After reading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People several years ago (I highly recommend it) I really attempt to consider his four quadrants for time management as I attempt to organize my life. Covey proposes that all activities fall into one of four categories – Urgent and Important, Not Urgent but Important, Urgent but Not Important, or Not Urgent and Not Important – and that how much time we spend in each quadrant impacts our effectiveness.
Of course we tend to focus on things that are urgent (because they’re urgent)– and often those things, the ‘fires’ really ARE important. But they also keep us running around frenzied and disorganized. Covey recommends taking the time to focus on important things before they become urgent and completing activities that help you do things in a way that’s faster and easier. That covers the first two quadrants.
It’s probably quite normal and understandable that many people have a tendency to spend more time than they should in the last two quadrants, but it’s not effective. The third quadrant (Urgent but Not Important) can feel so important sometimes – things like long phone calls, answering emails, and doing things for other people – it’s difficult to pass those things up and if you do you risk feeling guilty.
Then there’s the fourth quadrant, things that are almost unquestionably time wasters. They’re usually anything that you do without conscious thought – eating, watching TV, surfing the internet. In my experience I spend more time in the fourth quadrant when I spend less time in the second. I have significantly less energy when I don’t take care of my health and spirit properly and end up wasting time with things that drain me at a soul level.
It may even be possible that the ‘fires’ in Quadrant One are simply an indication that you are spending too much time in Quadrants Three and Four and that the best way to prevent them is by spending a lot more time in Quadrant number Two.
PS: I keep a copy of the quadrants in my office to help me remember where I should spend my time.
Make Your Minutes Matter!
I’ve wanted to blog about this article by Tim Boyer entitled Why You Should Forgive Yourself After One Bad Dieting Day since I read it a couple of weeks ago – and not just because it spoke to me on a personal level (you should read it, it’s good). I thought I’d save this entertaining and well written piece in case any of our Minute Movers were feeling guilty after a four day weekend of culinary debauchery.
Mr Boyer explores the pitfalls of starting your diet on a particular day and engaging in extreme deprivation until you’ve hit your goal (which is often a recipe for failure and guilt). He also recommends that we avoid the all or nothing mindset that leads you to feel that you’ve ‘blown your diet’. You’ve probably already noticed that these recommendations are right up our alley, in fact we haven’t yet expanded into diet recommendations but our preference is to pick one small change and do that consistently until you’re ready to add to your successes.
Try to remember that your weight – especially when it’s scrutinized every day or even multiple times per day (please don’t do that!) can fluctuate up to five pounds over the course of a week and may not necessarily reflect a change in body fat or muscle mass. The reality is that it’s ‘difficult to gain real weight after only one day of overeating’ and there are so many factors that can cause weight fluctuations. Your weight can be affected by things like water consumption, eating a big meal, waste products that have yet to be eliminated, salt intake, water retention, and hormonal changes. In fact, menstruation can cause temporary weight gain of up to five pounds (often from water retention) but you should be back to normal a few days after your cycle ends.
Be sure to consider that the time of day that you weigh yourself and the amount of clothing you wear can impact the number on the scale so try to only weigh yourself once a week (first thing in the morning and with no clothing is best) watching the overall trend of weight loss or gain – better yet skip the scale and judge your progress by how your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror.
So. If you’re feeling a little disappointed in yourself this morning extend a little mercy to yourself, skip the scale for a couple of days and get back on track with your healthy eating plan – and your Movements.
Make Your Minutes Matter!
If you read yesterday’s post you know that gratitude can make you happier and healthier. But what if you aren’t naturally a very grateful person?
Well you’re in luck because studies show that you can deliberately cultivate gratitude – increasing your well-being and happiness in the process. It just requires a little mindfulness on your part but I promise it will be worth it.
Here are a few ideas to get you started…
Decide to be grateful – The first step to changing is make up your mind. Start looking for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful, bring gratitude into your experiences, instead of waiting for something to feel grateful for.
