…You Think You Have Time…

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” – Buddha, maybe

Where did the last 10 weeks go? Admittedly, some of it passed in a drunken haze (hence Dry June for me) but seriously, it’s going to be 3 months before I know it and I have accomplished…F*** ALL!!!

The first few weeks I stuck to my routine. I was full of energy, aspirations, excitement about the vast amount of time in front of me…and then it all went to pot (that’s a British expression, meaning “everything went wrong”, I didn’t add weed to my list of vices).

I started staying up later and sleeping in later. I skipped my daily exercise (or at best I can say it was sporadic), and my 5:2 diet of 5 days of clean eating to every 2 days of whatever takes my fancy…well..I stuck to the ratio…just reversed the numbers.

My lower back started to give me problems and I can’t put my finger on whether it’s just lack of flexibility or a herniated disc. Either way, I can run and cycle, but sitting down for long periods and dead-lifting are out of the question.

On a positive note, I did grow that beard, and was proud of it…but no one was ready for me to look THAT old, so off it came, along with the mop of hair that had grown over the last 10 weeks.

I also plucked up the courage to speak to a couple of policemen about my novel – which was very helpful – and I have daydreamed a lot about the individual scenes…but write? No, I haven’t actually WRITTEN anything!

I even took a break from the blog because…well…why not? Why not? Why not? I seem to be saying that far too often, the further into the covid cave I get. It’s dark in here at the moment…and it ECHO-ECHO-ECHOOOOOEEESS!!!

Why not have some chocolate? Why not have a beer or some wine? Why not binge watch another Netflix series and turn off my morning alarm? Why not leave my writing, reading, studying, exercising until tomorrow, or the next day?

There are some bloody good reasons for “why not?” and yet they never seem to come to mind at the right time! So instead, as of the 1st June 2020, I’ve decided to mind f*** myself and ask aloud “WHY???”

Why eat some chocolate – knowing that 4 squares is never enough and will ultimately destroy my dreams of ever possessing a visible six pack?

Why drink alcohol – knowing that getting up to run is hard enough without a hangover (which doesn’t take me much) or that booze seems to send my resting heart rate skywards and ruins my heart rate training?

Why put off writing/studying/exercising – knowing that I’m already further behind than I want to be as a result of my earlier poor life choices and delayed arrival to the game?

I have plenty to be excited…(well, at least enthusiastic) about, even without a definite upcoming race or exam to focus on:

  • We have just bought a puppy, Ronnie – he’s a collie cross (border collie and a huntaway…a hollie, if you will…or if he’s been naughty, well…you can work it out. He will eventually be an ideal running partner and perfect answer to “why run this morning?”
  • The Paris marathon is 20 weeks away, as long as it doesn’t get cancelled. I plan to train as if it’s going to happen, and as if this is the sub 3 hour attempt that Berlin should have been.
  • The blog was doing well, lots of views, even if the likes and comments were few and far between, so I’ll go back to writing that on a daily basis, publishing weekly.
  • I have a great story to tell…right now I feel that way. Funny how the blinking cursor on the blank word document convinces me otherwise! One – word – at – a – time!!!
  • I have found so many books to read, films to watch, online courses to study…I have so many things I would like to do, I need to start them! And start them again.
  • I know a routine works best for me, so it’s back to waking at 04:30 and going to bed at 21:00, I’m far more productive that way.

Anyway, I can’t do anything about whatever time was wasted over the last 10 weeks. All I can do is make sure that the next 10 are far more fruitful. Some people only wake up and realise this after 10 months or 10 years, so I should count my lucky stars.

So thank you for all of those encouraging slaps and kicks up the backside. I’m back on both feet, soon to be back on track and into some sort of rhythm again.

Three Gratitudes – A Journalling Practice

Most days, I write in my journal. It’s mostly gibberish, brain farts I have to get out so I can sleep or irrational worries I want to ridicule on the page so I can get on with the rest of my day. But one thing I do regularly in my mind, even when it doesn’t make it onto the page is the 3 Gs practice. No, it’s not an inferior cellular network – it’s just a very simple practice that leaves you in a better mood to start, or end, your day.

