Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Simplify: The To-Do List

Have you ever looked at your to-do list and just felt completely and utterly overwhelmed before you even start? My day was often looking like that and rarely did I actually ever complete all of the things off of the list. I would end my day defeated before the next day had ever begun. While the high of checking things off the list was there, the items left unchecked left me feeling less euphoric about what was actually accomplished.

For the past couple of months, I have had the great opportunity to work with a business coach to help make my business better. Charrise McCorey, from Emergence Business Coaching, has been working with me to help me reach my business goals. It has been such a unique experience for me because I am able to actually discover how valuable my time is, increase my productivity, and discover what can emerge from finding balance in my life.

The first thing on our project list was tackling my to-do list and my feelings of constantly being overwhelmed. I felt like I was juggling way too many balls in the air so I wasn't sleeping well, eating well, or feeling like a very good parent. I would start a project, abandon it or do a bad job on it, and then move on to the next thing.

The first thing we did was revamp what my to-do list looked like. Here is an example of what my to-do list looked like for my Monday routine- perhaps it looks like yours?

Amy's Monday To-Do List

Sweep Kitchen Floors
Unload dishwasher
Load dishwasher
Swipe both bathrooms
Make beds
One load of laundry
Clean bathtub
Empty upper level trash
Make grocery list and menu plan
Change sheets on all beds
Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms

Now those were just my home management goals, we aren't even tackling the business goals for the day. What ended up happening was that I would get a portion of the list done and then have to carry it over for Tuesday. Let's say I got three of those things done. Now we will move on to Tuesday's schedule and it will look like this:

Amy's Tuesday To-Do List

Swipe both bathrooms
Make beds
One load of laundry
Clean bathtub
Empty upper level trash
Make grocery list and menu plan
Change sheets on all beds
Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms
Dust main level
Sweep main level
Steam kitchen floors
Clean windows and mirrors
Run errands

And then, let's say I got five things done, then Wednesday would carry over to this:

Amy's Wednesday To-Do List

Make grocery list and menu plan
Change sheets on all beds
Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms
Dust main level
Sweep main level
Steam kitchen floors
Clean windows and mirrors
Run errands
Do one thing I hate
Catch Up on Everything

Usually by Friday, my list looked something like this:

Amy's Friday To-Do List

Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms
Dust main level
Sweep main level
Steam kitchen floors
Clean windows and mirrors
Run errands
Do one thing I hate
Catch Up on Everything
Empty lower level trash
Dust lower level
Sweep lower level
Clean windows and mirrors on lower level
Clean and organize the home office
Visit the library
Clean out car
Update our Quicken software
Mow lawn
Baking day
Hate myself for accomplishing absolutely nothing

Oh, and did I mention I haven't tackled anything in my business? Obviously, this to-do list was just a running list of things I would never get to and I would hate myself for accomplishing nothing. In tears, I explained to Charrise that I often feel like a bad mom because I had to keep up with my business AND my house and neither was looking good at all. As Charrise says over and over again to me when I say negative things, "That is a story you like to tell yourself. You can change your story."

We decided to change my story. She advised completely revamping the to-do list. Instead of keeping a running list of things I would never do, why not make a shorter list that I could actually accomplish with great success? How would it feel if I could go to bed each night knowing that I had accomplished what was on my list? How would I sleep? Her advice was simple a list of only six things.

Make 3 Business Goals
Make 3 Personal Goals

Now my list looks something like this:

Amy's Revamped Monday To-Do List

1. Set up contests for Tuesday on the blog
2. Complete my to-do list entry
3. Conference Call with Kenmore
4. Play on the floor with the kids for one hour
5. One load of laundry- whites
6. Pay Bills

At night before I go to bed, I make my list of six and go to sleep. At the end of the day, I usually can check most of the things off of the list and if something doesn't get done, it just gets carried over to the next day. I have to say, it is a lot easier to carry over two things rather than twenty each day.

But, what about the bigger goals? I had so many things I needed to do on my list for the website and in my home, but I knew they would never fit on such a limited list.

This is where this comes into play:

Giant Wish List

Instead of adding these to my to-do list each day, take a piece of poster board and begin writing what your bigger goals are. She suggested writing down things you might be afraid to say out loud so that you can see your dreams come into fruition.

Amy's Giant Wish List

Podcast Radio Show With Huge Corporate Sponsorship
Food Network Television Show
Get Featured in Real Simple Magazine
Regular Column in Good Housekeeping
Book Deal
Meet Brad Pitt
Possibly Marry Him

When I think of things that I want to do in the future, I just jot it down on my giant wish list. It is there, I won't lose the idea or goal, but it isn't on my running list of six...yet.

Yes, one day I will have an opening on the list of six and when that happens maybe I might say, "Today is the day to meet Brad Pitt and possibly marry him." I will add it to the list of six and just maybe, I might accomplish it.

You might ask what happened to all the cleaning on the list? Well, instead of writing it down, I just try and do it when I get my goals accomplished for the day. I either make it my goal to clean one day of the week or I just clean when I need to clean. I don't hold myself to commitments about it. I know what needs to get done and when I need to do it, and I do the best I can.

It might not be perfect, but it doesn't keep me up at night anymore.


(photo credits: image 1- one pretty thing image 2-gamookie)

What does your to-do list look like? Could you simplify it? What would you put on a giant wish list?

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Snacks For Mom: Do You Have Them?

I shared with you that I am trying to manage my time better, but one thing that often gets pushed to to the side are my own eating habits.

I can guide my children to make good food choices, but I can go for hours on end without eating well myself. Normally, I end up snacking towards the end of the day and it all balances out, but lately this plan hasn't been working so well.

I am hypoglycemic, which is just a fancy way of saying that I have low blood sugar. I have always had problems, but after I had Emily, it has seemed to have gotten worse.

