How to: Motivate Yourself

Persistence is…

Keeping your foot on the gas as you inch round the side of a mountain.

Crossing off each day as it comes without ripping up the calendar.

Seeing the chink of sunlight between two angry rain clouds.

Not slowing, or walking, or giving up until you reach that mile.

Writing a thousand blog posts before someone reads one.

Watching the sun set before you stop working.

Watching the sun rise before you go to bed.

Making a diary entry on a duvet day.

Repeating a monologue until you embody the character.

Finishing this poem.

That’s all well and good – but to be persistent requires a great deal of motivation. How can you convince yourself to keep going against all the odds? Here is how I do it.

  1. Imagine the end goal: each task, each chore, each exam you do has a purpose. Whatever you are doing, there is a reason for it. By trying to picture where you will be once you have achieved your goal, it is much easier to motivate yourself to get there.
  2. Give yourself treats: separate your one big task into several mini milestones and place a reward at the end of each one. Obviously, it makes sense to leave the largest reward to the end, but don’t forget to congratulate yourself along the way.
  3. Stay healthy: yes, I know. Healthy mind, healthy body = yawn. But there is a lot to be said for how energised a short burst of Zumba or jogging will make you feel. Doing some exercise is an accomplishment in itself, leaving you feeling more positive about your other goals.
  4. GET ON WITH IT: Lying in bed thinking about the impending task at hand will not help you to conquer it. Sometimes, you have to just bite the bullet and begin, however painful. An hour in to the task, you’ll wonder why on earth you were dreading it in the first place.
  5. Know when to stop: once you get into a rhythm of work, it can be hard to take a break. You might think that interrupting your flow will be detrimental to the end result, but you need time to relax, reflect and rewind. If you don’t, you’ll wear yourself out and have no energy left for the next time around. A break of about 10 minutes every hour should do it.

So go on, get motivated!

How to Make Yourself Look Less Hung over

We all know that feeling. You have been rudely awaken by the harsh tones of an alarm clock after having next to no sleep and realise that in twenty minutes you have to be presentable. Whether you are going to work or a lecture, to see your tutor or a brunch date, it doesn’t change the fact that you look like death warmed up and dragged through a field. So what can you possibly do in a short amount of time to remedy the situation?

  • Drink a litre of water. Let’s rewind. It’s the night before you became the monster of the morning after and you haven’t gone to bed yet. Not only will drinking water make the next morning a little easier to take headache-wise, it will drastically improve the look of your skin. Dehydration leaves the skin looking dry and flaky and if alcohol is involved, chances are it will be a whole lot worse.
  • Take off your makeup. Preferably do this the night before, but even if you forget, make sure to do this before you leave the house. Smears of mascara under the eyes are a massive giveaway to the reality of your fragile state, so get rid of them.
  • Don’t reapply your makeup. It may seem like a good idea to cover your entire face with products in the hope that you will mask how you are really feeling, but this is not a good idea. Instead, ditch the concealer and give your face some time to breathe and recover. If you really can’t bare the idea of going makeup free, apply a thin layer of tinted moisturizer like this one http://www.international.boots.com/en/No7-Triple-Protection-Tinted-Moisturiser_1259576/ from No7. Its lightweight formula means that it won’t clog up your pores but it will cover those dark circles under your eyes.
  • Wear layers. Being extremely tired often goes hand in hand with feeling cold. Being extremely hung over often goes hand in hand with sweating. So, in an effort to combat both problems with a limited amount of time, wear layers that you can take off and replace as often as necessary. This could take the form of a shirt, tank top and cardigan; just remember to keep each layer light.
  • Sort out your hair, love. Nothing says hung over like frizzy, knotty hair that may or may not be stuck to your face. If you haven’t any time to wash the beast, arm yourself with some dry shampoo like this one http://www.batistehair.co.uk/fragrance/blush from Batiste, and throw your hair up into a messy bun. Then thank the lord that this is a genuine trend, which you legitimately could have copied on purpose.

Disclaimer: this is not my usual sort of post; however I thought it was worth sharing as I spent a considerable part of this morning writing it for another site, only to realise that the task had already been snapped up. Sugar!

