Dear diary

How keeping a one-line diary has changed the way I look at, describe and recall my day… and my life.

On this day in 2013, I was having my first wedding dress fitting. And it’ll be a year ago this weekend that I saw a fantastic production of Sunday in the Park with George, with (and this pleases me no end) my friend George. And around this time last year, I was enjoying reading The Woman in White. Fascinating, I know – but more interesting is how I know and remember all this. Well, in 2013, I started keeping a one-line-a-day, five-year diary. The concept is this: each date has a page, each page is divided into five sections. You write on the same page on the same date each year – and you do so for five years.

I bought my journal for a song. Baby blue and leather-bound with gold-edged paper, it’s a little marvel that consistently makes me reflect on the passage of time – both looking back and thinking forward. I find traditional journaling a chore – the pressure to write regularly, the tendency just to pen a personal monologue of every worried, angry or depressed thought I’ve had. But this diary is different – I only have space to write two sentences, which only take a couple of minutes so there’s no pressure. Even more delightful is my discovery that, far from dragging me into a quagmire of self-analysis and rehashing my doubts and fears, it elevates my thoughts and offers me clarity and positivity.

Remember, remember…

Since I began the project, having just a few lines in which to sum up my day has made me think very clearly about what I want to be reminded of five years from now. Do I want to write that I had an argument with my boss, got a manicure and had drinks with a friend? Or perhaps I want to express something that I won’t remember unless I write it down. A stunning winter sunset watched from the office window with a couple of fun colleagues as we worked late? The stranger on the metro who handed me a tissue when I was crying with laughter reading David Sedaris? It makes me really choose what shapes my memories and thus my experience of the day.

How was your day?

And by making me consider what I want to remember about this day, the diary also makes me think about what I want to focus on here and now. So, when my husband asks about my day, I can go into details about an endless meeting, a last-minute request for a report, a coaching client who keeps changing her appointment. Or… I can tell him about a great book I read during my commute, the email I got from a friend I haven’t seen in ages, how I got on in my yoga class. What I choose to tell him about my day colours how I view my day even as I see it that very evening.

Looking back

Now that I’m in my second year of the diary, I also get to look back at what I was doing last year. I have cited just a few examples and every memory makes me smile. When I’m feeling in a rut and look back at what I was doing last year, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. I’m also noticing potential patterns: for two years running, late January has not been a pleasant time for me. Maybe in 2015 I’ll be able to factor that in and find a way to take the edge off.

Choosing your memories

Journaling, of either the traditional sort or the type I’ve embarked upon, may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but really thinking about how you want to describe your day, week, month or year and what you’d like to remember are great habits to adopt. It’s so easy to get caught up in what went wrong with your day or what you didn’t get done, but those things don’t have to be the sum of your experience. So, the next time you’re having drinks with a friend on a Friday night and she asks, “So, how was your week?” think about what you want your week to have been about and the experience you want to call to mind before you answer.

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When giving up makes you the winner

Seeing things through. Honouring your commitments. Giving your all. Noble thoughts, and laudable goals indeed, but are they always the best route to peace and happiness?

Stop pushing yourself

This week, as I was leaving the office after a hectic day, I faced a dilemma. I had a life coach networking event to attend and, boy, did I not want to go. All I could think about was a hot bath, a glass of wine and a comedy show that would relax my over-taxed brain. But wait, the type-A/achiever/self-motivator demon living inside me shouted: “You’ll regret not going and slobbing on the sofa when you could be making valuable new contacts!” I phoned a friend. “Don’t go”, she said, “You’ll regret going because if it’s anything other than insanely useful, you’ll just sit there wishing you’d listened to yourself and headed home”.

It took a lot of effort for me to overcome the dire sense that I was copping out – baling on something I’d said I would do. (Said to whom? Just myself and my diary!) And yet… as I unwound at home, I didn’t regret staying in one bit. It didn’t feel like laziness or doing myself out of opportunities. It felt something a little like… self-care.

Help those who would be helped

It has been theorised that when you decide to buy a red car, you start seeing red cars everywhere. In that spirit, a coaching client this week brought me a second example of when giving up is far from giving in. She was bewailing her failed attempts to help a friend, complaining that the friend just wouldn’t listen and was impossible to help: “I sometimes think my friend doesn’t want my help.” Ah, there it is. My powerful coaching question: “So, if this person doesn’t want help, what’s the result of trying to help him against his will?”

