Tag Archives: habits

No sugar update – day 29

Today is Day 29 of my 30-day reset of not eating sugary snacks and treats. It’s gone surprisingly well.

When I started my mission get back into my no sugar lifestyle, I imagined that I’d slowly cut out one day’s treat over a period of several weeks and that by the end of it I’d be back on track. My first steps were to make sure I had something else to eat in place of my Monday afternoon snack, to remove any cash from my wallet that might make it easy to buy something I didn’t want, should I accidentally wander into a bakery or coffee shop.

After a couple of weeks of this I found that, even on the days I was allowed to have an unhealthy snack, I didn’t want to, so the 30-day reset began. In contrast to previous attempts at this, I’ve found the last 29 days to be quite easy and I haven’t really missed the cakes and chocolate.

I wondered why this was, because in the past it’s been really hard and I’ve struggled.

I think that because I’ve had several long periods where I haven’t eaten sugar, my body knows that this is my “normal”, so once I made the decision to go back to this and started to not eat cakes and chocolate, my body accepted it quite easily. I guess it knows that I am someone who doesn’t eat refined sugar, which is exactly the person I want to be.

I know some people think that cutting out something is a bit extreme and that most things in moderation are okay. The theory goes that if you completely deny yourself something, you’ll feel like you’re missing out and you’ll end up binging on the [forbidden thing], which would be worse for you than allowing yourself to have it occasionally.

Gretchen Rubin discusses this in Better Than Before. She says that some people do better by completely abstaining, because they find this easier than having the [forbidden thing] in moderation – for “abstainers”, having just a bit is almost impossible. Once they have opened the biscuit packet they’ll eat the whole lot. They won’t have one, and put the packet away until tomorrow.

As an abstainer herself, Ms Rubin notes that when abstainers deprive themselves of the [forbidden thing], they “conserve energy and will-power because there are no decisions to make and no self-control to muster”. They don’t have to decide whether to have (or do) the thing, then decide how much of the thing they will have (or do) and finally make themselves stop consuming (or doing) the thing. The decision is already made, and they can go on with their day.

She notes that someone can be an abstainer in relation to some things, but can be a “moderator” – someone for whom “everything in moderation” works well – for others. I might be an abstainer in relation to sugar, but a moderator in relation to alcohol, for example. So I’ll eat the whole block of chocolate, but I can have one glass of wine at lunch time and not spend the rest of the afternoon drinking. Unless I make a conscious choice to.

Ms Rubin notes that successful habit changes involve coordinating multiple strategies, and she gives an example of how she combined abstaining with other strategies to change her eating habits. For me, I can see how I have combined the strategy of abstaining (from sugar) with the strategy of identity (I am a person who doesn’t eat sugar) to change this particular habit. (I mentioned this strategy in this post.)

So this was an easy 30-day challenge for me – but it was only easy because of earlier work I’d done. I imagine that I’ll have more slip-ups in the future, but I hope that this experience of quite easily falling back into a healthy pattern will mean that the slip-ups aren’t frequent and aren’t as long-lived as this one was.

And here’s an unrelated picture of one of my chickens, as I contemplate what my next 30-day challenge will be.

20170701 Chook

Challenge 5: Overview

This challenge (30 Days of Fixing What Bugs You) hasn’t really been great in terms of things I’ve actually been able to write about. I haven’t kept much of a record of what I’ve done. I feel like maybe it was a bit abstract to take this on for 30 days, because doing something depended on something happening that I had to react to. So, with some notable exceptions, most things that have annoyed me have been little blips that I struggled to remember at the end of the day.

Having said that, I think “fix what bugs you” is a really great philosophy to subscribe to. It’s certainly better than complaining about something that either I can fix or I can’t do anything about (or I could fix with a bit of effort but can’t be bothered, so I’ll just sit here and whinge about it thank you very much).

I have taken some small proactive steps in one area of my life that I’m pleased with, and some of that has spilled a bit over into Challenge 6 (Clarity), so I might say more about that later on.

30 Days of No Complaining should have ended on about 14 September, so I could start challenge 7 on the 15th, but last week was a big week and I had other things that were more important. Challenge 7 will start tomorrow, and this will be something practical that I can do every day and measure.

