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The power of lessons learned

The power of lessons learned

“The real trick in life is to turn hindsight into foresight that reveals insight.” ~ Robin Sharma

I find so much wisdom in those words. There is nothing like hindsight – the past – to teach us valuable life lessons and help us improve our present and ultimately our future. This is why a major component of The DREAM DO LEARN system® – a system I created over the years to keep me laser focused on my goals and heading in the direction of my dreams – is learning. If we don’t learn lessons, we will keep making the same mistakes, falling into the same pits we always fall into and just go round in circles.

So how can we stop going round in circles and making the same mistakes?

Taking time out to reflect and review

If your remedy to achieve your goals after not quite getting the results you were after is to grit your teeth and try harder and faster, then maybe it’s time to press the pause button and take a little time out to learn some lessons before forging ahead at full speed. I promise, it will be time well spent!

So how can you apply the principle of learning lessons to your life?

In my Born to Flourish® planner-journal, it begins with the LEARN section (followed by DREAM and then DO) because it’s key to learn those all-important lessons before you set off on the next leg of your journey, so that you can avoid the mistakes you made previously.

To learn lessons in your own life, you can simply set aside some time and grab a notebook and pen – or use my Born to Flourish® planner-journal which is a hybrid planner-journal that covers a 12-month period (undated) that you can start at any time of the year – preferably the beginning of the month. The LEARN section will take you through a review of the last 12 months – the ups, the downs and everything in between. You get to look at each life area and note down your lessons learned in each. The whole point of the LEARN exercise is to take some time to look back at the last leg of your journey and reflect on how it went – whether you veered off track and why, and how you can change that in the future.

If you’re not using my Born to Flourish® planner-journal, you can simply make some notes in your own journal or a notebook – or on your laptop / tablet – wherever you please!
Some prompts for your very own lessons learned exercise

Here are ten questions you can use to ask yourself to get the juices flowing as you go through your lessons learned exercise. The period you’re looking back on depends on your own preferences – it could be the last 12 months or the last 5 years or beyond.

“On a scale of 1-10 how did the last [12 months] go in comparison to the intentions I set?”

“What were the highlights of the [last 12 months]?”

“What were the lowlights?”

“How could I have done things differently?”

“Was I the person I needed to BE to reach my goals? If not, why not?”

“Which life areas did I excel in and which did I neglect? How can I change this going forward?”

“What are the top ten lessons I’ve learned over the last [12 months]?”

“How can I apply each of these lessons to my life going forward?”

“What could I have done more of in the last [12 months]?”

“What could I have done less of in the last [12 months]?

Those are just a few questions to get you thinking and reflecting. Pondering over these questions may well prompt you to ask yourself other questions that aren’t listed here but are important to you and your individual circumstances.

Observe yourself as an outsider

I sometimes like to look at myself and my life as an observer sometimes, it’s so much easier to see things objectively. It’s easy to give someone else advice because we’re an outsider looking in and can remove all the emotion involved. It’s a great idea to do this for ourselves – look at yourself and your lessons learned as an outsider would. This is also because outsiders are often much kinder than we are to ourselves! We look for all the bad things and forget the good. So, try to be objective, like an outsider would, when reflecting on lessons learned from the past.

Remember to learn from the good

Equally, don’t beat yourself up for mistakes you may have made, this is not the point of the learning lessons exercise – the point is to look at these errors and ask yourself how they might have happened and how you might avoid this in the future so that it doesn’t happen again. And remember – it’s not just about looking for the negatives to learn from, but also the positives. What successes did you experience? What made you succeed? How can you build on that going forward to experience more success? How can you translate what you did into other areas of your life that you might be struggling in?

Businesses learn lessons and so can we

Businesses often carry out lessons learned exercises and whilst I witnessed this in companies I worked in, I did think to myself this would be so helpful if we, as individuals, applied this to our own lives too. Instead, many of us just plan out what we want to achieve, then take action, and then evaluate our results, maybe readjust the plan, and keep taking action, without properly taking out the time to reflect and review the actions we took and then adjust the plan accordingly. Reviewing and learning is often seen as a waste of time and not really necessary but you really can’t afford not to learn lessons from the past to improve the future!

Learning lessons is a regular activity

And it’s not just once a year you should be learning lessons. I carry out a review on a daily basis, as this is built into my Born to Flourish® planner-journal which I use myself every day to keep me focused and on track with my dreams and goals. Every morning I set intentions for the day and every evening I review my day to see whether I followed through on my intentions and if not, why not. It’s just a short paragraph but it’s really helpful for me to nip any issues in the bud straight away and adjust things for the next day, rather than wait for a December 31st review only to find I’ve veered so far off track I have no idea how to get back on track! As with the daily review, I also do a weekly, monthly and quarterly review (also in my planner-journal), so I am always reviewing my progress, learning lessons and adjusting course as I need to.

