Projects, Motivation Monday

I always get the most done when I have the most to do

I have a crazy busy week coming up.

My husband is going out of town to do some professional training and compete for World Champion at the ATA World Expo in Little Rock, Arkansas. If you’re not a fan of Martial Arts, and specifically my style of Martial Arts, it probably totally meaningless to you, but it’s a big deal for him and for us.

Because of the timing of this year’s event, I’m staying home to run our business and take care of our two little girls.

On the one hand, I’m completely overwhelmed by the prospect of this week (in fact, I have delayed doing some important preparation because I just didn’t want to think about it), but on the other hand, I know from experience, that I will probably get it all done. Our classes will happen, our family will be fed, my husband will get where he needs to go, and I’ll probably manage to keep our house in an above average state of order.

Why?

Because I have to.

And if there’s something that I’m not able to do, finish or accomplish…I’ll still have to figure something out.

I think this is crazy, but it’s true. The more I have to do, the more I get done. There have been times in my life where I had no commitments or obligations, and I got nothing done. I could have done literally anything – meditated on the beach, re-read all seven Harry Potter books, written The Great American Novel, learned to knit, crusaded for World Peace – yet I filled that time with nothing of lasting consequence.

I’ll be honest, this week, I’m sure I’ll wish I had a little bit of that down time in a bottle for a quick recharge, and I know that I couldn’t be productive like this for an extended period of time. Part of what makes a sprint like this possible is knowing exactly where the finish line is and being able to see it for the whole race. But I still find it motivating because it’s an opportunity to stretch myself and prove to myself that I have energy, time and resources on a regular basis that I’m not tapping into.

What do you think?

Do you get more done when you have more to do? Or do you prefer a more even pace to work?

I hope you have a great week!

Motivation Monday, Projects

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing

Fun Fact: When you get to Florida, about halfway down the peninsula, you move from the temperate climate with the four seasons “spring, summer, fall and winter” and instead have a more tropical climate that follows the “wet season, rainy season” pattern. I live right at the edge between the tropical and temperate zones, so we have “seasons” but it’s mostly a wet and dry season.

That’s all to say, we’ve officially entered the wet season, and it has been wet for the last two weeks.

This is a blessing for thirsty yards and has slowed the spread of wildfires we’ve been experiencing frequently this Spring. But, it also means that the air is full of allergens and we’ve experienced a huge increase in our local mosquito population.

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Mercifully, the Zika fear has largely passed, and we in Florida don’t usually have to worry about mosquitoes passing along diseases, but the bites are nevertheless unpleasant, and the urge to scratch a bite is almost impossible to resist. But…the fastest way for a mosquito bite to heal is to leave it alone. This is difficult to explain to my four-year-old, and we have an on-hand supply of benedryl cream, children’s benedryl, witch hazel, and other home remedies to ease the discomfort of the mosquito bite.

I was thinking about that today because I think there are many mosquito bites in our life; annoyances that are tempting to scratch, but the more we scratch, the worse it gets. In fact, the relatively harmless bite can become infected and dangerous is you scratch it too much.

In these situations, the best thing we can do is leave it alone. Many situations will resolve themselves without our action and the more we do to “help” the longer we make it last.

I hope this is a helpful tip for you! Let me know if it works for you and how you decide if something is a “mosquito bite” or not.

Motivation Monday

Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!

Lately, we’ve started a tradition in my house of watching the 90s PBS Hit, The Magic School Bus with my daughters while we eat lunch.

It is a compromise. I don’t like letting my daughters watch a lot of television, but if I say, “No you can’t watch television ever.” The older one asks to watch tv ALL the time. So, we schedule it. At lunch time, 2 episodes.

Also, I love The Magic School Bus. In every episode, you know it’s time for a field trip when Ms. Frizzle (voiced by the amazing Lily Tomlin), says, “I think it’s time to take chances, make mistakes, and GET MESSY!”

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Isn’t that a great mantra?

How often do we avoid doing something because we’re afraid of taking chances…because it might not turn out well. How often do we stick to what’s safe because we’re afraid to make mistakes. And how often do you avoid getting messy?

One of the things I love about the show is that the kids in Ms. Frizzle’s class do make mistakes, they make bad assumptions, they get messy. But, they always figure it out and learn a valuable lesson along the way.

