The Half Hour Rule

clock-face-half-past-hourI’m having personal coaching at the moment and on Wednesday, my coach made a suggestion which has completely changed my way of thinking. In short, it’s revolutionised my life! What is this amazing nugget, I hear you clamouring to know.  Well, hold your horses, for just one second or two, there people.  All in good time.

Have you got hot spots in your home (like the cupboard under the stairs, for example) which need to be tidied up, but you look in there, sigh deeply, then close the door quickly? Have you got a desk – like mine – which is full of ‘stuff’ which is overwhelming to such an extent that you’d rather leave it there than deal with it? Are your shelves bowing under the weight on unread books, or clothing (substitute whatever you like on your shelves) but rather than whittle through the books (or clothing or whatever) they’re left because it just seems like too big a job to deal with?

Then I have the perfect solution for you.  The Half Hour Rule.  What? You don’t believe me? Ok, let me explain this for you.

My entire house needs.  Each room has ‘hot spots’ of clutter which need to be sorted out and either put away in a cupboard or recycled – either to a charity shop or the recycling centres. This house is an old house and doesn’t have much built-in storage.  I do have shelves bowing under the weight of read and unread books and earlier this year I actually sent My Other Half to several different charity shops with dozens of bags of books that I was letting go of. 176 cat books.  I was amazed that I had that many, to be honest.  Many of them I had read; some were self-published and should never have been let loose on the world while others were ‘how to’ types, giving advice on looking after your kitten or cat once you’d acquired one.

I got a piece of paper and under the headings – Main Bedroom, Office, Dining Room, Living Room, Kitchen I then wrote a detailed list of what needed to be done in each room.  It was quite daunting, to be honest and I put the list on the dining room table – along with several lists of other things I wanted to do (I like lists) and sort of forgot about it. But then when I saw my coach this week, something he said reminded me of the list and I found it again.

Where does the Half Hour Rule fit in? Easy.  Take one area that you want to deal with – for me, it was a pile of papers on my office floor that needed to be shredded – and then, for 30 minutes only, you deal with it.  I was surprised at how much shredding I managed to achieve in just half an hour before my shredder became too hot and I had to stop to give it time to cool down.  I shredded papers for 20 minutes and with the remaining 10 minutes, I did some ironing.  I filled that 30 minutes with purpose and although I still have more shredding to do, it made a significant dent on what was there to be done.

Today I applied the Half Hour Rule to another task in the house and I was really pleased and happy with the results.  I don’t have to worry about cleaning the entire house in one go (which is hugely daunting and overwhelming) but doing it in bite sized chunks of 30 minutes at a time, means that daily I AM getting something done, and whittling my way through my ‘To Do’ list.  It will still take a few weeks at this rate, but what I don’t feel is guilty.

When I spend a good part of my day in my office, writing, I know there are all these other jobs that need to be sorted out and I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing them.  I wasn’t even trying to do them.  I made excuses that I couldn’t have a decluttered house AND write my books, my newspaper column, my blog, my website and any of the other writing projects that fill my days.  Just spending 30 minutes a day, tackling part of one job, means that I have the rest of the day to do what I prefer to do – in my case, writing – but in your case, it could be anything you want.

This is liberating stuff people.  Feel free to adopt the Half Hour Rule for yourselves and see how much you can achieve in such a small amount of time.  Of course, if you have the time and the energy, the will and the drive, you can work longer than 30 minutes; that’s entirely up to you.  But the Half Hour Rule frees you up once you’ve done something you’ve been leaving, to do something else more pleasant.

Enjoy yourselves.  Have fun.  You’re welcome!

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The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood

61eziwmSULL._AC_US218_When I finished reading this book today, I felt bereft.  I was leaving behind a group of characters that I’d grown to love, a group of new friends that I desperately wanted to keep in touch with. I don’t think I’ve read such a beautifully crafted book in a very long time and the story-line, and characters are still suspended in my mind – rather like remembering a dream just before you wake up properly.

Monica Wood’s storytelling – what a gift – is mesmerising. The story hinges on an 11-year-old boy who meets a Lithuanian immigrant of 104 years of age.  As a Scout, looking to increase his badges over a 10-week period, he visits each Saturday for 7 weeks, to carry out small tasks to help Ona Vitkus. Discovering her age, (and in part because of his love for lists) he encourages her to apply to the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest woman.  They both discover that she’s several years away from that record, so he sets about trying to get her in the Book of World Records as the World’s Oldest Driver,

When he does come for two Saturdays in a row, Ona thinks that he’s just like all the other scouts that have been before him, then the boy’s father turns up on the 10th Saturday to fulfil his obligations. Mistrusting at first, Ona comes to rely on Quinn, the boy’s father, and between them they set about trying to finish the boy’s quest of getting Ona in the Guinness Book of World Records.

