Getting Off Track…

I started this blog excited to be pursuing my creative urge to write, study, photograph, and share. I still am excited about it, but life keeps getting in the way and I haven’t been able to post as often as I would’ve liked. I know that we all only have 24 hours a day. I know that I need 9 hours of sleep a night and that I have a lot of responsibilities. But instead of taking things OFF of my plate, I feel like I just keep ADDING new things on to an already full load. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

Earlier this year I wrote a post about time management and a practice I had been doing to make sure that I kept my life in check with what was important to me. Unlike my other posts, I went back to it many times. I edited it and changed it and finally just decided not to post it as it wasn’t in my voice and it didn’t seem to fit in.

And then I abandoned that practice.

I stopped intentionally looking at how I spent my time and instead kept filling it up and up and up and up until I hit overwhelm and had to step back and examine how best to move forward.

What actually happened was an old major love of mine (the sport of beach tennis!), came back into my life after having been done for 10 years. Suddenly I could play again and had a Pro Tour and ANOC World Beach Games to train for. I upped my fitness time and began training on court and in the gym, traveling to tournaments and promoting and organizing a “new” sport. Meanwhile I still had my already busy life as mom, wife, friend, board member, volunteer, writer, etc.  It’s no wonder things got hectic as I tried to fit in way more than I had time for.

A tournament we hosted as we set out to grow the sport in San Diego…
Lisa, my sister, and I competing at an ITF Pro Tournament in Hermosa Beach.
Happy to be back on the sand with my sis!

But the truth is I am still struggling to choose what it is that I want to focus on and prioritize. I still want to dedicate myself to my kids, to my husband, to my blog, to my sport, to my community. But I really cannot do it all. I definitely cannot do it all to the level that I would want to. So, what do I do? How do I move forward? I guess I’d say I need to prioritize, but that sounds so uninspiring! I am thankful that I have so many fun things calling to me, but I need to be real with myself about what is most important to me right now.

Which ironically goes back to my old practice of intentionally planning my time around my values and priorities. Looks like I need to reread my old post and see what I think of it now! And then write a new one to share what I learned from giving up that practice and starting it again.

The funny, not so funny, thing is, I remember thinking and writing that life is wild and keeps on throwing things at us all the time. If we don’t stop to think about what is important to us we can get off track just doing what shows up, instead of actively creating the life we want to live by design.

So back to the drawing board! Stay tuned…. More to come.

PS- Before posting this entry, I actually edited and posted my original article on intentional living called How to Fill Your Life with What’s Important to You. If you missed it, you can find it HERE. Meanwhile I have been re-evaluating my priorities and planning my time again according to the post!

Here are some helpful questions you can use to help you journal/brainstorm what you want to create in your life:

What’s Most Important to you?

What do you do (how do you spend your time and free time)?

What do you want to do more of?

What do you want to do less of?

What are some things you would like to plan in to create your intentionally-designed life?

How to Fill Your Life with What’s Important to You

How to Fill Your Life with What’s Important to You & Your Family

6 Steps to Make the Most of Your Time

Time flies when you are having fun- or maybe just time flies! And if time flies, I certainly want to make sure to fill it up with the things that are important to me and my family. I don’t know about you, but I feel like we are always super busy. I feel like we have a million things to do and a million more that I would want to do if I just had more time!

Clearly there’s no way to add more time to the day. So, I started to think about what I could do to maximize my time and make sure I was using it wisely. That led me to try something new. I pinpointed our priorities and made a concerted effort to plan weekly activities to fulfill them.I call it intentional living, but I guess it is more like intentional planning. The planning is the key element as it takes the week on a whole and fills it with meaningful activities, rather than just attempting to complete a never ending to do list.

Take a minute to think about what you are already doing. Where do you spend your free time? Do those activities fill you up or leave you drained? Do you feel guilty about what you are doing (or not doing?) Do you get sad when people say things like “enjoy it while you have it” and “they grow up so fast! “ (I hope I can remember to never actually say that to anyone when I am older!)

If we choose to be intentional in how we use our time, we can look back and be proud, knowing that we filled our family’s free time with the things we value.  We can be proud that we took advantage of the time we had when our kids were at each age, because we thought about what we wanted for them and for our families and planned accordingly!

Here’s how to get started

1. FIGURE OUT YOUR FAMILY’S PRIORITIES!

First you have to figure out what your family’s priorities actually are. Some ideas include health, marriage, family time, fitness, friends, spirituality/religion, learning/personal growth, children, hobbies, volunteering, travel, community, careers, and education. There are lots of choices- so be sure to take some time to consider actually is important to you, not just what you think is supposed to be important!

