Someday = Never

Managing the Everyday

I’m a organization & simplification junkie.

I’ve lost count of how many books & blogs I’ve read that promised to teach me how to streamline my life and manage everyday life.

Whether that meant outsourcing my tasks (hiring a cleaning service, having groceries delivered, etc.) or reorganizing our kitchen like an efficient restaurant kitchen, I’ve been all in. Some things have worked great, others were interesting experiments that didn’t last. 

But you know what piece of advice has been one of the most liberating of all? The thing that has brought me the most joy, helped keep my drawers well organized and even helped me get ready faster in the morning? 

The simple realization that…

SOMEDAY = NEVER

This is a key thing that I’ve been reminded of while reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (KonMari). 

With that in mind, I’ve been releasing myself from all sorts of future obligations:

  • Half-finished craft projects (like the finger puppets in the first photo)? Re-homed through our Buy Nothing group
  • Super-specific ingredients for a complex recipe I’ve never tried? Left for neighbors on our building’s “Free Table” or tossed in the compost. 
  • Shoes that I might wear someday if I can finally get the right outfit? Given to my sister.
  • Books that I started years ago, but never finished? Taken to the used bookstore. 
  • The Pasta Maker I used twice in three years? Sold. 

So many things that I never have to worry about again.

No more questions of if/when I will use them or where to store them. 

No more piles of clothes left on the bed after trying on my entire closet and deciding (once again) that these items just don’t work for me. 

No more guilt or feeling like a failure when I look at my half-finished projects. 

Do I miss any of the things I’ve gotten rid of? No. Not once. 

Instead I’m surrounded by the things I love & use. 

I am free. 

What “Someday” things are you holding on to?

 

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3 Tips to Get out of Funky Town

14496537236_932d9a9acd_zphoto: Holly Lay

This week, I’ve been in a funk.

I’m tired, unfocused and all I want to do is sit on the couch, fold laundry and watch TV.

But I’ve already done all the laundry folding. And sitting on the couch just watching TV seems like a poor use of time when my head is swimming with snippets of to-do lists, reminders of unanswered emails & voicemails and unwritten blog posts. 

I feel completely unmotivated, uninspired, overwhelmed. Can I just go back to bed and not think of any of it? 

Apparently not. 

So with that, here are my top 3 ways to get out of funky town:

1. Drink water. Even mild dehydration effects your concentration & mood so before you reach for the coffee, grab a glass H2O. 

2. Get some fresh air. Open a window or even better yet, step outside.

3. Finish one thing. Build some momentum with small victories. 

I have my glass of water and Javi & I will be headed on a walk as soon as he wakes up from his nap. And my one thing? You are reading it. 

 How do you shake the funk?

A Day of Rest

Sabbath

Do you Sabbath?

A day of rest. A pause. A time to breathe. 

Sabbath

I love to-do lists and getting things done. I like trying to pack as much as I can into the weekend, the glorious days where Juan is home and we can tackle life and 9-5 parenthood together. 

Sabbath

But lately I’ve felt a gentle nudging to let go and rest. To take a day to let things just be – undone and postponed. To put aside my phone, my laptop, my continual efforts to keep things in order and trust that it will all be OK. 

SabbathYesterday, we rested. We went to church. We played. We took Javi to Volunteer Park for the first time.

Sabbath

Checking out the Koi pond

Sabbath

Javi loves the park

We went out for yummy food. I purposefully left my phone in the car. We talked about interesting things we had read lately and our bathroom remodel dreams. 

Sabbath

We took a nostalgic summer walk in our old neighborhood. 

SabbathJavi was unimpressed with our old apartment building. 

We did do a little housework (made the bed, ran the dishwasher) and did stop by the store for a few breakfast items, but that was it. No laundry, hanging artwork or taking things to Goodwill. 

We rested.

It was a good day.

Sabbath

My New Mantra: Just Finish One

Feb 8/12 H is for Hanging up the laundry

This happens to me too often:

It’s finally quiet. Javi’s napping and I finally have some time to get things done around the house.

I start putting away the dishes when I notice the wine glasses that I wanted to donate to Goodwill.

Suddenly I’m inspired to gather up all the donation items. I grab a box and start filling it with the wine glasses, leaving the rest of the clean dishes in the dishwasher.

As I’m filling the box, I think of other things I wanted to donate. There must be something in my closet, right? I head to my closet. I’m greeted by a mangled mess of hangers and clothes. I’ll just take a moment and straighten things up…

Soon the bed is covered with the contents of our closet. I’m sorting sweaters and button-downs when I hear Javi.

I look at the clock. Yep, nap time is over.

Sound familiar? 

