Organizing at Home

Journey to Gratitude: Days 38-44

Once again, life has deterred me from keeping up with my posts. I had a sick toddler for a week, then I got sick, and then Snowpocalypse 2015 hit. It’s been busy. But amidst all of that, here’s what I can be thankful for….

Day 38:
Now that Bella is getting older and understands and communicates more, I love our outings together. Today, we went shopping for some new appliances for the new house. While we were out, we also went and had lunch at Chick-fil-A. Just a fun girls day out and about (and apparently, very tiring).

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Day 39:
So a few days ago I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Vegucated,” which was about a 6-week challenge for 3 folks to try the vegan lifestyle. It was very eye-opening and really got me thinking. I’ve always been health-conscious, so I am always open to trying healthier options. That being said, I don’t know that I could ever go vegan or vegetarian indefinitely, as I do actually enjoy meat. But I am capable of eating vegetarian meals, or even going through short spurts of being completely vegetarian. In an attempt to try some new plant-based protein options, I bought some tofurky and soy burgers and what not on my latest grocery trip. I was amazed at how easy it was to find quick-serve options at even the local Walmart. So today I am thankful for how far we’ve come with vegetarian and vegan items, that they are easily accessible even in smaller towns where I live and without going to the local “health foods” store.

Day 40:
Today I got a call from Bella’s daycare that she was running a fever. Blaine had practice, so he couldn’t go get her. Fortunately I was able to get out of my afternoon meeting to go get her. Today I am thankful that I have a relatively flexible job that still allows me to be there for Bella.

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Day 41:
Bella’s fever got pretty high last night. Actually, perhaps the highest ever – 104. Though she acted like she didn’t feel well, she did still have bursts of activity, and she was eating and drinking just fine. I wasn’t sure at what point I should be concerned enough to take her to the ER. I ended up calling a nurse line, who gave me some helpful tips on how to keep her comfy and signs for which to watch that would signal an emergency situation. She slept with me overnight, and by morning, her fever was back down a few degrees and she was acting normal. So today, I am thankful that things didn’t escalate enough to warrant a trip in the night to the ER.

Day 42:
Bella’s fever spiked again in the night, so I ended up having to stay home with her again. Today, I am thankful for not one, but TWO, awesome teammates who were willing to cover my shift in the store so that I could stay home with Bella. I am also thankful that I was able to get some work done from home.

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Day 43:
Bella’s spurts of activity became non-existent and her appetite disappeared – signals I was waiting for to know that this was turning for the worse. So I took her in to the doctor this morning, and we found out that she has a sinus infection and the start of an ear infection. She was prescribed some antibiotics, and I gave her a dose immediately. Less than 12 hours later, she was up and running again. Today, I am thankful that Bella is on the mend. I am also thankful that Blaine was able to stay with Bella tonight so I could go into work for a few hours.

Day 44:
We had our inspection on the new house today. We waited with bated breath to get the results, as we were certain the inspector would uncover something HUGE – hence why we were getting such a great deal on the house. As it turns out, he found only minor things that Blaine and his rental renovation crew can easily repair. The biggest issue uncovered was radon detection – levels at four times the “allowable” level. (If you don’t know about radon – where it is found, what it can do, and how to repair it – I highly suggest looking into it. This is my new PSA mission, as I learned it is the second only to smoking for the leading cause in lung cancer!) Anyway…as scary as that sounds, it is also easily repaired with the installation of a mitigation system, which we intend to get. So today I am thankful for a good inspection on the new house!

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Journey to Gratitude: Day 37

What a roller coaster week this has been!

As you know, we found a remarkable deal on somewhat of a “dream house” last weekend, and on a whim, decided to go for it. Our offer was considerably outbid by a cash offer, and though disappointed, we made peace with the fact that “it just wasn’t meant to be”.

I had moved on so much that I was exploring other options to supplement my career in the meantime. In fact, I just sat in on a webinar today and made a deposit on a training certification program for Color Code – a personality assessment of sorts that teaches ways to interact with others based on their “color” (and the motives behind that color). By getting certified as a trainer, I could go out and teach workshops about the Color Code – a perfect compliment to the coaching career that I’m working towards.

Literally within 30 minutes of wrapping up this seminar and paying my deposit (which – thank God – is refundable), Blaine called with unbelievable news. In fact, it was so unbelievable that it left me speechless and in shock: we got the house! I didn’t believe him at first, as Blaine is notorious for pulling pranks. But alas, he was telling the truth. The cash offer apparently backed out or fell through, and we were the next best viable offer on the list. So if the inspection and all goes well, we will be moving in one month to the lake!

