Stay Inspired, 2/3/16

As I discussed in this post, I believe in the power of staying inspired. In fact, I believe in it so much that I’ve started a “Stay Inspired” series as a regular part of this blog.

Today’s dose of inspiration is brought to you by Pinterest. What can I say? I love it! Sure, if I’m not careful, I can easily be sucked into it for 2-3 hours at a time. But in my my experience – unlike other social media sites (ahem, Facebook) – this time is not usually wasted. Pinterest adds real value to my life, and I visit my pages there over and over again. Whether I need a new recipe, I’m planning my family’s next vacation, or I just need a good laugh, it never disappoints.

I often find myself visiting Pinterest when I need the motivation to get off my butt and accomplish something. Here are a few of my favorite inspirational pins (I hope one of them resonates with you!):

 

IMG_2164

 

 

IMG_2175

 

 

IMG_2176

 

 

IMG_2173

 

 

IMG_2167

 

 

IMG_2177

 

 

IMG_2170

 

 

IMG_2172

 

 

IMG_2163

 

 

IMG_2161

 

 

IMG_2168

 

Do you find Pinterest to be more useful than other social media sites?

What has inspired you lately?

What small step have you taken today to reach one of your goals?

I ran 4 easy miles as part of my marathon training plan!

(I also set up a Twitter account for this site! But I have no idea how to use it yet, so please stay tuned. 😀 )

 

My Goals For The Week Ahead (2/1-2/7)

For the last few years, I’ve made a habit of taking a few minutes each Sunday to mentally map out my week. Most of the time, this includes: 1) thinking through my work week and evening commitments, 2) planning my workouts and meals, and 3) dreaming about things I’d like to accomplish to propel my life forward (and subsequently taking action).

While the first two are helpful and necessary, number three is where the magic happens.

Unfortunately, this is the area that gets the least of my attention. I get so “busy” (read: sidetracked) planning for the daily grind that I neglect to put much thought into the things that really matter. Rather than coming up with an actionable plan to do these things, I have this conversation with myself: “It’d be so nice to do ____, ____, and ____ this week!!” And then I leave it up to fate to determine whether or not I have the time/motivation to actually do it. 

As it turns out, fate is pretty unreliable.

In an attempt to break this cycle, I’m going to try posting weekly goals here each Sunday. If nothing else, this will force me to consciously think about and plan the small steps I need to take each week to get closer to my goals.

Here are my goals for this week:

  1. Complete all of my marathon training runs/workouts: 6 miles easy, 6-mile tempo run @ 8:47, 4 miles easy, 12 miles @ 10:02, 1-2 cross training sessions
  2. Run/exercise before work (3+ days)
  3. Spend time writing before work (1+ day)
  4. Spend 20+ minutes writing every day
  5. Improve SEO scores on 5+ blog posts
  6. Set up my email subscription
  7. Finish the book I’m reading
  8. Invest $300+ in an index fund/ETF
  9. Evaluate my progress on these goals and set new ones for next week

IMG_2160

What small step have you taken today to reach one of your goals?

I created my first weekly goal list! (I hope this becomes a habit.)

Documenting My Small Steps

The whole premise behind this blog is to use myself as a guinea pig to prove that (almost) anything is attainable when broken down into small, manageable steps. My original vision was to lay out my goals and then document each daily step I was taking to reach one of them.

Let’s be real – 2015 was a huge failure as far as that’s concerned. Sure, I took a bunch of small steps toward goals, but I didn’t document them in a meaningful way. And on the days I was too (tired / lazy / lame / cranky / etc.) to work on my goals? I let myself off the hook altogether, reasoning that my small steps only needed to be accounted for when I posted a couple times a week. Not cool.

Clearly this needs to change.

My plan moving forward is to actually do what I intended from the beginning by tracking my small daily steps on this page. No more letting myself off the hook when the couch is calling my name (at least not without holding myself publicly accountable!). It’s time to get to work.

Not me

Not me

 

(Please follow this link to see the most updated version of this list.)

January 30 – I paid $50 extra toward my student loans.

January 29 – I invested $575 in VOO.

January 28 – I did 6 mile repeats (8:34 pace) in preparation for my marathon.

January 27 – I made my career change official. (This change will allow me to pursue my personal goals at a much faster pace.)

January 26 – I ran 5 easy miles in preparation for my marathon.

January 25 – I paid $100 extra toward my student loans.

January 24 – 😔

January 23 – I squeezed my workout in by running at midnight!

January 22 – 😔 <——- Ashamed face (no step forward today).

January 21 – I woke up early to run before work.

January 20 – I made time to do some blog writing during my lunch break.

January 19 – I invested $500 in VDE (Vanguard Energy ETF).

