Sunday, 20 January 2013

Week Three Intentions: Rest Easy

I always think it's funny when people say they need to be more self-disciplined, because I have a problem on the opposite end of the spectrum. As mentioned last week, learning to chill out is kind of my continuous education. I'm an uptight Seattleite and I'm stressed out because I have SO MUCH I WANT TO DO -- there's just not enough time in the day. And I want all those things I do to be amazing. What a burden.

This week my goal was to push into something very against my grain: Let go and enjoy. But shouldn't I be working harder? Shouldn't I be more productive? What about my dairy intake?! Aghhhh...

The reality is that I'm a very ambitious person with a lot I want to accomplish. But the counter-intuitive thing is that I can't accomplish much if I'm stressed out, over-stretched, and paralyzed by everything I have to do. The best, healthiest thing to do is to learn how to prioritize and do what's most important (and what has the biggest impact), to get my ducks all in a row, and then let go. Enjoy down time. Do things just for the pure enjoyment. So crazy.

This week I:
  • carried on with my morning breathing exercise on the way into work each day
  • when I felt stressed at work, took a quick time out and breathed (it works, I swear)
  • did yoga twice
  • got really into oatmeal (so good with cinnamon and rice milk in winter!)
  • implemented some sweet productivity methods
I'm reading two great books about stress-free productivity right now. Both essentially say that you've got to find a system that works, and then maintain it. Then once you've "closed the loop" on a task or project, your mind is free to rest when the time comes. I'm listening to Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen on audiobook in the morning (after breathing time) and also reading What To Do When There's Too Much To Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes A Day by Laura Stack. Both are very worthwhile. 

I take solace in "rest easy" because it doesn't mean "chill out and be irresponsible." It encompasses a preparedness that allows rest and the wisdom to know that the weight of the world does not sit on me. 

This coming week I'm going to continue to focus on developing stress-free productivity skills and further look into stress management techniques. You'd think I'm super stressed, wouldn't you? I'm actually not right now, but I know that in general I am kind of tense person. And I want to take this down time to put good practices into place so that when things do get busy, I'm cool, calm, and collected.

Do you have any good stress management techniques I should try out? I'm all ears. 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Week Two Intentions: Clear Out, Chill Out

This past week I set my intention -- I intended to declutter. The result was that I decluttered and then some. Due to packing my belongings and hauling them across both Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the last decade, I don't own a ton of stuff. Also, I have a husband who loves throwing things out, so my house is tidy most of the time thanks to his pacesetting. But due to personal (though minor) hoarding tendencies, I will always be a naturalized minimalist. A little bit of clutter somehow comforts me, but I still appreciate a clean home. I just don't get a kick out of being the one to do it like some people seem to.

Like running, I don't enjoy decluttering, but I like the feeling after it's done. This week I wanted to do a bit of new year's cleaning to start off on the right foot and maybe even motivate me to carry on like this. Here was my plan:
  • Monday: attack the desk and living room table (aka what I actually use for a desk)
  • Tuesday: nothing as my friend was in town from the UK! hooray!
  • Wednesday: go through the closet and make a pile of anything I don't love
  • Thursday: clear out my beauty drawer
  • Friday: drawers in dresser and bedside table
  • Saturday: all my papers (!)
I also wanted to start the practice (however unrelated to clutter) of morning breathing exercises, since stress management is an overarching theme I'm always working on. So for the first ten minutes of my commute, instead of turning on any radio or audio book, I cranked up the ol' respiratory system. I breathed in through my nose for about five seconds, then out through my nose for the same amount of time. It sounds so simple, but it's really amazing what can happen when you get a little oxygen flowing through your body. I honestly bounced into work.

(Get a load of my morning green juice below.)

I was successful in a good hearty clear out, that's for sure. I took in some beauty products to work to give away and filled two bags with clothes I no longer love. And I did get the living room surfaces nice and cleared. But as I was clearing out I realized that the breathing thing was just as important to me, if not more.

I can be pretty militant when it comes to time management and productivity and self-improvement. Self-discipline comes really easy to me. Chilling out and learning how to deal with stress is not so innate. Setting aside breathing time in the morning helps me in my ongoing process of learning to let go of trying to make sure everything in my life is on time and on point, and trust that what needs to happen, will. Letting go and taking action will always be in tension with one another, but I'm an activist in no danger of sloth, so this is the direction I need to lean into for the sake of sanity.

