Introducing the Great Home Time Detour

I decided last week that I need to do more exercise. Which is a great idea, obviously, except I don’t really have the time (or, if I’m honest, the inclination) to join a gym, and I never run anywhere unless it’s literally a matter of life and death. With death being the more likely outcome. I’ve got an exercise bike at home, but it rarely gets used, because, again, there never seem to be enough hours in the day.

So how to fit exercise into a busy life? Well, I’m starting off gently, by trying to walk the recommended 10,000 steps a day. Although, as it turns out, that’s actually quite a lot of walking, especially when you’re working full-time then have a two-hour journey home. I thought the walk to and from the train station must be a decent amount of steps, but it turns out it’s only 1,500 each way.

Doh.

But it’s okay, because I have a cunning plan. I work in south west London and have to get back to Charing Cross to catch my train home in the evening. That journey’s about 4 miles, and I have walked it before, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day – mostly because I have to walk through Chelsea, which makes me feel poor and shabby. So instead the plan is to walk a different bit of the route every day; this way, I get to explore bits of London I don’t usually get to see because I’m underground, and take lots of photos along the way.

Obviously, this is limited to days I’m not going out or needing to rush home. At some point, I may try to fit it in on the way to work in the morning – but realistically, I don’t know if that’s going to happen, my relationship with mornings being what it is. (Mutual loathing, in case you were wondering.)

So anyway, this Tuesday, my home time detour took me from Victoria Station, past Buckingham Palace, then up through St James’s Park, down to Westminster, and back along the river to Charing Cross. It was a sunny afternoon and the walk took about 45 minutes at a brisk pace. And even though it woke up my hayfever, it was totally worth it.

In case you were worried, I’m not going to bore you with every post-work trip, but I thought I’d share a few of my photos from St James’s Park, if only to show off how pretty London can be on a nice day. Enjoy – and if anyone has any suggestions on detours I can take between Fulham and Charing Cross, give me a shout.

By the way, this sudden desire for exercise has been partly inspired by a friend and fellow blogger, who’s infinitely more determined and committed than I am. You can follow her 8 Week Transformation over at mygriffinway.co.uk.

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2015 catch-up and new goals

Remember back in January, when I made all those lovely new year’s resolutions? Want to know how many I’ve kept so far this year? Let’s have a quick catch-up:

1. Edit the ‘novel’ I wrote last November. Nope, not even started.

2. Go to the theatre more, including at least one West End show a month. This one I think I’ve more than managed…

3. Clear my desk at work every Friday afternoon. Apart from a couple of weeks when I forgot, this is still sort of happening – although it’s more ‘pile everything up and tuck it in a corner’ than actually clearing the desk.

4. Get up at least fifteen minutes earlier in the mornings. Er… no. If anything, I’m worse at getting up now than I was before, because I’ve got into a very bad habit of going to bed really late (this is often because I’m up writing a theatre review). This also means I’m usually tired at weekends, so I end up sleeping in and wasting any spare time I might have to catch up on things. And so I have to do them in the week – and the whole cycle starts again.

5. Stop snacking. I wouldn’t say I snack a lot, still, but I also think I could definitely eat better than I do. Again, this is usually because I’m too busy to prepare healthy meals, so I just end up throwing something together – often something that’s bad for me.

6. Try and stop worrying about silly things. I think I might have to just accept that I’m never going to stop this. It’s just the way I’m made.

7. Learn German. Well, I completed the uTalk challenge – but that’s as far as I got. And I haven’t done anything since. Doh.

To do list

Clearly, theatre aside, I haven’t had a particularly successful year up to now – so I’ve decided to set some new goals for myself, to achieve between now and the end of 2015:

1. Go to bed before midnight when possible. Don’t spend the evening faffing about and then start working at 11pm (she says, writing a blog post at 10.30pm…) Try and get six hours sleep a night, minimum.

2. Get up ten minutes earlier each day. More if possible. Ten minutes is really not that much.

3. Edit the novel. It’s scary because it needs a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it, even if nobody but friends and family ever read the finished article.

4. Get back to blogging on here at least twice a week. Make a plan; schedule posts. Be organised.

5. Learn to say no sometimes. Stop trying to do everything, and don’t feel guilty about refusing.

6. Stop eating rubbish. (Not literally, obviously.) Eat more salad and other good things.

7. At weekends, get up when the alarm goes off, not an hour later. Make to do lists for any time off and then actually do the stuff on it.

