Moi

+ What I Wish I Knew at 20

Ten years ago I was a Cardiff university undergraduate student, loving (most) of the experiences that era afforded me. Like other young adults, I was keen to get out of academia and start living life! At the time I didn’t fully grasp the important role that education continues to play in your life after university (even if it comes in non-structured forms), or that the ‘self’ I viewed as concretely me constantly changes and evolves. What would I tell my younger self, if I could? I recently turned thirty, so it’s as good as time as any to reflect on what I wish I knew at 20:

Leaving full-time education is NOT the end of learning

Graduation day is in many ways a symbolic goodbye to a life dominated by structured education. Education beyond academia should be given more weight to university graduates of today —the subjects I spent years studying and sitting exams for have had very little bearing on my adult life. I might not regularly use the knowledge I learned in Geography A-Level, but the ability to structure an opinion and research relevant facts is something I use every day.

And yet, it’s these more process-driven skills that fuel true growth. During a panel discussion at Stanford University (listen to the podcast here), the head of Google X, Astro Teller, told a room of students just that:

“The bad news is that the stuff you’re learning now is going to be fairly irrelevant in ten years. The good news is that the skill of learning things quickly, figuring how to understand first principles and being able to reconstruct your knowledge after you forget 99% of it later, those skills are critical for the rest of your life.”

True education is the attainment of a greater understanding of why the world is as it is, and what it could be. The primary way to attain this understanding is to read, read, read. Even though I smashed my Goodreads challenge of reading thirty books in 2016, it unsettles me that there’s so many novels, theories and scientific research I’ll never get time for.

I used to have an aversion to non-fiction, but some of the most powerful prose I’ve read recently is from the genre; I wholeheartedly recommend Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind or Alan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity. Our smartphone is now a portal to information ripe for devouring, whether it’s via a language-learning app like Memrise or Maria Popova’s blog Brain Pickings. Popova talks about the constant evolution of the intellectual self in this episode of the Tim Feriss podcast, reflecting on her younger self as a “spiritual embryo” or an “intellectual baby.”

Mine the Trivia of Today

Even if a situation or event seems trivial to you, write about it. It will be endlessly fascinating to your future self! The iOS/Macbook Day One app makes it simpler than ever to sift through years of detritus, and by doing so you’re immortalising snippets of lived experience that would otherwise be long forgotten. I wrote a review of the app a while back, detailing the best ways to use it.

Day one app (mac,iOS) — ideal for capturing snippets of quotes read, memories, dream logs & more!

The Morning Pages technique is also a great way to continually flex your writing muscle, although it’s habit that’s eluded me.

More Later, Less Now

When I was twenty I didn’t think twice about occasionally sleeping with my make-up on or eating junk food, always happy to choose instant gratification over any benefits my future self might appreciate!

Valuing short-term wins more than long-term gains is what’s known as temporal discounting. While it’s immediately gratifying to sink your teeth into a burger rather than a tofu salad, it’s one of the hardest life lessons to take on board that resisting temptation will make things easier on your future self. I’m by no means a saint, but when I’m in my element my evening routine is like a ceremony for that future self:

  • Choose & arrange tomorrow’s outfit
  • Pre-pack gym bag
  • Use electric toothbrush for 2 and a half minutes then floss
  • Minimum of ten minutes removing make-up and slathering on various oils and creams

Say Yes!

No-one ever grew as a person by shying away from new experiences. Take for example a social invitation; nights curled up at home might rejuvenate your soul, but with every year that passes they’ll become more and more the default.

I’ve never regretted getting off the sofa and seeing friends or devoting free time to planning days and little London adventures. I’m grateful that potential evenings of boredom or self-pity were catalysed into memorable nights out (or in) with close friends.