Cue fireworks, glass shattering, earth ceasing to rotate on its axis for a split second. “Yes”, said my client slowly, wrapping her mind around my unexpected enquiry, “I can only really help people who want to be helped. The rest is just a waste of energy.” When faced with intransigence and a lack of willing, insistence can only lead to frustration and even conflict; sometimes giving up is an act of self-protection and kindness.

Why shout them down?

I have recently been grappling with a difficult relationship with a work colleague. She does not listen. I don’t mean she hears what I say then ignores my recommendations. No, worse: she literally doesn’t let anyone speak – she cuts people off, talks over them; I even saw her get up and leave the room when another co-worker was mid-sentence answering a question she has asked. This kind of behaviour pushes all my buttons. A lack of consideration for anyone else’s contribution to the discussion (otherwise known as interrupting, not letting you finish, finishing your sentence for you) is a personal bête noire.

This week I realised (finally) that I was never going to change this woman (see my previous point!), and I am certainly not willing to shout in order to be heard. So I decided I’d just stop. Stop trying to make her hear, stop trying to give her my opinion, stop attempting to converse with her at all, in fact. And, oh, the relief! Essentially, I’ve decided that if she doesn’t want to hear me, I won’t waste my breath. I’ll give up, and in doing so, I’ll conserve my energy and spend it on someone who wants to listen and who shows me enough courtesy to deserve my precious time!

Obviously, powering through is sometimes the best course of action – who wants to be someone who doesn’t follow through or get anything done? But it’s essential to identify those times when the wiser course of action is to stop trying so hard, walk away from a damaging situation, or abandon a toxic project or relationship. Sometimes giving up is not equivalent to losing the war but to picking your battles.

 

Finding time

We all get just 24 hours in our day, so how come some people seem to manage to find time for everything and others are permanently rushing? When it comes to time management, some are definitely more equal than others.

The most common complaint I hear from friends, colleagues and coaching clients is some variant of “I would like to, but I don’t have time”. I don’t have time to exercise, take up a hobby, read more, write my novel, go to the theatre… We live in an age of endless time-saving devices; we have more holiday allowance than ever before; and the Internet makes accessing information from around the globe the work of seconds. Yet some of us still struggle to fit everything into the same 24 hours that everyone else is getting. Here are a few simple strategies to reclaim the clock and slow down the race.

1.       Saying yes means saying no

And saying no means saying yes. When you say yes to dinner with friends, you are saying no to an evening on the sofa watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother. And when you say no to drinks with a colleague after work, perhaps you’re saying yes to a bath, a book and early to bed. When you are conscious of what you’re accepting and what you’re rejecting, you can start to make more conscious choices based on what your body, mind and soul need right now. And that’s a first step to using time on purpose.

2.       You can achieve a lot in 5 minutes

You can make the bed, do a short breathing exercise, send a text to reach out to a friend, or write a list of prospects to contact for your business. Every minute is useful for something. Don’t get sucked into to thinking that if you don’t have a whole hour to spend on a project there’s no way you can make any progress today.

3.       Christmas is on 25th December, every single year

And this year will be no exception. So why do so many people find themselves queuing up to buy a soap selection basket in The Body Shop at 4pm on Christmas Eve? Why not buy gifts throughout the year (when you happen upon the perfect present or the sales are in full swing) and put them away until Christmas? Why not set aside a weekend at the end of October for some internet purchases and another mid November to head to the shops? It’s all about planning. The same is true of birthdays, anniversaries and tax returns. Don’t let events that you can so easily anticipate sneak up on you!

4.       Remember who’s the slave and who’s the master

Is Facebook a fun way of keeping up with distant friends or a time suck that distracts you from writing your thesis? Does Twitter help you keep up with the latest news while you’re in between meetings, or do you find yourself emerging from a session of tweet-surfing to find that an hour has passed and your friend’s surprise birthday party hasn’t planned itself? Social media and the Internet can be forces for organisation and time-efficiency when used well. Make sure you’re staying in control.

We all get the same 24 hours every day. And what you choose to do with them is your business. Just make sure you’re doing just that: choosing.   

The three-step guide to a glossier life

We all know a woman who seems to have it all, the kind that truly can run in heels and not break an ankle. She makes us all feel our lives are just a little shabby in comparison. But what if, instead of hating her, you could become her?

