Are We Going To Hear The Pitter Patter Of Tiny Feet Any Time Soon? Pregnancy, Endometriosis and Our Journey.

After being married for six years, and together for almost a decade before we announced we were extending our family, we had slowly started to hear less of the common question ‘when are you thinking of making it a family of three?’ 

Honestly, I don’t massively begrudge anyone who asked it of us. For many people, it was a natural question and something they obviously expected from us based on their own choices and experiences. That being said, there is a lot to learn and be mindful of when asking something that can be deemed as incredibly personal or sensitive. Personally, I don’t ever ask. I respect that there is a usually reason for not adding children into the mix, and leave it up to the couple to share this should they ever wish to.

So, what about that family of three? 

The reason I am sharing this post now is because this month marks Endometriosis awareness month. It’s been a good few years’ since I last wrote on this particular topic as I often feel the conflict between sharing something quite personal, and the importance of being honest to help others, but I think that with my current circumstances it only feels right to share something quite close to my heart.

Following a long journey, laparoscopies (surgery) and endless scans and tests that I won’t go into detail with here, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis in 2014. 

Surgery number two – 2016

Since then, I have faced a series of hospitalisations, burst cysts, bloating and IBS and trials of different pain management solutions to try and get a handle on the condition day to day. 

But what actually is it?

Endometriosis is a condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body.  Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape, and instead leaves behind these tissue linings which can cause cysts, inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue.

It is a chronic and debilitating condition and can lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems amongst many other things. 

It is also notoriously difficult to diagnose, and many women, myself included, go years with painful symptoms and no support or answer to why they are suffering. 

So, “what about that family of three?” we often got asked. 

Well, based on the above, we were suddenly very aware a year after getting married that if we ever wanted to expand our family, there was a big chance it wouldn’t be straightforward and could result in disappointment and years’ of frustration ahead. 

This, paired with our goal of seeing a lot of the world and building up our careers led us to the mutual decision that for the foreseeable future, we wouldn’t even worry or focus our energies on the big ‘what if’s’ about starting a family. We made a big pre-baby list of everything we wanted to do first and put our heart and souls into having the best five years as a married couple that we possibly could and to ignore the could we / couldn’t we question.

However as we reached our thirties, we knew it was time to dig out this obstacle we had pretty much buried, and face the realities it could bring head on. Especially as for my husband, children were a big dream. We knew we were ready for a family; we just now needed to find out what it would take or if it could really happen for us.

We started the journey knowing it could take a lot of time or not even be successful. A lot of medical advice recommends couples trying to start a family try don’t approach it ‘scientifically’, and you hear that regular phrase which is ‘as soon as we stopped trying it happened!’ just like in the What to Expect When You’re Expecting Film.

We knew that for us, this probably wasn’t the best route. I won’t go into the details as honestly a lot is still quite personal, but we spent a long time preparing with expensive private medical visits, scans to check the current existence of lesions or cysts, and a big diet and lifestyle overhaul to name just a few. Honestly, it involved a lot of saving, patience and trust and we know we were fortunate in that others have it much worse than we ever did. 

It took quite a bit of time, and we had a few pretty awful bumps, tears and scares along the way, but eventually we were incredibly lucky in that it actually happened and I am now writing this at 35 weeks’ pregnant with our little girl. 

I wanted to share this post and my story as from the outside, it often looks quite easy or that people just manage to get pregnant without much effort. For many couples, that can be an amazing reality, but for others not so much. If you just looked at my Instagram you’d probably think the same of us and not be aware that even for the first twenty weeks of this pregnancy I had two cysts bigger than the baby still hanging around and needing to be monitored, and thanks to my surgery scars my belly button is a sight to behold right now.

Cysts bigger than the baby

Really, I wanted to just highlight that we never really know what has gone on to get someone to the place where they are with or without children, and that we should all be mindful of this when raising the questions such as ‘when are you thinking of making it a family of three?’ or comparing ourselves to others. 

For those with endometriosis or going through something similar, and who want to talk, always reach out to me. A strong network does wonders and you don’t need to go through this alone. 

Seven Secrets You Need To Know To Make You More Productive and Organised

As I have got a little older, I have become more self-aware of things I am good at, and things that I perhaps should leave to others (coordination sports, digesting lactose, long phone-calls for catching up, drawing and multi-tasking to name a few).

On the flip side, I am a good natural organiser and tend to thrive with tasks requiring self-discipline, productivity and planning. Recently, a few people have been asking for what it is I do each day to get stuff done, or get stuff done quickly. So I thought I would share a post on my top reflections and habits that I think contribute towards my productivity in case it’s useful for a wider audience.

With the above in mind, I also want to reflect that until recently I used to be pretty embarrassed of just how organised (read: borderline control freak) I was as a person. These days though, I welcome it with open arms. I think that because of these traits I find it easier to go after the things that make me really happy, and put a lot of energy and effort into events, trips and plans that leave a lasting impact and memories for years to come.

