The 1 Thing More Effective Than New Year Resolutions

It’s January 6th 2018, less than a week since New Year’s Day. Have you managed to stick to your resolution/s? Have you hit the gym every day? Have you managed to go without a single cigarette all week? Or has there been a hiccup along the way?

Be honest with yourself. No one is judging.

If there was a hiccup you’re not alone. In fact, it’s quite likely that some of us who had planned to start the year with a resolution didn’t even get that far. I’ve got a handful of fingers counting off people I know who didn’t even make it a day.

In fact, in a YouGov poll (carried out on behalf of LowLow) over 60% of the UK planned on making a new year resolution for the year 2015. Almost one third (32%) of those participants admitted that their resolutions are usually broken by the end of January, compared to just 10% of them who said their resolutions remain resolute all year.

So, if you did hit a bump in the road, no one is judging. Really. Stop being so hard on yourself. You did better than others just by turning up.

And for those of us who are still going strong: you’re awesome, keep it up. Only 359 days left.

But there’s something I’d like you to think about.

Why did you wait until January 1st to get started? If a new year resolution is self-improvement, why did you put off being a better version of who you already are?


“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”

Benjamin Franklin

January 1st is an arbitrary date.

It’s not a law to make a resolution and start it on the first day of the year. What’s more, by lining up at the starting line of the new year, you’ve inadvertently put yourself at a disadvantage:

You already have an excuse ready for failure

In the pressure to keep up with everyone else, you’ve probably clutched at a stock answer resolution rather than making a deeply personal choice. You probably set up a resolution because hey, that’s what we all do on January 1st… Was your heart even in it?

Everyone’s watching and everyone has their expectations

More than close friends and family that you consider ‘everyone’, asking each other what new year resolutions they’ve made is a go to conversation point in the first few weeks of the year. That barista serving you a coffee. The charity worker wanting you to sign up to make monthly donations. The postman. The milkman. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker?

That’s everyone.

You’re more likely to take set backs more sensitively

“I’ve ruined the year.”

“What’s the point?”

“I was never going to succeed anyway…”

We’ve become attuned to making grand statements of intent at the start of the year because we attribute the new year to a blank canvas. With this mentality, we have to wait the entire year before we get another one. So, if we are anything but perfect in our interaction with our resolutions it’s like we’ve stained the year with failure. 

Here’s the truth: it doesn’t matter! Every day is a blank canvas. Every moment is. We can start a fresh any time we choose and we can try again each and every time we want and need.

You’ve removed the opportunity to use each day for self betterment, no matter what number it says on the calendar

By allocating a single day every year to kick off a resolution; to make a change or do something that you’ve waited months to be allowed to official begin, 363 opportunities to do just that have been rejected by definition. 

See you next year, Mr. Opportunity to Be Whoever I Choose To Be.

A single, larger goal is more daunting than choosing to make small changes more consistently

Typical resolutions are easy to think of:

  • Exercise more
  • Lose weight
  • Eat more healthy
  • Quit smoking
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Save £XX
  • Learn a language
  • Spend more time with the folks
  • Start a business 

By looking at the intended goal: to lose 5kg, to hit the gym 6 days a week, to nail Lithuanian, we can lose sight of the journey and the little steps that it takes to get there. If we see the individual components of the goal we can feel more confident and empowered. 

So, ask yourself, why do tomorrow that which you can do today?

The 1 Thing More Effective Than New Year’s Resolutions

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment”

Tony Robbins

Waiting to start a ‘resolution’ on January 1st is time wasting. It’s deliberation and it doesn’t serve you well.

Here’s an idea: resolve to start today.

If you want to lose weight, why put it off until January 1st? It won’t help and it won’t be any easier if you do. In fact, chances are you will have made the decision to commit to a new diet and exercise regime in December, right before that final festive binge. Waiting until January 1st isn’t going to be easier, it’s going to be harder. Think about it.

If you want to learn a new language this year and have asked Santa to bring you a nice teach yourself guide to German crack it open on Christmas morning and test out wishing everyone Frohe Weihnachten. In the 7 days until January 1st you could have learned 70 new words.

What if you’ve vowed to finally give up smoking? If each cigarette you smoke is going to steal 11 minutes of your life…quit yesterday.

We’re all champions of our own fate and there’s no value in waiting to make it. Once we shake off the mentality that a new year is a new start we’ll free ourselves to the potential of every new day.

So, if you want to achieve something, don’t wait for Go. 

Simply go for it. 

Making resolutions stick

Worthwhile resolutions are not difficult because of a lack of enthusiasm for it. A worthwhile resolution is one that you desire the outcome of. It’s a goal that you want to achieve and understand what it takes to do so.

A resolution shouldn’t be something that you don’t want to do. Doing what you don’t want to do is difficult; doing what you want to do is something else entirely.

It’s hard work but there’s a thrill in the chase.

Somewhere out there on the horizon, nestled on the precipice of 2019, there’s a podium waiting for you to climb. It’s a podium with only one step.

First place.

Make it or break it, you’ll climb that step a winner with a smile on your face.

Let’s break it down…


The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘resolution’ as:

A firm decision to do or not to do something.

The word ‘decision’, of course, referring to:

A conclusion or resolution reached after consideration

And ‘consideration’ means:

Careful thought, typically over a period of time.

So therefore we can say that a resolution is:

A firm conclusion to do, or not do, something reached after a period of careful thought.

In other words, you’ve taken stock, evaluated your needs and wants against the cost of achieving them, and come to the realisation of what you need to do in order to get them.

So in order to build a resolution that you can find success in there are a handful of simple tactics to use.

They’re the 4P’s of resolution building:

  1. Personal
  2. Positive
  3. Precise
  4. Perceptive

Success Is Yours, Take It [1. Personal]

The resolutions need to be meaningful to you. Even if the goal involves a third party the goal still belongs to you and you’ll still be the one responsible for it.

Both Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within and David J. Schwartz’s The Magic of Thinking Big are fantastic starting points for personal goal-setting.

Consider The Cup Half Full [2. Positive]

No, quitting smoking will not be effortless.

No, losing weight won’t just be a walk in the park.

No, learning Mandarin will not be easy. 

But yes, you’ll feel great once you remove cigarettes from your life or fit into those sexy jeans again or flirt with the pretty Chinese girl in the airport lounge. 

Nothing worth having in life ever came easy but nothing easy ever really had much value. 

Specificity [3. Precise]

Remember at school being asked to make SMART goals? The principle applies here.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Let’s take a common resolution: to lose weight, and apply the SMART principle.

First, make the goal..

Specific

How much weight do I want to lose? Why do I want to lose it? Can I visualise the end result? What is the definition of my goal?

By being specific you will have a goal with clearly defined boundaries and therefore a clearly definable measure of success. This is the Big Picture.

Measurable

What are my micro and macro goals? How much do I want to lose in the first month? How will I track my progress?