I get started on one thing, but soon I’m distracted by something else that seems more appealing or urgent. Even as I write this, I’m looking at the half-folded load of laundry, a growing stack of half-opened mail, things in the hallway that need to go to the storage room.

All of these uncompleted tasks just add to my mental to-do list. Instead of crossing things off and making progress, I feel like I’m constantly busy and yet falling further behind.

My challenge to myself the last few days has been this:

Just. Finish. One.

Take one task from start to completion.

I sometimes have to say it aloud. JustFinishOne. JustFinishOne. JustFINISHone!

It feels silly.

But it works.

The upside is that one completed task builds momentum that often leads to another. And if it doesn’t? I’ve finished one. It’s done. It won’t come back to haunt me at the end of the day.

And with that, I’m off to go finish putting away the laundry.

What’s your “ONE” to finish today? 

photo by Judith Doyle

Be Nice to Your Future Self

kitchen sink-new faucet-galley kitchen

The other night I looked at the dishes in the sink and thought, “I’ll get to those later”. But then I remembered this phrase:

“Be Nice to Your Future Self”

So I took a few minutes and took care of the dishes. The next morning, that empty sink was a wonderful sight. Dirty dishes first thing in the morning are a real bummer.

I’m trying to incorporate this saying into my daily actions. I’ve come up with a few morning and evening “Nice” routines that have made life run a little smoother around here:

Morning

  • Make our bed.
  • Empty the dishwasher.

Evening

  • Pack up dinner leftovers into easy to grab lunch containers.
  • Load and start the dishwasher.
  • Grind fresh coffee beans and put then in the French press for our morning coffee.
  • Set out breakfast dishes.

Throughout the day, whenever I’m tempted to just let something be and take the lazy route, I remind myself to be nice to my future self.

It usually takes less than 2 minutes to put something away or wipe down a messy counter and the habit of taking care of it now rather than later helps our home stay tidy.

Of course, there are times when the best thing for my future self is SLEEP! When that happens, I take a nap or go to bed and let the messes wait until the morning.

How will you be nice to your future self today?

(photo by Maegan Tintari)

Why I Will No Longer Eat Lunch at My Desk

vegetarian sub

I have eaten lunch at my desk for years.

Usually, lunchtime for me has meant eating whenever I felt hungry enough to stop what I was working on. If I didn’t need to heat it up, I would eat it straight from the tupperware container Juan packed it in.

Halfway through my meal/internet surfing, someone would come up to my doorless cubicle to ask a question.

I would put my lunch to the side, help them out and then go back to eating in quick bites between sorting papers and responding to emails.

It was multitasking. With food. Which might be one of the worst kinds of multitasking because it turns an enjoyable meal into a face-stuffing means to an end.

So I decided to try something different:

For the last few weeks, I’ve been (brace yourself here) eating lunch in the lunchroom.

At a table.

With my food on a real plate with real (not plastic) cutlery and a tall glass of water.

Sitting By Myself

When I first started doing this, it felt awkward.

The lunchroom was quiet and the absence of distractions was unsettling. I read the HR bulletins posted above the table to distract myself from the stillness.

I also felt very conspicuous. In the 6 years I’ve worked there, only twice have I ever seen someone eat their lunch at that table. I think it was odd for my coworkers as well, who quickly got their food from the fridge and hurried out of the room. Now that they have started to get used to it, I’ve been told that I look “very civilized”. Sounds good to me.

Why This is Awesome

After forcing myself to eat my lunch at the table for a few days, I started to notice the upsides:

  • There are no interruptions. A coworker might apologetically ask for help when I’m mid-bite at my desk, but so far no such “emergencies” have come up while I’m eating in the lunch room.
  • My energy levels stay up and I don’t crash with hunger at 3pm.  When I ate at my desk, it was easy for me to put off eating until I was grumpy and spacey with hunger. Now when I get hungry at 12pm,  I grab my lunch and go eat.
  • I am tasting my food. I noticed how balsamic vinegar brings out the sweetness in tomatoes. And how the salad from the lunchbox delivery place I used to love actually isn’t that great. I’m not grabbing a quick bite. I am enjoying my meal.
  • It is a guaranteed 15 minute calming break in the middle of my day.

…If You Want to Cringe in Horror

Today Juan sent me a link to this article with the note “Here’s a good read if you want to cringe in horror”. KFC, the fast food chain, is now making eating on the go easier & faster by offering boneless fried chicken instead of their traditional on-the-bone fried chicken.

Christopher Muller, a dean at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration is quoted in the article as saying “If it can’t be held in one hand – or a cupholder – don’t bother making it. That’s the reality of the mobile world.”