What Ona doesn’t know, at first, but later reads in the Obituaries, is that the boy dies unexpectedly and the father, in a bid to get to know his son continues the jobs that he had started.  Gradually, a reluctant friendship begins, and Quinn’s ex-wife, Belle – a fragile woman so engulfed in grief that she can barely function – also gets involved with Ona, along with the scoutmaster, a widower with children, who is dating Belle.

Running alongside that main storyline is Quinn’s story.  A musician, a guitarist, good and well-thought of by his fellow musicians, he gigs where he can to get the money, and works in a mail distributing plant on a regular basis. Belle, a librarian, has been unable to return to work because of her fragile state of mind and health and is heavily influenced by a sister and her father to sue the doctor who accidentally caused the boy’s death.

The boy, who is not named at all in the book, is the catalyst for bringing together a disparate group of people all of whom have their own problems to work through, and working together, and through the forging of a new friendships, each one is able to free themselves of any burden or guilt they’ve felt before, Quinn for being an absent father, Ona for a mistake made when she was 14 years of age, and Belle for being in love with the scoutmaster, Ted Leadbetter.

Weaving words together in a magic potion this story will outlast time itself.  I can see it being made into a film and as long as the script writer remains faithful to the book, it will be an incredible film. I won’t forget this book in a long time and if I could write, half – or even a quarter – as good as Monica Wood does, I’ll be a very happy woman.

To tell, or not to tell, that is the question

‘Truth never damages a cause that is just.’ – Mahatma Gandhi

cakeThis is a tricky question – to tell or not to tell.  On the one hand you want to enlist the help and support of your family members, friends, and work colleagues but on the other hand, at the very moment when you’re stuffing a chocolate éclair widthways into your mouth, the boss and his entourage walk by to catch you in the act.  Busted.

So is it a good idea to tell the world and his wife that you are now dieting?  In a moment of weakness you can be sure that there will be more witnesses to the event than would be around if you did a charitable act of kindness to someone.

When I worked at a very busy office in London my colleague and friend, Yvonne, would regularly announce on a Monday morning at 10.00am when she arrived: ‘I am now on a diet.  Please don’t tempt me with cakes or sweets or biscuits.’  We all nodded.  We knew the drill.

Half an hour later she would walk out to the vending machine in the hallway.  She would try, surreptitiously, to eat a Mars bar but she was always found out because at the very second she bit into it, her phone would ring or her boss would come out of his office to ask her something.  She’d blush a deep crimson and because she’d blown it for that day, she carried on eating.

Does that sound familiar?

Or you’ve done so well with you dieting endeavours and you’ve shed pounds, maybe even stones, and you’re now in clothes one or two sizes smaller and you’re feeling – and looking – good.  What happens? Yes, that’s right.  A ‘friend’ turns up with a box of chocolates ‘because you’ve done so well on your diet!’ they say gleefully knowing that you’ll never abandon a box of chocolates.

What friend would do that? Only one who feels that you might outshine them now that you’re slimmer and more confident.  By keeping you fatter you are less of a threat.  Depending on your age and your marital status, as a fatter friend it means you are less likely to get the pick of the crop of single, eligible men (if you’re looking, that is).  Seriously?  A friend would do that? Yes, and they do.

Saboteurs.  That’s what they’re called because they try to sabotage your dieting efforts. ‘You don’t need to lose weight,’ they’ll try to kid you into believing, ‘you’re fine and fun as you are.’  You can be fun whether you weigh 8 stone or 18 stone.  You can be fine whether you’re 8 stone or 18 stone.  The difference is health.  Are you healthy at 8 stone?  Are you healthy at 18 stone?  What is going on inside your body that could come back and bite you in the bum in years to come?

So if you need to lose weight you need to decide whether telling someone else to have their support is the right thing to do.  If you go it alone and you succeed just think how great you will feel knowing you did it without anyone looking over your shoulder asking if you should be eating that cream cake.  And if you go it alone then you can fall off the wagon any number of times without someone saying ‘I knew you couldn’t do it.  You don’t have any will power.’

If you go it alone and succeed then the glow of knowing that you did it – you lost weight – whether it was a few pounds or a couple of stones – or more – and people start noticing a difference in you.  And you feel more confident.  And confidence begets more confidence until you find yourself doing things you’d never dreamed of doing before.  Whether that’s wearing a bikini on holiday for the first time – or even going topless – or whether you decide to do a bungee jump or wing walking or a parachute jump – the world is your oyster. Losing weight successfully is the most euphoric feeling in the world and what was holding you back – weighing you down – was, literally, yourself!  How awesome are you!

