Habit Stacking: A Gentle Way to Enhance Your Life

Habit StackingIt’s summer and the time of year when routines ordinarily shift. Whether you have children on summer break, hours are adjusting at work or volunteer and extracurricular activities go on hiatus or ramp up, the season usually brings changes. In this year of 2021 the changes include phasing out of pandemic restrictions and figuring out what this new season will include. Habit stacking can be a great tool as you make adjustments in your own and your family’s lives.

Habit stacking is adding small things to our already existing routines. We all have morning, evening and other routines that are habits we barely think about as we do them. For example, you may get up, eat breakfast, shower, brush your teeth, and possibly exercise each morning, in that order.

Creating a new habit can seem like a job that requires effort. You’ve heard that it takes 21 days of repetition to establish a new habit; others say even longer. Yes, repetition will be necessary, but habit stacking is an easier way to make some desired changes.

Author S.J. Scott wrote a book called Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness. These are all things you can do in five minutes or less – tiny habits at its best. The book is a great tool for learning this technique.

Habit Stacking Works in All Areas of Life

Tiny habits work in all areas of life:

  • Leisure (Your days off, vacation time)
  • Organization (Keeping the house and/or workspace clean, organized, and decluttered)
  • Finances (Making and saving money, reducing debt)
  • Productivity (Finding your best working hours, getting tasks done on time)
  • Spirituality (Connecting with the earth and your Higher Power)
  • Health and Fitness (Your mental and physical well-being, including what you eat and how you exercise)
  • Relationships (Developing loving relationships with family and friends, getting along with co-workers)

Getting Started with Habit Stacking

The basic process is this:

  • decide which of the above areas you want to improve and identify why this is important to you
  • identify a current routine which you can augment with micro habits on this topic
  • choose and add/stack those micro habits to it.

For example, if you want to focus on health and fitness and you do a few minutes of yoga in the morning, you can stay on the mat and do five minutes of meditation. After that is complete, you can do four minutes of visualization, and to finish it up, do three minutes of deep breathing.

Here are some examples of areas of life where we already have routines that we can augment with the tiny habits we choose to add.

  • When we wake up in the morning
  • When we start work
  • On a break or lunch
  • After work
  • After dinner
  • When exercising

These are examples – adjust with your own life routines.

S.J. Scott believes that you should only add micro habits to one routine at a time. So using the example above, you will augment your morning yoga routine to improve your health and fitness to start with. You can add micro habits to other routines after this is one is established. Repetition is key; doing your expanded routine including the new tiny habits each day for 21 to 30 days will establish a lasting pattern.

Example of Habit Stacking

Let’s look at a daily routine for enhancing relationships using habits stacking. We will use dinner time as our example. You can stack several mini-habits like this:

  • When we prepare dinner, I will ask about their day.
  • When we sit down to eat, I will say how grateful I am for not only the food but having them in my life
  • During the dinner, I will put away my cellphone and focus on what they say
  • During cleanup, I will touch my partner’s or child’s lower back to make a physical and emotional connection.
  • After dinner, I will take their hand, and we will walk around the block while I express my love

Just like goals, being accountable will help you to succeed. Tell people what your stacked habits are, and if they see you miss a step, they can remind you what you need to do.

 

Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness includes access to a companion website with bonus downloads, checklists and videos. Here’s where to access the book:

Get S.J. Scott’s book here: Habit Stacking

 

Writing is a Powerful Tool to Enhance Your Life

Power of Writing

Writing is a powerful tool. It can help enhance your life in many ways.  As Joan Didion said,

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”  

Writing helps you create a connection between your inner self and your outer self. The mind-body connection is very powerful, and by externalizing your inner anxiety and issues you are taking a conscious positive action to improve your situation.

There are so many benefits to different kinds of writing. Here are some ways to use writing.

Processing Emotions

A simple way to understand and come to terms with your emotions is to write down whatever is bothering you. Often we have lots of emotions but don’t really know the root of them or how to manage them productively. Writing has an astounding ability to give you clarity and to start arriving at solutions. It can get you out of the confusion or paralysis you are experiencing and enable you to move forward.

One of many formats to use is letter writing. Writing a letter to yourself, a loved one, friend or someone with whom you have or had an issue in the past can really help to clarify the problem in your mind. It helps you to think through issues and to put them in context. Often the very act of writing the problem and suggesting a solution can help you achieve peace and come to terms with it.

