Archives for July 2014

Confessions of an addicted multi-tasker…How to simplify in the age of distraction.

I’ve always been proud that I’m a great multi-tasker.  I believe that God made moms with this fabulous ability of being focused on multiple tasks at one time.

Take for instance when my daughter Holly was a baby.  With a small baby girl on one hip, I could cook for a family of five, help my son Wesley build a model of the King Ranch, help my other son Clayton with algebra homework, and fold a load of laundry…all at the same time.  That was a normal 5:00 pm ritual for me.  And I breezed through it effortlessly.  And daily…

When I was in College I took a course on business management skills.  The final exam was an office simulation.  We were systematically given multiple tasks to fulfill.   Business reports to analyze and type (on electric typewriters.)  A filing cabinet to organize and label.  An event to plan.  All tasks had to be completed within one hour.  During the hour, we also had to handle walk-in tasks (sort of like a receptionist) and answer the phone. We were given so many tasks, that it was basically impossible to finish everything. (Think Kobayashi Maru from Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn) I remember watching the student before me walk out of the simulator frazzled and in tears.  I felt pretty good when I walked out of mine.  Three days later my professor called me into his office.  He said that no other student in the history of his teaching carer had ever finished the amount of tasks correctly and in such high quality.  I was a natural.  I had no idea my great talent would also be my greatest curse.

addicted to multi-taskingFast forward 30 years.  I’m addicted to multi-tasking.  I can’t sit and watch a movie…without some other task or activity. I usually have a computer or iPad on my lap.   Unless it’s eating…  TV combined with eating is dangerous for me.  Mindless eating and watching TV creates for much over-eating and over indulgence.

My computer is another place that my excessive multi-tasking has taken over.  I have about 20 programs running at once.   While I’m working away on writing, my mail messenger sends an audible alert… I click over to see what email has come in.  Then back to work.  Then a Facebook notification shows up in the top right hand corner of my screen….I pop over to see who responded to my latest post.  My phone is next to me….and I get not only several texts, but notifications that my coach has posted a new tweet.  I stop to read the tweets.

Then I hear the buzzer in the background….my last load of laundry is dry.  So I rush out to hang up my husband’s shirts so they won’t wrinkle.  I sit back down to write some more and notice the mail man dive by.  I grab my mailbox key and head out the door.

Am I ADD? I don’t think so.  But I do believe that I’ve become addicted to doing multiple activities at once.

Are we in the age of information or the age of distraction?  I’m clearly easily distracted.  We have an endless supply of reading, unlimited shopping, chatting, gossip, news, and on and on… And a constant bombardment of notifications…  HELP!!!

In my trek to simplicity, I realized I had to do something beyond cleaning up my closet and my desk.  I needed to slow down and simplify my daily routines and habits.

Why?  Because multi-tasking can be a weakness.  It is exhausting.  It allows you to do many things at a lesser quality.  Being pulled in many directions is not a pace that can be sustained over a lifetime.

So here’s some steps I’m taking to overcome my multi-tasking addiction:

  1. Become a single-tasker. (Single-tasking is the process of limiting distractions and creating opportunity to successfully invest into one task at a time.)
  2. Discern the difference between distractions and purpose.
  3. Unplug (Being connected via phone and electronic devices keep me from fully engaging in others or my tasks.)

What are some practical steps I’m taking?

  1. I’ve unsubscribed to email newsletters.  Instead I subscribe to the blog and add it to my blog reader.  (Used to be Google Reader…but now use Feedly)  Now I only read blogs and newsletters at one sitting…with my ipad away from my desk.
  2. I’ve turned off most of my twitter notifications.  (Except for my kids)
  3. Check Email only three times per day.  I check it once in the morning before I start work.  I check it after lunch, and then around 4, when I take about an hour to respond to any emails from the day.  The rest of the time, my email program is closed and I don’t receive any notifications.  I turned off notifications on my phone as well.  No sounds alert me when an email arrives.
  4. Set up a DO NOT DISTURB on my iPhone.  From 8 pm until 8 am I don’t receive any phone calls or texts.  I do have a favorites list, that allows my favorites to call during the DND times.  Or if someone calls twice in a 2 minute time span, it sends the call through.
  5. When I’m spending time with my children or my husband, I turn my phone on silent.  I am TRYING not to read any texts or answer calls when I’m devoting time to someone else.  (Not answering a phone call is a HUGE improvement for me.)  Before we became so connected via cell phones, I was more connected in person.