Don’t Lose Your Roots

If I could go back to my twenty-year-old self, I would ask more candid questions to my grandparents. Once they pass away, your key to the past is cruelly lost. Thankfully my granddad wrote up a lot of his life history for my uncle so I have word documents typed up full of details of his life growing up in Birkenhead, as well as one or two asides about his own parents.

That being said, a day after initially drafting this blog post, Nanny Win, my last surviving grandparent died so this point is especially poignant. She would chat about certain times in her life, but I barely know a thing about her several siblings and how they lived their lives. Now, they’re reduced a box on myheritage.com:

My nan’s eight siblings — I only met one as a child, and have little information about the rest

Cherish Your Independence

Once you’re in full time employment it’s hard to quit and perhaps even harder to score a sabbatical — there’s always a path to promotion or potential new role within reach and walking away carries with it sacrifices.

One of my best decisions was blowing my savings (plus overdraft!) on travelling and seeing the world. In fact, my blog has 14 pages of travel posts! It bears repeating — you’ll likely never be as free as you are today. Before you know it, you and your friends will be saving for mortgages, marriages and munchkins so opportunities to connect with them decline.

What lessons have you learnt in the past decade that you would pass onto yourself? I’d also recommend a book entitled What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self, featuring letters that forty-one famous women wrote to their younger selves.


+ What I Did in 2015


Yesterday the clocks went forward in the UK, marking the beginning of spring and it pains me to have waited so long to finish my draft post of what I did in 2015! To be fair, this year already has been massively hectic with a new job, a new workout plan and the constant headache of a new kitchen that's still not complete after two months weeks.

2015 brought me one failed flat purchase, one successful flat purchase, trips to Paris, Positano, Naples, California, Malta and Turkey, the passing away of a loved one, a friend's wedding, my first ever half-marathon and so much more. Hopefully 2016 will also be the year I started properly blogging again!

January

At the start of the year I had the biggest urge to fill up our days with things to do and places to go. Normally, take any weekend and you'll find Ned and I on the sofa doing not very much. But, as 2015 kicked off I planned to try something new and despite horrendous weather, I stuck to my guns and we set off on a Sunday stroll along the Parkland Walk, walking from Finsbury Park through woodland towards Highgate.
Parkland Walk

January was also the month of two work trips, one to Mountain View and one to Kitzbühel, Austria. I spent two weeks in Mountain View and I've never felt so homesick, as we'd only just got Chickpea in October and so it was my first time apart from her! Even so, I made sure I had fun while in Mountain View, thanks in part to some epic hostess skills from my colleague Ana in Noe Valley, SF :)

Noe valley supper
Amazing supper at my friend's in Noe Valley - brut rosé, blueberry chutney, burrata, yummy bread and ham

Towards the end of January, my colleagues and I stayed for a couple of nights in Best Western Premier in Kitzbühel, Austria. The highlight was a fantastic meat & cheese fondu accompanied by drunken singing at Steifalm restaurant. I also can't forget our very own tour guide who stopped traffic to play his bugle!

February

This was the month Ned and I celebrated our three year anniversary in Paris. Hands down the highlight of the trip was the Autour de Midi jazz club/restaurant. On the ground floor, we had the table next to the entire jazz band as we ate our traditional French cuisine. After dinner we headed down to the cellar where some of the best live jazz of my life was performed.

Highlights of trip included the view of the city from Bar La Vue on the 34th floor of the Hyatt Regency hotel, and we learnt a ridiculous amount during the Sandelman's Walking tour. Also, some friends were visiting Paris the same weekend, so we met up and dined at La Pharmacie followed by low-key drinks at Bespoke round the corner.

Long weekend in Paris

March

This was the month where I naughtily arranged a viewing for a flat I'd seen for sale on Zoopla. Ned and I went to view it and we put an offer in a day or two after. You only have to read this blog post to find out what mistakes I made and, on the flip side, what I learnt!

Ned and I made the mistake of following our heart and not our mind when it came to our first almost-house. It took SO much of our time, with planning meetings with mortgage advisors, moving money around and relentless scanning and filling out of documentation.