The breaking down of a goal is fundamental in understanding how best to accomplish it. Want to lose 5kg in the next 5 months in time for a summer on the beach? 5kg (the goal) becomes 1kg per month (the macro goal) which becomes 250g per week (the micro goal). Now you have regular, weekly evaluation points to allow you to understand the rate of your success and make any adjustments more frequently, as needed. This is your Road Map of Check Points.

Achievable

What do I need in order to lose the weight? Am I able to do these things? If not, is there a workaround or alternative? Do I have the resources to allow me to do what I need to?

This is where you devise a plan of action. You’ve got a Big Picture, you’ve got a Road Map of Check Points, now it’s time to figure out your approach. Have a plan A and a plan B, with a plan C and a plan D tucked away for safe keeping in case of emergencies. After all, failing to prepare is preparing to fail, right? Consider this the Itinerary of Accomplishment.

Realistic

Is losing this amount of weight possible?

Simply put, does everything seem like a sure thing? It might take really hard work to get there, but between visualising success and charting a course for it, will the time and energy invested in it pay-off? Or, put another way, what else good can come from it if you don’t make it? Have a Voice of Reason. If you’re working on losing those 5kg but only manage to reach 3.5kg that’s still a net loss and a net gain: you’ve lost weight and, in all likelihood, become a lot fitter, healthier and more in tune with eating right since starting. Win win. 

Time-bound

Do I have enough time to realistically achieve my measurable goals? Again, what are my micro and macro goals? What time frame do I have to work with?

Intrinsic to your evaluation of how realistic the goal is, understanding the time constraint is really important. After working on the S-M-A and R a closer look at the time you have to work with may trigger amendments back along the chain. Perhaps you have so much time that you are able to step things up a notch and aim to lose 5kg as well as add 1kg of solid, rippling muscle. Or, perhaps upon reflection 5 months is pushing it. Maybe 5kg should be 4kg. But be objective rather than subjective: if deep down you know it will simply take a little more hard work…work a little more hard. This is your Application Period

So, by utilising the SMART principle you’ll have used your Voice of Reason to settle on a Big Picture, plot out a Road Map of Check Points and draw up your Itinerary of Accomplishment all within your Application Period.  

Pay attention to the process

“The journey is the thing…”

Homer

Aiming to achieve a particular goal, like losing a certain amount of weight or learning a language, is motivating and exciting because of the anticipation of success. 

But there’s more. 

Going from zero to hero is a journey; it’s a joy ride through lessons, failures, successes and all the grey areas in between. 

So, keep an eye on the prize but enjoy every moment. It’s the time between starting and finishing that ultimately offers the greatest reward. You’ll come face to face with the unexpected, be asked to dig deeper than you realised you could and reach higher than your dared to believe you ever would. 

And, when all’s said and done, zoom out from your Big Picture and you’ll see that it’s just another marker on the Road Map of Check Points. 


The Takeaway

Track and assess: consistently

Making a resolution for a prolonged period of time (like a year) naturally makes it a longitudinal goal. Things change all the time and, certainly towards the start, your rate of success will be an unknown quantity. A predication at best. The micro and macro goals that you’ve lined up may not necessarily go as planned as you’re likely to be sailing in uncharted waters so track and record your progress daily, review every goal and use this new information to move forwards to the next one.

Expect the unexpected

Every road has bumps. Life happens so the more ready we are for disruptions to the plan the better equipped we will be to deal with them so that our goals and resolutions can still be accomplished. 

Build strategies into your goal-setting 

You’ve considered your goal in relation to the SMART principle and have thought about potential pitfalls and hazards [A]. Use this evaluation to devise backup plans, workarounds and opportunities to mitigate as much disruption to your success as possible.

Don’t be greedy: Prioritise 

What is the big goal? The more resolutions you have, the more your focus will be split. Focusing on one thing at a time will make you more likely to accomplish it. If you like a lot of entries to tick off, break your big goal down into as many micro and macro goals as you like. You’ll feel super accomplished as you tick-tick-tick everything but will remain 100% centred on the big goal.

Let it go.

If you happen to have a bit of a tricky day and end up falling off of the Resolution Wagon don’t let it ruin the resolution. Pick yourself up and get right back on. Failing one time shouldn’t stop you from trying again. And again and again if necessary. Remember, it’s your resolution. No one’s watching. No one’s judging. 


 

9 Things Everyone Should Do Before 9am

“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.

Full effort is victory.”

Mahatma Ghandi

21st century living is busy. Life is full on and time is not on our side. A full-time job, kids and social responsibilities mean that we’re often left with little space and time for ourselves.

It seems like we have little opportunity to grow, right? How do we do it? If we don’t figure it out, before we know it the day, the week and the month will have passed us by and all we’ll have done is…well, got up, gone to work, and fulfilled our responsibilities.

Before we know it we’ll have blinked and fast forwarded 25 years and be left standing in the dust, wondering where all the time went.

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose”

Lyndon B Johnson

Winning the day by being super productive and motivated immediately upon waking is a message that we’re surrounded by and it’s not a new ideology.

Carpe Diem? We’ve got Horace to thank for that one.

It’s a message that we’re surrounded by for a reason: it’s a truth. And more than that, with a little effort the output can be tenfold the input.

But it’s all well and good being told this: actions speak louder than words.

So let’s take 9am as the average start to a working day and work backwards from there. If you’re an early riser then bonus points to you, but rising early and having a good night’s sleep too might not equate with certain lifestyles so it is necessary to find balance.

We must shape our days with focus and value. If we want to achieve things then we need to understand how best to use the time we have.

First things first:

Recalibrate

Like putting on a pair of slippers, sliding into a comfortable routine is easy to do. Most of us have our routines and those routines are most likely to be effortless.

But here’s the secret: we have to put a little effort in. The more effort we put in, the greater the return on our initial investment. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. And to do that we need to lay new foundations.

21st Century Debt & Mission: You

This article is a call to arms.

This is Mission: You, and it’s designed to help cultivate a more fulfilling lifestyle that will eventually become second nature.

Is your downtime spent well? Spent conscientiously? Or, like many of us, have you somehow become accustomed to filling your time with distractions and inconsequential activities? An hour flicking through IG feeds? Youtubing one too many cat videos? Binging on boxsets a bit too often? Fun things, but in the grand scheme of it all…fruitless.

It’s the 21st Century debt. We’re spending more and more of our own time on nonsense and accruing an interest on it that can only be paid back one way: making smarter choices on what we spend the rest of our time on.

But we have to consciously make the decision to switch.

Here’s the truth: we’re all masters of our own destiny.

That means YOU are the master of your destiny. And mastery of one’s destiny begins with mindset.

Believe in You.

Here’s another truth: small changes add up to a big difference.

With new year upon us why not set yourself the small goal of experimenting with making a small change to your comfortable routine? Replace those comfy old slippers that you’ve worn in just how you like them with a new pair and soon you’ll find that you’ve worn them in just the way you like them too. Only, that new pair of slippers will be the 2.0 version. Super slippers worn by a super you.

