Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

Routine or Ritual?

 

Habits and routines created with intention can make life easier in so many ways. I don’t mean the unconscious habits of going for a snack when you’re bored or throwing clothes on the chair rather than hanging them up. Those are the habits that most people say they’d like to change.

What I’m talking about are the productive behaviors you want to change the problem behaviors to. I’m also including other positive routines and habits – such as regular sleep and wake time, paying bills every Friday, that kind of thing. For example, I have a morning routine that goes breakfast, exercise, shower and dress, work. Sometimes I have an early client and have exercise or shower after that. The actions of the routine may get shuffled but not neglected because they’ve become habitual.

Now with a ritual you are adding an additional element—the conscious intention of the behavior helping you be more of the person you wish to be. Here’s an example that uses the process of ritual:

Intention: Organizing a space in which you can find things, get things done, and keep what’s important to you safe. Hold the intention of creating your space as a sanctuary where you can be comfortable and focus on what is meaningful.

Planning: Schedule a block of time to look at all of the things in your space. During this time, you will make a decision about every item in your space. If something has no use or meaning, or is no longer important to you, consider letting it go. Some things will be tossed, some given away, and some perhaps stored elsewhere because they are rarely used. Next, look at what will stay – the things you want to keep and use all the time. Think about where it makes the most sense to put the items you’ve decided are special to you and support your intention.

Preparation: Your first action step is the clearing and de-cluttering. A cleansing process is often done to make way for something new. After clearing, find the right kinds of containers for the things you have. Now, take a break.

Manifestation: Set aside a morning or afternoon for the ritual. Enter the room and close the door. Sit down and focus on your intention.

Select one type of object—say books. As you recognize in what way they reflect who you are and what’s important to you, you can claim them as power objects. Put them in the areas you’ve decided upon.

To close the ritual, imagine doing what you will be doing in each area of the room. Do you feel better, worse or, the same as before? Make sure you feel good everywhere. Take a photograph of your space.

Integration: Put the photograph on the wall or in your journal. Use it as a daily or weekly reminder as perhaps the first step of a maintenance ritual.

Are you the driver or the passenger?

You know how when you’re in a car riding “shotgun” and the driver’s going dangerously fast, you press your foot against the floor really hard as if there was a brake pedal there?

When someone else has the controls you’re along for the ride. If the driver makes a risky move, there’s not much you can do.

How is this relevant to your life? Well, let’s talk about “locus of control.”

If you feel you have no control over the events in your life, in psychological terms that would be called having an external locus of control. When things don’t go as you wish, you might blame bad luck, injustice, or even “Mercury in Retrograde.” On the other hand, with an internal locus of control you feel that you, yourself, are responsible for outcomes. And if not the outcome itself, your response to it. Think of it as responsibility.

Even when you have specific goals and well-thought out plans things may not work out as you intend. Perhaps you had some internal obstacles you couldn’t foresee…not your fault. Or there was some sort of glitch that interfered when you were just tooling along perfectly, like road work that caused a detour and added minutes to your journey. Again, no one to blame. The road workers hadn’t come up with an elaborate plan just to frustrate you.

Life doesn’t always seem to comply with our wishes and our best intentions often go astray. These times are opportunities. Use them as lessons to either prevent similar future problems that might arise in the future, or to practice letting go of expectations and focusing on all the things that are right in your life.

To-Do, or Not To-Do

 

Is your To-Do list the bane of your existence? Or is it an effective time management tool? Those of us list-makers find that writing things down can alleviate possible memory issues, such as going to the market and leaving without the most important item, or packing for a trip to a beachside resort and discovering you forgot to pack a swim suit.

 

But some people personify the To-Do list and hear it relentlessly nagging with “you should…” or “when are you going to…” If you have a list with countless items and you don’t begin because you don’t know where to begin, you are likely to have thoughts like that run through your head.

 

Why not find ways to effectively manage your to do list?

  1. Categorize items
  2. Prioritize items in each category according to things like due dates
  3. Estimate roughly how much time, and when you can realistically attend to the high priority tasks
  4. Schedule them in your calendar as appointments

 

If you still feel that your To-Do list is more like the Grim Reaper constantly hovering over you than a helpful reminder of what you’d like to get done, how about a Not-To-Do list?

 

In her article “To-Do Lists are Great but Do-Not-Do lists Might Be Even Better for You,” Caroline Liu argues that a Do Not Do list lets you dump (or limit) the things that are keeping you from what’s really important. This list makes you look at all the things that you do do in your day and say, “this is not worthy of my time, I’m not going to do it any more.”

 

The key thing is to NOT. DO. THEM. ANY. MORE.

 

Busy Doing What?