Are you ready to learn some lessons?

If the answer’s yes, then get into the habit of taking just a little time out every day to reflect on and learn from your day. If you’d like an easy system to help you do that regularly, then have a look at my Born to Flourish® planner-journal which is designed to help you learn lessons where you need to as you journey towards flourishing and being all you were destined to be!

5 reasons you should keep a journal

5 reasons you should keep a journal

I have kept a journal on and off since I was a teenager – I always loved to pour out my thoughts and ideas onto paper (it’s a shame I lost those teenage journals, I would have loved to read them today!). Journalling is now a firmly engrained habit in my life and I never go more than a couple of days without journalling.

Do you keep a journal? If not, here’s five good reasons you should!

1 |  It’s therapeutic

Whether you can barely get the words onto paper fast enough in excitement, or tears flow onto the page as you write down how you feel about a painful experience, journalling can be really therapeutic and it certainly is for me. There’s something about being able to get those thoughts and feelings inside of you onto paper that immediately lightens the load within and can also help to create more clarity. Some people don’t feel comfortable talking to someone else about their deepest, darkest thoughts or else don’t have anyone to talk to and so journalling is a great way to be able to have an outlet to express what’s on your heart. Even if it’s just a log about how your day went and what you hope to achieve over the rest of the week, it’s still therapeutic to get it out there onto paper. Research has indicated that keeping a journal can help to relieve stress and anxiety as you’re getting your feelings out onto paper which is another great reason to get your pen out. I have had some occasions where I’ve been really annoyed, ok, even angry! – and writing my annoyed, angry thoughts down helps to dissipate those angry feelings and stops me from saying things to people in haste that I might later regret. It often makes me see things in a totally different way, like ‘this is actually silly and not even worth getting angry over!’

2 |  Improve your productivity

Journalling has always been one of the foundation stones of starting my day – by journalling, I am setting my intentions for the day ahead and deciding what to focus my attention on rather than letting the day throw whatever it wants at me. As Jim Rohn once said ‘Either you run the day, or the day runs you!’ Throughout the day I know what intentions I set earlier and I make a conscious effort to ensure all my actions align with those intentions. Sure, sometimes other things come up unexpectedly but generally, it’s good to be in control of your day! Even if it’s just a short paragraph, journalling can help you organise those thoughts and ideas swirling around in your head and start taking action on them. If you’re journalling regularly too, you can see how you’re following through on the intentions you set from day to day, which leads me onto the next good reason to keep a journal …

3 |  Document your journey

Keeping a journal is a wonderful way to document your journey whether its personal or professional or both. I keep both a personal journal and a business journal and document my respective journeys in there. By getting the words out onto paper, it really does feel like a journey because each day I am taking another step and experiencing new things. The great thing is going back and reading your journals – this is something I only recently started doing when I realised that I really did need to properly review my past journey to learn lessons and reflect before continuing the next leg of my journey. By documenting your experiences and then looking back, say six months, or a year later, you realise how far you have come and how much you have grown as a person. And … you are literally writing the story of your life, how amazing is that?

4 |  Become more self-aware

Socrates famously told us to ‘Know thyself’. Journalling is probably one of the best ways to get to know yourself. It’s a great opportunity to do some deep self-reflection and self-discovery. So many people simply rush through each day without giving a moments’ thought to why they are doing what they are doing, or where they are actually going in the long term – they just go through the motions each day. By taking time to pause momentarily and write down your thoughts and feelings, you become much more aware of your real self, your ‘higher’ self, and the things that really matter to you. When I journal, I often feel as though I am observing myself as an outsider, this gives me a fresh perspective on things and allows me to almost coach myself, if that makes sense! Seeing what I’ve written down on paper makes those thoughts real and makes me far more aware of who I really am and what I need in that season of my life.

5 |  Improve your creativity

Finally, journalling allows you to unleash your creativity onto the page. There are no hard and fast rules for journalling, some people are short and to the point and others waffle on forever (yep, that’s me, although I do restrict myself nowadays!). By exploring your thoughts, feelings and emotions, you’re allowing your creativity to unfold and work its magic. We all have creativity within us, we just have to give it space to emerge and journalling is a great way to do that. I sometimes get random ideas pop into my head and I capture those ideas in my journal with a little lightbulb image next to it!  At some point, when I need some inspiration, I’ll look back for all my little lightbulb images and notes and viola – creativity starts to flow again!

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of journals out there and I’m sure there is at least one that suits your needs – from bullet journals to write as much as you want journals, and everything in between.

