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Gaining Mastery – a Daily Investment

“I would not have a god come in
To shield me suddenly from sin,
And set my house of life to rights;
Nor angels with bright burning wings
Ordering my earthly thoughts and things;
Rather my own frail guttering lights
Wind blown and nearly beaten out;
Rather the terror of the nights
And long, sick groping after doubt;
Rather be lost than let my soul
Slip vaguely from my own control —
Of my own spirit let me be
In sole though feeble mastery.”
― Sara Teasdale

I like that poem. It highlights, for me, my own struggle to gain mastery of my life.

That starts – always – with me coming back to centre, and continuing my work to gain mastery of my self.

What is Mastery?

The definition we’re going for is more ‘comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity’, than ‘control or superiority over someone or something’. Although both can fit, depending on what mastery is needed in your life.

For example, I would like to gain mastery in the area of my professional expertise – Irish heritage – that is a ‘comprehensive knowledge or skill’. I already have authority, both professional and personal experience, and a certain amount of expertise. But I’m not yet at ‘mastery’, to my mind.

Now, this does beg the question of when is enough, enough?

Some folk will tell you that to gain mastery, you need to practice a thing for 10,000 hours and you’ve got it down, but that’s debatable. You can read some of that debate here.

For the second definition, I personally apply that to myself only. I mean, I’ve no interest in control or superiority over someone else. That’s a LOT of hard work right there, even besides the obvious ethical considerations.

And it usually pertains to controlling my ‘negative’ aspects; post-trauma and mental health problems, and all the associated issues that come with that.

So mastery can mean ‘becoming a master’ at something, or ‘mastering’ your personal issues in a positive way. For either of these, doing a little every single day is the right way to get started.

Daily Investment in Mastery

For the first challenge, to become a master in a particular field, requires practice. That seems obvious, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

Practice for mastery requires not just Naive Practice (repeating what you already over and over), or Purposeful Practice (with well defined goals, focus, and regularly pushing past your comfort zone).

To truly gain mastery, you’ll need Deliberate Practice; which is purposeful practice, but with the element of coaching or teaching added to it, through a clear training program with a professional in the established field.

[You can learn more about that here.]

And the second challenge is truly an ongoing thing (for me at least), and a constant process of improving little by little, going off track a bit, and just continually bringing myself back to the process again.

For this, I keep coming back to my daily routines – particularly the Morning Routine.

I can’t emphasise strongly enough how vital a routine is for me, in my quest for mastery of my personal issues in a positive way.

What works for you?


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7 Steps to Effective Time Management

We could all use a few time management tips. Like, I know I could use some time management tips. So here’s 7 of the feckers.

Definition of ‘get organized’: to arrange one’s things or one’s affairs so they can be dealt with effectively. eg. He never knows what he has scheduled or where anything is. He needs to get organized. (Merriam Webster)

Start with your Productivity Baseline… so you can see where you’ve improved. Then get going on more effective time management, with the following 7 steps.

Time Management Step One – Brain Dump

Write it all down. In whatever system you use, take a note of EVERYTHING that you need to spend time on.

You can create this task list for the day ahead, for the week, or for the month. A year is pushing it a bit far – too many variables.

Whatever time frame you choose though, take a few minutes at the start of it (or the night before) and load all your tasks into a brain dump page.

Time Management Step Two – Categorise

Task Categorisation for Time Management

This Week in my Bullet Journal

Now, decide your categories. What are the groupings that make sense for you. For example: Family Stuff, Work Stuff, Personal Stuff. Or to sub-divide a work list, for me the tasks fall into the categories of Courses, Clients, or Content Marketing.

There might be some cross over between categories, so in my bullet journal I allocate a colour per category and just mark them out. (see pic)

Time Management Step Three – Prioritise

You have to complete most important task first. Especially if it’s something that’s part of a bigger project or goal that’s important, but not urgent. We all have a tendency to push those out, and the guilt/shame/fear/overwhelm of having that looming can really eat away at ya.

Doing the Hardest/Most Important thing first is the golden rule of time management.

For each day, identify the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to get to, and do them first. My advice would be to go for:

  • One task that will move a long term project or goal forward.
  • One task that is a thing you want or need to get in the habit of doing every day.
  • One task that is on a deadline.

