Learn Happiness

Today I want to tell you about a free course which is being run over at Coursera. I’m a massive fan of online learning and I’ve done plenty of MOOCs (Mass Open Online Courses) myself, did I tell you about the time I ate pancakes with bananas and ketchup as part of a course about creative thinking?

Luckily, I don’t expect this course to include anything as bizarre! Coursera are offering us a course which will help us set goals for a life of happiness and fulfilment. Coursera courses are usually made up of short videos and questions set over a few weeks. I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve done and this one looks fun so I’ve signed up and watched the first few videos already. There is an option which allows you to pay for a certificate but you can also do all of the learning for free, just choose the free, no certificate option.

The videos I’ve watched so far have been fun with a few interactive questions, there’s a short assignment at the end of the week to come up with our own definitions of happiness so I’m looking forward to giving that some real thought.

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Business Plans

A friend of mine is starting a personal training business. She’s just finishing her qualification and has been told she needs to write a business plan as part of her assessment. It got me thinking. There’s a traditional idea that we should have a business plan for any new business. Planning for any new venture is really important, but your planning has to be right. It can be easy to get carried away with a business plan, to procrastinate, to draft and redraft a plan filled with data taken from the internet, to make up figures, to draw graphs and make projections based on nothing. This sort of planning gets in the way of getting started with your business. And the whole point is to get started with your business.

I wonder where this idea of having a bumper document for a business plan has come from. We live in a world where banks don’t really lend to small businesses, where you’re most likely to fund your start up yourself and if you did want to borrow money in the future you’d need to be able to prove you had a successful business before anyone would consider lending. In reality that means few people are actually going to read your plan and if you do need to re-write it one day in the future, you’ll be better informed with real figures at that point and you’ll probably be able to employ somebody to write it for you.

As a startup, keeping your business plan simple is really important. There’s no need to use business plan templates or to use other peoples business plans to guide your own, don’t waste time writing a document that nobody’s going to read. If you want to get started as soon as possible with your business, here are my suggestions for writing a quick and dirty business plan.

Your business plan should set out what product or service you are selling, who your customers are, and how you’re going to sell it.

That’s it. You’ll be pleased to hear you don’t need to write a twenty page document about that as you can do it in less than one page. Your plan should be focussed on what you know about your product or service and you should ask yourself what, who, why, where and when questions as you write your plan. What product or service will you sell? Where and how will you sell it? What will customers use the product or service for? Who are your customers? How much will you sell it for? How much profit will you make for each item you sell? How is your product or service different to that of your competitors?

When you answer the questions, be realistic in your answers. Consider the reality of your businesses situation at the moment, consider your current resources.

Although there is a benefit of knowing how you will be able to scale your business in the future, at the moment, you should avoid thinking about your business in five years time because in five years time things will have changed. Your circumstances, your resources and possibily the environment within which you’re operating will have changed. In your business plan you should just focus on now, your budgets and resources now, your set up now, your product as it is, now.

When your business plan is written you can use it to write a short list of actions to get started your started with your business. Write a list of between three and six actions which you can actively focus on to get your business started. This will help you keep the momentum which you might have lost had you written a hefty twenty pages. Your business plan should be motivational and leave you feeling inspired to get started.

I mentioned that it’s not helpful to read other people’s business plans but maybe an example will be helpful. This is a sample business plan for my friend’s personal training business.

Business Plan

I sell personal training services in Bristol, this includes 1:1 sessions, small groups and regular circuits and spinning classes. My classes are held at Bristol Gym throughout the week where I work as an employee and I run 1:1 and small group sessions in gyms and parks across Bristol depending on my client’s location.

I market my personal training sessions to customers at my classes, and through social media linked to my personal website.

My customers want to get fit and/or lose weight. They are predominantly women in their 30s and 40s who are new to exercise or are returning after having a baby. They choose me as a trainer because of my down to earth, friendly, supportive nature. They also enjoy the variety of my training sessions as I try to keep my clients out of the gym as much as possible preferring circuit training in the park. I attract a different type of client to some of my gym-bunny competitors.

