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5 Things that Helped Me Build My Business – Guest Post

In 2015, I was a University lecturer at a UK institution.

I had completed a PhD, three postdocs, and was in my first permanent academic job. I was also being discriminated against by my employer and ultimately left academia with a settlement that I’m not legally permitted to discuss.

In the period leading up to my exit from the academy I had a lot of choices to make about my life.

One important one was about how to do work that was fulfilling, joyful and would pay the bills. I thought about my values, desires and talents and narrowed it down to two fields: law and therapy.

Since I have the travel bug and wanted to be geographically mobile, the law wasn’t a good fit, so I embarked upon the journey to becoming a therapist. Fortunately for me, I had a decade of experience of teaching and coaching, and even facilitating support groups. I had run workshops in multiple countries on sex, sexuality and kink. In many ways, my journey had begun years earlier.

Nevertheless, I still lacked some of the skills and the support network to embark on a career as a coach or therapist. It is a mere three years later and I now have a Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling and a full coaching and therapy practice.

Here are 5 things that helped me to build my business.

 

1) Hiring the best mentor I could afford to help me build my business

I asked for recommendations and I paid for the best supervisor that I could afford (which is actually not saying there is a better one out there if I paid more!). He is well connected, experienced and generous with his advice. He is effective at directing me to useful resources and was invaluable in the period before I had clients or much of a business.

He helped me to consider what I already had and what I needed to achieve in order to be an effective therapist. His support gave me the confidence to interrogate what I really needed before launching my business in terms of accreditation, training, insurance and experience.

I certainly made more informed decisions about my future because of his help – and as a result got off the ground with a great start to build my business.

2) Building a network of supportive working relationships

I have a friend of many years who is a marketing training specialist. She and I have a mutually supportive relationship which helped me to make the work plan, get the website up and to keep up my momentum when times were tough. I provided her with a case study for her fledgeling business and help to refocus and getting back on track.

Other people have supported me in choosing the right degree course, finding the best hosting service, choosing my email provider, and grappling with GDPR. I am grateful for these relationships because they provide important stimulation and growth.

The reciprocal nature of them is really important too, because it reinforces my own competence as I build my business.

3) Acknowledging and accepting that imposter syndrome happens

Academia gave me a lot of experience with imposter syndrome. As someone that is dyslexic and dyspraxic, and for whom names are often difficult, academic writing has always been a challenge. I often thought someone might realise my limitations and realise they should never have given me the PhD in the first place.

Fortunately, I also knew that I was a gifted researcher who research subjects opened up to easily.

Within the context of running a brand new coaching and therapy business, imposter syndrome can arise in all kinds of  sneaky ways. It can accompany worries about the aspects I’m less confident about, the client I am struggling to connect with, the no-show, the accounting.

Sharing my experience with others, and seeing their insecurities reflected has been invaluable to me. To reap the peak benefits of this I have set up a peer supervision group with others at a similar point in their careers, and it is a wonderful support resource as I build my business.

4) Finding ways around the ‘impossible task’

The ‘impossible task’ is that thing that gets impossibly difficult for no good reason. It is the task that you know that you have to do, and that isn’t that practically difficult, but that is paralyzing right at this moment.

For me, the impossible task is often about completing expenses or accounting or making a phone call. That’s right, I spend hours every day talking to people online, hearing their stuff, but making a phone call to a doctor, airline or employer gets impossible sometimes. It makes no sense, but it is my reality – and apparently the reality for plenty of other people too.

Before I knew about the ‘impossible task’ I could spend days fixated on the fact I wasn’t doing it. I didn’t get anything else productive done. I just focused on the fact I couldn’t do the thing.

Since I recognised that I have this occasional temporary paralysis, I have learned to handle it differently. I’ve learned that it isn’t something I can just ‘push through’ and that in order to get to it I need to have some successes first. I need to do a few other tasks that give me a sense of accomplishment or joy.

With that in mind, I have created a ‘happy leaves’ exercise of tasks that I know will make me feel either accomplished or joyful. I have written one idea on the back of each leaf postcard and included how long it takes and how difficult it is for me when life is hard. Doing one or two of the exercises on my leaves makes me feel better, usually better enough that the ‘impossible task’ is no longer impossible.