If you get those done each day, you’re already winning like, no matter how much the rest of the day might get away from you, as it often does.

And for the rest of the tasks, just list them by number, in order of importance.

Time Management Step Four – Schedule

Now you have your priorities straight, you have to make time for them to get done. How does your daily schedule look?

If you don’t have one, that’s ok. You can do it day by day, or set one for the week, and adjst as you go.

On a page (in your Bullet Journal, ideally, and if you don’t have one – get started here) – write out a list of all the hours in the day. I prefer vertical, it gives more space, but whatever suits you is grand.

Block out anything essential, like sleep 😉, commuting or the school run, meetings/appointments, eating, that sort of thing. Stuff that has to be done and can’t move around, time wise.

Mark in some down time, ideally not on the phone or computer – it’s important to do this first, especially if your task list is busy or overwhelming… because you NEED the relaxation time to make sure you’re being effective with the rest of your time.

Then block out your time that’s left (1 or 2 hour time blocks work well for most things), and slot your tasks in.

If they don’t all fit – well, you only have that many hours in your day, and you’re doing the work that HAS to get done at least. It’s an important lesson to enable you to see what you need to let go, or delegate.

Time Management Step Five – Deal with Distraction

What is it that distracts you? If you don’t know off hand, it might be that it’s a habit you’re unconsciously losing time to every single day. Even if it’s only a small thing. All those minutes, fifteen minutes, half hours really add up over the course of a week or a minute.

When you have work to do, you need to focus, and that means identifying and eliminating your distractions.

So, turn off the phone, or put it out of the room. Disconnect the doorbell. Hang a do not disturb sign. Put on noise cancelling headphones and some strong beats or classical music with no lyrics.

Get to work and stay working.

Time Management Step Six – Find the Flow

Pick your first priority and get to it. Set a timer, and resolve to work on that one thing for that amount of time, without distraction or switching focus.

How long is on that timer depends entirely on any number of factors such as how much you are dreading doing it, the type of task, your experience with deep work, and many others. For example, I find that getting started is the hardest part of any work, and I know I’m not alone in that.

If I really don’t want to do something, I will set a timer for say, 5 or 10 minutes, and agree with myself that I’ll do it for that long, and then see how I feel. Mostly, I’m ok by then and just keep going. Occasionally, it’s just not the day to be doing that thing, and I know I have at least tried. I move on, and try again the next day with the same technique.

For longer or bigger projects that require concentration, like study or writing or design, it can help to set a 25 minute timer, take a 5 min stretch/water break, do another 25 min, and so on for the course of 2 hours, then take a longer break. This is called the pomodoro technique.

Or, if you don’t want the distraction, just set yourself a timer for 60 or 90 minute blocks (you’ll really need to stretch and give yourself a mental break after 90 minutes, please).

Time Management Step Seven – Rest

No really. This is maybe the most important step here.

Some people think sacrificing sleep is a smart way to get a couple of extra hours into your day. This is not smart. This is the exact opposite of smart.

You most likely need 7-8 hours of sleep for your body and mind to work effectively. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from your tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory. This is a process called consolidation, and the research is clear.

After people sleep, they retain information and perform better on memory tasks, ie, you can work more effectively.

So, rest more to do more.

 


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Morning Routine Part 1 – Hydration

You’ve just spent (hopefully) 7 or 8 hours asleep, right? Hydration is essential!

Why though?

Well, around 60% of your body IS water. So, hydration is sort of important like, to make sure all that watery stuff stays topped up and performing the way it needs to.

Trying to live, work, function with dehydration is like trying to run a car with no fuel, only worse, because the car is not made up of 60% fuel, is it? No. It is not.

Just like a car though, your body needs to warm up in the mornings. You can’t expect it to go from 0-90 along a motorway every day with nothing to ease it into that top speed.

This is where your first thing in the morning hydrations steps in. It’s a warm up of sorts.

You’re kickstarting your metabolism, and knocking out that slight dehydration we all have after being asleep all night, before it gets a hold of your systems and starts doing nasty things in there.

You can see some of the problems of dehydration here.

Room temperature hydration is optimal for helping your digestion get moving. And if you can take a squeeze of lemon in it, even better, as this too aids the digestion in warming up.

