Tonight is the New Tomorrow

Our days are a reflection of our nights and our nights are a reflection of our days. In other words, ,the quality and quantity of our sleep will greatly influence how we meet and deal with our days and vice versa. So where does one start the virtuous cycle towards a healthier, happier and more effective version of ourselves?

I would like to suggest that working on our nights is a better place to start.  Firstly, unless one suffers from a sleep disorder, our nights are overall more simple, and controllable than our days.  Secondly, sleep is the activity we do the most and therefore plenty of experience to draw on. Lastly, it is very likely that we are sleep deprived and the earlier we remedy the issue the better!

So before I enquire further on the topic of fearlessness, commitment and freedom, let’s establish some basic healthy habits and sleep must be one of the most crucial one. If we are to be ready tomorrow we have to be ready tonight. Here are some of the most common tips for better sleep:

  1. Turning our bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment
    (Dark, cool, quiet, stimulation-free and comfortable)
  2. Sleeping for at least 8 solid hours per night
    (recent studies have shown that apart from some very rare exceptions we nearly all need the same amount of sleep)
  3. Keeping our internal clock set with consistent sleep
    (establishing basic rules about bed time and wake up time)
  4. Avoiding chemicals that interfere with sleep especially in the evenings
    (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine…)
  5. Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light
    (exposure to natural daylight during the day & keeping the room dark during the night)
  6. Limiting daytime naps to 30 mins
    (for some, regular early-afternoon naps may be beneficial)
  7. Balancing fluid intake and eating light meals in the evening
    (Drinking plenty during the day and less prior to bed)
  8. Exercising daily 
    (stretching, walking, swimming, running…)
  9. Establishing a regular relaxing bedtime routine
    (warm shower, light stretches, relaxation, reading a book…)
  10. Remembering that not all nights will be good nights
    (Avoiding, feeding worries, moving, looking at clock)

Everyone will have their own issues: not enough exercise, caffeine in the afternoon, looking at screens in beds, waking up too early and the list goes on. For me, establishing a regular and healthy bedtime routine has perhaps been the hardest. There always seems to be things to be done, conversation to be had, email to be checked, etc…, and until quiet recently I nearly gave up on the idea.

Today’s exploration, however, has uncovered that it is where I need to focus, so without further adieu, I am off to plan my ultimate night routine with the help of an article on Lifehack I just stubbled on.

Sweet dreams and remember tonight is the new tomorrow.


Photo by Krista Mangulsone

Some useful links:

[1] The Strength of She: The Importance of a Nighttime Routine
[2] Business Insider: What your nightly routine should look like, according to science
[3] Pick the Brain, Grow Yourself: The Best Night Routine for a Productive Day
[4] Little Might: Nightly Routines and how to sleep hack your way to a productive morning
[5] Mark’s Daily Apple: Primal Starter: Is Your Night Routine Encouraging Fat Storage?
[6] Cosmopolitan: Six minutes of reading before bed will help you sleep, dream and live better
[7] Zapier: 12 Morning and Evening Routines That Will Set Up Each Day for Success
[8] The Muse: 5 Bedtime Routines That Will Make Your Mornings So Much Easier
[9] Pick the Brain, Grow Yourself: The Best Night Routine for a Productive Day
[10] National Sleep Foundation: Recommends New Sleep Times
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To Do and Not To Do

We all have to-do-lists.
Some of us may prefer not to bother writing them down and keep them in our heads. Others may have simple lists of tasks and commitments, jotting them down on paper or electronically so as not to forget. Others still, may have more elaborate systems with priorities and calendar functions with reminders. Lastly, there are those of us who use robust time-management tools and techniques, to not only stay on top of our to-dos but also to balance our life-work responsibilities and help us focus on short, medium, and long term goals. This is all very fine, but how much do our to-do-lists define our lives? And will we ever feel fulfilled by this seemingly never ending conveyor belt of activities?

Getting things done can be quite addictive as it gives us a sense of purpose, engages our problem solving minds and feels rewarding when we become better and better at juggling and keeping up with it all. The problem lies in that we may neglect its equally important polar opposite: not doing.

Doing nothing may sound boring or even unpleasant, yet I would like to argue here that it is not only necessary for our health and wellbeing but it may actually also be highly fulfilling. Whereas ‘doing’ deals with the measurable, ‘being’ dwells in the immeasurable.

There is an art of being idle, to take the time to enjoy the simple act of breathing, to contemplate the beauty of life and to adopt a child-like carefree alertness. These ‘acts of being’ are not reserved to the poets, philosophers and religious people – they are accessible to everyone.

