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?

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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.

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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).

Younger You?

Apologies in advance if you arrived here in search of the fountain of youth. I’m not here to sell snake oil or beauty creams. At some point, I will blog about the benefits of a plant-based diet, intermittent fasting, quality sleep and exercise, but not yet.

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This post is about two powerful questions, the answers to which could change your life and the lives of your nearest and dearest. But rather than jump straight into the questions themselves, let me set the scene.

No Flux Capacitor Required (just an imagination…or some alcohol)

Time travel suddenly becomes possible – but only to the past I’m afraid. The other issue is, you can only send small inanimate objects back. Oh, and did I mention, only as far back as ten years. The science behind it all just gets too messy if you go back any further!

Now if you thought Royal Mail was expensive, you should see the cost of sending anything bigger than a postcard! Astronomical! Completely unaffordable – unless you’re Jeff Bezos. So that’s where we’re at.

A postcard. A pen. A portal to the past. A potentially life-improving exercise.

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What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

I really do want to read your answers to this question – especially if you’re older than me (unlikely) or wiser (highly probable) – that is, if you’re brave enough to share them in the comments.

I can only write about what I would tell my twenty-nine year old self, and after watching The Butterfly Effect again recently, I would be very wary about sharing too much with him. Will changing the past make things worse?

Well let’s just assume that in our hypothetical scenario, we can advise ourselves to stop any bad habits or tendencies – or to take some smarter actions – without any negative impact on what’s going well right now.

For instance, if I were to write on my postcard, “stop drinking alcohol”, I can imagine the ten years worth of the benefits I would have experienced from having made that decision, without the fear of my son never having been born. Just kidding. Hmmm.

So what would I tell me?

What do I wish at thirty-nine years old, I had been told at twenty-nine or earlier?

Think less, read and write more – when I’m following this advice I am definitely more productive and have fewer sleep problems (insomnia). But reading and writing are so energy intensive sometimes, and thinking – even the same, repetitive, negative thoughts, seems to be my default. Paralysis by analysis, my biggest flaw. Maybe if I had taken this advice more seriously ten years ago, I would have finished my novel already? Nah.

Quit the sugar – I know it’s not the most expensive or lethal white powder out there, but it’s definitely not doing me any favours. I am a sugar addict. I can take or leave meat and alcohol, abstinence is not hard, but going without an evening sugary treat actually depresses me. My evening meal is not complete without dessert – I will literally go to bed feeling hard done by. And moderation is not something I do well. Intermittent fasting has helped, with my eating cut-off time being 18:00 – but you should see the binge eating feeding frenzy I’m in at 17:59. Not pretty. My abs will retain their “hide and seek” title for as long as this habit continues.

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Quit the screens – I go from my phone, to my laptop, to my phone, to the TV and back again, all day, every day. I had four channels and a VHS player as a kid in the 1980s, so a lack of portability limited my screen time. No such ceiling these days. I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone in January – and lasted six weeks – and that definitely helped a bit. But when all of this Covid-19 business kicked off, FOMO took over. Apps were downloaded, my YouTube channel surfing went through the roof (Dr John Campbell and Sky New Live in particular), and I felt the sudden urge to start another blog (giving me the perfect excuse). I can always justify my next screen fix, “but I’m cycling simultaneously,” or “but it’s research for my novel.” Lockdown is hardly conducive to kicking this habit, but when I get out, oh, when I get out…

Quit buying stuff – Just before this lockdown, when the charity shops were still open, I had a clear out and donated three large black bags of “stuff”. Clothes, books, DVDs, pointless gizmos I would never have used and yet, I did not return empty handed. Three second hand books accompanied me and took their place on my bookshelf…probably to gather dust, until my next charity shop trip. The books only cost £1, but when I started to think about what the contents of those three black bags had cost me, brand new, I sighed. Stuff and lottery tickets, such a waste. Think of all the money I could have saved to invest! Invest in what? Well, I’m no FTSE expert but if I had been doing that for the last ten years I’d probably be feeling a bit down at the moment. Given the option, I would probably invest in an office/pain cave – this would be in the hope of producing 50,000 words than rather than re-enacting fifty shades (see below):

Now for some homework.

Take another postcard. Date this one, ten years hence (2030, for the non-Dickensian amongst you). Imagine this is decade-older you. What advice is this older, wiser you going to have? What pieces of advice do you want to give yourself to live by? What can you start, or stop, right now that will make it more likely you end up where you want to be in ten years?

Quit, or at least spend less time on gaming or social media?

Read more books, watch less news?

Hug more – once we’re allowed again – and criticise less?

Save more, spend less?

Listen more, talk less?

Play more, stress less?

Looking forward to your answers – share the wisdom peeps!

Thank You

Blog post 5 of 10 written and published! Wooo we’re half way there….!!!

Views are sky-rocketing (worldwide) but I’m short on likes, shares, comments and subscriptions so far. Your contributions are all appreciated.

Still learning my chops, so bear with me – but it feels good to engage my mind on a daily basis and try to put my brain farts in some sort of logical, if not literary, order.

Take care out there – get back inside, unless you were out for exercise or essentials. Check in tomorrow.

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).

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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!

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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.

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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!!!