Thrive: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Lisa Jewell: Check my phone. I go to my email first, and then the news, but if either of my teenage daughters were out when I fell asleep, I go straight to SnapMaps to check that they are home.
Thrive: What gives you energy?
LJ: I always tend to have just enough energy for what I need to do. I tick over at an even keel all day long, I don’t tend to dip up and down.
Thrive: What’s your secret life hack?
LJ: I make small and unimportant decisions really quickly, but leave making big and difficult decisions right to the last minute to see if fate will make the choice for me. It nearly always does!
Thrive: Name a book that changed your life.
LJ: In literal terms, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby was the book that made me think ‘I could write a novel’ and two weeks after I finished reading it, I started my first book.
Thrive: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
LJ: Yes, actually on my pillow as I like to have white noise playing on it as close as possible to my ear. My relationship with my phone is terrible — my very, very worst habit.
Thrive: How do you deal with email?
LJ: I deal with them in one chunk of time, usually between 11 and 2pm. Then I don’t answer them again until the next day unless they’re urgent or incredibly exciting.
Thrive: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
LJ: Stare at my phone…
Thrive: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
LJ: I really can’t remember. I’m very good at balancing my energetic and emotional output and not taking on more than I think I can cope with, so it was probably many years ago in the eye of raising babies and toddlers.
Thrive: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
LJ: I can’t remember the last time I felt I failed, apart from every single moment of writing a book, every single time. I overcome this feeling by remembering that I feel like this every single time I write a book, and somehow always come out the other side.
Thrive: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
LJ: It’s not a quote, but it’s my mantra. “Everything will be fine.”
Thrive: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
LJ: I don’t tend to consciously prioritize, that comes instinctively, you can feel/smell if something needs to be done first. If I’ve done the really important thing, then I can just faff about with the other things and do them when I’m ready to face them.
Thrive: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life?
LJ: No, not at all. I don’t want to model myself or my habits on other people, I just want to be me, doing the best that I can.
Thrive: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?
LJ: Sit on the sofa and watch TV if I can.
Thrive: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?
LJ: I try to be mindful of everything, at all times, particularly around my interactions with my children. I treat every moment in their company as precious and unrepeatable, and I try to make sure there is never one I’d want to take back. I’m very mindful around food and alcohol as well. I want to be able to enjoy treats and sugar and champagne in moderate, pleasurable and healthy ways, and never feel guilty about it.
Thrive: How do you reframe negative thinking?
LJ: I sometimes allow myself some negative thinking as a ‘treat’, just wallow in it and enjoy the sensation of feeling bad about something, but my psyche naturally gravitates towards positive thinking and that’s where I end up by default.
Thrive: What was the last photo you took?
LJ: Some beautiful, iced biscuits sent to me by my literary agents yesterday to celebrate being number one in the UK charts with my latest book, The Family Remains. They’re iced to look like a bouquet of flowers and are extraordinarily pretty!
Thrive: What brings you optimism?
LJ: New days. I love the thought of tomorrow, I love mornings and Mondays and the idea that you can wipe the slate clean at the end of every day and start afresh the next.
Thrive: Fill in the blanks: People think I/I’m _______, but really I/I’m ______.
LJ: People think I’m really friendly and open but really I have invisible boundaries of steel in place that you will never be aware of.
Thrive: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your sleep. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?
LJ: I sleep apart from my husband. I have done this since my youngest daughter was a baby. We both sleep better as a result. I also do not drink coffee after 1pm, any other caffeine after 4pm or fried or rich food in the evenings as I have trouble digesting it.
Thrive: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your focus. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?
LJ: My focus gets worse every year as tech and online entertainment and distraction become more insidious. I’m less focused now than I’ve ever been, but I just try to stay in the moment and ride it and wait for my focus to return when it’s ready to do so.
Thrive: What was the biggest turning point in your life?
LJ: It was a conversation I had with a friend in October 1996 when she made me a bet to write three chapters of a novel. I was going to wait until I was fifty to write my first novel, but she persuaded me to seize the day, and look where it’s got me!
Thrive: What’s your secret time-saver in the morning?
LJ: A game changer for me when my children were small and mornings were insane was not saving time, but giving myself extra time by setting my alarm thirty minutes earlier! Nowadays my mornings are pretty relaxed and I’m not actively looking to save time, but I still set my alarm earlier than I need to.
Thrive: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?
LJ: I look at my phone for half an hour and then I make myself put it down, even though every bone in my body wants me to keep looking at it! Then I pick up a book and read until my eyes are too heavy to keep them open, I turn off my light, pull on a sleep mask, stick a pillow over my head and get into my optimum sleeping position. If I’m not asleep within a few minutes, I turn onto my other side and that usually does the trick.