I almost went crazy

I have obsessive/compulsive tiny red-dot syndrome. You know, the anxiety that swells up when you see little red circles that alert you to notifications on your iPhone apps. So I damn-near went out of my mind when I noticed my friend had 30,856 emails in his email inbox. 

Apparently my obsessive/compulsive nature is also spurred by my friends’ habits or maybe I should mind my own business. In any case — it got me thinking…  email is so freaking overwhelming. 

When I started my first job back in 1993, I remember how thrilling it was to use email to communicate to co-workers and yes, even friends. As someone who prefers to write versus talk on the phone, I happen to like this form of communication and use it all the time. But like anything else that’s fabulous (amazing chocolate, a sale at Saks, not having to pick up the phone and talk to a human) I realized that I needed to put certain limitations on my email use. 

Because here’s the thing: 

  • The average employee spends 13 hours a week reading and responding to email — 13 hours!* 

  • By the end of 2021, the number of worldwide email users will be over 4.1 billion — this is more than half of the worldwide population.**

  • Only 38% of our inboxes contain emails that are important and relevant*** 

So this meant I was spending a big piece of my time on unimportant email and it was just going to get worse; or is it? 

In 2017, France passed the Right to Disconnect Law, which allows people to ignore work-related email after hours. As reported on CNN,  France's Ministry of Labor said in a statement "These measures are designed to ensure respect for rest periods and ... balance between work and family and personal life. 

Here in the United States, a culture that seems to be super plugged in, we are even considering making changes. In the spring of 2018, Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal proposed The Right to Disconnect Bill in NYC. Stay tuned for more. 

Clearly we need to get a handle on things.  

Then there is the other extreme, Inbox Zero. With Inbox Zero you strive to have nothing in your email. The concept comes from productivity expert Merlin Mann. Personally, I think it’s unnecessary and ridiculous. However, Mann does provide some excellent tips to get to Inbox Zero. 

I think striving for zero emails is something that will spur even more anxiety for people. However, it made me start to wonder. What is the right number of emails to have in your inbox? For me, my comfort level is 25 and below and I've usually read all of them, I just haven’t taken action. A friend of mine is thrilled and feeling great because she hit 700. To her, this works because it gives her a much lighter feeling and an inbox that feels manageable. Perhaps it’s all relative?  

Over a glass of wine, Mr. 30,000+ emails and I talked what could be done. We discussed the concept of Inbox Zero (which I think it a bunch of baloney) and  the French approach but we also recognized that here in the United States we tend to have a much more intense culture with little room for breaks. I do think that our culture is in desperate need for a change — I feel we are struggling with the pace and crashing and burning, getting back up and doing it all over again the next day. And I think it’s on our CEOs, thought-leaders, celebrities and us (yep, YOU) to change the way. 

How can we start?  

  • Be mindful of the emails we send. Do you send chain emails? Copy everyone on an email? 

  • Start your own Right to Disconnect policy. When you can turn off your email and effectively shut down for the day? 

  • Unsubscribe! Consider what you’re signing up for in the first place. When ordering online refuse email promotions. 

Since email is such a big nut to crack, I want to dedicate the next couple of weeks talking about it. Last week kicked off our discussion on email and many of your wrote to me with your struggles and thoughts on emails. Thank you! I will respond to your feedback as well. We’ll also talk about creating a strategy that works for you and then we’ll talk about some tips, tricks and apps. 

The thing is this.
We can loose hours, hours in unnecessary email. It can quickly become a to-do list and one that is not aligned with your values, goals and priorities. So let's start to think about how we can get our email to work for us. 

 *McKinsey Global Institute
**Radicati Email Stats Report 2017-2021
***Sanebox 

 

I wasn't going to tell you this...

Recently I found myself being really unproductive, scattered and just not on my game. My goals are in order, my weekly list is prioritized and my calendar is time blocked. It was something else… I let my iPhone take over. In fact, I was getting compulsive.

Now I know I’m not alone. In 2015, on average, people in the United States across all age groups checked their phones 46 times a day. And that was up by almost 40% from 2014.* And yes, I just used my iPhone to figure that out…

IT’S A PROBLEM BECAUSE:

It interferes with sleep
By now you’ve heard that mobile devices and things like tablets emit blue light, which suppresses melatonin the hormone that helps us fall asleep. But this doesn’t stop the 71% of people who said they usually sleep with or next to their phones — 3% of those people said they sleep with their device in their hand!** (I’m not judging!!)

I used sleep with my phone next to my bed and I checked my emails and texts in the middle of the night. More than once, I’d check email at 2am and read something from a friend delivering bad news or I’d see a stressful work-related email. Guess who was up the rest of the night?

It’s distracting, rude and potentially dangerous  
We can’t not be fully present on a task when we constantly have an ear open waiting for the next ping of our phone. That means we are actively distracted all the time. And when we do stop and answer the ping it can take over 20 minutes to refocus on your original task.***

What about when we are out with a friend or significant other and we keep checking our phones? Hello rude alert! And even worse how about walking down the street texting? I used to do that all the time!

It’s addictive and changing our brains
According to Catherine Price, author of How to Breakup with Your Cellphone the psychology of cellphones is the same as slot machines. Similar to winning the jackpot, our cellphones wire us to want the intermittent rewards of a text that gives us a boost or an email with news that gets us excited.

Secondly, and even more terrifying this “frequent, focused distraction isn't just capable of creating long-lasting changes in our brains; it is particularly good at doing so.” Talk about invasion of the body snatchers!

Now I will tell you, this time around I wasn’t checking my emails at 2am and I didn’t walk into the path of a speeding NYC taxi…. But I know myself well enough to know where things were heading — so I got a hold of myself, just in time. And since I work well with structure, I put together some rules.

Mimi’s Rules of Cell Phone Civility 😉

  1. By 8pm at night, I will turn the phone off and put it in the kitchen.

  2. When I am out and I want uninterrupted time, I will leave the phone at home or keep it in the car.

  3. When I’m working, it stays off.

  4. I will delete apps that I check way too much.

  5. I will turn my phone on in the morning only after I’ve taken care of my pets, journaled and gotten my thoughts together for the day.

