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All Wrapped up in Holiday Busy? Personal Pace Wins the Race

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So funny how quickly Thanksgiving came and went, and most of us are already onto the next. We kicked off holiday mania with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and now we’ve hit the ground running.  We already have enough on our plates day-to-day, and now our to-do lists are growing exponentially.  How we manage this hectic time of year can impact our overall holiday experience.

Believe it or not, some of us already have many of their holiday gifts purchased and wrapped. Some of us even have the holiday decor out and set, or even menus planned. But… then there’s everyone else.

There’s the slow and steady shopper who slowly and steadily accumulate gifts and check off their lists diligently, while there are others who race around town every day with a little less focus and perhaps more anxiety. And even still, there are those who haven’t even begun to think about jumping into the frenzy at all. So where are YOU on the continuum?  One thing I know, for sure…it’s personal.  Very.

It’s so very easy to get caught up in the tumult around us. The stores are filled with the contagion of holiday busy and TV commercials are selling holiday joy every 10 minutes. Inevitably, we are lured into the madness. These influencers can interrupt our focus.

The challenge is in finding the balance.  Here’s how;

  • Stop the racingit’s exhausting.  It will not only raise your anxiety, it is likely that it can rob you of the joy.  Don’t get caught up in other’s exuberance, find your own rhythm.
  • Plan your day with a start and stop time.  Quite often, we burn out and stress out before the holiday even arrives. Instead, take a time out.  Find your personal pace and seize the opportunity to experience the great joy of celebrating your way.
  • Make your own choices.  It’s your holiday,  your personal kind of joy. Don’t beat yourself up for not keeping up with the “idealized” version of the holidays.  Not everyone is shopping for cars, and diamonds, and expensive technology. Not everyone has the time or money to shop endlessly.
  • Evaluate your “busy” and be sure it’s filled with activities you enjoy. Holiday shopping, party invites, and celebratory dinners can overwhelm your schedule.  Choose wisely.

Pacing your holiday busy means beating to your own drum.  It really has less to do with being more organized than the next guy, it’s more about knowing your natural life rhythm,  identifying your objectivesand the ability to manage time. Certainly, effective time-management strategies play a huge role in customizing your pace. Taking on too much in a concentrated period of time is fruitless.

Keeping pace that’s within your comfort zone will be far more fulfilling than trying to measure up to somebody else’s.

Somehow, it all gets done.  It always does.  Even if your proclivity is to be the “last-minute” shopper, and you’re more inclined to wait it out, you could be just as productive as the early bird “doorbuster” shopper. Choose the kind of holiday busy that works best with your comfort level.

The holidays are indeed a beautiful time to celebrate life, family and friends.  The key is to let it be joyful, not stressful.  Listen to your inner voice and sync your personal pace with the holiday commotion. Perhaps you need to slow it down, or do less.  Pay attention.  Truly, that’s how to create a “happy” holiday.

Are you all “wrapped up” in holiday busy? How are you pacing yourself? If you’ve got a minute, come join in the conversation :)

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The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

IMG_2012_optThe falling snow changed my plans today. My schedule went out the window with the very first snowflake. So it looks like I’m in for the day. But as I sit in front of the fireplace, I’m realizing that mother nature has just bestowed me the “gift of time.” How great is that?  I’m in pajamas, watching the snow gently fall, and although not leaving the house, there is an endless list of productive things I can do.  Where to begin?

Time is a luxury for sure, and how we use it, only clarifies our priorities.  For me, my passion is writing and so my first inclination is to craft this blog.  I’ll catch up on reading, e-mails, tele classes, and maybe if I’m lucky, I can even take a nap (but probably not, lol)

Weather is impactful.  When it interrupts our day, we are forced to stop, or at least pause.  For all of us who incurred the snow today, there was one thing we all had in common.  We were forced to slow down.

In the peak of a work week and holiday bustle, this is not an easy task. But apart from being a nuisance, perhaps this shift in focus was a good thing.  It might have caused you to slow down your busy pace.  Maybe you needed to.

In some form or another, we all paid attention to time.   If you anticipated the inclement weather, you were more apt to adjust your schedule accordingly with an earlier exit strategy this morning.  Leaving yourself adequate wiggle room was an option to consider, or time spent cancelling and re-scheduling appointments.

We always plan with good intentions but so many times, things happen out of our control to disrupt them.  We adjust and move on, and sometimes take away a lesson learned.  My favorite expression, “Man plans and G-d laughs,”  is so apropos.  It always wakes me up.

So today, I’m enjoying this unexpected gift of time.  Every very now and then, it’s nice to indulge in “self” time. How about you? What kind of adjustments did you make today?  Did you stop, pause, or slow down?

