Posts in Habits

Treat Yourself

May 11th, 2016 Posted by Habits, Live, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Treat Yourself”

It’s no secret I love Gretchen Rubin and her books and her podcast. Her recent book, Better Than Before, is all about habits, and she offers strategies and tips for creating, keeping, and breaking habits.

One tip for keeping a habit is this concept of “treats.” Giving myself treats is something I’ve used frequently in the past to enforce my good habits. Gretchen cautions that there is a difference between treats and rewards. You earn a reward. And, for me, (and maybe for others, too) that can be dangerous.

For example, “I exercised today! I deserve a huge cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake.”

Danger! Danger!

Maybe that works okay for some people, but not for me. Rewards have a sneaky way of undoing all the work I’ve done. And in the past I’ve “rewarded” myself as a knee-jerk reaction to something. Not because I carefully considered it.

Now, treats are different. Especially healthy treats. Treats are a way for me to encourage myself to keep going. Treats motivate me to get to a milestone. Treats are things I think of in advance and plan to give myself.

I try to keep my treats healthy, easy, accessible, and free. The items on my treat list don’t always meet that criteria. But most are pretty close.

Here are a list of my favorite treats:

+Listening to podcasts while I do some sort of chore. Whenever I have to clean up the kitchen, gather up the trash, do the laundry, etc…I get to listen to a podcast. I hoard them until these moments (usually), so it makes me look forward to listening. My favorites are Happier with Gretchen Rubin (obviously!) and the Girl Next Door Podcast.

+Calling my mom. My mom lives close by, so we see each other as often as we can. But we call and text each other frequently. Even if it’s just a few minutes, I look forward to connecting with her quickly.

+A good body scrub. I’ve tried tons and tons of body scrubs, but the lavender salt scrub from Trader Joes is my favorite. At $6, it won’t break the bank, and when I use it, I feel like I’m at a spa.

+Dairy Queen. This is a BIG treat and one I only get a couple times a year. I’m a member of the Blizzard of the Month Club, so I receive emails about the latest and greatest blizzards. I patiently wait for one that particularly calls to me (usually something peanut butter chocolate), and Dan and I make a plan about when we will have it. And I enjoy every last bit. No guilt.

friday-jan-22-coffee-mug

+Drinking coffee in the shower. I totally stole this from my friend, Kelsey. She posted about it, and I thought I’d try it. And I’m so on board. Every morning after my work out, I pour myself a steamy mug of coffee to drink. Yep, in the shower. I’m fortunate to have a big shower with a bench, so I can sip and then sit my coffee on the bench where it won’t get water or soap in it.

+Watching YouTube videos. Specifically beauty videos and plan with me type videos. These are like a comfort food to me. I could watch them for hours and hours. It’s such a treat for me to settle into our bed after I get Thomas down (and Dan is busy with the big kids) and pull up a video. Most are anywhere from five to ten minutes, the perfect amount of time to sneak in a quick treat.

+Clean sheets and towels. If I could, I’d change our sheets and towels daily. Sadly, I just cannot keep up that pace. So Sundays are my sheets and towels day. I love tossing in the loads, I love putting the loads in the dryer, and I love knowing that Sunday night I’m slipping into clean sheets. It really sets the tone for my week.

book-report-march-2016

+Reading. I love reading, and I try to read several times a day. I sneak it in while I’m blow drying my hair (Yep, while I’m drying my hair. I have a Kindle, so I can prop it up), while I’m eating lunch, in the car pool line, and in bed before I fall asleep.

+Browsing around Target/World Market/the Mall/basically any place as long as I’m alone. Truly, a great fantasy of mine is to be alone. I am never, ever alone. I can’t remember the last time I was alone. So a great treat would be slowly window shopping, touching all the beautiful things I can’t have because my kids will break them.

+Listening to music. I love music, but I’m usually listening to Les Mills music because I’m reviewing tracks for teaching. But, I try to give myself a break from running through choreography in my head and create a playlist in Spotify of all my favorite songs, old and new.

+Drinking coffee in the afternoon. Around 2 p.m. I need a re-set. I fire up the Keurig and drink a hot cup of coffee in the afternoon to keep me firing until bedtime. Such a delicious treat.