I charge £25 per hour for 1:1 sessions, £15 per person at a small group session (groups of up to 4 people).

Actions

  • Research hourly PT charges in Bristol for individual and small group sessions
  • Set up website
  • Set up social media
  • Contact gyms about classes I can run in the local area

It’s that simple, jot something down on a piece of paper, make a list of actions and get started. I’d love to hear whether you found this post useful, please leave me a comment to let me know what you thought.

Startup Resources

Whatever it is you’re creating, when you’re starting a business it’s helpful to have as many resources as possible at your fingertips. In this short post, I want to share some useful websites and resources with you.

Free Stuff

If you’re starting a business, getting your hands on free and cheap equipment and resources will keep your budget under control.

Gumtree A free classifieds site with a freebies section

Freecycle Matches people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them

Learn Things

Coursera Free online courses from top universities across the world

OpenLearn Free online courses from the Open University

YouTube Where you can learn absolutely anything

Start Up

Start Up Britain and Enterprise Nation Resources for entrepreneurs

Peter Jones Enterprise Academy Courses for entrepreneurs

Shell Livewire Startup resources for people aged 16-30

Ideas and Inspiration

TED Inspirational ideas and talks

Funding

I’m all about starting a business with as little money as possible. But, if you really can’t get started without any money, these are helpful resources

Gov.uk Business finance and support finder

Crowdfunder,  Crowdcube and Kick Starter are all crowd funding websites. Pitch your idea and receive funding if you meet your funding target

Free Websites

Start a free website with a beautiful template with one of these sites.

WordPress

Wix

If you need more features like an online shop you can pay a bit more or use one of these sites

Square space

Shopify

Free Startups 

I’ve always wanted to run my own business. I’ve dabbled a bit in the past but I’ve never been brave enough (or had an idea I was really passionate enough about) to really go for it.

One big barrier to starting a business is the cost of getting started. It’s just not possible to raise finance to start a business, grants are practically non existent, and who wants to get into debt for a venture that might not work out? There is another way though, there are lots of businesses you can start with little or no money at all, I think the hardest thing to do is to find an idea to get started. Today’s post is about generating ideas for your own start up.

Ideas for free startups

Maybe there’s a product you’ve found it difficult to buy in the past or a product you’ve been frustrated with or which hasn’t quite been suitable for your needs. You could buy a product in bulk and resell it through an online marketplace like eBay or Amazon.

You could set up a mobile version of your profession. Whether you’re a hairdresser, mechanic, personal stylist or a book keeper, you could set up a mobile business from the back of your car visiting clients, working in your own office or spare room, or even working at client’s offices.

If you’re great at baking artisan bread, you make incredible macaroons, you brew your own beer or you make traditional jellies, you could make and sell your food at markets and festivals. If you make amazing occasion cakes you could start a wedding cake company or make and sell cake pops for baby showers.

If you have a skill people would pay to learn, think about teaching. Maybe you play an instrument, you’re a photographer or you speak a language. Maybe you’re great at needlework. Maybe you can make your own clothes, you’re a calligrapher or you make delicious home made sausages. You could revive a traditional craft like embroidery teaching people how to make things for their homes with a modern twist, or you could show people how to write their own wedding invitations with beautiful calligraphy. You could run sausage making courses and even write an accompanying cookery book.

If you can’t teach your skills, maybe you can sell them. Fiverr is a great website for selling skills like SEO, marketing, book keeping, personal administration, graphic design or translation with people paying for all kinds of weird and wonderful assignments, just take a look for some inspiration.

Use the resources you have at your disposal, if you can cook and you have a kitchen, you could cater for parties, if you have a spare room or a caravan in your  back garden you could rent it out as holiday accommodation through Airbnb.