Tonight we had our final yoga class for the term, and won’t be restarting until mid-October. Last term I had good intentions to do some yoga over the holidays, but we went away and it didn’t happen. When we went back to class this term, I really felt like I hadn’t done any yoga for three weeks. It wasn’t good. I want to keep it up this time, so I’ve decided to exchange my morning walks for morning yoga (and reduce my daily step goal to 12,000 during this time). This is something I’ll be much more able to keep track of, and it shouldn’t add any extra time requirement into my day, which means (in theory) I should be able to incorporate it into my morning routine fairly easily.

And finally, here’s something I learned last week. Remember when I wore the bright pink lacy leggings to work as “something I wouldn’t normally wear” as past of the #yearoffear challenge and no one noticed?20160912-yellow-leggings-attract-more-comments-ig Change “bright pink” for “yellow” and everyone notices!

Fix what bugs you – week 1

It’s week 1 of my “fix what bugs you” challenge. The aim of this challenge is to work within my “circle of influence” for an entire month and not to let myself get irritated or bugged about things I have no control over. If something that I can do something about is bugging me, then either fix it right away, or put a plan into place to get it fixed if it’s not something I can do immediately.

Day 1: This was a great day. Nothing really bugged me at all. I realised that my wish to be exposed to different things at work, which I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, is actually gradually being met, only not in the way I’d thought when I asked for this to happen. So I’m learning new stuff, finding out about different processes and discovering new areas of my workplace I didn’t even know existed. Yay.

Day 2: Today started out tough. Normally Tuesdays I work at home in the morning, and I have the afternoon off to do my own thing, cook a massive curry, work on my blog and catch up on niggling little jobs that would otherwise get missed, as well as prepare for my radio show. I had my (scary #yearoffear) appointment at the accountant booked, and I spent last night pulling out all my receipts and documents. I was as ready for this as I was going to be.

Then Slabs woke up feeling terribly ill and wasn’t able to go to work, so I had to take Kramstable to school. This means leaving earlier than normal, no time to set up the slow cooker, and, after picking him up from school, not enough time when we get home to cook something than is normally his and my lunch for the rest of the week. Not to mention having to reschedule my accountant appointment and not do any of the other activities I’d planned to do today.

In the morning I thought that it would have been very easy to complain, because Tuesday afternoon is *my* time, and I’m always disappointed when I lose it. But. There’s nothing I can do about it. People get sick and it’s more important that Slabs get some rest and see the doctor, so I just have to suck it up. I’d had a lovely day the day before, and nothing can take that away. And, I thought, maybe I’d get an opportunity that I wouldn’t have got if I’d been at home, so I decided to keep an open mind.

By the end of the day I felt rather differently. My shoulders were aching fiercely after 90 minutes of carrying what I didn’t think was such a heavy backpack and bag but turns out it was. One shoulder looks swollen and is really tight. I need to rethink what I carry on days like this. Fix what bugs you.

Kramstable and I caught the early bus home, which I never like, but today seemed to be worse than normal for conversations that it was impossible to tune out. I was trying not to complain about it, and telling myself I was grateful for there being a bus so I didn’t have to drive; I was grateful there were meals in the freezer so I didn’t have to stress about cooking, telling myself to breathe, focus on the breath, but still the voices got into my head, and I got home feeling thoroughly miserable, sore and headachy, and behind on everything I’d hoped to get done.

I know. First world problems. Fix what bugs you. Headphones next time.

Tomorrow will be better.

Day 3: It was. Nothing to complain about. Nothing to fix.

Day 4: Oh my god. Kramstable was sick and Slabs stayed home with him. There was a good chance he’d be sick the next day too, and it would be my turn to stay home, so everything I’d planned to do then had to be done today. Specifically go to [redacted] to get materials for Kramstable’s Book Week costume.

You know the place I mean. The place where there is no such thing as ducking* in to pick up a couple of things. Because you wait in line for hours. No matter what time of day it is. Today was no exception. As the line built up behind me, the sole person on the counter was in a huge discussion with a customer about this very expensive fabric they wanted to buy, without a pattern, and what were they going to do, and no there wouldn’t be enough to do that . . . And all the while, several other staff members kept walking past the growing line, putting stuff on shelves, and doing god knows what.

It was all too much for me. I was quietly fuming. And complaining on Twitter. And fuming some more. Was this situation within my control? No. Could I do anything to fix it? Not unless I got my supplies from somewhere else, which isn’t really doable. They had me captive.