Top ways to keep organised and productive on a day to day basis:

One: Know your goals, and know your plan

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hype of being ‘busy’ or hyper productive. There are methods that get you to write down 5-7 habits a day to do every day. Others encourage you to break down big tasks into more manageable chunks to make them seem more attainable.

Personally, I think that the most important way to keep disciplined and productive is to have three things established. One, a very clear vision of where you want to be in life in the next 3-5 years. I am not talking specific here (although feel free to be detailed) but a good understanding of what life looks like for you in the coming years. If you don’t have a good goal, nothing’s going to motivate you.

Secondly, an understanding of your main priorities in life and what matters most to you.

Lastly, a personal acceptance of the fact that you really can’t do everything, but you can do a lot.

If you know you want to be a full time writer, living in a small house in the remote countryside in the next three-five years. You are aware that your priorities are your family, your health, your friends, travel and writing. Then you can easily take a moment to assess your day to day and even week by week plans to see what is contributing towards that and what is distracting.

If in a week you spend two hours a day watching Netflix, but the above is your plan, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out it won’t happen for you in the near future because it’s not where you are putting your energy.

Two: Do what makes you happy

This one isn’t really easy for all, but I am a firm believer that unless you are doing something that challenges you, makes you happy and feel fulfilled you’re never going to have the motivation to put 100% into it.

If you are feeling stuck in a rut, or like you’re limited because you are pursuing something you really don’t enjoy, make a change today. No one can be productive all the time for something that doesn’t make them happy.

Three: Do the hardest tasks of the day first, every single day.

Block out the first hour to get the rough stuff done. The stuff that makes you scared, a good dose of exercise, the email you’ve been putting off writing or the paperwork you have yet to reply to and file.

Often the things that are the hardest to do, or that we avoid are the ones that bring the biggest changes or impact on our day to day.

Honestly, if you can just change one thing this for me would be it. Before reading the news, before social media or joining a call, put aside an hour to just get stuff done.

Four: Know your own habits and routines

We all have our own habits and pitfalls when it comes to organisation and discipline. Personally, I know that after 6pm I am cognitively useless. If you check my blog and writing performance, I always have a dip in publishing mid-month.

Instead of being frustrated by these habits, I instead just work my projects and days around them. I write more at the start and end of each month, and during the middle I focus on other priorities such as getting outdoors, trips and down time.

It’s the same with household tasks like taxes, budgeting and planning for my husband’s business, I know if I don’t tackle them in the first week of the month I will lose motivation. So I make these a priority.

After 6pm I don’t do anything ‘mentally taxing’ and use this time to unwind.

Embrace your own ways of working and natural habits rather than consistently trying to overwrite and fight them. Make them work as part of your productivity.

Photo by Michaela on Pexels.com

Five: Time blocking

If you are always finding yourself too busy to do the things that matter, take some time to block out and organise your diary now to make room for the bigger priorities. Give yourself an hour every day to work on projects. Refuse meetings or calls on a Friday to use this time to turn your ideas into reality.

Give yourself an hour a day for self-development.

Six: Don’t hyper organise

An app can be incredibly helpful if you already know your goals and priorities. A notes site can be fantastic to collect articles to read later, if you actually are going to read them. A well-structured calendar will only be effective if you are actually going to stick to your agenda.

We seem to love technology and hyper-organisation when it comes to being disciplined and often think that certain apps, tools and tech will help us become productive. The reality is, these tools complement an already productive lifestyle.

Plus, with these tools we tend to want to add 7-8 habits a day rather than one or two that will actually get done, because otherwise the list looks bare.

Get apps if you need them to further habits you already have, or interests you already stick to. Don’t expect them to be the cure.

Seven: Outsource

This one took me a long time to firstly realise was a thing, and then secondly do properly. You don’t need to do everything yourself, and to go back to my first tip, in order to be productive you need to realise that you really can’t do everything, but you can do a lot.

Outsource whatever it is that distracts from your priorities or what you enjoy where you can. Obviously some aspects require financial freedom to do it, such as having a cleaner or someone or taking a load of laundry to be dry cleaned once a week.

Others however, not so much. Sites like Fiverr make getting all sorts of tasks done quickly and easily for less. They have everything from virtual assistants to data entry and video editing.

Same goes for things like present shopping, do you know many big online stores now offer free personal shopping services or AI powered Chat Bots to get you the perfect gift in next to no time. Or food shopping, have a service deliver a weekly pre-prepared favourites list to you and then add in things you fancy as you think about them.

Lastly, the biggest thing I think that has helped me be more productive is living a lot more minimally. I have less stuff to clean, no real clutter to sort through, I don’t spend hours worrying about outfits as my wardrobe is pretty capsule and I don’t spend hours working out how to get the new car I covet or striving after the next big material success. When you let go of the distractions, the must-haves and the noise, it becomes really easy to just get stuff done.

What are your top tips for being productive?

EasyJet Travel Hacks – Ten Top Tips To Have A Better Budget Flight

Love them or loathe them, you can’t deny that the European budget airline carriers have opened up a whole host of opportunities and freedoms when it comes to short haul travel and city breaks. For less than you would normally spend on a weekend meal and night out, you can now fly return to most European cities. This year I managed to fly back to the UK for less than taxi to my hotel upon arrival cost.

