They Have Gotten Me Through

I have had a week filled with systems at work that failed and needed updating immediately, the health decline of an immediate family member, not prioritizing a loved one and letting them down, and I topped off the week today by catching a cold. With each of these came a multitude of tasks with urgent deadlines, except for getting sick, then everything halted to a stop!  In addition to all of these things, laundry still needed to be done, bills still needed to be paid, I still want to eat right, exercise and keep going. The one thing that got me through this week were baby steps. I kept asking myself “what is the next thing I need to do?” then the next, then the next, then the next.


I started this year out with a set of videos on the topic of baby steps. I never imagined that I would have utilized this concept as much as I have this last year. Baby steps have gotten me through the ups and downs of life. Even though it was stressful at times, knowing I could take small steps to move forward brought me some level of peace and comfort.

I also shared with you that many small steps over a long period of time bring us to great places. I now look back over 2017 and I am thrilled with how far I have come. For me,  it has not been a year of great task achievement, but it has been a year of essential learning that will propel me into a great future. I hope you can look back over this past year and say the same as well.

Whatever it is you need to do, even if it is get through the next 24 hours, take it one baby step at a time. Ask yourself “what is the next thing I need to do to move forward?” and do it…then repeat. Baby steps keep us inching forward even when we don’t feel like it is possible.

Whatever it is that life throws at you this week, keep striving for your best! You are doing great things, one small step at a time!

You Mean There Is No Finish Line?

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. wrote in her book Mindset, “once a problem improves, people often stop doing what caused it to improve.Once you feel better, you stop taking your medicine.” She continues, “But change doesn’t work that way. When you’ve lost weight, the issue doesn’t go away.” “These changes have to be supported or they can go away faster than they appeared.”I AM DOING EXACTLY WHAT DR. DWECK DESCRIBED!!!…and I have done it so many times before. Wow this one is challenging!

My real life example right now is exercise. As many of you know, I have been training hard for the past year. It was challenging, but, it felt so good to be strong and vibrant. In my mind, I was determined to keep up that same level of exercise after I crossed the finish line at a recent event, but the past two weeks have not played out that way at all.

After achieving a goal, I have faced a big challenge and I wonder if you have dealt with this as well?

It has been my desire to stay “fit” after I cross the finish line, but I also want to move forward on other plans as well. Suddenly though, I realize I do not have the time or energy for both, so the fitness level I had just reached has started to slip. Another example is losing weight. Losing weight is tough stuff, but as the pounds come off, we feel better and better. Losing weight requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus. It is easy once we reach our goal to think we can move on to other things and not give our eating the same amount of attention. Unfortunately, when it does not get our focus, the scale starts creeping back up again. Yes, I think we can get into some level of “maintenance mode” with our goals, but I am having to face the fact that they will still require a lot of my energy.

This makes me sad, I’m not going to lie. Because I have a lot of things I want to accomplish and I want them all to happen NOW! But reality reminds me that I only have so much time in a day, and I only have so much energy I can put forth. Therefore, I am grappling with a truth that I do not like. If I want to put forth time and energy to stay healthy, and reach other goals in life:

  • First I have to choose which areas are most important.
  • Second, I have to limit the number of them that I pursue at one time.

It’s giving the most of my energy to a few big, important things, instead of spreading myself out trying to do a lot of little things. I still plan on accomplishing my goals, but it might just take a little bit longer to accomplish all of them. I guess it’s the bucket list concept.

Wow, the paring back continues. In the past I have talked about removing non-essentials, but I never imagined I would need to cut back this much. I will have to be honest with you, this process of paring back also brings me hope, hope that I can accomplish some things that are big and important to me. Trying to move forward on so many things at once in the past has drained some of the hope out of me. I do have a lot of great things to look forward to in life, they will simply take time and focus.

Please share with me your thoughts on this cutting back stuff. Feel free to comment below or send me an email. It is not easy stuff, and I am still trying to figure it out too. I would love to hear your thoughts, even if you do not agree. There is so much I can learn from each of you!

Here’s to a great week ahead trying to figure out this BEST life stuff!

What’s Essential?

If we want to accomplish something in our lives or start something new, one of our greatest barriers is not having enough time. The questions then is,  how do we move forward in our goals? How do we make our dreams a reality? How do we move forward?