3 Gs stands for 3 Gratitudes (yes, that noun can be countable TEFL teachers) and the three gratitudes you choose fall into one of three categories.

The first gratitude is where you acknowledge a PERSON that you are grateful for. You don’t need to write the reason, but it will often amplify the feeling of gratitude if you can state specific reasons that you are grateful to, or for them in your life.

The second gratitude is where you acknowledge an EXPERIENCE that you are grateful for. Again, writing in detail about the experience will applify your gratitude for it. It doesn’t need to be an experience that you have already had – it could be from the past, present or future. I try to stick with the present or recent past, and only dip into the past of near future if I’m struggling.

The third gratitude is where you acknowledge a POSSESSION that you are grateful for. Don’t get all spiritual and feel guilty about the material world for a second – just be thankful for that phone, laptop or tablet, and if you can state the reasons why, it may make you feel even more so.

If for whatever reason you are struggling to come up with an example in each category or feel anything for your choices, rather than assuming that you are ungrateful or lacking imagination, answer these questions:

  • What would life have been like (or currently would be like) without this person (just pick someone randomly) in my life?
  • What would life have been like (or currently would be like) without this experience (just pick one) in your life?
  • What would life have been like (or currently would be like) without this possession (just pick something) in my life?
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Below I’ve written some ideas to get your gratitude juices flowing.

Person

Partner, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, mates, colleagues, customers…doctors, nurses, shop workers, postal workers, train drivers, carers, scientists, farmers, engineers, teachers…the list is endless.

Experience

Future holidays may be a distant dream, but past holidays can be a pleasant memory to be grateful for, but there are some really basic daily experiences that when you think about it, make you thankful e.g. breathing easily through your nose (no hay fever or cold), breathing at all (try WHM), hot showers, homemade food, walks in nature, my children’s laughter, my children wanting my attention, breaking a fast, waking up before my alarm goes off, reading a book, watching a film or TV show, electricity to power lights, kettle, internet…and again, I’ve been doing this for a few years so these come easily. Right now, this lockdown experience offers some positives, some reasons to be thankful – as well as all of the upheaval and tragedy. I’m not denying that the negative is there, or could be there the very next moment, just making the decision to focus on what’s positive.

Possession

I have too many possessions and I am making an effort to be more minimalist. The possessions that I do own that I’m regularly grateful for include my phone, my laptop, my TV and fire stick. My books, my clothes, my car, my home, my camera, my guitar.

Next Level Gratitude

Sometimes I look at something I own, maybe a shirt is missing a button or my bike tyre is flat – and a lot of the time, I’ll put off fixing those things. This is a habit that I need to change, if I want to take my gratitude to the next level.

It’s all well and good being grateful in my head, writing it down in my journal – it feels good and puts me in a better state of mind. But the next step is to tell that person, “Thank You”, to share that positive experience with those close to you – not necessarily on Facebook or Instagram, just a closed Whats app group perhaps? And I need to maintain my possessions – sew on those buttons, pump up those tyres, or give those possessions away if they start to feel as if they own me rather than other way around.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Thank You

Thank you Uncle Michael – the life and soul of every party, thank you for those caravan holidays in Norfolk, thank you for the book of birds you gave me as a kid that I’m now sharing with my children.

Thank you everyone for reading, liking, sharing, commenting and subscribing. I made it to day 10, so these posts will be weekly from now on. With any luck the reduction in pressure to produce so much quantity will result in an improving quality.

Perfecting My Morning

As the name of this site suggests, I do not consider myself the sharpest tool in the shed e.g. there were three words missing from this sentence when I originally read it back, but in my head and as I typed it, it sounded perfect!

