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?

 

 

 

Creating and Sustaining an Effective Wellness Routine

Wellness

Do you have a wellness routine? Creating or recalibrating a wellness routine is a do-it-yourself project that addresses our individual, unique needs. Cultivating wellness in our lives is a mindset as well as specific actions and routines.

So much of “healthcare” in our country is sick care – identifying what is already affecting us negatively and figuring out to treat it.  The prevention that we are encouraged often focuses on things like eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise. Of course, these are important. But there is more.

Beyond the physical practices, mental and emotional self-care are key to wellness. Sometimes self-care is seen as self-centered and even selfish. I hope you see how important it is to staying healthy and strong and available for others in your life. Having a wellness/self-care routine that fits your needs is important to the totality of your life.

Reject Extreme Goals, Adopt Sustainable Habits

I recently found an inspiring article which summarizes the approach used by wellness coaches Manda and Meleah Manning. They advocate “forming intuitive, sustainable habits rather than chasing extreme goals.” (You know, like eat no sugar or carbs, workout every day, no pain no gain approaches, meditate for thirty minutes or more daily, etc.)

The article describes four practices that can bring more balance into every part of a wellness routine: start a morning routine, make time to meditate, journal mindfully, and try energy cleansing. The first three are ones we’ve all heard about before. They are described in the article in some unique ways that you may find helpful.

The last one, energy cleansing, is new to me.  It is simple, doesn’t take a long time and is highly effective according to coaches.  They recommend this daily morning and evening routine: “Begin the day by ‘visualizing yourself safe and protected within a golden egg of light, almost like a forcefield’…. At the end of the day, think about releasing anything you don’t need anymore. ‘You can do this be visualizing yourself standing underneath a waterfall and feeling the cleansing water wash over you, cleansing your energy from the crown of your head out through the soles of your feet.’”

These energy cleansing practices are meditative techniques using the power of visualization and centering. Perhaps you find that many recommended techniques involve more time than you are willing or able to commit. These do not require much time at all. I love the image for each – golden egg of light in the morning and waterfall in the evening. No need to refer to a source article or book – remember the images and the accompanying thoughts will come to you once you have done it a couple of times.

If you lack a self-care/wellness routine, or are ready to revamp what you have, check out the article,  “Build Balance Into Your Wellness Routine With These Expert-Recommended Practices” by Annalise Mantz.

In addition, here’s a possible tool to consider. A Year of Self-Care, Daily Practices and Inspiration for Caring for Yourself by Dr. Zoe Shaw provides a daily practice that will take you about 15 minutes. Start whenever you want and see where it takes you.

Ideas for Valentine’s Day in a Pandemic

HeartsI have previously written about how those not in a couple might enjoy Valentine’s Day: https://carolbrusegar.com/planning-your-valentines-day-singles/ But this is not a typical year. This is Valentine’s Day in a pandemic!

Perhaps the day has sneaked up on you as it has for me, given all that’s going on these days. If so, many sources have come up with ideas to help us. For your convenience, here are links to a few places to browse; there are some duplicated ideas, but also different ones in each:

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/style/home-decor/g35031389/quarantine-valentines-day-ideas-at-home/  This has some great fun photos to go along with the ideas for a chuckle or two.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/valentines-day-ideas/g35140980/quarantine-valentines-day-ideas/

https://parade.com/1150777/marynliles/virtual-valentines-day-ideas/  These are all virtual ideas – a variety of types.

https://people.com/lifestyle/how-to-celebrate-valentines-day-2021-coronavirus/  Ideas for both couples and those celebrating alone.

https://www.chicagoparent.com/play/holiday-fun/ways-to-celebrate-valentines-day/  If you have children.

https://www.funwithkidsinla.com/post/fun-smart-ways-you-can-celebrate-valentine-s-day-2021-and-be-safe-too  More family ideas.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/valentines-day-ideas/a30472475/galentines-day-quotes-instagram-captions/   Galentines Day quotes, etc. Fun stuff.

The People Magazine article ends with these words, which I wholeheartedly endorse:

Most importantly, remember that it’s just another day. Whether you’re alone or celebrating with your partner in a way that you hadn’t imagined, just remember that Valentine’s Day is just another day to show the people around you that you love them and to show yourself some love. The less pressure you put on it, the less stressful it will be … and once it’s over, you’ve got one thing to look forward to: all of that discount Valentine’s chocolate to buy.”

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.

 

 

 

 

The Year the Hugs Went Away

Hug

 

“A hug is a wonderful thing. It’s a marvelous gift to share. It’s a grand way to say; ‘I care.’ A hug communicates support, security, affection, unity, and belonging. A hug shows compassion. A hug brings delight. A hug charms the senses. A hug touches the soul.”

~  Unknown

2020 – the year the hugs went away. What a year it has been!  As a person living alone, I have lacked anyone in my own safe-at-home household to hug for all these months. A few “back hugs” – arms around the shoulders from behind – have been a brief taste of the real thing. Are you in that situation? Who do you know who is?

Individuals have different attitudes about hugging. Some reserve it for intimate relationships within the family – and may even be limited in that expression there. Others – like myself – identify themselves as huggers and apply them generously.

A major venue for hugging for me in the past several years has been within my faith community where we are unapologetic master huggers. Across all the boundaries that often separate us, we hug – genuinely and warmly. The hugs express acceptance, affirmation, inclusion and love. In these months, the hug deprivation is real.

We have stayed with virtual gatherings all these months in commitment to the safety of all of us and of those with whom each of us is connected. We have rejected the modified form of gathering has been adopted by some churches – fewer people, distanced and masked. The risks are not worth it. It’s nearly impossible for me to imagine being in the same space with these dear people and not hugging them. And so the physical separation continues for the well-being of all.

What is so powerful, so profound about hugs? There has been much research done, and the conclusions include the physiological and the psychological impacts. According to “The Power of Hugs: Benefits to your Health” in SteptoHealth.com, hugs release several hormones in our bodies. Hormones are substances produced by one tissue and transported by the bloodstream to another tissue to affect physiological activity. Oxytocin, the attachment or bonding hormone, is released by hugging, as well as serotonin and dopamine, which have a sedative or calming/wellness impact. The impacts of hugs can even be as specific as reducing blood pressure and easing a headache, strengthening the immune system or helping you overcome fear. It is also noted that these effects can persist long after the end of the physical contact.

Psychologically, hugs cause the brain to release endorphins – any of a group of peptide hormones found in the brain that act as neurotransmitters. They promote healing and create feelings of well-being, build self-esteem and bring joy.

We’re missing a lot when we aren’t hugging! Until we can safely hug, what can we do to prevent negative physiological and psychological impacts of hug deprivation? Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW says, ““The paradox of hugs is that though they are quintessentially physical, they can also be enacted mentally. I often invite my patients, if it feels right for them, to imagine someone they feel safe with, including me, holding them. This works because the brain does not know the difference between reality  fantasy in many ways.”

This form of visualization can have a profound impact on us. It flips the script from focusing on the absence of and need for physical hugs to creating at least some of the positive impacts through the power of our minds and imagination. We can remember and recreate nurturing and healing hugs to help tide us over until it’s safe to do in person, in real time.

Will you try it and encourage others who are missing and needing physical hugs to do the same?

Perhaps you’d like to express your virtual hug materially to some special people; check out some options here:

http://carolbrusegar.com/Hugs-Gifts