Mastery

Avoidance, ADHD Triggers and Letting Go of Shoulds

avoidance

The word “avoidance” vibrates with negative connotation. It refers to an absence of doing something that should be done. But avoidance can actually be a good thing, especially when it comes to “triggers” and “shoulds”.

People with ADHD have often associated avoidance with the first description – “not doing something that they know they should do”. We avoid things that seem too hard, frustratingly boring, or outside our skill set.

Avoidance can be a good thing

Managing ADD “better” is a worthy pursuit. It’s essential if you want to be happier, and if you want important people to be happier with you. While it is helpful to concentrate on things you need to start doing, you shouldn’t neglect the things you need to stop doing too. Let me explain.

On and Off

ADD is a lifelong state-of-being YET it doesn’t show up all of the time, in every situation.

I’m sure there you’ve had times when you haven’t felt very ADD at all. These may be a fleeting moments or for longer periods, but you probably didn’t notice them because “functioning well” doesn’t grab your attention.

The times that ADD wanes is different for everyone, as are the times when it is aggravated. In essence, everyone has their own triggers.

For example, I don’t notice ADD much when I am at the “day job”. It calls upon my ability to be hyper-focused in time-crunches and crises (which is most days).

Triggers (Everybody Get Down!)

My ADD is at its worst, though, when I am grocery shopping. The noise is intense, the lighting grotesque, aisles are too long and too many idiots, erm… I mean people, inhabit those aisles like they’re touring the louvre. Never mind the shelves with too many choices (but never the one you want). It’s like looking for Waldo after he’s been dead and buried for 10 years.

I fare much better in small stores with less than 15 (very short) aisles. Sometimes, though, the budget dictates a bigger store shop. The moment I step inside, my ADD flares like a Molotov cocktail in a pulp mill. I’m pretty sure smoke seeps from my ears like a Looney Tunes character.

So imagine my melt down every time I attempt that shop with two kids. Kids who wander up and down the aisles, sauntering in front of the cart, talking incessantly, asking all sorts of questions, most starting with: “Can I have…?” Hiroshima pales in comparison to the explosion inside me.

Recently I figured something out: I don’t have to do this anymore! Don’t laugh. This realization was an epiphany. I really thought I HAD to grocery shop with my kids.

Because that’s what normal moms do. “Normal” moms run errands with their children. They go to the bank, they wash the car, they grocery shop. They don’t avoid these things simply because their kids are with them.

But they aren’t like me. They haven’t “checked out” long before reaching the checkout counter. It doesn’t take every brain synapse firing simultaneously just for them to find the mushroom soup.

Just because I am a mom, doesn’t mean I have to do anything (the only exception: I do have to refrain from eating my offspring – I am not a goldfish, after all).

Errands with kids is a “should” not a must. Life is full of shoulds. But they are pointless and they can be ignored. Sometimes, they should be ignored. Even God Himself avoids them. If he didn’t, he would have dictated that 10 Recommendations or the 10 Guidelines, rather than the 10 Commandments.

I have other triggers of course, but grocery shopping (with kids) is the one that never fails to unleash my ADD like a can of whoopass. So now, I don’t do it if I don’t have to. I leave them with the hubby or he goes for me.  I go late at night, on my own. Hell, I’ve even gone at 7 am and done it before work. Yes, it IS THAT BAD that I would get out of bed to avoid the crowds!

And guess who’s a happier mommy? Guess whose kids are no longer subjected to mommy tantrums?

My life, my kids’ lives, are better because I have let go of a should. If my kids get to twenty-years-old with no idea how to behave in a grocery store, I will teach them then. By that time, dementia will have taken over. I will wander the aisles, pestering them for fruit loops and pop tarts. Revenge will be bliss.

Shoulds are the bane of the ADD life. We have fought so hard, all our lives, to feel normal. When we see other people doing things easily, we think we should do it their way too.

Not so. Sometimes the best way to get over a challenge is to go around it. Avoidance, at times, is more functional that giving in to something you think you should do. Learn to let go of shoulds so you can focus on getting things done in the way that works best for you.