I’m sure that I will have many more gratitude posts around this particular subject, but for today, I am just thankful that the house is even a possibility. With all of the hardship that we have been through the past few years (and usually at this time of year, in fact), it feels like a breath of fresh air to finally receive some good news!

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Journey to Gratitude: Days 30-35

Life happens. While I made a note of my gratitude items each day, I did not get a chance to post them. So here’s the past week:

Day 30:
Today, I saw AMERICAN SNIPER (which was excellent, by the way). I am always amazed by those who have the courage and passion to serve this country, as I don’t think I could stand on the battle lines. So today I am thankful for those who serve our country to protect our freedom.

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Day 31:
Bella just turned 2 a couple of weeks ago. While the time is going by so very quickly, I am also thankful for this age. She can finally communicate with words her needs and wants, she understands commands from me, and best of all, we can go “play”! She is at such a fun age where she is curious about everything and has such a great awareness of the world around her. I can now take her to playgrounds and kids’ museums and the zoo – so many fun places!

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Day 32:
This weekend, Blaine and I stumbled upon an amazing deal on a foreclosed house for ourselves. In talking about the possibility of pursuing it, I decided to bring up my credit score. For those who haven’t followed my story, I filed bankruptcy during the peak of the recession (following job loss and all that comes with that). Four years later, I am in a much better place, and have managed to pay off all remaining debt (the car and my hefty student loans were excluded from the bankruptcy). Today, I am thankful for second chances and the ability to rebuild after tragedy, as my credit score is the highest it has ever been!

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Day 33:
My work team has seen A LOT of changes over the past year. Namely, we have gone through an entire culture change, nearly a complete turnover of our HPLT (high performance leadership team), and turnover of a third or so of our team members. It was a tough road, but we are in SUCH a better place now as a result, and 2015 is already off to an amazing start! Today, I am thankful for the new faces at our HPLT table, as I think we have a strong, cohesive team to propel us to the next level!

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Day 34:
Blaine and I put in an offer for the house we found over the weekend, and I became so excited and fixated on it that I was already imagining where we would put things. I could just *see* and *FEEL* us in this house. Alas, it was not in God’s plan, as someone swooped in with a cash offer well above our financed offer. I was heartbroken. And yet, it was a reminder that I need to learn to trust in God’s plan for us. This house or this time just wasn’t right, and there is other business we need to take care of before we settle into our dream home. Today, as hard as it is to swallow, I am thankful for that reminder.

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Day 35:
I was pretty disappointed about not getting that house. Blaine was trying to be encouraging that we would one day have our house, but maybe the timing wasn’t right and we need to get some other business aligned first. This loss gave us an opportunity to discuss many things – our present, our future, and most of all, how fortunate we are to have all that we currently have. I love theses moments when we can really connect with emotional intimacy and have a great chat about life. We don’t get those moments often – mostly because life is so busy and we don’t take (or make) the time to pause and have these discussions. So today, I am thankful for this rare gem that has the power to refuel our marriage and remind us why we have chosen each other.

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Journey to Gratitude: Day 7

Today’s gratitude post might also serve as a “you’re welcome” post.

Today, I am EVER so grateful for this time-saving tip from a friend of mine: use your electric mixer to shred your chicken.

Whaaaaat?! Where has this tip been for the past 10 years?! Though I love eating chicken casserole and chicken enchiladas, I always dreaded cutting and shredding the chicken by hand. Then a girlfriend shared this tip about the mixer during a girls’ weekend about a month ago, and MAN! This is my time-saving tip of the YEAR! In less than 60 seconds, I had shredded chicken ready to go for my casserole. That task used to take me 20 minutes (or more). AH-MAZING!

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Journey to Gratitude: Day 5

As the holiday season has been boxed up once again and “life” begins to return to normal, I am thankful today for a regular schedule. Of course, the given with that then is appreciation for each of us having jobs to go to for steady, solid income, and Bella having a good daycare to go to so that we can both hold jobs. It also means we can return to a healthier menu within our home, and hopefully get active again, so that we can hopefully shed at least some of this extra weight we’ve been carrying around.

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Making Your Goals Attainable: A Real-Life Example of an Action Plan

On a previous post, I shared how I walk clients through the process of creating a SMART Action Plan.  To read that post, CLICK HERE.

