priorities

Four agreements for less stress and more joy...happier holidays may require a little shift in thinking.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, as my family does, or any of the beautiful cultural traditions that we find in December, the Winter Solstice is a time of year that can increase stress if we allow the goal of perfection to guide us.

You know what I am talking about…the perfect gift, the perfect outfit, the perfect party, the perfect meal, the perfect guest list…you get the idea.

What if you were to strive for your own version of excellence and to let good enough be good enough? Could this shift in thinking shift your experience of the holiday season? I say, “Yes!”

Home Organizing Solutions

About a year ago, I read a book called “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. In his book he describes four basic principals for approaching your life. His words are simple, yet profoundly important and applicable to daily life. I find them inspiring and since it is the season for sharing, I will share them with you now.

#4. DO YOUR BEST

Yes, I am beginning with the fourth because it is my favorite. It allows us to be human, does not expect perfection, and implies that forgiveness is near at hand. If we operate from a place of always doing our best, we are free to focus our energy from our strengths and, I hope, to feel less judgment with the results.

With guests due to arrive in two days, I have a festively decorated home, my gift shopping is finished, and gifts are wrapped. But I have NOT shopped for the food yet, and have one bathroom out of order. Not ideal with a house full of people, but a small problem in the scheme of life.

I can stress about it, or I can let it go. This year I will grocery shop with the crowd but make the best of it. The food will be fresh, and it will be good enough. And, as they say, “Many hands make small work.”

Doing your best means letting people know what is helpful, and then actually letting them help. Let them do their best and you will multiply the joy in the day.

#3. DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS

If there was ever a time to ask questions, it is now. This could be as simple as asking guests about food allergies, or your daughter what she wants most for her holiday feast.

Since everything revolves around food with my family, it is imperative that I find out what people expect to see on the table. Lord help me if Elizabethan Carrots or brussel sprouts are not on the menu this year. I assumed that people would prefer traditional, pumpkin pie for dessert, but it is a unanimous “no.”

So this year, dessert will be an ooey gooey chocolatey goodness from a recipe to be discovered and executed by my daughter. And, it will be more than good enough.

#2. DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY

This has got to be one of my biggest challenges. I am a fixer. So when things are not going well, I blame myself and set out to fix them. Folks, I am here to tell you that we cannot solve all the world’s problems in one day. And many things are not ours for the solving. And that includes the many moods of the people surrounding you.

Although this season is supposed to be “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year,” many people find their losses less bearable and sadness harder to tolerate. And, you may be on the receiving end of someone’s bad mood or unkind words. Don’t take it personally, and yes, I am telling myself this as well.

By not taking it personally, you are free to hold on to your own happiness and to share your joyful spirit with others, which might just lighten their load a little.

And just in case, you need a little visual inspiration, I highly recommend watching, “Elf.” This has become a family favorite for good reason. “Smiling is our favorite!”

#1. BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD

This is where things become complicated. To be impeccable with your word requires that you be honest AND kind, honest, but NOT disparaging, honest, but NOT hurtful. A tall order, but sets clear boundaries for choosing new language.

To be impeccable with your word also means to keep your promises. When you say no to one more thing, you are saying yes to what is most important to you. You honor your choices and commitments, and the people involved know where you stand. We cannot be everywhere at once nor can we do everything asked of us. So we must dig deep and become honest with ourselves about what is most important.

When we do this, the answers become clearer, we are grateful for good enough and cherish the present moments just as they are. After all, we are here to do and give our best. 

My very best wishes for happiness as you celebrate the holidays with your families and friends. Will see you in the new year!

Love,

Jen

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!

Time Management..."Today, I will deadhead my roses!" she said.

I love our home gardens! They are not perfect and would not suit everyone, but they suit me and isn't that the point?!

What does this have to do with time management, you ask? Everything! The rose bed that greets me every time I drive up to my house was dropping petals yesterday and in need of a little TLC. I come from a long line of green thumbs, so knew just looking at it that 15 minutes would transform this little space that brings me such joy.

As I tended my roses this morning, my neighbor's words came back to me and I would like to share them with you now.

She commented to me several months ago when I was outside gardening, saying "That looks pretty, but I DON'T have time to garden!" I felt judged and dismissed.  I also smiled to myself and went back to my task. Because what she doesn't understand, is that this is not a chore for me.

It is a time that I set aside to clear my mind, to be grateful for my life and all that is good and to step away from my busy day to day and just breathe. You could say that this 15 minute break in my day is actually prayer time for me.

We ALL have 24 hours in each day and it is up to us how we use that time. Carving out a few minutes every day to do something that reenergizes you physically and mentally and renews your sense of gratitude is a good idea. How will you spend your day?!



