Be careful of the thoughts you get this time of year. Yes, you worked hard all year. Yes you deserve those things you wished but kept postponing, yes you have more responsibilities next year and you’re wondering “if not now, then when?”
This is your frantic ego mind, nagging you to take care of yourself by acquiring more, “come on, this is the last window you have, it’s the end of the year so before you know it you’ll be getting gifts for everybody else!” it says. And you fall for it, as if your wishlist will disappear by Jan 1st. As if those cravings will not be replaced by new ones sooner than you think possible. “Wow, it would feel really great to start the new year having this notebook and those candles and that outfit. It will match the new me”. At least, this is my internal dialogue every year.
The above was a draft I wrote last year and didn’t publish. Maybe, because -counter to my own advice- I did all the above and got a lot of what was on my wishlist. However, a reminder I set up last year showed up on my phone at the end of October telling me: “your december expenses are the triple of any other month, so plan accordingly”. Yes, I set reminders one year in advance to avoid going crazy and forget all the commitments I already have without wishlist shopping. It was really helpful to be more mindful about my expenses while enjoying this magical time of year.
Funny, however, how the same thoughts I wrote are running again in my mind so I totally got hooked by a marketing message for a makeup set playing along the same thought lines, “Best year ever, 2018” the tagline stated. Well, yes! I will get the makeup bag that will help my next year be the best ever, thank you very much. I was mindful about how the message resonated with my end-of-year trend but did it anyway. The message and gold packaging indeed closed the sale for me. Being aware of something is different than acting on it, I admit. So I’m going to read my advice again and take it slow and buy what I really love and already planned for, like saving on kids’ outfits on black friday.
Getting new calendars and journal for the new year is also one of my favorite pre-planned things to do. I’m already all set up with Ausitn Kleon’s wall calendar and Gretchen Rubin’s page-a-day calendar because they accompanied me in 2017 which is a year I am deeply grateful for. They are now symbols I love to have on my desk to remind me of what matters, but that’s another post.
It is not a challenge anymore. It’s a lifestyle.
I wake up at 4:30 am on weekdays and at 5 am (max) in weekends.
I do this because I can’t afford not to do it. This is the time I feed my mind and spirit and take care of my body to be prepared for the day.
My current routine is as follows, I hope it helps you create your own:
- Read one lesson from a course in miracles and a year of miracles by Marianne Williamson.
- Do 3 sets of power breathing, 20 breaths each.
- Do a 15-minute sitting meditation.
- Do a 7-minute exercise of yoga stretching (still shy on this part as I believe it could use more focus from me) and jumping jacks if I’m still sleepy.
- Have my coffee while starting my 20 minutes of journaling which consist of the below:
- Read one entry of the daily stoic by Ryan Holiday
- Write the morning gratitude entry in “The Five-Minute Journal“
- Write a one sentence entry about each of my 2 kids in the one-sentence journal for mothers by Grtechen Rubin (second year to do this, one journal for each kid).
- Write a one-page entry about my dominant thoughts and the happenings of the previous day in my Moleskine daily diary.
- The next 20 minutes are dedicated for making progress in reading. I read one or two books at a time, 10 minutes each. I started recently to rely on number of pages to read per book, so If I want to finish a certain book within a month I need to read x pages a day.
- The next and final 20 minutes in my routine are dedicated for learning by doing, so I aim at moving forward in some courses I subscribed to. Current focus is The Marketing Seminar by Seth Godin, so I watch the lessons’ videos and do the homework.
I sometimes use the last 20 minutes to read and update my goals and set reminders and the to-do list for the day. I love that I have a longer time during weekends which I usually use to read more and reflect on the past week’s entries and achievements (ideally).
After that I feel so energetic and satisfied and ready to wake up my family to start the routine of leaving the house and facing the day.
When does the morning routine fail?
- It fails if I check my email or social media, I get absorbed by them and minutes get stolen from one of the above steps. Solution? keep the mobile out of reach during all this. I use it to read the morning spiritual entries and to time my mediation and then leave it on the yoga mat usually.
- It doesn’t feel as good to wake up if I sleep less than 6 hours the night before, therefore I need to prepare for it every night by respecting my bedtime.
When does it work best?
- If you have a 5 am club like the one I joined, a group of people who share the same interest and wake up at the same time, so we say good morning to each other through this club (group) and go about our routine. It makes you feel less alone and less inclined to go back to bed.
- If you believe that all successful people have this in common: they wake up before the world does to work on their personal development goals.
See, I have an average of 40 minutes commute to and from work. In 2014, I started using Audible application on my mobile while driving, and it was one of the smartest things I have done. My library consists mainly of self- development, psychology and business books. My life has changed with all those books. They were my companions during travel that I barely listen to radio anymore
I tried to listen to short fictional story once, the narration was great but I prefer this genre on paper and kindle. Audible is fully packed with the best seller novels nonetheless if interested.
If you haven’t heard of it before, Audible is a company owned by Amazon with the mission to “Unleash the power of the Spoken Word” where you can find over 180K titles narrated by world-class narrators.