Goals Concept

So many times we make promises to ourselves:

  • “I need to lose weight.”
  • “I want to start eating healthier.”
  • “I need to get organized.”
  • “I need a new job.”

The problem is that we fail to be specific enough or assign a timeline for getting things accomplished.  A perfect example of putting something off because of lack of an action plan is my desire to obtain my Personal Training certification.  I have been thinking about getting this certification for at least 5 or 6 years, and yet, here I sit with no certification.  I even bought the study books and materials for a nationally accredited certification about 4 years ago, and I think I made it about 6 pages into the manual before I tossed it aside.

My failure to achieve my goal boils down to a lack of a SMART Action Plan, the most important step being that I didn’t assign a timeline.  “One day” is not a specific timeline.  In order to achieve your goals, you have to have a realistic, specific timeline to achieve those goals.  I decided it was time to give myself a taste of my own medicine and put an Action Plan in place!

GOAL:  Obtain Personal Training certification
DEADLINE:  By Thanksgiving  (November 28)
START DATE: August 28
*13 weeks to achieve goal*

STEPS:
1.  Study
Personal Trainer Manual and Workbook  (18 chapters; 2 chapters per week for 9 weeks)
Program Design Handbook  (4 sections; 2 sections per week for 2 weeks)
Anatomy Workbook  (1 week)
2.  Practice Test and Re-visit problem areas  (1 week)
3.  CPR certification  (deadline:  November 1)
4.  Take Final Exam for certification  (may take place in December, depending on test dates available; absolute deadline of January 1st)

By assigning deadlines and dates, as well as being specific about the steps to achieve my goal, I can now hold myself accountable and keep myself on track to meet that goal.  Reaching the goal is no longer a “one day” type of goal, but should be attained by the end of the year.

Given that I am already working on a goal of losing weight (and I’m a third of the way to my goal on my progress), a second goal of achieving this certification is probably my limit for now.  Another reason folks tend to get frustrated and give up on goals is because they overwhelm themselves by trying to accomplish too many things at one time.  In order to be successful in achieving your goals, you should only start one action plan at a time, and limit yourself to 2-3 major goals at one time.  Because I have already been working on losing weight for about 6 weeks and am successfully sticking to my action plan, I feel confident in adding another goal at this time.  However, deciding to work on this certification at the same time that I was starting my action plan for losing weight would not have been a smart choice, as I probably would have abandoned one (or both) goals.

I have put my action plan out there for two reasons: 1) to show that, even I as the Coach, need to practice what I preach (and yes, I make mistakes too), and 2) to hold myself more accountable by putting it in writing (not to mention putting it out there for an audience who can also keep me accountable).  Additionally, I have written out these steps and posted them in a location in my house where I will see the Action Plan every day (it’s harder to play “out of sight, out of mind” when it’s staring you right in the face on a regular basis).

What goals have you not achieved because you failed to be specific and assign a timeline?

HOW TO: Stretch Your Groceries and Plan Family Meals

I don’t claim to be an expert who has “the” answers, as I recognize that there are many people out there with lots of great ideas.  Just check Pinterest to see all the crafty moms out there with beautifully decorated homes who still find time to make ornate food that looks like it should be on display somewhere versus being eaten by their families.  I am not that mom/wife.  Our baby’s room is a hodgepodge of themes, wall hangings, and furniture – all of them very practical, but not worthy of being posted on Pinterest.  The food I prepare tastes good (or so I am told), but is not Top Chef worthy, nor am I crafty enough to make cute displays that look like little animals or my daughter’s favorite Bubble Guppy.

What I can offer, however, is practicality and frugality.  My forte is organization that makes sense in a world that is busy.  I don’t have the time or energy to comb over coupons or sale ads for hours on end, nor am I crafty enough to make cute charts that look like that belong in a teacher’s elementary school classroom.  My husband and I are pretty simple people.  What I bring to you are tips from our simple, frugal life that I hope you will find helpful.

Today, I bring you tips on stretching your dollars in your family meals.  I do “big” grocery shopping twice per month, with some smaller trips in between to get fresh produce or other small items that may pop up.  We do have a monthly allotment budgeted for our grocery items, and I work very hard to stick to that.  If I happen to have coupons (and remember to take them), I will use them, but most of the time I do NOT have coupons.  If you have time and enjoy sifting through coupons, more power to you – extra savings, woohoo!  My version of couponing is checking my local grocer’s ad for the meat and produce specials and planning my meals around those.  I then get my other goods – boxed items, household goods, etc – from WalMart or Sam’s Club.  I know the average prices of my regular items, and I watch for them to be on sale.  When they are on a good special, I stock up.