With practice, we quickly recognise how good it feels to give ourselves a few moments of peace each day. Once we are able to put on hold all the things we have to do, even momentarily, we may touch a sense of freedom that we use to experience as children.

There is nothing wrong with the “to-do”s so long as they leave enough space for the “to-be”s


Photo by Kai D.

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Begin Fearlessly

Can one have commitment and freedom at the same time?
This is what I am going to explore during the next six weeks.

On one hand, I am committing to complete two specific challenges. On the other, I want to investigate the more subtle relationship between doing and being. In other words, I am going to focus on the quality of the journey with a playful, fearless, carefree approach while keeping an eye on the final destination.

The first challenge I have set myself is to finish developing – an 8-week course in Yoga, breath work & health awareness that I am planning to run in the New Year. The second,  is to write a short blog post everyday  to document the learning that comes from consciously exploring fearlessness while moving out of my comfort zone.

Now that I have set this intention, the aim is to enjoy the process form moment to moment regardless of what comes my way. Today is a little special in that it is the very beginning and things have the quality of an exciting engagement – everything seems new and there is clarity. Showing up everyday without judgement is possibly the surest way to make progress, but above all it is essential: to begin.

Let me finish with a quote which is widely misattributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe but is in fact extracted from W. H. Murray’s book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951) [4]

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

(The “couplet” referred to here is from an extremely loose translation of Goethe’s Faust lines 214-30 made by John Anster in 1835)[5]

Learning about fearlessness, commitment and freedom is what seems to matter most to me now. Therefore, I am beginning the process of facing it head-on with a playful and effortless attitude.


Photo: Matt Duncan

PS: I invite you to do the same, find out what currently matters most to you and begin playfully and fearlessly to do something about it.

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Time peace

time peace

When my younger son was four, he told us very seriously that time did not exist. At the time, we agreed; what an insight we thought. However, I am still unsure what he meant by that. Time is such a vast topic; I could write a thick book about it – the problem is that I don’t have the time and probably would be wasting yours by philosophising about it. I will keep it very brief.

Whether it is a construct of our mind, of our civilisation or a physical/biological phenomenon – time seems to have taken a central place in our lives, and it has become very hard to ignore. Most of us take for granted the way we relate to time, though, and do very little to make peace with it.  If we are restless, always running, trying to fit as much as possible into our schedules, stressed or tired, it is very likely that we are battling with time. Time is often seen as an adversary that we need to manage.

We may have a defunct efficiency ideal – of trying to do more in less time, rather than doing what matters most in the time it takes. Focusing on meaningful activities and looking after ourselves by regularly doing nothing, I believe, is a more effective way to lead our lives. This effectiveness is difficult to master, but it may be one of the most useful skills there is. Make peace with time. Do less, be present, plan a little, breathe, focus and act on the most important tasks, and learn to stop. When we are at peace with time, we may come to the same realisation that my son came up with when he was four. When one is truly mindful, there seems to be a timeless vastness that we can access.


Photo: Yuriy Kovalev

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The new normal


We are all familiar with the magic wand of fairy tales – the one that can turn a frog into a handsome prince. When we contemplate changing something about ourselves we often wish we could have access to such instant magic. Although sudden changes of habits are possible, they usually come from a wake-up call or a deep insight which cannot easily be reproduced. A more accessible approach is to modify a habit so gradually that the whole process becomes nearly unnoticeable.

The boiling-frog syndrome, which is often associated with our inability to act before it is too late, is a striking image that encapsulates the potency of gradual change. A nineteenth-century scientific experiment showed that a frog placed in water that is very gradually heated up would adapt to the rising temperature and not attempt to escape until it was too late. This cruel experiment has since been disputed, and it turns out that frogs will jump out before it is too late! Nevertheless, the phenomenon can be recognised in our very own lives when we get used to a slowly degrading condition and do nothing about it. In the field of positive psychology, some people have suggested that by turning it on its head, this non-responsiveness could be used to our advantage.

Let me give you an example. For many years now, I have been using a bucket and a pail to wash instead of showering as it saves water. I still use hot water but much less than if I was standing under a shower. When I was in Bali last year, I set myself the challenge to use cold water to wash. I did it for a while, but I did not find it pleasant and reverted to using hot water. Grappling with the concept of incremental change, I decide to try again but this time using a gentle approach. Over the space of few weeks, I went from washing with a hot bucket to a cold bucket without experiencing any discomfort. The strategy was to reduce the amount of hot water I put in the bucket by such small increments that every day the temperature of the water seemed ‘normal’.

