Make this Your Best Year of Reading

Some of the links below may contain affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. I only recommend products that have personally made my life better. Thank you for your support!

For the past two years I have participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, both years setting a goal of 100 books. Last year I didn’t quite make the target, but I got close. This year, with 64 books as of today, I’m on pace to meet the target and actually about 11 books ahead of schedule. If reading more books is one of your goals, read on for some tips on how to get this accomplished.

Note: Many of these tips really apply only to nonfiction (and especially personal development). But some tips will apply to both, so read on.

How to

Read Better

First things first. Before you get to reading more books, make sure you’re getting the most out of each book you read. This leads to greater returns on your reading – a great reward in itself, but which will, in turn, spur you on to reading more and motivate you into reading faster.

Start Each Book With a Deliberate Overview

Don’t dive in headfirst with your eyes closed. Before starting the book, read the table of contents. Absorb and think about the list for a minute, allowing your mind to form connections and possible conclusions.

Next, flip through (either manually or digitally) the entire book, skimming the contents. Don’t try to concentrate on anything in particular, but just let sentences and keywords jump out at you.

Then, as you read each chapter, go through a similar overview process: before diving in, read the title, any section headers, as well as the first paragraph and the last paragraph. The author will usually summarize the major points in those paragraphs. Only then do you start the actual reading process. By that point in time, all of that “overviewing” will cause you to comprehend the book better and faster, allowing you to read it in less time, yet with more enjoyment and satisfaction.

For more on why “superficial reading” works so well, from The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, Steve Leveen explains: “Cognitive psychologists as well as our own experiences tell us that memory is helped by building anticipation. Previewing the book, hovering over it at stages, builds your expectation for what you will encounter in the actual reading. Your mind likes this approach. You’re creating places to put the facts and concepts that are to come, like putting clothes in a well-organized closet… It might seem that this successive approach would add time to your reading. In fact, it reduces the time it takes to absorb ideas and make them stick. In the end, you’ll gain a more complete understanding of a book in less time.”

Take Notes

If You Own it, Annotate It

If you’re reading your own physical copy of the book, enhance reading comprehension by highlighting the text and writing notes in the margin. For me, marking up a book is a sign that I’m engaging with the text, which always improves reading comprehension. (I know that you can also highlight on the Kindle app, but I really don’t avail myself of that feature – I just don’t find it particularly satisfying, but maybe that’s just me.) This is also a great way to solidify any loosely formed connections you’re making to other materials, thoughts or ideas. 75% of my margin notes are connections to other ideas.

Your Tiny Reading Notebook

In addition, keep a small notebook on hand to jot down notes that you’ll want to remember. This is especially important for action steps that you want to take because of what you’re reading. That is, after all, the whole point of reading, right? I’ve found that as much as I enjoy marking up a book, I don’t always go back to look at my annotations. For me, marking up a book is more about getting the most out of it in the moment. (Of course, when I was in school, it was more about passing a final, but the habit still serves me well today). For actionable ideas, I write them all in one place so that I can easily find my takeaways later. I will then periodically go through the notebook and add some of those ideas to my daily planner or to my personal development plan.

Be sure that the notebook is tiny: I carry mine with me everywhere – including in my car and even in my crossbody wallet purse (the tiniest purse that could still call itself a purse), so I don’t want it to take up too much space.

Read Faster

Speedreading Techniques

Speed Reading basically comes down to using a physical tracker to force your eyes to grow through a text faster than it would otherwise. The simplest method is to take an index card and set it right below or above the first line of the page. Read the line, move the card, repeat. Play with how quickly you can move the card, forcing your eyes to take in the next line. I wouldn’t do this for really difficult material or for anything fiction – the former because it decreases your comprehension of already difficult material and the latter because you want to be able to savor a good story (and if it’s really good, you’re going to read quickly anyways).  But even if you’re not technically “speed reading”, you can still use this technique to slowly increase your reading speed, particularly for books that are fairly easy to comprehend.

Further reading: check out this article for more details on learning to speed read.

Don’t be Afraid to Skim It and Be Done With It

I think one of the biggest secrets to getting more reading done is the realization that not every book needs to be read cover to cover. Let’s say you’ve already read 20+ books on personal finance. You probably already know the basics about personal finance, but you are really interested in the subject and you’re always looking for interesting nuggets and new ideas, so you keep reading every book on the subject. You don’t need to read the next book cover to cover when you already know 75% of the material by heart. But you don’t want to skip the book entirely because there could be some great information tucked away somewhere. Skim the majority of the book, stopping to read through slowly when you get to new information. You’ll get exactly what you need out of the book and move on.

I think there’s a sense that we feel like we’re not living up to expectations if we don’t read a book cover to cover. But think about it – whose expectations? Is this a homework assignment? No – the bottom line here is personal growth, with “personal” being the key word. What matters is what you get out of it, not whether or not you actually check off a box. Reading is reading is good.

Use the Format that Works for You – and the Book

There are so many different ways to read a book these days, from e-readers to old school paperback to audiobooks, that it’s easy to to be overwhelmed and end up getting stuck on one format when others might work better, either for you or for that particular book. What I’ve learned over the years is that rather than utilizing just one reading format, I use all of them, depending on the type of book I’m reading.

E-Readers

First, the E-Readers: namely, the Kindle or the Nook. I no longer own an actual Kindle, but I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab and a Kindle Reader app on my tab. The thing I love about the Kindle (app, that is) is that it automatically adds your book to your Goodreads account as “Currently Reading” and will select it as “Read” once you reach the end of the book. Also, obviously, there’s the convenience of not lugging around actual books. You can also access a ton of books for free with the Kindle Unlimited program – many authors put their books up to be borrowed by readers for free for a period of time. The cons of using a Kindle are that, for some, reading a physical copy of something you can touch allows for more of a deeper, richer experience of the book. As a tactile learner myself, I definitely comprehend something I can touch and, better yet, take notes in and highlight better than something I’m reading on a digital screen. This means that, for me, the Kindle is best reserved for quicker reads – either fiction or nonfiction books that are fairly straightforward and easy to read.

The Kindle is also great for materials that you might later use as a reference. For example, I go back to The Fibro Manual by Dr. Genevra Lipton again and again as I’ve worked through various treatments for fibromyalgia.

Old School Paperback (or Hardcover, if You’ve Got Money to Burn)

When I’m reading a book that’s a little meatier, more difficult to understand, or just contains a lot of information I want to fully retain, I’ll get a physical copy. My first stop is ALWAYS thrift and used books stores. You can find so much at these places, especially some of the classic self-development books, like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or How to Win Friends and Influence People. But if it’s a little newer or more obscure, I’ll order it off Amazon or Ebay.

