10 Years

I had to laugh when I looked back at my journal and found this entry from 10 years ago. I went through and marked up the lists.

  • Green: accomplished.
  • Red: moved on.

Here’s the post from October 21, 2005:

I don’t know if I have what it takes. What it takes to just BE. I can’t focus on anything for a long enough time. My mind wanders and wanders and wanders. I have so many goals, and I want so many things.

>>>I want to be more professional
>>>I want to be a better homemaker
>>>I want to eat healthier
>>>I want to dress better
>>>I want to read more books
>>>I want to organize my house, my work, and my life
>>>I want to pay more attention to my loved ones
>>>I want to stop talking shit about people
>>>I want to go for walks and hikes
>>>I want to go back to school
>>>I want to buy a house
>>>I want to spend less money

These are the ideas floating around in my head every single day. Instead though, I think I get defeated by the volume of them, and so I:

….Watch TV
….Eat crappy
….Play video games
….Surf the Internet
….Oversleep
….Stay up too late
….Wear jeans to work
….Procrastinate
….Eat out
….Make messes
….Lose stuff
….Live in filth
….Go from idea to idea without actually doing anything

Honestly, I’ll be surprised if I even finish this diary entry. How can I focus more? How can I find more time to be the way I want? How can I change my behavior and my identity to become those things?

So….what’s the point?

Not that much has changed, except one key thing. I’m okay with who I am and I embrace it. 

 

Mindful Rest, AKA – “I’m Tired, Yo”

rest

I’m a busy body. I can also be extraordinarily lazy. These two states seem to be in conflict, and they are to a certain extent. I oscillate between them. But most of the time when I’m being physically lazy, I’m mentally obsessing over what I should be doing, so my mind is still busy. It’s making to-do lists and developing new strategies and inventing. I’m always inventing.

It’s part of my personality. If you’ve ever heard of the “Real Colors” or “Four Colors” personality test, then you’ll understand why I’m always inventing. I’m a Green. According to the test, as a Green I’m confident, mentally strong, logical, and inventive. I have high expectations, I’m knowledgeable and I enjoy my own company. For me, work is play and that’s the truth. And it’s the Green in me that inspires this blog and all my little efforts.

It isn’t easy being Green (thank you Kermit), mostly because I’m uneasy when my emotions get the best of me. I fear big, inevitable, emotions such as grief and so that limits me in my relationships. I also get bored with established routines, because I want to invent a new one. It’s a terrible cycle.

Anyway – the point is, even when I’m being physically lazy, I’m not resting. I’m obsessing. I’m connected. I’m inventing. Well yesterday, I got knocked onto my ass. I woke up feeling pretty terrible, slow and achy and tired. So I called in sick. I spent most of the day in my pajamas, either on the couch or in bed, and I checked out mentally. I let my brain rest and focus on the crap I was watching on TV. And while I may have thought about recipes I’d like to try or things I’d like to accomplish a little bit, it was way less. There were moments of temptation, when I thought – hey, I could surely do some laundry while I’m home or bake another batch of muffins. Nope. My body wouldn’t let me do it. So I gave in to the Rest. The Rest embraced me and I let it. And I loved it and it healed me.

I looked up the word rest, and here’s the definition:

rest 1 (rst) n.
1. Cessation of work, exertion, or activity.
2. Peace, ease, or refreshment resulting from sleep or the cessation of an activity.
3. Sleep or quiet relaxation.
4. The repose of death: eternal rest.
5. Relief or freedom from disquiet or disturbance.
6. Mental or emotional tranquillity.
7. Termination or absence of motion.
8. A device used as a support: backrest.

God is the ultimate creator, the ultimate inventor, and is all the colors of the personality test. And yet, God even knew to take a break on the seventh day. I’d like to think that God still takes breaks and watches reruns of Friends while laying in a big comfy bed. God wants us to rest. It’s the only way we can keep going.

Today, I woke up refreshed and motivated. I cleared out my inbox before 7 a.m., followed my routine, and felt better than I have in a few weeks. Thank you Rest. You rock.