Have I been perfect? No. I think this is a weakness for me (kinda like Hershey Kisses) so I’ll need to work on being consistent. However, I do feel much more on track, focused and I’m cranking through my daily to-do list pretty fast. I also feel like I need to practice what I preach and so I am committed to being upfront with you on how this is going.

And I’d love to hear from you. Do you struggle with being too attached to your cell phone? Do you have any tips and tricks for me to try? Tell me in the comments or respond to this email, I’d love to know!

*Deloitte, Global Mobile Consumer Survey Report.
**Fortune, Here’s how many Americans sleep with their smartphone, June 29, 2015
***Lifehacker

 

I totally lied...

I don’t use a to-do list. WHAT?!
 

"But Mimi for the past two weeks you’ve been talking about how we need a to-do list!”
 

Yup… and now I’m going to tell you my 3-step secret weapon to creating a to-do list that really works.


Step 1: Your Master List

Here’s the thing -- we aren’t starting with a to-do list. We are starting with a Master List.

Now your Master List is an ongoing list where you put all your to-dos. Think of it as a place to get everything out of your brain and into one place so you don’t have to worry about what you’re forgetting or what needs to get done.

What’s cool about the Master List is you organize your to-do tasks by categories that align with what’s important in your life. So you can create categories that include:

  • Business

  • Work

  • Health

  • Family

  • Kids

  • Fun

  • Someday, this is where you’ll put the things you’d like to get to… well, someday!

  • And you want a done category; it’s nice to have a place to reflect on everything that’s been completed

Your Master List will never be finished, it’s simply one place to collect all the things that you’re thinking about getting done. Since the list is always changing, I recommend keeping it in a digital format like a Google doc or an app like Evernote (this is what I do) but if you are strictly a pen and paper kind of peep, then treat yourself to a notebook that you dedicate to your Master List. 


Step 2: Your Weekly List

This is where the magic really happens. At the end of the week or on Sundays (I love Sundays) dedicate 15 minutes to sit down and plan your upcoming week. You're going to take out your Master List and pick the highest-priority items and put them on your weekly list.

Now, where is your weekly list? Again, this can be an electronic document OR you can write it down on a piece of paper that you keep on your desk, or put it into your planner.

Next open your calendar and pencil in dates and times to schedule when you will complete these tasks. Things may change -- but the important thing is you are starting with a plan of action. And by the way this is the secret of the world’s most successful people -- they put things on their calendar.


Step #3: The Daily List

Your final step is to spend 5 minutes at the end of your day to plan your next day.

Refer to your weekly list and calendar see what you have planned and jot down a list of 3-5 things. That’s it! Keep it simple -- less is more! And at this point -- you can jot down those to-dos on a post-it note or your planner. Some people just put all the day’s to-dos right on their calendar.

Questions?! Let me know — either ask in the comments below or respond to this email or you can ask me live this Thursday!

I’m thrilled to be talking about The To-Do List Makeover at the Plans to Prosper Online Summit this Thursday, June 28th at 2PM EST. Click here to secure your FREE seat. I’ll be answering all of your to-do list questions and have a special surprise for you too! Hope to “see you” there! 

How a To-Do List Can Save Your Sanity

Sometimes I wish I was one of those people who never use a to-do list. I hear things like: “I keep it all in my head” or “I like to be flexible and see how my day goes”. In a way it sounds fabulous, you’ve got it all under control, you’re so relaxed you just don’t need to worry about what’s coming up next or you’re just full of baloney and are a hot mess.

Now, truly maybe you’ve got it all under control and worry never clouds your mind. While I tend to have things under control (because I use a list!), worry tends to fill my mind with big fluffy clouds and I know from my own experience — without some kind of a list… yup, I am a hot mess (and then I stress out and eat too many Hershey kisses).

So if you don’t use a list or you’ve stopped using a list for whatever reason, keep reading. Why? Because a to-do list can:

Calm You Down
Have you ever tried to read a book, have a conversation with someone or fall asleep, yet something continually runs through your mind over and over and OVER again? Well according to psychologist and behavioral neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin, author of The Organized Mind there is good reason. He says, “the conscious mind can only pay attention to about three or four things at once.” So if we write down what we need to do, we free up that precious mental space. If we don’t, we stress that we will forget what we need to get done and that worry goes around and around in our mind.

If you don’t believe Levitin, consider the work done by Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik, early 20th century Russian psychiatrist and psychologist. Her observations led to the discovery of the Zeigarnik Effect, which states that people will remember things that haven’t been completed versus things that are completed. So if something is not written down, the  around and around thoughts can lead to anxiety.

You see, the brain is a natural problem solver — so unless something is effectively put to rest, the brain will continue to try to figure out a solution. When you get something out of your brain and onto a list it frees up a whole lot of mental space.

Make You Happy
I have one word for you here—dopamine. When you check something off your to-do list—your brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine and without getting into all the techy and nerdy details I’m going to tell you it just makes you feel good.

So checking things off the list, even small things—can feel very satisfying and rewarding. This can encourage a habit, which in turn allows you to get a ton done.

Keeping a list also lets you look back at the end of the day or week and see how much you did accomplish. Kinda makes you feel like a superstar.

Give You (the feeling of) Control
Ever feel like you’ve got SO much to do and you just don’t know where or how to get started? It feels like everything needs to get done now and the pressure just continues to build. When you write things down it’s out of your head and you’re looking at it in black and white. It puts you in control, giving you clarity on what needs to be done and what doesn’t.

Now I know last week I talked about why to-do lists don’t work. You may be thinking, “Mimi, you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth.” But the truth is I do want you to use them, but I want you to use them well. So next week we’ll be talking the kinds of lists you really need… and no, it’s not just one.








 

5 Reasons Why Your To-Do List Doesn’t Work

Common sense tells us that creating a to-do list is the first step in being productive. You diligently write everything down, get it out of your head so you won’t forget and put it all in one place. But the truth is, this is where the problem starts. A to-do list is just that… a list of well, stuff. Random stuff. And it doesn’t work.