Paperback Bonus Tip: Many personal development books, from mindfulness to personal finance to starting a business, also include an accompanying workbook to go through the material, which you might want to look in to. Check out the reviews to see if it’s something that would make the book a better experience. (Some are better than others, so do your research.) If so, you may only need a physical copy of the workbook and then you can stick with the Kindle or library copy of the actual book.

Audiobooks

Audiobooks are truly my soulmate book format (if there is such a thing). I’ve gotten through *so* many more books than I could have imagined through Audible. There are a few different categories that best fit an audiobook. First, they’re great for personal development books that focus more on big ideas and not necessarily a lot of difficult information. Books by John C. Maxwell, Gretchen Rubin and Ruth Soukup come to mind. I will still carry around my small notebook to jot any notes down, but if I find that it’s too meaty to just listen to, I may want to obtain a copy I can read.

Audiobooks also perfect for memoirs, especially when the memoir is read by the author. Leah Remini’s Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology was fun, in large part because Leah Remini is fun. I’m also working through Hillary Clinton’s What Happened, which is taking a LONG time, but I’m only listening to about 5-10 minutes/day (basically until I feel like listening to something else that doesn’t completely depress me). Memoirs have a fluid quality and are never difficult to come back to, so they’re great for this format.

Audiobooks are also wonderful for fiction. While the majority of the books I read fall under the personal development and self-improvement categories, I always love a good mystery or thriller. I read a lot of books proclaiming to be either “the next” Girl on the Train or Big Little Lies. Sadly, I have found neither, but I still listen to every promising one of them like it’s my damn job. I’ve also long-since listened to every single Agatha Christie mystery that’s been released onto Audible (yes, that’s every single one and some of them more than once – some of them more than say, 20 times). I *highly* recommend them if you’re looking for some classics by the original Queen of Crime. For a personal development junkie like me, fiction sometimes feel frivolous, but you know what? Fiction makes you smarter, and a good mystery in particular is, in my opinion, the best kind of brain workout.

And where do I listen to audiobooks? Answer: everywhere. Getting ready for the day, in the car, cleaning the house, folding laundry, going on a walk (not running – that’s a job for music), painting furniture, coloring in an adult coloring book, taking a bath, and on and on and on. I’m really never not listening to either an audiobook or podcast at any given moment that doesn’t require my concentration and would otherwise be experienced in silence.

Bonus audiobook tip: Listen at 1.25-1.5x speed to get through them even faster. I know some productivity gurus swear by listening at 2x speed to really jam through their reading, but I find that to be too fast to really comprehend the material. But 1.25-1.5x is the sweet spot for me, depending on how quickly the narrator reads to begin with and how difficult the material is. I’ve now found that listening at normal speed sounds way too slow and tedious for me! Experiment to see what works for you and you may be able to squeeze in a few more books this way.

Library Books

Library books are definitely in a category of their own. They’re physical books, which means I’ll have an easier time comprehending the material. On the other hand, you definitely can’t write or highlight in them, so it loses some of the functionality of your own copy of a book. I usually check out a huge stack of just about anything that I’m remotely interested in, then I will ruthlessly pare them down as I go through them at home. Knowing that they were free spares me the burden of forcing myself to finish something that I’m just not into (but see below for more on that). Then, as I begin reading, I’ll either just finish the library book or go ahead and purchase it if I think I need it. If it would make a great addition to a permanent library, I’ll purchase it via Kindle. If it would be best read through the process of a messy annotation, I’ll get a physical copy.

Make Sure It’s Convenient

Keep a Book Everywhere

At any given point in time, my Goodreads profile says I’m reading about 17 books. (Oddly enough, it’s never 16 or 18 or 19 – it’s pretty consistently 17). You might wonder how I keep them straight. That’s not really an issue for me, truthfully – my brain is pretty good at compartmentalizing material. Plus, many of the books are on the same subject so I don’t actually have to make much of a mental switch. The hard part for me has always been how to choose between them. When you have a huge stack of books, how do you decide which one to read right now?

My answer to this question has made reading much more automatic, saving me time and reducing decision fatigue. The answer is that I don’t sit around with a pile of books – I keep 1-2 books in a million different spots, so that I’m reading them at specific times. At any given time, I have the following types of books at these different locations:

  • At my desk: books on mindfulness and a cognitive behavior therapy workbook, for my morning mindset ritual.
  • On my Kindle, by the door: easy to read books for waiting periods when I run errands.
  • On my Audible app on my phone: 1-2 personal development books and 1 psychological thriller. The rule is I listen to the personal development books first throughout the day, then I get to listen to the thriller at the end of the day.
  • In the bathroom (TMI? Sorry!): a one page/day type of book (e.g., The Intellectual Devotional).
  • In the living room: 1-2 personal development books, to read while the kids watch an episode of Paw Patrol before bed.
  • On my nightstand: my “guilty pleasure” (in quotes because I do not actually feel guilty at all) fiction, usually mystery or thriller. Right now it’s usually rereading a young adult thriller, in preparation for my latest obsession, the Teen Creeps Podcast.

Make Sure it’s Fun

Challenges

As mentioned above, I love my Goodreads Reading Challenge. You don’t get anything – no grades, no prizes, no cash (wouldn’t that be sweet?). But I love checking things off and seeing my progress throughout the year. I love looking back and remembering the books I’ve read and how they affected me. And I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with meeting the goal. If you’re motivated by challenges and contests (even if it’s really just with yourself) then make sure you sign up.

Podcasts: The Modern Day Book Club

Oddly enough, I’ve never really been part of a book club. For one thing, as an introvert, I’ve never felt a huge need to make reading a social activity. To make reading a wine activity is another story, certainly, but it’s still a time commitment that I’ve never been able to justify. Maybe when I get older.

I am totally on board, however, with listening a good podcast dedicated to reading books. I just discovered the Teen Creeps podcast, which discusses young adult thrillers from the 80’s and 90’s. Rereading books I read as a young teenager is kind of amazing  and the hosts, Kelly Nugent and Lindsay Katai, are hilarious. Sometimes it’s hard to justify spending time on not only “frivolous” reading but also on frivolous podcasting to go over the frivolous book I already read, but listening to this podcast is one of my end-of-the-day fun activities, often just replacing TV while I pick up the house and fold laundry. In this way, it’s actually a better use of my time than sitting in front of the TV.

But if teen thrillers aren’t your thing, there are tons of other great podcasts out there to compliment your reading habit. You get the benefits of a book club without actually having to leave your house or talk to people! (If that matters to you, as it does me).

