MOLLY MAID Mon, 19 Nov 2018 17:12:49 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 MOLLY MAID 32 32 Winter gardening tips and tricks Mon, 12 Nov 2018 10:14:46 +0000 These winter gardening tips and tricks can help you prepare your garden for the cold snap and make sure you're ready when the warmth returns.

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When Jack Frost has taken over your garden, it can be very tempting to pack away your green thumb until the sun makes an appearance again.

You will, however, appreciate a little maintenance and preparation come springtime – plus there is a whole world of indoor and winter gardening to be discovered. These winter gardening tips and tricks can help you prepare your garden for the cold snap and make sure you’re ready when the warmth returns.


Winter is ideal for snuggling up with some gardening books and a sketch pad to plan out your dream garden. Think about the projects you might like to take on, and take the time to research what they involve – books and gardening catalogues can be a great source of inspiration. A bit of planning will help your garden to thrive all summer long, plus it gives you opportunity to prepare your to-do lists and supplies so that you are ready and waiting for planting season!

Tuck your garden up for winter

Laying a couple of inches of compost followed by a layer of mulch over your flower beds and crops will help to protect them from the worst of the frost, plus provide essential nutrients that will keep them healthy throughout the dormant months.

Covering crops with clear plastic sheeting will help to prevent erosion and protect the quality of the soil.

It’s a good time to fertilise the lawn too, so that it has a chance to recover from any damage caused by ball games and paddling pools during the summer months!

Discover winter plants

There are many plants and crops that enjoy the cooler temperatures, particularly greens (think spinach, parsley kale, mustard and Swiss chard). Shrubs such as winter hazel, witch hazel and honeysuckle will cheer up the bleak view on a cold winter’s morning, and violas and pansies will even add a dash of colour to the frost. Give them a better chance by planting in pots in the most sheltered corners of your garden!

Garden indoors

Houseplants are protected from the cold temperatures of course, but keep them away from direct heat as they won’t like that either! Central heating dries out the air in your home, so make sure to keep your house plants watered regularly, and consider grouping a few together as they will help to protect one another.

Late winter is a great time to get started with seedlings that you’ll move outdoors in spring.

Broccoli, tomatoes, leeks and onions will all thrive on a windowsill until they are ready for the great outdoors!

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10 laundry hacks you need in your life Tue, 06 Nov 2018 08:45:43 +0000 Here are some simple laundry hacks to freshen your clothes in record time.

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It’s hard to deny the satisfaction that a clean pile of freshly washed and ironed clothes brings, but could you be wasting time and money on this most basic of household chores? Here are some simple laundry hacks that can help you clean your clothes perfectly for less.

Dry wrinkle free

Hang shirts, dresses and tops on hangers straight from the washing machine, and give them a smooth down with your hands. You might still want to run an iron quickly over them once dry (depending on the fabric and just how smart that item needs to be!) but drying as many items as possible in the shape you want them will greatly cut down on your ironing.

Never lose a sock again

It’s a well known fact that socks regularly disappear from washing machines, but save yourself from an entire drawer of partnerless socks by sticking them in a mesh bag before putting in the washing machine.

Softener that’s cheap as chips

Or suitable to put on chips at least – vinegar is a little known fabric softener!

Simply pop ¼ – ½ cup of vinegar into your machine along with your normal detergent to soften your clothes and towers.! The vinegar smell doesn’t linger, so you don’t have to worry about smelling like a chip shop either.

Wash the washer

It’s all too easy to forget that the washing machine itself could use some TLC now and then, but a clean washing machine will be more efficient and last longer. [Link to previous how to clean washing machine posts]


Magic those stains away

No longer need a stain be a one way ticket to the bin for your favourite clothes! There is no need for pricey stain removers either – it’s amazing the power that humble household items have over the most stubborn stains:

  • Blood – soak both sides of the fabric in cold water then wash in lukewarm soapy water before giving it a final rinse.
  • Lipstick – loosen the stain with glycerine or a prewash stain remover, dab, then rinse before washing.
  • Red wine – sprinkle the stain liberally with salt and let it soak in. Once dry, brush off the excess then wash with laundry bleach if needed.
  • Fruit juices – dab the stain either with citric acid (found in lemons or laundry treatments) or vinegar (white is best on fabric) then wash in warm, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
  • Sweat stains – apply a paste of baking soda and lemon juice. Allow to dry in the sun if possible, then wash as normal.
  • Ink – spray generously with hairspray, let it sit for around 10 minutes, then wash as normal.