January 18 – I woke up early to exercise before work (and meditated, made green juice, and generally had an awesome morning).

January 17 – I ran six miles at a 9:10 pace in preparation for marathon training.

January 16 – I spent time working on the back-end of my blog (fixing links, etc.).

January 15 – I paid $25 extra toward my student loans.

January 14 – I drafted future blog posts.

January 13 – I got off my tush and went for a run when I reeeeeeally didn’t feel like it.

January 12 – I woke up early to run before work! (I also meditated, made green juice, and did a little blog work.)

January 11 – I researched and printed my marathon training plan.

January 10 – I opened a new bank account to better facilitate my financial goals.

January 9 – I registered for a marathon in May.

January 8 – I made a huge change at work that will positively affect my personal life.

January 7 – I invested in VOO (Vanguard S&P 500 ETF).

January 6 – I researched index funds/ETFs to add to my portfolio.

January 5 – I came up with a potential business idea.

January 4 – I fleshed out a 2016 budget to help me stay on track throughout the year.

January 3 – I created a quiet workspace in my house.

January 2 – I made the decision to switch my investing strategy.

January 1 – I paid $35 extra toward my student loans.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Stopped Cleaning My House On The Weekend

I recently stopped cleaning my house on the weekends. At first, it just felt wrong…like a betrayal to my inner neat freak or something. Then I stumbled upon this article, and all was right with the world again. (Check out #8!)

In the fall, a typical week looks like this for me:

Monday: Work 7:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. (with a break from 3:45-5:45 to work out, eat dinner with the family, run errands, etc.)

[Side note: Monday and I do not get along very well.]

Tuesday: Work 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., run errands, work out, cook/clean dinner, homework with my daughter, tackle unfinished work, get ready for next day, pass out in bed while reading about investing

Wednesday: Repeat Tuesday

Thursday: Repeat Wednesday with a possible evening meeting/obligation in the mix

Friday: Repeat Monday

Saturday: Work a few hours in the morning 2-3 times per month

Remainder of weekend: Catch up on sleep, family time, grocery shopping, food prep, etc.

Additionally, I spend 5-6 hours of my weekend on a top-to-bottom cleaning of the house. Why? Because “Outer order contributes to inner calm.” —Gretchen Rubin

Okay – I do believe that when things are clean, our household generally runs more smoothly. (My office space definitely functions better when I take the time to organize it.) And yes, I concede that cleaning can be therapeutic when I’m in the right mood. I would love to have a clean house all the time – it’s more aesthetically pleasing than a messy one, clearly.

But seriously – it suuuucks having to clean all weekend! And when Sunday night rolls around, I inevitably wonder where my weekend went. Does this happen to anyone else? If so, I think you should give yourself permission to change your ways, STAT. Once I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to clean the house every weekend, I instantly became more peaceful and found time to work on more important things.

IMG_2019

Yes, I could hire a housekeeper to spend a few hours cleaning my house each week and regain that time for personal use. But I have financial goals too, and for me, it just isn’t a good use of my money. I’d rather have a messy house and invest the money in stocks.

[Side note – I’m not judging anyone with a housecleaner. I think it’s a great use of money for people that are busier than me, and just can’t get everything done without some help. And for those of you that value your free time over money spent on a housecleaner. And for the neat freaks of the world. You’re all good people.]

For me, cleaning is very much an all-or-nothing task – I can’t do it half-heartedly. I can’t live with just picking up and vacuuming the living room. I must pick it up, vacuum, dust, organize our DVDs and video games, clean the windows, wash/vacuum every inch of the couch, and make sure all of the pillows follow a nice placement pattern. By the time this process is over, I’ve spent about 43 minutes cleaning one room. Repeat that about 8 times, and we end up with a nice, clean house.

But you know what? I’m never any happier at the end. Quite the opposite, actually – I’m angry at myself for spending my whole day off cleaning the house. And while cleaning isn’t a complete waste of time, I can think of about 12,000 things that I’d rather be doing to move my life forward in a more meaningful way…

  • Daydreaming about future goals
  • Reading about investing
  • Writing
  • Exploring more ways to create income
  • Doing a cooking project with my daughter
  • Watching a movie with my husband
  • Reading about and getting inspired by extraordinary people
  • Calling my best friend
  • Trying a challenging run/work out
  • Using a strange/forgotten ingredient in my kitchen to create a new recipe
  • Doing something fun and/or mindless that yanks me out of reality for a little while

I know, I know – sometimes this just isn’t realistic. The ‘to-do’ list never ends, and we are forced to spend a substantial amount of time on less-than-enjoyable tasks to keep our heads above water. (And for those of you that keep your houses perfectly clean and can’t relate to this post at all…well, I don’t think I like you very much. Just kidding! Please leave a comment so that we can learn your secrets.) But if, like me, you find yourself in this situation, here are some questions to consider:

1. What are the most important chores that must get done regularly?

For my family, it’s keeping the kitchen clean, cooking a few meals for the freezer, and staying on top of laundry. Think survival and function, not aesthetic value.