You don’t actually need to send the letter, particularly if you have written in anger. The act of writing will have helped lessen the anger which was the purpose of the exercise. Remember, this letter can be to yourself, another person, or someone no longer alive. This strategy helps you separate out your thoughts and feelings.

Clearing Your Mind

Especially in times of uncertainty and change, our minds can be full of a wide range of thoughts. Many of them may be unimportant or irrelevant. Sometimes you have an overwhelming number of things you feel you need to do. Getting rid of them can allow you to focus and to effectively problem solve and plan.  A simple way to achieve this is to “core dump.”

Core dumping is a technique devised by David Allen (Getting Things Done). You simply list everything you need to do that day. This helps to clear your mind to allow you to focus on the most important things.

Another method of mind clearing is to write a stream of consciousness first thing in the morning every day. The important point with this process is that you write continuously without stopping to think or edit about what you are setting onto the page.

Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) calls this method, “Morning Pages”. She advocates writing three pages or approximately 750 words of your stream of consciousness first thing in the morning as a way to clear your mind. This leaves only those important thoughts you need to focus on for the day.

Creating a Record

Diary keeping has been undertaken for centuries. It’s a powerful tool for keeping a record of activities and actions. My mother kept diaries for decades, and they are now a family treasure that provides so much history that was captured in just a few lines a day. By being able to re-read these you get to remember the past including your thoughts and feelings. Keeping your own diary allows you to recall things forgotten in the overload of events and information we experience. You can also gain understanding and insight in unique ways as you look back.

Capturing Achievements

Keeping a record of your achievements can be beneficial to your self-confidence as well as self-knowledge. The record can be in various forms: journals, diaries, goal lists, to do lists, calendars. I am a sporadic journaler, but I keep my weekly task/appointment/goal calendars. These can be used to glean lists by year later on

Recording your achievements allows you to recognize and celebrate your achievements big or small. Looking back, we may recognize achievements and accomplishments that weren’t apparent at the time they occurred. This can be especially helpful when you find yourself feeling discouraged, depressed, or overwhelmed.

Big Thinking

Dreams and goals are important as they help us to learn, grow and achieve success. Writing down your hopes and dreams allows you to not only dream about the future you’d like but to visualize it. By visualizing your dreams, you are making them more real. Consider dedicating a notebook just to this purpose. Your written record of your big thoughts will help you track them giving you a greater opportunity to achieve them.

Writing is such a powerful therapeutic tool because it allows for observation and tracking over a period of time. This provides the ability to track thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. Triggers can be identified as well as patterns.

If you want to relieve stress, gain clarity on your problems and solve them then why not pick up a pen and start writing? Another unexpected benefit is that you will probably find that you get to know yourself better.

If you want your life to change, writing is a powerful tool. By using one or more of the methods above you will be creating a commitment to change and self-improvement. You can set goals, hold yourself accountable for making the changes and monitor your progress.

Here are a variety of books on writing for self-discovery if you would like to have some ideas:  Writing for Self-Discovery Resources

Create a Spring and Summer Vision Board

Vision BoardIt’s spring, and this year we are especially anticipating summer! We are excited about the possibility of more freedom to do the things we enjoy with our family and friends. This is a great time to create a Spring and Summer Vision Board!! We often thing about Vision Boards at the beginning of the year and they are a great part of planning then. I wrote about the basics of how to create vision boards here: http://carolbrusegar.com/creating-vision-boards/

We can use them seasonally as well; creating your very own and/or a family Spring and Summer Vision Board this year can be a great boost to your mental health. Take some time to gather pictures and words that illustrate your goals, ambitions, hopes and dreams for the coming season. Many of us can use a boost in looking forward as we are moving out of the pandemic (we aren’t there yet!) and this is a great way to do it. Here are some tips to get started.

Use Spring Pastels and Bright Summer Colors

Color helps to create more of a theme to get you in the spirit. A great way to do that is by focusing on the colors we associate with this time of year. The pastels of spring – yellow, pink, light blues and greens – reflect the rebirth of the earth during this season. The bright yellows, oranges, blues, red all portray the energy of summer.

Include Flowers and Gardening

To decorate this vision board, use a lot of beautiful seasonal flowers and other gardening images. If you want to create a garden someday, find images of your dream garden, both in size and layout, and the actual flowers you might include. If you just want flowers for decoration and to reflect the seasonal theme, use try hyacinth, bluebells, tulips, and lily of the valley for spring and sunflowers, zinnias, roses and others for summer.

