Getting Ahead, Staying Ahead

Y’all.  Whether we like it or not, it IS the holiday season. Not almost.  Starbucks has their holiday cups out. Target has their Christmas trees up. And (gulp) I’m about to order my 2017 planner!

Holy crap!  Where did the whole stinking year go? Did it go to chasing your dreams, fulfilling your destiny, and honing your craft? Or did it just slip away? I’m so sentimental and introspective.  Sometimes it’s a hinderance. I can focus too much on how I FEEL and not enough on what I need to DO.  You too?

Here are a handful of things that I like to do to help me get and stay ahead. When I’m disciplined, they make all the difference.  When I get lazy, or distracted, or just plain crazy, they help reel me back in. I hope these tips will help you get and stay ahead as we race toward the end of this calendar year and onward toward another reset (2017!).

  • Manage the Minutes – I’ve talked about this a little in past posts and if you know me, you may know that I’m a bit of a time-blocker.  What I mean is that I devote specific blocks of time throughout the day to specific tasks. If I don’t, the time just evaporates or gets sucked down the rabbit hole of the inter webs. Schedule your day, people. Devote time to reading, prayer, phone calls, emails, exercise, meals, and other specific tasks that must be done. When you manage the minutes, the hours take care of themselves. I use both an electronic calendar and an old-fashioned paper planner. Whatever works for you, just use it.
  • Plan Meals and Grocery Shopping – Fueling myself and my family with nutritious and tasty meals is super important to me. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart or a pro to do this! Simple meals, prepared with love and a focus on whole foods makes all the difference and planning is the key. I plan 3-4 dinner meals a week and we eat out once and leftovers the rest.   For breakfast we have the same handful of things – oatmeal and other low-sugar whole grain cereals, plain greek yogurt with fruit, eggs, mini-bagels, whole grain bread with peanut butter, and protein shakes (for me) are easy and simple.  Lunches are similarly planned and may include leftovers for dinner, breakfast for lunch, PBJ, fresh fruit, and crudite with hummus are favorites. Make sure you have good stuff on hand to make it easy to eat well. Keep it simple, but be sure to have a plan. If you have a hard time planning meals, consider signing up for a meal planning service.  There are tons out there – I’m partial to because it’s run by my real-life pals Ann and Lesley.

Do not skip meals, even when you’re crazy busy. Just keep it simple and nourishing.

  • Take Time for Me – This one is so hard, isn’t it? What I have learned is that it doesn’t have to be a lot of time. I don’t need hours to myself to refresh, but I DO need some specific time just for me. That might mean and un-rushed shower (you know, where I can actually shave my legs), a glass of wine in a quiet house at the end of a crazy day (but not at the end of every crazy day – just saying), some time to read something fun, or a GNO with a dear friend.  Whatever that looks like for you, be sure you schedule time for yourself.  You cannot consistently pour yourself out without taking time to refill your cup.
  • Schedule Time to Schedule – So I’ve made all of this fuss about scheduling and planning – here’s the secret: You must set aside time to actually DO the scheduling!  For me, that’s usually late day on Sunday or Monday morning. At those times, things are less rushed (Monday mornings my kiddo is in preschool and the hubs is at work and I don’t usually have any “must do” items) and I can actually focus on the week ahead.  You will find a time that works best for you.
  • Deliberately Focus on the Most Important Things – Realigning your focus on the most important things in your life is essential.  For me, it’s a practice that I need to do regularly. The busier I am, the more often I need to do it. I do this my journaling, writing myself sticky notes and putting them in highly visible places, and saying mantras or prayers out loud. The key is to be intentional and deliberate in your focus. By focusing on the most important things, we learn to let go of the things that are not as important – and allow ourselves to let those things remain undone without guilt.

The truth is that there are about eighty-two-thousand different things that can take our attention every day.  In order to be as productive (and sane) as possible, we need to be organized, focused, and intentional, yet reduce stress. These are some of my go-to tips and favorite ways to maintain my sanity during this busiest time of the year. What are yours?

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