Archive for the ‘time management’ Category

I Don’t Have Enough…

Disclaimer: yes, there are exceptions to today’s post. Instead of making that disclaimer over and over through the post, I’ll just say it here. But for most decisions that most of us make on most days, it’s all true.

“I don’t have time.”

“I can’t afford it.”

“I just don’t have the energy.”

Ever heard any of these? Ever uttered them yourself? Or perhaps their statement-partners: I wish I had more time/money/energy.

The truth is that we have enough for many things, just not enough for everything. And for the most part, we’re really bad at doling it out according to our priorities.

I was conversing with someone not long ago who complained that they really just didn’t have enough time to exercise. But they could tell me everything I wanted to know and then some about ten different TV shows. Impossible to have “no time” to exercise and be watching that much TV! Heck, go to the gym and walk on a treadmill while you watch it! “I can’t afford the gym.” Cut the cable and go to the gym for all of your shows — exercise taken care of, more money in hand, less butt-to-couch magnetism.

I digress.

We all have only 24 hours:

How is it that some people seem to do everything and some people can’t find time to do anything? Part of it is that people (in general) are not what they seem. There are people who think I do a whole lot more than I actually do.

But really, some people use their time better than others. Some people say they have priorities but don’t live by them. Others live by them (to a greater or lesser extent). What’s the most important thing in your life? How much time (and energy) to you give to it? Why?

Do you really want to spend four hours a day on the computer? Or watching TV? Letting the TV drain your brain for whatever time you’ve decided, because that’s what you do to relax, is all good. If you know you’re not going to get up after you sit down, make it happen at the end of the day (not the end of the work day). Or change your habit of flopping down and not getting up. I know one person who put the TV on a timer, so that at a certain time, it turned itself off. Not a bad idea.

In personal finance:

I read in a personal finance blog somewhere along the way a sentiment along these lines: You can have everything you want, you just can’t have it all at once. There are stories of married couples in their late 20s who have houses that are paid off. They worked two jobs, lived like they were still in college, threw everything extra at the mortgage and got it done. After that, they had more free time and more disposable income. But they couldn’t have disposable income and free time and a house and no mortgage from Day 1.

I have seen many people with all sorts of financial troubles buy all sorts of unnecessary things. I have certainly not always applied my financial wisdom to all situations, but I’m much better about it now than I used to be. And I’m aware of this tidbit that I picked up in a blog somewhere as well: you only get to spend each dollar once. Spend it on whatever you’d like, but it only passes through your wallet once.

I’m so tired…

If you’re really tired all the time, you either have a newborn ;), some sort of health condition or you’re not taking care of yourself (which I guess could be considered a health condition, but that’s not what I meant).

Newborn: sleep when they sleep. It’s true. You can get help with everything else. No one else can sleep for you.

Health condition: go to the doctor and see what can be done.

Everything else: if you eat a generally healthy diet, drink enough water (and little enough of most everything else), exercise regularly, get enough sleep, the energy will follow.

Once you get into the habit of exercising, a good workout will help you feel better on its own. Really. It’s one of those things that people don’t believe until they do it. In the last few weeks, I’ve heard it from three people who have recently learned this lesson themselves, and it excites me every time. Welcome to the side of the believers 😉

Sugar, refined carbs, and caffeine are energy-drains. You’ll feel better for a short while, but then you’ll feel worse than when you started. You’re better off without them.

As with the other pieces, it comes down to what’s important. Would you rather have a muffin for breakfast, bread with your lunch, cookies in the afternoon, a piece of candy as you walk by the dish, ice cream after dinner, or would you rather feel good and have more energy?

Want to do better but don’t know how? Here are two things that go hand-in-hand that might help you find your path.

1- Write everything down. Write down everything you spend money on. Everything. Including interest, penalties, fees, etc. Everything looks a little bit different when you see it on paper. (I’ve seen a suggestion to take your monthly expenses and color in one month of a calendar, indicating how many days’ pay go towards each expense. This is eye-opening. How many days’ work does it take for you to pay interest? Or for your lunches out? Or for your non-essential utilities? Not saying you shouldn’t have these things. Just make the decision that that is how you want to spend your money.)

