Take A Break? Are You Kidding Me!?!

My Summer Experiment

You start your day and get dialed in to what you need to accomplish that day. Your “to-do” list expands faster than you can remove items from it and you have not even pulled out of the driveway. Whether you work inside your home or outside of your home, the demands on your time are never-ending. How could you even consider taking a few minutes to do nothing? To take a break?

One of my summer reads challenged me to start to take breaks in my day and in my life. The book Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness shared sound evidence stating that I would actually come out ahead if I took a few short breaks in my day.

This is counter-intuitive to the way my mind works. I feel like I will get more done if I keep plugging away, with no stops. Okay, maybe a bathroom break every once in a while, but only when it is an emergency! Brad and Steve were very convincing in their argument and their research. Convincing enough to motivate me to give it a try. It unexpectedly turned into my own personal experiment.

I started by setting the alarm on my phone for a morning and afternoon break. Once the alarm went off, I would find a natural stopping point in my work and take a ten minute break. One thing I have learned, before I get too much farther, is the longer I wait to take my break after may alarm sounds, the more likely I am to keep working and forget my break entirely.

Once my alarm sounds I head to the back steps of our office building for my break. The recommendations of this break is to allow your mind to wander and relax, not strategize your work for the rest of your day. There has been evidence shown that going outside is beneficial, and walking or adding in some sort of movement, is great too. I have heard of individuals going up and down the staircases at their work. Wow, what great exercise that would be. Each one of us work in completely different environments, so we do the best with what we have. The key is to allow our minds to wander during this time.

Here is what my experiment has revealed. The days I take my morning and afternoon break, along with my lunch break, I feel less “brain fried” at the end of the day. No joke! I have found dramatic results. The days I forget to take my breaks, I drive home like a zombie. My brain is wasted. I find that when I take my breaks during the day, I can work well all the way until the end of the day. When I forget a break,  I start to slow down by the end of my work day. When I take my breaks, I feel better and have more energy left for my evenings.

I have to tell you that I did not expect these results when I start taking breaks. The results are unmistakable. Breaks make a HUGE difference. I work better and I have more left over at the end of the day.

Two ten minute breaks and a lunch break is what I challenge you to try. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss one, because I still forget one here and there. Give it a few weeks and pay attention to the difference it makes. I know, for me, this is a lifelong habit that I want to create.

Here’s to trying something new, creating a habit that is great for you and those you love!

Something’s Gotta Give!

In the midst of your busy schedule, have you ever felt absolutely exhausted and like something has got to give? I think we have all been there at one point or the other and I am here today, to tell you that when life throws you a curveball and your busyness goes to a whole new level, something should give.

What happens so many times, is that we keep pushing through without making any adjustments. We pile the added project onto our already busy life. I am all for pushing through the hard times, because it is in the pushing through that eventually gets us out the other side. However, I also believe it is essential, during particularly difficult times, to make adjustments to help us make it through in one piece.

Here are a few positive ideas to help you through the tough times.

  • Be extra kind to yourself by giving yourself some grace. If you do not get everything done, it is ok. This is when you get back to your “must do” and “wanna do” lists. When life is particularly busy, give yourselves the grace to just focus on what has to get done for now. There is even a chance some balls may be dropped in the process. Be kind to yourself, take responsibility, ask for grace from others and keep going. I am having to remind myself of this exact thing right now in my life. It is hard.
  • Be extra intentional about blocking off some rest time for you so you don’t get worn down and sick. Our bodies can only take so much. When you get worn down, your immune system gets worn down too. Take your calendar right now and block off some time for rest, and make it happen.
  • Find and savor the little moments in the day where you can get outside, get some fresh air, some sunshine, and some peace. Every day at work, I have to walk down a nice long driveway to get the mail. It does not take long, but I try every day to take my time, enjoy the moment, take some nice deep breaths and savor the few minutes of peace. Find a similar moment in your day. It’s there if you look for it.
  • Listen to some uplifting music. Listening first thing in the morning starts your day on a positive upbeat note.  Listening as you wind down for bed sets your mind on something positive as you fall asleep.
  • Try to keep up with the things that will ultimately help you feel better and give you energy. I know sometimes we are so tired and don’t want to get to our exercise class, or would prefer a big old candy bar over something more nutritious. I am all for rest and treating ourselves to something special, but I know we always feel better after we have worked out. Eating the more nutritious food gives us much-needed long-term energy to keep us going.
  • Remind yourself that this time is temporary. If you have an “end” date, mark it on your calendar. Countdown the days to when life gets back to “normal”. I know there is not such things as “normal” but,  you do have to be intentional about slowing yourself down once the additional commitment is removed. Plan a celebration dinner, plan a weekend away, or send yourself flowers to mark the end of the difficult time you have made it through.

I know there are a lot of you with added pressures right now. Be kind to yourself, keep pushing through and celebrate as the end approaches!

