Starting Small

Today was my first successful attempt at #writeandrun31.

I wrote! Not just this blogpost, but also I finished the first draft of a short story for this Emerald Street competition (deadline schmeadline, I’ve got three entire days yet), and worked on something for LabourList (watch this space, etc).

And I ran! Only a mile, ish. But actually the very tininess of the run reminded me of one of the useful things about projects like this, where you commit to do something every day: all I had to do today was write and run. As soon as I’d written anything, and run any distance, I’d done what I promised myself I would do.

It sounds counter-intuitive – writing one sentence a day, or running one mile a day, is not going to get you to the other side of a novel or a marathon any time soon. But it does keep the habit alive. If I’d committed to a proper training run today, at some point I would have checked my watch and gone ‘oops, is that the time, no run today’. But because all I had to do was run – and the kind of short run where I spend more time lacing up my trainers than actually out workin’ it was totally allowed – what do you know, I managed to fit it in. Looks like Zen Habits might be on to something when he tells you to Start Exceedingly Small.

Humbug Resolutions

I love New Year. I love the promise of something new and the chance to make plans and goals for the year. I love it even though I know that the best-laid plans o’ mice and mice-sized women gang aft agley: every year, as far back as I can remember, has brought me something I didn’t expect, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But 2015 is the year I turn thirty; the year I’m going to take my first ever trip to New York; and, much more importantly, it’s a general election year. Labour have a long way to go in the next four-and-a-bit months (!); I hope we make it, and I especially hope to see Jeff elected in Manchester Withington to get rid of Manchester’s last remaining Lib Dem.

Big years call for big plans, but I’m not making New Year’s Resolutions this year: instead, I’m all about habits. BlogHer’s National Blog Post Month calls on bloggers to post at least once a day, and the theme for January 2015 is Habit – we’ll see how well I stick to a daily blogging habit!

Similarly, I’ve belatedly spotted No Meat Athlete‘s #writeandrun31 – a challenge to do some running and some writing every day for 31 days. I’m a little late to this perfect combination – and don’t have my trainers to hand – so I’ll have to start that one tomorrow and take it into February.

Happy New Year to you all – barring an early motivation crash, I’ll be back tomorrow!

Your vote matters – make sure you’re in

Have you had your letter yet?

You should receive a letter from the council this month telling you whether you need to act to make sure you’re still registered to vote.

A new system called Individual Electoral Registration is now in operation in England and Wales. Under this system, individuals are responsible for registering themselves rather than one person representing a whole household as was previously the case.

Tell your friends and family to keep an eye out for their letter. But you don’t have to wait until you receive it – if you want to, you can register online right now at It’s a quick and easy process – I’ve just done it myself and it took less than a minute! All you need is your National Insurance number and date of birth.

No vote, no voice – make sure you’re in!

Residents have their say on The Place At Platt Lane

This weekend’s questionable weather didn’t deter local residents from coming along to Fallowfield Library’s Information Day on Saturday to get their faces painted, try out the smoothie bike and learn about the library’s new identity as The Place At Platt Lane. Well done to library staff, City South Manchester and the Friends of Fallowfield for organising the day.

If you couldn’t make it along, you can see a short video about the day on Facebook here.

Over 250 residents filled in a questionnaire about what they want to see at The Place. You can find out more and complete a questionnaire by dropping into the library (opening times here). The questionnaire will be online soon too – I’ll post a link when it’s available.

I’ve been reselected as Labour’s candidate for Fallowfield – thank-you so much!

I just wanted to say a quick thank-you to everyone who came to our selection meeting last Thursday. I’m delighted to have been reselected as the Labour candidate for Fallowfield for next year’s elections.

It doesn’t seem five minutes since I was first elected in 2011, but the next local elections and the General Election will be here before we know it. If you’re able to help us deliver leaflets – even just to your own street – or help us with telephone or doorstep canvassing, please let me know on Any help would be greatly appreciated!

100 days of productivity: a catch up

This post is part of my 100 Days of (Productive) Summer series. For more about this project, check out the introductory post here.