All it will take is a few hours every morning doing 9 simple things summed up by 9 simple words:

  1. Hibernate
  2. Hydrate
  3. Meditate
  4. Activate
  5. Invigorate
  6. Ingurgitate
  7. Motivate
  8. Evaluate
  9. Facilitate

Get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep [1. Hibernate]

Getting enough sleep is a basic, fundamental need. Our candles are not designed to burn at both ends. Maslow (1943, 1954) identified five tiers of human needs:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 

At the foundation of the hierarchy are our physiological needs: those things that we cannot do without. ‘Food, water, warmth, rest’. These are basic needs.

In the UK, the Royal Society for Public Health has recognised that the population is under-sleeping by an average of almost an hour every night. That would equate to an entire night’s sleep lost every week. That 21st century debt of ours? It’s accruing from the get go.

Under-sleeping has knock-on effects too:

  • Poorer dietary choices
  • Higher levels of stress
  • Loss of focus and concentration
  • Higher risk of cancer and strokes
  • Increased weight gain
  • Reduced immunity
  • Reduced libido
  • Mood fluctuation
  • Impulsivity
  • Substance dependency
  • Decreased memory
  • Reduced communication, creativity and socialisation

On the other hand, getting enough sleep has a myriad of benefits*:

  • Less stress
  • Increased creativity, communication and socialisation
  • Better metabolism
  • Less risk of depression
  • Reduced risk of cancer and strokes
  • Less weight can and greater muscle gain after exercise
  • Improved memory
  • Increased immunity
  • Less inflammation
  • More stable moods
  • More likely to have a better diet
  • Less impulsive

For adults, we generally need 7-9 hours. Getting enough sleep is fundamental to the success of the 9 steps identified in this post so the key is to work backwards. Do you function better with 7, 8 or 9 hours? Maybe you need less, or more? The point is this: if you want to wake up at 5am to capitalise on those early morning hours then bedding down at 1am isn’t going to cut it.

Remember: recalibrate. If you need 8 hours and want to get started at 5am then it should be lights out at 9pm.

The other thing to note in here is the value of sleeping in the nude. Sleeping butt-nekkid has been proven to be incredibly healthy.

By sleeping naked you can help reduce your body temperature and a lower body temperature leads to much better sleep thanks to lower levels of cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol lead to feeling anxious and unsettled. Cortisol is the stress hormone.

The production and release of melatonin and growth hormone is also affected by higher temperatures so stripping down will only help that magical growth hormone work its magic in helping to keep you looking, and feeling, more youthful for longer. In fact, HGH is intrinsic to weight loss and muscle gain too.

Other benefits include:

  • Increased confidence
  • Higher sex drive and improved sex life
  • Improved metabolism
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Healthier skin

At the very, very least you’ll also be less stressed thanks to better, deeper sleep.

A Glass of Water is Your New Best Friend [2. Hydrate]

According to The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the average adult male and female needs an intake of 2.5 and 2.0 litres of water respectively, per day. The Natural Hydration Council provides further, succinct guidance here.

So, once you’ve woken and sprung right up and out of bed, drink a small bottle of water. A 500ml bottle of water consumed first thing in the morning will do a handful of things:

Fire up the metabolism

A study published in the Journal of of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism exploring the effects of Water-Induced Thermogenesis found that ‘drinking 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30%.’

Flush the body of toxins

The kidneys eliminate toxins and waste products from the blood and urine, as well as process water-soluble toxins from the liver. Without proper hydration, the kidneys will not have enough fluid to do their job and so instead of flushing out waste through urine, the body will retain it.

Rehydrate you

You haven’t taken in any fluids since you went to sleep 7 – 9 hours ago. If you need more proof of dehydration, check out the colour of your urine.

Keep you from eating too much

The logic here is simple: if your stomach is filled with a zero-calorie substance, you’ll be less likely to feel hungry and, thanks to the lack of calories, will also be less likely to put on weight.

Refresh, and improve, brain function

The brain is 75% water and the most fatty organ in the body. Without water you’ll feel lethargic, be less focused and be more prone to mood swings.

The Japanese Water Theory of consuming between 800 – 1.2l of room temperature/lukewarm water upon waking is equally beneficial, if not more so. In addition to the above, it is said to:

  • Help clear the colon
  • Reduce the risk of headache
  • Give the skin a healthy glow
  • Rid the body of waste
  • Improve immunity
  • Help alleviate conditions such as diabetes, kidney stones, asthma and angina.

Our bodies are over 70% water; we’re literally made of the stuff.

Clear Your Mind and Focus [3. Meditate]

Ed Zwick made his first Tom Cruise movie in 2003. Inspired by the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigō Takamori, The Last Samurai is a historical epic that follows a United States calvary captain, Nathan Algren (Cruise), as he ventures to Japan to help train Imperial soldiers in the war against the rebelling samurai warriors. During the first conflict he is captured but rather than be treated as he expects to be, Algren is invited to understand the way of the samurai and treated as a guest.

One of his earliest lessons is to clear his mind:

Nobutada: “Please forgive…too many mind.”

Algren: “Too many mind?”

Nobutada: “Hai (yes).  Mind the sword, mind the people watch (watching), mind the enemy, too many mind.  No mind.”

Algren: “No mind?”

Nobutada: “No mind.”

This exchange between Nobutada, a young samurai warrior, and Algren is a wonderful way to think about meditation. If there are too many things filling your mind, they’re distracting you and destroying your focus. ‘Too many mind’ is distracting – aim for ‘no mind’.

Meditating early in the morning/soon after waking is a great way to cultivate positivity. One way to meditate is to focus on the things that bring you joy and those that you are grateful for.

“Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”

Robert Emmons

Beginning the day in a state of gratitude and thankfulness will make you more likely to attract positivity and the best the universe has to offer. Gratitude begets gratitude: it’s magnetic and infectious.

Exercise [4. Activate]

According to the British Heart Foundation’s ‘Physical Inactivity Report 2017‘, around 39% of adults in the UK fail to meet the government recommendations for physical activity. In a population of 65 million, over 20 million people are not active enough.

Put another way, the World Health Organisation ranks sedentary behaviour among the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide.

If you want to increase your health, happiness and productivity then there’s no time to waste: get familiar with a regular exercise routine immediately. This doesn’t mean pulling on the lycra, headlamps and reflective arm bands and setting off for a trail run at 5am in the bleak mid-winter. Get thee to a gym or a pool, or to a morning yoga class. Or maybe stay home, throw on your copy of Insanity and forgo putting on any gym kit.

The key is to get moving.

The benefits of physical activity are endless and need no introduction. But if you need just a little more inspiration, exercising for just 60 minutes in the morning can lead to:

  • Less stress
  • Greater, and sharper, attention
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle growth

Sound good? Treat your body well and in return it will treat you better.

Use it or lose it, mi amigo.

Wash Off [5. Invigorate]

Once you’ve got your sweat on, it’s time to get it off. But if you thought exercise was a tough packet of biscuits to open, this one ratchets things up a notch.