As with any addiction, breaking away from multi-tasking is difficult.  As I wrote this blog, I thought about checking Facebook about a dozen times.  I even thought about checking to see if my newest client had emailed me back…  It’s all habits and I’m learning, slowly but surely, to focus.

A Happiness Guide for Pessimists

I am not a pessimist, but I was raised by a pessimist father.  And anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely adore my father.  So when I talk about pessimists, it’s with much love.

Many people have asked how it is possible that I grew up an optimist.  I believe it was during the early days of my teenage years that the influence of a Godly man pointed me in the right direction.  My high school youth pastor lead me to a relationship with God and that by reading God’s word (the bible) and hanging out with other Godly kids, I naturally became an optimist.

I’ve received comments from readers who say that it’s easy to be an optimist when I haven’t ever faced hardships or devastation.  Does fire, divorce, physical spousal abuse, or infidelity count?  Trust me, I’ve had plenty to cause me to be a pessimist…

After my divorce 10 years ago, a close friend said that everyone was shocked that my marriage of 15 years had ended.  No one had a clue that I was unhappy.  Well, I wasn’t unhappy.  Okay, maybe there was a time that I was…but I was so miserable being unhappy that I decided to change that and be happy no matter the circumstances.  And I did.  I fought like crazy.  I was going to be happy.  I didn’t change my circumstances, I just changed my attitude, which changed my perspective.

Who really wants to be unhappy?

Happiness guide for pessimistsI kind of think that many pessimists believe that they can’t change their negative habits.  My ex-husband (also a pessimist) said that my happiness and enthusiasm was false.  Really?  Why, because I didn’t enjoy sitting around talking about how bad things are?  I didn’t enjoy “drama?”  I didn’t enjoy complaining?  I didn’t enjoy being around people complained non-stop…?  I believe that you can go out and fix a fence and be filled with joy as you do it.  You can make it fun.

If you are a pessimist, I have good news for you.  You can break free.  Your attitude is a choice.  Your perspective on life and circumstances does dictate your level of happiness.  And best of all, God never intended for any of us to live in a state of unhappiness.

From the bible:  (The Voice)

Psalm 4:7  You have filled me with joy, and happiness has risen in my heart, great delight and unrivaled joy, even more than when bread abounds and wine flows freely.

 Proverbs 29:18  Where there is no vision from God, the people run wild, but those who adhere to God’s instruction know genuine happiness.

John 13:17  If you know these things, and if you put them into practice, you will find happiness.

Okay, now that we know that God intends for his people to experience happiness and joy, how can we break the pessimist habit?

  • Think, act, talk, and conduct your self like the person you want to become.

 I clearly remember the night that I stood over the stove, cooking spaghetti for my husband and 3 kids.  I was on the phone with my best friend Rhonda.  I was grumbling about how tired I was of cooking for a family that didn’t appreciate what I do for them.  My husband walked in, and I snarled at him.  Rhonda said something profound to me that night.  I wish I could remember what it was.  All I know is, I made a decision that night to change my attitude and start being cheerful and happy.  I didn’t want to be that unhappy person, snipping at my children, frowning at my husband, complaining to my friends.  That’s when I decided to act, talk, and be the person I wanted to become.  A happy person, that people enjoyed being around.  A person my kids wanted to be with.  A cheerful and loving wife, that my husband wanted to be with.  (Unfortunately, my husband didn’t enjoy being around a cheerful wife.)

  •  Place a high value on people.

