The Upside of Lockdown

Over the past year all of us have spent periods of time living under certain restrictions. We have been going out less. Our offices have been closed and families have been spending more time together at home. As we go into autumn you may be thinking that another lock down is on the horizon.

For some the past eighteen months has been a very difficult time. They may have lost loved ones or been working on the front line in the NHS nursing those with coronavirus. Others might have been furloughed or lost their jobs. For the majority of us though it has just meant more time at home. I think that there’s been a lot of benefits. I would encourage you to embrace them if come winter we find ourselves in another period of enforced isolation.

photo of an empty road
The absence of traffic on our roads makes a walk so much more pleasant
Fewer cars on the road

One of the upsides of lock down was quieter roads. I am sure that for anyone who lives on a busy road this was great. Not only was the noise level reduced, but the pollution and ultimately the environmental impact. This has got to be good for humans and the planet. I hear interviews with people lamenting the loss of office-based work due to the impact on businesses around those offices, such as coffee shops and restaurants. The thing is when it comes to being kind to our planet and addressing climate change continuing to work at home when we can has got to be the way to go. So, if you find yourself at home again make sure you take the time to go out for regular walks. Enjoy the peace and quiet.

Saving money

For many months social lives were cancelled. Pubs and restaurants had to close. Shopping centres as well, although if you were desperate to spend money you could always do it on line. Holidays and in particular holidays abroad weren’t easy. That is unless you were prepared to take the risk of having to dash home at short notice or isolate when you returned to the UK. This might have been depressing for some, but others haven’t minded too much and have saved a fortune. Instead they’ve just enjoyed several staycations. For those wanting to save, sometimes we succumb to peer pressure and end up spending money when we don’t really want to in order not to miss out. When no one can go out drinking or for an expensive meal then you don’t have to find the courage to say no.

landscape photography of cars
Sitting in traffic twice a day five days a week can be soul destroying
No commute

Working at home with children off school was I know a nightmare for some. Now that the kids are back to being educated by teachers instead of their parents your home should be distraction-free, enabling you to concentrate on work. Whilst some people have had to use the kitchen table or a desk in the corner of their bedroom, the upside is that there is no commute. You may miss this, but not doing it saves you both time and money. Extra time you can spend with your kids or just reading a book. Money you can save for next year’s holiday or spend on some treats for you and your family.

A Slower pace of life

Without a commute and also fewer activities for you and your kids life can slow down a bit. When I was young I don’t remember breakfast clubs or a lot of after school activities. Maybe I was just lucky or neglected, but nevertheless I find it extraordinary how much families attempt to pack into their lives nowadays. When they aren’t at school kids are being ferried from one activity to the next, then it’s homework time, food, bath and bed. There’s very little downtime just to play or be together as a family. An absence of these activities means that life can be lived at a slower pace. There’s no schedule to follow and instead of needing to be constantly entertained kids can learn to use their imagination and play with their toys at home.

crop unrecognizable male doctor with stethoscope
Doctors and other professionals have had to change their ways of working and as a result increased efficiency
Makes you re-evaluate how we do things

Most of the time we don’t stop to evaluate why something is as it is. It’s not perhaps until we go to another country and see a different way of doing something that we might question our own processes or habits. A prime example of this I think is how GP surgeries run. If I wanted a repeat prescription I had to write a letter – yes an ink and paper letter – and take it to the surgery. I always had to post it through the door on the weekend as I never had time to drop it in during the week. If I needed an appointment I had to ring on the day at 8.30am and battle with others who were also trying to do the same or wait three weeks to be seen for a planned appointment.

Now I just type my symptoms into a form on their website. I can upload photos. Within 48 hours I receive a call from a GP. Most of the time they give advice and prescribe over the phone, all without me having to go and see them. If I need medication I don’t have to go and pick up a prescription from them and take it round to the chemist myself. Instead they send it directly to the chemist who makes it up for me and sends me a text message when it’s ready. All so much more efficient. Why didn’t we do all this before? Because we just continued doing what we’d always done without evaluating whether that was the most efficient method.

So if you’re dreading another potential lock down over the coming months try to focus on the upsides. Make the most of the positives, which can be many, if you just take the time to think about it.

.