Take care of yourself, for you are amazing!

Lovingly Say Yes To…

I intentionally did not include what you are to say “yes” to in the title because I wanted you to open my post. There is one thing that very productive, busy women have a really hard time saying “yes” to. It is essential for you to lovingly say “yes” to YOU! Taking care of yourself, first and foremost, is a difference maker. This is very serious and BIG STUFF!

I have shared with woman after woman, in my years of Life Coaching, the importance of prioritizing oneself. Much to my sadness, most do not feel it is possible for them. They feel as though there is no possible way. I am here to tell you it is possible. It will not happen overnight, but it is possible and I beg you to start on that journey today.

Let’s look at where to start. Read the following “starting points” and pay attention to which one resonates with you the most.

  • What can you start to do to prioritize your physical health?
  • What can you start to do to prioritize your mental health?
  • What can you start to do to prioritize your spiritual health?
  • What can you start to do to prioritize your emotional health?

I do not feel these need any additional explanation. Which one caused you to pause and shake your head “yes”. That is your starting point.

What one small thing can you add for the next month to start prioritizing this area of your life?

No more excuses, get started!

  • Prioritizing yourself will be a difference maker in your life. You will start to really feel like you are living again, and as you feel better, those around you will be impacted in a positive way as well.

I make it happen each day, other women are on the journey with us. You can lovingly say “yes” to yourself as well. Join me!

Here’s to loving ourselves, loving those around us, and being a difference maker!

 


Action Steps:

  • Decide on your starting point.
  • Decide on the one small way you are going to move forward this month to lovingly say “yes” to you.
  • Get started!

 

Saying No Is Hard To Do

The Holiday Party invitations are starting to arrive in the mail, and the calendar for the next couple of months is starting to fill up. But what is the solution if we have decided to slow down this Holiday Season? What do we do if our priorities for the rest of the year conflict with what everyone else wants of us? I don’t know about you, but saying “no” is hard to do!


This December I have a weekend scheduled to remove myself from my day-to-day life and focus on how to move my dreams for my book writing and other dreams forward in the upcoming months and year. This week I received an invitation to an important event  that is scheduled for that same weekend. The individuals hosting the event are putting their hearts and a lot of time in the planning  to make it very special. How can I possibly say “no”?

I have a dear friend who has been crazy busy for the past few weeks. Her family’s schedule shows no signs of slowing down. Everyone wants to do a ton of fun things. There is no way she could say “enough is enough” or “no, we are not going to add that to our schedule!” How can she possibly say “no”?

When we are on the outside looking at these scenarios, it is pretty easy to say “yes Jen, you need to get away for that weekend to keep moving forward on your dreams!” but when we are faced with these decisions ourselves, it is so much harder. It feels selfish to put ourselves before other people and their wishes.

I absolutely believe we must work for a compromise with those we love, but sometimes that compromise does mean putting ourselves first. After a week of waffling back and forth, I finally told myself that I had to make a decision. It was incredibly hard, but I decided to decline the invitation to the event and stick with my original plan of focusing on my writing and the upcoming year.

My purpose of this blog post is to remind all of us that it is okay to prioritize ourselves. We all give to others every single day of our lives, so it is good and right for us to treat ourselves with love and respect as well. It may be one of the hardest things you have to do, but remember your life and your priorities are very important, they are essential for you living your BEST!

It may take some time to work through it, but if you feel strongly about adding to or subtracting something from your holiday schedule, talk to those you love and make it happen, for you, this Holiday Season!

Thank you John Regan, for supporting me and my dreams! For taking care of things at home while I take some time away, for myself, to plan and dream about the future!

As Good As One, Two, Three!

Be kind to yourself. Be true to yourself. Chart a course for yourself.

These three things are so important!

First, be kind to yourself! You and I can be our own worst critic. We know when we have fallen short. We do not need anyone else to beat us up about a mistake, because we are usually well on top of kicking ourselves when we are down. I am learning though, and I hope, you are learning along with me, that we are never going to be perfect. In order to live the best life that we can, we need to learn to be kind to ourselves. Just like learning any new things, we have to start, keep trying and over time and with practice, we will get better and better at being kind to ourselves. We all extend kindness to others each day, let’s keep a portion of that kindness for ourselves, too. Let’s also remember to treat ourselves every once in a while. It could be grabbing a yummy coffee, scheduling a spa day, or maybe spending some time with a friend. Whatever makes you happy, let’s make sure we get those things added into our schedule.  