5 Reasons Why Your To-Do List Doesn’t Work

Reason #1: It’s a long wish list

To-do lists with the best intentions include things you will get done today and tomorrow along side things that may not happen for another six months. This kind of to-do list may also include things that you ‘should’ do but if you really think about it, you’re not even sure why. It includes stuff to do for work, home, the kids, your health, the pets, your parents, your book club and anyone else you can think of. In fact, it may not even include one thing for you or your wellbeing.

Action Item: Organize your list into categories that are consistent with what you want to have as a priority in your life. Categories may include Work, Health, Family, Fun Stuff, etc.

Why: You can see what you’ve got going on in which areas of your life and where you may not be in alignment with what’s actually important to you.

Reason #2: It’s not prioritized

You feel confident that you’ve gotten all those to-dos out of your head and onto your list, creating more mental space. You’re ready to start ticking items off, starting with the first thing on your list. The problem is that’s not the most important task — the most important task happens to be on the bottom of the list — so you never get to it.

Action Item: Go through your list and consider the priority. Put the more critical or time-sensitive tasks first.

Why: It’s easy to feel productive when you are checking things off the list. However, if the most important task is not getting done, you’re not really being productive

Reason #3: You’ve written down a project list not a task list.

You’ve jotted down things like “Plan trip to Italy” and “Organize closet” but these are really projects and not tasks that can be easily or quickly checked off.

Action Item: Make sure your tasks are really tasks and not projects. If something on your list will take several steps to complete it’s a project. Projects belong on their own list.

Why: Projects can include many tasks, which can take much longer than you anticipated.

Reason #4: It’s not scheduled.

It’s terrific that it’s on the list — the intention is there — but it rarely happens unless it is scheduled on your calendar.

Action Item: Pick your high priority tasks and schedule them in your calendar.

Why: Unless we protect our time, things just creep in and more times than not it’s something that’s important to someone else and not you.

Reason #5: All things aren’t equal

Some tasks will take five minutes, others will take a few hours. Some tasks are critical to achieving a goal, while others are just simple one-off to dos. Your list doesn’t necessarily consider what’s important and why.

Action Item: Go through your list and consider the importance of the task.

Why: If you are looking for a new job does updating your resume have the same weight as buying a new interview outfit? They may both be tasks in your overall project (aka goal) of getting a new job, but to which task should you give more consideration and brain power?

Now don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of the to-do list — I can’t live without mine (WHAT?!) but after years or trial and error I use my to-do list much more strategically. But before we get into that I want to tell you why you really do need a to-do list. So stay tuned for more next week!

 

5 reasons why you procrastinate and what you can do about it

I’ve never really considered myself as someone who has an issue with procrastination. I’m too anxious to leave anything to the last minute and I plan carefully to be sure I don’t miss deadlines. Then I sat down to write this blog post and I wanted to check my phone (again!), texted a friend and caught myself wanting to check Facebook. HA! I AM a procrastinator too! And it seems like I’m in good company. According to Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Nation, 95% of people admit to putting off work. 

What’s up with that? 

Well for starters research is starting to show us that procrastination is a result of the emotional part of the brain versus the more logical part. (Check out this article on hbr.com for details.) I am sure you can relate to how you feel when when something touches your emotions and how quickly it overtakes logic. For example, I want another kitten, I have it’s name picked out (Botticelli!) and yet logically this is the dumbest thing I can do. 

The other thing is that we are triggered to procrastinate by feeling bored, overwhelmed, confused, uninspired, afraid, etc. In the moment it may feel good to push things off, but according to Psychology Today, procrastinating can bring more stress, sleep issues and poorer performance. 

But not to worry — we need not throw our hands up in surrender! 

Here are 5 reasons why you procrastinate and a playsheet to get you going again: 

REASON 1: It’s difficult and not clear. 

The project is going to take a lot of brain power and you are dreading it or you think you know what needs to be done but you aren’t really sure. 

What you can do about it: 

Break the project down into tiny steps. Next put a time on your calendar to tackle the first task when you have the most energy and focus. That may be in the morning or late at night, you decide. Complete the task and repeat with the next task until the project is complete. 

It the project isn’t clear, ask the right person for clarity. Do a piece of it and then review it with them to be sure you are on the right track. 

REASON 2: It’s boring. 

This is just a repetitive task that you need to do… over and over and over again. You're sick of doing it.

What you can do about it: 

Think of the big picture. How does this fit in with your overall goal? Why are you doing this in the first place? How is this boring and repetitive task a bigger piece of the puzzle? 

Once you’ve established why it’s important, plan a time to sit down, focus and get it done. Does it usually take an hour? Challenge yourself to see if you can get it done in 45 minutes. 

REASON 3: It’s overwhelming and scary. 

The project carries a lot of weight and there is a lot at stake. Just the thought of it is giving you a heart attack. You couldn’t get started even it you wanted to. 

What you can do about it: 

Work with an accountability partner like a friend, colleague, mentor or coach. Bounce ideas off of them, talk things through with them and then ask them to hold you accountable to finishing small pieces of the overall project by a certain deadline. Little by little the project will get completed and you will build your confidence in the process. 

REASON 4: It’s stupid. 

You are thinking, “why am I even doing this thing in the first place. It’s a waste of my time.” 

What you can do about it: 

It’s true it may be a huge waste of your time so is it really something that you need to do? Can you cross it off the list or give it to someone else to take care of? If not, how can you change your frame of mind around it? Is it really that bad? Sometimes busy work is an opportunity to not work at 150% and that feels good. 

REASON 5: It’s something you’re not in the mood to do. 

Ugh, its GOT to get done, but truly you are not in the mood and you don’t think you’ll be in the mood tomorrow or the day after either. 

What you can do about it: 

For some people the magic really happens at the last minute so consider create false deadlines. Agree to deliver the project a day early or ask someone to hold you accountable for delivering it on a specific date. These enhanced deadlines can add the pressure you need to get yourself motivated. In addition set yourself up for success. Avoid distractions, get yourself comfortable and plan to work when you are at your best. 

