My Top 3: Essential Time Management Skills for Increased Productivity (and Happiness)
Many times, when you ask someone how they are "BUSY!" is a common response. Some wear "busy" like a badge of honor. "Busy" indicates that you are so good at pretty much everything that you are constantly in demand. While it's definitely nice to be wanted, it's also exhausting to try to do everything all the time for everyone.
As someone who was formerly a member of every group and an organizer of every event--to the point where it way way more work than fun--I've learned a thing or three about managing my time to increase my overall happiness.
Time Management Skill #1: Saying No
People talk a lot about time management as a way to squeeze the most life into every waking moment. I used to try really hard to do everything I thought I *should* do. (The word “should” is a hint that perhaps I didn’t want to do some things very badly.) Want to know a little secret? One of the real tips for effective time management is deciding what you’re not going to even consider doing.
I always appreciate being asked to help out, attend a function or be a part of a group. Now, I find other ways to help that involve a time commitment I'm willing to make. Do I want to volunteer to run a junior roller derby bout? No, but I'll donate items for the silent auction. Do I want to organize all of the volunteers for the school fiesta? No, but I'll volunteer for an hour to sell tickets or just contribute money. I've learned to say no to things that I'll end up dreading, and to say yes in a way that I won't hate.
Saying no is freeing. It's beautiful to be invited to an out of town wedding for a passing acquaintance and politely decline to attend. It's nice to not to go to every single class my daughter takes and feel like I'm a bad parent if I don't pay close attention to her every move. It feels good when I take care of myself by not committing to go to multiple events on a given day because it's just too much all at once.
I've also gotten better at realizing that I don't need to give an excuse or an explanation for saying no. I get to just say "no thank you" or "that's not my thing" or "I have a conflict" and that's enough. I get to manage my time, priorities and energy as I see fit--and everyone gets to be okay with that.
Time Management Skill #2: The "Stop Doing" List
In life, all of us have received a talking to regarding the value of sticking with things. I came equipped with way to much of that skill. I am the queen of work more, try harder and overachieve. I kept on dating someone way after it was clear that the relationship was going nowhere. I stayed involved in organizations long after the benefit to me was gone out of a sense of obligation (and probably of my own importance). I stayed in jobs that had stopped being interesting because it was easier to stay than it was to find something I'd like more. I've kept going with lots of things because "I'm no quitter!"
Today, I am proud to be a quitter. It's just a matter of figuring out when it's time to keep trying, and when it's time to call it a day.
I decided to end a marriage when there was nothing else constructive I could do to make it work that would not seriously impede my own happiness and self worth. I quit volunteering to run an art festival when I realized it was a source of stress instead of a source of joy. I quit a part time job because the hours were terrible and my time was more valuable to me than the small amount of pay I was receiving. Knowing that you don't actually have to finish everything you start is an important life lesson to learn.
My "stop doing" list was a welcome relief to obligations I was taking on for no good reason. I stopped getting together with friends who weren't fun. I stopped going to family gatherings where my drive time was way longer than time I would get to spend with individual people at the event. I quit finishing books that I started reading, but didn't like and stopped watching tv shows that lost my interest. I also quit denying the fact that I need a fair amount of alone time to maintain my happiness.
Quitting really is freeing when you don't view it as failure, but a non-judgmental ending that opens up the possibility of new beginnings.
Time Management Skill #3: Trying New Things
Really? How is trying new things a time management skill? For me time management is really happiness management. Part of my ongoing happiness comes from learning and trying new things. Now that I've freed up time by saying no and quitting things that no longer serve me, I have time available to try whatever appeals to me at the place I am in life.
Recently, I tried soma yoga, started a roller derby skills class and decided to go roller skating with my daughter weekly. I now block off time to blog and read. I also spend time with my husband, go to movies at my favorite local theatre, schedule much-needed introverting time and hike new trails with my best friend. Over time, I'll hang on to what I still enjoy, move on from what I've discovered isn't my thing. Maximizing my time (whatever that looks like to me) makes me feel better.
What About You?
