Here we are in early January, a time where most people are still feeling pumped and enthused about the new year’s resolutions they’ve set. Usually those goals are related to some aspect of health, fitness or nutrition, and usually they last a few weeks before fizzling out. Last January I blogged about this, and offered some helpful advice on how to make your resolutions last. This year, I want to approach the issue from a different perspective; how to set up your environment and adapt your lifestyle so that you’re set up for success. Most people fail by mid-January; let me show you how you can avoid being one of them and learn the valuable skills needed to thrive not just survive the pressures of daily life.
This blog will focus on practical activities you can do which overall will have a big effect on your lifestyle. I use these techniques and activities when I coach clients, and I find it’s helpful to think of each of these suggestions as the aggregation of marginal gains. Each individual piece can be transformational, but when brought together you’ll get a much bigger outcome.
As always, get in touch if you have any questions or need help.
Set aside a few hours one weekend to write down what’s important to you. Don’t be tempted to dash this out, but consider it deeply and thoughtfully. Once you have a comprehensive list, make a shorter list alongside of three absolute non-negotiables – the things that are most important to you. Then spend some time considering how much of your time you spend on those things. A lot of people put family as one of their top priorities, yet when we look at how much time is spent with family, there’s a huge discrepancy between the two. It’s so important to be congruent, and this means making sure if you say something’s important, your actions and how you choose to spend your time reflect that. Being accountable for this with a partner or a coach can make it much easier.
Recently I did an exercise with my coach which required me to write down everything I did as part of my business day (you can do this for your personal time too). I made a note of how long I spent on each task and was amazed; I genuinely struggled to account for all the hours I seem to work. There were over ten ‘missing’ hours, yet I always seem to be busy! Here’s my tip: make a note of all your activities and then split them into high-value (very important and must be done by you) and low-value (not important and could be done by anyone). Take a long hard look and where you’re spending your time and if it’s in the low-value column, outsource it to someone else. Think what else you could be doing with that time!
If you’re a busy person, whether that’s at work or at home, and you value your spare time and having the bandwidth to do the things you want to, look at what you can outsource at home. If you’re doing your own ironing or cleaning, you could easily be outsourcing that for less than £10 per hour. There are now lots of app-based services where companies will collect and deliver anything including clothes, shopping, food – you name it. Consider getting a Virtual Assistant (VA) who will help you with chores, shopping, household or personal admin all for as little as £15 per hour. This isn’t being lazy or entitled, it’s about prioritising your mental and physical health so you don’t end up burned out.
Learning how to say no is a skill that more of us need to acquire. All the clients I’ve worked with who suffer from chronic stress or burn out, have had to learn to say no more often. Competitive presenteeism (the feeling of having to turn up for work even when you’re sick to ‘keep up’ with colleagues), constantly accepting more work, agreeing to a travel schedule that’s making you ill, or just taking on too much will take its toll. The body keeps the score (read my book Rise and Shine for more). You will need to be selective, but before you say yes because that’s the answer you think you need to give, consider whether a polite no would serve you better.
Having a regular time of day when you sit still and practice breathing could be the single biggest gift you give yourself. Breathing slowly and deeply activates the parasympathetic nervous system, making you feel more calm, composed and in control. The exercises are easy and can be done anywhere. You sit upright, and place your hand on your belly; breathe deeply, as though you’re slowly sucking as much air as you can into the pit of your belly. Pause for a second and then let the air out of your lungs as slowly as you can. Repeat, aiming for no more than six breaths per minute. I aim to do the exercises for 10-20 minutes each day, usually at the start of the day. It’s an incredibly powerful way of changing how you feel, particularly at times when you can’t change what’s going on. Change your emotional soundtrack by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
If I stood outside your house and repeatedly rang the doorbell, interrupting whatever you were doing, you would probably stop answering the door to me and get annoyed. Alerts on your various devices are essentially the same thing (or worse as those devices are portable). Every time we respond, we’re not being present, and we’re allowing ourselves to be distracted. Not only is this an inefficient way of working, but it’s also rewiring our brains so that we’re struggling to concentrate. Why then do we allow this to happen? One reason is dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that is released when we accomplish something. Somehow, our brains now associate the beep, buzz or ping of a new message with dopamine, and hence we’ve become addicted to our social media, email and messaging devices. Disconnect from tech and reconnect with nature, loved ones, books, film, sport, exercise or whatever your passions are.
A busy and demanding schedule requires you to get enough sleep if you are to function well and stay healthy. Your bedroom should be your recovery room, and as such there should be minimal furnishings, no LEDs or electronics (irrespective if they’re off, charging or used as an alarm clock). This is where you sleep and let your body repair itself during the night. Making changes to your sleep environment can have a much bigger impact on your productivity and performance, and it perhaps the single biggest tip I can give you. See if you can make changes to your bedroom to promote good sleep – refer to this blog post for tips on how to get more sleep.
Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork: the highly personalised approach to health, fitness and nutrition that puts you first, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that uses innovative techniques such as DNA testing, wearable tech, biohacks and bespoke coaching to transform the lives of our clients. Visit www.bodyshotperformance.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register your interest in our services. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.