It only occurred to me much later that Arianna Huffington had written exactly of this situation in her book Thrive, which I’ve just read. She quoted a book called Mindful London by Tessa Watt, who recommends that you use this type of situation as a chance to slow down and practice mindfulness. To pause, to take in what’s around you (in this case a line of annoyed customers), to breathe. Next time I go in there I’m taking a book to read in line. So there. While I didn’t fix it this time, I have a plan to fix it next time.

Day 5: Kramstable was still sick so I was at home with him. I didn’t do much. Nothing really jumped out at me as bugging me. Other than my overflowing freezer. I added “do a freezer clean out” to my to-do list.

Day 6: Today. I noticed myself getting irritated by a couple of things but I didn’t do anything about them. Maybe I should.

I think after (almost) a week of doing this challenge, I’m noticing the times I’m complaining more than I used to, and at least trying to think of ways to make the situation better, even if it’s just a learning for next time. That seems like a good result for now.

So cheers!

20160819 Original Soured Ale IG

* Kudos to my Mac for autocorrecting “ducking” in this post to “fucking”. It’s usually the other way around. It’s learning.

Challenge 5: Fix what bugs you

This challenge has its origin in several places.

I’ve been reading Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in which he talks of the circle of concern (which is everything we care about) and the circle of influence (which is everything we have control over or influence on). He recommends undertaking a 30-day proactivity challenge, where you work only in your circle of influence, on things you have control over, rather than getting caught up on things that concern you but which you can’t do anything about.

Along the same lines, a recent email challenge over at Hey Kendra was to go for 24 hours without complaining. Kendra says that while complaining has some rewards, (because it feels good to vent and can help us bond with other people who have the same complaints), it has downsides if you do it a lot. For example, you look like someone who isn’t in control of their life; people can get sick of you if you complain a lot and you can attract other complainers into your life. Kendra puts it like this: “we have perfected the art of fine whining”.

This is something I’d already started to focus on, because I started thinking that, unless other people have the same issue as I have, they really aren’t interested in the little things I complain about.

I committed to not complaining for 24 hours for Kendra’s challenge, and didn’t even last half a day! Some things (that are totally outside my circle of influence) really push my buttons. But on reflection, they aren’t worth the energy it takes to complain about them.

Kendra says the challenge is to focus on solutions – and if you have nothing positive to say, say nothing. And this leads us to the final piece of the puzzle that is Challenge 5 in my year of #steppingonthecracks.

This came from a recent podcast from Asian Efficiency, with Paul Akers from which I got the big takeaway “fix what bugs you”. This could possibly be the best advice I’ve heard all year.

Putting all of this together, my next 30 day challenge is: If there’s something that’s pissing me off to first ask myself if there’s anything I can do about it. If not – let it go.

If yes – fix it. It probably takes as much energy to fix a niggling little problem as it does to whinge about it, and the difference is that fixing it means it’s no longer a problem, whereas whinging about it has used the same energy and the problem still exists.

If it’s not something I can fix straight away (the two-minute rule might be useful here – if it can be done in under two minutes, do it right away, don’t leave it), at least make an action plan to get onto fixing it.

Example: Last week I was in the kitchen and the bin liner had come away from the sides of the bin and was making it difficult to put stuff in the bin. You know, when you dump something heavy in the bin first up and it pulls the whole thing down.

Other person, looking at the bin: “That bin liner isn’t very useful like that”.

Me: *Pulls out the bin and straightens up the bin liner.* *Gives self gold star for fixing instead of pointing it out and doing nothing.*

This is the kind of stuff I’m talking about.

I’ll have to be very careful on Twitter, since that’s where most of my complaints are aired. If you catch me complaining in the next 30 days without having a plan to fix the issue, feel free to call me out on it! #fixwhatbugsyou

My goal will be to find at least one thing each day that I might have complained about and fixed instead.

And in case I felt inclined to complain about the weather, a reminder that spring is coming:

20160812 Pretty at St David's Park

 

Evening routines: day 29

The evening routine challenge is just about over. Here’s Day 5 of the Asian Efficiency evening routine challenge. It addresses a key issue that your routine needs to help you stick to it: Your why.

One of the reasons a lot of habits don’t stick is because you don’t have a clear reason for why you want to cultivate the habit, so there isn’t a real incentive to do it.