Have at Least One Fun Book on Your Nightstand

The last book I read is going to be fun, frivolous, and maybe a little trashy. It’s something to look forward to after a long day. It doesn’t require a lot of brain cells, which is useful because I feel pretty fried at that point. It’s also extra incentive to get myself to bed earlier, which means I get more sleep. Lest I spend all day reading Christopher Pike, however, I leave it on my nightstand as a clear signal that I need to fill up my brain with some learning before I can get to teens receiving ignoring ominous chain letters.

It’s Ok to Throw Out the Trash

This last tip is a gentle reminder that, just like you don’t have to clean your plate at dinner, you absolutely, 100% do not have to finish every book you start. It doesn’t matter if everyone else on the planet loved it. If you hate it, throw it out! (Don’t actually throw it away – donate it, of course). I tried to read 50 Shades of Grey and I couldn’t get through it. Besides the problematic nature of the misogyny glorified abusive relationship that didn’t fall in line with the actual practices of much of the S&M community, it. was. so. boring. Like, so boring. I got about 100 pages through and just couldn’t go on. Who are these people and why do I care about them? I don’t! And I don’t feel bad about it. Because it freed up my time to read more Christopher Pike (which isn’t always super feminist but at least it’s interesting).

Cheers to reading more!

***

What books are you reading this year? Tell me in the comments.

 

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Productive Tasks You Can Do On Your Phone When You Have 5 Minutes to Spare

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. I only recommend products that have personally made my life better. Thank you for your support!

The other day I was sitting in the waiting area at our local elementary school while my oldest daughter was getting her evaluation for Kindergarten readiness done. It wasn’t supposed to be a long process so I didn’t bring my Kindle, but still, I had to wait for, like, 10 minutes. 10 minutes. I know that’s not a terribly long period of time, but I was (am) a bundle of nerves about this whole Kindergarten thing so it was basically torture. Plus, I hate not being productive! I was all caught up on the basics – email, texts, Facebook. What now?

So just what do you do when you have a few minutes to spare and nothing but your phone? Read on:

Listen to a Good Book

Even if all you have is your phone, you can still listen to your current audiobook. At any given moment, I am in the middle of 4-5 books on Audible (and 4-5 on Kindle
and 4-5 from the library or used bookstore – I may have a problem). Obviously, if you’re in a waiting room, you’ll need to have earbuds with you, but if you’re in the car, crank it up.

Listen to Your Favorite Podcast

Same concept as above. Some of my favorites include Pod Save America, Undisclosed (for Serial fans, this is mandatory), Side Hustle Nation, Up and Vanished, Smart Passive Income, and The 5 Am Miracle. And, of course, Serial, but are they ever going to do a third season?

Improve Your Workout Playlist

Whether you have a specific list of songs or you have a streaming service based around your “likes”, you can go into the app and add or like more songs. I have a running playlist I’ve created through Google Play and I’m constantly updating it. As a result, I love love love my workout music, which means I love love love my workouts. Seriously! Sometimes I have a specific song in mind that I want to add, but other times I’ll just go to a workout songs station that looks good and listen with the sole purpose of adding songs to my mix. Improving your workout playlist is great to do when you’re not working out because nothing kills a workout faster than crappy songs. Plus, knowing you have new music (but vetted) music waiting for you at your next workout makes you that much more motivated to get ‘er done.

Clip coupons

Many grocery and drug stores have apps that allow you to clip coupons and offers, such as CVS and Target. If I know I’m due for a Target run, I’ll go through Cartwheel and add deals.

Get Cashback

If you’re not already signed up for Ebates, you need it now. It’s totally legit and not a scam. You get cashback on purchases that you make from tons of stores you already shop at. In my first two months using it, I’ve earned $21.37 and counting. It’s not a ton of money, but free money is free money!

While Ebates is mainly for online shopping, you can get cashback on in-store purchases through the Ibotta app. Through the app, you select offers for cashback. After you shop, you take a picture of your receipt and wait for the cash. I’ve made $11.50 in the past month. Again, not a lot, but every little bit adds up.

Link Your Card

While you’re at it, link your grocery store card to your local public school – whether or not you have a child in attendance at that, this is a cost-free way to get money to kids for their education.

Grocery List

This one is self-explanatory – if you don’t already have a running grocery list going, create one.

Keep a Personal Hygiene Kit in the Car

Keep a small bag in the car of items you can use to feel a little more put together: nail file, nail clippers, hand cream, dental floss, gum, tweezers, even nail polish. You can even give yourself a mini-manicure or tweeze your brows while listening to your audiobook or podcast. Two birds, one stone.

Email or Text a Friend You Miss

Chances are, there is someone in your life you haven’t spoken to in awhile and you miss them, but you never get around to texting or calling because you’re so freakin’ busy. Now’s your chance – reach out! It doesn’t have to be long – just a short “thinking about you, how are you doing? How is ___?” is enough to get the ball rolling and show them you care.

Brainstorm

If you do anything creative with your time, you’ve probably noticed that ideas hit you at random moments throughout the day when you least expect them. And if you have kids, have a chronic illness or have a busy career (or all of the above), you’ve probably noticed that your memory is just not what it used to be. I keep a running list on my phone of blog post ideas so that when inspiration strikes, I can just open up the list, type it out and move on with my day knowing full well I would completely forget about it otherwise. A five-minute waiting time is also the perfect moment to sit down and actively think about everything you need to generate ideas for, be it blog post ideas, Etsy products, Christmas gift ideas, or Halloween costumes.

Medidate

Ok, you may not want to do this if you’re sitting in a waiting room surrounded by other busy moms, but if you’re waiting in your car for dance or soccer to end, this is perfect. If you want to use an app, my favorite is Calm, but there are several other good ones. Or you can do it old school sans app. Just sit comfortably, close your eyes, let your shoulders drop, relax your jaw and your face, and breathe slowly for 5 minutes (or 2 or 10 or whatever – any amount is beneficial). Done.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the intentional awareness of the present moment and all of your feelings, both physical and emotional, that accompany that moment. Studies show that being intentionally mindful on a daily basis is incredibly beneficial to our well-being. You can actually cultivate mindfulness in your life by engaging in short daily “mindfulness meditation” sessions. A mindfulness meditation session is different from “regular” meditation in that relaxation is not the goal (although it may still occur) and clearing your mind is not the process, but rather focusing on yourself and your present moment is. You can do this with your eyes open or closed: pay attention to your breath without trying to control it. Do a full body scan – how does each part of your body feel? What emotions are you feeling? What sounds to you hear? What smells? What do you see? Are you hot or cold? Notice all of these things without judgment. If your mind wanders to anything that’s not this present moment, gently bring it back. Repeat daily.

Practice Visualization

Countless successful people, from athletes to entrepreneurs, tout the benefits of visualization. Imagining your “win” – whatever that looks like for you – trains your brain to create a life that aligns with those pictures. Take 5 minutes: close your eyes, imagine your scenario with as much detail as possible and with the same emotions you would feel if the scenario came to fruition. For best results, repeat daily.