So tell me, do you find yourself procrastinating? What will you try the next time it sneaks up on you? Can you share any tricks that have worked for you? Respond to this email or post a comment and let me know! 

P.S. Don’t forget to download your playsheet — it will get you started! 

The Voices in Your Head (and why they don't know what they're talking about!)

When I tell people I am a time-management coach, I usually hear one of two things: 

“Oh, I need to hire you!” 

OR

“Oh, I wish I could be good with time, details, productivity, but I…

  • “Have always been unorganized"

  • “Need to work 50+ hours a week"

  • “Am always late” 

  • “Will never have the time” 

  • “Am just a mess” 

I can relate. Sometimes I will come up against a challenge and I hear those little voices in my head. It makes perfect sense to why I just can’t do something. Deep sigh, case closed. But the truth is more times than not, these little voices don’t know what they’re talking about. 

Now, they don’t mean harm. They are really there to protect us — but their job function has changed and they haven't gotten the memo. We block ourselves with limiting beliefs, interpretations, assumptions and gremlins as a way to protect ourselves. 

Let’s take a look at how these voices work: 

VOICE #1: 

The Limiting Belief.

What it does: 

Makes you believe something about yourself or a circumstance. 

What is says: 

“I’ve always been unorganized.”  

But in reality: 

  • Is that belief really true? 

  • Is it an idea that you got from someone else like a teacher in 3rd grade? 

  • Could it be proven in a court of law? 

Let’s change it by: 

  • Asking how you can let that thought go, for example, “Yeah maybe I have tendency to be unorganized but I am more organized when I slow down and take my time.” 

VOICE #2: 

The Interpretation.

What it does: 

This is an opinion or judgement about something or somebody that we believe to be true. In fact, science is indicating that we create our experience based on what we think. 

What is says: 

“To be successful at my job I need to work 10 hours a day” 

But in reality: 

  • What would someone else say about that? Would all of your co-workers agree? 

Let’s change it by asking: 

  • Is there another way to look that this situation? Can you prioritize better? Not attend every meeting? Delegate or automate some tasks? 

VOICE #3: 

The Assumption.

What is does: 

Convinces you that just because something happened once it will happen again. 

What is says: 

“Ugh, that report took me twice as long to get it done than I expected and I had to work over the weekend. Now the same thing is going to happen again.”  

Let’s change it by asking: 

  • What did I learn last time that will make it go quicker this time? Is there someone I can delegate part of it out to? Are there pieces of it that do not need to be done? 

VOICE #4: 

The Gremlin.

What is does: 

It’s the inner critic that loves to tell us that we're not good enough or worthy. 

What it says: 

“I’m just a hot mess — I’ll never get my life together.”

Let’s change that by asking: 

So now that you are aware of the stories you tell yourself, you have the power to change the result. This is an incredible thing! Is it easy? No. Does it happen overnight? No. It takes practice, patience and time — but it is something that is completely in your control. Never let that voice tell you any different.  

Need help working with your voices? Respond to this email or post your comment and let me know how I can help. 

Find an extra 8 hours (at least) each week. Download 10 Simple Ways to Take Back Your Time: The Super Hero's Quick Guide

 

 

 

Start Where You Are At

Very often, when we decide to create a new habit we are really clear on what we want to change and how that change will make a huge difference in the quality of our lives. This clarity is key — it’s what will keep us focused and sustain our effort.

However, our end goal is usually far from where we are currently starting. So we start at the beginning with excitement and motivation and after a few solid attempts of making the change, we expect to be at the end. The thing is we’ve forgotten to consider from where we are starting and all the steps that need to be taken between the beginning and the end.

You must start where you are at.

I’ve been considering why we tend to have this natural tendency to want to get to the end goal so quickly. Is it our culture of instant gratification? Maybe. Is it the way we often want what others have? Could be. But I think it has more to do with the discomfort we feel in the situation we are currently in and how we think that when we get to the end goal, life will be so much better. I am sure when you get to that life-changing end goal, your life will feel much better. But I don’t want to disregard where you are right now too.

Where you are at is perfectly ok.

Maybe your desk is a mess and you keep missing deadlines and your boss is all over you. Or maybe your jeans don’t fit and you are terrified to get on the scale. Or you promised yourself you’d have the draft of that book together by now and all you have are some thoughts jotted down on three post-it notes (and you’re not even sure where they are). It’s all ok — you are right now, in this moment, still the amazing person that you will be when you reach your goal. However, when you get there, you will just be more organized, thinner, have a book draft written...

You get the idea, you are pretty fabulous now.

So I want you to jot down where you are at in all its messiness and then I want you to jot down why it’s fabulous. Yup — the mess on your desk. Why is it fabulous? Then I want you to jot down your end goal — and also note why it will be fabulous. Terrific, we are now clear on the beginning and the end.

Now it’s time to figure out the middle.

This is where the real action, hard work and change is going to happen. You’ll begin with a start date and finish at an end date and then fill in all the steps between. And yes, there will be steps, many of them. The beauty of knowing where you started is that you’ll be able to celebrate each and every step you take to that end goal. You’ll see the results, in real time. You’ll be able to notice what works and what doesn’t and adjust on the fly.

See the difference?

Had you jumped right it — and went charging for your end goal — you may have been clear from where you were starting and where you wanted to end, but you would have missed all the steps you needed to take in between. To get you started, I’ve created a Start to Finish Map for you, which you can download here.

Now you tell me (by posting in the comments or replying to this email), from where are you starting? Where do you want to go? What are the steps you’ll take. What can I help you with?

The One Thing You Need to Do to Really Get Stuff Done (and it's not what you think!)

So lately we’ve been talking less about productivity and more about what to do when the going gets tough. We’ve talked about how to deal when things suck  and when you’ve just had it. While these are topics we can all relate to (and I really hope they’ve been helpful!) they may have left you wondering how it relates to getting stuff done. But there is a surprising connection!

I bet you’ve noticed when you are in a good mood you feel like you can get it ALL done. You’re zipping through your to-do list, making plans with friends, can’t wait to get to the next thing. You’re crushing it and feeling awesome!