I am a parent to a teenage daughter. [Insert appropriate level of panic here.]
Personally, I don't think most people really know what they are doing when it comes to parenting. I always felt like there would be a magical day when I felt grown up and like I knew all of the secrets of the world. Suffice it to say that it hasn't happened. Regardless, I have a child, and she's growing up, so I've continued to make things up as I've gone along, and it's been going pretty well. So far, she's a likable, considerate person who gets decent grades, has a lot of interests, and has friends whose parents I don't hate. As an extra added bonus, she gets along with me as a mom and a tolerable adult figure. I consider that a win.
With that less than stellar resume of my parental qualifications, here are my top 3 pieces of unsolicitied life advice for my teenage daughter. Who knows. Maybe your child, or any random adult for that matter, will learn a little something.
1. You actually don't "HAVE TO" do most things.
There are some basic life things that we all have to do--but there's a whole lot that we actually don't have to do, but that we do out of obligation. Let me rephrase. You do not have to do everything people ask or tell you to do, like or try. You get to say no and you don't even have to give said person a reason why either. How cool is that?
You don't have to like a band, hate a person, identify as gay/bi/straight, try a drug, do a shot, dye your hair, eat food, take a dare or do anything physically that you don't want to do. People of all ages will try to tell you otherwise, and they are wrong. This also goes for hugging someone creepy, eating a dessert that a coworker made or having a second helping of casserole because someone says "You are too skinny!" People often want some sort of validation for how they live their lives, and they will try to get someone to affirm their own choices by choosing them, too. You don't have to be that someone.
The flip side of this is that other people also don't have to do everything you tell them they have to do either. We each get to make our own choices, and take a "No" or "No thank you" or "I don't think so" as a real answer. Set the personal boundaries that are right for you, and accept other people's boundaries, too.
2. Plan ahead--at least a little bit.
Children and adults alike each deal with "emergencies" on a regular basis--many of which wouldn't have had to be emergencies with just a wee bit of forethought. Many day to day "emergencies" can be mitigated by having your cell phone, $10 in cash, and your house keys.
On the low end, here are a few super-easy tips from me to you. Bring a towel with you into the bathroom. Brush your teeth before you put on your lipstick. Put on your knee pads before your wrist guards. A little forethought goes a long way.
On to bigger and better things. Many other perceived "emergencies" have only become so because of neglecting to look ahead a few days to see what is coming up or a general lack of communication. On Sunday, look ahead at your week. Give me a heads up that you have a band concert, volleyball game, birthday party or sleepover at least 2 days before it happens. If I have to fill out paperwork, or give you permission to do something, or figure out any logistics, make that a week. All those activities that you are involved it don't just happen. It takes a bit to get a doctor's appointment for an athletics physical or request a copy of your vaccination records or lay hands on the special whatever-it-is that you want to get whats-her-name for whatever thing it is she's celebrating.
Also, just know that if you don't plan ahead, I am at the point where I'm done making your poor planning my emergency. I've got things going on too--must of which I had to schedule and arrange to accommodate all of your activities that I actually knew about.
Overall, take responsibility for your own life because no one is going to care more about your activities than you do. Get a calendar and write things down. While I'm temporarily still your chauffeur, I am not your concierge.
3. Seek out help when you need it.
Everyone needs help from an adult sometimes. Everyone. You can talk to me, or if you'd rather, try out these people: your dad, your step-dad, my best friend, your best friend's mom, a teacher at school who you like. Talking to your friends is great, but sometimes you need an adult opinion. (I have 30 years of life experience on you--which means I've been through a few things that are totally new to you.) You are fortunate that you have many, many people who care about you who want you to be well. Even if you think it's the most horrible thing that anyone could ever do, let's talk and figure out what's next. Give me a chance to help before you do something extreme like running away, hurting yourself or hurting others. I am also happy to share my list of stupid things that I did as a child (and some after that) that I also thought were super horrible then that you will find laughably lame, now.
