How to have healthy sleep

It’s no secret that I love my sleep.

I both enjoy sleep and I sleep well. Some of it is personality, I think, but I do think I have some very good sleep habits too.

Whenever I put up my sleep stats on Instagram, I always get so many direct messages from people who say things like, “oh that must be nice” and “how do you sleep so much?”.

Well, I sleep a lot because I’ve realised that when I’m tired I won’t be as productive as I will be when I’m rested. Because when I’m up after a good night’s sleep, I’m a machine 🙂

Sleep also has many other benefits like being good for your mental health, stress relief, immune system, heart, good for managing weight. In addition, and this is a big benefit, it’s good for your memory, and helps you focus and concentrate. I also heard Lisa Genova on a podcast say that deep sleep helps clear out brain waste which prevents Alzheimer’s.

Here are a few of my tips:

  1. Set a sleep goal. My goal is 7 hours 30 every night. I upgraded my Fitbit recently and while my Fitbit now gives me a sleep score, my sleep score is always better when I sleep more than 7h30.
  2. Sleep when you’re tired. Realise that when you’re tired, the very best thing you can do no matter how much work there is still to get done, is to actually sleep.
  3. Move your body. I sleep my best sleep on the days I have a good workout. It’s boring to say this but our mothers were onto something when they told us to go outside and play.
  4. Stop caffeine at lunch. This is not a problem for me, but I know many people who do not have good sleep habits when they have coffee after lunch. Dr Rangan Chatterjee, in his book, The 4 Pillar Plan, talks about how, at bedtime, about 25% of caffeine is still in our system. If you don’t sleep well, stop your coffee at 12 and see if it makes a difference.
  5. Avoid your phone before bed. Everyone gives me a hard time about this one but hey, if you want to sleep better, avoid your phone for a good 1 – 2 hours before bed. You can charge your phone at an outlet across the room. I charge mine next to my bed but it’s on the floor, face down, almost slipped under the bed. I also don’t look at Whatsapp after my phone goes dark (shortly after my work day ends). There is a downside to it but I’d rather have a few more messages in the morning than have restless or disrupted sleep.
  • How is your sleep on a scale of 1 – 10?
  • Do you have good sleep hygiene?
  • Do you spend time on your phone before bed?

If you want to work on these tips, all you have to do is start working on one at a time, track your sleep, and see how it is affected.

How to do a quick and effective half-year review

It might be that I’m such a big fan of reflecting and reviewing precisely because it doesn’t come naturally to me.

I recognise the process as valuable though which is why I take the time to do a half-year review every year.

Your review is only a 20 – 30 minute process but it will make you feel that you closed off the first half of the year and can focus afresh on the 6 months ahead.

What do you need?

  1. 20 – 30 minutes
  2. A drink of your choice – hot or cold
  3. Notebook/ bullet journal
  4. Pen

You could type into a computer or your phone but I recommend doing it with a pen and paper so that your brain slows down enough to process as you think through the questions.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. Use all, or just use the first 5 questions:

  1. What went well, and why?
  2. What could be better? How?
  3. What have you learned about yourself?
  4. What energised you? How can you bring more of this into your life?
  5. If you chose a word of the year, has it been guiding/ inspiring/ clarifying for you? How are you living out your word of the year? Do you need to change your word? Here’s your permission slip if you want to do that.
  6. Looking at your goals, have you made good progress and are you on track?
  7. Are there any goals you need to let go of? Let them go and be kind to yourself.
  8. Do you know why those goals were no longer motivating you?
  9. Looking forward… what are the 3 main things you want to focus on for the next 3 – 6 months?
  10. Do you have the necessary support? I would love to help you.

Reset and refresh sessions

  • I will send you a prep pack once I receive your payment which you work though and return to me 48 hours before your session so I can spend some time beforehand preparing.
  • We meet on Skype or Zoom, whichever option you prefer.
  • We will discuss what you want to keep in your life going forward and more importantly, what you want to let go of.
  • We might set new goals and develop action plans, or tweak existing goals to suit where you are right now.
  • My goal is that you leave the session encouraged, inspired and that you have clarity on the way forward.
  • The sessions are 60 minutes long and your investment in yourself is $75/ R1000 (previous clients get a discount!)
  • I encourage you to book another session in 6 months, but only if you think it will be helpful.
Contact me now to schedule your session. I work with clients all over the world so we will find a time that will work for your time zone.