Ever spent time in a sauna and then cooled off under a nice, icy cold bucket of wet death? Or ended up midway through washing your hair when the hot water runs out? For an instant, the world ended, right?

But cold showers have been proven to have many positive effects and choosing to embrace the cold for a few moments each morning can actually have a big, positive impact on your wellbeing. They can:

  • Build willpower
  • Speed muscle recovery
  • Relieve depression
  • Increase your alertness
  • Improve immunity and circulation
  • Increase testosterone and boost fertility
  • Improve skin and hair

It might take nerves of steel to turn that dial from the red to the blue, but a couple of alternating blasts of cold water will amount to less than a minute. You’ll step out of the shower feeling tingly, energised and ready for the day.

Eat A Healthy Breakfast of Protein, Slow Release Carbs and Good Fat [6. Ingurgitate]

Ok, so I struggled to find a word ending in -ate for this one. I’m talking about refuelling. I’m talking about…

Breakfast.

Breakfast is probably the most vulnerable meal of the day. It’s the first fuel we give to our bodies so getting it right can be tough, or boring. Or both. We’re busy people and skipping the Most Important Meal of the Day is easy to do, and certainly easy to neglect.

It’s common knowledge that:

  • Sugary cereals.
  • Buttery white bread toast.
  • Office donuts and a latte.

…are bad. And that:

  • Oatmeal
  • Eggs
  • Greek yoghurt

…are good. But how do we get the balance right?

There are plenty of studies out there telling us what’s good and what’s bad but as with any meal planning and macro counting, being sure seems to get more and more complicated the more we look into it.

As a rule of thumb Dr. Jacob Wilson, professor and director of the skeletal muscle and sports nutrition laboratory at the Applied Science and Performance Institute in Tampa, Florida, suggests to aim to consume 30-40g of protein, 30g+ of slow release carbs (oatmeal is an easy go to) and 20g of fats (nuts, seeds) at breakfast for a clean, longer lasting source of energy and quality nutrition.

For me, that’s a 5 egg omelette and a small bowl of almond milk cooked oats topped with a spoonful of nut butter. In other words, every day is Christmas.

Listen to Something That Gets You Going [7. Motivate]

Are you partial to an audiobook? A certain podcast? A little bit of ABBA Gold?

Try making the switch to listening to something that is both uplifting as well as educational on your commute to work and you’ll be adding an extra depth to your cognitive stimulation.

If the average length of an audiobook is approximately 11 hours and the average length of a daily commute is 90-120 minutes then getting through a book a week, or just over, is very doable. Over the course of a year you could squeeze in an additional 50+ books.

That’s a valuable acquisition from little input and little inconvenience: time spent waiting is wasted time spent.

What’s more, you’ll feel good: you’ll arrive at work entertained and engaged.

Consider Your Goals [8. Evaluate]

Keep a log of the things you want to achieve, both in the long term and the short. Ideally a 5-15 minute stint of journaling each evening will allow to you assimilate ideas. It will also allow you to highlight the more pressing goals.

Each morning, review them. The few minutes spent reading through them will help to provide the day with purpose and give it a perspective.

What’s more, considering the long term goals on a regular, or daily, basis will encourage you to think about them frequently too. Engaging with them will contribute to the mindset of accomplishing them and propel you towards doing just that.

Carpe Diem [9. Facilitate]

Seize. The. Day.

You worked through the 8 steps to get here and it’s not even 9am yet. You’ve woken, hydrated, meditated, worked out, washed off, eaten a healthy breakfast, reviewed your goals and learnt something. You’ve done the important stuff and you still have a full day ahead of you.

Congratulations, you’ve just won the day. Now, go crush it in those mighty, champion hands of yours and be safe in the knowledge that the seeds you sowed this morning will flower into a beautiful crop.

With all of the above completed, you’ll find you have a sharper focus, a higher degree of productivity and a bounty of motivation to keep you moving forwards. And upwards.


Conclusion

By the time 9am rolls around, think of all you will have achieved before most of your colleagues have even thought about seizing the day. You’ll have laid the foundations for a successful day.

You’ll feel more motivated, work better, exude more positivity and generally be the winner we spoke about earlier.

What’s more, you’ll soon begin to see real change in your life. You’ll attract more of what you want, you’ll do work that stimulates you more and your relationships will become even stronger, deeper and more fulfilling.

The Law of Attraction, which states that the universe manifests the things that we give our energy and focus to, will reward you with greater success and happiness and all it took was the seed of a tiny change to how you start the day.


*For further reading on the benefits of sleep, the RSPH has published an interesting guide here.

How Do I Stop Feeling Like Time Is Slipping Through My Fingers?

A few months before the start of #Project20nine I found myself afflicted by a constant worry. It had crept up on me and settled in like a shadow in the night. I was worrying that I’ve been wasting my time and that no matter how hard I tried to stop the sands of time slipping through my fingers I just couldn’t.

Face it, T, no one can.

But the worst bit? The bit that really compounded the problem? Reflecting on the worry meant that I was so focussed on watching those grains fall that I’d lost sight of the grains that were in my hands.

We’ve all got time but it’s in front of us, not behind.

‘Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.’

John Lennon

The fear of wasted time is not uncommon and it’s a slippery path once we’re on it. That path spirals downwards if we don’t make a foothold and step up off of it.

So, I asked myself: how do I stop feeling like this way? How can I be confident that I am not wasting my time? Why is enough never enough? How do I achieve more?

These questions began to infect me the more I understood the root of my anxieties. I dug deeper and found the answers within a new line of thought.

There were 3 questions that I realised helped me to focus and become more proactive in claiming back my sense of making time work for me.

3 Questions That Help

  1. Where does my concept of wasted time come from?
  2. Do I compare myself to others too much?
    1. Is there value to this?
    2. Who, in particular, have I been comparing myself to? Why?
  3. Do I consistently benefit from the results of the way I spend my time?
    1. If results are not being seen, what is being seen?
    2. How am I gauging ‘results’?
    3. What is preventing me from seeing the results that I want to?

The answers will be enlightening. Questions 2 and 3 are closed questions but many open questions spring from them (some of which I’ve identified) and once we begin engaging with this thought pattern, a proactive response will be inevitable.

My Tips to Help Use Time Most Effectively

Assess where your time is going

Are you a procrastinator? A perfectionist? Super lazy or just not quite sure where to start so you twiddle your thumbs as you go round in circles? Do you simply try to do too much and end up chasing your tail? Nail this down and you’ll have an acute awareness of your own time-spending weaknesses.

One of the most immediate, and most likely places, that your time is going is your phone. Download a screen-time tracker like Momentum or utilise a built in function to highlight, in horrifyingly specific detail, just how much time you spend texting, tweeting, grammin’ and Facebooking.

Prioritise and task set (be uber specific)

When you find yourself saying ‘I don’t have time for XX‘, really try to address whether it’s actually the simple case of not having your priorities in right and proper order. For example, if your task list has 15+ items on it consider how many of them are necessary. If they all are, how can you group them? Which task will contribute to the accomplishment of others if done first?