Cruising means losing …

elephantWhat if you woke up one morning and an inner voice told you that you had limited time left on this earth? What would you do?   The reason I ask is because that very thing happened to me this morning.  It was an ‘aha’ moment when I was suddenly aware that the procrastination I’ve been indulging in for the past goodness knows how long has to end and getting stuck in to the various projects must begin.

My ‘problem’, if it is, indeed, a problem, is that I have too many balls in the air that I’m trying to juggle.  As a result, I let them all fall and carry on with something else – usually online jigsaw patterns or word games.  As time goes on and the list of things/projects that I want to do mount up, I feel overwhelmed, and don’t know where to start.  So I don’t start; I continue with the jigsaws and word games.

If you cruise, you lose.

If you coast, you’re toast.

Fail to prepare – prepare to fail.

All these sprung to mind when I was fully into my ‘aha’ moment and I realised with fresh eyes that I’ve been coasting through the days, years even and all three of my books are still in the AF (Almost Finished) stage, and I have Book Four waiting in the wings. What should I do about it, I asked myself.

Well, I made a list of all the things that need to be done – it was impressive – and scary.  And straight away I could feel my resolve wavering a bit.  Then I remembered the saying: ‘How do you eat an elephant? The answer: One bite at a time.’  So I drew a very simplistic outline of an elephant with a bite out of his knee and I pinned the picture up on the shelf above the desk where I work (or more usually, play).  I have it there in my peripheral vision all the time and it keeps me on track.

The list is long and each item is not something that will be completed in a few hours, or even a day but if I work methodically on one particular item from the list until it’s finished, then that can be ticked off the list. It’s simplicity at its best and adopting it shouldn’t be a hard thing to do.

What have you been putting off for a while that you could start?  Use the elephant idea to get started.

Another winner from Joe Wicks

Joe_Wicks_30_Mins_Meals

I have all three of Joe’s Lean in 15 books and have cooked many of the great recipes dozens of times over.  Recently, I bought his latest book: ‘Joe’s 30-minute meals’ which came out earlier this month.  There are 100 quick and healthy recipes, a delectable feast for anyone embarking – or continuing – on their weight loss and exercise plan.  Realising that some recipes do take longer than 15 minutes to cook, he decided to write a comprehensive book where recipes take a bit more time.

After a friendly welcome by Joe, he sets out how the book will work for you, by organising the book by main ingredients: All-Day Breakfast, Chicken, Beef and Pork and so on. After the introduction, he helpfully lists the ingredients you’ll need for your store-cupboard so that you can just choose any recipe and not have to rush out to buy the main ingredients for it.  He also lists extras that he loves which just add that little bit more to a recipe.

Then you start with All-Day Breakfasts and written in Joe’s usual style of banter, you’re in for a real feast – not only for the eyes with the amazing colour photographs of what your dish should look like – but also with what you’ve prepared.

There are some recipes which have vegetarian alternatives, but it is not a vegetarian cook book – you’ll have to wait for December for his vegetarian recipe book to come out. All the meals look fabulous; and if you’re familiar with Joe’s other books, you’ll know that you’re in for a treat when the Master of the Midget Trees puts a meal together.

Unlike the Lean in 15 books, there are no work-outs but each recipe is labelled ‘reduced-carb’ or ‘carb-refuel’ so you’ll know which days to eat them on, depending if you’re doing a work out or not.

This is a feast for the eyes as well as the belly.  It’s a really great book.

Published by Bluebird, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, it’s available in hardback. The ISBN number is:

978-1-5098-3609-3

Three wishes

 

“The three wishes of everyone: to be healthy, to be rich by honest means, and to be beautiful.”

Plato (427/428 – 348/347 BCE)

 

aladin's lampIf Brad Pitt (or your Man of the Moment) came to you and said: ‘Here are three wishes to do with as you please and they will all be granted,’ what would you wish for?  I’m not talking about generalisations here; no ‘World Peace’, ‘End Poverty’, or ‘No more famine’ etc. Or wishing that your children or siblings could have a good job, a great life, with a nice house – although all those things are what we would love for our children and siblings anyway.

No, I’m talking about what would YOU ask for YOURSELF?  I’m not in your shoes so I can’t answer this question on your behalf.  For myself, I could ask that I could lose weight, not effortlessly, (because if weight-loss was that easy, we wouldn’t learn how NOT to eat to gain the weight in the first place) but perhaps with less angst on my part.  I could ask for a better grasp of what’s important in my day so that I get that done first and not while away my day playing word games or doing online jigsaw puzzles, especially as I do have a lot of writing projects on the go.  Or I could ask that I have enough time to write letters to friends who live alone and for whom, a letter out of the blue might brighten an otherwise solitary day.

