Monday, May 22, 2017

Productivity Cheats

Productivity Cheats

There are only 24 hours in each day, and until someone starts selling time turners on Amazon, that’s all we’re going to get. The good news is that 24 hours translate into 1,440 minutes in each day. And a lot of yours are going to waste.

From time soaking in the shower, to waiting for the toast to pop, to commuting to work, chances are you actually have quite a few unused minutes strewn throughout your day. If you could sweep up all those scattered minutes into one big pile, you’d have a chunk of change you could do something with!

While Amazon may not be selling time turners (yet), there are some handy dandy ways to use those minutes that are just lying about, waiting for you to claim them.

1.     Bluetooth headsets. This marvelous invention allows you to set the phone down (or stick it in your back pocket—just watch out for accidental toilet splashes!) and get things done while you make those important calls. Plan the family get-together with your sister while working out. Decide on your next corporate move while biking through the mountains. The possibilities are endless!

2.     Audiobooks. Similar to (and often in conjunction with) Bluetooth headsets, audiobooks allow you to get through your reading list while getting through your life. Have you been wishing you had time to read the classics, find out what wisdom the bestselling guru is sharing, or catch up with the book club reading? Audiobooks allow you to “read” while soaking in the shower, picking out your clothes, and making your toast. I love the Audible app, since you can get books for no more than $14 each (and often much less) and most libraries have audiobooks you can check out for free!

Toilet Time. Ahem. Yes. We’re talking about all those minutes you spend on the throne. What do you do with them? I mean, other than the obvious. Are you simply… flushing them away? I recommend grabbing your phone (out of your back pocket before you de-robe and accidentally drop it in the toilet) and using this time to check email, catch up on Facebook, and respond to text messages. I know you’re probably already doing this, but since the average person spends 42 minutes per week on the toilet (pregnant women much more), it’s worth deciding what to do with all that time. The one thing I cannot recommend using this time for is phone calls. J

4.     Driving Time.  Americans spend an average of 1,466 minutes each month driving. That’s more than an entire day! Did you realize you have an entire day each month that is, in many ways, available? At least for some things. NOT FOR TEXTING. But consider the audiobooks I mentioned above, not to mention audio language classes (want to learn Spanish? Arabic?), news broadcasts, classical music, audio magazine subscriptions… the list goes on and on. An entire day each month to spend on any audio source you choose.

5.     Lists. I know. This is so old school. But you’ll be surprised how grabbing a sheet of paper (really old school) and writing down the things you’d like to accomplish today can help you find and use those scattered minutes. When you finish one project and realize you have 15 minutes before your next meeting, grab your list and look for something on it that you can knock out in the time you have! I don’t know why paper is more effective than phone apps, but I swear it really is. 

What are your favorite productivity boosters? I’m compiling ideas for future posts and a possible book and would love your input! Please comment!  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Becoming Who You Want to Be—The Power of Positive Affirmations

Stephanie was edging her grass when I walked across the street this morning to say hello after getting back from my trip to South and Central America. She shaded her eyes with one hand and smiled. “You’re home!” We talked for a few minutes and I gave her the chocolate bar I picked up for her in Belize. “Oh my goodness! Ross (her husband) will love this!” she said. “I’m not dieting. I’m trying this new thing someone told me about. I wrote on a piece of paper, ‘I eat mostly vegetables,’ and I read it several times a day. And you know what? It’s working! At night when the kids are in bed, I’m eating carrots now instead of popcorn!” I laughed and nodded, and she said, “Wait, was that you who told me that?”

It was. A few years ago, as a joke (because it was SO not true) I started telling my kids, “I mostly eat vegetables.” After about a week of saying this, I realized—with a shock—that it was true! I was mostly eating vegetables! Thus started my obsession with positive affirmations.

The French psychologist, Emile Coué, first popularized self-affirmations in the 1920s, and they are gaining popularity today for good reasons! Many people successfully use them to lose weight, make more money, and overcome fears. According to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University, positive affirmations guard against the damaging effects of stress on our problem solving abilities. Other studies show that students who practice positive affirmation activities at the beginning of a semester boost their GPAs.

How can you make positive affirmations work for you? According to Dr. Ronald Alexander writing in Psychology Today, there are a few keys to successful use of positive affirmations. 

1.     Identify areas where you want to improve. To find particularly powerful affirmations, think about what you consider your negative attributes. We all have flaws—it’s part of being human. Perhaps you believe you are unworthy. As you do this, notice where in your body you are carrying stress about this perceived flaw. Do your shoulders tense? Does your stomach tighten? Make a note of the things you want to improve and where you are holding the stress.