The next few weeks (months, years?!) I want to continue to focus on how to be productive and goal-driven and a contributing member of society, without being stressed out. I hate stress, but also slip into it easily. I think I'll keep up the morning breathing, and this next week I'm going to focus on further de-stressing through some new time and project management technique. Woo hoo. It's going to be a wild one for sure. 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A Year of Intentions: Week One

Oh yes, the new year is here and in full effect. In Seattle we started 2013 with three consecutive days of blue skies, which should satisfy us for a few months. With such an auspicious start I'm hoping this is going to be a good year.

With the turn from December to January comes resolutions! Now, I know there are a lot of new years resolutions haters out there. Not me. As a continual improvement and goal-setting junkie, this time of year is an endorphin high.

Perhaps I'm riding that high right now, but I'm thinking about waking this blog up to chronicle (at least for myself) my goal-setting (and achieving!) progress. This November I read Happier and Home and Making Ideas Happen simultaneously, and that combo was deadly from a goal-setting perspective.

In Happier at Home, type-A former lawyer Gretchen Rubin walks us through her school year of setting intentions to improve her home life. It wasn't in shambles, but there's always room for improvement, isn't there? I was inspired by her unapologetic, meticulous approach to personal transformation, and the way she chose a focus area for each month, with tangible goals to help her improve on that theme.

In Making Ideas Happen, author Scott Belsky, outlines a project management approach to life, work, and personal organization. He's got this wild folder system that I snapped right up. Basically, each area of your life warrants it's own project folder, broken down into an action list, a backburner ideas list, and references (which are kept inside). I immediately fused his concepts with the Happier at Home ones, jotted down my project ideas, and busted out the manilla envelopes to get at it.

I don't have a full outline for the year, but I have decided that my theme for January is reset. And the first week my focus is health.

Last year I did a hard-core month of health resetting (I highlighted my top tips here). January is usually a great time to to regain control of my body and start the year as I mean to go on. This whole month I'm going off dairy (going partial vegan last year was one of the best things I've ever done for my health), sugar, alcohol, and processed food, and getting out of some lazy food and coffee habits. For this past week I also decided to go on gentle cleanse to kick start things.

This week my health intentions included the following:

  • January 1: no coffee, chocolate (!), sugar, dairy, etc. 
  • January 2 - 4: same as above, plus... 
    • make homemade lemon, ginger, and cayenne pepper tea to drink on the way to work (also to keep hands warm in the mason jar)
    • start the day with a fresh-squeezed green juice at PCC, spend some time focusing my mind for the day, and do 15 minutes of writing
    • sip warm water throughout the day (apparently good for cleansing), sometimes I mix things up by adding apple cider vinegar (which my colleague informed me tastes horrific, but I like)
    • mid-morning snack is a glowing green smoothie
    • afternoon pick me up is the almond berry energy smoothie (based on this recipe)
    • teeccino with cinnamon and almond milk (best & only coffee substitute)
    • Firefly Kitchens Ruby Red Sauerkraut for a snack (great for digestion thanks to all those probiotics)
    • clean, plant-based dinner
As I sip my first coffee of the year I am happy to conclude success on this cleanse! Though my brain was a bit fuzzy on Wednesday going back to work -- due to the four day weekend and caffeine withdrawals -- I pushed through. I am a healthy eater overall, but even I can get lazy, start drinking more coffee than I need, bingeing on frozen chocolate chips in the evenings when I'm stressed, or just eating the same thing over and over again (roasted cauliflower got plenty of air time on my dinner table in 2012). Doing this "gentle cleanse"was a great reminder of what is possible with my health. 

Even though I definitely have extremist tendencies with goal-setting and food (and so forth), I'm still all about scheduling in splurges. Like, tonight Dan and I going out to dinner and I fully intend not to order kale juice or anything with nutritional yeast or raw cashew nut butter. After this week I'm back on the coffee (because it makes my life better), and I cannot wait to get my mitts on a bar of chocolate as a weekend treat. The aim is to not let these treats become the norm. 

So, well done week one. I'm still deciding what my focus will be for next week (so many options, I'm stressing out!). But expect a full report at the end of next week. 

Are you setting any intentions for the year? 

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