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Advice

For Better Time Management…Eat A Frog?

frogHere’s a piece of advice that will surely grab your attention, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Mark Twain is credited for this witty and wacky quote, but I can’t imagine he was advising us to actually go out and eat a frog. So what point was he trying to make with this sliver of creative wisdom? I believe Twain was alluding to one of the greatest time management principles of all time.

Tackle your most undesirable task first.

By doing this, you get the biggest road block off your to-do list. It also sets the tone for the rest of the day that anything is possible and it will boost your mood. On the surface, this seems simple and attainable. But when you’re faced with a project you don’t want to start, a phone call you don’t want to make or a house you don’t want to clean, it’s amazing the ways in which you’ll find to procrastinate. To take Mark Twain’s advice one step further, I want to give you several ways in which you can learn to eat – and enjoy – your frog every morning.

First things first

It’s important that you tackle your most undesirable task first, but it’s equally important to do so as soon as you start your day. Having something at the top of your to-do list means nothing if you don’t look at the list before 2pm. The more time we take to build up fear and anxiety over completing a challenging task, the more the molehill starts to look like a mountain. Just as you would rip off a bandage as quickly as you could to minimize the pain, tackle your most undesirable tasks quickly and promptly.

No dessert before dinner

Don’t allow yourself to do enjoyable or desirable tasks until you have gotten rid of the “frog” on your plate. It’s tempting to say, “Oh I’ll clean the house after just one more episode of my favorite show…it will motivate me.” This will only motivate you to find more excuses and to rationalize yourself out of the task altogether. Our mothers were right; dessert only spoils our supper. Instead we need to view these desirable tasks as reward for completing undesirable tasks. Plus, a good dessert at the end of dinner will help to get that frog taste out of your mouth!

Embrace your “Super Powers”

Once you knock the worst task off your to-do list, be sure to take a brief moment to embrace your “super powers.” I’ve found that when I accomplish something difficult or time consuming, I feel like I can take on the world. It’s on these days that I often go on to accomplish many more difficult tasks that I’ve also been putting off. It’s like letting the flood gates open and finally releasing all the tension I was carrying around over this work. Tackling one undesirable task helps me to realize I’m perfectly capable of doing much more. Plus the adrenaline rush from being done is energy that is worth putting to good use!

What “frogs” do you have on your plate right now? Do you agree with Mark Twain’s wisdom or is there another time management technique that has worked better for you? Share your insight!

Never Lose Sight of Your Childhood Dream

Child DreamEvery time a beautiful home catches my eye or I’m inspired by a furniture store’s interior design, I’m reminded that there was a time in my life when I was quite certain that I would grow up to become a creator similar works of art. Yes, my childhood dream was to become an architect and interior designer. The signs were quite obvious, really. The remnants of my mounding collection of doll houses can still be found packed away in my parent’s attic. Yet instead of playing house with the tiny people inside these homes, I would spend hours rearranging furniture and building additional walls to expand the modest structures into dream mansions.  I filled binders and binders with magazine pictures of bedrooms, kitchens and patios and would stare at blueprints long enough until I could visualize the house I would use them to someday create. And at the age when most children were still building with Legos and Lincoln Logs, I taught myself to use the same computer programs used by professional architects and designers.

Even as an adult, the memory of this childhood passion is still vivid.  It’s no longer as common that I allow myself to become so consumed in a hobby or so certain of a dream – and maybe that’s why I love to reminisce back to the time in my life when I did. Childhood should be a time for complete creative freedom and to allow natural talents to shine through. It is also a time that can tell us a lot of about ourselves and who we were destined to become long before we let responsibilities, worries and failures affect our dreams.

It should be obvious to you now that I never became that architect or interior designer of my dreams. The level of intensity I had for this hobby didn’t outlast high school. Instead, I slowly migrated into a completely different career path in communications and writing. Not many people know about my dreams to become an architect that I once constructed so carefully. For the longest time I thought it to be irrelevant and to some degree an admittance of failure. I walked away from something I was so passionate about and never felt the need to look back. Or did I?

To this day, I may not have a portfolio of beautifully furnished houses to showcase, but I do have quite a different portfolio of equally impressive work. I’ve never built a home, but I’ve built a brand and business. I don’t use my creative talent toward interior design, but I do use my creativity in so many broader ways every day. That passion for building something from the ground up and talent for thinking outside the box were never lost, only reassigned. I’m a Public Relations professional, not an architect, but I’m confident this is what all my childhood daydreaming has prepared me to do.

So many years ago I may have mastered some impressive feats for a 10-year-old architect, but I wouldn’t have had the slightest clue as to what Public Relations was and certainly wouldn’t have understood how to apply my talents toward this career path. Yet, with every choice I made to move away from architecture and design, I took one step in the right direction of finding the career I now have today. I couldn’t be more grateful for all the hours I spent playing with those doll houses. Almost 15 years later, I still have yet to build a single home, but I’ve built exactly what my childhood self would have wished for had she known everything that was possible.