These past couple of weeks have been really horrible and I have felt really rundown. I break out in a sweat, I have the shakes, my vision gets blurry, I feel faint, and I get extremely irritable. It seems like something like low blood sugar should be such a minor thing, but it can suck up hours of my day where I feel sluggish and generally out of it. I am sure my exercise routine is contributing towards the need for more eating, but I have been letting it go.

I decided to make it a priority this week and stocked our pantry with some mommy snacks. I got myself some cheese sticks, yogurts, fiber bars, and some canned & fresh fruit. I also bought black beans and whole grain rice to make tortillas for my lunches and to replace any late night cravings for junk food. I don't know why, but I find it difficult to "blow" grocery money on myself for these quick snacks. I feel like I should be making all of these things, but sometimes time is more limited and then I find myself in these slumps with nothing stocked to eat. The planner in me knows that I could do a better job of this, but sometimes it is nice to have a couple store-bought goodies packed in your purse for when you feel a slump coming on.

As I sat munching on my fiber bar this afternoon, I suddenly felt two eyes watching me. Emily came around the corner and pointed to my bar. She threw down her apple and started kicking and screaming for me to give it to her, as only a two year-old can do. As I shook my head no, my mouth full of food, she began escalating and I felt my stomach rumbling in protest from the interrupted and stressful snack. Can't a girl eat a fiber bar without having to share it?

I will admit that I now find myself sneaking into the bathroom or an unlit corner of the house to sneak in a little nutrition for myself, lest I have to share with everyone else in the house. Images of my own poor mother hovering over the sink to shove a little treat in her mouth and all us kids circling her like a pack of wolves comes rushing back to me. We could sniff those Girl Scout Cookies out like nobody's business and I doubt my mother had many meals where she didn't have to sacrifice a few bites between the three of us.

Do you have a favorite healthy mommy snack that you could recommend? What keeps you going during the day? Secret mommy confession... do you hide your snacks or keep them separate from the rest of the family's food? Fess up! Where do you put your stash?

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mommy Time Management: Making My Plans Work

We did a really great series on self-care awhile back (you can scroll through my Mommy Time Management category for all of the discussions and related talks on implementing self-care in your life) and I just wanted to check in with each of you and see how your self-care is going. I know that I have found it is easy to care myself during the summer, but when our new school year starts, I suddenly seem to lose myself again. I am wondering if you are feeling the same way?

My self-care has really come from trial and error and discovering what type of person I am. Here is what I am discovering.

1. I am not a morning person. I have tried being a morning person and I just can't do it. My workout attempts to wake up early left me feeling horrible the rest of the day and getting a jump on the day usually means I am tapping into the time when I feel less creative. Therefore, I am not pushing being a morning person and am instead concentrating on utilizing the times when I feel best...which is the evening. I will no longer apologize for not being a morning person and will understand that maybe I will come to a stage in my life where mornings work better for me, but for now I am content on being groggy in the morning and enjoying the first bit of laziness while I can.

2. I am not a gym person. I tried the gym with my kids and it did not work. My daughter is at a stage in her life where she is shy and scared when I am away from her. I don't know how long this stage will last, but dragging one whining kid and one crying kid to the gym so I could work out left me feeling stressed and guilty. We decided to, instead, put our tax refund check towards a good treadmill that we could use while caring for our children at home. My husband is now able to run and train for his races in the winter seasons and I am able to squeeze in a workout when it is convenient for me. I am working out more often and I feel better than I did before.

3. My self-care needs to be convenient for it to work. A treadmill in the basement...not convenient. A treadmill that is near my workspace so it is ready and waiting for me. Yup, that works. Call me lazy, but self-care will only work for me if it is convenient. This means that I have to make those things available to me and group items in such a way that I will actually use them. My foot soak goodies are all together waiting for the night when I can soak my feet. My library books sit in a basket in my living room where I can grab one and read them. My craft supplies are ready for me to spend an evening working on what makes me most happy. Keeping stocked on my self-care items helps me to actually care for myself when I need it most.

4. I need to put myself on a self-care schedule. I have made a commitment to myself to do one nice thing for myself for one hour a day. It is not an hour where I am watching my favorite show while I fold the laundry, pick up the kid's toys, and sign papers. No, the only multitasking that will be occurring is if I am watching my television show while soaking my feet. As a mom, I get in the habit of making it about everyone else, even during the time that I should be caring for myself. One hour of total and carefree time devoted to myself is just what I need. The world will still spin, our house will still function, and I will be feeling better about myself in the process.

How do you care for yourself? Do you find it more difficult as the school year and activities begin? How do you make this a priority... or do you?

(Photo Source: David Joyce)

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Monday, August 04, 2008

2008 Online Family Planner Round-Up

Calendars, planners, and online software change each year so for the back-to-school season, I would like to share with you some of the family planning options available to you for the new school year. Many thanks to my Twitter friends for offering their own suggestions for what they use as it helped to get my list rolling!

For the first portion of our discussion, I wanted to discuss online calendars. Online calendars are great for families who spend a lot of time on the web and they can be easy to access when you are out and about from mobile phones and other computers.

Online tools are ideal for clearing the paper clutter from your life and can be easily shared among family members. When using paper calendars, it can be difficult to get your family all on the same page (so to speak) so online tools can be a great option for making sure everyone is aware of those meetings and appointments.
Google Calendar- This seems to be a favorite among families because it syncs so well with everything in a busy mom's life. Busy families can easily link to one another's calendars to avoid scheduling conflicts which makes it a very appealing option. You can import events from other calendar programs like Yahoo! Calendar and Microsoft Outlook. You also can set up multiple calendars for different areas of your life, like one for your daughter's ballet schedule or one for your weekly night's out with your girlfriends. Party planning and invitations can be done through the calendar as well as setting up reminders for important events in your life. I love that you can share your calendar with your family (or the world, if you so choose) which should help trigger your spouse's memory for that dinner with your family that he was so not looking forward to.