The Benefits of Journalling

Putting pen to paper has so many benefits

Journalling is one of those habits that lifestyle gurus often recommend. Is it something that you’ve thought of doing, but decided that it’s too much of a chore or can’t see the benefits? I’ve been writing in a journal for over a year now and so I thought that I would share my thoughts with you about my experiences.

No rules

You choose what you want to write about. It can be as deep or as superficial as you want. I often start out talking about what I did the day before or what I plan to do that day. When I am journalling I find that is a good start, particularly if I don’t know what to write. This almost always leads on to an exploration of my thoughts and feelings about the previous day’s events or that upcoming day. Sometimes you might feel as though you have nothing to say. Just start writing, ‘I don’t know what to write today and the words will flow’.

Journalling provides time to reflect
Sharing thoughts and worries

If there’s something on your mind then you can write about it. Often I feel reluctant to face my fears, but find that once they’re down on paper they don’t actually look so bad. I can then explore ways in which I am going to address them. Perhaps it’s not even a worry, but just thoughts about a situation. You can use your journalling time to reflect on your thoughts.

.
Planning

As you may know from this post I love planning. I’ve often got an idea in my head about how I could improve my productivity or rearrange my schedule. Putting that down on paper in my journal gives me the opportunity to explore that idea more fully. It also acts as a reminder. I often read back over the past month and I often find that I haven’t followed through with my ideas, either because I’ve forgotten about them or I haven’t had the time. Reading them again gives me that nudge I need to make time to put them into practice or decide that they weren’t a good idea after all.

Dreaming
Use your journal to dream about your next big trip

We all like to dream about our future. Our next big holiday, where we’d like to live, getting your ideal job. When you’re journalling your imagination has the freedom to think big and explore the options. You can jot down wild ideas which may come to absolutely zilch or may be the start of a big adventure.

Reading back and seeing how far you’ve come

As I mentioned above, I often read back over the past month when reviewing how I’ve spent my time. It’s amazing what you forget. Thirty days can sometimes seem like a lifetime ago. You’ll realise how much you’ve achieved in that time. In the Simple household we are still doing a lot of work on the house and the list seems endless, but when I read back over what’s been done I realise that we’ve come a long way.

Your journal becomes a record of your life
Provides a timeline of your life

As well as being able to consider the past month, if you make journaling a regular habit it becomes a record of your life. Last Christmas I took the time to read through my journal entries for that year. I made a list of all the interesting and significant events and shared them with Mr Simple. Sometimes he gets overwhelmed and a little down about what he sees as the slow progress on the DIY front. I was able to remind him of all the changes that there had been and the activities that we had enjoyed together during our time off from work.

Can just be a few words or several pages

Julia Cameron recommends writing three pages a day, which she calls morning pages. I allocate 30 minutes every morning and once that time is up I stop writing. In fact, sometimes I stop before that if I don’t feel that I’ve got anything more to say. As I said, there are no rules, you can do whatever suits you. It can be a few lines or even bullet points or it can be several pages.

You don’t have to do it every day

It’s not often that I journal on the weekend and when I’m taking some days off from work I don’t always write then either. It just tends to be Monday to Friday and work days. It just depends on how I’m feeling. Yet again, there are no rules. Just don’t let any gaps mean that you don’t return to it.

If you want some journaling prompts click this link to head over to Natalie Bacon and subscribe. You’ll then get 75 Journaling prompts free. That should keep you going for a while.

Finding Time to Work on Your Goals

This is my second article on how to find time in your day to work on your goals. Previously I gave you four questions to ask yourself. This time we’re just going to look at one strategy –

Moving your day.

What time do you get up? Is it 7.30am and leave the house at 8am? Or since covid get up at 8.30am and start work at 9am? Like most people you probably need 8 hours sleep. Therefore you didn’t need to go to bed until 11.30pm in order to feel rested and ready for your next day.

interior of modern living room at home
Are most of your evening hours spent in front of this?
Reflect

Now whilst that probably gives you a nice long evening after a hard day at the office I want you to ask yourself, ‘What did I do with the time after work?’.