If you know how to make a handmade product you could sell it on Not on the High Street or Etsy, market places for anything from handmade jewellery to custom drawings of family pets to incredibly scented soap. You could make funny greetings cards with silly slogans, customised t-shirts or herb garden kits.

What’s best for you?

A good way to work out what options are available to you for starting a small business is to brainstorm your interests, your skills and the resources at your disposal. My list might look something like this:

Interests: entrepreneurship, economics, Scandinavia, languages, aerobics, weddings

Skills: accountancy, German, saxophone, cooking, organisation, spreadsheets

Resources: kitchen, car, spare bedroom, computer

Then make links between the different categories to look for opportunities. The idea is to look for opportunities to start a business in something you’re interested in which you’re also talented in. Maybe I could cater for parties with Scandinavian recipes, maybe I could offer accountancy advice to entrepreneurs from my home, maybe I could sell language learning resources to students, wedding planning spreadsheets for brides to be or offer on line aerobics classes from my spare bedroom!

Selling a product

If you decide to sell a product I’ve got some tips to choose something which you can sell from day 1. Remember, this is a start up with no (or very little investment) so you need to be selling straight away.

Choose a product which people need now, a product they already understand, in a market that already exists and sell it in a way that customers expect whether that’s on line in a shop or on a market stall.

You want customers to need your product so they feel it’s urgent that they buy it, you don’t have time to explain why people need your product, or to wait for them to need it. You don’t have time to build a new market, you need to get selling straight away so don’t waste time by choosing a product that customers can delay purchasing as more than likely they’ll forget about it and won’t buy it at all.

Choose a product which is less than £20, your stock will cost you less and customers will be able to afford to buy your product without giving it much thought. Once you’ve set your price, don’t discount your product unless you have a really good reason to. If customers ever see your product on sale, they’ll be reluctant to ever pay full price for it again anticipating a future sale.

Ask friends and family to place advance orders. This should pay for your stock and friends and family who want to support you usually won’t mind waiting a few weeks to receive their product.

Next you need to decide how your product will stand out from others on the market. Your product needs to be better at doing it’s job, more fashionable, bigger or cheaper to get customers’ attention but still a product they need.

Finally

If you want to start your own business, just give it a go. Don’t wait until you have the money you think you will need, do it anyway but do it for free. If it fails you haven’t loss anything. What you will have done though is learnt about starting a business, you’ll have new skills and you’ll have the pride of knowing you tried and you gave it a go. And do you know, it just might work out.

Fear is your friend

I wanted to share this great TED talk with you. This is Tim Ferriss telling us that if we can overcome fear we can do anything. He really thinks we can embrace our Incredible Hulk, I’m not sure I want to do that, but this is a great talk about breaking things we fear (or anything else for that matter) into first principles so you can reassess them and work out a strategy to achieve what you want.

Happier

I’m in Paris this weekend so today’s is a shorter post than usual. Today I want to tell you about the podcast, Happier. 

Gretchen Rubin runs her podcast, Happier, from New York along with her sister Elizabeth Craft. Listening to this podcast is one of my favourite, and super motivational weekly moments.

There are so many great tips here to get the most out of life from de-cluttering your home and your life to understanding how we can motivate ourselves the best. Here’s a link to episode one, I hope you enjoy it. 

It Isn’t All Or Nothing

Life planning has really helped me to figure out what’s important. I’ve set goals in the categories which I’ve identified in my life as the most important and I’ve started making progress with mini-goals towards them. If you’d like to read my posts about life planning, you can start with Life Planning Week 1, here. My categories are health and self; my husband; family and friends; finances; work; hobbies; house and home; and adventure.

For most of my categories I’ve set some specific goals. My goals are broad and they cover anything from eating less meat – more specifically to eating vegetarian twice a week in my health category, to going to Russia, adventure.

