Is evening your most important time of day?

The thing about the evening is, I’m generally tired – after a great day. So I should be if my morning routine is working well. So my evening is more gentle and reflective. I like to think of the word ‘evening’ as the time for levelling off. I am at a pace that allows me to wind down – I’ve learned much from my children’s bedtime routine. To create my routine I used Stephen Covey’s 2nd habit. I think about what I want from each day in life and build my routine to provide it.

“Begin with the end in mind.” – Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Rather than a list, here is an image of the sixteen things I do to enable me to be healthy, happy, present, positive and contributing.

 

“How you live is how you die.”

Have a lovely evening everyone!

P.S. What are the things you do in the evening that help you live a better life??

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My Left Foot…changed my life

gem

Do you struggle to establish new habits? Does your willpower get you started but the fade before the habit is established?

Most people fail to maintain new habits for two reasons. First, they just don’t remember. Second, they don’t allocate the time.
Think about something you do or somewhere you look every day. Here’s some examples of how it works. I will describe the intention, the mental trigger and the result.

[1] I want to meditate. I leave my phone at my bedroom door. When I rise, it’s the first thing I see – I meditate 20 minutes twice daily. I am less stressed and more focussed. Tip: start small, say 2 minutes daily.

[2] I want to practise gratitude. I place a red notebook on my bedside locker. When I go to bed, I write 3 things I’m grateful for. My view of the world changes. Good things happen as I walk on the sunny side.

[3] I want to sleep better. Ironically, my kids help. Their bedtime triggers my evening routine. The TV goes off; I dim the lights, read and begin to wind down. I’m asleep by 10. I am fresh and pro-active every day.

[4] I want to rise early. I place my alarm under a warm top at my bedroom door. I wake and have to walk to stop it. Now I rarely need the alarm to rise at 5. I have 2 hours to myself to think and create each morning.

[5] I want to eat healthily. Each evening, I place some food containers on the kitchen counter. In the morning, I make a green smoothie and healthy lunch. I am nourished and feel strong.

[6] I want to ‘de-vice‘. I place a small box inside the front door. When I come home I drop my phone in. Remember the phone in the hallway? Nostalgia. This is difficult. But mostly I spend undistracted time with family.

[7] I want to relax once home. I place a sticky note saying ‘You’re home now’ in my wardrobe. When I unpack and change, I am reminded to stop thinking and I relax. The family have fun together.

[8] I want to hydrate. I place a water bottle at my work desk. I feel refreshed and energetic.

[9] I want to stand-up more. I place a sticky note saying ‘Stand-up!’ on my computer. I move around a lot more and am not worried if sitting is the new smoking. My thinking is clear and I have more focus.

[10] I want to get more fresh air. I have lunch every day – just like most! It’s my reminder to go outside. I am driven by energy and not by time.

[11] I want to plan each day. I have a coffee each morning – away from work. This is my reminder to write my Will Do list. I never react to a day.

[12] I want to start positively each day. I write GEM on my left foot. When I shower I start with Gratitude, Enthusiasm and Mindfulness. (I also write C on my right foot. I have a cold shower to experience the rush of positive chemicals). I feel happy and friendly.

[13] I want to avoid email. I place a sticky note on my keyboard to remind me to jot down tomorrow’s meetings before I go home. I don’t open email until 12. I am not distracted by other people’s priorities each morning.

[14] I want to work with focus. I set a desktop shortcut to automatically start the app I use to make my day productive (Evernote, music, pomodoro timer). I am clear on my goals and build unstoppable momentum.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle

You can make this even simpler. Forget all the above. Whatever new habit you want to start, just grab a pen and write it on your foot. One of two things will happen…

  • You will be reminded every day. You will refresh the ink until you successfully adopt the habit (99% of the time). Then you will clean your foot, or
  • You will be reminded every day but do nothing. You will allow the ink to fade and let the habit go. You will successfully realise it is not a true priority for you.

If the latter happens, you may make excuses, e.g. ‘I don’t have time’. I can translate for you – ‘it is not a priority for me’. Be honest with yourself.

So what is your single most effective tip for new habits? I would love to hear from you.