Freeze your jeans

Repeated washing can fade denim and cause beloved skinny jeans to lose their shape forever, but there comes a point when the most trusty jeans need to be washed! Luckily there is an answer: in the freezer. The low temperature kills off the majority of bacteria that can cause smells – it’s not 100%, so you’ll want to pop them in the washing machine every once in a while. Place in a ziplock bag and stick in the freezer overnight.

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Stock your kitchen cupboards for winter Fri, 26 Oct 2018 07:22:55 +0000 As the nights grow darker and our appetites favour hearty stews and steaming soups, now is the perfect time to stock your kitchen cupboards.

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With the season of cosy soups and hearty stews right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to stock your kitchen cupboard and make sure you’re prepared to get creative this winter. The days of stocking up until spring may be gone, but when you run low on healthy staples on those dark and chilly nights it’s all too tempting to reach for the takeaway menu — so a bit of pioneer spirit doesn’t hurt!

The main thing to keep in mind of course, is what you like to eat. If the thought of anchovies makes you green, there’s no point leaving them to rot at the back of your kitchen cupboard (though bear in mind they can be used as a seasoning in some recipes.)

The same goes for spices – some people love a hot and spicy curry on a cold winter night, but if your tastes run milder then skip the chilli and cayenne pepper.

  • Tomatoes are one vegetable (or technically fruit!) that may be healthier when tinned. The preserving process releases a substance called lycopene—which may help prevent prostate and breast cancer. Tinned tomatoes are excellent to have on hand to form the base of a casserole, or whizz up for pizza or pasta. Whole plum tomatoes tend to have the richest flavour.
  • Pulses – a great source of protein, and fantastic in casseroles, chillis or to bulk out a soup, have a variety of chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans and lentils on hand.
  • Tuna, salmon or sardines – great to whip into fishcakes, add some protein to a pasta dish or simply as a sandwich filler.
  • Dried pasta, noodles and a couple of varieties of rice and grains. There is something particularly lovely about fresh pasta, but it’s always worthwhile having some tried on hand to whip up a simple and nourishing meal. Wholegrain rice is full of slow-release energy – use it for stir fries and to turn a soup into a full meal. Bulgur, quinoa and barley can also bulk up soups or to add a twist to a stir fry dish.
  • Nuts and seeds keep well and are great in porridge, salads or as a snack on their own. Nut butters are also great for snacking – on toast, crackers or apples!
  • Honey, olive oil, vinegars, soy sauce – take your marinades, dressings, sauces and stews to the next level with the right splashes of flavour.
  • Porridge oats, for the classic winter warming breakfast, but also for baking flapjacks, scones and biscuits, and several fish and meat recipes. Oats are one of the most nutrient-dense foods, and are rich in antioxidants.
  • Spices – your favourite spices are a matter of taste, but some staples to have on hand include: oregano, smoked paprika, chilli, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, curry powder, sea salt, black peppercorns, nutmeg and turmeric.

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Halloween party ideas Mon, 22 Oct 2018 08:00:51 +0000 Have a fang-tastic Samhain celebration with these simple Halloween party ideas.

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Over the past few years Halloween seems to have evolved from wearing a half-hearted costume and ducking for apples to an all-singing all-dancing extravaganza. Though it might seem a bit Americanised these days, Halloween originates in the Celtic festival of Samhain and has been celebrated in the British Isles for over two thousand years.

If you want to join in the fun without traipsing round to the neighbours’ houses demanding sweets, here are some fun Halloween party ideas ideas suitable for all ages.

