How to make progress when you have zero time

I’ve been waking up at 4am regularly again.  This means that I don’t have enough time during the day and my mind wakes me up thinking of everything I need to get done. Our schedule is too packed, I’m too busy and I’ve noticed things are starting to pile up because I don’t have time to make the progress that I normally do.  I’m too busy, have zero time and it’s stressing me out.

I bet you’ve felt like this too – your schedule is full, your place is a mess and your stress level is rising.  I encourage you to take time to make necessary adjustments to continue making progress, even if you have zero time.  If you do this now, you’ll have a better chance of improving your schedule, your stress level and your sanity.

Remove things from your life.

When you look at your schedule, what do you see? I’ve got a packed work schedule and a packed free-time schedule. And it isn’t working for me.  I don’t have time to think if I’m running from one meeting to the next. It made me realize that I needed to start removing some things from my schedule, from my thoughts and from my life.  After taking a long look at what I’ve been doing, I started to make changes.  I’ve removed important, valuable things from my schedule.  Some of them weren’t easy to remove.  All of them were necessary to remove.  I could tell it made a difference as my stress level decreased with each removal.

I encourage you to look at your schedule right now.  How can you get others to help you? What can you remove? What adjustments can you make? The more you choose to focus on the most important things, the more you’ll start to realize how your schedule shouldn’t be filled up with the other things.

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Turn Your Passion Into A Paycheck

Image-1I was speaking with someone recently about volunteering with my organization and they told me they couldn’t.  You see, they were bitter that their passions weren’t coming to fruition to help pay the bills.  They were too busy, too tired and too annoyed to help me.

It made me think about how often I hear this from others.  They’ve discovered their passions and are excited to live a life of bliss.  Then they seem to be disappointed when life gets in the way of living each day to their passionate potential.

Here’s what I’ve learned about turing your passions into a paycheck:

Realize it’s going to take (lots of) hard work to accomplish your passion

Your dream job isn’t going to fall into your lap.  It’s going to take time, energy and investment to make your dream happen and you need to be ready to make progress now, so you can reach your goal and dreams later.

Think about what you need to accomplish to get where you want to be.  Sometimes it’s easiest to write the end goal and work backwards.  You may need to volunteer with organizations to build your skill set and resume, you may need to seek help of others that can mentor and guide you, you may need to attend more networking events and build your connections.

Every single thing you do that gets you closer to your goal is a step in the right direction.  Even if it’s a tiny step, it’s still progress.  When you’re working on your timeline, be realistic and aggressive with your goals. You may realize it’s going to take months or years to get to the end result – but if it’s your dream – then it’s worth it.  Don’t get discouraged, just “keep swimming” and soon you’ll be there.

Schedule time to accomplish your passion

I love to write and design and realized that I’d gone months without focusing on either of these things.  And I immediately discovered the problem: I didn’t have either one in my schedule.  When you schedule time to accomplish your passion, you’re more likely to accomplish them – your passions are an important meeting, you deserve to spend time on yourself.

I’ve noticed the more time I spend in things I enjoy, the more excited I get about these things and the more progress I make toward my goals.  I encourage you to schedule time today to regularly work on things that are important to you. Make a list of goals, work regularly at these goals and check of your accomplishments.

Find your passion in your current surroundings

Even more than writing and designing,  I love to organize.  When I see something that is a hot mess, I start to get excited.  I also love meetings, projects, task lists and results.  And guess what kinds of jobs I’ve naturally gravitated toward in the past decade? Jobs that have meetings, projects, task lists and start as a hot mess.  I’ve realized the more I see the small things that I love come to fruition within my job (where I earn my paycheck), I’m more alive, I feel more accomplished and I’m more invested.

You are wired to make a difference and if you aren’t in a job that supports your (tiny) passions: Make a plan to make changes now.  Maybe it’s speaking to your supervisor about your responsibilities. Maybe it’s dusting off your resume and using your network to find your new (dream) job.

What was most interesting about the conversation I’d mentioned earlier is that the person that was too bitter to help, was turning his back on a volunteer opportunity that would have built his network and probably given him the chance to meet someone to help him move his paycheck to be more in line with his passions.  

He’s not alone.  So many are just waiting for the opportunity to fall in their lap.  It’s not going to happen.  You are going to have to work – starting today – to make changes in your life to get what you want.  Whatever you need to do to turn your passions into a paycheck, you deserve to find this fulfillment in your full-time responsibilities. I encourage you to be brave enough to try.

Your Most Efficient Morning At Work

I love my mornings at work – it’s my favorite time of the day. It’s when I’m most productive, when I can accomplish the large tasks and when I have the best focus.  I’ve noticed in the past that when I plan my days in advance, limit interruptions and schedule around my best productivity that I accomplish more and feel better.  I encourage you to make changes to be more productive and efficient each morning – and all day – while you are at work.

Picture the plan before you get to work.

Each night before I leave, clean my desk and write the items I need to accomplish on my task list.  I designate the highest priority items and anything that has a defined deadline.  When I come in each morning, I am welcomed to a fresh start and I know exactly what needs to be done that day and my highest priority items.  It saves me time in the morning to have a plan in place right when I arrive.