2. What can I reduce or let go of completely?

The guest room doesn’t need to be dusted every week, and for heaven’s sake, just let the kids’ rooms go. With the exception of the first 30 minutes after a cleaning, my daughter’s room is always nightmare. I just avoid it as much as possible.

3. Can I spend 10-15 minutes each day doing small things to avoid a marathon cleaning session on the weekend?

Yes! Just be ruthless about prioritizing what needs to get done in that time.

4. Can I delegate more to my family?

I know this is totally obvious for most people, but for control freaks like me, you may have to ask yourself this every now and then. Is your husband/child going to do anything the “right” way? Of course not! But it will be okay. (The sooner you make peace with this, the better. It’s a constant struggle for me.)

5. Can I stop folding most of the laundry?

Yep – just lay everyone’s clothes out in a pile and make them deal with it.

6. Can I put off washing my sheets until next weekend?

In most cases, yes.

7. Can I do spot-cleaning on my floor rather than mopping the entire thing?

Yes. You’ll be the only one that knows the difference, promise.

8. Can I just throw crap away instead of organizing it?

If it’s not useful or meaningful to your life, then yes, you can.

9. What can I spend my time on instead of cleaning that will add real value to my life?

Go do something awesome!

*****

Since successful people don’t clean their houses on the weekend, I’m letting myself off the hook here too. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather spend my time working on a goal that will propel my life forward than basking in the glow of a clean house.

To those of you that keep a clean house and spend ample time chasing goals, how do you do it?

What small step have you taken today to reach one of your goals?

I wrote and edited future blog posts!

24 Reasons Why I Love The Treadmill

I know I’m in the minority here, but I love the treadmill! If not for this wonderful invention, I never would have become a “runner” (I still use that term loosely when describing myself). Prior to starting P90X, I ran consistently for four years, and about 85% of that running occurred on the treadmill.

Although I always wanted to be a runner, for 29 years I was one of those people that hated running. I come from a family of runners, and always assumed I didn’t get “those genes.” It wasn’t until my husband and I bought our treadmill that I decided to give it a fair shot.

[Side note: my dad ran a 2:32 marathon back in his heyday! Do you have any idea how fast that is? That is just under a 6-minute per mile pace…for 26.2 miles! At that time, he could have qualified for the Olympic trials!]

Anyhow, I’m sure people hate the treadmill for a variety of legitimate reasons. But, with a long season of indoor running in front of me, I’m choosing to take a look at the positive aspects of it:

  1. A toilet is never too far away.
  2. It’s safe to blast your embarrassingly bad music as loud as you want.
  3. At the gym, you can run with anyone and never worry about slowing them down.
  4. You can completely zone into your running rather than having to be cautious of your surroundings.
  5. Outdoor runs will feel so much shorter/better when you finally get outside.
  6. You can focus on your form by using a mirror.
  7. It provides a safe place to experiment with barefoot running.
  8. You don’t have to remember to charge any devices (headphones, garmin, etc.).
  9. It can easily be incorporated into circuit training.
  10. It provides you with instant accurate feedback (pace, distance, etc.).
  11. It frees you from all weather-related excuses.
  12. There are no aggressive dogs or obnoxious onlookers.
  13. Your awesome new running shoes don’t get dirty as quickly.
  14. You can create the perfect work out to accommodate your current goals (speed, incline, distance, heart rate, etc.).
  15. You can learn how to pace yourself with surprising accuracy.
  16. You don’t have to haul all your crap with you (water, phone, GU, etc.).
  17. You get to binge watch all your favorite reality TV shows without guilt.
  18. It’s easier on your joints than road running.
  19. You don’t have to secure child care.
  20. You can add/subtract layers of clothing without judgment from the outside world.
  21. You don’t have to deal with traffic, stoplights, or other obstructions that kill your pace.
  22. There is no anxiety about potential axe murderers jumping out of the woods.
  23. On the really bad runs (the ones you know you’ll have to cut short), you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to make it home.

And most importantly….

  24.  It builds mental toughness!

Do you enjoy treadmill running? What would you add to this list?

What small step did you take today to reach one of your goals?

I purchased 20 shares of Walmart stock! 

 

Some Thoughts On Food Prep

I believe that most busy people – and who isn’t busy these days? – can simplify their lives by regularly spending time on food preparation. For me, it has become a non-negotiable task. As with most things in life; however, I had to learn this the hard way.