However, it definitely comes with some strings attached. Often these carriers make up for their low fares in the extras they charge to provide you with a more comfortable and stress-free flight. Thanks to a combination of business and personal travel I have sat on upwards of twenty EasyJet planes in 2019 (I don’t want to count the actual figure in case it’s much higher).

Due to this, I have discovered some surprisingly little tips and tricks that may make your journey a little less budget, and a little more enjoyable when you next board.

Check in as early as you can to improve your seat

You can check into an EasyJet flight up to 30 days before you depart. However, if you are a bit like me, you tend to leave this part to the few days before when you are finalising your packing and gathering paperwork for a trip.

In the future, try not to put it off and do it as soon as you get the email saying check in is open. You will be allocated a better seat as more are available and the algorithm can do more magic this way.

Cabin bag plus duty free bag in many airports

In most major airports, EasyJet allows you to take your one cabin bag on board in addition to one bag of duty free shopping. This can be a genius travel hack if you prepare properly. Following previous airport purchases, I have kept a Boots, and a Duty Free plastic bag that I always fold into the front of my case.

Then, when I need to queue to board, I put my handbag or tablet into this plastic bag. If I purchase something in the airport, I don’t bring out my trusty old carrier and use this instead.

This way, you don’t get fined for having a second small bag when boarding, and it means that you don’t need to struggle with using a big suitcase as a handbag for little things like your phone, passport and mints in the airport and plane.

I now do this for practically every flight, and fingers crossed, no issues yet!

Obviously this has two disclaimers:

  1. It may not always work for you like it has for me, so if you take this risk and don’t have room for the second bag in your luggage, you will have to pay a fee.
  2. Make sure your duty free bag actually is from a shop in the airport (you can’t just take any plastic carrier!)

Use their fare finders to get the best prices

If you book directly on their site, and look for best prices using their EasyJet Fare Finder, you can find some great deals, especially if you can be flexible with your departure dates and times.

Become a regular and join their Flight Club

If you take enough flights a year, EasyJet send you an email welcoming you into their ‘Flight Club’. It has many benefits but my personal favourite is the ability to change your flights without paying the admin fee, instead you just pay any difference in cost if there is any.

Additionally, if you find your flight for less after booking, they will ensure you get this difference back.

If you take regular short haul trips, it can good to be loyal to one provider to benefit from their perks.

Photo by Jason Toevs on Pexels.com

Pack your own snacks (and drinks too!)

You can no longer bring full bottles through security at departures unless they are under 100ml, but you can bring an empty and reusable water carrier.

Then when you pass security, fill this up at the many free fountains before boarding. This way, you save yourself the £2-3 they charge for bottled water. On this note however, if you ask the crew they can give you free cups of tap water if you go to their galley and ask politely.

Additionally, you can bring through a pre-packed lunch if you don’t want to buy the food on board.

Buying food vouchers before you board

However on the above, if you know you’re going to eat on the plane, EasyJet do these great vouchers that allow you to buy their meal deals for less before you board.

If you are definitely going to want food and a drink, a little bit of prep before you buy goes a long way.

Board early to avoid your bag being placed in the hold

Although usually I hate it when people gather around the boarding gate before their class or zone has been called (if you are one of these people, I genuinely would be interested to know why you do this) an EasyJet flight is where I make an exception to this rule.

Primarily because they don’t board by zones like bigger airlines, and because they have a new rule where only the first seventy bags through the gate go onto the plane. The rest are taken to the hold, free of charge, for you to collect on arrival.

Honestly, I personally like the rule, as there’s nothing worse than your flight being delayed as people struggle to find space for their luggage and coats in the overhead lockers.

However it does mean if you want your bag with you in the cabin, you need to be one of the first seventy to board.

Photo by Tranmautritam on Pexels.com

Hand luggage limit is on size, not weight

As long as you can lift it, it can fly in the cabin. EasyJet are great in that whilst the cabin bags have a size limit, they don’t have a weight limit.

So if you have a few big items you need to take, and they risk your hold luggage going over-weight and incurring a bigger fee, stick them in your cabin baggage when packing.

This was a true lifesaver for me when I was moving to Switzerland without my furniture for four months. All my books came with me in my hand luggage to save weight-space in my two hold bags.

As long as you can personally lift it into the overhead locker, you can fly with it!

Extra legroom gets an extra under seat bag for free

If you book a seat with extra legroom (priced from around £10 up to £25) depending on the flight, you get to board first, and get a second piece of cabin baggage for free.

Sometimes this works out better than having to pay for hold luggage if it’s just a laptop or small rucksack you need to fit all your extra stuff in for a week away.

Going hands-free allows for boarding priority – can be for an individual or a group at a discount

You can pay to check in your cabin baggage for a little as £7 per person, or there’s a discount if you are a bigger family and travelling in a group.

This way, you put it in the hold but you get to board the plane first, and usually the luggage is waiting for you when you disembark as it gets priority status for offloading. A good way to avoid carrying heavy cases around and to get on the plane and seated before the rush.