We would probably prefer to change instantly, but most of the time sudden change tend not to last. We have however an inbuilt ability to adapt to slow gradual change more readily. Although it takes commitment and patience, incremental adjustments may be one of the most effective ways to change habits. The more we practice, the better we get, until changing becomes the new normal.


Photo: Loic Lopez

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Flow mentality


We usually want to go the fastest way possible to our destination, yet we continually meet obstacles. It is the nature of the territory. We have a choice, either we cling to our plans and risk getting derailed or we learn to adapt our course continuously and risk meandering.

When I look back at the many projects that I have started and never finished, they have one thing in common: derailment. Part of me loves order, and when I map out a project, I usually build in my head a sort of railroad and imagine myself going from A to B with no disruptions. This mentality is a recipe for disappointment, in truth the way ahead is very rarely straight forward, and life inevitably throws challenges

This way of operating works ok on established pathways and short tasks, but it is limited when one is handling anything more significant. It is a bit like a toy miniature electric train, as soon as it meets something in its way, it stops or gets derailed. One can, of course, remove the obstacle and get back on the tracks, but there always seem to be more obstructions. One can learn to persevere, however, sooner or later, this rigid stop-and-go approach leads to frustration and failure.

There is another approach I revert to which is quite the opposite. I just go with the flow and let circumstances decide what I do next. It is quite laissez-faire: no plans, I get carried away by the current and trust that it will lead me to new grounds. It is useful for exploring, the problem is that it is quite scattering, and one can easily get lost.

Is there a middle path? Yes, I call it flow mentality. To work with a flow mentality, one needs to start with a clear intention – a direction in mind – a form of internal compass but one must also remain flexible and meet the territory. It is like navigating a fast moving river, where every movement is responsive to the present moment and involve changing one’s course. It is about being adaptable and avoiding disruptions while remaining in motion.

People give up on their resolutions, goals or projects often because of their approach. If we are too focused on the results, we can easily get frustrated and stuck along the way. If we are too laid back, we can quickly lose sight of where we are going and go astray. Flow mentality is a balance between staying on course and going round obstacles. Like a river that always moves on the path of least resistance, we can meet all sorts of obstacles and flow around them. This approach may seem long-winded and time-consuming but in the end, may be more effective.


One sentence journal – day 16:
“With a disproportionate amount of time spent to plan my class, I ended up doing very little else, thankfully I had a co-listening session where we could touch on the long view, the timeless and the urgency of change. ”

This blog is part of a renewed 42-day writing challenge inspired by Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits Book.
Photo: Chris Gill

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Five twenty-five


Despite being constant, time is an elusive commodity. One way to harness it to your advantage is through attention and focus. I have adopted a technique that is helping me to get both mindful and focused like never before. I call it Five Twenty-five.

It is a hybrid version of the Pomodoro time-management technique. Put simply; the Pomodoro technique is a way of breaking down time into twenty-five minutes chunks with a five-minute break to help us focus our full attention on one task at a time. I have been aware of this technique for about four years, but only started to use it more frequently last year when I was in Bali.

At the time, I was also exploring mindfulness, and I decided to combine short moments of relaxation with focused Pomodoro sessions. Instead of taking a five-minute break after a stretch of uninterrupted work, I decided to take it before. I had the luxury of working from home where I could lie down anytime I choose to. I started my five-minute session by sitting or lying down and letting go of everything. I soaked the moment and let thoughts float by like clouds in the sky. Then the timer would ring, and I would focus on only one task for twenty-five minutes. If I finished it before the time was up, I would turn my attention to the present moment. The light, the air, the sounds , my posture…  When the timer rang  before I was finished, I would work on it a little more to make sure I did not loose the thread for when I got back to it later. Then, I would start another five-minute of mindful awareness. This is how Five Twenty-five was born. Back in the busyness of life, I have managed to keep up with the practice every now and again and find it useful when I am having to work under pressure.

This practice is also good on the eyes and the back – for a lot of my work is computer-based. I sometimes use the five minutes break to stretch or to do some eye exercises.

As well as improving my focus and performance, I have come to appreciate my Five Twenty-five sessions as a practice in attention and mindfulness. Paradoxically, containing time in 5-25 chunks, has allowed me to be less pressured by it.


One sentence journal – day 11:
“Lack of sleep made for a bumpy start of the day, yoga grounded me, now the afternoon feels like a new morning. ”

This blog is part of a renewed 42-day writing challenge inspired by Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits Book.
Background photo: Loic Djim

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