For many years, I created my meals on a whim, using every excuse in the book to avoid planning ahead. After all, I was always so tired after work, evening commitments, exercise, dinner, family time, etc. – it was impossible to complete one more task at the end of the day. I would always tell myself, “I’ll get up early and do it in the morning.” (Ha! I don’t do mornings.) And what about planning my grocery trip to reflect my meal plan for the entire week? Yeah, that never happened. It required too much brain power, and so I just stuck to buying whatever I felt like throwing in my cart on that given day.

About 10 months ago, I decided to kick these bad habits to the curb. Why?

  • I was spending too much money eating out at lunch (not to mention gas money to drive there, plus general wear and tear on my vehicle).

[The simple math behind it: $7 per day X 3 days per week X 34 weeks per school year = $714 year.]

  • I was eating less healthy than I would if I packed my lunch.
  • Food at home was staying in the fridge too long and going bad.
  • My 30-minute lunch break felt rushed and stressful because I was running around to get food.
  • I wasn’t utilizing my lunch break in the most productive way (either to relax and regroup, or get 1-2 tasks done and feel less overwhelmed at the end of the day).

For several years I carried on like this during lunch. I convinced myself that I worked hard, and deserved this “treat” in the middle of the day. That I needed to get out of the office once a day and get some fresh air. While this all may be true, I have since learned that there are much more productive ways to cope (e.g. make my students bring me treats and go for a walk).

I now spend 10-15 minutes each evening (along with an hour or so on the weekends) planning my meals for the following day. This includes getting my fruits and vegetables ready to juice in the morning, making sure my coffee will be ready with the press of a button, and prepping all of my meals and snacks for the work day. On the weekends, I’ll cut up fruits and vegetables after grocery shopping, prepare ingredients for my salads (boiled eggs, beans, rice, salad dressing), make trail mix, etc.

For me, simple whole foods work best. A typical breakfast is green juice with fruit, oatmeal, or eggs and toast. Lunch consists of left overs from dinner, a salad with whatever I have in the fridge, or a peanut butter and banana sandwich when I’m feeling crazy. For snacks, I have fruit, vegetables, or nuts/seeds.

[Side note: Wow – this kind of makes me sound like a health nut! Let’s be real – there are days my students are forced to bring me chocolate, and I definitely don’t pass it up. Other days I bring in left over pizza or steal some potato chips from my daughter’s lunch stash. Yep, it happens. Luckily I believe in moderation, and just try to make healthy choices about 90% of the time.]

At this point, I can’t imagine going back to eating the way I used to. Here are some of the benefits I’ve noticed from changing my ways:

  • I eat less.
  • I feel better about what I’m putting into my body.
  • I’m not tempted by bad fast food options.
  • I take more time to eat like a civilized human being rather than stuffing food in my face while driving.
  • If dinner was particularly awesome, I get to look forward to having it again at lunch.
  • I don’t wonder where all of my disposable income goes at the end of the month.
  • I’m not starving at the end of the work day because I brought plenty of snacks.
  • I don’t have to leave my nice warm office during the winter (which pretty much lasts all year here).
  • I use my lunch time more productively, even if it means just sitting quietly for a few minutes.
  • Eating out for lunch is a treat rather than just the norm.
  • I force myself to eat food that may otherwise go to waste.
  • It’s one less decision I have to make (decision paralysis is a thing!).

Now, to be fair, I still eat lunch out about 1-2 times per month. I would like to reduce that to 1-2 times per year. In that case, I could put more money towards eating dinner out with my family, which is infinitely more important to me than hitting the drive through solo at lunch time.

I certainly don’t have it all figured out when it comes to life matters, but I do know that the simple act of prepping my food ahead of time is leading me closer to my goals. I am healthier and spend less money as a direct result. That is awesome!

Do you prep your food in advance? If so, how do you streamline the process?

What small step did you take today today to reach one of your goals?

I opened a new investment account at Robinhood(More to come on this!)

How I’m Changing My Inner Monologue

Why is it that when a minor problem arises, my mind immediately plays out the worst case scenario? For instance – this is strictly hypothetical – let’s say my daughter’s teacher sends me an e-mail requesting that I call her as soon as possible. What do I do?

I freak out, naturally.

Rather than choosing to be a rational human being, I assume the worst has happened: clearly she got into a fist fight on the playground and is now being rushed to the ER. Her life is spiraling out of control at the ripe age of seven.

This scenario is ridiculous – yes – but it’s the kind of place my mind goes on a regular basis. It’s like taking some sick and twisted road to being pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn’t actually happen. “Oh, so it turns out I’m not going to die of Ebola even though I’ve had this runny nose for 3 days? Awesome! Best news ever!”

