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SMALL CHANGES, BIG DIFFERENCE

Now, we all know that January typically heralds that age-old tradition called the ‘New Year’s Resolution!’ Some bold statement of promise to lose weight, get fit, spend more time with the children, destress, quit smoking, drink less…you know the drill. They typically last until about noon on the 2nd when you lock yourself in the downstairs loo, stuffing your face with leftover Quality Street, with a large glass of vino, whilst hissing at the kids to “Give me five minutes!”, all the while consoling yourself that there is always next year.

Well, worry not – for we are doing away with the grand gestures, the unachievable promises and sense of impending failure; for gone are the traditional resolutions and in their place this year are the small changes you can make (and stick to!) that will make a BIG difference for 2019.

HOME

Get up 15 minutes earlier
What’s 15 minutes in the great scheme of lie-ins? Not much! But in the great scheme of getting up, getting ready and hitting the day, just a few more minutes will make a huge difference. You will suddenly have time to actually finish getting ready for the day for a change, and as a consequence can start the day much more calmly.

Perhaps it’s the time you need for a bit of exercise, to do your makeup, make a proper healthy breakfast rather than snacking ‘til lunch, manage some finances, online shop or to tidy up before the rest of the house descends. Use your bonus time proactively and once in the flow you can aim to build up to waking 30 minutes earlier.

Make your bed every morning
Not only does it stop you falling over your myriad of scatter cushions and throws whenever you enter your bedroom, it actually mentally prepares you for the start of a new day, putting being in bed to bed, if you will, and calling you to action for whatever you face next.

It also means that at the end of a long day you will retire to a perfectly relaxed sanctuary with an invitingly made bed, that will in turn aid a better night’s sleep and the start a peaceful cycle of calm nights and proactive mornings.

Challenge yourself to say ‘yes’
We know how it is having a busy life, juggling the work/life balance and always having a to-do list as long as your arm means that our default answer to things tends to be ‘no’. Mum, will you play with me? No, sorry I’m busy; Do you fancy coming over for dinner? Sorry, no, can’t make it; Do you want to watch that new TV show on tonight? No, I’m just too tired. Set yourself the challenge to say ‘yes’ to one thing you’d usually have turned down and enjoy the laughs with your family, the social evening out with a new friend, some quality time with your partner and enjoy living again.

Go digital free
Yes, we live in a fantastic digital age; our children know how to work things that didn’t even exist when we were their age, our phones are our most prized possession and someone called Alexa turns off your lights when you are too lazy to get up and do it yourself – amazing! BUT… sometimes it’s important to give yourself a break, reconnect with people in person (not through a screen), and do things that don’t require wifi.

So set yourself a wifi-free time of the week; a dedicated couple of hours at a set time where there will be no laptops, no phones, no on-demand and instead some quality time reading, talking, playing games or going out. We’re not saying it will be easy (for you as well as the kids!) but trust us; unshackling the social media chains and faces glued to screens will open up a whole new world of communication and a lot less stress.

Stop comparing yourself to others
It’s a difficult side of human nature – constantly comparing yourself and your family to others. She earns more than me, their job is so much more flexible than mine, that child always achieves higher in their exams, their house is so much bigger. Comparisons, especially rose-tinted ones, are a pointless exercise; stop over-analysing aspects of your life, comparing yourself to others and instead focus on the good parts of your world: I work in a job I enjoy, my child is happy and progressing at school, my home is happy and welcoming. You’ll be able to be more objective about your own successes and happier as a result.

Do something new every week
It’s all too easy to be creatures of habit, but as they say, variety is the spice of life, so one way to keep your home life engaging is to try new things, every single week. It can be as simple as trying out a new recipe for dinner or watching a documentary, to learning a new language or visiting a different country – the world is your oyster! Look for local clubs, activities or events; follow community forums for ideas; and of course you’ll have your monthly issue of insideKENT for inspiration.

 

HEALTH

Start a home exercise regime
How many of us are guilty of saying that we need to get fit but we’re too busy to exercise? Well, hurrah for us, as we’ve exploited some ingenious ‘spare’ time to throw in a few minutes of exercise!

