How I got productive

A few months ago, I was frustrated. I felt like I had no time left in my days, was pretty much always tired or easily distracted and had the ability to lose track of what I was doing within less than a second.

I was a grade A scatterbrain – and sadly, there’s no award or job description for that – I checked.

My problem was too many different noises going on in my head at the same time, which meant my head was so full and unreadable, that I wasn’t actually thinking anything through.

It was only when I had a few days off work sick and forced myself to switch off (and appreciate the value of duvet days) that I pinpointed this problem. I also decided that it was time to do something about it, and I think I’ve finally cracked it…

My approach used to be to attack everything all at once. I’m talking housework, actual work, arranging social plans, researching projects, photography and especially blogging. My brain was refusing to let me focus on one thing at a time without chiming in with ‘you forgot that’ or ‘how about we now do a bit of hoovering’. Breaking things down into chunks or tasks in my head, started to make everything seem a lot doable.

Mental lists are fine, physical lists are even better and they give a greater sense of achievement when you get to cross things off.

This is where self-discipline had to start kicking in, because a list is only as good as the person using it. I found forcing myself to complete each thing on my list in order before moving on to the next thing ridiculously hard, but once I got it into my routine, it changed everything.

Perfect example, right now, I’ve given myself an hour to write this post in my lunch break. As long as I set realistic timeframes, it helps to keep things on track, especially when I have a deadline or when I’m working on something with a lot of stages.

Big part of learning to look after myself and something that’s helped me to be 1000000000000% more productive (try saying that percentage, I dare ya) is knowing when to shut the Mac down and take a step back from a situation.

If you think about something for too long, you start to get unproductive with it, so I gave myself a computer bedtime, started enjoying a good Netflix sesh again and found that the hours I was working and doing ‘life things’, were much better spent.

I may not be Marie Kondo, but these five things have helped me organise pretty much all aspects of my life, and I’m here for it. Use them wisely, or, if you are Marie Kondo, don’t – you’re good.

Duvet days are important

It’s without a doubt that life is hectic these days, and it gets ever more challenging to make plans with yourself, never mind other adult human beings. Before the risk of complete burnout starts to set in though, I want to talk about possibly the most basic and underrated self-care concept; the duvet day.

By definition, this involves a few simple ingredients:

  • A duvet/blanket
  • A bed/sofa
  • Comfortable clothing/PJs
  • A TV remote (with TV connected, preferably)
  • Snacks & drinks of choice

A buddy to share all of this with is also an optional addition, along with video games & books – depending on how you’re feeling at the time.

Personally, I like to get up, shower, get into clean ‘comfies’, set up a little spot in my living room, and binge watch a series or two (movie marathons are also great though).

For anyone wondering about the general purpose of a duvet day, it’s about giving your brain a well-deserved life nap and putting yourself into a relaxing situation where you can switch off from the outside world for a day.

It’s also a great way to make time to reflect on what’s going on in your world, and having some time to yourself in this way even once every few months can put things that you might feel you don’t have time to think about into perspective.

Think of it as a mini holiday without the stress of travelling, and if you’re still thinking of a New Year’s resolution that doesn’t involve starving yourself or cutting the fun out of life, but has the potential to make you feel pretty fucking great, ‘HAVE MORE DUVET DAYS’ might be the one for you.

The value of ‘doing you’

We hear a lot around the subject of ‘self-care’ and ‘self-love’ these days, but how many of us are good at giving ourselves the space and time we need to actually follow through with it?

The idea of simply looking after yourself may seem like a necessity to most people, but more often than not, our lives run away with us and we find stress creeping into our daily routine.

These stresses, which manifest themselves in many different, inconvenient ways, can affect not only our own wellbeing, but also that of our friends, loved ones and even acquaintances. Basically, not where any of us want to be.

Over time, stress can lead to more serious symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, mood swings and erratic behaviour, which if left unresolved, impact the way we interact with others in our day to day lives.

Preventative practices of self-care are the best possible defence against these things and while it isn’t about putting yourself before others, it’s about making sure that your health and wellbeing take priority so that you’re emotionally and physically equipped to care for others.

In the words of RuPaul, ‘if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else.’ AMEEEEEN.

Everyone needs space to breathe from time to time, and looking after you means listening to the signs your body is giving you and not pushing yourself to the point of burnout. So take a break, have a lie in, break at the candles or disappear off to a different country for a week (I often find that helps). Just do you boo.