List Your Health Goals

Decide what you want to do in the upcoming months in terms of your mental or physical wellness. Use words, lists, and images to reflect your personal health goals. Break them down to specific things you will do. For example, meditate and/or journal daily to improve your mindset and attitude. Or connect with 3 friends per week. Or picture favorite spring and summer fruits and vegetables that you will enjoy each week. Make those goals come alive and be appealing with the visuals and well-chosen words.

Choose Activities and Outings

Although we still aren’t sure what limitations will exist in the coming months due to the pandemic, it’s important for us to anticipate and make preliminary plans. With the attitude that these things may need to change, choose some of the things that are reasonable and that you would really enjoy. You may want to resume sports that have been suspended – outdoor tennis, volleyball, badminton, etc. For many of us, water-related activities will be high on the list. Think about the safest ways to do them this year and make some preliminary plans. Many of our favorites – zoos, botanical gardens, museums – have been not available, or at least in the same way, over the past year. Perhaps we can begin returning; put your priorities on your Spring and Summer Vision Board and know that pre-planning and possibly getting reservations will be necessary.

Think Creatively

One of the gifts of this time has been to raise questions about what we really want in our lives. Are there things that had seemed to be givens that you realize weren’t healthy or helpful? Let them go as you look forward. Are there things that you discovered you really enjoy and value? Assure that you do more of them.  Incorporate some of these into your Spring and Summer Vision Board.

Set aside some time and get started! This can be a great launching point to the coming months. Happy Spring and Summer!

Another tool to jumpstarting your dreaming and planning for the coming season is MIND MAPPING. I wrote about this about a year ago as we approached our first summer of the pandemic: https://carolbrusegar.com/creatively-planning-with-many-unknowns/

Use a Planner and Journal

Once you have created a Spring and Summer Vision Board or Mind Map, this could help you continue the planning and record your experiences: Planner & Journal: For Day Trips: Getaways and Mini-Vacations

Journaling as We Emerge From the Pandemic

JournalIt’s a new season for journaling! Spring 2021 feels like we are emerging – slowly, carefully please – from the depths of the pandemic. With vaccinations increasing, there is truly a sense that we are moving forward. It will take time for our activities, work, and relationships to solidify into a NEW normal. I believe that when we look back five years from now, we will see seismic changes caused by the pandemic and its aftermath. Journaling as we emerge from the pandemic is a great tool.

Journaling Through the First Year of the Pandemic

About a year ago, I wrote about journaling through the times we were entering –

https://carolbrusegar.com/journaling-through-difficult-times/

I also offered a journal that is still available as a free download here: http://carolbrusegar.com/Journaling-Through-Crisis

(Keep reading – there’s a new journal free to download at the end of this post!)

I chose to journal weekly in this format. I have now over a year of weekly accounts of what happened, what I did and reflections on them. I look forward to continuing through this year.

Journaling Through Year Two

Now that we are emerging from the worst of the crisis, it is an ideal time to not only record the halting and tentative steps forward but to anticipate and plan for YOUR next stage. This is a perfect opportunity to do something new, something bold, something beautiful. It’s a time to use your insights from the past year.

I invite and encourage you to set aside time to journal in the coming weeks and months. Journaling in this new season of spring and of emergence from the strictures of the pandemic can be helpful in multiple ways.

  • Recording and reflecting on your experiences as we move into a new phase can help us make decisions.
  • Journaling can be a tool in establishing new patterns and habits as our lives change again.
  • Our journals as written records of this time in our personal and global history will be a treasure for future review and reflection.

This new season for journaling is unique. If you already journal regularly, consider some new uses and ways to focus your journaling. If you are an occasional or novice journaler, take this opportunity to jump in.

To assist you in journaling as we emerge from the pandemic, I offer you an updated version of the journal from a year ago – one focused on creating the future. You can download it without charge, print as many of each page as you want, and put it in a folder or binder where you can use it regularly. Here it is:   http://carolbrusegar.com/moving-forward-journal-2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindset: Seeing Things in a New Way to Enhance Life

“Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way.” ~ Carol Dweck

MINDSET. I have read and heard so much about how important mindset is. It is key to our self esteem and our success (however we define that for ourselves). But what is it, really? How is it established and can we modify it?

