Personal Change

Just One Step: Planning Is Important But Only Action Makes Change

The Problem

Some days I struggle with my emotions and self-image, and when I string together too many of these days I can get into a real funk. You know?? Worse than that, I start to believe my negative feelings are truth, and after awhile they become truth.

When I feel messy and disorganized, I act messy and disorganized. When I feel fat and unattractive, I eat poorly, become less active, and don’t bother much with makeup and dressing neatly. When I feel unreliable, I often fail to meet my responsibilities and commitments.

Hope and Inspiration

I recently read James Clear’s ‘Atomic Habits’ and have been thinking about it a lot. It’s a great read and I intend to go through it again soon to absorb it more thoroughly, but the most important takeaways for me were :
1) I can choose and develop the qualities that are important to me, like reliability, honesty, tidiness, and studiousness.
2) If I’m not 100% reliable one day, that doesn’t mean I’m not reliable or that I can’t learn to become reliable (or honest, tidy, studious, etc.) Each time I keep my word, I “cast a vote” for myself as a reliable person, and (vice versa!)
3) Consistent, incremental improvement is the key.

Now What?

I started this week by giving careful thought to what I want to accomplish in this period of my life. I have left the workforce to care for my aging stepfather and to keep house. To do these things well I need to be reliable, consistent, organized, neat, thrifty, patient, and kind. For my own health and well-being, I need to be more active and fit.

Obviously I’m not going to spontaneously wake up to tomorrow and be any of these things, much less all of them. So, I have made a list of the traits I believe are important, and chosen three that I will work on for the next few months, working to develop habits and change my self-image so that it becomes easier and more natural to be who I want to be.

To be more reliable, I’m using my planner to be more careful about making commitments and appointments, and I try to make careful notes of each new one. To be neater and more organized, I went to clutterbug.me and downloaded some printables to help improve my cleaning routine. Because I know ‘multitasking’ is a lie, I blocked out some time each day for each of the tasks I consider to be important in getting where I want to go, including some writing time because sometimes even an introvert has to get stuff out of her head!

The Point

The point of all this is that I took meaningful action this week. Instead of wishing I was better, I am acting more like the person I want to be, and it’s already beginning to show.

If I can do this, so can you. ❤

Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com
Personal Change

My Anxiety Fish: A Surprising Coping Mechanism In A Time of Personal Stress

The Problem

About six weeks ago I was given custody of my grandson’s Betta while he and and his mother went to Texas to visit her family. I have worried and fretted over this fish for the past 42 days, bought him special water, kept a room extra warm for him, read up on why he might not be eating, talked to him at meal times, left detailed notes about his care when I left town… It was crazy. I was crazy.

My grandson’s parents assured me he wouldn’t be traumatized if his fish died, but I was obsessed with making sure this fish survived his time in my care.

Now this is particularly silly because we also have one of their dogs, a beloved and totally lovable Labrador Retriever who, to my knowledge, didn’t come from Labrador and doesn’t retrieve. He would be very much missed if anything happened to him, but I didn’t worry about him except in the normal way one worries about a dog in their care.

My husband calls the Betta -my anxiety fish, and I think he means that I am going to fret over this fish until he is returned to his own home, thankfully tomorrow. But I think it’s something deeper. With my life so full of things to cause worry, it’s easier to concentrate on the anxiety fish. Sick, elderly dad? Eighty-year-old uncle with pneumonia? Failed business and financial ruin? These things I can handle. But this fish…

Consequences

Last night I dreamed that instead of the one fish I have been caring for, it turned out that there were three, and two of them were getting really hungry. As I was looking for their food, I kept finding tanks and tanks full of fish that I was supposed to be taking care of, each needing different food, and some of them were supposed to be fed to the others. One was supposed to be fed linen glitter, whatever that is, but I could only find regular glitter… It went on and on and on.

Coping Mechanism

I think my mind has fixated on to this fish as a way of not getting overwhelmed by everything else. I can still do what I need to do, but I’m not focusing on the things I can’t do anything about.

Do you have an anxiety fish?


Family, Personal Change, Writing and Blogging

Christmas Lessons, Part 2: Using a Planner (or Old Dog, New Trick)

The Problem

I am notoriously disorganized and messy, but long to corral my creative tendencies to achieve a productive lifestyle.

The Gift

I mentioned previously that I am not a fan of planners (the objects, not the people). Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, my daughter had already purchased by birthday gift when that post was published. It’s a lovely, flowery thing with inspirational quotes throughout; not too big, not too small… just right. She included a set of comfortable, smooth writing pens and an add-on for the planner, pages of moveable lists with the phrase ‘listers gonna list‘ at the top, just to add a welcome splash of hip hop to my day.

My girl is that rare creature, an organized creative. She started using a planner in college to keep track of work, classes, homework, etc. Over the years as her life has evolved, so has her planner. It now includes work, social engagements, general budgeting, and doctor and grooming appointments for herself and her pack of hounds. Her planner is a work of art and a wondrous combination of planner and diary.

I enthusiastically accepted her gift and the promise of coaching. On Christmas morning, we spent about an hour setting up a very basic planning routine. She emphasized to me that the planner is a tool to alleviate stress, not a master or a source of guilt, and that it’s OK if I make mistakes, don’t follow it exactly, or forget to use it for a week. (She knows that perfectionism is one of the hurdles I’m trying to overcome.) That gift, along with her pep talk, have already made a huge difference in my life.