And then there are times where you are in a downright crappy mood. Maybe something has happened and you are going through a rough time or maybe you find yourself brewing over something that happened a while ago but thinking about it is putting you in a bad mood. Everything feels like a chore. Your to-dos take longer and it feels like you are just slogging along.

It’s not in your head. 

Different emotions give you different levels of energy. Emotions such as anger or guilt or even apathy are called catabolic energy and they physically make you feel down, depressed, blah and really low on energy. As humans, we ALL have these feelings, it’s part of our experience. But it doesn’t feel great and this kind of heavy catabolic energy can really cloud everything in our lives, making it very difficult for us to live to our fullest potential.

On the other hand better feeling emotions such as forgiveness, responsibility, concern, compassion, self acceptance, joy and passion give us anabolic levels of energy, which is like stepping into a ray of sunshine that fills us up with a good dose of positive vibes. This is when you have the boost of energy to get things done, problem solve, feel creative and inspired.  

So when you really want to get stuff done the one thing to do is become aware of your thoughts and emotions so that you can tap into that good energy.

You may be thinking, “Yeah — that’s great — but my husband pissed me off this morning and my train was an hour late or there was incredible traffic and now I have less time to prepare for my meeting this afternoon.”

And I’m going to tell you, “Yup, this is really annoying. Of course you feel frustrated and annoyed and totally stressed out.”

Now that’s out of the way — what is the next thought you can think of that will make you feel a little better? For example, “Ok — I have a door on my office so I can shut the door and hit do not disturb on my phone and my boss will let me move our status meeting until tomorrow so that gives me enough time to prepare. My husband is kind of cute too”.

Instead of fuming you’ve started to problem solve and as a result your energy is shifting into a space where you can be more focused and productive. When you start to become more aware of the control you have over your thoughts and how that makes a difference in the way you feel, you’ve tapped into a true super power.   

So this week I challenge you to be more aware and catch yourself when you are choosing thoughts that upset you and slow you down. Then bring that thought to something slightly better and be aware of how your energy starts to gently shift and you start to get back into your groove.  


 

Why you should rant, rave and get really pissed off

Sometimes you’ve just had enough. Like I just can’t deal with another second of this kind of enough. No, I am not going to tell you to stop and take a deep breath, because even if that’s a good idea, you’d be really pissed off if I told you that right now. (Hey, I know I would!).

I’m going to tell you to do the opposite. I’m going to tell you to rant, rave get really pissed off and let it rip and then…. move on.

You work hard, you do the right thing and have a solid head on your shoulders, so there’s probably a good reason you’ve gotten to this point. Often, these reasons set off feelings of frustration, disappointment, anxiety, anger and other emotions that we don’t love to build up. We try to push them away or ignore them but they just pop up with even more intensity until you are ready to damn-near explode and sometimes you do. It’s not because you have no self control. It’s because these emotions want to be heard and they’ll do anything to get your attention.

So the next time you’ve just had enough and are ready to explode try this:

1. Get it all out. Go to a safe place where you will have quiet and alone and scream at the top of your lungs. Beat the crap out of your pillow. Write down every rotten thought you are having (be sure to shred it later). Jump up and down and have a fit. The emotions you are feeling are all energy that you’ve been carrying around in your body. Don’t judge yourself. Just do what you have to do to get all that built up energy out. This may something you want to do alone or with a trusted friend, therapist or coach.

2. Then acknowledge yourself. No wonder you were feeling horrible, you were dealing with x, y, and z. Your reaction is perfectly normal! Anyone would feel that way. You did great given what you were dealing with.

3. Next, move on. You may feel immediate relief or you may find the feelings popping up again. In that case, be aware of the thought, acknowledge there is a reason you feel that way and then make the choice to move on and...

4. Do it differently. You’ve gotten to this point because you’ve had enough. Something is not working. Perfect! Identify what is not working and then make a list of steps to change it. At first the only steps you may be able to take are super small ones. That’s ok. Every step in a new and positive direction, no matter how small, counts.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Come on Mimi — I come here for productivity advice, not for a life-coachey pep talk.” Fair point, but I promise you feeling "up to there” frustration does nothing for your productivity. So consider taking these steps when you are up against something and you’re ready to move on so you can start getting some good stuff done. 🙂

 

 

 

Why All Things Aren't Equal (you really need to know the difference!)

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about getting things done and she said you know, "a calorie is not a calorie and a minute is not a minute.” It really got me thinking that we often spend our precious minutes the way we spend our calories…. mindlessly. We don’t think about what we pop into our mouths until one day when our pants feel too tight. I realized it’s the same way with our time. Another year will go by or another birthday and we think, how did it go that fast? What have I accomplished? Where has the time gone?  

The thing is we have a choice — we can buy a bigger pair of pants OR we can decide how we can become more mindful of the calories we eat. When it comes to our time, we can continue to mindlessly spend time on Facebook, gossiping and complaining, watching boring TV and then wondering how time has flown by OR we can become more deliberate in how we spend our days. 

So let’s consider what a day in the life could look like. Maybe instead of…. 

  • Hitting snooze, sleeping an extra ten minutes, being late, jumping out of bed and tripping over the dog, you decide to wake up, wiggle your toes, take a few deep breaths and consider one thing, you are looking forward to today (maybe it’s your first sip of hot coffee or knowing you’ll see a friend later that day).

  • Eating at your desk, scrolling TMZ.com because you need a mental break and want to see the latest celebrity meltdown and then spilling your Diet Coke all over the report you’ve been working on and across your lap, you decide to pick up a salad packed with protein, go for a 5 minute power walk (or talk to a fun co-worker for 10 minutes) and eat without distraction, you even put a napkin on your lap! 

  • Working until 7pm, heating up a frozen pizza and watching Seinfeld reruns until you fall asleep, you decide to leave the office on time (and you can because you’ve been mindful of your time and super productive) and go to salsa class. 

You get the idea. I may be exaggerating the scenarios a bit — but my point still remains: you get to control how you spend your time and even the smallest changes in your daily routine can bring some pretty amazing rewards into your life. 