2. PLAN ACTIVITIES EACH WEEK THAT FULFILL THOSE PRIORITIES

Once you know what is important to you and your family, then you can brainstorm activities that fulfill each area. Once you have some possibilities you can start planning them into your actual calendar. For example, my family values fun so I try to plan at least one playdate each week. I also try to get together with my friends at least once a week (while the kids are in school or at night). Another example for me is I try to get to the beach once a week to satisfy either peace/rest/nature time or health/fitness if I make an active trip like a run, surf, beach tennis, etc.

3. FIND WAYS TO COMBINE YOUR PRIORITIES WITH YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES

In addition to just adding activities into your free time, you can also try to find ways to sneak aspects of what you prioritize into the things you have to do. You can’t escape your responsibilities (like your job, driving kids to school, doing laundry, cleaning the house, etc.) but you can find ways to make them more enjoyable. For example, if you value education, creativity, self-growth or learning, you can clean the house while you listen to your favorite podcasts. Or if you value dance or fitness you can clean while listening to fun upbeat songs that get you dancing along to your dusting. Those can be blended with health easily too if you listen to either while you cook or exercise. You can add either of those to school drop offs as well and find some fun kids’ podcast to get your kids excited about learning too.

4. SCHEDULE THE ACTIVITIES!

Take the time to schedule your important activities into your calendar. Maybe even start a family calendar where you can write it all down for everyone to see (if you haven’t done that already.) As a bonus, once you write it on an actual calendar it’s easier to see if your schedule is balanced or not. Keep in mind, you might not be able to fit everything you want into each week. Whatever doesn’t fit is either lower on the priority list or something to start with for the next week.

5. REVISIT YOUR ORIGINAL PRIORITIES

After some time has passed it’s a good idea to revisit your original priority list and make sure it is really true to what you want. Maybe you thought you valued super fitness but realize that you actually value family time more since your kids are little and you want to soak up the time with them. It is ok to change it up. It is one thing to want a six-pack, but it is another thing to actually be willing to do what it takes to achieve one. Also, the more priorities you have the harder it may be to get them all in. Therefore, you may have to trim down your list or get real with yourself about what really is important. Use your list and scheduling to feel good and fulfilled at the end of each week and adjust as needed along the way.

6. PLAN FOR DOWNTIME

Don’t forget to plan for downtime! With the endless activities available today and the never-ending to do lists, sometimes the thing missing is rest. It was a little bit of a surprise for me, a total extrovert, when I realized something I would like more of is peace and calm, aka downtime! So, I make sure to leave some free time and I also plan a beach day or afternoon as an opportunity to slow down and connect with nature. I also like to read, write and take it easy.

But what about if you are not a planner? What if this is just too much scheduling for you? I get it, though I might challenge you by saying you do keep some kind of schedule. I suppose if you don’t like to keep a calendar just the act of thinking about your priorities and how you spend your time can be helpful and maybe it will help keep that stuff at the top of your mind where you are more apt to do things to meet them. But I would also challenge you to try this method for a month and see how it feels. Maybe the act of planning based on how you want to spend your time will feel better and more palatable.

In anticipation of the holiday season that is upon us, I challenge myself and everyone who reads this to take the time to think about what priorities you have for yourself and your family and talk to them about it too. Then keep up with scheduling in time for your priorities. Fight the hectic holiday pace with planned important activities. Hopefully by having an empowering context and choosing activities that align with your family’s priorities, we can stay more grounded and calm in end of year and into the future.

Let me know your thoughts along the way. I’d love to hear how this intentional living and planning makes a difference for you!

Planning vs Worrying

Are you a planner? Do you keep your family’s schedule organized and help juggle all the activities and responsibilities? I am obsessed with planning and feel like it totally helps me to live a happy and balanced life (more details on that to come in another post soon.) But on the flip side, I can also find myself worrying about things like my son’s ear infections or traveling alone to Chicago or really anything having to do with the safety and health of my boys…. So, when I stumbled across an article about the difference between planning and worrying I was intrigued.

It started off by saying we have evolved from the hunter gatherer life and we are programmed to be on the lookout for dangerous or compromising situations. (My husband would love that as he is always bringing it back to our human roots tied to the land and our instincts.) This innate sleuthing thus enabled and enables us to survive. Our parents trained us and now we even do it to our kids.