What mindfulness means to me

There’s no doubt about it, mindfulness is officially a ‘buzzword’ – but what does it actually mean? It’s obviously a very subjective thing, but personally, I find it very easy to talk about how I see it and how it impacts my life…

For me, mindfulness involves taking a step back, genuinely experiencing the moments in your life, and in turn, finding positivity and happiness in things that may otherwise go unnoticed. It can be anything from feeling the sun on your face to having a fucking good burger – it might even be washing the damn dishes…

It’s simply taking the time to have a moment & say ‘‘you know what, I’m happy right now.”

Another prong to the ‘mindfulness fork’ (#selfcarecutlery), is about being aware of your impact on others around you. It’s very true that you can’t please everyone all the time (you’re not Nutella), but taking time to think about how you interact with friends, family, colleagues and even strangers is only going to bring some of that sweet karma around your way.

I’ve been making mindfulness a big part of my day for the past few months, trying to make actions as meaningful as possible and I feel like it has made me a more positive and appreciative person overall.

I feel like I can enjoy the ‘little things’ more these days.

Everyone has their own ideas on what mindfulness means to them, and I guess that’s the beauty of it in a way, as long as it keeps people thinking about their own mental wellbeing and the world around them.

Food: Why it’s bad for you

Sadly, the people that create and market the food we buy every day, do not have our fitness goals in mind, however, they certainly want to make it seem like they do. So, how do you avoid the nasties and work out what’s legit (as in with science) and what’s shit (as in with the title of this post)? Voilà…here we have some ridiculously simple tips on how to avoid being a health food victim:

Many ‘health foods’ contain questionable subtext in the form of ingredients. It’s all too common for a brand to highlight the ‘good’ bits with clever marketing and fail to mention the sneaky little add-ons waltzing into your body unannounced. This also goes for nutritional information. For instance, ‘low-fat’ might also mean ‘high sugar’ – just flip that packaging over before you get too committed and let it move in with you…

Nutrition experts are out there, but so are misinformed articles and blogs giving out bogus advice on what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be eating. A huge number of people take to the internet for inspiration and tips when going through a fitness journey, (same mate, same) but it’s so important to get your facts right…find out how claims are backed up with actual science & learn about how your body really works – it will help you cut through the bullshit and make more informed choices.

The phrase ‘too much of a good thing’ was created for a reason. Whatever health benefits a particular food or product claim to have, make sure you don’t go overboard. On the other hand, cutting out entire food groups from your diet? Not so cool either. Balance and variety keep you interested in food and prevent ‘salad sadness’.

The best way to know exactly what’s going into your meals, is by making them yourself. But this definitely doesn’t have to be complicated…simple recipes with fresh ingredients can still be the business. And if you’re not big on kitchen skills, just start with the basics and work your way up. You’ll be getting fancy with the spices in no time.

Your body, your mouth, your way. One size simply doesn’t fit all when it comes to lifestyle. There are people that smoke and drink themselves into ripe old ages. There are also people that eat #cleanfolife and still don’t hit their 30s. Test things, try things, love things, hate things, but do it for YOU, and listen to your inner dialogue. Our bodies have incredible ways of letting us know when they’re not feeling too cute, so pay attention and learn what makes your little world feel good.

These points are nothing revolutionary, I realise this, but they are a good starting point to keep in mind if you’re starting out on a lifestyle overhaul or just stuck in a bit of a rut.

Let’s talk about alcohol

“I’m not drinking”

Generally, the reaction I’ve experienced to these words has been pretty shocking. It starts with “why?” or “are you on meds?”, usually followed by a shit pregnancy joke and one of the following scenarios:

  • Just have one. You can have one. Why don’t you just have a few? You could leave your car. We’ll just get a taxi. Oh go on, just one.
  • Oh my goooood, I feel so baaaaad! I can’t drink if you’re not drinking too. *reluctantly sips large Sauvignon in between sentences*

Both are awful. So I’d like to break things down here…

The idea that what we see as ‘normal’ is filling yourself full of something that dehydrates you, encourages bad decision making and inhibits self-control, while also giving you an absolutely banging head the next day, just hit me like a ten-tonne lorry (more on that later) as ridiculous.

It was only by taking a look back that I really started to appreciate how the pattern had formed in my own life.