So it goes without saying, that I need to prioritize rest higher. I need to let go of the guilt and not wait for some illness to make it happen. There’s no one in my life that wouldn’t benefit from me taking a breather, and I’m sure that’s the case for all of you.

7 Steps to Become an Early Riser

7 Steps to Become an Early Riser

For a long time now (like my whole adult life), I’ve wanted to be one of those people that breezed into work, right on time, with my made-at-home coffee in one hand and my to-do list in the other, looking professional in wrinkle-free clothes and smelling quite nice because I took my routine morning shower. This has been the vision and my goal. My own Mount Everest Long’s Peak.

But for years and years, this just hasn’t been the case. Instead, I was rolling in around 9 (if lucky), wearing something I spent ten minutes looking for in the “clean clothes pile” on my floor, with my pricey Starbucks coffee and pastry, yawning from going to bed just past midnight, and dreading the chaotic inbox that awaited and would surely to ruin my day.

In my mind I could see how it could be. I could see myself as this ideal person. I could also see that if I fixed my mornings and my nights, I might be able to accomplish some of my other goals. It might be as simple as making my bed in the morning, or putting my clothes away at night that could create the type of change that would help me get my finances in order, finish the latest novel I’ve been working on, keep a clean house, or get in shape. It’s all connected, and it’s all about getting enough sleep at night and getting the right start in the morning to make it so.

The people I know who are the most productive, organized, and seemingly stress free about the little things in life are the ones that get up early in the morning. They all have this trait in common. So that’s where I decided to start.

Now – it should be noted that I’ve had this deep desire to make a change like this for a long time. I made attempts here and there and I was interested in the subject, but I couldn’t make it stick. Then one night, I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline and I saw a tweet about waking early by a self-improvement guru I’ve come to respect over the years. I followed his link to learn about a book that some dude wrote on the subject. I made the stupid, yet secretly brilliant, decision to purchase this book.

At first, it was a stupid decision because the book was so bad. His big secret to waking up early – go to bed early. Shocking right? The rest of the book was an attempt to inspire the reader to be a better person. The intention was good, but it mostly annoyed me because we don’t all have stay-at-home spouses who take care of everything so we can use our extra time to do whatever we please. So the book inspired me to make my own plan that would work for me. And this is what I came up with.

1. Clean up your bedroom

If you keep a tidy bedroom with your clothes in your closet, instead of on your floor, congratulations. You are already past step one. If you do not, take some time to get it all put away. This was the first step to my success, because it made the routine way easier to follow and saves me so much time now that I can easily put my clothes away at night and lay out my clothes for the next day. I had no idea how much stress that put upon me and honestly prevented me from wanting to get up and deal with it every morning.

2. Leverage the weekend

Time can be sparse, especially if you have kids, or work, or work and have kids, or work and have kids a few nights a week and on the weekend. The latter is me. However, I’ve been trying harder to use some of that time to get prepared for the week ahead. I’ve been cooking in big batches to freeze or refrigerate for the week. I make sure I get some grocery shopping done so that I will have easy breakfasts to have at home and quick lunches to pack for work. If you know what you’re doing for food, the day isn’t as overwhelming and you’re more likely to get your butt out of bed.

Tip! I make a gallon jug of iced coffee that I can enjoy all week. This recipe is so simple, it saves a ton of money, it makes my morning coffee routine crazy simple, and it’s so delicious. I simply cold brew a gallon of water and half a pound of ground coffee in a big bowl for 8 hours on Sunday. Then I run it through a fine mesh strainer and a paper towel right into the jug. Boom. I’m set for the week.

3. Ten minutes at night will save you twenty minutes in the morning

If you’re a bit slower in the morning, raise your hand. I raised both. The nighttime me thinks that the morning me is awesome and completely capable of handling everything. You can do it morning Rochelle. I’m just gonna lay here and play Candy Crush until I pass out. The morning me hates the nighttime me. A lot. She begs for her nighttime counterpart to make life easier.

I used to make fun of my father for being so whacked out about his nighttime routine. Every night before bed he does the exact same thing. He gets his clothes ready for the next day (sometimes even ironing them – crazy!), the coffee pot ready, puts the skillet for his eggs on stove, puts a plate next to it on the counter, puts a vitamin and water glass next to that. He takes his nightly shower and heads to bed just after the news. Every single night. He’s going to kill me for saying this, but I get it now. Those little efforts at night have a high impact on his morning.

