Finding Happiness in Hobbies

I attended a wedding this weekend and during the reception I watched 2 sisters dance together. One was 18 and the other 12, and the PURE JOY they had dancing was so fun to watch. I felt happy watching them be happy.

I want to talk to you more about this idea of “happy.” What is it, what does it feel like, how do you get it, and better yet – how do you KEEP it?

First, What It Is Not

Media makes it seem like happiness is something everyone should strive to feel on a regular, consistent basis. I have found this to not be realistic nor sustainable. I only know a few people whose neutral state is effusive happiness. And even then, I wonder if I know them well enough to see their true self.

Please don’t hear that when I encourage you to find things that make you happy, that means that you should fake happiness to be palatable to society.

Not. At. All. You deserve more. You deserve a life you don’t need to escape.

Redefining Happiness

Instead of trying to eliminate unpleasant feelings and situations, a more Sustainably Productive (SusPro) way of living is to identify situations, activities, and people who bring that happiness. This is where the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity comes in: Hobbies.

The Pittsburgh Mind Body Center study about how leisure activities impact mental and physical health demonstrates the value of hobbies for sustainable productivity.

Higher participant score on leisure time activity showed the following improvements:

  • Lowered levels of blood pressure, total cortisol, waist circumference, body mass index, and levels of depression
  • Additionally, it showed raised levels of positive psychosocial states, life satisfaction, life engagement, quality of sleep, exercise outcomes, and perceptions of better physical function {even when they factored out sports as hobbies)

Getting Started

What if you don’t know what makes you happy? What if you don’t even know what hobby you might want to try? I would like to suggest you begin by simply noticing what you notice.

  1. Identify the feeling of happiness, what does that literally feel like? When I was watching the sisters joy at dancing, my heart felt full, my stomach and mind were both calm, my face was smiling, and I just felt present.
  2. Once you know what happy might feel like, start to notice when those feelings are present at other times in your day. Does your stomach unclench when you left your phone at home and had silence in the car ride to the grocery store? Does the smile come back with internet cat videos? What smells, tastes or feelings are around you when your monkey mind finally settles?
  3. Now find out what activities can help you find more of these moments. If it is a certain smell, could you take up a hobby making bath and body products. If music makes you smile, maybe a dance class, singing lessons, or just making play lists is the hobby to make time for.
  4. Quit if it isn’t working. It does not mean it was wrong, it just means you have data points to try something new. I thought I wanted to learn to sing and did a few duets with Bixby on acoustic guitar. Turns out I don’t want to learn to sing, I want to do more karaoke. Subtle shift, but I never would have figured that out if I had not tried.

Your Turn

Each of us will have different feelings that indicate happiness. I would love to hear what yours are and what hobbies bring that out in your life!

By |2021-07-26T20:39:19-04:00July 27th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Burnout of Busyness

Are you drowning under the weight of your to do list? When people ask how you have been, is your default response, “Busy!”

Have you stopped to ask yourself why you are filling every nook and cranny of your days – of your kids’ days?

I hear your defensive exclamations: “There is no time in the schedule for asking nonsense questions like that?!”

Let me float another one by you – how does it feel to be so on the run that you cannot check in with yourself.

Or is it the inverse – you stay so busy on purpose so you don’t have to consider those feelings.

To consider the voice in your head nudging you to slow down…

..to wait…

..to breathe.

By |2021-07-18T14:13:26-04:00July 20th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Birth of Fitness Without a Finish Line

Once upon a time, the only thing people knew to ask me about was what race I was training for. Between running and triathlon, there was always something on the calendar. No matter the weather or the state of my body and mind, I NEVER forfeited an entry fee. Even if it meant literally or proverbially limping across the finish line.

This was not sustainable, nor productive.

So in my early 40’s I set out to define Sustainably Productive fitness for myself. This is how the idea of Fitness without a Finish Line was born.

Step One – Identify What Isn’t Working

The first step was to identify what was not working for me. This fell into two main areas.

How I exercised. I was always trying to go faster or longer. When I finished an Olympic distance tri, I had to go for half Ironman distance. I knew I would never win so I had to try to impress people with the distances I was able to go. Even if “able” meant nerve pain sending streaks of pain through my foot or chronic headaches after every swim.