Be a pal! Share your triggers and shoulds in the comments below – they might help the rest of us who suddenly realize these things are triggers for us too!

Growth

One Truth to Overcome Insecurity

insecurity

Synopsis: This post is about insecurity. But it is not for the faint-hearted. Read with an open mind. If you’re not prepared to do that, best not read it at all.

Thought you’d have grown out of insecurity by this age, didn’t you? Kind of disappointed that you’re still not confident and self-assured, at your age?

While you sit there feeling like a gawky, spotty-faced teenager inside, hiding behind a “wreck-of-a-human-being” guise – assholes are taking over the world and getting successes they don’t deserve.

Oh, I’m sorry… I thought you liked being talked to that way. You do it to yourself all the time!

Since you seem to enjoy a good-old masochistic mental ass-kicking… move over and let me have a turn.

You are an adult. Adulting doesn’t come with a side-order of confidence. Confidence is like money. If you’re not born with it, you gotta go out there and make it.

Now that I have your attention, let’s soften the tone and abandon the vitriol and derision. Please forgive me for using shock tactics to cut through your mental bullshit. But something had to be done.

Here’s the Problem:

Insecurity Makes You Feel…

  • Weak
  • Unsure of yourself
  • Embarrassed
  • Less than everyone else
  • Vulnerable

Insecurity Stops You From...

  • Speaking your mind
  • Being at ease in social situations
  • Taking chances
  • Being an active participant of life
  • Being yourself

 

Recognize the True Nature of Insecurity

You know when you buy a $30 stereo from an electronics store and the cashier generously offers to sell you an additional 10-year warranty for only $15? She makes it sound like you’ll be a regretful idiot if you don’t get the warranty. But you don’t really care if this stereo lasts ten years. You only want it for a beach picnic. Its long-term destiny is your hall closet, or maybe a garage sale or charity shop, where one day it can spread its electronic wings and move across town to someone else’s closet.

Plus $15 is kind of expensive for a gadget that only costs $30 in the first place, don’t you think?

That’s what insecurity is. A really expensive insurance policy designed to protect you from the psychological dangers of rejection, failure and humiliation. You get to protect your fragile little psyche by making sure it’s never exposed to anything that could make it even fragile-er. Like protecting a china doll from grubby little kiddie hands. Put that china doll back in the cupboard where it belongs, bubs.

But there’s something else about that over-priced warranty: It doesn’t cover everything. That $30 stereo is covered if its wiring catches on fire through a manufacturing error. It’s not covered if your stereo goes car-surfing and hits the ditch at 40 mph. Let’s be honest… how often do stereos succumb to spontaneous combustion (when they’re not Samsungs)?

Take the risk. Spend that $15 on a book, movie ticket or a cheap box of wine.

 

What about Your Insecurity, Though?

Not speaking your mind, not putting yourself out there, not being yourself… they don’t make you more confident or secure. They just feed insecurity, making you spin in circles like this pointless pursuit.

Feel insecure. Don’t speak up. Don’t speak up. Feel more insecure.

You get it?

But wait, there’s more!

No matter how hard you try to avoid embarrassment/humiliation/rejection/____ (insert your psychological phobia here)… shit will still happen to you. You’ll still find things to feel bad about. That’s the way your brain has been wired – to look for threats and weaknesses.

 

In-Security Instead of Insecurity

Brace yourself, you’re not going to like what I have to say. But shut up and listen because I’m doing the ass-kicking today.

When you feel anxious and uptight around other people because you don’t feel good enough, smart enough, or whatever enough, remember this:

Three-quarters of the people around you feel exactly the same way, whether they show it or not.

We human beings are delicate, fragile little souls, who walk around this planet uncertain of our worthiness to even be present and alive.

We didn’t make ourselves. We are an expression of life. Call it God or the universe or life force or whatever you choose – you are worthy because you are alive. Being alive means bumping into things and tripping over words. It means stuttering and stammering, hiccupping and falling over. Looking stupid, having brain farts and verbal diarrhea – yep, they’re part of being alive too.