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I might have you trained well in my philosophy to say “ Baby steps Jen, that is how we move forward” and I don’t disagree with that. I do know though, that even baby steps take time. What I am trying to figure out is how to make more time for the areas that are most important to me. This will then give me more time for more baby steps, continuing to move forward, steadily,  towards what I want to accomplish.

What I am working on right now, is to find more time to identify and remove non-essentials in my life. Non-essentials generally fall into the category of “good” things in my life, not “best” things. I think all of our lives are filled with a lot of “good” things, but they do indeed fill up our time. I am trying to differentiate between the “good” and “best” and distill my life down to the essentials, the BEST!

What does this look like?

  • The first thing I have learned is that this is a very individual and personal process. What I may define as essential for me may be non-essential to you, and vice versa. It is important not to compare ourselves with others. We can use others as examples, but at the end of the day, we each have to decide and be comfortable with what is essential to us. I have asked myself if training for my triathlon is essential for my life right now. After putting some thought to it, I have decided that it is essential for my physical, mental and emotional health right now. I can almost guarantee that training for a triathlon is not essential to you. Your essentials will be very personal to you.
  • The second thing I have learned is that things change over time. Things that I may define as non-essential at this time might be able to be elevated back to essential in the future. It is up to each of use to decided. I play the upright bass, but I have put the bass down for almost a year now. It does make me sad that I have not played it, but I know in my heart that it is a non-essential right now. Here in a few months, my plan is for that to change. After my intense training for my triathlon is done, the nights start getting longer and the weather starts getting colder, it is my plan to prioritize my bass playing again. If you have to set something aside for the time being, know that it can be picked back up at a later date.
  • Non-essentials take different forms. So far I have found non-essential thoughts that need to be removed from my life. I have found non-essential possessions, aka clutter, that needs to be removed. I have found non-essentials in my schedule that need to be removed. Non-essentials are anything that fall into the category of “less than best”.

How do we move forward on our dreams and goals by eliminating non-essentials?

  • I have found that identification of non-essentials is the first and most challenging step. I have spent the last 5 months asking myself what I can remove from my life, what is non-essential. It has been a slow process of many baby steps to identify the many “good” things in my life that I am willing to give up for the “best” things. In the end, we have 24 hours in a day and we have to make choices. If we want to find time and move forward with our dreams and goals, non-essentials will more than likely need to be removed.
  • Removing non-essentials is the next step which takes time and that is hard to find in our schedules as well. A non-essential I recently removed from my schedule was my container garden. The past few years I have set up a container garden on my back deck. I did the same this last spring, but with a very different schedule this year and very dry weather, my container garden required a lot of time and attention that I just did not have. Instead of being an enjoyable experience, it became a burden. I decided that, for now, the container garden needed to be closed down for the year. It took time to do that, but it has brought relief in the long run.
  • Next, I keep an eye out for the next non-essential that needs to be removed. Just this week, we had some small renovations done at our house. In the process, I have had to move some things around and find new homes for a few things. It has come to my attention through this process, that it is time for me to say goodbye to some non-essential possessions. It feels like I am drowning in clutter right now. My plan for the next week or so is to identify and start to remove some of the physical clutter from my space and life.
  • Lastly, we have to be on guard for non-essential creeping back into our lives. I think the more we spend time focusing on what is most important to us, the easier it is to identify the things that are non-essential, but we still have to watch out for them in our lives.

The end result to all of this is to spend as much time and energy focusing on what is most important in our lives and removing the things of less importance. This is hard and it is a process, but as I am finding out, I will not have time for the areas that I want to move forward in unless I make these hard choices.

Join me in focusing on the “best” and working to remove all of the non-essentials in our lives.

Home Sweet Home…Again

As I scanned my calendar over a few  weeks’ time, I noticed something kind of strange. I had a weekend coming up that was EMPTY! There was nothing at all schedule for this weekend. What will I do? This is such a rare occasion, I was almost paralyzed in disbelief.

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As that weekend approached, I decided to make sure it stayed empty, and doing so was not easy. In fact as it got closer, I had to be very intentional about saying “no” to the numerous invitations that came my way. As of Friday night, I still did not know what I was going to do with my time, but one thing I felt was the need to stay home. I followed that desire and it was exactly what I needed.

