A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

10 shortcuts to success in 2016



Welcome back! Hope you had a wonderful break and the new year is unfolding gently and happily for you.

With or without resolutions, I think we all pretty much want to start the year as we mean to go on. I want to keep healthy, push my running further, make the house even more organised and manage my time so that I have as much time as possible for all the creative projects I keep putting on a back burner. I was worrying about having too many goals, but it’s not impossible to attack them when you use a few shortcuts to success.

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together ~Vincent Van Gogh

After receiving a Kindle at long last (I am a luddite) I read a lot this holiday. Everything from Gok Wan’s autobiography (curiously compelling) to Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (loads of interesting ideas, but not quite the book or the person I thought it/she would be) to Anthony Rubbin’s Awaken the Giant Within (very inspiring, although you have to really commit to the science bit). Books that helped to consolidate some ideas and shortcuts I had been trying out already.

Firstly, I’ve learnt it’s vital to be kind to yourself at this time of year (but not too kind) Rome wasn’t built in a day, but equally, it took a whole lot of effort. Productivity experts, like Anthony Rubbins, seem to agree that the trick with change is to take it a day at a time, to reward yourself immediately for steps in the right direction and to keep reviewing things. If they don’t work, don’t give up, try something different.


Start with one drawer

I’ve tried quite a lot of things recently which have changed my life, then I’ve read about them in magazines and realised they are a ‘thing’. Decluttering has been a thing forever of course, but my facebook timeline is full of people doing the Marie Kondo method.

I spent much of 2015 complaining the whole house was coming down on my head. One day I decided to start the clearing out with one drawer, it is amazing how once you get going the decluttering almost propels itself. Over the holidays I was amazed what a couple of afternoons did for my ability to find things, to concentrate and relax. I’ve since spoken to people who have read the Kondo book and I realise I was onto something, I even started with my clothes, which apparently is a very good place to start.

You can make a list of cupboards and drawers to tackle and tick them off, follow the Kondo method, but I am quite enjoying the random approach of whatever takes my fancy that day.

‘You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.’ Mike Murdock



 A smoothie a day keeps the doctor away

I love my blender and so do the kids. Committing to one smoothie a day, either for breakfast or to see off the afternoon biscuit craving hour seems to be a really easy way to make a big difference. It’s great knowing you have the bulk of your 5 a day in one swoop. The kids hate my green concoctions but love the novelty of making smoothies for pudding. Long may that last!
A brain dump

Last year I learnt to dump absolutely everything in my head on paper once a week. It works wonders for my sanity and is a great starting point for a weekly planning session.


A great app for a quick workout

Ever get put off exercise by having to start a DVD, you tube an exercise to work out how to do it or by getting to the gym?  I love the SworKit app because everything you need is in one place, you pick an area of the body, or type of exercise.  You set the timer for however many minutes you have, the video demo of each exercise plays as you exercise.

Easy peasy.


Ditch the Distractions

Last year I read Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan, it really impressed on me how we can easily design our own happiness by setting up defaults for our brains. Our brains go for the easy option. One default I had was to scan facebook whenever I was bored or waiting,  I deleted the app, and replaced it with news and exercise apps instead.



Water on tap

Another easy default setting. We have a gorgeous cream pitcher on the kitchen table. We leave our glasses on a mat in the middle of the table so the kids can always fill up too. It makes it easy to make sure we all stay hydrated.

I’m shopping for a great carafe for my desk too, something gorgeous that makes me want to actually use it.


Stay on budget

Dave Ramsey the US Amercian author nails it when he says, “Your priorities, passions, goals, and fears are shown clearly in the flow of your money.”

Fear or boredom put me off doing this, but control is a magical thing, as is having something to look forward to, to spend it on, like holidays. I am trying to make boring tasks fun this year.  Mr A and I have booked a night to play some music, eat good food, and sort the budget.

As Dave says, “You will either learn to manage money, or the lack of it will manage you.”  




Meal Plan

I used to think meal planning was such a waste of my energy and a bore. Then I discovered how life changing it was.

I hate hearing those words ‘Any ideas what’s for tea?’

We were saving money, there was the joy of just knowing what we were eating. We even got to try new recipes because we had ordered the ingredients, not having to cook because we had made double the week before was amazing, the healthy meals we were eating made me feel so much better as a person, and a mum.

These were wonderful bonuses, but the thing that really convinced me, was the fact I had much more time and headspace for other things. I even enjoyed cooking, it stopped feeling like a chore.


The little things

Although I don’t always write good things down, I did start to mentally seek them out each day, and when I read recently that the act of noting them makes you actively seek more happiness I was sold.

Taking part in #BlogItForward last month really showed me how fast acts of kindness start to snowball in your mind when you perform just a few.

“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder


Quit Procrastinating

As I type this the timer on my phone is on for 25 minutes, the recommended amount of time according to the Pomodoro technique. I’m typing faster, I am phaffing less. Putting the timer on was the difference between writing a blog post and sharpening pencils, checking facebook again or cleaning out another cupboard, that’s stuff for the 5 minutes break between 25 minute blasts.