Nobody said being polished and perfect was the only way to win this game. Going out there and living authentically – that’s the way you really score. Showing up as you are, and being okay with how you are (otherwise known as being authentic) – is the only path to feeling secure. And when you allow yourself to be okay as you are, you give those other insecure people the freedom to accept themselves too.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

So really, when it comes to insecurity, there is only one thing you should fear: everything you’ll lose because of a useless, overpriced insurance policy that doesn’t cover everything anyway.

Mindset

Radical Mindset Shifts to Upgrade Your Life

mindset shifts

Did you ever stop to think that maybe it’s not your challenges that cause problems in your life, but the way that you’re thinking about those things?

It might be all in your head. I guess that’s what I’m saying.

I struggled with low self-esteem, anxiety and all the typical challenges of ADHD for most of my life – until I made a shift in my mindset, as I articulated in this post and in this one. I know what it’s like to fight against myself, to feel like I’ll never get caught up let alone get ahead, and to feel like there’s something wrong with me right down to the core.

It doesn’t matter if I had good reasons for feeling that way. I just did. Until I didn’t anymore.

You might think you have a lot of good reasons to feel like a piece of shit. It doesn’t matter because there are no good reasons. There are just feelings. Feelings can be changed.

Now, I’m not going to sermonize the nitty-gritty details of how I managed to break free from those struggles. But I am going to share with you a few curious and absolutely far-out-there mindset shifts I made – shifts that accelerated my growth because I learned to embrace radical self-acceptance. And that, as they say, is what made all the difference.

 

1. Nothing is As It Seems

I walk around this world with an over-talkative roommate in my head, who feels the need to comment about everything. She never shuts up. And she’s sooooo annoying. She’s like that guy who’s been to Cancun once and thinks he knows everything there is to know about Mexico and the people who live there.

I’ve learned to disregard half of what she says. I accept that my verbose roommate might not be the most accurate narrator.

As Michael Singer says (in Untethered Soul):

“There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.”

 

2. You Don’t Have a Right Not to Have Challenges

Why me? Why can’t I just be normal?

I wondered that endlessly too. Until I thought… why not me? Why should anyone else have these struggles instead of me? And … God-forbid… what if I had someone else’s struggles instead of my own? Life could be a whole lot worse.

I have a right to live. That’s it. I don’t have a right to be stress-free, wealthy, fit, or any other condition I might covet. Those are things I have to work for. Read more about this in Mark Manson’s counter-intuitive book on living a good life – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F!*$. It’s in my top 5 favourite non-fiction books. In fact, its tied for the number one spot.

 

3. Normal Does Not Equal Correct

ADDers struggle with this a lot. They think there’s something wrong with doing things differently than other people.

Normal isn’t the same as good. It’s quite normal to waste a lot of your work-day chatting to colleagues, responding to never-ending email threads or watching Youtube. Millions of white collar workers get up to that tomfoolery every day. That doesn’t mean it’s effective.

If your way is weird but effective, so be it.

 

4. You Have Very Little Control over What Happens

Bad things happen to good people. And vice versa. Some people work hard and get nowhere while other people have their fortune handed to them in a silver sippy cup. It’s not what happens to you that matters most – it’s how you deal with. So deal with it.

More on this… read Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way. It’s also in my top 5 favs, tied at number one. (I read it 5 times – back to back!)

 

5. Things Will Get Worse, but Then They’ll Get Better

You know when you walk into the bathroom of a nightclub to preen yourself and suddenly the bright lights illuminate just how horrid your skin looks and yellow your teeth appear? (Maybe you don’t look as fugly as I do when you’re intoxicated. Lucky you!)

When you shine a spotlight on your challenges, they will look worse. A lot worse. Before – you didn’t notice your ADD getting in your way. Now you’re noticing it all the time, and it looks like a freaking mess. That’s okay. You gotta see it first before you can begin to clean it up.