I love my home, but I can even dread coming home to it at times when there are dishes stacked up, piles of laundry that need to be done, floors that desperately need to be cleaned, and a dead container garden because I neglected watering it. There are weeds that need to be pulled, bedding that needs to be washed and mounds of paperwork that needs to be filed. I love my home, and there is nothing I want more than to enjoy being “at home” there.

As I woke up on Saturday morning, after sleeping in a little late, I decided to start with the laundry. As it was going, I jumped over to the dishes for a little bit. Then started to tackle the floors and so much more! Some may say that this is a waste of a day, but I say this is exactly what I needed, and I think we all need this every once in a while.

Here is what my day at home provided for me, and will provide for you too:

It allowed me to have full control of my time. So often our lives are dictated by many other schedules like work, school, extracurricular activities, family, church, etc. We get in the mode of going where we need to go, when we need to go and no longer have control over our time. That was not the case on my day at home, I did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it and it was refreshing.

It allowed me to take control over those things that were nagging at me, aka, my dirty floors. When something is not the way it should be, it nags at us. It could be a cluttered office, weeds that have taken over your landscaping, or dirty floors in my case. I took the time on my day at home to tackle my nagging projects and it felt great!

It made me feel productive. Doesn’t it feel great when we have a productive day at home or at work? It almost feels like we can take a deep breathe and breath easier. This is not the feeling we get when we are running around with our heads cut off all weekend. My day at home felt productive and great!

It allowed me to enjoy my home again. When all was said and done, the laundry was done and put away, the floors were clean and a number of other odd jobs were done, I was happy to come home again. Don’t get me wrong, I did not finish everything on my “ To-Do” list, but I did take care of those things that were nagging me. Our homes are supposed to be a place to come for rest. My day at home allowed me to restore that feeling of being “at home”.

I do not have children, but I think these days at home are refreshing for them as well, even though they may not want to admit it. I remember days growing up that my mom put us to work in our rooms, usually cleaning out our closets. It was a lot of work, but at the end of the day, it was nice to have a clean and organized space. Maybe end the day with a special meal and a great family night.  Home and family are great things to prioritize.

Having a day at home is great medicine for you and for your family. You may not be as lucky as me to have a free weekend “pop-up” on your calendar, but you can be intentional about blocking off a day or an entire weekend. It will require some intentionality and saying “no” to some good things, but it will all be worth it in the end.

Here’s to being at home again!

Margin.

Defined by Dictionary.com as

  • the space around the printed or written matter on a page.
  • an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary.
  • a border or edge.

margin

We don’t think much about a margin until we are updating our resume. We decrease the margin as far as possible to fit as much information as possible about ourselves on one page. We also think about margin when we are in school writing a paper, we may increase the margins (and font size) to help us reach our page requirement.  But we don’t tend to think about the concept of margin as it pertains to how we live our life. Life margin is the space that we leave beyond all of the stuff we have to get done. It’s the space we leave beyond all of the things that are necessary. From my time listening to crazy, busy individuals, I hear that there is very little margin left in our days and in our lives in general, but it is incredibly important.

Margin allows space for the unexpected. Something I am trying to work on in my life is to keep a good attitude even when the unexpected happens. I am a planner. When I make a plan, I want things to go just as planned. Well, we all know that is not how life works. I have found that because this is the way I think, I get easily frustrated and I do not want to live a life of frustration. What I am trying to start is to create my plan, but create it with more margin to allow for those inevitable, unexpected challenges in life.

Margin allows space for our mind to recover. This past week and the upcoming week, my co-worker is on a much needed vacation. Therefore, I not only had to make sure my work is getting done, but her workload as well. This is a common situation that we all deal with on a regular basis, especially when a co-worker leaves the company. Not only do you have to cover their work, but you also have to take on the load of training the new person. These situations take away much of the mental margin we have. I know I felt brain fried at the end of each day and had very little to give to the rest of my life. I did not do well with margin last week, so I am going to try to do better this week because my mind, and your mind need a break in order for us to live our best. Yes, there are times we have to push through with little mental margin, but we don’t want to make it an ongoing habit.

