On Saturday afternoon I found myself grating chocolate – a jaw-clenchingly fiddly activity – for a chocolate pâté I was making. Yes, you read that correctly; chocolate pâté. It was an everything-free recipe (as in no gluten, refined sugar or dairy) I had cut out of a magazine over a year ago. Made in a loaf tin from a mixture of organic cacao powder, walnuts (soaked overnight to remove enzyme inhibitors – so the recipe said), maple syrup, tahini, grated chocolate and pure vanilla extract, it was actually very good – especially when garnished with berries – if very rich.
But I don’t recommend grating chocolate as a relaxing activity; it flies everywhere a bit like polystyrene beans and I ended up breaking a much-loved Pyrex dish in my attempts to sweep up the chocolate confetti littering the kitchen bench. I was rushing – hence the jaw clenching bit – as I’d done my beach cardio routine (see my last blog post) in the morning, washed the floors, cleaned Bertie’s ears, done a few loads of laundry and washed up all the pots and pans left over from making coq-au-vin the night before for a meals-on-wheels catch-up with a girlfriend, and now I had a 3.30pm appointment to get to. After that I just had time to bolt round the block with the dog child before heading across town – complete with grid-locked Saturday night traffic (argh!!!) – to meet friends at the cinema.
I studied Far From the Madding Crowd for my O’ levels at school (that dates me…) and know and love the book and the 1967 film with Julie Christie and Alan Bates. The 2015 adaptation is good; Carey Mulligan is excellent as Bathsheba Everdene and who can fail to be swept away by the rolling Dorset countryside? I’m not sure Matthias Schoenaerts’ Gabriel Oak has quite the same humble earthiness as Alan Bates’ character, but it was a fine film nevertheless and I got to SIT DOWN! Over drinks with my friends after the film, they talked variously of a holiday in Bali, sleeping in and siestas. Green with envy, by 10pm I was beginning to flag, my batteries seriously flat.
The next day I was up and out with Bertie and then across town again for a sumptuous birthday feast prepared in honour of a friend’s birthday. We all took a dish – from Greek rabbit casserole to chicken and fennel meatballs to the most divine lemon cheesecake and my chocolate pâté. A marvellous time was had by all but it was 6pm by the time I got home. Sated but happy, I was also exhausted and in bed by 9.30pm, which was bliss after three nights out and about.
So, come Monday morning, by which time I was once again bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was particularly interested to read a blog post by motivational coach and author Andrew Jobling and to watch a video by Brendon Burchard of the High Peformance Academy. Both had content that really interested me, and after a choc-a-bloc weekend, the timing seemed perfect. Jobling’s blog was all about ‘do or die’ non-negotiable goals – I’m thinking writing a book – and how to stick to them, whatever life throws at you. Birthday feasts apart, committing to writing means keeping a day or afternoon free a week even if it means saying ‘No’ to a lunch or seeing a friend. It’s called commitment – and a healthy measure of self-belief comes in handy too.
But how do we stick to our goals when so many other things compete for our time and attention? Because everyone is busy. Burchard talks about getting into the right mindset and having focus and clarity. He asks if we can envision – really see, feel and sense – ourselves achieving the goal, as in becoming our future selves. Have any other wannabe authors pictured themselves holding a finished book at the launch party? I like his tip about programming in some quick wins to keep the motivation going and about gathering supportive people and mentors around you. And my favourite – given my choc-a-bloc tendency – is Bandwith Belief. This is where you ask yourself if the goal or activity is something that you have enough time or focus to do well.
Burchard – and he has a very compelling style – claims that we can all get 30 minutes to an hour back each day. Really?! But he’s not one of those lifestyle gurus who tell you to get up half an hour earlier each day. On the contrary, he advocates getting up to 50 minutes more sleep. But he does recommend avoiding distractions such as trashy TV or clicking through to banal or non-essential links on social media. The trouble is that I am not doing any of those things anyway – some weeks I don’t even turn the TV on and I go for days without looking at Facebook. But there is something I could do less of – and that’s housework.
And I’m not the only one harassed by housework. My recent Airbnb guest, GP, asked if I did all the cleaning myself, remarking that there was quite a lot of floor to clean (ah, sympathy, how nice!). She lives in a small apartment in Singapore but has one of those robot cleaners. As long as you take up any floor rugs (the robot might try and eat them), she says they are pretty effective. The conversation at the birthday feast also turned to computerised cleaners. In fact my friend Di is thinking of putting her birthday money towards one of these automated floor mops. And why not if it gives you more time to focus on more important things?
Right now, either human cleaners or robots seem an attractive solution to broadening my Bandwidth! But I’m still intrigued to watch Burchard’s video on how to increase productivity by 30%. He says you can do that by working less and reducing stress. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Stay tuned for my next post. Meanwhile I could do with a robot at work to write grant and funding applications…