For time, do a time audit. For a few days, every 15 minutes, write down how you spent the last 15 minutes. Just a few notes — you don’t want the entire notebook to say, “10 minutes, writing how I spent the last 15 minutes.” At the end of a day or two or three, look closely at how you’re spending your time — then change the parts you don’t like. Include in this what you’re ingesting and when you’re sitting, standing, moving, etc. and you’ve got all of your bases covered.

2- List and live by your priorities. I would love a smart phone. But there are many, many other things I’d rather spend money on than a smart phone bill every month. So I don’t have one. (Or a data plan.) It’s not a priority. Maybe it is for you. It doesn’t matter to me what your priorities are — just make them and stick by them … or they’re not really priorities.

That goes together with energy. Spend your energy on things that are important to you. I know I have gotten caught up spending a lot of energy being mad about something or someone at work. People and situations I don’t like are definitely NOT a priority, so why spend all that energy on them? For me, a good workout will calm most of that noise. I’m sure if I worked at it, I could become good at meditating which would be more practical when I’m still at work. A few deep breaths takes the edge off, as does the reminder that I don’t need to be angry.

You can’t do it all.

I have always been a person who has been spread thin. It took me until just a couple of years ago to say, “I’m not going to live my life under constant deadlines and high stress.” I learned to say no. The problem is/was that I am interested in a lot of things. Opportunities come up. I want to take them! (It’s not even often people asking me — it’s just stuff that’s out there that I want to do.) I learned to say no. My life became better.

And then I had a kid.

As it turns out, kids take a lot of time and energy. It is easy to let them become all-consuming. So my already-pared-down life has become more pared down. Some things I’m not cutting completely — just doing when I can make time without feeling stressed, and not feeling bad about not doing it more. Other things are gone. Other things are business as usual. (That last category is incredibly small and shrinking.)

So I don’t “do it all” — I can’t. But I still do a lot, and I do my best to be sure that the things I spend time on are things I really want to do (go to spin class) or really need to do (laundry, keep the kitchen tidy). The more you streamline to make your calendar and your priorities match, the happier your life becomes. I feel much better when I get up in the morning if the daytime part of the house is tidy. So at night before bed, either The Big Man or I (or both) will wash the dishes, wipe down the counter, and pick up The Kid’s toys. This little habit brings a little bit of peace to my mornings, it takes only 10-15 minutes at most, and is important to me. Might not be important to you.

Going back to where we started … Instead of saying “I don’t have money” or “I don’t have time,” say, “That’s not a priority right now.” It feels a little … weird. You’ll know right away if it’s true. You can feel it. If you want it to be a priority, do your best to make it so. If not, let it go — it’s just taking up space.

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Miss Me?

Hey! Look who finally remembered that she is supposed to post on Wednesday mornings! It’s Nichol!

Dear friends,

I suck! I totally missed last Wednesday. The worst part is, I didn’t even notice until Thursday morning, sitting in the Starbucks drive-thru.

A new semester has started and with that, I have started internship. With that, I have a whole new food issue. I need to figure out my food situation. Particularly Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

School days, I leave the house at 6:30am and I don’t get home until well after 9pm. Saturday I will leave the house at 5am and not get home until after 6pm.

How do you handle that? Does anyone have a portable refrigerator/stove/oven combination? Because that would be great.

In other news, I’m about 20 days from finishing P90. And I’m very excited about the 5Ks coming up (Color Run, Neon SplashDash).

I hope to have a better update for you next week, but right now I’m typing on my phone in the middle of SWG510, while my professor lectures.

My New/Old Journey of Change

138 pounds.

That’s what I weighed this morning when I stepped on the scale. The last few days have been between 136 and 138, so that’s my starting window.

It’s time for the baby fat to go.

When I was pregnant, I had plans for losing the baby weight after The Kid was born. What I didn’t take into account was milk supply. To put it mildly, nursing was … difficult at first. Once we hit a good groove, I went back to teaching (thankfully only part time) and needed to pump. Through all of this, The Kid has been a very enthusiastic eater. It was really important to me to keep up my supply, so I didn’t focus on cutting calories. There was time later for the fat to go.

