Does Perfection Slow Down Accomplishment?

As I look at the early framework of my business plans for the 3rd quarter of the year, it looks exciting. When I look at the individual projects on that list and what it will take to get them done in a high quality way (perfection), I am overwhelmed! Am I crazy to think I can really do all of that and do it well, along with the rest of my life? Is accomplishment of all this possible?

Then the gift came. A Facebook friend and mentor posted a link to an article: “It’s Never Going to Be Perfect, So Just Get It Done” by Tim Herrera. I read it and feel more hopeful and confident that with this approach I can accomplish a great deal.

Of course, it’s one thing to read an article and quite another to incorporate what you read into daily thoughts and actions. This article provided some clear concepts that I can remember (probably assisted by posting them by my desk as reminders).

Tools That Move Us Forward

Herrera writes of the M.F.D. – Mostly Fine Decision which he describes as the “minimum outcome you’re willing to accept.” He notes that the approach assists us with making decisions and getting things done – and that people who practice this are generally more satisfied with their accomplishments.

Sounds appealing to me! However, how does that happen? Thankfully Herrara offers two strategies to help: the “magic of micro-progress” and “reframe how you think about things you have to do”:

“First, embrace the magic of micro-progress: Rather than looking at tasks, projects or decisions as items that must be completed, slice them into the smallest possible units of progress, then knock them out one at a time. …

“Second, reframe the way you think about the things you have to do. Focus far less on the end result, and far more on the process — this allows you to be aware of the progress you’re making, rather than obsessing over the end result of that progress.”

Although there’s still a thread of perfectionism in me, I am more and more convinced that this kind of approach is a good one. One verification of this came when I realized how quickly I consume articles, books, training, and other things. I am not looking for every detail to be exquisite – I want the main points, I want clarity, I want to be able to follow the thoughts and I want to be able to implement it if that is appropriate.

As I tack up the reminders (M.F.D., Micro-Progress, Focus on the Process More Than the End Result) near my desk, I note that this can work only if I have done the detailed planning first. I need to make sure I have goals broken down into projects into tasks, etc., for this to work. So I will tackle that first for my current top priorities.

I invite you to check out the entire article and see if the approach will work for you and your life!

 

I Celebrate Books for Opening Vistas

Reading Journal Cover

(Get your Reading Journal here: http://carolbrusegar.com/Reading Journal for Book Lovers)

I LOVE to read! Do you? Reading has always been a favorite pastime for me. As a child, I attended a rural one-room school and we had one large bookcase of books to read. What I remember best is reading each of the biographies – a series of books with orange covers. The stories of people in different situations and historical periods fascinated me. We also used the library in our nearby small town and I recall checking out books including Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and earlier the Flicka, Ricka and Dicka series. Do any of those ring a bell with you?

As I moved into high school and even more so in college and young adulthood, I read non-fiction almost exclusively. Books about current events, theology and history primarily. My interests went in those directions because I moved from living in small town/rural in southern Wisconsin into inner city communities in Chicago and Minneapolis – in the mid-1960s and beyond. With the great societal change occurring during those years, there was so much to learn about. My deep involvement in an inner city church and related social justice efforts led me to reading theology books. It wasn’t until about fifteen years ago that I began regularly reading fiction, especially historical fiction, along with an expanded variety of nonfiction books. I wish that I had written down what books I read over the years, but I didn’t. I do know that the reading I did shaped my understanding and the directions I went in my life in dramatic ways.

Have you kept lists? What kind of patterns, if any, do you see in your reading habits over the years? Can you see significance in those patterns?

Since finding Goodreads.com a few years ago, I have used it as an easy tool for recording the books I am reading. Using their Reading Challenge to set a goal for number of books I will read in a year has been both fun and motivating. Having access to reviews, ratings, suggestions a way to keep track of books I want to read is wonderful.

I still had a desire for a book in my hands where I can record other things. I wanted to identify books both that I have read and want to read by genre. And I wished to have in one volume notes, quotes and reflections on some books I especially value. This could be a reference and a treasure for me in the future.

So I designed a reading journal that met those criteria! If you see a value in such a tool and treasure, I invite you to check out my newly published Reading Journal – For Book Lovers Who Take Their Reading Seriously.
The link will take you to Amazon.com where you can read more and preview the journal.  It is a handy, portable 6″ x 9″ size.Reading Journal Cover

Happy Reading!!