Meal tip Monday – let’s talk hosting styles

I know that a lot of people just don’t ever have people over because they think they have to be a good cook or baker.

Wrong – you don’t.

I think it’s more important to know what your hosting style is and embrace it.

this friend loves the hosting but buys all the food

If you’re only comfortable buying food, then embrace it. I have hosted people by cooking and by not cooking. Recently I hosted book club and I really intended to cook and bake (from scratch!) but I was SO BUSY with work I knew I just couldn’t add anymore stress to my life.

So I bought crustry bread, a rotisserie chicken, salad and an apple pie which we had with custard. It was delicious and not at all stressful.

I’ve also hosted book club at someone else’s house who had a bigger garden (for physically distancing purposes) and ordered pizzas to be delivered to my friend’s house. I also ordered online shopping of dessert, salad and drinks and that was that. No stress.

this friend loves to bake, and baked both the Swiss roll and shortbread

If I really want to see people socially but we’re not very good friends yet, I invite people for tea and cake. I usually serve tea/ coffee and muffins, or I buy a pie from my local grocer. At Christmastime, casual gatherings are tea and Christmas fruit mince pies. So easy but still says, “I value your company and friendship and want to see you.”

However, if you like to cook and bake, then you embrace that too. Use the fact that you’re hosting to try a new recipe you’ve wanted, or invite people over as the impetus to try something new, kind of like inviting people over to spur you onto clean the house 🙂

By the way, if you don’t like to have people in your house, invite people over to a park. This is not my style because I don’t like the sun or the outdoors, but I know many who consider this method their favourite type of hosting.

What is your hosting style?

In South Africa, at the time of writing this post, only about half a million people are fully vaccinated. We are still meant to be meeting only outside, in well-ventilated spaces with physical distancing in place.

Meal tip Monday – how to plan for busy nights

Are you enjoying this focussed series? I didn’t want to announce it as such in case it brought up my inner rebel (!) but really, that’s what it is.

If you’ve missed the previous posts, here you go:

cook a double batch

know your style

Let’s talk about planning for busy nights. This might seem obvious but sometimes, and I know this is true for me, I’m planning the menu for the week without looking at my calendar. In South Africa, we have plenty of loadshedding at the moment. These tips work well for those nights too.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Check your calendar!
  2. Write in the nature of the busyness on your actual menu plan. For example, “late meeting/ 7pm Zumba/ school meeting, etc.”
  3. Think through if you have any freezer meals that will work and defrost them early.
  4. Alternatively, buy a rotisserie chicken on the weekend, heat it quickly and serve with rolls or crusty bread, and a salad. Chicken has the advantage of being good whether eaten hot or cold.
  • My Zumba nights are our standard “busy nights” on the menu as I arrive home at about 7:30.
  • For these nights I plan a “make your own ________ ” night. Burrito bowls work well because everyone helps themselves and the toppings can be prepared and set out beforehand.
  • Alternatively, I pop a complete meal in the oven and my family retrieves it via a timer and serves themselves. Any baked pasta or enchiladas is a good idea.

Which are your favourite tips for busy nights?

Meal tip Monday – Know yourself

One of the secrets to menu planning and meal success is to know yourself. But not only to know yourself, to accept yourself.

Let me give you a few examples:

  1. you might be a cook who likes leisurely weekend cooking sessions but hate the haste of weeknight cooking, or the opposite
  2. you might like the fact that you have to get a meal prepped and put on the table within 30 minutes because the torture is then done
  3. you might be a batch cook once a month and a heater-upper of food
  4. you might be an excellent assembler of random food (do you remember Cher in Mermaids?!)
  5. you might be an excellent orderer of food, or picker-up of convenience meals at the grocery store on the way home

Why is this important?

You know what works, you accept that this is who you are, and you remove decision fatigue thinking through options all the time.

