I'm excited to share a very special post from my first guest blogger, Csaba Vadadi-Fulop from www.productivity95.com. I met Csaba when we were both part of the 10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity book launch team. He has great content on his blog, and in this post he shares tips on remaining productive while parenting.
Productivity and Parenting
By Csaba Vadadi-Fulop
When your baby is born, a lifelong odyssey begins. You quickly realize that you must harness your down time more than ever before. Maybe you experience a paradigm shift in your life in terms of how you perceive your world: you might be more selective in what's important and what isn't. Both happened to me.
You, however, can't prepare for having a newborn―no matter what people say. But you can make significant adjustments to your life both before and after the birth of your baby and that's the topic I want to discuss in this post.
By the end of this post, hopefully, you'll get valuable insight about how you can channel your life back into order.
Adjusting Your Lifestyle
It goes without saying that you'll likely develop sleep debt, exercise debt, and the like. What's less obvious, though, is that it's much more than time. It's about your space-time continuum. The arrival of a baby and the events downstream will consume your space and time in a non-linear fashion.
It's beyond the scope of this post to discuss nursing, psychology, time management, and the like. Nor am I capable of giving such advice. I just want to share with you how becoming a parent literally changed my life in terms of how I operate on a daily level.
First, it forced me to switch from the PC to a MacBook. I've flirted with the idea for years, but it was the birth of my baby when I realized that the PC simply consumes too much space, cables are in mesh, and I have less flexibility to work. The MacBook was a game-changer. I was able to work practically everywhere at any time with the comfort of a king.
Second, when I purchased my wireless headphones I quickly discovered that I won't miss my loudspeakers anymore. I can listen to inspiring podcasts or my favorite band and take care of my duties, simultaneously. Washing the dishes, taking out the garbage, lifting my dumbbells? No problem, I just put on my magic headphones―with my iPhone laying on the kitchen table (!)―and my favorite podcast is with me all the time, regardless of whether I'm in the bathroom, bedroom, or yard. And my baby would still be sleeping or wondering what the heck dad wears on his shiny head.
Luckily I switched to consuming eBooks a couple of years ago, and I can say it was a good deal. EBooks don't take up any place; they're sitting in the cloud (Kindle cloud, by the way). So I can reserve some shelves for the storybooks dedicated to my little baby.
I've been extraordinarily resistant to changes for years including those related to the above-mentioned (portable device, headphones, eBooks). I always had an excuse―be it finance, reluctance, or fear―preventing me from diving into new things. Having a child is a perfect time to say no to your reluctant self!
Let's discuss the tech side of all those changes a little bit...
Adjusting Your Techniques
I use Nozbe as my task manager that's highly flexible to keep my life in order. I created a Baby project in Nozbe to home tasks that are related to parenting. When my wife was in the hospital with our newborn, I made a grocery-like checklist in Nozbe to ensure that I buy and deliver to the hospital everything my new family needed.
It was a highly demanding period: the born of your baby is psychologically demanding itself; on top of that you're supposed to take care of a lot of things, including the certificates of your baby, among others. Nozbe was a great partner in this period, too.
Later on, I kept important deadlines in Nozbe about vaccination and the like.
I still have my Baby project with a traveling checklist, recurring tasks such as weight recording, and more. This project will never end. Maybe I’ll rename it to, say, "Parenting" for the next twenty years.
It's one thing that you keep your tasks in a trusted system, another thing is finding a system to organize your notes.
Evernote is the note-taking app that I use on a daily basis to record and keep my notes, clip articles, save my journal entries, and the list is almost endless. I keep a lot of parenting related stuff in Evernote: baby first aid guides, nursing guides, weight journal, notes from the pediatrician, consultation hours, screenshots of diapers and medications, and much more.
Keeping a record of the baby's weight is a must. I created automation on my iPhone with the Workflow app: each week when my wife and I are recording the baby's weight, I just push a button on my home screen, enter the weight, and it will automatically appear in my Evernote weight journal with the appropriate date and time.
Sounds good? I still have much to improve...
There's always a place to improve and adjust your productivity system.
Selecting the clothes that I like the most is still ahead. The rest is best to go for a charity that will open up a lot of space in my wardrobe. But, again, it goes beyond space: it will free up mental space for me.
Integrating regular exercise into my weekly routine is another challenge: I want to fight off this challenge with immersing into different new sports and picking the one I like the most. Without feeling anticipation, it's hard to build a long-lasting habit.
It's my sincere hope that you got some ideas and motivation to adjust to dad life (or mom life). Parenting is a lifetime commitment; productivity is a never-ending journey: why not combine the two for multiple outcomes?
Ask my husband, and he’ll tell you Valentine’s Day isn’t a “real” holiday. Mail is delivered, school is in session so he says it’s not official. I don’t care what he says, this minor holiday is one I love to celebrate! I don’t care much about romantic gestures, flowers, or chocolates (ok, I would never turn down chocolate!) but I do embrace the chance to show my sappy, mama love to my kids!
About 6 years ago, I decided to be my kindergartner son's secret admirer, and I covertly gave him gifts and notes for the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. When little treats started showing up around our house, my son did have a bit of concern that our home had been breached by this admirer! On Valentine’s morning, I revealed that it was indeed me, his mommy, who was his secret admirer. I've done some version of this for both of my kids every Valentine's Day since, and I was even able to pull off the surprise most years.
Now that my youngest is in 2nd grade, I think this year will be the first where neither kid has any doubt that their admirer is their mom, but I don't care, I'm still going all out! If you want to do something similar for your kids (or friend or significant other) here are the basics:
Around the holidays, I always get the urge to purge! Life gets so busy between Thanksgiving and Christmas around my house with school programs, parties, shopping, decorating, family gatherings, etc. It seems extra difficult for me to stay on top of the regular tasks like laundry, dishes and clutter, so this is the time that having less stuff is really appealing. Whenever this feeling strikes me, I take advantage and get out some trash bags and cardboard boxes!
I like to do pre-holiday purging in the areas that I'm most likely to acquire new stuff. The prime location to begin, kids' rooms! It's ideal to involve your kids in this process, explaining that if they want to enjoy new toys or gifts, they have to make some room. I like to give the kids 5 options on every item in their room:
For me and my sons, it works best if I'm in the room with them, holding up each item, but if you have older kids, they may be able to do this process on their own. Since there are 5 options, we use 5 containers - a combination of trash bags, boxes and storage bins. To be very thorough, have your smallest child crawl under the bed or to the back of the closet to make sure you get everything! I have found that option 2, keep as a keepsake, has helped reduce the time it takes to make a decision. Kids are sure about the things they want to keep and get rid of, but there are some items in between. Rather than force them to decide one way or the other, we keep a box of keepsakes in the basement. Occasionally (but not as often as we should) we go through those keepsakes and purge further. I also throw in the option of giving away to someone we know because it's easier to get rid of a beloved toy if they know it's going to their younger cousin who will like it (and they may get to play with it at their house, too!)
Just like I make my kids go through this process, I like to do it myself on my clothes, coats, jewelry, and shoes. It works out well since this time of year usually aligns with when I do my clothing seasonal switch. I also like to go through things like CDs, movies, craft supplies, and kitchen gadgets. If you want to do some in-depth work on your kitchen, check out my video series, 7 Days to an Orderly Kitchen!
