Little Changes, Big Impact

DSC00020

Too busy to admire nature? Put it on the list…

Have you ever had one of those moments when you make a teeny-tiny, no-brainer kind of change in routine, but it makes all the difference?

I’m feeling that way this winter, and still can’t believe it took me so long to figure out how to get myelf a little more organized. I’ll say a little more, because the transition isn’t 100%, but think I’m on the right path.

I have always been kind of Type A at career-oriented tasks. If I had a vision on a project, it had to be perfect and I’d work round-the-clock to ensure everything was just so, and of course, on time. The calendar and task list was solid. But on a personal level? I’m definitely Type B. Banking and finances, a mess; if I sent a payment in on time, it was luck and it didn’t bother me all that much.  Mail was in piles, unopened, all over the house. Nothing interesting ever comes in the mail anyway, right?

With friends and in groups? Whatever they want to do is fine, no worries. Go with the flow, that’s me…

A few years ago, when I was in the middle of my corporate work-life, mom-life juggle, the Type A work-mode took over, and I was notoriously bad on a personal level keeping in touch with friends. Between driving to New Hampshire, the corporate office, and traveling to visit clients in California, Utah, Seattle, Boston, and having those work-at-home days too where I would hide downstairs in my office until lunch, where I’d see Brett for an hour, maybe exercise, and then go back down and hide for the rest of the day, anything fun and inpirational like hanging out with a friend, that was the last thing on my mind.

My friend Marina and I were often trying to set up lunches, and each time that day came up on the calendar there was some reason to cancel.  Travel, or a super-important project, or whatever, and then by the time we would think to make a date again, a few months had passed and we would start this cycle over again. It got to the point where I was seeing my friend only a few times during the year, and she only lives 20 minutes away! She finally one day brought up the idea of a scheduled once-a-month lunch date.

The Rules:

  • Put lunch date on the calendar.
  • Schedule other appointments around it.
  • As soon as we get back from lunch, immediately set new date.

What a concept, put something fun on the calendar, and prioritize it?  It’s not rocket-science, but it worked, and although the dates aren’t always as often as once a month, we have had this routine for about 6 years.

Long after I put my career on hold and became the full-time master-of-the-home-and-child I am today, I still have a tough time

Well, I think I saw that to-do list here somewhere?

Well, I think I saw that to-do list here somewhere?

accomplishing everything I want to during the day. Aside from some lunch dates, most of what I put on my calendar and notepad-based to-do list are uninspiring chores.  I have often wondered how the heck I ever worked outide the home. The days go quickly. I still feel awful that I don’t see certain friends enough. I still forget to do pretty much everything on my to-do list because the notepad where I write my list gets lost under all the papers sent home with my son from school.

I was beginning to think my exercise habit was the problem, because I have been unable to focus on anything else. But how can maintaining my health be a problem? That’s not going anywhere…

Why was I so good at this when I was working outside the home?

Or was it in here???

Or was it in here???

Back in December, as I was considering New Years Resolutions and looking to set some goals for 2013 , I was still down about my lack of ability to begin some of the personal projects I had been thinking about but just never seem to have time to do because I was always in the midst of family chores. A friend had mentioned she just signed up for a program called the “Push Challenge”, by Chalene Johnson (http://www.30daypush.com/).

Do you know about Chalene? She is a fitness instructor and motivational guru, and I adore her.

Her workout program Chalean Extreme (http://amzn.com/B001O2MWGI) had been recommended to me last year. I was a little skeptical,  because I had never heard of it, but the workouts had great reviews on Amazon, so I crossed my fingers and placed the order. For the first few weeks I was not a fan; everyone in her videos is so darn cute! And they wear pink. And sometimes sparkles! I mean, me? My friends? People in my state? Nobody looks like these women. I’m guessing they are all California and Florida types, but we New England gals, we look like a whole different species. But over time I learned to love all the inspiring people in the videos, as well as the workouts, as they are all short, really effective, and that Chalene is one smart, motivating woman.