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The Sunny Side

Fingers of GodI’ve a new policy since I returned to Ireland. “When the sun’s out, I’m out”.

There will be plenty of rainy days when I’ll be stuck inside.

It could be a metaphor for living. Our brief starburst of life on this planet is like a break in the clouds. We should make the most if it. Being brave does not come naturally to me nor to most of us. Putting ourselves out there to fail. Being vulnerable. We unlearn it as we become more self-aware.  But it’s a promise I made to myself at the start of this year – and a daily challenge to keep it. In Australia, being in the sun puts you at risk of being burned. But you go out anyway. You take precautions and go because it’s a risk worth taking. Being vulnerable has immense rewards. The alternative is staying in – and that’s no fun. In this life, don’t stay in.

Going out is risky – but worth it

I got a shot of nostalgia when the first knock on our front door the day after moving to Ireland was a neighbour’s child asking could our girls come out to play. Remember that? We should all get out to play more. Take chances. Make connections. Risk something. Fall and hurt ourselves. Learn. Lose track of time. Live in the moment. Grow. Make lifelong friends. Have fleeting moments. Break rules. Have fun. Experience joy, pain, fear and love. But look forward to going out every day regardless. Go back to childhood.

When you’re out, seek the sunny side. I was waiting to meet a friend for coffee one of my first days back. The sun was shining across the road from the cafe. I walked across and sat in the sun to wait. Some tourists stopped to take pictures of the building behind me. Oscar Wilde’s birthplace. It’s amazing what you might miss if you don’t seek the sun over the shade.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” ― Oscar Wilde

We always have a choice

I sometimes picture myself as a Life Navigator – but an amateur one. I have a MAP but no path I take is completely sunny. Each has sunny and dark sides. We get pushed from one to the other. But when we have a choice, we should choose the sun. On the sunny side, we will find vulnerability, risk, fun, tolerance, optimism, hope, connection, love, contribution and being. It’s only across the road or outside that door.

Every single day you wake, you get to choose. Decide you’re sad and your God will give you plenty of reasons to justify it. Or decide to be happy and your God will give you the same number of reasons to justify that.

Ironically – given I moved from Australia to Ireland – I choose the sun.

So when you can see the light through the clouds – the fingers of God – seek the sunny side. I’ll see you there.

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A Dozen Essential Unfinished sentences

candle-both-endsDo you find your life – your life – has become too crowded? Too much to do, to consider, to worry about. Too many priorities.

I am currently reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. It’s main theme is that most of what we do is irrelevant. It recommends we do less, better rather than spreading ourselves too thin.

The Essential You

I’ve been experimenting with this concept. To avoid burning the candle at both ends, I am starting to reduce my focus from two opposite ends of the spectrum?

  • Discover the Essential You. This is generally what aligns with your values. Finding it tends to be an exercise in self-discovery, reflection and honesty. There are lots of tools and tricks to do this.
  • Another approach – if you have not yet discovered the Essential You – is easier to start. Omit the trivial. Ditch the things that – in your gut – seem unimportant.

As my meditation teacher says:

Trust your innate wisdom, follow its lead and enquire – Kari Hamele

If you finish something today…

…travel to the future and finish this dozen or so sentences and discover what means little and what is essential for you. I’ve started with one of many of my own answers – while I’m here!

  1. I can’t believe I never tried…meditating
  2. I can’t believe I didn’t start…work on that idea that I had.
  3. I can’t believe I wasted time on…checking stuff (TV, Facebook, phone)
  4. I can’t believe I neglected…relationships for work
  5. I can’t believe I accepted…the status quo
  6. I can’t believe I tried to beat…my inbox
  7. I can’t believe I was distracted by…other people’s priorities
  8. I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming…my regrets
  9. I can’t believe I worried about…what other people thought
  10. I can’t believe I believed… success came before happiness
  11. I can’t believe I expected… improvement without reflection
  12. I can’t believe I hung out with…nice try. No negative talk!
  13. I can’t believe I always tried to finish…

In personal life or in business, knowing what it essential, prevents decision fatigue and allows you to say no gracefully. Your visions and dreams will become achievable and your life will have better quality.

