Goal Setting

Let Go...expect it to add value.

Today is New Year’s Day, at least for a few more hours. If you are an introvert, then you will relate to this. I didn’t want to go anywhere, make small talk, eat one more less than healthy meal or someone else’s idea of delicious. And, just for this one day, I didn’t want to meet anyone’s expectations after the demands and challenges of the past few months.

There. I said it. Selfish maybe, but, why not make this the year of self-care?! If we don’t take care of ourselves, there isn’t much of us left for others. So! I stayed home for most of the day and felt like the cat that got the cream. Don’t worry, I DID walk my dog. There are some expectations I am happy to hold.

As I review 2018, I can see many of the expectations I have grown to resent are of my own making. This year I am determined to let them go and create the life that fulfills me and brings joy and contentment to myself and those most important in my life. If this appeals to you, then please join me in the quest for finding more joy and less stress.

One of the most interesting, and, most likely, important gifts I received this year is a planner because it stimulated a long train of thought in a brain where everything is connected.  So, what does that have to do with letting go, you might ask?! I am a fan of Planner Pads as some of you know and faithfully use them. But I am now, as of today, exploring The Desire Map Planner, by Danielle LaPorte. (Thank you, Shelley!)

Parker knows exactly how he wants to feel. Rested!

Parker knows exactly how he wants to feel. Rested!

In order to maximize this tool fully, I downloaded three workbooks from her website and have been pouring out my heart and soul onto paper. As I answered her questions about expectations and letting go, I felt compelled to stop and share a few thoughts with you. So here I sit, amidst my notes and pens, and my thoughts.

I’m not going to give you complicated guidelines or lists to follow. Instead, I will paraphrase thoughts my review of the first workbook set in motion. Consider beginning with these questions: How do you want your life to feel? How do you want your work to feel? How do you want your body to feel? You get the idea.

What if you let go of what doesn’t bring you closer to how you want to feel and start there? How would this impact your daily life in the immediate moment and over time? I expect to discover my own answer to this over the next year. I will most likely share my progress in a few months. There is a bit of a learning curve and I want to dive in a bit more before I make any bold statements.

For now, simply ask yourself as you go through your day, “Does this thing, this task, this event, this meal bring me closer to the life I want and the feelings I desire?” Letting go of a long, long, LONG laundry list of to-do’s for 2019 might just be what you need. It’s where I’m starting this year, for less stress and a lot more joy.

Happy New Year, my friends!

Jen


For more information regarding Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map Planner, check her website. http://www.daniellelaporte.com/planners-2019/#desire-program

Full disclosure: I gain nothing from referring you to her work other than the satisfaction of sharing something that may add value to your life. I would love to hear if you have used her planner previously and what impact it had on your life.

A special thank you to Jess G. for your invaluable insights.


Resolutions...a very good place to start

In the spirit of Chinese New Year and The Year of the Dog, I thought I would share my alphabet soup of practical organizing and productivity words to help build your lists. It's not too late to start visualizing and manifesting your goals for the next twelve months. 

Less-Stress Organizing Solutions_Foo Dog_ Hong Kong_1989.jpg

 

RE Assess Begin where you are. Take a look at what is and isn't working for you. Know what you want to feel in your home and work spaces. Real change begins with having a vision, and, remembering that vision.

RE Boot Check your computer and phone. Update settings and make sure that they suit you. Are your emails out of control? No time like the present to unsubscribe and delete, delete, delete!

RE Cycle Do you have a designated space for recyclable materials? Make it easy on yourself to follow through with this goal by taking a little time to set up a space in your kitchen, office, garage, or the side of your home to collect the items that can be repurposed. 

RE Define  Know the difference between a project and a task. Break down your goals into manageable pieces. Celebrate the completion of each task with a little mental "high five" rather than wait until the entire project is finished to acknowledge your accomplishment. 

RE Finance February is a good time to reevaluate your budget and commit to following it. Tax time is here. Gather what you need to complete your returns.

RE Enerergize Repainting your walls is a simple and inexpensive way to change how a room feels. Consider colors that enhance the feeling you want in each room and have fun with it. 

RE Group No budget for new furniture or decorations for spring? Edit your spaces by removing what you no longer need. Try rearranging what remains to make the room look fresh. Regroup favorite photos as a collage on the wall or group books by their jacket colors to add a focal point on a shelf.