Here are some of my little tricks for stretching our groceries:

1.  Based on the meat specials at the grocery store, make a list of what meals you will make with those meats.
I list out first which meats I will buy, and then think of what I can do with those meats.  For example, this week I may plan to get a roast, cubed steak, chicken breasts, ground beef, and pork chops.  From there, I may decide to do a roast with potatoes and carrots, cubed steak with mashed potatoes, chicken casserole with the chicken breasts, sloppy joes with tater tots with the ground beef, and BBQ baked pork chops with some veggies.

2.  Complete the grocery list with sides, other needed ingredients, snacks, and lunch and breakfast items.
It should be noted here that I keep a running grocery list on my fridge, where I list items that are running low (or in some cases, have run out) as I discover them.  I HATE to run completely out of anything, so I usually add it to my list when it gets low.  If it is an item that goes quickly, I add it when it gets about halfway used, but if it’s an item that goes more slowly, I wait until there is maybe a quarter of it left.  So when I get ready to do my grocery shopping, I already have a list started.  I add the meats on special, then the sides to go with those, and then any special ingredients I may need (e.g. cream of chicken soup, BBQ sauce, tortillas, etc).  I finish off my list with snacks, lunch items (e.g. lunch meat, cheese, bread, Hot Pockets, soups, salad stuff, etc), and breakfast items (we eat cereal or oatmeal most mornings during the week, but I prepare a big breakfast on the weekends).  The most important takeaway here is that EVERYTHING goes on the list.  Sure, there may be an item or two that you forgot about and remember it when you get to the store, but otherwise stick to the list.  NO IMPULSE PURCHASES.
SIDE NOTE:  Plan for the unexpected.  Have 2 or 3 meal options that are easy but flexible for those “just in case” nights.  One of our go-to meals is tuna salad with mac and cheese.  It’s quick and easy, but also keeps on the shelf, so we pull it out if we need something fast, or if other meals have run out.  It’s also a good go-to if you have a night where you maybe have plans to go out the next night, and therefore will not be eating leftovers (you can make just enough for that night’s dinner, or eat any leftover tuna for the next day’s lunch).

3.  Learn to love leftovers.
I love to cook, but I don’t love to cook everyday.  Our rules for meals are as follows: each meal lasts for two dinners, and after two days, you may then – and only then – eat those leftovers for a lunch.  When planning my meals, I keep this in mind, so I buy enough ingredients to make a large meal to last two days.  Sometimes that means doubling or even tripling a recipe.  It also means observing portion control (which will also be good for your waistline).  I always remember my mom saying things like, “It’s a shame that I spend all this time in the kitchen for everyone to eat and be done in 20 minutes”.  I guess I don’t feel it has to be that way.  If you really enjoy a meal, why not enjoy it two or three times?  To me, it makes it more worth my effort to be able to enjoy a meal for longer than 20 minutes.  It also gives me two or three nights a week where I don’t have to stress about cooking – winning!  Extra bonus: it’s typically cheaper to make a larger batch of one meal than to make two separate meals.

4.  Make a meals list, and cross them off as you make/use them.     015
Once home from the store, I make a list of all the meals I’ve acquired.  I don’t like to assign them to specific days.  I know some people do meal assignments for the week or even the month, and that’s cool.  I just personally prefer to have more flexibility in my choices.  Sometimes things come up and I need a quicker meal.  Other times I feel like being a gourmet chef and spending a couple of hours in the kitchen.  I like options.  So I make a list of what all I have – just go down and say “#1 – Roast with potatoes & carrots, #2 – Sloppy joes with tater tots” and so on.  At the bottom, I make another small list of all of the sides I have on hand – corn, broccoli, salad stuff, mixed vegetables, etc.  Again, I like options, so this allows me to see what all I have – at a glance, and without digging through the freezer – and I can just pick which sides/veggies I want to have with each meal.  I buy a variety of veggies when I do my grocery shopping – both fresh and frozen – and I try to have at least one vegetable with each meal, sometimes two.
RULE OF THUMB – When choosing which meal to make, choose the ones with fresher ingredients FIRST, so that you don’t get stuck with produce and such that is going bad.  Once you have worked through all the ones requiring fresh produce/ingredients, you can move onto your frozen or boxed options.