Remember, you deserve the best.

So keep that in mind when you make your next decision (no matter how small it seems!). Would you rather eat 500 calories of potato chips or 500 calories of a meal that makes you feel good, gives you energy and may extend your life? Same thing with time. Would you rather spend your Saturday afternoon talking on the phone to someone about baloney or take a hike in the fresh air or turn off your phone and sit down with a book you’ve wanted to read?

How will you change the way you spend your minutes? Tell me in the comments. 

5 Things to Do When Everything Sucks (and you're too busy to stay under the covers)

I’m going to be super honest — sometimes life sucks. As a life coach maybe that shouldn’t be my POV, but from my experience it's the truth.  People get thrown curveballs all the time; a devastating loss, a terrifying diagnosis, turmoil at their job, an out of the blue divorce. In the meantime, even though you want to stay in bed with the covers over your head, life continues to move on rapidly and there are truly things that must get done. 

So here are 5 things to do when everything sucks: 

  1. Recognize that this too will pass. I know when tragedy strikes it feels like life will be like that forever. When my younger sister and brother passed away suddenly it sure felt that way. I remember thinking the devastating feelings I was experiencing would never go away. But they did. Yes, life was never the same, but it wasn’t horrible anymore and in some ways my life became even better. So even though it feels really hard, remember all things pass. Keep going, because you will come out the other side — stronger than before. 

  2. Consider how this experience can work for you. Having a real shitty time at work? Yuck, that’s the worst. But what can you do to make things better? Is it an opportunity for you to grow a thicker skin? Or an opportunity for you to learn more skills? Is it time for you to start setting better boundaries and saying the magic word NO? Maybe the time to start considering a new job or career change? Instead of feeling defeated by a hard time, consider how you can make it work for you — not run you over. 

  3. Take something off your list. When you are going through a rough time — your energy can be easily depleted. It’s not possible to get it all done. It’s ok to play the “I’m having a rough time card”. (Just be sure to return the favor when someone else needs to bow out for a while.) Ask for help. Don’t push yourself extra hard. Decide what really needs to be done. Now is not the time to take on more. 

  4. Get more sleep. You are busier than ever, stretched to the limit and sleep feels like a luxury. But it’s really not. In fact a recent article in Health Magazine said "A lack of sleep can contribute to depression. A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep." While it sounds counterintuitive, sleep is highly restorative and will give you more energy and focus, which will give you the ability to get things accomplished. 

  5. Just breath. And if you can, get some exercise too. You do not need to go to the mountain top or even meditate for 30 minutes a day. Sitting quietly and taking some deep belly breaths (put your hands on your tummy and make sure your tummy moves up and down for each breath) for a few minutes can make a dramatic difference in the way you feel.  

When everything feels like it sucks, you are not alone. We all go through crummy times. The important thing to remember is to take one step at a time to the other side. 

Have you gone through a hard time and come out the other side? What helpful tips could you share with others? Please let us know in the comments. 

Happiness. Can you find it?

In coaching school we learn about something called the "wheel of life". It’s a “pie” that's divided into equal slices that include areas like personal development, spiritual awareness, health, family, finances, etc. The idea is for you to go through it with your client and have them rank their satisfaction in each slice so that we can identify what is out of  balance and work on those areas. It kind of made me go out of my mind. 

The first time I did it, I appeared to be unsatisfied in every area on my wheel. So in my typical Scorpio-nature fashion, I started to set big goals for each slice. 

  • Spiritual Awareness: Meditate for 15 minutes every day. 
  • Health: Get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. 
  • Career: Launch a business while still working full time and commuting almost 4 hours a day; maybe get promoted too. 
  • Personal Finance: Let’s not even go there. 
  • Family/Friends: Call my parents 3 times a week and see them once a week, have a date night with my husband every Saturday, touch base with my close circle of friends once a week, have an Aunt Mimi day with my nieces and nephews once a season (I have 14 nieces and nephews—how’s that supposed to happen?). 
  • Fun + Enjoyment: Go to a movie 1x a week, read 25 fiction books and go to a museum once a season. 
  • And so on…. 

When I found myself driving into the city on a Sunday morning to get to The Metropolitan Museum of Art by the "end of the season" I thought wait a second — this is NOT making me feel more satisfied! BTW — I didn’t realize it was the day of the Israeli-American parade and 5th Avenue was closed off — I spent more time looking for a parking garage than in the museum so you can believe I was not leisurely walking through the galleries once I got there! 

Now, in the wheel of life’s defense, I probably took my goals too far (I usually do), but I learned something too. You are just not going to be hitting it out of the park happy in all areas of your life all the time. Because when you are trying to do everything well, you do nothing well. 

So let’s redefine satisfaction. (The Satisfaction Planner will get you started, download it here) 

If you could choose only three areas to focus on what would they be and why? What does it look like to excel in these three areas? How do you make it happen? Is it realistic? Use The Satisfaction Planner to get you started. 

Sometimes circumstances in your life will predetermine the areas that you need to focus on. You have young kids, older parents, you are in school full time, you had a health crisis so you must make your health a top priority. Of course those things will need to take precedence (for now) so give yourself permission to make this your priority. 

Another interesting thing is that sometimes when you focus on a primary area, your satisfaction in another area automatically rises. For example, you decide to take a 30-minute walk every day (health is your primary area) and as a result, you are finding such peace in observing the trees, flowers and birds along your route, so your spiritual satisfaction starts to increase as a result. 

Here are the areas I chose. 

Career: I decided this would be my number one area of focus. Starting a business  that helps people find time to enjoy their lives is the reason I am here. 

Family: I decided that spending time with my parents was more important than having playdates with my nieces and nephews. I’m still a good aunt. Sometimes we all spend time together, then it’s a win for everyone. 

Health: If I’m not healthy then no one wins. I go to kickboxing, yoga and walk a ton. For me, yoga is more of a spiritual experience, so I’m automatically increasing my spiritual slice of the pie. I simplified fun and enjoyment so that it’s now a part of my overall health and wellbeing. Right now I choose to skip the latest art shows in NYC but I do download a movie to my iPad almost every Friday night. 