What about you? Do you have any great productivity tasks for filling time?

Five Cities in Nine Days: An Exercise in Mindfulness

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals. I ONLY recommend products that have made my life better. Thank you for your support!

I tend to get the travel jitters pretty hard. I always start packing for a trip days in advance – I’ve discovered that my packing sweet spot is to start packing the number of days in advance that roughly corresponds to the number of days I’ll be on the trip. This gets pretty ridiculous for a long trip, but it works for me. I’m a future thinker, a planner.

Mindfulness is not my strong point.

How Travel Teaches Mindfulness

I’ve never done a trip quite like this before. I’m on a full-blown West Coast Tour, visiting friends and family all over California and Washington state, taking advantage of a best friend’s baby shower to see everyone else on this side of the country whom I’ve been missing since moving to North Carolina 10 years ago.

And oh my, is it exhausting. I knew it would be – for an introvert with fibromyalgia, travel is incredibly challenging. I knew that it would be and I mentally prepared for that. I planned out being able to sleep plenty, packed as lightly as possible, and made sure none of my plans in each city were overreaching and that I allowed myself enough time for rest. What I was not prepared for, however, was the necessity of mindfulness throughout the trip – of actually being aware of what I’m doing in the present moment. Normally, right before getting on a plane, I’m in hyperjittery strategy mode, just jacked up on adrenaline like I’m about to head into battle. In the 24 hours before getting on a plane, my head will literally figuratively be in the clouds – thinking about the flight, the departure, the arrival, the airport, baggage claim, transportation to and from the airport, my destination. Which bag should I use? Which suitcase? Check or carry on? Which headphones should I use? Did I forget something? Charger, check, phone, check, Kindle, check, laptop, check, liquids in a clear plastic quart-sized bag check, and on and on and on. In the days and hours leading up to a flight, my eyes would just glaze over and there was no hope of anyone making intelligent conversation with me.

Not this week. Now I can’t vouch for the intelligent conversation of my company, but I have definitely been present in a way that is surprising. I mean, I have to be. I have to make the most out of every interaction with the friends and family I’m visiting before moving on to the next city. So I just don’t have time to worry about my luggage. I am here, enjoying company and soaking up the city before I am not here.

It doesn’t come naturally to me, however. Minds like mine want to wander. It’s hard to pin a planner down to the Earth, and it feels like that a little bit – like being pinned. But I know it’s necessary. I also understand that it’s a skill, which means that while it may be difficult, it can be learned, but it takes practice. That’s why I called it an exercise in mindfulness. I’m not really great at it, but I think I can be. And that’s not even the point. Just like in meditation, another prime example of an activity that teaches you mindfulness, the point is the practice. The benefit to my well-being that the very practice of mindfulness can accomplish is the point. When we meditate, we try to quiet our mind and focus on nothing but this present moment, but everytime it wanders around to thoughts outside the moment, we are to gently bring it back to the present without any judgment. Knowing that trying to medidate is meditating, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re very good at it. In the same way, trying to be mindful is being mindful, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re very good at it.

I’m going to wrap it up now – I’m meeting a friend for dinner.

Things I’ve enjoyed this week – long conversations, long dinners, and long showers.

Cheers to living in the moment.

Do These 9 Things on Sunday for a Better Monday (and Week)

I have a hard time with weekends. Now that I no longer have a traditional job, my days are kind of whacked. Monday through Thursday, I can work on my blog and other projects while the kids are in preschool. The rest of the time, I’m a stay at home mom, with a million things on my plate. My husband, on the other hand, is a partner at a top law firm (he’s in “BigLaw” if you’re interested in the lingo), so he works anywhere from 60-80 hours/week, 50 weeks a year. He doesn’t see much of us during the week so weekends are typically family time. I tend to get antsy, though, when I feel like I need to be more productive than lazing around the house, playing board games or whatever. During the week we’ve got activities – dance class or a playdate or making cards for whatever holiday is coming up and, as exhausting as it is, I feel like we’re accomplishing something, as opposed to kind of meandering through our time together on the weekend. (Of course that’s a problem with my attitude – the simple act of spending time together is “productive”, absolutely, but I have to get my brain to believe that. That’s for another post).

(Am I the only one with this problem, by the way?)

 

farmto table (1)

All that being said, there are definitely some things that you can do over the weekend, and in particular on Sunday, that will make the rest of your week go much smoother. This is a great way to feel accomplished without sacrificing family time – win win! So, here are 9 things you can do Sunday for a better week ahead:

Meal Prep. 

This is slightly misleading because I don’t mean actually cook and plan out a thousand meals (unless you’re motivated to do so!). I personally think that’s a little overboard. But I do mean stock your fridge, cut up fruits and vegetables, hard-boil some eggs and maybe make a couple dishes that are easily freezable, like lasagna or meatloaf. Most of my meals during the week tend to be very simple – an meat (something easy to prepare, like a ham steak, chicken breast, or, during the summer, anything I can throw on the grill), a vegetable (frozen and usually steamed in the microwave), and a carb (corn or a baked potato or pasta, etc.). So I don’t need to prepare those meals in advance, but I do want to make sure I’m ready to roll with everything on hand.

Plan Out Your Dinners.

Even though I may not prepare all my meals in advance, I do plan out what I’m going to make every night that week. To make it even easier than that, I usually do the same thing on the same days of the week. For example, on Sundays we grill out steak and on Wednesdays I fix spaghetti. I vary things up a bit sometimes, but not much. This makes me happy because I abhor making decisions about meals. You may prefer a little more variety from week to week, but you can still plan out your week of dinners every Sunday for a much easier week.

Plan Out Your Week.

Take a look at your calendar and go through all of your appointments and responsibilities over the upcoming week. Then go through and sketch out, in detail, your schedule for Monday. I do this every night and it’s a huge help in time management. The key is detail – instead of “run errands”, I will write down where I’m going and in what order. Instead of “workout” I write down exactly what kind of workout I’m doing (upper body, lower body, long run, short interval run, etc.). All of this serves to eliminate the time-wasting decision-making that happens when I try to just wing it.

Set Your Priorities. 

This is different than planning out your schedule. It’s more like setting a theme for the week, or setting an intention. What is the one thing you want to accomplish? Working out everyday? Writing a blog post? Spending quality time with your kids? Packing for a trip? Whatever it is, write it down and revisit it every night.

Clean Out Your Bag and Off Your Desk.

Whether you’re heading into your home office or taking your laptop with you to a coffee shop, you want to start the week with a clean slate. Tidy up, file receipts, throw away the trash. I know my week goes a lot smoother when I’m not constantly searching for misplaced items.

