This blog forms part 2 of ‘Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard’. For part 1, head over here.
In today’s post I’m discussing my tips for how you can apply the above motto to your personal life. Well, this is how I do it anyway. You may find some of these applicable for yourself :-).
When you’re traveling, training and eating
I’ve done a lot of traveling over the years, my fair share of training and I’m an expert at eating (just ask my mum, or my friends…). So I feel qualified to share some advice on how you can make the right things easy and the wrong things hard. I will focus on the first part, making the right things easy, because it automatically makes the wrong things harder…
On the road
Travelling is often used as an excuse to put our noble resolutions aside and just go with the flow, eat whatever we like, wear whatever we like and do whatever we like. And that’s fun, but can result in a small (or large) dose of regret when we come home. I’m as guilty of that as the next person, but have learned over time to set myself up for success.
In my day job I get to travel a lot. I go to London about once a month for a few days and visit family/friends in Germany in between. Over a decade of living downunder also helped me figure out a workable approach to long-haul flights, so I have come to value being prepared and making travel as simple as possible.
To make your next trip as simple and successful as possible, here is what I recommend:
- double up on the necessities. I have all my toiletries 3x. One set at home, one set in my sports bag and one set in my suitcase for travelling. No need to pack and re-pack every time, it’s just ready to go. Small bottles of stuff, just the essentials, packed and zipped up ready to go at a moment’s notice
- capsule wardrobe. This is a big one. Over the last couple of years I have simplified my closet so it only includes items that can be worn in any combination. My favourite colours are navy, black, white and red. So almost everything I own comes in those shades. This means I can pull out any pair of trousers or skirt and combine it with any of the blouses or t-shirts and I’ll be fine. The shoes match too, so I can’t turn up looking weird. It’s almost like a uniform but with a bit more freedom and creativity sprinkled in. It makes for easier packing, too.
- get the app. Choose whatever app works for you, but let technology help you simplify your travels. Boarding passes on the phone are much more convenient than crumpled pieces of paper that you’ve spilled your own on earlier. I also use ‘Time Buddy‘ to help me figure out time zones easily
- get the right bag.
I have invested in a couple of high quality suitcases and bags for travelling. Yes, it costs a bit of money but it was worth every cent. Not only are they lightweight, but they wheel around easily and they look pretty good as well. For my laptop I have a nice handbag that slides over my trolley handles, but I have recently splurged on a decent backpack for when I need a bit of room next to my laptop. The colours are predictable… 😉
- be nice. Often overlooked as we rush through the check-in and get annoyed at waiting in long queues but if you want to make travelling easier for yourself and turn your business or leisure trips into a success from the start, be nice to people. Airport staff deal with a lot of annoying stuff and a lot of rude people. Be different. Approach them all with kindness and see how much more enjoyable your trip becomes.
Early morning check-in for that long-haul flight? Greet the person at the counter with a smile, maybe even a little joke about the weather or traffic and have all your stuff ready for them. See how that changes your check-in procedure. They may even let you get away with your bag being too heavy… (charm works 90% of the time…)
There are plenty more things you can do when travelling, but these should be a good enough start for now, so let’s move on to some more exhausting stuff…
On your feet
2 months ago you you started the year with the best of intentions: lose weight and get in shape. Right? Where are things at? How is your progress going?
Laziness be gone
I used to be a lazy person. Yes, I was lazy and I didn’t move much, even though I had plenty of time. At some point I started running. This was in 2005. I didn’t enjoy it, but I stuck with it for a few years. I wasn’t good at it, but at least I was doing something. I even entered a few fun runs and completed a marathon in 2008.
Fast forward a few years and we moved to Australia where I bought myself a pretty simple bicycle so I could get around and explore. One day I decided that I wanted to ride my bike every single day. So I did. Of course, I missed the odd day, but for a year I consistently rode my bike 5-6 mornings a week and I loved it.
Did I get fit, lean and fast? No, it was a pretty leisurely pace, but I created a habit that become part of my everyday life. Not riding just wasn’t an option.
Up for a new challenge
At the end of 2014 I decided to give this triathlon stuff a go. So I did and just started. I enjoyed the variety of swimming, cycling and running A LOT and completed a couple of races, noticing I wasn’t half-bad at this multi-sport thing. So I stuck with it and created a new habit. Not training wasn’t an option.
What makes it easy for me to be successful in sticking to my training plan is to have routines. Sounds boring? Maybe, but it’s the only way it works for me.
I have a training plan I follow, because it works.
And it takes the mental load off me as I don’t have to figure out what to do.
I just pay a trainer to tell me what to do, because he knows far better how to help me reach my goals and I just follow what he says.
Routines and time savers
Secondly, I build other routines into my day to support my ‘triathlon life’. Laundry is a big topic in our house and I seem to be washing clothes every second day – even though there’s only two of us. Simple things like using the timer on the washing machine so it’s ready in the morning for me to hang up before I leave the house make it easy to have all the necessary clothes ready when I need them.
I also started driving to work instead of catching the train. This saves me 90min of commuting time every day and means I can make better use of pool opening hours.
Getting to bed on time isn’t as simple as it sounds but it helps me stick to my training plan, get up early and knock out the miles.
When I have an early start in the morning, which is most mornings, I make sure to get all my training gear ready the night before.
Swim/run gear is packed and the bag ready to go; cycling gear is ready to be put on in the morning without much thought. I just cannot fail if everything is setup for me.
