The Blog

Back to Basics: When Checking In Means Checking Out


IMG_1828_optTo say that I’ve had a lot on my plate the last three months is a grandiose understatement.  With both of my children engaged, and their weddings within 10 weeks of each other (one down, one to go), my summer was immersed with bridal showers and wedding plans galore (times two), all while maintaining my busy client schedule. Time-management became a masterful art when challenged to schedule bridal/dress fittings, hair and make-up trials, caterer, florists and band appointments, micro-managing timelines, details upon details (too many details to detail, lol), all with a bride that was way busier than me.  I like to think about them now as happy headaches, but with consequences nonetheless. The fast pace of an overwhelming to do list resulted in a stress-induced vertigo episode that lingered for over two weeks.

Throughout the entire process, I was stressed and pressed for time.  Summer never quite felt like the relaxing summers of the past. I realized that there is a status of busy, and then there’s “I can’t breathe” busy. This kind of busy clocks you into your priorities, big time. Clearly, what had to get done, got done. Non-negotiable and timeline sensitive.  And then there was everything else.

Notwithstanding that I disregarded other routine responsibilities, I fell off social media hard.  After 5 years of routinely posting weekly blogs, dabbling in FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter, I logged into self and blogged out of the web.  Although at first, it was neither hard nor easy.  It just wasn’t even a thought.  Every day was jam-packed with a checklist and I was on a fast track mission.  It was only after several consecutive weeks of neglecting my blog that some guilt invaded. It was something I enjoyed for so long and scheduled consistently,  I felt I was breaking a good habit. Weeks turned into months and my web presence halted on a dime.  My anxiety waxed and waned more with wonder as to what my followers would think, or worse, what if no one even noticed?

It was increasingly hard to engage in FaceBook.  There was simply no time or space to keep up.  Admittedly, there were some late nights while engrossed in my wedding spreadsheets, I found myself scrolling mindlessly through my newsfeed, not feeling connected at all.  I felt somewhat like an alien.

More time has lapsed and until now, I’ve fallen off this routine completely. The distance has changed my perspective a bit. I may click here and there, but I spend significantly less time on the screen. I’ve fallen off the grid before but not for this long. Now I question how much time I really want to devote to this as I jump back in.

Having celebrated this wedding milestone in my life with so many special friends and family has re-directed me back to the basics. I want more personal connection. Perhaps it’s about living life with more intention and evaluating what really matters.  I find myself wanting to pick up the phone more to talk, connect with old friends and check in more often. Social Media can swallow you up and it can feel liberating to dial it back a little and check in with yourself.

For sure, FaceBook has its merits and connects people in ways we could have never imagined in an instant. It’s a powerful and effective platform for so many situations and relationships, both personally and professionally. But sometimes virtual connections are often too easy.  It can breed laziness and compromise personal relationships. There are so many ways we can connect and communicate. My impression is that an actual phone call will always trump a text, and a personal text trumps a FaceBook post, and a comment still beats a “like.” Always. These are revealing levels of intimacy.

As far as My Blog, I’m OK with the ebb and flow.  It is mine to have and to hold forever.  It’s a personal space that I’ve created to share my voice or catch a thought. It may not be Wednesday and it may not be weekly. These were confinements of my choosing.  I understand now that this rhythym of committment will come and go with the ever-evolving me. Aligning our priorities is an ongoing process. This honest epiphany doesn’t make me any smarter, just human 🙂

Counting down to another wedding yet to come.  The joy of witnessing both my children’s marriage in the same year is indescribable. I cannot wait to do it all over again and then alas, restore some life-balance and breathe.

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Has “Spare” Time become “Rare” Time?

tea timeHow many times have we all said “I’ll get to this or that in my spare time?” Too often, I fear.  We cram our schedules with jam-packed to-do’s, we never seem to get there.

Unfortunately,  it’s the by-product of being popularly “busy” in today’s culture.  On a good day, we take on too much and don’t carve out sufficient time to get it all done, so it spills into the next day.  And on and on it goes.  We all struggle with time on a daily basis, it’s seems highly unlikely that we’ll end up with any extra batches of it.  Gone are the days of spare time.  But is it a lost commodity? It doesn’t have to be. What if I told you that you can reclaim it?

Here’s some ideas to chew on;

Schedule it. If you don’t schedule the spare time, it’s never going to happen. So just like booking the haircut, picking up the dry cleaning or getting the car washed, add the spare time onto your to-do list too.  Maybe a time to catch up on reading, enjoy a DVD you’ve been wanting to watch, call an old friend, or just plant yourself on a chaise lounge and just chill.  Don’t you deserve that?

Evaluate the have to’s and the want-to’s.  Think about those things that have to get done… but not necessarily by YOU. Opt to delegate and make room for the want-to’s.  Beyond the nonnegotiablescreate space for your sanity. It’s essential for life-balance.