1. Silhouetted scares

Give your neighbours a treat with some cardboard cut out monsters! Using black poster board, sketch some spooky silhouettes – ghosts, bats or even skulls if you’re feeling artistic! – cut out the shapes and stick them to your windows (blue tack works well and is less likely than sellotape to leave a mark). When the lights are on indoors the scary shapes will be highlighted to terrifying effect.

2. Cheesecloth ghosts

Take an old wire coat hanger and drape with cheese cloth (available from most kitchen or hardware shops) to create spooky floating ghosts.

You could create eyes or gaping mouths from black construction paper, and shred the cheese cloth at the bottom to give it a ragged effect. Hang them outside your front door or in any dark corner to give Halloween guests a fright. Shredded cheese cloth draped over a doorway or along walls can also give a cobweb effect to welcome guests.

3. Scary soundtrack

Anyone who has watched a scary movie knows how crucial the soundtrack is to build tension. You can buy a spooky soundtrack, but why not try making your own?

Track down creaky doors or floorboards, record howling wind or faraway shrieks.

If you want to take it to the next level, watermelons are a great favourite of movie soundtrack artists. You can squelch the flesh, crunch or rip the peel, even drop the whole thing from a ladder – there is no end to the horrible noises a watermelon can create. Record the effects with your phone and use a sound editing app (some computers and tablets have them installed as standard, others are available as free apps) to edit them all together.

This is the kind of project kids love to get involved with.

A simpler option could be creating a playlist of all your favourite scary songs!

4. Go old style

Sometimes the classics are the best.

Bobbing for apples requires little set up, and though it can involve splashing water, it could also be a good way to get kids to eat an apple amongst all the Halloween sweets! Fill a clean bucket or basin with water and float several apples in it, then players take turns trying to catch an apple with their teeth while their hands must stay behind their back.

Carving pumpkins (or turnips, if you really want to go old-style!) is another fun activity – either in preparation for the party or as a party game for older children or adults. You could also get competitive and offer a prize for the scariest design…

5. Grave cake

A simple chocolate sponge with chocolate shavings to evoke dirt can be turned truly horrible with a couple of strategically placed dolls limbs escaping graves!

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How to clean your bathroom before guests arrive Wed, 10 Oct 2018 14:59:49 +0000 Clean your bathroom and prepare for friends, family or Airbnb guests with this short guide.

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Whether you are hosting friends and family or delving into the world of AirBnB, you’ll want to have your bathroom both prepared and gleaming. Here are a few tips to to help you clean your bathroom so it is guest-ready.

1. Deep clean

Thoroughly clean the bathroom, including sink, bath, shower, floor and mirrors.

Wipe down wall tiles and don’t forget to tackle limescale build up on the shower head and taps. Make sure the drains aren’t clogged and that there is no grime around their edges, and give the grouting a good scrub, especially if there is any sign of mould.

Dryer sheets are great for polishing any chrome fixtures to give them that extra special gleam, plus make sure you dust lights and lamp shades. Don’t forget to empty the rubbish before anyone arrives!

2. De-personalise

Nobody wants to come across their host’s itch creams or well-used toothbrushes, so make sure that personal items are tucked away from view. Remove children’s bath toys (unless your guests are of an age to appreciate them!), step stools and potties, ancient magazines and any other unnecessary clutter. This also creates space for your guests to set out any toiletries or cosmetics they may have brought.

3. Stock up

Make sure that there are clean towels ready for guests’ use, and it’s worth having a couple of extra set out just in case – it’s never fun going dripping through a host’s home to ask for another towel! Also don’t forget to ensure you are well stocked with spare toilet rolls placed somewhere easy to spot.

It’s a nice touch to fill a basket with toiletries they might have forgotten or couldn’t bring on a plane, such as toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, tweezers, cotton buds. Think about items you’re grateful to find in a hotel bathroom. Set out new shampoo/condition and shower gel or soap in the shower or bath, possibly even labelled so they know it is for their use. A spare hair dryer may be appreciated too, and if you have room, stick a hamper in the corner so they’re not left wondering what to do with used towels.

4. Extra touches

If you really want to go to town and give your bathroom that luxurious holiday touch, you could add a small vase of flowers or pot pourri on a shelf or windowsill, or perhaps a candle or a scent diffuser.

