Blog Lifestyle


(Reproduced with her permission)

It is exam time in our household (can you tell??) My daughter is currently managing her stress remarkably well and working hard. The only stress I currently have is that at the weekend, she asked if she could video me doing my warm up ‘dance’ as she calls it that I do with my music students, because her boyfriend was tired and she thought it would help him. I obliged, dressed in one of my oldest fleeces and not explaining anything much because she gave me no chance. Apparently the video is going viral (well, in very localised terms), and my daughter and all her friends were to be seen on the school playing fields practising this, much to the amusement of the boys looking on unseen.

Actually of course, I am secretly proud that my daughter thinks enough of something I find meaningful to share it with her friends. The following are things I was not much good at myself, and when her aunt took the trouble to write all these things down, I thought them too good to miss, so here is some more help in enjoying exams.

Coming up next…. Power Postures – 2 minutes to de-stress.

1. Be Prepared!
2. Organise your revision so that by the day before your exams you have reduced everything you know about a subject to notes on just one side of A4. Those notes should be able to spark your memory on all the host of other things you know about the subject. Like someone giving a speech has a card with maybe 5 or 6 headings but knows what to say around those headings.
3. In the exam, take stock. You will have worked out how many questions you have to answer and how long you should allow for each question.
4. You must read the whole paper carefully (always turning to over to check you don’t miss anything)
5. Take a gulp (calm breath, my words) and read each question again.
6. When you can choose questions, read through each question you choose to check you can answer each part, not just what you think it is about.
7. I (she) used to underline every word in a question to ensure I know that every word required consideration.
8. Spend some time doing an essay plan in notes – I used to spend a good 5+ minutes of a 30 minute answer doing this. You can them be more relaxed as you write the 25 minute answer.
9. Some questions are not suited to this eg calculations, précis etc but all questions need careful consideration before you start to answer.
10. When you have a choice, eg to answer 4 questions, I found a good technique was to answer my second favourite first, then my favourite, then my 3rd and then my 4th. That way you build up your own confidence.
11. Aways check and double check that you answer everything the question is asking. MORE POINTS ARE LOST THROUGH PANIC AND CARELESSNESS THAN IN NOT KNOWING THE ANSWER!
12. Do stick to the time allotted for each question come what may. Not to do so is fatal.
13. Never run out of time!
14. Try to enjoy exams. There is something satisfying about finally putting revision to good use and being able to prove yourself.

Blog Lifestyle

The KISS Principle – How 20 Minutes a Day can create Miracles!


The KISS Principle:


What lights your fire and what makes you feel overwhelmed? I am really brave about some things, and yet apparently simple things floor me.

I actually like things to be clean and tidy, but my mother always used to say that I could reduce a room to chaos within five minutes of entry, and that is certainly true of my cooking practices, sadly.

So something as simple as a chaotic kitchen could make me feel utterly incapable and for an astonishing number of years, I would feel an overwhelming urge to sit down and ‘rest’ before tackling the mess. Multiply that by all the rooms in the house, and something that many people would deal with without thinking, and before they started what they would call ‘work’, became a mountain in my mind and stopped me from doing all sorts of interesting things because I had to ‘sort the house’. Even as I write this, I can hardly believe I am saying it, but it’s true, unfortunately.

My point though, is that I found the solution, and it is one that works for a myriad of other things that might feel initially overwhelming, so it falls very neatly into the KISS principle: –


20 minutes seems to be a magical number. I have noticed that two very trendy techniques – Mindfulness, and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) work on the assumption that participants will spend 20 minutes a day practising.

So I decided to apply this principle to house tidying and found it worked a treat. I put my alarm on and decided to see what I could get done in 20 minutes, feeling that was manageable. Amazingly, clearing a kitchen after dinner took only about 3-6 minutes on an ordinary evening.

The other way that daily 20 minutes works miracles, is that once you have started, and see how much you can accomplish in 20 minutes, you often feel inspired to do more. I keep putting the alarm on for another 20 minutes, and now I often practise my piano for up to an hour, where before I just wouldn’t even start.


Studying for exams, especially in ‘big swot’ topics like history and science, can seem overwhelming and I know there are times when my daughter doesn’t know where to start, so she doesn’t. There is a verse in the Bible (sorry but I grew up as a fundamentalist evangelical Christian and some things just stick) that says ‘A Prophet has no honour in his own country’, which in this case means that I haven’t really been able to persuade my daughter to apply this principle to her studies. If any of you try it out and find it works, please tell her!!

Anyway, next time you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t want to do anything, I challenge you to just allow yourself 20 minutes, and just study something – anything. Even if you don’t carry on and do more, I’m betting that if you keep practising that principle every time you feel like that, you will have done a shed load more than you would otherwise have done by the time it gets to exams.

Me, I decided there were three things that I needed to give 20 minutes to in order to stay sane – that’s still only one hour out of 24. These are my three –

MEDITATION: I can’t maintain the level of sensitivity I need to do the work I do without taking care of energy.

HOUSEWORK: Well I have said it already

PIANO PRACTISE: Because that is something I really want to learn but have spent years just not getting on with…

What I am observing is that when I don’t manage all three, I quickly notice how things are getting out of hand, but it prompts me to get back to my daily rhythm and stops me spiralling out of control. And believe me, I know what out of control feels like and it’s not something I enjoy or recommend!

So good luck with making some miracles and actually enjoying your learning and studying rather than feeling you have to be mega stressed.

If any of you dare, I would love to hear what things benefit from the 20 minute daily treatment for you.