But there’s a lot to be said for being resourceful in the face of a lack of resources (just ask MacGuyver or The A Team). In fact, an awareness of our limited time, money, energy or attention is what drives us to get creative or at least seek out others’ ideas, to make the most of the little we do have. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

The best non-fiction books, Audible audiobooks, podcasts and YouTube videos I read/listen to/watch make me change my way of looking at world, or behave differently. I want to learn better ways to use my resources – and even now, with so much of it on my hands, I appreciate how limited time is. So how should I spend it?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Twenty-four hours, minus a third for sleep tax (I don’t resent paying this tax, as it ultimately serves me – take note Branson and Bezos!). So sixteen hours to invest – morning, afternoon, evening.

Below is a look at my current morning routine and the inspiration behind the various habits I am trying (does anyone else hear Yoda when they use that verb? Just me? OK) to instill – with varying degrees of success.

Morning Routine

04:30 – Wake up / WHM Stretching

I’ve spoken in previous posts about WHM (Wim Hof Method) and my struggles with stretching, but why wake up so early? Jocko Willink‘s book Extreme Ownership convinced me that getting up before most people means I can get things done without interruption and with the minimum amount of stress. The alternative of oversleeping, missing out on exercise, arriving late, not being prepared and spending the rest of the day playing catch-up (the type of day that was all too common in my youth) just fills me with dread. It’s not easy leaving the comfort of my bed, but a few things that have helped are:

Three alarms – first, my vibrating wrist watch gently pulls me from my slumber, one minute before what will be a LOUD mobile phone alarm at the other side of the room. To save me from the wrath of my wife, I leap out of bed (or groan and roll) and dart (shuffle) over to the phone before that alarm can sound. Jocko recommends three alarms, but in all honesty I only have two – which is working fine, so why fix it?

Eating deadline – As recommended by Mark Sisson in The New Primal Blueprint, you should eat your last meal a couple of hours (or more) before bed so I stop eating by 18:00. I can’t eat too close to bed time. I just feel too uncomfortable and wake up in the morning with a horrible taste.

Bedtime routine – or sleep hygiene, as it’s often called includes going to bed and getting up at a regular time, limiting food, drink and screen usage for two hours before bed and keeping your bedroom at an optimum temperature (cooler is better). On a good night, I will turn off the screens at 19:00, stretch and maybe shower, and then read a paperback before going to sleep at 21:00. I’ll only journal if my head is busy, or I need to write down an idea or memory before I forget it. Some great tips on becoming a super sleeper are in Dr Richard Wiseman‘s book Night School – well worth a listen.

05:00 – WHM Breathing (4 rounds)

I use the Wim Hof Method app for this, specifically the Breathing Bubble. I’m generally able to hold my breath for over three minutes now and one time I even managed four minutes. That isn’t really the goal, but it is an indication of the method working, and honestly I just love “getting high on my own supply”. It really is a trippy feeling – well worth experiencing.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

05:30 – Exercise

Cardio (running or cycling) for thirty to sixty minutes, OR bodyweight strength exercises (air squats, push ups, pull ups, planks). For the particulars on these, refer to the book The New Primal Blueprint mentioned earlier. I’m considering doing a vlog on this – comment if you would watch that!

06:30 – Warm and Cold Shower

I can’t go straight into a cold shower, and I am putting off doing my first ice plunge, but I’ve gone from thirty seconds to two minutes. I have to have a four or five minute hot shower first, to get clean and psyche myself up, but then I turn the tap. Have you ever eaten or drunk something so cold that it’s given you brain freeze? Next time it happens, try putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth – it works I promise! But not when the cold is coming from the shower head above you. The only way I can handle it, is to move around and focus the water on my back, chest and shoulders when my head-freeze gets too intense to bear!

07:00 – Ready to Write

Black coffee and pint of water (sometimes with lemon) positioned to my right, laptop open in front of me, I sit down to face the blank page (Word document, you know what I mean).

Until my first coffee break at 11:00, I will now struggle to produce WORDS. Which will only come if I can answer my THOUGHTS/QUESTIONS.

  • What am I going to write about?
  • How can I make it more entertaining/enlightening?
  • Who is my ideal reader?
  • How would he/she react to that part?