Because I love using planners to stay organised and love to journal too, I created my own bespoke ‘planner-journal’ called the Born to Flourish ® planner-journal. It combines all the practicalities of a planner (with planning and organising aspects) together with the all-important ‘mindset’ elements of a journal. It has a strong focus on personal growth with plenty of daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly prompts and reflections to keep you focused on what truly matters to you. I use my planner-journal every day and now share it with anyone who wants to use it in their own journey to flourishing and being all they were destined to be!

You can check out my Born to Flourish ® planner-journal which is available in printable PDF and Digital formats (to use on your iPad / tablet) << RIGHT HERE! >>

Do you keep a journal? What do you love most about it?

Recommended reading | Atomic Habits by James Clear

Recommended reading | Atomic Habits by James Clear

My last blog post was about how to develop good habits (if you haven’t seen it, you can check it out HERE).  Life becomes so much easier when you make it a habit of doing the things that need to be done!

A book that really helped me to take practical steps towards building good habits, as well as stopping bad habits, was Atomic Habits by James Clear.  I have always known the power of small, incremental changes – the compound effect – and this book reminded me of this.  By starting with seemingly minor actions or behaviours, these minor actions soon turn into deep rooted habits, hopefully good ones!  James Clear personally experienced the power of ‘atomic habits’ – tiny changes that compounded into remarkable results – through his personal journey from sustaining an awful injury at college and his journey to full recovery and beyond, going on to achieve amazing things.

One thing I particularly love about this book is how the author talks about not only the external stimuli that tend to affect our behaviour (and hence habits) but also our internal states – our thoughts, feelings, emotions and how these affect our behaviours and habits.  If you know me, you know that I’m all about the inside out approach.  If we want to truly flourish, we have to first master the internal game for it to reflect externally.

He starts by explaining ‘The Fundamentals’ and then goes into his habits framework, ‘The 4 Laws of Behaviour Change’ which align with his four-step model of habits – cue, craving, response and reward.

The Fundamentals

Here the first fundamental discussed is the impact of ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’ – a philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything we do – is explained, using the example of how this approach was applied by a new performance director of the British cycling team (Dave Brailsford) to help the team improve their somewhat dismal cycling performance.  By finding literally hundreds of teeny, weeny improvements to make – things like teaching the team to wash their hands properly to prevent catching a cold – the compound effect of all these teeny, tiny improvements eventually ended up having a remarkable effect.  The British cycling team went from not winning the Tour de France in 110 years and only winning an Olympic gold medal once since 1908 to winning 178 world championships, 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals and winning 5 Tour de France events in the space of TEN years.  Woah!  For me – gobsmacking. I was all ears (well, eyes) after this!

I also love how James believes in systems versus goals. I am all for systems to make life easier!  As he explains, goals are about the results you want to achieve while systems are about the processes that lead to those results.

The second ‘fundamental’ is how our habits shape our identity.  James tells us that the most effective way to change our habits is to focus not on what we want to achieve (our desired results), but on who we wish to become.  Again, music to my ears, I am totally aligned with this way of thinking, I 100% believe that to make any change in our lives, we need to first BE the type of person who can make that change happen.  Focus on being, as opposed to having the outcome!  The outcome will naturally follow!

The 4 Laws of Behavioural Change

Most people want to know “How can I create a good habit?” or “How can I break a bad habit?”  James Clear’s habits framework, which he explains throughout the book, is a simple set of rules to help you create good habits or break bad habits.  I personally LOVE using this framework because, as always, I find it so much easier to create systems to use in my daily life so I can use most of my energy and brain power on other things!  Using this framework really simplifies things for me when I’m trying to create good habits or get rid of bad habits.  I simply go to this set of rules and run through how I can apply them to whatever it is I am trying to achieve, whether that’s developing a good habit or stopping a bad habit.

The 4 Laws of Behavioural Change are as follows and below each law is the recommended strategy James recommends to use for that particular Law.

HOW TO CREATE GOOD HABITS

1 |  Make it obvious by

– Setting implementation intentions “(I will [behaviour] at [time] in [location]”
– Using habit stacking “(I will [desired new habit] after [current habit]”
– Designing your environment (make the cues of good habits obvious and visible)

2 |  Make it attractive by

– Using temptation bundling (pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do)
– Joining a culture where your desired behaviour is the normal behaviour
– Creating a motivation ritual (do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit)

3 |  Make it easy by

– Reducing friction (decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits)
– Priming your environment (prep your environment to make future actions easier)
– Mastering the decisive moment (optimise the small choices that deliver outsized impact)
– Using the Two-Minute Rule (downscale your habits until they can be done in 2 minutes or less)
– Automating your habits (invest in tech and one-time purchases that lock in future behaviour)

4 |  Make it satisfying by

– Using reinforcement (give yourself an immediate reward when you complete your habit)
– Making “doing nothing” enjoyable (when avoiding a bad habit, design a way to see the benefits)
– Using a habit tracker (keep track of your habit streak and “don’t break the chain”)
– Never missing twice (when you forget to do a habit, make sure you get back on track immediately)