April

April 2015 - A day out at Clissold Arms in Muswell Hill before heading home via Gillespie Road

Clissold Arms Pub: On what was the first really hot day of 2015, we decided to walk to Clissold Arms in Muswell Hill. As we were both on a Fitbit obsession at the time, it killed two birds with one stone - exercise as well as discovering a new area (Crouch End up to Muswell Hill).

Gillespie park The first few minutes were… Underwhelming. Then, we came to a clearing and it started to become less 'abandoned alleyway' and more 'natural hidden gem'! Walking past the wind turbine, we came across a blue ecology house with a cafe and two ponds nearby.

The children in the park were having a delightful time spotting wildlife and running about through the small forest area. Other than the odd person, this city oasis is wonderfully quiet so is well worth going if you want a few minutes of solitude amid London life.

May

This was the start of many big changes in the stable, unchanging life I'd grown to love! My team went through a re-org, with various people running around like headless chickens in the fallout. My job changed (in title anyway) and so I flew to the Mountain View head office for an offsite to come up with a team action plan.

I had about 3 weeks' notice for the work trip and it looked like it was going to clash with one of my best friend Michelle's hen do's. Thankfully, I landed in the morning on Saturday and, after a quick wardrobe change, headed out. Although I missed the start of the hen do, I made it to Revolution in time for the cocktail making. Dreamboys was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience with memories I'll never forget 😵

Michelle's Hen do - Dreamboys, May 2015
Michelle's Hen Do

June

We kicked off June with one of the best holidays of my life so far: Positano, Italy. For my favourite eateries and things to do you can read my guide to Positano.

It was just after our trip to Italy that a few issues came to light with our almost-there house purchase. The two-bedroom flat actually was more like a one-bedroom flat as the works done to it were not legally approved. We just couldn't run the risk of these issues biting us in the future.

After a few bleak discussions we decided to pull out completely from the purchase. Our flat in Highbury was being viewed by other couples anyway, but we didn't realise how soon it would get snapped up. When we tried to put a halt on leaving the agency just said  "The new tenants will be moving in 4th July"... Our life was crumbling all around us 😔 You can read here the valuable lessons along the way during the house-buying process.

My string of bad luck (if you excuse the gorgeous perfection of our Positano trip) hadn't stopped there. My friend Mandy and I had booked a delightful gin cruise for our friend Aline's birthday,  and the whole thing turned into a bit of a scam as it didn't actually happen! After vacant promises of rebooking the cruise and complimentary gin, the guy who ran it went quiet to my pleads for money back. It took weeks to finally get him to man up and pay us what we were due. To add insult to injury, I left my Miu Miu sunnies in the toilet of Crate Brewery and when I went to claim them back two minutes later, they'd been taken.  The very next day was even more taxing, as Ned and I had to put the material manifestations of our happy little life into storage. They would eventually stay there for almost 8 weeks!

Thankfully, the month ended a lot better when our offer for another, larger, better located flat was accepted. Things were looking up :)

July

London enjoyed a heatwave of epic proportions at the beginning of July. My friends and I rented bikes from Richmond train station and had a lovely day cycling along the river and up into Richmond Park. We spent the rest of the Sunday afternoon drinking outside The Cricketers on Richmond Green, enjoying live music and watching a charity cricket tournament called The Green Cup.

Cycling in Richmond Park

Less than two months after my previous work trip, I went to California again for work. Memorable moments included sleeping through a Sunnyvale earthquake, going on a team outing to the beautiful Regale winery and visits to San Franciscan restaurants and bars.

July was also the month I got to see my beautiful friend Michelle wed Werner in an idyllic village church.

August

By now, Ned and I had been living in a colleague's spare bedroom for over a month. We desperately missed our old flat, having space to lounge about and I was pining for various clothes that were locked away in storage! August was a horrendously bittersweet month for Ned and I.