If you know of someone who you think needs help, tell one of us about that, too. I am happy to talk to your friends, their friends, other people's parents, or whoever else you think is struggling to help them get through it--whatever it might be. Life is often hard, and going through it alone makes it even harder. Let one of us help--which includes picking you up and helping you get out of a messed up situation at some god awful hour in the morning (which I will happily do whenever it is needed.) I'm also not going to yell at you or give you a hard time. Again. Here to help.
What is your top "adulting" advice for others?
Life Is What Happens To You While You're Busy Making Other Plans
Last Sunday, I skated 10.4 miles, my longest skate to date. I was where I needed to be in my inline marathon training plan. I was less freaked out about hills, my endurance was improving, I had an ever-improving stride, and I was mostly ready (and productively anxious), about my upcoming inline half- marathon.
On Tuesday, I went to my favorite local lake with a 3ish mile bike trail with the plan of putting in 6 miles. About a half mile into my skate, I slowed down a bit as I went across a driveway, then started to pick up speed again. Suddenly, I felt something in the middle of my back, and I was knocked to the ground trying to figure out what just happened. A moment later, and I was standing up in the grass with a few more dings on my safety pads, looking at a boy on a bike. My best guess is that he was going faster than he should have been and not paying a whole lot of attention to anyone or anything else on the path. The main “anyone” on the path was me—an adult women in an obnoxious cycling jersey and a blue helmet. I stood there, taking personal inventory of where it hurt (which was barely anywhere because of the fun that is an adrenaline dump), and looking at him, and his seemingly disinterested mother, in disbelief.
There is a Fine Line Between Awful and Funny
What followed was an interchange that went something like this:
Me: You hit me with your bike and knocked me down.
Boy’s Mom: What happened?
Me: He hit me with his bike and knocked me down.
Boy: My brakes didn’t work.
Me: You hit me with your bike and knocked me down!
Boy’s Mom to Boy: Oh no! Let’s look at your brakes.
Me, to Boy’s Mom: HE HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN!
[Silence as I waited for the mother or the boy, or really anyone, to ask if I was okay or show any sort of acknowledgement or remorse for the part where the boy HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN.]
Me, to Boy’s Mom: In case you’re wondering, I’m okay.
Boy: My brakes didn’t work.
Me: YOU HIT ME WITH YOUR BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN!
In the end, I got nothing from the mom, and the boy continued to try to explain to me about how his brakes didn’t work. I skated ahead to get away from them, and when they caught up with me as I was waiting to cross the street, the boy stopped--funny how his brakes worked then--and his mom didn’t make eye contact with me and apparently was busy trying to locate her other child (who I think she was also trying to locate when the boy initially HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN).
I decided to skate only 3 miles that night since I was feeling a little off after the boy HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN. I was happy to skate/walk away from the issue, but the interaction bothered me for all of the reasons.
The Day After
I woke up the following day and realized that, although I am durable and tough, getting hit made a real impact on me. (Pun intended.) My back was a little sore, and later in the day, I had a headache and was extremely tired. I went home and slept a bit. The day after that, I noticed neck and back pain, and realized that this is what whiplash feels like. I scheduled a chiropractor appointment for Friday morning, and skipped skating Thursday night.
On Friday, I went to the chiropractor, and told her my situation. She told me it was my call whether or not I wanted to skate in a week, and we could see how it went and make a call later in the week. I have a couple of specific stretches to do, ice to use on my back and neck twice a day, and a directive not to skate or anything equally strenuous until at least Tuesday.
20, and probably even 10 years ago, I may have pushed it and done the race knowing that I could tough my way through it. While I have no doubt in my ability to play hurt and work through pain to achieve a goal, it’s also important to know when that makes sense, and when that is just dumb. I had planned for a week of training to achieve a few more things (a longer skate on rolling hills, an even longer skate on a flat surface to surpass the half marathon distance before the event) that I’m not going to be able to do. There is the pre-race taper, but I’m a little too pre-race to call this a long taper. There is also the pain that you play through (like soreness and aching rather than “I messed up my neck and back because someone HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN.”)