These are my favourite tricks for staying productive. Let me know if you want any more info on any of them as I am planning some more posts for January. What are yours?

shortcuts to success

Image credits – Shutterstock –the way forwardvintage printing press, old way new way, change word

26 thoughts on “10 shortcuts to success in 2016

  • Lins @ Boo & Maddie

    Well how productive is this – I’m reading your post on the train to work instead of the stupid free newspaper which just depresses me or scanning social media. I am definitely starting meal planning this year, we waste so much food and money by not doing this. My goal is to take my lunch to work at least 3 days a week and more if I can. More posts please x

    • A Residence Post author

      Lins thank you, that image makes me smile so much. The best bit of meal planning is feeling in control so I can spend headspace on other things. Love the lunch idea, I def need to work on my meal planning for my lunches when I work at home – might add them to the plan – thank you!

  • Over a Cuppa

    Fab tips, I did a massive de-clutter when we moved. A bit of one before Christmas but need to do an epic one as feel a bit drowned out myself of stuff! Have been tempting to buy the Marie Kondo book but worry it is a little bit much de-cluttering for me!

    Need to get on the meal planning wagon again, rather like you I think I am a bit of a rebel so dislike too many rules and this is what we are having to eat, etc etc! Though I know when I do this the extra space in my over-spilling mind is worth it! I have yet to find a big enough piece of paper to brain dump but again know I need to do this daily…hourly…by the minute…you get the picture!

    Happy New Year to you all, you really look like you are starting it on track. May have to swap Marie’s book for Happiness by Design on my wishlist xxxx

    • A Residence Post author

      I think Kondo may be a step too far too, I am definitely not a minimalist, and as we agree on lots of things, I reckon it is probably too much – but I haven’t actually read it. I am enjoying gently teasing out what I don’t need. I have no problem saying bye to things, but minimalism leaves me cold! The rebel in me only meal plans so I have more time for other stuff – I resisted for years! I think you might love Dolan’s book – he has a lovely straightforward and fun way of writing about why we do what we do, backed up with loads of evidence. Happy New Year! xxx

  • pigeonpairandme

    I love the fact you’ve put a Laura Ingalls Wilder quote in here! It’s all common sense stuff, but we do need reminders. I especially like the 25 minutes tip.

    • A Residence Post author

      I love Laura, and apparently, as Ali from Over a Cuppa told me, reading kids’ books is also good for us. Gretchen Rubin concurs too 😉 It is common sense you are right, it was reading Happiness by Design that reminded me that we often lose track of common sense and do the opposite of what would be good for us!

    • A Residence Post author

      I need to revisit it, and be stricter about taking a proper 5 min break. I think the idea is to do it in cycles of 3, with a longer break after the third one.

  • thereadingresidence

    Thank you for these tips! I like to think I’m pretty organised, and you’ve now given me more ideas that I’ll incorporate. I really like that timer trick, and spotting and getting rid of distractions.

    • A Residence Post author

      It’s the simple things sometimes isn’t it? i love anything that makes me more organised simply!

  • Babes about Town

    Wow this post is full of get up and go 😉 I’m already feeling more productive just by having spent my time wisely reading your tips. I’m planning to get that tidying book as that’s a big project for this year, cutting through the clutter and finding a bit more sanity. Streamlining I think it’s called 😉 I’m also planning to be a lot more proactive and productive about how I use my time, so in with the timers and out with those late night client calls about nothing lol. Feeling excited about the year ahead, Happy 2016 Penny x

    • A Residence Post author

      Uju! Thank you so much for saying so. I don;t think you ness need the book, in my humble opinion, the time is well spent on tidying, rather than reading about it, but I may be very wrong!

  • natalie shepherd

    Great post penny : ) thanks for the tips. I gave in to meal planning towards the end of last year and was amazed at how liberating it actually was! As you say, more headspace for other things. The kids (and then Danis) ‘what are we/they having for tea?’ Was driving me nuts! I tend to do a plan for seven days and then pick and choose each day as the mood/time etc dictates that way there is a plan but it’s not totally set in stone! Happy new year! ️Xxx

    • A Residence Post author

      Liberating is the word! Lovely to hear from you Nat. Like that idea of flexibility – we had a huge argument over what I made on Monday – sometimes sticking to your guns with kids isn;t the best strategy.

  • Helloitsgemma

    Good tips. I am interested in the happiness books, I’ve seen various mentions of the happiness project and never got around to it. Your comment on it was curious. Having moved too many times I’m a big fan of due cluttering – it does soothe the soul. Best wishes for 2016.

    • A Residence Post author

      Happiness by Design had the biggest impact on me, because it is much more effortless. The Happiness Project is packed with great ideas, but is a bit exhausting effort wise.

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  • travelingchristie

    Penny these are amazing tips, I have always meal planned but have got a bit lazy and choose the same meals, I need to shake it up a little and I make time wasting into an art form I have really got to get on top of this as I so easily lose an hour doing nothing, x

    • A Residence Post author

      I think I can do all that too, I should have added a tip about wasting an hour doing nothing being good for the soul too!

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