Reality or not, you can find me in the lunchroom. At the table.

(photo by Janine)

 

Date Mornings: Finding quality time in a busy world.

savor the momentI’ve read a lot on how it’s best to do the most important things early in the day, before distractions and less-important-but-seemingly-more-urgent items crowd out good intentions.

I’ve usually thought about this when it comes to working out or writing, but recently I realized that I can apply that principle to one of my most important things: my marriage.

Over the last few weeks, Juan and I have both been working a lot. When we get home, we are tired and just getting dinner figured out is a challenge. It also gets dark around 4:30pm now, which tends to zap our energy and make 6pm feel like 10pm.

After dinner, we usually spend a little time chatting or watching something on TV. Then it’s time to sleep and the day repeats itself.

Quality time is important for any relationship and we both felt like we weren’t getting much of that during the week. Even our weekly Date Nights were suffering and felt more like a time to eat without having to cook rather than a time to connect.

The solution: Date Mornings.

Once a week, we get ready for the day as quick as we can and stop at the Starbucks near Juan’s office on our way to work for a breakfast date.

It’s amazing how much faster we can get ready with something fun to look forward to.

Once we arrive, the service is quick, which is good because we don’t have as much time as we do on our Date Nights. Within 10 minutes we are usually tucked into a cozy corner with our breakfast and coffee.

Our energy levels are up, it’s bright out and we both feel fresh.

We chat about what we have planned for the day, things going on in the world (coherent conversations about world events are much better after a full-nights sleep) and do a little people-watching.

We are usually on our way in 30 minutes, but it has been true quality time.

I drive to work feeling happy and refreshed.

Even if we find each other tired and worn out by the end of the day, we have had that morning time. Sometimes it truly feels like another world…Did that happen today? Really?

Making time for what matters most is very important, but not as important as making time for who matters most.

How do you stay connected to the people you care about in the midst of your busy schedule(s)?

(photo by Robert S. Donovan)

p.s. Holiday shopping season is here! In case you missed it, please check out this extra special post on how you can support my friend Thelma’s cancer treatment by making one click before doing your usual shopping at Amazon.com.

 

Single-Tasking is the new Multitasking

Multitasking

Last week I wrote about how wonderful lists are for managing stress and getting things done.

Yesterday at work I was reflecting on how much calmer I’ve felt and how much I’ve been able to accomplish since I decided to put “Making The List” my first task of the day. Even at home, I’ve been making lists and getting some important stuff done. It feels good.

Since I’ve been prioritizing my lists and working through them one task at a time, I’ve also been forced to experience the joys of Single-Tasking.

Single-tasking vs Multitasking

Multitasking is my default mode. I like the idea of getting a lot of stuff done, so doing as much as I can at the same time seems like it should get me there faster. Plus, as a woman, I’ve heard how I’m supposedly really good at it.

I think there is something to be said for multitasking, but it works best if you are doing things that don’t require a lot of concentration. For example, I can easily fold laundry and watch a TV show at the same time. No problem.

The problem is with more complex tasks that require a little more thought and attention. This is where single-tasking shines.

Moving Fast, Getting Nowhere

When I’m multitasking, I’m usually tempted to keep adding to the things I’m trying to do.

This is especially true when I would rather be doing something else. A productive-feeling distraction? A new email? That sounds fun! Let’s see what it is!

Every time I leave what I was working on, my lost focus means that getting back into the flow takes a moment. Sometimes, when I abandon the task altogether in favor of another more interesting or important responsibility, remembering where I left off takes even longer.

Doing this constantly through the day adds up in both time and mental energy. It also means that I accumulate a growing stack of partially done projects, which leaves me feeling tired and unaccomplished.

Less is More

Forcing myself to take things one task at a time has required a mental shift and a good deal of discipline. I’m still tempted to jump around from task to task. Maybe it’s my love of novelty and my brain wanting to avoid hard problems.

Even in writing this post, I’ve automatically clicked on Facebook and email notifications as they popped up on the screen. It’s a work in progress.

However, when it comes to getting things done, I’m finding that single-tasking is much more effective than multitasking. At the end of the day, I might only have a couple things crossed off my list, but they are done.

And that feels good.

(photo by Sal Taylor Kydd)

p.s. In case you missed it, please check out this extra special post on how you can support my friend Thelma’s cancer treatment by making one click before doing your usual shopping at Amazon.com.

 

Write It Down: The Key to Managing Stress & Getting Things Done

I enjoy books on productivity and overall life management. I was talking with Juan this morning about the latest one I’ve been listening to (I’m a fan of audiobooks) and how the author was talking about the importance of making lists.