HOW TO BREAK BAD HABITS (this is the inversion of the above)

1 |  Make it invisible by

– Reducing exposure (remove the cues of your bad habits from your environment)

2 |  Make it unattractive by

– Reframing your mindset (highlight the benefits of avoiding your bad habits)

3 |  Make it difficult by

– increasing friction (increase the number of steps between you and your bad habits)
– using a commitment device (restrict your future choices to the ones that benefit you)

4 |  Make it unsatisfying by

– getting an accountability partner (ask someone to watch your behaviour)
– creating a habit contract (make the costs of your bad habits public and painful)

 

Hopefully the 4 Laws and their associated strategies above are self-explanatory but I highly recommend reading Atomic Habits which explains each Law and strategy in great detail, also providing loads of examples.  I use many of these strategies myself with one of my favourites being ‘habit stacking’ – I simply think of a habit I currently do and then ‘bolt on’ my new desired habit onto that, for example, ‘I will drink a large glass of water after I wake up.’  Or, ‘I will take my supplements as soon as I finish eating my dinner.’  I find this strategy works really well and saves me having to try and carry out the habit on its own at some other time!

So if you’re wondering how to create a new habit, then try using these 4 Laws. Simply ask yourself:

1. How can I make it obvious?
2. How can I make it attractive?
3. How can I make it easy?
4. How can I make it satisfying?

And if you’re trying to figure out how to break a bad habit, ask yourself the inverted version of the same questions:

1. How can I make it invisible?
2. How can I make it unattractive?
3. How can I make it difficult?
4. How can I make it unsatisfying?

Like James Clear says in his book, “your habits are shaped by the systems in your life”.

Use this framework to create easy systems in your every day life because all these little habits you practice every day, over time, will amount to a big result – and you want it to be a good result!

 

P.S. You can download my FREE HABITS TRACKER below to write down the habits you want to develop and track them over a month (just print out a copy each month) – you will see patterns and trends start to emerge and know immediately where you are doing well and where you need to improve (by implementing James’ Laws and strategies!)

How to develop good habits (+ FREE Habits Tracker)

How to develop good habits (+ FREE Habits Tracker)

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Many of us look for the ‘secret sauce’ to success but the secret sauce is really what we do every day.  The little, seemingly unimportant activities that soon add up over time.

The Bloom philosophy is all about the Long Game!  Flourishing doesn’t happen overnight, it’s very much a journey. But I love to find ways of making that journey as easy and painless as possible and I believe that cultivating positive daily habits is a sure-fire way to make your journey to success a lot easier!

What exactly are habits?

They’re the things we do on autopilot every day, without really having to think about them.  Waking up and checking your phone first thing in the morning? That’s a habit.  Getting up and making your bed (or not!)?  Habit.  Brushing your teeth?  Another habit.  Probably even the way you brush your teeth is a habit – starting on one particular side of your mouth perhaps, the manner in which you actually brush your teeth, we do this without really consciously thinking.

And so it goes throughout the day, most of our actions are a series of habits.  The route you to take to work / school or wherever you go.  What you eat for lunch.  How you spend your time.  The things you do out of habit every day saves your brain from having to think hard about every little thing you do, it’s far easier to automate many of the routine things you do instead, like tying your shoelaces or starting your car.

Become aware of your daily habits

So what habits fill your typical day?  Chances are you’re not even fully aware of them yourself and that’s because you don’t give much thought to these things when you’re doing them!  To become consciously aware of what habits fill your day, it’s a great idea to make a note throughout your day of exactly what you’re doing from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep.  Because we do most of these things without thinking, consciously taking the time to track your habits can be a real eye opener!  You might find that you spend an hour or two aimlessly scrolling through social media Every Single Morning.  That’s 7-14 hours hours a week.  30-60 hours a month.  See how seemingly small habits soon stack up?  Or maybe you find that every mid-morning you make yourself a cup of tea and reach for the biscuit packet by default.  And devour half of the contents!  Or flop on the sofa every evening and spend five hours binge-watching Netflix.  Take notes of your daily habits for at least a week, ideally two and you’ll soon see interesting trends emerging!  And this is also where you realise that all the seemingly insignificant things you do every day, compounded over a long period of time, can end up harvesting BIG results.  Your aim, of course, is to harvest GOOD results which will stem from GOOD habits!

Once you become aware of your daily habits, it’s time to take control and decide what habits you want to develop going forward instead of being at the mercy of the habits you’ve already programmed into your brain.  Hopefully you do already have some good habits going and that’s great, you want to continue building on those!  Now it’s time think of other positive habits that will help you get to where you want to be.