The time has come.

I’m still nursing, but I rarely need to pump. He’s starting to eat solid food, though he wears or drops more than he eats, I think. But I’m ready for these extra pounds to go. (Oh, and the “breastfeeding helps you lose weight” thing? Might be true, if it also didn’t make me HUNGRY.)

While I am using the scale as a tool, it’s not my end-all-be-all. 120 is my target, but really, my pre-pregnancy clothes need to fit. My arms need to not jiggle. And you need to be able to see my abs. Those were all in place prior to the baking of The Kid.

Here’s the thing, and if you’ve ever gotten into a habit and had it thrown off, you know this already: getting back into the habit of eating well and exercising is hard. Yep, it’s hard for me, too.

There are an awful lot of people who think that these things come easily to me. False. That said, once I’m in an exercise groove, once I’ve kicked the sugar cravings, then it’s easy. But if you could get there, it would be easy for you, too. It’s getting there that’s hard. My advantage right now is that I know how it feels to be on the flip side, to crave vegetables instead of cookies, to be able to tell from my body and not the calendar that I didn’t exercise yesterday. It feels amazing. Energy, clarity, stress levels. a-MAZ-ing. Worth it. Oh, and it’s healthier.

OK, so we’ve established that I’m human and that I’m a step beyond “soft.” What am I going to do about it?

I am running accountability groups, but I see those as something to manage, not something to participate in. My external accountability will be here, on the blog, but that’s just motivation, not a plan.

I already registered to do a triathlon in October, which means I need to train. But that’s not a plan; that’s just motivation.

Here’s my plan:

1- Create an exercise schedule. I’ve been going to spin on Thursday evenings on a fairly regular basis. The plan is to spin on Thursday evenings and Saturday or Sunday mornings. I’m going to swim two days a week, lift two days a week, and run at least once a week. Some of these things will be on the same day, so maybe I’ll spin then run on Saturday, or something like that. (That works well for tri training, too.)

2- Plan meals better. The Big Man and I are pretty good about planning dinners for the week on the weekend, shopping for whatever we need on Sunday or Monday, then following through. What we don’t plan, and where I get stuck, is lunch. I hate lunch. I wish I didn’t need to eat in the middle of the day. But I do. So I’m going to do better in planning lunch, which will give me the fuel I need to exercise in the morning and also allow me not to be famished (and overeat) at dinner. What I think I’m going to do, though I haven’t given it much thought yet, is to incorporate a “rainbow” into my lunches, so no matter what we have for dinner, I’ve already covered the spectrum.

3- Cut the crap. I’ve been off and on with reducing/eliminating sugary foods. My long-term plan is to cut added sugar entirely. I have a post in the works about all the nasty things that sugar does to your body, and when I remember, I think hard about those things when really, I want a cookie. It helps. I’m already off artificial sweeteners, and I already know that when I don’t eat junk food, fruit is sufficiently sweet to take care of a craving almost all of the time. (And when I very rarely eat sweets, one cookie is enough. Talk about liberating and not to be ruled by the cookies!) Regardless, my short-term goal is twice a week. This includes coffee shop chai, which is loaded with sugar. (I’m getting closer to a home-brew that is delicious. In trying recipes, I’ve stepped up from “I can’t drink this” to “This has promise.”)

That’s all. Haha — “all.” But I know that I can manage these three things at once. The Big Man is on board with the exercise schedule. (He needs to be, since he’ll be watching The Kid at those times.)

I am excited to rediscover my old habits and my old body. And with The Kid being mobile now, I’m going to need all of the energy I can get…

What are your short- or long-term goals? Do you have plans to go along with them? (Near or far, come join an accountability group — we’ll help you!)

Laziness does pay off!

Stop! Nichol time! That means it’s Wednesday and Nichol wrote this blog post.

Breakthrough!