In the post Zachary asks:

Why is it so important that this evening ritual is strong? How does making the small, smart consistent choice to get the rest you need give you more of what you want out of life? More health. More abundance. More opportunity. More gratitude. More growth. More learning. More fun. More service. More romance.

More of you.

 

I realised that part of the reason I wasn’t very good at sticking to my evening routine and bedtime was that, along with it not being very structured, I wasn’t being very clear on why I needed to do it.

“I should go to bed earlier because I’ll be tired in the morning, oh but I can’t be bothered, screw it, I’ll have another glass of wine…. Oh shit it’s midnight and I’ve just sat on the couch all evening and done nothing.”

Very non-comittal.

This has gradually turned into an 11-step routine that starts at 9.20 and gets me into bed before 10.00pm.

But why?

Because I need to get enough sleep to function the next day, and I need to wake up early to get three of my most important things done before my day starts: meditate, move, create. I now look forward to getting up early to do these things, and most nights I look forward to going to bed several hours earlier than I used to.

On Tuesday night, I didn’t do the routine (mainly because I was filling in my paper Census form and watching the drama of #censusfail unfold on Twitter) and I felt very out of sorts as a result. I struggled getting to sleep that night, and I put this mostly down to the fact that I didn’t stick to my routine and specifically that I was on my devices right up to the time I went to bed. Either that or it’s a mighty big coincidence that it was the first time in ages I’ve had trouble sleeping.

So there’s my why; the final part of my evening routine, which ties it all together. In the Asian Efficency post, Zach suggests that once you’ve done this to:

“Set a calendar reminder to review what you wrote in a couple of weeks. Re-read and revise your “why” whenever you feel your motivation or execution slipping.

 

I think that’s a good idea.

Evening routines (Challenge 3): Day 24

The evening routine challenge is going well. Moving on with it, Day 4 of the Asian Efficiency Evening Routine Challenge is to make improvements to your sleep environment to help you get a better night’s sleep when you do get to bed.

There are a tonne of resources out there on how to get to sleep and stay asleep. I’ve had problems in the past, but right now I only rarely have trouble getting to sleep, so I’m very grateful for this.

Some of the common suggestions I’ve already written about in this series, such as having a set bedtime every night, putting a wind-down routine in place and dimming the lights around the house (easier said than done when you live with other people who stay up later than you do).

Other recommendations include:

Getting all devices out of your bedroom – including phones, TVs and e-readers, not only for the blue light that keeps your brain stimulated, but also because they are too easy to pick up and distract yourself with instead of going to sleep.

I once heard Arianna Huffington (founder of the Huffington Post, who has recently put out a book about sleep) say that when she’s getting ready for bed, she “escorts” her devices out of her bedroom, which I think is a nice way of putting it – she has 12 tips on her website for better sleep that you can download here.

I turn my phone to airplane mode when I shut down my other devices but I need the progressive alarm on the phone to wake me in the morning. This is a series of chimes that start off very quietly and get louder over the interval that I set (it’s about 6 minutes) – intended not to disturb anyone else, because I wake up before they get too loud and turn it off. I’ve tried to find something like a progressive alarm that’s a standalone clock but have had no luck, so until I can find something like that the phone has to stay!

Having a completely dark bedroom – which means blackout curtains and/or a sleep mask, and even going as far as no LED displays like clock-radios. We’re lucky to live in a relatively dark and quiet street, so haven’t needed blackout curtains, though they might come in handy in summer when it gets light earlier. It’s on the house improvement list.

Keeping the temperature relatively cool – apparently you need to drop your core body temperature slightly before you go to sleep; this is why a lot of people recommend a bath or a shower as part of their evening routine. There are several different recommendations out there as to what the optimal sleeproom temperature is, but I suppose it would vary between different people – they key is to having a lower temperature than your normal living environment.

The reason is apparently this (according to science):

Over a 24 hour period, our body temperatures naturally peak and decline. Our internal temperature is usually at its highest in the early afternoon and lowest around 5am. When we fall asleep, our bodies naturally cool off. Helping keep your body get to that lower temperature faster can encourage deeper sleep.

(http://www.simplemost.com/science-says-sleeping-cold-room-better-health-because-body-heat/)

I didn’t need to make a lot of changes to complete this challenge, but I’m still on the lookout for a progressive alarm clock that isn’t a phone app, so I can get the phone totally out of the bedroom. So if you know of such a thing, please let me know!

