Letter: May 2013

Rise and shine

 

By the time you’re reading this, I will have completed a 90-day mission to change my life. How? Simple. I trained myself to get up an hour earlier.

 

Good morning Brighton! A glorious pink sky. Captured just before 7am. Photograph by Michelle Ogundehin

Good morning Brighton! A glorious pink sky. Captured just before 7am. Photograph by Michelle Ogundehin

 

Let me explain. I used to rise with enough time to sort the household, get washed, dressed and walk out the door. Breakfast would be bypassed or eaten on the hoof, assuming I’d jammed something in the toaster in time, or bought it en route, so it was rarely healthy, nutritious or satisfying. Once ensconced on the train to London I’d begin to attack my emails, but plagued by intermittent reception, I couldn’t do downloads, check links or otherwise deal with them fully, so many would remain unanswered. Thus, first task on arrival at the office would be to scan the dreaded inbox again to pick off the urgent to action ones before the scheduled day overtook my best intentions. Lunch from wherever, if not with a client, and so it went on until the days end when the morning routine was repeated in reverse. Day after day this continual lurching from incomplete task to unfinished errand left no room to breathe, be creative, think outside the box or dream, all essential for one’s well being, let alone when you’re responsible for others. And yet this is what a huge proportion of us find ourselves routinely doing until the desire for a holiday becomes a desperate need and we have to take time off simply to catch up with ourselves.

But no more! By inching the alarm clock hands back just five minutes a week, after three months I’m painlessly waking an hour earlier than before. I created time! And with those tangible extra me-moments I consider how to start my day and decide my to-do priorities in advance. I spend precisely 20 land-locked minutes, ie with consistent wi-fi, devoted to concentrated email clearance following a strict mantra of do, dump, delegate or file (file folders being only action, pending or archive. The archive is further subdivided into projects but that’s more detail than you probably need to know right now!). I make a proper breakfast and prepare lunch to go. Travel time is devoted to writing, reading or heaven forbid, thinking! Weather permitting it’s then a 15 minute Boris Bike ride or 25 minute walk to the office. On arrival I immediately do those previously prioritised items, and only then do I assess the action email folder. The day can then fall as it will because I started by sustaining myself and so feel ready and prepared for anything.

The real key though was to maintain the schedule at the weekend, a killer (and a bore) at first. But I discovered this is when all those irritating outstanding household tasks could finally get finished eg sorting the basement, or I finally had time to flick through a magazine, paint my nails or luxuriate properly in an indulgent bubble bath. And all done before anyone else is awake, with still the whole day in play!

After all, we are, each of us, our own best assets, so it pays dividends to be this kind of selfish. Think of it as a gift to yourself. Besides, happiness is contagious, so by sorting yourself, you impact everyone around you too. And yes, I’m still tweaking that alarm clock, after all, what could I achieve with an hour and a half?!

 

First published in the May 2013 edition of ELLE Decoration