I have some long term goals which I won’t be able to immediately achieve like live abroad for a year (adventure) and I have smaller goals which work towards achieving long term goals, start a business  (work) for example has been broken down into start a blog and brush up on my tax knowledge. Some goals are ongoing and only after a lot of practice will I be able to say these goals have been achieved, that said, I need to be regularly committing to these long term goals to be able to succeed and learn German (hobbies) has been broken down into go to German lessons once per week. I’ve found some goals are easy to achieve, In the past three weeks I’ve ticked at least 8 goals off of my list already. I’ve set dates for my next get together with a number of friends (family and friends), I’m going to Paris at the weekend and I’ve booked a trip to Berlin next month which contribute to my goal to see more of Europe (adventure) and also to learn German, talk about efficient. My husband and I bought a Sonos in March and as well as bringing just a bit more hygge to the house I can also listen to German internet radio across our downstairs, it seems like a tiny achievement but it’s something we’ve been talking about since we moved in, and with some building work starting as well, I can see myself working towards my house and home goals.

Seeing this momentum, even tiny bits is uplifting. Before I started life planning and setting goals I felt that I had all of these things looming over me that I had to do, or should do, which I never seemed to get around to, or which I didn’t know where to start with. Now I have clarity, I know what’s important and I feel ready and able to take action on the tasks which feel important to me. I also feel empowered to let go of the tasks I’ve been telling myself I should be doing because I realise they’re not important in my bigger plans.

I acknowledge that some goals are (much much) easier to achieve than others. It was very easy for me to book a table for dinner with my husband for no particular reason at a restaurant we want to try, for later this month, helping me meet my have a great relationship goal (husband) – just don’t call it “date night” please. It’s also easy for me to read a non-fiction book each month which counts towards my be a non-fiction geek goal (hobbies), the most difficult part for me is choosing which book.

Other tasks feel more difficult. If you’re finding a goal difficult to get started ask yourself whether it really is part of your life plan. Does it really fit with your categories and what you value? Do you actually want to climb Kilimanjaro or do you just feel like you should? Do you really want to learn the guitar? Do you really want an MBA?

If the answer is yes, there are two possible reasons you’re finding it hard to get started. The first is that this goal conflicts with another priority and has to be on hold for a defined period of time. If this is your situation, be very very careful about making excuses. Sometimes we prioritise one area of our lives above another and because this causes a conflict we’re not able to work towards a certain goal. An example for me is that at the moment I can’t leave my safe permanent job because I need to complete some (expensive) work on my home first. But you’ll remember that life planning is all about happiness, that we can only truly be excited and happy in life by doing things we love and in order to do things we love, we have to take scary steps. Don’t let fake priorities stop you from achieving your goals. In my situation, I’ve given myself until March 2017 to finish my house and home goals so I can move on and get started with my business. Having that date marked in my calendar is really important for motivation, and for the general sense of well being that there is an end in site.

The other reason you might be feeling paralysed at the thought of getting started with a life goal is that this feels like a scary part of your life to make a change in, work is a prime example. You might not have the confidence yet to work towards your goal. A couple of my friends have recently retrained to pursue different careers. They both currently work as employees and in both cases making the change means they’d be self employed. Neither has quite taken the leap yet. I don’t want to go into the full details of their stories but I do want to share my thoughts if you have some of the same worries that they do. I feel so sad when people get so close to what they want but can’t quite get there and this might help.

It will feel scary

Small businesses do fail, but not all of them. If you’ve got people telling you to get your head out of the clouds, tune them out. It’s true that you would be mad to leave your day job to pursue an untested business idea, but if you have a good product or service which you can sell, having a business is a possibility. I read a book called Never get a Real Job a couple of months ago and I’ve added a review to my book reviews page because, although a bit preachy, it’s a brilliant resource to get out of the habit of thinking “real jobs” are the jobs we should all aim for. It also has some brilliant tips for trialling business ideas and getting your finances in shape before you start out.