You may need to find your own route, but recognising if you have impossible tasks is a good way to start working out how to make them possible again rather than getting stuck.

5) Finding ‘good enough’ as I build my business

Part of what I do is put together blog posts. I write a lot of these.

Working out when to stop working in a particular piece of writing is a skill. Sometimes I get it wrong, and there are still spelling errors, or my meaning isn’t clear enough in a post, but that happens rarely.

More often I hold onto something far too long, and I should just have posted it. My website doesn’t have to be perfect, my writing doesn’t have to be perfect. Even my business plan doesn’t have to be impeccable.

What it does have to be is functional and fit for purpose. Learning the difference between those ideas has been absolutely essential to learning when to stop ‘improving’ something and to just press POST.

 

My therapy practice is now full.

I have a client base that I generally connect well with – and I am grateful that I really only attract the kind of clients that I want to work with. Clients that like coaching as much as counselling, that are quirky in all kinds of ways and that need to work with someone open to the idea that there are many healthy ways to be a person in the world.

If you’re interested in knowing more about what I write about (generally sex, relationships, self consent and mental health), or just more about my quirky brain, please pop over to my site and take a look.

My practice is currently full, so I’m not looking for new clients – but my blog is www.loveuncommon.com/blog
I am inviting new clients to my DBT course though. The link for that is: https://loveuncommon.com/services/dbtgroups/

Setting Goals – See It Done with Effective Visualisation

Setting Goals is something that most of us at least WANT to do, but don’t really follow through on.

Either we set to it with great gusto which results in a full and meaningful list of goals… that then just sits there. Judging me. I mean us. It’s not just me right?

Or, we don’t even know where to start.

For example, “My Goal is to have a better relationship with my family”. That’s great and all, but what does it actually mean?

How do you measure it? What does it look like when it’s achieved? How does it improve your life?

 

Setting Goals that are SMART

Ok, there’s a LOT on S.M.A.R.T. Goals elseweb. If you’re not familiar, google that shit. You’ll be there all day, if you want.

But very briefly, here’s what the letters stand for:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

Basically, setting goals like the above – a better relationship with family – becomes something like:

I will make a phone call to a family member once per week (for at least a half hour chat), and send a daily WhatsApp message to the family group (updating on my life and enquiring about theirs), so that by the Holiday Season our relationships will have improved enough to ensure no arguments or unnecessary tensions.

Like, it might not work out perfectly in that particular scenario. Families are weird.

But it’s good to have goals, and be doing what you can to make things better.

 

Setting Goals as Future Memories

Visualising your goals is important too though. When we mentally ‘walk through’ a scenario before it happens, we are far more likely to a) do it, and b) do it well.

One way to do this is to think of the goals you’ve set as memories, but of the future not the past.

So, if you’re setting goals that are SMART, you can also take the time each day to build them into a memory of the future.

If I ask you what you did yesterday, and you tell me – I sent a WhatsApp message to my family group, that’s grand. I mean, we might not be that good of friends, that you’d share the details. B

But if we are close friends, and you’re telling me about what happened, you’re likely to be adding detail; what you said, who responded, how you felt before, during and after sending the message, and maybe even what reminded you to send it in the first place, or what you did directly afterwards.

See what I mean? I’m much more likely to remember, be invested in, and believe the second scenario, with all the details. Right?

The same goes for your brain, when visualising your goals.

 

So set up a page in your Bullet Journal for ‘Setting Goals’, and get started for this month, or this quarter.

Be SMART about setting goals, and build those future memories by touching base with them every day.


 

If you haven’t set up your Bullet Journal yet, you can Click Here to Find Out How.

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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How Do You Feel About Money?

Today I’m thinking about the limiting beliefs I have around money.

When I moved from Roscommon to Waterford 2 years ago, due to a family crisis, I had NOTHING.

And I mean literally nothing, money-wise. I had been freelancing as a business journalist and copywriter, but due to said crisis, I wasn’t able to work much, then at all, for a couple of months. I burned through all of my savings, and had nothing in the pipeline.

Which is a huge problem in that line of work, as you usually only get paid on publication a couple of weeks, or even months later. Or a client will hand over most of the money owed in a final payment, at the end of a project.