Consider the obstacles.  Can you define what is in your way?

    • Time-management skills. I  frequently write about managing the “busy” because poor time-management habits usually heighten anxiety and exacerbate disorganization. Sharpening those skills can free up valuable time.
    • Working long hours? Does your workday come home with you? Working from home can easily impede on spare time.
    • Technology could be one of the greatest time robbers that could be eating up your spare time. As if the days aren’t busy enough, our affinity to stay connected on or off the computer is a huge distraction.


Tweak the busy. If you’re overwhelmed and feeling out of control, perhaps this is a red flag that you may be a little too busy.  Align your schedule with your prioritizes.  Adjust.  Change what’s no longer working for you.  Life changes readily, so tweaking is an ongoing and necessary process.

Capture the opportunities.  It’s easier in this cycle of season to be encouraged to take more breaks, steal some time, and take advantage of the beautiful weather.  The days are longer and may even inspire you to carve out some extra time you may be craving.  Remember, spare time is “your” time.  When or how you choose to use it, is your prerogative. What’s important is that you find some.

I revel in my spare time and know when I require it.  This is a time that I catch the wind in my sails, and I capitalize on these opportunities.  For me, I’m a summer gal and so my stolen spare moments will probably be outside somewhere. With blue skies above and the sun shining brightly overhead, I am more apt to get up and be ready to work hard… but play hard too.

Reclaiming spare time is doable, what will YOU choose to do with yours?


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Restoring Balance: It’s About Time

balance and clockIt always come down to time, doesn’t it? Everything we do has a time component.  From the minute our alarm wakes us in the morning until we lay our weary heads down at night, we are governed by time.

In fact, we depend on our watches to “watch” the time for us.  It is fundamentally our universal tool to measure a given day; our personal alert system to remind us when we have to do just about anything. Time doesn’t only punctuate our mealtimes, appointments, or travel;  it organizes all of our life activities.  Essentially, it is our ultimate “life tracker.” Unfortunately, it is not a flawless system.

The simple truth is that we all regard time differently.  Some of us adhere to it fastidiously, while others not so much.  Regardless, whether or not you have the more nonchalant attitude or actually struggle with time-management, you are still at risk of losing your daily balance.

We must remember that time is measurable.  And when we lose track of it, it can disturb our balance.  Think about how many costly consequences there are as a result of time not being on our side.  There are appointments to make, schedules to meet, planes to catch, time zones to calculate, and if there is one small glitch in the system, it can all go very wrong.

Things happen.  There are unforeseen circumstances that are clearly out of our hands.  It can be as minimal as oversleeping, unpredictable as traffic, or as serious as an unfortunate accident, personal health, or family crisis.  Any one of these scenarios can spill into late appointments, missed plane connections, or even worse.

In a perfect world, when we can control time, it is precisely what connects us to one another, isn’t it? “I’ll meet you @ 1:00 for lunch” or “Conference call at 3:00,” or “Dinner’s at 8:00pm.”  It’s our frame of reference, both casually and professionally.  It’s what makes the world go ’round.  It’s a universal language that keeps us on schedule, at least most of the time.

But all too often, we take time for granted or are too busy to realize its rapid passing.  Hence, we lose control of the day and beyond.  Managing one’s time is a common challenge but for many, this is a daily struggle.  “If we cannot feel the sweep of time, we cannot manage it,”  is one of my sustaining take-aways from a recent NAPO Conference I attended.

The good news is that there are solutions.  I don’t typically promote products on my blog but it’s an opportune time to give this one a shout out, simply because it works.  It’s one of my favorite time-manager tools, called the Time Timer.  It’s a super effective product I recommend to clients that battle with time-management issues.

For me, it’s about old school thinking.  I can still remember the big analog classroom clocks ticking away one second-hand at a time, being able to watch time pass and waiting for the bell to ring.  In today’s digital world, it is far more difficult to conceptualize the passage of time.  Think about it, can you really “feel” the time sweep from 1:27 pm to 1:42 pm?  With this timer, you can visually watch time elapse, without the dreaded ticking. You will actually “see” time pass. Every time I use it, it still surprises me that the set time had expired so rapidly. In fact, this tool is actually a great time “teacher.”  I learned these three lessons;

1) When you’re immersed in a task, you can easily lose track of time and control.

2) Everything takes longer than you think.

3) Being more mindful of time, significantly heightens focus and increases productivity. (helps to manage those obsessive time robbers too)

Exploring effective methods to track time will likely raise awareness of how you use time and can instigate a shift in mindset.  Essentially, it plugs you into “self” and connects your actions to an accountable timeline.

Being more mindful can arguably change the relationship we have with time. If we can regard time more efficiently, perhaps we can make it work for us, not against us. Relying on time as our life-manager can restore the balance we might be lacking.