So often we give other people permission to take chances, make mistakes and get messy – but we don’t give it to ourselves (I know I don’t!). So…even if it’s just a little step…I hope you look for opportunities to follow Ms. Frizzle’s advice this week and step outside your comfort zone to see what happens!

Have a great week!

Motivation Monday, Projects

I take my positive attitude very seriously

A few weeks ago, we were talking about self-esteem in one of my taekwondo classes. A little girl, about 7, raised her hand and said, “You can have a positive attitude in school, or you can be serious.”

I responded, “I take my positive attitude very seriously.”

I think my student has unconsciously learned something that most of us believe – we can either have fun or we can get stuff done.

But why is that?

Why can’t we have fun while we get stuff done?

I went on to say to my student that I think being silly and being positive are very different things.

I’m going to be really hokey here – but I take my positive attitude very seriously. I make a choice every day to be grateful, to remind myself of the things I love, and practice joy.

I know there a plenty of reasons to feel despair about the world. Just yesterday, I read about child marriage, sea turtles eating microplastics and how women in refugee camps don’t have adequate access to menstrual products and facilities to manage their periods. So yeah – there are a lot of terrible things in the world, and not only are they terrible, but they’re complicated and hard to fix.

But the fact is, I’m not doing anything to help any of these problems if I sit around feeling terrible about it all day. 

So, I take time to remind myself of the things I’m grateful for: I’m grateful for air conditioning; I’m grateful for my daughters; I’m grateful for my health; I’m grateful for sunshine; I’m grateful for my dog; I’m grateful for the problems and challenges I’ve had to figure out in my life because they’ve expanded my capacity; I’m grateful for the families that trust my husband and me to teach their children Martial Arts; I’m grateful for telephones; I’m grateful for the internet; I’m grateful for reliable transportation; I’m so grateful for my husband – I’m grateful that he’s neat and tidy; I’m grateful that he’s a wonderful father; I’m grateful that he accepts me as I am and helps me be more; I’m grateful for indoor plumbing and clean running water…

Once I get started, I find myself appreciating my life, the world I live in and I feel more empowered to do something about the problems that are in front of me. Maybe I can’t save all the sea turtles, but I can stop using plastic straws, I can use reusable grocery bags, I can stop buying plastic silverware. I can donate a box of pads to a local shelter. It’s not a lot. It doesn’t solve everything, but it’s one thing. And once you’ve started one thing, there’s a chance you’ll do another thing.

The magical thing for me about gratitude, love, and joy is that they instantly replace the feeling of despair and helplessness with something better. Knowing that good things have happened and are happening helps me have faith that these good things will continue to happen.

It’s a little thing, but it helps.

If you need more convincing, I give you my favorite exercise philosopher, Elle Woods:

Do you have any tips for developing a positive attitude? I do take this very seriously, and I’m always looking for more ideas and strategies to keep my spirits lifted! Leave a comment below!

Motivation Monday, Projects

You shouldn’t always do the opposite of a bad thing

There are some people in my life, and I’m sure you have them too, that I refer to as “reverse barometers.” These are people – whether it’s a manager at work, government official, distant relative, etc. – with whom you want to share nothing in common.

It’s tempting to think to yourself, “if so-and-so does this, then the best course of action is to do the exact opposite.”

Unfortunately, that is usually not the case.

What I have found over and over again is that the “reverse barometers” in my life are not doing everything wrong. Sometimes they have a tone, an attitude, an approach that is ineffective, but doing the opposite does not guarantee a good result.

I took a driving class once, and we had the opportunity to practice driving on a course that simulated hydroplaning, obstacles on the road, and other dangers you might see on the road. And one of the big things I took away from that class was that you shouldn’t overcorrect in your car. It’s dangerous and jarring.

In your life and leadership style – whether you’re a parent, a friend, a manager, or some other sort of leader – I believe that you’ll find that gentle course corrections are smoother, easier to maintain and more effective. This can be hard to do because we often have strong feelings about the “reverse barometers” in our life. But, I think it’s helpful – for our souls and for our actions – to give them a little grace, and not assume that EVERYTHING they do is wrong.

So, this week, I invite you to look at a frustrating leader in your life or experience, and see if you can decide what about their approach you think you could tweak or modify to make it more effective. A small tweak can lead to a big change!

Have a great week!