Margin allows space for our body to recover. What tends to happen when we go, go, go and go some more? What I see so often is our immune system gets weak and we get sick. Do you realize that wearing ourselves down affects our bodies and our immune system? What breaks my heart even more is when I see wonderful people who are sick still pushing forward because they “should be there” or “can’t miss it” or “it has to get done”. We are not taking care of ourselves and our bodies if we cannot take a break. Building margin into our lives is good for our health.

Margin allows space for calm and intentionality. What is calm and intentionality, right? Calm and intentionality should be listed on the endangered species list because they are almost extinct in our lives today. When we build margin into our lives there is time to sit in the sunshine and take some deep breaths. Margin creates time to get out of reactionary mode and think intentionally about our lives, our relationships, and our future. Calm and intentionality are components of living our best life, but they are likely found in the area of margin in our lives.

If you were me, I would be thinking, “This is great Jen, but how do I do this? How do I create margin in my life?” Well, I am still working on figuring that out myself, but I am going to jump into the “how” in next week’s blog post. In the meantime, your assignment for this week is to think about this concept of margin each day and increase your awareness of it in your life.

Until next week, here’s to keeping some “white space” in our lives, taking some much needed deep breaths and continue to strive to live our best!

What’s the Big Deal About “Keeping Things Simple” These Days?

Think of some of the sweetest moments in your life. It might be a time with a loved one, or it might be a time all by yourself. As you think back to a special occasion, was it filled with busyness and chaos? Even if your special moment was in Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve surrounded by people, noise and celebration, I would venture to say that the special moment you had was very sweet, and simple. In most cases, the simplest times in life are the most precious.

simple and importantI go through times in my life where my mind is filled with so many things. There is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking about numerous things, but I have found that my mind can get consumed and start to spiral out of control. Just recently I noticed the mental clutter that was starting to accumulate in my mind. As I traveled through my day I felt weighed down by all of this “stuff” I was carrying around with me. I realized it was time, once again, to do some mental and physical housekeeping.

Here are some of the benefits I have found for keeping my life simple.

 

  • I can focus better. Our minds are very capable to working fast and furious, but they do not work well for long periods of time in that state. I find my mind spinning at times,  jumping from one area of my life to the next. I have found that I need to be very intentional about keeping the clutter out of my mind, and as I do, I am able to focus and think clearer. I have a number of friends and loved ones who have started the process of meditation to clear their minds. Every single one of them have reported positive results. I have not personally studied the practice of meditation, but I have learned techniques to clear my mind of the clutter and keep things simple. Find what works for you, but be intentional about calming your mind and you will find yourself able to focus better.

 

  • I can stay focused on the most important things. There are so many “good” things in our lives, but we want to have time and energy to focus on the “best” things. In addition, we want those “best” things to receive our best, not just our leftovers. I don’t know about you, but I do not have much leftover at the end of my day. Keeping our minds and our lives simple allows us to give our most important things the focus, time, and attention  that they deserve.

 

  • I can focus on generosity and say goodbye to some Rubbermaid totes. A few years back, I read some interesting books on the concept of minimalism. Minimalism, to me, is about getting rid of the clutter in all areas of our lives. One of  topics I learned about, that struck a chord with me, was that there are people in our community and world who cannot afford the simplest things, the things that I take for granted on a daily basis. The benefits of minimalism are numerous, but I love the fact that I can give away or donate the things that I have stashed away in Rubbermaid totes and impact lives right here and now. One example was that I had a portable room heater that was sitting in my closet not being used. When I got into this mindset of being generous to others, I decided to ask someone I knew who lived on a very low-income, if she could use the heater. To find out, she desperately needed that heater to heat part of her trailer. We simply never know how we can help others until we look at the things we are not using through a different pair of glasses. Ask yourself, could someone else benefit from this stuff that I have stored and am not using? Focusing on generosity in our lives has so many benefits.

 

  • My focus lightens my load and brings silliness back into my life. When I am bogged down with mental and physical clutter, I find myself with an intense mindset. I have to stay serious and focused to make sure I am on top of everything. When I an intentional about lightening my load in all areas of my life, I suddenly find myself more light-hearted, silly and able to have more fun. During my most recent job search, I found myself in this intense serious mindset, but at various time when I was able to chill out and let things go, I found myself more relaxed and goofy. I know it is hard in our busy lives, but life is so much more fun when our load is lifted and we can be a little silly.