So before bed, I make sure that I have my clothes ready and everything else I might need. And then I make or refer to a list. A literal list of of what I’m going to do in the morning. From getting up, to using the restroom, to flossing. I’ve taken out all of the brainwork and now it’s muscle memory. And even better, it’s now a routine in the true sense. If I don’t do it, I feel uneasy. I guess that’s what it means to develop a habit. I feel a little like Rain Man, but hey, if you’ve got to be a little odd and repetitive about something make it something that will help you.

4. Tune in to your tired time

Around 9:30 p.m. every night I get a bit sleepy. It’s usually just some yawns and a case of droopy eyes. I used to fight through it and then be totally awake for several more hours instead of embracing my “tired time.” Now, I use it to my advantage. When it comes, I basically say goodnight and get on my way. Falling asleep is easy if I can get to bed within that window. When I talk to people about having a tired time I get funny looks. I’d like to think that most people are like me in this regard, but they just haven’t acknowledged it yet. Get in touch with your rhythm, you may be surprised what your body tells you.

5. Get up, get dressed and make the bed

There are some that may like to get up early and sit around in their pajamas, drinking coffee, and reading or even start working. Then they go get ready for their day. This does not work for me. My mind will latch onto the idea of a pajama day and the pain of departing from such a relaxing moment is too much for me to bear.

Likewise, I personally had to overcome a little morning routine that was ruining me. I used to wake up, go to the bathroom, and then crawl back into bed and read on my phone (Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes a book). By the time I got back out I knew pretty much all of the world’s news, what my friends were up to, and the latest plot twist in my book. This could last until 8:45 or 9, easily.

Knowing this about myself, I made sure that when I got up….I got up. I went right into the list I made, which dictates that I have to get ready before I do anything else and make my bed. No more crawl back in temptations.

6. Gamify it

I’m a nerd at heart. I love technology and I love games. Okay – I don’t think that classifies as a nerd anymore, but my love goes way back so I’m grandfathered in. Anyway – I found out about this great app called Coach.me. I will not lie, half of my success can be attributed to this *free* app that is all about building good habits. I like apps. I like checklists. I like when things turn bright green because I accomplished something. I like being in a community of people who are doing similar things. I have a feeling you will too. Get this app.

Lift App

Coach.me app

7. Take it slow

I knew that I wouldn’t be successful if I decided one day to start waking up at 5 instead of at 7:30. That wasn’t going to work. So I inched my way back. I started at 6:30, then after a couple of days got to 6. That made a huge difference in my life. Now I’m inching back further and I’m getting up at 5:45. My goal is to get up at 5:30. That seems reasonable to me. Don’t go crazy. Be kind to your mind and body.

So…

You may be wondering – what are the results and will she stick with it?

Well, I didn’t want to write about this until I was certain that the habits would stick. So I’ve been doing this for three weeks and it feels pretty set. I guess they were right about it taking 21 days to build a habit. I still worry about backsliding, but I’m doing a couple of things to decrease the likelihood.

First, I’m not sleeping in on the weekends like I used to. I’m trying to wake up at the same time every day so my rhythm stays the same. That quiet time on Saturday and Sunday mornings seems extra luxurious.

Second, I’m trying to acknowledge all the other great side effects of this new behavior, such as:

  • Saving a ton of money by eating breakfast at home and packing a lunch.
  • Getting to work on-time. As a manager, I feel like that’s the right thing to do, because it’s what I expect of my employees.
  • Wearing nicer clothes everyday.
  • Feeling less stressed because I’m not scrambling to feed, clothe, and move myself (and sometimes others).
  • Getting all the hot water I want in the morning.
  • Having a peaceful, easygoing drive into work since I’m not late.
  • Being more organized at work since I feel like I’m not already behind when I arrive.
  • Feeling good at the end of the day that I gave it my all.