Control your thoughts especially your self talk – Grateful people use language that evokes images of gifts, blessings, fortune, and abundance instead of deservingness, regrets, scarcity, and loss. One simple technique is to stop saying that that you have to do something and start using words like get to or will (trust me, this works). Consider reframing difficult circumstances (like changing your focus from how cold the weather is to the beauty of the snow on the ground). And if you’re facing something that doesn’t seem to have a silver lining try putting it in perspective – ask yourself ‘What good might come from this?’, ‘What will I be grateful for in the future?’, or ‘What can I learn here?’. The key to leading a thankful life is embracing setbacks as part of your overall journey without letting them take over your life.
Learn to live in the moment and look for things to be grateful for – Gratitude is a way of viewing the circumstances of your life, so don’t focus on what you don’t have – look for the good in what you DO have. Learn to find joy in the small things instead of holding out for the biggies like a promotion, getting married, or having a certain amount of money. Watch the sunrise over the lake, or savor how wonderful those fuzzy socks feel at the end of the day – whatever it takes to slow down and immerse yourself in the beauty that is all around you. If that’s a little challenging try watching this amazing TEDxSF video ‘A Good Day’ – I think I might just start watching this every morning!
Steep yourself in inspirational thoughts and motivational quotes. – It’s difficult to be unappreciative when are surrounded by reminders of your blessings. You could sign up for daily motivational emails, get familiar with a holy text, or create and display a Gratitude Board filled with the people and experiences that you are most grateful for.
Put it in your schedule – Pick a TIME to focus on your blessings every day, it could be while you brush your teeth, during your commute, when you do a Minute Movement or (my favorite) while you fold laundry. Or you could use the old standby and keep a gratitude journal. I have a friend who keeps a family gratitude journal on the dining room table making gratitude an integral part of the evening meal. Whatever you do, setting aside time on a daily basis to remember how fortunate you are helps you retrain your brain to notice the positive.
Help other people and touch their lives in a meaningful way – GIVE to others. Give genuine compliments. Give your entire focus while you talk. Give your time and your money and yourself. Become involved in a cause that it worthy to you. Especially try to serve others in some way beyond just writing a check – when you interact with someone who is less fortunate than yourself, it helps you see your life in a different light. At the very least invite someone to share in the experience of gratitude and wonder that you’re developing – grab someone you love, pull them aside, and ask ‘isn’t the sunset beautiful tonight?’
Invest in the people you love – Practice telling the people in your life something you appreciate about them every day, write a letter to someone who has had a positive influence on your life, have coffee with a friend and relish the feeling of belonging.
Tomorrow is the perfect day to start developing the habit of gratitude. Enjoy time with your people, count your blessings, say a prayer for someone who’s struggling.
Make Your Minutes Matter
I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is in less than ONE WEEK – this year has absolutely flown by (I’m not really sure why that keeps surprising me though – every single year). I ran across this post on FoodMatters.tv with tips for a healthier Thanksgiving and thought I’d share today – just in case you’re concerned about your diet over the holidays. They included some of the usual suspects (eat more veggies, skip the booze, and be mindful of what you’re eating) but it’s always good to refresh your memory, especially this time of year. I was particularly struck by #6 (Look after you). It’s so easy to let peer pressure ruin even the best plan – and SO HARD to turn Grandma down when she’s adding food to your plate.
I think we’re going to try making a cauliflower/mashed potato hybrid I found at hungry-girl.com (see below) and since we’re eating gluten free over here (medical reasons) I’m going to play with a wild rice based dressing this year.
Stop by our Facebook page to share your stay-healthy plans for Thanksgiving.
HG’s Miracle Mashies
PER SERVING (1/5th of recipe, about 2/3 cup): 82 calories, 1g fat, 168mg sodium, 16g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 3g protein —PointsPlus® value 2*
Mixing cauliflower and potato is a GREAT way to get true mashed potato taste and texture, with a healthier, lower calorie spin. Woohoo!
One 12-oz. russet potato
3 cups cauliflower florets
3 tbsp. fat-free half & half
1 tbsp. light whipped butter or light buttery spread
1/4 tsp. salt, or more to taste
Optional seasoning: black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, peel and cube potato.
Add cauliflower and cubed potato to boiling water. Once returned to a boil, reduce heat to medium. Cook until potatoes and cauliflower are very tender, 15 – 20 minutes.
