Greeting cards are a wonderful way to express appreciation for the people in your life–if you can pick one up before the occasion passes by. Why not make sure you’re prepared by keeping cards on hand instead? Make this the year you get your notes in order and plan for all of the occasions likely to emerge throughout the year.
Beyond Getting Things Done
Sometimes seemingly small productivity tweaks make a huge difference in our effectiveness at home, at work and in our communities. Here are some of my favorite tips and tools for banishing procrastination, living on purpose and making great things happen.
“We’re in a society where we have to justify play. But play reminds you of your better self and how happy you can be. In play, there’s a wonderful lightness of being.”
–Nadia Stieglitz, founder, Mice At Play
Normally, I’m not a big Halloween person, but this year I felt like dressing up–mostly because Zora got a costume box for her birthday that came with a witch’s hat just my size. It’s way too big for her head, but it’s the perfect size to fit over my afro puff.
Truth be told, I wear this hat around the house all the time, not just on witchy holidays. Something about it immediately frees me from the pressure of my own seriousness. Maybe it’s the gray weave that’s stitched into the hat that keeps things light. In any case, I can’t help but smile when I’m wearing it.
How do you stop putting everyone else’s needs and happiness before your own, yet still be considered a caring person/mom?
“Selfish” in Seattle
Dear “Selfish” in Seattle,
I wish I had a magic solution for this one, but the truth is that there’s not much you can do to make sure that others consider you a caring person or mom. No matter how hard you work or how much you give, others may still judge you harshly any time your desires come into conflict with theirs. So you’re better off deciding for yourself what’s self care and what’s self absorption and then developing the confidence to shake off negative opinions. In my experience, most mothers (working or not) lean heavily into the over-guilt, under-self-care side of the equation.
Contaminated time is your enemy. Think of those tainted moments you spend worrying about one thing when you should be focused on something else–and more worthwhile, like your family or sleep. It’s the role overload, task density and time crunch that scatter your attention, tamp down your spirits and vaporize your impact.
One surprisingly simple solution is to literally get things off your mind, by putting them down on paper, be it print or digital. Productivity guru David Allen recommends maintaining a list of every single thing you are serious about accomplishing that requires more than one action step. In his experience, folks typically juggle 30-100 projects at a time. Sound familiar?
A less-is-better ethic is taking hold of my life. Influenced by an eclectic mix of productivity gurus, leadership coaches, spiritual guides and environmentalists whose teachings are surprisingly similar, I’m getting increasingly choosy. Refusing invitations. Declining requests. Limiting commitments. Editing my closet. And generally whittling away the excesses of my life to focus on the few things that really matter to me.
Depending upon your advisor, this focus on pursuing fewer activities of higher quality apparently can help us fulfill our potential, save the planet, find God. As a recovering overscheduled-overcommitted-overwhelmed person, I’m all in with the trend…except for one area: my books.
A not-quite-midlife crisis sent me back to school last year–VMFA Studio School. There I tried to shed my business journalist skin by enrolling in a riot of short story, poetry and photography classes. The highlights: the heartfelt tutelage of writing instructor Susan Hankla, quirky new friends like fellow over-enroller Kim Drew Wright, and a glut of writing that made up in fun what it lacked in skill.
I love Kim’s deeply imagined and affecting stories and so I jumped at the chance to participate in this writing process blog tour with her. You can check out her writing process post here and see my answers below.
I’ve probably bought 200 volumes in the genre, all promising to offer up the keys to eternal happiness, flawless skin, heaps of money or somesuch. On my desk this moment, I’ve got “The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right,” “The Generosity Network: New Transformational Tools for Successful Fund-raising” and “52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life: BS-Free Wisdom to Ignite Your Inner Badass and Live the Life You Deserve.”
Stanford Graduate School of Business marketing professor Jennifer Aaker devised this idea and explains it in a Lean In lecture. Aaker argues that finding such multipliers will help us stay ambitious, feel less rushed and accomplish more.
If you want to be a great athlete and a great partner, go for a run with your partner, she says. If you want to volunteer at a nonprofit and be a good friend, take a friend volunteering with you.
Aaker calls such productivity pairings “doubles.” Extending the baseball analogy, a home run would be a single activity that advances four or more of your goals.
“When we feel overwhelmed, we often feel like we need to sacrifice goals,” she says. “But instead of giving up on certain goals, might we rethink time and use these tools to become more time affluent?”
The spirit of her advice is spot-on, if not the flimsy examples. Women make the best use of their time when they know what they want and then consciously choose high-impact activities that serve those goals.
I am a first time homeowner and currently having some major renovations done. I need to figure out paint options for all rooms including the bathrooms and kitchen, and I have to pick out fixtures, tiles and flooring!!
I generally love all things about home decor and renovations, but I am feeling overwhelmed because I have to make all these decisions so fast! I am familiar with the website Houzz and I can spend hours searching that website! But I need to start making some decisions ASAP. Any advice on how to get this project under control?
I want to make sure I have considered all options and I feel a bit overwhelmed making these “big” decisions!
I love a good list. I list things to do, errands to run, calls to make. I even record things that I want other people to do for me. These Do Lists and Delegate Lists are stellar organizational tools, especially when synced and stored in the cloud so that you can access them anywhere from any device.
But when the lists get long, as they inevitably do, another variety of list is required—The Kill List. It is the more forceful cousin of the Not-To-Do List touted by productivity experts. It is a catalog of time-sucking, energy-draining, useless activity that you no longer choose to engage in.