Some advice: Post-Christmas Blues

Getting the blues is almost inevitable after the decorations have come down and the lights have been turned off. January is probably the worst month of the year in that respect: Christmas is over, there is no excuse to eat your entire body weight in chocolate, it’s back to work and back to school and a bunch of extremely annoying people are telling you to start a health-kick.

To top that all off, I had to return to a cold, rainy, grey and sunless Northern France for the worst month of the year.

So, to make this month slightly more bearable for you (and for me!), I have a few important tips:

  • Don’t force yourself to stick to a punishing diet: a raw, gluten-free, vegan, carb-free salad diet might help you shed some pounds quickly in the height of summer, but it is a bad idea to do this in the middle of winter. For one thing, you might need that extra padding for warmth (student housing, I’m looking at you). For another, cooking warm, hearty meals can make any rainy January day feel so much better. The diet can wait until the sun appears.
  • Stock up on reading materials: classic novels, cheap beach-reads, trashy magazines – who cares? Gather all your old favourites and one or two new reads and indulge yourself – preferably in front of a fire, with a steaming mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows. Perfect.
  • Get a colouring book! I know, not the most original idea. But they are best-sellers for a reason. I have found that colouring in Johanna Basford’s beautiful Secret Garden is both relaxing and satisfying. You don’t have to think about what you’re doing and generally will produce something pretty, whichever colours you choose.
  • Stick the radio on: listening to the radio is such a great way to feel better, whether it’s music or chatting, because the presenters put in all the effort that you seem to lack this month. Also, you can listen to the radio wherever you are in the world, so it’s also a good way to make you feel connected with those at home.
  • Get on the phone: or Skype, FaceTime or whatever you use! I know some people say that when you’re abroad or away from home at university you should avoid relying too much on people at home, but I think that’s rubbish. Sometimes the one thing that can make you feel better is a call to your loved ones, so just do it. Plus, they will want to hear from you too.

Rude emails, excessive kissing and freezing fingers

Dear readers, welcome to the latest installment of my thrilling French adventure. I am thinking of renaming my blog ‘Heating, and other problems with France’ but that is still subject to revision.

On Monday I went straight into work at 8am from my weekend in Rennes because I needed to sort out an incident involving a rather impolite email from a colleague and to find out what I was going to deliver in my classes of the day. As it turned out, the situation was resolved, and I was required to conduct debates on the UK’s intervention in Syria, which proved to be quite interesting. Many of the students were pro-air strikes, which I found surprising considering my own cohort’s reaction to the news. Perhaps considering the recent success of the FN in France, this is just a small example of right-wing politics among the younger generation. The afternoon found me wandering round the school looking for my students because no one had informed me of the room change for that class. Eventually, one of them found me in the corridor and led me to the others, whereupon I discussed with individuals their opinions on war films and propaganda. A day full of light and airy topics. I bailed on badminton in the evening because I have actually picked up an injury from going on the bumper cars on Sunday. This one girl had it in for me, I’m telling you. At one of her ‘bumps’ I actually cried out ‘BLIMEY!’ Very French.

Tuesday: I continued marking year 11 oral presentations, led a semi-successful activity for the year 8s, and did equally fascinating things with the year 13 and over-18s, which you can read about in my extended edition of ‘How to lose the will to live in 12 hours a week’. Besides that, I thought I’d better try doing some studying because I’m missing out on all the jokes in the staffroom. Half because I can’t understand, but I suspect half because I’m basically a lost child hanging around with my parents’ friends there. Two interesting things I noted today: 1) The excessive amount of kissing that goes on among the students before each lesson goes some way to explaining the stereotype of French lateness. 2) I’m not saying the French are unhealthy, but half of my students were rolling fags BEFORE leaving the classroom.

I began Wednesday by momentarily forgetting everything and ending a sentence with ‘I can’t even French.’ So that went well. I helped out in a couple of year 8 classes, then caught the bus to St Hilaire, where I met up with Sarah. We had pizza, cider and tarte tatin in a nice little restaurant, then chilled (literally) for the rest of the evening at my place. As I write this, I am covered in clothes, a dressing gown and a duvet and still cannot feel my fingers. If anyone would like to come and have a go at the people responsible for heating in this place, they would be very welcome indeed.

