Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Priorities, Part 2

Photo via Mental Health

Yesterday I wrote about priorities and why prioritizing is such an important tool in today's world of endless opportunities. So how can you make prioritizing work for you? And where do you begin?

For starters, taking time to set our priorities can help us take stock of where our time, energy, and funds - I refer to these as our personal resources - are going, and recognize where they could be better utilized. When we take the time to consciously prioritize our desires and commitments, we are giving ourselves the power to redirect where our life is headed. That's powerful stuff!

An easy way to take stock of what your current priorities are is to make a personal resources log. You can do this by creating a journal, chart, or spreadsheet where you log everything you do over the course of a week. Your log doesn't need to be too detailed, but it should include each activity, how much time you spent on it, whether it was energizing or energy zapping (this will vary for each of us), and the cash result (either inflow or outflow). Here's a couple examples:

Watched TV, 1.5 hours, energy zapping, $0 (you could prorate your cable bill here if you wanted)
Worked, 9 hours, energy zapping, $500 inflow
Dinner with a friend, 1 hour, energizing, ($40)
Played soccer, 2 hours, energizing, ($10) on a new team shirt
Showered, .5 hours, energizing, $0

Photo via Ask Miss A

The purpose of this log is to give you a snapshot of what your personal resource allocation looks like right now. Feel free to alter these categories or add more categories as you wish - maybe noting how you felt after each activity or who else was involved.

Once you have a week's worth of information in your log, it's time to tally up where your time, energy, and funds went. Take a look at which activities took up the most time. Recognize where the most money was spent, and earned. Note which activities zapped your energy and which revved you up. Finally, after looking at only your personal resource allocation, what do your priorities appear to be? Try to answer this question as analytically as you can, without letting your personal bias answer for you. You might realize that watching television or working overtime has become more of a priority than you'd like to admit, and that's important to be honest with ourselves about. Or perhaps you realize that where your personal resources are going is just where you want them, and that's important to see as well.

So what do you do now that you have an accurate picture of your personal resource allocation (and what your actions are telling you about your priorities)? It's time to reassess if your actions match you desires. Stop by next time to find out how.

Priorities, Part 1

Photo via BarryDean

Wouldn't it be nice to be a black belt in Kung Foo, prized sailboat racer, #1 parent, and homemade cookie entrepreneur? Or perhaps you aspire to be a top New York attorney, back-country skier, Habitat for Humanity volunteer of the year, and moonlight as a radio DJ?

We're fortunate to live in an age of endless possibilities. With the world at our fingertips, the internet age has brought with it so much information that many of us feel completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of advice, knowledge, propaganda, ideas, instruction, advertisement... (in short, info) that a single Google search can bring. And yet, the more we are exposed to, the more we tend to want as well.

Here's an example I think most of us can relate to: You're running errands with a friend who needs to pick something up at Target. You don't want anything from the store, but you go in to be a pal anyways. By the time you hit Aisle 3, you've got a cart full of must have merchandise you didn't have the least bit of desire for before you entered the automatic doors to consumer heaven.

Photo via KrazyCouponLady

I think the same concept can be applied to the buffet of information the internet provides. You see, many of us might see bits and pieces of other people's lives online and suddenly realize we want our lives to be like that too! We want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro just like that cool-looking earthy guy did on his blog. We want to bake fresh bread for our family every day with that great e-book recipe. We want to take up base jumping like in those sweet YouTube videos. We want to take adult education classes like Oprah told us to on her podcast. We want to do all this and more.

I'm not suggesting that the internet has done anything wrong - but there's no denying that it has exposed us to so many more opportunities than our ancestors would have ever realized. The catch is, we don't have any more time in a day than they did to take advantage of these opportunities. We don't have considerably more money to fund them either. So where does this leave us?

It leaves us in a position to practice some serious prioritizing - prioritizing where our time, money, and effort will go. Prioritizing may seem to some like a limiting exercise. After all, if you're setting priorities it ultimately means some things you want to do just won't make the cut. In reality, prioritizing is a powerful tool for making the most of your resources and overcoming opportunity overload.

Tune in next time when I'll be exploring some tips for setting empowering priorities that fit your desires.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beautiful Thought

Crescent Moon by Carlos E. Hernandez via asod

For today, just a simple, beautiful message.