 My favorite thing in life is to encourage others.  Some say it’s “my gift.”  I don’t believe it’s a gift.  I think that when you help people, look for the best in them, try to bring out their positive qualities, genuine joy is the result.

  •  Look for something positive in every situation.

 When I lost everything in an apartment fire in the mid 80s, I could have sat and cried for days.  Instead, I looked at the outpour of love from a community of people I didn’t even know.  I was overwhelmed at the showering of gifts and clothing.  I was so much better off in terms of physical belongings after the fire than before.

  •  Choose to rid yourself negative character flaws.

 Three behaviors that I view as character flaws are:  impatience, being critical, being self absorbed.  Get rid of those, and you’ll see a huge improvement in your level of happiness.

  •  Say something positive in every conversation.

 Compliment, praise, acknowledge, bolster, raise up, and reward.

  •  Remove negative words from your vocabulary.

Negatives:

I can’t
If only
I don’t think
I don’t have the time
Maybe
I’m afraid
I don’t believe

Replace with Positives:

I can
I will
I know
I will make the time
Absolutely!
I’m confident
I’m sure

Start with little things, like changing your vocabulary or appreciating little things.  If you can to learn to appreciate them and be grateful for them, you’ll appreciate the big things as well as everything inbetween.

 I’ll end with a quote from John Wooden:

 “Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

Before you de-clutter… How to break the clutter cycle.

I’m assuming you’ve already decided that you need to simply your life. If you haven’t, here’s a quick refresher on why I’ve decided to simplify:

1. To make room for more joy

2. To make room for more peace

3. To make room for more freedom

4. To reduce the burden of “stuff”

5. To reduce my workload of taking care of my “stuff”

6. So I can enjoy quality instead of quantity

7. To find happiness by doing instead of owning

The last two are probably my most recent “revelations.” No, I’m not a minimalist. Not even close. But I think minimalists have found happiness far easier than me, the pack rat, the hoarder. Reading Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist has change my life. I, like Josh. will never become a true minimalist, but simplifying my life, reducing the clutter…has already changed my life.

Here’s my problem. I started this trek about a year ago. I even blogged about the change in my office. I cleaned out my closet. But one year later, I feel like I’m back in the hoarder household, all over again. What’s up with that? One year ago I hauled out 12 bags of give-a-away stuff, but yet…my office is overflowing. My closet is still a wreck. My kitchen counters are filled with stacks of stuff…

I discovered that there are a few basic things that need to be ingrained inside your head before you start…or you’ll end up where you began. Like me…

This summer (one year later) I’ve learned some important concepts that I missed the first go-around.

  • Learn to be content with what you have. (MOST IMPORTANT!!!) All the decluttering in the world won’t matter….because you’ll just want more if you’re not content!
  • Stop shopping! No really! No more retail therapy. If you’re buying things to feel better, it won’t last. (Trust me!) Here’s a RED FLAG WARNING: If you’re buying things you don’t need, it’s because you’re dissatisfied in some way. Shopping won’t fix it. Learn to stop buying non-necessities.
    • Try a 30-day waiting period. If you want something, put it on a list. Wait 30 days. If you still want it after 30 days…. (Chances are your impulsive buy mode may dwindle and you’ll change your mind.)
  • Realize you already have what you need. Food, water, basic clothing, shelter, loved ones. (Everything else is extra) Here’s the pitfalls (or material addictions I struggle with):
    • The need for the latest technology. (My worst addiction!)
    • Stylish clothing. (Thank God I’ve been overweight. Being overweight strips you of that addiction)
    • Cool new shoes. (Okay…maybe this is my worst addiction!)
    • Fancier car.
    • Bigger house.
  • Learn to be happy by DOING, not owning. And by doing, I don’t mean shopping as an activity. Do things like talking and being with loved ones, cooking, creating, singing, exercise.
  • Learn the concept of enough. (Big challenge if you’ve been raised by depression-era parents. You hoard because you don’t know when the next famine will happen.)
    • Don’t get caught in the cycle of more. Having more breeds wanting more.