I also stuck to the schedule NO MATTER WHAT. I biked in storms, barely able to find old barns for shelter from lightning. I ran across icy roads barely able to keep from sliding. I swam in lakes in early morning dark hours when I could only hear (not see) the nearest person to me (I keep telling myself it was a person I was hearing).

I am lucky to have come out the other side of such poor choices as unscathed as I have.

Why I exercised. The short story is I needed approval (the long story is for my therapist). Whether it was wows over the distances or societal approval over my appearance, I exercised hard to bring in all the gold stars.

Running burns lots of calories quickly so I stuck to races that incorporated some kind of running. Even though I have exercised-induced asthma, I would run through colds, often pushing them over the edge into bronchitis – just so I could maximize the energy expenditure.

There were several tipping points to bring about my need for change. Once I identified that I needed to make some changes, I started with small adjustments.

Step Two – Make Small Adjustments

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. SusPro methodology identifies value in what you are doing and encourages doing more of what works while you make adjustments in what is not working. Here are a few adjustments that I made.

  1. Racing sabbatical – no race entries for 6 months to see how it felt. The weirdest thing was that I did not have any quick conversation topics. Needless to say, this felt like a whole different problem that what we are talking about today. By calling it a sabbatical, I did not have to dramatically declare that I was never going to race again. I was just trying on this non-racing identity to see how it felt. Spoiler: I have not entered a race in about 5 years.
  2. Increased emphasis on pre-hab. Instead of waiting for injury to strike and cause another round of physical therapy rehab, I now have a pre-hab PT routine that helps to prevent those injuries. I added in some body weight exercises to boost my bone density where I can. Over the course of about 6 months I have gradually increased my pushups and can now do 100 military pushups in a day’s worth of strength training / pre-hab.
  3. Challenging yoga. My yoga studio closed during COVID forcing me to find another hot home for yoga. Never in a million years did I think I would land in power yoga classes in a hot studio. This is power yoga in 95-100 degree rooms. And I love it. This is for sure a COVID silver lining.

Step Three – Evaluate Progress

I track various fitness components in a spreadsheet. Here is a sneak peek from yesteryear (2018 I had knee surgery so the whole year was a bit of an outlier). Some days it feels useless to mark that I walked 1 mile, but over several months, it sure adds up.

And to be able to look back over YEARS is also pretty cool! Don’t try to recreate the past – just start today. You can download the Sustainable You Habit Tracker here for free!

As you are evaluating this progress, you just return to step 1 and evaluate what is not working and make more adjustments. You might have different seasons where schedules, weather, and interests impact your exercise routine. That is ok as long as you keep going. Be heartened that there is no finish line. You are never last, you can never fail as long as you keep trying.

Your Turn

Tell me about your exercise routine, choices, fears, and habits!

By |2021-07-12T13:36:15-04:00July 13th, 2021|Health & Fitness|0 Comments

Home.

When is the last time you felt at home?

At home in your body?

At home in your environmental surroundings?

At home in your relationships?

What does “at home” even mean or feel like for you? Here is what the internet says home means:

“Home” can mean so many things and is a base of creating a life you don’t need to escape. It is when we are uncomfortable in our own skin, unable to exhale, have no safe place to fall that we are desperate to numb the discomfort to avoid feeling un-homed.

The concept of home certainly apply to all three pillars of Sustainable Productivity. Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Environmental Surroundings

Your environment is the easy definition of home. What you surround yourself with. The furniture, art, music, clothes, images, colors and everything else that you take in  directly and indirectly.

Sometimes it is easier to define what is not making your surroundings feel like home. If something is not serving your surroundings in a way that makes you exhale when you enter the space, get rid of it.

  1. Friends or groups in your social media draining you – block, mute, unfriend and delete.
  2. Beige walls make you feel like you are institutionalized? Paint is an easy fix. If you don’t like the color, try again. Wall paper is even making a comeback – although after removing as much wallpaper as I have in my day I cannot in good conscience recommend THAT!
  3. Do you have outdated knickknacks, photos, and accessories around that just feel cluttered? Refreshing small things can transform your space quickly and inexpensively.