Finally, I’d like to share a story about how I grew very appreciative of my new habits. Last week I was woken at 4:45 by a text message about a major IT outage at work. As an Assistant Director of IT Communications, I had to jump up and get to work right away. My brain was still on the slow side, but it could have been much worse. After a couple of conference calls, putting plans into action, and directing my staff, I had to leave to go into the office early. With a crisis at hand, I was more grateful than ever to have my clothes laid out, my packed lunch, and my iced coffee waiting for me in the fridge. When I was about to dash out of my bedroom to get on my way, I looked back at the unmade bed. I couldn’t let it stay that way, I went back and made it quickly. That’s when I knew. I knew that it had stuck and that later that night when I crawled into my nicely made bed, I’d be thanking the morning Rochelle for having it so together. For being that person I visioned for so many years.

My next steps:

  • Continue to develop these habits so that it’s now my default behavior.
  • Adapt the routine for the school year and getting the kids out the door as easily and pleasantly as possible.
  • Slowly start to build up cleaning and cooking habits so that it’s second nature.
  • Add in exercise, meditation, or yoga.
  • Get the rest of my home team on board. That one will be a little more tricky.

What are your tips for being an early riser?

Reset, Routine, and Inspiration

Starting in April and going through the end of June, I was swamped with a big project at work. I’m the kind of person who can only have so many things going on at once before everything else slips. I make sacrifices to keep my sanity. During this time I stopped cleaning the house, I bought paper plates so my dishes wouldn’t back up, I ate out a lot, I stopped couponing, I stopped exercising, and I did a minimal amount of laundry. Terrible right? I had to put my life on hiatus while I worked hard to complete the project. While it saved my sanity, it got me severely off track with a lot of the good habits I was working so hard to develop and maintain.

The first thing I did when I regained my freedom is I read a book, and quickly it became about enjoying the pleasurable things in life and shoving off responsibility. So I took a nice vacation last week where I read more books and played outside in the summer (first time in years), grilled steaks and saw movies. It was definitely what I needed.

Pueblo Photowalk

As we all know, vacations end. It’s time for me engage in my life again and my work. I need a reset. I need routine. I need inspiration.

Space

Cleaning my space at home — it helps me want to be here and eases my mind from the stress of looking around and feeling burdened by the mess.

Cleaning out my pantry and refrigerator — out with the old and stale, in with the new and fresh. Less is more in terms of keeping food, in my opinion. Right now our pantry is bursting with stuff. There’s no space. It sounds like we have a lot of food, but we sit around thinking we don’t have anything to munch on. That’s because finding things in the fridge and pantry isn’t easy and it doesn’t feel good.

Laundry and organizing my closet — will make getting dressed for work easier in the morning. Anything that helps me get to work in the morning would be very helpful right now.

Cleaning, organizing and rearranging my office — I need a change to my space there. There have been so many other changes there, circling around me, I need to make a change myself so that I can complete this transition and want to actually be there.

Connections, Communications, and Productivity

Inbox — I actually did this recently, but I still have so far to go. My work inbox has over 12,000 messages in it. For a while I had 2,000 unread messages (mostly from Facebook and Borders and messages that didn’t really apply to me). I cleaned those out and that feels like a burden has been lifted. Now to clean out the old ones that I don’t need anymore. I love to lighten my load. I did this also on my GMail for my personal e-mail.

Google — I am a fan of Google’s application suite. It happened during my big project when my assistant showed me how awesome Google Docs is. We were able to really collaborate on documents and I could access those documents from any web browser, easily and quickly. Since then I’ve been using it for everything in my personal life and continue to use it at work for various things.

One of the ways I use it is for tracking tasks. I started doing this during my big project. Instead of all of these complicated task management programs, I simply use a Google document to write down what I need to do each day, what I’ve done (after the fact) and indicate when stuff gets done. I mix up both work and personal things because it’s way easier to only have one document. There are a lot of benefits to do this than just knowing what I need to get done. So many times I can’t remember what I’ve done. This tracks it. It’s a running list that just keeps going. So call it a task list, journal of sorts that I can access from anywhere (browser on whichever computer I’m on and from my iPhone and iPad) at anytime and easily edit.