So tell me, what areas do you chose? Download The Satisfaction Planner and pick your areas and then let me know in the comments!  

 

How a Tomato Can Change Your Life

You are so not going to believe this, but a tomato can change your life. Well, specifically a Pomodoro tomato. OK, before you start telling me you don’t like tomatoes, only like them over your macaroni or fresh off the vine in August, let me explain. 

I am talking about the Pomodoro Technique. This is a productivity method started by Francisco Cirillo in the 1980s. The idea is you take a kitchen timer and set it for a period of time where you do nothing but work and when the time is up you take a short break. Our Italian friend, Francisco used his kitchen timer, which happened to be shaped like a tomato. Hence the name Pomodoro Technique.

So let’s try this for ourselves. 

Step 1: Be clear on what you need to accomplish. 

Step 2: Get settled. Have your water, coffee, tissues near you. Turn your phone off. Get your timer ready. 

Step 3: Set your timer for 25 minutes. 

Step 4: Work, work, work—all you’re doing for 25 minutes is working on what you set out to accomplish in Step 1. 

Step 5: Take a 5 minute break then repeat. 

Plan to do a few Pomodoros in a row. So let’s say 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off three times in a row. Some people like to play with stretches of time, for example 45 minutes on and then a 10 minutes off. You can play around with the times. 

What’s cool about this technique is that it really helps get your mind into a place where you can get laser focused because you know you will have the break where you can do whatever you want. It helps get in the flow quickly and before you know it you are cranking out a lot of quality work. You don’t even need a tomato timer! In fact, my kitchen timer is in the shape of a ladybug. 😃  

So let me know: 

Had you ever heard of the Pomodoro technique? Have you tried it? How did it go? For those of you who are just hearing about this, will you give it a shot? Let me know in the comments. 

Go Ahead, Miss That Goal

Ever set a goal, crush it and do then happy dance for a week? It feels amazing, right? There’s no stopping you, you are on FIRE, on top of the world. Now what about when you set a goal, work your ass off and still don’t reach it? Not so nice, right? 

When you’ve experienced the down side of goal setting, it can feel daunting to get back up and try again. 

I once worked so hard toward a big goal that I missed and found myself up at 3am gasping for air because I had a panic attack over it. It made think twice before trying to do something great again. 

Now, you can play it safe by setting a goal that you know with 100% certainty you can achieve. But does that really make you a winner? Then again, setting a big goal that you’re not sure you can hit may feel like a recipe for disaster. 

But what if it’s not about the goal after all? 

Sure, there is a reason we want to achieve what we’ve set out to do. But if we’ve shown up for ourselves and we do the right work, then maybe we're successful after all.

So the next time you set a big goal and fall short, consider this: 

  • What have you learned? Take the time to get some insight into what happened and what you need to do next. 
  • How are you different? The person who started is not the same person who has finished, it doesn’t matter where you’ve landed. You’ve learned stuff, taken risks and put yourself out there in ways you’ve never done before. 
  • How can you reset your goal and try again? What feels like failure now may be the greatest source of rocket fuel later on. 
  • Who can you inspire? The way you get back up may inspire others in a way that would have never been possible had you sailed to success.  

Recently, I sat down to do some planning and I was really clear on a goal I wanted to set. Of course, my inner critic was like, "Yeah, let’s see if this happens.” But instead of backing down and adjusting my goal to be something I would most likely achieve, I left it at the level that would be a challenge. There is a good chance I will hit it. There’s a greater chance I will miss it. But if I do, no worries. I will take stock of what I’ve learned, consider what I need to adjust and try again. In fact, if I fail, I may even treat myself to a massage. 😉 

Now it’s your turn. 

What big goal have you been holding back on? Why are you holding back? What would happen if you gave it a shot? Let me know in the comments! 

Do the Right Work.

I had a big problem. I wasted a year doing the wrong work. Now, in my defense, it felt like it was the right work! It aligned with my goals of being an online entrepreneur (I thought). When I talked to my peers in my mastermind groups, everyone agreed I was getting a lot done; in fact, they were impressed. And let me tell you, when I checked things off my to-do list, boy did it feel good! Checking things off the to-do list is a true indicator of success, right? 

Nope. 

So here’s what happened. My goal is to be a successful online entrepreneur. Specifically, I help people get super productive by getting clear on their goals and helping them map out the steps to get there. But in order to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to make money and in order to make money, you need to be doing the right work. Since I was’t doing the right work, I had a hobby. An expensive one.

Maybe you can relate. 

You’ve set a huge goal. You are super committed to it and really passionate about it. You’ve made it your priority by making time for it. There's a lot to do and so you’re doing the work. But after a while, when things don’t pick up speed as much as you’d like, you start to wonder if you are doing the right work.  

Here’s the thing. It can be really hard to figure out what's really the right work. 

You want to start an online business — so you need to create a website and then make sure that website is perfect. After the website, you decide to start a podcast to get the word out. Facebook ads too! 

Yes. All of that is important. But not as important as getting out there and talking to the people who are your target audience. Find out what they need. What’s their biggest problem? Listen to them. Help them. This is the right work. 

OR

You want to do that sprint-distance triathlon this summer. So you go out and buy a brand-new bike. You take a class on bike maintenance (What if you get a flat during the race? You need to know how to change the tire!). You need new sneakers too. 

Yes. Good footwear is important. Going out and running, every day? That is the right work. 

So are you doing the right work? 

Only you will know for sure. It’s easy to overlook. It’s easy to trick yourself too. Very often it will be the thing you just don’t want to do. The thing that you’ve been resisting because it feels too scary or that you’re not ready yet. But when you do that work, it will start to propel you to where you really want to be. It’s so worth it. 

I’m finally doing the right work too. 

I spent the better half of a year ‘getting ready’. I set up my website, created autoresponders, and I wanted to fool around with some cool additions to my website when my business coach Jenny called me out. And she was so right. There certainly is a time to get ready, but it’s not nearly as long as we usually make it. 

So tell me. Are you doing the right work? Do you suspect you should be working on something else? Leave a comment and let me know where you think you may be stuck.  

