Posted in Thoughts

Job applications?!

I totally thought I was ready for this. I have a half-way credible CV written (yes it needs a bit of a re-write but the bones are there), I know what I want to do. But now I have to distill all of the best examples of my skills into 5 questions on an application form. And due to solo-parenting and full-time working, I’m doing that after toddler bedtime on a Saturday. Just FYI, this has not historically been noted as my most productive time….

I’ll let you guys know how I got on, if I fell into any pitfalls (my mind immediately wanders off down a road about why is it called a pitfall exactly – which is not v helpful about now. I’m working to a deadline!) and what I have learnt as soon as I recover!

Happy venturing X

Posted in Thoughts

Planning (oh and Kale)

I know that this is what you are going to be most interested in, so let’s get it out of the way first.  How was the kale, pearl barley and butter bean soup?

Well, it was delicious.  It may have been doing a spinning class first to work up an appetite, but I really enjoyed it.  So far the Super Souping box is a winner and I can’t imagine the Sweet Potato and Peanut one will let me down either.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes you can build things up in your mind, assuming you won’t like them and then be pleasantly surprised by how much you do?  I know for a lot of people, the same thing can be said about planning.  Now I am one of life’s planners.  I can’t help it.  If I don’t plan, then things just tend not to get done. But recently I have been at a stage of realising no matter how productive I am, the to do list just doesn’t get any shorter. It’s not very life-affirming to feel that way. I am juggling solo parenting (for another 8 weeks – can’t wait for the end to this deployment!!), a full time job, all the usual housework/cooking/etc, increasing my fitness and trying to plan my next career. It’s hard work.

At Christmas I was given (OK, I sent hubby the link and suggested it would be nice) a really good planner. I think it is still available here:

Action Planner Amazon

On each double page, it has a section for your goals, next steps and results, a section on delegation and team work and a section for errands and other bits as well as a week planner with each day divided into hourly segments. The idea is the goals/projects are your top priorities. (You guys know the story with the golf balls and the jar, right? About priorities essentially? Oh you do, good. So these goals are your golf balls. You put them in the jar first and then fill up the jar with the less important things around it). Then you delegate what you can (for me, right now that is very little but the new cleaner starts on Tuesday so that’s a win). Then you fill the rest of the space with the errands, the bits and pieces that if we’re honest with ourselves wouldn’t make much difference to our lives if they didn’t get done.

This planner has made me realise a two big things. Firstly, it says everyone has the same bucket of 24 hours to fill. Right, that is true. But there are some big non-negotiable things in that bucket for me at the moment. Including nursery drop off and pick up, my work days are generally 10 and a half hours. Now unless I have a really high amount of student contact time (which happens fairly often), I can usually squeeze in some form of fitness whether that’s the gym or a run as long as I am organised about having lunch with me. So that 10 or so hours covers some parenting, nearly all of my work (I usually do an hour or so of planning at the weekend) and my fitness. I then have parenting duties (within which I include the cooking, cleaning up and prepping tomorrow’s lunches and nursery bag because having food and a clean kitchen does seem non-negotiable to me!) concluding with getting the Boss to sleep (which on some days can be excruciating!). I try to get 8 hours sleep and get up 90 minutes before we leave the house. If I’m on form, I can include emptying the dishwasher, a laundry load and have 10-20 minutes to either read something for enjoyment or do something like physio stretches or knit. That means I have about 2 hours per work day between the Boss’ sleep time and mine to do all of my other things. It really is no wonder that my to-do lists have been getting longer! Two hours a day is not a lot of time for all the things I am trying to do.
Last week was my first week using my new planner. Usually I start the week with a list a little like this:
Finish pink cardigan for my Great Niece (who is due to be born any day now!)
Buy 2 birthday presents and write cards
Renew insurance
Buy new indoor shoes for the Boss to wear at nursery
Write a blog post
Order groceries
Send email to estate agents
Organise the paperwork to get someone onto the Enhanced Learning Credits providers list (because I want to do courses with her)
Buy a pin board to keep all my new business ideas on
Call my mum
Whatsapp my friends
Send a card to hubby
Work out 3-5 times
Order milk
Fill out form for nursery
Start next baby cardigan
Knit more of that blanket for my sister