I have a hard time getting rid of things that prove my kids are growing up - like kids' movies and music, games for younger kids, coloring books, and even little spoons and cups. This is where giving to someone I know comes in handy for me. I can much more easily part with a Sonic the Hedgehog activity book, a plastic Spiderman plate and silverware set, or Veggie Tales DVDs when I know my nephews (and now niece!) or a friend's child will enjoy them.
In addition to purging, I love to use this time to get organized as well. The key is to be realistic about how you use your spaces and to store items near where they are typically used. Using the correct storage solutions is important. For example, you don't want to stack bins on top of one another that you want to access often. Instead, consider a shelf with bins, hanging closet shelves, a set of drawers, or stacking bins with front access. Make a list of what storage problems you have and then do a little organization browsing online or in person. Select one area to focus on first and either purchase or re-purpose some organizing supplies for that area to be complete. This will give you so much more satisfaction than getting one thing for each room. You can slowly add to your collection of organizing supplies as time goes on.
On my last day of Thanksgiving vacation, I'm planning a fun filled day of purging! So family and friends (you know who you are,) prepare yourself for being offered a bunch of stuff we no longer need! I remember receiving lots of hand-me-down clothes and toys from others who had older kids, and even if I didn't keep everything, I always appreciated free stuff and knowing that someone else thought enough of us to pass down things they used to love. Happy pre-holiday purging to all!
As the holidays approach, I begin to think more about my Grandma who passed away on Thanksgiving Day 5 years ago. She lived 98 years, and I had the privilege to know her for 32 of those. Appropriately, earlier this week I saw a quote, "Be the things you loved most about the people who are gone," and it made me sad to think about three of my four grandparents who are gone. But then I realized how fortunate I am to have had so many good examples in my life (including my other Grandma who I'm blessed to still have!) What a great way to honor them by being the things I loved most about them!
I have two Grandpas and one Grandma who are in heaven. I don't know if there's anyway that they can look down on this world or not, but it's comforting to think that they might be. I hope that if that's the case, they'd be proud to see their granddaughter living out the lessons they taught me. One of my grandfathers died when I was only 9, but I have vivid memories and lessons learned from him just like I do my other grandpa who died when I was almost 30. I've chosen three qualities from each of my grandparents that I want to display in my own life, and I'll start with my Grandma Lena who I had a very special bond with.
Grandpa Ralph (married to Grandma Lena)
I'm a bit tear-stained as I write this because I miss them all so much, but it is nice to relive these memories and see how the things I loved so much about these pillars in my life still resonate in me today. Were these people perfect? of course not, but in these few ways and many more that I don't have time to share, they provided me a framework for a really fulfilling life. I want to apply these qualities to my life and I sincerely hope that some day my kids and future grandkids will remember some of these same types of things about my life that will help guide their future. Take the time to list out the things you loved most about the people who are gone from your life, but certainly not forgotten. It will make your heart feel very full!
I'm overweight - actually obese according US Department of Health. There I said it – funny how that was so hard since my weight is something that I really can’t hide. Growing up, I stayed at a pretty healthy weight (probably because of my mom's 2-vegetable-with-one-being-green-at-dinner rule!) The first time I remember really making an effort to lose weight was when I was getting ready for my wedding. But back then at 21, I just ate fewer chicken nuggets and jogged a little and - boom, I weighed 133 by wedding day. Well, since then I've accumulated a lot of things - a husband, a mortgage, two babies, a career, a couple of side hustles, some stress, and a lot of weight! I remember during my second pregnancy, my doctor logged my 9 months pregnant weight and said, "Have you ever weighed this much before?" I was a little shocked at the question, and said, "No and I hope I never do again!" Well, I weigh more now than I did when I gave birth over 7 years ago, and I’ve tried harder than ever during that time frame to lose weight. It’s frustrating and sometimes disheartening to try and fail over and over again. I’m tired of the ups and downs.
My internal dialogue would be maddening to anyone who could read my mind. I give myself a pep talk reminding myself I’ve lost weight before so I can do it again, and I make a plan. Then I try real hard – for a couple of weeks - and when I don’t see the results I want, I give into a little self-pity and feed that with actual food. I think I might as well just eat whatever I want since I’m already overweight. I say to myself, “It’s not the number on the scale that matters, it’s what the inside that counts.” I think I don’t look that bad, and I just need to learn to be happy with who I am and how I look. But then I see a picture of myself and do a double take because that can’t really be what other people see when they look at me, right? No, it’s just the camera angle – you’ve got to hold the camera higher. It IS just the camera angle, right? I don’t feel like that person in the photo – or in the mirror. And then I start feeling down and realize that I AM that person, and that person seems lazy and incapable if she can’t do something as simple as control the food that goes in her mouth and the number of steps she takes per day. The doctor even comments on my weight and tells me there's nothing physically wrong, I just need to eat better, exercise, get more sleep. I want to scream, “I’VE TRIED THAT!” They don’t understand my life and how stressed I am and how little time I have - and then insert excuse after excuse. I finally crumple into the question, “If I can’t lose weight, am I really capable of much else?”
I've told myself so many things about my weight - some are lies and some are truths, but I've lost track of which are which. I’m speaking as a 37 year-old woman with no medical or psychological training – just my own experience and observations. I’ve found that my weight is intertwined with so many aspects of my life which is why losing it is not as easy as simply eating less and moving more.
"I've told myself so many things about my weight - some are lies and some are truths, but I've lost track of which are which."
Weight and Relationships
I am blessed to have children who tell me I’m beautiful even when I don’t feel that way and a husband who has never made me feel ugly because of my weight. My closest friends and family love me unconditionally, so I know that changes in my appearance won't make the people who matter to me love me more or less. This makes ME the only person I need to impress, and it’s hard for me to do things for myself. I find it easier to help someone else meet their goals than to take the steps that I need to take to get where I want to go. I feel selfish when I try to eat differently than my family or take the time to exercise because in my mind, that takes something away from them. My relationship with myself needs to rise up and take precedence so I can be my best self.
Though I have confidence in my close relationships, it is very easy to compare myself to others. When I start comparing, I feel bad about myself, but I often turn to excuses. “If I was a stay at home mom like her, I’d have time to exercise and would be just as fit.” “If I had as much money as her, I could afford to buy healthier foods, too.” "If my job were as easy as hers, my stress level would be less, and it would be easier to lose weight.” Instead of all of these, “If I had…then I would be” statements, I should be looking at the women I’m comparing myself to and learning from them. I know not all skinny girls have it all together. I should learn how they manage to get and stay healthy in spite of the struggles of their lives.
Weight and Health
I know, intellectually, that my weight does impact my health and that losing even just a little weight will improve my overall health and well-being. According to the CDC, being obese can increase chances of all sorts of health problems including high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and body pain. With all of these risks, you’d think that I’d really focus on decreasing my weight. Instead, I continue to rationalize why MY weight problem isn’t all that bad.