Challenge 3: Evening rituals – day 22

Day three of the Asian Efficiency Evening Rituals Challenge  is to track your rituals.

Gretchen Rubin discusses habit tracking in what she calls the Strategy of Monitoring  in her book Better than Before. She says: “Monitoring has an almost uncanny power. It doesn’t require change, but it often leads to change, because people who keep close track of just about anything tend to do a better job of managing it.” This can apply both to monitoring how well you’re doing something now, to see where you need to make changes (for example, tracking your sleep, or how much you eat or exercise will give you a better indication of your actual performance than just estimating it), and also when you start to make changes, to show you how well you’re doing.

One of the tools I’m using at the moment is a website and app called Ritualize, where you can list all the habits you want to do and how many times a week you want to do it. Each habit has a check box that you can check off when you’ve done it each day and you get points every times you check something off. When I first signed up it was through work, and people were able to join “tribes” to compete against each other – the idea being that if other people were doing the same thing you’d be encouraged to keep up your good habits too. I think this would work better if there were more people I knew that were using it regularly, but there is a nice little community of users that I connect with in my feed, which keeps it interesting. There’s heaps of other apps out there that do similar things, including Habitica, which is a habit tracking role playing game that I started to use but never really got into. I’m told it works really well.

Or you can use good old fashioned pen and paper, a calendar, an Excel spreadsheet or even a whiteboard and check things off when you do them.

Why would you do this?

According to Asian Efficiency, tracking your habits is important because:

  • First,  it holds you accountable. You only really know if you’ve been following through with your intentions if you have the data to back you up.
  • Second, it motivates. By drawing a fat X on a calendar, checking a box off of your paper tracker, clicking a button in your app, or entering another day in your Excel sheet, you make the invisible visible. You’ll see your progress. And that’s motivating.

I’ve decided, for a bit of extra encouragement, to track my evening routine on paper as well for a couple of weeks to try and get the routine ingrained, or see if anything needs to shift around, be dropped out or added in. That way if I have my notebook with me, not only do I have the routine somewhere I can see it, I can see how much progress I’m making.

20160806 Bedtime routine

30 days of evening routines – take 2/day 2

Before I launch into 30 days of trying to sort out my evening routine, I wanted to explain how I understand this is all supposed to work. The idea behind having a regular predictable routine is basically that, because you have everything lined up to do one after the other, you’ll do the first thing and go into autopilot, doing everything else in order and slide easily into bed at your pre-determined bedtime.

Obviously this takes some time to set up and get working smoothly, but the way I understand it is, if you have a fixed schedule that you repeat until it becomes ingrained, it takes having to make a decision about “what to do now” out of the picture, so that you do what you need to do rather than getting caught up in “bad” habits that keep you up too late.

There’s been a lot written about this, and some of the resources I’ve looked at include Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, James Clear’s website (jamesclear.com) and his (free) booklet Transform Your Habits, Dr BJ Fogg’s work, and Asian Efficiency’s posts, podcasts and webinars on rituals.

The first thing you need is a “trigger” or a marker that starts you off on the routine. This can be a time, something you do or something that happens.

For example, in the morning my alarm goes off, I get up, get dressed and drink water and so on through my morning routine. When my phone beeps, I pick it up and check it. When the pedestrian light goes green, I make sure the traffic has stopped and I start to cross the road. After I’ve finished a glass of water I do a shoulder stretch (this is one I’m working on) – you get the idea.

A trigger leads to an action, which can become quiet ingrained, sometimes very quickly (I walk past the bakery I go in and get a peppermint slice), sometimes very slowly (the shoulder stretch one). For some reason the habits that are quickest to become ingrained seem to be the ones I really don’t want. (Also I don’t do the bakery one any more. That was a while ago when I fell off the no-sugar bandwagon.)

I mentioned in my first post on evening routines that I have three routines I want to put in place:

1. Get home from work routine.

2. After dinner routine

3. Bedtime routine.

They’re all important for me to get right, because doing the things I want to do at the times I want to do them will make sure that I don’t have to do them later, which would stuff up the next routine. Getting my clothes out at night for the next day means I don’t have to stumble around in the dark looking for them when everyone else is asleep. Taking my contacts out early in the evening means I don’t use not wanting to do that as an excuse for not getting ready for bed.