All of the Goals
While one of my goals is to skate an inline half marathon, that was really a sub goal on the way to skating an inline marathon. Knowing myself and my body, I’m going to sit out the half marathon (which kills me a little) and heal up so I can come back strong and do the full marathon in September. Sometimes one goal has to go away to reach another, more important goal. I’ll also skate the half marathon distance, just not with the pomp and circumstance of finishing an event as planned.
Skating is the most recent manifestation of one of my longer term life goals: continued wellness and mobility. One of my other core life goals is to be able to retain mobility and fitness throughout my lifetime. Currently, I’m not willing to put “complete inline half marathon in 2019” over “ability to walk when I’m 80 and live relatively pain-free.” This is one of those cases where adulting sucks. I know enough that I need to give up an interim goal to hit two, larger (and more important) long term goals. I'm still not happy about it.
Recovering and Refocusing
For the next week, my main physical activities will be sleep, yoga, stretching, and walking. It's killing me a little bit already, but better to take a week to really recover than pushing it too soon and hurting myself worse. After that, I'll reassess. Then I may do shorter skates on flat, controlled surfaces (like a local inline skating track that is well-maintained), try out my easy hills trail (which is a mile long), and see how things are looking. I'm also going to take full advantage of the chiropractic arts and have a massage between now and then. I may also walk and put in some elliptical time to keep my fitness level up while I heal.
What Do You Think?
How do you heal from an injury? How to you manage your headspace? Include your thoughts in the comments.
The Challenge of Behavioral Change
About a year ago, I began driving to and from work on a daily basis. Consequently, I have become an avid audiobook listener. I enjoy reading non-fiction, and I focus on topics including business, management, social science, and health.
I've read a lot of books focused on personal improvement. While the information is always beneficial, here are three books that stood above the rest. They include convincing arguments for making positive life changes, straight talk about personal accountability, and specific steps to take to take needed action. In fact, each of these books was so helpful that I initially listened to them, then bought them in a hard copy to have access to the exercises and as a reference moving forward. Here they are in the order that helped me to take best advantage of the information.
1. Emotional Well-Being: Not Nice
Full book title:
Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty... And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, And Unapologetically Being Yourself
Dr Aziz Gazipura
What I expected:
I was looking for a book on being a better conversationalist. After a couple of false starts with other books that focused on rehearsing conversations and strategies for coping with severe social anxiety, I stumbled across this book.
What I got:
This book is about being more authentic as a person, which can increase personal confidence and make it easier to move freely about the world--including having conversations with people you don't know very well. At it's core, it is about our misconceptions about being nice, and how we "nice" ourselves into insecurity, resentment, and unhappiness.
Dr. Aziz's personal stories resonated with me, and encouraged me to reexamine my attitudes and behaviors. The book includes exercises on everything from evaluating your personal "rules" for interacting with others to thinking through alternative ways to handle common situations. After going through these exercises, I am better at prioritizing what matters to me and living more authentically. As an extra added bonus, having a better sense of myself is helping me commit to the life changes I want to make. By giving myself permission to say no to things that don't appeal to me, and feeling more comfortable really committing to what I care about most, I'm making progress towards healthy eating and fitness.
2. Nutrition: How Not to Die
Full book title:
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
Michael Greger, MD
What I Expected:
I was looking for a book about nutrition. While I knew the basics, I wanted to eat better, and I thought having more information on nutrition would help. I also thought it had a high probability of being painfully boring.
What I Got:
I got nutritional information formatted in a way that I cared about it and decided to change my whole diet. Given family history of obesity, pain management, and limited mobility, I wanted to take positive steps to position myself for a long, healthy life where I could skip having to take multiple medications, increase my overall level of fitness, and bypass health issues.
This book guides the reader through health conditions and studies showing how healthier eating can minimize chances of getting the disease, or even provide treatment. Using scientific studies, and even acknowledging the shortcomings of some of them, this book lays out the "why" for the way of eating it advocates. The "why" is positioned not as fear mongering or shaming the reader into making positive life changes, but on the benefits of making eating changes that are completely within your control.
