New Year is usually a time when individuals think about making resolutions. The thing is about adopting new behaviours is that they take time. Whether your ambition is to prepare healthier meals, take more exercise, adopt yoga, spend more time meditating or with your kids, space has to be created to accommodate that. I do think it’s important to actually think about where the time is going to come from, otherwise we can so easily end up shoe-horning another activity into an already full life. No wonder new behaviours can be so difficult to sustain.
I wanted to end this year by sharing with you a couple of changes I made recently which I feel have had a huge impact in my life. Before I dive into the actual changes, let me give you a bit of background.
My professional life is made up of a mix of writing (both for this site and the press), seeing patients and the delivery of lectures and workshops to members of the public and corporations. I tend to work to capacity, so taking on any new project generally requires something else to drop out the back.
Earlier this year I obtained a publishing contract for a book I had been wanting to write or some time. I started researching and writing the book in June, but by August I knew it was time for me to create some more space in my life to put more focus on the book. Another thing that pushed this forward was the fact that I was planning to re-launch this website in October, and needed to get blogging furiously too.
At the end of August I travelled to Toronto, Canada to deliver a week-long series of workshops. I don’t particularly recommend transatlantic travel, but one thing I’ve found it good for is ‘thinking’ time. It occurred to me that to get everything done I was going to have to let something drop. The question was, what?
I was travelling with a friend of mine, and at one point he was telling me that he found the fact that his girlfriend watches television soaps quite irritating. Suddenly, I had my answer. I calculated that I was watching an average of something in excess of 2 hours of television a day, and that freeing this time up would make all the difference.
So, for the week I was in Toronto the TV in my hotel bedroom remained off. When I got home, literally the first thing I did after dropping my bags was to unplug the TV aerial cable, wind it up and put it in a kitchen drawer. I told myself that I could watch television if I wanted to. However, I reasoned it would have to be something really worth watching for me to be bothered to go through the rigmarole of ferreting out the aerial cable and reconnecting it.
This worked very well, because since this time the only time I’ve been drawn to the TV has been to watch a handful of games of international rugby union.
Suddenly, the two extra hours I had in this day were being put to good use with regard to the blog and the book. But then something else happened.
My TV watching was essentially an evening activity. I don’t generally work late into the night. So, I started to go to bed not at midnight or 12.30 am as usual, but earlier. Within a week or two I found myself going to bed at about 10.30 pm and getting up earlier as a result. Before long, I was rising not at 7.30 am, but before 6.00 am. Not only that, but I was finding myself alert and ready for work. There are reasons why many people find that even if they don’t sleep any more, going to bed and getting up earlier allows them to feel better rested. I might go into that in a future blog. By 7.00 am, I’d often have cleared all my emails, written a few, and would be well into the working day. By 8.00 am I had often taken the dog for an hour’s walk too.
Basically, not only had I created more time in my day, but this time was now being spent very productively.
When I agreed the publishing contract earlier this year, a deadline was set for the end of December. I hope it doesn’t sound smug to report that I have hit this deadline, and with more ease than any other book manuscript I have delivered before.
So, here’s my New Year suggestion to you. If you a serious about adopting beneficial behaviours, first work out where the time’s going to come from. Start, I suggest, by looking at your evening activities. It is this part of the day where time can go to waste and prevent you from getting to sleep a little earlier. For me it was the TV. It might be for you too. Another major time-thief is the internet (a bit ironic seeing as you’re likely to be reading this on-line). For some of you, it might be worthwhile keeping an eye on the booze too. It’s not uncommon for individuals to stay up late simply to keep drinking. Perhaps invest in a device that stops wine going off overnight!
One barrier to closing down the day a little earlier is that fact that many of us may not be eating until quite late. Most of us are none-too-keen to go to bed with a bellyful of food. I’ve got some suggestions for how to deal with this very effectively that I plan to share with you in my blog of 5th January.
In the meantime, Happy New Year!