“The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”

Nathaniel Branden

 

6. It Aint about Happiness

We all want to be happy. But happiness isn’t a place. It’s not even a situation or a condition. It’s a feeling. One that comes and goes. So collect as many happy moments you can before you die. You can cultivate a happy moment from watching your dog fetch a stick out of the lake or from sitting alone with a good book and a cup of chai. You don’t get happy, you make happy. So enjoy it when you make it.

On the other hand, happiness isn’t really the point of life. Growth is. You can’t be happy every single moment of your life, but you can grow – continuously and endlessly – if you choose to.

 

7. Success is Measured in Moments not Miles

If you tally your life and see that you have done more good than bad, you are a success. End of discussion.

Success, however you define it, is impermanent. Quite simply because one day – you’ll die and it’ll all be over. Your legacy is not what you leave your children, or the world for that matter, it is the culmination of moments – whether you were washing dishes or starting a multi-billion dollar company. So put some effort into each moment.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

I won’t pretend that I invented these mindset shifts. But I slowly imbibed and adopted them as part of my paradigm, making them my own. Through doing that I saw radical shifts in my life. Not in what I was able to achieve, or how well I did in my endeavors, but in how felt about (and enjoyed) the simple experience of being alive.

I’m more curious about your radical mindset shifts  – tell me how you’ve changed your thinking (or plan to) and what effect it is had on your life in the comments below!

Focus

An Uncommon, Life-Enhancing Benefit of Diets

diets

I hate the thought of diets. Pretty much everyone knows diets don’t work.

Nonetheless, I’ve been following a new (shall we call it …) “eating plan” for the last 3 weeks. (Yeah it’s a diet I guess. Though I don’t really intend it to be.)

Of course I want to lose weight. But I’ve wanted to lose weight for the last 5 years and haven’t done a thing about it. So that’s not the real reason for changing how I eat now.

Truthfully, what I wanted was simplicity. I hate everything to do with food. I hate purchasing it. I hate thinking of what to make. I hate making it. I hate having to stop what I’m doing to make and eat it. I certainly hate cleaning up after making and eating it.

That’s a lot of hate.

So I thought:

If the need to feed myself, and all its associated hassles, fill me with such contempt, what’s the point in hanging on to my bad eating habits?

I won’t share my eating plan with you, lest you think I am giving dietary advice, which I am wholly unqualified to do. But I will share with you the process:

  • It’s simple.
  • It’s effective.
  • And I never have to think about it.

Yep, I pretty much eat a selection of food from only a handful of options. But then – I only have to shop for those handful of options. They are carefully selected to make sure my body gets all it needs. But I’ll admit, it’s boring. And that’s okay, because I’d rather be bored with my food than pissed off at it.

Now – how to incorporate diets into the rest of life…

Food isn’t the only area of my life that needs to go on a diet. There are many areas that are far-too-complicated that piss me off on a regular basis. So, for the next few months, the rest of my life is going on the dreaded “diet”.

Here’s how I’m paring down and shedding excess “weight”:

1. Stuff

I’m no pack rat. But like most people these days, I still have too much stuff. My house is nowhere near a setting in Hoarders, but my stuff still weighs me down. I’ve cleared out cupboards and closets full of one-day-I-might-need-this rubbish, and given it away or sold it. I feel lighter already.

2. Email

I get way too much email. Join the club right? I’ve un-subscribed to every email list I don’t actually open and read on a regular basis. So go ahead and un-subscribe to The Art of ADD if you don’t read it routinely. (I can safely say this, knowing that those who don’t read this regularly won’t actually see this message, ha ha!)

3. Social Courtesies

We all have them. Some of them are fulfilling, and some of them sap our energy and our souls. So I’ll give you a few examples of how I’m paring down in this area:

No more playdates for the kids several times a week. If they are having their friends over, they are both having friends over. Get it done – in one shot. In fact, once a month we may even have a big sleep over and they can both have a couple of friends over. One night of chaos is worth many days of bliss.