If you read James Clear’s booklet, or BJ Fogg’s work (which James quotes in his book), you’ll find that the best way to “stack” a new habit onto the trigger is to make the habit so easy that you can’t say no to doing it. The classic example is BJ Fogg’s advice on if you want to build a habit of flossing your teeth. What you do first is commit to flossing just one tooth. As James explains it, what you do doesn’t matter. What actually matters is becoming the type of person who always sticks to the habit – and you “build up to the level of performance you want once the behaviour becomes consistent”.

Gretchen Rubin says a similar thing in her book Better than Before. You need to start as small as you need to, in order to actually start. “By doing so, [you] gain the habit of the habit and the feeling of mastery,” she says. But the key is to start.

The other important thing here is that the action must be specific. That is, I need to set out exactly what I’m going to do. At least at the start, when it’s all new. Right now, I know when I say “I will go for a walk” on a weekday morning means that I’ll go for a 20 minute/2 km walk over the same route I always go. But if I just said “I will exercise” that could mean anything. “Pack up” isn’t specific. “Back up my computer, put all loose papers away or in the bin, close all browser windows and shut the computer down” is. (That might be the end goal; it’s probably too big a habit to start with when it’s not something I’m currently doing consistently now.)

So putting these three things together, my plan is first to loosely sketch out what I need to do in the evening (not necessarily specific actions at this stage) and then to work out which of the routines each task would work best in. I don’t want to be washing the dishes right before I go to bed, so that’s probably best suited to the after dinner routine.

A lot of it I already do, but I want to use this month to make sure each action is part of the best routine, refine the action so I know exactly what I need to do (some of the things I try to do are fairly vague so I tend not to do them, or not finish them) and then put them into an order that works for me.

As I work my way through the plans, the second step will be for me to start to define actual actions I need to take, if I haven’t already done this. Because I already do a lot of this stuff, I don’t think I necessarily have to start small. In some cases that would be going backwards. “Wash one cup” would be silly, as I’m already in the habit of washing up after dinner. I’ll be using that strategy more for anything new that I want to introduce.

And the next step will be to identify the trigger.

I’m laughing at all this right now, because I used to resist planning and scheduling and routines of any sort. If you know anything about Myers Briggs, I was a very strong P-preference (the appearance to the outside world of having a preference for a more flexible and adaptable lifestyle). I don’t know if my transformation into someone with a J-preference (the appearance to the outside world of preferring a structured and ordered lifestyle) is my true self surfacing as I’ve got older, whether years of working in the public service has eliminated my spontaneity, or whether I truly am my father’s daughter.

Anyway I’m going to give this a go, to see if it will help me (a) get more sleep, (b) feel more in control of what I do during the evening and (c) give me a balance between relaxing and getting things that I have to do done.

I don’t know if it will work, or if my stomped-upon spontaneity will resist the control freak that has emerged. It’s all a big experiment!

Here’s another holiday photo while I’m thinking.

20160706-51 12 Apostles

Challenge 3: 30 days of an evening routine

Since I started learning about habits, and about stitching habits together to form routines or rituals, I’ve been using a morning routine to start my days. I’ve found this is helpful in making sure I get important things done that I probably wouldn’t get around to doing if I left them until later in the day. This includes meditation, exercise, and the most recent addition to my routine, learning a new skill.

The idea behind routines is that if you consistently do the same things, in the same order at (more or less) the same time each day, the routine will become ingrained in your brain and you’ll do it on auto pilot, without having to think about what comes next. One of my favourite websites for information on setting up routines (and on why habits by themselves aren’t effective) is Asian Efficiency, which has heaps of advice on how to do this, as well as some paid programs if you want to explore further.

So after about six months of experimentation, I have a fairly effective morning routine (which falls apart slightly on weekends, but which is mostly successful in getting me out the door on time with everything done on weekdays), but I’ve struggled putting a doable routine for my evenings together and sticking to it.

I’m sure there are many reasons for this. Despite having an ideal bed time, my actual bed time is a lot more fluid than the time I have to leave in the morning. I’m tired at the end of the day and I don’t want to be doing stuff, I just want to fall into bed. I’d rather be checking my phone. I don’t see the end of the day things as essential as the things I do in the morning, and if I’ve had a couple of drinks it’s very easy to have a couple more and stay up until after midnight. (This is not a Good Idea when you’re getting up relatively early in the morning to undertake said morning routine – but the 30 days alcohol-free challenge has eliminated that excuse – at least for 30 days.)