2.     Write a positive affirmation that correlates to your perceived weakness. Look for strong words that embody what you want to believe about yourself. Rather than simply saying, “I am worthy,” you might say, “I am remarkable and cherished.” Make sure the statement is worded in a positive way, without any words like “not” or “no.”  Write your positive affirmation!

3.      Speak your positive affirmation out loud to yourself several times a day. I write mine with a dry erase marker on my bathroom mirror and say them out loud while I’m getting reading in the morning. Looking at yourself in the mirror as you say your affirmation out loud is particularly powerful. You can also write it out several times a day in your journal.

4.     Anchor the affirmation in your body. As you say it out loud, place a hand on the part of your body where you carry the stress associated with the negative belief.

5.     Have a friend repeat the affirmation to you. This final step helps to reinforce the beliefs that you are fostering in yourself. If you don’t have someone you feel comfortable asking to help you with this, looking at yourself in the mirror can reinforce your new, healthy self-image.

Recently, I programmed my positive affirmations into my phone with a reminder that goes off every hour. When the reminder comes up on my phone, I read it out loud to myself. As with every affirmation, when I first started telling myself I am a successful strategy consultant, it felt like a lie. Now, after about 2 weeks, I nod when the reminders come up, and I think to myself, “Yep! I know that I am.” And I find myself easily taking actions that confirm what I already know.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Resilience-- 7 Steps to Bouncing Back


When hard things happen—and let’s be honest, they happen to everyone nearly every day!—learning to bounce back is key to happiness! 

I’d been married 25 years when I discovered my husband was not who I thought he was. As my heart shattered into a thousand shards on the kitchen floor, tears puddling around them, my husband simply walked away, taking all financial support with him. I had trained and worked for 25 years to be a homemaker, a wife and a mother. Suddenly I was thrust into the male-dominated world of resumes, business suits and networking. I was struggling to survive in a foreign environment at the very moment that my identity was swept away in shame of betrayal and overwhelming questions of self-worth.

Thankfully, not all the hard things we face in life are this dramatic. As I have bounced back (after taking some time to recover), I’ve pulled wisdom from a variety of sources on how to become resilient in the face of all kinds of hard things.

Now, eight years after my ex was arrested, I have my first college degree and am half way through my graduate degree! I am more happy and alive than ever and I am not only surviving, I am thriving. I have learned a few keys to resilience that apply to everything from bad divorces to bad days.

1.     Let yourself grieve. You can’t begin to recover until you take full stock of where you are and how bad it hurts. You don’t need to wallow in the pain, but you do need to admit that it’s real and let yourself feel the hurt. Kind of like looking at a scraped knee before you clean it and get it ready for healing, the first step is letting yourself see how bad it is.
2.     Remember this is about you. It’s not about whoever hurt you. Whether he (or she) is sorry or not, whether he even admits he hurt you isn’t what matters. You are what matters. Take care of yourself and let God take care of the rest.
3.     Claim your story. It may be messy and crazy and may look like all hell broke loose—but it’s yours! Own it! Embrace it! Love it. This leads to loving yourself. <3

4.     Trust yourself. Learn to listen to that little voice in your head, to your gut instinct. More often than not, you know what’s right or wrong. Believe in your own ability to know which is which and act on your gut feelings. When your heart tells you something you mind doesn’t know, take action.
5.     Check the facts on other’s judgment. As humans we have a tendency to assume other people are thinking the worst of us, when in reality they’re not thinking anything of the sort. This is one area where it’s better to check the facts rather than go with your first impression. A simple question, “Are you mad at me about this?” or “Did I just make fool of myself?” gives you a chance to talk—a much harder but in the end happier option than hiding or taking offense.
6.     Pray. Spending a few minutes each day quietly sharing your thoughts with God and listening for the ideas He puts in your mind and heart will bring peace and self-confidence like nothing else. As with your gut instincts, act on the impressions you receive. 

7.     Do hard things. Getting knocked on your butt is hard. Getting back up can feel even harder. As soon as you make yourself do one hard thing, you realize you are stronger than you thought you were. Doing even just one hard thing a day allows you to take back control of your life and prove to yourself that whatever happens, you will rise above it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Silent Night

This year we made a short Christmas music video as our family's Christmas card.