Myself and my son moved in with my mother because I couldn’t make my next rent payment where I was living, and I arrived with €140 in the bank from a childrens allowance monthly payment, an ok but oldish car – and the entire contents of my house (furniture, appliances, etc) just left behind me.

Everything we owned now fit into 2 rooms, with space to spare.

So, that was a fun time.

First Steps Toward Abundance

I could have taken a social welfare payment, or gone on the dole, as we call it. Like, I was entitled, and the money was right there – after jumping a few hoops to access it.

But… I had a weird thing in my head and my heart about starting over. And starting as I meant to go on.

Yes, we were flat broke. But we weren’t POOR.

I had family support (thank you Mammy, and Sister, and Cousin!). I had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies (thank you Mammy!).

Doing a stocktake, I figured I also had my old laptop, a phone, a car, and an internet connection. Those were the tangible assets to build a business with.

The intangible things, the things that I couldn’t have bought, and that nobody could ever take from me, was what I could do with my brain. I had a rather unique set of skills and experience, at that point, given my work and personal history.

And I also had (and still have) belief.

I believe that ‘what you feed will grow’. I believe that energy follows intent. I believe that working from a place of poverty, a place of lack, a place of needing or expecting charity, would have stuck me there, afraid to move forward.

Making Money with my Brain

So, I told my son. I’m sorry, we don’t have money right now for things we want, or even need. But I can make money with my BRAIN. Money is out there, waiting for me to give it a way to flow towards us.

The seeds of my business plan were based around that – channels and flow.

To begin, I decided I’d create channels of value and service that make a positive difference to people’s lives and personal development, spiritual health and growth, and authentic connection to Ireland.

[This is where I began, by the way]

That would be my outflow – valuable content that was scalable to a big audience and community, ie not just one-on-one that would suck up my time and energy, which are finite resources, as the service grows.

And that outflow would create and carve channels by which money (and other good things) would flow back the way, right to my dorrstep – and bank account.

Setting that up took some time and patience, and I’m still working on it, but I believe I am fulfilling step one – give value and service, and that step two is more or less taking care of itself after that, and will continue to do so as my community grows.

Current Limiting Beliefs About Money

What now though?

I feel like starting this path, over 2 years ago now, sort of cleared the top level of limiting beliefs about money – the fear of poverty and lack mentality, and some of the imposter sysndrome. I still work on them at times, but generally that’s going ok.

There’s other stuff that runs deeper still though, I think. How many of these have you said or thought recently?

  • Money is the root of all evil.
  • It’s only Money, it’s not important.
  • Money is there to spend.
  • The rich get rich and the poor get poorer.
  • I’m not good with Money.
  • My family have never been rich.
  • Money is a limited resource.
  • You have to work too hard to get wealthy.
  • Either be rich or be happy/healthy/loved.
  • It’s selfish to want a lot of Money.

Ok, so I’m going to hold my hand up and say I’ve though many of these exact things in the last few months. Maybe even this month?!

Check out this article for more info –

The 10 Most Limiting Beliefs About Money (& How to Remove Them)

It’s something I definitely need to work on.

How about 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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Course Correction

[NOTE: if you’re not interested in the tech behind building an online course, this one might not be for you. I don’t go into too much detail, it just won’t suit everyone. No harm, catch you next time!]

I teach a lot of course material online, and one of the biggest problems I’ve had to date in my business is finding a system that is user friendly, that I can also easily use.

When it comes to tech stuff, I’m not completely lacking, and I can figure most things out – but I sort of have to relearn everything unless I’m doing it regularly. I don’t know if it’s bad memory due to long term stress, undiagnosed dyspraxia (doing things by muscle memory or unthinking repetition/habit have been my coping mechanism), some weird combo of these… or something else entirely. I mean, who the fuck knows, right?

I redid my Weebly website early this year, moving to a WordPress site with an LMS theme. (That stands for Learning Management System, and it’s basically an overlay that organises your course materials and is supposed to sort it into easy to use and manage course content. Spoiler: it didn’t.) The theme was buggy from the start. Myself and the wonderful designer I was working with (she tried her best, bless her, with bad tools and a client who hadn’t a clue) basically patched a site together that was working grand, until I started to need to change it or do more with it, and then it wasn’t working hardly at all. Certainly not in the way I wanted it to.