Second, be true to yourself. This is one that I have been working through quite a bit lately. It is human nature to try to impress our desires onto someone else. Our desires are so much a part of who we are, it seems natural that others should feel the same way. For example, I have the desire to look at everything with rose-colored glasses. Because this is so important to me, I shared with my husband, John, that he should look at life the exact same way. He was kind and listened to me, but a few days later he explained that he does not see things the same way. It was a good reminder for me to allow John to be true to who he is, and it also reminded me to continue to be true to who I am. The same goes for our dreams for the future. It’s important for each of us to have our own dreams for the future. It is true, when we have a significant other in our lives, that we share our dreams with each other, but I am coming to see that John and I need to have our own individual dreams too. I have dreams of getting on my bike for multiple day trips to see the countryside. John has a dream of having an RV and seeing our country that way. I think we can make those dream mesh together, they are simply going to look a little different for each of us. It can be easy at times to just go along with someone else’s dreams, but I encourage you to have dreams of your own, and be true to them.

Third, chart a course for yourself. You have probably figured out by now that I am a planner. Chances are, if you have continued to read my blog for this long, you are too. The only way to get where we want to go is to decide where we want to go, figure out how we should start moving forward, and start take steps towards our goal. There are times that numbers need to be crunched to make sure we reach a goal. There are times where we have to learn new things to move forward, but regardless of what it is, I believe we need to chart a course for ourselves. John and I were out on a walk this morning talking about our future, and we both acknowledged that there are so many variables that make planning for our future a challenge. We have an end goal in mind, we know the things we already have in place, the things we need to work on, and we keep moving forward. But I also need to set my own individual course as well. Sure, John and I have shared goals, but I need to make sure that I am setting the right course for myself too. I want John to do the same for himself as well. Having a goal and moving forward on a plan gives us something great to work towards and hope for the a great future.

I don’t think you can go wrong if you are kind to yourself, true to yourself and chart a course for yourself. Enjoy your week ahead and live your BEST every single day!

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.

cleaning-washing-cleanup-the-ilo-48889

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!

Be Energized!

I like to look at the energy that we have for each day similar to how we see money in a bank account. Sometimes we make deposits, sometimes withdrawals and sometimes our balance stays steady. If I had to guess though, I would say most days, our energy bank accounts experience more withdrawals than deposits. The question is, how can we deposit more and withdrawal less to live our best?

Pig BankIn my day job, I work within my strengths most of the time. I am very fortunate that my energy bank account does not get depleted there. I do have to admit though, that my day job generally does not make deposits in my energy bank account either. I end up with a pretty neutral balance. It all changes when I start to add in all of the “stuff” before work, after work, and on the weekends. I can suddenly find my energy bank account plummeting. How do we take control and produce more energy for our lives?

Identify withdrawals. What are the things in your life that drain you? These areas are specific to you. Pay attention to the times in your life that you feel drained. What is causing it? Identifying these withdrawals from your energy account is the first and most vital step.

One item I have identified that will drain me almost immediately, is to be forced to rush.  When I am forced to rush out the door or from one place to the next, I can feel the anxiety rise and the energy drain.

What are the things in your life that drain you of energy?

Reduce withdrawals. Once you begin to identify these areas that drain you of energy, it is time to ask yourselves if and how you can reduce these withdrawals. In my example of not wanting to be rushed, I have learned to build in a buffer in my day as much as possible which gives me time to move at the speed that works for me. Yes, I am forced to rush at times, but most of the time it is within my control to slow things down to the pace that works for me.

How can you begin to take control of the areas that drain you to reduce their draining effect?

Identify deposits. On the opposite side of the coin, what are the things in your life that replenish your energy? These things make you feel great when you are done. I am an introvert. What this means for me it that I fill my tanks by having “me” time. I have found a number of things that I can do by myself that replenishes my energy. You might be able to relate with me, or you might be the opposite and feel replenished by being surrounded by as many people as possible. Identifying the things that make deposits into your energy account is a great step towards living your best life.

What are the things in life that energize you?

Increase deposits. I think this is an obvious next step, right? Do as much as we can to add energy to our lives, but it is easier said than done. Life is filled with a lot of obligations and many of them zap our energy. The reality is that it is hard to find the time to add these positive things into our day. It is also hard, at times, because we tend to take care of everyone else and give ourselves what’s left over,  if there is any. Increasing the things that bring us energy in life will be a process, but remember we can do amazing things if we just focus on one small step at a time.

What small step can you take today to start to increase the positive, energy giving deposits in your life?
Learning to live our best life is a journey. An important things to remember is that we are in the driver’s seat. We have control of the breaks if we need to use them, we are in control of the accelerator, the steering wheel, but most importantly, the gas tank. Let’s make sure we are doing what we can to fill up our tanks so that the journey of life is the best it can be!  

What Does It Look Like For You?