You accumulate clutter by being in the mindset of ACQUIRING rather than a mindset of ENOUGH. You accumulate it by having a fear mentality, not wanting to let go of things, wanting to hoard, wanting to keep everything for sentimental reasons.

So….You can declutter your home and get it looking beautiful, but if you don’t have a pre-cluttering intentional philosophy nailed down, a system of habits in place, a new mindset…in one year you’ll be back to square one….because….

  • You kept buying
  • You start putting things down in any old place
  • You refuse to let go of something sentimental.

BEFORE YOU START DECLUTTERING:

  • Determine what is a necessity and what is a want. Is this really a necessity? Can I function without it?
  • Determine your priorities. It will make deciding what to keep and what to give away much easier.
  • Decide that you will only keep one or two keepsakes from a deceased loved one. (I kept a quilt/aphgan from each of my grandmothers. Made it easier to get rid of the stuffed animals they gave me.)
  • If you don’t have room for it, if you don’t have a designated place to store, get rid of it.
  • Figure out if you’re keeping something for your kids and whether or not they really want it. ( I made my daughter go through several boxes of her baby clothes. We got it down to a small container of what she wanted to keep.) If they’re going to discard it after you’re gone, save them the trouble and do it now.

photo-1Last weekend we pulled everything down out of the attic. It’s was roughly 30 boxes. We were able to throw away or give away ¾ of the boxes. We only put 5 boxes back in the attic. Trust me, getting rid of my own baby clothes was hard. But I did it. Only kept a couple of outfits for nostalgia. I feel lighter.

My daughter is moving to grad school next month. I told her she could have anything out of my kitchen. She took a bunch of stuff. I haven’t missed a thing. Clearly I had too much!

Here’s to staying clutter free…

Teaching Your Young Child to Withstand Peer Pressure

Peer PressureWho would think an 8 year old little girl would have peer pressure. But it’s there.  And it’s been there for awhile in my neighborhood.

At first my focus was on helping my daughter to learn how to share.  When we moved into our current house almost four years ago, my daughter was 4 and there were seven other girls in the cul-de-sac who ranged in age older or younger by one year.  I thought teaching a 4-year-old to share would be the toughest challenge, but really the challenge started out on how to deal with so many different personalities.  I’ve been blessed with a little girl who is naturally sweet, kind, and generous.  Okay, maybe I had something to do with a little of that, but she really has grown into a wonderfully even tempered girl.  But being so congenial could lead her into other troubles, like following what the crowd does, just to get along.

My first inclination was to try and find every possible scenario and discuss what “our” reaction would be.  After the first two scenarios, I was ready to pull my hair out.  There was no way I’d be able to cover everything in a short period of time, preparing my precious Maddie to walk out the door.  Of course the next option to wait for her to come to me with issues was out of the question as well.

Kids have so many rules to try and remember and my Maddie has short term memory issues (her birth mother used meth while pregnant.)  I decided that my best solution was the following:

  1. Set an example of behavior in the home.  This has given Maddie a good base for knowing what is acceptable behavior.  It’s sort of like how they train counterfeit inspectors.  They give the inspectors a real currency bill that they memorize from top to bottom.  Eventually when they come across a phony bill, they recognize that it’s not like the original.  Maddie is growing up with two parents and a sister who chase after a lifestyle pleasing to God.  When something in her life pops up that doesn’t fit with that, it becomes blatantly obvious that it’s not acceptable.
  2. Build a close relationship.  This closeness has cultivated a response in Maddie that inspires her want to make Mom and Dad happy.  She knows us well enough now, because we spend so much time talking and playing together, that she has it figured out who we are and what is important to us.  And she strives to fit into those guidelines.  I walked away from a parenting seminar years ago with a phrase that has stuck with me:  The absence of relationship breeds rebellion.
  3. Demonstrate that our actions & activities are pleasing to God.  Maddie participates and witnesses our family intentionally picking out television shows and movies that are pleasing to God.  We demonstrate that we choose not to watch R-rated shows, because we don’t like what it does to our hearts and minds.  We set standards for our guests in our home that we don’t tolerate profanity.  Don’t let it fool you that kids aren’t aware of what the adults are doing in the home.  We have a great number of guests in our house weekly, and she’s heard her father or myself to ask guests to guard their language.  I heard Maddie tell one of her friends, “I’m not allowed to watch scary movies.”  It’s true, she’s not allowed, but I’ve never said “you’re not allowed” or she’s never asked to watch one.  She has learned the importance of filling our minds with positive and happy shows, and scary doesn’t fit into that.