+Voxer. I am obsessed with Voxer. I’m currently Voxing with Kelsey, Erica, and Katie. (If you want to Voxer with me, add me!). It is such a treat to hear the kind and supportive messages these ladies leave. It almost makes me tear up because I just yearn for their friendship. I look forward to listening to their message AND sending them messages. These messages make my day, several times a day.

fresh-flowers

+Fresh flowers. I love buying myself fresh flowers, and I do it often. When I’m at the grocery, I take a look at what’s on sale, and if a bunch looks good, I get it for myself. Try it. You’re worth it. I just loving seeing them on my kitchen island.

candle

+Lighting a good scented candle. I love a good candle. I do find it hard to find candles that actually throw a scent. Usually Yankee candle is a good bet. I love lighting it for the flickering light and the scent.

+Getting rid of stuff. I love love love getting rid of stuff. Feels so good I even wrote a guide for it. Ask me to come clean out your closet. I find it very relaxing.

+Creating and organizing lists (and planning). I love planning and organizing. It’s a treat to have a few minutes to myself to re-organize a list and plan out my to do list.

+Flipping back through my own Instagram feed. I just love scrolling through my own Instagram pictures. It always reminds me to stay positive, reminds me of all the good in my life, and makes me smile. (Also I can see how far I’ve come. I’m super happy to NOT be pregnant right now.)

In writing this list, it’s occurred to me that my treats bring me great comfort. I build them into my habits and routines to create creature comforts for myself that bolster me when life smacks me in the face, as it often does. These little treats keep my soul happy.

I’m dying to know: what are your favorite treats? Please share, so I can add them to my list!

How I stay on top of my email

June 21st, 2012 Posted by Habits, Live, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “How I stay on top of my email”

I’m an email ninja.

It comes in, I respond, I’m done.

I was one of those work people who couldn’t leave anything unread in her work inbox.  At the end of my day, I had to 1) have read every email, 2) respond to everything I could repond to, and/or 3) make a note in my notebook telling myself what information I needed to gather to answer the email and make a plan to respond the next day.

I lived for the zero unread status.

After I left my job when Kate was born, I applied the same principles to my personal email.  On any given day, I’ll get bunches and bunches of emails from the ladies in my mom’s group, friends, family, blog readers, editors and sources for my freelance projects, billions of 20% from Old Navy emails, and other random stuff.

I use Gmail as my email system, and Gmail’s Priority Inbox saves me from the embarrasment of forgetting about emails, loosing important stuff, and all other sorts of email travesties.

Here’s my system:

I observe a one-touch system.  Actually, I do this with everything.  But it works fabulously for email.  When an email comes in, I deal with it right away.  I’ll respond back immediately or flag it/star it (Gmail on my computer lets me “star” things, and if I’m on my iPhone or iPad, I hit “Flag” under the “Mark” button within the email).  When you “Flag” something on your iPhone or iPad, it will show up as a starred item in your desktop version of Gmail.  Seamless, that Google.

At the end of each day when I’m ready to be done with email (usually around 7:30 p.m.), I take a look at my starred items and bust through them.  I don’t let myself pick and choose.  I just run down the list and answer each in turn.  This system keeps me on track and prevents me from running out of steam.

Another trick: emails don’t have to be novels.  In fact, they shouldn’t.  Just the facts, ma’am.  People appreciate reading as little as possible.  If your pal emails you asking to get together, you could send a two-sentence response with a date, time, and place.  You don’t need to say, I’m NOT free X day and time.  That’s not useful information.  Your friend doesn’t care when you’re not free.  He or she wants to know when you are free.

Some productivity experts suggest limiting email usage to certain times of day.  That would never work for my personality, job, or schedule.  I want to know immediately when a source emails me back or there is a sale at JCrew or if someone needs a sub in one hour for their 5:30 p.m. step class.  I need to be on top of things.  And I limit it as needed.  If something hits my inbox after 7:30 p.m. (unless it’s some sort of Step Class emergency), I just flag that baby and answer it tomorrow.

Answering email right away may sound daunting, but once you’re on top of your email, it will be easy to maintain.  And if you’re currently downing, I suggest carving out an hour or two to combing through your inbox and answering and starring things as needed.

How do you stay on top of your email?  Any time-saving tips?