Nobody is too busy; it’s just a matter of priorities. Laura Vanderkam has an eye-opening TED talk on this subject.

What if you could be in charge of designing your days by creating a time budget? You know how to budget your money, right? If you have a regular paycheck and you’re aware of your monthly income, presumably, you know how much goes to rent/mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, etc., and what might remain for saving or random spending. And if you don’t have a regular paycheck, then you really have to budget to stay on top of things.

How about applying the same principles to your calendar? Realistically, how much time can you/must you devote to work? To health? To taking care of your home? To your family, friends, community? You can use your calendar to block time for your priorities in each area. Some things will be high priority items, some medium, and some low. You want to commit to the high priorities as much as is realistically possible. It also makes sense to have both cushions and flexibility. For example, include travel times for appointments, and padding for things that run longer than intended.

Sometimes the best laid plans…, so when that happens consider rescheduling as an option. When something unexpected happens – maybe you get a flat tire on the way to your workout class – look for a place later in the week when you can get a different workout in, and make sure to put it in your calendar.

Of course, a portion of your time needs to be spent creating your time budget and updating it daily. Schedule that too. And pay attention to how long things really take so that you can improve your time budgeting skills.

The Upside of Failing

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Did you know — At age 23 Oprah was fired from her first reporting job? Or that Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer when he was 24? How about this fun fact– at 28, J.K. Rowling was a single parent living on Welfare. And finally, Def Jam Records dropped Lady Gaga after three months. She went on to earn six Grammy awards and thirteen MTV Video Music awards!

Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates famously said, “it’s fine to celebrate success, but more important are the lessons of failure.” The key word here is lessons.
Lessons mean you get to look at your intention, review what worked, what didn’t and then make adjustments. Failing at anything, from eating a big dessert three days into a new diet to writing a report that you discover is missing a paragraph only after it goes to print, means you get to learn how to make future attempts get more pleasing results.

This is lots of what we do in coaching. We shape behaviors so improvement is constant.

Three Tips to Avoid Late Fees

Penalty word in 3d letters on a steel bear trap to illustrate punishment, fees or fines for breaking rules

Do you ever procrastinate on paying bills? Solutions exist.

 

The List

First make a list of all your monthly bills and their general due dates. Note that some may be due weekly, while others are monthly or quarterly. Some bills will usually have due dates early in the month while others will be due later in the month. Organize your bills in the order that they need to be paid.

 

Pay Date versus Due Date

This is a place where lots of people screw up. Whether you pay electronically or send in a check, there is a time span between when the payment is made and when it arrives. If you pay online, your bank will usually have a note as to how many days it takes for the money to be transferred. If you put a check in the mail it could be anywhere from two days to who knows when. Scheduling pay dates a week before due dates is generally a safe bet.

 

Alert, Alert

If you’re income varies, have you noticed that institutions don’t like it when you try to pay a bill with money that doesn’t exist? Alerts can help with this. With online banking you can set alerts to send you an email with your balance daily or weekly. They can also let you know when a check posts, when you have a low balance threshold, and more. This is great information whether you are paying all your bills yourself or using automatic deductions to handle the job.

 

Finally, tips are only good ideas without implementation. So schedule a chunk of time in your calendar each week to be used for bill pay. Make it an appointment. If something that feels more urgent comes up, make sure to reschedule to a time within 24 hours.

Time Will Tell – Tools that Organize your Thoughts & Time

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Do any of these sound familiar?

  • You have a great idea in the shower and then forget it by the time you’re dressed.
  • A task you thought might take an hour actually takes three.
  • You sometimes get so caught up in one thing that you’re late for something else.
  • Prioritizing your schedule to address all your To Do’s feels impossible.

 

Solutions exist. I like things to be simple and easy to use so these three tools have passed muster. They are Aqua Notes, Time Timer, and Planner Pads.

 

www.myaquanotes.com says, “If you find that some of your best ideas and insights are generated in the tranquility and solitude of the shower…then AquaNotes® is for you! These waterproof notepads help you capture and preserve your ideas before they’re forgotten!” The 40 sheet, refillable pad suctions to your shower wall and even comes with matching pen.

www.timetimer.com has a line of timers, watches, and applications that helps you stay on track. Set the amount of time you want to spend on a specific task and have a bright visual of the time gradually elapsing so you know when you’re getting to the finish.

www.plannerpads.com has both paper and electronic easy-to-use systems that help you organize, prioritize, and schedule in ways that make sense.

 

Even the websites are user friendly. Check them out. Let me know if you start using any of them and tell me about your experience.

Now Where Did I Put My…?

Lost Keys in the Freezer

My keys are in the freezer???