"Though it is reflected in a thousand rivers, the moon itself is only one."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall Fever

Photo via Chinadaily

It's nearly October, and since Autumn seems to become more fleeting with each passing year, it is only right to celebrate this colorful season while we can. How do you like to enjoy the crisp air, the comforting flavors of the marketplace, and the visual display of harvest-time hues? Here are a few suggestions for how to make the most of this special time of the year:
  • Make fresh apple juice
  • Buy some non-pasteurized apple cider from a local orchard and let it turn into homemade Apple Jack in your fridge. If you're so inclined, warm the cider and add a little butterscotch schnapps... yum!
  • Make an apple dessert - pie, crumble, cake, whatever your desire. I'll be trying Ani Phyo's American Apple Pie recipe
  • Go on a hunt for the most beautiful fallen leaves, string them together with a thin twine or string and decorate your doorway
  • Set this leafy wallpaper as your computer background
  • Swap in the usual baked potato for a baked sweet potato or yam - you'll enjoy a more autumnal flavor and color while benefitting from more fiber and nutrition
  • Plan a trip to a corn maze. You can find one in your area here
  • Go scarf shopping, or better yet, knit your own! (I'm not crafty enough to make my own, but it would be nice)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lazy Sunday: On the Sofa

Lazy Sunday: On the Sofa

It was a very, very lazy Sunday for me this week. Most of the day was spent on the sofa, watching DVDs (Flight of the Conchords Season II, to be specific), flopping from one reclined position to the next. Absolutely nothing productive occurred before about 7:00 tonight. In short, it was gloriously slothlike. Motivation and chasing of dreams shall resume tomorrow... but I've got a few more hours of loungability left in me for now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What's Cooking?

Photo via How Stuff Works

What's cooking? If you think you're too busy to cook, you might need to be a little more strategic in the that meals you choose. For example, it can be helpful to make a big batch of something yummy that can be easily re-served as a convenient lunch or fast dinner all week long. Bonus points for making a multi-tasking meal that uses up extra bits of this and that you have lurking in the fridge. Case in point: Homemade Soup.

I made a big stock pot full of soup tonight using this Ellie Krieger recipe which made a delicious dinner served with garlic bread. The soup was fast and easy to make, low in calories, brimming with nutrients, and could easily accommodate a few substitutions depending on what produce you need to use up. Better yet, what didn't get eaten tonight can be reheated alongside a salad or sandwich for lunch tomorrow or even used to fill up a store-bought bakery roll like a bread-bowl for dinner on Friday.

Soups, especially homemade soups that are lower in sodium than their canned counterparts, are a great way to fit more veggies into your diet too - especially as the weather cools and salads start to lose their luster. So go ahead and make a pot-full this weekend, and you'll have a healthy and quick option for even your busiest of days.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Artist Spotlight: Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor is a Soviet-born musician whose songs beautifully combine the unexpected. A classical pianist by trade, she's not afraid to switch to an electric keyboard, electric guitar, or play a chair as a drum when the mood is right. Her powerful voice and raw lyrics, however, are what really set her apart from the pack.

I was lucky enough to see Regina at the House of Blues in Boston last night, and it was a fantastic show! She also happens to be tremendously cute...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lazy Sunday: Long Drive

Photo via KomoNews

There wasn't a shred of cloud nor a streak of white to mar the deep azure sky today, so my mother and I relished in the bright sun with a long drive in the convertible. The leaves have started to turn here in New Hampshire; patches of orange and red burning on the trees as if the forest has contracted chicken pox. Whipping around corners on the winding river road, we later took the long way home - as if dwelling in the perfect evening's light might somehow make the dark winter ahead more bearable. As I type I can feel the warmth radiating from my face, cheeks still aglow. How was your Sunday?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekend Relaxation

Spa Day

I will be following my own advice tomorrow and taking in some serious soul food. Top on the list? Relishing in a deep tissue massage... ahhh I'm relaxing just thinking about it. Nothing beats that post-massage jellyfish feeling, smelling of sweet oil, skin still flush and warm. What are you up to this weekend?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Soul Food

What are you doing to nourish your spirit this week? What steps have you taken to honor yourself? What have you been feeding your divine energy?

Ok, you do not have to book a 76 day spiritual retreat to an Indian ashram in order to connect with your inner essence and experience a sense of contentment (although Tina of Think Simple Now did and it sounds amazing - check out her reflections here). But even making little contributions to your spirit's piggy bank can yield major returns when it comes to your world view and the way you interact with those around you.