The author, Dr Greger, is an advocate for a Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) diet, which emphasizes leafy greens and lots of fruits and vegetables. He also mentions that even if people don't become strict in their adherence to this diet, including more fruits and vegetables will have positive results. I would have never seen myself completely change my eating, but this book gave tangible, specific reasons to upgrade my diet for the better and never look back.
I got more than a dry book on nutrition. Instead, I got the motivation and key strategies I needed to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes. As an extra bonus, the Daily Dozen (also available as an app) is a helpful tool to make sure I'm planning my diet around these core requirements.
3. Fitness: The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
Full book title:
The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
What I expected:
I will be completing an inline marathon later on this year, and I am making plans for my workouts leading up to the event. I also know that the last time I signed up for an inline half marathon, I managed to not make a training plan and ended up not even doing the event. I went in looking for motivation (and not even really knowing what I expected that to be). I was also not entirely convinced that I could get motivation from a book, but I was willing to give it a shot.
What I got:
This book is the stern talking to I needed to commit to a goal, take steps to motivate me to achieve it, and the "just do it" mentality to take action towards that goal. The focus is not just on thinking positive thoughts, but on doing the work to make success happen. Like with many books focused on personal improvement, there aren't a lot of new and unusual ideas. It does, however, bring together useful ideas and package them together to motivate action. It includes useful tools and exercises to get from "I should maybe sort of kind of do a thing" to "I'm going to the gym right now, and I'll continue to fine-tune my plan as I go."
There are a few helpful exercises to help empower people to get out of their own way. So often, people sort of, kind of commit to a goal, then find every reason not to follow through. Personally, I think of all the excuses I can come up with for not going to the gym. Using the techniques included in the book, helped me to eliminate many of those lame excuses and motivate myself to go even if I don't totally feel like it on a given day.
What Do You Think?
What books have influenced you to make positive life changes? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Just Eat Healthy. Duh.
We all know that we should eat a “healthy” diet. What does that mean? It’s easy to get caught up in the whirl of diets that are popular today—be it Keto, Paleo, DASH, Atkins, Whole 30, or something totally else—and feel like whatever changes you make might be the wrong ones. So now what?
Words of Wisdom on Eating Healthier
Life changes are hard. Everything is new, and everyone has an opinion on what you should or shouldn’t do. We all know that we should move more and eat less, but we often get in our own way when it comes to making a healthier life happen. Here are three mindset tips that helped me stop overthinking and start making better dietary choices.
Tip 1: Never Miss Two in a Row
Over the years, I’ve dieted a ton—including Weight Watchers, Naturally Slim, TOPS, SlimFast and other ridiculous things I have blocked out. While I had success some (but not all) of the time, the effects were short lived. Changing your diet in the short term, but not looking at how to create sustainable changes, leads us right back where we started and leaves us feeling defeated because we succeeded, then failed. Such is the issue with going on a diet with the goal of losing a set amount of weight in a set amount of time.
Instead, it’s better to focus on changing your overall diet, and on a larger scale, your lifestyle. This means the possibility of fewer results right away, but a better chance of real deal, longer term success. Instead of lying to yourself that you’ll never eat [insert thing you absolutely love] again, figure out how to make better overall choices with food that will become just regularly schedule life longer term.
Steve Kamb, founder of Nerd Fitness, has advice to help stop the spiraling before it starts. One of the core tenants of Nerd Fitness is “Never miss two in a row.” Basically, if you miss a workout, or eat a not-so-healthy meal, instead of giving up, consider it the blip that it is and keep on going. Instead of eating a donut at work, deciding you are a horrible person who can’t commit to anything, and make abysmal food choices for the rest of the day—and perhaps forever—commit to not missing two in a row. So you had a donut. Make your next meal or snack better. That’s it. Instead of labeling yourself a “failure”, label yourself “human” and get back to your bigger plan of healthier living.
Tip 2: Get It Right 80% of the Time.