Motivation Monday, Projects

5 Tips for Overcoming Insurmountable 1st Steps

Many weeks, my Mondays start with me thinking:

“It’s 9:00 AM! Why haven’t I had breakfast, responded to all my email, played with my kids for an hour, exercised for 45 minutes, meditated, showered, shared a dynamic conversation over coffee with my husband, and planned my whole week? I’m such a failure!”

My expectations are a teensy-weency bit unrealistic.

The only reason that this is a problem is that once I’ve started getting down on myself, I tend to have a hard time getting started on the things I want and need to do. For my business, I frequently need to process memberships, order merchandise, and take care of routine accounting tasks, but when I sit down at my desk, I’m so overwhelmed by all I have to do that sometimes I don’t get any of it done!

These are some strategies I use to help myself overcome the weight of the greatest insurmountable first step – getting started!

  1. Make a playlist

Upbeat music is remarkably helpful for getting you started actually doing something. I find I can’t focus when I’m listening to people talking, so even though I love listening and learning from podcasts, when I need to get stuff done, I listen to music. Some of my favorite songs are on our 3:30 Project playlist on Spotify.

Spotify is a great tool because you can create your own custom playlists or listen to playlists other people have made!

2.  Do SOMETHING early in the day

My workday doesn’t usually begin until about 1:00 in the afternoon, which I know is a little unusual. But what I’ve found is that I still need to do some work that gets me closer to a goal or takes care of an important task early in the day. If I don’t, I tend to feel like, “well, today’s been a waste, let’s try again tomorrow.” I recognize that this is not true, but it’s easier for me to keep the momentum going than to try to start from scratch later in the day.

3. Prioritize your to-do list

Stephen Covey talks about the importance of differentiating between what is urgent and what is most important. Responding to emails, texts and phone calls can take over your day because those feel urgent. We can get carried away taking care of other people’s priorities and missing our own. Make sure you know what your most important task for the day is an get to that first rather than putting it off – even in favor of shorter tasks that can be checked off your list quickly.

4. Break down big projects into smaller steps

I often get hung up on multi-step tasks because I over-chunk it. For example, earlier this year I was working on filing my corporate tax return. And when I thought “TAX RETURN” I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. But, when I broke it down into smaller steps (ex. collect documents from 2016, print out statements from banks, charities and loans, download software, etc.), I was able to make some incremental progress, which gave me momentum in taking care of the big task. I find it remarkable how much a little forward progress can give me the motivation to keep going on a big project.

5. Give yourself credit for the progress you’ve made

Often I wait until I’m totally done with a project to give myself a pat on the back. But when you withhold praise from yourself, you’re less likely to keep going and making progress. You deserve to feel good for the progress you’ve made – even if it’s just a little bit. So, even if you just did one teeny-weeny-iddi-bitty little thing, it’s progress that you can build on! Great job!

 

Do you have any great tips for getting started and making progress on Mondays? I’m always on the look out for ways to be more productive! Leave your tips in the comments section!

 

Motivation Monday, Projects

Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness

In my Martial Arts academy, we teach sparring. It’s usually considered an advantage in our style to be tall – taller people have long legs, so they have more reach and can often kick their opponent before their opponent reaches them. But, if you can get around their legs, their height becomes a weakness. Taller people tend to be easy to get off balance and if you get “inside” you can hit them with a punch or hand technique, and their legs are too long to kick you away.

In business, large companies have a lot of power – they have large advertising budgets, nationwide distribution networks, bargaining power, research teams and analysts at their disposal. But their strength is also their weakness. By necessity they have bureaucracies to manage day-to-day operations. If they want to make a change, they have to spend a lot of time and money re-training everyone in the company. They can get rooted in an “old” way of doing things and be blindsided by changes in culture or technology. And in the age of cell phone video, as United Airlines has recently experienced, if you have one series of unfortunate PR events, the whole company is damaged.

I think it’s helpful to remember this because it’s useful to consider the downsides of your strengths, not so you go through life second guessing yourself, but so you can avoid being your own worst enemy. Maybe you’re someone who is energized by new projects or ideas, but you have a hard time following through to the end. You can acknowledge and address this potential liability by teaming up with people who will help you follow through, or you can structure your career or activities to be focused on starting new things. Maybe you’re someone who’s really good at seeing the potential risks of a new venture, but you tend to get analysis paralysis and delay taking actions. Your strength can hold you back if you don’t recognize it and find a way to move forward.