Cozi- In my opinion, this is one of the best free online tools that there is. I really just love the look and the feel of this calendar. I loved this calendar when it first came out, but they have made a new recent addition and you can now sync to Outlook, which makes adding events a whole lot easier. This software is made with a mom in mind. It is easy to use, color-coded (for each family member), includes pictures of your sweet little ones, helps you with your grocery list, has calendars with alerts letting you know when your appointments are and you can send love notes to your hubby…all from one central location. Left your grocery list at home? Just call Cozi’s toll-free number from any mobile phone and have your list read to you or sent as a text message.

remember the milk- This site is great for our list-writing mommas. You can make as many lists as you like and no one will tell you to put your notepads away. Into tagging items on your blog? Use the task cloud to easily see what you have to do. Want to store notes along with your tasks? You can do that too. Saving gas is always a priority too and you can use the map feature to see where your tasks are located in the real world. See what's nearby or on your way, and plan the best way to get things done.

Ta-da Lists- Another great site for the list-writing mommas because that is virtually all this program is. It is simple, it takes about ten seconds to sign up for an account and you can make as many lists as you like. You could also be like, "Ta-da!" and have this open on your computer with a giant list of things you need your spouse to do... you know, if you were that kind of spouse!

Do you use any online tools for managing your day? Do you utilize things like text messaging or a PDA to manage your day more effectively? What high-tech programs or tools have helped your day run more smoothly?

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

WSBT-TV: Getting Fit on a Budget

Today on WSBT, I discuss some ways to get fit without losing your gym shorts... so to speak! I am trying to get myself back in shape and here are a few links to help with motivation and savings:

Exercise & You

Working Out on a Budget

Creative Gym Membership Alternatives

Kathy Kaehler Interview

Frugal Exercise Solutions

Going Without Prescription Coverage: A Self Discovery


I hit the gym this morning and the owner stopped me to tell me he had seen me on the news. He suggested I do a segment on exercising and I told him that I had just taped one. "Did you mention our gym?" I smiled and said, "No, but I did tell them to call around to gyms and see if you can get a free membership for babysitting."

I am thinking that wasn't the answer he was looking for, but I made a beeline to the gym equipment and had to smile a little bit! Just trying to do my part for the moms of the world who can't afford those expensive gym memberships!

Do you have a new workout DVD recommendation or a new workout that you are really loving? Please leave a comment here and let me know!!

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Follow-Up on Self-Care Discussion

Our discussion on self-care was prompted by a lack of care for myself that I needed to admit to and work on. We had such a great discussion and I heard from a lot of you (through email and through your comments) that you were making it a priority to care for yourselves. For those of you that missed our discussion, I encourage you to read our entire discussion and to start taking some steps towards caring for yourself.

I wanted to share with you the improvements that I have made towards these goals:

1. I am managing my time much better. Now that Blogger has finally added the feature where you can publish into the future (doesn't that sound cool the way I worded that?), I am actually able to do the majority of my work on the weekend and I just schedule my entries to publish during the week. I have started devoting my time on Sunday afternoon towards getting my posts ready to go from Monday through Thursday so I can concentrate on family time throughout my week. The computer is ruling my life a lot less and I have less on my shoulders in the mornings to worry about.

2. I am working out regularly. I almost hate to admit it, for fear that I will get off track, but my working out is going really well. I am still going to the gym and am indulging in that in the evenings on occasion, instead of my trips to Goodwill. I am also running in my neighborhood (to help save on gas) and we are planning to invest in a treadmill so that my husband, who is a runner, can also enjoy working out in the winter and training for his runs in the spring & summer. Whether I will continue at the gym, I am unsure, especially if we invest in a treadmill for our home.

I never thought I would be the type of person that would work out regularly, but I really am proud that I am. Some of the positive side effects that happened because I am exercising regularly are that I have more energy during the day, my mood is much better after I have had those nice endorphins releasing into my system, and my troubles with insomnia are almost gone. I am sleeping so hard that we now have a new problem on occasion...snoring! In all seriousness though, I am feeling so much better about myself for adding this to my life.

3. I am making time for hobbies now. My new knitting hobby has been the best form of self-care yet because it has calmed me down a lot in the evening hours. I have found that I am more creative than I give myself credit for and I am trying to focus this creativity into benefiting my children too. We are spending more time crafting and enjoying time together now that I don't feel so busy all of the time. Our evenings are spent in our backyard indulging in conversation and fun summertime activities.

4. I am also continuing to reduce the clutter in our house and am trying to be more purposeful about the things we bring into our lives. One commitment that I made to myself (which has been extremely hard) is to not go to garage sales this summer. I know, HARD! I haven't brought as much in and I am finding that I can be more inventive with what we already own. Best of all, I have a little less to clean and a little more room to entertain in. When things come in, things go out- sounds simple enough, but I am still learning.

5. I am trying to do more for others by donating my time and talents to some great causes. The more that I am doing for others, the more I feel better about myself. It isn't anything extravagant that I am doing, but they are little things that have made me feel better about how I can help other people. I am still working on this so I am looking for opportunities to give back to others in our community.

Basically, I am feeling a lot more balanced than I was before. I am trying to talk less about how busy I am and more about how fulfilled I feel from the great things I have added to my life. I am saying no to more and missing out on some things, but I am concentrating on building our family unit up and strengthening the important ties that need strengthening.

How is your self-care going? What are you doing lately that you feel really proud of?