As a child, did you ever have a passionate dream about becoming something far different than what you are today? Look closely at the career path you have chosen and you may see that these childhood talents were never lost, only reassigned.  Share your own story by commenting below!

Making Christmas A Celebration Not An Obligation: The essentials for reducing holiday stress

broken ornamentIf the advertisements, TV special and store decorations aren’t enough of an indication – the holidays are here! And so begins the preparation and the stress that often accompanies this time of year. I have never begun decorating before Thanksgiving and only once did I give in to Black Friday shopping (and believe me that was enough), but this year I feel the most organized and prepared as I ever have been. The decorations are up, the Christmas cards are ready to be mailed and the holiday cheer has definitely set in. It’s not because I’ve had any more time than in years’ past – in fact, I’ve likely had less. It’s because I’m starting to identify the key factors that allow for the holidays to be less frantic and more fun. They’re common sense really, but as soon as we see that first television commercial our brains seem to fill with eggnog and we tailspin into full Christmas chaos. Here are just a few ways in which I have and hope to continue to make Christmas a celebration, not an obligation:

It’s meant to be a team effort.

Our house is small and our decorations are just enough to give a warm feel of the holidays. But preparing our house for Christmas still would have been a daunting task for one person if it wasn’t for a second set of hands. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, when family had gone home and the dust (and dirt and crumbs) had settled, we dedicated our day to organizing, cleaning and then finally decorating. Amidst his incredibly busy work and travel schedule, my husband had a very rare free day in which to help me. He actually suggested this is how we spend our day together which set the tone that this wasn’t so much a chore as it was a memory.  I planned for a full day of dusting and decorating, but once we put on some Christmas music and divided and conquered the tasks, we were done in just several hours. I know that had I tried to tackle this on my own, we still wouldn’t be decorated for the Christmas and the nooks and crannies behind the couch certainly wouldn’t be as clean. What this experience taught me was that Christmas traditions are meant to be shared and in doing so they transform from a to-do into a want-to-do. We look forward to the warm glow of our Christmas lights every evening and this shared enjoyment is what makes decorating fun not frantic.

It doesn’t “sneak up” on you.

I hear this phrase a lot. “Wow, the holidays really snuck up on us this year, huh?” Not really. Christmas is very predictable. It’s the same date of the same month every year. If anything, the decorations in the mall and commercials on TV should give us even more time to prepare as they seem to start earlier and earlier each year. Yet no matter how stressful last year’s holiday preparations were, we fail to take action to prevent it from happening again…and again. If you mailed your Christmas cards on December 24th last year, why not set a reminder in your phone to begin the process earlier next year? Writing Christmas cards, picking out a tree and buying gifts should be a loving and thoughtful experience. Any stress that comes along with it is unintended or misplaced. If you’ve made an effort to be more proactive and organized but are still left with a time deficit, then chances are you’re simply trying to do too much. So….

Simplify!

The holidays are made for tradition, but they should not take up so much of your time that you’re left with no time to actually enjoy everything for which they stand. The most important traditions should be carried on, but there are many that should also be let go. Determine what’s giving you the best return on investment (ROI) for your time. Sugar cookies made from scratch, hand painted Christmas ornaments and self-stamped wrapping paper are fun activities and beautiful memories, but don’t feel like you have to do all of them every single year. Enjoy the act of preparing for the holidays, but also remember to enjoy time with family and friends. Also, don’t be afraid to lower the bar. I imagine almost every other person you know is feeling a degree of stress and overwhelm as well. Simplify this Christmas with fewer, but more meaningful presents. Do a secret Santa or eliminate the pressure of presents altogether. Hopefully The Grinch that Stole Christmas has helped us to realize that it’s the time you spend with those you love (and the great food) that make the holidays special. Presents, cards and decorations are all just extra.

It’s a process.

So often I hear people boast that they’ve been decorated since Thanksgiving or their Christmas shopping was completely done by mid September and my inner response is, “Was it a race?” Preparing for the holidays is part of the celebration – it’s a process and balance. Rushing to get everything done and out of the way as soon as possible makes Christmas like any other task on your to-do list. I also can’t imagine you feel the same holiday cheer when shopping next to bathing suits and beach balls. Scrambling to buy that last present on Christmas Eve also makes the act of gift giving feel more like an obligation than a thoughtful gesture. Find a balance between the two, take time to sip the eggnog and when all else fails…simplify!

If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Finally and most importantly, you should be able to look back on your preparation for the holidays and smile while remembering some fond and funny moments. Even in the coldest and gloomiest months, you should feel warmer, brighter and friendlier. If you find that the holidays bring out the worst in you or your family, make you fight, feel angry or stressed, then something’s gotta give. Somewhere you’re missing the mark for what Christmas is truly all about. And once the holidays have come and gone, you shouldn’t be left feeling even worse—looking at the mounds of decorations that need put away or the heaping credit card debt. All of these are signs that a change needs to be made. Get back to the basics of what makes Christmas fun and special for you!

This holiday season be merry, be bright and….don’t be stressed!