We all know one. You know, those women who seem to float through life, casually picking up promotions, planning parties and wafting around their pristine apartments, all the while remaining perpetually pretty and perfectly primped. Even as you’re reading this, you’re imagining the one you know, aren’t you? She’s that woman who just makes everything you do seem a little less fabulous, a little less cool, or just plain pointless. Her life is easier, more serene and, well, just – shinier – than everyone else’s. Doesn’t she just make you want throw something?

Well, instead of seething and breaking your favourite vase, what about applying the old “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” adage? What about becoming one of those glossy girls? “But that’s madness!” you cry? Why no, it’s all about attitude – and that, thankfully, is something that’s completely within your control. Here’s my guide to becoming one of those women in three simple steps.

You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.

The first thing to know about the Glossy Girl is that her sheen is an external characteristic. When you compare what she projects with how you feel, you’re comparing apples and oranges. She looks confident and joyful; you perhaps feel a little shy today, and slightly under the weather. But how do you know what she’s really feeling inside? She might be a bag of nerves and obsessing about her new haircut, which she hates, but she’s choosing (and I use that word intentionally) to be upbeat and outgoing.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all bury our emotions, or avoid sharing with our friends. Far from it. Healthy expression of feelings during low times is crucial. This is not about fooling the world. What the Glossy Girl has mastered is the art of fooling herself. Remember that scene in The King and I where Deborah Kerr as Anna Leonowens teaches her son to whistle a happy tune so no-one will know he’s afraid? The last lines are a masterpiece of self-help in musical form:

The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well!

I whistle a happy tune
And ev’ry single time
The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I’m not afraid.

Make believe you’re brave
And the trick will take you far.
You may be as brave
As you make believe you are!

Whether it’s fear, anxiety, discomfort, stress, self-doubt – whistle your happy tune, and along with charming everyone else at the party with your bright and breezy demeanour, you might just trick yourself into feeling rather better too.

Leave the victims for Law and Order

The second thing the Glossy Girl has mastered is the art of victimless living. It’s impossible to achieve her kind of charmed life while believing yourself to be a victim of circumstance or a helpless pawn in destiny’s cruel game of chess. Let’s think about why our Glossy got that promotion, or was asked to work on that coveted project that involves a monthly to trip to Rome/New York/LA (substitute much-dreamed-of city of your choice). I’m willing to bet that Glossy, instead of standing around the water cooler gossiping or complaining about her workload, rolled her sleeves up and got on with her job, working hard and – dirty words coming up – making the best of her lot. I know, I know, it all sounds very 1950s East End, but the merits of making do and mending, accepting the situation, putting on a brave face, cannot be overstated. In the short term, such an attitude can perk you up and help you through the day; in the long term, it shows the people around you that, even when life isn’t perfect, you’re going to get the most out of it and do your best. Why wouldn’t that kind of woman be first in line for promotion? I’d hire her.

Glossy Girl Power

The other result of casting off any “poor me” mentality is even more important. The minute you decide that you’re not a victim of life but its mistress, you take back all the power you were once attributing to – well, to what? To fate? Your parents? Your education? Your looks? Fine, you didn’t choose your family, nor did you probably have much say in your schooling, and your genes are your genes – but you are now an adult and every decision you make is your own. The Glossy Girl hasn’t always had a more privileged upbringing, or more opportunities, nor is she necessarily prettier than anyone else. But she has decided that what she is, what she does, what she thinks, is in her hands and hers alone.

A Glossy Girl does not bewail her single status; she sets up her internet dating profile, joins clubs, lets friends know she’s open to subtly orchestrated set-ups. If Glossy needs a dress for a fancy wedding but has no budget, she won’t decline the invitation or turn up in something that feels inappropriate and spend the evening hugging a wall; she’ll search her local thrift shops and find a friend with a needle to make adjustments. And if Glossy finds herself home alone on a Saturday night, she doesn’t throw a pity party, she takes the opportunity to do a home facial, finish the ironing, catch up on emails and watch a “guilty pleasure” film that she’d never admit to enjoying (we all have them, don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about).

The thing is, Glossy really has no more control over her life than you or I; her advantage lies in her owning that power and never forgetting for a second that she’s in charge of her life and therefore responsible for her own happiness.

So, there you have it – for glossy tresses, I recommend a good hair mask once a week; for a glossy, glossy life: whistle a happy tune; refuse to be a victim; and own your power. Because you’re worth it.