Even if you didn’t get home until 7.30pm that’s four hours of ‘you time’, but I bet you weren’t very productive for all of those hours. In particular, I bet you didn’t do much with those two hours between 9.30pm and 11.30pm. You probably spent them on the couch in front of the TV or maybe in bed bingeing Netflix or catching up on your Instagram feed.

dawn man people woman
Get up earlier – even 30 minutes can make a difference
change

What if you moved those two hours to the morning and got up at 5.30am? Too early for you? How about one and a half hours? Get up at 6am and go to bed at 10pm. That gives you two hours before leaving the house. You’ll have a lot more energy at the beginning of your day than you do after work. And whatever your day job is, it will get done because it always does and you know you have to do it.

So, try getting up just half an hour earlier and see how it feels. You can always build it up in 15 or 30 minute slices to get your body used to it.

.
a full moon on a dark sky
It’s hard getting up in the winter when it is still dark
Challenges

You’re not going to want to go to bed early, particularly as you probably won’t be very tired initially.

This is going to be easier during the summer months, when it’s light in the morning, than in the middle of December. My tip is to buy yourself a sunrise lamp, which will gradually brighten the room and help you to wake up naturally. You won’t want to get out of bed. Feel the resistance and do it anyway or check out my post with seven ideas to help you get up earlier.

Your partner may protest about the alarm going off earlier. Offer to bring them a cup of tea or coffee in bed when you get up. It might help to persuade them that it’s not so bad after all.

light dawn love people
In the evening you can relax knowing you’ve already worked towards your goals before you went to work
Benefits

Even just 30 minutes may give you some quiet time before your children get up.

Once you’ve worked on your goals in the morning you can relax and enjoy your day as you’ve got the most important things done already.

There’s no nagging thoughts when you get home from work that you should be working on your goals rather than being slumped on the couch watching Netflix.

Progress is motivational. As you begin to tick off your achievements and feel like you’re moving forward you’ll want more of it. That extra 30 minutes in the morning will help you get started, but once you’ve got the bug you’ll want to increase it as your productivity explodes.

Fancy checking out some free life coaching courses just click here? Ready to go deeper and explore life coaching? Why not have a look at Grow You, Natalie Bacon’s monthly programme, for which I am a member and a partner.

How to Make Time for Your Goals

black twin bell alarm desk clock on table
No matter who you are we all have 168 hours in a week

Can’t find time in your day to work towards your goals or plan your future? Is it that you can’t find the time or that you don’t have the energy? We all have 168 hours in a week and some people manage to pack more into that time than others. Why is that?

My belief is that it’s often not a lack of time, but a lack of energy. You get up late, check your emails, shower, grab breakfast, dash to the office and come home exhausted. You only have enough energy to watch TV before you fall into bed.

If that’s you, then here’s some ideas on how you can plan and organise your day to take advantage of those morning hours when you’ll have more energy so you can find time to work towards your goals.

wood love art connection
Answer four questions to easily maximise your day
What tasks and activities do you want to do in order to achieve your goals?

These are the ones that you keep saying you’ll do when you get home from work, but it never happens. The answer is to make time for in the morning, when your energy levels and willpower should be at their highest. You’ll maximise your chances of getting them done.

Now, how to make time in the morning…

Begin the day with the most difficult tasks
Which of your current morning activities don’t take a lot of energy?

I have always preferred to shower in the morning, but I’ve recently moved it to the evening. It isn’t a demanding task and as it’s something that we’ve all done for all of our lives you don’t have to think about it very much. Although I exercise in the morning, it’s usually only Pilates or a gentle walk, so I don’t feel the need to take a shower afterwards.

Sit and write down what you actually do from when you get up to when you go to work. Look at each activity and ask yourself, ‘Could I do this the night before?’. If the answer is yes, then move it.

Are there morning activities that you need to do in the morning, but that could be shortened or prepared for in the evening?

When I had to leave the house early I would make a smoothie and drink it in the car. There’s no reason why you couldn’t make breakfast the night before and have it at your desk. Whilst not good for every meal, if you’re in the season where a certain goal is important then for a limited period of time you can do it. As long as what you’re eating isn’t bad for your health then the long-term implications aren’t going to be that bad.

Other possibilities are putting out your clothes in the evening and making your packed lunch and popping it in the fridge ready to take out just before you leave for work.

person holding iphone showing social networks folder
Keep scrolling social media to down time in the evening
Are there activities you do in the morning that you could cut out altogether?

