New Year’s Resolution(s) Success Tips

2015 resolutions

When ever I’ve made new year resolutions, I’ve created this really great list of all the things that I desperately need to change or improve. But after three months, if even that long, I’ve failed at every single thing on my new year’s resolution list.  Like the picture, I’m jumping across a huge gorge.  What if, I can somehow, make the gorge not such a huge distance to jump over?  Would that increase my chance of success?

The end of 2014 brought many unexpected changes.  I started working full time outside the home.  This is a first for me in over 20 years.  The last 20 years I’ve run my own business from my home.  Now I’m back in Corporate America.  This has been a major life change, and with that a few adjustments had to be made.

When the decision was made to go back into the work force, my husband said I had to promise that I would figure out how to continue with Crossfit.  That was my only lifestyle goal.

And so as I started my new job on October 13th, I also started getting up at 4:30 am to participate in the 5:15 am Crossfit class.  I didn’t have much faith in my ability to succeed at an early morning workout.  I’d tried the class once before and never went back.  Until now.  And now it’s become second nature to me.  And I really really like working out at 5:15 am!! No really…I do!  It’s as big a shock to me as is for those who know me.

I’m almost three months in.  I’ve had a few ups and downs (getting to bed on time for an early morning wake up) but I think my success in surviving this transition was to have only one goal and work hard at reaching that goal. (Besides going to work every day!)

I think success for me comes when I can focus on one thing at a time, until it becomes a habit.  Once it’s a habit, then I can start on the next “resolution.”

I made Crossfit a habit 2.5 years ago.  Then August 1st I started Whole30 (which was only supposed to be 30 days….)and I’m on day 153!

One thing that has taken a back seat though is my writing.  I haven’t posted one blog since starting back to work.

So that’s going to be my first resolution for 2015.  I want to spend my lunch hour either journaling or blogging.  Daily writing.  And publishing a blog post weekly.

There…that’s it.  What’s your ONE New Year’s resolution?  Come on…only pick one and share it!

Eating Frogs and Procrastination

Hello, my name is Merrily and I’m a procrastinator.  (View my post on procrastination here.)

“Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” —Mark Twain

I’m starting off with #1 in the above book One Bite at a Time.  The basic idea is that if you do the worst thing on your plate first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is a cake walk. So if your least favorite chore is doing the dishes, and it’s one of the items on your to-do list for the day, then tackle it first.

I hate having a messy kitchen.  When my kitchen is clean, I’m happy.  So you’d think my kitchen would be clean all the time…since it brings me such happiness.

But here’s how my kitchen looks right at this moment and a majority of the time:

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Not only do I have clean dishes piled up on the right of the sink….by I have pots and pans waiting to be hand washed.

I love having a clean kitchen, but I hate doing the dishes.  Why?  I don’t know.  You’d think since it brings such joy to walk in and smell and see clean things…I’d be in there constantly..  But I’m not.  Now, I’ll give myself a little break.  I work full time.  I have a husband who works full time.  In my household:  29 year old step son currently knee deep in the middle of chemo for lymphoma, my 10 year old daughter with a learning disability (short term memory deficiency) and  my 2 1/2 year old grandson.  So there’s 5 of us.  One is very ill.  One is needing a ton of help with homework every day.  And one is 2 years old.  So I usually get my kitchen spotless every other day, but it only lasts about 2 hours…or the next meal…before it looks like the above.

I do get my daughter to help with the dishes, but many times she is helping with the 2 year old.  Or doing homework.  But I procrastinate on the dishes.  And the silly thing is…it’s only takes me about 15-20 minutes to actually clean the kitchen…so what’s my deal?

So this week…my frog is cleaning the kitchen.  First thing.  Before I start any other chore or work duty.  I’m going to see how that goes this week.

Are you wondering how last week went?  I got up at 5:30 am every morning.  I got dressed.  I drank my coffee…read in my devotional. Enjoyed a wonderful hour with my daughter before walking out to the bus stop to visit with the other moms.  (Something I love doing!)  The thought of waking up so early terrified me.  But in reality, it was wonderful!!!  Yes, I’m a little more tired at night…  But what am I missing?  I don’t watch television when I crawl into bed.  I go to sleep.  Hmm….not a real loss there.  And I’m getting to spend more time in the morning, getting things done!  I feel so prepared for the day.  I’m in for another week.  And this week’s frog will be cleaning up the kitchen as soon as I get in from the bus stop!

Oh…and by the way….I finished with this blog post…and cleaned my kitchen. (TOOK 20 MINUTES!) Here’s what it should look like…and yes, it makes me HAPPY!

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What’s your frog?

New School Year Brings New Habits: Simplify = Happiness

First day of school at the bus stop

First day of school at the bus stop

I ran into one of my neighborhood moms last week at the grocery store.  She expressed what I think we all are feeling right now.  Great excitement for the kids to start back to school.  For our neighborhood, that day is today.

My friend was complaining about how much weight she had gained over the summer.  Vacations and travel had ruined her diet.  Sleep habits were completely ruined.  Her house was a wreck.  As she walked away, she said something that rang through my head all weekend…”Monday I’m going to start something!”

I kept thinking….what is that something?  How do you start “something” unless you really know what it is… (My old mantra:  You can’t shoot a target you can’t see!)

So over the weekend I decided to write down on paper the easy things that school forces my family back into.