If you want to explore what is out there to try to find out how to make your home a Home, try making boards on Pinterest or combing through magazines, or even browsing furniture stores to see what strikes you. What fabrics, colors, shapes, and overall aesthetics are you drawn to? Start small, but start somewhere.

Health & Fitness

There can be may reasons you don’t feel at home in your body. Usually acceptance is at the core of whatever is blocking that feeling of home. As we age it can be hard to embrace the body you are in, instead of wanting the body you used to have.

  • What if you focused on stats related to your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar instead of stats related to the scale and calorie intake?
  • Could you be more accepting of the body you are in if you embraced intuitive eating instead of restricting calories?
  • Would you feel at home in your body pursuing physical activity that felt good – even if you were not part of the “norm”?

Mental Well-being

The component I most want to talk about here is relationships. There have been lots of discussions about friendships among adult women lately. You can find a few of my favorites here and here and here. I sometimes think as an introvert I don’t need friends or are somehow exempt from this section of Maslow’s hierarchy. Oh, how wrong that is. I was reminded of that this weekend when I spent a couple days with my long-time friend and her family at the beach.

I think I laughed more with her and her family that I have all of 2021 combined. We talked for hours as we sat on the beach watching her 4 kids play in the ocean. There is something about someone who has known you for 35 years who can cut through questions to ask QUESTIONS and understands the unspoken things in the answers. I felt seen and understood. I felt at home.

By |2021-07-05T15:06:21-04:00July 6th, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Edit or Eliminate?

It is OK to change your mind.

For several years I have had a calendar entry on the 1st of each month reminding me to send photos from my phone to Lightroom. But as life has changed, this calendar entry inevitably was closed instead of snoozed, or popped up when I thought I would have time so I dismissed it too early.

Edit or Eliminate?

The result was not productive – I still had photos on my phone that needed to be transferred.

This is not to say that if you leave photos on your phone in perpetuity you are not leading a Sustainably Productive (SusPro) life. Only you can decide that. I had decided what was SusPro for me was moving the photos on a monthly basis. The challenge was that my methods of reminder were no longer working.

Actual footage of my photos situation. This is about the max I can deal with and maintain Sustainable Productivity.

It was time for an edit.

Not time for elimination. See – I still needed the photos off of my phone. If I have thousands of images on my phone, I get overwhelmed (unsustainable), and I can’t find what I need (unproductive). I might take a screen shot of a book I want to add to my TBR or a recipe posted on a Facebook group. If I cannot retrieve it when needed, it is not useful for me.

Eliminating photos from my phone is not the SusPro way forward for me. Enter – the edit.

This one was simple for me. I made it a reminder on my phone instead of a calendar entry. Most phones have a native app for reminders. My iPhone allows me to make it recurring each month with no end time. Plus I can set the time for it to fire (i.e., not while I am working and have no time to move photos). Bonus points for being able to snooze it for certain windows of time (1 hour, until this evening or tomorrow).

Practical Application

Sometimes it is hard to figure out what edit to make. You know you cannot eliminate something, but the current practice is not working. Here are some real life examples from clients, divided into each Sustainable Productivity pillar.

Health & Fitness

Challenge: Changes in weather disrupts your exercise routine.

Potential Edits: Have a plan B in your pocket. If it is too hot to run outside, head to the treadmill. Take advantage of summer pool season by lap swimming and letting pilates slide for a few months.

Mental Well-being

Challenge: Summer camp drop off for the kids conflicts with a work meeting.

Potential Edits: Carpool and offer to do the afternoon pick up. Poll your colleagues to see if they could meet at another time.  Take the call from a nearby coffee shop or park after dropping off kids at camp.

Environmental Surroundings

Challenge: Your college student is home for the summer and clutter is taking over your house.

Potential Edits: Let her keep her room in the disastrous state, but close the door. Have a talk with her about how the clutter makes you feel and agree on boundaries (i.e., dishes go from her room into the dishwasher, not on the counter “for later”).