I’m going to do some research today on some better questions to ask before/while writing. That could result in me having some better questions, and therefore some better writing coming out of the answers…or, it could result in 4 hours of googling and youtubing and me asking the same questions all over again tomorrow. That, would be a wasted day – and enough days spent like that, would be a wasted life.

Thank You

Thank you once again for reading, subscribing, liking and commenting! It’s much appreciated it!

This blog post is number 8 out of 10 – for the “10 blog posts in 10 days” challenge – just two more and I have met the challenge! Then it’s back to a weekly blog post, and a competition with a prize draw for subscribers (more details to follow).

Interview Question: How Did You Spend Lockdown ’20?

Unemployment is inevitably going to be an issue for many people once this craziness comes to an end. So maybe I should be blogging about (and selling) my skills as a CV writer rather than my lack of skill as a novelist?

If I wanted to write for money, maybe that would be the way to go. Instead, I’m writing for my own amusement and hopefully your entertainment.

That said, I’ve been thinking a lot about my next interview and anticipating this question: How did you spend lockdown ’20? (hope for the best, plan for the worst – there could be a lockdown ’21).

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Even if it suddenly becomes taboo and email-to-HR-worthy, to ask this in the work setting, it will definitely come up at parties (muffled by a mask no doubt, if these uncomfortable social gatherings resume at all).

Here are some of my thoughts on what I would like to be able to say:

I practised Wim Hof breathing, cold showers and meditation every day – if you know nothing about Wim Hof, treat yourself to Scott Carney’s “What Doesn’t Kill You” or watch some of his YouTube interviews – he is nuts! But in the best possible way. This crazy Dutchman’s app is well worth checking out but only if you want to, in his words, FEEL STRONG M***** F*****S!

This has totally taken over what used to be my Headspace time. I just prefer the way I think and feel afterwards – and I feel like I’ve got someone else’s clothes on if I don’t start my day with these breathing exercises. I’ve got my breath hold up to over 3 minutes and after 3 rounds of this, it’s a natural high that’s also meant to bring a myriad of health and fitness benefits.

I would happily skip the cold shower – but after the first 30 seconds, the next minute is not so bad. I’m trying to use what little eating I do at the moment as an opportunity for mindfulness practice – even if I’m not logging on to Headspace. Waiting in the queue outside the supermarket is another good opportunity for this, as well as waiting for my son to finish a sentence!

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I started a blog – started it, did a “10 blog posts in 10 days” challenge and published a blog post each week thereafter, reached 100 followers and 500 read/visits by September 2020. That alone would be a massive achievement, as long as the time invested doesn’t prevent me from doing anything else!

I wrote a novel – using the Snowflake method, tackling it little by little, step by step, getting it edited, having a cover designed, self-publishing. Developing the habits and confidence to ensure that I complete a second novel during NANOWRIMO 2020 in November. This is a gold standard, long overdue bucket list item that I need to tick off! Then I’m off to find a dolphin.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

I home-schooled my children – I really can’t claim to have done this one, any more than Boris can claim to have led us through this pandemic. The similarities are astonishing, in that I also get a daily briefing and step in only when really needed e.g. Year 5 maths – but then need to go off by myself to recover for quite a long time afterwards.

I read, cuddled and played with my children – like the cold shower, I sometimes have to work myself up to this – I find it hard graft. My inner voice is whining, “But those rules make no sense? But that’s boring – pointless – a lot of effort.” Then I remember how much they laughed the last time, and that for them, little and often works just fine. Leaving them wanting more is inevitable, by leaving them lacking is not OK. Whether its making Tik Tok videos, playing Roblox or getting into the arctic paddling pool – it makes their day. It’s also evidence that I’m not the dad who spends all of his time in the loft writing/working – as I’m sure I’ll be labelled come their teens!

For now, I realise how lucky I am – they’re the perfect age for this situation, if there is such a thing – and they want my attention? They won’t always. They’re already old enough to occupy themselves, and soon – lockdowns permitting – they will want to be out with their friends. I don’t want any regrets on this front…family time is precious anyway, lockdown or not, so this bonus round is an AMAZING GIFT!