Mindset.com defines mindset as a collection of beliefs and thoughts. To get more specific, Mindsets are a collection of beliefs and thoughts that make up our mental attitudes toward anything we encounter in our daily lives. These beliefs and thoughts form the foundation of how we react to circumstances, situations and events. Mindset becomes behind the scenes settings that we are generally unaware of but determine how we see and react to things.

A simple way to gain insight into this powerful part of ourselves is to use Carol Dweck’s understanding that there are two types of mindset – fixed or growth.

What is a fixed mindset?

A fixed mindset is where you believe that your qualities and traits are fixed and cannot be changed. Challenges are avoided, you’ll give up easily when you encounter obstacles and you’ll put little effort into changing as it seems pointless. It’s kind of an “I am what I am” attitude.

Having a fixed mindset can be damaging, especially if it causes you to not even try to improve or explore new things.

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset is basically the opposite of a fixed mindset. It allows you to believe that challenges are opportunities and there is always the chance to improve your skills. You will not only believe that you can grow your intelligence and skills over time, but you’ll also take steps to do so.

With a growth mindset, you’ll persist when you encounter a setback and embrace challenges. You will also learn from feedback given to you and put a lot of effort into changing. When you see successful people, you’ll try and learn from their success.

A growth mindset basically means you’ll be open to growth and development and are passionate about learning.

How can I know what my mindset is?

One of the easiest ways to see what your mindset is to see examples of the two options.

You have a growth mindset if you believe things like this:

  • I’m not a natural writer, I have to learn it
  • There is a lot I still need to learn
  • Feedback gives me an opportunity to learn how to improve
  • Failure is a learning curve
  • If I have determination, I can do anything

On the other hand, you have a fixed mindset if you believe things like this:

  • Some people are born to be writers and I am not one of them
  • I have learned everything I need to know
  • Feedback is criticism
  • I’m only going to fail so what’s the point in trying?
  • I can’t overcome the challenges in my way

A growth mindset allows you to move forward and achieve the things you want.

Examples of switching from a fixed to a growth mindset

If you’re looking to turn a fixed mindset into a growth mindset, consider these examples of consciously changing your beliefs on various topics:

Fixed mindset: “I’m a binge eater. Once I start eating chips I can’t stop”

Growth mindset: “I have tended to binge eat chips and it’s been hard to stop after just one”

Fixed mindset: “I always get worked up over politics”

Growth mindset: “In the past, I have gotten worked up over politics”

Fixed mindset: “I could never forgive someone who betrayed me”

Growth mindset: “So far, I haven’t been able to forgive someone for betraying me”

Fixed mindset: “I’m never going to achieve my dream”

Growth mindset: “It may be difficult to achieve my dream, but I know with effort and dedication I can do it”

Fixed mindset: “It’s too late to learn now”

Growth mindset: “I can learn whatever I need to whenever I like”

These are just some great examples of a fixed and growth mindset. A fixed mindset will see you stuck in old patterns of behavior. You won’t grow or develop your skills and most importantly, you’ll never reach your life goals if you have a purely fixed mindset.

Balancing growth and fixed mindsets

While a growth mindset is important, it shouldn’t solely take the place of a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset can actually have some benefits when it is balanced with a growth mindset.

So, adopting a growth mindset isn’t about completely eliminating fixed ways of thinking. Instead, it’s a great tool for helping you to move forward and learn from your experiences.

Now that you know some common fixed and growth mindset examples, you can start to work on making changes you choose. Learning to recognize your fixed mindset is the first step to adjusting it. Identify areas where you want to change that and begin to consciously move toward a growth mindset. You may find it takes a little time and you may have to work to identify when your old beliefs and patterns kick in.

Use tools like journaling to record where you are, where you want to go and the process along the way.

Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, is a great resource for exploring these ideas. (https://amzn.to/2On3TCn)

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.” ~ Carol Dweck

 

 

 

 

Is Bullet Journaling a Helpful Tool For You?

bullet journalIn today’s busy world, where we have to keep track of lots and lots of information, almost anyone can benefit from bullet journaling. This particular system of staying organized has some unique properties that make it particularly helpful for people who thrive on lists and appreciate a non-digital system. Here’s a quick rundown to help you decide if bullet journaling is right for you.