A Solution?

If you are struggling with disorganization, stress, or both, maybe you could try a planner. Here are some tips for getting started.

  1. If you don’t have a planner, get one. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. In fact, there are all sorts of free options available online. The Handmade Home has some beautiful free printables, including some stylish covers.
  2. Write out some short- and long-term goals, and whatever steps you can identify to achieve those goals over the next days, weeks, and months. Mine included setting up a thank you card system (cards, pens and stamps in box), exercising regularly, drinking more water, blogging twice a week, and organizing my sewing room.
  3. Go through and plug in annual events like birthdays, anniversaries, and family reunions. You can also put in one-time events that you already know about like upcoming graduations, weddings, or vacations.
  4. Next, add monthly events like meetings and standing appointments for the next three months, or whatever horizon seems useful to you. I only did one month because my primary job right now is homemaker and carer for my elderly stepfather, and my schedule is largely dictated by his ever-changing needs. At the end of January, I have a note to remind me to fill in February’s schedule. Don’t forget your goals! This is also a good place to plug in bills you pay and payments you receive on a regular basis.
  5. What weekly and daily things do you want to schedule? Probably your work or class schedule, especially if it varies from day to day or week to week. Again, don’t forget your goals. I placed a legend at the top reminding me to exercise, drink water, and organize my sewing room for a few minutes each day. In theory, I should place an asterisk or a check on the days I complete these tasks, but mainly I just use them as a reminder.
  6. Good start! As you go along, put in new appointments or events, or reminders to make phone calls and follow-up calls if necessary. Whatever will help you accomplish what you want to, but also free up space in your head. If something is stressing you out, think about how your planner can help. For example, I sort my dad’s pills into a pill organizer once a week, but it was always running out on Saturday evening. Every Sunday morning when I really just wanted a cup of coffee and twenty minutes to myself, I would have Dad wanting his coffee, pills, and breakfast, and the dogs wanting walks, attention, and breakfast. It was not the best time to be sorting pills, and I was cranky. I put ‘fill pill organizers’ on my schedule for Friday evening, and now my Sunday mornings are a little less hectic, and I’m quite a bit less resentful.

My daughter recommended that I leave my planner open in a place I would see it several times a day and not carry it with me. I sit down with it in the morning to review the day and the week ahead, and in the evening to add new appointments or make changes. I keep my monthly to-do list under ‘Notes’ on the margin, and use the ‘listers gonna list’ pages for daily and weekly to-do lists and shopping lists.

Results

My stress level has plummeted over the past two weeks or so, and I know a lot of it is that I no longer have to try to keep so much stuff in my head. I’m sleeping better, and I’m seeing results.

Using a tip from an episode of the Clutterbug podcast, I set up a Google calendar. It’s nice because you can access it from just about any device, and you can sync it with Alexa, which I find very helpful to my ADD brain.

Personal Change, Planning and Organization

How Big Is Your Elephant?

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

The Problem

When the going gets tough, the tough get real. Or something like that. I’m not all that tough, but I feel like I’m up to my elbows in alligators and I’m not ready to give up yet.  My previous post was an emotional purge, an apology for supposing I might have anything useful to say, and perhaps a sample of a low mark on a bipolar roller coaster. (My husband says that sometimes I’m hard to be around; I tell him sometimes I’m hard to be. For better or worse, Mister.) 

So, I’ve been “dealing with” this problem of how to get my life back on track for some time now. 

Finding Help and Inspiration

I have been listening to books and podcasts like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and The Clutterbug Podcast (which I love!), and motivational books like Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (also great), and anything else that might be helpful. 

I’ve been trying out different planners: apps, binders with cute stickers, printables. (Ugh, by the way.)

I’ve been researching alternative points of sale, running numbers to evaluate sales channels, researching suppliers, and looking for other ways to make the business work. 

In other words, I’ve throwing a lot of darts. In most cases, I’m working backwards, finding a shiny a solution and trying to make it fit one of my problems… 

Sometimes my brains just fizzes and I accomplish nothing, not because I’m not doing anything, but because I’m doing too many things. Well, starting too many things. I don’t finish much. (I told you, I’m hard to be.)

Then, I read a blog post today by Allie from HeyMom,NowWhat that I found really helpful. Of course I’d heard it before, but it was a good reminder. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Allie was concerned about getting prepared for Christmas. I could only wish for such a palatable pachyderm, so tiny, tasty, and tender. Alas, that one is Allie’s (and I wish her well!) But the principle applies, and I decided to put it to use. The first bite was a big one, and it took me a full day of contemplation. You might say I had to chew it over a bit. Here is what I came up with.

PROBLEMS

  • Too much stuff
    • can’t find things,
    • can’t enjoy home
  • Too much debt
  • Business 
    • too much time managing inventory
    • too unfocused
    • too many competitors
    • not really enjoying it
  • Prefer to work from home

SOLUTIONS

  • Sell some stuff to:
    • pay some debt
    • have a less cluttered home.
  • Business
    • Immediately reduce number of sales channels by 2 or 3
    • Discount/auction non-core products for quick sale
    • Re-evaluate finances, environment, and happiness in June.

How big is your elephant? Do you need to write a term paper or plan a wedding? Start a business? Buy a house? Get the dishes done? Get dressed? (I get it. Some days are hard like that.) Remember, you can always ask for help. ❤