasts to get more ideas and tips.
Jane's word of the year for 2019 is luxury. For her, this year is all about enjoying small forms of luxury–putting herself a bit higher on her to-do-list. She believes that to be able to take care of other people, she needs to take care of herself better, allowing herself time and small luxuries.
Resources and Links
Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward, by Gemma Hartley
Women aren't Nags – We're Just Fed Up by Emma Hartley
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