What’s your relationship with time? Are you in control? If you pay attention with a more critical eye, I bet time will tell.

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Are You Wearing Too Many Hats? Trendy or Foolish?

hats_optAt our core, we are all somebody’s son or daughter.  If we are lucky, we are also a sister or brother, a niece or nephew, a mother or father, a wife or a husband. We wear those “hats” proudly.

These relationships alone need our nurturing and sometimes, even managing 24/7. But the fact is that we all lead busy lives that extend beyond the scope of these familial connections.

If you have a job, you can switch “hats” as soon as you leave the house, and immerse yourself in that role and alternate responsibilities. Two hats, no biggie.

If you are solepreneur with a home-based business, you’ll have a little more of a daily challenge of juggling your work life with home-life.  It’s very hard to separate these two hats, but if you set boundaries, it can be done.  Finding the balance is the secret.

This all seems simple enough. Go to work, return home, relax, sleep, repeat. Think again. I think we aspire to be busy, it’s part of our trendy culture.  We fill the voids of our free schedule with a myriad of other responsibilities and yet complain about not having enough time to do other things we enjoy.

Some of us volunteer for  multiple committees, sit on a variety of executive boards, coach children’s sports and/or carpool their over-scheduled activities, or accept additional work-related commitments and opportunities that are not mandatory. Add on the extracurricular activities like the gym, exercise, or any sport we try to squeeze in, and we are maxx-ed out at our limit.  We’ve hit the wall, alas.

So this begs the question, are you in over your head?  How many hats are too many?

At a recent NAPO conference in New Orleans, clinical psychologist, Dr. David Tolin suggests that our time should match up with our values and goals. We must learn to prioritize.  Take an honest look at your life. If you don’t have enough “free” time, evaluate the reasons.  One of the biggest time wasters is the inability to say “no.” Dr. Tolin infers that we feel too guilty to decline a request because too often we worry what others will think, or fear they will think we are lazy. We are reluctant to disappoint and equate compliance with increased respect and like-ability (and that goes for our children’s suffocating schedules, as well).  So we agree to wearing yet another “hat.”  Tolin makes an excellent point,  we have a tendency to value other people’s time more than our own. We must learn to say “no” and not feel guilty about these choices.

While wearing many hats can be outwardly impressive, we should really look at the bigger picture.  If we value time, we must question if another new role compromises it.  If we spread ourselves too thin, something’s got to give.  It can only result in burn-out.  The need to set limits and boundaries is paramount.

Is there something you want to do that you’re not able to do because of an obligation you were reluctant to decline?

So the next time someone recruits you for yet another commitment, before you say “yes,” ask yourself if you’re in over your head.

Remember you have only one head, so how many hats can you wear effectively?  Too many hats of too many colors may not be the fashion trend that you can wear well.

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Are You Too Busy For Your Own Good?

Everybody’s busy.  Who do you know that is not busy?  It’s the new normal.  Just ask anyone, “how are you?” and I’ll bet they’ll reply with a “good,” and add a boastful “busy.” It has become an aspired status that implies heightened productivity and success.  But we must pay attention to our individual capacities and be mindful when we reach our max. Too busy can be counterproductive and unhealthy.

Especially this time of year, we all have so much on our plates.  As if we had any extra time, the holidays just wring us dry of whatever spare time we might have.  But take note…there is good busy and bad busy.

The good busy is immersing yourself in the holiday festivities in a healthy way.  Work hard, play hard, shop smart.  Finding the balance between the every day and the added holiday to do’s, and finding the joy in the busy. Embracing the spirit of the holiday and not getting caught up in the consumer mania is easier for some more than others. The good busy people are able to resist the romance of over -acquiring. Staying focused helps them buy practical, buy less, and reduce the overwhelming holiday stress. They are enjoying the holiday frenzy.

Now for the bad busy.  We all are busy with our  jobs and/or just normal daily responsibilities.  No need to drown yourself in work commitment, holiday shopping, and operate in full throttle 24/7.  We are fragile.  Indeed, we are stressed, pressed for time, and overwhelmed, but we cannot be our best selves if we are constantly pushing the envelope.

In truth, being a workaholic and a shopaholic can prove to be fruitless, exhausting, and lead to burn-out. With the additional holiday pressure to get everything on your list done, you can easily drown in overwhelm and get caught up in a bad busy cycle.

What if I told you that if you stopped being so busy for a minute and relinquished a bit more more time to organize and manage your lifestyle better, you’d actually have MORE time? 