I’ve shared before on the blog that my mother-in-law lives alone and hates cooking (although she’s good at it!) so she cooks four-portion meals for 5 nights every month, eats one and freezes the other three.

These meals change according to the seasons (soups and casseroles feature more in winter) but this system works really well for her.

She doesn’t concern herself with what other people are doing, or that others (like me) would be bored eating the same meal every Tuesday for a month. It works and that’s it.

I am a combination of a Saturday afternoon/ Monday evening leisure batch cook but I also like the competitiveness of getting a meal on the table in 30 minutes or less. I love variety (more on this later) so I like a combination of mixing up some freezer meals with one or two freshly cooked meals too.

The great thing is I know I’m never ever going to like cooking complicated meals so if I glance over a recipe, see that it’s complicated, I can swipe through with wild abandon. No, not for me.

What is your meal planning style? Have you accepted it yet?

I’m actually going through slight boredom with my meals at the moment. Any quick and easy winter meals that you recommend? I would love to hear because I’m tired of chilli con carne, curries and bolognaise. And if you have some tried and tested, easy chicken recipes, I would love those too.

Meal tip Monday – cook a double batch

While I enjoy cooking, I don’t like panicked cooking when my family is hungry and waiting and I have to produce a meal – and quickly.

I therefore strongly believe in cooking a double batch whenever I can.

It takes just a little bit longer than cooking a single batch of your meal – you already have the chopping board out for your vegetables so you might as well chop just a bit more onion or carrots. Instead of adding one can of tomatoes, add two, and so on. Double up on the meat portion.

The magic happens after the meal is cooked though. You have enough for tonight (or tomorrow, as I do it) and another meal for next week!

Which meals translate well to cooking a double batch?

  1. Baked pastas (surprisingly!) but the trick is to not leave it to thaw out on your counter the whole day unless you like soggy pasta. Defrost fast in the microwave and bake it in the oven.
  2. Curries
  3. Chilli con carne
  4. Bolognaise sauce
  5. Enchiladas

Do you cook double batches of meals? If you haven’t tried yet, this is your nudge to do so this month.

PS My mother-in-law has taken this up a notch. She lives alone and cooks 4-portion meals during one week a month. The next three weeks of the month she just pulls out what she feels like eating to defrost it. So clever!

Weekly planning – should you or shouldn’t you?

I started off with the question in the title because we are all different.

I can definitely say that weekly planning helps me in my life, but I recognise that we all prefer to do things in different ways.

If you’re very happy with your current non-weekly planning process, I’m delighted! However, if you feel like things could work a bit better here and there, then, as I always tell my coaching clients, test it and see. At the most, you’ve had two weeks that were more structured and a learning that the exact way you did it wasn’t optimal for you. But who knows? The opposite is also true – you might love something and never stop doing it (menu planning for me the last 15 years).

If you do decide you want to play with weekly planning, here are some ideas you can try planning:

  • meals (supper, or all meals) for 5 or 7 days – put down some ideas and pick from your list every day
  • exercise days – my gym requires that we book our classes to avoid capacity issues
  • connection time with family and friends
  • personal goals – like reading a book or working on your photos
  • house goals – organising your clothes
  • work/ side hustle projects

Please note all of these are just ideas – the thought of doing all of that might overwhelm you. Don’t let it. Pick what you want and leave the rest.

I know that Laura Vanderkam recommends one goal in three areas every week: work, personal, and relationships.

If you don’t like those three categories, choose your own 😉

Who’s ready to try weekly planning? Which categories are important to you?

Other posts on weekly planning:

3 things about tolerations, and what to do about them

I’ve written many times about tolerations on this blog but not for many years. I was talking to a coaching client about this on the weekend and was reminded once again of how these creep into our lives so easily.

They are tiny annoyances

They are not glaringly obvious but annoy you just a little bit every time you see them or think about them. So not “I really want to repaint this ceiling” but “we need to knock another nail in the wall to hang that print”. The first is a whole day job while the second will take 5 – 10 minutes.

They drain your energy.

Every time you see that thing, you might feel guilty (I really should change that lightbulb/ clear off that end table/ take that donation bag to the library) because it’s a whole list of shoulds in your head.