Journaling as a Tool to Create the Life You Want

journal writingYou may love your life overall; you may love parts of it, but one or more parts may be frustrating or unfulfilling or disastrous. Regardless of your situation, journaling can be a powerful tool.

If you love your life overall, journaling about it will allow you to appreciate it even more and have that record for yourself. As you increase your appreciation and gratitude, it radiates out to others to inspire and uplift them. Your journaled words can be something for you to read again in times of stress or unhappiness. They will remind you of what is possible and help you move forward.

If there are parts of your life that just aren’t what you want them to be, consider journaling to assist you in sorting out the issues and options. Journaling draws out things of which you were not even aware. It can be almost magical.
There are a variety of purposes for journaling, and often they mingle together as you write. Here are a few purposes and how they can be of benefit.

Journal for Personal Growth

Often the beginning point of this kind of journaling is to really articulate your situation – what you appreciate and what you struggle with. Getting it out on paper can clarify the muddle that you may be experiencing.
As you lay out those things, you begin to realize what it is you want to be different and in exactly what ways. You are creating a vision for the future and you can take steps toward it.

Journal for Self-Discovery          

Self-discovery is, of course, related to personal growth. As you journal you go beyond the particular issues with which you began and discover more about yourself. This can include going deeper from what you like and don’t like to what priorities and values lie beneath those preferences. It allows you to explore those values and additional ways you can live them out in your life. This can move you in new, exciting directions.

Journal to Gather Ideas and Brainstorm Solutions

Journaling is also a tool to use to gather ideas and put the best into action, and to brainstorm solutions to issues.  Gathering ideas is an ongoing, even daily activity that will pay big benefits. And when you encounter obstacles as you pursue what you want or you’ve faced a significant setback, journaling can provide clarity. Write down possible solutions from different perspectives without prejudging and you will see more possible alternatives. The sorting out is a next step. A simple journal like this can get you started: My Idea Journal   It is free to download and you can make as many copies of the journal pages as you choose.

Journal to Capture Your Life Experiences

An additional type of journaling focuses on capturing and reflecting on your life experiences. This may be a more occasional effort in which particular events, situations or turning points are the basis of your writing. These journals can be precious accounts of your life when you look back in later years.

Journaling can be done in many ways and used for a variety of purposes. Try out some of them and see what you learn about yourself, others, and the world around you.

Remember to check out the free My Idea Journal

Are You Feeling Stuck?

StuckAre you feeling stuck? Do you have intentions and just can’t seem to do what you know you need to do? I suspect most of us have, if we aren’t right now. Somehow the motivation and focus on those tasks isn’t there. At this time of the year, you may be running into this in relation to your new year’s resolutions or plans.

I am facing exactly that. It is easy to get into a downward spiral of feeling badly about myself when I continually fail to do what will lead me in my preferred direction. Some popular advice and counsel would be to exert will power: make myself do what I am not doing. Sometimes that works. Many times, however, it fails to have the desired effect. In fact, it makes it worse. Emma Brooke Gilding in an article entitled “Why Willpower Isn’t the Answer to Your Problems” says:

“I don’t believe in willpower. That sounds like a whole lot of effort and nonsense. Trying to cultivate a power which makes things easier is not easier. It’s harder. What I DO believe in, is the ability of every individual to achieve their goals with the right self-awareness and self-compassion.”

Perhaps your intentions are to let go of something or move onto something new or to heal from something. Or perhaps just leaving behind the disappointments, hurts and failures of the past and start anew. There are specific things you want to do, and yet you are not doing them.

Gilding suggests that means you and I are not ready to let go, move on or heal. Until we get are in touch with what that is about, progress is unlikely. What is holding us back isn’t a lack of willpower or discipline or laziness. It’s unfinished business.
Taking time to unearth what is holding us back may be the first and most important step if you and I are stuck in this way. We can then move forward and access the motivation, energy and focus that we desire.

Go to my earlier post on Looking Back and Moving Forward and scroll down to where you can request a free Year-End Review Journal. In the journal there are questions that will help identify areas for work.

