Often, we find ourselves looking out into the horizon and for the life of us, we have no idea how to get there, or how we even got to where we are at this point in life. The new year is always a time of reflection for many people; a time to reflect on the year that has come to an end, and what it brought us, and a time to reflect on the year ahead of us, and the promise of opportunity that it lays out before us.
All too often, when people look back over the year that has come to an end, they are filled with regret. Regret over a broken relationship, perhaps they did not make that job change they had been contemplating for some time, or maybe, just regret over doing absolutely nothing throughout the year that brought about a sense of fulfillment to their soul. A true sense of peace and happiness from within generally originates from personal growth, and most people rarely step out of their all too familiar comfort zone to reach the level of uncomfortable that is required of growth.
Sometimes, looking at the year ahead can be a damn scary thing for many people. Maybe their job has changed; maybe their family dynamic has changed because some family members have moved out or moved away; perhaps, they are the ones that have moved to start a new life in a new town, or even a new state, and they see themselves, for the first time, surrounded by total strangers instead of family and friends. Fear can be a very overshadowing emotion that can obscure the view of the future.
Some people are fortunate in that they do not look to the past year, nor the upcoming year with any regret or fear or dread. They view the changes that have taken place in their lives during the past year and the changes that they will face in the new year as opportunities to learn, not just about new places or the world, but learn about themselves. When we have been surrounded by family and friends for our entire lives, we develop a level of comfort in that, and in knowing that while family and friends will not always see eye to eye with them, they will always love them and be there no matter what. People fear less failing when they know they have loving and supportive people there to help pick them back up afterwards.
To face a new year that is already latent with big life changes, provides one with a chance to see how strong they can truly be. If failure comes, there is no loving family or supportive friends to comfort you. Likewise, if great successes arise from the changes that have transpired, those same family and friends will not be there to provide hearty congratulations or help celebrate the joyous occasions.
Regardless, as the very cheesy and cliché saying goes, the new near brings with it three hundred and sixty-five new opportunities; three hundred and sixty-five blank pages on which you have the chance to author your own story, make it a good one. As a matter of fact, I believe that is the best way to look at the upcoming year. There will be good days and there will be bad days; days that come easy and days that will present a variety of challenges to get through. But days that have no concrete story line to follow as of yet, and days that can be faced with determination and anticipation. After all, we learn the most and obtain the greatest amount of grown through the bad days and the challenging days. Those days will only make the good days sweeter.
So, as you stand on the threshold of a new year, take the regret of the past year, and put it away, we cannot do anything to change what has already been done. Rather, look forward, knowing that all days will not be easy or fun, but you have the opportunity and the power within you to make them as good as you can make them for yourself. Every year, the flowers die out from the harsh conditions of the winter, yet, every spring, through thawed ground, they inch their way back to life, and put on a glorious showing for the springtime. See yourself as a flower in the spring at the beginning of the year. Inch your way back to life and put on a glorious show!
Yes, good days will come and go. But after all, “it can’t rain all the time.” (Eric Draven- The Crow)
It is with a degree of difficulty that we think about giving up that last little slice of the summer pie we have been afforded year after year. But, alas, as summer draws to a close and fall is upon the horizon, it is time to prepare for that ever daunting task of getting back to school The time doesn’t have to be stressful, however. And, I have created some tips to help get you organized and all set for the new school year with a degree of optimism and enthusiasm like never before.