I’ve always had good blood pressure – like, it’s my pride and joy. No matter how much I’ve weighed my blood pressure has always been normal and usually below normal. It was like my barometer of health, and I’d rationalize that even though I was overweight, since my blood pressure was good, it wasn’t really impacting my health. Earlier this year at a routine doctor appointment, my blood pressure was high. I freaked out because this threw my healthy-though-fat theory out the window. I've since worked to get it back in the normal range, but it will take constant attention to keep it that way.
As I age, I think more about my own mortality. I’ve heard people say they want to get healthy for their family, and that’s great – I want more quality time with my family too, but in all honesty – I want to live long and enjoy my own life for me! I am guilty of the putting off healthy habits - “I’ll start good eating Monday” and “after I get through this, I’ll start exercising” and “I’ll start going to bed earlier after summer is over.” Why do I keep putting it off? As those of us who are over about 25 know, time seems to accelerate as we age. I don’t want to miss out on NOW because I don’t have enough energy to enjoy life, and I don’t want to miss out on the future because of the bad habits I have now.
Weight and Age
Between kids, I lost 25 pounds and kept it off for two years (until I got pregnant again.) I read and followed the South Beach Diet to the letter. I thrived with a strict program with rules and quick results. I’ve tried to follow the same program several times since and failed. Has my body chemistry changed now that I’m getting older and it’s just no use? A New York Times article says, “Although it is possible to lose weight at any age, several factors make it harder to lose weight with age.” That’s kind of depressing…The one good thing about the passage of time, though, is the improvements in technology. A FitBit will surely do the trick or an app to track my calories, right? Though these are great tools, they don’t do the work for us. I’m living proof - I’m at the same weight I was before I tried those things.
The older I get, the easier it is to tell myself that there’s no one left to impress. I’ve got a family who loves me, a career, and many great friends. I’m nearing 40 and maybe my body has just found its happy place, and I need to accept it. It’s easy to tell myself my body is different now and it’s not my fault that the weight is clinging to me (in all the wrong places, I might add.) But then I think – I’m not even FORTY, I’ve got many, many years ahead of me – hopefully, I’m not even half done. Do I want to live the last half of my life not meeting my potential? I’m older, but I’m wiser and I have more resources and experience than ever. I certainly know what doesn’t work, so why not use that to my advantage? I want to make the rest my best!
Weight and Stress
Here’s a hot topic and one that we all like to argue about – stress. What causes it, can we will our way around it, what does it do to our minds and bodies, how should we deal with it? Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” We’ve all been there, but we can all think of someone in our lives who’s been there more or longer or in a more extreme way than we have. I know others who cope in a much healthier way than I do even when they have much more stress. Who am I to blame stress on every negative thing in my life? I am blessed in so many ways, and I let the few negatives in my life outweigh all of those positive things. I’m stressing about what stress is doing to me. I am in no way denying stress can cause all sorts of physical and mental problems. I’m coming to realize that focusing on the problem instead of the solution is only exacerbating the problem. Case in point, when my blood pressure went up, I became my son’s science fair project, “Can Yoga Decrease Blood Pressure?” I did yoga for 15 minutes a day and my blood pressure did decrease. Was it the yoga in and of itself, or was it that I slowed down, took time for myself, had some physical activity, focused on what I didn’t want for my body, and probably ate a little better? Not sure exactly why it worked, but it did. You’d think I’d have kept it up after the project ended, wouldn’t you? But, no, I saw even just 15 minutes a day as disruptive to my schedule. So I stayed in the same stressful state – it gave me something to blame.
"I'm stressing about what stress is doing to me."
Weight and Sleep
Research says that dieters who cut back on sleep over a 14-day period, lost 55% less weight from fat, even though their calories stayed equal. A sleepy morning increases your chances of taking in more calories, losing impulse control to avoid junk food, and skipping exercise. The answer to this seems so simple - sleep more. Why is this so hard for me? Under the guise of productivity, I stay up too late. Sleep was one of my areas of focus for this year, but I’ve failed miserably! I’m constantly tired, hitting the snooze button multiple times a morning, but yet I stay up late to get things done or just watch TV. I rationalize the need for late night TV as down time after a stressful day. I know that many experts suggest early morning exercise to jump start a healthy day. I will never be able to accommodate that if I continue to go to bed so late! I need to take my own advice and set (and stick to) a bedtime for myself like I set for my kids.
Weight and Priorities
My kids and family are my top priority, and I often use this as an excuse not to take care of myself. My go-to quip when making light the fact I’m overweight is, “Well I love to eat, and I hate to exercise.” I realized recently that at least half of that statement is a lie. It turns out I don’t hate being physically active, but what I do hate is exercising when I feel like I’m neglecting another responsibility. Spending time with my kids, cleaning my house, working, staying caught up with the paperwork of life always take precedence over exercise for me. I need to make exercise a priority, and by re-framing what my responsibilities really are – setting a good example for my kids and helping them be healthy - I can give myself permission to take care of myself.
"...by re-framing what my responsibilities really are - setting a good example for my kids and helping them be healthy - I can give myself permission to take care of myself."
Weight and Organization
I truly believe that being organized can help me get to and maintain a healthy weight. The times I’ve been successful with a healthy lifestyle are the times I had a realistic plan, I monitored my progress toward that plan, and had systems in place to help me be successful. I’ve tried many different diets over the years, and have found it difficult to stick to them. I need something that is realistic in the long term, can be measured so I can see progress, and can have “shortcuts” set up to help me stick to it. As I said before, I love food, so depriving myself long term is just not going to work. I need to measure things – weight, calories, miles, minutes, steps – so I can see forward progress. I need it to be easy to maintain. Standard meals or snacks, specific days or times that I do activities, a chart or an app to keep track of it all. This sounds like the building blocks of success to me!
Another way that being organized helps with weight loss is meal planning. Going to the store with a plan and a list helps prevent buying on impulse. Having a list of meals posted on the fridge helps me not to just run to McDonald’s. Keeping a detailed calendar is going to be critical for making time for exercise. Either a shared digital calendar or a family calendar on a white board in a central location can allow the entire family to know what to expect. If you know what is coming up for the next day, you can plan ahead and set out the supplies you will need for exercising or cooking a meal or packing a lunch the night before.
"Neither self-loathing or burying my head in the sand will work - only acceptance and continual improvement will really make me healthier and happier."
My conclusions from exploring my weight loss struggle are this: I need to go to bed earlier on a regular basis, plan for healthy foods in my house and lunchbox, set a plan about what I’m going to eat and how I’m going to keep moving and monitor my progress, find someone to be accountable to other than myself, schedule exercise even if that means cutting out another activity in my day, consider my quest to become healthier as a service to my kids through my good example. I also need to love who I am right now, but not in a “you are what you are and that can’t change" way, but in a “you are what you are right now and have the potential to be what you aspire to be" way. Neither self-loathing or burying my head in the sand will work – only acceptance and continual improvement will really make me healthier and happier.
“Calculate Your Body Mass Index.” National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm.
“Healthy Weight.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 June 2015, www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/index.html.
Weintraub, Karen. “Is It Harder to Lose Weight When You're Older?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 31 Mar. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/well/live/is-it-harder-to-lose-weight-when-youre-older.html.