How You Can Take Over Ten Trips A Year Whilst Working – An Insiders Guide To Travelling With A Full-Time Job

You see so many stories of incredible people handing in their notice, packing up their bags and heading out for an indefinite period to explore the world. Endless countries ticked off the bucket list, an opportunity to forget about long-term plans and the chance to see many countries in such a short space of time.

The reality is that the above takes more than just courage to take the leap. It also requires savings you’re willing to invest (and not see back) on the travel costs, an ability to live out of a back pack for an extended period of time, and the knowledge that unless you’re on a sabbatical, if you ever want to come home you need to start the process of job hunting, accommodation sorting and logistics all over again.

The good news is that this doesn’t mean you have to give up on the dream of regular travel if you can’t or don’t want to give up work. It’s actually incredibly feasible if this is a big priority for you.

Here are my top tips for balancing work and travel, to keep those wanderlust dreams alive whilst rocking a traditional 9-5.

Be flexible with travel dates

If you currently don’t have children, or a role that mandates specific holidays are taken (such as the wonderful teachers among us) then make the most of your calendar freedom and travel when the flights are cheaper and the destinations are quieter.

Use a travel comparison site such as SkyScanner to locate the best prices for your next trip and fly on these days where possible. Cost savings like these mean you can then afford more trips throughout the year.

Prague in Winter is incredible, the cold and snow makes the city feel magical and mystical. Traditional expensive ski resorts become affordable hiking paradises in the summer. It’s all about the dates and the flexibility when it comes to travelling more with a job.

On this, also be flexible with your destination

Unless you have somewhere your heart is set on visiting, try and be flexible with your next destination. We have a huge list of everywhere we hope to see, but it’s not constrained by time. The big Weir bucket list!

 We again use travel comparison sites such as SkyScanner to search from flights from our closest airports to ‘everywhere’ and then find somewhere with a great deal on from our big wish list of destinations.

Obviously this isn’t always achievable as you may have a deep craving for pasta and wine in Tuscany that a trip to Poland just won’t quench, but where you can be flexible, try.

Photo by Michael Block on Pexels.com

Enjoy your work

This may seem like a strange tip, but I really do think it’s important to have a good work life balance and a job you genuinely enjoy doing for this to work well.

If you are forever just looking forward to your next office break, have no enthusiasm for what you are going back to or don’t feel excited or stretched then you may begin to resent your time spent not travelling.

A work life balance is just about liking what you do in work, as well as making sure you get enough time away from it to indulge in your passions and interests.

For me, this kind of approach of working hard and travelling harder works because I put the same amount of energy into both aspects. I think it’s a super key element many people miss when trying to strike up this kind of balance with travelling vs. a full-time backpacking year.

Maximise those bank holidays

Every year, I block out the public holidays where I am living and try and book some extra dates off around these to maximise my vacation time. A week away can easily just require two days leave if you time it right.

Yes prices may be a little inflated, but it’s up to you to weigh up the benefits of longer travel vs. the cost. Plus, you don’t need to fly for these trips. Do the planet a favour and hop on a train to the nearest country, or a short ferry or cruise overseas. Sometimes the best places to discover are on our doorstep.

Long weekends are golden

Again, similar to the above, you can see some incredible cities in just three days. Take a Thursday night flight out, and Sunday night flight back and you have easily squeezed in an exciting long weekend without much stress or missed work!

We love our long weekend escapes. Pack light, pick out a few top sights to see and indulge in some good food and new cultures for three days.

Great weekend city breaks include Paris, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Rome, Prague, Krakow, Berlin, Budapest, Vienna or Edinburgh.

Ignore the comments

One of the strangest things about this kind of lifestyle has to be the frequent comments and observations from others it attracts about how ‘you are always on holiday’ or ‘they’re shocked you ever manage to get any work done’.

The reality is you get just as much vacation as your peers. You are just utilising it in a way that works for you and meets your travel goals. If you choose to spend your weekends in Naples enjoying a pizza rather than a weekend at home it doesn’t matter. You will both be back in the office on Monday.

Do what works for you, and don’t worry about what others think of it.

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Live with less to travel more

People quite often comment on how we manage to afford all the travel we do. Sometimes out of intrigued, sometimes I think a little suspicious, and sometimes perhaps not with the best intentions.

Our method is simple. Prioritize what matters to you and invest both your time and money here.

For us, travel matters. As a result, we rarely buy new clothes, we currently are car-free, we live below our means and we don’t tend to buy ‘nice-to-haves’ like decorative items, makeup trends or the latest iPhones / other technology. It’s our choice, and definitely isn’t a choice we think is better than others or right for everyone. But it’s right for us.

By living like this we have freed up money to go away often and make many memories in different places. It’s perfectly possible to have a mix of both, with a few trips a year as well, but our reality of upwards of ten vacations a year wouldn’t be possible without this choice we’ve made.

Work on the go

If you have a job that allows this, or a remote career, then you really have unlocked the next level when it comes to working and travelling. Office hours by day, and exploring at night and weekends. However this isn’t possible for everyone – though definitely something we can all work towards!