Obviously that list doesn’t include, for instance, cleaning up after dinner or ironing, both of which I choose to leave until the Boss is asleep, finances or chilling out reading, watching tv or having a bath.
When I tried last week to put down actions into realistic time blocks, I realised why lately I have been feeling so unproductive. It’s not that I am not getting things done. It’s that I hadn’t worked out quite how little time I have left after the non-negotiable tasks have been done. It is also that I wasn’t thinking about how many of those things are actually high priority for me. So meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking from scratch and the attendant cleaning up can seem like a pain in the bum. However, I do them not just because the Boss’ health and my health are important but also because I want to – and enjoy – teaching her the importance of knowing how to cook. I love introducing her to new flavours and ways of cooking. She loves helping me prepare food and is always willing to try something new, even if she then doesn’t like it. Similarly, it’s important to me that I keep giving 100% in my job, even if I do only have 4 months left. I am that kind of person and it would be horrendously unfair on my work colleagues if I chose to stop making an effort.
So this planner has altered my perspective somewhat. Sure there are some things I do that are discretionary and I am, slowly, beginning to identify those things and prioritise them accordingly. And I am pleasantly surprised that the world appears to keep on turning even if I do leave some tidying up until later in the week or not iron my pjs. But there are other things that are high priority. Things that I can share with hubby when he gets back which will free me up some time to plan more about my business and next career moves. But for now, well, that kale won’t shred itself!
Happy venturing x

Posted in Thoughts

It’s not procrastination if you really have to do something else!

According to my plan, I should be writing a decent blog post. But my plan didn’t include having to interview a new cleaner (honestly, I won’t go into what happened with the old one because you would suspect I was making it up and I’d rather keep this a relationship with integrity) or factor in how long it takes to finely shred kale. I know. Kale. I made a salmon tahini kale cauli bowl yesterday. Voluntarily. It wasn’t great if I am entirely honest with you. Today I am finishing off kale and butter bean soup for tomorrow’s lunch. I feel cautious about it. I treated myself to the Abel and Cole Super Souping box and the Slimmers Recipe box. The first soup – cream of coconut and broccoli – was absolutely amazing. Delicious, full of flavour and I would really rather like to make it again. Kale though. Kale soup. Hmmm. I’ll let you know. Anyway, the finely shredding and then clearing up the kitchen (and in the interest of strict honesty, I’ve not even finished that) took longer than I thought and given yesterday’s 0420 wake up to take hubby to the airport, I am simply too tired to write the blog that I had planned!

But this sort of links into it. I’m trialling a new journal/diary. It has a way of laying things out so you schedule all your big goals and priorities first then fill up on the things that are less important. I am having a little difficulty though because whilst I don’t list things like ‘make sure nobody starves’ or ‘clean kitchen so we don’t get food poisoning’ they are definitely still things that need to be done. Some things are just non-negotiable. So I am going to go back to de-kale my kitchen and hop back on over the weekend for a longer post about planning and prioritisation. And I’ll let you know about the soup too.

Happy venturing! X

Morning Challenge

So some of you might be querying why this blog should be concerned about a Morning Challenge.  Well I know that I am very similar to most of you in that I know I could be more productive if I was just a tad more organised.  I am not naturally a morning person.  Far from it.  In fact, if there was someone that less encapsulates a morning person, I would be surprised.  When hubby is home, the usual weekday routine is that he gets up, makes us a cup of tea, sorts out breakfast and lunch for the Boss and comes upstairs to hand me a cup of tea just as I get out of the shower.  I invariably am a bit grumpy, rushed and not ideal to talk to until I have a cuppa.  So with hubby out of the country for a while, when I saw the BuzzFeed morning challenge, I thought, hell yeah.

I think you can still sign up to the challenge here:

BuzzFeed Morning Challenge

But if you want the lowdown on it and how it went for me, keep reading!