So How are Those Goals Going?

Toward the end of December and the beginning of January things like “Goals", "Word of the Year” and "Best Year Ever” are front and center. For many of us (me included!) it gets us SUPER pumped and motivated and ready to go like gangbusters on January 1st. It’s also a good excuse to buy a new planner, or two or three…  

Being that motivated and focused helps, but it’s hard to have the same motivation that you had on January 1 by the middle of March. 

So I ask, “How are those goals going?”

And you may respond: 

"Amazing, thank you very much. I am doing great with my marathon training plan. I’ve seen my Instagram following increase by 20% and I’m meeting all my sales goals.” And to that I say, “Way to go! You’ve planned well, put all the pieces in place, are super focused and putting in the hard, hard work." 

OR you may say...

“Well, I’m not really sure — I felt like I had a solid plan but it’s not really coming together the way I thought it would. I know it’s only March, but I feel so off track.” 

OR you may say… 

“What goals?” 

Today’s post is for my “not really sure” people. 

OK. So it sounds like you’ve done the work and sat down and done some real planning. Good work! Now I am going to tell you that clarity comes from taking action. Even though you may have had a clear vision, it’s hard to know how things will pan out without taking some real action. You’ve taken action and you haven’t gotten the results you want. This is actually really good. Why? Because you’ve taken action. Know how many people don’t? 

SO, DO NOT GIVE UP!
Just reevaluate by doing some A.R.T. (Actions, Results, Tweak) 

STEP 1 ACTIONS: What have your actions looked like? Get real specific and clear here. 

STEP 2 RESULTS: What kind of results (or non-results) have you gotten? Be sure to consider if: 

  • Your initial goals were realistic 
  • There are more efficient ways to get to your end goal
  • You've given yourself enough time to achieve your goals
  • This something you really wanted in the first place  

STEP 3 TWEAK: With the data that you’ve gotten from reviewing your Actions + Results you can adjust your goals as needed. 

I promise you, working through your A.R.T. is the true key to success. It’s not that you aren’t doing a good job or you don’t know what your doing or it was a bad idea. It’s just that you need to take a look at the feedback, make adjustments and move forward. You’ll want to schedule time to complete an A.R.T. regularly — maybe once a month, but once a quarter will give you more results to review. In fact, an A.R.T. should be a regular part of your business planning. When things are off track it will help you reset and when things are totally on track, it gives you valuable insight into what is working so you can continue to crush it.

LET ME TELL YOU A SECRET ABOUT MY GOALS (I wasn’t reaching them either!) 

When I sat down in December, I had this idea that I would dedicate a lot of my time to doing free sessions with clients. When January rolled around, I had a few free sessions booked (and I loved doing them!) but not as nearly as many as I had planned. I started to panic. I was off track! How was I supposed to hit my big 2018 goals if I was so off kilter already? After consuming large amounts of chocolate and tackling my 6-year old niece when the poor kid stopped over to deliver my Girl Scout cookies, I did some A.R.T. 

I realized that a certain amount of free sessions isn’t the Holy Grail to my success this year. Yes, I will do them, but not as nearly as many as I planned. And guess what? After I had that realization I had two sales. 

SO DO SOME A.R.T. 

Since I really believe in the process, I’ve created an A.R.T. worksheet for you. Click here to download! And please, keep me posted and tell me how it’s going. You’ve got this! 

Show Up For Yourself

You’ve got a big idea. You're ready for your business to hit the next level. You want to make a big personal change. 

You dream about this new way of life and it’s been nagging at you to get done. You’ve even worked on it but it’s here and there and hit or miss and so you’re really frustrated with the progress. 

Here’s the thing. When you really want something, I mean really want it, you need to show up for yourself. Not once in a while. Not when you have a few minutes.  You need to show up EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

And this is hard because: 

  • You have a demanding job, you never know when somethings going to come at you and you already work long hours; 
     
  • You have older parents that need your help and sometimes that includes last minute doctor’s appointments and hands-on care; 
     
  • You have kids and they come first;  
     
  • Or maybe it’s a little bit of all of the above. 

It just seems impossible to show up for yourself; I mean otherwise, you’d be doing it already. 

But the truth is there may never be a right time to start and the more you think about it, the more time you’ve lost. So let me remind you--you can do this. 

Even if it means: 

  • Getting up (or staying up) and hour later; 
     
  • Hiring a babysitter for an afternoon a week; 
     
  • Taking a GOOD look at where you are really spending your time; 
     
  • Not working late every night;
     
  • Saying no; 
     
  • Asking for help.  

Have I convinced you to show up for yourself? I sure hope so! Here’s five easy steps to get started: 

Step 1: Get super clear on your goal. 

For example, "I want to complete the first draft of my book on the women behind the great men of the American Revolution within the next six months, which is June 1." 

Step 2: Write down a list of everything that needs to happen to reach this goal. 

For example, "I need to research my topic, interview people, compile my notes, write my outline, do more potential research, write."

Step 3: Re-evaluate. Is my timeline realistic? Am I missing anything? 

For example, “Wow, I didn’t realize how much research I’ll need to do to write my first draft. OK, instead I will commit to completing all my research (including reading five books and talking with three topic experts) by June 1." 

Step 4: Commit to when, where and how you will show you for yourself.  

For example, "From 10:00 PM - 11:00 PM Monday, Wednesday and Friday I will set aside time to do my research. This means I will turn off my phone and skip watching Golden Girls reruns. On Sundays instead of cooking a big meal, I will order in pizza so I have time to work on my research.” 

Step 5: Do it. If you get thrown off course, just get back to it. It’s that simple. 

So what will you show up for? And more importantly how will you do it? Tell me in the comments. Let me know if you feel stuck, I’ll help you get started! 

Take a Break! Get More Done!

When you start to work on a passion project, it’s because you really feel with all your soul and being, that you will make a mark on the world. In fact, I’d almost bet my life, that when you are working on your project, it doesn’t even feel like work. Time doesn’t matter and the feeling of creating makes you know this is what you were born to do.

 

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