Tasklist in Google Docs

I also use Google for my personal e-mail, personal calendar, and Google+ for connecting with others professionally and personally.

Mind and Body Nourishment

peachpie-20090808-2

Meal Planning — a little time and planning up front saves a lot of time, money, and calories during the week. It also eases stress. It avoids that pesky question (that I often get), what’s for dinner? For inspiration I turn to “This Week for Dinner,” a blog that promotes meal planning and sharing menus. I’ve also just started using my Google calendar to help me plan and help me remember.

Meal planning with Google Calendar

Meal planning with Google Calendar

Breakfast and Lunch — I’m pretty good about packing breakfast, but I stink at packing or planning for lunch. Most days I skip lunch and scavenge for snacks instead. There are so many things wrong with that, but the worst thing about it is that I end up so hungry for dinner that I don’t want to cook and I pick up food on the way home. I need to correct this.  I’m currently reading:

Reading — Summer is a great time to turn off the TV. It’s also a great escape, so I’ve been spending more time reading. It relaxes me at night and it helps me wake up in the morning. I know — waking up and reading in the morning is weird, but that’s my favorite time to do it. I love using Goodreads to connect with friends and get ideas of what to read. It’s also a fun way to keep track of what you’re reading and gab about it. Find me on Goodreads and add me as a friend!

Exercise and Play — My gym routine got totally out of whack during the big project. I have a fabulous gym membership that I haven’t used in weeks. I need to start going back, so I’m fitting that into my schedule. Also — besides boring exercise, I’m just looking for more opportunities to play. Whether it’s golf or tennis, or flying a kite. Anything that gets me off the couch is a good thing.

Conference — I’m planning on attending a work conference in the fall that will help inspire me and hopefully that spark will come back. Right now things are not so good there after they made some personnel and organizational changes. My feelings and attitude are not what they should be about a job that I used to love so much. I need to find that purpose again so that I can put my best into it. Being happy at work is obviously very important.

CU-Boulder Campus July 2009

I’d love to hear your tips and advice on helping me get back on track. What do you do when you slide away from the norm?

(Mostly) Free Glasses

Rochelle's new glasses!

Barely one week ago I saw a deal floating around for free glasses from Coastal Contacts. A lot of the coupon blogs I read were calling it “hot” and all that, but I basically dismissed it. My friend Ivy saw the deal too and went for it. She told me about it right after she ordered and it suddenly seemed like the best idea ever (THANKS IVY!). So I did a little digging, got my prescription, etc., found a pair I liked and went for it! I did some upgrading on the lenses, and walked away with new glasses that cost me $40 (including shipping).

All week long I worried that they would show up and look terrible on me, wouldn’t fit, or that I entered my prescription wrong.

A couple of days ago they sent me a message. I was nervous that they were canceling my order, but instead they just wrote to tell me that they were upgrading my shipping, on the house. Beautiful!

So tonight I got my new glasses on my doorstep. I ripped into the package and put them on to check them out. Everything about them is perfect. Prescription, size, weight, style. Just unbelievable.

I highly recommend that you check out Coastal Contacts and “Like” them on Facebook. Apparently this deal comes around every now again, and if you know someone in need, let them know when you see the deal. Good eyesight is invaluable.

The De-clutter Queen

For years now I’ve been a fan of Julie Morgenstern. She writes books about getting organized and time management and about work. Something about her philosophy really clicks with me. Well somehow I missed that she has  new book out call SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck.

This is exactly the kind of advice I need right now since I am still stalled on getting rid of 100 things. Here’s a short video she has related to the book:

So I’ll definitely be checking this out. I only wish it came on the Kindle since I’m trying to have less stuff! Oh well.

Overcoming the guilt

One of my fears when we decided to start this blog was that I would feel guilty for not always working in life improvement mode. This was a big issue for me, because that is usually how I tend to fail. So I had to decide if I could go forward with a project like this at all.

I decided that yes, this project would be great, and that by doing it  I couldn’t make myself feel bad if I took a day off, or two, or three. The changes that I’m making through this process are supposed to stick and I believe that they will, but I can’t always be working toward my goals. I’ve got to have a break, and this weekend I did just that.