Every time you see or think about the toleration, it saps your energy just a little bit. It’s the exact opposite of that frisson you feel when something sparks joy.

They usually don’t take a lot of time to fix

This is often why we don’t put them on our to-do lists as a task because it’s so small. Put it on the list.

Why don’t you keep a list of tolerations and either take an hour, go around your house and fix, change, move, put away what you can, or arrange for a handyman if you need someone else to do it for you (hanging photo frames, fixing a chair, etc.).

A power hour would be a great time to attend to these things.

Your tolerations will be different to mine because we are all different people with different personalities.

If something doesn’t bother you, go well, but I do know that we are all being drained of a little energy in a myriad of ways if we don’t attend to things.

What can we do about them?

  1. Grab your bullet journal or a notepad.
  2. Make a list of tolerations. It will help you to walk from room to room to make this list.
  3. Depending on how comprehensive your list, see if you can do them all yourself or otherwise hire a handyman (I have a regular handyman if anyone is local and needs a recommendation. He also reminds me of things like “it’s time to clear out the gutters” that I can honestly say never even occur to me)
  4. Bonus – schedule a regular slot every two weeks that works for you (maybe Saturday 11 am) and name it Power Hour.

On having things that spark joy

I received a voucher from a stationery shop I frequent 😉 and so one day after gym, I stopped by to choose something to buy.

I have enough notebooks and pencil cases (although can one have enough?!) so I thought I’d get another laptop sleeve because I do pack my laptop away every Friday night.

One immediately caught my eye but I put it back because it wasn’t on sale. I then went looking through the laptop sleeves that were on sale because then I’d only have to spend a very small amount of my own money.

While dithering looking through them, it suddenly occurred to me – why am I doing this? These other things do not spark joy and the one that first caught my eye most definitely does.

Yes, friends, I bought a gorgeous raspberry pink laptop sleeve and I love it!

Just a reminder to always choose what sparks joy 🙂

{Mindset} Establish your personal policies, or decide once

A few months ago on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast (episode 296 – 21 October 2020), one of the topics was about establishing a personal policy. I loved this podcast episode because it was a reminder to me that

  • I have personal policies
  • I’m happier when I heed them
  • We all have some things we do that make sense to us

It reminded me of the Lazy Genius, Kendra Adachi’s book, The Lazy Genius Way, which I read and loved last year.

One of her principles is to Decide Once.

Decide once is setting a personal policy.

In Lazy Genius language, I decided once that I don’t attend baby showers so it’s an easy decision when I receive an invite to politely decline the invite.

About a month ago, Kendra put up a post inviting people to post how they decide once. The 1744 comments are GOLD. A couple that I love are:

one lady does all phone calls on Thursday mornings only. Genius – you don’t have to have phone dread because you know you’ll take care of things on Thursdays.

another lady changes her contact lenses every time she gets her monthlies so she doesn’t have to remember.

some people have the same gift they give to teachers or for new baby gifts.

The reason I like personal policies is because I love boundaries.

I like people boundaries and I like things boundaries.

Some people boundaries:

  • I don’t attend baby showers. I buy a gift but I hate all the ladies playing silly games (at least that’s how it goes around here).
  • During Covid, I will only meet up with people outside. All book clubs are outside or on Zoom, and when people have come over, we’re outside too.
  • My kids can only have playdates on Friday afternoons. It’s a set time for them so they don’t have to ask continually “can X come over?” They know Friday is the day and arrange their schedules accordingly.

Some things boundaries:

  • If something doesn’t fit in the space, it’s time to declutter until the things fit comfortably again.
  • I decided once what I wanted to save every month, set up an automatic payment and I don’t have to think about it again. When my salary increases, I increase the payment a bit, but that’s the extent of my thinking about money.
  • I have a standard bring-along to a meal if we are invited over to friends. I say, “I’ll bring a chicken” and I bring a rotisserie chicken from a nearby bakery. I also get them to cut it up for me so it’s easy to just arrange on a platter.

Over to you:

Can you name some of your personal policies?

If you honestly don’t have any, where could you incorporate a couple to make your life run more smoothly?

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