RE Hash Do your files need revision? Do you have three files with similar names making it difficult to remember which one houses what you seek? Make a decision to simplify your labeling. While you're at it, purge old, irrelevant files, and shred anything with personal information.

RE Inforce New habits and resolutions need reminders. Reinforce your commitment by writing things down in your planners and calendars. Add visual reminders until what's new becomes habit. Use them and keep them easily accessible.

RE Juvenate Commit to self-care! Schedule regular time to restore your energy, to decompress, and, to find your calm center in ways that fit you. For me it's a manicure or a few hours at the beach. 

RE Kindle Is there a hobby or skill you want to pursue? Make time for something that makes your heart happy and to remember your creative self. Take photos, write in your journal, fit a puzzle, binge watch old classic black and white movies. Do YOU!  

RE Linquish Let go of what you no longer need, use, or love! Let having less to clean and take care of, lighten your load; and, at the same time help someone in need.

RE Move This is a good time of year to remove toxic items stored in your garage. Check your local waste removal companies to learn where to take old batteries, old paint and stains, and electronic waste. 

RE Number If you can finish something in two minutes or less, why wait?  For me, it takes longer to add some things to my list than it does to actually complete them. In the spirit of getting things done: keep it simple, know your priorities, and keep your main task list short. 

RE Organize Be sure to edit your belongings before organizing them. Purchase any containers, shelving, or organizing systems after you decide what to keep. It saves time and money in the long run.

RE Pair Are you having trouble finding a replacement for your favorite shoes or boots? Consider having the soles repaired by a cobbler. They'll be good as new for a fraction of the replacement cost.

RE Quest There are only 24 hours in a day. Be sure to utilize resources that are available, request help when necessary, and delegate tasks. Whether at home or work, many hands make small work!

RE aRange Keep items you reach for the most often where you can easily access them. This may require you to remove and rearrange the contents of your cabinets, shelves and closets. 

RE Sale Do you have a growing collection of gently used clothing? Take them to local consignment shop. Be sure to repair and launder items before reselling or donating.

RE Turn To quote Peter Walsh, "Don't put it down, put it away!" Return things after using them. You will save time over the long run and will thank yourself later when you can find it in its designated place.

RE Use I'm a big fan of reusing and repurposing common household belongings in new ways.  My favorite multipurpose rock star item is the mason jar. There are a million uses for them, they come in several sizes, and are inexpensive. 

RE View Don't let perfectionism hinder your path to what you want to accomplish. There are very few jobs that require perfection. Why not take a new view of your progress and let good enough be good enough?!

RE Wire Have you considered feng shui or space healing to bring clarity and energy to your home or office? I have recently explored these options in ma petit chateau and have found setting intentions, writing affirmations, and deliberately arranging my environment to have positive benefits. 

RE eXamine Schedule annual appointments including vision and dental screenings. Remove old, expired first aid and medications in your bathrooms and cabinets and replace what you still need and use on a regular basis.  

RE Ykjavik Iceland anyone?! It's not too early to put travel plans for summer vacation into motion. Begin with your destination, lodging, and transportation arrangements. 

RE ZZZ! Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of adequate, restorative sleep. It sets the tone for your whole day, at least that has been my experience. A calm, uncluttered bedroom with no signs of work when you awaken is a good place to begin. Know your caffeine limitations. Has your promise to yourself to limit caffeine wavered? Add that to your resolutions. Finally, take a look at your bedtime routine. Does it need tweaking so that you feel relaxed enough to fall into a deep sleep?  

Happy New Year! May it be filled with less stress and more joy!

 

Plan B...How to ride the ebb and flow of life

Riding the ebb and flow of life requires that we let go of unrealistic expectations and perfectionism and embrace Plan B.

I did not have the perfect, happy new year that I eagerly anticipated. In the past 10 days, I have lost a dear brother-in-law, and had a thug come to my home and threaten harm to me and my family. Yes, this really happened! How dare he intrude upon my grief and threaten my nest.

Not much that the police can do until the thug is more specific with his threats. I know his name, but not exactly when or how he plans to hurt me. I guess even criminals need to show SMART goals to be taken seriously by the police. 

That would be enough to send anyone into a tail spin. But to add insult to injury, I have experienced technical challenges with a brand new computer, and the wi-fi connection in my home which made simple things that I take for granted, more difficult.