Morning Routine– No matter if you are a busy mom with children heading back off to school, you are a college student, or you are a more non-traditional adult with no small children, but have a full time job and are working on college courses, either online or in a brick and mortar university, having a solid morning routine can substantially set you up for a more successful school year. Morning routines are as varied as the individual that is executing them. Perhaps, you are a stay at home mom who only needs to be mindful of the time in which the children need to be ready for the school bus or time to leave for the school drop off line; or maybe you work outside the home and have a specific time that you have to have everyone ready to leave the house in order to arrive to work on time. It is simply a matter of taking into account any times that have to be allotted for non-negotiable things, such as school times, work times, and commute times. My current morning routine consists of two components- house chores and self care. My morning house routine is to being my day with unloading the dishwasher, swish and swipe the bathrooms, make the bed, and begin a load of laundry. Likewise, my morning self care routine is brushing my teeth, applying my morning power serum, day cream with sunscreen, make up and hair. I’m both cursed and lucky in the regard that my hair is short and thin, so I do not have to allow for extra time for hair straighteners or curlers. My whole morning routine takes me less than thirty minutes to complete. I currently work from home, so I do not have to stick to a rigid time frame for completing my morning routine. However, that was not always the case. I used to work outside of the home and I knew what time I needed to leave to arrive to work on time, taking into account that I was in the heart of the rush hour commute in Atlanta traffic. I made allowances by getting up thirty to forty minutes earlier to provide the time needed to complete my morning chores and maintain my morning routine.
Make a Plan– I cannot stress enough the value of afunctional planner. I put emphasis on the word functional, because it is all too common and all too easy to start preparing for a new school year by purchasing a crisp, clean, and gorgeous new planner to keep track of all of your important dates and reminders, yet after a few weeks or so, the planner seems to fall by the way side and gets written in less and less as you find yourself forgetting more important things. The planner system that I currently use is the Happy Planner brand. I chose it for its functionality as well as customization. I have played around with a variety of planners from the generic Walmart planners to Franklin Covey and I have a set up ready for 2020 from the Agenda 52 line to go back to a binder style planner. Regardless of what brand or style of planner you choose, it should be one that is functional for all of your needs and user friendly enough to inspire you to refer to it and write in it daily. The idea is that keeping a planner is essential to tracking appointments and assignment due dates.
Prep for the Evenings– As important as a morning routine is, having an evening routine can be just as vital. Evening routines include tasks such as dinner, cleaning the kitchen, baths, and laying out clothes for the next day. A good way to prepare for the evenings, and alleviate a lot of undue stress is menu planning. By planning out your menus in advance, you can adjust day by day, according to any after work or after school appointments or errands and prep easy to fix meals on the days that you have commitments that would otherwise take away time needed to prepare a complicated recipe dish. For instance, ball practice after school? Toss an easy roast in the crock pot, set on low, and when you arrive home dinner will be ready with only a quick side dish or two. Side note, steam vegetables make a wonderful quick side dish on those busy nights! In an effort to try and have an easy and stress free evening, try to implement planning for the evening and night routines as much as you can early on in the day or on a Sunday evening, to alleviate a lot of the juggling and panic to try and decide on a dinner choice or locate the baseball mitt on the fly.
Delegate- As mothers, we tend to want to do everything for everyone. It is, in essence, in our nature to be nurturers. But, being a nurturer and being a martyr are two completely different things. While we love our families and love taking care of them, we do not have to do it all. It is possible, and essential to delegate our work to the other members of our family. Even small children can benefit from being assigned to pick up their own toys or put their clothes in the hamper for washing. Taking on everything can be stressful and limiting in the amount of quality time we spend with our families. So, take a few items off your to-do list, and graciously gift them to family members who can handle those tasks. The work will get completed much quicker, and you can enjoy a few moments of blissful silence relaxing in the bubble bath with a glass of chilled wine at the end of the evening. Oh yeah, and enjoy time spend with the family as well. Now, the important, and I do me the most important thing to remember when delegating tasks to the other members of your family is – do not expect perfection! Perfection is an illusion best saved for fools. Be grateful to them for the help they provide you. Do not go behind your children and re-make their beds or re-fold their clothes in the drawer. Just enjoy that you had the time freed up and enjoy sitting with them on the couch enjoying a movie before bed time.