The Challenge has 3 goals – go to bed earlier, sleep better and motivate yourself to overcome your natural morning habits and tendencies.  Each day I got an email with a step to follow.  The first week was about going to bed earlier and sleeping better; the second week was about getting up and doing things.

Day 1 – screens off prior to bed.  Well, I already did this.  As a Psychology graduate, I’m well aware that light interferes with the production of melatonin, which is the hormone we need to sleep.  So I kind of thought I already had this nailed.  However, when I really thought about it, I had got into the habit of using the Kindle app on my phone as the last thing I did at night.  Plus because I use my phone as my alarm, it’s always there right next to me.  Ok, I decided that I would leave my phone downstairs and use my radio as my alarm.  It meant I actually picked up a book for the first time in a while rather than using my Kindle app.  Hmmm, old school.

Day 2 – curb your caffeine intake.  Now this I definitely already did.  More than 2 cups of caffeine and I can’t sleep and more than 3, I get migraines.  I drink decaffeinated tea and coffee.  I know there is still caffeine in decaff coffee so try to limit that to once a day at most anyway.  Usually I drink tea.  But I did tweak this step to go back to having more herbal tea in the evening.  I love camomile and honey and used to have it every evening.  So I revived the habit.  It also cuts a few calories, so I liked this change.

Day 3 – create an evening routine.  As we came to this day, I was really into an audible book so decided that I would use that as my last thing at night.  Although this introduced the phone back into my bedroom, I did like this as an option and think I just need to revive my iPod.  The other bits of routine that I adopted were to go upstairs at roughly the same time every night, floss, cleanse, check on the Boss and then have some wind down time in my room.  I’ve kept to this pretty well (although clearly having a house full of guests and then being away for some of the Christmas break has meant this has taken a bit of a hammering, the core of it is still there and I know I will come back to this).

Day 4 – rethink your bed.  I love my bed.  I’m not changing it!  But I had become a bit less good at keeping the bedroom clutter free.  Although I couldn’t commit to a grand tidy up on day 4, I did it later that week and definitely felt the benefit.  It does feel better to go to bed in a room that doesn’t look like you have decided wardrobes are over rated.

Day 5 – clear your mind.  I chose to go for a journaling/meditation option for this.  I created a space in my journal for a ‘brain dump’.  It worked really well for me.  I just wrote down everything on my mind – not as a prioritised list for what to do, which is my more usual style, but just a ‘this is everything I am thinking of’.  I also added in the gratitude task – writing 3 specific things I am grateful for.  Both of these were good.  As I had re-introduced my phone to the bedroom, I used the Headspace app for 10 minutes of guided meditation.  I didn’t get much meditating done, but I did fall asleep to it really quickly.  Again, a good one for me, although when hubby is back I’m not sure it’s really very bed-sharing friendly!  If I can put the app on my iPod, I’ll definitely keep this one up, especially for nights where I am struggling to sleep.

Day 6 – prepare for the a.m.  When hubby first left on deployment, I was a rock star at getting things organised the night before.  The Boss’ lunch and nursery bag were all organised, as were my lunch and work bag.  As time has progressed and I have been feeling the lack of time to myself, this evening routine had stopped, meaning I spent more time in the morning running round and calling myself an idiot for not having done things the night before.  One of the things that had been stopping me is that the Boss has a particular lunch box.  With just 2 of us at home, I don’t always put the dishwasher on every day and the idea of washing the box (with all the inserts) by hand has defeated me!  I decided that I would bite the bullet and buy another box so I can make her lunch as part of my cleaning up the kitchen after she has gone to bed routine.  An easy win for about £3.99.  Why didn’t I just do that before?!

Day 7 – go to bed earlier.  I get caught in the usual parental dilemma of wanting to go to bed but also wanting to do something with the time to myself.  I committed to getting to bed by 10pm every night and aiming to get up at 6am.  To get to bed by 10 means going upstairs at least by 9.50pm. It was easier than I thought once I had decided to do it.  Treating your bed time like it’s an appointment is pretty easy to do when you’re on your own.  I think the tough bit will be when hubby is back!