The toothbrushing squat: For those starting out it is a good opportunity to build mobility, and for those embarking on a fitness agenda, pack in some extra minutes to tone up. Yes, this means doing squats during those few teeth-cleaning minutes morning and night. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your spare hand by your side (or stretched out in front for extra balance); lower by bending your knees (as if you were sitting down) until they’re nearly at a right angle, with your thighs parallel to the floor and then return to upright. Start slowly with one set of 12 squats and gradually build over the months until you are able to alternate sets of deep squats, pulsing squats and sumo squats to fill your full three minute brush time.

The tea lunge: Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil and the tea to brew, aim to complete a full set of 12 reps on each leg. Start with right leg forward, left leg back, slowly bend the knees, lowering into a lunge, keeping your back straight and not letting your front knee extend beyond your toes. Aim for right angles on both legs, before pushing back up to the start position.

The microwave jumping jack: Time spent idly in the kitchen waiting for the microwave to beep, the pasta to boil or a pan to heat up is perfect for some jumping jacks. Stand tall with your arms by your sides and knees slightly bent, jump out extending your arms and legs into a star shape and then jump back in to the start position. Aim for three sets of 10-12 reps.

The bedtime story sit up: Take a few minutes at the end of the day to do some sit ups. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, then put your fingertips behind your ears, and lift your torso up as close to your thighs as possible, then lower gently down to the floor. Aim for three sets of 10-15 reps, 2-3 times a week.

We can be vegan, just for one day
A full-on commitment to Veganuary, a total lifestyle change, can be too daunting a prospect. Instead, aim for a vegan day a month and build up to a day a week. Be inspired by Instagram accounts, online recipes and surprise yourself with vegan alternatives; not only will it do wonders for the planet, but for your health too.

Food swap goals

Scrap the word ‘diet’ and instead embark upon food, preparation and cooking ‘swaps’ to make meals and snacks more healthy. Swap to low fat versions of your favourite foods such as cheese, aim to switch your caramel latte and muffin for a herbal tea and some dried fruit and nuts a few times a week, and swap food saturated in oil for cooking with spray oils or air fryers, which use a fraction of the fat which in turn means a fraction of the calories.

Water, water everywhere

Whilst you can probably say what the recommended water intake is, it’s less likely that you are achieving it! Ditch the sodas, the mid-morning coffee and the plastic bottles and invest in a metal water bottle that you keep full of fresh chilled water. Carry it with you everywhere, especially to your desk at work, and sit and bask in your hydrated glory, safe in the knowledge you’ll soon be reaching the six glasses a day target thereby reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Walk everyday

Avoid the daily car crush commute and aim to put some steps back in your life. If leaving the car at home is not an option, then build small steps in wherever possible – take the stairs, not the lift; walk up the escalator; get off of the bus a stop early; or park a little further away from the office, school, restaurant or the park. If you want to get a little more competitive, register for a fitness app and see if you can complete more steps than your partner, family, friends or colleagues.

WORK

Lists, lists and more lists 

Start your week with a to-do list which you revisit at the start of each day, and follow the urgent and important rules:

  • If it’s urgent and important: do it now.
    • If it’s urgent and not important: delegate to someone else.
    • If it’s not urgent but it is important: schedule a time to do it later.
    • If it’s not urgent and not important: forget about it.

After the urgent tasks, where possible, complete any tasks that can be finished quickly first in order to leave time for longer tasks later whilst still feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Make time for emails

In a virtual world, we have less paper and more emails, so set aside time each day for ‘email admin’ and build it into your diary/to do. Sort your inbox, label emails and create a virtual filing system to ensure you reply to urgent emails promptly, can find relevant emails at a later date, and don’t keep unnecessary inbox clutter – always aim for an empty inbox!

Take a break!

The most productive employees are the most happy, and with 40% of sick days taken up through stress-related illness, it pays to look after your wellbeing at work. Always take a break away from your desk even if it is for just 15 minutes. Get up, go for a walk, readjust your eyes and eat somewhere that is not in view of your main workspace. You will not only appreciate the physical break, but will return mentally readjusted to face the rest of the day.