This also aids in the protection of vital organs and tissues, carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells, lubricating your joints, helping dissolve nutrients and minerals to make them accessible to your body, and regulating your body temperature. All great stuff!

Again though, why is it important to do this first thing in the morning?

Specific Benefits of Hydration First Thing

  • You’re cleansing your body – drinking water on an empty stomach helps to cleanse your colon, which then increases the efficiency of your intestine in absorbing nutrients.
  • You’re supporting your bowel – adding that extra hydration first thing will help prevent constipation, bad digestion and intestinal infections. Winning!
  • Your other internal organs will thank you – plus your lymph system, which goes on to balance your body fluids, in a positive cycle of healthy hydration.
  • Your immune system needs that hydration – after the night asleep with no support, all those little worker soldiers are tired from fighting off infections and such. In my head that’s how that works anyway.

I dunno. I’m not a scientist. All of this makes sense though, and you know it.

Just drink water as the first part of your morning routine ok? Leave it by your bed the night before, and get it into you as soon as you wake up.

It certainly won’t do you any harm, and you might even poo better!

 


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Survive and Thrive through Family Pressures

What good is a routine or a system if they blow apart under stressful times or family pressures?

No good, that’s what.

Which is why I’m back at my desk today, doing the work, despite my own serious and traumatic family pressures this past weekend.

I’m not going to go into details… sorry, but I just can’t. Suffice it to say that an old and ugly issue has reared its head rather strongly again, and I’m in bits over it.

The crux of it came on Sunday, though it had been building for a while. On Monday, myself and Jon took a mental health day.

Coping with Family Pressures – The Mental Health Day

In the morning we went and did some errands that had been bothering us for a while, small easy stuff to take care of and enable us to feel a little in control of the day. I did some self care things, such as a repeat prescription for my meds (which is usually a pain in the hole for me first to find time for, and then to actually get out of my comfort space and make happen).

We talked a lot, and once the day to day stuff was under control, we made a joint decision to invest in ourselves, in our health and in our future happiness. We went and bought bikes.

After that, we shopped a little for things to improve our home space, including both indoor and outdoor plants. I was working away in the garden when our friend arrived to share a dinner, tea and chats – so we got to hang out with someone who understands the family pressures, and supports us.

To finish up our evening, we headed in different directions to unwind and relax in the ways that suited us, which we both needed individually.

He built things and took care of his dinosaur ‘family’ in a virtual world (playing Ark on the Xbox), and I headed to a Rose of Tralee watching party with family and friends. It’s an Irish ‘lovely girls’ pageant that’s in it’s 59th year (in 2018), and I’ve never watched it before, would you believe? Maybe you would believe.

We have a horse in the race this year though, so to speak – our friend Kirsten Mate Maher is the Waterford Rose, and she is an amazing person who I would truly love to see representing Ireland world-wide.

The whole experience was strangely soothing, helped along of course by the Rosé wine, and hilarious readings from Irish Twitter’s reactions to what was happening on screen.

All in all, the day worked exactly as we needed it, to ease those family pressures somewhat, at least.

Taking a deliberate, considered, mental health time-out when something big hits is absolutely essential.

When you struggle, as I do, with those pressures on a day to day basis, there is a very real danger that a stressful event can tip the balance toward something very negative.

But if you can press pause, do things that you know will provide relief and support – both short term and long term – ask for help if you need it, and use that time to ground and regroup, even a little… the next day becomes a bit easier.

SUGGESTION – Keep a running list of those things, or even make your own mental health time out plan in your Bullet Journal, so that you have something ready prepared to fall into, if a stressful situation hits you suddenly. Nobody needs to be trying to make a healthy and sensible plan in the midst of a crisis, right?

And once you’ve taken that time out – that’s when the routine kicks back in.

I know what work I need to get to get done today. I have my monthly and my weekly plans and master tasks to simply fall into, without having to think about it too much.

I also know that my work might not be completely productive or entirely perfect this week, this month, this year – depending on how the family pressures continue to play out as we go.

However – I have a system. I can press pause, reset, and slide back into this routine any time I need to. As many times as I need to.

Because I will survive, and eventually, I will thrive. And I hope I can help you to survive and thrive too.

 


 

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Your Sleep Cycle

I woke this morning at the wrong point in my sleep cycle.