“Stress.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/stress?s=t.
“Sleep More, Weigh Less.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/diet/sleep-and-weight-loss#1.
I’m so ready for back-to-school! Not because I’m tired of my kids being home for the summer, but because I’m ready to get back into a routine. I always loved the beginning of the school year as a kid – new clothes and shoes, freshly sharpened pencils, blank notebooks, locker organizers – kind of my dream come true! I was thinking today about why the beginning of school still excited me as an adult. Yes, I get to buy supplies for my kids, but there’s more to it than that. There’s something about a fresh start that appeals to me, and I think we can all learn some lessons from school to help us live our best life this school year.
Refresh your wardrobe and get a haircut
Kids usually get a few new outfits and shoes because they’ve grown out of the clothes from the previous school year. We go through their entire wardrobe and get rid of things that are too small or they won’t wear to avoid any fashion arguments! This time of year is also a great time to refresh your own wardrobe. Go through your closet and donate items you haven’t worn in the past several months, items that don’t fit, or ones you just don’t like. Make a list of what items you need to “fill in the blanks” of your wardrobe. Watch for sales and treat yourself! We get our kids a haircut prior to the first day so they look fresh and clean. Make an appointment for yourself, too. This could be the one time per year that you spend a little extra or try a new style.
"I always loved the beginning of the school year as a kid - new clothes and shoes, freshly sharpened pencils, blank notebooks, locker organizers - kind of my dream come true!"
Keep a regular sleep schedule
Just today, our family discussed what fair bedtimes are for the kids when school starts and what time they need to get up to have plenty of time in the mornings before school. This will be a big change from our summer routine where the kids’ bedtimes go out the window – and so does mine. I find myself staying up way too late on a regular basis, but still having to get up at the same time to go to work. By the end of the summer I’m exhausted and sleeping in late on the weekends to try to catch up. When school starts, the kids will each have a set bedtime and wakeup time. I plan to create my own, reasonable bedtime as well as a wakeup time that doesn’t involve the snooze button!
Eat healthy breakfasts and pack a lunch
When school is in session, I make more of an effort to feed my kids a healthy breakfast to give them a good start to their day. It’s so easy for us as busy adults to skip breakfast or scarf down something on the go. When school starts, it’s a great opportunity to plan your morning to include a healthy breakfast at the table with your family. Many days my kids pack their lunches, and we have various options that are easy to pack and are fairly healthy. Packing a lunch for myself alongside the kids will help me not only to save money on eating out, but help to control my portion size and the nutritional value of what I eat for lunch.
Embrace a fresh start and the opportunity to learn new things
Kids literally start the school year with a blank slate, and they have the opportunity to take new classes from new teachers. It’s a great time of year for us to forgive ourselves for failed attempts in the past and make new resolutions and plans for new habits. Is it time for us to take a class, read a book, attend a webinar about something new?
Be active and enjoy recess
My kids have gym class at least once a week, and recess every day. They also participate in sports during the school year. I need to follow suit and be more active. I can use the time they spend at sports practices to be active myself, and why not enjoy a “recess” during the day and take a quick walk?
Create systems to manage time
With all the commitments kids have these days, they have to learn to manage their time, plan ahead and just plain remember what all they need to do! We are in the process of finalizing what the daily routine will be and then will create a checklist to keep track of it all. I will print out a grid with the items that need completed down the left-hand side with the days of the week across the top. The paper will go in a page protector and be displayed on the fridge with a magnetic clip. The kids will use a dry erase marker to mark off their daily accomplishments. This makes it reusable, but also easy to change if we add or take away a responsibility. It’s great to pair one of your own responsibilities to your kids’ – for example, when they practice piano, you wash dishes or when they do homework, you read. Consider planning your day the night before with specific timebound tasks. Always overestimate how long it will take you to do things so that you don’t get frustrated!
Cut back on screen time
During the school year, our kids don’t have any screen time from Monday to Thursday (unless homework requires it.) We started this a couple of years ago, and it’s amazing – attitudes are much improved and since there is no expectation of screen time, we don’t hear whining or complaining. This means my husband and I don’t turn on the TV until after the kids are in bed, and sometimes we don’t even turn it on at all. It’s my goal to use the time I normally would watch TV to do other things – read, play board games, talk to my husband, take bubble baths, take a walk, etc.
Catch up with friends
One of the best parts of the first day of school for me was always seeing my friends that I hadn’t seen much over the summer. We would catch up and tell each other what we did over the vacation. We looked forward to eating lunch together and playing at recess together. As adults, why don’t we designate the start of the school year as a time to plan some lunch dates and fun activities with old friends?
Last week, I saw a picture on social media of a friend's son proudly holding a fish he caught on his kid-sized fishing pole. I was immediately sad and guilty. Strange reaction to an adorable picture, right? I felt that way because back in May, when I asked my youngest son what he wanted to do this summer, "going fishing" was on the top of his list, and he reminded me that it was also on the top of his summer list last year - and we still hadn't gone. I realized that summer was going so fast! I wanted to provide my kids the kind of summer memories I had as a child, and I was not measuring up to my own expectations. Then I started thinking about how quickly my kids' childhoods were flying by and then made the mistake of counting how many more summers both of my kids would be at home and estimating how many of those that they'd want to spend the majority of their time with their parents. I was literally welling up with tears at these thoughts!
"I wanted to provide my kids the kind of summer memories I had as a child, and I was not measuring up to my own expectations."
I gave myself a few hours to feel upset and sad, but then I decided this was something I could easily change! I decided we were going fishing this week, and I was going to plan some fun and engaging activities together. I have my kids make a "what I want to do this summer" list every year, and this year I'd been doing so much, I was tired every evening and was content to just watch TV together. Yes, we were together, but I was often working on something else at the same time, and we certainly weren't checking things off that list! I'd probably be less tired if I were more active, and I had no doubt that I'd be happier while making memories with my kids. This week was dramatically different!
Here was a snapshot of our evenings this week. It was a blast!
Scouts for oldest and Dad, 1.5 mile nature scavenger hunt for youngest and Mom. My son has been talking about the hawk we saw up close all week! I loved seeing him get excited about finding things on our list and especially enjoyed watching him chase a butterfly.
Video shoot of both boys making trick shots into a hamper (appropriately called the Slam Dunk Hamper,) This was a fun way to involve the kids in my Clever Container Organizing Products business,
The entire family walked/rode scooters to the park and played HORSE and played a game of 2 on 2. I'm just about as good as I was when I played eighth grade basketball - I'll leave it at that!
Dad had to work late, so Mom took both boys to the State Park for a picnic, a hike, and FISHING! Even though we didn't catch anything, both boys loved it, and I felt like Super Mom while baiting their hooks.
Mom and kids went to a concert (Toby Mac - it was awesome!)
Dad took kids to a movie during the afternoon, and then the whole family went back to the State Park for a picnic and more fishing in the evening. Still no fish for the kids, but they want to try again soon.
After church, Mom and youngest went to the beach while Dad and oldest got groceries (thank goodness - our cupboards were BARE!) and then we all watched TV in the evening. The beach makes me TIRED!