We talked about how common sense making lists felt and yet how we often don’t do it. Juan noted that a lot of self-improvement books tend to just tell you stuff you already know and you are all like “Yes, I totally agree! This book is brilliant!”.

I decided that when I got into the office, I was going to put it into practice.

A Fresh Start

Yesterday was hectic. I felt overwhelmed, distracted and was having a hard time keeping my patience with the additional requests that seemed to pop up just when I was starting to get some momentum. I did not want another day like that.

I usually start by checking my email. Not today.

Instead, I grabbed my notepad and made a list of every task I could think of. Urgent or not, important or not – each item went on the list.

Once I got it all out of my head and written down, I felt in control.

I think a lot of stress comes from knowing that you have stuff to do and needing to remember it all.

The fear of forgetting something important – let alone making sure that you don’t forget it – takes up a lot of mental energy. Capturing it outside of your head relieves this stress and allows you to focus on getting things done.

Working the List

Now that I had my list, I looked it over and circled my top 3 tasks: the urgent & important things that I most needed to get done. I left the rest alone.

I decided to tackle my least favorite & most urgent of those circled tasks first. I knew that if I didn’t, it was going to keep nagging me as I did the others.

I wanted to be able to focus on one thing at a time, so extra distractions (especially those from inside my own head) were not welcome.

20 minutes and 2 phone calls later, I crossed it off the list. Mission accomplished.

I kept up this method as the day progressed. Every time I crossed off all my circled items, I reviewed the list again and circled a couple more.

The Results

I ended the day feeling good about what I had accomplished. Did I cross everything off the list? No. But I got the important stuff done. The rest will be there tomorrow.

Distractions did come, but because I was focused on one thing at a time, I didn’t feel overwhelmed.

There is a big difference between switching your focus from one task to another (easy) and being tossed a unexpected item when you are already trying to juggle four (definite crazy-town potential).

I felt so successful at work that when I left the office (on time!) I decided to make a list when I got home and tackle the things that I needed to get done around the house.

Again, I was able to get some important things done and it feels really good.

I heart lists.

What is on your list today?

Note: This post contains an affiliate link connected to the Go Thelma fund account. 

How to Make Time for What Matters Most

10:30 a.m.

Some days I feel like I don’t have enough time in the day to do everything I need or want to accomplish.

One book that recently challenged my thoughts on this was 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam.

Vanderkam says that in order to make the most of your 168 hours per week, you need to identify your “Core Competencies”.

These are the areas of your life that are:

1. Most Important and
2. Only you can do OR you can do better than anyone else.

My “Important + Me” list includes:

  • Being an awesome wife to Juan and building a great marriage.
  • Investing in my relationships with my family and friends.
  • Improving my health & fitness.
  • Writing this blog.
  • Working at my day job.

If I make time for these things, I feel like my life is more or less under control. Plus, when one of these main things gets out of balance it usually messes up everything else.

But what about everything that isn’t on the list?

Obviously, life is made up of more than just the things on your “Important + Me” list. Here are 3 suggestions for managing them.

1. Say No

This is the easiest way to free up more time in your life.

Sometimes this means saying no when you are asked to volunteer or take on additional responsibilities.

More often, it means saying no to Facebook, checking email, watching TV, playing Angry Birds or other little time-wasters that steal time from your main priorities.

2. Mix it up

Think of ways you can combine items from your “Important + Me” list with other non-list tasks.

A friend of mine and her sister-in-law team up to help each other tackle major projects around the house. Each week they pick a time and alternate homes. They get more done and also get to catch up and enjoy each others’ company.

3. Outsource

Some things you can’t say no to for too long without some negative consequences.

These usually involve forms of cleaning, shopping and cooking and are usually things that you can ask someone else to help you with – for a fee or sometimes for free.

Grocery Shopping –  I don’t go grocery shopping. Instead, I rely on our produce delivery from New Roots Organics and use AmazonFresh for everything else. It does cost a little more and I can’t use coupons, but I gain 1-2 hours per week to put towards the items on my “Important + Me” list and that is worth it to me.

House Cleaning – Currently, we do all the cleaning at our place. But now that I’m putting more hours in at my day job, hiring a housekeeping service to help out is starting to sound like a good idea. You could also team up like my friend did in the example above.

Cooking – Maybe you can afford a personal chef. Or maybe you can get on a lunch rotation with friends at work (each day a different person makes lunch for the group). Last night we outsourced our dinner to the Vietnamese place down the street. Pho on a cold rainy night? Yes please!

 What is on your “Important + Me” list?

(photo by Robert Couse-Baker)

Note: This post contains an affiliate link.