Do your research

I mean really do your research. Your friends are likely to say your idea is a good one, because they’re your friends. If you want to know whether your business idea is good, don’t ask people whether they like the idea of your product or service, or whether they would buy it, ask them to actually buy it.

It isn’t all or nothing

This is the message I think is most important from this whole post. Once you’ve established what your goal is, you don’t have to jump right in but you do need to do something.

Let’s say you’ve been offered 10 hours of work per week doing the job you’ve retrained for but this won’t give you the income you need. It isn’t necessary to leave your full time job entirely to start your new career. See whether you can trial the new job by doing a few hours at the weekends or in the evenings. It might be tough for a few months to fit around your other commitments but if you don’t give the new career a go or you’re always waiting for the “right time”, it’ll never come. You could save the money from the additional hours so that when you do decide to drop the full time job, you’ve got a buffer if you can’t immediately find enough hours of work.

Another alternative is to talk to your full time employer about working compressed hours or reducing your hours so you can give the new career a try. They might say no, but they might say yes. And, you’re in the bargaining seat. The alternative for them is that you leave, or that you are distracted at work because you are constantly thinking “what if…”

You don’t owe your employer anything

Except for professionalism. Of course you want to be on good terms with your employer whether you choose to leave or not, but no matter how kind they’ve been to you, it’s business and they understand it’s business too. Just because this is your boss’s dream job, it doesn’t mean it has to be yours, you are your own person, do what you want to do, not what you think you should do.

Go for it

This blog is all about building confidence so you can achieve your dreams, whether they’re to start a new business or to achieve other life goals. So far I’ve written posts about confidenceassertivenessself compassion and accepting compliments and I’ll continue to share my insights into building confidence with you. I want to finish today’s post by sharing this article from The Guardian. These five stories are of people who’ve left their day jobs to do something very different. I’d love to hear from you if you have plans to become a human cannonball by the way.

Life Planning Week 3

Welcome to the third week of life planning. This is a really exciting week and if you’ve missed the other two posts on life planning you can catch up here.

The idea of setting goals can feel daunting, particularly if you feel that achieving them is far away in the distance, but be brave, have the courage to be who you really are as if you set goals you’ll quickly start making steps towards achieving what you really want. 

We live in a world with so many possibilities, so many more than the generations before us. It’s such an exciting time to be alive, you can do anything you could dream of, I mean, Virgin are putting people in space through their Virgin Galactic programme. Normal people can actually go to space, that is mind-blowing.

So far in this journey we’ve identified the key themes for our life plan, our categories, and we wrote about how we’d like each of these areas of our lives to look. Week 3 is where it starts to get more real and exciting, we now need to make some goals which will get us to this position.

The best way to do this is to look at each category in turn and I’ll talk you through this process. You might find it useful to read my post about SMART goals which has some helpful tips for setting achievable goals.

1. Choose a goal

You’ll have built up quite a few categories within your life for focus, and I’d suggest looking at each at the lowest level of detail here. My hobbies category had a few branches, learning German and learning the saxophone, pick and focus on one at a time. You might find it easiest to start with the areas which seem easier for you first.

I’ve talked about my goal of learning to play the saxophone. This isn’t mind blowing or difficult to think about so let’s start here. My vision for this area of my life is to be able to pick up my favourite music book and play a repertoire of pieces. And I want to not feel afraid of performing in front of others.

2. Consider the current reality

Think about how this area of your life currently looks compared to how you want it to be. It can be helpful to draw a table to do this analysis in.

 Goal  Current reality
 To play a repertoire of pieces of music I can play selected songs but I wouldn’t consider them my favourite pieces

I’m close to being ready for my grade 5 saxophone exam

 To perform in front of others comfortably I never play in front of others

3. Set SMART goals which bridge the gaps

These don’t need to be particularly large goals, they can be broken into small steps which will help you to achieve your long term goal.