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First on the list is Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. While Girl, Wash Your Face is not specifically a productivity book, per say, I felt it deserved to make the top of the list. Rachel Hollis explains in this book we can tend to allow the lies and limitations thrust upon us by society to prevent us from having the courage to pursue our own dreams, ambitions, and goals. And, that is counterproductive. Rachel is so charming, and adorable. She is so raw and authentic in telling her own story as she progresses through the book, that she immediately becomes your friend. In fact, she is the one friend you want there when you suffer a bad break up or you do not get into nursing school. She will comfort you, much like a half-melted pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and she will cry tears with you, real tears. Then she will wipe your messy misty hair away from your face and bring you back into the reality that those people and those things do not get to define who you are. It is impossible to be productive in the pursuit of your dreams and ambitions and the achievement of your goals, let alone just getting through your daily to-do lists when you are weighted down with the ideology that you are not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or even, lucky enough to accomplish them. Let Rachel hold your hand through the journey of peeling off the layers of self-doubt, insecurity, and blaming and shaming yourself, so that you can have a clean slate to being the foundation of gaining confidence to productively build the life you want- the life you deserve.
Second on the list is Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight . Sarah is witty and funny in her straight-forward approach to becoming more productive. She uses the concept of mental decluttering. Whereby, you will purge from your mind all the unnecessary things that take up too much of your time and energy and hinder you from getting the real important stuff done. Unlike “Girl, Wash Your Face,” which focuses on a form of mental decluttering the negative thoughts that pervade our beliefs and our faith in ourselves, this book is more about a mental decluttering of the things that can rob us of our productivity by sucking up so much of our time. Things like constantly checking emails, or stopping whatever you are doing far too many times throughout the day to scroll on social media, or with a nervous half-smile reluctantly agreeing to volunteer to help with the company bake sale this Saturday, even though you know you have a paper to write for school or you had planned to go THIS Saturday to get those tires changed that are wearing thin. The focus of this book emphasizes the need to learn how to prioritize. By taking an accurate inventory of everything you have on your plate, aka schedule, and weeding out the things that are not a high priority and concentrating on the ones that have the highest priority, you set yourself up to be more productive throughout the day and week. Her principle is based on the notion that if you have something come up that you feel obligated to do, but you have to give up something that you really wanted to do or something you really need to do, then this new thing is a low priority and you should not feel obligated. Just because you are asked by a dear friend, coworker, or family member, does not mean that yes should always be the answer.
Next, we find The 5 Second Rule written by Mel Robbins. Mel uses wit and logic to delve into the story of how the 5 Second Rule came to be. It started out as a tool to help “launch” her out of bed in the mornings and stop hitting the snooze button until she had wasted the better part of every morning avoiding getting up and facing her life. The principle of this book is how we can reset our thoughts and actions by triggering our prefrontal cortex simply by counting down from 5. The key to the rule is that you have to count down from 5, 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Liftoff! Mel uses the science backed idea that if you count forward from 1, your brain will, by nature keep counting with no stopping point. The 5 Second Rule is based on the idea that within as little as five seconds, we can allow fear and doubt to take over our thoughts and prevent us from taking action to do the things we very much want to do. Some of the examples used in the book include a man sitting at a bar and wanting to speak to a woman he sees across the room or a woman who decides to take her sister’s children to raise following her untimely death, or anyone sitting in a work meeting with a great idea but afraid to speak up for fear of no one else in the meeting agreeing that it is a good idea. Within as little as five crucial seconds, either of them could have made the decision to act on their choices, or have allowed fear and doubt hinder their judgement and cause them to miss out on some pretty incredible opportunities. Opportunities can be lost forever, in as little as five seconds. This book is about switching those negative thoughts of fear and doubt before they have a chance to take a hold and change the outcome from what you initially intended. This book is about restructuring the way you think in a way to give you more confidence and courage to act on the things you want to. To become fearless and believe in yourself. The book also has an accompanying journal and workbook, although neither are necessary to read the book or gain an invaluable plan from it, they are, in essence, additional tools to help reinforce the concept of the 5 Second Rule.
