It’s Time To Take Control


This article has been reproduced by kind permission of The Mail on Sunday YOU Magazine.

Few women I know have enough time to do everything they have to, plus some for themselves. (Working mothers probably count ‘Me’ time in minutes per week rather than hours per day.) The resulting ‘worry hurry sickness’, as organisational psychologist Professor Cary Cooper of Lancaster University terms it, can affect our health. Most doctors agree stress is a significant factor in problems ranging from insomnia to, at the more serious end, heart disease.

But a new book by personal development expert Michael Heppell, who coaches Davina McCall and Chris Evans, might just help. How To Save An Hour Every Day, which covers pretty well your whole life, starts as it means you to go on, advising ‘Please don’t read this entire book’. His first tip is that we can sift through huge amounts of information in minutes, and decide what’s important and what’s not. ‘Trust your intuition and you’ll quickly see where you need to start.’ Then the clincher: ‘Actually start.’

My intuition whizzed to a section called Cut the Clutter. For years, I’d filed anything ‘pending’ on my office floor. Yes, I lost things. Yes, I spent hours every week moving stuff from one pile to another. And yes I had plenty of drawers – but they were full of winter bedding. Within five minutes, I’d ordered eight storage bags – next day delivery – which enabled me to put the bedding in the attic (labelled as Heppell instructs so I know what’s in which bag) and move everything off the floor.

Hallelujah! Daily life feels more under control. I’ve now cleared the car, handbags – and some kitchen cupboards. It may not sound significant but as Heppell points out, an hour a day is four blocks of 15 minutes, and the time and energy I save adds up to at least one.

Other simple practical tips include:

Divide your time into blocks (from ten minutes to two hours or more), and allocate tasks you know you can complete realistically in that block.

Exercise needn’t involve hours at the gym: visit Heppell’s website,, for a link to fitness expert Paul Mort’s tips, including a 5 minute ‘hotel room workout’.

Only check your email at set times, allocate significant ones to subfolders ‘Do it now’, ‘Good read’, and ‘maybe’, then delete the rest.

Don’t make long To Do lists. (You never complete them: instead the night before, write down five important things to do – and do them.)

Buy a roll of bin bags, then have a monumental clear out. Take them to the local charity shop.

After your wardrobe clearout, re-hang your clothes by colour.

Switch to internet banking.

Streamline daily activities; eg keep paper knife, scissors, recycling bag beside where you open your post; sort it into three To Do trays (labelled Action, File and Live, the last for things you need to put your hands on quickly).

Find a No Message card you like, and buy a stash. On the first of every month, write all the cards you need to eg birthday, anniversary, stamp them and put them in your Action tray and post as needed. Keep a spare stamped card with you for emergencies.

Carry a small notebook and pen at all times, and make notes immediately about ideas, names, things to do.

More ideas on

Pine Nuts Leave A Bitter Taste

Be careful if you like pine nuts. After eating a salad sprinkled with them, a reader’s holiday was ‘ruined by the awful taste, which has now lasted over three weeks and shows no sign of going. Every drink and meal unleashes a vile taste.’ The Food Standards Agency (FSA) says the cause is probably due to ‘pine nuts from China becoming mixed with non-edible species’; steps are in train to ensure the correct grade is imported into the EU. The FSA states ‘no long term health effects are anticipated’ but aren’t aware of anything that can alleviate the bitter taste. It is now setting up a database of reports. If you’ve had similar problems, email:

Soothing Ways For Prickly Heat

I had a bumper bundle of readers tips for quelling prickly heat after my column on May 30th. One recommends Weleda’s Urtica Urens cream – it is the most amazing product: you can feel the relief immediately’ (£9.91 for 20g). Another offers this advice: ‘I take beta-carotene for two weeks before and during my holiday and have had no flare-ups at all for two years; anti-histamines don’t help at all.’ Try Natural Beta Carotene by LifeTime Vitamins £11.50 for 100 Capsules. Both products available from

Are You Sitting Comfortably

For people with bad backs who like picnics and other chair-free activities, Pilates teacher Jill Taylor (website) recommends the portable Outdoor Seat by Highlander, £9.99 from The size of a carrier bag and very light, it unfolds to make a supportive seat. Also good for travelling or anywhere with uncomfy chairs.

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