Your Turn

Sometimes when you are too close to the situation, it is hard to see the edits. Or you have lived with the challenge so long you get too frustrated to edit and you just eliminate. Let’s crowd source this on social media to see what edits you could make. Come over to Facebook and share challenges so we can all create the life we don’t need to escape.

By |2021-06-27T09:54:39-04:00June 28th, 2021|Habit Change|0 Comments

Reading Relapse

Remember how I said I was going to read less? I reduced my reading goal so I could free up time to create more of my own content?

Welp, you are only as sick as your secrets so I am here to tell you I relapsed this weekend. I finished three books I had going, and started and finished 3 more. Over a span of 4 days. It is a disease. I am powerless.

In my defense, this was not all my fault.

  1. I was traveling so I just had to do the Read and Return thing. It is not a flight without a R&R book.
  2. The reason for the trip was to help my dad and sister pack up my mother’s things, which I knew would be emotional so I wanted more books to comfort me instead of forcing productivity on the plane.
  3. When I arrived I saw my sister was finishing a book that I had requested from the library MONTHS ago. She finished it shortly after we arrived so I had an opportunity to snatch it and read before she flew home.
  4. We finished early and had time for about an hour at the pool on the last day. I can’t go to the pool without a book – I am not a monster!

But alas, I am here to come clean with a recap of what took me off the clean and narrow path.

Books I Finished

I had three books in progress that I knocked out over the weekend.

Keep Sharp by Sanjay Gupta

My dad bought this, and we are passing it around the family. It is a mix of neuroscience that bounced off my brain at times and practical advice that you can incorporate into your life. Much of his advice is part of the Sustainable You program as well!

The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum

I really want to be a Robert Ludlum fan, but this is strike 2. And it took 650 pages to get to strike 2 (I cannot even remember what strike 1 was). His books are massive deep dives into foreign policy, weapons, overlapping timelines that don’t need to be there, and poorly written romance scenes. I can’t believe I carried this around the airport. I should have thrown it in the pool when I finished.

Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood by Dawn Turner

This was a book I read on my Kindle after getting an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from Netgalley. This was gut wrenching at times, eye opening all throughout. You cannot understand what privilege means unless you hear – and listen to – what others walk through to know their story.

Books I Started and Finished

Next there were three books that I started and finished over the course of the 4 days.

The Book of Lost Names by Kristen Harmel

While I will always pick up a book about World War II, I loved this point of view and combination of stories – forgers, book lovers, resisters. All from an airport Read and Return! What is not to like?

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Super quick read from multiple narrators. I called the twists but really enjoyed getting there. It was extra fun because my sister finished reading it the day before so I was commenting as I read and we were able to have our own little book club discussion during our visit.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson

OK, not the best choice for a trip spent cleaning out my late Mother’s things, but when the hold comes up at the library you roll with it, right?! This was a super fast read (only 137 pages), filled with frank, practical advice, encouragement, and anecdotes about getting rid of crap now. Between this book and the weekend spent purging 154 reusable shopping bags and 77 bath towels, I came home and scheduled an appointment with a local consignment store.

 

Your Turn

What are you reading right now?

Note: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

By |2021-06-22T08:03:34-04:00June 22nd, 2021|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Sleep – A Foundational Component to Sustainable Productivity

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room – sleep deprivation. This impacts almost 70% of Americans. In my 30 years of studying health, wellness, and productivity, sleep has time and again shown itself to be the foundational component to a Sustainably Productive life.

Sleep deprivation has a detrimental impact on all 3 dimensions of Sustainable Productivity (SusPro). Let’s break each pillar down.

Health and Fitness

Lack of sleep has been linked to negative short-term and long-term hormonal changes in your body. Research has demonstrated that sleep loss (less than the recommended 7-8 hours) is associated with a higher Body Mass Index, lower leptin, higher ghrelin, and increased hunger and appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases hunger, while leptin decreases hunger.

I think this is what the movie Gremlins was about. When you go to bed on time and get the right amount of rest, your body responds as a cute little mogwai. You coo and have those big round eyes and are generally pleasant to be around. Hunger is under control and you make healthy food choices because your body is in balance.