There are so many benefits to keeping life simple. Our loved ones, coworkers, and even our own health will benefit from simplicity. You are needed and I know you want to be your best and give your best. Take some time today to think about one small baby step you can take to bring simplicity into your life.

Here’s to bringing some silliness into your day today!

Job update: I have been offered a job and have accepted it! I am super excited! But don’t you worry, encouraging you to Live Your Best is one of my “most important” things in life!  My “Weekly Encouragement” and blog posts will continue to be delivered to you each week!

The Secret to Bringing Order, Clarity and Calm to Your Life

We are just a few days away from the New Year! With the new year comes the feeling of a fresh start as well as one of my favorite things, getting back into a routine! The Holidays are so much fun, but for me, there is nothing routine about them.

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I love routine and I live my best life when I can work within a routine. Here is what routine provides for me.

  • Routine bring order to my mind and life. When my routine is established, I try to keep the same things on the same days, at the same times, each week. Yes, there are always exceptions to the rules, but the more I can establish this, the more order it brings to my mind and life. You know, I do not even recognize that the feeling of order is there, until I have a week where my routine is completely thrown off. It is then that I realize how clear minded I was with my routine and then I work hard to re-establish it.
  • Routine brings clarity to my mind and life. When I am running around with my head cut off with no routine in sight, it takes all of my mental power to juggle all the balls and try not to drop them. When I am working within my routine, my mind is freed up to think about other important things. It is freed up to give that word of encouragement to someone who needs it. It is freed up to touch base with family and friends that come to my mind. Routine frees my mind up to dream a little and think about great possibilities.
  • Routine brings calm and peace to my mind and life. Think about the past few weeks. Think about the moment that was the most chaotic and had the least amount of routine for you and your loved ones. If you had to rate your level of calm and peace at that moment anywhere from a 1 to 10, how would you rate it? Can I answer .5? Establishing a routine brings a certain calm and peace that we all desire in our lives.

There is one question with regards to routine that I would love to get your feedback on. How do you establish a routine while still being spontaneous in your life? Spontaneity is not a strength of mine, so I would love to hear your thoughts and I know my other reader would too. Just reply below this blog post so everyone can join in.

Routine is a great thing in our lives, and quite frankly, we are the ones to make it happen. Do you realize that you hold the power to establish a routine for you and your loved ones, providing them with much-needed order, clarity and calm?  That is pretty amazing!
Here’s to order, clarity, calm and a fresh start!

Cherish Every Moment

We are smack dab right in the middle of the Holiday Season! Family is starting to come into town, final preparations are being made for all of the yummy meals we are about to partake in, and those last few trips out to the stores are taking place for last-minute gifts and goodies. All of the preparation of the past few months were made so that the next few weeks are the best they can possibly be. Now it’s time to cherish every moment!
cherish-the-moment-croppedLast night I enjoyed an amazing night with friends. We grabbed dinner at a local restaurant, enjoy glorious ribs with all of the fixings, shared stories around the table, then walked to the park next door to enjoy a walk through Christmas Lights Display. One thing made the night magical. That one things was my choice to make it magical.

You see, I can forget to have fun. I can focus in on the large crowd, and the baby screaming. I can focus on the blog post that I need to write the next day. I can focus on how cold I am or allow my mind to get wrapped up on so many things, that I miss the magical moments right in front of me.

This blog post is scheduled for Thursday, December 22nd. The next week and a half are going to be filled with amazing moments. Here are a few things to help us all cherish every moment.