Here’s some helpful tips to reduce the bad busy;

  • Simply make a list of all the things you have to do, but then review the list again.  Now check off the things that only YOU have to do and delegate the rest. Figure out how to cut out a step. Do those things you love to do, and get help with the things you hate to do.
  • No need to spend the time or money on expensive wrapping paper.  Have the store wrap for you, or use shopping bags and stuff them with tissue paper.  Use stick-on labels instead of attaching gift cards. A huge time saver.
  • Simplify the complicated.  If possible, stay out of the stores and shop on-line. Avoid the long lines. They only add anxiety.
  • Don’t struggle with the “perfect” gift.  Buy gift cards.  They are always appreciated and they eliminate returns.
  • Buy clutter free gifts.  They are the most precious of all. Give the gift of time. Buy concert tickets, dinners, dance lessons, or spa treatments.  Be creative with your “love” gifts. They need not be expensive, just thoughtful.
  • Buy baked goods this year or store bought food, if this is too stressful for you.  Don’t feel guilty about it, your holidays will not be less happy.  Focus on the celebration with family and friends.
  • Forgive yourself if you didn’t have the time to send out holiday cards.  Don’t stress about it, let it go. It’s not the worse thing in the world. Maybe next year.


These are all small changes you can make to free up some more time to have fun!  Remember, “done is better than perfect!”

If you can’t enjoy this festive time, what’s the point? Now that you’ve  got a minute…Come join the conversation.  Are you good busy or bad busy?


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What Happened to Dinnertime?

When I was a young girl, I remember every day culminating with my family sitting around the dinner table. I was lucky enough to have my Dad home every night for dinner, 6:30 p.m sharp. The table was always pre-set, then upon my Dad’s arrival, we all sat down together with no interruptions.  It was dinnertime. That simple.

Television and phone calls were not allowed (obviously, cell phones did not exist then so “texting” wasn’t even a forbidden consideration).  Nothing fancy, no special holiday, just family dinner.  Cross- talk conversation, playful sibling banter, and repetitive prodding from Mom to clean our plates, were all common backdrops for our typical family meal.

I’m not suggesting that life was as perfect as the truly idealized families portrayed in Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver, but just that this setting was a big part of the American pop culture in the late 50’s. Dinnertime seemed somewhat sacred in all our homes.

Decades later, as I grew my own family, I wanted to implement these similar values into my own life.  Like my Dad, my husband was able to be home for dinner every single night, and it’s something my adult children still remember.  But let’s morph to the 80’s and the new world of Technology.  Its impact impeded a great deal on my family dinner.  For starters, there were more interruptions and distractions.  Televisions were glaring at high volume, cordless phones were ringing every 10 minutes, and my kid’s obsession with hand held video games delayed them from sitting down at the dinner table on time. Eventually, we all gathered and happy chatter ensued.  Family dinner was very important to me and I cherished it.  It was a time that the whole family would congregate and catch up.  It was a place for intimate conversation in the natural setting of our home. I can remember gazing around the table, taking it all in and knowing very well, that it was indeed a precious time; a special time that I would never get back.

And then it happened. My children got older and they were smitten by organized sports. The grueling schedules ruled us.  If that weren’t enough, my husband decided to enlist as the Basketball Coach throughout both of my children’s athletic careers.  Needless to say, you see where this is going.  My family dinner was crumbling before me.  Gone were the days of relaxing dinners, and instantly replaced with quick snacks or a slices of pizza, all in attempt to make it to early practices before the games.

So that was then, and now I fear that it is far worse today.

Busy households are a juggling act; balancing dinner meals, homework, tutors,and carpools, with too many extra-curricular activities.  As a result, a “balanced” meal, albeit a sit-down family dinner, are no longer an option.  It’s more like a sandwich on the go, a fast food stop. or sometimes just a protein bar or shake! Factor in the more advanced technology and the rise in social media mania, and you’re dealing with a whole other level of detachment.  Now we have iPhones, iPads, texting, Facebook and Twitter. Most importantly, it’s encroaching on the privacy of family home life 24/7 .

So what has happened to the nuclear family? Is it breaking down?  Are we over- scheduled or disconnected?, or both? The problem is of course, it’s not that we don’t want to…but because there’s no time to.  Does it come down to a time-management issue?

Clearly the busy family of today is struggling with optimal quality time. This might suggest that we are changing priorities in our family culture. Overwhelming schedules push out valuable time to connect.  Shouldn’t we carve out the time to chow down with the family like we used to?

Now that my children are grown, I yearn for those table conversations; a cacophony of yelling, whining, teasing, story telling, and belly laughing til it hurt.  I recall it all with a sense of completeness, sweet and utter joy.  True gems came out of those family meals that I will never forget.

Children need both relationships and routines they can depend on.  Dinnertime is a great time to check in, connect, and share with your family. Dining in the privacy of your home can be intimate, even it’s noisy and chaotic. It’s a place where the family dynamics engage naturally, without outside distractions.  No television, no video games.  Just eating and talking.  Family in the raw.  Its value is truly under-rated.

Think about how often you have family dinner. Do you make the time? Is it on the schedule?

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