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Creating Morning Rituals

Today is going to be our last day in the book, "How Did I Get So Busy." We have had such a great discussion from this book and I feel like I have made a lot of positive changes by sharing through this format and from encouragement from you. It has definitely been a positive transformation for me and I hope that you have gotten as much from it as I have.

For those of you who are just joining in on the series, we began with a busy bee quiz, questioned our reasons for being busy, had a discussion about technology and how it can intrude into our life, talked about self-care (or lack thereof), discussed our exercise routines (or lack thereof), taming our tech habits, and breaking the procrastination habits. There are many more chapters in the book so I hope that you can check this out from your library or can purchase a copy. I have heard from many of you who have gotten the book so I hope it will continue to benefit you.

Today we are going to discuss our morning routines and rituals. I have read other bloggers who have some really great morning routines, but I will admit that I am not a morning person and carving time for rituals has been something I think about, but don't do. I will say that I have added some workout time to my mornings, after I drop my son off at preschool, and I have also been doing a morning walk with Emily on warmer days.

These are the suggestions from the author on ways that you can incorporate some rituals into your day:

1. Write a vision of your ideal morning. The author actually says she has a list of seven things that she wants to do every morning. She suggests writing a list down of the things you would like out of your own morning and putting this in a place where you will see it each day- on the fridge door, inside a medicine cabinet, next to your alarm clock. This list will help remind you of what your ideal morning would look like. I have seen moms take this a step further and have an ideal day written up for themselves and their children too.

2. Estimate how much time each morning ritual will take you. With all of our goals, we are encouraged to start small and work our way up. Begin with small things that won't take a lot of time and build your routine up from there.

3. Identify a simple way to connect with loved ones in the morning. It can be a hug and a kiss for your kids, joining your child for breakfast each day so that you have special time together, or exercising with your spouse. Use this time to connect with the people you love most and see if it starts your days out a little better.

4. Choose things you truly want to do, not what you "should" do. Don't do things you think you have to do, you need to do things, "that will truly nourish you and help you create the kind of life you believe is possible."

5. Test your habits- and adjust them. If your routine isn't working for you, don't be afraid to switch it around. Continually tweak the routine until you have something you are really happy with.

In this chapter, the author focuses on ways to end your day as well. I have found that I am better about how I end my day then how I begin it though so this section really stuck with me.

Sound Off: I am interested to hear if you have a morning ritual that works for you? What are your mornings like? Do you struggle with a morning routine too?

MomAdvice Sound Off: Did you enjoy this book series? Would you like to work through another book together? What topics/books are of interest to you right now?

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Breaking the Procrastination Habit

One of my favorite bloggers, Crystal from Biblical Womanhood & Money Saving Mom recently gave her readers a challenge to have an anti-procrastination day. She asked everyone to think of the things that they had been procrastinating on and for them to focus their efforts on those tasks. Isn't she just brilliant? I have five things in my head that come to mind that I have procrastinated on this week and I am sure everyone else has things that they know they should be doing...but haven't. In the long run, is it really easier to procrastinate? I will say that if you have procrastinated forever on something, there is certainly a rush when the task finally does get completed, but is your life easier or more difficult when dealing with procrastination? Often my procrastination costs me MORE time and money.

This week's lesson from the book we have been working through ("How Did I Get So Busy," by Valorie Burton) actually has a chapter devoted towards breaking the procrastination habits that you have been living with. The author offers these tips to help you accomplish what needs your attention this week:

1. Commit five minutes to the task. Even if the projects are large, start by setting a timer for five minutes and working on the project for that length of time. Don't you find though that once you start, it is hard to stop. It is the starting in a task that is usually the most difficult part. Go ahead, set that timer...but don't be surprised if you don't want to stop!

2. Stop making it a big deal. Often we make these tasks into bigger deals than what the are and it causes us to become paralyzed and not even start them. Maybe the task is just having a conversation with someone you love and you have something to say. You could start with manageable steps- writing it down, scheduling a date to say what you need to say, and then just saying it. Smaller steps are key towards working through procrastination.

3. Give yourself permission to do it imperfectly. My perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand. I have the mentality, "If I can't do it perfectly, then why do it at all?" Wrong attitude, I know, but sometimes I have to give myself permission to let go of my perfectionism to accomplish something. The author says, "It's time to let go of your perfectionism. It becomes a stumbling block that keeps you stuck. Be willing to do your best, but be willing to do it imperfectly. It frees you to be human and it frees you to make progress."

4. Make it fun. I have heard of people throwing painting parties to get their rooms painted, or inviting friends over to help them weed through their clothes. Invite someone to join in with you or look for support among your blogging friends to help you! Sometimes it just helps to have a cheerleader, doesn't it?

5. Drop the goal. Enjoy the day. If you are never going to do the task, quit adding it to your to-do list so that you can feel like you have failed. Just give yourself permission to let it go so you can enjoy your day without the dread.

Sound Off: What do you find yourself procrastinating on? What are some goals you could make for yourself?

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Taming the Tech Habits

I can tell you one of the reasons that I often feel overwhelmed is because of my tech habits. A quick login to my email account can set my day into a tailspin- a review that needs posting, an article that needs writing, a page that needs editing- I have suddenly lost an hour of my day.

Even if you don't have a website or blog, reading other people's websites and blogs can take up a great deal of your time. Reading feeds definitely made things a little easier for me, but I made it harder on myself by subscribing to a gazillion feeds since I was saving so much time. See how your tech habits can spiral out of control? I am trying to follow my own commandments for blogging and not allow my blog to rule my life, but it can be hard.

In our book, "How Did I Get So Busy?" by Valorie Burton, she offers some suggestions for taming your tech habits and getting your life back:

1. Make email unobtrusive. This is something that I had to do in my own house. My computer used to ding at me when email had arrived and I would run into the office to check my account right that very minute. I ended up spending a lot of unnecessary time running in there for junk and spam mail which was time that would have served me better by spending it with my family. The author recommends turning the audible features OFF.