This week was so much fun, but a little tiring and the housework definitely got pushed to the back burner! I learned a few things:
I like to be self-sufficient, and I enjoy learning new things or figuring out how to accomplish a new task. There are some types of tasks that I won't even attempt, but for most things, I'll at least do a little Googling or YouTube video watching and give it a go. Though this "I can do it" attitude may help me become more well-rounded, save a little money, and keep things interesting, it can also severely impact my productivity and can create frustration both for me and my family! Over time, I've learned that there is real value in finding the right person for the job!
At work and at home, it's impossible for us to do it all, though I'm guilty of trying to do it anyway. I used have a hard time with the group project concept. I felt like it would just be easier to do it all myself. At least that way, I knew it would get done. Doing it myself meant that I knew the progress of the project and the barriers to getting it completed so I could figure out ways to overcome the barriers and meet the deadline. This mentality causes stress, burnout, and ultimately leads to lower quality work and delayed results. Why is it then, that it's so hard to relinquish a little control and trust others to help me?
"Though this 'I can do it' attitude may help me become more well-rounded, save a little money, and keep things interesting, it can also severely impact my productivity and can create frustration both for me and my family!"
A great example of how finding the right person to do the job produced fantastic and quick results was when I wanted to create a logo for my blog. I had an idea in my head, but I thought it would be too difficult for me to articulate that to someone else, so I tried to do it myself. I tried and tried to bring my vision to life, but without the proper tools or expertise in graphic design, I just couldn't produce something I was happy with. I considered hiring someone, but I talked myself out of that by rationalizing that I was saving money by doing it myself and I could remain authentic to my own creative plans for my logo. Well, what happened is that I didn't launch my blog because I didn't have what I felt was the perfect logo, and I became more and more frustrated and wasted a LOT of time.
I finally got over myself and hired someone to design my logo. But, even then, I tried to maintain control over the process giving her very specific instructions about what I wanted, what colors I liked, etc. It wasn't until I gave the designer greater creative space that I got exactly what I had been dreaming of! I finally got down to the core of what I wanted to accomplish - a clean logo in soothing colors that showed you could be creative and have beauty while still being orderly. The graphic designer quickly created several mock ups for me. I chose the one I liked best, asked for a couple of tweaks, and tada -I had a beautiful logo that I love as if I created it myself. I think that I actually love it even more because I didn't create it!
I now am much more inclined to hire work done or ask for help and suggestions. The old saying, "time is money" is so true. I could spend ten times as long doing something that would be a lower quality than if I hired the right person for the job. I could use that time in a different way to produce real results. I'm a big believer in frugality, so of course I don't hire someone to do everything for me! I pick and choose what I can afford, what meets the biggest and most urgent need, and what I don't want to or don't have the capacity to learn how to do myself. There are some things that are just fun to dabble in and the difference in the end result of me doing it versus a professional wouldn't be that noticeable, but then there are all the other things where an expert is definitely the right choice.
This concept also applies to situations at home or work where we would should delegate a task to someone who is best equipped to do it. Best equipped can mean they are an expert or they have the capacity to become an expert or simply that they have time to do the task. When we delegate, though, we have to learn to accept the results may not be exactly as if we had done the task ourselves. I have my kids do certain chores at home, and maybe the cleaning isn't quite as thorough as I would have done it, but it's done and I was able to complete other tasks instead.
I also try to remember that it's all about choice. By choosing to do something myself (or learn how to do something on my own), I am also choosing not to spend that time on something else. To get and keep my life in order, I have to learn to choose to spend my time wisely so that there is time for the things I'm good at, time for the things I enjoy doing, time for the things I am required to do, and most importantly, time for the people I love.
Vacations are supposed to be fun...right? As a bit of perfectionist, I used to find it hard to relax and enjoy time with my family on vacation because I was so focused on everything being just right. I'd plan a jam-packed schedule, stage the perfect pictures, and get mad if everyone wasn't having a good time. In the summer of 2016, we took a vacation to Atlanta, Georgia and had a fantastic time! When I got home, I made a list of dos and don'ts from our trip, so the next vacation could be just as fun. The next time I got ready to plan a vacation, I re-read that list to help make that trip just as good as the last. Now every time we get home from vacation, I add to the list. I now have two years of tips from big and little trips. Not only is it helpful to plan future low-stress trips, it's also a lot of fun to reread the list and reminisce about past vacations.
Getting there and back
If you're flying:
If you're driving
Once you've arrived
I hope some of these tips will help your next family vacation be a little more organized! Consider making your own list of travel dos and don'ts. My list has helped me not to forget things, plan for the unexpected, and have a better plan so I can relax and have fun! If you have more tips, please share in the comments.
In honor of Father's Day, I wanted to share some tips I've learned from my dad over the years. He's the guy who passed on a love of labeling things to me, and he has so many great ideas for keeping things organized!
On a serious note, I'm so blessed to be my father's daughter. He and my mom have been married for 42 years and my dad has been the best example of hard work, good morals, and generosity that I could have asked for. He was an involved parent attending countless piano recitals and school activities, driving our family on summer road trips, moving me in and out of my college dorm room, walking me down the aisle at my wedding, providing advice on car purchases, and helping with lots of repair projects! He's now a devoted Grandpa and setting the same examples for his grandchildren.
Top 10 organizing tips from my dad:
1. Label your board games
You know when you're playing a game that has questions on cards and someone starts suddenly knowing all of the answers and you realize someone put the cards back on the wrong end of the box last time you played. Well, my dad has a simple fix for that! Simply put a piece of masking tape on whichever end you designate the front. To make it even clearer, write "FRONT" on it.
2. Keep track of dates of purchase and maintenance on your owner's manuals
For large purchases, most of us keep the owner's manuals. My dad has always written the date of purchase and noted and maintenance and the date on the cover. You could also staple the receipt to the manual. Not only is it interesting to see how long things last (he had the manual from his record player from the 1970-something), but it's helpful when dealing with warranties, or knowing the timing of preventative maintenance.
3. Hang a tennis ball on a rope from your garage ceiling
My dad has a nice garage and he maximizes the space in front of where the cars park with built in cabinets and hooks on the walls. To keep my mom from pulling the vehicles in too far (and likely also to make sure the vehicles were in far enough not to get caught in the closing garage door), he long ago installed a hanging tennis ball. You pull the car up until the tennis ball just taps your windshield, so you know you are parked in the perfect spot.
4. Customize your belongings to fit your space
The bathroom I used growing up has an area that juts out just past the tub (which my dad did on purpose when he built the house, of course, for plumbing access.) The problem is the only rugs that would fit in the space were too small to really do any good. No problem, Dad to the rescue! He cut a notch in the rug so it fits perfectly against the wall and a side benefit is that it can't slip around either. This applies to so many things in my parents' house beside rugs. My dad coined the phase that my brother and I still jokingly use, "You know what a guy could do..." Whenever he said this, you knew he had a great idea!
"You know what a guy could do..."