[Side note: I need to stop using Google to diagnose my problems.]

Here’s the issue – I’ve already spent way too much time worrying about getting Ebola. The negative thoughts have completely hijacked my day, and I have wasted a lot of time being unhappy. Yes, there is that moment of immense relief when I realize I don’t, in fact, have Ebola – but it is fleeting. By that time, some new issue has come up, and I have a whole other set of problems to panic about.

Let’s say the worst case scenario actually occurs. First of all, this has happened maybe one time in my entire life. Second, it was much worse in my head than it was in reality. Third, there were no long-term catastrophic effects that happened as a result. Needless to say, all the turmoil in my head is good for absolutely nothing.  

After 33 years of being caught in this cycle, I’m over it. I need to change my inner monologue. I have never been particularly successful in my attempts at this, but maybe that’s because I’ve never put conscious action behind it. Here’s what I plan to do:

1. Assume that it’s going to be a great day as soon as I wake up.

Because…why not?

2. Do a morning task or ritual that consistently brightens my day.

For me, this is exercise. I don’t need to do 75 minutes of P90X at 5:00 a.m., I just need to break a sweat. It wakes me up, helps me think more clearly throughout the day, and makes me feel like I’ve conquered something.

3. Listen to an awesome podcast on my way to work.

My hope is that this will keep my mind on my personal goals. In the past I’ve either fretted about the work day ahead or subjected myself to nonsense on the radio. No thank you, not anymore.

4. Check e-mail no more than 3 times per day

Is it just me, or is checking e-mail the most anxiety-inducing task ever? I’m either overwhelmed by the number of messages in my inbox, or nervous about something popping up from a specific person (knowing in advance that reading it will be a miserable experience).

Sure, it’s good for quick communication, blah blah blah. Personally, I think my work day would be much more productive and peaceful without it. Since that’s not realistic, I’m just going to try and check it as infrequently as possible (and quit leaving the tab open on my computer!).

5. Deal with issues head-on (especially at work).

When I get anxious about a situation, it’s usually because I’m procrastinating on dealing with it. The severity of the situation builds up in my head until I feel like I’m going to explode. How about I just save myself from that torture and solve problems when they come up?

I know, I know – that’s not always realistic. It’s often helpful to “sleep on it” before deciding a course of action. But beyond that, what am I waiting for? Ignoring the problem will never make it go away.

6. Don’t bring work home with me.

I go back and forth on this one, but ultimately, I believe I am most productive when I keep my professional life separate from my personal life. Yes, it’s much nicer to be doing work from my porch while watching my daughter jump on her trampoline. But you know what else? It sucks to be doing work from my porch while watching my daughter jump on her trampoline! I’d rather be jumping with her, reading a book, or doing just about anything else. Focusing on work during these moments only creates bitterness toward my job.

7. Dismiss negative thoughts as soon as they appear.

This will be a tough one for me – I am a serial over-thinker/worry wart. But with age comes peace in knowing that almost nothing in life is earth-shattering. Whatever I was worried about a year ago (or 5, 10, 20 years ago) has since resolved itself. Why should I assume today’s concerns will be any different in the future?

Furthermore, if/when my world gets turned upside down, it will most likely blindside me. It will not be one of the made-up scenarios in my head that plays out predictably.

8. Spend as much time as possible with my daughter.

My daughter is the absolute cure-all to any stress I’m having in my life, real or imagined. She is so blissfully unaware of anything negative in this world. She tries to make the most mundane activities fun. (You’ll never find her walking into Target; she’s always skipping and singing.) She lives in the moment. And when she gets sad, you can turn her worst day around with a hug and a popsicle.

When I’m tucking her into bed at night, sometimes she’ll tell me she’s excited to think about things before she falls asleep. When I ask her what she thinks about, it’s usually something like: a) Anna & Elsa, b) what she wants for her birthday or Christmas, c) making waffles in the morning, or d) playing with her friends at school. She certainly isn’t losing sleep over the small stuff; she is 100% focused on the good things in her life.

9. Maintain perspective.

There are millions of well-documented cases of people with actual problems – people that have lived through their worst-case scenarios. I wonder if they have any memories of what they worried about pre-catastrophe…? If they do, I’m sure they regret the time and energy they spent being concerned about non-issues. I’m also sure they’d like to give me a slap in the face to help me realize how ridiculous I’ve been.

*****

Do any of you struggle with a negative inner monologue? If so, how do you deal with it?

What small step have you taken today to reach one of your goals?

5 mile run (in place of Kenpo) for P90X

 

The Value Of Podcasts (And What I’m Listening To)

I have recently become obsessed with podcasts. They are pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I’ve only been listening to them for a few short weeks, but I can already tell that they are changing my life for the better. If you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon yet, I advise you to do so immediately. (Hint: Google “best podcasts about _____” and you will get a million ideas on where to start.)