The first thing I knew was an annoying cock crow that confused the fuck out of me. Not a real rooster mind you – I use a random selection of bird noises to get me up each morning. I’m not even sure why… maybe the different sounds stop me getting used to the alarm? And, generally, I do like to wake to more natural sounds than the ‘Reveille’ (that bugle call used by the military to wake everyone at sunrise), or a version of ‘the Auld Triangle’ going jingle jangle, like they used in Mountjoy prison to wake the inmates.

Alright so I know there’s other options for alarm noises to disturb your sleep cycle, but I was going for the most annoying but effective ones I could think of. Your methods may vary.

What is the Sleep Cycle though?

A sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, and during that time we move through five different stages of sleep – some of which you might already be familiar with, at least in passing. The first four stages make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, from very light sleep during Stage 1 to very deep sleep in Stage 4, where it’s really tough to wake someone from. When we’re in NREM sleep, we don’t have much (or any) muscle activity, and our eyes don’t usually move. But all of our muscles are still functional, which changes when we move to the fifth stage, when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs.

REM sleep is when most of our dreaming is going on, and though our eyes are not constantly moving, they do dart back and forth, up and down. Nobody really knows even yet why our eyes move, but one of the generally accepted theories is that it’s related to visual images we’re watching play out in dreams. During this stage of the sleep cycle, our eyes are going like nobody’s business… but the muscles that move our bodies are paralyzed (except things like the heart and diaphragm, coz obviously we’re still alive and breathing).

This paralysis sounds a bit grim, but it’s actually stopping us from getting up and moving around while our subconscious and unconscious are doing their thing, which is useful for those of us who don’t want to walk out into traffic in our nighties, or attack the person sleeping next to us because we think they’re doing something nasty due to a dream that’s going on. A breakdown of this natural paralysis is why people go sleepwalking or get night terrors in which they do some pretty awful things while effectively unconscious.

Honestly, you don’t want that.

 

A typical night’s Sleep Cycle

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just running together a couple of 90 minute sessions and calling it a night. To understand your sleep cycle, we have to get that they change throughout the night.

During the first two to three sleep cycles, you’ll spend most of your time in deep NREM sleep (stages 3-4), but in the final two to three sleep cycles, you’ll be more in REM sleep with some lighter NREM sleep. It’ll also change according to when you fall asleep, as the earlier parts of the night tend to bring more NREM sleep, and also what stage of life you’re at, as kids tend to get more deep NREM sleep than adults.

 

How to Optimise your Sleep Cycle

Getting woken in the middle of REM sleep, like I was today, is not ideal.

It leads to that sensation of grogginess, a poor reaction time, and general fog that’s actually called sleep drunkenness, or confusional arousal. Being woken from REM can cause significant mood problems, and your blood pressure goes up. Like, it’s not optimal at all at all.

There’s tech you can use to track your sleep cycle and wake you naturally based on finishing one and before you start another. That’s amazing, but I don’t have that tech. (If you use something like that and find it useful, would you mind popping over to Our Facebook Group and giving a recommendation?)

Generally, I stuck with analog, and just tracked my sleep and how I feel the next day in my bullet journal, over about two months (not perfectly, as we’ve seen I’m not good at filling in trackers) to try to figure out what’s best for me.

I came up with a minimum of 7.5 hours and a max of 9 hours, if I can get it. That’s 5 or 6 sleep cycles, respectively. So I figured out that if I need to be awake by 8am, I’m going to sleep by 11pm to get my 9 hours, and that means tech off by 10pm and reading, journalling or talking (or Jon reading something not too interesting to me!) til I fall asleep, which usually takes around the hour to wind down.

Have you figured out your own sleep cycle yet?

Be well

L x


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On Writing

Writing books is hard.

I mean, for me it’s hard. I do have a friend who cranks out 5000 words a day as well as a consistent stream of blog posts, articles and translations from Old Irish (I’m looking at you Daimler). I don’t even hate them. Most days.

My writing goes a little differently, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t used to be this tough. Like, for my second book, I wrote it in 3 months – Lúnasa (start of August) to Samhain (end of October). While working a full time job at the heritage centre and raising three kids.

I don’t even know how I did that. How does anyone do that?

