‘Oh I’ll have one of those eggplant things, some of that spicy tofu and I’ll try the soy beef! Thank you!’.
The waiter turned to me and I said ‘I’ll have the dumpling soup.’
My friend laughed at me and said ‘You really are a creature of habit aren’t you? You’ve ordered the dumpling soup the last three times we’ve come here!’
We were at Neko Neko which is my favourite Japanese restaurant. It was a thirty-second walk from my old apartment so I ate there a lot. The first time I went there ordered the dumpling soup because that’s what my friend ordered and I don’t really like making food decisions so I just copied whatever she said. The soup was delicious so I just kept ordering it every time I went back.
I do this nearly everywhere. I get the Power Salad at Grill’d. Mild chicken and salad at Nandos. Prawns at Pepper Lunch. I don’t really do it consciously, it’s just once I know the healthiest most satisfying thing on a menu, I just keep ordering it because it’s easy and I don’t have to use my brain.
It’s the same with my life in general. After years of self-experimenting with routines, eating plans, exercise regimes, workflows and more apps than I can fit on my phone, I have a very solid outline of things that need to be done every day in order for me to function effectively. This list started out as a proper list where I actually ticked items off but I’ve been doing it for so long now, I don’t even have to worry about it. It just happens. Here are my daily non-negotiables.
I don’t have to go to the gym every day and sweat myself silly, but I need to close the green exercise ring on my Apple Watch every day. I sleep better, my mood is more consistent, my body feels better. I used to have to force myself to move every day but it’s just become a habit for me now. I also notice in winter if I skip my morning gym class, I’m colder during the day and I have to wear more clothes and make love to the heater to stop from freezing solid so there’s that. If I don’t want to be cold to the point of distraction all day, best be a grown up, get the hell out of bed and raise my body temperature for the day.
2. Sitting fully dressed at my desk by 9am
I work for myself so I have to be very disciplined about this. It means I can’t get home from the gym and sit in the car for 20 minutes dicking around on my phone because before I know it, it’s 9am and I haven’t even had a shower. I’m the sharpest first thing in the morning so I need to prioritise getting to my desk by 9am so I can work solidly from 9 to midday.
3. Leave the house
I work from home and obviously, I also live in my home so I have to make the effort to leave every day otherwise I’m like a caged rat. I generally leave most mornings to go to the gym but that doesn’t really count, so I try to go for a walk or drive somewhere where I can go for a walk. It just clears my head and makes me feel less claustrophobic. This one has been difficult to adjust to as I moved from a gorgeous, scenic area where I could walk all day and not ever get bored to a suburb that’s quite barren, void of trees and not very pretty which makes walking really hard so I have to make the effort to drive to a more scenic area for a walk most evenings.
4. Schedule my day the night before
I started doing this years ago and I don’t know how I functioned without it. I use Actions app to schedule my day and tick items off as I complete them. This works for a variety of reasons.
1. I pre-determine how long a task will take so I don’t waste time dragging out a task or making it take longer than it should be.
2. I always know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. As writer/freelancer, my to list is already longer than my lifespan which is an unbelievably over-whelming thought. If I pinpoint exactly what my priorities are that day, it saves me from wandering off and doing other things that aren’t as important.
3. It’s pretty. I like having my day all nicely laid out. It calms me.
5. Have a proper screen free lunch break
I make my lunch, eat it and then listen to a podcast and crochet for half an hour. It clears my head, gives my eyes a break from screens and also helps me to avoid that afternoon slump I get if I go too hard during the day. Read a book, do a crossword puzzle, read the paper, knit, crochet… just put your phone down and don’t look at a screen for half an hour in the middle of the day. Your body will totally thank you for it.
6. Laptop and phone away at 9pm every night
As an internet type person, I’m generally on the internet most of the time. I certainly block myself out for hours at a time but I manage lots of different communities and accounts so I need to be there quite regularly. I used to be on Facebook answering questions and chatting away until midnight but a few years ago I stopped this. I need a big chunk of offline time every day to re-charge so I turn my phone off at 9pm almost every night. If I have an event or need to be online after 9, I will make an exception but generally speaking, the phone is off at 9pm every night because if anyone needs me, they can wait until the morning.
7. Drink at least three cups of tea
I have a morning, afternoon and after dinner cup of tea every day. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’ll make it happen. If I have a meeting and I’m offered coffee, I’ll go for tea. It’s just a thing I need.
This week on Straight and Curly, Kelly and I are chatting about our non-negotiables and how they keep us on track. We also talk through how you can find your own and use them to totally nail your productivity.