Clean the Kitchen.

I mean, if you have time, clean the whole damn house. But if you don’t have that much time, at least clean the clutter off the counters, sweep the floors, wipe down the table, and load and run the dishwasher. Waking up in the morning to a clean kitchen makes such a difference in my attitude – which I need because I am not someone who naturally loves to wake up early!

Do One Load of Laundry.

I don’t have a “laundry day”. With a family, there’s just too much to keep up with to do it all in one day. My best advice for laundry is spread it out equally over the entire week. For me, that’s about 2 loads/day. No matter what, though, I do at least one load/day. I do the easy stuff, like towels or sheets, on my busiest days. Laundry is truly the act of pushing a boulder up a hill over and over again, but it is most manageable if you work on it everyday.

Plan Your Outfits.

Lay out which clothes your going to throw on in the morning (for me, that’s usually yoga pants, a layering take top and a t-shirt). Have a rough idea of what you want to wear the rest of the week. If you know you need something dry cleaned, put it in the car.

Read a Fiction Book Before Bed.

This is my hack for getting to bed early because a good book helps makes bedtime a little more appealing for those of us who treasure our “me time” after the kids go to bed. Fiction is best because it lets your mind rest a little, and it feels like a relaxing treat at the end of the day.

Have a great week and I hope these tips help you this Sunday. What do you like to do over the weekend to get ready for the week ahead?

Treat Yourself Better: Some New Ideas for Self-Care

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Mama’s havin’ a day. You know that’s true because I only refer to myself in the third person (or as “Mama” – it’s “Mom”, thank you) when I am, in fact, having a difficult day. Those used to be the days that result in wine, cookie dough and TV (and sometimes they still do). Unfortunately, those strategies tend to result in feeling like crap and guilt in the morning. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty – overindulging and numbing my senses is an understandable way to deal with stress, even if it’s not particularly helpful. This year, though, I am all about finally taking care of myself, in every way. This includes how I take care of myself in times of stress (and also as prevention of said stress). Less wine, less carbs, less trashy TV.

‘K.

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However, the stereotypical “healthy” self-care habits that tend to come to mind – things like taking a long bath, getting a massage, giving yourself a mudmask, getting a pedicure – aren’t always practical, affordable or even desirable. I mean, I’m stressed out, but maybe I just don’t want to take a hot bath. And what if I don’t have the money or time for a massage or a pedicure? Doing a mudmask is something I do to take care of my skin but it’s not anymore enjoyable than brushing my teeth, so it really doesn’t belong on that kind of list. So in an effort to do better at self-care, I did some serious brainstorming. Hopefully, you’ll find this list helpful as well.

  1. Breathe. Relaxation triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the relaxation response. This results in slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, relaxing your muscles, releasing those feel-good chemicals like dopamine into your system. One method is through meditation – but there’s a misconception that it’s the only way. Many people think they need to meditate, then give up after they decide it’s too hard because they can’t keep their mind still. One, meditation should be like Planet Fitness – it’s a no judgment zone! Would you tell someone who was physically unfit that they shouldn’t exercise because they’re no good at it? No! The process of trying to still your mind is still incredibly beneficial. Second, even if you still feel like meditation isn’t your thing, you can still trigger the relaxation response in other ways. There are other techniques that can work, such as guided imagery visualization, guided passive progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, yoga, hypnosis, acupuncture, or diaphragmatic breathing. Listening to a guided track may be easier than sitting in silence, and that’s ok. Experiment with different techniques to see what works best for you. And what does it take to significantly trigger your body’s parasympathatic nervous system? 30 minutes a day. That’s it. Best of all, you can break it up into 10 minute sessions — I try to medidate for 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and then listen to a guided relaxation CD as I’m falling asleep.
  2. Listen to a fun book. I listen to audiobooks on Audible pretty regularly and probably 75% of what I listen to is personal development. (What can I say? I’m a personal development junkie!) But I definitely allow myself to have at any point in time at least one book that’s pure entertainment. For me, that’s going to be mystery or psychological thriller, but maybe for you that’s comedy or romance or even young adult! I listen to books every second of the day I’m doing anything alone that doesn’t require much of my brain – driving, cleaning, painting furniture, going on a walk. Every mundane task gets leveled up into entertainment for me! It makes the whole day a little more enjoyable.
  3. Rent a movie from Redbox. I mean, I know we all have Netflix or Hulu or whatever by now, but, for me, there’s something very nostalgic and comforting about renting a movie (even if it’s out of a vending machine and not at a now obsolete video store). It’s special somehow. Look for something you’ve been wanting to see and get something just for yourself. Wait for the kids to go to bed. Pop some popcorn, grab a blanket. Just another night in front of the TV, now leveled up.
  4. Skip the massage and invest the money in some good bedding. High threadcount is the gift that keeps on giving – it lasts night after night and the sheets only get softer with each wash. The feeling of climbing into a supremely comfortable bed at the end of the day is nothing short of “I am cared for”. Good bedding can be expensive but it’s worth the splurge (imho)! Here’s my recommendation.
  5. Stretch it out. A good stretch in the morning and at the end of the day is essential to keeping aches, pains, and stiffness at bay. I have fibromyalgia so this one is pretty much a non-negotiable for me, but everyone could greatly benefit from 10-20 minutes/day of stretching. I use the stretch it out strap for maximum benefits and, because the strap allows me to be completely passive, a much more relaxing experience.
  6. Roll it out. Along the same lines, using a foam roller can really get the knots out, ease soreness and reduce inflammation. Plus, it’s *much* cheaper and more convenient than getting a massage.
  7. Incorporate aromatherapy into your routine with essential oils. Essential oils are *not* just for diffusers – they are incredibly versatile! From diffuser jewelry to roller balls to adding a few drops to your hand cream to adding a couple drops to an all-natural cleaner, there are so many ways to incorporate essential oils into your daily routine. This is my absolute favorite blend right now – I add a couple drops to a lava bead diffuser necklace and breathe it in whenever I feel stressed during the day.

I hope this list is helpful! I’d love to get your ideas for self-care – comment below.

Adeventures in Boothing: 5 Reasons Why an Antique Mall Booth Should Be Your Next Side Hustle

About a month ago I was wandering through a local antique mall with my husband (the kids were with grandparents so we were taking the opportunity to visit everywhere *breakable*). As I looked over all the pretty finds, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a booth like this? Wait a minute – could I have a booth like this? I COULD have a booth like this!”

I mean, how hard could it be, right?

One month later, I’m at the helm, about to open my booth! I’ve discovered that it isn’t quite as easy as it sounds – but it’s still not hard and if you have any inkling to do it, I totally recommend it.

Why you should open a vintage booth

When I’m a little bit more experienced, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about what makes for a successful booth. In the meantime, here is my list of reasons why I think opening a vendor booth is a great side hustle.