 

 

Making the most of your weekends

November 21st, 2011 Posted by Habits, Live, Uncategorized 4 thoughts on “Making the most of your weekends”

Confession: I am not good at the weekend.

You all know I like to use a portion of Sunday to prepare for the week. But what about the rest of my weekend?

The truth is, I’m not that good at planning a good weekend.

I can plan my weeks just fine. I schedule my time as effectively and productively as possible. But my weekends seemed to nose dive into nothing.

What gives?

I think the issue is, the week is easy for me to plan because it requires a schedule. And each day of the week dictates a certain thing to be done. For example, my work meetings are always Monday mornings. And Kate and I have music and movement class Tuesday mornings. Wednesdays are for the grocery and other errands. Playgroup is Thursday mornings. Fridays are for whatever I could not get done Monday through Thursday – and oftentimes a fun outing with friends.

But Saturday and Sunday? They’re loosey goosey. And I don’t do loosey goosey.

But I also want to leave myself some breathing room on Saturday and Sunday because my weeks are wrapped tighter than a pair of skinny jeans.

So, what usually happens at Casa Bagley? Dan and I start asking each other, “what should we do this weekend?” And we keep asking it. And asking it. And asking it. And before we know it, it’s Saturday at 1 p.m. And we’ve done nothing. Nothing fun or productive.

Soon I couldn’t take it. We had to do something. But I did not want to schedule so much that I felt like Monday through Sunday were just one, giant, continuous loop of errands and chores and drudgery. So for the past couple months, I’ve been working a system that seems to be working. A system where I can have fun, relax, and get things done.

Here’s what I do:

1. The Wednesday rule. I try to decide by Wednesday evening what’s going to happen that weekend. If we don’t have something previously scheduled like a family dinner or getting together with friends and find ourselves with an open weekend, by Wednesday night, I want to nail down something. It doesn’t have to be a big thing or a small thing. Just something. I go through our perpetual task list/fun list with Dan, and we settle on The Thing we’re going to do. That way, even if we don’t do anything else, we’ve done at least one thing.

2. Pick three things. I had a hard time finding out what was too much and what was too little to do on the weekends. Some weekends I felt completely overbooked, running from one thing to another. And other weekends, we barely left the house once. So, I like to have at least three things going on. That could mean things for me personally or things as a family. Or a combination. So maybe I’ll plan to get together with a girlfriend and prepare a couple blog posts. Then I’ll pick something to do with Dan and Kate. Three things are a plenty.

3. Advanced planning. Somewhere around the beginning of the month, Dan and I talk about what goals we want to accomplish. Perhaps it’s raking the yard, having friends over for dinner we haven’t seen in a while, going to see a movie, whatever. Then we plot those out and actually schedule them. Meaning, they are in both our calendars. And then they are not forgotten. Planning ahead ensure we actually do the things we set out to do. It also reminds me that I need to ask my parent’s to watch Kate or pick up materials for a project.

4. Go-to things to do. Plans fall through. Things change. Sometimes you have to go with the flow. So, I keep a back up plan in my mind of alternatives. We are members of Meadowlark Gardens, so we can always pop over there for a walk around and some picture taking. Or we could walk around Tysons Corner. Or do research at Home Depot for our never-ending home to-do list.

The other thing to remember is, I always own my choice, no matter the choice. So, a weekend of lazying around, catching up on Grey’s Anatomy, reading Game of Thrones, preparing some blog posts, and playing with Kate at the park might not be some people’s idea of a good time, but it works for me.

Tell me, how do you make the most of your weekends?

The secret to my productive weeks

November 14th, 2011 Posted by Habits, Live, Uncategorized 14 thoughts on “The secret to my productive weeks”

My secret for a productive week?

Sunday prep.

Sundays are not my day of rest. Sundays are for getting things done in an effort to smooth out the week as best as I can.

When I start the week off organized, thoughtfully, and with a plan, I feel much more relaxed and under control during the week.

So, what do I do on Sundays to plan for the week ahead? Here’s my Sunday plan of action:

1. Laundry. Sunday is my major laundry day. I wash all the sheets and towels and any other outstanding dirty clothes. I start my process Sunday morning, and by Sunday evening, my goal is to have an empty hamper and all the wash put away. That way, everyone starts off the week with clean sheets, towels, and more than enough underwear to make it to whenever I do wash during the week.