With my schedule, which is mostly like yours, the best way to get so much reading done is audible and I’m happy to have few friends and family members take my advice to use it.
New to audible? or thinking about joining? Here are my tips for a great and lifelong experience:
- The first book is free. If you like the experience you can subscribe for 14.95$ monthly which gives you one credit that allows to buy any book on audible no matter the price. If you see books much cheaper you can also buy them directly and enrich your library and save your credit for something else.
- Read book reviews before buying an audio book. Not just on audible, but also on goodreads to see if the content is worth your time not just the narration quality.
- Browse your favorite subjects and top rated books in your preferred genre and start with them first then experiment with not so famous books to get the habit going rather than getting discouraged by some titles. (I highly recommend to start with any book by Seth Godin or Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability)
- Speed up or slow the narration according to your preference and how you perceive the narrator. Many books felt much better when I sped up the narration by 1.2X
- Add audible shortcut to mobile home menu so you’ll start listening as soon as you get into the car
- If you don’t like a book you can return it. I did it only once because I thought the topic of the book would be different when I bought it.
- When you finish a book (self-development or business type books), don’t start a new one immediately. I recommend to do a quick re-listen. It has to be a fast one (1.1 or more) to review the key concepts and get them to stick, especially that you sometimes get distracted and paragraphs get read that you don’t even remember going through the first time. I didn’t do this until a couple of months ago and it made all the difference. Usually, I can’t wait to start another book after listening to one book for couple of weeks but trust me, this would do wonders to help you learn new ideas.
- Subscribe to audible’ s daily deal to get notified about discounted books for the day. So you can get books without waiting for your monthly credit.
- Add books to your wish list and audible will notify you if it’s on sale by email.
- Their customer care chat is very helpful, use it if needed.
- Ask for titles on audible that you can’t find and maybe they will consider your request. For example , I had all Zig Ziglar series and one was missing ( I think it was the goals program) so I asked about it. Few weeks later I found they added it. I’d like to believe i had something to do with it.
- Try the great courses series, lectures by great professors on various interesting topics. my favorites topics are business and psychology.
- If you have a book on kindle and you’re so into it that can’t stop reading it you have the option to buy the audible version at a reduced price if you see “whispersync for voice-ready” and the narration will start where you left off in your kindle
- You can also listen to podcasts, news on your audible. Choose your favorite channels and you can listen to nuggets of wisdom or humors segments everyday like HBR ideacast and TED talks. There are even audible original series which I still haven’t got the chance to listen to.
- You can bookmark audio segments you like and share them with your friends. I particularly do that for parenting books.
- I recommend not getting carried away by purchasing many books and take it one book at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.
- I enjoy listening while doing some mundane house chores, that way I’m always learning.
- Getting a Bluetooth headset also really enhance my listening experience.
On August 14th, I started a personal “No Snooze” challenge on Snapchat by writing down the dates of the upcoming working days for a 4-week period on a post-it. Every day I succeed, I cross it off on this post-it and share the picture on my Snapchat. I don’t have many friends there yet, just close ones but enough to push me through.
The “No snooze challenge” was another way of saying I want to wake up earlier. Having kids naturally mean I wake up early. But earlier than them is my goal. Having an alone time where I can get centered before the day starts is just so rewarding.
So how did the challenge go?
- I told my friends the night before I started about it and shared the Post-it photo with them.
- I set the alarm at 5:45 AM everyday, placed my mobile few footsteps away from me in order to leave the bed to turn it off.
- The first few days were not so difficult. Why, you ask? Accountability, my dear friend. That’s the word that made me stick to my challenge. It’ crossing off the day and sharing it proudly with friends that kept me going.
- I successfully stuck to my challenge for 18 out of 20 days!
- The first time I didn’t was not because I slept in. That day I did wake up on time and started my morning routine as usual. Thirty minutes later, however, I still couldn’t open my eyes because I stayed up late the night before, so I got back to bed and slept for 30 more minutes.
- Next day, when the alarm went off, I moved up my waking up time 15 minutes later to 6 AM instead and woke up immediately when it rang. That’s why I have mixed feelings regarding crossing off this day.
- Few days later, I also slept late but managed not to hit snooze in the morning. Nevertheless, the tempting idea of going back to bed kept me out of focus, until I decided I needed to wake my body for real. Therefore, I put on my headset and played the most upbeat music I have and started jumping up and down in the kitchen. Can you imagine? me jumping to music in the kitchen at around 6:15 AM while everybody was peacefully sleeping in the house without any clue on the craziness happening under their roof. It was fun really, glad I made that choice.
The feeling of being control of my day during this challenge was amazing. I started the day with reading a page of one of my favorite inspiration books then meditating for 10 minutes. Next, I listened to some prayers or conversations and interviews with spiritual leaders while getting everything ready in the kitchen like lunch boxes (if not prepared the day before), milk bottles and coffee. Afterwards, I wrote in my “one sentence journal for mums” highlighting the most important thing about my kids’ previous day.