The two podcasts I am currently listening to are The Jillian Michaels Show and Stacking Benjamins. I love them both for different reasons.

The Jillian Michaels Show gives me great material to listen to during my runs. True, I could just listen to music – I’ve done that for years, and still do on occasion. (Sometimes there is no substitute for rocking out to old school jams that get the adrenaline pumping.) For me though, listening to music tends to be mindless, and that’s not always a good thing. I usually program songs that I’ve heard 300,000 times, and can sing the lyrics without any conscious thought. Of course there is more academic music out there, but it just doesn’t have the same effect as “Eye of the Tiger” when you’re at the end of a  9-mile run.

Jillian Michaels’ podcast covers a variety of topics relating to health, wellness, and physical fitness. Jillian has a dynamic personality, and I believe she gives listeners the perfect combination of sympathy and tough love. When I listen to her, she not only inspires me to keep working on whatever my goal is for that run, but she also keeps my mind engaged. When my mind is engaged in something – anything, really – it helps me forget that my body is working hard and/or in pain. All of a sudden I can look down at my Garmin and realize that two miles have gone by in the span of what seemed like five minutes. That’s awesome!

I have also been listening to Stacking Benjamins a lot lately. This podcast brings a simplistic, common-sense approach to the topics of personal finance and investing. I love that it’s aimed an intermediate-level audience – it’s not necessarily for beginners, but it also doesn’t go way over my head. The guys that run the show are funny, engaging, and relatable. They are extremely knowledgeable, but don’t profess to be authorities on every financial topic out there. They employ a panel of experts and special guests to share different perspectives on a wide range of subjects.  Many of their guests have eschewed conventional financial advice in favor being trailblazers, and this is something I find highly motivating.

In my opinion, the best reason to listen to podcasts is that they add value to your day without adding a time commitment. Unless you are doing something that requires brainpower, you can easily play podcasts anytime you would normally listen to music. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shut off my radio on the drive to work because I was sick of the same music and advertisements over and over. Podcasts have provided me with the perfect solution to this – I now listen to them anytime I’m driving by myself for longer than ten minutes or so.

Podcasts also make time-consuming household chores more enjoyable and profitable. I now walk around my house doing mundane tasks while educating myself on whatever topic I’m interested in at the moment. I listen while I’m cooking, doing laundry, packing, or even showering. Sometimes I get so focused on whatever I’m listening to that I forget I’m doing a dreaded task at the same time. I don’t know about you, but anything that makes cleaning the shower more tolerable is a major win for me!

Here’s the bottom line with podcasts: they provide me with another way to hustle. I am a terrible multi-tasker, and therefore don’t believe in doing it – except in this case. We all have a certain number of brainless tasks to complete each week…why not seize this time to learn about something we’re passionate about?

What small step have you taken today to reach one of your goals?

I put $1500 into an investment account!

 

 

Reasons I Quit Facebook (And Awesome Things That Happened As A Result)

One of my resolutions for 2015 was to quit Facebook – so I did in January. Cold turkey.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Facebook is a wonderful tool – I was a daily user for 7+ years. It makes it very easy to connect with friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers you barely know. (There will likely come a time when I utilize Facebook to reach more potential readers of this blog.) I really miss getting updates on my nieces and nephews and hearing about friends that are getting married and/or having babies. That stuff is awesome!

But for me, the awesome stuff was overshadowed by meaningless rhetoric. I was wasting too much time scrolling through “noise” that didn’t add value to my life. As a result, I found myself caught in a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

To those of you that can use social media in moderation as a positive force in your life, kudos to you! I’m pretty sure most of us would like to be able to do that too, so please share your secret. To those of you that obsessively check in 10 times a day and love every minute of it, that’s cool too! I’m certainly not anti-Facebook, I just had to give myself some hard limits on it. Here’s why:

1. I was reading too many articles about subjects I didn’t care about.

I don’t give a hoot about “The 7 Secrets to Smoothie Success.” Why would I click that? Mindless scrolling? Maybe I just really admired the person that posted it? Regardless, this was never a good use of my time.

Now: I don’t read (many) shallow articles about whatever happens to be trending on the web. Instead, I proactively seek out information on subjects I want to learn about.

2. I felt uneasy allowing distant acquaintances into my personal life.

I’m not sure why some people feel the need to ‘friend request’ every person they’ve ever met. I’m also not sure why I felt the need to accept them all. Maybe I didn’t want to seem rude? Or maybe it was someone I worked with, and I was afraid they’d take it personally if I denied them?

I’m naturally introverted, and pretty selective about who I open up to. If I’m going to use Facebook as a personal outlet, I don’t want people I hardly know all up in my business.