What does living your best life look like? Does it include traveling to far off places, or staying at home and working in your garden? Is it fast paced, or slow paced? Does in include a lot of people, or time by yourself? The more we can clarify what living our best looks like, the better chance we have to live it.

best life

I am always analyzing life. It’s what I do. As part of that, I have been asking myself, again, what are the components that create a great life for me? As summer has started, I have watched those close to me fill their time with a plethora of different activities. They all look like a ton of fun, but I suddenly find myself saying to myself “I should do that” or “should John and I do that?” As I sat and analyzed these feelings, I reminded myself of what is important to John and I, what we like to do and not do, and where we are at in our lives right now. It helped me to reconnect with what living my best really looks like.

Have you ever taken the time to write down what living your best life looks like? Just like any dream or plan, it will take some time to refine it, but how do we expect to obtain it if we have not yet defined it? Here are some questions to get you started. Write down the answers to start the process of defining your best life.

  • How do you love to spend your time? It’s okay to admit you like cleaning your house…I do!
  • Who do you love to spend your time with?
  • Do you love being at home, away from home, or a little of each?
  • What kind of place would you love to call home? Big? Small? Mobile?
  • Do you enjoy spending time with people, or do you get rejuvenated by being by yourself?
  • Do you like to be active and fill your day with a lot of activity or do you like to keep it simple and enjoy rest?
  • Do you like to travel? Where do you want to go?
  • What hobbies do you like?
  • What is fun for you?
  • What gives you value and allows you to feel like you are contributing to those around you?
  • What kind of work do you like to do?
  • Are you a planner or do you like to go with the flow?

This is a small list of questions to get you started in the right direction. Take some time this summer and start to define what living your best looks like. Remember that this is your life you are living. Live it the way that is best for you. Yes, some compromise must happen when we have a significant other, but the more we live the life that is best for us, the more fulfilled we will be.

Here’s to defining our best life and living it the best we can!

How Do We Create Margin?

Last week I started a two-part blog post on the importance of clearing “space” in our lives, a.k.a. creating margin. If you have not had a chance to read that post, I ask you to pause, jump to last week’s post, and read that before you continue. This will make much more sense if you do.

Okay, I’m glad you are back! Now to answer the question “HOW do we create margin in our lives?”

margin ideas

One thing I asked you to do at the end of last week’s post was to think about this concept of margin each day and increase your awareness of it in your life. Awareness is a vital first step in any important change we want to make in our lives. This past week I became aware of how little mental margin I had in my days. I was brain fried every single day after work. I need more mental margin. What areas did you become aware of? Where could you use more margin?

Next, we all need to ask the questions, “is margin important to me?” If it is not, having me or anyone else encourage you to prioritize it is not going to be enough. All of the changes or improvements you want to make in your life need to be done because you genuinely want to, not because others say you should. Now it might be important to then ask “should gaining margin be a priority to me?” If you find that it would benefit you and your loved ones, maybe learn more about it and it’s benefits. Learning about it may bring you to a place where it becomes important to you.

Once you have identified the areas you need more margin, and you have decided it is important to you, ask the question “What one area is most important for me to gain margin in?” This is an important question for the overachiever out there who get excited and want to change everything at once. Start with one area. Once you have gained margin in that area, you can always tackle another area. As I mentioned above, I am starting this week with trying to add more mental margin in my days. What area do you want to start with? Mental margin? Physical margin? Margin in your schedule? Margin at work? Whatever you decide, start with one.

Next ask “what is within my control to change to add margin and make the upcoming week better?” Part of the reason why I felt so overloaded mentally this past week was because I was having to juggle my job as well as learn my co-worker’s job while she is on vacation for two weeks. My hope is that this coming week will be a little bit easier since there will be less of a learning curve, but I also need to chill out a little bit more than I did last week. I allowed myself to get worked up and focused much of my attention on how HARD it was going to be. This week I am going to try to allow for more mental margin by relaxing and not worrying as much. What is within your control to change?

Another important  thing to ask ourselves is “what can I delegate?” This is hard for many of us to do, but it is worth it! You know, we do not have to delegate big major things, giving away small things can add some time and space to our lives. I had a co-worker ask if she could help me in any way. One day, as I was wrapping up my day and planning out my next day, I wrote her name by a number of tasks that I could delegate to her. One task that I gave her only took about 15 minutes, but that was 15 minutes that freed me up. It felt good to mark the item, that I did not even do, off of my ‘to do” list. Take a look around and see what you can delegate.

And finally, focus on baby steps. Ask yourself today “what small steps can I take to create margin in my day and in my life?” My small baby step for this next week is to read a particular book every morning that helps me keep a positive and “can do” attitude. For me, this helps me keep the right perspective and not sweat the small stuff. What is your baby step for this upcoming week?

Gaining and keeping margin in our lives is an ongoing process, but one that is worth every bit of effort. Yes, there are time when life gets particularly busy, but those times need to be short-term. We simply cannot live our best if we are run ragged. It’s time to prioritize yourself and gain some margin. Everyone around you will benefit, and so will you!

Here’s to taking control and clearing some space in your life!

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!