 Use a habits tracker

I love a good old checklist to keep me laser focused on what I need to do and for this reason I created my very own Habits Tracker, which is now part of my Born to Flourish® planner-journal as a tool for my planner-journal users to make use of.  It’s a simple one pager, covering a one month period, where I can think about and then write down the habits I want to practice daily that month and then check them off each day that I actually practice the habit.

Using this habits tracker serves two main purposes – firstly, I print and stick the habits tracker up on my office (or bedroom) wall where I will see it every day; this reminds me what I need to be doing, what I need to be spending my time on and that I need to check this off by the end of each day as having been done!  Secondly, as I check off my habits each day, the patterns and trends that start to emerge make it crystal clear to me where I’m doing well and where I’m slacking and need to improve.  That way I know which areas to focus on more the following month.

You can download my Habits Tracker for FREE using the link below – it’s a huge help to keep you focused on the activities you should be spending your time on!  I print and use this every month and would be rather lost without it 😊

 

So how do you decide what habits to write down and track?

Your habits vs the bigger picture / your goals

I personally like to link my habits to the goals I am trying to achieve, so looking at your longer-term goals – the bigger picture – is a great place to start.

What are your goals, what are you trying to achieve?  Once you know what your bigger goals are, you can then decide what daily habits will help you take steps towards those goals. 

So, for example, if one of your goals is to get into the best shape of your life in the next 12 months, what daily habits would you need to practice to achieve that goal?  Maybe habits relating to your diet, sleep and exercise?  Under ‘diet’, you could decide to form a habit of drinking 2 litres of water every day.  Under ‘exercise’ you could decide to form a habit of doing at least 30 minutes of intense exercise every day – or go to the gym at least 3 times a week.  Under ‘sleep’ you could make it a habit to be in bed by 10pm every night.  That’s already 3 daily habits you have linked to your longer-term goal of getting into the best shape of your life.  You could, of course, add more habits that will support that goal!

Perhaps another goal of yours is to start a side hustle to make extra money.  What sort of habits could you develop and track every day linked to this side hustle goal?  Wake up an hour earlier to get in an extra hour of building up your side hustle?  Listening to at least 3 good podcasts a week to learn new skills?

I’m sure you get the idea now! 

By thinking of your key goals, writing down in your habits tracker the habits that will take you in the direction of those goals, and then tracking those habits each month, you will find yourself in a much better position to achieve your goals!  Or – perhaps you have a shorter-term goal that still needs your daily habits tracked.  Perhaps you’re training for a run that’s a month or two away and you want a rock-solid routine to help you get into the best possible shape for race day – you can use the habits tracker to write down all the daily habits you need to practice every day until race day.

Recommended reading to help you develop good habits

I absolutely believe that our daily habits are one of the key factors to achieving success, to reaching our goals and dreams.  I highly recommend that you read James Clear’s book Atomic Habits – this book is an absolute must-read if you want to learn how to develop positive habits AND stop the pesky negative habits!  As you work through your habits tracker and you find that you’re really struggling with some habits, this book will give you the tools you need to nail those habits.  And once you nail your habits, you will find it soo much easier to reach your goals and dreams. 

I plan to do a book review soon on ‘Atomic Habits’ so watch this space!

And … don’t forget to download your FREE Habits Tracker above!

5 things to include in your morning routine

5 things to include in your morning routine

I am all about FLOURISHING and being the best we can possibly be and a great way to set yourself on the path to flourishing is to start your day right!

Mornings are often a rush to beat the clock and get out the door but I’ve found that if I make the time and effort to start my day with intention, the rest of my day flows so much more smoothly than it would if I woke up and went through the motions, reacting to everything that happens around me!  Jim Rohn said it perfectly:

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.”

Personally, I prefer to be in charge!

So, whether you’re lucky enough to be able to spare an hour for a daily morning routine or just 5 or 10 minutes, it’s well worth doing!

What can you include in your morning routine? Well, it really is down to you and your unique life. If you use my Born to Flourish planner-journal, you’ll have a page dedicated to crafting your very own morning routine, where you can list down the things you will do to start your day right 😊

If you’re stuck for ideas, here’s 5 things I always include in my own morning routine. Depending on how much time you have available and what’s important to you, you can pick and mix from these or make up your own!

1 | Meditation / Reflection / Gratitude

Whether its meditation, prayer or reflection, starting your day with this practice will help ground you and enable you to be more intentional and mindful. Even if it’s just for a minute or two, close your eyes and connect with your higher self. Be grateful for another day on earth, for all the things you have, no matter how small. Focus on all the positive things you have in your life – people, experiences, things. Remember that what you focus on expands, so choose to focus on the good, positive things in your life to attract more good, positive things in your life! This is a great time to visualise too. Visualise your day ahead, see yourself confidently achieving your goals, having a great day. I once read a book that recommended starting your day by thinking of ten things you’re grateful for and then seeking guidance for the day ahead. If this is the only thing you can manage as part of your morning routine, it will still make a huge difference to your day and your life!