  • Cherishing every moment requires us to take a deep breath and slow down. When we are rushing around with our heads cut off, we will rush right past these special moments. Today, I took a little bit of time to sit in my favorite chair by my Christmas tree with my puppy on my lap. I had a lot to get done, but I took some time for a breather and cherished that sweet moment. Remind yourself in the next few days to take a deep breath, slow down and enjoy!
  • Cherishing every moment requires us to recognize and savor the experience. I remember the exact moment last night that I did things. The group I was with had stopped to get some hot chocolate. I was off to the side waiting for them when I realized how absolutely beautiful the night was. It was around 30 degrees, chilly, but not too cold. The cold air felt refreshing on my face because that was the only skin showing since I tend to bundle up pretty good in the winter. I suddenly got a waft of the small hot chocolate and it brought great memories to my mind. There were people all around waiting in anticipation for a fireworks display that ended up being spectacular. I was thankful I took the time to savor the moment. Regardless of where you are at; in the kitchen cooking, outside shoveling snow, or even in line at the grocery store, find something to savor.
  • Cherishing every moment requires us to stay in the moment. It can be challenging to stay in the moment when we have numerous places to go and many events to attend. I don’t know about you, but my brain is trying to think about all of the things I have to make sure I don’t forget. I have to keep an eye on the clock to make sure I put the potato dish in the oven on time. Then we have to make sure we are out the door no later than ‘rush-o’clock’ to get to the next location for round two, then round three, and then round… well you get the idea. This can be reality, I know. The question is how, then, can we stay in and enjoy every moment. I’m sure there are a lot of tips and tricks that you all may have and if you do, leave them in the comment section to help us all out. What I try to do is utilize some tools. I use lists. They allow me to take all of the things that are in my brain, get them off my brain and onto paper. Then my brain is freed up to enjoy the moment at hand. I also utilize the alarm on my phone. If I know I need to do something at a certain time, Instead of focusing on the clock, I set my alarm and enjoy my moment at hand. When the alarm goes off, I know it’s time for whatever is next. Do whatever you need to do to stay in the moment.

Merry Christmas Everyone! I can’t wait to see pictures of your cherishing moments if you share them on social media! It makes my heart warm just thinking about them.

You have worked so hard for this to be your Best Holiday Season Ever! It’s time to enjoy it! Cherish every moment. You deserve it!

Two Options for Navigating Obligations and Expectations this Holiday Season

How is everyone doing the day after Thanksgiving? The topic of obligations and expectations may be fresh in your mind. Obligations and expectations during the Holiday Season can be a good thing or a bad thing. There are wonderful events that we feel obligated to attend and there are the not so wonderful events that we feel obligated to attend. The same goes for expectations. Some are healthy, some are not. So how do we navigate these obligations and expectations this Holiday Season so that we can have our best Holiday Season ever?

Mother and daughter baking together

I just recently started reading a book that came highly recommended called Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Through the years, I have worked hard in my life to keep things as simple and as enjoyable as possible. With that in mind, this book looked like it would enhance what I already knew and held dear. I did not pick the book up with the Holiday Season in mind, but I have found the concepts to be very applicable. Here are two options I want us to consider when it comes to obligations and expectations in the next few months. The direction we decide to take will not be cut and dry, but hopefully, we find a middle ground that will help us to focus on the right stuff.

One option is to say yes, yes and yes. So many times it feels easiest to just say yes to everything and everyone who makes a request of us. We certainly feel a sense of reward when we say yes, because everyone is happy with us. But what happens so many times when we say yes to everyone and everything, is we start to fall into a cycle of “I have to”, “It’s all Important”, and “How can I fit it all in?” We take on so much “good stuff” but we find that other areas in our lives start to suffer. We start to feel out of control and unsure of whether the right things are getting done. Especially during the Holidays, we start to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. I’ve been there, and I am pretty sure you have too. In fact as I have spent time with wonderful individuals already this month, folks are already feeling the stress as they anticipate the months to come. That is heartbreaking to me. The Holidays were never meant to be miserable. They were meant to be filled with wonder and joy! I want to remind you, as I have to remind myself, that we do have a choice in how we fill our time and energy. There is another option.

The second option is to say yes only to the Best things, and no to the rest. The first thing that comes to my mind when I read that heading, is dealing with the many people who I might have to say “no” to. I almost get a knot in my stomach. Wow! It feels so much better to just say “yes”, at least in the short-term. I need you to trust me on this, choosing the best and saying “no” to the rest is the best thing. The initial interaction of saying “no” might be hard, but it will pay dividends in your life and relationships. Greg McKeown even mentions that in the long run, people respect you more for saying “no” and prioritizing what is most important to you. Choose the few best things over a quantity of good things. Saying yes to the best requires making a choice. It requires discerning what really matters. It requires accepting trade-offs, because there is always a trade-off. When we choose the BEST things we feel in control. We get the right things done. We experience more joy in our life. Isn’t that what we all want?