Week 1 – I thought all of the steps were fairly easy to commit to.  Although I felt that I already did some of them, they still prompted me to make further changes which enhanced my bedtime routine.

Week 2, day 1 – try a new alarm.  I’d already been doing this by using my radio instead of my phone (even after I re-introduced my phone into the bedroom).  I find it easier to go back to sleep, but not for long with the radio.  Is that a good or a bad thing?  It’s less disruptive than the alarm and as I listen to the radio first thing anyway, seems like a good idea.

Day 2 – optimize your breakfast.  I usually have Jamie Oliver’s granola dust, a green smoothie (love spinach, frozen banana and blueberries with some Forever Living vanilla protein powder and unsweetened almond milk.  And I don’t care how smug that makes me seem.  Try it.  Delicious!) or a spinach and cheese omelette.  I only really have toast at a weekend and I know I am hungrier earlier when I do have something less balanced.  One of the things about the challenge is that I’ve started to redraw some of my boundaries about ‘weekend treats’ and this is one of them.  It’s not really a treat if it means you have less energy now, is it?

Day 3 – plan an a.m. reward.  The challenge suggests an ‘inverted snooze’ where you hit snooze but get up and do something you enjoy for those 9 minutes.  I preferred the second option which was to give yourself a bit longer and do something that you really like.  There were some good suggestions about maybe a podcast (and meditation would work well), but I chose to do some knitting.  It’s something I really enjoy and constantly struggle to ‘find’ the time to do.  This step didn’t work quite as well as I would have liked due to the Boss’ illness meaning she kept sneaking into my bed which a) meant I was more tired and b) that she woke up when I started moving and I found that my day was just beginning earlier without being able to do something extra that I liked.  But I think that is just a short term thing.  I really, really love this step.  It’s made me change my mind set about what mornings are for.  Previously I have always viewed mornings as being solely getting up, getting ready and going out, but now I do see that I can squeeze in either a small amount of me doing something I like and enjoy or doing 15-30 minutes of a larger job that I find I am too tired for come 8pm when I have finished work and then mum jobs.  

Day 4 – make your bed.  You mean there are people that don’t?  I get the Boss to make her bed (or help make it) daily.  And she’s I really think everyone else can cope with it!

Day 5 – get moving.  I only managed a couple of early morning work outs (see again my bit about being a solo parent with a toddler who wakes up with me), but it was enough for me to see that it is definitely feasible.  Even more feasible than a full on work out is 15 minutes of yoga stretching or doing my physio exercises.  One that I will definitely keep, albeit not on a daily basis.

Day 6 – make a morning date.  If it was possible for me to make an exercise date with a friend for 0630 and leave the house, then I would have done this.  At present, it isn’t, but I will consider this when hubby is back.  If you know your mate is waiting on the corner for you to do a 5k run, you’re much more likely not to hit snooze!

Day 7 – stick to your schedule (even at weekends).  Before starting this challenge, I would have thought that this was too hard.  Unnecessary too.  But by time I had got to this stage of the challenge, I completely agreed.  I have had a tendency to stay up much later at weekends, then needing a lie in and getting completely out of routine which usually results in Monday feeling like hard work.  Obviously I have had to be getting up at weekends anyway (toddlers do not recognise Saturday/Sunday modified sleep patterns!) so maybe this has helped.  

Overall then? Well I wouldn’t say that I was a morning person just yet, but I am definitely happier getting up in the mornings now.  My Saturday early afternoon slump seems to have disappeared (although this is hopefully also linked to some healthier eating habits too!) and I really do see the opportunities for getting things done first thing.

If/when I do start up my own business (no, you’re getting no spoilers right now – I’ll post within the week!) I will definitely need those extra minutes that are otherwise all too easily wasted.  I have tried hard to curb my morning Facebook/email time wasting (I’m more successful at that some days than others) and use it for more productive things.  For anyone who is considering a way of getting more hours in the day, I’d definitely recommend this challenge.  Try it.  Plus it is less painful than most of the other challenges you’re currently contemplating (30 day ab challenge for instance)!  And you might find, like me, you actually want to stick to it.

Happy venturing x