So I embarked (about 2 months ago now) on a journey to learning wordpress for myself, building out some simple websites – such as this one! – and figuring out a) what I wanted my main author website to do, and b) how to make that happen.

The long and the short of it folks, is that I kind of wasted the last 2 months fecking around with stuff that I don’t need to be worrying about as yet, or that didn’t suit my business.

I’m always planning for growth, and when I started this pivot in my business over 2 years ago, one of the things I set myself was that everything I did had to be scaleable, ie. I wouldn’t stick myself in a situation where I can’t grow due to money or – more likely – time restrictions.

We can always earn more money, right? But there’s only so many hours in any given day, and I don’t want to have to spend all of them working in order to get any bigger in my business.

So I set up in a way that is sustainable, and scaleable. For example, my Patreon doesn’t require that I create an item per person, either originally (ie a poem or a story) or even through the posting out of packages. I do the work that I do each month, and no matter how few or how many patrons are signed up to that level, the work stays the same.

With the exception of top tier personal consultation work, which is high ticket pricing and limited availability, so worth taking on at that level.

Another important part of my buisness model is re-purposing. I create a piece of content once, but it gets re-used in multiple different ways. My monthly live classes are an example of this – Patrons at the $50 Reward level get a class invite to the session on the last Sunday of every month (as well as all the other rewards from the tiers below)… but I also sell class access invites seperately.

The class is recorded, and all live participants get a link to download the files as part of their original deal. Those class downloads are also avilable to buy as a standalone course though, and the guided journeys can be repurposed into other products too, in various formats. At last count I had 20 of these single topic courses available for download. Before my website crashed.

Going forward, I would like to re-record or edit a lot of this material into shorter module courses (sitting down for a 60-90 minute teaching session requires commitment, though I do offer the material in video, audio, and text/slides format, to help with this).

Those 20 individual courses also lend themselves to bundles, for example, a series on Otherworld Journeys from start to finish. Or Magic, or Irish Deities. So I could group them together and create longer course programmes.

Anywho, as you can see… there’s a lot to do. And I plan to get a lot bigger than my current business levels, so I do need systems in place to handle that, and save myself doing all of this AGAIN in another 12 or 24 months.

The New Course Platform

Having run a very successful foundation/beta programme of my newest longer learning programme (26 weeks of Ogham) I was keen to get moving on building that out into a professional looking and functional course, rather than doing it all by email delivery as I have done previously.

I messed about with Member Mouse (payment and content protection plugin) and with Thrive Apprentice LMS plugin for most of those 2 months – both of which came HIGHLY recommended by other online course tutors.

However, about 2 weeks in, Thrive changed the Apprentice plugin to a new version, and it just doesn’t work in the way it’s supposed to. I’ve been happy with the rest of the Thrive stuff, the themes are basic but function really well, and their Architect site builder plugin is really good.

With the changes though, and all the support materials detailing the old version of Apprentice, I was scrambling. Between trying to figure that out, and figure out how the Member Mouse system would work with my courses, I was going round in circles. And not making ANY money, by the by.

I guess no learning is wasted learning? But I finally admitted, coming back to work yesterday morning after my first day off in way too long, that it wasn’t working.

There was another option that has been floating round my awareness the last few months, a sort of plug n play system called Teachable (it used to be Fedora, and is used by loads of top online course creators I follow).

It’s basically a learning management system that’s been built for me – an online platform for creating and teaching courses. Content creators can create an online course and upload them, and they provide the structure – like, an online college that I can go teach a course in, virtually.

Now, this isn’t free. They do have a free pricing plan, but they take a 10% cut and it doesn’t have the features I need, like drip content. So, for a monthly fee, they do all the back end work for me, and I can focus on my course creation and teaching.

Having made the decision, I sat down to work yesterday morning, and by evening I had my monthly class option live, and the extensive Ogham Journeys course programme mapped out and ready for content uploads.

TWO. MONTHS. LATER.

With no sales. With massive headaches. With frustration and feeling incompetent.

And in the end, I got this system figured out in ONE DAY.

Right but it’s done now, and I can redesign my website too, without having to incorporate the LMS elements into it. That makes that side of things, for a focus on blog and book sales, a whole lot simpler too.

Winning, I suppose?!