Quality over quantity. Or, How I plan to become more like Grace Kelly

Self-respect manifests itself in multiple ways – not least in the choices we make on a daily basis. Make sure the decisions you make for yourself are considerate, attentive and confident, and Grace Kelly-like poise and graciousness is well within reach.

As I sit down to write this month’s dose of my personal musings, I have a glass of full-bodied red wine, ripe blue cheese and fresh bread at my side, and Rear Window is playing on the television in the background. I mention these things not to complete the stereotype of life in France, nor to incite alcoholism and gluttony in readers through the power of suggestion. No, I mention them because all three exemplify the theme of this month’s ponderings: the concept of quality over quantity.

Never to settle

Quality over quantity is the resolution I made as I turned 33 recently. I decided that too often I settle. I settle in certain areas in my life in a way that I wouldn’t dream of doing in others. Before I met the Beloved, I rarely had long-term boyfriends as the minute I realised this wasn’t The One, I called things off; I aimed for the best university I could; I apply for the jobs I really want, even when I know 500 others candidates are also on the case. I consider myself someone who doesn’t settle. And yet… I’ll go and buy a pair of not-quite-right shoes that aren’t really the brown I wanted but hey ho. And then I’ll obviously have to buy another pair later on in the year because I have five outfits for which I have no suitable shoes. I’ll say yes to a drink after work with people I sort of get along with in a bid to extend my social circle. Then I’ll realise I no longer have a free evening that week to see some of my best friends. I’ll watch random rubbish on TV because there’s nothing else on and I can’t be bothered reading. Then I’ll curse the fact that I don’t have enough reading time and feel out of touch with current affairs.

Well, no more of that for me. And this evening typifies my new quality-over-quantity attitude.

You are what you eat

Firstly, let’s talk about the cheese. I have to admit that since I’ve been in France I have eaten a shocking amount of cheese. It’s just how we round off a meal here. But tonight I’m not just rounding off a meal. The bread and cheese is my meal. Because I didn’t really want anything else. In fact, all I wanted was blue cheese, some bread and glass of red. So that’s exactly what I’m having. I’m not settling for something else because it’s easier, or what I should have; I’m having a reasonable amount of exactly what I fancy. And yes, before you ask, it is indeed doing me good.

One perfect thing

Now, about that wine… When it comes to wine, I’m what the French call “bon public” – easily pleased! I like most wines but this one is truly marvellous. It’s rich, fruity and pretty potent. Quite often (and please don’t judge me) I’ll find one glass of wine easily leads to another and another (especially when drinking with a man who can really hold his liquor), which inevitably leads to exhaustion and a slight hangover. But not tonight. No. Tonight, I’m reining in the instinct to say, “Oh, that’s nice, I think I’ll have a top-up” because I know that I won’t appreciate the second glass as much as the first, and truly enjoying something speaks to the heart of my “quality not quantity” resolution.

What would Grace and Audrey do?

Finally, Rear Window. I love pretty much all Hitchcock films (the exception would have to be Marnie, which I find just too disturbing), and Rear Window is in my top 3. The huit clos-style setting, the charm of Jimmy Stewart, the totally relatable premise of fascination-with-neighbours-turns-sour, but mainly – oh yes – mainly for the exquisite Grace Kelly. Just watching her makes me want to sit up straighter, mind my manners, and generally be a better person. Watching Audrey Hepburn has the same effect on me. They both exude class, gentility, elegance and style. Would Grace buy a cheap, oddly fitting pair of ballet flats then get blisters within minutes? No. Would Audrey stop herself from getting the slightly dearer leather bag in favour of the cheaper imitation one only to buy another a week later because the strap broke already? I think we all know the answer to that one.

Grace and Audrey would rather have one pair of perfect shoes than a cupboard full of second-bests. Grace and Audrey would never try to cram three parties into one evening and end up offending hostesses and being late for all of them; no, they’d politely decline two, attend the most important of the three, bring a nice bottle, and probably send a handwritten thank-you note the next day. Grace and Audrey would buy the right size or have it altered to fit, they’d get the best quality they could afford, they’d make time for close friends and not be in a rush, they’d savour one glass of champagne rather than three glasses of wine they didn’t really want. They would treat every decision as a reflection of how much they respected themselves. As I turn 33, that’s how I plan to live my life too – making respectful choices for myself and asking, on a daily basis: “What would Grace and Audrey do?”

Lucky burdens

When you’re feeling weighed down by duties and chores, look past the to-do list to the blessing behind the burdens and you’ll soon find they’re light as a feather.