The pounds flew off my body this week. I’m talking like a 5 to 6 pound drop in about 9 days. It was really bizarre and I could not figure out where it had come from. I was still doing good and bad miles and I was eating the same amount of calories. I was even worse this last week because I drank two beers last Friday, two beers on the following Thursday, and whatever beers I had in my fridge on (most of) the other days…

So um… I like beer. But more on that later.

I figured it out right around 5:30 am Saturday morning. Allow me to tell you a story.

So it’s no secret that I am not in the money. I am in fact quite the opposite. I am out of the money. My grocery budget is lucky to be as much as it is (I try really hard for $30 a week, but that’s pretty unreasonable, so it’s usually more like $50).

I was writing down my list on Saturday morning and took a look at the food I have on hand. Fruits, veggies (fresh and frozen), chicken (thank you Frys for already rotisserie-ated chickens), wholly salsa, cheese, couscous, greek yogurt, tortilla chips, and some other stuff. I realized that there were things missing that always used to be staples. Potatoes, breads, rice, et al.

Then I looked over my meal documentation for the last week and a half. My food was so basic. Cut up chicken with some pesto and muenster. Greek yogurt with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and agave nectar. Tortilla chips (can’t give them up) with wholly salsa, wholly guacamole, black beans, and shredded cheese. Asparagus with marinara. It’s pretty basic. And I haven’t had to cook.

Then I thought about Thursday. I went out with a friend, had some food and a couple of drinks. I ordered a salmon BLT with grilled veggies. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I took the bread off the sandwich and just ate the salmon and bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

I realized how simply I was eating, making sure I got all my calories for the day and I had eliminated, totally without thinking about it, all the crappy stuff that I now was only eating in moderation. I do still have a package of udon noodles and angel hair pasta in the pantry, but they may just live there forever. Well, except for the udon, I have some green onion and hoisin sauce that are calling udon’s name…

I am going to keep testing this theory and add it to my eating habits, along with mindful eating and no food within two hours of bedtime. (Almost broke that rule on Thursday, but I couldn’t sleep once I was in bed, so I think I’m doing OK.)

I do know that there are some things that I shouldn’t eat that I will, on occasion. Microwaveable Kraft Mac and Cheese. Ramen. Doritos (only the cheesy). Shock Top. Blue Moon. Coors Light. Vodka and Cranberry. But the better I eat, coupled with continuing my workout, these things won’t have as much of an impact. Which is good because I really do like beer (see above).

Change Is Creative

I am not a morning person.

I don’t recall ever NOT hitting the snooze button, even as a kid, no matter how much sleep I’d gotten the night before.

I am not quick in the morning. I pack my lunch the night before so I can sleep five minutes longer and so I don’t forget anything … or am less likely to forget anything. Now that I have a breastfeeing infant, my mornings are even less efficient.

So when I fell in love with steel cut oats for breakfast, I had a problem.

Steel cut oats take about half an hour to make. I don’t have a spare half hour in the morning.

For a while, I’d make a big pot of them at the beginning of the week and just reheat portions throughout the week. It worked OK, but reheated, they’re really just not as good.

A creative (and teamwork) solution presented itself: The Big Man has been getting up at 6 each morning to go out and walk/jog a mile.

I put water in a pan on the stove before I go to bed, and measured out oats on the counter (enough for two if he would like oatmeal for breakfast).

He turns on the water (medium heat) before he leaves for his jog. (High heat would come to a boil too quickly.)

When he gets back, he pours in the oats and sets the timer.

Whichever one of us is not with the baby when the timer goes off (usually him) pours the oats and some frozen blueberries into a bowl.

Voila! Fresh steel cut oats every morning for breakfast!

What creative ways have you found to sustain changes?

Michelle’s Journey of Self-Discovery: Guest Post

Today’s guest post is by Michelle. Michelle is a thirty-something mom to two kids (9 and 5) who came to Arizona from New York (by way of Minnesota).  She is a colon cancer survivor, avid advocate for early cancer testing and prevention, and recently learned that she is addicted to running (in spite of her many claims to the contrary all her life).  You can read more about Michelle at her blog: http://michellewillwin.blogspot.com.  