I made a 2019-2020 family photo album – I have a lot of time on my hands right now, and every year I aim to have the family album ready for September (but this inevitably becomes October or later). This will be our 12th family photo album and although it probably won’t feature a summer holiday, there will be some great memories inside. It’s so easy to let the days just blur into one, and have no distinguishing features – I mean, what’s the point in a weekend now? So I’m aiming to take at least one photo each day to remember the positives.

I worked from home using email and Zoom – I’ll look back fondly on the days of zero commuting and comfortably providing a service to others. So many traffic jams and painful face-to-face interactions avoided. No masks required. Money saved on fuel. So much time saved. Many people are struggling mentally and emotionally right now due to the lockdown, but I’ll be booking my counselling sessions for when I have to go back!

I built a strong aerobic base – using the Maffetone heart-rate training method (180 bpm – age) and my daily outdoor exercise allowance, I am trying to run faster and further whilst keeping my heart-rate lower than 141 bpm (beats per minute). This is supposedly going to make me a “fat-burning beast”! Unfortunately so many factors can affect your MAF progress e.g. temperature, sleep quality/quantity, alcohol consumption. I don’t have much control over the first two, but ours is currently an alcohol-free home (after I twice adjusted my definition of “alcoholic”). My next drink will be once lockdown is over, and it will be anywhere BUT a Wetherspoons pub!

I shed body fat and finally got a six pack – I’m trying intermittent fasting at the moment, which for me entails not eating before midday and stopping eating at 18:00. That means my stomach doesn’t feel full when I wake up and do my Wim Hof breathing, and my morning cardio is in a fasted state. I drink water and black coffee to get me through any hunger pains felt during the first 7.5 hours of the day.

I grew a beard – tri-colour and patchy though it may be, I love rocking this apocalypse-is-here-so-no-point-shaving look. The grey makes me feel wise, even though it’s probably more the result of “worry” than “wisdom”.

I completed several online courses – I don’t want my facial hair to be the only thing that grows throughout this period. I want to add to my CV and improve my chances of employment post-Covid-19! Maybe even change fields completely? This pause will bring a flood of career changers…so I won’t be on my own. It will give me something else to blog about once the novel is published and flying off the (Kindle equivalent of) shelves?

So there are my initial thoughts on the matter and hopefully, my answers if I’m ever asked. How will you answer? Comments please X

Thank you!

Blog post 4 of 10 – done! Tick! Like it, comment, share it…or not…your call. SUBSCRIBE though, pretty please!!!

Step 4 (Snowflake method, not AA)

Step 4: Write a Short Synopsis

I started this blog and the novel whose progress (or lack thereof) it is tracking, on Saturday 18th April, and I have been a bit preoccupied with the blogging part since completing the first 3 steps of the Snowflake Method.

I foolishly accepted a “10 blog posts in 10 days” challenge, forgetting that the blog is not supposed to be my priority. Instead this is just a way of me to gain momentum and trick myself into writing some more of the novel, once my fingers and brain have warmed up. Like going for a walk, in your running gear or “out” in your “out, out” gear.

So today I set “out” to take what I had previously written for Step 2, and expand on it until I had written a one page summary of my novel.

One page. How hard can it be? Copy and paste Step 2 and fluff it up a bit. Or so I thought.

After a delayed start to my writing day (woke up at 04:30 am, did my Wim Hof breathing, watched YouTube videos instead of going out for my morning run (DOH!), queued outside supermarket (thanks Covid-19), did some food shopping, made a green smoothie for the rest of the family, went out for the postponed run, did some push ups, etc, made coffee, had a cold shower) it was 11:00 am before I actually sat down at my desk. Better late than never!