Our biggest challenge of late was the neighborhood craze for monster high dolls.  While they may be “fairly” harmless for the girls to play with, since they play with them exactly like they do the Barbies, it was a great tool to pick so we could practice saying no.  Maddie really wanted a monster high doll.  Matter of fact, she was the only girl in the neighborhood who didn’t have one.  I explained that dolls that are vampires or zombies (dead) were not pleasing to God and I was not buying any.  I told her why I didn’t like them.  I didn’t tell her she couldn’t play with her friend’s dolls at their house, but she’s taken it on herself to say she is not allowed to play with them.  One of the girls asked her why not…  Maddie:  They are not pleasing to God.  Friend:  What’s pleasing mean?  Maddie:  Making God happy.  If Maddie can get through this pressure, I feel pretty certain the rest will be a breeze.

THE TEST:  One of the neighborhood girls accidentally discovered pornographic movies on the internet while searching for a Disney show.  She then got another girl to come watch.  This went on for a week of repeatedly watching the show.  Finally they invited the rest of the girls to watch.  Out of six of the girls, Maddie was one of two that declined to go watch.

We can’t be with our little girls every minute of every day.  Even when they are in a trusted home, dangers abound.  Teaching your children to make the right choices is critical!

So maybe the exercise of Monster High Prohibition has been useful already!

Embrace Change: signs that you are becoming stagnant.

Embracing ChangeI personally love change.   Always have.  Newness is exciting.  Change stimulates me. I don’t handle boredom very well.

When my kids were young, I would frequently re-arrange the furniture in my living room.   Why?  I needed change to cheer me up.

I change up my hair cut more than the average woman.

And what about “retail therapy?”  Bringing home something new stimulates a emotional contentment response, although very short lived.

I love changes in the season. I never dread winter being over…because I always look forward to spring.  And around August I eagerly anticipate the cooler fall weather.

You see, I have this fear of becoming stagnant…

Ever smelled stagnant water?  It looks gross, it smells, and it breeds awful little bugs that bite.  Little blood suckers…  I think there’s a spiritual analogy in there somewhere…

Signs that you are becoming stagnant:

    • You don’t have a dream.
    • You’ve lost interest in activities.
    • You don’t set goals.
    • You don’t look forward to waking up in the morning.
    • You cling to belongings.
    • You don’t take risks.

It’s impossible to grow without some change in our lives.  You can’t build muscles unless you lift something heavy.

We need to be open to what God wants to do in our lives.  We have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone, in order to grow and become more of what God wants us to be.  God’s dream for your life is so much bigger and better than you can imagine.  But God can’t work on you, or help you achieve his dream while you’re waddling around in stinking water.

Steps to get out of the stagnant state:

    • Write out a list of everything that brings you joy. (This is a very difficult task when you are truly stagnant.  Take some time and figure it out.)
    • Find your dream and commit to making every step you take be in the direction of your dream
    • It’s okay to expect more out of your life.  Start expecting more.
    • Get rid of the things in your life that are holding you back from your dream.
      • Fear of failure
      • Anxiety about the unknown
      • Worry over the expectations of others
      • Distractions (TV, Internet, Clutter)

 “God I know that you are in control.  I desire to know the plans you have for me.  I seek out the dream that you created me for.  Today I choose to chase after you and all you have in store for me.”