It was the month that we finally got the keys for our new flat by Clissold Park. Despite this massive step in our lives, summer 2015 dealt us and the family a horrible blow with Ned's dad Jim's fight against his brain tumour reaching its conclusion. When I first met Ned, his dad had only just been diagnosed and was given a mere few months to live. That was 2012, and I'm so grateful that I ended up having an extra two years in addition to that diagnosis to spend with time with Jim.

Throughout July and August, Ned and I would travel up to see Jim and Cathy in Arkesden as many weekends as we could. I'm grateful that at the very least we had our own flat for us both to come to terms with our loss, and in some ways it was a welcome distraction from reality thanks to the endless boxes in need of unpacking.

September

My journal entry for 1st September begins "So today was spent watching This Morning, Loose Women, ironing clothes, looking at kitchens and using the washing machine about 10 times! Oh, and also registering all our bloody appliances and tracking them in the Ned and Jeni tracker :)" On the surface this might seem super monotonous, but to me this was pure bliss. Ironing in my OWN flat, with my OWN iron and washing with my OWN washing machine!

In our first full weekend together in our flat, we let Chickpea out into the garden for the first time. It was really amazing to see her soak up all the newness of being outside and get to do what cats do! We also got our first CAD render of our new kitchen and for the first time ever I set my alarm to do a 10km run on a Sunday morning.

September was also the month I saw the play People, Places and Things, with a memorable performance from Denise Gough. Being in London, it's sad but sometimes I genuinely don't realise how lucky I am to have so many plays, musicals and attractions on my door step. Hopefully I'll make the most of it in 2016!

October


I took two trips abroad this month, the first being to Malta for a girly long weekend. It's been ages since I had a girly holiday and I really hope I get to do more in 2016. You can read my Malta travel trips here too :) Life's too short not to fly abroad for the weekend!

The next trip was to Istanbul for work which was coincidentally on my birthday, but to make it better Ned came out to meet me. We went on a Walks of Turkey tour (write-up here) on a wet, cold and windy day. My colleagues who had been before said Istanbul in summer is on a whole other level, so I hope I get to see Istanbul ablaze with sunshine one day.

When I wasn't jetsetting abroad, I was preparing for my first ever Royal Parks half-marathon. I'm beyond proud of myself for my 1:54 time despite a pretty laid-back training schedule. Roll on 2016's Hackney Half!

Ned and I held our annual Halloween Housewarming at our flat; we've now held something similar three years in a row. I decided to glam it up as Mia Wallace, coaxing Ned to be Vincent Vega. Unfortunately we didn't manage a Mia & Vincent pic, partly because Ned refused to keep his "itchy and embarrassing" wig on!

About 60 people came overall, and while I really enjoyed spooking up the house (police tape across the staircase, spiderwebs draped over paintings and the bathub, creating a witches' brew) I don't think we'll hold such a big party next year thanks to the epic clean-up job required!

 

November

This was the month one of my closest friends Mandy told us she was going to be a mum! We were having brunch as a belated treat for my 29th birthday, when she turned to Aline and I and said 'so... you're going to be aunties next June!" I think I burst into tears with happiness for her. Mandy and Tom are such a fab couple and I cannot wait to meet little miss Turner Owen next June!

Later that day, we then went to Ronnie Scott's for a Sunday Jazz Lunch session. It was a really special day, hearing Mandy's news and then sipping wine listening to live jazz :)

We also went on one of our many walks outside of London, heading to Box Hill for a Sunday stroll followed by pub lunch. One of the highlights of this walk is the Stepping Stones Walk. We followed the route but the river was at high tide so we saw sweet FA! I also learnt a valuable lesson on this walk, and that is stop assuming Dr Marten's can double up as hiking boots.