Now: I do my best to keep in meaningful contact with the people I care about. (Not to toot my own horn or anything – I’m still terrible at picking up the phone!)

3. I was getting bent out of shape about political issues.

Admittedly, I am not someone that keeps up with politics very often. Most of it is noise, and it tends to piss me off. I don’t like to feel that way, so I try to avoid it. But when everyone in the free world uses Facebook as a platform to voice their political views, it becomes very hard to ignore.

Why do people blast their controversial views all over social media when the majority wouldn’t dream of doing it in person? On multiple occasions I had this conversation with myself: “Oh, I thought this person was so cool! Yeah, I was wrong.”

Now: I seek out information about politics when I choose, which is almost never.  I’m okay with this.

4. The comparisons to other people were totally unproductive and detrimental to my emotional well-being.

I’ve always been a textbook over-achiever. I don’t like to feel jealous of anyone that is seemingly “better” than me. Yes, I realize this is my issue, and that “nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Blah, blah, blah. I mean, Eleanor Roosevelt is totally right – but I prefer to not be tempted to check out everyone’s highlight reel on Facebook and wonder why I haven’t accomplished more in life.

[Side note: I’m not a completely jealous person. I am often inspired by those that do amazing things with their lives and are rich/happy/beautiful to boot. But it’s a fine line. Am I the only one who feels this way?]

Now: I am sincerely happy for the accomplishments of people that I choose to keep in my life.

5. I found myself avoiding certain Facebook friends when I saw them in person.

Confession: I once “liked” a person’s status on Tuesday and then ran the other way on Wednesday when I saw him/her in real life. Why?!? That was super lame of me, and further magnified the artificial connection I had to some people on Facebook.

Now: If I avoid someone in person, at least I don’t have to feel guilty about being their “friend” on Facebook.

6. I was too critical of “friends” I wasn’t particularly fond of.

We all have those friends. They pop up in your news feed, and immediately you think: “Oh Lord, not him again? Why would he say that? What a moron!” Why do we stay friends with these people?! (See #7 below.) I think everyone would be much better off just cutting them loose. I definitely became more cantankerous than normal when these people showed up in my feed. I didn’t like that about myself.

Now: If I’m not crazy about someone, that’s okay. I don’t want negative thoughts of that person to consume me every time he/she posts on Facebook.

7. I stayed “friends” with people because of the train wreck/soap opera effect.

Embarrassing but true – I kept some people around because they were unintentionally entertaining. Sometimes people got angry and went a rampage about stuff they had no business talking about online. Girls were notorious for taking lame, passive-aggressive shots at other girls over petty issues. It was all verbal diarrhea, but it was mildly amusing at times. (Hey, I can’t be the only one that does this, right?)

Now: I steer clear of drama. If I absolutely need a fix, I’ll turn on “The Bachelor.”

8. My perception of some people took a turn for the worse on Facebook.

Many people that I generally liked in real life somehow turned into these narcissistic monsters on Facebook (see #3). I was perfectly happy being oblivious to these personality flaws.

Now: I don’t have the opportunity to get surprised by a person’s online alter ego. I take them at face value when I see them in person.

9. Facebook stalking is inevitable, but usually not a good idea.

Most of us are naturally curious beings, right? If we stumble upon an interesting person from our past or present, we’re going to click to get more information…

Okay, so your ex gained 50 pounds. Or he’s with a girl that clearly proves you were the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Is that validating? Maybe fleetingly. But is it really worth the risk of accidentally hitting the “like” button someplace on his timeline? Game over. Don’t do it.

Now: There is absolutely zero temptation to do this. I don’t hold any grudges against my exes – they’re generally good people that I want to see succeed in life. But I think most of us are better off without reminders of what was probably a very emotionally-charged relationship once upon a time.

The Moral Of The Story

At first, it was difficult to figure out what to do when I was standing in line at the grocery store, or waiting in the lobby of my doctor’s office, or just had a few minutes to kill. But after almost 9 months away from Facebook, I can honestly say that I don’t miss it. In fact, I’d go as far as saying I’m happier without it. After 7+ years of being chained to it, that’s a pretty sweet discovery!

There may come a day when I figure out how to use Facebook in moderation to connect with people I care about. But let’s be real – I’m not there yet. Until that time comes, I’m happy continuing my Facebook strike.

Have you ever taken a break from Facebook? How did it go?

What small step have you taken today to reach one of your goals?

I wrote this blog post! (Yep, that’s the best I can do today.)

 

 

How I’m Setting Myself Up For Success In September

September is the busiest month of the year for me at work. Generally speaking, everything takes a backseat to work during this time (sad but true). While I’m happy to report that I’ve stayed on track with my goals during the first half of the month, the next couple of weeks will be the true test. Staying accountable will no doubt require some late nights, early mornings, and ruthless prioritizing on my part.