8. Do more exercise. Plan another charity walk, and get training for it. (I think we all know running’s not an option.)

9. Get back to learning German. Start by going back through uTalk, and take it from there.

10. Finish the big clear-out. Remember, the one that was supposed to happen in February, but didn’t?

So these are my new goals, and you’re my witnesses. I’ll be posting more over the next few weeks, setting myself some specific targets and deadlines, and at least once a month with updates – so hopefully that’ll mean I actually stick to them this time. If not, you have my full and total permission to shout at me…

Happy new year (again)! And now if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time I went to bed 😴

Making time to be happy

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit stressed out. In the last few weeks, work’s suddenly become insanely busy, leaving little time for things I want to do away from the office, and frankly sending me a bit loopy. On Saturday alone, I ordered a drink and then walked away without it, then got in the car and tried to drive off without starting the engine. You see what I mean?

As I headed home last night after an eleven-hour day in the office, I decided enough was enough. So here are some of the steps I plan to try and take to get through this busy time. I hope they might be helpful to anyone else who’s struggling to find enough hours in the day.

Leave work on time

Not an easy one this, especially if you’ve got a hundred things to do. And I really object to the theory that says anyone who has to leave the office late must be inefficient. Sometimes there’s just too much work. And sometimes you find out at 5pm on a Friday that UPS have lost an important package and have to spend the next two hours trying to find out what’s happened to it. Yep, I’m still annoyed about that. But there’s always tomorrow (at least hopefully – and if not, nobody will care that you didn’t send off that last email anyway).

Delegate

I’m so bad at delegating – not because I don’t trust other people to do things, but just because I like those things done a certain way (ok, fine, I’m a control freak). But sometimes delegating is necessary – and much as it can sometimes be painful to admit it, letting other people help out with things might mean they’re done better. If you’re trying to do something in a rush, while someone else has time to do it properly, it makes sense to hand it over.

Use travel time

This is one for the rail commuters, obviously. I’m not suggesting people who drive to work should try and multitask. I spend about three hours each day travelling to and from work, and I usually take advantage of that time to read (or sleep). Which is good, of course, but there are plenty of other things I could be doing with my time that might be more productive – writing blog posts, for instance, or making some headway on the book I’m attempting to write by Christmas. Or I could use my phone to catch up on emails, instead of wasting time on Facebook…

(By the way, I was just checking through this post and read the heading above as ‘use time travel’. Which would also work, but sadly isn’t yet an option.)

Make lists

Good at work and at home. Not only do lists help you focus your mind on what you need to get done, but it’s a good feeling when you get to cross things off. Maybe even add a couple of jobs that are almost finished, just so you can start by scribbling them out. It’s very motivating. Just don’t spend too long trying to decide what to put on the list – that’s a bit counterproductive.

Know when to let go

This is something else I really struggle with. I’m a perfectionist, and will always find something else to do, which might not make much difference to the end result, but will make me feel like I did my best. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do things right, but if it means you take twice as long to do something with little discernible difference, that’s just time you’re not getting back.

Take a walk

It might sound strange to suggest doing something else when you’re already busy, but I find going for a walk, even if it’s just round the block, really helps. It gives you a break, lets you clear your mind, and it’s exercise, so it’s good for you. I have most of my blog post ideas while I’m walking to and from the station, and often start writing them in my head before I get home. (Then frantically try and get my thoughts down on paper before I forget them.)

Turn off the TV

I watch way too much TV. It’s become my habit to turn it on almost as soon as I walk through the door, and I’ll invariably find myself watching repeats of something I’ve seen five times before (Friends, anyone?) when I could be turning the TV off and doing something more productive.

(The same goes for Facebook and Twitter, by the way. And Buzzfeed. They’re all evil time-wasting machines.)

Get some perspective

I’ll admit I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself lately – working late, getting stuck on delayed trains and arriving home with just enough time to eat before I go to bed.

But sometimes you have to step back and consider what your problems actually mean. Got a demanding job? At least you’re employed. Getting home late? Nice to have somewhere to go back to. Stuck on a train? Better than having to walk (although it sometimes feels like walking might be quicker). Having trouble making time for all the things you want to do and people you want to see? At least you have plans and somebody to share them with.

So I’m talking as much to myself (yes, I do that, even when I’m not stressed) as other people when I say let’s focus on the things that matter. And cheer up, because life could be much worse.

"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy." Anne Frank

PS So far so good – today I left work on time and wrote this blog post on the train. Also, I’ve now been home for twenty minutes and haven’t turned on the TV yet. Let’s see how long I can hold out…