A plus (provided I still have the ability to type)

It’s December, so I’ve cracked the Bublé out

Monday began another thrilling week of work here in the metropolis that is Mortain. I began the day by leading 4 groups of students in debates about military service and I still have no idea why Harry Potter and the Death Eaters became relevant to the discussion. Following that strange turn of events, I attempted to do my weekly shop, only to be faced with shutters and fermé signs at every turn. Oh yes, that’s right. It’s perfectly reasonable for businesses not to open on a Monday, after having been ever so busy at the weekend. Sure.

So, I carried on to my badminton club in the evening, where I believe I ended up getting coached by my father. Actually, it was another club member. But, you know, when your dad would purposefully hit deep shots followed by drop shots just to demonstrate the value of running. Fabulous. One thing I did learn, however, was that I am not made to eat dinner at 9pm. How do the French do it?

Tuesday dawned and I embarked upon my busiest day at work. In the morning I marked year 10 oral presentations; in the afternoon I worked with year 8, year 11 and the post-18 groups. The day was fairly uneventful, except for when one of the teachers left me in charge of the class while she DROVE HOME to get their work that she had forgotten to bring. I’ll admit, I did feel a bit stupid when I later asked her if she had already planned anything for next week’s class.

That’s all for this post, except for the fact that I am SO happy it’s December! Yes, I have opened my advent calendar. And yes, I have already started playing Michael Bublé. As it should be.

A+

The unwritten rules of dining out

There is an etiquette to dining out. It is undeniable. Yes, it may vary from culture to culture, but everywhere there are certain unwritten rules for restaurants. I’m here to write a few of them down.

  1. Gauge the atmosphere before you top up your glass. This is so important. Nothing ruins a quiet evening out with friends like the guy who’s had a few too many spilling his drink down your shirt. The host has booked this venue because they want to create a certain kind of atmosphere. So stick to it.
  2. Check the menu online beforehand. This is key to all those fussy eaters and veggies (like me) out there. If you make sure there is something you would like to eat on the menu, you will avoid all that uncomfortable squirming in front of a menu that says ‘I’m your worst nightmare!’ If you can’t find anything online, why not call up the restaurant to see if they can accommodate your needs.
  3. Check with the host before inviting your other half. This is a tricky rule to get right. If you suggest bringing your partner to someone else’s event, always be fully prepared to be turned down. There may not be enough space for them, or, if no other partners are going, they will feel awkward. As will everyone else who wanted to talk to you about them.
  4. Address the staff yourself! This is one that really gets my goat. No matter who you are, you can order your own food. Don’t let your man speak for you because it’s apparently ‘chivalrous’. It’s not.  You are a grownup too.
  5. Don’t get defensive about your dosh. If you and your mates have decided to go Dutch, split the bill and get over it. Of course, if you have ordered the steak and they all ate salad, you’ll need to cough up, but don’t get in a flurry about a couple of pence. It’s so not worth the argument.

Happy dining!

Travelling: How To Pack and Organize 

It is now only two weeks until I leave the country. That was a scary sentence to write. I am moving to France for a year to work in a school, and I have just two little weeks to get myself ready. But whether you’re going for a year or a week, travelling is so much easier when you are organized.

So where do I begin?

I suggest making a list of all the rooms that will be in the place you are staying. For example:

Bedroom

Kitchen

Bathroom

Lounge

Office

Garage

Staying in a hotel? Cross out ‘Kitchen’. Don’t have a car? Get rid of ‘Garage’. I would keep office regardless of whether you are going abroad to work, because it covers any paperwork.

Now that you have a list of rooms, you can sort out all the things you need to pack by these categories. This is much simpler than trying to make a list of everything you might need with no formal system.

From there, you could even divide each room into subcategories. For example ‘Bedroom’ might include:

Wardrobe

Bed

Bedside Table

Etc.

A room that definitely requires subcategories is ‘Office’. Not only will you need travel documents – passport, visa, tickets, etc – if you are going to be working, studying or renting property abroad, you will also need relevant documents for these categories.

Once you have decided upon categories and subcategories for documents, it is time to create a filing system. For this, I suggest colour-coding and sorting by date so that your files are easily located. Obviously, you can’t do this with items other than documents, but you can label boxes of items by room for ease of accessibility.

By organising what you need to pack, you will reduce any associated stress and hopefully be less likely to forget anything important.

That’s it from me for today, so I hope you found it useful. I’m now off to begin colour-coding…