So what kind of soul food are we talking about here? I think of soul food as anything that brings new energy and life to all that is best within us. Maybe it's an activity that gives you renewed sense of purpose and joy. Maybe it's a mantra you use to help you tackle tough challenges. Maybe it's a person that encourages you to follow your own path in life. Whatever your soul food - it's important to make time to enjoy it... and there's no time like the present!

Photo via Self Hypnosis

Still not sure what your own soul food is? Give a few of these suggestions a try and see what resonates with you. Once you find the kind of soul food that makes your heart swell with fulfillment and helps put your mind at peace, make a point to consume it regularly.
  • Close your eyes and listen to music that carries you to a whole nother level
  • Write in a gratitude journal, or simply list out things you're grateful for
  • Take a yoga, or tai chi class
  • Cook a nutritious meal for someone you love
  • Try meditation, either by taking a class or using one of these methods
  • Call an old friend you've been meaning to catch up with
  • Invest in a long, restful night of sleep - your body will thank you
  • Read a book that stirs something inside you
  • Open up to your significant other about your dreams
  • Volunteer doing something you love
  • Eat a piece of the finest chocolate you can find
  • Connect with your pets - or borrow a friend's if you need to!
  • Paint, draw, write, or sing out how you feel
  • Get a massage

Monday, September 14, 2009


Photo of Esther Williams via Encyclopedia Britannica

I took the plunge tonight - into my very first synchronized swimming class. Reflections? Incredibly fun, challenging, and I have a feeling I am going to be very sore tomorrow (scratch that, I'm already feeling it). Let me expand on that challenging comment for a moment, though.

To the casual observer, synchro may seem like a rather unassuming and civilized sport for the delicate lady - yet to anyone who saw my attempt at "backward sculling" my "sailboat" across the local YMCA pool this evening, underwater housecat wrestling would have been a more accurate description. Really, until you have given it a shot you too may underestimate how difficult it is to look so at ease, never-mind stay afloat, in those unnatural positions.

As tricky a practice as it may be, I cannot wait for my next class. It's a super way to build strength and cardio capacity while honing in your coordination, balance, and focus abilities. Synchro is also unique because - like other water sports - it is virtually no-impact; great for anybody who needs a less stressful workout. Interested in learning more? Check out the United States Synchronized Swimming page and the Wikipedia Synchro page for more sport information.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Igniting your Creativity

As the days begin to shorten and the childlike excitement of summer begins to fade, often times our creativity begins to drain as well. But just because cool weather tends to bring with it a sleepy pace and less time for fun (read: leaf raking, snow shoveling, earlier bedtimes, energy lost to shivering) does not mean your creative endeavors must also cease. Here's a few, relatively easy ways to ignite your creative fire when all you want to do is park it on the couch with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

photo by Sarah Cates, Cates Imaging

1. Read

Read, read anything you can get your hands on - so long as it isn't work-related. Diversifying your reading is a great way to improve as a writer, expand your mind, and turn on the faucet of creative thoughts. Reading helps us to use our imaginations as we picture scenes in our minds, create faces and voices for each of the characters, and try to predict what might happen next. Even if you've opted to read something less fictional, the act of using our brain to read something out of the norm is a big flex to those cranial muscles. Result? A more creative you, ready to fire synapses, make connections, and come up with original thoughts at a moments notice.

2. Exercise

Exercising enables us to get excess, fidgety energy out of our system while providing us with a less distracting, slow-burning energy which lasts for hours afterwords. Exercising also gets blood pumping through both our muscles, and our brain, making it an ideal way to prepare our body and mind for a creative session; be it creating music, writing a story, or thinking about a new business plan. Exercise is also a great way to clear some of the day-to-day mental clutter that prevents us from moving onto extraordinary thoughts.

3. Listen to Children

When you listen to a child, you never know what might come out of their mouth next. Children have easy access to imaginations and creativity stores (not to mention a whole lot of love) that most of us have learned to stop-up over the years. Speaking with children - and truly listening - can help us to re-open the connection to our more creative, less censored selves.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Where I Stand

Phew! It has been far too long since I've seen the welcoming glow of the Blogger "Create Post" screen. The last couple weeks have been a little crazy, complete with a near-perfect wedding in North Carolina, an exciting job offer (and the nerve-wracking first day of said job), loads of contemplation, painting of window frames, and copious amounts of peanut butter toast.

So today I stand a bit overwhelmed, excited for what's to come, and mentally drained. I look forward to writing more and sharing discoveries with you as things settle down and I find a new rhythm. For tonight, however, it's time for the peace that only sleep can bring.