2 | Journal

There’s something therapeutic and also powerful about putting your thoughts onto paper – whether it’s to clarify your thoughts, set your intentions for the day or simply offload all the clutter lurking in your mind to free up some space! Even if it’s just a sentence or two, depending on whether you’re much of a writer of not, write something down. Personally I prefer ‘proper’ writing over typing on a laptop or computer, simply because it feels more ‘real’ and it’s so much more effective actually writing your thoughts than bashing them out on a keyboard. Not to mention I lost a couple years’ worth of journalling when my laptop crashed a few years ago!

As you might know, through my love of journalling and planning, I created my own hybrid planner-journal, the Born to Flourish planner-journal, which has a page dedicated to each day and which contains prompts to help me set my intentions for my day ahead, tie those intentions to my bigger goals, explore my underlying thoughts and feelings and then, later in the day, reflect on whether I followed through with those intentions, any lessons I learned and how I might improve tomorrow. I have been using this planner-journal for years now and couldn’t live without it because it combines the practical planning and doing stuff along with the all important, but often overlooked, internal mindset stuff. If you want to find out more about my planner-journal, check it out here!

3 | Exercise

Probably not what everyone wants to be doing as soon as they get out of bed! But this is a great way to kick start your metabolism and your energy levels for the day ahead. I was never an exercise in the morning type of gal, and would do so in the evenings – usually when I was frazzled from my day – and to be fair it did still help me, but now that I exercise in the mornings, I feel so much better and it makes me feel really energised for the rest of my day (and also helps me get a good night’s sleep). It’s easy to think the other way round – I’m going to use up my energy exercising and be too tired to face my day! But no, quite the opposite 😊 Exercise energises you, gets the blood pumping, your mind mentally alert, which is a great start to your day!

Personally I like to go for a run, or at least a brisk power walk. And while many times I have had to really convince myself to head out the door, not once have I ever returned and thought ‘oh, I should never have done that.’ Instead, a few minutes into my run or walk, I’m thinking ‘I am so glad I did this!’ Sometimes my run or walk is an hour, sometimes it’s half an hour, and sometimes it’s just a brisk walk around the block. But this practice also has a knock on effect in terms of wanting to eat something healthy for breakfast rather than comfort food (yes I tend to gravitate towards muffins, croissants etc otherwise!). Running or walking may not be your thing. How about some cardio? If the weather’s bad or I simply don’t want to go outdoors, sometimes I’ll do a cardio workout at home for 10 or 15 minutes. Or you could do something gentler like yoga? Whatever it is for you, choose something to help your body and mind – MOVE into action!

4 | Have a healthy breakfast

Not exactly rocket science and you already know that you are what you eat and that you should eat a healthy breakfast to start your day right! Yet so many of us either eat a far from healthy, rushed breakfast on the move, or have no breakfast at all. What’s a healthy breakfast? I try to have a healthy smoothie every morning and because mine tend to be quite filling, with things like avocado and walnuts in it, it tends to keep me full all morning (which is a good thing for me, keeps me away from those muffins!)! Having a smoothie also helps me to put a wide variety of ingredients in my breakfast than I normally would have e.g. toast. Other times I’ll have granola with live yoghurt and berries, or I’ll have toast with avocado and egg, one of my faves, or something like oats with a bit of almond butter and chia seeds in it. I am always on a quest to eat healthier and don’t always do this, but I do tell myself that I will begin my day eating something healthy at the very least! This will usually set me up to make healthy eating choices as I go through my day, even if I do fall off the bandwagon some of the time! I tend to use the 80/20 rule of thumb and aim to be as healthy as possible at least 80% of the time!

5 | Do something different

I’ve read in a few different places that it’s a good idea to change up something you do habitually every day to sharpen your mind. A while back, I did a really good course provided by Jim Kwik (author of the book, ‘Limitless’) called Superbrain and he suggested doing things like brushing your teeth with the opposite hand you normally brush with – so if you normally hold your toothbrush and brush your teeth with your right hand, try doing this with your left hand! It means you’ll have to focus a lot more (which is what you want – a good brain workout!) to make sure you don’t get toothpaste all over your face! Or, if you always put on your right sock or shoe first, make a conscious effort to put on the left one first. This doesn’t take long at all, seconds of your time, and involves an activity you have to do anyway (so shouldn’t really take up any additional time) but is a great brain training exercise to start your day!

My morning routine is habitual now and making your morning routine a habit is exactly what you want to do. Yes, there are days that things don’t go according to plan, or I’m travelling and things are different, but for the most part, I will do the above things without even thinking about it. I do other things too, like reading, I’ll read at least a chapter or a few pages of a book with my breakfast if I’m alone or I’ll do some personal development like listen to a podcast or audiobook.