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The Back Burner Trap: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Do you battle with “later,” “tomorrow,” or “someday?” Does your wish list only live in your head?  Know this, if you don’t schedule something to happen, it’s probably not going to happen.

Making a list of goals is a great start. But thinking and doing are two different things. Brainstorming is a great process but without any plan, it is futile.

When defining your goals, consider creating a vision board for more concrete results.  Remember those S.M.A.R.T. goals? (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time sensitive) This process is really effective, and it can help you build on your ideas in a more tangible way.  Being proactive in this step by step manner not only creates a place for your ideas to grow and expand, but makes them feel doable.

Breaking down actions into small pieces always helps to manage the work.  Keeping them just locked in your head is only stifling them.

If you’re thinking to yourself that you will eventually get around to doing it one day, what you really should be asking yourself is, “how important  is it?” Ideas with no “action plan” have a slim chance of making it to your top priority list.

Two years ago, at a NAPO conference workshop, I was inspired by the speaker to create a personal back burner action business plan for myself, and as suggested, save it to my desktop. It was an effective way to organize my annual goals and keep me accountable.  From time to time, I would glance at the folder often thought that maybe I had set the bar too high.  I was overwhelmed with all that I imposed on myself.  Were my grandiose ideas realistic?

I recently visited my 2012 goals, and reviewed what I had accomplished.  No surprises there.  What I had prioritized actually got done, and those goals that were just “hopefuls” not only never got done, I had forgotten about them. There were also other goals I now realize that I no longer care to pursue.

Things change.  Life changes, and so do our priorities. Time to re-evaluate and prioritize our goals. Create a new action plan for the next year.

Revisit your back burner ideas. Tickle the enticing ideas that are still simmering. Don’t assume that they are just pipe-dreams.  Pay attention.  There could be a small light-bulb idea buried there that has potential to propagate into something significant.

Are you able to re-activate something that’s been sitting on your back burner? Turn the heat up or turn it off.  I would love to hear from you, what’s cooking?

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What’s on Your Summer Radar?

The fireworks of July 4th may have faded but hopefully their crackle and boom ignited your summer mode into full throttle.  We all know how quickly summer passes us by, and so this would be the time to plan for it to be a memorable one.  Now.

Summer bucketlists tend to be lofty initially, but all too often, as the heat and humidity rises, so does the procrastination.

So what does your ideal summer look like?

Of course there is no right or wrong answer, it’s more about your priorities and being aware of  your productivity capacities.  How well do you know yourself?

  • Are you more or less motivated in the Summer?
  • In what months do you tend to be more active or more lazy?
  • Do you see summer as a time to complete projects? Or do you view summer as a giant vacation?
  • Do you find that your time-management is easier or more challenging in the summer?
  • How do you even measure productivity?


Overall, productivity levels vacillate day to day, but they can also vary from month to month and season to season, depending on the individual’s life rhythm.

Most people enjoy being outdoors in the summertime and so, no matter the activity (work or pleasure) it will be done outside. On a beautiful summer day, fewer people would probably opt to clean out an interior closet or a steamy attic. Likewise, more people might be  inclined to clean-out the garage, mow the lawn, wash the car, or plant the flowers while enjoying the sunshine.

One sure thing is that the summer days are fleeting.  It’s not too late to create a bucketlist if you haven’t yet done so.  Do something awesome this summer.  Take advantage of the gorgeous weather.  Make your days count before Labor Day.

Eliminate regrets with this helpful exercise:  Rather than considering and weighing the summer goals ahead of you, perhaps work backyards.  Pretend that tomorrow is the end of summer and think about what that would feel like? Did you accomplish all that you hoped to?

Now reclaim that time.  What will you put on your summer radar now?  Get going…time is awastin’.


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Habits Worth Breaking: 9 Symptoms of a Bad Routine

Do you find yourself repeating the same bad behavior?  Are you stuck in bad routines? There is something oddly comforting about sticking with the same old routine, albeit a poor one.  We simply don’t have the time to analyze our every day so we merely continue to repeat the old and familiar patterns.

Ahhh…imagine if we only had the time.  Think for a moment about the possibilities of making the time to change the habits that are no longer working for you.

If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with your life schedule, maybe you can identify with the following likely symptoms of a bad routine.

1.  Your morning routine is actually not a routine.  No 2 days are alike.

2. Most mornings you feel rushed and continually search for the same items prior to exiting your house.

3. Typically, you are jumping in for a quick shower instead of enjoying a leisurely one, and time to gather your thoughts for the day.