Screw potlucks. Everyone at work enjoys a big potluck gathering to celebrate someone’s birthday or to send off someone who’s leaving for a new job. I HATE POTLUCKS. Are you kidding? I don’t even like making food for my own family, why would I want to make it for my colleagues? So now, I’m the girl that brings the bag of buns. I’m good with that. I just won’t eat the buns myself, on account of the fact that they’re not at part of my new diet.

Facebook messenger. I won’t reply, so don’t bother. If you really need to reach me, pick up the phone. The same might go for texts, but I haven’t figured out how to tactfully incorporate this one in to my life yet.

The whole point of life diets

I’ve listed some things I’m getting rid of to make my life easier. They might not be your things though. The whole point of a diet is not to deprive yourself, but to make things better – whether it’s your body or your life.

If you love playdates, potlucks and messaging – keep them! But figure out what you are doing “just because you should” and see if you can weed it out for a while, or at least make it simpler. A life diet is about shedding the excess that brings you nothing but grief, so that you can make more room for the things that feed your soul.

For more, check out Tim Ferriss’ post on de-loading.

Mindset

Meaning In the Moment

living in the moment

What if each moment of your life had meaning?

And everything that happened played an important part in the story of your life?

What if every detail, experience or event unfolding before your eyes – was just as momentous as the one before and the one yet to come?

What if everyone you met was an essential character in your story?

And every word exchanged between you was significant?

Then – as you took your dying breath – you realized that the value of the life you lived was tallied by all these things.

It wasn’t measured by the occasional breakthroughs and major achievements,

How far you got in your career or what you did for other people…

But by how well you lived each moment.

On the other hand…

What if, by chance, you discovered that none of these things were important?

All that really mattered was the big stuff?

All the details and events and exchanges with people were completely irrelevant.

And the significance of your life was condensed to the “big moments”.

How diminished would your life become?

Would you grieve for the smallness of it?

Now: Imagine one more thing…

That neither of these scenarios were truer than the other.

All you were left with was a choice between the two –

A life full of significance and meaning in every moment

Or a life full of white noise, punctuated by a few moments of epic importance –

Which one would you choose?

The truth is – the choice is already yours.

 

 

Productivity

5 Times You Don’t Need to De-Clutter

de-clutter

What the heck is it with all this sycophantic love for the art of de-cluttering!? I know they say that cleanliness is next to Godliness, but the only people that can know that for sure are dead, and I don’t trust dead people, do you?

I know that most of us in the western world have way too much stuff. The upkeep of said stuff can weigh us down, no doubt. But the pendulum can swing the other way. This obsession with de-cluttering can make us feel like the only right way to live is to sell everything we own and spend the rest of our lives living out of a backpack.

I did that once, by the way. And it was AWESOME. But it couldn’t last forever. I had kids. And having kids means having a home and all the things that come with it. It means ferreting away rock collections, half-coloured drawings, and bits of shiny-sparkly shrapnel found on a walk – to the back of the cupboard. It means waiting for the precise moment (of exactly 21-days to the minute – the time from whence they last mentioned those items) to signal that it’s safe to throw those things away without suffering the wrath of hoarder-children.

Personally, I love throwing stuff out. Or recycling or donating it. It makes me feel good. It frees my mind. But it’s a delusion really. My stress doesn’t come from having too many clothes or knickknacks. But for some odd reason, getting rid of excess stuff makes me feel like I’m shedding stress. Even though I’m not, really.

On the other hand, I know many people who struggle with de-cluttering. Its hard work for them and completely overwhelming. They like their stuff. They don’t feel better by shedding it – in fact, they feel weighed down by the very notion of getting rid of it.

To those people I say, consider this post a permission slip. It’s not always a good thing to de-clutter your home. And actually, there are a few occasions when it’s actually a bad idea:

1. When it doesn’t actually bother you or the people you live with

The whole point of the de-cluttering movement is to make our busy and stressful lives easier. If your stuff isn’t getting in your way or bogging you (or anyone you live with) down – then leave it alone.