Tell me you don’t feel like this when your stomach is growling.
Photo source is Amazon

When you are sleep deprived, your body releases ghrelin which leads to increased hunger. This seems to primarily be related to acute (short term) sleep loss.

When you are sleep deprived, your body inhibits leptin which leads to increased appetite and storage of body fat. Data from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study found that sleep deprivation is a greater contributor to obesity that hormone imbalance causing high leptin levels and is directly linked to increased BMI. This seems to primarily be related to chronic sleep loss – continued sleep deprivation over time.

Mental Well-being

There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a means of torture. Job performance suffers with lack of sleep. Psychiatric illnesses are made worse with lack of sleep. Driving while sleep deprived can have the same result as driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.

The detrimental impacts of lack of sleep can be devastating and far reaching. They impact all the SusPro components of mental well-being.

  • Relationships. Please tell me I am not the only one who is impatient and crabby with her People when she is tired and sleep deprived.
  • Time Management. You can get more done – and focus more on the right things – when you are not sleep deprived. A couple weeks ago I was mentally limping out of the work week after not sleeping well and literally sat at my computer for a full 60 seconds before I could remember what I was supposed to be doing with a certain report.
  • Hobbies. Creativity is higher in those who are not sleep deprived. Additionally you will have more energy and patience to learn new things if you are not sleep deprived.
  • Rest. It is hard to rest when you are sleep deprived because you just end up falling asleep. This is ok because your body is claiming what it needs, but not great when your Kindle drops onto your face. A SusPro life needs sleep and rest in balance with each other.

Introduction to Sustainable You

Environmental Surroundings

I find that when I am sleep deprived the first thing to go is my environment. When I am exhausted and ready to drop into bed, the kitchen shutdown does not happen, clothes drop wherever I put on my pajamas, and there is a general feeling that a tornado hit the house.

Additionally, because sleep deprivation allows for less mental space for hobbies and SusPro time management, we tend to fall back on numbing out with creature comforts like social media and TV.

It is not something to push through or feel badly about because you “have no willpower.” Your body is trying to be good to you and signal that you need to sleep.

Let’s talk about how to make that happen.

SusPro Sleep Tips

While the Sustainable You Health and Fitness Module goes into depth about how to make small, impactful adjustments to improve your sleep habits, here are a few quick tips that you can try tonight.

  • Stop caffeine 30 – 60 minutes sooner than you do now.
  • Turn off screens an hour before bed.
  • Decrease your thermostat by 1 degree when you go to bed.

Your Turn

How are you sleeping these days? What have you tried that does or does not work? What do you notice about your mood and focus when you have slept 7 – 9 hours per night consistently?

By |2021-06-13T08:28:51-04:00June 15th, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Quick Tips to Declutter

It is always darkest before dawn.

You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.

There are dozens of pithy sayings to describe the “hit by a tornado” look that happens when you finally tackle your clutter.

But those pithy sayings resonate for a reason – there is a kernel of truth there.

The Storm

Last summer I brought home my mom’s cross stitch supplies. Reorganizing them and incorporating them into my supplies seemed like a daunting task – physically (there was a lot) and emotionally (it made me sad to think of her death).

But every time I went in my office, I saw the pile of floss, needles, and patterns sitting there abandoned.

I decided the effort of organizing this section of my office was less than the effort of seeing the abandoned stash for one more day. I grabbed my tissue box for the tears that would inevitably come, set aside several hours and took over a large space to tackle the work.

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” Cynthia Occelli

My starting point. The key here is to expect the chaos – and don’t stop when you get to this point. Get rid of what is not working and categorize what you want to keep. Group like items together.

 

Midway – Messy thread contained onto bobbins. This could be a natural stopping point if the day and emotions required it. I still have labeling and storage to do here.

 

The final result. I have seen other crafty people use a label maker on their bobbins, but hand written was good enough for me. This was how I defined “done” before I started – thread on bobbins, organized in their boxes.