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Get your deposit back: end of tenancy cleaning tips Fri, 05 Oct 2018 13:31:47 +0000 Thoroughly cleaning your home at the end of your tenancy can improve your chances of getting your full rental deposit back.

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Moving home can be one of life’s most stressful experiences, with some studies finding it can be worse than a relationship breakdown and redundancy.

Worrying about getting your deposit back can add to that stress – and it can be a tricky area. More than half of deposit disputes cite insufficient cleaning as an issue between the parties.

It may be worth paying for a professional end of tenancy clean, but if you’re trying to cut the cost of moving, here are some end of tenancy cleaning tips that will improve your chances of getting the full deposit back.

The key to an end of tenancy clean is depth and thoroughness.

However house-proud you are, your regular domestic clean likely focuses on surfaces. Your landlord will be checking inside cupboards, on top of units and beneath furniture, so it’s crucial to make sure there isn’t a speck of dust to be found high or low!

1. Know what is expected

Make sure you read your tenancy agreement carefully, as it will state the condition of the flat required for the deposit to be returned in full. Some contracts may stipulate that a professional clean is required, but your landlord cannot enforce that as long as your clean is up to scratch.

2. Tackle the kitchen

The kitchen can be one of the toughest rooms to deep clean, so it’s a good idea to start there while you’re still fresh. You’ll find it easiest to work in a room that is as empty as possible, so start by removing all dishes and stored food from cupboards, shelves and drawers.

  • Thoroughly clean all surfaces, the insides of cupboards and drawers and the fridge.
  • Soak fridge shelves and trays in soapy water, defrost the fridge and freezer.
  • Clean the microwave inside and out, the hob and the oven (there may be a manufacturer’s guide on how to clean your particular oven).
  • Thoroughly wipe the dishwasher and washing machine inside and out.
  • Pull out any appliances to clean behind and underneath, and polish the surfaces of smaller appliances such as the kettle and toaster.
  • Make sure you remove any limescale build up on taps and on tiles or grouting. Vinegar is great on limescale if you don’t have descaler.

3. Polish the bathroom

  • Thoroughly scrub sink, bath, shower, mirrors, tiles and floor.
  • Pay particular attention to any limescale build up or mould which may be found around taps and grouting.
  • Check that plug holes and drains aren’t slow moving, and use a drain cleaner if necessary.
  • Dispose of any old shampoo or shower gel bottles, and clean the inside of the cabinet.

4. Go deep

With living rooms and bedrooms, it’s the nooks and crannies that put your deposit at risk.

  • Make sure you clean behind and beneath furniture.
  • Dust radiators and sockets, wipe down the insides of cupboards.
  • Don’t forget to clean light fittings and shades, curtain rails (plus hoover the curtains themselves), bannisters if you have them and the walls.
  • Hoover any soft furnishings and wash or dry clean any removable fabrics such as cushion covers.
  • Polish the inside of windows (and out, if necessary).
  • Wipe down skirting and polish door knobs or handles.

5. Check and check again

When you’re in the midst of such a huge job – it is worthwhile setting aside a full weekend at least – it is easy to miss a detail or two that lets you down. When you have finished your clean, leave the property for a while (you deserve a coffee out at least!) then come back and begin an inspection through fresh eyes. Have a cloth handy so you can wipe any dust or fingermarks then and there. Check fixtures and fittings, grease extractors, door knobs. Make sure that all rubbish has been cleared and disposed of.

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Make do and mend to reduce what you spend Tue, 02 Oct 2018 10:08:54 +0000 You can make do and mend - and also cut your carbon footprint and save a few pounds.

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We’re all familiar with the wartime slogan that urged people to get the most out of the things they already had – “Make Do and Mend”.

Though the saying had been around since the First World War, it was formalised in 1943 when the British Ministry of Information issued a pamphlet giving advice on being thrifty yet stylish at the height of rationing.

We might not quite be ready to make “pretty decorative patches” to cover holes in clothes, but these days many of us are keen to recycle more and reduce our waste. Make do and mend is a very sensible principle to live by.

Here are some simple ideas for breathing new life into your old things!