Evenings, weekends, early mornings before work, lunchtimes at work. It’s not easy, but I feel like I was more focused back then (all the way back in 2013). So, I know it can be done. I know I can do that.

Have I been doing it though? Have I fuck.

When I got the contract for this next book (Pagan Priesthood, Llewellyn 2019), I thought I’d LOADS of time. I sort of lost myself in research for a while, and fooled myself into thinking I was doing ok.

And I ended up in a situation where I had to get my shit together and do the remaining 60,000 words in 3 months of solid writing. Sigh.

How do you do that?

Well, firstly you give yourself some time off each week. With the best will in the world, it is not ideal to think you can write 7 days a week in those circumstances. That’s a great writing habit to be in, long term. I know there’s a lot of famous writers who do it – write words every day, no matter what.

But under pressure and under my own anxiety around not delivering a book – or worse, delivering a shit book – I decided not to add to my writing pressure.

So for the last 3 months, I had set writing targets of 1000 words per day, five days per week – which is 5000 words per week, four weeks of each month (or split out accordingly, in a five week month like this one).

I have Scrivenor, which is an excellent writing programme, but because I’ve been working across different machines I’ve just put it all in a Google Drive folder so I can access it anywhere. It means I have to manually compile it after wards, as I’ve split it into a doc per chapter, but that’s ok.Bujo Writing Tracker

And I track my targets and word count in an excel/google sheet that I manually update each day (pic above), and a little word tracker chart in my bullet journal. The last is a just to trigger my reward hit though, as I love manually writing it in and seeing the little line rise up steadily. It seems so much more satisfying than just numbers on a screen.

I’m not doing as well this month so far as I’d like to be, but I’m not technically behind as yet. The writing has just been a little patchier than I would have liked. Trying not to ‘blame’ myself for taking time off, but I do feel like I’m not on top of things this week after coming back, and I’m playing fierce catch up.

While still trying to be kind to myself and take evenings off.

Speaking of which, it’s 6.30pm now and I should be done for the day. There’s a stew on the boil downstairs, and the smell is making my stomach a little growly.

The bad news is that I have one more thing to do – record a guided journey for my Patreon – before I can finish up. And I might have to work the weekend, as I’ve got Ogham classes to sort out and teach.

Again with the sigh.

I’m doing my best though. Sure what else can ya do?

 


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The Power of Habit

This is my current audio book – ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg, and I’m really enjoying it. I think I will go buy a paper copy so I can really go through it carefully and digest it properly.

I’m going to go ahead and quote you some parts of Duhigg’s website, as it’s important stuff.

[In the book] we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

So, apart from the day to day stuff and the brain stuff which I’m finding fascinating and INCREDIBLY useful, there’s also the company/organisation and the society stuff which is giving me IDEAS. Coz like, we need to be changing this world right now. And that starts with me and you.

Here, check out the Power of Habit TEDx talk anyway.

I’m doing ok with my own power of habit process.

Like I said the other day, drinking water is a keystone habit I have to take care of. If I get my morning routine right, the whole day runs better. It’s important stuff.

Most importantly for me, is not having to think about things that I don’t have to spend my spoons on. It just makes fucking sense for me to have as much of my brainwaves as possible looking like that middle bit on the rat in the maze scans, which is less than when they’re sleeping. (Go watch the video, if you haven’t, and you’ll see what I mean.)

That’s the power of habit, and it’s saving my sanity.

Get your copy of the book:

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change, by Charles Duhigg (you can get it on Amazon US here – https://amzn.to/2OoPS1h, and on Amazon UK here – https://amzn.to/2AWMngS)

The Importance of Down Time

I’m not good at this down time lark, to be honest.

My brain is very busy. VERY busy. It never seems to want to give me a break.

This is fantastic for ideas, and creative problem solving, and my work ethic. Well, you would think so, right?

Turns out, maybe not so much. Like, I want my brain to be running on full speed when I’m having ideas, problem solving, and working on my business. I don’t want to be half assing it.

There’s a huge drive within me to keep working (we talked about some possible reasons for that, Right Here)… but that’s maybe not the best thing for my business or my success. Or my health. Because taking time off for family, friends, outdoor activities and even old-fashioned daydreaming has clear benefits for productivity, as well as for your mental and physical health.