Reduce Overwhelm Fog With 10 Minute Tasks

ListTo-do lists, planners, planning pages – hard copy or electronic – are tools we use to manage the many details of our lives. The more segments of our lives there are, the more things there are to remember and to do. Home, school, work, volunteer commitments, side business, personal care and development… and more. Sometimes it is all pretty overwhelming. All of these things cause us to experience overwhelm fog.

There are major projects and undertakings that we need to do over weeks or months as well as simple tasks that are urgent and lots in between. The major projects have many smaller parts and tasks that ideally will be spread over time to avoid last minute overload, panic and less-than-ideal quality. How do you deal with all of this?

Are you someone who adopted a system of keeping track of and accomplishing things years ago, found that it worked at least adequately and have continued to use it to the present time?

Are you someone who tries different approaches and systems as you hear about them and never settle on one consistent way to operate?

Are you someone who eschews systems and may make simple lists but not much more?

Are you someone who absolutely writes down everything that you want to do and has voluminous lists all the time?

Looking at options to manage the details of life can be very beneficial to our focus and ability to feel at least moderately in control and to have some peace as we move through our busy days and weeks. There are multitudinous options available that are geared toward different people’s ways of thinking, organizing information, and even personality.

Rather than examine those major options, which is a huge undertaking, I suggest beginning with a short-term approach which can help with the tasks that really don’t take that long to do. Having a way to manage that seemingly unending volume of items, whether they are in the daily/weekly tasks that always need to be done or are steps to larger projects, can help clear the overwhelm fog.

I remember the idea of writing each of those tasks on a small slip of paper and putting them in a large jar. Then, as you have time to do a simple item or two, you reach into the jar and grab one out and get it done. I always thought that was a pretty good idea, but never actually did it.

Here’s a similar approach that I recommend, using a “10 Minute Tasks” tool. This is shorthand for tasks that are quick to do, usually 10 minutes or less. If it takes more than 10 minutes but is still brief, it can be completed. Or if once you start, it is clear that for some reason it will take longer, you can consider putting it off to when you have more time. The idea is to accomplish those short tasks and check them off. It can be amazing the impact this has on the overwhelm fog.

You can try this out with a sample journal page, which you can download and copy.  The sample also includes a list of 100 10 minute tasks to stimulate the creation of your own list.  Click here to get your samples:

10 Minute Tasks List

10 Minute Tasks Sample Sheet

Would you like the full set of pages to work with?  Email me at carol@carolbrusegar.com and request them. You can make multiple copies and use them as much as you would like.

PROCRASTINATION: IS IT HAMPERING YOUR TRANSFORMATION?

Now and laterAll of us procrastinate sometimes….don’t we? I surely do. In fact I am in a pressure situation right now because of my procrastination. I have continually put off a task that includes a learning curve to be able to use a software program. There are always plenty of things to do that I can just DO, regardless of their priority. In this case, the task is related to a part time job I have; in other cases I delay doing things I know will help me transform my life in one way or another.

I have allowed myself to think of much procrastination as benign, and in fact it can be useful. By procrastinating on some things, it may turn out that they weren’t necessary or important in the first place. That can be true; it can be a passive way to prioritize.

Timothy Pychyl, who has done much research on the topic, points out that “all procrastination is delay, but not all delay is procrastination.” Procrastination is a very special type of postponement.

The dictionary definitions of procrastination do not reflect the more benign approach. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary calls it “To put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.” Oxford English Dictionary defines procrastination as a postponement, “often with the sense of deferring though indecision, when early action would have been preferable,” or as “defer[ing] action, especially without good reason.”

This is causing me to look at how I think of my “delays” in doing things. I want to be more intention in sorting out things that are priority – important and important and urgent – from those that are not. That will allow the things I truly don’t need to do now, or perhaps ever, to be on a list but not nagging me as much. And those things I truly need to do sooner rather than later will be clear.
Of course that doesn’t mean that I will automatically stop procrastinating on those important tasks! So I found an article by Alexandra Sutcliffe that included these four suggestions for how to deal with procrastination:

  • “Write down you list of goals, breaking them into manageable chunks. Too big a goal and your eyes will gloss over it on the list, but broken into segments and you’ll feel more like tackling one at a time.
  • Set up a reward for later. Try disconnecting your laptop from the internet for a set period, after which you can relax and reconnect. This way you’re not denying yourself, you’re merely deferring the pleasure until you’ve got something done.
  • Attach one task to another, such as, a daily walk you enjoy, followed by the ten minutes of language study you keep putting off. Creating a routine will make any task feel more achievable.
  • If you constantly catch yourself admitting how you never get things done, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, use affirmations to spur yourself on. Remember, affirmations must always be positive, and in the present tense. Try, ‘I take charge and get things done. I seize the moment and take action’.”