2. Clean out the fridge. This is so major. Taking the time Sunday to dump out old leftovers and anything expired leaves me with an organized fridge for the week. Also, it gives me a chance to see what I need to buy (and more importantly, what I don’t – hello, three tubs of sour cream) at my weekly shopping trip. Plus, I am less likely to find smelly, molded over food during the week. (Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean. I am sure each of you has found something growing in your cream cheese before.

3. Major cleaning chores. I tackle vacuuming and floor washing on Sunday. Why? Dan entertains Kate, so I can quickly move through the house. Kate is not the biggest fan of the vacuum. So with Dan on Kate duty, I can get my floors squeaky clean in minimal time and with far less screaming. Since I can move quickly through the floors, I usually have time to wipe down the bathrooms, too.

4. Plan out my week – online and on paper. I use a combination of Google Calendar and Evernote and my Erin Condren planner to organize my weeks. On Sunday, I sit down with my Google Calendar open, my work Outlook calendar, and my paper planner. I see what’s going on and make sure all my calendar’s sync. Once I know what meetings, events, activities, etc…I have going on, I type up all the things I need to get done on the task list in Google calendar. Sometimes I have to scale back once I see the list. There is only one Sarah. Once I see my week and what I want/need to accomplish, I work all my To Dos and errands into the mix.

5. Make a meal plan and grocery list. Since I’ve cleaned out the fridge, I know what I’ve got and what I need. So I make a grocery list and accompanying meal plan and schedule a time for me to hit the grocery. Plotting out my meals saves me so much time and effort. That way, I know when I need to pull chicken out of the freezer to defrost, what I can prep ahead, what I can’t. I schedule the easy stuff on challenging days and the more complex stuff for days when I know I have an easier day.

6. Answer emails/send emails. I like to start my weeks off fresh, which includes a fresh inbox. Sundays I go through all my starred emails and either 1) reply or 2) do what I need to do so I can reply. My goal is always to start off the week at no starred emails. That doesn’t always work. But I can significantly reduce email clutter taking care of those emails requiring just a quick response from me.

7. Put things away. I take time Sunday to put back things that seemed to have migrated during the week. Cups of water on desks, finished magazines on bedside tables, stuff Kate tosses into the hamper. I also go through the house and do things like fill up the coffee bean canister, soap dispensers, flour container, etc… I also take a few minutes to clean out my purse. It never fails to amaze me how much junk I manage to collect within a week. It seems insignificant, but these small measures eliminate one more thing I need to do during the week. Putting everything back in it’s place is another way I create clean surfaces and fresh starts to my week.

8. Schedule me time. If I don’t take a minute to think about myself, I won’t. I’ll spend the entire week taking care of everyone but me. And my Friday night, I’m completely wiped and end up slogging through the weekend. I make time to meet up with friends, schedule a time for me to go to CVS to browse beauty products solo, find time each evening after Kate goes to bed for some reading or blogging. Me time, it’s crucial and a half. Make the time.

Working through these items doesn’t always make for the most relaxing Sunday, but I find I can cross off these things pretty quickly and have late Sunday afternoon/evening to relax. And with practice, I’ve found I can move through these chores fast. I am just the type of person who likes things organized, so, for me, it’s so worth it to take a portion of my day and dedicate myself to plotting out my week and putting small measures into place that take some of the stress off of my Monday through Fridays.

How about you? Do you plot our your weeks Sundays? How do you prepare for the week ahead?

How I keep it all together: my favorite online organizational tools

June 22nd, 2011 Posted by Goals, Habits, Live, Uncategorized 14 thoughts on “How I keep it all together: my favorite online organizational tools”

Nothing gets me more frenzied than disorganization. I like things to have a place and things to be in their place. And that desire spreads not only to the toys and clothes and paper and other stuff of life but also organized thoughts, ideas, and daily schedule.

When I first started my gig as a SAHM, I found that without the schedule of a traditional “work” environment, I felt at a loss as to how to schedule my day. Part of that problem was my newborn who seemed to operate on her own ideas of how the day should go, and I was supposed to just guess her next move. But soon I got to be a pretty good guesser, and I worked to create a manageable schedule.