1.  Go to bed at 8:30 each night.

That was it.  Sleep habits will return to normal.  I really couldn’t think of what else school forces us back into.

So I decided to write a list of things I wanted to change.  The list was long.  Too long to start in just one day.  That would be complete culture shock for me and my family. But the first and most significant was getting up 30 minutes before the kid(s) so that I could enjoy my coffee and have quiet time.  That means getting up at 5:30 am.  In the 27 years that I’ve been raising kids, I’ve never done that.  Am I crazy?  Could I keep that up? The encouraging thing is….I’ve never worked out like I have been the last 2 years…so maybe this can be another major change in my life.  But today I got out of bed at 5:30 am.

Here’s some habits that I’ve maintained over the summer and will continue into the new school year.

1.  Workout 4-5 days per week.(Crossfit925)
2.  Eat Whole30 (I’m on day 25) (Whole30.com & It starts with Food.) (I’m blogging about my health journey  @ MerrilyBrown.com.)

I got a little overwhelmed when I started writing out my list of everything I wanted to change, improve or renew.  So overwhelmed I almost deleted this blog post.

Luckily I came across these tips from author Leo Babauta from his e-book 52 Changes.

1.  One Change at a Time. Just one. Don’t make several at once, because then they’ll all fail.

2. Small Changes Only. Don’t try to run 30 minutes if you haven’t been running. Just do 2 minutes. Small changes are more likely to stick.

3. Enjoy the Change. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s not worth doing. And it won’t stick anyway.

4. Iterate. If a change fails, figure out why, and improve the method. Or pick another change.

5. Pick a trigger. A trigger is something already ingrained in your routine that you use to anchor a new change. For example, go for a walk (the new habit) right after drinking coffee in the morning (the trigger).

I’m starting this week out with getting up earlier.  And I succeeded on day one.  I’m pretty excited!

Next week I’m going to start using the suggestions in One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler.  I’ll be blogging about my progress.

Who wants to join me?  Will you get up 30 minutes prior to the kiddos?  (Or let me know if you already do this and how it’s helped!)

Have a great first day of school!

Help! I Don’t Want To Quit Shopping!! Am I a shopping addict?

Help!! I don’t want to feel deprived. I don’t like being told no. I enjoy walking through the mall and seeing all pretty new colors. I like the feeling of walking through William Sonoma and picturing my perfect kitchen with perfect gadgets.  And don’t tell me I have a shopping addiction!!!

I think my trek through the mall gives me hope of a better lifestyle or a better home environment.

When I’m at the mall shopping, I enjoy the neatly stacked shirts, the organized and expertly combined colors. Everything is hung up and easy to see. Everything is orderly.

Funny how William Sonoma doesn’t have a stack of dirty dishes displayed in the corner. And they don’t have a stack of mail two weeks high teetering on the counter. Chico’s doesn’t have a pile of panties that have worn out elastic or holes in the seams displayed either…

No wonder I’ve always loved going to the mall. It was my escape from dishes, filled laundry baskets, and cluttered counter tops.

Do I have a shopping addiction?Buying a new outfit was liberating in some way. I’d come home, try to hang it up in my very full closet of clothes I haven’t worn in years. That is, if I could get into my closet…I’d have to push aside a very full laundry basket of clean stuff. Now what was in that basket anyway? (It had been in my closet for weeks….) But I had something new… Somehow it wasn’t as exciting the next day as it was the first day I brought it home and hung it up.

When I first heard about this simplicity and minimalist stuff, I shuttered. No way! I want a better life and I’m sure it means being able to shop for whatever I want, when I want. Right?

Where did that thinking come from? It certainly wasn’t from my depression era parents. They consistently rattled off phrases through out my childhood like: “You don’t need that.” “You need to learn how to say no.” “You need to save your money instead of wasting it on junk that’s just going to break.” “You have a closet full of clothes you don’t wear.”

I’m about to participate in Project 333.  But before I go through the steps of living with 33 wardrobe items for 3 months, I HAVE to take some internal steps in order to be successful.

I need to recognize:

  1. …that the feelings and emotions from the mall are stemmed from wanting and needing an organized, uncluttered lifestyle.
  2. …the need for more is really not a need for more. (Really? I need 15 purses?)
  3. …shopping isn’t a desire based on a physical need, but a desire based on emotion. I am trying to emotionally feel better by excessive shopping.
  4. …there is some other unfilled need or desire that triggers my urge to shop.
  5. …that shopping is an expensive hobby and creates more work at home taking care of, and storing the items. (I’m finding entertainment in other areas other than shopping)

I can declutter my house, organize mycloset, cancel magazine subscriptions….but until I dove in to why I wanted to shop, all the minimizing and simplifying didn’t help that much. Contentment and happiness needs to come from something more permanent than tossing out that shirt that was too small. (Yes, I hang on to it because I know I would love it when I lose 10 more pounds….)

Here’s what’s helped me and prepared me to do Project 333:

  • Happiness isn’t found in external things like a house, job, car, spouse, food, drugs, or shopping. My happiness is found in discovering my God-given purpose and pursuing it with the passion that naturally comes from recognizing it.
  • I need to remove things from my life that get in the way or distract me from my God-given purpose.
  • I want to spend more time investing in my purpose, and less time preparing for my purpose.
  • When I focus on my purpose, time wasters (shopping, tv, snacking) lose their appeal.

Okay…I think I’m ready.

 

Other books to help:

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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.