Tag Archives: work life balance

Whatcha reading?

One of my greatest pleasures is reading novels. I think life is always better when I have a good book going. Sometimes, however, life gets so busy that pleasure reading falls by the wayside. These are precisely the times that reading can be most helpful, providing a momentary escape into someone else’s life. In case you are looking for some recommendations, here are some of my latest reads:

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult — This is a fascinating tale told from the perspectives of a black labor and delivery nurse who is targeted as the scapegoat for an infant’s death and the baby’s parents who are angry, white supremacists. It was a challenging book that brings to light both the blatant and subtle effects of racism and white privilege. It’s eerily timely, given the events in Charlottesville, VA with protesting White Nationalists.

Lucia, Lucia, by Adriana Trigiani — about the love, family, work life of a young Italian-American woman fashion designer in Greenwich Village in the 1950’s

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline — page-turning parallel stories of two resilient girls from different eras in the foster-care system

Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain — historical fiction about the fascinating life of Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly east to west across the Atlantic

Body Surfing, by Anita Shreve — quick read, especially perfect for the beach with its setting on the NH seacoast and its bodysurfing scenes

The Monk Who Lived Downstairs, by Tim Farrington — a sweet book about a single mother landlord and her former monk downstairs tenant

Good in Bed and the Next Best Thing, by Jennifer Weiner — humorous, light reads about the ups and downs of a plus-size columnist and a scarred, first-time Hollywood TV writer, respectively

Our local library had a book sale recently where I picked up a number of books by some of my favorite authors. It’s probably a good thing that I only had a $10 bill on me, which limited on how many books I could buy. I’m making my way through that stack. Once I finish, I’ll be looking for some book recommendations.

I’d love to learn what good books you’ve been reading lately,  so please share any recommendations.

 

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?

What Fills Your Rain Barrel?

I’ve never been so happy to have rainy days as I’ve been this week.  We’ve had an unusually long spell of hot and dry weather in our area, creating extreme drought conditions.  Lake Cochichewick, our town’s reservoir is fortunately quite large, however, even with a voluntary water ban for most of the summer, the water level is noticeably lower.  We have relied on our rain barrels to supplement watering pots, gardens, and foundation plantings.  At times, our rain barrels ran dry.

To me, rrain-barrelain barrels seem like a metaphor for our own inner resources.  At times during this busy summer, I felt as if my rain barrel was empty.  Even though this season was full of so many blessings—visits with friends and family, a coaching Summit, a retreat, travel, work, gardening, camping, and swimming,—there were times when all of that activity and doing became overwhelming.  As I returned to the meditation cushion after a few very hectic days when I let my practice lapse, I could sense that my rain barrel was beginning to fill again.  I made a mental note of this and for the rest of the summer I did my best to find ways to incorporate some moments of stillness or sky-gazing into every day.

To navigate this transition period between summer and fall with more balance and joy, consider:

What fills your rain barrel?

What depletes it?

What commitment(s) do you want to make to yourself to insure that it doesn’t run dry?

Gift of Peace

self carePeace, Love, and Joy.  Those are supposed to be the hallmarks of the season, yet are these truly filling your heart at this time?   What ripple effects are you currently setting in motion, beginning in your household, and expanding out to your workplace, community and beyond?

If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Is a quote from Ron Hall that especially hit home during the years when our boys (and often an exchange student, too) were under our roof. I found that the added pressures of holiday preparations would often leave me feeling overwhelmed and cranky.  I’d dissolve into a puddle of tears at least once or twice before the New Year and know that I brought everyone else down with me.

Now, I feel that my deepening work with meditation has given me more tools and greater self-compassion to accept and ride out any strong waves of emotions.  Goodness knows, there are always ample opportunities for practice, especially since feelings of loss and yearning are often amplified during the holidays (hi-low-days).

In study after study, meditation has been proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and pain and promote feelings of relaxation, peace, and well-being.   So I encourage you to give meditation a whirl (or a second chance) if you’d like to cultivate and spread more peace, love, and joy.

I believe that there is no one right way to meditate; there are many paths. Too many people give up on meditation because they haven’t found an approach that really works for them or stuck with it long enough to realize that some sessions will feel better than others and to form a habit.

Just as we have different learning styles—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic–which make some methods of delivery work better for taking in information, the same may hold true for meditation.  My personal theory is that our learning style(s) may correlate with our preferred meditation style(s).  Someone who is an auditory learner, might do well with guided meditation, chanting, reciting a mantra or prayer, or listening to a recording on headphones with binaural beats to reach an alpha or theta brainwave state.  A kinesthetic leaner might find it torturous having to sit still to meditate, but might love circling to center with a labyrinth, doing yoga, focusing on the breath, or engaging in mindfulness, walking meditation, or guided relaxation.  A visual learner might resonate with visualizations, staring at candle flame, focusing on a flower or other natural object, or creating or experiencing mandalas or other art.

Also consider:

  • What approach(es) have worked well for you before?
  • What approach(es) would you like to explore?
  • What time of day appeals most to you for meditation?
  • Are you drawn to solo practice or meditating in a group?

I love to create opportunities for people to experience meditation.  I’ve become very active in Great Pond Sangha and coordinate a free drop-in silent and walking meditation in North Andover on Friday mornings.  This fall I also began offering weekly drop-in meditation sessions at a local company.

I’ve recorded a short, guided meditation which combines several of these approaches.  May it help create peace, love, and joy within you so that you may spread this to others this holiday season and beyond!  I’d be curious to hear about your experiences.  Please let me know if there’s anything I could do to support you on your path.

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!