The bad news is that the work load isn’t going anywhere. The good news is that there are several things I can do to ease the daily grind and keep my attention focused on my goals.

  1. Stock the freezer full of meals that can be prepared with minimal effort.

I’ve been cooking my tush off for the last few weeks in anticipation of the busy weeknights that lie ahead. There is a lot of freedom that comes with being able to throw a meal together on a whim with very little thought. This will provide me the opportunity to complete my workouts before dinner, which is the ideal time.

Having plenty of freezer meals on hand will also discourage me from getting take out on nights I’m too  _______ (insert excuse) to cook. Eating out is a budget killer, and I’m determined to stay on track with my finances.

 2. Make food prep a non-negotiable task, and pack lunch for 2-3 days at a time as needed.

I generally try to prep food for the following day as I’m cleaning up dinner. But some days there just isn’t time for that due to evening commitments. By the time I get home (usually around 9:30 p.m.), the only thing I can think about is collapsing into bed. Since there’s no way I’m getting up early to do it, I’m going to make a habit of taking multiple lunches to work on Mondays. Not only will this keep me from hitting up the drive-thru at lunch, it’s also one less thing I have to remember to take on sleepy Tuesday mornings.

 3. Do extra workouts on the weekend.

This will be a tough one. I already have to talk myself through P90X one workout at a time; doubling up on them is daunting. But realistically, the 14-hour work days will get the best of me at some point. When that happens, I will need to have something in the bank so that I can take an unscheduled day off. Even if it’s just an advance round of Ab Ripper or 45 minutes of a yoga workout on Sunday night, I think doing this will ease my time crunches throughout the week. This certainly isn’t ideal, but I am determined to stick out P90X.

4. Only do the bare minimum when it comes to housework and chores.

The kitchen will stay relatively clean because making food in a dirty kitchen is inefficient. The laundry will get washed, dried, and separated into piles (not folded) because my family and I need our go-to outfits clean and available. Beyond that, my house probably won’t get much attention unless there’s a disaster.

Keeping a clean house simply won’t be a priority for me. What will be a priority is continuing to take the steps that lead me to my goals. (I’d tell you to come visit in October once the storm has passed, but honestly, I’m not sure my philosophy will change here.)

5. Take some time on Sunday to set out clothes for the week.

I don’t know if it’s the girly girl in me or what, but choosing an outfit always seems to require an enormous amount of brainpower. As a result, I tend to put off the process as long as possible. This usually means I’m throwing an outfit together 5 minutes after I need to be out the door.

I hardly ever set out my clothes the night before work, but on the rare occasion that I do, my morning is exponentially less stressful. (It’s like magic!) Obviously this needs to happen more often. Having one less decision to make when I’m half-asleep and cranky seems like a no-brainer to me.

6. Be diligent in communicating with my husband about the week ahead.

I’ll admit it – I’m terrible at this! Taking 10 minutes to talk through our schedules for the week can alleviate a lot of potential stress. We can discuss the logistics of what our daughter needs for school/activities, and what our extra commitments are for the week. This is so simple, and yet I don’t  do it often enough. (I am very lucky to have an understanding husband that tolerates me when I spring stuff on him at the 11th hour.)

7. Keep a running grocery list on my phone.

Apparently I have a selective memory. I can recall exact conversations from 7 years ago, but can never seem to remember to get onions at the grocery store. This is easily remedied by keeping a list on my phone and updating it the second I think of something I need. (If I don’t do it right then, it will go somewhere in the graveyard that is the back of my mind.)

True, a mid-week stop at Target for toilet paper isn’t the end of the world. But it does take time and energy away from things that are more important. (There’s also the fact that I can never leave Target with just toilet paper.)

*****

I’m sure you see the underlying theme here – all of these are simple tasks that can be done in advance to reduce stress and help everything run as smoothly as possible. It’s common sense, right? And yet, I rarely take the time to do them even knowing they will have a profound impact on what I can accomplish throughout the day.

The Big Picture

If I want to dig deeper here, there is an even more important lesson to learn from this. Doing the small tasks in advance greatly reduces the number of daily decisions I have to make. I won’t have to decide what we’re having for dinner, or what I’m going to wear to work, or how my daughter is getting from point A to B. It’s already done! By eliminating the little decisions, I have more brainpower to focus on the big decisions. I can be more productive with my writing. I’ll have the mental capacity to learn about and choose my next investment. I’ll have more energy to crush my goals. 

It’s going to be awesome!

What small step have you taken today to reach one of your goals?

P90X Yoga + Ab Ripper