productivity

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.


Productivity...Finishing something is a very good place to start!

"I don't know where to start and I feel like I'm falling more and more behind!" These are words I hear frequently from prospective clients. I know the accompanying, unsettling feelings well. 

It's true confessions time! If you follow my blog, you know I haven't posted a new blog piece since February. If this isn't delayed decision making and fear of making a wrong move, I don't know what is. I am now a published author. So on the surface, one might think I have it all figured out. The truth is, authors struggle with the same things everyone else does every time we sit down to write. What better subject to tackle than delayed decision making?!

Today, I am choosing to follow my own sage advice. Choose something and FINISH IT!! 

When I don't know where to begin, I find something, one thing, any thing, and finish it. This may seem to contradict much of what you have been taught, and even some of what I have written in previous posts. It is not meant to replace other excellent advice. This is simply another strategy for getting unstuck and moving forward.

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Prioritization, planning, and scheduling are still important productivity tools. But, sometimes, there is so much begging our attention, we delay making any decision for fear of making the wrong decision. I am here to tell you, doing nothing is a decision.

What remains are unfinished tasks and what I have come to think of as loose threads both physically and mentally. Delayed decisions seem to multiply exponentially and add to our stress levels making planning and productivity even more challenging. 

In those moments when we have allowed delayed decision making and perfectionism to paralyze us, setting aside our fear of making the wrong decision is critical. But, getting into any sort of momentum requires taking a first step.

So I ask you this: What if you were to choose one simple task to finish? And, then you were to finish it. Just one task. It need not be the most important, but rather, just one task you are absolutely certain of completing. It could be as simple as clearing the kitchen counter or folding a load of laundry, or five minutes sorting the afternoon mail, or clearing your desk before writing an important email. But, in those next moments, you have completed a task and prepared yourself mentally for another task.

You have finished something. 

The next step is to repeat that simple first step until you feel a sense of calm and confidence. I promise calm and self-confidence are there if you will allow yourself to appreciate and value completion of even the smallest of tasks. 

Once you feel the momentum build, you are more prepared to prioritize and strategize asking these important questions: What is the best use of my time? What is critical or time sensitive? What adds the most value to my life and goals? And, then, finish something that answers those questions. Today I have done exactly that! I finished simple tasks at home and then headed to have my car serviced. I put myself into momentum and now here I sit blogging for the first time in months.

It feels good to finish something! Try it...you just might like it!!

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. 

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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!

 

Work Life Harmony...it's more than a balancing act

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" Or so the song goes.

How often do we hear people say, "My life is crazy busy right now?!" To me, it's a badge of honor that comes with a price. What if we focus upon giving ourselves permission to let some things go, and commit instead to nurture harmony within our hearts and within our lives? Could this shift in thinking pave the way to a more peaceful sense of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays? I say, "Yes!"

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This season, I've decided to lessen my grip on balance and redirect my energies toward harmony.

What do I mean by this?!  Do you remember the movie, "One Fine Day?" It is a story of a single mom (Michelle Pfeffier) in New York City who has trouble letting anyone help her. There is a scene where the protagonist (George Clooney) offers assistance which she flatly refuses saying, "I've got all these little balls up in the air and if someone catches one of them for me I will probably drop them all." 

I can certainly relate to her statement. The thought of a milion balls crashing around me is overwhelming. Yet, if I don't delegate, prioritize, and share the load, they will fall despite my best efforts. There are not enough hours in the day, as Michelle's character also learned.

By definition, balance is a point between two opposing forces. Balls up, must come down, and this juggling takes constant effort. Harmony, on the other hand, takes a slight detour on a gentler path. Finding a pleasing arrangement of parts, or harmony, requires attention to the details, a vision for the bigger picture, and a willingness to edit. Ask anyone who has been a part of a vocal group. 

Moving past balance to the place of harmony allows us to be completely present and immersed in whatever we are doing whether it is a work project, a meeting, watching a movie, or ice skating by the sea. All deserve our full and undivided attention. 

Just as you declutter and purge stuff you no longer use or need, your schedules and task lists require the same refresh. This is a good time of year to make space in your days to savor and slow down, to be selective when saying yes to social gatherings and festivities, and to leave time for the unexpected. 

Here's what I will keep on my list: self-care and daily activities that provide stress reduction and health benefits, connection to the people I cherish, conversations with stake holders before making decisions, current work commitments, and, a few weekend days for merriment for its own sake. I already feel better with this plan.

This weekend began a little rough. I was fighting a virus. Yet, it turned out to be the perfect time to put my "holiday harmony" plan into action. I worked from home, rested and took a few breaks; and, when I felt a little burst of energy, I made space for a few of my favorite holiday traditions, lights and decorating the Christmas trees. 

A few little trees near my kitchen.

A few little trees near my kitchen.

I expect to find that my quest for harmony will lead to more joy and less stress this year. It is my wish for you as well.