For every identified way of eating that could be successful, there is someone who is ready to proclaim that whatever you’re doing is not “right” or in keeping with said established diet. Instead of listening to the voices online, in your family, or simply in your head trying to convince you that you’re not a good enough paleo/vegan/pescatarian, tune out the unhelpful voices out and focus on eating more things that are better for you more often. Other people can pound their tiny fists as much as they want to, but they are not living your lives, and, honestly, they don’t get a say in your choices.
Dr Michael Greger, author of “How Not to Die”, is an advocate of the benefits of a Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) diet, which he backs up with scientific research. However, he also points out that making positive changes can be iterative. For example, if you’ll eat salad greens (which have multiple health benefits), but you need to have Bacos on it (which are processed and not great for you), make that iterative, positive change! More than once, I’ve had a big salad loaded with vegetables and a side order of french fries. In short, improve your diet, don’t beat yourself up for doing things you want to do. That’s the path to self-loathing and general unhappiness, not an overall healthier you.
Over time, as you eat more things that are better for you, your body will start to crave healthier food and not have any time for the Bacos/fast food/whole entire cake that you would have eaten routinely in the past. That 80% gets you where you need to be in spite of a “keeper of the label” making uninvited commentary on your choices.
Tip 3: Sometimes, You Have to Eat Like a Dog.
When you start to look at making a chance in how you eat, everything in life gets harder. If you’re no longer picking up a burger at the drive though, now what the heck do you eat? How much do you have to figure out how to cook? What do you even buy at the grocery store? Where is the grocery store anyway?
Enter my personal trainer, Colin, with the best, most practical advice ever. When I told him that I struggled with meal planning, he simply stated “sometimes, you have to eat like a dog.” He went on to explain that I don’t have to make something elaborate for every meal. Instead, I should pick a few staples and move up from there. He pointed out that we feed our pets the same thing every day for a reason—they need certain health needs met, and we know their food will do that for them. Why not do the same thing for ourselves?
When looking for recipes, we see many options that are colorful and beautiful and elaborate. We also tend to forget that every day is not a holiday, and we don’t have to make the equivalent of an elaborate Thanksgiving Dinner three times a day, every day. Instead, find a few basics that you don’t hate and that have nutritional value, build a routine, and then modify as you have the desire (and mental bandwidth) to do so. For me, I went with the following:
Done! I know I’m getting the nutrition I need, and I’m not spending an inordinate amount of my life trying to figure out what to eat. Problem solved. For others, it may be cooking up a whole bunch of chicken, boiling a dozen eggs then creating meals to take to work each day that include protein, frozen vegetables, an orange, and string cheese as a snack. For me, now that I have basic, go-to meals, I am starting to research additional meals I might want to make. The better you are at having at least a basic game plan for what you’re going to eat, the better set up you will be for success.
What Do You Think?
What are your best go-to pieces of practical advice for healthy eating? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Business Travel: Perception vs. Reality
In movies and TV shows, business people are always jet setting off to exciting locations to do fabulous things. As with most other details in movies (the size of a newborn baby right after delivery, how close tourist spots are to one another in a big city, how windshields in cars actually break), this is not so much how business travel really goes.
It’s not glamorous outfits, first class flights, and limo rides to fabulous locations. I’ve found that it’s a lot more rushing around trying to make flights, hurriedly preparing to do a presentation, trying to find all the places you’re supposed to be, figuring out where and when to fit in a meal, and finding moments of joy in the midst of the hurry and chaos.
Here are a few key details on the realities of my most recent business trip.
My Business Trip Statistics
Time Breakdown by Activity
Counting All the Things
My Trip in Pictures
Here are my most exciting pictures from this trip. Go ahead, folks. Drink in the glamour.
What do you think?
What has your typical work travel experience looked like? Add your thoughts in the comments.
Adulting is Hard
One of my goals as a parent is to help prepare my now teenage daughter to be a functional adult who makes good decisions and is happy and healthy. Here are my top 5 focus areas to position her for adulting success.
Tip 1: Plan ahead to avoid creating emergencies.
Tip 2: Take control of your personal safety and security.
Tip 3: Have positive interactions and build healthy relationships.