Perhaps you will find these tips helpful, also. Here is the link to the entire article: Top Tips for Dealing With Procrastination

If you are interested in a good resource about this topic, I recommend
this concise book by Timothy A. Pychyl (quoted above):
Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change 

The Power of Our Questions

Power of Our QuestionsHave you ever (often?) realized that your fleeting thoughts and questions were all of the ‘What if this negative thing happened…’ variety? We can easily fall into that deep, dark hole. With negativity a far too steady diet in our lives, there can be days when it is hard to maintain a positive, hopeful approach to life.

If you are thinking of your future as the years pass by, it is easy to have negative images of aging dominate our thoughts, consciously and/or subconsciously. One of the most powerful things we can do as we anticipate and transform our years after 50 is adopt practices and habits that counteract those thoughts, images and mindset.

I have long been an advocate of one simple strategy: consciously switching our “what if downer” questions to “what if upper” questions. I first learned of this from Mendhi Audlin in her book, What If It All Goes Right and recommend it as a powerful tool to shift our mindset.

Louise Foerster, writer, reader, marketer, business story teller and new product imaginer, writes about the impact of what questions we ask ourselves as we face decisions, especially those involving significant risk. Rather than asking what is the worst that can happen – a common approach of coaches and friends – she advocates the opposite approach.

What is the best that could happen?
Now, that question gets my juices flowing. I can’t wait to imagine the best, the brightest, and the most wonderful and then ten billion times better beyond that. It is so flipping amazing that I can’t stop.

I inhabit the dream. I revel in bliss. I smile, recognizing that the best is so far beyond my small, safe imagining that I’ll have to wait until I get there to grab it tight and hug it as hard as I can. I imagine the view from the top of the mountain, endless majesty, beckoning me forward.
That is where I want to be.  What is the Best That Can Happen?

Yes! That is where I want to be also! As we anticipate, investigate and explore what it means to reinvent and transform our years after 50, this is a powerful approach. Every day we can ask, What is the best that could happen?

I recommend Mendhi Audlin’s book, What If It All Goes Right?: Creating a New World of Peace, Prosperity & Possibility

Questions can be so powerful – for reflection, writing prompts, journaling, discussions with friends, etc. The Question Book: What Makes You Tick can be a great tool. 

Searching for Clues to Your 3rd Act

Interest in the worldIf you are thinking about what your 3rd Act might be and how you want to craft those years ahead, there are a variety of strategies to consider. One of them is looking back to identify those activities and efforts you loved, excelled at and were recognized for in earlier parts of your life. Part of the process will be simply nostalgic. But taking it to another level can provide clues to things you may want to explore for your future.

I discussed this idea this post, Recapture Dreams That Still Excite You.  Psychologist and freelance writer Holly Lawrence suggests a similar approach in this article:
For Boomers to Find Their Next Act, It’s Back to Childhood .

She shares her personal story of going back to childhood memorabilia to unearth achievements, passions and things to reflect upon and provides additional resource links. She suggests 3 steps to research your childhood keepsakes to help find your next act:

1. Study your main character: you, as a child. Conduct an objective character study. What is the main character’s demeanor? Hint: candid childhood photos reveal more about your personality than posed smiley photos. Do your notes or diaries describe your career dreams? What do your report cards show? What interests do you have in common with the character today? What did you abandon that you’d like to reclaim?

2. Consider repurposing your childhood dreams and passions…. So analyze the characteristics of your childhood dream profession. For example, firefighters rescue people in trouble and save and protect members of the community. You can repurpose your dream by volunteering at the local fire station, becoming a social worker with displaced families or taking a fire safety course and teaching students what you learned.