Like most women my age, I wear many hats.  My biggest and loudest hat is my “Mom” hat – I have two young kids (9 and 5).  I work full-time, run a part-time business out of my home, and I have a husband who travels all week long.  It’s my favorite hat; my most fun hat.  I wear other hats that are important — wife, daughter, sister, employee, business owner.  I wear them all at least once during the day, and while it’s sometimes hard to balance them all on my head, I do it well, if I do say so myself.

Like most women my age, I have forgotten the most important hat — that most basic one that defines who I am at my core.  I often forget that, while I am all of those things, I am still me.  I am still Michelle.

I tell you this because I’ve recently *finally* gotten the idea through my thick skull that, if I don’t take care of ME, I can’t take care of anything else.  This epiphany comes after 5 surgeries, two children, and a bout with cancer. You’d think one of those might bonk me over the head and make me realize this.  But no — it took back pain.

Something so simple has caused me to finally take notice of what my body is telling me, and reminded me that if I don’t take care of this machine, it won’t work.

D’uh.

If you’ll allow me to, I’d like to take you on my journey of self-discovery.  This won’t be a journey of miracle diets, or crazy workout schedules, or giving up food.  This will be the journey of a mom, raising her two active kids, working full-time, building a part-time business, and trying to figure out how to take care of herself along with all the other things that need to be done.

It’s not going to be easy.  It’s not going to be pretty.  There will be ups and downs.  There will be weight gained, weight lost, good things, bad things, healthy foods, not-so-healthy foods.  But, there will be progress because I’m taking care of myself, physically.  When I do that, I’m also taking care of the mental.  Always a good thing.  🙂

I took a big step today — I wrote my measurements down.  For most women, this is a daunting task — the thought of finally seeing those numbers on paper is terrifying.  It was for me — but, I needed to have a starting point.  Now that I have those numbers in my head, they will be a source of inspiration.

My other inspiration?  My kids, especially my daughter.  I’ve fought with my weight my entire life — I’ve battled being the fat girl in school, the chubby friend, the overweight girl trying to hide her body in oversized clothes.  I don’t want to be that anymore.  But, more than that, I don’t want to be defined by my weight, and I don’t want my daughter to think that the number on a scale is more important that focusing on her health.  I want to be a good role model for my children — active, eating right, and just enjoying life.

And that, my friends, is my journey.  While smaller clothing, better fitting jeans, and compliments from friends and family will be nice, setting that expectation and example for my children is the most important goal.  I may not lose any weight, and I may not get to those goals I’ve set.  BUT, if I can show my children (and others?) that taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be at the bottom of your list, you can make it a priority.

Ready for the ride?

Anti-Binge Tip: Keep Yourself Sated

I had an errand to run this morning that was time-sensitive. Fortunately, The Kid was more or less amenable to my schedule this morning, but I didn’t have a lot of non-kid time except to get dressed and have a quick breakfast. No oatmeal pre-readied (instant doesn’t hold a candle to steel-cut), so I had a bowl of cereal.

By the time we were coming home over two hours later, I was really hungry.

We drove by a billboard for McDonald’s. It had pictures of some multi-layered beef sandwiches. I looked at the billboard briefly and thought, “Those look good. I could go for one.”

What?

Yes, I am vegetarian and have been for almost four years now. But I stopped eating beef in 1996. 15 years ago. I don’t even remember what beef hamburgers taste like. And yet, in my famished state, just a billboard could make me momentarily consider a fast food burger as a viable option.

Now, it wasn’t difficult for me to avoid swinging through the local Mickey-D’s before I got home. But if the billboard had advertised some drive-thru crap food that I do eat, that might have been another matter.

The easiest way to avoid this problem is not to let yourself get that hungry. If I’d taken a snack with me, and/or if I’d eaten a better breakfast, I wouldn’t have been so hungry and probably wouldn’t have even noticed the billboard.

A little advanced planning goes a long way. Oatmeal for the rest of this week’s breakfasts is in the crockpot.

All that said, you’ll also eat a smaller meal if you’re not so hungry. Not that a hungry body needs a huge meal — but you think it does, so you eat more.

How do you prevent unplanned trips through the drive-thru?

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