Tip 4: Attend to your overall health and well-being.
Tip 5: Commit to personal growth and positive change.
What do you think?
What are your top pieces of adulting-related advice? Include your thoughts in the comments.
I Am Sooooooo Tired!
In adult life, “I’m so tired” is a common complaint, second only to “I am so busy.” Of course, we are so tired and busy because of how important and in-demand we are, therefore we don’t have time to take on one more thing because, for goodness sake, we don’t even have time to sleep!
#Humblebrags aside, there are certainly many life habits adults have that can mess up the ability to sleep—including our 24/7 culture, using our smart phones late in the evening and that cursed show we’re watching on Netflix that somehow tricks us into watching the next episode. Once you do call it a night, here are three tactics for getting yourself from being physically in bed to actually asleep.
I read way more non-fiction than fiction. I read books on time management, making better business decisions and promoting positive behavior change. While I love these books because they help me improve my work skills and excel in life, reading non-fiction activates me. I usually take notes, make observations and think of all of the things I should DO. While this a helpful mindset for overall life success, it’s not going to do my sleep any favors.
Now, I read non-fiction during the day, and fiction at night. I read stories that are entertaining and engaging, but help my mind wind down. So far, my teenage daughter (a voracious reader) has gotten me hooked on dystopian young adult fiction trilogies including Hunger Games, Divergent, Matched, Uglies and more. They are quick reads that are well paced with interesting plots. They also serve as entertainment that helps me transition from awake, functioning adult to ready to go lights-out adult.
Not sure what to read? Grab something from an area little free library, grab a book at the local coffee shop’s free shelf or get thee to the library. Check out what friends and family are reading and get recommendations. Pick something and start. If it’s not your thing, pick something else.
Write It Down
Admittedly, the world “journaling” makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth. These days, journaling is often the go-to remedy for everything from being more grateful for what we have to figuring out why we do the crazy things we do. Do you know why journaling is recommended so much? Because it works. Getting information out of your head and on paper has huge value. It helps you not only process your ideas, thoughts and feelings, but it enables you to take part in the process of taking a thought your mind is stuck on and physically put it somewhere else. Offloading that thought—at least until morning—frees up our minds to get some damn sleep.
When I’m supposed to try to sleep, my brain liked to occupy itself by rehashing every dumb thing I’ve ever said, revisiting movie trivia I can’t quite remember and stewing on problems I can’t quite solve. Keeping those thoughts inside my head (or trying to will them away) only results in more tossing and turning and less actual sleep.
The answer? Write it down. Next to your bed, keep a pen and a writing surface—no matter if it’s a proper journal, half used notebook or the back of an envelope. Trying to pinpoint why that project failed? Write it down. Finally remember the name of your coworker three jobs ago? Write it down. Finally figure out the right way to word that paragraph? Write it down. Instead of either stewing on a topic (and not sleeping) or trying to hold on to that thought until morning (which I never manage to do), you guessed it—WRITE IT DOWN! It also frees up your mind to wander and dream and sleep instead of turning a problem over and over in your head until morning, when you’re thinking even less clearly due to lack of sleep.
If I’m having a tough time sleeping, or even dealing with a stressful situation, I will often take deep breaths. Recently, I attended a training session about resilience. The presenter referenced 4-4-8 breathing and mentioned this technique helped soldiers in the special forces handle stressful situations. As an extra added bonus, it also works as a way to get your mind to calm down and get to sleep.
Here’s how it works:
Variations on this idea abound—including 4-4-8 breathing, 4-4-4 breathing or Circle 7 Breathing (7-7-7). Regardless of the numbers you use, the whole point is to help your mind focus, pay attention to your breathing and calm yourself down. If you’re in a stressful situation, using this exercise can help clear your head so you can deal with the task at hand. If it’s bedtime, tactical breathing can push you from pre-bedtime routine to sound asleep.
What Do You Think?
What are your tried and true tips for getting to sleep? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Figuring out how to stay healthy is a bijillion dollar business. On a daily basis, we see ads trying to sell us products and services to help us eat less, move more or cure what else ails me. A big part of adulting is figuring out how to take care of your health so you have the energy and wherewithall to do all of the other adulting that needs to be done.