Does this ever happen to you? You’re carrying a few bags of groceries from the car to the house. Later that day, you’re in a hurry to leave again and your keys are nowhere to be found.

There are only so many things you can fully attend to at a time. When you’re engaged in a conversation, or have ten things on your mind something as “trivial” as where you set something down may shoot right past your short term memory.

My uncle Leon would have his glasses pushed up on top of his head. After looking all over the house for them, he’d offer me a quarter if I could find them for him. Easiest quarters I ever made. Like Leon, everyone misplaces things from time to time-you put your keys in your pocket because you’re carrying a few bags, hang up your jacket and later wonder where your keys are, or put the remote control down to get a snack then return and cannot find the darned clicker.

Two solutions:

1. Create places where you always (okay almost always) put certain items, like keys, phone, wallet, shoes. It’s kind of like having the address for them. Once you develop the habit, chances are you’ll find your items where they belong.

2. Calm down. For when you don’t put things where they belong, even if you’re in a rush, stop. Sit down. Close your eyes and breathe. Think about what you were doing when you last had the item. Recreate your steps. Do this as calmly as possible.

How do you decide where something “belongs” anyway? Where is the first place you generally look for the item? If there isn’t some place that seems obvious, pick a place a build the habit. I have a client who has to know where her keys are even if she cannot find anything else. Whenever she moves, the first thing she does is decide where “that place” is going to be for her keys. Even when she comes into the house with arms full of groceries, her keys always seem to land in their place.

Have you ever put something important in a safe place and then forgotten just where that place is? Again, having a special safe place that you use all the time can make a huge difference. Trust me. I still haven’t found two – hundred dollar bills I put safely away last fall.

Pop Up Thoughts

You know the scenario:
You’re in the shower, just got into bed, or out walking your dog and you think of an important appointment you need to make; or something you forgot to do; or that you want to call your mother/brother/best friend. These “must do” tasks are popping in at random times most likely because, A) you didn’t write them down in an appropriate spot, or B) you did write them down, but let them get pushed aside by other tasks or thoughts.
Having daily and weekly tasks lists, and using them, makes getting thing done in a timely fashion so much easier.
Here’s one way to go about it:
• At the beginning of each week, jot down the necessary tasks for the various areas of life—your home, health, work, family, and so on.
• Consider if the item is a project that can be broken down into smaller tasks. If it can be:
• Decide if the tasks are one-time actions, like dropping off cleaning, or require greater frequency such as responding to business calls.
• Prioritize the tasks by how important each is to accomplish on a given day or week, especially if a task is one step toward completion of a project with a due date.
• Look at your calendar. (You do use one, right?)
• Find appointment free spaces each day and plug in the tasks for the day at those times.
• At the end of the day, review your calendar and update your task list for subsequent days.
Learn from your task list. What got done? What didn’t? Do same things get pushed aside regularly? If you find you are continually avoiding tasks and carrying them over, that is a different issue.
Feel free to contact me for ideas and support.

Who’s in Your Head?

Does this ever happen to you?
Before leaving for an appointment this morning, I checked my email one last time (just to make sure nothing urgent came in. Then, before I knew what I was doing, I opened one that had an intriguing subject line. Wouldn’t you know it, the article had information I was interested in pursuing. I clicked the link that took me to the website that had a list of “helpful resources.” As I scanned the list noting several articles and sites I’d like to check out the “adult voice” in my head reminded me that I had an appointment to get to and that the resources would still be there in the afternoon. Sometimes my eagerness to pursue something interesting gets the best of me. Fortunately, I have more than one voice in my head.
Capture

Eric Berne developed a theory of Transactional Analysis. He said we have three ego states – parent, adult and child. The parent state is the one that creates the “should” that make us feel so guilty. Everyone has this part and it can be relentless. Then there’s the child state. When we’re functioning from this place we’re either resisting the parent state, maybe even being oppositional, or we’re just into having fun. The place you want to come from is the adult state. When you’re there your decisions are not based on what you should do or what’s fun, but on what makes sense.

How do you know what makes sense for you at any given time? One way is to have a future check with an “if…then” conversation (yes in your head). i.e. “if I do this now here’s what is likely to happen as a result.”

You can develop the habit of listening to the adult voice in your head that suggests behaviors that make sense. This is really preferable to being cowed by the tyranny of “should“ or the voice that doggedly resists being told what you must do or be. Of course, it does take time to develop and maintain a habit. Having someone to hold you accountable will help you succeed.
You can do it yourself with commitment and a tracking sheet, find an accountability partner, or better yet, work with a coach.

Who do you know that would love a half hour phone coaching session as a holiday gift? My gift to you when you book your own complimentary session before November 30th.

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