Based on being truly won over, I signed up for this challenge to see what it was all about. I’m not sure I ever went through the whole program, maybe half of it. But essentially, what we did was:

  • Establish Personal Goals.
  • Pick out one goal called the “Push” goal, work towards this every day, and
  • Organize it all on a smartphone to-do list.

My smartphone has a to-do list app?

But I like my notepad to-do list, it sits on the counter right in front of my face so I can’t ignore it.  Oh, and where is that to-do list, by the way? Underneath the school lunch menu, perhaps? Or the pile of drawings on the dining room table?

Seems kind of like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? I guess it isn’t though because I never thought of it by myself! My organizational system, if you can even call it that, was not even remotely taking into account personal goals. I wasn’t prioritizing them because these goals never made it to the to-do list in the first place!  I really thought something was wrong with me over the last few years, wondering why I haven’t been able to focus.

The Type A me, who I was used to seeing in my corporate life, only made infrequent appearances to ensure exercise and fitness-related goals were met, but then just went quietly away after that, where the Type B, go with the flow, disorganized me remained.

Within a few minutes of evaluating to-do list apps, I downloaded one and started filling it in.  The most important point Chalene makes about creating this list is that you must not only put boring chores on your to-do list, like I had been doing. You must put tasks associated with your “Push” goal, or enabling goal, on the list each day, so if your goal is to exercise more, or to be a better friend, or a better parent, tasks associated with you accomplishing this goal go on the list. If you need to get outside more and enjoy nature, or read more fiction books, or to take more photos, those go on there as well. Every day your goals are top-of-mind, and you work towards achieving them.

Kind of cool isn’t it?

I was so excited about this new approach, the next time I saw Marina at lunch I told her all about it. She sat there for a few seconds, looking at me with kind of a stunned silence. “What do you mean you never put your personal goals on your to-do list? I thought you always did!” She felt awful, neglectful even, for not clueing me to this bit of wisdom she knew about, but just assumed I had already done.

No worries Marina. I’m on the right path now.

My goal was to start writing more about what I’m interested in, and maybe inspire a few people along the way, and here I am.  Within a few weeks, I managed to get it done. I now have all my boring chores on my to-do list app too, and my family doesn’t think I’m too much of a space-shot anymore because I don’t forget to do things; my list doesn’t get lost amongst clutter anymore. Already my writing has started enabling one of my New Years Resolutions, being a better friend, and seeing friends and family more often, because when they get my posts I hear from them, we start a dialog, and then we put those dates to get together on the calendar.

I’m starting to see things happen. And am much more inspired throughout the day.

I may start a few new annoying habits, like checking my smartphone too often, but I’ll take it considering the alternative…

How do you organize personal goals into your day? Or do you? Have you had similar struggles?

Please comment, I would love to hear some discussion!

12 thoughts on “Little Changes, Big Impact

  1. Robin, as you know most of my family lives across the country like you… When I had the finances I would never say good by to family, I’d say see you on such and such date and already had my next trip planned. It made parting much easier… Same holds true for client business meetings. At the end of a meeting we’d plan the next steps and the date when we would meet again.

    • you have always been so great about this, I’m sure you know it’s harder now w/work, kids, job, etc…..I don’t know what my deal was though, I think I just checked organization skills at the door when I left the work world, thinking it wasn’t the same. Surprise, it is!! thanks for your comment…great to hear from you!

  2. I used to be a “list” person when the kids were at home. But I’ve become a slacker the past few years and can’t seem to accomplish anything. Perhaps it’s time to write it down again and make that commitment to myself, create that obligation. Thanks for the post.

    • oh good Chris, I have been a little self-conscious I’m the only one! Download one of those apps and you’ll whip yourself into shape again (well, not into shape because you are already there…) but organizationally!

  3. Hi Robin….my life is buried under all the papers from school and I just had the opportunity to read your blog today. Personal goals on a to do list – wonderful idea and so in line with a book I am reading about renewing yourself to be a better parent. Now I have to look for a to-do list app for my phone.

    • So glad you liked it Melanie–it has been a world of difference in my life. Although I still have many piles, as I see you do too! Now you can go dizzy looking at the zillions of different iphone apps available!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s