An October update

Well, this has been an interesting month! Just to recap, this has been a month where I’ve been focusing on improving my sleep. This is how it went:

  1. Research sleep cycles.
    I read a few articles on sleep cycles (here’s a useful one I found), and discovered that, because sleep cycles are 90 minutes in length, the optimum sleep is nine hours (impossible!), seven and a half (ok, maybe) and six (a little short perhaps?). Actually, I found it quite comforting to realise that it wasn’t about getting the perfect eight hours sleep each night, as we all know that sometimes that isn’t possible – especially when you’re getting up at 5.30am. In order to get up then, I need to be asleep by 10pm. I’ve been working on this, and the nights I manage it, I definitely feel as if I have slept far better; I’m less groggy in the morning. But as I take a while to get to sleep, I need to be in bed and ready for sleep by about 9.30pm at the latest – maybe even 9.15pm. So, that’s still a struggle.
  2. Start a sleep routine.
    So, my research has been pretty definitive, that watching screens before bed (phone or laptop/TV), is not good for getting your brain into sleep mode (or, in the words of the Huffington Post: ‘Reading on a screen before bed might be killing you‘. Sadly, I haven’t completely cut my boxset-habit on a weekend, but what I have been doing is reading a whole lot more before bed, which has been shown to help induce your brain into a slower, more relaxed state. Also, Tim Ferris reckons that reading fiction is better than non-fiction for going to sleep – alongside a lot of other terrifying advice, it must be said. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it’s had the added bonus of reawakening my love of novels. I swear, I’ve barely read a novel in the last seven years, since finishing my literature degree (there’s definitely a correlation). But now I’m well and truly back! It’s amazing. This post on creating a sleep ritual is also really interesting, and has shaped some of my routine.
  3. Examine diet.
    Well, we’ve finished the reintroduction phase of our Whole 30 diet. Basically, we’d been on a diet purely based on whole foods for 30 days: no wheat, no gluten, no sugar, no alcohol, no dairy – nothing processed. Then we reintroduced different foods and monitored what happened to our bodies. Annoyingly, I react to dairy and Ben reacts to gluten, so we’re avoiding both, or eating very small amounts of them as a treat. But the results on our sleep, among other things, has been remarkable: very deep sleeps, vivid dreams, and far less fuzzy grogginess in the morning.
  4. Go to bed earlier.
    This was always going to be the tough one, especially because I get in from work just before 7pm, and no one wants to go to bed an hour after they get home. So, I’m pushing the furthest I can on this, staying up until around 9.15/9.30pm, and knowing that if I’m feeling particularly wide-awake, I could always try the six hour sleep cycle (11.30pm!). Trouble is, I don’t know if I can stay awake long enough for that. :(I’ve actually weirdly learned quite a bit about my body from this month – I think because sleep is something that is so taken for granted, so unthinking for the most part, paying attention to it has made me realise just how incredible and important it is; how much it affects us day-to-day, and how much is within our power for most of us to improve our sleep, if we just take a bit of time.

October Method: Sleep

So, the topic scheduled for October was actually ‘Wardrobe’, but due to moving a month or so ago, this topic has been pretty comprehensively covered in previous posts. So I’m going to go for a slight shift here, and cover a month which I missed altogether – oops! – and talk about sleep.

Sleep is a topic that, if you’ve never had any massive problems like insomnia or sleep apnea, you probably don’t give much consideration to.  But this post is so timely for me, because I’ve moved out of town with my husband, and our commute is a lot longer. So we get up at 5.30am now (something I NEVER would have thought I would say!). The result is, especially because I’m a bit of a night owl naturally, that I don’t think I’m getting enough sleep. By the time I get to the end of the work day, and get home, I am absolutely exhausted and basically just want to curl up on the couch and watch films. But I don’t go to bed super early – oh no! I want to make the most of my free time! And so the cycle continues.

This has been the case for nearly a month now, and I can see that it needs to change. So I’m going to figure out some ways to make this better.

  1. Research sleep cycles.
    Always the first step, right? I’m going to look into sleep cycles, specifically – I’ve always been someone who dreams (and remembers their dreams), which I’m told is a sign of a deep sleeper – and I think part of the reason why I’m feeling so bad in the morning is because I’m waking up in the middle of a deep sleep. So I need to figure this out, whether it’s by old-fashioned calculations or some kind of app on my phone.
  2. Start a sleep routine.
    I have heard before that having a routine before bed helps adults to go to sleep – just like children! So, I’m going to create one, based on what I read about sleep this month. It will probably include not looking at my phone before I go to bed, arrrgh.
  3. Examine diet.
    My husband and I have just finished the Whole 30, which has been great for our general health and wellbeing – and we’ve certainly been having lots of deep sleep and crazy dreams! As we’re in the introduction phase, where we monitor which foods are affecting us and which aren’t, I’ll also be researching how what you eat and drink can affect your sleep, and seeing what I can change or incorporate into my diet before bed.
  4. Go to bed earlier.