As everyone I’ve spoken to since last May knows (I’m just a little excited), the Beloved and I are currently planning our wedding. He got down on one knee (yep, literally) just under a year ago and we’ve been plotting and booking and researching ever since. Now, I’ve always loved organising and arranging, so you can just imagine the spree I’ve been on since we got engaged. There’s a joint wedding gmail account with an email address for all things nuptial and several (you really thought I’d limit myself to one?) spreadsheets for budget, venues, guest list… It’s planner’s paradise.

The best laid plans

I have to say that my occasionally annoying urge to structure, label and list is really coming in handy right now, and the Beloved has been, to a lesser extent, bitten by the bug too. He’s a maths and computer whizz so my simple spreadsheets now have formulae to calculate the numbers of guests sure to come, the number of children likely to be there, marquee price comparisons…

The thing with a wedding is that there really is a lot to think about, a lot to do and – crucially – most tasks depend on other tasks. For example, we need to book a date at the town hall for the civil wedding, which is obligatory in France. Before we can do that, I need to obtain a certified translation of my birth certificate, but before I can get it translated, I need to get a special version dated within the last six months… So, you see, you can’t just attack your to-do list (which is often my approach – a blind blitz attack); you have to do things in the right order. You can’t book a DJ until you have a date, but can’t set a date until you find the venue, and know it’s available. My college friend Rachel (for whose wedding I received an invitation the very day the Beloved and I first met) encapsulated the beauty and ephemeral nature of wedding planning when she wrote to me: “You have to acquire very specific knowledge very quickly, learning a huge of amount of stuff that you’ll never use again”.

A very specific skill set

Rachel was right. I now have a working knowledge of venue contracts, and I know all the French words for the various shades of a colour I once just referred to as “white”. But, in the midst of tasting desserts and trying on dresses and addressing envelopes, the biggest lesson I am currently learning is one of perspective. When the Beloved proposed, I was over the moon, simply thrilled to know we were to be joined forever in matrimony and that we’d be making our commitment public and sharing the day with all our friends and family. But as

The Day draws near and decisions have to be made and friends and family start offering helpful tips and opinions about how things really should be done, the pressure builds.

Online forums are full of women whipping each other into a frenzy about the traditional meaning of different flowers, the take-his-name/keep-your-own debate, and the “right” number of bridesmaids. Films like “Bridesmaids” with their incredibly opulent weddings make your own somewhat humbler proceedings feel shabby by comparison, and having seen the once hilarious, but now that I’m engaged, frankly petrifying film “The Hangover”, I break out in a cold sweat whenever the words “stag night” are uttered in my presence.

Enjoy the process

With all that going on (plus, you know, little things like holding down a full-time job, writing columns, washing, shopping, hauling myself to the gym…) it’s easy to lose sight of the endgame. Which is – we’re getting married. Never a weekend free from some kind of wedding errand? Deal with it – you’ve met the love of your life! Hand aching from addressing envelopes? For heaven’s sake – you’re lucky to have so many loved ones with whom to share the day. And as for arguing with the Beloved over buttonholes and seating arrangements – well, I’d rather avoid the irony of having cross words over how/when/where/with whom we are to declare our undying love.

I only intend to get married once in my life, so I am determined to enjoy the process as much as the day itself. I refuse to squabble for a year while we plan what is supposed to be the happiest day of our lives. And a wedding is just one example of how keeping sight of the endgame and maintaining a sense of perspective prevent you from undermining the ultimate joy of what you’re doing. Quarrelling over holiday plans falls into the same category for me, as does getting uptight about taking the wrong route out of the city for a weekend away. The drive is part of the trip – enjoy the process, put it in perspective, and remember to buy a more up-to-date map when you get back.

Lucky you

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by all the stuff I have to juggle in life, I remember the words of my wise friend Pam. Once, as I complained about how I was behind in my novel for book club, didn’t have an evening without a commitment for the next two weeks, had only half-written my latest column, and couldn’t even find time to get to the bank to pay in a cheque, she looked me in the eye and said: “Wow, it must be fun to be in a book club! And you’ve loads of social nights out planned? Nice! You’re already half-way done on your column? And someone gave you some money that you need to put in the bank? What a lot of lucky burdens to carry.” Pam’s point, simply stated, has proved very hard to forget. Luckily.

Fatigue Fighting

The long nights and chilly air this time of the year can make us all want to take a duvet day or indeed a duvet month, but when it comes to fighting fatigue, attitude is half the battle. 

