Starting where you are.

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Have you felt like there’s not enough time in a day to get all of the things that are important to you to fit in?  That you have to continuously push them to tomorrow, and sometimes tomorrow never really comes?  Or that you’re not ready for your next step?  That you need to learn more, practice more, just be more?  I hear you!  I feel like that too!  Sometimes with frightening regularity.

I kept feeling like I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to run a blog.  So I just kept reading, learning, pinning things on Pinterest, taking books out from the library, reading other blogs, and thinking, “when I have read enough, learned enough, then, and only then, will I really be ready to start.”

On top of that, I just felt like there was no way there could be enough time in a day.  I mean, how do other people do it?!  Are they super-secret super-heroes?  Probably not.  But there are some people who just seem to be able to do it ALL.  So I decided to implement some changes and see where they take me.  And here we are!  They have been working out so well, I couldn’t keep them to myself!

Start where you are.  Not where you think you should be.  Not where you want to be.  Not where you perceive that others think you should be.  I am so serious about this.  Don’t talk yourself out of it.  If others aren’t positive, take a look at where they are coming from, but don’t let it stop you.

Log it.  Keep a time/energy/productivity log for a few days to a week.  Be extremely honest, or you will only be fooling yourself.  Take time to understand your needs and your strengths.  And don’t only pay attention to where your time is spent, but also what time of day that you have the most energy, and when you feel the most productive.  And most importantly, take note of your energy bank.  What helps you recharge?  What accelerates depletion in your energy levels?  Balancing the drain and recharge of your energy levels is very key.

Create a ritual.  Morning or evening rituals are ideal, but if you have found that another time of day is where you really can focus and get things done, maybe work your ritual into the lead in or out of that time of day.  This ritual should focus on you: self-care, life improvement, and setting your day up for success.  I have been rocking a new morning routine for just over a month now, and I am still amazed by how much more it does for me than my old just get up and go (to work) routine did.  (Trust me, there is a follow up post coming on this one!)

Plan.  Seriously make a plan.  Make it part of your ritual to plan the upcoming day.  Take time over the weekend to figure out what your week should look like.  At the end of the month, take a look back before you move forward.  What worked, what didn’t, what is changing in the upcoming month for you?  Really put in the effort to find what works for you and stick to it!

Use the tools that work for you.  Maybe you are a paper and pen purist or an ecologically minded whiteboard user.  Maybe you cannot live without your iPhone Reminders or your Google Calendar.  Personally I am a giant fan of Post-its, a good planner, and lists.  Oh, and habit trackers!  Remember, if the tools don’t work, they will most likely hinder you.  So change it up until it does work for you.

Be mindful with your time.  It is extremely valuable and you cannot get any of it back, no matter how hard you work.  Keep a mental (or easily accessible) list and be prepared should some “free-time” appear in your day.  I like to remember this principal that I read in 18 Minutes, by Peter Bergman, ‘“according to the Talmud [the Jewish book of law], if someone comes late to a meeting they are committing the sin of stealing – stealing the time of the person who had to wait for them.  And it’s the worst kind of stealing because what is taken can never be returned.”’[1] Be careful to never put someone in the position where they can steal your time.  For myself, I tend to save articles to read later (thank you Facebook) and carry a book with me whenever I perceive the possibility for an extended period of unplanned open time.

Set boundaries.  Everyone says it, because it is essential to living your best life.  Take a look at that log that you kept and hone in on what wasn’t productive.  See if you can cut down on the fruitless and replace with something restoring or rewarding.  Maybe trade time spent passively using social media for texting or calling a friend that you’ve been missing.  Or trade time spent watching TV for time engaging with your partner or family, reading, or exercising.  And remember excessive time spent at or thinking about work ultimately will not increase your productivity, but time away can give you renewed energy and a fresh perspective.  Simply put, don’t let anything crowd out the important parts of your life.

Enrich your mind, body, and soul.  Take a walk in a scenic park or part of town.  Discuss an intriguing topic with a partner or friend.  Read a book that just grabs your mind and transports you somewhere else.  Take a break, dance, color, or watch a TEDx talk you’ve been meaning to catch.  Make time to watch the sunrise.  Write, play music, cook, create something uniquely you.  Be sure to make time for the things that make YOU feel alive.

Stop the negative self-talk.  We all have weaknesses.  All of us!  Accept yourself as you are.  AS YOU ARE.  (See “Start where you are”!)  Acknowledge the hard work that you’ve put into getting where you are.  Accept that comparing your whole life to someone else’s presented life (social media, what you hear about, etc.) is just being incredibly hard on yourself.  If you only looked at your highlight reel, I’m betting it would be pretty amazing too.  But no one gets anywhere on just highlights.  We have to put in the work to get to shine.  Marathon runners don’t just pop out of the womb.  Powerful CEOs didn’t get into business yesterday.  And you will get where you want to, if you are willing to endure the trials and put in the time it takes to get there!

Eliminate decisions.  Decision fatigue is a very real thing.  To combat the drain that routine decisions can have, decrease them.  Meal plan over the weekend for your upcoming week, do the prep, and as the week moves forward, you will not have to worry about what’s for dinner because you already have it in motion.  Pick your clothes for the week on Sunday and have them grouped accordingly.  Make things that were choices, routine.  I now plan out my exercise routine weekly and review each night what I’m doing in the morning before I go to bed.  Automate what and where you can.

Breath.  Rest.  Relax.  Have you been reading this going, “lady, when do I just get to be STILL?!”  I hear you!  “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” and I don’t want you to!  Self-care is extremely important.  Knowing when you really, genuinely do need a break is key.  There will be days where you are just drained, so recharge.  Make sure you balance your energy levels.  Know what drains them and what restores them.  Also, always take a second to question whether you just don’t feel like doing something or if you are too tired to do it.  Too tired, rest!  Don’t feel like it?  Could you move to a different day, swap it with another task?

Remain open and flexible.  I do function better when I have a routine and a plan.  But I also recognize that sticking to it obsessively can result in more issues than benefits.  I’d say, rigidity serves no wo/man, and it may cause him/her to break.  Also, reevaluate where you are, your plan, and your needs as they change and evolve.  Our lives are always changing and evolving, so we need to remain ready for those changes.  “Pliability is life; rigidity is death, whether one speaks of man’s body, his mind, or his spirit,” Bruce Lee.

I hope there were some positive take aways in this post for you, and I would love to hear from you!  What helps you move towards and achieve your goals while maintaining life balance?  Until next time, sending sunny thoughts!

[1] Quoting Rabbi Hayyim Angel in 18 Minutes by Peter Bergman.
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