 Goal  Current reality SMART Goal
 To play a repertoire of pieces of music  I can play selected songs but I wouldn’t consider them my favourite pieces to play

I’m close to being ready for my grade 5 saxophone exam

Research the music I’d like to learn to play and select one piece per month to perfect

Aim to pass grade 5 by September 2016

Practice 4 times per week with a longer session at the weekend

Attend fortnightly music lessons

 To perform in front of others comfortably  I never play in front of others Find an opportunity to take part in a saxophone ensemble by the end of 2016

If you follow these steps I think you’ll find it fairly straightforward to build some interesting goals, and by ensuring they’re achievable, you’ll be inspired to work towards achieving them.

Once I’d finished my own life planning, I wrote it up into a document which I can keep on my phone. It’s got a section for each category of my life with goals, realities and SMART goals, but because this became a ten page document, I added a summary to the end listing just my SMART goals. On a daily and weekly basis, this is enough of a prompt for me and a reminder to keep me on track, you might find this helpful to you or you might find it helpful to jot a few things down in a diary or note book. It’s entirely up to you, what’s most important is to keep referring to your goals so you can keep working towards them one step at a time.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m an avid Gretchen Rubin fan and in a recent podcast she was talking about how people tend to make excuses for avoiding their diets, not exercising today or splashing the cash when their bigger plan is to lose weight or to save a house deposit. They tell themselves things like “you only live once”, “it’s a special occasion”, or “I’ve had a bad day at work”. Although it’s true that you do only live once, and maybe you have had a bad day at work and feel you deserve a treat, these little excuses can deter you from reaching your ultimate goals. When you’re trying to reach a long term goal where you don’t instantly see the results it’s important to keep the end goal in sight and set small goals along the way to keep you on track. Each little trip to the gym adds up to achieving your long term weight loss goal, each £1 saved adds up to that house deposit, one little distraction isn’t going to make the difference, but distraction on top of distraction will be the difference between whether you achieve your long term goal or whether you don’t.

Sometimes it’s easier to set goals when you can see examples of others people have already set, so I’ve put together a table here of goals, realities and SMART objectives which I hope you find inspirational. These aren’t my own goals, I’ve tried to think of goals and realities that people might be facing which they wish to address. I’d love to hear from you about your own life planning, please comment on the post to get in touch!

 Goal  Current Reality SMART Goals
 Health: Run a Marathon I haven’t ever run a marathon before Enter the 2017 London Marathon

Buy and follow the training guide in How to Run a Marathon by Katrina Abiasi

Enter and take part in the local half marathon in September 2016

 Health: Lose 2 stone I have tried many diets and have been unable to lose the weight I want  Join the slimming club at my local community centre which meets on Monday evenings

Follow the eating plan and attend each session to track my progress

Aim to lose 2 stone by 31 December 2016

 Money: Clear debt I have £1000 of credit card debt and a £2000 loan Work overtime and look for opportunities to earn extra income by selling unneeded belongings, and to save money by not purchasing coffee on the way to work

Use the debt-snowball method of paying off debts first which have the highest interest rate

Aim to pay off £500 per month and be debt free by March 2017

 Money: Save a house deposit  I have £5000 of savings and need to save another £15000  Work overtime and look for opportunities to earn extra income by selling unneeded belongings, and to save money by not purchasing coffee on the way to work

Aim to save £500 per month and invest savings in a high interest bond. Aim to have deposit within 24 months

 Partner: Have a loving and successful relationship  My partner and I love each other but are often distracted by work / children / home and don’t give each other enough of our time.