One strategy I have employed over the years when I am unsure whether I should say “yes” to something or not, is to tell people that I will get back with them with an answer. This creates a time of “pause”, which allows me to ask myself how this fits with what is most important to me. Just recently, a friend of mine was looking for volunteers to help with a fundraiser for a very worthy cause. She was getting desperate, so she sent a plea out to her friends and family to see if anyone could help. When I received the message, I held off for a day or so and asked myself if this fit with what is most important to me. I also thought about how it was going to affect my time with my husband. Once I had thought it through I agreed to help. Yes, I said yes! But I only said yes when I knew I was going to have plenty of time with John the rest of that weekend and that volunteering fell in line with an area of my life that is most important to me. When you receive a request, slow things down, take time to think, and know that your “yes” or your “no” is the right thing…is the BEST thing.

We have SO MANY CHOICES with regard to how we spend our time each day and during the Holidays. It is great to have options, but ultimately we have the power to choose. Let’s try to stay zeroed in on what is most important to us and center our lives and our Holidays around those most important people and things.

Thank you Mr. McKeown for your book Essentialism. A number of the above concepts were pulled from a simple graph he created on page 8 of his book. If you want to live more intentional and focus on the few most important things in your life, this is a great book to add to your Christmas Wish List this year.

Here’s to saying YES to our BEST!

Why it is So Hard to Take Time for Ourselves – And How to Fix It

It is Friday night, my husband is out with friends and I could really use a break. Like so many of us, I have been working hard this week as well as working through some unexpected issues that popped up. The question then is, if I could really use a break, why am I still writing this Blog Post? Why is it so hard to stop and rest or stop and do something just for myself? And you know, it’s only going to get harder as the busyness of the Holidays approach. How can we prioritize ourselves, get the rest we need and have some fun too?

salad-water-garden-plant-cropped

Right now I feel like there is so much that I need to get done. I keep telling myself that I will push through these last few things then rest, but the list of “To Dos” never ends. I desperately need to do some yard work. For some that sounds like more work, but for me that is a very relaxing activity. I love the fresh air, the sun on my face, and getting my hands in the dirt. I am hoping to finish this Blog Post tonight and come tomorrow I am setting the “To Do” list aside and getting outside for some “Jen Time”.

What do I need to do to make that a reality?

  • Prepare. I am going right now and pulling out my yard work clothes. One thing I know I will need in the morning is to remind myself first thing, with my pile of yard clothes, that yard work is the plan for the day. I also need to make it as simple as possible for myself in the morning. The less I have to think about, the better. Let’s say you would love to get up early and go jogging. Pull your clothes and shoes out tonight and have them waiting for you when you get up. Even set out the breakfast you want to eat. Make it as simple as possible. (One moment please, I’m going to get my clothes together…seriously!)
  • Okay, I’m back. What else do I need to do to make sure I have my “Jen Time” tomorrow. Communicate! Earlier, my husband and I were talking about our weekend plans and I let him know that I was going to work out in the yard Saturday morning. This is important because one thing that can pull us away from our needed time is the people we love. It is vital for us to share with each other what our plans are, that we really need the time, and then respect that time. Communication is key.
  • Keep it simple. It is important not to overcommit because our plans can easily turn into more stress. Plan less and if you end up getting more done, it’s a bonus. Folks, this is tricking the mind for our benefit. I am planning to work on just the front landscaping tomorrow. When I get that done, I will feel great! That amount of work can be accomplished in the time I have set aside. Now, if I have time left and decide to do just a few more things, that is going to be a bonus! This applies also for a day out. If you plan four destinations, one right after another and you only get to experience half of them, you feel bummed or you feel like you missed out. Plan one, maybe two things, enjoy them and add more if time allows.
  • Join a friend. Have you ever agreed to go do something with a friend, then at the last minute you REALLY did not feel like going? This happens to me all the time, but I go because I made the commitment to my friend, and what happens? I have a great time! Making plans with a friend keeps us both motivated, and life is so much fun with friends! This example does not completely apply to my landscape work for tomorrow, but I will tell you that silence and solitude are my friends and I will enjoy them tomorrow!

These are just a few ideas. Taking time for ourselves is hard. The reality is, just like everything else that is great in our lives, it takes intentionality to make it happen. We deserve down time and we are better wives, mothers, friends and co-workers when we prioritize it. Do you have any “you” time on your calendar in the next few weeks? If not, block some time off just for you!

Here’s to getting rejuvenated so we can live our Best!