These tips all sound obvious, but they all require flexibility and discipline to turn your bi-annual vacation into a true blend of constant work and travel. What are your top tips when it comes to working full time and travelling?

Flying While Pregnant – First Trimester Travel Tips

During the first twelve weeks of my pregnancy I took sixteen flights for six different trips. Some went well, some were challenging and a couple were downright dreadful. The positive from all of this is that I have extensively sampled what it is like to fly in the first trimester both for leisure and business, and hope that from this I can at least share what I have learned along the way. Consider me your pregnant guinea pig, learning the flight mistakes so you don’t have to.

Before I begin though, there’s one important thing to note here. No two pregnancies are the same, and every women may have different experiences when it comes to travelling whilst expecting. My experience may be entirely different from yours, but I hope that there are perhaps some things I have learned which can be a benefit for those embarking on an early adventure. Please make sure you speak to your doctor regarding any specific medical concerns or health issues ahead of a trip.

So, if you have recently discovered you have a little one on the way, and need to travel for work or fancy a week away for leisure, here are my top insights to make the journey as comfortable and pleasant as possible.

Tell the crew

I can’t stress this one enough. If you let the crew know you’re expecting and how you are feeling, they will definitely ensure you have what you need to make the trip as comfortable as possible. When I was suffering from severe morning sickness (I am talking being sick upwards of six times a day and keeping nothing down) the kind crew let me board early and gave me water as soon as I was on board.

Other kind gestures I have been grateful for have been extra pillows, moving to seats with more room or easier bathroom access. Side note – thanks to pregnancy hormones, the smallest kindness from strangers in these situations may bring you out in unnecessary tears. Pack the extra Kleenex just in case and have your other half practice a ‘what can I say’ look for the now alarmed and confused cabin crew.

Book an aisle seat

On that note, if you have the chance to choose or pre-book a seat, do it. Go for an aisle seat. You will need it for regular bathroom runs and getting up to move and walk around on longer trips.

Pack light

If you are not feeling well, carrying a heavy bag while wheeling along a suitcase through the airport is something you definitely want to avoid. Take what you need only, and if you are genuinely struggling, ask for help. 

With that in mind, it definitely make sense to take with you anything you rely on at home which you may not be able to get abroad. Think prenatal vitamins, stretch mark cream, sickness tablets and snacks you can stomach.

Pack your own foods

So airline food is definitely improving, but the reality is that in the first trimester there may be few foods you are able to stomach or stand. Bear this in mind and prepare so that you are not stuck on a long-haul flight without adequate nutrition. Trust me, nothing is worse than a long flight when you are already sick than a long flight where you feel sick but you also cannot eat anything the airline provides and get hangry. If you are still unsure, ask my husband how well our flight to New York went! Bland crackers, beige foods and ginger biscuits are a great staple to bring on-board.

Photo by Mudassir Ali on Pexels.com

Refillable water bottle

In addition to foods, make sure you have a good quality refillable water bottle with you so you can keep sipping and keep hydrated between drinks and meal services. Often airlines don’t bring round water until the plane is cruising which can sometimes take a good forty minutes. Stay ahead of this and keep a filled bottle with you at all times.

On that note, flying dehydrates you, jet lag does too. Make sure you drink water, and then drink some more during pregnancy travel. It may feel like all you do is drink and then pee, but it’s best for baby if you keep yourself topped up water wise.

Pillows, socks and loose clothes

Comfort is key during this time, especially when tight waistbands can make a sensitive stomach feel even worse. Wear loose and layered clothing, compression socks for long flights and pack a comfortable pillow or two to make your seat the best it can be for the duration of your trip.

Take it easy Travelling is normally tiring, so there’s no wonder it suddenly feels like a serious effort once you discover you are expecting. Give yourself time to get through the airport, manage your day and reduce your activities where possible. The first trimester is basically a twelve week blur of naps, nausea and excitement so if you add the joys of jet lag into the mix, two naps a day isn’t actually that extreme and I think should be recommended to everyone. Allow yourself the rest and take it easy on yourself.

You’re Not Doing Less, We’re Just Expecting More Of Ourselves

The other day I woke up and realised I really needed a day to just unwind, recover and relax.

A spot of light reading, perhaps a cup of coffee or two on the sofa and maybe a walk in the afternoon if the weather held out.

When I was living in the reality of that day, I felt that I had truly achieved this and managed to amble through a day doing next to nothing.

If I look back now, and am totally honest with myself, I have to admit that I may have sneaked just a few jobs, errands and tasks in there.

The difficulty is that it is really hard to justify, and just accept, that in this busy, hectic world, it’s okay to do less. It’s okay to have a day or two of doing absolutely nothing.

We feel that unless we have a grand sense of accomplishment achieved by successfully ticking off at least ten things on our ever growing to-do lists, we have had somewhat a failure of a day.

Rather than measuring our success on our happiness, our prioritization of the things that matter to us and our wellbeing, we instead measure it on how important we feel because we have managed to do more ‘stuff’.