2. Open & respond at specific times. Set specific times that you will check email and give yourself a specific period of time in which to respond. Begin by prioritizing the messages by reading the titles and dealing with those emails first.

3. Set "no email" periods. Create periods of time in your day where you make email off limits- after 8 PM, Sunday afternoons, while on vacation, or when you need to focus on a specific project.

4. Have "no technology" periods. Don't allow technology to intrude in times where it is not welcome. Keep things like cell phones, email, and television out of your life during certain times where you feel it is important for you to be unplugged. I personally loved this idea from Ohmystinkinheck, where Heather suggests making the family members turn in their cell phones and set them to the off.

5. Respond in the moment. Even if you aren't addressing your messages right away, it is thoughtful to send a message to let the recipient know that you have received the message and a promise that you will get to it when you can.

6. Delete the message once it has been handled. Know how many messages I have in my inbox right now? You are going to gasp, but that is okay because I can't hear you. 8,000. No typos, there are 8,000 messages in my account. You can see why this would be tough for me! The author suggests keeping your inbox as clutter free as possible to help free your mind from being bombarded by the sheer volume of your old messages. Maybe this is a reason why I feel stressed when I open my inbox?

7. Tame your Blackberry habit. If people know that you will answer their messages immediately, they will begin to expect it and will take advantage of it. You will attract more requests, demands, and messages than ever.

Sound Off: What do you struggle with on this list? Are there are solutions listed here that could help you tame your own tech habits?

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Working Out On a Budget

(Ring, Ring)

Me: Hello?
Voice: Hi, it's 1997 calling
Me: 1997? Wow, that was such a great year for me. How is 1997?
Voice: Good, except they want their workout clothes back
Me: What? No, those are perfectly good pants and shirts. I am just working out in them, I don't understand what the big deal is.
Voice: Yeah, and those pants you wore through your pregnancy? You know, the ones with the bleach stains on the butt?
Me: No. Please. Those pants have been good to me.
Voice: Please throw them away
Me: But I don't want to spend money...I could still get another ten years out of them.
Voice: (interrupting) NO! They are finished. Throw them away- you are embarrassing yourself.
Me: But...
Voice: And about those socks from junior high...
Me: One thing at a time, dude.

Our discussion last week about exercise really struck a chord with me. My family suffers from many health problems that I hope to not replicate, but if I am sitting on the couch (or in front of the computer), I may suffer from the same ailments.

As always, the budget comes into play and if I was going to work out, I knew that I needed to do it inexpensively. I am not one of those people that is disciplined enough to motivate myself to work out on my own and I know that I am better motivated in a gym-type setting. Let's face it though, gym memberships aren't cheap.

In a moment of Divine Intervention, my girlfriend called and said that they had an opening for babysitting at her gym. For one hour a week, I could babysit the other client's children and get a free membership. This works out to be four hours a month and my membership is paid for. I did think about the value of my time versus the value of the free membership and it would work out to be about $10 per hour of my time. I think that is a good return on investment and the highlight for me is that they offer the childcare in the first place. I can workout and take classes at the gym and Emily can go with me and play with some other kids. It is a total win-win situation for us.

The next dilemma was getting some things that would be appropriate to work out in. Since I was used to working out at home, I needed to update my wardrobe a bit. I decided to purchase two pairs of yoga pants ($19.50 each) and two new sports bras ($15 each) from Old Navy. I also got a stainless steel water bottle ($6.99) from our local Meijer.

My tennis shoes were looking really worn and needed some attention. I slipped the laces off of them and threw them in our washer (a big thanks to my sister for that tip!). I washed them on a warm setting with a little laundry detergent. When I pulled them out, they looked a thousand times better from such a good scrubbing. I took newspaper and stuffed the interior of the shoe (to help hold its shape and also to absorb any lingering odors) and let them dry outside in the sunshine. When they were dry, they looked like brand new shoes, and acceptable enough to wear to the gym.

While I did make an investment in workout gear, I did save on my membership and on new running shoes. I am proud to say that I have already hit the gym three times and am dedicated to getting in back in shape. It is such a treat to workout in such a nice place and to be able to do it for only one hour of my time each week.

Sound Off: Where do you purchase your workout clothes from? How is the progress going for you with your own exercise routine?

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You Knew It Was Coming....Exercise & You

Oh, you just knew that this chapter was upon us after our frank discussion about self-care. I just want you to know that I am not just being Miss Preachy and I promise you that I am making serious changes with the help of this book. The changes I am seeing in myself are making me a much happier mommy.

Here are some things I have been working towards:

1. In the evenings, I am doing something quiet like knitting, reading, or spending time with my husband. I am trying to slow down in the evenings instead of running around for no reason. The same is applying to our daytime routine as well. I am trying to focus on the kids doing more stuff at home with me and less running around. Less running around= less money spent!
2. I replaced some things that needed replacing. Without going into details, I recruited my best girlfriend to go shopping with me and I finally forked over the money and threw out items that needed replacing. It was huge- like, a HUGE deal.
3. I made appointments and kept them. I visited my chiropractor, got my medical massage, kept a follow-up exam with my doctor, and went to my annual. I should be just about perfect after all of that.
4. I am purging a ton of stuff out of our house- three carloads so far! This stuff has been weighing me down and needed to go. It is mostly clothing, but I have been adding items little by little, as I see it, to the trunk and then taking a load over to the Goodwill each day. This is so good for my emotional well-being and it is creating more space in our home too!