It’s all in the jeans

How many of us have at least one pair of jeans lying around that we won’t be wearing again in a hurry? Denim is one of the few fabrics that actually improves with age, as it softens over time and can take a healthy bit of wear and tear. Plus, having been popular for well over a century, it’s a look that isn’t likely to go out of fashion any time soon.

Turning old pairs of jeans into unique and quirky home decor items needn’t require serious sewing skills. You hardly need to sew at all to turn the hems from a few pairs of old jeans into coasters. Simply trim the edges of the seams as closely as possible, then apply hot glue with a glue gun and roll the seams tightly to form a spiral. Glue down the end and allow to set for several hours before using.

If you have some basic sewing skills, you could go a little more ambitious and create a denim patchwork cushion cover or even a quilt.

Darn It

The idea of darning socks around a fire is almost an ‘olden days’ cliché, but darning is simpler than you think, and can be a great way to bring old knitwear back to life.

It’s worthwhile investing in a darning egg (they are normally just a couple of pounds from a haberdashery shop or online). Place damaged item over the darning egg inside out, then with a thick thread or wool that is as close in weight and texture to the item as possible, start a centimetre or two away from the edge of the hole, and weave over the hole. Create several large stitches going in one direction, then turn the item perpendicular and thatch across. You can also do this to reinforce worn areas in the heel or toes of socks before a hole springs.

Make your own

Instead of shelling out for pricey (and often chemical-laden) household products, why not try making your own?

Your skin will thank you for a simple face mask made from porridge oats and honey, and your hair will love an egg-white rinse. You can replace most of your cleaning products with an all-purpose solution of ½ cup of white vinegar, ⅓ cup of baking soda with two litres of water.

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How to clean like a professional Tue, 02 Oct 2018 09:53:04 +0000 Learn how can you clean like a professional - and make your home brilliantly clean with less time.

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If anybody knows how to clean thoroughly and efficiently, it is those who do it for a living. Here are some of the hottest tips and tricks that only the professionals know… until now. These simple tips will help you clean like a professional and achieve a brilliantly clean home in less time.

Book it in

It’s all too easy to clean whenever you get around to it, and to let it take as long as it takes – but that’s a quick way to let it pile up and start to feel overwhelming. Take a hint from professional cleaners, and schedule your cleaning time, whether it’s a couple of hours to blitz it at the weekend, perhaps, or in bite-sized chunks throughout the week. Time yourself tackling each task and make a note of it, then you know how much time to block out in the future.

Figure out a system that works for you – whether it’s working room by room or task by task  (vacuuming the whole house, for example, or cleaning all the windows) and make yourself stick to it.

Start with clutter

As tempting as it can be to try to work around clutter, it’s a false time economy. It might just take a couple of seconds to move things aside to clean, but all those seconds add up. Professional cleaners get all the clutter out of the way first so they can tackle clear surfaces and floors.

Work top to bottom

Professional cleaners know to let gravity be their assistant. They start with dusting and wiping high places, then work their way down, letting debris and crumbs fall to the floor rather than trying to bin them as they go. A single satisfying vacuum will finish the job!

Go all in one

Cleaning product manufacturers would love you to buy separate products for each room, but the truth is, a good all-purpose cleaner (even a homemade one) will do the trick for almost everything – including your bank balance!

Another tip from the pros: give your cleaning product time to work. Spritz the bathroom or kitchen counter then go and do something else for a few minutes. Going back to wipe or rinse after the product has had a chance to do its job minimises scrubbing effort.

Similarly, don’t clutter yourself up with twenty different specialised gadgets: all you need is a few quality microfiber cleaning cloths, a couple of sponges, a brush and detail scrub brush (or an old toothbrush will do the trick!)

Set yourself up with a caddy – or even tool belt! Think of a mini version of the carts hotel cleaners use, and gather all the products and tools that you’ll need in one portable place, so you’re not wasting time dashing back and forth.

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Banish post-holiday blues by bringing your vacation home Tue, 18 Sep 2018 09:49:20 +0000 Post-holiday blues may be setting in - but why not bring home some of the joys of your annual holiday?