On my ‘relax and recover’ day I managed to, on top of my reading, coffee drinking and walking, do an online shop, deep clean and sort the kitchen cupboards, pack a little more for the move, order a friends birthday present, call my family for a check in, order a new lightbulb and starter for the bathroom and order a cake for our leaving party.

If that was a lot to read in one sentence, just imagine how much extra it added to a day that was meant to be filled with nothing. Additionally, just imagine how much more gets done on a day not planned for rest.

I am not writing this to show how much extra I managed to do on a day off. Instead it’s a bit of a personal reflection on how much I felt I needed to just get done, when really my head, body and mind was telling me to just take a day.

Quite often I find that it’s the unreal expectations we set ourselves which stops us from really doing what we want to do. We are not doing less, we are just demanding more from ourselves.

A 2018 survey by Forth with Life found that 42% of women and 36% of men feel way too stressed. Guess what one of the top causes was? You got it, it’s being too busy.

A quick search on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram gives instant insight into why we have adopted a culture of seeing busy as a sign of success.

#busybusybusy = nearly 100,000 posts on Instagram

#busylife = over 350,000

and let’s not forget, you can’t be a good mum if you’re not exhausted from cramming things into every hour of your day, so it makes sense that #busymom has nearly one million shares.

person woman apple hotel
Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

Personally, I don’t want to be busy.

I want to stop filling my downtime with more stuff and noise just so I don’t feel bad about reading a whole book and maybe even having a bath and nap in between chapters.

Relaxing, unwinding, reflecting. It’s still you doing something. It’s arguably more important than anything else as without your health, it’s hard to do the rest.

Just because with technology it’s easier to do more, easier to feel lazy when you see others filling their days with more, and easier to find more ways to be busy, doesn’t mean it’s right.

Looking back, I don’t feel success or any striking memories from the days where I ticked 10 menial things off my to-do list (most of them instigated by my need to do more and be more busy). My memories come from good books, successful projects in work and at home, travelling and laughing with friends and family.

I am happy to be seen as someone who does less. As long as I am happy.

That’s success for me.

My Bedtime Routine: Seven Tips To Sleep Better.

There honestly isn’t a day which goes by where I don’t seem something online relating to sleep, the importance of it, or the struggle people have with it.

One thing that we all know to be true is that consistently getting a good night’s sleep is essential if you’re going to remain at your peak.

On average, adults need between seven to nine hours sleep a night to fully repair and recharge. This can be harder to achieve in the ‘always-on’ world we now live in. There’s always something new on Instagram to read, streaming services have changed the way we access media, allowing us to binge watch or engage at any hour without restrictions, and as a whole we seem to be a lot more stressed and forever busy.

All the above conflicts with our natural need to rest.

This is why over the years I have honed a few little techniques which help me to switch off and get a good nine (yes, I am on the extreme of the spectrum and need a lot of sleep!) hours of shuteye every night. Luckily I am now pretty good at getting my needed quota each night thanks to the below and finding what works for me.

They may not all work for you, in fact they could all be the opposite of what you need. However if you are struggling to get consistent rest, maybe try the below routine one night and see if it helps.

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No technology thirty minutes before bed

This one is really important, and something that I notice has an instant impact if I neglect it. No TV in the bedroom, no Netflix before bed, no last scroll on my phone down a social feed before snoozing.

Thirty minutes before I plan to sleep, I plug in my phone to charge, put it on do not disturb and set my alarms. Then it’s reading time, journaling time or just talking to my other half before bed.

Sleep sounds

I don’t know what I did for the first twenty five years of my life where I didn’t know about white noise apps.

If you live in a busy area, share a house or walls with noisy people, or on or near a main road, then a white noise app could help you drift off much quicker.

I use the ‘storm sounds’ ambient app on my Alexa device, so it starts to play automatically at a set time. It’s amazing how much sound a low-noise app can block out.

Tea-tox

Sipping a warm cup of herbal tea is a great way to just slow down and reflect on the day. My go-to is Lemon and Ginger or Pukka Detox tea.

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Bathe away the day

Light some candles, put on some relaxing music and use lavender bath oil to soak away the day. A good half an hour in the tub is the best way for me to clear my mind.

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Lavender

As already alluded to in the above, I use several lavender based products in my nighttime routine. Lavender bath oils, pillow spray, or essential oils to burn on my oil burner. Either way the smell just calms me, and makes me ready for bed!

I also love this new Linen Spray pictured above. It’s Vegan, smells incredible, and gives me that newly washed bedding feeling every night instead of once a week. Bliss.

Open curtains and eye mask combo

I sleep with the curtains open, to wake with the sun. However when I first go to bed, I pop on an eyemask as I find it helps me switch off and fall asleep easier.

In the middle of the night when I wake up, I take it off and go back to sleep mask-less.

Rehydrate

It’s not my evening routine as much, but every morning when I wake up, I slowly drink my way through a litre bottle of water as I wake and read the news, do my hair and makeup and cuddle the cats.

