Three Ways to Have a Less Stressful Day

CA-morning1

 

Sharon collapsed onto the couch wondering, “Where did the time go?” She looked over her to-do list from the day, and saw only half of the items completed.

The list seemed reasonable when she wrote it out this morning, but she went to bed feeling like a failure.

Has that ever happened to you?

A stuffed calendar and an overflowing to-do list can lead to stress, meltdowns, and discouragement, but there are ways to refine how you manage your time, so that there’s more time for an unrushed pursuit of faith, relationships and other things of value to you.

Develop an Evening Routine

What we do toward the end of the day is the most important foundation for the next day and week. Flylady.net calls it the “before bed routine.” 

You can do the same. Make a list of a few tasks that would positively impact the next morning if you could do them consistently. These may include:

  • packing lunches
  • getting clothes out (including accessories)
  • having a bit of quiet time
  • reviewing tomorrow’s calendar
  • packing up extra items like gym bags, computer items or coupons for shopping

Do whatever works for you to consistently finish your day well.

Develop a Morning Routine

An effective evening routine is enhanced by a smart morning routine. Again, write down what would make for an ideal morning, with items such as:

  • having a quiet time to pursue faith-based interests
  • exercising
  • eating a good breakfast
  • tidying the house
  • checking mail

Make a list that’s realistic and that works for you, and be willing to adjust it. Try to get into a daily routine, using your list as a guide.

Plan for Transitions

One of my weaknesses is a tendency to not allow enough time to transition between appointments. In this season of my life, I spend a lot of time at home. Because I live in a somewhat rural area, it’s more efficient to stack appointments when I do go out. That means it often takes planning. I need to have gather what I want to bring along, take a few moments to leave the house in decent condition, and touch up my personal appearance.  Therefore, I am teaching myself to allow at least 15 minutes of transition/pack up time. If I need to be somewhere that is 40 minutes away at 11:00, I need to stop working on the computer at 10 and take 15 minutes for the transition, not push my computer work to 10:15.

Overcoming our time management struggles takes intentionality. They won’t fix themselves. Getting a handle on these first three will be a tremendous help toward significant improvement!

Question: Which of these three suggestions would be the best one for you to start using?

This post originally appeared as a guest post at Take Heart Ministries.

How to Say “No” – Graciously

A flashback on an important skill

No

I was chatting on social media with a friend—let’s call her Angelica—and asked if she wanted to help me with a project. She replied, “No.”

Then she added, “But thank you for asking me.”

I admit I was briefly taken aback. Moments before, Angelica had just agreed to help me with a different task, one that was related to the latest idea I had suggested. However, the second idea would be more of an ongoing commitment, and she said, “No.”

I told Angelica that I respected her decision and thought it was great that she felt comfortable saying “no.”  She said that “old age” had helped her with this–I responded “not old age…maturity.”

“No” is one of the hardest words to say. Why?

  • We like to be liked, and a “no” can be disappointing to others.
  • We want to be positive, and “no” comes across as negative.
  • We are afraid of missing out on great opportunities.

However, if we don’t say this word enough, we can end up disillusioned, disappointed or exhausted.

There are ways to say no graciously and effectively. Angelica did it. Here’s how:

She understood her life.

Angelica was able to discern pretty quickly whether my request would fit into her current season of life. That tells me she was keeping an informed perspective of her opinions, commitments and relationships.

She gave an immediate answer.

Angelica didn’t hesitate or string me along. It made the outcome quick and relatively painless.

That’s not to say that we should always answer quickly. It’s completely appropriate to tell someone you want to think about it, IF you give them the courtesy of a self-imposed deadline. For example, she could have said, “I’d like to think about this. Can I give you my answer Friday?” and then be sure to give the answer on Friday or before. It wasn’t necessary in this case because of her confidence in her decision, but if she needed a little time, that would have been fine.

She thanked me.

Angelica understood that it is an honor to be invited to participate in an event or project. The requester is somewhat vulnerable when extending the invitation, risking rejection. By saying “thank you” she acknowledged that she appreciated being considered, which softens any possibility of coming across as rejecting the person doing the inviting.