I set the new monthly course up, with a FB event, then ran a little boost to it so my current audience would see it. And I woke up this morning to sales, which cover the monthly fee I just paid for Teachable. So yeah, I call that winning 😁

[If you’re interested in what all this looks like, you can see it at LoraOBrien.teachable.com/]

 


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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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Your Productivity Baseline

Increasing your productivity is a priority for most of us, in whatever area of our lives we want to focus on.

What’s your baseline though?

Do you know where you’re at – realistically – with your productivity right now? Well, that is your first step.

Establish your Current Productivity

There’s a couple of ways your can go about this. The easiest, for creative or work based productivity tracking, it to get a programme on your computer that does it for you.

I use Rescue Time personally, which promises to help you “find your ideal work‑life balance”. They’re right in saying though, that with so many distractions and possibilities in your digital life, it’s easy to get scattered.

So they will help you “understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive”. I’m there for that.

The Rescue Time programme is free (there are paid options I believe, but I don’t bother with those personally), and just sits on your computer, judging you.

Nah, just kidding. There’s no judgement here. It’s a really useful, and sometimes very stark look at your productivity, or lack thereof, each day though.

It’s been invaluable for giving a long hard look at myself, and figuring out what I’m wasting time on, how much time I’m spending on ‘busy work’ that’s not actually moving me towards where I want or need to be going, and exactly where I can improve.

Like I said, it’s essential to know your productivity baseline right now, and take an honest look at that, before you can begin to improve it.

“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

If your productive work is off the computer, don’t worry, you can still get the baseline down. You have a phone right? Or some sort of digital device with a clock function on it?

Set a Productivity Timer

Right so, this sounds way too simple. But it works.

When you get up in the morning, you just refresh the timer on your phone (or whatever), and start a new day. Then you just press start when you begin to do something productive – however you’re counting that – and pause when you’re doing things that are not productive.

At the end of the day, you check your productive time, and write it down or otherwise record it somewhere safe. Then you do it again the next day.

For this to work properly, you’ll need to:

  • Decide in advance what counts as productive activities. You can add things in as they come up, if they’re genuinely in line with your goals, but you’ll need a basic list to begin with.
  • Be disciplined about using the timer. There’s no point in tracking this if big chunks of time that may or may not have been productive are missing from the day. So choose a timer that’s easy for you to carry round with you. (Seriously, your phone is ideal.)
  • Review your productivity. Day to day, and week to week, keep a running record of your daily productivity.

And watch as your productivity grows, just by the actions of monitoring and managing it. Of course there’s lots more you can do to improve it, but establishing your productivity baseline is the first step.

So, start today. Tomorrow at the LATEST.

Be honest, be fair, and go easy on yourself for dogs sake. Drop any ‘perfect productivity’ expectations right now. Nobody is perfectly productive every single day. 

This is an observation exercise, not a stick to beat your damn self if you don’t seem your day has been productive enough.

(Do you hear that, Lora’s Brain? That’s sound advice. We should take that advice. Right so.)


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Find Your Daily Gratitude

I’m trying to practice my daily gratitude.

It’s been part of my evening routine for a while now, but I’ve let it slip with everything that’s been going on.

And I really need this.

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences.

Hailey Bartholomew found the secret to happiness. After struggling to enjoy and appreciate all of the great things in her life she set our on a year long photography project to find gratitude everyday. In this funny and moving talk see what lessons we can all learn from her experience.

Hailey can lay claim to the titles of photographer, author, director, social commentator and artist. The owner and creative director of her own business, she has clients than span the globe as a photographer and as a director. She has published two books so far in her career, and directed television commercials and visual presentations for major national brands and charities.

But within this eclectic, and brilliant appetite for creative realization, Hailey’s favored passion is documentary film making.

Hailey has a beautiful visual style and sensitivity with her subjects, perfect for allowing a story to evolve and flourish on film and in photographs. Hailey will be joining TEDxQUT to share her experiences with the transformative power of gratitude and the 365 grateful project.

Try the 10 day exercise suggested in this video.

Every evening, take out your bullet journal, or open a new file on your phone or computer, and scan through your day.

Figure out what you’re grateful for, and write about it. A line, a paragraph, a page.

Record your daily gratitude.

You really do find what you are looking for.

 


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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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