4.  The kitchen sink seems to be always full of dirty dishes and the dishwasher is always full of clean dishes, not emptied.

5.  Your solution for not hanging up your clothes is failing because every back of a chair, banister, couch, and treadmill is already over-utilized.

6.  You don’t ever schedule a meal.  Hence you eat whatever, whenever.

7.  You don’t have time time for the things you enjoy because you are too busy with the “have-to’s”.

8.  Coming home at the end of the day, you feel a more heightened sense of anxiety, rather than a place of sanctuary.

9.  Increased tension by the end of every week.

Of course if these are your routines and they work for you, by all means, stay with it.  No need to fix what’s not broken.

But if you are frustrated and unhappy with your daily routine, you must make it a priority to implement some change.

    • Can you eliminate one thing you do every day that is counterproductive?
    • Can you find a way to make a “have-to” more enjoyable?
    • Can you modify the way you manage your time?

All routines have a time-management component and so if any of these symptoms resonate with you, it’s time to adjust how you use your time.  Here’s the simple tip;  Always allow yourself more time for everything. It is an effective stress reducer.

    • Think about your day the night before.  Prepare.  Do something that will make the next day run more smoothly.
    • Rise earlier, more wiggle room.  Time to breathe.  Have the nice long hot shower.  Make the time for a healthy breakfast.
    • Have a plan for the day.  Follow through the entire day, including meals.  It could mean defrosting necessary food, purchasing ingredients for the dinner menu, or making a reservation!  It doesn’t really matter what the plan is, just have one.
    • At the end of your day, hang up the clothing immediately because they won’t hang up on their own.  They will still be there tomorrow and beyond.  Avoid letting them accumulate.  Ditto to the dishes.

It’s a goodhabit to change bad behavior.  Give yourself a break today and break a bad habit.

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Just Counting Down for Summer? Or Will You Make Summer Count?

Is Summer your favorite time of year?  It is definitely mine and I’m so elated that Memorial Day is finally here. This weekend always seems to usher in the splendor of summer.  We wait so long for its arrival and at this point in time, we are encouraged that there are far more summer days ahead of us than there are behind us. Summer is fun… it’s happy.  Azure blue skies and the sparkle of sunshine can make an ordinary day, a spectacular one.  Even after a long day’s work, just a walk outside into a summer’s night can turn a stressful day into a calming night.  With the longer days, I think we all are delighted to run the extra errand, take a drive, walk, or do just about anything, because it’s still light outside.

We wait 9 months for summer, best not to waste it.  Let us make every day count.  So perhaps before the weeks slip away from us, we should think about how we are going to use our time.  Are we going to merely frolic in the lazy days of summer? Or are we compelled to accomplish something significant on our summer bucket list?

I read this book “168 hours: You Have More Time Than You Think,” and it changed how I look at time forever.  It was eye-opening to realize how many people do not utilize the extra hours of their days in a week.   Yes, everybody has extra hours of down time when they are not sleeping or not working.  Nobody works 24/7 (168 hours), it would be physically impossible. Too many of us are unaware that there are so many valuable hours that can easily slip by.

Here’s how this thinking can change your life too.  Back to our summer plans.  Crunch the numbers; From Memorial Day to Labor Day there are 14 weeks.  If you do the simple math and multiply that by 168 hours (24 hours in a week),  you get 2352 hours.  Now that’s some big chunk of change, don’t you think?  If you are lucky and get 8 hours a night sleep, then deduct another 784 hours.  And  if you work 12 of those 14 weeks, subtract roughly about 480 hours, which leaves you well over 1000 glorious extra hours of  leisure time!!  OMG, you’ve hit the lottery.

Summertime is precious.  Organize it.  Make smart choices.  Manage your time because you own it , it’s yoursPlan your bucket list and aspire to satisfy it.  Spend your hours doing anything you enjoy doing;

    • Make more time for your family and friends.
    • Ride a bike.
    • Take a hike.
    • Read the book you’ve never have the time to.
    • Create a new hobby.
    • Rise early before the dawn.
    • Bask in the sunshine of a summer day.
    • Catch the beauty of a brilliant sunset.
    • Plant, grow a garden,
    • Paint a room.
    • Be ambitious and clean out the garage, basement or attic.
    • And yes, maybe even take a delicious nap on a hammock.

Enjoy the priceless summer hours, you cannot take them back in winter.  Make them count now and optimize your time.

For me, summer energies me…the days are longer, the sun is brighter, and I want to get out and do something.  This is Your  time, Your summer.  Ask yourself this… what will you be doing with all your hours?