And, it all happened in the space of a few days.

This challenging first week of 2017 has been a good reminder to appreciate what is working in my life, to count my many blessings, to remember my priorities, and to dig deeply to find joy. 

Enter Plan B and letting good enough be good enough which is better than constantly judging and worrying. Right?!

If you set one intention for the new year, let it be permission to enjoy good enough. I promise there is more joy in good enough than in chasing elusive perfectionism.

You may find, as I have, that there is enough of you to go around to meet the deadlines that are truly most important to you, to spend time with those you hold dearest, and to keep and have what is really most needed and useful to you. 

It also leaves cushion in your days for the unexpected. Life is messy and there will be curves ahead, no matter how carefully you plan and strategize. Travel is cancelled due to weather, computers crash, clients cancel due to illness, budgets change with health challenges.  

I have learned that when I am not solely dependent upon a specific outcome to the detriment of all else, I channel the arts of resilience and resourcefulness allowing the creative side of my brain to shine.

Kaleidoscope Inn, Nipomo California

Kaleidoscope Inn, Nipomo California

I feel more joyful when perfectionism is not a driving force in my life and I tend to savor my time and efforts by allowing myself to become more fully present in whatever I am doing. It doesn't mean that I don't strive for excellence. I do. Nor does it mean that I don't feel irritable or impatient when Plan A goes awry. I just don't let these glitches completely ruin my day, at least not for long. This week has certainly tested my peace of mind and resilience.  

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that you throw out your planners or lose sight of your goals. Planning is a must. We all know the benefits of writing our goals, scheduling appointments, making lists, breaking projects into tasks and then doing one piece at a time. 

I am just suggesting that when the unexpected curve-balls of life hurdle straight at your head, set down your carefully detailed plan, focus upon your breathing and do one thing that is within your control. And when you finish that, repeat. 

This is what I have done the past few days, and it has made all the difference. I am still grieving and will spend as much time with family as I can. I have made my family and home as safe as possible. I have worked with tech support to fix my computer. And along the way, I have remembered what is important to me, have let others lend a hand, and have prayed more than I have in a long time. I still retain my sense of humor and have taken a little time out for myself, despite feeling the walls close around me.

Plan B is working just fine. 

 

 

 

 

New Year's Resolutions...How resolving to create and cultivate a great year puts the wheels in motion

Resolving to create and cultivate a great year may feel beyond your control; yet it is a practical, smart goal. Aren't we the most excited and engaged in work and play that is important to us and that is interesting to us? Don't we feel the most pride and greatest sense of accomplishment and self worth when we have worked through challenging obstacles and opportunities that scare the hell out of us?

I find that the first step toward making a change or opening the door to a new opportunity is in writing it down. Simple, right?! We have been encouraged time and time again to make lists. Why is this so powerful? Could it be the laws of momentum?

To set the wheels in motion, begin with a pen and piece of paper. It is that simple. Now...make a list of all the unconnected, random ideas and thoughts for your future. Set no bounds or limitations upon time or practicality or finances or physical limitations. Make the list long...100 things, tasks, projects, dreams. There will be time to break down your list into measurable tasks to add to your calendar later. What is important in the beginning is to release your desires out into the universe even if no one sees your list but you. The energy that it takes to make this list begins a new pathway toward discovering what is important to you and  remembering what makes your heart joyful. And it puts you into momentum.

Keep moving. Review your list often. As you check off your accomplishments, enjoy the renewed energy and momentum. Take yet another step toward your dreams by adding items to your calendar. Schedule those appointments that keep you in good health. Schedule those daily and weekly tasks that make a difference over time. Dare I say, get moving, literally? You can't eat seven apples on Sunday and you can't exercise seven hours on Sunday to make up for a week of less than healthy choices. Make yourself important enough to schedule time for the things that really do add to your sense of health and well-being. Added to your calendar, in writing, they are more likely to get done.

What about the things that we write down year after year that don't get done? Do some things show up year after year never to be completed? Perhaps finances keep you from making these dreams come true. Perhaps you feel unsupported or simply overwhelmed. Sometimes it simply comes down to time. Whatever the reason, decide this year to make it important...or, remove it from your list. Yes, you read correctly. Take it off your list, set yourself free, no guilt. Maybe your needs have changed.