5. Don't let sentiment cause clutter
My dad is somewhat of a minimalist. He doesn't care for a coffee table in the middle of the room or many knick knacks sitting around. My dad had a decent sized record collection, some of which he'd had since he was a teenager. They were stored in a wooden cabinet with sliding doors. Several years ago, he wanted to use the record cabinet for another storage purpose (in the garage on that wall in front of the vehicles - thank you hanging tennis ball for keeping it safe!) In order to use it for garage storage, he got rid of the records. I remember feeling sentimental about him getting rid of them and they weren't even mine. He didn't let sentiment cause any unnecessary clutter. I'm grateful that my husband and brother got several of the records for their own collections!
6. Research and analyze which is cheaper and better - fixing/refurbishing or buying new
This one may only apply if you have the ability to fix things yourself. If you know my dad, you know he can fix just about anything! There are times that most people would have just gotten a new (insert whatever is broken in your house) but my dad did the research to fix it. For instance, he put a brand new bottom in the bathtubs instead of replacing them. It was cheaper and less work in the long run than tearing out the old one and installing a new one. There are times though, were you've fixed as much as you can fix, and it's just time to buy new.
7. Label generously
My dad has been making labels as long as I can remember! His go to is masking tape and a sharpie. Putting labels on things helps to identify them (the reason spices of similar colors are labelled in my mom's spice cabinet) and helps us remember where things go (this is why I label my clear bins in my refrigerator - I certainly don't want my raw meat to ever go in the bin where my yogurt is supposed to go!) I have to admit, I did think my dad took it a little far when I saw that he had labelled the tape dispenser, "TAPE."
8. Take notes and keep things you want to reference later in a central location
My dad takes notes and records things he wants to remember later. Even if you have a good memory, you can't remember everything! Dad has his own system for reference in an Excel spreadsheet with many, many tabs, where I use Evernote to keep track of things I want to refer to later. Your system doesn't have to work for everyone - just for yourself!
9. Do things the right way the first time.
I say this to my kids often, "Do it right the first time." Often there's a shortcut or an easy way out, and if that can qualify as "the right way," by all means, take that path of least resistance. But too often, the easy way is not the right way, and then you end up having to redo the task or fix a mistake later on. Sometimes tasks take my dad longer than I would expect, but it's done right and it lasts! Several years ago, I had some issues with the caulk around my bathroom tub and my dad fixed it for us (yep, I'm lucky, I know!) It took a lot longer than I anticipated, but because he used the right materials, fixed his mistakes while the caulk was still wet, smoothed it with the correct tool, and waited the appropriate amount of time for it to dry - it looked great, served its correct purpose, and has lasted a long time.
10. Use your talents to help others
As I said earlier, my dad can fix just about anything and everybody knows it! This was demonstrated yesterday when my almost-4-year-old nephew picked up a toy that wouldn't work and bypassed everyone to go straight to my dad and say, "Grandpa this is broken, will you fix it?" Being good at something does usually mean you get asked to help people do that thing, and sometimes that can feel like a burden. Though I can't read his mind, it doesn't seem like he minds when he's asked to help with someone else's project. I think he looks at it as an opportunity to solve a puzzle while helping someone out. He's certainly helped me out more than I could ever thank or repay him for. I think because I saw my dad using what he was good at to help his family and others since I was a little girl, it seems natural to me to share my talents, too. I also think that we improve our skills, become faster and more productive at things when we do them more often - practice makes perfect, right? If we can improve our skills and become more efficient at them while helping someone out, it's a win-win!
My dad has taught me much more than these 10 things (some of them I've written about before) but these are some that I thought you might like to try out. I'm so fortunate to have a dad who has been present my entire life, and it was really fun to think of some of the things he's taught me. I challenge you to make a list of some specific things someone important in your life has taught you - and share it with them! Happy Father's Day, Dad - I love you!
I began to wonder, had society simply lowered its expectations of service and knowledge (read the post, Why Can’t Things Be Easier?) Or was it because people were so distracted by all the inputs in life that they couldn’t focus on any one task long enough to master it? Or was it because helicopter parenting and the everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality had stopped us from being challenged or encouraged to do our best work? Wow, I was getting cynical, and it bothered me. How could I change my attitude and my pet peeve?
"How could I change my attitude and my pet peeve?"
I began to realize that being annoyed all the time and maintaining a disdain for perceived incompetence was taking a lot of my energy - energy I needed to be competent in my own life. My eyes were opened to my own feelings of incompetence - at work, as a parent, and simply as a 30-something woman. It's bad enough to have that feeling about myself, but to think of the rest of the world not cutting me any slack (because I surely wasn't giving anyone else the benefit of the doubt), well that was just depressing!
A few months ago, I had what many would describe as a very frustrating experience at a doctor's office, but instead of being angry and spewing the story of incompetence to anyone who would listen, I felt calm and had no negative feelings toward the person who made the mistake. I looked back and wondered, had I really grown that much as a person that I could overlook the issue, or was there some other reason? I rehashed the events in my mind....
My baby (6 years old at the time) had his tonsils out, and recovery was going well - until the pain medication prescription ran out. We went to the ENT's office to see what could be done. The kind and gentle nurse practitioner took her time examining my little whimpering puddle of pain and explaining the options to me, his mommy whose heart was breaking a little more with each crocodile tear. She ended with prescribing more Tylenol with codeine for the pain and had to write a physical prescription because the pharmacies wouldn't accept an electronic script for that type of medication (which still perplexes me...)
I had the forethought to call our regular pharmacy (which was near our home, a 30 minute drive from the doctor's office) from the clinic's parking lot to make sure they had the medicine in stock. It's a good thing I called, because they did not have it, and they referred us to another pharmacy in their chain near our doctor's office. We drove there and traipsed through the store to the back where the pharmacy counter was and stood in line only to be told that they didn't have the medication either. They referred us to yet another pharmacy where we repeated the process and heard from that pharmacist, "Sorry, none here." By this time I was beginning to wonder what was going on that no pharmacy in town had this not-very-exotic medication.
I called the pharmacy at the clinic where our doctor's office was located (why didn't I just go there in the first place, you ask? Well, I was certainly asking myself the same question at this point!) They said they had it! My son was still in a lot of pain as we retraced our steps back to where we started from. As soon as I showed the pharmacist that piece of paper, she immediately knew what the issue was. The nurse practitioner had checked the box on the prescription pad that said NO substitutions allowed, so since all of pharmacies stocked only the generic, they couldn't fill the prescription as it was written.
We went upstairs to the doctor's office, and I asked to see the nurse practitioner to get a new prescription. After just a few minutes she raced out from the back waving the new prescription. She immediately said she was so sorry that she'd made the mistake and admitted that she didn't often write physical prescriptions any more and had simply checked the wrong box. She empathized with me and my son saying she could only imagine what we'd gone through trying to get the medicine to make him feel better and she was so sorry she'd caused him extra time in pain. I found myself assuring HER that it was OK and telling HER not to worry.
We quickly got the prescription filled and immediately gave him a dose. As we drove home and he finally fell asleep after getting some relief, I realized that I didn't get angry or label the nurse practitioner as incompetent because she had taken her time and treated us with kindness during our appointment, then when presented with her mistake, she quickly apologized, took responsibility, empathized, did what was necessary to correct the situation, and apologized again. I would recommend this nurse practitioner in a heartbeat because of how she handled the situation.
"Expect the best until proven wrong."