3. Revise your life narrative and adjust to fit your goals.

Enjoy the process of trying to get back into your experiences as a child and young person. You may find some great clues and possibilities for transforming your years after 50 into a joyful 3rd act.

To explore more of these possibilities, check out Too Young to be Old – Love, Learn, Word, and Play as You Age

The Space Between

the space betweenMany of us who are 50 or over are thinking a lot about what’s next? If you are 50 or 60 or 70, the questions and possible answers may be different, but they are all questions that lead to questions, that lead to more questions with no definitive answers. We can’t know all that will be facing us in the coming 10, 20, or 30 years, how the cultural and economic landscape will change, or how our family and friendship circles will change. This is not a unique situation for people in our age group, but we may experience it differently than younger generations do as we are transforming our lives after 50.

All of us ultimately, then, are confronted be the question of how do we live in between now and the unknown future? Karen Sands, gerofuturist, author of The Ageless Way and several other books, addresses this in “What’s Next? Midlife Questions We All Ask”:

We have to stay in the center of time and wait it out. … find a safe middle ground. A place within where time doesn’t exist, where it’s okay to not know . . . yet. That’s where real clarity is birthed….

But while I wait, my task is to keep striving for greater consciousness, stretching to unleash my greatness and to re-awaken the visionary within…. We must create our own eye in the storm of time, a place of inner calm, where we look objectively at the possibilities around us.

Waiting, striving, stretching, re-awakening…. great concepts, but we may not be sure quite how to do that! It begins with waiting. We have had periods of waiting throughout our lives – to become an adult, to find our life partner, to start a family – and on a daily basis. Waiting in line for things is a part of our lives. One of the pitfalls of all the waiting is that we can slide into inertia during these periods. Be alert for signs that this is happening to you, as I wrote in “The Cost of Inertia.”

Instead, we can accept and make the best of waiting periods. That space can be golden – a time to explore without pressure of immediate changes or decisions. One of the things we can do as we wait is stretch our minds and horizons by exploring how others have experienced and are transforming their years over 50. We can talk with people in our circles and read the increasing number of books and articles that are available. We can reflect through journaling, discovering through that process treasures within us to lead us forward. We can make the most of the space between.

I recommend these books written by Karen Sands as you wait:
 Visionaries Have Wrinkles
 The Ageless Way

Gratitude: Beyond Lists to In-The-Moment

gratitudeFar too often in our striving to improve, to stretch, to reinvent parts of our lives, we forget to be grateful for who we are and what surrounds us. In our focus on the future, we neglect the present.

Many of the gratitude exercises and practices I have heard of and practiced are of the reflecting and listing type. For example, at the end of each day, write down 5 things for which you are grateful. In fact, I encourage such practices, as in this blog post: Gratitude as the Overriding Tone of Your Life. I recognize the value of them and also am glad to learn of another way of having a sense of gratitude infuse the day and form the foundation of all we do.

David Cain, in “Gratitude Comes From Noticing Your Life, Not From Thinking About It” provides inspiration for this practice.

Gratitude, when we do genuinely feel it, arises from experiences we are currently having, not from evaluating our lives in our heads. When you feel lonely, for example, simply remembering that you have friends is a dull, nominal comfort compared to how wonderful it feels when one of those friends calls you out of the blue. Reflecting on the good fortune of having a fixed address is nice, but stepping inside your front door after a cold and rainy walk home is sublime.

 

The experience, not the idea, is what matters. So if you want to feel grateful, forget the thinking exercises. Look for your good fortune not in some abstract assessment of your life situation, but in your experience right in this moment. What can you see, feel, hear, or sense, right here in the present, that’s helpful, pleasant, or beautiful?

Often our push toward change we are acting out of dissatisfaction, which can be a powerful motivator. If, however, we are at the same time acknowledging and feeling gratitude for things in our present moment, it is a much more powerful position from which to move forward. It also calms us and reduces the stress caused by dissatisfaction, thus freeing up energy for moving forward into our intended future. I am not quite ready to “forget the thinking exercises” as David suggests, but I will add this practice to my days and encourage you to try it too.

In addition to this simple and profound practice, I invite you to check out this extremely helpful book, Unlock Your Ideal Self, Transformation From Within by Dennis Becker. Gratitude is among the topics covered. This is indeed a handbook that you can refer to again and again.