Happiest holidays!

Motivation and productivity...what I Could do is my choice

There are a million strategies and articles written to help motivate us and guide us toward becoming more productive. I'm not going to add heavily to that list today. Instead, I’m going to give you something simple to consider.

I read an article in Darling Magazine recently that reminded me of something I learned more than thirty years ago from a wise mentor. I'm going to share her sage advice with you now. It is a simple shift in thinking.

She told me to stop "should-ing on myself" and to "substitute the word could in place of the word should." It was that simple. This little shift in my mindset is a powerful tool when I feel the weight of external pressures and when my to do list feels unmanageable.

There are many things that we do in our day to day lives, and many demands upon our attention. Some them are not all that much fun. Need I say, paying bills, laundry, and staff meetings are not high on most lists of "I can't wait to do this?"; and yet, they serve a purpose we appreciate.

When we sit down with colleagues to discuss what is important to the group, we are choosing to keep communication lines open and choosing to give people the opportunity to be heard. When we see home caring tasks as ways to nurture our families rather than tasks that we should and must do, the tasks feel different. And, we feel different doing them.

Last week, I had a growing mountain of tasks on my list, along with appointments and scheduled work projects, and felt overwhelmed by the big picture. I heard this rumble of a nagging voice in the recesses of my mind telling me I should do this and should have already finished that!

How did I quiet that voice? I substituted should with could.

I wrote a list of every task that I thought I could do at the top of my planner page. Seeing it in black and white and resetting my mindset was a mental refresh for me. 

For the rest of the week, I looked at unscheduled blocks of time and asked myself, “What could I be doing with this time?” I considered the consequences of procrastinating a particularly tedious but time-sensitive task and opted to do it first thing that morning and felt instantly successful. I also, gave myself permission to take breaks as my energy waned. I savored the lulls rather than allow guilt to steal my joy.

Gandalf chooses to pace his busy day of grooming, eating, and sleeping by stopping to smell the roses. 

Gandalf chooses to pace his busy day of grooming, eating, and sleeping by stopping to smell the roses. 

Slowly but surely tasks on my could list disappeared along with a few other tasks that I added later, just because I could. Imagine that! 

When we say could, we take ownership for our actions and feel empowered. What we could do with our time may be exactly the same as what think we should be doing with our time. But the pressure is lifted. Should sucks the joy out of life. Could gives us back our joy and allows us to set our own course! I like that.

 

 

 

 

Life Transitions...be not afraid of change; you might lose something good, but you might gain something better

Life transitions...they are a part of the human condition and of life in our modern world.

Changes of our choosing can be challenging and at the same time exciting and motivational as we anticipate the future. We delight in the possibilities and feel that butterfly tickle us deep in our guts telling us we are making a good decision! With happy heart we make our lists, gather our tools, and get started. Or we hire a productivity specialist to come in and help break down the big picture into manageable tasks. Lucky for me that is my specialty.

But then, there are those changes not of our choosing...unexpected, painful, confusing. I sit here not to tell you to cheer up and get back to work, but rather to pause, take a deep breath, and remind yourself, that we are in good company as we navigate the trials and tribulations of life.

What once seemed so effortless, can feel insurmountable. I understand. I too am grieving for what I have lost and yet yearning for a contented future with a hopeful heart. Gather your dearest friends near and learn what soothes and feeds your soul. That is what I am doing... moving forward, awkwardly, tentatively, as if a toddler learning to walk for the first time. And, I am learning to appreciate and savor the now. Now is really all that we have.

Morose...I apologize. As organized as I am, I have somehow misplaced my sense of humor. Please let me know if you find it. It will be along side my battered heart.

And, in the meantime, I will share a few of my favorite strategies for getting unstuck and being happy!

1. Do something nice for yourself every day! That may or may not require retail therapy. However therapeutic shopping may be, there is a bill to be paid at the end of the month. Consider, instead, a stack of books begging for your attention, your favorite CD long forgotten, walk the dog a new direction and admire the changes taking place in the world around you.

2. If you live close to the beach, GO!!! The ocean is a magical, soothing place that should not be overlooked. There is something larger than you and I at work here and never so obvious to me as when I listen to waves crash repeatedly upon the shore, smell the sea mist and witness the beautiful changing sky and sea at sunset. If you don't have the ocean, then find a park, a garden, a piece of nature. She is there to bring you back to your spiritual self.

3. Do one thing each day that moves you toward your most important goals. And, if you don't have goals, then making a list of everything that pops into your head, and build your list from there.

4. If you still cannot breathe, cannot move, cannot eat...find a confidant who will leave fruit in a bowl at the table for you, someone who will notice that you need a hug, and let your friends envelop you with their kindness. I am certain that you have done the same things for others when you felt whole. Being cared for is a blessing for both the giver and the receiver!

Peace my friends...change is an opportunity for growth.