New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time again. As the old year draws to a close, we look ahead to the new one. We examine our lives and identify opportunities for self-improvement. We make a list of resolutions which, for too many of us, will be forgotten or abandoned by Spring.

Among the most common resolutions (after losing weight, getting in better shape, and improving our health) are getting organized, and reducing stress. Just as we recognize the tremendous positive impact that better eating and regular exercise have on our physical health, we recognize that having order in our life greatly impacts our mental and emotional health which, in turn, affects our physical health as well.

Unfortunately, many people approach resolutions in a way which practically guarantees that they will fail. Simply writing “Lose weight”, “Eat healthier”, “Exercise more” or “Get organized” does nothing to ensure that will happen; without insight, goals, commitment, and at least some form of a plan, those extra pounds, inches – or stress and chaos – will remain a part of your life.

  1. Consider why you want to get your life in order. If you’re only doing it because your boss, spouse, roommate, guilty conscience, etc. says you need to, you will find it hard to succeed. Motivation for any change has to come from within, so find yours.
  2. Determine what areas of your life are in order, and which aren’t. Are you paying late fees on overdue bills? Are you constantly scrambling to meet deadlines at work? Is getting dinner on the table every night a challenge? Do you miss events or appointments? Do you dread opening your closet? Identify the things that always seem to be falling through the cracks, or taking longer than you would like.
  3. Understand what you are doing now that is working for you, and what isn’t. Don’t worry if you write your to-do list in a pocket notebook while everyone around you seems to be using a smartphone app; if the items on your list get done, then your system is working okay for you. Think about how you are approaching things right now, and where the breakdown seems to be happening.
  4. Prioritize. Don’t try to tackle everything all at once. Identify the biggest problem area, and address that first. Look at everything that you previously identified as not working, and ask yourself “How much does this bother me?” Don’t worry right now about whether it should or not.

Remember that you can do it; there’s no such thing as “naturally organized”. It comes easier to some than others, but everyone can improve from where they start.

Remember that you don’t have to (and can’t) do it all at once; small steps are still progress. Just like losing ten pounds provides measurable benefits – even if you need to lose 100 – getting one area of your life in order provides a calming, positive impact even if five other areas are still in chaos.

Remember that, if what you’ve done in the past didn’t work, it isn’t a failure; it just means that it wasn’t the right approach for you. Success is less about finding the “one right solution” than about working with your strengths, and being motivated.

Heading Into the Holidays, Part II

Heading Into the Holidays, Part II

  1. If you rated something a five or below for you, but you know it’s a ten for someone else, can they do it? Is it someone else’s turn to coordinate the gift exchange; host the family dinner; drive ten hours on Christmas Eve; buy all of the presents? Speak up! You’ll never know if you don’t ask. A client who dreaded baking for the neighborhood cookie exchange was pleasantly surprised that her 14-year old was more than happy to take over.
  2. Make a plan for all of the things you have to get done. Note any firm deadlines and write/enter them on your calendar; also any parties, school programs, etc. that you know about. You should fairly quickly be able to see the times in the next few weeks that are packed. One of the biggest pitfalls in time management is that, as human beings, we are notoriously poor at determining how long a task will take. We tend to underestimate by a large margin, throwing the rest of our schedule into chaos. Pad your estimates. If you think it will take an hour to wrap all of the gifts, allow yourself two. Alternatively, keep wrapping supplies accessible and wrap while you’re watching Netflix, or chatting on the phone. When you finish another task sooner than you estimated, fill that time by knocking out a fast task from your list.
  3. What can you make, buy, order, schedule in advance? Before everything gets crazy, what gifts can you cross off of your list? Can you pre-order meals? Can you buy wrapping paper in bulk?

 

Heading Into the Holidays, Part I

Heading Into the Holidays, Part I

It’s the most ____________ time of the year!

If the words “stressful”, “exhausting”, “over scheduled” – or something along those lines – came to mind instead of “wonderful”, know that you are not alone. For many people, the holiday season has the ability to throw even the most ordered life into chaos.

On top of your regular life, work, and household responsibilities, add parties, gift exchanges, travel, family obligations, school programs, decorating, etc. Your time is stretched thinner with so many additional demands upon it. The stores are crowded and stressful. Work may be busier than usual (especially if you work in a retail environment, or a business where the end of the calendar year brings additional chores). Depending upon where you live, weather has the potential to greatly impact your plans and your schedule.

It’s no wonder that so many people see the holidays as something to get through, rather than enjoy. Too often, we reach the end of the year exhausted, overwhelmed, and unhappy. The worst part is that we bring a lot of it on ourselves.

It doesn’t have to be that way! Let’s take fifteen minutes, and explore how to get more happy and less humbug out of the holidays.

  • Make a thorough list of all of the extra things that you do around the holidays. Here are some possibilities: cooking, shopping, decorating, traveling, volunteer responsibilities, family events. The point of this exercise is to see where the stress may come from.
  • Be brutally honest with yourself. Which of these bring you genuine pleasure, deepening your enjoyment of the holidays? Which ones drain the life from you? Rank every item on your list on a scale of 1 to 10 from “I’d rather eat nothing but fruitcake for the rest of my life than do that ever again” to “I can’t imagine the holiday season without that”. Be specific – why do you enjoy baking, but hate writing the holiday letter?
  • If it’s a five or below, do you really have to do it? Will anybody notice, or care? Some annual things are treasured traditions; others just become routine because nobody takes the time to evaluate them. The less time you spend on the latter, the more time you have to enjoy the former. IMPORTANT: Make sure that you separate YOUR opinions from those of others. Nobody else will ever find out that you secretly hate making gingerbread men 🙂

Next, we will use this information to make a plan for your best holiday season yet!