A cultural highlight was going to the Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the Natural History Museum. The majority of his works appropriate material that has been broken apart: "For most of his work, the destruction has already been done by others, either by authorities who have condemned Qing Dynasty temples or, in one case, by a devastating earthquake" (SMH). His showpiece, Straight, involves him straightening out thousands of rods that failed to support a school in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, exacerbated by corrupt officials siphoning off some of the building funds for their own purposes.

Straight - Ai Wei Wei

The exhibition, CAU, features a replica of Ai's son Lao's pushchair. This was hand-carved from expensive marble, sourced from the Fangshan imperial quarries. Ai Wei Wei's marble artefacts are just as useless as these extravagant pieces which served Imperial China and it's no coincidence that Mao Tse Tung's mausoleum contains marble from the same quarry.

CAU by Ai Wei Wei
CAU by Ai Wei Wei

December

In December, I was still working on the Google Play merchandising team, and this month was hectic thanks to the onslaught of on-store promotions in the run-up to Christmas and New Year's Eve. To get into the Christmas spirit, some friends and I went to the Enchanted Woodland in Syon Park near Richmond, and attended a few drunken Christmas parties with friends too.

For New Year's Eve, Ned and I played scrabble, drank Nyetimber champagne (my favourite!) and ate crudités before heading to our local pub for a cheeky drink pre-2016. I also found these amazing printable New Year's Eve cards via Pinterest. It was actually quite fun going through our key moments of the year and asking ourselves what made us laugh the hardest?

New Year's Eve Champagne, Scrabble and Snacks

2015 was a mixed bag for me, but overall I've come out of it with a new job, a new flat and 2016 shows no signs of the fun stopping with plans to visit at least 10 countries over 2016!


+ NEW Escocesa Restaurant - Stoke Newington

After a lazy weekend hibernating in the warmth of our flat, we decided to go on a little jaunt to Stoke Newington. We live five minutes' walk away but this was our first visit there in months. What remains the same is the pace at which new places open up there, and the brand new Escocesa restaurant caught our eye. We knew it was new but hadn't realised it was less than a month old! Many of the staff from Escocesa  (according to this Instagram post) are from Barrafina, one of the top 100 restaurants in ALL of London. We weren't disappointed!

The interior:

Rugged with exposed brickwork and uneven plaster on the walls, the restaurant is stripped of  too much fess with exposed lightbulbs and heavy industrial pendants above a showstopping diner-style bar. From here, you can watch the chefs hard at work, or you can sit at the benches in the mid-section of the restaurant, or make your way to the dining room at the back.

Escocesa bar seating area.
Escocesa bar seating area.
Escocesa dining room at the back of the restaurant
Escocesa dining room at the back of the restaurant

The Food:

The brunch menu had an amazing selection of meat dishes, egg plates and did I mention the specials?! I hope the rib-eye with potatoes and padron peppers  is available one night soon as it seemed a tad too OTT for my Sunday brunch choice.

Weekend Brunch Menu at Escocesa, Stoke Newington (click on image to see larger, zoomable version)
Weekend Brunch Menu at Escocesa, Stoke Newington (click on image to see larger, zoomable version)

To start, we decided to share the jamon croquetas. I loved the presentation of them, resembling little lollipops thanks to the cocktail sticks, accompanied by finely sliced chives. I've tried my fair share of croquettes at Spanish restaurants and these surpassed any I've tried before!

We shared the jamon croquetas to start
Jamon croquetas
butifarra with white beans - catalan sausage
Butifarra with white beans - catalan sausage

For the main, Ned and I shared two dishes together - the butifarra with white beans and ali oli (catalan sausage), and then the revuelto de gambas (scrambled eggs with prawns).

revuelto de gambas
Revuelto de gambas on toast

Each dish was better than I could have imagined, and the staff were all really friendly and conscientious. This far surpassed Sunday brunch at other local places like The Tea Rooms. My next plan is to try out Escocesa one evening when their main menu is on offer. I'm particularly keen to try out the fried aubergine with walnuts & honey and the beetroot and smoke salt cod salad.