If You Use To-Do Lists Bullet Journaling May Be For You

If you’re a fan of to-do lists and have one sitting at your desk or your kitchen counter, then a bullet journal may work very well for you. Think of it as a large, ongoing to-do list that also helps you keep track of appointments, grocery lists and the likes. And since it’s all in one journal, no more frantic searches for that little list that held everything you needed to do today. (That is unless you misplace your journal – but that will be a bit easier to find than a piece of scrap paper).

If You Are Looking For An Analog System Bullet Journaling May Be For You

Our electronic devices are great, but sometimes you want to go back to pen and paper. If you want an organized, easy to deal with system that requires no batteries or Wi-Fi, then this will be a good fit for you.

Even if you think your Google Calendar handles everything for you, I would like to encourage you to give this a try. There’s just something about writing things down by hand that helps us process them differently.

If You’re Looking For a Creative Outlet Bullet Journaling May Be For You

If you are looking for a creative outlet but you just don’t have the time to sit down and sketch, paint, or create, then bullet journaling may be a good fit for you. As you plan your day, you can let out your creative side as you doodle and decorate your daily pages. Of course this is completely optional.

If You Feel Like You’re Keeping Track Of Too Much “Stuff” In Your Head Bullet Journaling May Be For You

Do you have a constant running tally in you head of everything you need to do and remember today? That takes up a lot of brain space. A bullet journal may be the perfect solution because it helps you jot down all those appointments, to-dos, meetings, and ideas you don’t want to forget as they come up.

Writing them down allows you to forget about them and stop running that constant long list of stuff in your head that you need to remember. Just think of what you can do with all that extra brain capacity and how much less stressed you’ll feel when you stop to worry about forgetting something.

If You Need Something Mobile Bullet Journaling May Be For You

A big advantage of the bullet journal is that it’s nothing more than a notebook and a pen. You can sit down anytime, anywhere to plan, check on your progress through the day, or add a new line item. There’s no need to hunt down a power outlet and it works just fine in bright sunlight.

Frankly it’s nice sometimes to unplug and get some thinking done away from your computer or smartphone.

Even if you don’t count yourself in all or even most of these groups, I encourage you to give it a try. You may not think of yourself as a list or “pen and paper” type person, but may find that this is just what you needed to stay on top of everything that’s thrown at you on a daily basis.

Although you can effectively use bullet journaling with a simple notebook, it is helpful to look at what’s available for ideas and possibilities. To here to explore what’s available, both in how-tos and purchased bullet journals:  Bullet Journaling for You?

 

 

 

Using Mind Mapping to Declutter Your Brain

mindmap

Decluttering our space, at home or at work, as a group or individual effort, is a much-touted strategy. You may have watched a few hoarder reality shows on TV and either been inspired or assured that your own clutter isn’t THAT bad.

Perhaps you have undertaken the task of decluttering your computer, deleting unwanted files, and organizing your desktop for maximum efficiency. You may have a regular schedule of doing that throughout the year. But have you thought of decluttering your brain?

Very few people think of their brain as a computer, if they think about it at all. Yet, the brain is a supercomputer and extremely powerful in the way it can make connections. It can also get overwhelmed and sometimes confused. Human beings tend to absorb tons of information and hold onto bits that are of no use and may even be harmful to their thinking.

There are ways to do minor brain decluttering, such as journaling or making tiny to-do lists. For large scale decluttering, mind mapping is an extremely effective strategy.

You may be familiar with other uses for mind mapping, particularly to brainstorm and plan. But using it to declutter your brain is very powerful. Here are areas of life where decluttering may be especially needed.

Relationships

Complicated relationships tend to overwhelm the brain and cause negative thoughts to develop like weeds in your yard. Those negative thoughts overtake the positive thoughts and clutter the brain with images that bounce around like a box of golf balls dropped from 100 feet. The thoughts are suddenly all over the place. When we speak of relationships, we are talking about significant others, children, friends, and even co-workers. A mind map allows you to take the core problem and then drill it down to find solutions. All the thoughts regarding the relationship are in front of you, placed in an organized process rather than helter-skelter.

Information Overload

We take in a lot of information from what we read, see, and hear. In today’s world, we are bombarded with information, and we do not need all of it to function daily. All this information bouncing around in your head causes serious clutter. Mind mapping helps you to put down the pertinent information you need right now, information you want to record and be able to access at another time, and discard what you don’t need.

You may have a large-scale work project, and the information is coming fast and furious. You may even find people giving you input that is not related to the project you are working on.