Do you have any sleep routines or tricks you swear by to get a good night’s sleep? Please share with me in the comments below!

Episode 06 – Kyran Weir: The Extraordinary Ordinary Series.

Kyran is a talented graphic designer, animator and illustrator who currently is putting his skills to use to create artwork, and engage with the community, for some of the UK’s top confectionery brands.

On top of this, he volunteers his creativity to support Oxfam Bookstores across York with their designs, bookmarks and publications, as well as lending a hand time to time with the local community independent cinema and volunteering to create some of their graphics, logos and branding.

Outside of design, Kyran is a keen photographer, gamer and loves to watch films.

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What makes Kyran so extraordinary? Kyran is creative, has a fantastic imagination and is a lively and social character that everyone quickly warms to. At just twenty eight he has already travelled to over 48 incredible cities including trekking for ten weeks across Costa Rica, lived in four (soon to be five) countries, and is a brilliant cat-dad and husband.

He approaches work in a very different way to a lot of people, and his passion truly shines when he is applying his skill set to something he loves.

He has a natural curiosity, love for life, and a no-fear approach to trying something new, which is why he is probably so good at packing up his life into a few suitcases and moving to new places!

Kyran is soon going to be launching his own graphic design agency, and putting his everything into something he loves. It’s inspiring to watch this journey unfold.

So here are his answers to my twelve questions:

What makes you happy?

My wife, my cats, eating out in good restaurants, travelling, gaming, watching films. Okay, I could go on as many things make me happy which I guess is very lucky.

In a nutshell, I love my family, entertainment, socialising and being creative.

What book had the biggest impact on your life?

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris

It made me work harder but also smarter, and it’s fantastic to read all about the people who really are living their best life and at the top of their respective fields.

It taught me that four good hours in a day can produce better quality work than eight bad hours.

Apply yourself, work hard and produce work of quality not quantity.

What quote, or saying, do you live by?

‘Practice choosing discomfort’

It is a way to become more disciplined. Don’t choose the easy route (which is my natural and preferred path!)

I am not saying I am good at this yet, but it’s something I am working towards.

How do you remain, or regain, your focus?

I like to look at motivational quotes, Ted Talks and look at other designers work across Instagram, Dribbble and Pinterest.

What inspires you?

Great Artists – Tom Haugomat, Mark Conlan, Oli Moss. My wife. My colleagues who work with me in the studio.

What are your top three priorities?
  1. Die without regrets
  2. See the world
  3. Love my wife, cats and family

I am not massively interested in traditional success in the sense of a big car, three houses and top-level career. What I want is to be happy, experience every opportunity that comes my way, and see the world not only whilst I am young, but continually throughout all of my life.

What’s the biggest misconception about you?

I am a laidback guy.

People think it when they initially meet me but it couldn’t be more wrong.

I am not great in a crisis, and get easily stressed about the little things, and can be wound up by my friends really easily, however at the same time I am very easy going and so people often confuse the two.

What two purchases have you made this year that you really value / had most impact?
  1. Manual Camera – Pentax K100. I wanted to get into film photography and this camera has been a fantastic way to experience and discover more about taking photos in a more traditional way. I took it to Cuba with me where I got some fantastic shots.
  2. Audible Subscription. I love audio books, they are a way to make doing boring jobs easier, motivate yourself, and learn more.
Top tips for someone who wants to do what you do?

Anyone can do anything it’s just about putting time into it. YouTube is a great resource for learning to design.

Don’t think you instantly need to have your own ‘style’. Instead take influence from other peoples, copy their work, and learn how to do it until you find your own, it will come. Learn from people better than you. Design is just your thoughts and ideas, put down on paper and made real.

I would say you need to be able to also use Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects if you want to design for a living.

What are you most proud of?

Teaching myself to design, illustrate and animate. I didn’t do a degree or a professional course to learn, but instead dedicated hours and hours to it around whatever job I was doing at the time.

I am still learning every day, and so this often means waking up between 5-6am to get in an hour or two before work of practice, and luckily I now get to spend a lot of time at work creating, but it’s a never ending journey.

I have found something I love to do and managed to do it for a living. I would recommend you do the same, and you won’t work a day in your life, but don’t worry if you are on a long journey there.

It took me eight years, doing jobs in five different areas and industries, to discover and then build up the skills to do what I am doing now. Your time will come, just work hard for it.

In three months I am about to embark on the next big adventure in my career. Setting up my own design business. I just need to make it a success now.

An unusual habit of yours?

When I game (Xbox) I grind my teeth, my dentist hates it. It has meant I now have a problem with lockjaw as well. Not good.

What do you do every single day?

I listen to music without fail.

I am currently a bit obsessed with The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding. It’s a great album, you should check it out.

Thanks Kyran, perhaps it is about time I checked out Audible, and discovered more about YouTube tutorials!

His Key Advice:

  • You often don’t instantly land in a job you love, but the journey is all part of the amazing experience to get there.
  • Anyone can do anything if they put enough time into it.
  • Learn from people better than you
  • Audible is great for discovering new books, podcasts and more
  • Try to produce more work of quality, rather than volumes of lower standard work in a higher quantity.