None of my wishes (just plucked from the air, by the way.  I haven’t spent any time in seriously thinking about this) would change me much as a person, but instead of stressing about losing weight (going with my supposed three wishes), I might accept myself as I am. Sometimes, when we stop trying to force the issue, and just let it be, miracles DO happen – and maybe I’ll find myself losing weight.

And instead of playing games I would get on with my writing projects:  this blog; my newspaper column on cat care; articles for my website on cats (www.thedailymews.com); competition entries and guest writing on other people’s blogs.

And finally, because of the second wish, I don’t have lots of time and letter-writing was something I loved doing and everyone loves receiving letters, don’t they?  Receiving a letter tells the recipient that the sender was thinking about them; that they are a much-loved family member, friend or ex-work colleague and we’re enquiring after their health, their family, while exchanging some newsy anecdotes about our lives.  With texts and emails the art of letter-writing is all but dead.

Now back to the three wishes.  You’ve chosen your three – all for yourself as I said. Now, narrow that down to just one.  Which one would you choose – and why?  Now write and tell me and, together, we’ll see if we can work through it so that you can achieve that wish.

 

Weighty matters

“Whenever I feel sad, I go to my happy place.  The fridge!”

chocolateThis is a tricky question – to tell or not to tell.  On the one hand you want to enlist the help and support of your family members, friends, and work colleagues but on the other hand, at the very moment when you’re stuffing a chocolate éclair width-ways into your mouth, the boss and his entourage walk by to catch you in the act.  Busted.

So is it a good idea to tell the world and his wife that you are now dieting?  In a moment of weakness you can be sure that there will be more witnesses to the event than would be around if you did a charitable act of kindness to someone.

When I worked at a very busy office in London my colleague and friend, Yvonne, would regularly announce on a Monday morning at 10.00am when she arrived: ‘I am now on a diet.  Please don’t tempt me with cakes or sweets or biscuits.’  We all nodded.  We knew the drill.

Half an hour later she would walk out to the vending machine in the hallway.  She would try, surreptitiously, to eat a Mars bar but she was always found out because at the very second she bit into it, her phone would ring or her boss would come out of his office to ask her something.  She’d blush a deep crimson and because she’d blown it for that day, she carried on eating.

Does that sound familiar?

Or you’ve done so well with you dieting endeavours and you’ve shed pounds, maybe even stones, and you’re now in clothes one or two sizes smaller and you’re feeling – and looking – good.  What happens? Yes, that’s right.  A ‘friend’ turns up with a box of chocolates ‘because you’ve done so well on your diet!’ they say gleefully knowing that you’ll never abandon a box of chocolates.

What friend would do that? Only one who feels that you might outshine them now that you’re slimmer and more confident.  By keeping you fatter you are less of a threat.  Depending on your age and your marital status, as a fatter friend it means you are less likely to get the pick of the crop of single, eligible men (if you’re looking, that is).  Seriously?  A friend would do that? Yes, and they do.

Saboteurs.  That’s what they’re called because they try to sabotage your dieting efforts. ‘You don’t need to lose weight,’ they’ll try to kid you into believing, ‘you’re fine and fun as you are.’  You can be fun whether you weigh 8 stone or 18 stone.  You can be fine whether you’re 8 stone or 18 stone.  The difference is health.  Are you healthy at 8 stone?  Are you healthy at 18 stone?  What is going on inside your body that could come back and bite you in the bum in years to come?

So if you need to lose weight you need to decide whether telling someone else to have their support is the right thing to do.  If you go it alone and you succeed just think how great you will feel knowing you did it without anyone looking over your shoulder asking if you should be eating that cream cake.  And if you go it alone then you can fall off the wagon any number of times without someone saying ‘I knew you couldn’t do it.  You don’t have any will power.’

If you go it alone and succeed then the glow of knowing that you did it – you lost weight – whether it was a few pounds or a couple of stones – or more – and people start noticing a difference in you.  And you feel more confident.  And confidence begets more confidence until you find yourself doing things you’d never dreamed of doing before.  Whether that’s wearing a bikini on holiday for the first time – or even going topless – or whether you decide to do a bungee jump or wing walking or a parachute jump – the world is your oyster. Losing weight successfully is the most euphoric feeling in the world and what was holding you back – weighing you down – was, literally, yourself!  How awesome are you!