Merry Christmas! And may the peace of our Savior be with you all year. <3

Sunday, December 7, 2014

And Is Kind

I went to Italy last week, and the trip was, of course, amazing-- in all the ways you are imagining, and in some ways I'm pretty sure you're not imagining. I went to church in Vicenza, in a small American military ward (congregation), and it felt like home. I looked around the chapel and thought, "These women are already my friends!"  It was an odd contrast to what I've been feeling in my own ward at home where I've lived for almost a year and a half, but where I've struggled to feel like I fit in at all.  It wasn't hard to guess why I felt this way. I've spent most of my adult life in small, overseas, American military wards. The women in Vicenza spoke my language of PCSing, DoDDS schools, living on the economy and deployment. When your biological family is an ocean and a continent away, your ward becomes your family and making friends is a skill you pick up pretty quickly.

I was not ok with how I felt about my ward at home and I decided I needed to do something about it. But what? It was hard going from being the mom at church who appears to have her act (and family) all together, to the divorced single mom from out of town with troubled teens in a ward full of people who live down the street from their cousins. I was feeling judged, isolated and ignored.  And frankly, a little afraid to put myself out there and ask for friendship if I was going to get the cold shoulder.

Catholic church in Italy, not LDS,
just in case anyone was confused
While I was in Italy, I visited a friend, and I realized part way through the week that I was intimidated by him. He seemed to know how to do just about everything I don't know how to do. Assemble a bike? check. Which knife to use for what? check. Steady job with awards and a nice paycheck? check. Lift heavy weights, ski, and scuba dive? check, check, check. Connect 593 electronic devices from different countries, sync them and get them all working wirelessly? check! I mean, really? Who can actually do that?

When I told him that I was intimidated by him, his response startled me. He asked why I would be intimidated by anyone. He said he was surprised that I'd been surprised to get into a program I'd recently applied to, and he started listing things I've done or know how to do. At first I thought, "Yes, but those are all easy. Anyone could do that." Then it occurred to me, he didn't think they were easy. To him, it looked like I was capable, with no reason to be intimidated. Which was exactly how he looked to me.


And I thought, "Huh. I suppose the evidence shows that I'm a capable adult. I do actually know how to make a movie, write a novel, and put together a neighborhood clothing exchange. And if I took the time, I could probably learn which knife to use, to assemble a bike, and to scuba dive. Maybe not hook up all that electronic stuff-- but we all have our limits."

Then today in church, something happened. We had a meeting with all the women. All of them. The ones who teach other classes were relieved of duty for the day and the Relief Society (women's organization) room was overflowing. We just got a new Relief Society president, and she wanted to stress the need we have for sisterhood. I have jet lag and was seriously thinking about going home early to take a nap, but every time I thought about it, I felt a little voice saying, "You need to stay." So I stayed.

Good things always come when you listen to that little voice.  :)

In Relief Society, a few women had been invited to tell how they have felt the love of Jesus through other women in the ward. I felt a little sulky at first. Women talked about how loved they feel here and how we need to not judge each other, and in my mind I thought, "I don't judge people. I accept everyone for who they are. I'm really good at that. So what am I doing wrong?"

And then Chelsi stood up, and her message was different. She talked about how she's struggled to find friends in this ward. And women all around the room started sniffling. She talked about being scared to call people, to ask if she could join in things that were happening.

Neal Fowler
And suddenly, in the middle of her talking, I realized that the judging that I had been so proud of not doing only moments earlier, was exactly what I was doing. All the time. I was judging myself. In ways that are far from kind. For everyone else I am compassionate, forgiving and kind. But for myself I am harsh, judgemental and negative. I see that I can't lift heavy weights, have never been skiing, haven't finished my degree, and struggle to raise troubled teens by myself. And while I would never think twice about these things in anyone else, they are my focus in myself.

In a recent talk, Elder Holland spoke of a young woman who, when asked why she was so hard on herself, replied, "So no one else beats me to it." I cringed when I heard that because it's exactly how I feel. If I point out my faults first, others won't have to.  How unkind is that?

1 Corinthians 13:4 says, "Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up."

As my friend in Italy pointed out, being self-centered does not have to mean thinking about how good you are. It can mean thinking about how incapable you are. It simply means you're thinking about yourself-- good or bad-- instead of focusing on helping others.

The solution, I think, is two-fold. First, I need to be kind to myself, and not envy what others can do. Do you know that song, "Kindness Begins with Me"? This gives it a whole new meaning. And-- at least as importantly-- I need to focus on the women sitting next to me, many of whom were discretely dabbing their eyes while Chelsi spoke and, I realized, feeling every bit as alone as I have been. What was I doing to relieve their suffering? As I looked around the room, I remembered times when nearly every one of those women had said hello to me, smiled, been kind and happy to see me. I need to get out there and do what I'm good at-- making friends in a short amount of time. Because one thing the military life taught me was that there is no time like today to be a friend.

I'm also tackling the weight lifting thing.