I'm now trying hard not to quickly label others as incompetent, but to rather give them them benefit of the doubt. I want to try to look at situations - and the people in them - differently. I want to try to encourage those who I would typically consider inept to learn more, try harder, and become experts. I want to build up those around me who are feeling insecure about their abilities. What if instead of fueling insecurity by complaining or berating people for not knowing it all, producing enough, or doing it fast enough, I focused on fostering understanding and mutual respect and educating about why things matter to me and to others?
I’m choosing to change my pet peeve, so you’re going to have to REALLY mess up before I label you incompetent from now on! You may wonder what re-framing how I look at incompetence has to do with a life in order - to me it has everything to do with it! Before I can improve myself, become more efficient and focused on my priorities, I have to quit wasting my energy fretting about or ruminating on things I can't control, and I must change my mindset to focus less on the negative. I now try to live by the motto, “expect the best until proven wrong.”
It FINALLY feels like Spring in Indiana, which means it's time for me to embark on the monumental task of the "seasonal switch." This is when I put away the wintery clothes and get out the spring/summer clothes that are stored in totes in the basement. It doesn't sound hard in that single sentence, but it is SUCH a process! This year I decided to do things a little differently to try to make it more efficient and enjoyable.
I have two boys, so I save everything that's in decent shape from the older one for the younger boy. Since they are 4 years apart, that means I have tote after tote labelled by size. Currently I have totes for size 6, size 7, and two totes for size 8 (as the clothes get bigger it takes more room to store the same amount), an 8/10, a 10/12, a 12/14, a 16/18, one for my oldest boy's out of season clothes that still fit, one for my out of season items that fit, my too small tote, and my husband's out of season - oh and then there's one for boots (or sandals depending on the season), one for hats/ gloves, one for coats/jackets, and one for kids' shoes that my youngest hasn't grown into yet! That's a lot of totes! And it never fails that the one I want is on the bottom of the stack, so I have to do an intricate redesign of the towers of totes to get to it.
Yesterday was the day I decided to tackle this season's switch, and even though I think I've come up with a pretty good new system, there's no denying, it's still a lot of work! Here's the new way I'm doing things and how I am organizing the totes of clothes so that when, in a couple weeks I find some T-shirt or pair of sweats that somehow escaped the switch , it'll be a cinch to store it because I'll be able to identify which bin it should go in AND access it easily.
Step 1 - Sort the new season's clothes
Don't start with what's currently in your closet or drawers - if you do that you may end up sleeping in a tent for two weeks. That's what happened to my then-6-year-old last year when I switched his summer clothes to fall/winter clothes. I started by sorting through the clothes in his drawers, deciding what would be too small next year and what I could save. Then I didn't have anywhere to store the clothes for the next summer because the storage bins were full of the fall/winter clothes that I hadn't gotten out yet. So, I dumped the fall/winter clothes on the bed, filled the emptied bins with the summer clothes, and took them to the basement. When it was bedtime, I was OVER clothes sorting, and since his bed was a mound of long pants, sweaters and long johns, I tried to make it fun and let him sleep in a tent on his floor that night. Well, one night turned many nights, and I actually lost track of how long he'd been sleeping in a tent until one night he said, "Mom, when can I sleep in my bed again? I've been sleeping in this tent since the night we watched the nun movie!" He was talking about Sister Act, which we'd watched a full two weeks earlier!
So to avoid tent sleeping due to a clothes infested bed, start with the new season's clothes. I store our out of season duds in the basement, so I started with one family member (my youngest because I felt bad about the tent incident.) I brought up several bins that contained sizes he may fit in this summer (if only there was truly a universal sizing system so I didn't have to have him try on sizes 6 through 8!) I pulled everything out of each bin and put aside anything that was visibly too small or out of season (if I were better at planning I would have had my kids so they'd be the same sizes during the same seasons...) and made a giant pile of what I needed for him to try on. I did this only one bin at a time because, if you have boys you know that trying on clothes is something they can only endure for a very short amount of time. We tried everything on and decided if it fit and if he liked it enough not to whine about wearing it. We made three piles: it fits, it's too small or he won't wear it, and it's too big. When we were done with each bin, we put all the items that fit into the laundry room clothes sorter, the too small items into a bag for my nephew (so my sister-in-law can store those at HER house!), and the too big pile back into the tote it came from. We repeated with all of his bins (after some breaks in between each one.)
You can repeat this process for each member of the family:
Step 2 - Sort the previous season's clothes
While the new season's clothes are in the laundry, go through the clothes that are currently in your closet and drawers. Use the same general strategy as you did with the upcoming season's clothes with a couple of tweaks.
Step 3 - Store out of season clothes
This is the biggest thing I'm excited about! I am going to bite the bullet and do something I've been thinking about for several years...I'm buying shelves for my totes! (I know big step, right?) When totes are on shelves that means you don't have to play that game like the one you played as a kid where a square was filled with tiles and there's one blank space and you have to move tiles around to get them in a certain order. I've ordered the shelves and can hardly wait til they arrive (don't worry, I'll let you know on Facebook when they do!) Mine will go in my basement for the out of season clothes, but these could easily work in a garage or pole barn for anything you store in totes.
Step 4 - Put away new season's clothes
After you've washed all the new season's clothes, put them away in your closet or drawers. Use this as an opportunity to purchase new (or re-purpose other items as) closet and drawer accessories to keep you organized. Some of my favorites for the closet are the hangers that allow you to hang multiple items and then collapse to save closet rod space, belt hangers or a purse hanger which takes advantage of vertical space, a scarf hanger which take advantage of the depth of your closet without hogging closet rod space, a cami hanger which can handle multiple sleeveless tops in the space it takes to hang one hanger, fabric totes where you can store items like t-shirts, hats, athletic clothes, stacking bins for closet shelves, hanging shoe holders, or shoes shelves. In your drawers, use clear plastic shoe boxes or wire inboxes intended for a desk to divide large drawers, or criss-cross organizers for socks and underwear.
I hope these 4 steps will help your "seasonal switch" go much smoother this year. If you are lucky enough to have huge closets, you may not even need to go through this difficult process (I'm jealous!) but for most of us, we have to store at least part of our clothing in a different location when they are out of season. If you have multiple kids and are saving their clothes for a younger sibling - kudos to you for saving all that money! Take it from a mom who's done it the hard way for way too many years and try some of these tips.
Your mom probably told you many times during your childhood, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." This is great advice, but I'd like to add another sentence. "If you can say something nice, do!" In this world where countless news sources are vying for our attention, it seems the sensationalized stories get the most traffic, and many of those contain negative, disappointing, or even scary content. It's easy to begin to believe there's very little "nice" stuff to talk about! The more we hear about the negative, the harder it is to even recognize the positive.
I recently had the opportunity to hear happiness researcher, Shawn Achor, speak, and one of the points that stuck out to me the most is that the more negative we feel, the more negative things we look for in our days, but the opposite is also true. Once you begin to recognize and appreciate positive things in your day, you actually become happier and start to notice more and more positives all around you. What if I could recognize more positives while also help others do the same? I think it's very easy to do just that by simply saying out loud the nice things we are already thinking. There are so many times that think, "her hair looks nice today," "he's really good at his job," "that guy is hilarious," "I like that girl's tattoo," "that kid is really well behaved," etc. How many times have I kept those nice thoughts in my head when I could have said them out loud and possibly made someone else's day? I know that when someone says even the smallest kind thing to me, it makes me happy. If it's that easy to spread happiness, I'm going to do it!