Today we are going to talk about exercise or the lack of exercise in our lives. Since I have had Emily, I have not been exercising, and I can give you excuse after excuse for why I have not been engaging in regular exercise. It usually starts with, "I am so busy..." I am petite and people can't necessarily tell that I don't exercise regularly, but I am sluggish by midday and my body isn't toned anymore. I have back problems and regular exercise would really benefit this, but I always have an excuse for why I can't do it. Really, there are a hundred reasons why I SHOULD exercise and a hundred reasons why I DON'T exercise.

In the book, "How Did I Get So Busy?" the author offers these suggestions for making exercise a regular routine in your life.

1. Give yourself a range of success. Just as the author recommended in the self-care chapter, she reminds us that we don't have to do everything perfect. Make a goal, but don't beat yourself up if your goal was six days of exercise and you only managed three. Make three days a minimum goal for yourself and do the best you can and make it something that works for you.

2. Make it quick and convenient. Try aiming for just thirty minute sessions and do what fits best with your schedule. If going to the gym doesn't work for you right now, stick to a workout DVD. If you can't manage either, try a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Whatever you do, make it something that is easily doable and can be done in a short period of time.

3. Multi-task when you exercise. No, the author isn't suggesting we do our bills, but to use this time to meditate or listen to music to make the experience more enjoyable.

4. Take a class, form a group, or get a trainer. If you liked the idea of setting up appointments for self-care, this might be a great idea for you. She suggests making an appointment with a workout buddy or friend to help keep you motivated. Your workout buddy could even by your child, spouse, or another family member- whatever will help too keep you motivated.

5. Make a plan you'll actually follow. Start small, build your confidence, and be consistent.

6. If you fail, try again. She quotes Winston Churchill who said, "Success is the ability to move from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." Don't beat yourself up, but be honest with yourself. Keep trying and don't give up.

7. Start your day with exercise. Stop trying to squeeze it in when you have a full schedule and make it your routine when you wake up. Before you go to bed, put your workout clothes, shoes, and a bottle of water right next to the alarm clock. When you wake up, slip on your workout gear and head out the door for a brisk walk, pop in your favorite workout tape, or find an open area in your house to do a few sets of your favorite exercise. Use this time as your planning time, quiet time, or "me" time and enjoy energy all day long.

Sound Off: Do you make exercise a priority in your life? How have you worked this into your schedule?

Follow-Up Sound Off: Did you do something to care for yourself this week? Report back and let me know if our discussion helped you at all!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

My Ultimate Downfall: Self-Care

Here are some things I need to admit before I begin discussing self-care:

1. I do not keep my appointments when it comes to my own health care- doctor visits, the hairdresser, annual visits, dentist visits, chiropractor care, or vision exams. This has usually been because I don't want to take both my children to these visits or because I feel like these appointments can wait. It is rare though that I ever reschedule anything for my children. For myself, it is a regular occurrence.

2. I do not regularly engage in things that are just for me other than social commitments. I struggle with making time to do hobbies I enjoy, doing any regular reading, or indulging in time for quiet reflection for myself.

3. I am pretty good about buying clothes for myself, but I struggle with feeling worthy enough to spend money on myself. This is because I feel that oftentimes the money is better allocated to my children, our house, my spouse, or food. It has gotten to the point that items for myself that have needed replacing seem like "spending urges" rather than the simple fact that sometimes I actually have a need to replace it.

4. At times I feel that engaging in self-care and doing things for myself is selfish and indulgent.

Now do you want to take advice from someone like me? As I have plowed my way through the chapters in our book for discussion ("How Did I Get So Busy," By Valorie Burton), I had to pause for a moment as I approached the chapters on self-care. In some ways, I feel like I do really well. I do things often with my mom's group and I try to make time with my closest friends and sister, but these times are often filled with busyness and chasing after kids. While sometimes, during these visits, I get a break, I am not doing things to care for myself during these times. I realize that this is something I really and truly need to work on.

Valorie offers these tips for shifting to a self-care lifestyle:

1. Make a decision to change your life. This is the first time in any life-changing process and she encourages you to want to make that change.

2. Clarify what is no longer acceptable. Shifting from a life of self-care might mean shifting away from a life of busyness. Make a list of what is unacceptable to you in your current lifestyle and what must go in order for you to make the shift to this new life.

3. Clarify what makes you feel well cared for. What really makes you feel cared for? Is it being pampered, cared for, and nourished emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Write down what comes to mind.

4. Make self-care easy. The author suggests making self-care easy and scheduling it into your day just as you would anything else. Set up appointments on the same day of each week or each month so that you can incorporate it easily into your schedule. You could also make it easier by making items that help nourish you easier to access. For example, a foot soak is my favorite thing to do so grouping all of these items together in an accessible spot and scheduling it every Friday (which I used to do each Friday and then lapsed on because I was "too busy") would make it a scheduled and easy task for me to indulge in.

5. Practice until it becomes a way of life. Refuse to compromise on your self-care and practice, practice, practice doing it. It is okay if you don't do it perfectly, but make an effort to make self-care a priority in your life.

6. Notice how much easier it is to do what needs to be done when you live a self-care lifestyle. Incorporating self-care will help give you the energy and the foundation to better handle challenges that come your way. Self-care prevents those feelings of being burnt-out because you will now have a cushion to soften the blow.

The challenge with this lesson and chapter is to make a decision to adopt a self-care lifestyle. From this lifestyle, you will automatically eliminate a lifestyle of busyness.

My personal commitment:

1. I am going to schedule my chiropractor appointments regularly again and I am going to schedule and KEEP my dentist & eye exam appointments.

2. I am going to try to do (at least) one nice thing for myself each week- spending time reading, knitting, exercising, or something to pamper myself. It will not necessarily be things that I am spending money on, but it will be a special treat that I don't often engage in.