New Eateries on Church Street

There's an explosion of new restaurants, coffee shops and cafés on Stoke Newington Church Street, all of which I'm eager to add to my London bucket list:

Good Egg - Walking past here today, there was a queue of about 8 people waiting. Their weekend brunch menu is to die for, featuring the breakfast burrito, an Iraqi aubergine pitta and challah french toast with date syrup.

Fox & Pie - The red Fox Reformed wine bar shut down earlier this year, but walking past today I saw the Fox & Pie sign proudly up on the window. Snooping their Instagram feed it's looking like a 3rd December opening! According to The Dalstonist, "The pub and pie restaurant will be a new iteration of the Newman Arms & Pie Room in Fitzrovia".

Foxlow - We've been once in their opening month, but it was a bit chaotic (although the food was nice) so I'd love to revisit and assess them now that they've been up and running for a while.

The Teahouse Stokey - I walked past the Daniel Defoe pub today and it was covered up with scaffolding. Imagine my surprise when after a quick Google I find out that it's actually going to be a Teahouse. Thankfully, their website says that they'll offer "craft cask ales, a large selection of booze, a fantastic walled garden and some secrets we’re not telling anyone about yet"...  can't wait!


+ Our New Kitchen Design

Our current kitchen

Before moving into our new flat, we were convinced that our first DIY job would be ripping up the flooring. We've inherited some Spanish villa-style tiles throughout the house - including the bedroom! In our first week living here we realised we'd overlooked a bigger issue. While the kitchen looks fine, there were a few deal breakers for us:

  • Our plates don't fit in ANY of the cupboards
  • The oven is so old that the rubber seal has stopped working and sags, leaving a gap which makes cooking that little bit harder.
  • The wall units are so low that our knife block barely fits underneath, and our coffee machine has to be pulled towards the edge of the worktop so that we can fill it!

Yep, some of these issues could be resolved with a handyman, but we figured popping into Funktional Kitchens for a free design service would help make our minds up. I love a more traditional, rustic kitchen whereas Ned's all about contemporary design - anything that would feel at home in a bachelor pad basically! The designer had his work cut out..

The Free Plan and Design Service

Andy at Funktional Kitchens sat us down for about an hour, talking through the options for units, appliances and asked us basic questions like "double, 1.5 or single sink?" We then sent through our floor plan and some photos so he could get to work on our digital mockup based on our choices, as you can see below:

Our first kitchen render

Once you're happy with the overall vision and want to discuss next steps prior to actually getting it installed, you hand over £500 as a deposit. Even better, you can also start to pick out accessories and flooring which Andy then helpfully inserted into the digital render. See below for our choice of trio pendant from Jim Lawrence. Andy then found similar lighting in his tool and sent us back a mock-up:

Digital render of trio pendant lighting in the kitchen design

Some Tips:

  • Everything will be itemized in the quotation. Take a look and see if there's any easy switches you can make yourself to cut costs. For example, Andy chose an awesome Siemens integrated microwave, but I found an even cheaper one online with a grill function.
  • Does each cupboard really have to be a functional unit? We saved ourselves several hundred quid by making an awkward corner unit a superficial panel. Every unit that had to be made to measure was considerably more expensive, so avoid these where you can.
  • Some accessories that seem luxurious and unnecessary are not always that expensive. We are getting a 6-bottle wine fridge to add a unique selling point and its ~£250

What We Chose:

The Cabinets - German supplier Häcker offer three different finishes in their Classic range, all at varying prices. We're opting for the mid-range (slightly better finish, less IKEA) in magnolia.