2. When it’s an organized mess – you know where everything is

Assuming point number one is true for you, then another reason to leave your clutter alone is when it’s what we call an “organized mess”. Personally, I can’t cope with too many visual distractions. Visible clutter invades my brain and makes it hard for me to think clearly. But that’s just me. I know many people who know exactly where everything is in their piles and heaps. Those people, often, struggle to find things when they do put stuff away.

If you can access the stuff you need, exactly the way it is – don’t worry too much about changing it.

3. When your mess inspires your creativity

Creative people are often connoisseurs of the artefacts they have created, or the works of others that inspire joy. That’s what a home should be about – inspiration and joy. If you feel those things from a minimalist palette – then start de-cluttering. But if you’re more of an eclectic who’s inspired by many different things – keep your collage of stuff and don’t worry about it.

4. When de-cluttering is procrastinating on getting the real work done

I’m super guilty of this. Usually, when I start de-cluttering, it’s because I have something difficult I need to do, and I just can’t face it. Cleaning makes me feel like I’m taking charge, but really I’m just avoiding the thing I really need to do.

Avoid the procrastination trap. If you can work in the mess, then… work in the mess. You can always de-clutter later.

5. When it costs more to de-clutter than it’s worth

It should be cheap and easy to get rid of stuff, but that’s not always the case. I know that most experts say that if you haven’t used something in a year, you probably don’t need it. Sometimes, though, you might need that thing once every two or three years, but that thing would cost far too much to replace each time you needed it. So keep it.

Likewise, if its going to cost and arm and leg to de-clutter, by way of expensive storage systems or hired advice from an organizing-professional, then maybe it’s not worth it. This is especially the case if all the previous statements I’ve made are true for you.

While de-cluttering can be a godsend for many people who are struggling to keep on top of their lives, it’s not a panacea. Sometimes, the best way forward is to learn how to navigate around or through the mess, rather than simply getting rid of it. What are your thoughts on clutter? Yay or nay? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Productivity

Two REAL REASONS to Keep a To Do List

to do lists

If you hate to do lists, let me share with you two reasons you should think about them differently.

Many people don’t like to do lists. My guess is they’re commitment phobic. Or, like one of my clients, they did poorly in English class. Writing a list feels tantamount to a condensed eleventh-grade essay on Shakespeare. Only there’s no one around to reprimand you for poor grammar and punctuation. Hopefully.

But I haven’t met many people who can be effective without a list of some description. Some people have excellent memories. But I mostly hang out with ADDers who don’t.

Frankly, there are only two REAL REASONS to keep to do lists. I classify REAL REASONS to mean this: the way they benefit you because they actually do (benefit you) – not because you “should” keep them, or because everyone else keeps them.

Here they are:

To Do Lists Free your Mind

Think about how much grey matter is consumed by trying to remember all your commitments. When you don’t write them down, they occupy space in your cranium. Dump them out onto an external storage device and suddenly prime realty space becomes available.

A list is like an external hard drive for your computer, or building an extension on your house. Writing things down frees your mind to think about far more fascinating things. Like why this bubble bath is listed to be gluten-free but doesn’t actually tell you how many calories are in it.

To Do Lists Cheer You Up

We ADDers spend a lot of time chasing our tails. Scratching things off our lists make us feel like we aren’t going in circles. They prove that we have been effective, at least on some level. A list full of scratched-off things is like a mini-celebration. They scream “Yay, I got that done!”

We don’t often congratulate ourselves on being effective, quite simply because we think productivity should just be a given. To do lists do the celebrating for us.

I keep all my past lists, the ones I’ve already done. I’ll admit, I’m a geek. But when I feel woeful that I haven’t been very productive lately, I take out my lists to remind myself of everything I have accomplished. It’s like reminiscing over old family photos. Except my lists aren’t as cute as my baby learning how to do house chores for the first time 🙂

Do you like to do lists or loathe them? No matter how you feel about them, don’t forget the real reasons they benefit your life.

Productivity

5 Ways to Get to Bed Earlier without Fear of Missing Out

fear of missing out

Do you hate bedtime time as much as I do?