Find out what your colleagues do

This may sound simple enough, but do you actually know what Sheila in accounts, Teri in Sales or Don at reception actually do? By finding out more about the organisational structure and specific responsibilities, you will naturally have more understanding of how you contribute to someone else’s role or department, and in turn they to yours. You can make mental note of time pressures that you wouldn’t have previously understood, and will also more easily be able to assist them, or they assist you, on a task or project.

 

FINANCE

Meal plan ahead

Avoid the ridiculous amount of food wastage and umpteen trips to the shops by planning your meals for the week. Mix it up with family favourites and new recipes and create your shopping list based on ingredients needed, and don’t double up on stock cupboard items. Aim to use up leftovers from previous dinners the next day’s meals. Not only is it stress free not having to decide daily what to cook, it’s even better knowing the ingredients are to hand and that the pennies are stacking up from your carefully planned shopping trip.

Take a packed lunch

Not only do we spend a small fortune grabbing lunch on the go at work, we often choose less healthy options; even with good intentions some prepackaged salads have more calories than a Big Mac. So pack that in and pack it up – aim to take a packed lunch a minimum of three days a week. Choose healthier meals, use up leftovers and stock up on snacks that will be good to your wallet as well as your waistline.

Start the £1 savings plan 

This is a really simple savings plan where you start saving £1 in week one building up another £1 every week for the whole year, so by week 52 you’ll be stashing £52. By the end of the year you will have saved an amazing £1,378. You can do the same with £10 a week if your budget allows or ideal for small children the 1p a day challenge which based on the daily increments starting at 1p right up to £3.65 would lead to £667.95 saved by day 365!

Banish the frivolous spend

For (at least!) one week a month, only purchase and pay for essentials. So long coffee on the go, lunch out, takeaways, that ‘bargain’ item that you simply do not need and every other impulse purchase that causes mayhem to your bank balance. If you can, keep a tally of all the purchases you turned down and put your saved ££ straight in your savings account.

 

ENVIRONMENT

Carpool

So it doesn’t have to involve karaoke, but where possible try to combine journeys to limit your CO2 emissions and impact on the environment. Try to share school runs with another local family, go shopping with a friend or neighbour, or travel for work with a colleague. It’s estimated that if you join just one other person on a 50-mile round trip to work, you’d reduce your monthly emissions by 10%

Fantastic, not plastic

We know that plastic is totally rubbish for our environment, so now is the perfect time to limit your own plastic use and find some useful alternatives. The Government is already committed to banning plastic straws, and whilst paper is a good alternative, even better are reusable bamboo or metal straws; many are dishwasher-friendly and will last years.

Scrap the cling film and switch to beeswax wraps such as the pretty ones by The Beeswax Wrap Co, www.beeswaxwraps.co.uk, – natural, sustainable and reusable alternatives for keeping your food fresh.

Ditch the plastic water bottle and invest in either a BPA-free bottle or better yet, a metal canister like Klean Kanteen, www.kleankanteen.co.uk, easily washable and environmentally sound (and pretty swish looking too).

Lastly, shop naked. Not literally of course, that would get you arrested, but packaging free wherever possible. Your broccoli head doesn’t need a plastic mac, nor does your loose fruit. Take your own reusable containers to the deli and butchers counters and most will happily use these instead of the mountains of plastic wrap.

Invest in a reusable coffee mug

It is crazy to think that only 1 in 400 hundred disposable coffee cups in the UK is actually recycled. This is in part due to the amount of plastic from the lids to the coating of the cardboard that complicates the recycling process, and in part to our own laziness. So, if you can’t quite bear to part with your grande soy caramel machiatto, then the only way to go is to invest in a reusable coffee mug. Costing from as little as a few pounds, not only will you be reducing your footprint, but the coffee tends to taste much better too!

Eat local

Not only will shopping locally bring money into your local community, support local farmers and producers and ensure you are eating fresh (and its claimed more nutritiously), it will also, and most crucially, reduce your food miles. Next time you shop, actually consider just how far your basket has travelled before it has hit the shelves. Local farmers’ markets and farm shops offer a plentiful array of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy produce, often sourced from within a few miles and usually with little to no excess packaging. Aim to shop locally at once a week and reap the rewards.

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