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How Some Skillful Time-management Can Obliterate Overwhelm: The 4 Step Plan

Being overwhelmed about anything can be paralyzing.  If a project looms too large, it’s far easier to ignore it and avoid it, than tackle it.  The best tool we have to manage this state of procrastination is the power and control we get from organization. It is our only defense against all odds because it cajoles us into taking that first step. Any plan is an incentive to be productive.

While the big picture of any situation is often clarifying, it can be equally daunting.  Goal setting is a powerful technique but without the proper tools of how to get there, one can easily get discouraged, overwhelmed, and lost in despair.

How you utilize and your organize your time is critical.  These are some effective tools you can use to guide you through any personal project; large or small, at home or in the office.

    • Organize:  Create a list of similar goals so that once immersed, you won’t have to task switch and you can remain in a productive zone.  Group tasks in the same room and avoid zigzagging all over the place.
    • Prioritize:  Once you’ve organized your to do’s, you will be able to prioritize what is most important.  Setting goals will help you to accomplish them.  Identify the highest priority and attack.
    • Focus:  Select a time period for stop and start, and stick to these strict parameters.  Do not deviate from the task.  Work on one project or task at a time, for an uninterrupted block of time (even if it’s only 30 minutes). Avoid thinking about the big picture for now and focus on what’s immediately in front of you.  Do not be overly ambitious with your expectations. Keep your goals realistic for the time period you’ve set aside.  Feeling a sense of accomplishment after each block of time will probably fuel your drive to complete the project. The closer you get to your goal, the more encouraged you will be to continue.  Be kind to yourself, don’t take on too much. Just remember, if you break down chores into manageable steps, you will eventually fulfill them.
    • Systemize:  Establish a routine so you can consistently schedule your tasks and create a good work flow. This could be daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on the task at hand.  Carving out time in your day on a consistent basis will maintain your productivity level.  When you schedule, you are prepared to commit to the process and its completion.


No matter the scope of the project, it is a necessity to organize it first, in order to accomplish it.  It doesn’t matter if you’re cleaning out a closet or creating a new filing system. Manage your time wisely and you can achieve anything.

Create a strategy.  Think it through.  Take a breath.  Make a plan.  Are you ready?  On your mark, get set, GO!






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How Are You Managing the Holiday Havoc?

It’s that festive time of year again, and for most, a very busy and hectic time. We all have so much on our plates.  But guess what? Despite the challenging economy, the holidays are still coming.  Some of us may resist jumping in just yet, but eventually, we all get captured by the holiday spirit.

No doubt about it, holiday mania can be very overwhelming and stressful.  Let’s see…we have Chanukah and Xmas presents to buy for our friends, family, and business acquaintances. Add to the list, the local favorites, i.e. manicurist, hairdresser, postman, etc.), or perhaps a favorite teacher or receptionist.

Additionally, you might have a secret Santa grab bag to buy for a business or social event.  And whether it be business related or just casual gatherings, there are holiday parties everywhere, which may inspire you to shop for some new and  trendy party clothes.

Ugh, humbug…are we done yet?  Nope, not quite. But don’t stress.

Here are some tips that might help you cope with the madness;

Holiday Shopping:  Go home, make a list. Jot down the friends, family, etc. for whom you need to buy gifts for, estimate how much you’re going to spend for each, and carry it with you while shopping.  Have an agenda and destination in mind (on paper, or smart phone) before you go shopping.

Without a list, you can get easily distracted and side-tracked and perhaps be in danger of buying something you don’t need. If you stay on task, you won’t be shocked when the credit card bills arrive because YOU managed it.  Chances are, if you have don’t have a specific person in mind on a list, you will find yourself roaming aimlessly for hours and most probably exit, confused, distraught, and empty-handed.

Holiday Gift Wrap: Let’s address all the wrapping paper, ribbons and bows already in your inventory.  They can create a huge mess if not properly organized. Consider all the new incoming wrapping paper. Those little gift cards (or stickers, even better) are a MUST for labeling the gifts, especially if you want to ensure that Aunt Shirley doesn’t get Uncle Ted’s tie.  Manage the chaos by labeling everything, and create a gift list so you can keep track for next year too. There are convenient wrapping paper storage containers like this one to organize your holiday wrapping all year long.  Perfect for a top shelf or under the bed access. There are many more options available at the Container Store.

Holiday Decor: Start early. Hopefully you have some kind of storage system already in place for retrieving all of your holiday decor, so the prep won’t be that crazy. But if you’re wondering where you put your favorite tablecloths, Chanukah menorah, or tree ornaments, this could be a stressful process.  But it need not be. Change it up this year and purchase storage bins for your inventory and box them with “like” categories, and label the contents.  Designate a consistent spot in a closet, garage, or attic. Next year will be a breeze!