During a visit to the store, my kids and I received a comment card that you could complete about a specific employee who had done a good job. From all of the cards submitted, one would be drawn, and that employee would win a prize. My oldest son immediately told me who we should enter - a man who worked there who was always especially helpful and kind. Fast forward a week or so...I saw that man, and I immediately thought about my son's comment and about how neat it was that even as a kid, he recognized and appreciated kindness. I could have just walked by keeping that thought in my head, but instead, I went up to the guy (who didn't know me) and told him the story. Maybe a little weird or uncomfortable for me, but the look on his face and hearing him say, "Thank you. You made my day, and I needed that today!" made ME happy. Wait a second - me saying something nice to someone else actually made me happy - wow, why am I not doing this all the time?
Throughout the day, different people and experiences pop into my head. I usually just let it pass and do nothing about it, but occasionally, I take the time to shoot that person a text or an email letting them know I was thinking of them and why. Most of the time I get a kind response of appreciation, and very often I get the response, "I needed that today." You don't have to be physically with a person to spread some kindness!
One day while I was eating lunch out, I had a young server who had several tattoos. I commented on one that was visible just by saying I liked it and asked what made him choose it. His whole demeanor changed. I think he was surprised to be asked (maybe me being in a business suit on my lunch hour asking about his tattoo caught him off guard) but he opened up and told me why he got the tattoo, what it meant to him, and showed me another one and shared a personal story about it. After this experience I've started asking others who have visible tattoos about them. I don't have tattoos myself, but figure if someone cares enough about something to have it tattooed, it may be something they'd like to share and it may make them happy to do so. Just from saying, "I like your tattoo, what does it mean?" I've heard about the impact of parents who have passed on, faith journeys, and just some funny stories.
"Saying kind things doesn't only improve the mood of those you're complementing, it also helps your own mood."
Saying kind things doesn't only improve the mood of those you're complementing, it also helps your own mood. I remember when my Grandma was alive, sometimes when I had a bad day, I'd call her - not to complain about my day, but rather to cheer her up. In hearing her mood improve, it made me feel better - a win, win! Why does this work - is it because we shift our focus and forget about our problems or is it that by shifting our focus, our attitude about our problems actually changes?
Since hearing Achor speak, I started a new dinnertime routine with my family. Each night we go around the table taking turns saying three specific things we were grateful for that day. They can be as small as, "I'm grateful for these great hamburgers that Dad grilled" or "I'm grateful for going on a walk in the sunshine today." The research shows that after 21 days of recording specific gratitude, our brains actually start perceiving the world differently because we are looking for things to be grateful for, so those things are at the forefront and the negatives - which still exist - are in the background. I'm eager to look back after we've done this for a few weeks at what made us feel gratitude and notice our happiness increasing! Once we become happier, we improve in many ways - health, productivity and our influence on others all benefit. Achor did a popular TED talk you may want to check out called "The Happy Secret to Better Work." I've heard many productivity experts talk about gratitude journals and have had a hard time keeping one for myself, but adding my family in the mix has helped me make this a part of my day that I look forward to!
I encourage you to give some of these ideas a shot and see if they make you happier:
Today was a a special day for my family - Easter, April Fool's Day and a birthday celebration! For me, most of the fun of holidays and special events has always been the anticipation, but more importantly the traditions involved. Some of the traditions in my household come from mine and my husband's childhoods (and some of them likely from our parents' childhoods) but many are brand new traditions we've created ourselves. One of my favorite parts of parenthood so far has been creating traditions for my family - some of which I hope they will carry on with their own families some day.
Sometimes we may wonder if keeping up with all of the traditions is worth it. There is a difference between true traditions - things we do to create meaning that can be passed down from generation to generation - and just keeping up appearances. In this digital age full of social networks, posting what we decide is the ideal picture of our lives is an easy trap to fall into, and if this is the reason you keep up with a tradition then, NO, it's not worth it. But if creating and maintaining traditions brings joy to you and your family or provides precious memories and opportunities for your children to carry them with them into adulthood - then YES, keep it up!
There are so many reasons I think traditions are powerful and allow us creative opportunities to show our love to our past and to our future:
Traditions create memories
We have hosted a kids' Halloween costume party since our oldest was about 3 years old. I have pictures of both of my kids and their friends and their friends parents in all sorts of fun costumes. We often talk about things like "that time we stuck our hands into a bucket with cold spaghetti and thought it was guts!"
Traditions help us mark the passage of time
From the time I started school, my mom took a first day of school picture in front of the refrigerator. She could tell how much we'd grown by how close we were to the line between the fridge and the freezer. She has a first and a last day of school picture of my brother and me for every school year. When my kids started school, I did the same thing, but instead of the refrigerator, I use the back door. It's fun to see how much the kids have grown each year.
Traditions communicate meaning
There are many competing traditions around Christmas and Easter. My family chooses to participate in both the fun and the religious traditions (ex. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and the story of Christ's birth, death and resurrection.) We use traditions to communicate meaning. One of those traditions is one that we did just this morning, resurrection rolls. Every Easter morning, we make these rolls and talk about the Biblical meaning of Easter. Today, my kids helped explain the meaning in this video
Traditions connect generations
As a child, every Christmas morning was spent at home. After stockings and before gifts, we would read the story of Jesus' birth from the book of Luke chapter 2. When I got married, we began spending Christmas mornings at our new home and our kids have always had Christmas morning at their home. Each year, we read from Luke chapter 2 after stockings and before gifts. We also read the same passage when we go to my parents house before opening gifts. My kids know that this is what I did as a kid, and I expect this is one tradition that they will carry on.
Traditions are just fun!
We made up a really silly and fun tradition last Cinco de Mayo. The kids wanted to see the Tron remake and it just worked out that we had some time on May 5. My oldest and I stopped by the store and picked up some chips, salsa, and queso. We went home and announced the new Cinco de Mayo tradition was eating our snacks and watching Tron. The kids loved the movie and just the other day, they mentioned how we'll watch it again on Cinco de Mayo this year!
The really fun part about traditions is there are so many opportunities to create them - major and minor holidays, firsts, lasts, even just days of the week! Something as simple as dinner out on a Friday is something I've heard my husband recall about his childhood. It doesn't have to be grand or expensive to count as a tradition. It just has to create joy, have some consistency, and be able to be recreated by our families or friends in the future. What kinds of traditions do you have in your family and how have they helped you maintain order in your life?
Resurrection Roll Recipe
This week I announced that I'm giving away a copy of the book, Get Momentum: How to Start When You're Stuck by Jason and Jodi Womack. (If you're reading this before 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 there's still time to enter to win!) I highly recommend this book to help you get started on any project whether it be personal, work, or a passion project. Get Momentum first helps you to figure out why you're stuck and then breaks down getting momentum into 5 steps:
1. Motivation - What do I want to be known for?
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!