“We are all the products of men and women who evolved to be wary. There is nothing remarkable about this. We plan our days and our years. From the time we are children, we are told to watch out for strangers, for speeding cars, and for being caught outside in bad weather. We are instructed to eat and sleep properly and take care of ourselves. Doing the right thing becomes automatic-most of the time. We do not worry about these matters. We plan for them. We schedule them. But even as children, and forever after, we also worry about things. What distinguishes those problems we plan for from those we worry about?” 1

We can plan for all sorts of things- like what we will make for dinner this week, what to do for the next girls night out, how to make the upcoming birthday/holiday/party special, saving for retirement, etc. We can plan for big and little things just as we can worry about big and little things. Whether they are important (like the health of our parents or saving for college) or fleeting (like did I remember to start the dishwasher before I left the house or is my friend upset I had to reschedule our lunch), anything you worry about can be consuming and draining.

Here is what Fredric Neuman M.D. says distinguishes the problems we plan for versus those we worry about: “We plan every day for all those things we need to accomplish during the day. We worry about those things that are very difficult or impossible to plan for.”

In other words, we plan for things we can control, and we worry about things that we cannot control or that we can control but may be short on time for like saving money to retire once you are very close to retirement.

He continues, “To put it another way, we can plan for something important and not worry, if it seems to us we are in control. We worry about things we cannot control. So, we worry if a biopsy will come back showing an abnormal growth, we worry about our children using drugs, we worry about not having enough money to pay the mortgage, we may worry about a spouse being unfaithful. These matters seem to be out of our control. They defy our ability to plan for them. Worry is, therefore, an inevitable consequence of the inability to plan successfully. It is as if we our searching our minds for a plan to confront these problems and cannot find one. If we could find one, we would not worry!”1

So as a planner what can I do to stop worrying? Most people say just let it be, or worrying won’t help, or even less helpful some people say just stop worrying about that- as if it’s the easy! But the aha moment for me from this article is that worrying can’t be stopped on its own, you need to plan for your worry and get beyond the “what if….?” To discover the “then what?….”

“The antidote to worry is action. Chronic worriers are simply people who are not good at making plans.”1

I took a little offense to that when I read it since I consider myself a serious planner! But I can look beyond that to see where in worrying about certain areas I never got past that potential problem to get to the part where I make a plan for it.

Actually, I was just in this circumstance last Wednesday. Both of my sons had a cold, one even got an ear infection. My throat began to feel a bit scratchy and my left ear started to hurt a little bit. Normally that wouldn’t be too big of a problem (especially now that my son got tubes for his ears and he didn’t have to get antibiotics, again.) The problem was that I was about to leave for a solo trip to Chicago to visit my 92-year-old grandma and see family and friends and I didn’t want to be sick for it or have a problem flying with a sore ear.

I was worrying and worrying. What if I am coughing and sick and can’t enjoy my trip? What if I bring germs to my grandma or am too sick to see her? What if my eardrum ruptures on the flight? This went on for a while and persisted as I was already in a nervous state as I rarely leave my kids and husband! Then I did what the article talks about, I went from the “What If” to the “Then What…”

I thought ok what’s the worst scenario here, I feel sick and I can’t go visit my grandma. Well then I’ll be alone and can just stay in a hotel. What if my ear ruptures or hurts? Then I will go to the doctor and get past it! Worse case I hurt a little and miss out, not a big deal. So, I let it go with a plan in mind. I went to Chicago; my ear was fine, and I never got the cold. I got to visit my grandma, my family, and old friends. I seriously had the best trip ever and it is pretty hilarious that I even spent one minute worrying about it! But experiences like this help me to do better in the future. And now that I am equipped with the other tips from this article I hope to plan away all my worries in the future!

To wrap it up here is Neuman’s general strategy for dealing with worry:

“No matter how out of control a situation may seem to be, worrying about it can be dispelled by developing a plan of action. The trick, then, for the affected person-or his/her therapist-is to try to find some plan for dealing with that situation. Sometimes a simple exploration of the problem immediately suggests a reassuring response. I worried one time that my daughter would miss a connecting flight. She pointed out to me that the airlines have a way of dealing with that situation. “They will just put me on the next flight,” she told me.” 1

It is funny that I stumbled upon this technique just earlier this week all on my own and I look forward to applying it to any situations in the future where I would normally find myself worrying!

 

1. Neuman M.D., Fredric. “Planning vs. Worrying. The treatment of a worry.” Psychology Today. 04 Dec. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fighting-fear/201612/planning-vs-worrying. Accessed 04 June 2018.