  1. Anyone can do it. I mean, if I can go from “hey I like stuff” to “I’m a vintage and antiques vendor” in less than a month, then, seriously, anyone. So the process is basically this: find a booth to rent, rent the booth, collect inventory, tag inventory, set up the booth, wait for sales, replenish collection, rinse and repeat. Easy, right? Ok, there’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the basic model and it’s one that anyone can replicate.
  2. (Relatively) low start-up cost. The start-up costs are low – you’ll need to have money for to rent the booth – in my small town of Denver, NC, and surrounding area, booth rental costs anywhere from $65-200/month. It’s a good idea to have 3 months saved up before you get started because it can take some time for revenue to add up. On top of that you’ll need money to collect inventory (unless you already have a decent sized collection to begin with). All told, I spent about $1000 in total at garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores building up a solid collection of antiques, vintage items, and gently used products before I pulled the trigger. Note that the purchase of goods can be spread out over several months if you are working with a limited monthly budget. I had quite a few items to begin with just sitting around as well. Items like this will only appreciate in value, after all, so there’s no real harm in holding on to a collection until you’re ready to make a move.
  3. It is such a satisfying creative outlet. I really didn’t go into this side biz consciously deciding I needed a creative outlet, but it’s really become a surprisingly fulfilling activity for me. Handling these beautiful and interesting objects – from hunting them, to cleaning them, to arranging them together in a pleasing presentation – is so enjoyable and truly recharges me. Even though I wind up physically exhausted some days, the project is having the opposite effect on my brain – I feel more energized and more creative everyday.
  4. This gig is fairly passive income after the initial set up. What’s better than passive income? We all want to have a few streams of income that don’t require much work (note I said “much”, not “any” – there’s no such thing as getting something for nothing) once you put in the initial time and money investment. There is certainly a bit of work in the beginning as you’re hunting down, cleaning and tagging an entire collection of goods. And depending on your plans for furniture – are you flipping pieces of furniture or are you just scouting for good deals that you can turn around and sell as is at a profit? – there may be some manual labor required there. But after the beginning stage, you’re only going to need to replenish items as they sell, which naturally happens at a much slower pace. And you can batch by taking a day to go shopping, a different day to paint, etc. All in all, it’s a couple hours a week to keep your booth going. Even if it’s not a huge moneymaker, it’s passive enough to be worth it, for me anyways, as long as my profit is in the double digits (where profit = revenue – expenses).
  5. I saved the best reason for last because it’s a good one. Did you know that shopping releases dopamine? Retail therapy is REAL y’all! Dopamine is one of the body’s “feel good” chemicals. It is released during any activity your brain finds highly pleasurable, like watching a hilarious movie, exercise, sex, drugs, or wine. Sadly, many of these activities are not socially acceptable on a frequent basis.  Shopping isn’t frowned upon like daytime drinking and recreational drugs are, but it still has the downside of being expensive. Enter the vendor side gig.  I can get the same fantastic surges when I’m shopping for my booth but now it’s a business expense, not another blemish on the credit card statement that makes my husband’s vein pop out of his forehead, so it all works out. That’s a win win, right?

All in all, I am so excited about this new venture. What do you think? Did I convince anyone to start a new side hustle?

Use This One Strategy to Get to Bed Earlier

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I don’t know about you, but after the kids go to bed, the night that stretches out in front of me is my time. If left to my own devices, I might just stay up all night long scrolling through *all* the social media while binge-watching Dateline reruns and eating cookie dough.

But that’s not really how I want to spend my life. Now that I’ve started waking up earlier, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to have the same amount of time to myself, but when I have it in the morning, I’m doing things to improve my mindset and fill my cup, like meditation, yoga, journaling and planning my day. At night I’m too exhausted to do anything meaningful, so Dateline and cookie dough it is!

But as much as I know what I need to do, I have such a hard time actually making myself go to bed – until I discovered this strategy.

Find a book, preferably fiction and preferably an old school paperback/hard cover, that you would love to read or are currently loving. From now on, you are only allowed to read it in bed, before you go to sleep. If you have something to look forward to, you’re more likely to get to bed earlier – maybe even way earlier than you even need to, if you’re really into the book. From there, if you’re as seriously exhausted as I am, you’ll get drowsy after 10-15 minutes of reading and have to call it quits. The combination of being in your bed – which your brain associates with sleep – along with shutting down all the electronics will allow you to feel a natural state of sleepiness.

Another point – you have to love the book. Seems obvious, right? But being willing to throw a bland book to the curb is easier said than done. I discovered this hack a month or two ago and it had been working really well until recently. It was only after I really thought about it that I realized the problem was that I was totally not interested in the book I was reading. But I had been avoiding dealing with that because I have such a hard time *not* finishing a book. I had to remind myself that I’m not in school anymore and this is my own damn life – I should only be reading books I actually want to read! It goes without saying, but your book of choice should not feel like a chore – it should be a treat!

For myself, I love a good mystery or psychological thriller – anything from Big Little Liesto Murder on the Orient Express to The Girl on the Train to young adult thrillers like Christopher Pike. (By the way, recommendations are *always* welcome).

Of course, this strategy presupposes that you enjoy reading. What if you don’t? First, I’d challenge that. Go to a bookstore (they do still exist) and wander around. There are so many genres. Find something, anything – even if it seems like trifling garbage and you’d be embarrassed to admit you were reading it to anyone but it looks intriguing to you. In fact, bonus points if it feels like a guilty pleasure – all the more enticing! I know I’m always questioning whether every activity I’m engaged in is productive in some way, and it’s really nice to have a time when I can just indulge in something that’s pure entertainment.

But if you really don’t like the idea of reading, there are other things you can do. The trick is to find an activity of some kind that you enjoy that you can only do in bed – like coloring in an adult coloring book, applying a favorite lotion to your feet, writing in a journal, or listening to a relaxation visualization track. I’d love to hear some other ideas!

Have you tried this strategy? Do you have other strategies for getting to bed earlier?

How I Use My Daily Journal

Many times over, I would start a journal or a personal development notebook and barely write in a couple of pages before giving up. Luckily, my 6 year old daughter loves new notebooks, so they eventually get used up! I give them to her for long car trips and they never disappoint.

But I was disappointed in my lack of a daily notetaking habit and I was potentially missing out on changing my life for the better.

How I Use My Daily Journal

My latest journal is an Erin Condren journal with her “productivity layout” and I’m. in. love.  And I guess I wanted to make Erin proud or something because I worked really hard on coming up with a framework for daily note-taking that I’m finding so useful, I actually take notes everyday.