Mind mapping that project drills down to what is needed and what is not. It will also help you to organize and create new ideas that will help with your project. Working on a project without using a mind map means you may forget things that are in your head but not at the front and center of your thoughts. Capturing them and connecting to them to where they can be used is a great function of mind mapping. It’s a great part of an effort to declutter your brain.

Organizing Your Thoughts

With so many things to do in a day, your thoughts can become disorganized, and the clutter becomes overwhelming as your brain skips from project to project, relationship to relationship. This can be especially true when we are doing so many things virtually and there are not the usual clear delineations between home, work, school, etc.

Mind mapping eliminates the clutter as you have a focus point, which is the center theme in your mind map. Building out the main branches and sub-branches is similar to creating a well-written outline for a non-fiction book. By the time you complete all the branches, you can see where your thoughts are, what the route is, and where the journey ends. All the distractions are moved aside or deleted, and this will serve to declutter your brain and provide clarity and direction.

Mind mapping can be used as a daily tool as well as for longer time frames. Experiment with it and see how effective it is in decluttering your brain and helping you feel more in control.

I have written previously about mind mapping here:

https://carolbrusegar.com/creatively-planning-with-many-unknowns/

https://carolbrusegar.com/mind-mapping-enhances-innovative-thinking/

https://carolbrusegar.com/transforming-years-after-50-introducing-mind-mapping-multi-purpose-tool/

If you really want to learn about mind mapping from the originator of the technique, Tony Buzan published this just a couple of years ago. It’s a distillation of global research that has happened in the 5 decades since he first created this technique.

Mind Map Mastery: The Complete Guide to Learning and Using the Most Powerful Thinking Tool in the Universe 

 

Mind Map Book - Buzan

 

 

 

 

 

Using the Pomodoro Technique to Help You Accomplish More

Are you looking for strategies and techniques to be more efficient and productive? Many of us are managing more and/or different responsibilities than we were a year ago. Things continue to change. Are you looking for new things to try that will make things just work better as you go about your daily life?  Check out the Pomodoro Technique for managing time and increasing productivity. Perhaps you have never heard of it, or perhaps it’s something you tried in the past. It may be beneficial to circle back around to see if it is useful in your present situation – or if it is new to you, try it out.

The Pomodoro Technique is a popular and long-used (for over 30 years) approach that utilizes alternating periods of work and short breaks to maximize how much you get done each day. Each work period is called a pomodoro, from the Italian word for ‘tomato.’ Francescco Cirillo created the technique as a university student and named it after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used. (Thus the graphic at the top if this post!)

The concept doesn’t sound too earth-shattering, but its structure is effective and many people find they feel surprisingly good at the end of the day – rather than feeling exhausted at the end of a day of productivity.

The basic technique or pattern is 25 minutes of work and a five-minute break. After four cycles of this, you take a longer 30-minute break.

Taking regular breaks gives your brain a chance to relax and reset. Knowing that you only have to work for a short period of time makes it much easier to stay engaged and motivated. What could be simpler?

The technique works well with intellectual, manual, and creative tasks. You can use it for housework, homework and studying, as well as many job-related tasks. You’ll find that you can accomplish much more in 25 minutes than you ever thought. The Pomodoro Technique will also enhance your ability to focus and concentrate.

Tips for Effectively Using the Pomodoro Technique

Utilize a timer. It’s a mistake to keep one eye on the clock while you’re trying to get your work done. Use a timer and position it so you co see if can’t see it. You can use your cell phone, computer, or a physical timer.

  • There are several specialized programs and apps for your computer or cell phone available online. They incorporate your work time, break time, and longer breaks. Search for “pomodoro productivity timer.”
  • The use of a timer is critical. It provides a sense of urgency and the knowledge that you’ll get a break soon. See how much you can get done in 25 minutes. You’ll be surprised.

Experiment with different intervals. Many people thrive with the traditional schedule of 25 minutes of work alternated with five-minute rest breaks. Others do well with 50 minutes of work and 10-minute breaks. See which works best for you. Consider trying other options, too. You may find that certain tasks work better with longer or shorter intervals. It’s important to experiment and be flexible in your approach.

Ensure that you take a longer break every two hours. This can be 15-30 minutes in length. It’s a good idea to move around. Get a drink of water or take a short walk. Avoid skipping this longer break. It will really pay off later in the day! You’ll have more energy and maintain your ability to focus.