I hope this idea helps you think about your strengths and not be held back by the weaknesses that accompany them!

Also – I feel like it wouldn’t count as a Motivation Monday without a clip from an animated movie, so here’s a fun illustration of this idea from Kung Fu Panda

Motivation Monday, Projects

Motivation Monday

For the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly reading a book by Brené Brown called I thought it was just me (but it isn’t). In it, Brown discusses shame, the ways that shame affects women, and strategies individuals can use to move past shame in your life and in to self-acceptance.

I’m really enjoying the book. It’s honest, real, practical, but it’s also uncomfortable and challenging. It’s challenging in a good way…but it’s not exactly fun to confront and work through the things in your life that paralyze you with shame.

Today, I read a section about this scene in the 1983 movie Flashdance.

 

Brown writes:

We all wanted to be Alex in Flashdance. She was perfect — ripped clothing looked sexy; welding looked exciting; ballet looked cool and break dancing looked easy. But alas, the perfection was only an illusion. I was disappointed to learn that the film director used four different people to create that audition sequence: Jennifer Beal’s beautiful face, a professional dancer for the ballet scenes, a champion gymnast for the leaping and jumping and a male street performer for the break dancing. All those bad perms and all that money for leg warmers…for what? To try and achieve some level of perfection that doesn’t exist.

If most of us stopped to examine the expectations we set for ourselves, we would discover that, like the scene in Flashdance, our concept of perfection is so unrealistic that it can’t exist in one person. instead, it’s a combination of pieces or snippets of what’s perceived as perfect. We don’t want to be good at what we do, we want to be perfect — we want to edit together all the best clips of what we see to form our lives.

I know that there are plenty of extraordinary, multi-talented people in the world, and I don’t want to take anything away from them. But, I feel like there’s a difference between honoring and admiring the gifted and talented among us, and feeling like that is a norm that we should all be able to achieve in our own life.

As someone who has always strived for excellence in my life, I find it fantastically freeing to think that I don’t have to expect perfection of myself. Later in this chapter, Brown suggests that setting goals for growth and improvement is more empowering than expecting yourself to be perfect. I found that really resonated with me, and I hope it resonates with you this week!

I hope you have a week full of incremental improvement and growth! Do your best!

If you’re interested in reading Brown’s book, here’s a link!
I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”

Motivation Monday, Projects

Motivation Monday

SALVADORAN ARCHBISHOP OSCAR ROMERO

This week, I ran across this quote from in Common Prayer, a liturgy for ordinary radicals.

Oscar Romero wrote,

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts: it is beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is the Lord’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No sermon says all that should be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. That is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted knowing they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that affects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very, very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own.”

 

Whether you share his faith or not, I find it comforting and motivating to keep in mind that we cannot do everything ourselves. Our lives are connected to the larger whole of humanity and creation, we have a role to play and hopefully we will play it very well. But, our lives are ultimately going to be incomplete. There will always be more we wish we could have done, but that should not prevent us from doing all that we can.

Have a great week!

 

Motivation Monday, Projects

Being where you are

This week, I’ve felt a little discouraged because I haven’t made more progress on my goals: I’m not caught up on everything I need to be caught up on; I’m not managing my time as well as I’d like; I have a mountain of work that I want to do that I’m not doing up to my standard.

When I look around, I see people who are doing the kinds of things I want to be doing. And from my perspective, they are doing them way better than I will ever be able to do them, and I just feel like giving up.

Why bother trying to write a Motivation Monday blog when there are 10,000,000 other resources that are way more motivating than anything I can offer? Why bother trying to put your voice out there when other voices are more eloquent and articulate than anything I can write? Why bother trying to run a business when 90% of small businesses fail anyway?

So, today, I’m going to try to remember that these people I look up to didn’t start out as the eloquent, together, polished, inspiring people I see today. They started wherever they were with whatever resources they had.

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

My resolution for the new year was to be and do a little better. I know the only way to reach a destination, whether it’s a physical destination, an accomplishment, or a mental state is to take one step in the right direction and adjust as you go.

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So, wherever you’re going. I hope you take a moment today to give yourself credit for all the distance you’ve already covered and have the courage to try again today and tomorrow to take one more step.