3. I will work harder on buying things for myself when I need them. If I hear of a person (like a someone-who-shall-remain-nameless type of person) who needs new underwear and she thinks it is a "silly expenditure," I will encourage her to go and spend some money on herself because that is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. And, yes, it has been that bad and that ridiculous for that person and shame on her.

4. I will not use my personal finances as an excuse to not take care of myself, unless that is really and truly true. We do have money for the things I need to care for myself and I will use those resources if they are needed. This doesn't mean going to a spa resort for a weekend, but it might mean getting my hair trimmed or having my teeth cleaned.

These might seem like minor commitments, but I want you to know that this is a huge commitment for me. I want to be strong in body and mind, but I can't be if I don't take care of myself. This might require me to work less on the site so that I can make time to make this a priority, but I also feel that if I had this time that I might have more energy and even more creativity to draw from.

Sound Off: It is safe to admit it, do you struggle with caring for yourself? What is one commitment you could make towards your self-care? What is one thing that you really miss doing for yourself since you became a mom?

(P.S.- It is not selfish, it is self-care and you deserve it!)

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Being Busy Or How Technology Takes Over Our Lives

Technology is a great thing, but it can also cause a disconnection between ourselves and the people in our lives. I will use my cell phone use as a perfect example for how it has helped my relationships grow and how it can also take away from my relationships.

My entire family is on the Verizon plan so it has been a great way to connect with my family members on a budget. Since everyone in my extended family is considered "long distance" we use our cell phones as a way to communicate with one another. Having those free mobile to mobile minutes has been a Godsend for me and is a way that I can stay in constant contact with the people that I love most. We talk regularly to our family and it keeps us active in one another's lives.

The cell phone also takes me away from the other things that I should be doing. Opportunities where I can connect with my children can become interrupted with the daily chats with friends and family or the beeping of text messages coming through. I can be mid-sentence with my child, hear the cell phone ring, and I run over to it like Pavlov's dog. What if I miss out on something? What if someone needs me and I am not available? What if there is an emergency? What happens is that I end up missing out on real human-to-human contact and I ignore the person who needs me the most.

I had a friend once who would completely ignore me when her phone rang. At first I found this amusing, but later I found it be irritating. I couldn't understand why she needed to have these conversations with others when I was sitting right there wanting to have a "real" converstion with her. I realized later that it made her feel important to have two people vying for her attention. She not only had me captive, but she had someone on the other end captive too. I would later voice my displeasure about it to my husband, but I realize now that sometimes I do this to my very own children. They will be chatting with me about their day and the phone will ring and I will cut them off mid-sentence to answer it. Am I no better than the person who was doing this constantly to me?

Here are some suggestions from the author of, "How Did I Get So Busy?" for ways to disconnect from the technology that can create more busyness in our lives:

1. Engage in stimulating conversations. One of her favorite questions in her house is, "What's the best thing that happened to you today?" She says, "Stimulating conversations are ones that spark dialogue, meaningful interaction, and even reflection." This is something that I can be working on with my family members and really sit down and set aside time to build these relationships meaningfully, instead of hurrying them through conversations.

2. Reach out and touch. The author encourages you to give the people you love a touch of affection to build your relationships. This is something I have no trouble with because I am one of those touchy-feely kind of people that make others cringe. I love to give my friends and family hugs or a peck on the cheek. It is the kind of family I was raised in and something that I have carried over into my own family.

3. Help someone in need. Yes, we are all busy and we all can use this excuse to not help other people around us, but the author encourages you to make time to help others in need because we cannot afford not to help those in need.

4. Acknowledge people for who they are more than what they do. Notice their character traits or sacrifices that were required in order for them to do certain things. Build on those things when offering compliments to others, taking care to notice these things instead of a simple, "Good job!"

5. Laugh. When we are too busy, we might forget to do this, but it is an important way to connect with one another. I do this often with my sister in our daily gab-fests. She makes me laugh like no one else can and about things that no one else would understand. Sisters usually know you inside and out and they can laugh about things that happened in the past and stupid things you did when you were a child and they will laugh about things you do now. If I need a laugh, I can always count on her.

6. Journal. The author suggests even carving out just five minutes a day to journal and connect with yourself. I love the idea of keeping a gratitude journal because it can create such a positive start to your day and starts your focus in the right direction- focusing on what you HAVE not what on you don't have.

7. Meditate. This can go along with your journaling. I am going to try and make a commitment to wake up just a little earlier so that I can have my own quiet time in the morning. This might help my mornings to start out on the right foot and will start my day on a more positive note.

Sound Off: What are some ways that you have found technology interferes with your life? Do you have any tactics for removing those distractions?

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I Am Busy, But Why?

I cracked open this book and was prepared to learn how to manage my time better. In my head, I had envisioned all of the ways that I could manage my day in a more effective way. For example, I could get up by four in the morning, like other bloggers I read, and start my day off with a brisk bit of exercise, breakfast, and some really hard work before my children get up. Then I could reserve their naps for time to catch up on the house, laundry, and bills. Then I could spend the afternoon cooking and catering to everyone's needs. And then I could collapse into utter oblivion...because I don't know how people get up at four in the morning. Or five in the morning. Heck, six sounds too early to me. We can see the beginnings of why I don't manage my time well. I am a late riser and I require oodles of sleep. Sleep has trumped a lot of things in my life and I just can't picture me being a real go-getter in the morning.

As I begin to read though, one of the first things the book said was that it "was not a book on time-management, it was a book on not being busy." Did you feel a chill in the air like I did? What? Not be BUSY? But this is my life. No, I want a book that is going to teach me that busyness is good and perfectly acceptable, but that I just need to manage my busyness more effectively.

That is when I realized how deeply rooted my problem had become. The author says, "I valued achievement more highly than joy, which led to speeding toward the finish line of every project, goal, or task without regard for the gift the journey. I had bought into the belief that taking on more work, projects, or activities validated my worth, abilities, and potential. Certainly there is nothing wrong with being industrious, but beware when busyness becomes a self-esteem substitute."

