I love the holiday season for so many reasons, but one of my favorite parts is looking back on the last year to reminisce about the good times, recognize accomplishments, and realize what I learned and where I could improve. When I was a kid, I remember my mom pulling out the wall calendar on New Year's day and going through all of our appointments and outings that she'd written down. We would talk about all of the fun things we’d done in the past 12 months. These days, I do the same thing — only with my Google calendar. It’s amazing how much you forget about your day to day life, and it’s a lot of fun to look back and remember all of those little details.
Reviewing your previous year’s calendar is a good way to determine how you spent your time and what you prioritized. There are entries on my calendar that I didn’t have a choice about, but there are also many things that I decided to do instead of something else. You can easily recognize a person’s priorities by the way they spend their time. If you look back at your calendar and don’t like what you see — not enough date nights or outings with friends, too many late nights working, or not enough “me” time — you are the only one who can change it. Sure, there are some non-negotiables like doctor’s appointments, your job, or maybe even jury duty (I spent 3 days on a jury this year!) but there are many hours that you DO have a choice about. Don’t beat yourself up about how you did or didn’t spend your time in 2019. Instead, learn from it and become intentional about how you spend your time next year so that when you review your 2020 calendar a year from now, you will feel proud, successful, and happy.
I’m a big proponent of choosing areas of focus for the upcoming year and then setting small, specific goals within each of those areas. I just completed this exercise, and I used my calendar to help me identify what worked in 2019 and what I want more of or less of in 2020. Though I was really pleased with what I achieved in 2019, there’s still more I want to do. I want to build on habits I started in 2019 and create new ones in 2020.
Many people enjoy identifying a single word for the new year, but I’ve always found it a little intimidating to distill everything going on in my head and heart into one word. This year, though, I saw a theme in my areas of focus and my goals for 2020 — ACHIEVE. I want to achieve, and I want to help others achieve. I want to empower others to be their best selves and to achieve what they have struggled with up to now. I am excited to announce that I am launching a formal program around this theme!
In February 2020, I will begin facilitating a goal setting group program for women called Achieve! Small groups of women will meet virtually for an hour every week for 6-12 weeks to set goals, identify and overcome obstacles, and meet milestones necessary to achieve those goals. The group will encourage one another and offer suggestions, assistance, and, most importantly, accountability! As the facilitator, I will guide the weekly calls, document your progress, and check in with you regularly between meetings to provide resources to keep you on track and motivated to complete the tasks necessary to achieve your goal.
If you are interested in joining an Achieve! group, please fill out the form below, and I will contact you to discuss the details. I wish you all a very happy and productive 2020!
My son is a Cub Scout who works hard to earn badges that he proudly displays on his uniform. There are some badges that are fairly easy to earn, but the ones that have more requirements are the most desirable and are worn with the most pride. I was thinking this week what it would be like if adults earned badges for our achievements and wore them for everyone to see. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been feeling kind of smug lately about a badge I think I would have earned — my busy badge.
The thing is, a busy badge isn’t really all that special because it’s easy to earn and pretty much everyone has one. They give out busy badges like Oprah gives out her favorite things - YOU get a busy badge and YOU get a busy badge and YOU get a busy badge…
Big deal — I’m busy, who isn’t? You know what would be a big deal? If I took control of my busy schedule and weeded out some of the unnecessary things to make time and space for what really matters to me. I’m tired of answering the “how are you?” question with the obligatory, “busy” answer. These days it feels like a competition to be busier than the next person. It gives you more to complain about and more reasons for others to feel sorry for you or be in awe of how you do it all. I think for many of us, being busy provides an excuse not to excel because it’s impossible to be great at everything when you are doing so much.
More elusive and more desirable than a busy badge would be a downtime badge, a calm badge, a focus badge, or a be present badge. Those would take intention and self-discipline to earn — especially this time of year! The month of December is filled with school programs, concerts, projects, dress up days, and gift exchanges. There are work holiday parties, ugly sweater days, and secret Santas. At home we fill our time decorating, buying and wrapping gifts, baking cookies, planning and attending family gatherings, and moving the elf — all while trying to actually experience the holiday spirit and enjoy it.
"More elusive and more desirable than a busy badge is a downtime badge, a calm badge, a focus badge, or a be present badge. Those would take intention and self-discipline to earn - especially this time of year!"