Now, I don’t like holding things in my head. Well, I take that back. My mind is always spinning with things I want to do and stuff I need to get done. But I like to give those things a place to go instead of taking up valuable real estate in my head that I want emptied, so I can watch the latest Toddlers and Tiaras.

Anyway, after much pondering, I dreamed up my ideal scheduling/tracking system. Paper and pen would not do, I needed something computer based that could do the following:

1) I needed an online and desktop application, so I could use the system on any computer.

2) The system also needed to be available on an iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. (Note: I only have an iPod touch in this moment, but I figured somewhere down the line if I was super lucky and the stars aligned, I could get myself an iPhone and/or iPad, so I wanted this system to work on all devices.)

3) I wanted the system to be one of those all-in-one things that could support a calendar, notes, capture screen shots, organize notes into notebooks, and keep running lists.

So, I know what you are thinking. Why don’t you use Outlook. No. I like the look and feel of the web-based gmail, so I was unwilling to switch to Outlook. Plus, I needed my Outlook for another reason (which will be revealed later this summer). So, no, not Outlook. I tried Microsoft OneNote. I liked the look and feel, but it lacked a calendaring system that, to me, is absolutely critical. I spent hours and hours trying to find the perfect calendaring/to-do/note taking system. I came close with Awesome Note, but it lacked a desktop or web-based feature.

After lamenting my inability to find exactly what I wanted in one system and after Dan refused to make me said system, I finally had to give up on my dream for an all-in-one online thought organizational system. Instead, I spent some time cobbling together what was available into a workable arrangement.

So, I thought I would share my system for keeping track of all the stuff in my head. Behold, my two weapons of choice: Evernote and Google calendar.

I am sure you just slammed your head into the keyboard because you thought I was going to say something groundbreaking. Sorry, I wish. Instead, all I can offer is a glimpse into my workable, albeit limited online thought organizing solution.

First, Evernote. Oh, I love Evernote. It meets several criteria. First, it is web-based, features an iPod app, and offers a download to your desktop. So versatile! That is crucial to my happiness. I want to be able to access my notes from just about anywhere. So, what notes, you ask? Evernote allows you to make as many notebooks as you want. So, I have a notebook for my meal plans (where I keep my grocery list and meal agenda for the week), a notebook for my blogging ideas, a notebook for recipes I find, a notebook for my Vienna Moms stuff, a notebook for my new, exciting work stuff to be revealed later this summer. This works great. Instead of keeping several different paper notebooks, I keep all my notes in one place. Evernote also does lots of other useful stuff like allow you to share a note via Facebook, Twitter, or email, and you can also clip webpages to Evernote.

At first, as a real notebook paper gal, I was not sure I would like the idea of paper-less notes kept all in one place. I was the type of girl who had a subject notebook for each of her classes in high school. I liked my stuff separated into distinct places. But, I was finding a paper notebook system too cumbersome. Plus, I had nowhere to keep all these notebooks and more often than not, Kate ended up ripping pages out. So, now I use Evernote for everything, and I could not be happier.

Okay, now to the calendaring. I was a lite Google Calendar using girl when I first got gmail. I thought it was…okay. I did not like how I had to create different calendars for different types of things. You know how you can categorize events in Outlook with different colors but everything is on the same calendar? I wanted Google Calendar to do that. But, rather than argue with the facts of Google Calendar, I just had to give in and use it as directed. So, I made a calendar for my personal stuff (doctor appointments, Kate’s doctor appointments, family stuff, friend’s parties), another calendar for my Vienna Moms events, and another calendar for blog postings. So, when I have an event, I just add it to its appropriate calendar. It was hard to manage at first, but now that I am used to it, it functions much like Outlook for me. I also integrate the use of Google Tasks into the calendar to serve as my To Do list. So far, so good. And much better than my previous Post-It system since Kate can’t remove these tasks from my desk and eat them.

So, that is my system. A combination of Evernote and Google Calendar keeps my thoughts organized. Neither are super sexy, but they get the job done. Hopefully one day that all-in-one system I want so desperately will become available, but, in the meantime, I get along pretty well using these two tools.

How about you? What online tools do you use to stay organized?

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