Instead of working toward huge goals, I went into maintenance mode, which is key to make these good habits stick. So while I did plenty of lounging around, I also kept my kitchen clean and I did laundry. I even cleaned out my pajama drawers (while putting away clean pajamas) to add to my give away box. The beautiful thing about this was that it was easy to do. I obviously see the connection between keeping clean and organized all week long and how easy it is to clean up on the weekend. No need for the huge marathon cleaning session.

So yeah, I have no guilt about lounging this weekend. It felt great and was so necessary after a long week!

Confession time though — Of course I didn’t just sit around and watch TV. I’ve always got to have something going on at the same time, so I created a new photography watermark for my pictures, new export settings for LightRoom and new action sets for Photoshop. If I could only really relax, that would be awesome.

Vision Boards

Almost two years ago I learned about vision boards from my friend Amanda. Very simple concept and exercise with the potential for a huge life impact.

Here’s the idea: create vision boards, however you see fit that represent your ideal life and your ideal world. Your vision boards will activate the law of attraction, as theorized in books and concepts like The Secret.

When I decided to make my own vision boards, I sat and meditated on what I wanted for myself, my surroundings, and our world. It just flowed right out. Then I went through my magazines and cut out images, words, and phrases that matched up with those desires.

I created four boards.

1. Self, body, love
2. Home, lifestyle
3. Wealth, career
4. World, community

And placed them strategically in my kitchen.

The result has been pretty great so far. I don’t have tons of empirical evidence to prove that they work, but I just feel it. The constant visual reminder of my goals and the things that I want somehow pushes me in those four areas. There have been advances in lots of ares such as travel and money, some advances in cooking, and even in my personal relationships and self confidence.

I highly recommend this project. If anything, it’s fun to feel like a kid again and make collages from magazine pictures.

If you already have vision boards, how is it working for you?

Three Day Weekend Clean Up Overview

First, and foremost…today is Martin Luther King Jr. day and it’s definitely a day to celebrate and remember his contributions and principles. I happened to read an MLK quotation today that I thought was quite good, particularly in this time of tragic circumstances in Haiti,“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”

Giving back to others is obviously a very important thing to think about and do, andI feel funny pivoting from that sentiment, but this is a  post about doing things for myself. I’m learning that taking good care of yourself, frees you to do good things for others. And boy am I no where near being able to truly help others because there’s so much work to do here.

And if turning away from that sentiment wasn’t bad enough,  I’m about to quote the movie “New Moon,” in the same post as quoting the great Martin Luther King Jr. This part of the movie really stuck out at me. Charlie, Bella’s dad, is encouraging her to see Jacob and he says You know, sometimes, you gotta learn to love what’s good for you.

Rather wise I must admit. And something that I need learn. Having a clean and organized home is not only good for me, it’s good for others. I need to learn to love it and strive toward it.

I’m not a terribly messy person, and I’m not terribly cluttered or disorganized. But I’m not solid in the other direction. My house gets messy, I neglect it and just go through the motions. I vacuum every now and again, and do the dishes when there’s no more counter space by the sink. I cook here and there, and have a decent pantry. And I do laundry when my underwear runs out. I could obviously be better about taking care of my environment and my things.

I tend to use the excuse that it’s because I’m on my own and I work full time. But what I’ve found is that I don’t really enjoy my off time because I’m constantly thinking about how I should be cleaning. And if it’s not clean, and my kitchen is not accessible, I tend to pick up fast food. My health suffers because I don’t have a clean kitchen, and the like.

So I decided that I would use this three day weekend to clean up a little bit and that’s what I’ve done. It also helped that I had a little pressure on me. I knew all week that I was going to have house guests on Sunday night to watch the Golden Globes. What an excellent source of pressure.

With all that in mind, and the great start I made this weekend, I want to work toward making it a habit, and be a big girl with a nice clean apartment.

How to Help Haiti

Even though we’re both working hard to save money and be better with personal finance, there’s always money to give, especially in the wake of such a complete tragedy.

We’ve donated to the Red Cross.

Here’s how you can help too:

And here’s the President’s remarks on the US Relief Effort.