I’ve been slightly cheating for the last few days, in that:

1. I’ve been scribbling down some ideas for this blog rather than blogging every day

2. On Friday and Sunday I did wake up at 7 and do some emails, but then went back to sleep for a while

& 3. I have been exercising, but in a ‘where I can fit it in’ sort of way – ie walking (with leaflets), crunches (before bed, since I’m lying down anyway) and weightlifting (my godson).

No wonder he looks nervous.
No wonder he looks nervous.

I still think it counts, but I need to up my game. Anyway, here’s my AYOP picks for the last few days:

Fri 4th July – Be mindful of how you spend your time. Constantly check and reflect on how you spend your time (and energy and attention) throughout the day. I often do this by setting an hourly alarm on my phone.

I was quite looking forward to this one, but…events. I ended up taking care of said godson for a few hours on Friday afternoon, and babysitting a four-month-old is not an activity that lends itself to constant reflection – or to having an alarm going off all the damn’ time. Nevertheless I think having a regular prompt that goes: “Yo Grace…are you actually concentrating on this email you’re writing/phone call you’re having/meeting you’re in, or are you thinking about Breaking Bad because I just said ‘Yo’?” would be a positive thing, and so I think I’m going to give that one a better try at a later date.

Sat 5th July – Exercise. In the words of AYOP, “In my opinion, working out is the single best way to get more energy. And it doesn’t just energize you; exercise also combats disease, brightens your mood, and helps you sleep better.”

Now, two years ago I would have been all:

NO to jogging

but now I’m all:

or I would be if I weighed two stone less. And had a stomach like that. And could afford to wear Sweaty Betty‘s beautiful beautiful running clothes from head to toe. And lived near a beach. What I mean is – I run, now. Not as often as I should, but I do, and sometimes I even enjoy it. I love the way I feel after a run (it’s a magical combination of endorphins and smugness), and I love the atmosphere at races, and I love watching myself get ever-so-slowly better at something I never thought I was capable of doing.

Jennifer Lawrence

I hate to risk incurring the wrath of JLaw, but running is amazing. If you’re wondering whether you should try it, the answer is almost certainly yes.

One of my favourite ways to run is as part of the South Manchester Parkrun – a well-organised, well-attended, friendly timed 5k every single Saturday at 9am in beautiful Platt Fields. I don’t go as often as I should – partly because I work most Saturdays now, and partly because, y’know, 9am – but I never regret it when I do. If you’re near Platt Fields you should definitely come along – if not, find a parkrun near you.

I’m also planning on running the Great Birmingham Run this year, which will be my third half-marathon. If you’re also running that one or think you might like to, get in touch and we shall compare training plans and blisters.

Finally, Sun 6th July – Let the air out of your tires every once in a while. AYOP’s Chris took this to extremes with a slob week, but he says a more rewarding way to relax is by ‘creating positive, productive outlets to relieve your stress.’ Appropriately enough, yesterday I discovered the Slap George Osborne game.


Ahh. I feel better already.


Day 25 of 100: quit multitasking

This post is part of my 100 Days of (Productive) Summer series. For more about this project, check out the introductory post here.

Got up at: 7

Exercise: crunches and planks and something called an alligator drag, which I enjoy as part of my lifelong commitment to looking ridiculous.

Writing: not yet, but I have an email and another blogpost that need writing before the end of today.

Today’s productivity tip, courtesy of AYOPstop multitasking.

Ugh. I love multitasking. I draft speeches while I’m running. I drink smoothies while I’m showering. (I also once answered the phone while showering, which turned out to be expensive.) I tweet while holding my godson. I watch The Good Wife while washing up.

tgw gif

I watch The Good Wife while ironing.


I watch The Good Wife while cooking.


I watch The Good Wife while on the phone to my mother.


Actually, I do lots of things while I’m on the phone – probably because I spend most of my life on the phone and I like having something to do with my hands.

In short, me quitting multitasking is like [someone topical] quitting [some thing that they do a lot, although for greater comic effect it should not be the thing that they are primarily meant to do].

So what advice does A Year of Productivity have for me? You can read the full article here, but this is how I see the highlights:

– if you can do it without hands, you can do it while washing up

– you can do pretty much anything while listening to music

– but switch off all the social media alerts that distract you

– keep meditating (ack) to help you learn to focus

– and remember that your brain really can only do one thing at once.

In other words:

ron swanson