The most obvious solution, and one that I’m going to leave to the last, because as said earlier, I do slightly resent this. More than slightly resent it, in fact. I leave home at 7am and get back just before 7pm, so my leisure time during the week is already very scarce. Going to bed at 7.30pm is NOT AN OPTION. But maybe I can find a compromise, here.

 

So, there you have it! Before I know it, I’ll be sleeping like a baby, right?

 

A September Update

moodboard

 

Yes, here it is – as promised! My very first proper moodboard! Do you like it? It’s a pretty simple one, but I feel pleased with it.

A couple of things I noticed from doing this: first, it’s really interesting to see what makes the cut in terms of focus for the moodboard. You have limited space and time, and so you have to choose what to focus on – which images speak to you the most, and why.

I went onto Pinterest for my images, and searching for them there was another layer of choice as well – do I search for fashion images, or do I want to focus more on images that speak to my career goals? It’s definitely an interesting process, psychologically speaking, to see what my priorities are, when forced to put them into a small square space!

I’d say for me, looking at this board, it speaks to a continuing love of a beautiful life (interiors, fashion, interesting locations), combined with a desire to be both more resilient and determined (‘actually I can’) and also to make the most of the present (particularly in relationships, treasuring the people I love: ‘every moment matters’). And finally, the magazine cover speaks to my love of the written word, interesting design and indie magazines, and my desire to edit a publication one day.

Secondly, it’s interesting even when you’ve decided on the various themes for the moodboard, to see what patterns emerge from the final images chosen. Looking at this moodboard, I realise that my style and aesthetic has evolved from the bright, punchy, patterned choices I would have made a few years ago, to a softer, more tonal and classic style. It’s a bit … quieter. Still thinking about what this means, really! But it was a really interesting exercise.

With new notebooks in tow, and some brainstorming and mind-mapping from this month under my belt, I can’t say that I have this detailed five-year plan (if anything, reflecting this month on dreams and plans has reminded me so much of how life is unpredictable – five years ago, I couldn’t have predicted anything like what my life is like now!). But I have some interesting ideas and projects that I’d like to explore, investigate and maybe pursue in the next few months – all very mysterious I know, but that’s all I can say for now!

I would definitely recommend setting aside the space regularly to check in with yourself, your values and your dreams and goals – and even less intentionally than that, taking time to just daydream and let your imagination run wild for a while is so freeing – we do it so much as children, and then seem to lose the capacity for it as adults. I think this is an important thing to reclaim.

Oh, and speaking of reclaiming imagination and dreams – you may not have the time to read the whole of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, but have a read of this post, which summarises the book so well and should get you thinking! I think it’s such a down-to-earth way to look at concepts of purpose and meaning in life. What do you think?

September Method

photo-1456689614583-300abc95e75e

 

So … I’m so sorry that it’s been ages since I’ve written! A month-long wedding trip in Australia (yeah, hard life I know!) and all the planning that goes into that have made things a little crazy around here.

I want to hit the ground running again, though!

I figured that I’d start with September’s method, and add to that last month’s one, because they fit pretty well together, actually. August was ‘planning and dreaming’ and September is ‘creativity.’ I think that they could combine to form a nice little month of scheming and fun! 🙂 I’m going to need to cover sleep (July) at some other time …

So, here’s the plan:

  • Get a really beautiful notebook.
    A good plan needs a good notebook, right?! My love of Korean stationery has already been made clear, I know. But I also love Liberty, band.o and the good old recycled paper notebooks at Muji. So, a lovely notebook is definitely on the cards.
  • Re-read Elizabeth Gilbert and Stephen King.
    Specifically, Big Magic and On Writing. I love these books SO MUCH. They’re packed full of inspiration around creative living and writing, and they both weirdly have this incredibly magical, mystical view of creativity which is almost spiritual – they believe that ideas and stories are like treasures waiting to be found, planted from the beginning of time for humans to discover (in King’s case), and actually alive and with wills of their own, attaching themselves to people who are open to them (in Gilbert’s case). Completely unprovable obviously, but who says this has to be hard science?! I’m intrigued by this idea, and I’m going to be thinking more about how thinking about creativity and ideas in these ways might influence the way that I approach my life and the creative process. My plan is to read through these books again, absorb all the good stuff, and maybe share a few of my favourite snippets with you, to get you inspired as well.
  • Schedule regular writing and creative/dreaming time into my week.
    This is where I get to devise a timetable for myself, which allows for pockets of creativity in my everyday life. Whether that’s getting up a bit earlier, carving out time on a weekend or a set night of the week, or even cutting back some of my work hours to take time to focus on my writing, this is a practical but slightly nerve-wracking step to take. I’ll let you know how I go!
  • Set some goals.
    So, I’m not sure how much I subscribe to five year goals, or ten year goals – but I’m going to really reflect on what I want my life to look like this month, RIGHT NOW. Because the thing is, I’m always saying that I want my life to look like this way or that way in the future (in fact, I never stop thinking about the future; I’m quite a future-focused person) – and I’ve realised that I haven’t stopped and realised that some of the things that I’m wanting to achieve (or at least, work towards), start right now. I guess in many ways, that’s what this whole life project has been all about – but the mind-set behind it is only starting to click now. What do I want my life to look like in this moment, in this month, in this year? Of course, I’m going to think about the future, too. But I’m going to start here, rather than in one year, or five years’ time.
  • Create a moodboard.
    This is for fun! I’ve always wanted to, and now I’m gonna! I’ll put up a pic, I promise!

A June update

photo-1444068700300-d6ef2904d5e4
I thought, before launching into July’s method, that I should give a quick update on how I went with June’s challenge: June was definitely an interesting month!

Here’s how I responded to the various challenges I set myself:


Go through my existing wardrobe and define my ‘style’          

So, I did this. It was really fun actually – with the help of the eBook I mentioned from minimalist blogger Into Mind, and a whole lot of Pinterest. I realised that for most of the year, there are several staples which I turn to again and again, which form the basis of my style. One of the things that I’d really love for my new wardrobe to do, is to minimise stress in the morning when getting ready and to help me look ‘effortlessly chic’ rather than like someone who’s just thrown together items from someone’s dressing-up box (my usual look). I’m in my 30s now, I kind of feel like simplicity and pared-back dressing is my new thing.

So anyway, I decided to investigate the idea of uniform dressing (if you’re interested, here, here and here are good places to start on reading up on this – oh, and I like this feature as well). A lot of people in fashion do it, possibly because when you’re surrounded by beautiful clothing all day, you get visual overload? IDK. Anyway, this is what I decided to develop –a uniform, which I can wear five days a week, and then if I want to, I can take weekends off and wear sequins, feathers, and vintage dresses, as is my wont.

I’m still refining exactly what my uniform will be, but I realised that I naturally gravitate towards high-waisted jeans and trousers, and I love a good bodysuit as well. Throw on a vintage blazer in cooler weather, and some trainers, and voila! My ideal outfit. I genuinely wear this at least a couple of days a week anyway, so why not make it my thing? I’m off to the shops on payday to start stocking up!

Ruthlessly throw away (or give away) anything that doesn’t work anymore/hasn’t been worn in months

I did this. It hurt. But it’s worth it. And surprisingly, it constituted a lot of my wardrobe. So far though, I haven’t missed anything from it. I’ve read though, that a good option is to have a box in the house that you put these things into, rather than throwing away immediately, and then if you genuinely find you miss something or have accidentally thrown out something you need, you can retrieve it. In the more likely scenario that you won’t even miss anything in there, you throw it out after six months.

Identify gaps in my wardrobe, and create a shopping list for the rest of the year

I’ve kind of done this with my ‘uniform’ idea, but there is a small shopping list on my phone now, which reminds me when I’m in stores that that spangly maxi is NOT what I’m looking for…

Sort and file important paperwork, and bin the rest

We’ve got a box now, with all of our important paperwork in it. There still seems to be some suspiciously peripheral-looking bits of paper floating around, but these will definitely being eliminated by the time we move, in just a few weeks. And those important documents now have a home.

One in, one out

This is obviously an ongoing resolution, and I haven’t bought anything yet to test this (this month has made me surprisingly frugal, as the amount of clothes I threw away has been a constant reminder of how easily I buy and then discard clothes – it makes me feel slightly sick. So I’m more careful with my purchases now, I think). Oh, hang on! I did buy two new pairs of high-waisted jeans, and throw out two pairs of old ones that were full of holes – so that’s a win!