Yeah, I know. Seems obvious right? But…

How Much True Down Time Did You Have Last Week?

Probably every culture on the planet has a traditional ‘day of rest’. Maybe not every single one, but, let’s agree at least that it’s a VERY common theme.

Often, we refer to it as a ‘lazy day’ now, which, you know what? Doesn’t have very positive connotations for most of us. Even if we’re binging on netflix, or going for a walk, or reading an eBook, we mostly stay switched on with our phones or tablets or laptops. We’ve got notifications and alerts popping up and intruding in constantly.

I’m not saying you have to go tech free for true down time (although, when is the last time you did THAT for any length of time?!), but there’s a significant difference between strolling through sand dunes of a sunday with an audio book playing through your headphones and your dog racing round at your feet, to sitting slumped on the couch or in your bed half watching TV with your phone in your hand for scrolling through Facebook. I’m sure we can all see that.

The point is to create genuine space and time to give your body, mind, and spirit a chance to fully relax and recharge.

How Do We Get Some Of This “Down Time” Going Then?

  • If you’re anything like me, you’re going to have to clearly and consistently schedule evenings off, one or even two days a week free of work, and weeklong chunks of holiday every year. And stick to it (if your job and family responsibilities allow for that – I’m aware of and sympathetic to economic and personal factors that might be at play here too).
  • Take regular breaks through your workday, and sometimes take a break just for the hell of it. Even standing outside under a tree for 5 minutes will help refresh you. Or try a simple 5 Minute Meditation.
  • Turn off the phone. No really, I mean it. Most of us don’t even realise (or want to admit) how addicted we are to the phones. There’s a constant call and response loop going on when it’s in reach or in your hand, and the ONLY way to break that is to just put it away, out of easy reach, where you can’t see it. Especially during down time. ESPECIALLY especially during sleep time. I’ll do a whole other post on that soon.
  • Free your mind by having somewhere you can regularly brain dump all the background or foreground noise, and a process you can trust for going through that and sorting it into actionable tasks and events. Then make sure you have simple, regular routines and habits forming for the everyday stuff, so you’re cutting down on the amount of choices you have to make every day – automating it so you are less likely to suffer decision fatigue.

 

My Down Time

Yeah. Confession Time.

I literally took zero down time last week. I worked every evening and all through the weekend, til 10pm, 11pm, or midnight every single night.

That’s not good, and I am REALLY feeling sapped and drained starting the new week. My shoulder is in agony every morning when I wake, my knee has swollen back up (old injuries), I’ve had no time or energy to keep up my 8 week cycle plan so that fell by the wayside. I’m not sleeping right, and I’m grumpy as fuck.

That’s not right, and it’s not fair either on the lovely people I live with, or on me.

So, I’m working on it. Or rather, not working on everything all at once, and trying to take WAY more down time this week. I’ll let ye know how I get on, ok?

 

Lora x

Habit Forming with Micro Habits

We’ve talked a lot about routine, and I know that my morning routine I’ve been sharing can seem like… a lot.

Like, it is a lot. It takes me 2 hours to go through everything at a comfortable pace. I hope that I’ve conveyed the benefits of putting that effort in, because for me it’s not only necessary to include those things in my day, and my system, in order for me to ‘survive and thrive’ – it’s also all stuff I want to do, that makes me happy and comfortable and fulfilled.

But, you don’t have to start there.

In fact, if you don’t currently have a morning routine, it would be a bit of a stretch to expect yourself to DO ALL THE THINGS, every day, and keep it up until it all becomes habit.

Remember, this system has developed for me over time, like my bullet journal and all the other stuff. I’ve figured it out as I went along, and there have been many, many abject failures, and other times when I’ve just gone way off track before bringing it back for myself.

With any routine, you have to start small.

Micro Habits, They Call Them

It’s where you make one tiny change and stick with it for a while, and then that becomes a trigger for another change, so that you end up creating a positive chain.  

So pick one thing.