Pareto’s 80:20 Principle states that roughly 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions. That’s a lot of results from very little input.

Establish routines

Cap the day with a morning and an evening routine to give yourself a sense of completion and to retain a bit of sanity if you’re always on the go.

These routines are like forming habits, and forming a habit can take around 66 days, according to Jeremy Dean, to naturalise. I speak about my own here.

To establish your new routine(s):

  • Make them the focus: create a cycle of accomplishing a structure and this mentality will seep into your cycle of accomplishment. Period.
  • Incorporate a sense of reward into them: morning routines might include a post-morning workout latte or the evening routine might include a bit of yoga.
  • Track results: did the new routine, after being established, contribute to greater accomplishment/better well-being/ other opportunities?

Schedule Your Time

Don’t seek to be busy, seek to be productive. Identify your primary goals for the next day by spending no more than 30 minutes, the night before, outlining them.

With these in place, block your time, allocate goals and break down actions into the most efficient tasks. This includes contingency planning for distractions and unexpected turns of events.

By extension, establish cold zones: periods of the day where using mobiles, social media and answering emails is prohibited.

Ideally these periods should form the majority of your time. Allocating specific tech-time will significantly contribute to better time management and focus.

By allocating specific times for emails you will refrain from dipping into the inbox every 20 minutes. Checking and replying at after the first major task has been accomplished and then again towards the middle of the afternoon will also help keep your focus sharp.

Don’t fear saying ‘No’

Saying ‘no’ is a skill. It’s not easy to do it but it’s a fundamental ability to nurture. Your time is yours and saying ‘no’ is an affirmation that you value it enough to keep for yourself. That’s not to say giving your time to others should be avoided, but it’s a serious consideration when you are asked to give it away.

Here’s a simple rule

Say ‘yes’ to things you:

  • have to do
  • should do
  • want to do

But of course the tricky thing is discerning between the three…

Remove distractions

This is one to really emphasise: the TV/Facebook/Instagram/mobile phone isn’t going anywhere. Let these time-thieves disappear from your consideration – the harder you hold on to them the harder it is to relinquish them. Rip ’em off like a band-aid and watch what happens.

Understand your physical and physiological needs

Take care of yourself! Move, drink, sleep, eat. Your brain and body will respond to these basics in kind. They will get sharper, feel more energised and ultimately serve you better.

Be patient but don’t accept waiting

Patience is a virtue but inserting ‘waiting time’ into the day is a long way from being practical. If you find yourself having to wait (for a meeting, a dentist appointment etc.) then use that time well!

Do you have smaller tasks that can be accomplished in this time? If not, how can you make that time work for you, rather than let it dissipate into the ether without a valuable result? Perhaps it’s time you can spend recharging with a tea or reading a few pages of a book.

Good organisation eliminates reorganisation

…and reorganisation is the mother of all time wasters. Keep it in order, keep it clean and you’ll save yourself the hassle of doing bigger jobs more frequently. It’s the magic of little and often.

Remember: you only have so many hours in a day

Trying to do too much, all the time, is not only bad for your health, it can affect relationships, finances and, paradoxically, other goals. Accept that a to do list is not a matter of life and death and that time for living, for relaxing and for non-work related activities is allowed.

Here’s another thought: being too busy, too often, is proof that we’re not good enough at saying no.

Be good at saying no.


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. Today the author doesn’t feel a day older than he should. In fact, if you asked him how he does feel, he’d probably tell you he feels no different to the way he felt at the beginning of being a 20-something. He would also tell you how much he enjoys being however old he is at any given moment and that he feels hungry. But then again, he’s always hungry

How to Learn a Foreign Language in 30 Minutes a Day

I recently wrote an email to a family member. She’s Lithuanian and the last time I saw her (3 months ago) I did a pretty decent job at saying ‘hello, how are you?’ and then looking blankly as she answered. In contrast, my email was an actual conversation that translated meaning. It was the beginning of a eureka moment for me and a confirmation that my new approach is paying off.

Frankly, just try and shut me up.

Man labai labai patinka kalbėti lietuviškai. 


Did you know that 43% of the world’s population speaks 2 or more languages and 13% of the world’s population speaks 3 or more? That means that almost half of the world speaks a foreign language. That also means that the mono-linguists out there are almost in the minority.

I expect 43% is the lowest that figure will ever be again. For next week, next month, next year, more and more of us will have foreign language communication skills and, moreover, more of us will want those skills too*.

I’ve not reached fluency in any other language than my native tongue. I’m basically a mono-linguist with a predisposition to saying ‘hello’ and ‘thankyou’ in as many different languages as I can. Bonjour!

Interestingly, aside from Ireland, the UK (in joint second position with Portugal) is where folks are least likely to be able to speak any foreign language. Uh-oh UK! Not cool.

I have a compulsion of playing around with language no matter where I travel and love to really utilise some very basic skills. But my attention is currently focussed on Lithuanian: I’m taking classes, and taking self-study seriously.

But learning languages is not easy. It takes a lot of time and a lot of focus and a lot of dedication. A language such as Lithuanian has 7 cases, 6 declensions, several diacritics and a sentence structure that, for a native English speaker at least, can be tough to get one’s head around.

Here’s some stats:

The Foreign Service Institute is responsible for training US diplomats and ambassadors to speak foreign languages. Since 1947 they’ve built a very strong bank of data regarding language learning for English speakers. According to them, a native English speaker looking to reach fluency in Lithuanian could expect to do so in 44 weeks (308 days) with a total of 1,100 hours (an average of 3.5 hours a day).

Basic maths puts 44 weeks at just short of 7,400 hours. Let’s break that down:

  • Average sleeping hours: 7.5 hours per night.
    • In 44 weeks that’s 2310 hours
  • Average working hours: 37 (37.4 according to the ONS) per week.
    • In 44 weeks that’s 1628 hours
  • Average time in the bathroom (washing and doing your business): let’s call it 1 hour a day, although it’s a very loose estimate.
    • In 44 weeks that’s another 308 hours
  • Average time cooking and eating: we’ll generalise another 1 hour daily.
    • In 44 weeks that’s another 308 hours
  • Average commute time: the ONS report from 2011 shows a varied commuting experience across the UK but, using my own experience from a life in London, the time spent getting to and from work every day is around 90-120 mins. As we’re optimists, we’ll use the lower end.
    • So, in 44 weeks that’s 330 hours

Therefore between sleeping, working, commuting, eating and washing oneself, we’re already at 4,884 hours. Which leaves 2,516 hours of our 44 weeks remaining. That is, 34% of our time. Therefore, once we factor in those 1,100 hours of dedicated language-learning time, we have 1,416 hours left to ourselves. That’s time we might spend grocery shopping, working out, seeing friends and family, watching movies etc.

Look at it another way. 1,416 hours is 19.14% of our 44 weeks. We’re left with 20% of our lives to do with as we wish once we’ve done all of the essential stuff (not counting any number of other responsibilities like, being a parent, having a dog, running a side-hustle, going to the doctor/dentist/hairdressers, travelling, date nights etc) and the language learning.