The past couple of weeks set a busy record for me! My husband was out of town, my two school aged kids had lots of homework, programs and activities, and I was squeezing in everything I needed to do in my full time job before the end of the year. Even though on the inside I was feeling a little overwhelmed, it was kind of awesome - I could complain about being SO busy but yet keep things under control and maybe people would even ask “how does she do it?” Well, the plans I had to stay on top of everything fell through, and I had to scramble for a plan B! When I was near desperation, a friend stepped up and said, “Let me help.” I took full advantage of her offer and was so appreciative to her for not only helping me out, but making me realize that pretending that I’m happy wearing the busy badge isn’t necessary. Asking for help is one of the definitions of order that I wrote about when I first started this blog, but this is a hard lesson for me to learn.
After last week’s save by my friend, I decided I wasn’t going to try to be super mom, I was just going to be mom. The house was a little messier, some paperwork had to get filed for later, we ate out more than I’d like to admit, but that gave us more time to enjoy each other and the season. Over a year ago, I wrote about making time matter, and it's a shame that it takes a daily, conscious effort to slow down and experience our lives. I believe it all comes down to remembering that we control our own lives and schedules and having the courage to make the hard choices about how we spend our time. What badge are you trying to earn, and are you trying to achieve it to display to others or to satisfy yourself?
I can't believe this is my 100th blog post! I looked through what I call my "blog log" which lists the date, title, and number of every one I've written, and I have to say— I'm really proud of what is included in these past 99 posts. When I say proud, I don't mean boastful, but rather a feeling of deep satisfaction that resulted from hard work, honesty, and perseverance. It has been important to me from the start that I be transparent and not claim to know all the answers. I'm in this with you — I have many of the same struggles as you, and I'm continuing to figure out how striving to live a life in order can help me gain and maintain control. I truly believe that productivity and organization is not only for those born naturally orderly, but that it gives the rest of us the freedom and space to really enjoy our lives.
I asked my oldest son, who is nearly an all-knowing teenager, what I should write about for my 100th post. He gave me some sage advice, "write about how you stuck with your blog all of this time." I thought his suggestion was brilliant! Yes, that's something I want to explore — stick-to-itiveness!
I kind of went down a rabbit hole researching what this word meant. I went from stick-to-itiveness to tenacity to tenacious to "persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired." What I realized was the reason it was easy for me to stick with my blog is because I value it!
Many of us were required to read What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles in a college job readiness course. This book explored how to determine what job is right for you and how to get it. No matter if you are looking for a job, a hobby, or just your next fun project, the principles are the same — you should search for your key passions and strive to use them daily. The more passionate you are about something, the more likely you are to see it through, and be happy along the way.
A pioneer in this type of strengths philosophy was Bernard Haldane, an English doctor who moved to New York in the 1940's. After realizing he didn't meet the U.S. requirements for working in medicine, he began helping veterans recognize their own strengths and transferable skills from their military experience. He encouraged them use those skills to rejoin the non-military workforce after returning from the war. Haldane's work inspired others in the field and led to many books and programs encouraging people to determine not only what they were good at, but what they loved doing and would provide them with feelings of pride for having accomplished. He was clear that this didn't mean it was all sunshine and rainbows along the way! There will always be parts of a task or a process that one will dislike or cause them to work outside of their comfort zone, but he proposed that both the journey AND the outcome should provide satisfaction.
Starting My Life In Order came out of something I was passionate about — getting my own life in order and helping others do the same. It consisted of things I enjoy — writing, technology, connecting and helping others achieve their goals. I have one little secret that has helped me stick with it to this milestone 100th post — I give myself a LOT of grace! I try to remember that this venture is supposed to be fun. Though I feel a responsibility to publish blog posts regularly and be active on social media, I also give myself a pass sometimes. The world won't end if my blog post is a little late or if I am MIA on Facebook for a day. By giving myself permission not to be perfect all the time, it is much easier to keep on keeping on! If I felt like if I didn't publish a post every 7 days that I was a failure, I would have quit a long time ago! Imagine what you can accomplish if you can find that thing you are great at, fuels your fire, AND can give yourself some grace!
You may be thinking, "Yeah, this all makes sense —if I love something I can stick with it, but what if I don't love it or just downright dislike it?" Learning to persevere even when it's not fun is where real success begins! Start by asking yourself the who, what, when, where, why questions.
When you honestly answer all of these questions, you may be surprised what you learn. Maybe changing gears really is the best option! If it doesn't hurt you or anyone else, if it's not required, if it's not propelling you forward, and it's not going to bring you any joy, maybe it's better to turn your focus to something else. But, is it possible that you can identify just one small thing that is frustrating about your project and realize that you may just need to suck it up and get past that little obstacle because the benefits of doing so are worth it? Could you just "eat that frog" and get past the not-so-fun parts first thing in the morning so you can gain some momentum throughout the day?