If you want to see more of Kyran’s designs, you can follow him on Instagram here.

Thirty Things You Can Easily Throw Away Today To Make You Feel Happier.

If my home is getting a little cluttered and busy, I can guarantee that it will start to have an effect on my mind and wellbeing.

We all know the feeling. Stressed about rummaging through drawers to find something. Fed up of moving everything aside to put something back. Struggling to find room to sit down and work when your desk has become the new temporary storage shelf.

There’s a simple fix, and I assure you it won’t take long at all.

Grab yourself three big bags, boxes or containers, and look around the house (or take it one room, one day at a time if you’ve got a lot to sort) and choose if you should trash, recycle or donate the below items.

30 Things You Can Instantly Declutter

Old Magazines / Newspapers
Letters you don’t need to file
Old batteries
Old electrical wires and cables
Takeaway Menus (all online now)
Socks with holes in
Clothes that don’t fit
Clothes with stains
Tights with holes
Old towels or bedding
Expired makeup / old samples
Old toiletries
Old Groceries
Expired condiments / spices
Non-recyclable bags
Excess coffee mugs

Excess glassware
Excess utensils
Books you’ve read
DVD’s you don’t need anymore
Old cards, decorations
Excess Tupperware
Unused kids / pets toys
Excess decor
Old recipe books
Old calendars, diaries and notebooks
Clutter in work or handbags

When you have worked through it all, you should find your drawers are clearer, you living space is less ‘busy’ and you feel a lot more zen. A happy home leads to a happy mind.

When I first started to live minimally, I found I had to repeat this exercise almost bi-monthly. Now however, I am a lot more conscious around what I consume in the first place, which helps with living with less on a permanent basis.

Repeat as often as you need to, and think first before buying something you know you recently rehomed before you need to repeat it all over again in a few months time.

Save the below to your phone for a quick reference guide, or Pin it to complete later.

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Invest in quality, over quantity.

Buy well, not often.

Choose need, not want.

How I Find The Balance Of Sharing Online vs. Oversharing.

Naturally, with the rise and popularity of social media and blogging, it has become more acceptable to share moments that were once private or only disclosed to a limited audience with a wider audience.

We are intrigued to discover more about the people we follow. Whether that’s close friends and family, or strangers we are only connected to via the internet. Our comfort with involving ourselves voyeuristically in the lives of others seems to be growing fast.

How many of you spend a few minutes an evening slowly tapping your way through various Instagram stories, purely to see what everyone else is upto? What exciting things they can share with you? I do.

Sharing, is it natural?

I regularly have moments where I sit and reflect about how and what I share online, and if it’s at the right level or if I could perhaps be labelled as an ‘over-sharer’. As a writer and content creator, it’s important to find that balance and maintain it. What makes it difficult is that it’s often the more personal content, the writing where you share your experiences and opinions, which resonates more with readers.

If I look at the data for my most read posts over the last year, it’s easy to see that articles where I give a more personal perspective or a little more insight into the person behind the posts are the one’s at the top of the table for views.

black and white black and white connection friends
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

So how do I personally find the balance?

If you don’t know me well, you might be shocked to find out that I am quite introverted, would rather be at home with a book than at a party, and get incredible nervous before joining a big crowd.

This is quite a contrast to the person you may see online.

I am aware that in order for people to feel engaged with my posts, to follow my updates and to join in the conversations my writing hopefully prompts, I need to give a little first.

Therefore, to assess and measure how much I ‘give’ I regularly ask myself

‘Is this something I would share with someone I have just met?’

If the answer is yes, it’s good to go. If the answer is no, I check why I want to share it and what the purpose is.

For me, my boundaries are quite clear.

What do people know about me?

Sometimes it’s quite interesting to put the microscope back on yourself to truly discover how much a stranger could know about you from your online sharing.

It would be easy for someone to discover that I live in York, I have two cats, love to read and travel, and live minimally.

If you have access to my private social accounts, obviously the information I share becomes a lot more detailed.

Have you looked at yourself through the lens of a stranger recently? How much do they really know about you?

It’s not getting easier though

As we move into an age where people are willing to share a lot more, it becomes harder as a content creator to get people to read your articles, like your posts and share your blogs if they just don’t give them as much insight as the next person is happy to.

These days, anyone can become a blogger, and the majority of people I know share regularly on social sites, especially Instagram, so what is it that will make my content stand out and people actually want to read it?

It’s that personal touch.

Why do you think people like the Kardashians, Reality TV stars, Love Island, Big Brother and Made in Chelsea alumni have amassed such a huge following with people hanging on to their every word, trend and business? Because they know that we love to feel involved. They share every minute of their lives with us across multiple platforms, and like it or not, the majority of us get engaged with it in some way or other during our lives.

Personally, I am not currently willing to give away more than I do right now on my public platforms. Does that mean my blog, platform and content will suffer? I am sure I will soon find out.

What do you think about sharing online? Are you a post every moment person, just a special event sharer, or a social shadow who prefers to look rather than post?