She didn’t give an explanation.

Angelica gave a simple “No, thank you.” She did not feel compelled to explain or rationalize her decision. I admire that. I tend to provide more information than necessary and would do well to just provide a simple answer more often.

“No” isn’t easy to say, but it often makes your life easier!

Question: Do you find it difficult to say “no?” 

This post originally appeared in January, 2014.

Setting Goals? or Forming Habits?

Which one will move you down the road faster?

Hope down the road

A few times a year, we start to feel the urge to do some goal setting. There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I think we focus on the wrong thing.

Maybe instead of setting goals, (or perhaps in cooperation with that practice) we should focus our energy and efforts on forming habits. So it would look more like:

Instead of a goal to lose 10 pounds, developing a habit of exercising 30 minutes a day most days of the week.

Instead of getting a big project done by the end of the month, working steadily on it daily for 30 minutes and let it be finished when it is finished well.

Instead of setting a number of books to read in a year, forming a habit of reading at least 30 minutes a week…or making a habit of finishing one book per month (not necessarily STARTING and finishing one, but finishing one in progress.)

Instead of reaching in-box zero, setting firm appointments with yourself to go through your email. (This one was hard for me to write–I’m a huge fan of in-box zero. But for some, this idea may work better and be less overwhelming.)

Other good habits to consider are

  • Regularly investing in certain relationships (i.e. getting together with friends the third Saturday of the month, etc.)
  • Eating certain healthy foods on a scheduled basis (i.e. pre-plan and repeat your snacks–have the same healthy one planned for each Monday mid-morning, for example.)
  • Using timers to keep your morning or after-dinner routines on track
  • Doing one small chore a day to bless your house/family

Even if you don’t set a specific goal, good habits will generally lead to the kinds of positive outcomes you often shoot for with a goal. They may also be easier to sustain. While it’s great to dream big, it’s the daily actions that will move the needle. Keep your goals in sight, but concentrate on becoming a positive habit forming person. Habits are the fuel that will keep you moving toward your destination.

 

Copyright: convisum / 123RF Stock Photo

Multi-tasking isn’t Always Bad

multi tasking

The concept of multi-tasking gets a bum rap. Articles such as this one are telling us that we are not as effective when we multi-task. We are being told to slow down, focus on one thing at a time, and not over-commit ourselves. That’s great advice–but it’s harder for some to implement than you think. What if your personality is one that thrives on having several things going at once and being fast paced? 

As a seasoned multi-tasker (seasoned meaning I’ve been doing it for a long time, not that it is always successful for me) I am challenged by this wave of thinking (some call it “uni-tasking.”) However, I have my doubts that swinging the time management pendulum from one extreme to the other is the best way to go. I think there is a middle-ground that can be a healthy place.

The idea of multi-tasking is to have several things going on at once. The idea of single, or uni, tasking is to focus on one thing at a time. Let me pitch to you a compromise: complementary multi-tasking. This approach embraces doing two (or possibly more) things at once, but being intentional that they complement each other, not distract from one another. Common sense and safety are key components of this idea.

When you are planning your “to-do” list, ask yourself the following questions to see if you can apply complementary multi-tasking to your list. (For the sake of simplicity, we will consider planning two complementary tasks, although sometimes you could plan three or more.)

1. Are there two tasks that can be done in the same general vicinity? For example, making sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch while waiting for water to boil for tonight’s spaghetti works better than leaving the kitchen to check email in another room.

2. Is one task relatively hands-off and one hands-on?  While a new software program is downloading, I can organize one drawer in my desk.

3. Can two things be going simultaneously, safely? Your copier can be producing a large print run while you work on a blog post.

4. Could I mix a mindless “task” opportunity with a “people” opportunity?  With the help of a phone earpiece, I can fold laundry while talking to a friend, which would be better than trying to answer email while also talking with her on the phone.