Once we break the habit of hitting our snooze button, we then find The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. The importance of a good morning routine is paramount to having a productive day. You can pick up any of one dozen or more books about productivity or success and they will all tell you that the most productive and successful people all practice the ritual of a regular morning routine. The size of the Miracle Morning community is phenomenal; all you have to do is search miracle morning on YouTube and you will find hundreds of videos by people who have adopted this morning ritual and swear by the positive impact that is has had on their lives. The Miracle Morning is about building an enriching morning routine around what Hal has termed the Life S.A.V.E.R.S. Each of the letters of the savers acronym represents a specific area for self growth and life enrichment. S- represents silence. Whether it is meditation, prayer, reflection, or just simply sitting in silence, Hal stresses the importance of beginning your morning ritual by clearing out the lingering thoughts. To get your head clear and focused to tackle the day without a myriad of things running around through your mind all day. A- represents affirmations. Hal points out that chanting in the mirror, “I am pretty.” “I am smart.” will not really have any lasting benefit if you are just mindlessly repeating words for the sake of repeating words. He emphasizes getting real and personal with the affirmations. Speaking to yourself positively about something personal and important to you will stand a greater chance of having lasting effects. V- represents visualization. Creating a vision board is the top suggestion. By placing the things you want to achieve onto something tangible that you can physically look at will help you gain the needed momentum for working toward those goals. Hal suggest sitting and actually visioning yourself not only once achieving the goal, but also, to visualize yourself working toward that goal, such as driving yourself to the gym every morning. E- represents exercise. It is no guarded secret of the benefits exercise has on us, both physically and mentally. One would be hard pressed to be productive throughout their day if they are suffering from ailments or just generally in physical pain from simply moving. Whether it is ten minutes or an hour, exercise is one part of morning routine that is bound to have the most immediate effects on how you feel. R- represents reading. Hal encourages daily reading, but puts more emphasis on reading for personal development. There are countless online options for courses or classes in personal growth and development. S- represents scribing. Journaling is suggested as one of the best means for your daily scribe. After meditating to purge all those thoughts out of your head and then reading for personal development, journaling would be a great way to write down how you feel about the things your learned that morning. Also, taking notes and writing out a plan for the things that your read about in your personal development reading would be a great means for daily scribing. Hal encourages his reader to begin with a 30-day challenge for trying the Miracle Morning, and then decide for yourself if you see a noticeable difference or not.
And, finally, last but certainly not least on the list is How To Make Sh*t Happen written by Sean Whalen. Sean takes a no-nonsense in-your-face approach to keeping yourself on track with the things that are most important in life. This book is not for the faint of heart. However, the reality is often times we need a gentle nudge and sometimes we need a swift kick in the rear to snap us back in line. Sean delivers on that swift kick of justice for us when we need it. He uses his principle of the “Core 4” to guide a plan for structuring every day around doing one thing, purposefully, to work on the four core areas of our lives that should be regarded in the highest. The core four areas are: Passion (relationships), Power (body), Purpose (mind), and Production (business). The idea is that every day you set one timed task to work on each of these four areas, and that by working on each of these each and every day, it will move you closer toward your end goal of relationship, health, financial and personal development success. The action steps planned are to be daily, they are better executed when they are timed and scheduled, and they are non-negotiable. Being that almost everyone nowadays has a smart phone within arms reach at any given moment, he stresses that the phone is the perfect planner to set about planning your Core 4 tasks. Some examples he gives is setting a timer on your phone to text a flirty message to your significant other, or find a trainer or workout partner to keep you accountable in your fitness goals. He also stresses the importance of having a morning routine. All too often, we tend to pick up self-help or personal development books and get all fired up over them because they are saturated with great ideas, and resources, and in our hearts, we know they are filled up with truth. Yet, somehow, when we finish reading the book, we put it down and move on to another book without ever looking back. Sean knows this, and he is continually giving commands throughout the book to “do this now.” As he is going through each of the four principles, he asks you to put the book down and take purposeful and deliberate action to work on the things that are important enough to work on every. Single. Day.
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