We go for a lot of meals but often with other people

Meet my partner for lunch once per fortnight to discuss work/children/home issues so that when we get home we don’t need to focus on these things and can just enjoy being together

Arrange something special / unusual with my partner, just the two of us every two months

 House: Complete odd jobs and sell the house  I want to move to a larger house but my house needs work before it can be sold  Itemise list of outstanding odd jobs and tackle them one per fortnight

Book house valuation for three months time with aim of putting house up for sale immediately

 Work: Leave my job and become a swimming instructor  I’m currently working full time but would like to work for myself. I’ve been offered part time work but I’m nervous about leaving my secure job Do cost/benefit analysis of working in current job versus starting out

Work out how much income my family needs me to earn

Discuss option of working part time in current job while I pursue part time swimming instruction

Explore options for evening / weekend swimming instruction before committing to cut in hours at work

 Friends & Family: See more of them  I don’t find the time to see all of my friend and family. Some friends are more proactive that others in arranging get-togethers so I tend to see them more Arrange to see my sister once per quarter

Arrange to see friends at home once per quarter

See my friends locally at least monthly

Travel: See more of the world  I book holidays on a whim and haven’t been to a lot of places I want to because it feels too expensive. I often revisit places I’ve been before Make a list of destinations I want to visit with rough budgets

Plan one big holiday per year which can fit around other financial commitments for the year

Plan one European break per year

Have regular weekends away locally and to visit friends

This is my final life planning post, I’d love to hear from you if you’ve used these posts to build your own life plan. Have any of your goals surprised you? Has prioritising helped you to plan and take action?

Get Healthy

This blog is about confidence, it’s about being happy in yourself, building motivation and feeling able to achieve your goals. For some of us, one big confidence hurdle is our health. It’s World Health Day today so I thought it would be a great opportunity to write something about being healthy. There’s no denying that being healthy is good for us physically but it’s also good for our mood and for our minds. Because for many I know that health is a life goal, I wanted to write a short post about the benefits of being healthy with some tips and pointers.

We are less active these days, we live lives which involve driving or using public transport rather than walking and cycling, we use screens for much of the day and it’s easy to get by with convenience food and not moving our bodies. As a Fit Bit user I can tell you that on some Sundays at home I’ve been guilty of walking no more than 725 steps in a day.

The NHS tells us our risk of many scary illnesses is reduced if we exercise regularly and recommends that adults should try to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Eating well also helps us feel and look at our best, and it’s easy to do. I’m as guilty as anyone of forgetting about healthy eating the moment a big piece of chocolate cake is put in front of me, what’s important is balance and there are some great tips on eating a balanced diet and reducing sugar intake on the NHS website.

My top tips for getting and staying healthy are:

Exercise

Choose something you love and commit to it. The NHS recommend we exercise 150 minutes per week, this could be doing anything from going for a run or to the gym to gardening or playing a team sport.

If you’re thinking about joining a gym, consider joining one which is close to home or work so it’s convenient to get to. If you like running it might motivate you more if you plan your routes in advance, or if you have the support which comes with joining a running club, or if you sign up for a challenging race or a charity event which makes you feel you need to practice. You could join a football or a netball team, or join a rowing club and go rowing on the local river. When I moved house, I joined a local aerobics class and have made great friends by attending. This is great motivation for me because I enjoy the routines but I also get to see my friends. I also feel like I’m letting my friends down if I don’t go.

If you have a family, try to build activities into your days together so that you can become a healthier family. I recently took my sister and her children trampolining and we had such a brilliant time, it’s not something we could do every week, but my niece is now really keen to take up trampolining at school. Go on bike rides, go for walks, and make it fun, it doesn’t need to be a walk for a sake of a walk, take a football, go on a nature trail, jump in puddles…

If you don’t feel ready to exercise in public, consider some home workouts. You could follow the workouts in health magazines like Women’s Health, or look for workout circuits on Pinterest. Some people find home work out DVDs really helpful because they’re convenient for fitting into a small window in the day when you might not have enough time to go to the gym. I love the Beach Body DVDs TurboFire I bought them in 2012 and still use them today.