Spring Cleaning...time for joy, time for cheer

Finals, projects, graduation and end of the year dance recitals signal summer vacation is quickly approaching! Cherished rituals all!! And then summer slips in as a sweet reward for all the hard work.

I LOVE summer, the change in routine and the opportunity to shift focus. My goals for this summer are to have a clean pallet to begin with and to truly embrace the summer months with my family. I won't be bogged down by the clutter this year...having done so much to open the spaces, makes cleaning a quicker process and leaving tables and surfaces available for new experiences...sewing projects, trying new recipes, and exploring our beautiful city and beyond, camera in hand!

So today I am in full cleaning mode, gloves on, buckets and rags ready. Yes, I could hire someone else to do this for me, and have done so when I could not clear my schedule, but there is something to be said for the immediate gratification gained from doing it yourself. Ideas for changes and tweaks in each space occur to me as I move through the house. Not quite a runner's high, but similar.

Stopping to make changes that can be implemented immediately is a choice that I make, so cleaning is not a straight line for me as I interrupt myself often. I accept this and actually enjoy the process more making a game of it all.

For instance, I am sitting here blogging, gloves still on because, I am, honestly, heading into the bathroom that my teenagers use. I am listening to downloads from American Idol and Smash. Aaaahhhhh...lovely ear candy!!

Keeping your favorite tools handy means you can just plunge in when the day opens up. No need to run out to the store which is important for someone like me who is easily sidetracked. : )

Here are a few of my must-haves, beginning with the most important:

music (cranked up loudly)

thin, disposable gloves (saves my hands)

Swiffer dusters

clean rags

sponges

buckets

Mrs. Meyer's lemon cleaning solution (smells like heaven and environmentally          gentle)

 

Wish me luck! And as always thank you for visiting my blog. Feedback is welcome!

 

 

Photographs and Memories...sometimes a change is as good as a rest

You may have noticed that I quote children's literature frequently. One could argue that I have a simple mind, or perhaps, simply, that I read books aloud to my children so many times when they were young that the stories are permanently etched into my memory leaving an easy path to cherished, happy moments in time?! Let's not argue...both answers are correct. And who could not love Winnie The Pooh?!

My son and oldest child will graduate from high school in a few weeks. So it is no surprise that I am pensive and moody, remembering the path that has led to this point in time where I appreciate the mature young man he has become. As I anticipate family arriving in a few weeks to celebrate with us, I am compelled to revisit and to change the photographs on display in our more public rooms.

My usual MO is to frantically clean and menu plan, shove the clutter into drawers or the garage. Not restful and not relaxing to be around me when I am in company is coming mode. But the sense of order that has evolved in the house over the past few months is allowing me to take a different direction which is unexpected, liberating and restful not only for me but for everyone in the house. Even our cat, Gabby has her ears in neutral position. (see Hallways, Entryways and Alleyways)

So I found that I had time to spare and began what I call my photo project. The same photographs have been sitting on display, some for the past 12 years, so I did not remove them without feeling a little angst. Some will be placed into albums, and the few that remain our true favorites will be reframed and displayed in what we refer to as the reading room.

I have grown to truly love and appreciate the calmness of a simple black frame. They tend to look modern and fresh. And, the photographs become the focal point. But although we have an eclectic style, modern doesn't truly suit some of the spaces in our home. Lucky for me,  I discovered a few, old world style black frames on sale at one of my favorite stores. Photos will soon be hanging on the walls in a few chosen spaces. They will be quick and easy to dust.

As the clutter is replaced with open spaces, I feel a growing sense of calm. You have got to love that!

Hallways, Entryways, & Alleyways...when the cat has her ears flicking backwards, best you pay attention!

I have a cat named Gabby who prefers that the house be calm and orderly. So you can imagine how disruptive the process of clearing and decluttering is for her.

My office is now a beautiful, organized space and Gabby is lounging near the window...content! Not so yesterday!! What I no longer wanted in my office work space had accumulated in the hallway and down the stairs into the entryway.

My task or should I say, my priority yesterday was to make sense of the piles, and then move them out of those walkways or out of the house if possible. Every time I passed Gabby I knew there was more work to do since her ears are a telltale sign of disapproval.

Today she is happy and I can walk through the house without tripping over anything but my own feet. The entry is as it should be to suit me...shoes, a key basket and a few things to take on my errands. The hallway is open and ready for the next project. Sorry Gabby...I am not finished with the house, but for now, it feels calm and orderly, just the way we like it!

Stuck for ideas on sharing unwanted or no longer needed items? Here are two of my favorites.

   1. AMVETS-will pick up household items that can be lifted by one person               Call-1-877-990-VETS or check out www.teamvets.com

   2. Carmel Mountain Vision Care-collects usable, discarded eyewear for Lions Club Optometrics 9320 Carmel Mountain Rd., Suite E, San Diego, CA 92129  (858) 484-1500