It’s a given that kids hate going to bed, but many adults with ADHD also loathe it. Especially those who have kids. When evening rolls around and the sprogs have finally drifted off to the land of nod, those precious few hours nestled between:

  • working at work
  • working at home and
  • working at getting to sleep

… they may be the only time we get to spend time doing things we truly want to do. The fun stuff, the meaningful stuff, the stuff that fulfills us and makes all the other stuff bearable.

So it’s no wonder most of us drag ourselves to bed kicking and screaming, way past the hour sane people nod off.

We know we need more sleep: for health, mental health and mental clarity. But that doesn’t make us WANT to go to bed any earlier than we already do. It just makes us feel like we have only two options:

  • More sleep and less time to ourselves or
  • More time, less sleep… and all the nasty side effects

Point in case:

When I go to bed earlier I feel much better the next day. My head is clearer, I’m in a better mood and I’m much more focused.

But here’s the catch: I don’t get enough time to read and write if I go to bed early. Those are the things that fill my soul. But they take time. Quiet, alone time. Usually, that’s the time when the kids are in bed. So that means later nights.

Or does it?

I’ve figured out 5 ways to get to bed earlier, without fear of missing out on the stuff that I really want to do. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Figure out what feeds you the most

I’m not talking about food. Decide on what activity makes you most feel like you’ve had “me time”. We often waste our evenings watching TV or getting sucked into the Internet vortex, not because that’s what we really want to do, but because that’s all we really have the energy for. Usually, though, it conveys an unspoken message of pointlessness to our subconscious. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with those activities, but doing them night after night makes us feel like we’re wasting our lives.

Not sure what you value the most in life? Try out this exercise to figure out how you could be spending your free time.

2. Steal time for your values

Night time isn’t the only time you can have to yourself. Sometimes, our lives are structured in a way that means we have to think differently about the time that we do have, rather than just focusing on the paucity of it. Do you get a 15-minute coffee break at work? What about a lunch hour? How about the time when you’re walking the dogs?

Make more out of free-time chunks when you get them, even if they’re not in the evenings. Read a book on your break or listen to an audio book while walking the canine. Crochet on the train as you head off to work. Listen to music while making dinner. Whatever your thing is – find a way to sneak in some time for yourself during the day, and you’ll have less of a need to exploit every second of the twilight hours.

3. Let stuff go once in a while

I have an obsessive need to get everything done as soon as I can. For example, I can’t cope with the visual clutter of last night’s dishes when I wake up in the morning. But sometimes, particularly when I’ve had a hard day, I recognize the fact that I need to let something go, in order to get some much-needed me-time in. Often, it means that I do those dishes – but I leave the laundry to another day. That’s what the space under the bed is for.

4. What? When? Where? How?

I can’t write when my kids are around. They interrupt – a lot, and that only frustrates me. But I want them to interrupt me, because that’s what I’m here for. So I write when they’re at school (if I have a weekday off) or when they’re in bed. That means the other stuff gets done when they’re around – the stuff I don’t really need to concentrate hard on. Usually, I try to incorporate them into that activity, by getting their help in trade for spending some time with them doing the things they love. Together we’ve built an entire Minecraft world based solely on this barter system.

5. And remember your Why…

Going to bed earlier isn’t about being a good boy or girl. It isn’t about doing the “right thing” or doing what you’re “supposed to do”. I used to hate sleep. It feels like a waste of time, and I can probably only say this because I’m someone who doesn’t seem to need a lot of it to function.

BUT…

I have noticed that I do function much better when I’ve slept well. Generally, the quality of my sleep increases when I get at least some of it before midnight. So, while I’ve had to sacrifice some of those all-to-myself minutes in the evening in order to get to bed earlier, I no longer have a fear of missing out.

The reason for this is simple: when I sleep better, I have more energy to do the things I really want to do, rather than flaking out in front of a box because I’m exhausted.

Try this for 2 weeks (I dare you…) How much better is the quality of your  “me time” when you actually get a better sleep at night? Share your experience in the comments below.