Tag Archives: time choices

Living Well

Once on our way home from a Vermont ski weekend, we stopped for gas at a service station that offered two welcome perks. What initially drew us in was the covered self-serve island, which kept the sloppy mix of snow and rain off my husband as he filled the tank. The added bonus was a set of speakers on the outside of the building broadcasting music. I’m not the biggest fan of country music, but I was a captive audience that day. I found myself listening intently to George Strait’s catchy tune and poignant message: “There’s a difference in living and living well.” During our trip home, I reflected upon the distinction between living and living well and I invite you to do the same.

How would you define living well? Although what first came to my mind were scenes from glossy travel ads of idyllic tropical beaches (I’m sure that had something to do with our chilly weather) and luxurious spas, I quickly thought of some more everyday, low-cost examples of family and friends living well:

• My father, who settled into his recliner every evening with a sigh and an interesting library book
• Friends who sit out on their deck every summer evening to watch the sun set
• My German host parents who have perfected the art of leisurely mealtimes (gemutliches Essen)
• My friend who makes a nightly ritual out of taking a bath by candlelight

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As you think about your own life, what current evidence do you have that you live well? You might include things often taken for granted: your health, a good night’s sleep, the unconditional love of a pet or more obvious indulgences: a fine bottle of wine, a decadent dessert, silk lingerie. I hope that the length of your list pleasantly surprises you.

What would help you move from just living to consistently living well? There are many small steps you can take that can make a big difference. A shift in thinking is one example. Instead of focusing on what’s lacking in your life use an affirmation such as “All is well. I live well.” and you’ll begin believing it. What are things that you currently do (think eat, drink, sleep, bathe) that with more intention and attention could begin to feel like nurturing rituals instead of routines? What do you have access to but aren’t currently taking advantage of that could contribute to living well? Here’s a list that get you thinking:
• Fine china
• Music—to listen to or play
• Babysitter
• Comfy coach
• Jacuzzi
• Yoga mat
• Exercise videos or equipment
• Unredeemed gift certificates
• Bread machine
• Crock pot
• Fresh flowers

My challenge to you is to not “get through” the coming days, weeks, and holidays but to live them and live them well!

What Type of Task Master are You?

One morning I went to the gym for a swim before starting my work day.  When I got back to the locker room, I realized the clock by the pool was slow.  I didn’t have nearly as much time as I needed to get ready.  Most of my work is done over the phone, so it really doesn’t matter how I look, however, on that day I was going into a company and wanted to look presentable.  I wasn’t sure how that would happen given my limited time.  Out of desperation, I ended up drying my hair while putting on mascara.  Not a pretty picture!  I did get to my meeting on time and in one piece, but with quite a struggle.  I’m lucky I didn’t poke my eye out!

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How often are you multi-tasking instead of mono-tasking, whether by choice or out of habit?  We live in a culture where it’s become the norm to do more than one thing at a time.   We may pride ourselves on our multi-tasking ability, believing that it helps us get more done. When we are honest with ourselves, however, we recognize what studies are beginning to show:  multi-tasking is not productive. It’s really only possible to place your attention on one thing at a time. If you don’t believe this, here’s an experiment: Think about the about the taste of a fresh strawberry (that fresh, luscious, burst of sweetness) at the exact same time as you subtract 37 from 95.  Really concentrate. You can switch back and forth really quickly, but you can’t actually think about both things simultaneously.  When we multi-task, our attention is splintered, flitting back and forth between the multiple things we are attempting to accomplish. If, like me, you attempt to follow Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, including the agreement to “do your best” we would we well served to minimize multi-tasking. When we have more than one thing we are working on, our efforts will rarely be more than second best.

Mono-tasking, on the other hand, has many benefits.  When we give our full attention to something, we usually do it efficiently and well.  It is a form of mindfulness.  We feel better about ourselves, the process we are engaged in, as well as the end product.  As I typed the first word of this paragraph, I noticed I’d made a Freudian slip typo.  I’d written “Mom-tasking”.  It made me recall all the multi-tasking I’d done as a work-from-home mother.  Many afternoons I would be doing laundry, making dinner, listening to a personal or business development recording, and helping a son with his homework, all at the same time.  When my husband or the other son would come into the room to ask me something or share about his day, I hardly gave my full attention.  When we give our full attention to someone and listen with our whole being, it feels like a gift.  Those are moments to treasure in our relationships.

What do you want to give your full attention to?

How do you feel when you mono/multi-task?

Where could you simplify your life by narrowing your focus?

Reclaim Your Time

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September is a month when everything gears back up after the summer. Children don backpacks and return to school and grownups return to work, leaving the lazy days of vacation or long weekends behind.  Sports teams, clubs, committees, and professional organizations that may have suspended their meetings and practices over the summer are back in full swing.   Many people find the cooler temperatures invigorating and welcome the quicker pace.  But others feel like digging in their heels and stubbornly shouting “Whoa!” when they see how much is now on their plates.   If this latter description fits you even slightly, read on for some suggestions for reclaiming control over your time.

LOOK AT HOW YOU ARE SPENDING YOUR TIME—Here’s an eye-opening exercise I’ve used with many of my clients.  Make two pie charts (circles that you will divide into sections) next to each other and label one “Actual Day” and the other “Ideal Day.”   Divide and label the first circle into sections that represent how you allocate a typical day, (i.e. sleep, grooming, exercise, work, running errands, preparing and eating meals, TV/reading.)   Are you surprised by where your time goes?  Now segment the second circle according to how you’d prefer to spend your time.

REEXAMINE YOUR PRIORITIES—What do you most want to devote your time and energy to at this point in your life?  Make a list and narrow down to the three to five things that are most important to you.  These are your top priorities.  Refer back to your “Actual Day” pie chart, to see how much of your time is engaged in activities that are important to you.   What steps could you take to make your days more reflective of your true priorities?

MAKE CHOICES BASED ON YOUR PRIORITIES
1. Set and stick to limits.  My limit is two meetings a week and, when my boys were in school, it was one sport per child per season.
2. Divide and conquer.  Have your spouse or a friend fill you in on what happened in a meeting.
3. Say no.  If it doesn’t fall into your top priorities, isn’t something you want to do, or if it would push you over the edge into overwhelm, say no to it.
4. Schedule what’s important. Treat family dinners or exercise sessions the same way you would a business meeting—enter them in your calendar and work around them.
5. Make adjustments as needed to make your life work for you.

We are each given 24 hours each day; choose wisely and most the most of every moment!