Avoid distractions. Part of the effectiveness of the technique is from focusing intently on the task at hand. You’ll have a quick break in just a few minutes, so keep your mind on track. Let others know you don’t want to be disturbed. Remember, you’re not doing anything but your work for the next 25 minutes

That’s all there is to it. Give the Pomodoro Technique a try for a few days and compare how much you get done, and how good you feel, to your normal day. See if you find it effective and feel more refreshed at the end of the day as many people do.

Tools and More Information

The Pomodoro Technique is a straightforward approach; yet there are tools to facilitate its success for you. As noted above, phone apps are available. Some advocate using a physical timer rather than a phone app.  Simple kitchen timers can work and there are timers specifically designed for this purpose – like cube timers. Check out the options here: https://amzn.to/36jIX57 Books with more information and planners are available there also.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steps to Control the Email Monster

Perhaps you manage your emails well, but I struggle with that. It seems that there are emails, emails everywhere. I have multiple email addresses which complicates the situation. As we begin a new year, I want to once and for all manage them better by taking steps to control the email monster.

First, a look at the challenge. I know that being curious and an information hoarder is one of the factors in my own email overload. There are so many email lists that address topics that interest me in all aspects of my life – health, business, personal development, politics and current events, etc. I’m always interested in learning more. Thus the numbers of subscriptions increase regularly and more emails appear in my inbox. I have found some suggestions and have identified some to implement now.

Initial Steps

The first step I took was to delete emails that are outdated. Now this may not be something you would EVER do, but I had hundreds of thousands of emails – yes, it’s true – going back 2-1/2 years in my primary email box. Most were dated material. I sorted by date and just deleted the oldest ones without really looking at them. Then I did a quick scan to see if there were personal emails that I wanted to archive and deleted the rest, up to the last six months or so. Then I sorted by subject and was able to delete groups of emails and keep the most recent and any to archive before sending them to the trash box.

The next step, one that will be continuing for a few weeks, is to unsubscribe from lists and newsletters I don’t read. I have too often just scrolled past many of these emails but allowed them to continue to accumulate. After doing an initial unsubscribe blitz, I continue to review what comes in daily to identify additional lists to drop. For maintenance, I will be trying to go through to identify those I haven’t read in 30 (or 60) days, delete emails that have accumulated and unsubscribe from the list.

Establish Daily, Weekly, Monthly Habits

I’m working to establish habits for managing email. Each day, my goal is to take action on emails that come in rather than just scroll past with the thought that I’ll come back to them. This is when I am identifying additional lists that I am not actively using and unsubscribing and deleting past emails. For those with dated, often daily information (like sites offering free or sale ebooks daily), I quickly open, scan, glean what I want and delete.

Often there is an offer of a workshop, webinar or product. These I either act on immediately or flag so I can come back at the end of the day or within the timeframe of the offer if I can’t make an immediate decision. If emails require replies, I do that immediately if possible or flag them for response later.

Some subscriptions contain information I want to archive for future projects. These I quickly review and save into specific folders, getting them out of my inbox.

In addition to the daily practices, I will each weekend go back and delete or otherwise act on items that have served a purpose during the week but are now outdated – for example reminders of upcoming classes, webinars, and events that have now occurred.

I am going to experiment with using a general “save” folder for items I want to delay acting on but want out of my inbox and clean that out monthly. I think this will serve dual purposes: reducing the clutter in my inbox and knowing where to find them more easily when I want to. I suspect that a good number of these will never be acted upon and will be deleted at the end of the month.

With these steps and others that I may try, I am confident that I can make great progress to control the email monster!

Additional Strategies to Consider

Here are some additional suggestions to control the email monster that may be worth considering, depending on your situation:

* Create a “Spam” Address – an email address that you’re going to check on either a weekly or monthly basis. Use this when you sign up to get a freebie that puts you on an email list where you may or may not have time to read the messages. That leaves your regular email address cleaner.

Extract Important Info – Sometimes I leave emails in my box to save important information and flag them. An alternate strategy is to extract the info and put it into a database or a folder in your documents that you can label so it can be easily located. If it doesn’t seem worth that effort, perhaps it can be deleted.

Set Up a Shopping Folder – When you shop online, you get receipts, warrantees, additional offers, etc. Each of these can be a subfolder under your shopping folder. To save receipts for tax purposes, label the subfolder with the tax year. Then filter or sort all receipts into that folder. Then they will be handy when you need them.