Here it is:

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And here’s the breakdown:

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On the first page, I’m taking jotting stuff down throughout the day. On the left I have a good-sized spot for today’s Notes – anything that you want to remember later from various sources, like reading, meetings, audiobooks, podcasts, etc.

To the right side, there is a spot for a list. I always leave it blank and wait until inspiration hits me. Inevitably I’ll have a list of some kind to make that day, whether it’s ideas for blog posts, things to do for my daughter’s birthday party, or things I need to pack for a trip. This customizable Erin Condren notebook with its “productivity layout” even includes bullet points down the list.

I’ve dedicated the following page to my Evening Reflection, which I do every night as part of my “evening routine”.

First, Tomorrow’s Top Priority – notice that it says “Priority” and not “Priorities”. This is not the place to list every single thing that I need to do! I’m focusing on the one thing I need to accomplish tomorrow and going to bed with that in mind. Then, when I wake up in the morning, I already have that priority focused and can get started on the day much faster (useful for waking up in the morning when you’re so not a morning person).

Next, I write one thing I’m grateful for, which makes a big difference in cultivating a positive mindset.

And I saved the best for last – write down something to Sleep On – ask yourself a question or think about a problem that needs to be solved, especially a problem that needs a creative solution. Your subconscious will actually work on it while you sleep. (Say whaaaaaat!?) According to Thomas Edison, [a person should] “never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” This productivity hack delights me SO much because there is literally nothing more efficient than getting something done WHILE YOU’RE SLEEPING.

Right?!

20180417_095133So what about you? Do you have a great system for writing down notes in your journal everyday?

 

12 Life Management Strategies for People Living with Chronic Pain or Fatigue

Living with a chronic condition is like living with a run-down sedan with the check engine light on, the taillight busted and duct tape on the windows. And you’re never going to be able to trade it in. It seems to be lasting just as long as all the other cars, but it’s not a sweet ride. A little over 3 years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. At first, I was actually relieved because I had spent years feeling like I was crazy, visiting doctor after doctor about my symptoms. I felt vindicated because it wasn’t all in my head, as some doctors had suggested, and I felt like now I could move forward, with a treatment plan. What followed were years of medications and treatments ranging from Lyrica to physical therapy to dry needling to acupuncture to amphetamines to veganism to Shakeology to massage. I knew there was no cure, but I figured surely there was something, anything, that would at least improve my symptoms. Nothing, not one damn thing, made me feel more than slightly better for more than a day, let alone improve my symptoms long-term. I read all the books. I did everything my doctors told me to do. And it only got worse.

Then came a trip to the Mayo Clinic.

This past January, I attended the three-week Pain Rehabilitation Clinic hosted by Rochester’s Mayo Clinic (known as the “PRC” to its participants — we’re pretty cool). I hope that in sharing what I learned from the experience, it might help someone who needs it.