I have to start on the hour, or the half-past. “Oh-five?” No. “Ten Fifty-Nine?” Nope. Not happening. So I started at 11 on the dot and I had just started to get warmed up when, I s**t you not, my phone rang at 11:29. I ignored it (work)…they didn’t ring back. I tried to convince myself that it couldn’t have been important if they didn’t try again. But then I couldn’t focus, because I had a vision of a career-ending email sitting in my inbox, ending with the line, “I did try to call and tell you but…”. So I logged in and checked my work inbox.

Does a tap left running freak you out? Have you ever thought about Niagra Falls? It’s still running. Right now. All that water. Night, day, rain, shine, summer, winter – even when it freezes, it’s still flowing underneath – except that one time. Well, that’s my work inbox. Ping! Ping! Ping! As I’m checking for the “tried to call you” email, I’m greeted by 20 other emails, so I start to read them and then PING! 21! PING! 22!

Thankfully none of them were the career-ender I feared, but several time consuming tasks needed to be completed so that was another 90 minutes gone.

Then it was lunch time. I promised the kids yesterday that I would go in the FREEZING COLD paddling pool with them after my omelette, as by the time I was ready to do so the day before, they were off on their screens. My son decided that the best game to play would be, “who can stay in the FREEZING COLD paddling pool the longest.” Did I mention that it was FREEZING! So half an hour later, we were still in there – numb, blue, shivering and covered in goosebumps – but none of us was planning on giving in.

Just before hypothermia set in, my wife appeared holding a parcel that had just been delivered, automatically winning my son the game as I stepped out of the pool, excited to open it. It turned out to be a cycling jersey I had won by entering a competition to suggest a title for a fellow blogger’s (tri.to.be.iron) latest post! It was a lovely top…and I felt about as worthy of wearing it as I do my wet suit! Triathlon blog posts to come, but for now lets just say I can confidently say (1) I am an OK runner (2) I don’t need inflatable arm bands and (3) I don’t need bicycle stabilisers. But having the right gear definitely gives me the urge to put in a bit more effort!

Anyway, I drifted from writing Step 4 to blogging, then I end up on the NANOWRIMO Facebook group. Do you read the rules/small print when you sign up for these things? Me neither. They should make a video instead. I’d watch that. Maybe. So I’d previously had a comment removed because it was pure, shameless self-promotion. Fair enough. My bad. But then apparently on the next post, when I typed my pseudonym on my phone and it didn’t show up blue (hyperlinked?), it DID once it appeared on the group page’s wall, triggering chaos and panic and the immediate removal of said post. Followed by a stern email from the administrator.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I was then being watched, and every comment I made was closely scrutinised. I was accused of scaring another user – LOL – the comment said “don’t use the b word” as in blog, it wasn’t a d*** pic. I’m sure I was one comment away from admin’s next warning using the word “triggered”, which would have made my day. It was like that seen from Anger Management, where everything Adam Sandler says or does is being misinterpreted as him being the aggressor. I literally looked around to see if there was a camera on me and I was being pranked. So after some genuine engagement with other users (there are some really supportive and genuinely talented writers doing NANOWRIMO – myself and the Twilight crew exempted), and me being no closer towards finishing Step 4, I stepped away.

My wife rolled her eyes at me and asked if I’d been banned yet (add them to the UK Songwriter’s Guild and McDonalds Lakeside). I told her “no” and said that I’d try harder tomorrow.

Facebook – logged off. Instagram – logged off. WordPress – keep it open on the draft of the next blog, but stop checking your bloody STATS! A watched pot…remember?

And with those actions taken, Step 4 finally took shape. Unfortunately – or maybe not – there are some serious issues with my story that need sorting out. But I guess that’s the whole point of doing it in stages like this – to realise that very thing before I waste hours and hours.

Tomorrow I will give Step 4 another go, and put my creative hat on to solve all of those plot issues. With any luck, the day will go a bit smoother. But I doubt it.

THANK YOU

This is the 3rd blog in my “10 blogs in 10 days” challenge, Thank you so much for reading, liking, commenting and sharing. Please subscribe if you haven’t done so already, and I hope to entertain you some more tomorrow.