From around age 15, most people enter into the countdown to adulthood and with it, legal drinking. At this age, the world is against you, your friends are everything, and peer pressure fills the air in equal amounts to Impulse body spray. Jagerbombs & vodka very nearly killed me on more than one occasion. You’re expected to drink. And this inevitably sets a tone for the adulting we have to come…

Most of my adult social interactions have been based around alcohol. Bars, clubs, dinners…even the theatre. Everything starts with a drink or two.

And then you start to associate drinking with relaxing and unwinding and having fun.

And then you find yourself with a glass of wine (or three) every evening after a ‘hard day’ at work.

And then you don’t feel like you can have fun without having a drink.

And then you start to feel tired and fatigued all the time and your eating habits get hella crazy and you can’t quite put your finger on why you’re feeling so shite…

These aren’t necessarily all things that everyone goes through, and there can be any number of reasons for not feeling yourself, but alcohol is never going to help. Like ever.

It’s difficult to put into words how much cutting out alcohol for a few months has changed my life so far. I feel like I’ve got more hours in the day, I’m more motivated, I’ve lost weight, I feel more confident, my skin has improved massively…I basically feel like the best version of myself. Literally living my best life.

I would encourage anyone to try cutting down or cutting out alcohol, even for a few months. But most importantly, we need to shake this goddamn stigma attached to ‘not drinking’.

Pressuring someone who is making a choice not to drink, whatever their reason may be, is bollocks.

To anyone reading this, the next time you find yourself on either side of this situation, please stop and think. Don’t be part of the problem, and don’t let anyone bring your fine self down for making healthy choices.
You do you boo.

This isn’t a speech on how alcohol is the root of all evil, it’s just to say that nothing is a thing until we make it a thing.

And, for anyone who’s interested in going sober for good, or just wanting to have a short dry-spell, I’m going to be sharing my experiences around the world, including cocktails and mocktails alike.

Let me know your thoughts and keep an eye on the blog for my next adventures.

How to chill the f*ck out

I’ve come to realise that everyone has an existential crisis over their eyebrows, not being able to open something edible, the weather, Thursdays (worst day of the week by far) and 1,000,005 other nonsense things, at some point. It’s fine, we’ve all been there, you can put down the tweezers.

And then there are the times when there is nothing wrong at all…except there is. You just get irritable and start to hate people for breathing and feel like you’re never going to get comfortable again and your skin itches and none of your clothes fit and that’s it, everything’s going to be awful forever.

We all have these moments.

So I’m sharing the top ways which I like to de-stress and break out of emo mode.

It’s good for you and a wise woman once told me that you can’t drink and cry at the same time.

Guaranteed to make me feel refreshed in less than 10 minutes. It’s literally like you’re washing away all of your emotional shit. I try to buy one shower or skin product at the airport before I go on holiday and use it while I’m away. Then, when I get home, I keep it for times when I’m not feeling super cute and it immediately takes me back to amazing holiday memories.

Switching off and being on my own is just necessary sometimes, and it can get really hard to do when work involves being around people all day. Starting a blog has really helped on this front because I feel like I have a reason to hide away in a corner somewhere. I hear going for a walk or reading a book work just as well though.

There are tons of mindfulness apps out there right now, it’s a huge buzzword at the moment. I’ve heard really good things about the likes of Headspace, however, my digital meditation guide of choice is Calm. I started out with the ‘7 days of Calm’ feature and worked my way through the free bits (there are some great music tracks to help you focus & sleep – oh, and Stephen Fry can read you a bedtime story…) and then it’s £9.99 a month to unlock all of the content and keep getting your ‘Daily Calm’. It’s also very pretty – I’d recommend it to anyone who’s a sucker for nice branding and still wants something that will do the job. They even have a book to go alongside it.

This is my ultimate. I came across ASMR a few years ago now, and it’s got quite the cult following. You have to come at it with an open mind , but in short, the online application of ASMR involves some very patient and talented people, who happen to have extremely relaxing voices, acting out different situations for online videos in order to help viewers relax and/or sleep. Imagine someone reading you a bedtime story via the internet. It’s like that. My favourite, and the most subscribed to creator (ASMRtist) is Gentle Whispering ASMR. Check her out, she’s great.

So that’s my top 5. Everyone has their own ways of dealing with stress, but if you’re looking to try a different approach, I hope you can take something from this. Let me hear your thoughts and any tips you have for handling day-to-day stress.