So what answers did you some up with? And what sentences would you finish in years to come to find the Essential You?

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Eight before 8

Every habit has what I call the four R’s. First, the reason – your why. What motivates you to build the habit? Second, the reminder – the trigger so you don’t just talk about it, but remember to do it. Third, the routine – how you guarantee it is part of what you always do. Finally, the reward – the benefit you gain from maintaining the habit. Sometimes the habit itself is the reward – others it is a means to an end?

img_6105Here are eight things I did this morning before 8am

[1] Quality sleep from about 9:30pm.

Sleep rewards me with energy, enables clarity and focus, increases my productivity, helps me feel happier. It also contributes to better health and a stronger immune system. Here are the top 5 benefits of sleep.

[2] Rose early (4:53am!).

Early mornings allow me to work on side projects. I get an enormous amount of stuff done and achieve things I never thought possible. Most of this originates from that single hour of creativity in the morning. I also spend 15 minutes planning so I never react to a day.

[3] Meditated for about 20 minutes.

A few years back, I started meditating for just 2 minutes a day. It has fundamentally changed my life. I now focus on what matters to me, not others. I create more value with less effort and little stress. I am happier and more useful to others.

[4] Ate healthily

This morning I had a green smoothie of OJ, banana, spinach, kale, pineapple, spirulina, mint and protein. I feel strong and vital and don’t have energy slumps like I used to.

[5] Spent time with family

Maybe it was the loud blender but the kids were now awake. I had a good laugh with my two youngest racing me down the road as I began the cycle to work. I never regret any moment with family. Loving others is why we are here. Spending time with loved ones doesn’t just happen – you need to prioritise it.

img_6102

[6] Exercised

I cycled to the beach. I saw this sunrise. I stretched then had a dip in the ocean. I cycled to work plugged out of all devices. My mind is uncluttered and I have focus. I will meditate and go outside around lunchtime to re-set.

[7] Took a cold shower

I took deep breaths as the cold water hit my skin. This is a new habit for me. Here are five surprising benefits of cold showers.

[8] I created something of value

img_6104I grabbed a coffee and – this particular morning – went to a favourite spot to write. I created a draft of this article. I hope what I write might help someone. Writing is therapeutic and this ritual of reflection allows me to continually improve. Creating something of value is as important in life as being happy.

I felt grateful for an awesome start to the day. I know all mornings won’t be like this. But most days, I can get lots done before I even think about ‘work’. I didn’t create any extra time. I just watch less TV and have an evening ritual that sets me up for a great day tomorrow.

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Baby Steps to Big Dreams

young child climbing stone steps with a lot of effort

Last night, flicking through channels (a habit I’d like to break!), I came across a program about a family who had moved from the UK to a remote Pacific island to live a better life. During one of the conversations the presenter mentioned ‘coping with life’. The father immediately interrupted.

‘I don’t want to cope with life. I want to live it.’

Approaching Christmas – a time of giving and receiving gifts, the timing was apt. Whatever our beliefs, this life is a gift. We should grateful for it and make the most of it.

So I am asking myself “What am I going to do with it?” First, I am going dream more. Then I am going to plan and set goals. I am going to establish habits to support those goals. And I am going to start, even if only baby steps. All this will be anchored in the core principle of being over doing.

Only now, writing this and looking back on 2015, I realise how much I achieved. Even in the last six months. Strangely, I didn’t start with any new year’s resolutions. I gave that up a few years ago (that’s failing fast!). Rather, during the year I introduced daily habits that built a momentum that seems unstoppable. My family made big life decisions. We made significant (thankfully positive) changes. I purposefully changed role. I wrote my customer value proposition. I set up a website. I wrote my first articles. I explored what is important to me. I gave myself more direction and focus on what I want. I started moving towards it. Baby steps led to a mountain conquered. Six months.

The difference between busy and productive is prioritisation. Part of prioritisation is saying no.

This taught me one major lesson. Start – even if it’s baby steps. In fact, small daily habits rather than big goals are the best way to implement change. It worked for me this year.

You cannot steer a parked car.