Yes, that’s not much time left to do all those cool, sexy things but here’s the point: if we’re learning a language, we’re likely doing so by choice so 1,100 hours of language learning isn’t really to be subtracted from time that we can call ‘Me time’. It does, however, highlight a real sense of priority.

I learn for myself and I learn for another reason too. And I love learning. Period. But, like most of us, I’m pretty busy and, even though I’d very much like to, I don’t really have 3.5 hours a day, every day, to assign to language learning. So I’ve tried to simplify the approach to learning by finding a more efficient way of engaging with the language.

N.B. I’m not a language coach, a polygot or even a bi-linguist. The following has simply proven hugely helpful for me.

My approach to learning a language:

  1. Nailing the basics
    1. Learn how to read through understanding pronunciation. Where do you roll an ‘r’, and what sound does ž or ė make? Once you have this down, and with a good bit of focus you could have it down in less than an hour, you’re setting off with your best foot forward.
  2. Frequency dictionaries
    1. These are, without a doubt, a game changer. Frequency dictionaries list words in order of their usage within a language. Typically they’ll be split into Verbs, Nouns, Adjectives etc. and what they offer is a wide open door to fairly decent conversations from the get-go. Logically, if you can use the first 1,000 or so words of those dictionaries you’ll be having basic conversations with comfort. Get to just 4-5,000 words and you’ll have a vocab strong enough to see you through the C2 test of the Common European Framework of References for Languages. That’s considered Mastery. The CEF doesn’t go higher.
  3. Weekly one-on-one/two lessons
    1. This does help and it’s helpful for 2 main reasons: specific guidance from a native speaker trained to provide specific guidance to non-native speakers, and a degree of accountability: I’ve paid for a block of lessons so I’d better do my best to ensure I get my money’s worth…
  4. Using the language in everyday settings
    1. I’ve found that forcing myself to using Lithuanian whenever I can is incredibly useful in rewiring my brain. The more I replace my English with Lithuanian the more comfortable I feel using it and the smoother I am at doing so.
  5. Exposure and Immersion
    1. Being in an environment where I can really only use the language: in Lithuania/ in the company of Lithuanians, is incredibly useful. It offers little opportunity to escape and the pressure of successful communication being almost solely dependent on one language is a great motivator. Sure, English is spoken relatively prolifically in the Lithuania, and certainly among my peer group, but the real heart of the matter is respect. There’s not a valid excuse not to try as hard as one can to speak the respective language of the country one finds themselves in.
  6. Daily targets of new vocab acquisition
    1. My target, at set out at the beginning of the year for Project20nine, is 10 words a day. Not many, but in a year that equates to 3,640 new words. Hello CEF B2. It’s also incredibly easy to routinely learn this many words. In a day I might learn these whilst making a coffee, on the lunch break, whilst waiting for the rice to cook. Add a few more words in a day and bingo, you’ve taken an impossible job, and made lightwork of it.

I would also argue that finding any excuse to listen to the new language as often as possible is helpful (audiobooks, podcasts, music, radio, movies), just as reading books in that language is, even if it’s just a case of becoming familiar with words rather than necessarily understanding 100% of them. I also really enjoy Lithuanian puzzle books for the same reason and find attempting to tackle grammar workbooks aimed at kids a lot of fun.

Kitą kartą senų senovėje buvo senelis ir senutė (from Eglė, žalčių karalienė). 

…žinau. Kaip grazu.

That’s really it. In addition to points 3 – 6 I spend around 30 minutes a day, on average, working through various self-study Lithuanian learning tasks but do often have episodes of Lithuanian Out Loud on in the background or any number of YouTube videos filling the silence whilst working. Like staying in shape, it’s a bit of a lifestyle choice but not inconveniently so. It’s a conscious effort to ease as much learning into the day as possible, as conveniently as possible: looking at my desk and mentally listing everything on it in Lithuanian, replying to a text message in Lithuanian etc.

Learning a new language isn’t just for those of us we think a particularly good at doing so. If you think about it, a baby can learn a new language pretty well (that is, we are born into the world without any language…) so why can’t we do it now? We can all learn a new language, it’s just a case of choosing to.


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. Today the author doesn’t feel a day older than he should. In fact, if you asked him how he does feel, he’d probably tell you he feels no different to the way he felt at the beginning of being a 20-something. He would also tell you how much he enjoys being however old he is at any given moment and that he feels hungry. But then again, he’s always hungry

How To Wake Up Early and Conquer the Day

“Discipline equals freedom”

Jocko Willink

I wake up at 5am almost every day. Whenever this comes up in conversation I am always aked ‘Why do you get up so early?’, which is then usually followed with ‘How do you do it?’. The answer is much simpler and far less crazy than you might think.

Allow me to break it down:

1) Carpe Diem

I’ve put in the effort to get up early, have formed the habit over that last 50 days and now have a fresh day to embrace. I don’t want to mess up my hard work. I’m going to handle whatever challenges lay before me today and I’m going to win my own race. I’m going to seize the day, Mr Keating.

2) Those few hours before the rest of the world is awake are the magic hours.

Put simply, there’s more space, it’s less busy and more peaceful. Watch the sunrise, hear the birds before the traffic, sip on the fresh brew of the day: there is a meditative quality to the small hours of the morning that I love.

3) Body clock

After a while the body clock readjusts naturally so it’s no big deal anyway. ‘Early’ no longer means what it once did and I don’t have to worry about a screeching alarm clock waking everyone else up.

4) Better sleep

So long as the mattress is comfy and the environment in general is conducive to a good rest then it’s very likely that you will have wound down from the day sooner and hit the hay earlier. If you’re the kind of person that has developed an appreciation of The Early Rise, then you’ll have built your routine around ensuring you get all the sleep you need.

5) More productivity

Getting up earlier than usual, until it becomes usual, has an effect on one’s mindset too. By getting up early I’ve set myself up to be productive (not ‘busy’ – those two words are quite the opposite).

6) More positivity

You’re not rushing, are you? You’re up and cracking on with the day so there’s no racing for the bus, or to get ready whilst the kids have to get ready too, or trying to beat the flatmates to the bathroom just to get a couple of extra minutes of hot water. I guarantee once you start waking up earlier, you won’t start feeling more pessimistic.

So, how do you become an early riser?

1) Don’t start by going all out. If you usually get up at 7am, trying to immediately shave off two hours to get up at 5am will be too much too soon. Spend a fortnight up to a month, dialling your wake up time back by 15-30 mins incrementally until you reach that new sweet spot. Just don’t forget that the aim isn’t to cut back on sleep! Whatever is removed in the morning, add it onto the night. It’ll just be a case of going to bed earlier.