Wall Tiles for the Splashback - Shelter Island - Harbour View tiles from Fired Earth. It's nigh on impossible to find cheaper herringbone marble tiles from anywhere else despite searching relentlessly.
Fired Earth's Shelter Island Harbour view tiles (marble look/herringbone)

Floor tiles - Ca'Pietra Shepton Flagstones, via Tiles Etc, had the right shade of grey to make me swoon and enough rugged specks to please Ned. Our builder told us that slate tiles are a bugger to look after and that we're better off going for porcelain, but the look of these tiles is so spectacular its hard to listen to sensible advice.
Ca'Pietra Shepton Flagstones

The worktop - Against my better judgement, knowing full well all the oiling and extra care it requires, we're in love with Spëkva's range of wooden worktops. Ours will come in the Bavarian Wild finish. I was super sad that my dreams of an island kitchen wouldn't come to fruition in this flat, but Andy our designer really delivered with his 'peninsula' design, which is made from the same wood.

Chimney Extractor Hood - Initially we opted for a concealed extractor, but the more I looked at the initial designs, the more the main wall seemed to be OTT on the cupboards! Instead, I opted for the Siemens iQ300 chimney extractor. As you can see from the image below on the left, it really helps to break up the never-ending wall of units:

Kitchen with and without the chimney hood

The next step is to sign off each of the 'order of goods', pay 35% of the total cost and then wait until February when it will get installed. Funktional Kitchens don't actually install everything - they only do a dry fit. Be prepared to fork out an additional costs of ££££s to get the appliances plumbed in and any extra building work sorted too.

I'll update you in February when the work is complete!


+ Getting into Good Habits

How to Get into Good Habits via jeniwren.com

Now that I'm settled into my new flat, and getting into a routine during my work-week, I've been thinking about changes I can make to really boost what I do with my time before heading into the office. Here's a rundown of the most useful tips I've come across.

Morning Rituals

Don't Press Snooze!

Thomas Frank has an almost foolproof method for waking up at an acceptable time: "I threaten myself with both public shame and monetary loss". In his article Prime Yourself for a Productive Day, he explains that he uses beeminder.com. This site helps you stick to your goal/ritual by combining "self-tracking and commitment contracts: keep all your datapoints on a Yellow Brick Road to your goal or we take your money". Thomas is so serious about this that he also created an IFTTT recipe, which will report you for sleeping in!

Morning Pages

Julia Cameron pioneered a tool called 'Morning Pages', which requires completing three pages of longhand morning writing. This is by no means meant to be creative writing, but instead gives you a forum to tap into your consciousness and let out any issues that are bugging you, tasks you need to do, general thoughts that won't get out of your mind. Julia believes your Morning Pages should be "whining, petty, grumpy.. whatever you happen to be". By writing out all of these 'cloud thoughts', you're effectively decluttering your mind, freeing up more space in your consciousness throughout the day.

I barely ever pick up a pen now but bloggers such as Mari L McCarthy prefer to use fountain pen and paper for their daily Morning Pages. Bakari Chavanu relies on good old technology, utilizing the Day One app or 750words.com.

Habit Stacking

James Clear says Habit Stacking is pretty simple - just insert the habit you want to initiate into your routine via this sentence "After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]."

One habit I've chosen is to do lunges while brushing my teeth - some of the comments on Jamie's blog also mention doing squats on your pee break or while drying your hair!

Eat & Drink Well

Cathryn Lavery opts for an ice-cold glass of water, whereas Amber Rae swears by "warm water, lemon, turmeric, and raw honey". My Morning Routine has interviewed so many people now that they have breakfast statistics! Fruit, eggs, bread or oatmeal are the most popular options.

I particularly admire the routine of Ellie Krieger who mixes "yogurt, milk, oats, vanilla, cinnamon, and honey, then stir in some quartered grapes and almonds, and put it in jars to sit in the fridge overnight". I don't think I have the energy to chop things up and prep the day before... this post is about morning rituals, not evening rituals, after all!

When skimming through the posts at MyMorningRoutine.com, I swear half of the interviewees also mentioned the 'Bulletproof breakfast'. I haven't investigated this in much detail, but the reviews on Amazon look promising.