Is it getting up as soon as the alarm goes off each morning? Set it the night before and leave it on the other side of the room (plug your charger in over there, is what I do). Make sure you go to bed at a reasonable time to get enough sleep, but even if you have a bad night, understand you’re getting up as soon as the alarm goes off. Regardless. It’s too fucking easy to make excuses. When you hear it ring, just countdown 5-4-3-2-1 and move. That one is a Mel Robbins trick that is really useful in many situations, by the way. You can find more on that in her book The 5 Second Rule (on Amazon US here, or on Amazon UK here). Get out of bed, stay out of bed, then go and pee, brush your teeth, drink water. Whatever is the logical next step for you to get moving and stay moving.

You can use the micro habit thing for starting any habit, but if you (eventually) want to make a series of big changes, try and list them all out, then pick the logical first one. Where do you need to start? Start there.

You’ll need to find a trigger event or condition, a cue that is the same every day. You can begin something that will be on every other day, by the way, rather than 7 days per week, but honestly my best success has been with just biting the bullet and doing the thing 7 days a week. Once it’s formed, you can take an occasional down day or day off if circumstances run differently, but it’ll take the daily repetition to form a habit. If the habit you want to form is to get up at a certain time on workdays, you’re just gonna have to get used to the fact that that’s your new wake up time every day. Soz, not soz. It’s for the best.

So choose the right cue to remind you of your goal, and kick off the new behaviour. I find something that is sort of unavoidable to happen at the same time every day to be the best one. Coming home from work, if that’s a regular time for you. Letting the dog out last thing at night. Your first morning pee. And if you don’t wake up needing to pee each morning, please increase your water intake, you are dehydrated. You’re welcome. Anyway, you get the idea.

Whatever the habit you eventually want to form is, please start small. You’re making a tiny change here, eg, take a 5 minute walk around the block. One of the biggest mistakes we make is thinking we have to go from zero to hero in one fell swoop. You really don’t. Yes, you may truly want or even need to be walking 30 minutes a day every day. That’s a great goal to build up to. But if you’re starting from no walking, and can do those 5 minutes a day every day, that’s still over 30 minutes that week that you didn’t walk last week. You’re winning, keep going.

Do 5 minutes a day every day for the following week, and you’re 14 days into a habit. That’s serious progress. At that point, you could just keep going that way and really bed in your walking habit for the following 2 weeks, giving you a well established month’s worth of daily habit. That’s a huge success! Or, if you’re getting a little frustrated with only walking the 5 minutes, you could at that point (but not before!) raise the bar – only a little – and make it 10 minutes a day, every day. You see how this all works out, I’m sure. Eventually you will build up to the goal you want, without the side-effects of feeling overwhelmed or exerting any more willpower. It makes sense right?

The most important bit though, to include from the very start of your micro habit, is a little reward once you’ve done the thing each day. Something small that you enjoy, that won’t end up being real bad for you as you indulge in it every single day! A soothing cup of tea or coffee, a fancy piece of fruit, your first facebook check-in of the day, a piece of music you love, or curling up to read or watch something you love. Whatever floats your boat.

There’s a bit more to this whole habit forming (or breaking) thing, which we’ll definitely go deeper into as we move through the days. But for now, what 1 thing are you going to change from today, or tomorrow morning? What positive habit would you like to form, starting now?

Give us a shout in the comments below and tell us!

 

All the best

Lora x

Off Routine

Ugh.

The only bad thing, really, about having a routine, is when you are put out of the routine and it really throws everything off.

It’s a small price to pay, for sure, for all the BENEFITS of having a regular routine. But it sucks.

So, it was our monthly local social/networking Pagan moot last night. Myself and another lad Paul started this in our county when I moved here over 2 years ago, and I absolutely love the community that has grown, and will continue to do so, from this one simple bit of monthly outreach and connection that I take responsibility for.

The people who attend are truly lovely and many have become really good friends. The kind of people you can really get on with. The kind of people who, when you’re with them, you don’t really pay attention to the time passing. The kind of people you can really talk to, in depth, and then suddenly realise it’s 1am on a school night. (My offspring is on summer holidays from school right now, but we still call midweek nights ‘a school night’. I don’t know why either.)

And then you get one friend settled in a taxi, stroll home as another friend is staying over, and talk even more. Next thing you know it’s 2am and you’re just shutting off the lights to try and sleep.

Well, shite.

In case you are not following, yes, I stayed up talking and drinking with my friends instead of sticking to my usual sleep routine – 10pm tech off for an 11pm goal of sleep time.