The Payoff

Once the chaos of decluttering passes, you know you will be pleased with the outcome and glad you did it. Here are some of the ways you might notice yourself feeling post-decluttering:

  • You will feel light a weight has lifted from your shoulders.
  • The mental clarity you feel at not looking at the clutter will be noticeable.
  • This wont be a space you avoid going to – you can fully enjoy your home.

https://www.instagram.com/juliemorgenstern/

Quick Tips to Get Started

  1. Define what done means before you even start. For me on this project, I wanted to get the labeled thread on bobbins in boxes. You might say you are done when your clothes fit in your drawers or the linens fit in the closet.
  2. Start small. Then go one step smaller. I originally was going to sort all of my mom’s sewing supplies this day, not just her cross stitch stuff. I thought I was starting small (just crafts, not all her stuff I brought home – clothes, books, jewelry, etc.). Then I went smaller and landed on just cross stitch. Instead of organizing the whole garage you might do the outside fridge or just the sport corner or shelving unit.
  3. Identify bailout points. Taking breaks or tackling project in small bits of time requires identifying natural bail out points. On this project, I could have sorted one session, labeled the next and stored the third. If you are taking your kitchen one drawer at a time, maybe this is something you do while you watch TV each night. The key is to stop at those bailout points – even if you feel like you have mojo to continue.

Your Turn

What is an area of your Environmental Surroundings that you want to declutter? How can you break it into smaller projects with defined breaks with an identified goal in mind?

By |2021-06-06T13:42:35-04:00June 8th, 2021|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Beginners and Dabblers

There is a danger in comparing someone else’s outsides to your insides. You most likely will not like what you find – often because you are not comparing your proverbial apples to their proverbial oranges.

There is value in being a beginner, a dabbler.

The Beginner

Let’s say for example you work in a fast paced office in corporate America. You are wildly successful and everyone hangs on your every word, waiting to rush off and carry out your requests.

What would it be like to do a slow paced activity like Tai Chi or Qigong in the evenings. You only have to listen to you and the purpose is to move as slow as possible.

Spoiler – it may feel weird. Like really awkward. You may <gasp> not even be good at it.

Congratulations, you are a beginner.

The Dabbler

Or what about this – you know you need something different, something more. You are seeking out that change of pace so you borrow cook books and the special baking pans from the library. Then you join a Couch to 5k group the following fall. January comes around and you gather 4 teacher friends to start a book club.

All of these things are enjoyable and you want to keep poking around to see what else interesting might be out there.

Congratulations, you are a dabbler.

Beginners and dabblers can be found in components and pillars of Sustainable Productivity. Let’s break down each pillar to see how being beginners and dabblers can help us create a life we don’t need to escape.

Health and Fitness

Ever since junior high school, I had a goal of earning a full ride basketball scholarship to college. It was like a mantra: tuition, room, board, books, and fees.

There was little room for dabbling. I quit the golf team when it interfered with pre season conditioning for basketball. Track was tolerated because I lifted weights heavily (I was a thrower), which was good preparation for playing in the post come basketball season.

I accomplished that goal and let me tell you how much basketball I play now: ZERO. I don’t want to play. Not even H-O-R-S-E. Especially not H-O-R-S-E.

Today dabbling is playing well below average tennis with my husband on a Sunday morning. Or flubbing a drive into the woods with my in-laws (I swear I will be free one of these Fridays!). Swim races across the cove, bike rides, or hikes in the woods – none of which are at anything nearing what normal people call “fast.”

All of this is a pace I can sustain lifelong if I want to.

Mental Well-being

On the May 20th, the Edit Your Life podcast talked about editing stress out of hobbies (one of the components of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity). One way to do that is to let go of perfection and embrace being a beginner. This means all the uncertainty and messiness of being a beginner. This is very evident in fabric crafts.

Let me paraphrase the comparison idea from the start of this message – don’t compare your backside to someone else’s front side. In embroidery, there is a reason that the back is often finished so you cannot see it. There is a hot mess going on behind the curtain. FOR EVERYONE.

Looks like nice, tight and even stitches, right? Don’t turn it over!!!!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I will save you from having to hear all of the times I had to rip out stitches or miscounted. Some of those errors are still in my embroidery. The list of rookie mistakes I have made in the name of hobbies is enormous:

  • Typos in every single one of my yearly family photo albums
  • Dead plants
  • Seams ironed the wrong way

You get the idea. But that is all part of the game.