Maybe it’s because of the winter weather, maybe it’s the general economic slump, maybe it’s an age thing, but I have noticed a tedious new phenomenon in discussions among colleagues and friends. I call it Fatigue Fighting. Sample dialogue:

Me: Morning James, how are you? Have a good weekend?

Sébastien: Yeah, great. I did nothing but sleep. Took a long nap Saturday afternoon.

Me: What a luxury! 

Sébastien: Yeah, I’m just so tired! How are you?

OK, not too bad – James’ weekend was quiet and he’s revelling in that. Good for him. But look what happens when Marie joins us at the water cooler:

Me: Hey, Marie – how are you?

Marie: Oh, exhausted! I had about 6 hours sleep last night. And I’ve got meetings all day.

Sébastien: God, I know. I was still awake at 4am. I must have slept all of 5 hours.

Marie: And the problem is the night before that I was up at 4am for an early flight, so that makes two nights where I’ve got no sleep. I’m a zombie today!

Sébastien: Tell me about it. I’m already on my fourth coffee and it’s only 11am! It’s going to be a long day.

The city that doesn’t sleep?

Blah, blah, blah, winge, whine, complain. Is it a Paris thing, or are city dwellers like this the world over? I say city dwellers because it does feel like metropolis madness. It goes hand in hand with the complaint that in the big bad city life moves too fast, people walk too quickly, we don’t know our neighbours, we’re always running around… All of which are ills we can combat daily and can choose to partake in – or not. I happen to take my time whenever possible, I don’t make back-to-back appointments with friends or co-workers, and the Beloved and I have had drinks with our neighbours on several occasions. Life in a city can be whatever you want it to be – that’s one of the biggest advantages of living in a sprawling urban centre.

Bedtime blues

Now, to get back to the tiredness tantrums. Let’s not underestimate the importance of sleep. Whatever you may need – be it eight or three hours a night – it really is a need, and one that you should definitely fulfill for yourself. If you’re suffering from long-term sleep issues, you should clearly see a doctor. And if your lifestyle is such that you regularly get too little sleep, need to stay in bed until 2pm every Saturday and Sunday, and feel perpetually one degree under, you absolutely need to make some major changes to your routine! The easiest way to get more sleep is simply to sleep more. Excluding anyone who has children from what I’m about to write, the biggest obstacle to most people feeling less tired is just to go to bed a little earlier.

Fighting fatigue

Without having to make fundamental changes to your lifestyle, there are a few adjustments you can make to feel a general energy boost. What about taking a short walk in the fresh air after lunch? Instead of phoning through to a colleague with a question, get up from your desk and take a walk over there. Make sure you take regular breaks from the computer – look out the window, fill your water glass, stand up and stretch your arms. And what about your diet? What you put into your body is as important for tiredness levels as how much you rest it. Are you really getting your five daily portions? Could you add a mid-morning banana or orange? And how much water do you actually manage? Filling a litre bottle each morning and making sure you get through it by home time is a good way to stay on track. Coffee is sometimes a quick fix, but causes you to feel even worse when the caffeine wears off. Since I gave it up completely, my energy levels have gone through the roof!

You feel your focus

While you’re making some adjustments that in time will boost your energy and help you feel less lethargic, you can also implement the biggest and most immediate change. You can stop thinking, talking and worrying about how tired you are. Let’s look at my sample dialogue. Did it help James and Marie to share their tales of insomnia and much-needed naps? Did they feel any better afterwards? Probably not. In fact, chances are they just made themselves even more aware of how much they needed sleep and more convinced of how hard getting through the day was going to be. What if that conversation had gone more like this?

Marie: Morning James, how are you? Have a good weekend?

Sébastien: Yeah, great. Very relaxing – really indulgent and luxurious. How are you?

Marie: Super, thanks. Pretty busy, and I spent lots of time with the kids. Getting back to work is going to be restful!

Sébastien: Wasn’t it Louis’ birthday party on Saturday? How did that go?

Nothing has changed for either of these tired people but their focus. But that’s the first thing that needs to change for you to feel just a bit more energetic. It’s simple: if you focus on fatigue, you’ll feel the bone-crushing tiredness and rush to the coffee machine. But if you look elsewhere, you might just find you forget that you didn’t get your full eight hours and find that, before you know it, you’re whizzing through the day, talking about more interesting things with colleagues and friends, and – well, what do you know? – it’s bedtime already.