The key is to find things that will work for you personally and set you up for your day ahead.

If you don’t have a copy of my Born to Flourish planner-journal and would like to create your own morning routine or ritual, you can download (for free) the ‘Morning Ritual’ page I included in my planner-journal right here!

 

Do you have a morning routine? What does it consist of?

10 ways to stop procrastinating

10 ways to stop procrastinating

‘Some day is not a day of the week.’ I remember reading this somewhere!  And how true this is.

Yet how many of us will start exercising ‘some day’, will start writing that book ‘some day’, will take the first step towards living the life of our dreams ‘some day?’  Procrastination is one of the main issues people struggle with, feeling completely paralysed when it comes to doing the things that need to get done, even when they know this action will benefit them immensely.  So how can you stop procrastinating and putting things off?  Here’s 10 ideas …

1 | Take action TODAY

Some day never comes, my friend – the day to take action is TODAY!  What you do TODAY is what will shape your tomorrows.  Don’t kid yourself that you’ll start tomorrow, on Monday, on the first day of next month, or on the 1st of January!  What’s stopping you from starting right now?  It’s like the sign I’ve seen up in some pubs ‘Free beer tomorrow!’  Well, tomorrow – like Some Day – never comes!  When you go rushing back for your free beer tomorrow, the sign still says ‘tomorrow’!  

In case you’ve forgotten, you only have a finite number of TODAYS on Planet Earth.  So what you do today counts.  The choice is yours as to whether you will spend it watching TV or taking another step towards your dreams and goals!

2 | Focus on your why

A lot of people don’t even start taking action, let alone keep taking action, because they don’t have a strong enough REASON to get started, or keep going.  If you want to drop 2 dress sizes, WHY do you want to do this?  Not because you love cutting out carbs and sweet treats and running 5 miles a day, but maybe because you want to feel good, have a healthy body weight and have more energy?  Focus on your ‘why’ – and this is usually the feeling you will feel when you eventually achieve your goal.  If you have a strong enough why, you will get started.  There’s a book I read many years ago that explained this brilliantly (I think it’s The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy).  If you were given the opportunity to walk across a plank placed between two high rise buildings for $20, would you do it?  Probably not!  But if you had a loved one, say your child, trapped on the other building that had just caught fire, would you walk across the plank to rescue them?  There’s a high possibility you would!  You wouldn’t put it off to Monday, would you?!  Your WHY would be strong enough to get you moving immediately.  Reasons drive results – so dig deep for the reasons WHY you want to do something.  What will it cost you if you don’t achieve the goal?

3 | Look for your pain points

Apparently human behaviour is driven by either pain or pleasure.  And also, apparently humans tend to be motivated more by pain than pleasure (weird species, aren’t we!)!  So if we look at our dropping 2 dress sizes example – what pleasure will you experience by dropping two dress sizes?  You’ll look good, you’ll feel good, you’ll be more confident, you’ll have more energy, etc.  Which is a wonderful picture to paint that will give you a warm, fuzzy feeling and hopefully one that will get you to do the things you need to do to achieve that.  Now let’s look at the pain you’ll experience if you don’t achieve your goal of dropping two dress sizes.  Perhaps you’ll keep gaining weight?  Possible ill health?  Low confidence?  Fatigue?  Usually the thought of the pain we’ll feel if we don’t achieve our goal gets us into activity more than the thought of the pleasure we’ll experience if we do.  If you plan to start your own business ‘some day’ to escape the daily grind, what pain will you feel if you don’t get started TODAY?  Can you see yourself in 20 years time, taking the same commute to work, getting your measly pay cheque that hardly sees you through the month, thinking to yourself ‘why didn’t I take action back then?’  Regret is a bitter pill to swallow.  Thinking about the pain you will suffer for not taking action today is a surefire way to get you up off the couch and doing something your future self will thank you for one day. 

4 | Work backwards

I was so moved by a talk I listened to by Les Brown where he spoke about people reaching the end of their lives and that the saddest part was not just about the person themselves dying but all their hopes and dreams dying with them.  All the things they could have, would have and should have been and done whilst they were alive.  But didn’t.  It’s not something we like to think about and tend to avoid, but one day our time will be up.  If you picture yourself at the end of your life looking back, what do you want to be thinking, feeling?  Pride and a sense of achievement for all the things you made happen or at least tried to make happen?  Or deep regret at all the time you wasted, time that you now can’t get back?  