5. Will doing these two tasks at the same time add cause more mental fatigue or less?  Listening to a podcast or some music while commuting may help pass the time nicely, while trying to help your child with homework while also preparing a meal can become frustrating for both of you.

So before jumping on the bandwagon that all multi-tasking is ineffective or wrong, consider that complementary multi-tasking may be the way to accomplish two important tasks without driving yourself crazy.

 

A Project Management Lesson from a 6-Year-Old

Believe. Broaden. Break. Be. Bless.

 

Credit: Instagram.com/essentiallywandering

Credit: Instagram.com/essentiallywandering

 

Ask an overwhelmed professional why they are stressed, and you are likely to hear, “I have so much to do!”

When a large project looms, it’s hard to comprehend the finish line. Is it ever going to be done? Sometimes the obstacles seem insurmountable.

The next time you feel that way–be inspired by a 6-year-old.

The photo above was taken by the mom of three boys. She and her husband, who recently retired from military service (thank you!) are embarking on an adventure of living in an Airstream trailer and traveling the country. At one of the stops they found a beautiful rocky beach, but with access to the water was difficult.

One of her boys didn’t let the rocks stop him. Oh, being a boy, you might be guessing that he just climbed right over them. (That’s fun, too.) But instead, he methodically moved one rock at a time, clearing a sandy access path to the beach.

“He kept at it and moved every. single. rock by hand. We had come down to the beach because I was so overwhelmed at the projects we are drowning in with the#airstream and this transition of #moving and had hit a breaking point. Watching him was a real lesson in taking our challenges one rock at a time and before we know it, we have moved mountains.

The next day the ocean was full of people enjoying the water there where they could not before.” – Karen Roush

 

This wasn’t easy. We aren’t talking about pebbles here, and the path he cleared is not just a foot or two long.

So what can we learn from a six-year-old about tackling big projects?

Believe it can be done. With childlike faith, he believed he could make a path to the water.  He didn’t think, “I’m six. There’s no way I can get down to the water.” When a large project looms, remind yourself that you are capable of accomplishing it.

Broaden your options. Sure, climbing over the rocks is an option. But it’s not that practical and can be painful. E figured out that with some work, a long-term better option could be made available.

Break it down. E moved one rock at a time. He wasn’t capable of carrying a bunch at once. With many projects, breaking them down into manageable tasks is a very helpful step.

Be diligent. One rock at a time, steady over time. He kept at it.  Consistently doing the tasks needed for the larger project will reveal results in due time.

Bless others. Not only did E clear a path for himself, his work helped the rest of his family. And they left the path intact. They got the joy of watching other people take it down to the beach where they could more fully interact with the water. I bet most of them wouldn’t have figured that a six-year-old cleared the path for them.  Who knows how many more will enjoy it after they leave? Think of the bigger impact of the project on your customers, clients, or those who follow your platform. Don’t underestimate the positive ripple effect it can have.

So what project do you have looming? Believe you can do it. Broaden your options. Break it down. Be diligent. And bless others. You have no excuses unless you are younger than six.

Special thanks to Essentially Wandering  for permission to use this photo and their contribution to this blog post.

Steps to Developing a New Habit

Special thanks to Start Blogging Online for Guest Posting!

If your level of productivity is low and you decided to make an improvement in this area, the sure way to make this successful is for you to practice new habits that would let you do more things. Applying positive changes in your behavior and actions would not only benefit your productivity, but all other things that concern it too.

What’s fascinating about us humans is that we turn something into a habit when we keep on doing it. Our body and mind gets used to it and it becomes subconscious in the long run that this is the way we respond or react to things without really paying attention to it. Since these habits have already become part of yourself, it would be hard to remove them in an instant. Sadly, that also includes the not so good ones.

However, no matter how difficult the process is, it can be done if you are committed and focused on your goal. You could start practicing good things that could turn into habits after some time. Your productivity would improve little by little and it would turn great after a while.

Our eye-catching infographic shows you steps that you can take in order to develop these new habits that will lead to the improvement of your productivity.

Here’s the infographic and we hope you enjoy it!

7 Steps to Developing Good Habits

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