A lot of the issues that we have as adults are not problems we had as children. Children eat when they are hungry, play when they are antsy and sleep when they are tired. As we grow up, we're told taught that those thing we do naturally are all wrong, and we learn to adapt. Unfortunately, when we become the adults, we try to relearn ways of being that actually work.
Fortunately, through sheer luck, I have managed not to parent every good instinct out of my child, so she has less to unlearn and relearn. Here are my top three pieces of advice for my daughter on the topic of physical health. It's also a good reminder for those of us who are grown adults who need to remind ourselves of some key habits that can help us course-correct our current unhealthy path.
Eat When You're Hungry; Stop When You're Full
Like many adults, I've had a lifelong battle with my weight, which is sometimes more successful than others. One issue that I have is emotional eating. In short, I have a terrible habit of eating for reasons that are not being hungry. As children, we all get this. We eat when we're hungry, and stop when we're full--and it infuriates the adults in their lives to no end. I think of the speeches I received as a child about not wasting food, cleaning my plate, finishing what I ordered at a restaurant and more. I've personally seen adults eat food I have left on my plate instead of having to watch it "go to waste." The irony is that we're' treating ourselves as a garbage can by eating when we not hungry for out of some misplaced sense of financial prudence.
Fortunately, you get the whole "eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full" thing way more than I ever have. Keep having those healthy boundaries when it comes to food. Don't listen to people who tell you that you have to eat the special cookies/cake/jam made specially for you, , that you're too skinny, or that stuffing food in your face when you're not hungry is any kind of a good idea. Be polite and thank people for whatever they offer, and turn them down. This one habit will save you the frustration of unnecessary weight gain more than any other habit.
As a small child, you were all about playing. There was recess at school, hitting the playground on weekends and a neverending barrage of birthday parties featuring laser tag, jumpy castles and swimming. Over time, that slowed down. Now recess is a thing of the past, but there is jui jitsu, roller skating, roller derby, trips to the waterpark, walking around the neighborhood with friends and circus classes. The older you get, there will be less opportunities for physical activity, and more times when you'll be watching videos, working on a computer or just generally being stationary. You will most likely end up with an office job that involves more sitting than not.
As you get older, and more "grown up," keep on playing and being physically active. Go canoeing, skating and hiking. When hanging out with friends, walk and talk, don't just go to a coffee shop or restaurant. Find something that you love and keep doing it--whether it's biking, or martial arts, or climbing or something totally else. Just keep moving.
Sometimes people think that exercise has to be awful and unpleasant. Don't try to make yourself to something you hate. Find something active you like and do that. You don't have to run, do cross fit or do yoga flow if that isn't your thing. Just do something to stay active, and keep trying new things to keep moving your body. Build movement into your life so it's just a natural thing that you WANT to do, not something you HAVE to do.
Get Enough Sleep
You know what else most adults are terrible at? Getting enough sleep. Most adults skimp on sleep under the guise of getting more done--and we typically are less efficient and effective when we don't sleep enough.
So what should you do? Go to bed when you are tired. If you'll be out late, take a disco nap to help make up for the sleep you won't get that night. If you have a "slumber party", get some sleep the day after. Go to bed at a decent time on school nights so that getting up isn't any more unpleasant that it needs to be. Get 8 or more hours of sleep a night. Everything is better when you're not overtired.
So why get sleep? As if the beauty of taking naps isn't enough, here are just a few reasons why getting enough sleep is important. It helps you continue to grow in your ongoing quest to be a head taller than me. It also helps you think more clearly and enjoy things more. It helps you be in a better mood and not cranky. You make better decisions when you're well rested. It also helps keep your weight in check and regulates your mood. Sleep is the most underrated thing you can do to maintain your overall well-being.
What Do You Think?
What are your top pieces of health advice?
Brenda Peterson is a collaborative learning consultant and learning & development manager who is driven to help individuals and organizations succeed.