Set Up Filters – Most email programs can filter information so that before you even look it’s labeled a certain way. Gmail does this automatically into primary, social, promotions and you can add updates and forums in your settings. Explore the options provided by your email service.

Each new year, I seek out resources that will help me be and do what I choose. Here are two books that you may want to check out:

 

Indistractable, How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal. (National Bestseller, Included in the Top 20 Best Business and Leadership Books of the Year 2019 by Amazon, Goodreads Best Science & Technology of 2019 Finalist)

 

 

 

 

The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran. The 12 Week Year creates focus and clarity on what matters most and a sense of urgency to do it now. In the end more of the important stuff gets done and the impact on results is profound.

 

 

 

 

Personal Liminal Space – A Cross-County Move In the Space Between  

movingI’ve reflected on the liminal space we are all experiencing during this pandemic here: https://carolbrusegar.com/liminal-spaces-in-between-time/  It is a time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Now I am in a specific personal liminal space. Within a few weeks, I will be moving from Nashville, TN to Cypress, CA to be near my family. They moved from Nashville to California four years ago and I am delighted to be joining them.

Preparing to Move in Liminal Space

The liminal space begins with the preparation stage – not what it used to be and hopefully not what it will be in the future. The differences from previous moves begin with paring down belongs as we typically do. All the precautions must be followed; so trips to donate boxes of books to a library’s used book sale mean masks on both sides, a cart that I must load and leave at the door. When I make deliveries of donated items to Good Will, I must unload the boxes and bags filling my car into bins. Their employees aren’t allowed to gather items or help in any way. Some things that I might have sought out places to donate to – magazines, for example – don’t seem worth the additional hassle and go into recycle bins. I won’t ask or accept offers of help in the packing process from friends to eliminate risks. When I must have people in for a moving estimate or to remove furniture that is donated or purchased, it will be with utmost precautions.

As departure time comes closer, there won’t be any in-person gatherings to say good-bye to groups of friends or others. Even if they were done carefully, following all the recommended precautions, we couldn’t hug each other. So we will have a Zoom gathering instead. This makes it a rather strange departure. Hopefully the future holds something better.

All of the details of safe reunion with my family after I have traveled across country also need to be worked out. It will be a challenge to reunite after nearly eight months with no visits in a responsible, safe way. (Normally I see them every 3 months.)

The Challenge of Downsizing Memorabilia

Another aspect of this process, which would have happened regardless of the external circumstances, is the significant downsizing of the memorabilia of my life. Perhaps because of the context of 2020, I am thinking of this process in a liminal space framework also.

I have carried many boxes with me through two moves – a collection of things that only certified pack rats (or treasure keepers in gentler terms) would continue moving. I have eliminated things in each of my past two moves and what I still have are some of the most precious. These include items from my mother who died 18 years ago: costume jewelry, her crochet and latch hook projects, table linens, aprons.

Then there are letters she wrote me over many years and over 60 years-worth of her diaries. The letters and diaries will be used for writing I plan to do and thus will make this move too. I am taking photos of many of the other things as remembrances and letting go of the physical objects. I am paring down remembrances from other family members and friends as well as 40 years of print photos. I feel as though I am in a space of letting go at a deeper level than before. The connection to the physical things that connected me to the people is in some way changing.

Hanging on to so many physical items has been my past mode of operation. The process of letting go of these keepsakes is a physical manifestation of the letting go of some of the other things I have had to release for the past several months. Some of them will never return in any form. Some will be recreated. All will stay in my memories.

Preserving the Meaning Without All the Objects

As I move through this, I am motivated and inspired to capture and preserve some of the memories and reflections for the future. I kept things in boxes and brought them along because they were valuable to me. How can the meaning of such things be captured in ways that will sustain me and touch or inform members of my family or others? How can I honor and share the meaning and lessons? That is my challenge and another opportunity from the liminal space of 2020!

Perhaps you, too, are exploring how to capture your experiences, your story, your memoir in writing. There are many books available to assist us in this process.  https://amzn.to/3gSo6bo

Here’s one that has a unique approach that I have found to be helpful:  https://amzn.to/32OyHiH  The Stories We Leave Behind: A Legacy-Based Approach to Dealing with Stuff by Laura H Gilbert