Lastly, while I miss my Sydney swim squad, I have now found a great running group among my colleagues, which means I can do 2-3 group runs a week, which is much more fun than doing it by myself. And if it’s fun, I’ll more likely stick to it successfully.
Setup some systems and routines to ensure you cannot fail with your training plan. It could be finding training buddies or simply a nicer gym or a baby-sitter once a week so you can go on that long ride, etc. Try a few things and stick with what works.
And with this I come to the last part – my favourite… FOOD.
On your plate
We all have to eat and given that every single cell of your body was at some point created from raw materials that were influenced by the food you put into your mouth, it’s a valid topic to include in a blog about being successful in what you do by making the right things easy and the wrong things hard.
People regularly comment on my food choices. I get a lot of criticism for not eating certain things (animal products) and have heard A LOT of lame jokes over the past 9 years since going vegan. But my lifestyle change has also meant that I found a few ways to achieve that ‘healthy eating’ habit so many people want to create and by now it has become almost impossible to do ‘the wrong things’ and eat unhealthy stuff.
Of course, you say, when you eat only plant-based foods it’s easy to eat healthy. But fries are vegan as is Coca Cola and dark chocolate, and there is a vast amount of vegan junk food out there for me to consume, but I’m just not interested or tempted anymore.
Let’s start with some tips:
- if you want to stop eating chocolate every night, don’t buy chocolate.
Don’t have it in the house. But your kids want chocolate?
It’s not oxygen, they don’t need it either. And if you buy chocolate, don’t buy a block, just get a small bar, share it and be done with it. Out of sight, out of mind is my number 1 recommendation
- don’t like green vegetables? Don’t eat them. Just eat the vegetables you like. And if that happens to only be potatoes, corn, pumpkin and onions, then that is okay. Skip the greens and just eat more of the other stuff. It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. Over time your taste buds change and you may start liking greens. If not, then the world isn’t going to stop. If you eat more potatoes and pumpkin instead of pizza and pies, you’re still much better off! I eat salad about twice a week, the rest is all fruit and potatoes pretty much :-).
- craving candy all the time? Eat fruit instead. Don’t like fruit? Surely, there is at least one fruit you like. If not, then eat potatoes :-). But if you’re a fan of strawberries or bananas or pineapple or mango or whatever your favourite is, then eat a lot of that. The more fruit you eat, the more healthy fruit sugar you consume. Every cell runs on sugar, so give it sugar. Not the processed stuff. The natural sugar that comes in fruit. It comes combined with water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, so you’re all good. The more fruit you eat, the less candy you’ll crave. I promise (and no, you’re not that special, your body works like everyone else’s… have you ever heard one elephant say to another one “ummm no, my body doesn’t do so well on these leaves, I think I’ll just stick with eating chimpanzees instead…”). Start your day with fruit and I don’t mean one measly apple. Eat all the apples you care for. Or eat a whole pineapple. It’ll be amazing and you’ll get energised and hydrated. And you won’t crave sweet junk.
You don’t have to believe me, but what have you got to lose? For the last 8 years, I have consumed about 75-80% of my daily calories from fruit. It’s been pretty glorious to say the least. I promise, you won’t regret it.
- want to drink more water? Start your day with 1 litre/32oz of water and see how you feel. That’s also something I have been doing for about 8 years now and it has made a huge difference. No more dehydration as you get 30% of your intake done and dusted before leaving the house.
- eating too much takeaway food? Make your own lunch but keep it simple. Near our office there are limited food outlets and with the cold weather we’ve been having in the past couple of months, I wasn’t so keen to venture far from the warmth of our office. So I decided to bring my own lunch again (breakfast and dinner are always brought from home as well).
Not only is it healthier but it saves me quite a bit of money as well.
What do I take to work? Well, I have simplified my food A LOT, because I’m not fussy, so it’s just steamed potatoes and corn with some sauce or just a bunch of bananas or something like that. But regardless of what you like to eat, by preparing it ahead of time, you’ll make it much easier to stick to healthy habits.
Just make sure you eat enough. A leafy salad with a can of tuna isn’t going to keep you full beyond 2pm…
I could talk endlessly about food, but I think you get the idea: Make it easy to eat the right things by making it convenient for yourself to eat them. Make it hard to eat the wrong things by not buying them in the first place.
And if you want to eat the same stuff every day to make life even easier, then do that. Don’t worry about the questions from others, just do your thing. If you get fed up with your daily menu, you can always change it ;-).
Routines are good, even if others find them boring. If they help you improve at what you do, that’s fine and you should stick to them until you find an even better way of doing things. Creating the right habits and behaviours will support you in sticking to those routines. Others may belittle you, but this is about your success so don’t be discouraged. There will always be haters, but don’t let them distract you on your mission. Let it strengthen your resilience.
So what does it come down to? I think a lot of success can be attributed to simplifying our increasingly complicated lives. Technology has solved a lot of menial and repetitive tasks for us, but with the arrival of social networks, the knowledge industry and countless new job profiles in the past couple of decades, the level of complexity and mental demand in our daily lives seem to have grown significantly.
We want to keep up with life and enjoy all the fun things, without compromising. But we can’t have it all. I still have to learn that lesson and dad often tells me to slow down. I don’t want to slow down and I don’t want to miss out on anything life has to offer. Because I don’t know whether I’ll get a second run on this planet, I want to pack as much as possible into my life and by simplifying, streamlining and making the right things easy, I am planning to make it a successful ride.
If you have any good strategies and techniques that help you be more successful in your day-to-day life, please share them in the comments below. I love hearing from you guys!