Get Moving

Exercise: James Clear has a great article on the daily routines  of writers, and from there I learnt that Kurt Vonnegut did 'pushups and sit ups all the time', and AJ Jacobs writes 'while walking on a treadmill'! Don DeLillo tells the Paris Review that he writes for about four hours and then goes running. Not enough for you? Gwyneth Paltrow tells WWD that she fits in two hours of exercise every morning!

In Scott Gardiner's article on Medium, he explains his daily 20/20/20 routine, This consists of 20 pushups, 20 squats, and 20 jumping jacks". Easy to remember, quick (just 5 mins) and varied enough to not get bored.

Stretching:

Michelle Phan shares 4 great morning stretches on her website - a neck and shoulder stretch, chest flex, standing stretch and a hamstring stretch. I've actually gone as far as printing off her diagrams and sticking them to my bedroom wall, resolving to do these daily! Michelle Greenman also shares a great scan of recommended morning stretches on her site too.

Evening Routine

No Bright Screens in the Bedroom

Bright light from laptops and phones 'can suppress your body’s production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep'. Ned and I are part of the way there, where we have made a conscious decision to have no TV in the bedroom. The next step is a full-on device ban! In the meantime, I use a black background setting when reading eBooks and have heard good things about Flux, if you absolutely can't get away from your laptop in bed.

Dental Hygiene

This one took me several years to really grasp the importance, after yet another stern word from my hygienist. The key thing here is 'habit stacking' as mentioned above. I now floss a minimum of once a day and that's because I place my floss right next to my toothbrush. Simple, but effective! After brushing my teeth, I then go to town on them with my dental floss and also use teepees for those hard-to-reach gaps between molars. Since doing this, my oral health has improved greatly.

No Caffeine or Food After a Set Time

Sleep.org advises avoiding caffeine, nicotine and eating four to six hours bedtime.

Try the 'Night Before List'

Chris Brogan has some some great advice for How to Get More Done, but what really interested me was his 'night before' list I read about here.

Tomorrow, I’m going to ____________________.
To be ready, I need to ___________________.
I will remember my ______________.
The random thoughts that just filled my head are ______________.
Also remember to _______________.

General Good Habits

Get a Blackboard

Blackboard Weekly Planner
Our blackboard weekly planner, to track exercise and plan meals

The one thing Ned and I well when it comes to routines is plan out our weekly meals, working out when we're both in and who should own each meal. In terms of accountability, I also add my proposed exercise plans and then he can always call me up on them if I don't follow through.

What I love about tracking the week ahead on a blackboard is I have a constant visual reminder about my plans.

For Your Career

Snippets
I have picked up some great tips from working at Google. One of them is 'snippets'. Although I don't necessarily fill this in every single week, it's essentially a page that you update weekly with your list of tasks. This has multiple benefits; 1) colleagues across the globe can keep track of your projects, 2) when it comes to performance review or building a case for promotion, you can just print your snippets out and highlight the key achievements. This has helped me in my last two promo cycles, as very often once a project is done it's forgotten about.

Update Your CV Every 6 Months
I found this great tip at MyDomaine. The reason why this is invaluable is that if you're stuck in the same job for multiple jobs, you may have lost the specifics of a key project, or forgotten a key metric that really sums up your responsibilities. If you keep the CV as a living document, you're better suited to apply for any role that comes up at short notice.

Helpful Links

  1. The 24-Minute Morning Routine That Will Make You an Entrepreneurial Rock Star
  2. Program Your Day to Defeat Distractions and Stick to Your Daily Routine
  3. 6 Morning Rituals to JumpStart Your Day
  4. How to Develop a Routine That Works - And Stick To It
  5. 8 Step Ayurvedic Morning Ritual
  6. This nighttime routine will help you be more productive in the morning
  7. Establishing Morning and Evening Routines