The biggest question that I think we all need to answer is our "why". Why did I start and why haven't I already quit? If the answers to those questions are meaningful enough to you to keep going, write them down and post them somewhere you see them often. Daily reminders of your compelling "why" will most definitely develop your stick-to-itiveness!
“Dictionary by Merriam-Webster.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, 2019, www.merriam-webster.com/.
Bolles, Richard Nelson. What Color Is Your Parachute?: a Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. Ten Speed Press, 2011.
Mike. “H Is for Bernard Haldane: His Pioneering Work On Strengths.” The Positive Encourager, 4 Mar. 2018, www.thepositiveencourager.global/bernard-haldanes-approach-to-doing-positive-work/.
“Uncovering Strengths...Unlocking Potential.” The Center for Dependable Strengths, 2019, dependablestrengths.org/
I've been a daydreamer as long as I can remember. As a child I would make up what I called "stories in my head." They weren't wild or unrealistic, but instead, they were detailed accounts of things that could actually happen. When I was very young it could be about a toy I wanted, and I'd daydream about how I might earn enough money to buy it or how someone might give it to me as a gift. When I was a little older, and I liked a boy, I would daydream about how we might be in the same place at the same time.
The first of my well-thought-out-daydreams came true with a white Chevy Lumina APV minivan. Yep, the kind with the pointy noses that were popular in the late '90s. My then-boyfriend/now-husband and I were in year four of dating and thinking seriously about marriage when his car died. His parents had been driving a pointy-nosed van for a while, and I'd overheard them mention getting a new vehicle — cue daydream. I started thinking about the scenarios that could occur where we'd end up with the van. Maybe they'd come to take us out to dinner and then offer to sell him the van at a low price, or maybe they'd even just give it to him. I'm pretty sure at this point they knew I was their future daughter-in-law, so I thought maybe they'd consider the van a gift to "us." I daydreamed about the whole thing, and then one day, they came to visit us at college and took us out to eat at Cracker Barrel. Afterward, it happened almost exactly as I'd imagined. Every 20-something guy's dream come true — they gave him the minivan. This is when I started taking my daydreaming a little more seriously!
Have you ever said, "I wish" this or that would happen? Consider changing those words to "I hope." The definition of hope is not a wish, but an expectation of something you know could actually happen. I'm not suggesting my ironically cool minivan story proves that if you think hard enough or want something bad enough that it will magically happen. I believe if we truly hope for something, it will require us to have some faith, think logically, and work hard to make it happen. Once we start daydreaming, we allow ourselves to dare to visualize what we really want and then consider how to position ourselves to achieve that goal. Obstacles will still get in our way, and some daydreams won't ever come true — but some will.
Over the years I've used daydreams to help me work through difficult situations, sort through my options, and decide on the best course of action. I may rework a daydream over and over until the details make sense in real life. What started as the daydream of a 29 year old mother of one to have another baby and a more flexible job to be home with the kids turned into a reality as I got my real estate license, saved enough money for a cushion as I got started, and quit my office job days before I turned a very pregnant 30. Once a daydream comes true, that doesn't mean you can't have more or different daydreams. I'm no longer a real estate agent, and I have new daydreams now.
"Once we start daydreaming, we allow ourselves to dare to visualize what we really want and then consider how to position ourselves to achieve that goal."
Daydreams can also be an escape from reality. When I have a hard time sleeping, I will start a new "story in my head." It helps me escape from the thoughts that are keeping me awake. If the story isn't logical or possible, it doesn't hold my attention, and I quickly fall asleep. If I'm stressed, sometimes I'll make up a daydream about a positive outcome to the situation that is wildly unrealistic and then work at the details until it becomes plausible. This gives my brain something else to focus on besides my stress and sometimes it results in real opportunities.
Have you given daydreaming a try? It's a powerful tool to allow yourself to aim high and then figure out how to make it work later. There's no real risk or judgement because daydreaming is literally all in your head. Work on hoping for change instead of just wishing for it. I truly believe there is power in a daydream!
Just this week my daydreams have come full circle. The Chevy Lumina of our newlywed years served us well for hauling friends and moving boxes, but it created an aversion to minivans that my husband and I have shared for almost two decades. Now it's time for us to get a new vehicle, and earlier this week my husband walked in the door with a few spec sheets from the car dealership where he'd stopped to do some research on his way home from work. One of them was folded in half, and he said he would save that one for last because it was his favorite. I assumed he was joking and that it contained details of an expensive sports car, but instead, he unfolded the paper and dramatically announced that his favorite was a MINIVAN — and he was dead serious! Now I'm daydreaming of third row seating, extra cup holders, a roomy center console, and how we will get the best features for the lowest price. Watch out car salesman — my daydreams about minivans tend to come true!
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!