 

 

The method, June: Stuff

photo-1453486030486-0a5ffcd82cd9

 

Oh boy. This one is coming at just the right time.

So, my husband and I are moving house soon – our first little place on our own, as a married couple – and we’re super excited about it!

I’ve always dreamed about having my own house – probably even more than I dreamed about finding someone to share it with, honestly! And my Pinterest can bear testament to this. As soon as I discovered that site a few years ago, I was all over those leather Chesterfields, whitewashed floorboards and Scandi sideboards.

But before all the fun of decorating can begin, the sifting of stuff must be done. Specifically clothes, in my case.

So what do I do? Create a capsule wardrobe? Decide to become a fully-fledged minimalist?

Not quite. Here’s my current plan of action:

 

Go through my existing wardrobe and define my ‘style’          

There’s this great resource which I downloaded a while ago, from minimalist blogger Into Mind. It’s a guide to defining your personal style and ticks a lot of boxes for me: navel-gazing; cute stationery (especially if you print it out on a coloured paper!); lists and FASHUN. I’m going to give it a go.

 

Ruthlessly throw away (or give away) anything that doesn’t work anymore/hasn’t been worn in months

Fairly self-explanatory and very Marie Kondo. But it’s going to be tough.

 

Identify gaps in my wardrobe, and create a shopping list for the rest of the year

I’m going to have to be strict with myself about sticking to this, as I’m notoriously bad at sticking to a plan, particularly when it comes to shopping! I’m going to put it on some nice notepaper, I think…

 

Sort and file important paperwork, and bin the rest

And something not clothes-based: again, a little bit of KonMari method is going to help me out nicely here. I have stacks of paper everywhere in our room at the moment – WHERE DOES IT ALL COME FROM?? I have no idea, but it’s not staying anymore. I really don’t need to revise those university exam papers, ten years on.

 

One in, one out

A resolution for future acquisitions, both clothing and otherwise – if I’m thinking of bringing something into my home on a permanent basis (from flyers to fan fiction), then something goes, to take its place. Yikes! But after this bad baby of a sort-out, I won’t want my hard-won, Zen-like peace of mind to be disrupted.

 

 

 

A quick update

photo-1452915285804-941a8c0cd8af.jpg

So, as you can tell, I’ve been a bit off the radar for a few weeks – sorry!

This is mostly due to wedding planning, which is slightly taking over my life at the moment – organising two blessings on opposite sides of the globe is taking it’s toll!

Ironically, the lesson for May was time.

I want to share a very quick update for May, because I did actually make some quite integral changes in my habits, which I have already seen have a positive impact:

Get a nice (paper) diary

I love stationery. I especially love Korean stationery, which is all types of cute and colourful. One of my favourite online stores, Fox & Star, specialises in really beautiful stationery with a unique edge – and it’s not super expensive. I bought myself the Iconic Planner, similar to this one, but in a pale blue instead of navy. A paper diary helps me to see everything quickly and easily, rather than scanning through my phone diary. I was always double-booking myself before, but this really helps.

Schedule a regular ‘diary date’ if you’re in a relationship

This is one that some of my friends are evangelical about, and I used to think they were crazy! But I’ve now realised that going out for a coffee and looking over our diaries on a regular basis, to update each other on the weeks ahead and to ask questions like: ‘Why aren’t you coming to this with me?’ are really useful 😉 We also schedule in regular weekly dates, and have clear expectations on which days are best for us to schedule in time with others – but you may feel like that’s too far! But we’ve found this helpful, particularly because Ben is a quality time person, and also a J (for those who know Myers-Briggs)!

 

Schedule no more than one thing a day

This is HARD for me, because I’m queen of the multi-tasking, see-five-different-people-a-day, fill-every-moment sort of variety.  If there’s a spare moment, I see an opportunity to fill it with something from my to-do list. But no more. If I look in my diary, and I see one event or person already in there (whether that’s a coffee date, drinks with friends, a Skype chat), then the rest of the day is out in terms of appointments. Even if we’re talking lunch with one friend and trying to arrange an after-work drink with another. Yes, I could do that – I could make that work. But one thing a day keeps me feeling focused and gives me a consistent, regular boundary. Instead of wondering if I can ‘squeeze someone in’, I’m focused on just seeing that person and only that person today. I’d say this has been the thing that has made the biggest immediate difference to my time management.