Eat well

Eating healthily isn’t complicated although the masses of diets on the market make us feel like it is. I think eating healthily is about focussing on healthy wholefoods and avoiding too much sugar. Eat breakfast, eat lots of fruit and veg, lots of lean protein and less red meat, and drink more water. Try to cook from scratch and be wary that some seemingly healthy foods like smoothies and cereal bars contain a lot more sugar than you might expect. I know myself that having a busy job can make it really hard to eat healthily. One trick I’ve found is to write a weekly meal plan. It doesn’t matter which days we have the meals on, but knowing what to cook is the first step in eating healthily. Knowing we have the ingredients for a healthy meal in the fridge makes me less likely to call for pizza! Try to follow the NHS Eatwell Guide and remember it’s ok to treat yourself occasionally.

I really like Calgary Avansino’s book Keep it Real for healthy balanced meals which is focused on clean eating with a lot of focus on eating fruit and veg over meat.

Be inspired

Read things which inspire you. I subscribe to Women’s Health because I know I’ll look at the pictures and want to exercise. Follow inspirational boards on Pinterest – I have a Health board if this will help you get started and you might find it helpful to subscribe to motivational fitness blogs like mighty mum  and fitness on toast and put pictures around the house which will keep you focused on where you want to be.

Get started

The first step of course is to get started, set yourself a goal and make smaller goals to help you achieve it. You might find it helpful to read my life planning posts if you want to get started with setting some goals. Don’t be afraid to dream big!

 

 

SMART Goals

If you’ve been following my life planning series you’ll know that we’re going to start to set some life plan goals soon. I’m really excited about this, setting goals has motivated me to make a lot of progress with some plans which have sat quietly at the back of my mind for a long time . I’m amazed by how much easier it is for me to make decisions with more clarity. Whether you’re building your life plan or not, knowing how to set SMART goals is a really helpful technique so I wanted to share this with you. I appreciate that SMART is used all over the place, you might have come across it at work or on a training programme, but you might not have thought about it in terms of your own life goals before. 

SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. I find this method helpful to set good, clear goals. To help, let’s use a couple of examples. I’d like to learn to play the saxophone, someone else might want to climb Kilomanjaro, or wrote a book, who knows? So, how can I make these SMART goals?

Specific

Define the goal in clear language. What do I want to accomplish? If it’s relevant it can be helpful to think about where this will take place, who will be involved and why I want to accomplish it.

I want to play the sax well.

I want to climb Kilimanjaro.

I want to write a novel. 

Measurable

Think of a way to track or measure the progress.

I’ve set a goal to achieve grade 5 standard. 

I want to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.

I want to write and publish a novel. 

Achievable

Think about whether the goal is something you can realistically achieve, don’t set the bar too high or too low.

I currently play at grade 4 level so grade 5 is within reach. 

Setting a goal of grade 8 might take too long to achieve resulting in me losing motivation.

I currently do a lot of hiking and have climbed other smaller mountains. I could follow a training plan and be fit enough within one year. 

I wrote regularly and have written short stories and a novella. I have a plot outline and believe I can write a novel if I give myself the right time frame and can remain motivated. 

Relevant

Think about whether the goal is worthwhile and whether it meets your needs. The goal should fit with your overall plans to give you the motivation to achieve it.

As it’s a goal in my life plan, learning to play the saxophone is relevant for me. 

I could use the opportunity to raise money for a charity which is important to me and in my life plan. 

I want to write a novel. 

Time bound

Your goal should include a time limit to give you motivation to achieve it.

I want to pass my grade 5 exam by the end of September 2016. 

I want to climb Kilimanjaro by Summer 2017.

I will write the first draft the book within one year with monthly milestone targets for a plot outline, the first chapter etc. 

For some goals it can be really helpful to break it down into smaller achievable chunks even if you see the main goal as achievable. It can be hard to keep focused on goals which will take more than a month or two to achieve. Having mini deadlines can help you stay on track with your overall timeline, I have mini SMART objectives for long term goals like projects at home, starting my own business and even smaller tasks like learning the sax which help me stay on track. Setting monthly, weekly and even daily goals can help you make huge progress and keep you focussed from one day to the next.