In 2016, I will expand my circle to dreaming. It might be the year I can make resolutions I keep. So this Christmas, apart from spending time being with family and friends, I will dream for 2016 and beyond.

I want to contribute once more before the year is out. Twelve seems to be festive number so here are 12 Baby Steps you can take right now to set yourself up for 2016. They worked for me.  I am determined not to add to your To Do list so the second six are things you should do less of.

  1. Draw your line in the sand. Decide one thing you will change. Give yourself a deadline. Diarise it. Share it with people.
  2. Put aside 2 minutes per day to meditate. Link it with something you always do as described in Embedding Habits.
  3. Buy a book about positive psychology. I recommend the Happiness Advantage by Shaun Achor. My wife recommends Thrive by Arianna Huffington.
  4. Schedule now, from January onwards, 15 mins to set-up your day and one hour each week. Commit and respect planning time.
  5. Dream: Pick a nice time and location and lock it away to dream about 2016 and beyond.
  6. Jot down your top five most important areas in your life. This is your Life Canvas which I will write about soon.
  7. Less distractions by switching off electronic devices from 9pm to 9am, i.e. phone, email. I dare you to try it.
  8. Less checking stuff for days, e.g. email, phone. I dare you to try that!
  9. Less trying to read the entire internet, e.g. fakebook. It’s impossible. Better yet, uninstall them.
  10. Less eating while doing other things. Be Mindful.
  11. Less footwear
  12. Less saying yes to things that don’t align with your 5 Life Canvas areas.

Merry Christmas!

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Lose the Shoes – How to LUNCH your way to Wellbeing

FeetI’m just back from lunch, which I generally eat outside. I was watching people, hopefully in a not-too-creepy way. It was interesting to observe. Most on their own, reading a device. Some reading the newspaper. Others reading a book. Many in groups having a chat and a laugh. Who do you think will be the most productive in the afternoon?

I learned some new fascinating things about us humans this week. I think we can use them to LUNCH our way to be more relaxed and productive.

  1. Leave the building: Sunshine is good for you so use the time to get outside and connect with nature. It takes no longer than staying in.
  2. Unwire: Leave all devices behind. I’m not explaining this one. You know already. Switch off and be mindful. Do nothing else. Recover from your morning and replenish your energy.
  3. Neutralise: Did you know that we are electric and we can walk barefoot – also known as grounding – to enhance our health??!
  4. Chill: Meditate or even just focus on your breath to relax. The benefits of meditation are many.
  5. Healthy options: I was about to tuck into my weekly treat today – a double curry with rice. Then ‘H’ made me switch to more nourishing chicken and vegetable mix. It’s not perfect but we’re all learning!

And there you have it. The no-excuse acronym to help use your breaks to replenish.

It’s not the fastest who wins, it’s the one who recovers better.

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A Human Being not a Human Doing

Be over DO Headline

Maybe I was looking out for it, but three things happened recently to get me thinking (rare, I know!).

“One can furnish a room very luxuriously by taking out furniture rather than putting it in.” Francis Jourdain.

First, we’ve had to ruthlessly clean our house to sell it. Having accumulated a ridiculous amount of possessions over the years, it was a pleasant surprise to realise how mentally liberating it is to let go of stuff. To not only need less but to want less. We also had the pleasure of giving things to others they valued. And it’s easier to clean now. Continue reading →

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My Top 10 Commitments for Stress-free Productivity

Recently I met a colleague on the way for coffee and she looked flustered. We got talking. She asked me did I have any tips to help her manage her time. I’ve read a few articles about how it’s more important to manage your energy rather than your time. So without over-thinking it I jotted a few tips and sent them to her. It was so easy to offer the advice. But, re-reading it, I asked myself “How well do I really practise it?” The answer was not one I wanted to hear.

So, in an attempt to better heed my own advice, I’ve re-stated it as a set of Personal Commitments that I intend to make visible and stick to.

1. I will know what is most important to me

These can span work, career, health, family, community, experiences and learning. I am going to refresh my life-ring (example to come) that I came up with as part of the Creativity Innovation and Change MOOC from Coursera. Continue reading →

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