Environmental Surroundings

Beginners and dabblers can make impacts to the Environmental Surroundings pillar of Sustainable Productivity as well.

My daughter is an artist and aspiring interior designer so we set her loose in her room with paints of all colors a few years ago over Christmas break. Some parts she knocked out of the park, some pieces did not get started.

My sister participates in a 365 day declutter challenge each year. Some items in the challenge she might tear through (junk drawer), while others are harder (storage bins with keepsakes).

It is in the trying that we create a life we don’t need to escape. Like we mentioned last week, it is chipping away at what isn’t David – even if you created the non-David that needs to be chipped away. Try something and see if it brings more satisfaction and ease to your environment.

Even if it is not perfect or perfectly executed.

Your Turn

Is there something you have been wanting to try or get back to? What small step could you take today to become a beginner or dabbler? Which interests you more – being a beginner or dabbler?

By |2021-05-31T16:31:27-04:00June 1st, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Chip Away at Everything That Isn’t David

Sustainable Productivity is pretty much what Michelangelo says about creating a masterpiece:

You chip away at everything that isn’t David.

Let me explain.

Before a masterpiece is a masterpiece, it is a block of marble, a ball of yarn, ink or paint in a jar, dirt. Or in my case – a kitchen table piled with crap.

At least most people would call it a kitchen table. I referred to it as a dumping ground. If we ate dinner together (which was already rare), we ate in the dining room so the kitchen table did not get used very much.

Unless you had a bag when you came in the house, then it went on the kitchen table. Same thing with sport equipment, mail, tools on their way back out to the garage, or any number of things. And these items never left. At one point I had a jock strap cup on my kitchen table for DAYS.

This was not sustainable.

What I Wanted

Let me tell you what my “vision of David” was – I wanted something welcoming and inviting when I came in the door from the outside. For me this means:

  • Uncluttered spaces
  • Inviting furniture
  • Restful colors
  • Meaningful knickknacks

Instead I had the home version of a block of marble.

I had a vision of the kitchen corner equivalent of the statue of David. I just needed to chip away at all that was NOT David – like the nut cup missing its strap.

Eliminate what is not working

Instead of trying to change the behavior of My People, I just got rid of the table. We took it down Thanksgiving of 2019 to put up the Christmas tree. Then decided to live without it “for a few weeks” to see if we missed it.

During that few weeks my mom died, a massive work project went live, then the world shut down for COVID.

Add what works

Needless to say, we had quite a bit of time to plan our next steps. We decided we wanted a cozy coffee corner vibe. I went to town on Pinterest boards for couches or chairs, end tables or coffee tables, book cases or cabinets. We spent time talking about what we would do in that space – I would read a book while Bixby cooked or he could work on his computer while I cleaned up after a meal. This would be a more welcoming and comfortable space that sitting on a bar stool across the counter in the kitchen.

We decided not to shop for a couch online because we just needed to sit on some couches to decide what we wanted. After a few shopping trips in early 2021, we got the tape measure and painters tape out to help us imagine using the space how we wanted with the set up that the furniture allowed.

After we got the couch in place, we lived with it for several days talking about what else to add to the space to create the look and feel that we wanted.

We chipped away at what was not working. The first was not having a spot to put our phone or coffee cup (or Diet Coke can). The second was how sterile it looked with just empty tables. We took knick knacks from other parts of the house to make this corner look cozier.

One miss we had is assuming we knew better for everyone. What is cozier than a having your dog snoozing on her bed next to you while you read under a blanket on a rainy Sunday morning? We bought Lucille’s dog bed before we even had the couch delivered. She loves her 2 beds in other parts of the house. We were wrong about this one though.

Your Turn

Do you have an area in your home that is not working for you? What could you chip away in order to make your home more of a restful masterpiece? It does not have to be clearing a space and waiting 4 months for furniture. It could be moving photos around or resorting books stacks. Purging a shelf to give more open space. Check out the Edit Your Life podcast episode 233, ” Small Yet Powerful Home Edits” to hear about some of the ways they recently chipped away at what was not working.

By |2021-05-23T08:02:33-04:00May 25th, 2021|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

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