But if this thing, this missed promise to yourself, this possible dream continues to nag at you, then it is time to become courageous and take the first step, and then the second which might just be reaching out to someone else to coax you along. Think of it as catching the draft from a fast car. Ask for help from a friend, a colleague, a professional. There are many resources available and people who are skilled in assisting you to break down your goals into manageable parts. Some of them will sit by your side and walk you through the process if that is what you need.

We are now into the second week of the new year. Are you ready to get started reaching for your dreams? No time like the present!

Wishing you all happy beginnings and a year of unsurpassed expectations.

Priorities and Peak Performance...timing is everything!

Prioritizing is a bit like eating a green frog, which, according to Mark Twain, is "best done first thing in the morning." That's fine if you are a morning person and tremendously disciplined. But, I have to wonder if Mark Twain was a morning person, because eating a green frog at any time of the day is challenging much less on an empty stomach.

I propose that tackling your priority, or your highest value task, at your peak performance time has the highest return of satisfaction in the least amount of time. And, that leaves you more time in your day to pause and reflect and smell the roses. But more on that later!

Scheduling my highest priority task in the morning is important because I AM a morning person. Putting off an important task until later in the day is a bit like hanging a 100 pound weight over my head by a tiny thread. It hovers and threatens and demands my attention. I have noticed that when I don't begin my work day with my highest value task, I am much less productive and easily distracted all day until I pause, focus my energy on the most important thing, and get it done. Once I follow my own advice everything else seems to fall into place.

But what if you work best later in the day? I ask you to seriously consider what times of the day you do your best work. Consider when your energy for tackling mental work is at its peak, and when your physical energy is at its peak.  Even when your most important task is something you are anticipating with great enthusiasm, it can be  difficult and actually take more time than allotted if scheduled during your lower peak times.

Breaking your projects down into tasks is an excellent beginning to organizing your time. It is equally important to plan your most difficult tasks when you have the mental and physical energy to match the task at hand. Once you have established your patterns for productivity, you can block out those times on your calendar using them for your most important tasks. Eventually this habit will become second nature and you will thank yourself daily. And, perhaps, you will even have a little time left to savor a few pages of a book at the end of your day!

Tasks vs. Projects...Making a list, and checking it twice

This is the time of year that people tend to feel an increase in stress. As much as we love the holidays, and family gatherings, and all of the merriment, we may find it difficult to get everything done. Our lists are longer than usual and intimidating at times.

According to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, "...much of the stress that people feel doesn't come having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they start." I cringed when I first read this, because like so many people, I, too, get caught up in believing my stress comes from having too much to do. But after I thought about it, I concluded that I also say, "Yes!" when perhaps I should say, "Not this time!" or "Let me think about it and get back to you." AND, I hate to admit it... I don't always finish what I start.

By this, I mean, if my plan for the day includes a project, I am setting myself up for failure. This is true, not because I am incapable of completing an entire project, but rather because projects contain a broad range of tasks some of which may need to be spread out over days and weeks and months.

When the big picture is broken down into manageable tasks, I feel more in control of my days, and by extension more successful.  And I feel a sense of accomplishment and completion. By breaking down projects into tasks, I have learned to appreciate how much time it truly takes to do certain things and have become more reasonable in list making and prioritization of time. But, more on priorities later. 

For now, one strategy to reduce stress, is to know the difference between a project and a task.

 A project is a multi-step idea or commitment with a specific outcome. 

 A task is one step and can be time limited. 

For example, the tending of my gardening is an ongoing, project with tasks added frequently. My garden does not care that Thanksgiving is weeks away and that I have shopping and decorating and travel plans to arrange and pumpkin bread to make!

And, I am not overwhelmed by my garden this time of year, because I am patient with the process and know that time spent there helps me stay calm and centered during the holidays. And, yes, in Southern California, roses are still in bloom, so there is work to be done outside.

There are days when I feel more motivated by a time limit, and will make the task time sensitive, such as "15 minutes deadheading roses."

There are days that I have more flexibility in my schedule and may choose to "deadhead flower beds backyard" however long it takes me. But, my garden tasks will be on the same list as my holiday tasks and my work tasks and, well, you get the idea.

Take a good, hard look at what you are asking of yourself, and then review again. Take the projects on your list and break them down into one step tasks that can be put on your calendar.  Tasks WILL get done, and by extension, so will your projects!