Drain and transfer cauliflower and potato to a large bowl. Add half & half, butter, and salt. Thoroughly mash and mix. Enjoy!
MAKES 5 SERVINGS
I consider myself lucky to have spent the past sixteen years or so being able to primarily focus my time and energy on raising my children and supporting my husband in his various business ventures. When our son was born and I started my new career as a stay at home mom I was committed to excellence and determined to take this task seriously. But we were among the first of our group of friends to start a family and I had never taken any ‘Home Economics’ classes so I started reading everything I could find that would help me do a good job.
In one of those books I came across the concept of a weekly family meeting. I was drawn to the idea of coming together every week to discuss our schedules, plans, hopes, and dreams – even though our schedule was quite manageable at that time – and I implemented the Sunday Family Meeting right away. While we sat together at the dining room table this afternoon I found myself reflecting what an important role those meetings have held for our family.
Besides the obvious perk of knowing where everyone will be throughout the week (and who’s in charge of getting them there – which is huge in and of itself – our family meetings have helped in so many other areas. Everyone has learned how to put their appointments on the family calendar (now we share our respective google calendars with each other) and by second grade both of my children knew when they were available for a playdate and what events to prepare for each day because they knew their schedule. They also learned how an official meeting is conducted (although we leave room for fun), goal setting (we set weekly goals), and accountability.
Probably the biggest impact of those meetings has been the bond that has been forged around the table. When we talk about the week ahead we practice caring about what others have going on in their lives and supporting each other when something especially difficult was ahead of one of us. We’ve practiced paying attention to the needs of others and sharing empathy through our prayer requests. We’ve practiced problem solving skills while we discuss our ‘issues’ (sometimes the same issues every week for months), we’ve learned about planning for fun events, and we’ve learned how to celebrate the successes of others as well as acknowledging when someone helps us or does well.
To top it off, I have been keeping ‘the minutes’ of each meeting in little composition notebooks so I can look back at the day we celebrated Zak learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels or when Morgan got her braces off. Our family meetings have made our lives more simple (through organization) and at the same time richer in so many ways and I highly recommend them.
The other day Aaron and I were talking about doing something that, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t actually do very often (probably grabbing dinner out, because really – some nights you just have to). One of us said something about it just being ‘this time’ and that sparked an interesting conversation about exactly how often we were eating out.
In truth we would really like to say that we are cooking at home more often than not – because that’s the ideal that we hold in our minds, it’s what we want for ourselves and our family. The reality is that we are trying to keep so many balls in the air that we aren’t really always doing what we say we want to do. So, the truth of ‘just this once’ is that it happens more than once a week – each and every week. That’s not a deviation from the norm – that’s a habit!
How many times have you given yourself permission to break the (read your) rules ‘just this once’ only to find that, over time ‘just this once’ somehow stretches into something that’s completely out of your control?
You had cake and drinks at the wedding and that leads to snacks at the next office party and then treat day and then family game night and before you know it you’re having snacks because it’s Tuesday and the weekend is SO FAR AWAY or for stress relief or because the sky’s awfully blue this afternoon – or (and this is the true issue isn’t it?) because the new habit you’ve created is giving yourself permission to do whatever you want to do in the moment.
Even in the midst of the scenario above, I might insist that I am always a very healthy eater; asserting that I eat LOTS of fruits and veggies, only drink water, and never have sweets – but if someone were to actually TRACK what I eat over the course of the week what would they really see?
I will never forget the day this insight hit me after a visit with my doctor where we had been discussing my fitness regime. I had assured her that I exercise every morning – and while I sat there on the table I was sure that what I said was the absolute truth. But as I walked to my car after the visit I realized that I hadn’t worked out that morning, or any morning in the past week. Had it been a month? More like six months. I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t living my ideal because I believed that I was doing what I wanted to be doing.
Have you ever found yourself saying that you’re doing something and then realized that you really aren’t? While I’m not an advocate for living a meager existence, and I completely think we should enjoy life to the fullest (and have a piece of wedding cake for goodness sake) I do believe that if we want to improve our lives we must learn to exercise self-control and live in integrity with ourselves.