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It’s the time of year when post-holiday blues tend to set in.

After looking forward to a summer trip for months on end, all of a sudden it’s over – and the future promises dark mornings and chilly nights (and maybe the remnants of that weird liqueur you bought on the last day of your trip). But while trips away from home will always be a special treat, you might be surprised at how many aspects of a holiday you can recreate in your day to day life – without packing or airport queues!

Spend quality time together

Often, our most precious memories of a holiday aren’t of the exotic locale, but of the time spent with loved ones. At home, the hustle and bustle of commitments can mean there is little time left to simply enjoy one another’s company the way we can when we’re lying around by the pool. Make the effort to carve out one evening or weekend afternoon a week to simply spend time together – whether it’s a date night, family games tournament or a no-TV-or-phones dinner, make quality time a year-round commitment.

Take in some culture

There is nothing more thrilling than exploring the old town of a faraway destination or getting up close and personal with a world-famous landmark, but you might be surprised at the treasures to be found closer to home. Turn that tourist curiosity on your own home town or county – there may well be local museums, stately homes, theatres or music venues you have walked past a hundred times without noticing.

Have adventure for dinner

One of the great pleasures of international travel is getting out of your food rut and sampling all sorts of extraordinary cuisine. With a glorious variety of restaurants to be found in most parts of the UK, however, there’s no reason not to bring that adventurous spirit home. Or if you live in a stubbornly pub-grub area, why not pick up a cookbook or two and give it a bash yourself? Your efforts might not quite reach the standards of the locals – and maybe think twice before flinging pizza dough around your kitchen like an expert Italian – but you’ll certainly have fun trying.

Aaaanndd relax

Of course for most of us, the best part of the holiday is simply being on holiday! Switching off from work, getting to finally read that book, go for a walk for no reason or listen to the podcast everyone was going on about months ago. While it’s always going to be trickier at home to carve out an hour for yourself here and there, it’s far from impossible – and you will reap the benefits.

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Build your good habits this autumn Wed, 12 Sep 2018 10:43:29 +0000 How can you build on the good habits that you've established during the summer months?

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Those glorious lazy days of summer are at an end for most of us, and that back-to-school feeling is sinking in. Though resolutions are traditionally associated with the new year, there can be something about the nights drawing in and that bite in the air that makes autumn the perfect time to establish some good habits to stay productive all winter long.

Write it down

Dark and chilly mornings can threaten the best of intentions, whether it was an intention to get up for an early morning run, or a goal to read before breakfast. Taking a few moments when you first wake up to reflect on your goals and why you set them can reawaken that sleepy motivation. Establishing the habit of journaling first thing in the morning is a great way to clear your mind for the day ahead, and focus on what you want to achieve that day and why.

Work it out

After summer’s activity it can be very tempting to let the cold weather send us scurrying onto the sofa until further notice! Studies show that keeping the body active helps to keep the mind focussed and spirits lifted. If pumping iron at dawn is never going to be a realistic plan, keep it gentle: try a ten minute yoga routine when you first wake up, or commit to a brisk walk after lunch each day.

Switch it off

How many times have you stopped what you were doing when your phone alerted you to a notification, only to find it was letting you know it’s the birthday of someone you haven’t seen in 20 years or that it’s a sunny day today? Give yourself the gift of freedom by switching off all social media and other needless notifications. You can still enjoy a good nosy catch-up on your downtime, without allowing your phone to interrupt you when it pleases.

Even so, it can be tempting to take a peek at your phone whenever your concentration wanders, so consider a productivity-sprint. Switch your phone (and other devices) to airplane mode and set a timer for 30 or 45 minutes, then challenge yourself to work solidly until the alarm goes off. Reward yourself with a five minute break, then start the next sprint. If you struggle with the duration to begin with, start with twenty or even ten minute intervals and gradually increase your endurance.

Set Deadlines

It’s all too easy to convince yourself you’ll do something as soon as you get around to it – but that’s a quick and easy way to let a to-do list get the better of you.

No matter what the task is – whether it’s tackling a work project or scheduling a dentist appointment, set yourself a deadline to complete it – and stick to it.

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