2) Which is the second point. Recalibrate bedtime. You’ll find that if you’re up earlier you will naturally feel tired earlier anyway but the trick will be getting out of any bad, bedtime (badtime?) habits that could keep you up until your old, usual time. So, some practical advice:

3) No phones in the bedroom! Keep your mobile away from the bed. Ideally keep it on charge in the office/kitchen/wherever. The purpose is to remove the temptation to look at it whilst in bed. Not only is this incredibly unsocial and unsexy for whoever you share a bed with, but holding that bright light so close to your eyes at night will screw with your circadian rhythm and affect the quality of your sleep. If you fancy reading something, go Old School and use a book. And, if you absolutely must have the phone near you at night because you use it as the alarm, stick it on flight mode until the day has begun.

4) Cut the caffeine. If you love a hot drink, try to keep it decaffeinated after 3/4pm (ideally earlier). The half-life of caffeine in the body is anywhere between 4 and 6 hours.

5) Don’t eat heavy late in the evening. Your body will be put into gear to digest it all which, along with the energy the food releases, will make it more tricky to get some early shut eye.

6) Until your body clock is reset, you’ll likely be using a alarm clock to get up. But here’s the trick: keep that clock out of arm’s reach! This way, there’ll be no snoozing and to turn it off you’ll have to get out of bed so you may as well just stay out 😉

7) Once you are up, don’t dilly dally. Hit the shower, take a leak, wash your face. Whatever you need to do to wash that sleep away. It might be tough to get that going, but it will be come a routine and a familiar pattern before long.

8) Don’t give in to the self-talk. ‘Oh, it’s ok matey, you can sleep for another five‘; or ‘You know what, screw it. Let those other early birds catch the worms this morning, there’s always tomorrow for us ol’ sport.’. That inner voice is super quiet and not worth listening to. Don’t give them the speaker phone.

**Oh, one thing to note. You will know the difference between needing to stay in bed and simply wanting to. Your body is incredibly adept at giving you signs so don’t ignore them.

9) Getting up early is all well and good but you should have a reason that you’re doing it for. Even if it’s just because you realise how much you love the peace at that time of the day, find your reason! Without a reason there would literally be no point.

10) Is there a radio show you could catch after you hit the gym or spend an hour working on a project? Perhaps there’s a super sexy new coffee bean waiting to be ground, filtered and latte-ed up? Whatever it is that you enjoy, this is your reward for waking up.

11) Know too that if you’re getting up, and getting up, damn well make the most of it, soldier! Once you’re up you’re in command of the day. Boss it. Crush those tasks and make the first couple of hours of the day Your Time for Winning. By the time everyone else up, you’re already a champion. ‘Early’ will soon be description, rather than a dread.


Typically I get up five minutes before the alarm (which I now set simply as a safety net), whip out of bed to the kitchen to stick the kettle on and head for a wash. Get back to the kitchen where I’ve prepped the coffee kit the night before (along with the post-gym smoothie and porridge/eggs ingredients) and get dressed into the gym kit I laid out last night too. I’ll pour myself a small black coffee (I keep it small and relatively weak as coffee on an empty stomach can have adverse effects on the stomach and the circadian rhythm too) and be out the door for the gym within 15 minutes of getting up.

On the mornings that are not designated for gym work, I stretch at home and do a little bit of bodyweight exercise: press-ups, squats, planks, stationary holds etc. and then do something practical from the list of the day’s jobs.

By the time I get back/finished, I’ve still got enough time to wash and have a quick cuddle with the Good Lady as she wakes up. There’s usually also time to eat together. This is my reward: 2-2.5 hours of making the day mine.


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. Today the author doesn’t feel a day older than he should. In fact, if you asked him how he does feel, he’d probably tell you he feels no different to the way he felt at the beginning of being a 20-something. He would also tell you how much he enjoys being however old he is at any given moment and that he feels hungry. But then again, he’s always hungry. 

 

How Do I Read More?: The Importance of Reading

Reading is a fundamental skill and a fundamental joy. Reading is, to push the adjective further, fundamental. Period. There’s a quote by Warren Buffett that’s been knocking around for a while, where he credits the majority of his success to the amount of time he spends reading:

“Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will…”

In fact, studies have shown that successful people consistently credit their success, in full and/or in part, to reading. Between them, Napoleon Hill (‘Think and Grow Rich’) and Steve Siebold (‘How Rich People Think’) conducted interviews with over 1,500 millionaires and found this simple pattern emerge. Tim Corely (‘Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals’) found that, typically, rich people read for self-improvement whereas those who were not defined as ‘rich’ did so for entertainment, and Tim Ferriss famously asks his guests, all of whom are ‘world-class performers from eclectic areas’, about their favourite/most gifted/most important etc. books.

Reading works. Every mum and dad out there pushing books on your mini-me’s, keep doing it!

Which is why reading features as one of the specific goals for this year. One of the items for #project20nine, specifically goal 19 in the Developmental category, asks for 2 books per month:

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 08.03.56

However, the challenge with this one is that if reading 2 books per month is as doable as folks like Tai Lopez, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett suggest, then each month I’ll look to increase the number of books read in the previous month by an additional one. At most this would mean that by October 2018 I’ll be up to 13 books, and therefore across the year…a ginormous 90 books down.

I’ll be honest, that seems like a lot of books even for someone with a pretty good reading rate. Nevertheless, in true #project20nine spirit, I’ll want to use this opportunity to read a selection of some very specific books, whilst leaving a good percentage of the year’s reading down to circumstance, opportunity and recommendation.

Generally, the books fall into a few categories: Fiction [F], biography [bio], history [Hist.], business [B], travel [Tr.] and science/self-development [SD]. That standby list, in no particular order, looks a little something like this:

  1. Papillon – Henri Charrière [Hist.]
  2. Dune – Frank Herbert [F]
  3. The Sagas of the Icelanders – Jane Smilely [F/Hist.]
  4. Musashi – Eiji Yoshikawa [F]
  5. The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi – William Scott Wilson [bio/Hist.]
  6. The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu [F]
  7. Mažasis princas [The Little Prince, Lithuanian translation] – Antoine De Saint-Exupery [F/ SD]
  8. Chasing Excellence – Ben Bergerton [SD]
  9. Ken Liu – Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Legends of Luke Skywalker [F]
  10. Stephen King – On Writing [bio/ SD]
  11. Sir Richard Branson – Finding My Virginity [bio]
  12. Narconomics – Tom Wainwright [B]
  13. Phil Knight – Shoe Dog [bio]
  14. Hayao Miyazaki – Turning Point [bio]
  15. Ed Catmull – Creativity, Inc. [bio/Hist.]
  16. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss [F]
  17. The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson [F]
  18. Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual – Jocko Willink [bio/SD]
  19. Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell [SD]
  20. Mishima’s Sword – Christopher Ross [Hist./Tr.]
  21. Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann [Hist.]
  22. Neuromancer – William Gibson [F]
  23. The Boys – Garth Ennis [F]
  24. The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific – J. Maarten Troost [Tr.]
  25. The Almost Nearly Perfect Couple: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia – Michael Booth [Tr.]
  26. Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K Corral – Mary Doria Russell [F]
  27. A Doctor’s War – Aidan MacCarthy [bio/Hist.]
  28. Radicals – Jamie Bartlett [Hist.]