Holiday Entertaining:  If you are hosting, I’m guessing you are frenzied with the endless amounts of money exhausted on holiday decorations, party goods, table settings, home decor, food, etc. Plan your menu ahead, and create a detailed shopping list to follow.

Visualize the actual dinner table and backtrack on how to create it. Break it down into smaller steps so you can maintain control throughout the planning and minimize last-minute anxiety. Write it all down so it is out of your head and onto a piece of paper.  It’s so easy to forget the simplest things when your brain is over-burdened.

Be a smart shopper and buy decorative holiday decor that will endure another season.  Pack it, preserve it, so you can store it away in your new storage bins.

Even if you are not hosting, there will additional spending on bringing a hostess gift, cooking a dish, baking, or purchasing some delectable pastry. Plan for it and schedule it to happen. Avoid the multiple runs to the liquor store (for that person you forgot to buy a gift for) and keep extra bottles of wine or vodka handy. Be prepared.  FYI, alcohol is the gift no one ever returns, lol.

Holiday Travel:  And if you are one of the fortunate ones that are also packing for a Xmas vacation with the family, it will require an even greater sense of organization.  The key to getting through all this merriment without having a meltdown is doing just what Santa does…making a list, jotting it down, and checking it twice.  Yep, lists, lists, and more lists. Better still, devise a standard checklist to refer to for all future travel.

Holiday Parties:  These are the fun things to keep track of, so keep an organized calendar and mark down all the dates you want to schedule in the month. Set up reminders to alert yourself to respectively RSVP and avoid double-booking. Of course, there will be some parties you’ll want to go to, and others you’ll have to attend. Prioritize and check off as you go.  If you’re on a budget, shop for clothing that can cross over for both business and casual attire.

Organize your holiday. Manage your time. Prepare by sticking to a daily plan and prioritizing tasks. Decide this year to make the holidays both joyful and productive.

Be merry, not stressed.  You choose.





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The Top Ten Virtues of a Snowstorm: It’s About More Than You Think!!

I have learned that there is great value in an epic snow blizzard event, both prior, during, and after.  First of all, because the weathermen get all excited about forecasting the impending doom and scare us all into thinking we will be stuck in our homes for days, it forces us to be more organized than any ordinary day.  The media urge us to get ready and be prepared.

The survival instinct in us emerges and so we all run to the supermarket because we fear we will be on lock-down for days without food, (and of course, let’s not forget the fresh milk, it’s always a commodity and the very first item to deplete itself)

Apparently, when we receive a weather advisory, we take immediate action and seem to react accordingly with little difficulty.  The day prior to a snowstorm, I notice that wherever I go, I get a sense that everybody is preparing, albeit cancelling appointments or rescheduling them, changing travel, etc., all in an effort to plan ahead.  You can feel it, the “hustle-bustle”  is in the air.  A teachable moment indeed, and a great eye-opener for ANY situation.

So this begs the question, where is your inner alert for readiness in an ordinary week?  Try this.  Take a look at your week at a glance with a little more critical thinking.  Prepare with a more heightened sense of organization and I bet it will bring you better results. Being organized prepares you for the unexpected and helps you focus on your goals, just like for a snowstorm.

As for the actual snow day, it’s a great opportunity to measure how you choose to spend your time.  It’s a time to reflect.  You’ve got a day off.

You could:

  1. Organize a closet, a drawer, or any room (hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big).
  2. Read an old fashioned book, if you haven’t got a Kindle or Nook yet (yes, that requires turning an actual page)
  3. Watch a movie or impose an all day marathon (popcorn a must).
  4. Call an old friend (the kind that the time lapsed never matters).
  5. Get lost on Facebook with no time-management in mind.
  6. Catch up on sleep (an impossible goal but worth the effort).
  7. Eat ALL the food you bought.
  8. Exercise at home (probably not likely).
  9. Sort mail and pay bills (this is a tough one, most likely on your “to hate”- list).
  10. Shovel?

 Or NOT!!!!!! Whether the snow day gives us time to do the things we love to do, or hate to do, the mere break from everyday routine is a great rethink for all of us to recognize how we use our time.

After the snowstorm has settled and you’ve shoveled your way back to the mundane, don’t be down on yourself if you went the lazy route, it’s YOUR time and YOU own it.  That being said, after being a recluse for a day or two, I am confident that you will be eager and happy to get out and rock the world tomorrow.  Everybody needs a snowstorm now and then.


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