  1. Rethink your medications. Many medications (in particular, the opioids and benzodiazipans) that are commonly prescribed, while appropriate for acute pain, are actually ineffective or even detrimental for chronic conditions. You will do better without them. Talk to your doctor about safely weaning off of them.
  2. Get good sleep. Easier said than done, but it’s absolutely crucial to make it a prirority. Listening to a guided meditation track is usually a pretty effective approach to falling asleep. If your problems run deeper, get a referral for a sleep doctor to get the full workup.
  3. Relax. Chronic stress is incredibly damaging to your body’s central nervous system. Stress of any kind, whether it’s kids that won’t stop fighting, a horrible boss, or a bear chasing us through the forest, triggers the body’s sympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight-or-flight system. This is supposed to be a good thing — when we are being chased by a predator, for example, it’s incredibly helpful get a shot of adrenaline and cortisol pumping through your body. Your heart rate increases, your senses heighten and your body tenses up. You run faster, you’re stronger and you think more sharply than normal. But the body doesn’t understand that the everyday stresses of work and home life don’t need the same kind of reaction. Your body just interprets stress as stress, and continues dumping chemicals into your body at toxic levels. Your heart rate and blood pressure rise permanently. Your body’s sensitivity to pain increases. The other component of the central nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the relaxation response. Relaxation triggers this system, which results in slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, relaxing your muscles, releasing those feel-good chemicals like dopamine into your system and — ta-da! — dampening your body’s sensitivity to pain. Over time, with consistent practice, relaxation can actually cause your brain to feel less pain. One method is through meditation. I use the Calm App, but there are plenty of others out there. Make it a daily habit and you will feel a difference. For an excellent primer on how to meditate for people who think they can’t quiet their mind, read Bliss More: How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying by Light Watkins (if that’s his real name, he was destined to become a guru). Note, however, that it doesn’t have to be meditation. There are other techniques that can trigger the relaxation response, such as guided imagery visualization, guided passive progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, biofeedback, yoga, hypnosis, or even acupuncture. Listening to a guided track may be easier than sitting in silence, and that’s ok. Experiment with different techniques to see what works best for you. And what does it take to significantly trigger your body’s parasympathatic nervous system? 30 minutes a day. That’s it. Best of all, you can break it up into 10 minute sessions — I try to medidate for 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and then listen to a guided relaxation CD as I’m falling asleep.
  4. Get happier — mindset is everything. Studies show that people wholive with chronic pain or illness tend to be more stressed and more depressed than the population at large. (I mean, duh, right?) Understandable as it is to be miserable when your body doesn’t seem to work right, it’s not helpful, and, in fact, counterproductive to the task of feeling better. If you want to get better, you need to get happier. It’s a never-ending cycle — pain causes negative feelings. Negative feelings increase your pain — literally. Negative feelings cause you to respond a certain way. More pain leads to more negative feelings. The PRC recommended using cognitive behaviorial theory to break the cycle. CBT is a very practical, action-oriented program for changing your thoughts, feelings, and actions about and around yourself and various aspects of your life. Essentially, it is retraining your brain towards a healthier, more realistic mindset. Find a CBT counselor in your area and make an appointment today. If you’re not quite ready for that step, get a copy of The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians by Jeff Riggenbach to get started on your own.
  5. Even if you don’t do CBT, you can adopt a better mindset by eliminating “pain behaviors”. A pain behavior is anything you do in response to pain or fatigue in an effort to feel better, but which doesn’t actually really help. This includes, for example, ice, heat, ibuprofren, Icy Hot, wearing joint braces, alcohol, opioids, complaining about the pain, groaning and limping. Most of these (other than alcohol, probably) are appropriate tools for when you’re suffering acute pain, like a sprained ankle or a sinus infection. None of them make chronic symptoms better and in many cases they make them worse. The behaviors draw attention to your pain — both from your own brain, resulting in strengthening those pain sensitivity pathways, and draw attention from others around you, resulting in them treating you differently — perhaps like you’re fragile and can’t do anything — resulting, again, in strengthening the pain sensitivity pathways in your brain. Pain becomes worse. The best thing you can do for chronic pain is to stop feeding it attention and it will get smaller. Stop talking about your symptoms. Stop wearing that wrist brace. Distract yourself with stuff you really care about and you’ll find yourself living your life, and possibly enjoying it.
  6. Move. Start with a five minute walk and add a minute everyday until you can do 20–30 minutes/day. And those 30 minutes can be broken down into three 10-minute walks.
  7. Do everything with moderation. This is hard for me because I’m an all or nothing kind of person — I don’t like to half-ass a thing. But I’ve realized lately that doing something slower or with less intensity is not half-assing it even if I could handle a lot more when I was younger. It’s not where I am now, older and living with fibromyalgia. If going at full-speed leads to crashing and burning, then full-speed is not optimal. For example, I love running, but I have to accept the fact that I can’t do it everyday — a couple days a week, tops, alternating with walking on the other days. And when I do run, it really means jog, not sprint. This approach has allowed me to consistently workout nearly everyday since January, which is pretty incredible.
  8. Use time-based pacing, a scheduling technique of scheduling activities to last a certain amount of time rather than going by how long it actually takes or by how you’re feeling at that moment (whether good or bad). You write up a schedule and stick to it. And in doing so, you make sure you’re alternating active and sedentary activities in short time frames (10–30 minutes, depending on your stamina and the type of activity) in order to conserve energy and avoid burnout. It seems counterintuitive to time management efficiency — it doesn’t allow for a lot of batching, after all — but it’s incredibly helpful for people with a limited reserve of energy. Tidy up the house for 20 minutes, sit down and pay bills for 20 minutes, then wash dishes. The key is to stop the active activity after the 20 minutes even if you’re not done or even if you still have plenty of energy. This way, you’ll be able to avoid burnout and get more done throughout the week. Workouts can be broken up this way too — instead of going on one 40-minute walk, which might leave you too tired to move the next day, go on four 10-minute walks spread throughout the day, which will leave you energized. Spread out big chores across multiple days — mow the front lawn one day and the backyard the next. Your neighbors might think you’re crazy, but you’ll feel better. Same for running errands. Anyone with a chronic condition knows how exhausting running errands is. After dropping the kids off at preschool, I’d run all over town for 3 hours trying to fit everything in. By the end of the day, my legs would be screaming at me, my entire body felt like a wet noodle, my eyes would be burning, I’d have a migraine, and my brain would feel like someone swiped it out of my head and replaced it with bubbles. But I figured, errands are bad, so let’s just cram it all into one day and get it over with. The better approach is to do one, maybe two errands in one day and spread them over the week.
  9. Speaking of errands, eliminate as many of them as possible. While you’re limiting yourself to 1–2 errands/day, you’ll also want to make sure you have as few places as possible to go to throughout the week. Amazon Prime is amazing, as is their Subscribe & Save feature. I have everything from toilet paper to toothpaste to protein powder on Subscribe & Save. At a minimum, put the big and heavy stuff on subscribe to conserve energy. I also use a dry cleaning delivery service (no more expensive than the regular shops) and a grocery pickup service (a bit more expensive). Other delivery options to look into — meals (either prepared or a meal kit service), produce, meat, clothing, pet products, diapers, prescriptions, contact lenses — and on and on. Every time you have something to do, first ask yourself, can I get it online or can I do this over the phone? When you want to schedule a playdate for your kids, be proactive and ask them to come over rather than having to end up going to their house or meeting at a park. Sure, you might have to tidy up a little first, but that’s so much easier than getting the kids ready (which involves getting them to go potty before we leave (or can you at least try?), insisting that they wear pants, battling them over shoes, packing a snack and water for each, switching cups because I gave them the wrong cups), getting myself ready (phone, snack, water, wear clothes appropriate for being out in public, shoes, forget 1–2 items upstairs), getting the kids in the car, lugging all of our crap, driving across town, going some place unfamiliar, getting the kids ready to leave (they don’t want to leave), getting the kids in the car, lugging all of our crap, driving back across town and having to cook dinner the second we get home because we stayed too long because the kids didn’t want to leave — and they didn’t want the snack before but now they’re about to die of starvation. Or maybe it’s just me. But basically, anytime you have the option to stay home, take it.
  10. But do leave the house everyday. The other extreme, one which happens a lot more in the dreary winter months for me, are those days where you feel too lethargic and fuzzy to move and you stay home in pajamas all day, sometimes for days on end. It’s not good for you or for your family. Even if you’ve eliminated all of your errands — great! — you still want to go somewhere, even if it’s just a short walk. When I have the kids with me, we’ll go to the park, the library, or stay at their preschool after pickup to play on the playground for a little while — these are all fairly low key activities that keep the kids entertained without asking too much of me. Bonus points if it involves socializing with other parents — see below.
  11. Social support is vital. It’s really easy to lose touch with friends and family when you’re too damn tired to do anything, but it distracts you from the pain and it feeds your soul.
  12. Find meaning. All too often, chronic illness takes over our lives. It becomes the only thing we really think about or deal with or “do”, making our lives smaller and smaller and so negative. THIS IS CRAP. It’s bullshit. Again, easier said than done, but you *have* to put your pain in its place. Even if you are unable to work, do something — volunteer, spend more time with family, write in a blog (a-hem) — and start feeling a little more meaning in your life.

One Good Morning

Since this blog is still in its infancy, you don’t know me well enough to know that me writing about waking up early is ludicrous. I’ve always been a night owl. Before kids, I would regularly sleep in, sometimes past noon, any chance I got. That glorious day in October when you get to set your clocks back an hour was like Christmas to me (it’s not anymore because it turns out kids don’t react well to time changes – that’s another story). I’m a huge fan of Jeff Sanders’ 5am Miracle podcast and I also love Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning. They both have such a clarity of purpose and positive mindset that I admire. But as much as I admire an early riser, I am far from it. I had no intention of even including mornings in any of my categories until this very moment. So if you’re looking for one of those “ideal morning routine” posts, this is not that.

Not yet.

I have wanted to become a morning person for a long long time. I know it’s the right thing to do in terms of productivity and mental health. I’ve tried and failed so many times in the past. I am setting my intention now. In the spirit of everything this blog embodies, I am going to become a morning person (there but for the grace of God go I). I will cultivate early mornings in my life.

The best part about this, right now, is that I actually want to do it – and I never had before. But I’m excited about my life right now – maybe that’s the difference. I finally have things to do! I need to carve out more time in my day to actually write for my blog, after all. I’m so thrilled about the direction of my life right now that I think I finally have the motivation to get it done.

What about you? Are mornings easy or hard? Do you wish you had more time in your day?