5 | Be smart with your time

One thing that is truly equal in this world is that each and every one us – rich, poor, young, old – has 24 hours in our day.  It’s what we each do with that 24 hours that makes the difference.  More specifically, what we choose to do with that 24 hours.  How can you work, not harder, but smarter?  If you’re procrastinating over doing something, schedule it in your diary like you would an appointment with your bank manager – and attend your appointment with yourself!  Can you wake up an hour earlier, stay up an hour later, use your lunch hour, evenings or weekends to work on your goals or spend time on the things that are truly important to you?  Plan your days wisely by scheduling your key tasks, the activities you need to do to move the needle, and then let everything else fit in around that.  Keep the main thing, the main thing!  There is a plethora of information out there to help you get the most out of your most previous resource – time.  One of my favourite books on making the most of your time is The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch.

6 | Don’t wait for things to be perfect (they never will be!)

I took part in a fabulous workshop with James Wedmore a while ago, who trains online entrepreneurs, and there was one statement he made that really stuck with me that I always go back to when in doubt – and actually have stuck on my wall now!   ACTION CREATES CLARITY.  This is something I struggled with a lot.  I would want to know what my entire plan was from start to finish before I got started.  Kind of like wanting to see what the roads, traffic, weather and scenery would be like on every part of my journey from England to Scotland before I set off by car.  Not really possible!  If I waited for the promise of perfect weather throughout my journey, plus a completely clear road ahead with no cars, plus all green traffic lights  – I would be waiting FOREVER before setting off!  Sadly, none of us has a crystal ball to look into the future and see what will happen if we do X or Y, we’ve just gotta take that leap of faith and keep heading in the direction of our goals and dreams!  Sure, there may be setbacks, yes, there are likely to be detours along the way – but just as your satnav simply reroutes you if things don’t go to plan, so can you reroute if you come across any challenges!  There will never be the perfect time to start, SO JUST START NOW!  Here’s one of my favourite quotes:

‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.’ — Martin Luther King, Jr

7 | Be clear on where it is you’re going

You need to be clear on your destination; your end goal, but you don’t need to (and can’t in any case!) see every detail of the journey to your destination.   You’ve just got to put the engine on, programme your destination into the satnav and set off, letting things unfold as you move forward.  I found that one of the biggest reasons I would procrastinate was because I wasn’t clear on where I was going, what I wanted to achieve, even if it was simply knowing exactly what I wanted to achieve that day.  Now, before I go to sleep, I know exactly what I want to achieve the next day.  When I wake up, I have a clear goal in mind that I’m working towards that day, no more dithering about, wondering what I should be doing!  And of course, using my Born to Flourish planner-journal keeps me laser focused on what goals I’m working towards and the mindset I need to keep me on track!

8 | Expect more of yourself

Sometimes you just need to take a good long look at yourself in the mirror, look into your eyes and ask yourself ‘Is this really the best I can give?  Am I really fulfilling my whole potential, giving it my all?  Am I happy with the standards I’ve set for myself?  Have I even set any standards for myself?’  Humans are capable of achieving amazing things, it’s been demonstrated time and time again since the beginning of time.  Expect more of yourself.  Complacency kills so many dreams.  Raise the bar and step into your greatness.  

9 | Take Baby Steps

Don’t expect to be able to train to climb Mount Everest in two weeks, no matter how focused you are on your goal or how motivated you are!  Direction is better than speed.  You can get nowhere fast.  Or you can get where you want to be if you keep doing the do consistently, putting one foot in front of the other.  People over estimate what they can achieve in one year but often grossly under estimate what they can achieve in five years.  Again, this is something I struggled with.  I wanted results now and would feel rather dejected when at the end of a day slogging over my business, it seemed I had achieved so little.  However, I had laid another brick, and if I kept laying bricks each and everyday, eventually the wall would start taking shape.  Another quote (a Chinese proverb) I love is

‘Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.’

So even if those baby steps feel like you’re moving slowly, you’re still moving!  Just keep going. 

10 | Just Do It

Stop getting ready to get ready to get ready to start Some Day.  Just go ahead and start!  Now.  With something, no matter how small it is.  Even if it’s 15 minutes you spend working on your goals, that means you’re 15 minutes closer towards your goal.  I would always feel I’m not ready, I need more this and more that, I need to be more prepared, I still don’t know exactly how things will work out, but what if this and what if that … well you’re never going to know until you GET GOING!  Maybe you just don’t ‘feel’ like it.  Be careful of feelings.  If you know what needs to be done then don’t think about it, just do it.  An elite athlete doesn’t have to think about getting out of bed at 4 or 5am to practice for hours.  They just do it.  Because they have their eye on the gold medal and know what needs to be done to get there, whether they feel like it or not.

Here’s yet another of my favourite quotes (yes, I have a huge collection!) that I’ll leave you with to help end procrastination:

‘Do the thing and you’ll have the power.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In other words, regardless of how you feel, just do what you know needs to be done, and the power / energy you need to do it will come!

 

How do you overcome procrastination?