Next in my routine was writing a page in my journal about the happenings of the day before. Followed by waking up everybody and getting ready to leave the house. I even had time to apply the kind of makeup I like which is a feel good booster in itself to me. Of course this also led to getting to work on time everyday.
After this challenge we had long national holidays. Getting back to waking up as early as 5:45 AM was so difficult to me especially that fall started which means it was getting darker in those early hours.
Luckily, I ran into “How to become an early riser” by Steve Pavlina. Recommended by Mark McGuinness in his new awesome Free ebook “productivity for creative people“. That’s all the push I needed to get back on track, thus writing these words at 6:45 in the morning!
I am now waking up at 5:30 AM (3rd day now) and planning to continue to do so to pursue my creative interests, such as writing in this blog. I didn’t share this update on Snapchat yet because it’s now a commitment not just a challenge, although I have a new post-it and I’m crossing off the days when I wake up.
I believe this challenge was the first step towards a series of changes to a better and fuller life. Join me!
I’ve always been the kind of person who monitors one’s self. I’ve always paid attention to my habits and tracked some of them; especially social media consumption. I’ve had rules when and what to check and for how long per day.
Lately, however, I’ve started to realize that being able to check social media is a kind of true luxury. It’ a sign that I did indeed have moments to catch my breath between various tasks.
Not anymore. I hardly check my favorite social channels and I’m always feeling late to the party. This is not so bad. But again, it’s one of many signs that things have changed.
Getting back to work after my maternity leave this time was a routine shock that I’m still recovering from.
I’m still navigating the waters of being a full time working mum with 2 kids now-one of which is a very strong-willed toddler who’s still potty training-and a home to look after that should feel like a sanctuary but far from it in the messy reality.
This post is not to complain. I fully realize how blessed I am. I’m especially grateful to the support we’re getting from both our families. It’s beyond generous. I honestly can’t imagine what we would have done without them.
I admit I’m also human, having all these mixed feelings is very normal and common. This is a new territory that needs time to settle in. If settling ever happens.
This post is in fact one way to accept and embrace the life I’ve already chosen for myself.
This rings true to what a wise person told me: “You need to let go of the old Bardees and find a way to love and make peace with the new one”.
And to all who share my experience in their own lives I say: Less reminiscence. More acceptance. This is how it is. So how will you handle it? It’s up to you.
Me? I’ll find the best version of myself and remind myself that things change fast, and in the bigger picture, this is just a very temporary phase that I will for sure miss.
When you lose someone close to you, it’s hard to see life the same way again. The event cuts your life into two parts; the life you had before the loss, and the life you have now. The life when hearing a certain song meant something to you and the life where that same song has a completely different sound to it. You listened to the song many times when you were fine and all loved ones were well. Now you hear it when you are torn inside because its lyrics wrapped themselves in new meanings.
The thing about loss is that we wish it’s a nightmare we’ll wake up from. It happens to me the most when I’m driving or doing some chore at the house; suddenly the memory startles me: this actually happened! We lost my aunt!
It’s so difficult to grasp the notion I won’t see her or listen to her stories again.
I know I’m not expected to and it will take time for this pain to stop stinging while I’m not looking. Because this is what grieving it about. It’s about looking alright when you’re not, it’s picking up the pieces of your heart over and over after you thought you mended it with that good cry you had.
Oh how I wish my kids knew you. That’s the most recurring thought I have. I wish I wasn’t so resistant to the fact that we’re in temporary forms, our bodies, and that we’re are more than this suit of clothes that our souls inhabit as my dear Marianne Williamson keeps saying. I believe that death is not the end of her or us. I believe we’re souls on a journey and sometimes the journey is cut short because it’s time to move on.
I want to choose faith, and I say choose as I’m afraid it doesn’t come naturally to me in this case, because faith is the only way to heal and be there for the loved ones we’re lucky to still have around. Life is too short to do otherwise.
One month into my maternity leave with my second baby and all I’m thinking about that this time is such a rare opportunity to do things I’ve been too busy to do before. I spent one month recovering from giving birth experience and adjusting to a totally new routine and new demands of a tiny creature who spent most of his first month on earth sleeping and waking up to eat. I now feel guilty for not doing more. It’s also easy to be negative when I have such “free” time in my hands, it’s physically exhausting indeed but my mind goes to all non-productive places generating ideas that suck the energy out of me and I need to snap out of this. I want to use my days to get some items off my checklist. I want to get a room in my house decorated right. I want to give cooking another shot and cook more than those five recipes I’ve been repeating. I want to enjoy being a homemaker and make my house a better home and not a place that reminds me of sad undone things like putting those photos in albums, decorating the walls with photos (photos are joyful and painful to me that way), clearing up my the clutter in my closets and drawers, reading the parenting books I have on my audible and kindle (and I have all kinds of books on my to-read list, but it’s the best time to focus on family), writing more and so on.
This post is to hold myself accountable for the next few precious weeks I have as a stay at home mum. Checking-in again soon.