I encourage you to develop a system to give yourself a great head start.  It could be a few minutes at the end of your day, it could be developing your task list, or it could be another system that works for you.  You’ll be more productive if you set yourself up for success in advance.

Limit interruptions as much as you can.

In my last job, my office was the first one as you’d walk in the door.  Everyone came right into my office and I’d get interrupted all of the time.  I wanted them to feel important, so I’d stop what I was doing to listen to them and help them with what they needed. Some days I felt like I didn’t accomplish anything.

When I started my current job, I was able to pick my office.  I picked the highest floor and the farthest office from entrance.  Now if someone is coming to see me, they have to make an intentional effort (and climb lots of stairs) so my interruptions our minimal.  I enjoy the solitude because I’m able to really dig in and get tons of projects done, with limited interruptions.

I encourage you to find a way to minimize interruptions to boost productivity – maybe it’s closing your door, wearing headphones or moving your office.  Whatever it takes to improve your work flow.

Schedule your day around your most productive times.

I schedule all of my meetings in the afternoon (if I can) and give myself time for the big projects each morning. I’m more focused in the morning and can really dig into the biggest (and sometimes the worst) thing first – and get it accomplished.  Then, in the afternoon, when I’m a little less focused, I can spend my time in meetings and discussion to keep me engaged and interested.

You may need a few hours to be ready to work on projects – if so, schedule your meetings first.  Or you may be someone that likes to move around a lot – I encourage you to take the breaks you need. If you know how you work most productively and schedule your day around your best productivity, you’ll notice that you become more focused, more successful and ultimately more productive.

You can have a efficient morning – and productive day – every day at work. Focus your time and attention on your priorities and being your best self. The more you practice having your best day, the more often your best work days will start to appear. 

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Don’t Wait Until You Are Ready. Start Today.

I heard advice recently that you shouldn’t wait until you are ready.  Because if you wait until you’re completely ready, you’ll probably never do anything.  It made me remember how important it is to take risks, to make progress every day, and to purposefully spend time developing your next step.  I know I need to practice this even more than I currently do and I encourage you to do the same.  Start something now, even before you think you’re ready.

Start when the idea is just an idea.

I spend many of my days in brainstorming mode.  And I come up with some crazy ideas.  Some are crazy good and some are crazy terrible.  But all of them are worth their time and discovery.  Staying in full-thinking brainstorming mode forces me to create and develop tons of ideas and helps me move forward before I’m entirely sure of the end result.

I encourage you to spend a regular amount of time each week thinking up new, crazy ideas. In fact, I want you to schedule that time – it could be your workout time, it could be in the shower, it could be at 4am (when I unintentionally do some of my best brainstorming). You’ll start to notice that you look forward to that time and can think more clearly and purposefully with your big ideas.

Start when the idea scares you.

Recently, a friend applied for a promotion at his current job.  His response when asked, “Well, they’ll either hire me or hire someone better than me.”  I was impressed with this thought process and wondered how ready he’d felt when he applied.  I’d bet he felt mostly ready to take on a new position like this.  If you wait until you’re completely ready, you’re already too late.  To late for the job, the experience, the chance.

I encourage you to move forward when you feel about half-way ready.  You should feel a little scared-excited with what you’re planning to do.  Once you’ve figured out this scary step, be purposeful with your time and effort to help make this step happen.  You’ll start to notice that scared-excited begins to look more and more exciting when you really make progress.  And soon you’ll be right where you want to be.

Start when things will get messy.

I love a clean process, it’s refreshing to get things done and have them turn out exactly as planned.  Do you know what never happens for me? A perfectly neat and tidy process.  You know what I’ve learned over the years?  To enjoy the mess.  In fact, now I really look forward to it.  I know things are going to get messy and disorganized. And that’s OK. Because eventually, the same things will get cleaner and organized and totally make sense.

I encourage you to look forward to the mess.  Try to do a little something each day.  My house is full of projects, my office is full of tasks and I have lists and lists of ideas to start.  Each of them have their own life cycle of ideas, mess and success.  I know where I am with each item because I focus on a little each day.  And I know it will get messy, but I know I’ll also make progress.  You may only have fifteen minutes – use it.  Doing a little bit every single day will make a big difference over time.

It’s easy to wait until you’re totally ready to do anything.  It’s too easy.  Don’t let yourself get that complacent. Start before you are ready and you’ll start to notice how much progress you can make.

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You are not alone, be brave enough to find out why

I’ve had a few distinct situations in my life recently that vividly showed me that we aren’t alone.  I wish I’d been more vocal in expressing my frustration and my feelings because I would have saved myself quite a bit of trouble.

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Simple Ways To Be More Organized Right Now

Want to be more organized tomorrow? You can make it happen today. Right now.  Spend a little bit of time tonight – maybe 30 minutes – and you can have a simpler, less stressful day tomorrow.  Here’s what I do each night to keep my days organized:

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Why we’re OK with spending more on food | 100 days of Real Food

We stopped shopping sales.  We’re buying more local, organic, fresh food than ever before. We’re trying new things (well, the kids aren’t fully on board with that one yet).  We’re spending more money on food – and I think we’ll be OK with it.

We’ve been testing the 100 days of Real Food challenge for almost a month – ours is a medium-paced, gradual transition instead of an abrupt change. But we’ve made big changes that I think are for the better and I’m not sure we’re going back.

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