Yes, I am admitting that feeling busy makes me feel important and I get a high from it. It feels good to be validated by others and to offer my opinions and insights. I think that this really started when I became an at-home mom and it felt good to hear that other grown-ups respected what I had to say and that I had a valuable opinion. Being pooped on and peed on certainly wasn't making me feel good, but if I had a full calendar...well, I was popular! If my schedule was jam-packed, this proved that I had friends, and lots of them!

But could I possibly build any meaningful friendships if I am only able to pencil my friends in once a month? Did anyone ever get all of me if all I was thinking about was the next engagement or the next thing I had to do? I am realizing how bad this really is.

The author suggests making a new declaration that you can work towards while working through her book.

Declaration of My Personal Lifestyle
1. I only engage in activities that reflect what really matters to me.
2. I take all of my vacation time every year.
3. I make a heart-to-heart connection every day with someone I care about.
4. I honor my body's need for rest.
5. I have fun at least once a week.
6. I eat at regular intervals and at a slow pace.
7. I find enjoyable ways to exercise at least three times per week.
8. I do not allow technology to consume my time, but use it to maximize my time.
9. I say no to activities that do not pass my "personal priority test."
10. I listen to my inner voice when making decisions.

Just looking at this list, I can tell you exactly what is going to be a problem for me. #1,6,7,8,9, & 10. I don't eat like I should, I don't exercise regularly, I can't say no, my computer is a major time sucker, and I rethink my inner voice all of the time to please others.

What things on this list would be hard for you? Where do you struggle when it comes to busyness? Here's a tough one...does busyness boost your self-esteem? (You can sign in anonymously as always!)

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"How Did I Get So Busy?" (A Busy Bee Quiz)

I can't begin to tell you how much I have appreciated your feedback on what I should do with this blog and website. I think going away last week, returning to an overwhelming amount to do, and the feeling that I can't possibly keep up was eating away at me. I always feel I should be a positive example to people, but sometimes I need to show the more human side of myself. I have read all of your comments and emails and they mean so much. Maybe I just needed to hear that it was going to be fine if I didn't have something fresh and new every single day. I worry about the loss in traffic and readers, when I should worry more about the priorities in my own life.

Here is to a new direction and a new outlook on time management. As encouraged by you, I am going to try and explore better time management and share with you my journey in this. I am struggling with my day and I know other people must struggle with this too. There is just so much to do and we only have so many hours in the day. Where do we start? How do we manage our days better so that we can get things done without the feelings of being tapped out?

I found a book at the library called, "How Did I Get So Busy?" by Valorie Burton. This book is a 28-day plan to "free your time, reclaim your schedule, and reconnect with what matters most." Ironically, the book caught my eye when I was looking for something else, and I just knew I needed to grab it. I plan to read this and share about reclaiming some of my time and encourage you to pick up the book too! Check and see if you can get it at your local library.

The very first section has a test to see how busy you are. Give yourself 1 point for each statement that you identify with:

Too Busy Test

I feel as though I am constantly trying to catch up at work.
I feel as though I am constantly trying to catch up with personal responsibilities.
My life feels out of balance.
My breathing right now is shallow.
I am regularly late to appointments and scheduled activities.
There's rarely a break in my schedule.
My shoulders are not relaxed right now.
I eat lunch at my desk at least once per week.
I sometimes work straight through lunch.
I have not had a vacation longer than seven days in the last year.
A seven day vacation? I have never had one of those.
I have not gotten together with friends for fun and conversation in over a month.
Keeping up with household chores is a struggle because of time constraints.
I am dissatisfied with the amount of quality time I am able to spend with my spouse or significant other.
I am dissatisfied with the amount of quality time I am able to spend with my child.
I don't take time to exercise.
I resent the things I do for family or friends because I have little or no time for myself.
The fuel light in my car has come on at some point in the last two months because I have not had time to fill it up.
My mail is piled up because I haven't had time to open or sort it.
I have missed paying a bill on time in the last three months because I was too busy to notice the due date had passed.
I sometimes run out of socks, jeans, or other laundry items because I haven't had time to do the laundry.
I don't have time to write thank-you notes.
My to-do list rarely gets completely checked off for the day.
I work late more than once per week.
At least once per week, I skip meals because I am too busy.

How Busy Are You?

1-5 Points- Busy
Your schedule is challenging at times, but you are managing to get by. A few small changes will make a big difference towards helping you to take complete control of your time.

6-10 Points- Too Busy
Either life is becoming increasingly too busy for you, or you've been managing to get by but are starting to lose control. By taking action over these next 28 days, you can finally take charge of your schedule and decrease the stress that has been building.

11-16 Points- Too Busy & Frustrated
Life has been hectic for awhile and if you don't slow down soon and become more intentional about where and how you focus your time, you will soon burn out. It is essential that you begin to take steps now so you can get your life back.

17-25 Points- Out of Control
From the author, "I understand. I've been there. And it's possible for you to transform how you live so that your schedule is aligned with what's most important to you. It may require some big changes, but remember that change is about making choices."

I am looking forward to diving in on the first chapter of this. Time management is a tough issue for me and not one I have ever mastered. I have little sleep and exist a lot on my coffee addiction. I don't exercise, I don't take that great of care for myself, I sometimes feel as though I am "coasting" when it comes to managing the house and housework. I basically do as little as I have to do right now to keep up with this side business and that isn't what my intentions were in the beginning. It is comforting to know that I am not alone and here I am, exposing myself to you (in a totally G-Rated kind of way!)

My score was a 17 on this quiz. I am wondering if I am alone? Where are you at on this quiz?

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