And a small handful of the many yet-to-be published titles of interest:

  • Tim Ferris – Tribe of Mentors [SD]
  • Artemis – Andy Wier [F]
  • Year of the Locust – Terry Hayes [F]
  • Ross Edgely: The World’s Fittest Book – Ross Edgely [SD]
  • The Familiar 6 – Mark Z Danielewski [F]

It’s not exhaustive, but it may prove exhausting! A good early indicator though is that it took me about 3 days of dipping in and out of ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ to finish that one, but more of that in the monthly progress review at the end of the month!

More to the point is how exactly will I be able to read so much? My approach is lean, simple and, I hope, logical:

  1. Establish a routine
    1. Within each day I have dedicated reading time. It’s habit-forming and keeps things running like clockwork.
  2. Read a couple of books at the same time
    1. Perhaps this sounds counter intuitive, but I’ve long found having a fiction and a non-fiction on the go at the same time is a nice balance. Non-fiction during the day and a nice bit of fiction during the evening/before bed.
  3. Keep a book with me
    1. Simple. This way whenever I have a moment to flip through a couple of pages I can grab the book rather than default to scrolling through the ol’ FaceBook or IG feeds.
  4. Have a list
    1. #project20nine. Keeps a focus on future reading but also, and perhaps more usefully, is a great metric for measuring reading successes and recording the titles.
  5. Use page markers
    1. I tend to use scraps of paper and torn up post-it notes to highlight pages/passages/quotes that I’ve enjoyed in a book, as well as to provide breadcrumbs back to things I want to take a closer look at, research deeper or simply re-read. I also use those fancy little translucent sticky tabs if I’m feeling particularly flamboyant.

Reading isn’t a race so going in for speed-reading and reaching sprints is pointless. I’m reading to enjoy myself not to impress or simply go through the motions of finishing a book, as I mention here. Using a service like Audible has its perks but is generally quite expensive should you begin using it for more than one book per month. So that’s it: 5 quick and straight-up pointers for injecting a little more literary stimulation in one’s life. If you need me, I’ll have my nose in a book some place.


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. Today the author doesn’t feel a day older than he should. In fact, if you asked him how he does feel, he’d probably tell you he feels no different to the way he felt at the beginning of being a 20-something. He would also tell you how much he enjoys being however old he is at any given moment and that he feels hungry. But then again, he’s always hungry. 

The First Week of #project20nine

“If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning, and getting ready for it. What you should be doing is getting started.”

Drew Houston, founder and CEO of Dropbox.

The year began in London but quickly moved to Reykjavik before the day was out and what an absolute delight that was. I’ll be posting a separate, Iceland-specific post soon, suffice to say that it has been one of the countries I dreamed of visiting for a long, long time and the opportunity to start this particular year with a trip there seemed like the perfect thing to do. And despite all of the planning, something I didn’t really expect happened too…I came home even more pumped up about #project20nine.

Perhaps it was the Icelandic water and the fresh air they’ve got up there, or maybe it was the fermented shark, but having spent the first 4 days of the year in Reykjavik, I came home to a week that was as full and as productive as I had hoped and planned:

Wednesday

Up at 6am as a final holiday treat. Wash, breakfast and stretch. Head to work at 7am.  Spend the day in the office playing catch up after some time off. Clock out at 5pm and make my way to Imperial College London take take the Intro to Film course; study 10 Lithuanian words on the way. Wrap at 8.10 and return home. Eat, wash and love every second of the final hour of the day in the company of Vita. Hit the hay, 10pm.

Thursday

Up at 5am, get some fresh air. Go home, wash, eat and leave for work. Spend the day in the office. Clock out half an hour late and walk home. Meet V, grab a quick bite and leave for Acro with these cool cats. Practise some hand to hand. Finish class and sneak in a quick gym sesh: pullups and core. Go home, wash and cook dinner: baked eggs in tomato, mushroom and spinach. Served with salad and mackerel. 10pm, wind down and lights out.

Friday

V’s away from early tomorrow so I take the opportunity to have a final snuggle and so skip the gym. She’ll be gone for the best part of 2 weeks and I’m a cuddler. Coffee, breakfast and leave for el worko. Spend the day in the office and get home by 6.30pm. Prepare dinner but don’t cook it yet. Spend a couple of hours researching for the year ahead and TwoFit. Put the second season of Stranger Things on in the background and feel satisfied that all is right with the world. Call The Mother to check in, remind her that I love her and to give her the lowdown on Iceland and the week in general. Chat for 50 mins. V comes home, I cook and listen to all the fun she had in the day. The astrologer she spent the evening with says she has a good year ahead. The astrologer says she found a good match in me. I like this. The astrologer says that 70-80% is a good match. I do not like this. 10.30pm, bedtime.

Saturday

Up at 4.30am to drop Vita at the train station. Back home by 5am to clean the house, then breakfast and prep for my weekly English literature lesson with Ollie. 30 minutes of reading The Slaughterhouse Five before taking a morning stroll to meditate. Back to the flat for a quick tea and to pack the day bag with books and laptop; head to the train station for the 9.34. Begin lesson at 10.30, back on the train at 1.20pm and get back home by 3pm, due to delays on the trains. All of them. Grab a bite of Fage as the fridge is empty before jumping in the car and picking up the groceries. Back again by 5pm and after the early start, have a few relaxing hours.

Sunday

Up at 7am and immediately begin crushing the day. Reward myself with a mid-morning walk through the city for coffee then back to the flat for a bit more work. Gym at 4pm, home for 6pm and meal prep for the week. Put together clothes, bag etc. ready for the new week and the pattern to begin all over again.


The week has been a great start and a precedent setter. I feel extremely motivated and am very grateful for the first week of the year. But now it’s November and the #project20nine plan for the month looks like this:

  • Book a floatation experience @ London Floatation Centre or Floatworks
  • Contact a new hero/inspiration: Ella Frances Sanders
  • Join a class @ Foundry Fit
  • Go swimming at least twice; consider Sunday afternoons.
  • Finish reading The Slaughterhouse Five and then read The Year of Living Danishly.  
  • Learn 300 new Lithuanian words
  • Book in for a deep tissue massage
  • Post a blog for each of the following:
    • How to wake up early and conquer the first 90 minutes of the day;
      • My daily fitness routine and how to stay focussed and motivated;
    • How to meditate with purpose;
      • The questions that often form the focus of my meditation;
    • The year’s reading list [titles that will be included for certain];
    • Monthly weigh-in and muscle-in: Going into #project20nine what are my baseline stats?
    • Where’s my concentration? The disappearance of the human attention span;
    • How to make the most of a long weekend in Reykjavik.
  • At the end of the month upload a video detailing the success/failure of the above

#project20nine in full swing!


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. Today is Day Eight and the author doesn’t feel a day older than he should. In fact, if you asked him how he does feel, he’d probably tell you he feels no different to the way he felt at the beginning of being a 20-something. He would also tell you how much he enjoys being however old he is at any given moment and that he feels hungry. But then again, he’s always hungry.