These are things such as scrolling social media, checking emails, watching breakfast TV. They’re things that we all enjoy, but don’t waste those precious morning hours doing those low energy tasks. Save them for when you’re laying out on the sofa after work. Then you can scroll as much as you want, smug in the knowledge that you’ve already spent time on your goals in the morning, rather then feeling guilty for wasting time instead of working on your goals.

In essence, as Laura Vanderkam puts it:

If you wait until the end of the day to see what time is left over for the important stuff, the odds are good you won’t have the energy to do anything but collapse into bed’.

If you want some more ideas for working on your goals check out Natalie Bacon’s podcast episode on ‘Goal Fuel‘. Fancy checking out some free life coaching courses just click here? Ready to go deeper and explore life coaching? Why not have a look at Grow You, Natalie Bacon’s monthly programme, for which I am a member and a partner.

Benjamin Hardy on How to Become a Different Person

Have you always seen yourself as an introvert? Maybe you’ve never been able to lose weight and get fit. Do you struggle with public speaking? Are you labelled the office clown, but really want to be taken seriously? Sometimes we can get into ruts, thinking that’s just who we are. That these traits are part of our personality and always will be.

Think again. According to organisational psychologist Benjamin Hardy, that just isn’t true. It might not be easy, but you can change your personality. Want to know more about what he says? Then read on to learn three concepts from ‘Personality Isn’t Permanent’ by Benjamin Hardy.

Many of us love those magazine quizzes which reveal our personality, but they may be limiting your beliefs
Personality isn’t a Fixed Entity

Benjamin Hardy says you only have to consider how you behave in different situations in order to undermine the premise that your personality is a fixed entity. For example, I am sure that the version of you that your grandmother sees is very different to the person who goes out with your friends on a Saturday night. Compare who you are at home with your children to the you that arrives at the office every morning. According to Benjamin Hardy the problem with the traditional approach is that it leads people to have a fixed mindset about themselves, rather than realising that they are able to make changes.

I believe that seeing personality as a fixed entity can lead to self-limiting beliefs, a concept that I learnt from the life coach Natalie Bacon. If you have a rigid view of yourself and your skills, you may use that to justify why you can’t adapt to new situations. For example, I will always be overweight, I will never be good at maths, I’m a procrastinator. These are unnecessary ways of labelling yourself which will limit your future and your personal development.

It’s nice to look back at the past, but it shouldn’t restrict who you want to become
The past does not have to predict the future

I work in the area of behaviour change. One of the statements I hear often is that ‘the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour’. Benjamin Hardy says that this doesn’t need to be the case. If you are committed to making choices and sticking by those choices then you can change your life.

He says that within society there is the belief that your life is pre-determined and that you don’t have choices. This is not true. As I talk about in this post, you can decide on the type of person that you want to become and make choices that lead you to grow into that person. Instead of wondering where you’ll be in five years’ time, decide where you want to be and make a plan for how you’re going to get there.

We all catch ourselves on a few thorns along the way. We need to remove them and move on.
We define ourselves by past traumas instead of dealing with them and moving on

Why are some people forever defined by what has happened to them in the past, yet others manage to deal with past trauma and move on?

Benjamin Hardy refers to a section in the book ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael Singer in which a woman gets a thorn in her arm. Instead of getting it removed she changes her whole life to avoid anything ever touching the thorn. She lives a restricted life in the long term instead of going through the short-term pain of removing the thorn.

We all have thorns in our lives, some more so than others. You need to remove those thorns. Either through therapy, help from your family or just by reframing your childhood. Then you can move forward.

Write your own future
your future self

Very much in line with the thinking of Benjamin Hardy is the idea of creating your future self. This is a concept that I learnt from Natalie Bacon and which she talks about in this podcast.  

It is all about developing a picture of the person you want to be in the future and then working out a roadmap of how you’re going to get there. If you have a purpose, a goal or a vision of your future you can align your daily choices with this. You can then move closer to your end goal, whether that’s losing weight, starting a business or just being a calmer human being.

Want to hear more from Benjamin Hardy himself? Listen to him being interviewed by Paula Pant on the Afford Anything podcast.

Want to learn more about life coaching and how to design your life? Why not check out ‘Grow You’, Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme (affiliate link).