When I’m tired it’s easier to flop on the couch and check my phone than it is to get up, brush my teeth and go to bed, so I tend to stay on the couch. And check my phone.

I’ve been gradually working on changing this, so Challenge #3 is to develop and stick to an evening routine that allows me to get everything done I want to during the evening and to go to bed at a sensible time. My goal is for a 10pm bedtime every night to try and at least approach the number of hours sleep I probably need.

There’s actually three subroutines involved that I think I need to do to achieve this.

  1. What I want to do when I get home from work (not crashing on the couch and vegging out on my phone).
  2. What I want to do after dinner (not crashing on the couch and vegging out on my phone).
  3. What I want to do before I go to bed (actually getting ready for bed instead of crashing on the couch and vegging out on my phone).

Part of this challenge will be working out the best subroutine to put each task into and I’ve already started work on this. For example, taking my contact lenses out is something I used to do before bed, and was one of those jobs I dreaded doing and put off for hours. I’d stay up late just because I couldn’t be bothered to get off the couch and do it. So one of my first changes will be to add “take out contact lenses” to subroutine #1 (when I get home) instead of having it in #3 (before bed).

What I’m hoping to have achieved by the end of the month is to have put in place a series of routines and habits that I can do every night that will make me feel properly ready for bed and that will make sure I’ve done the most important things I need to have done each evening.

I’m not sure how this will pan out over the first couple of weeks because I’ll be on holidays, so it will be a great opportunity to holiday-proof my routines. I’ll be interested to see how well I can maintain them and work out what are the main causes of me falling down. It will be a good learning experience.

Speaking of holidays, I’ll be blogging about our adventures on TravelPod (right here), so just watch me try to maintain two blogs while I’m travelling. Now taking bets as to how long this will last!

12 of 12 March 2016 (Part 1) – all about sleep

Saturday 12 March 20126 – Day 5 of Walk in her Shoes.

**1 of 12:** According to my Fitbit I was only awake/restless for 18 minutes of the 8 hours I was in bed last night. I can assure it that its calculations are wildly inaccurate, as I was awake for most of the night. I just didn’t move enough for it to register.

20160312-01 Sleep time

I don’t know if my night time waking, which I rarely experience when I go to bed at midnight or later, is because I’m not well or because I’m going to bed before I feel fully tired.

Getting up earlier so I can walk in the mornings, which is a habit I had been working on even before Walk In Her Shoes, is something I want to keep doing. But to make sure I get enough sleep, I need to get myself to bed a lot earlier than midnight. Regularly, not just one or two days a week. Five hours a night really isn’t enough.

My past experience with going to bed earlier has been similar. I haven’t slept through the night and have ended up feeling worse than if I’d gone to bed later and slept through. I imagine that possibly my body has trained itself to go to bed at midnight and only get 5 hours sleep or thereabouts, and doesn’t know what to do when the opportunity is there for more sleep before midnight. (As opposed to more sleep after midnight, as it’s entirely possible for me to sleep in until 7 or 8 am with no problems.)

If that’s the case, then I have to unlearn it and learn a new pattern, where 10 pm (or whatever) is the new normal. I’ve read that adjusting your bedtime by 10 or 15 minutes a night helps you to do this. That makes sense, and maybe I’ve been trying for too big a change too soon. But being sick this week has meant I need more rest than normal, so the change has been forced, big and sudden rather than slowly introduced.

Having said that, one of the triggers to changing a habit that Gretchen Rubin writes about is the “lightning bolt”, where something happens that can kick start a new habit immediately. For example, when you get pregnant you might be able to kick unhealthy habits you’ve been trying to stop because there’s a sudden imperative to do so. So rather than go back to my late bedtime and wind them back gradually when I start to feel better, now might be a good time to start telling myself that the new earlier bedtime is my bedtime.

I have no idea if this will work. I hate waking in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. If that keeps happening I don’t think I’ll be able to keep it up. But . . . as I have an opportunity right now to try it out, I might as well use it.

I’ll be my own guinea pig!

(12 of 12 to be continued . . .)