I woke at 8am and did my email and banking checks, then heard my friend downstairs so shuffled down to say before she went away to work. We got talking (again) and she ran out the door after 9.15, a little on the late side.

I was sat at my dining room table, in my dressing gown, and literally the only part of my morning I’d done was drink some water. So of course the logical thing to do was take out my phone and go on facebook. Of course.

At 10.30am, Jon came in the room and I was in a funk, feeling way off kilter… and my usual conditioned response to that is to freeze – do nothing about the big stuff. This usually looks like, as in this case, me mindlessly clicking, sharing and scrolling on Facebook, allowing my brain to slide on by the things that are causing me anxiety.

He took my hands, and told me to try a reset. Just start doing the things from my routine that settled me into my day, like we talked about a few days back. I panicked at that point because I had two articles due by lunchtime and I wouldn’t have time to do my routine and I just had to go sit in my dressinging gown and start typing.

That didn’t sound like a good plan, to either of us.

So, I took a breath, and figured I would do my minimum viable routine for now while I was pressed for time, and catch up with things later. Or, let them go for the day. Coz that’s ok too.

Upstairs; washed face, brushed teeth and tied hair back, ate a fruit bar, took meds. Got ‘dressed’ into my batman pyjama pants, and a clean loose t-shirt. Drank more water (1 litre in at that point).

Downstairs; at desk, I lit a candle on my work altar today and did my daily devotional there. I opened my bullet journal, checked the weekly for what I had on that day, and the monthly just to make sure I wasn’t forgetting an appointment or event. Thankfully, I wasn’t. Fit a very simple daily task list onto the end of a page, put my headphones on – I listen to the same playlist of strong dance beats with no lyrics as a focus trigger when I’m writing – and got to work.

Normally I prioritise my book words first. The deadline is the end end of next month and I’m still 20,000 words down, as I procrastinated over ‘researching’ it for way too long at the start. I can do that wordcount in a month easy enough if I stick to my schedule though, so I’m not too worried there anymore.

Today though I had a very limited time to get my client columns done and sent, so I did those first. Boom. It was lunchtime. But I didn’t stop for lunch yet, I pushed through to the end of the book chapter I was working on, and got that settled too.

First 3 things off the list. 4 more to go. But first, lunch (oat and banana pancakes), and more water (2 litres in at that point).

After I’d eaten (and listened to a business podcast, so that’s another bit of the daily routine ticked off there too), back to work, and I recorded another podcast episode. I’m recording a heavy dissertation on the Mórrígan as a bonus/favour for some of my Intensive Programme students – and any other folks – who might find it difficult to concentrate and consume such a weighty document/book.

I went off list a little and registered the domain name for this project (which is now set up if you’re reading this online!), and did a few other hosting and admin bits for the websites I run and the new projects I’m putting together. I’m still learning wordpress and the tech aspects of all that is a bit much sometimes, but I’ve great support on my hosting site so that really helps.

That got written down on my daily page too, as I have a common tendency to feel that I haven’t done ‘enough’ (hello anxiety disorder and C-PTSD!) in any given day, and I find that really helps – tracking exactly how much I do get done. At least I can be honest with myself that way.

As you can see, my bullet journal is really never far from my hand. I honestly can’t sit down to work at the desk without it. Like, if I lost it I’d just cry a bit and start a new one… but I will always have a journal close to me, forever I think.

So here I am, at 5.15pm with 4 (+1 bonus) tasks ticked off, and nearly done my 5th one. The rest of the tasks are not day dependant, so if I get tired and decide to shuffle them around that’s grand. I’ve done exactly what HAS to get done today, and I’m satisfied with that.

Still to do that were skipped this morning are: a little professional development/devotional reading, meditation, affirmations and visualisations (I’ll do those as I finish up for the day before I leave my desk), some light physio exercises, and a shower.

Yeah, I’m sitting here in my own stank all day, and it’s going to be very difficult to haul ass in the shower – I do even worse at the end of the day with that, than at the beginning where at least there’s a bit of momentum to get moving. So if I can’t face that, fuck it. I’ll crawl into bed and just reset it all tomorrow.

Because that’s the true beauty of a routine. It’s always there, ready and waiting for you to slot back into, no matter how far out of whack you get.

 

All the best,

Lora x