Using the tips above, I am usually able to make our groceries last for about 2-2 1/2 weeks.  Again, I may have to make a weekly quick run to refresh produce or grab an ingredient I forgot, but the bulk of our groceries lasts from major trip to major trip.  Not only does it save time not having to go to the store all the time, but it saves money because I am sticking to a plan versus making impulse purchases.

What tips/tricks have you found to help make your groceries stretch?

Time to Trim

About two years ago, I went “public”, so-to-speak, about my financial difficulties.  I chose to share my story because I knew there had to be others out there just like me, only maybe too ashamed to say anything.  I also knew that I had survived my struggles through persistent navigation through the nearly impossible procedures of mortgage loan modification, bankruptcy, and credit card nonsense….but that not everyone would be so persistent, or even know where to begin.  I have been fortunate.  I was one of the lucky ones.

While I do not claim to know all there is to know about the hullabaloo and fine print of this financial crisis, I do feel that I have learned a great deal, and my learnings may help someone else get through their struggle.  In fact, I have already had a handful of people ask “how did you do it?” since I went public with my struggles.  Please know that each situation is unique, and ultimately you should consult with a legitimate credit/debt counseling service or attorney.  However, here are some tips for beginning to trim those things that are ultimately causing you to feel like you are drowning:

1.  Sit down and write out all expenses for every month, as well as your income for each month.
Be honest.  “Fluffing” numbers will only cheat you.  Once you have written down income and expenses, compare what you have listed with three months worth of checking account and credit card statements.  If you are like me, you may think that you have trimmed extras and are living on the bare minimum…but in reality, you are still overspending.  When I really looked into my bank statements, I was amazed at the amount I was spending on eating out and having social drinks with friends.  (Once you have your list, hold onto it, as you will need it later when you begin calling to negotiate rates and fees with credit cards, etc.) 

2.  Trim excesses. (And when you think you have, trim again.)
Stop eating out.  Turn off those premium cable channels.  Stop buying clothes just because they are on sale.  Stop going to movies.  And when you’ve done all of that, take a look again at those financial statements to see where else you can trim.  You will be amazed at the amount of money you’ve been flushing down the toilet on things that aren’t important in the grand scheme of things.  I’m talking hundreds of dollars spent on nonsense – there’s your car payment right there.

3.  Stop using credit cards – period.
Now, if you are like me, the thought of that sends chills down your spine and sends you into panic mode.  But you just have to do it – cold turkey.  Stop using them TODAY, or you will never end this vicious cycle.

4.  Call your credit card companies.
Set aside a couple of hours, because this step will be a process all by itself.  Grab that list that we created in #1, call each company one-by-one, and explain that you are experiencing financial hardship due to _____________ (pick your reason: loss of job, underemployment, pay cut, medical bills – whatever it was that was the straw to break your proverbial back).  Most companies will work with you to lower your rate and put you on a fixed (and many times, lower) payment each month.  However, be prepared that, in order to do so, they will end your spending privileges (again, I refer you back up to #3).  In some cases, your privileges are only revoked temporarily while you are on the payment plan, and once you have fulfilled the terms of the payment plan and/or get back on your feet, they will extend those privileges once again.  Other companies will close the account altogether.  In the latter case, ignore those who tell you this will hurt your credit.  In the long run, you will be better off that you are paying down a debt instead of incurring more.  The benefits you will reap from paying it down will far outweigh any temporary bumps to your credit score.

5.  Call your utility companies and anyone else to whom you pay money each month.
Believe it or not, even your phone and cable companies may have a special payment plan that they can put you on for a limited time while you are working through your financial difficulties – especially if you threaten to leave or turn off the service altogether.  Call them, explain your financial hardship, and see how they may be willing to work with you.  
By the time I talked to all of my credit card and utility companies, I had trimmed another $100-$150 off of my expenses – there’s your electric bill.  Add to that the “extras” of eating out, socializing with friends, and impulse shopping, and I found about $500 to put towards things that were much more important, such as house and car payments, gas, and groceries.  The fact that you have downsized your expenses will counterbalance the fact that you are no longer using your credit cards, especially when most of what you were probably using the credit cards on has now been trimmed from your life.

No one said this process would be easy, but I promise the hard work pays off.  You will have to make sacrifices for a little while, but the dedication and diligence will provide you with more breathing room and more control over your finances (and in the grand scheme, more control over your LIFE).  

Once going through this process of trimming, I found that – even though I was making nearly half the salary I had been making before losing my job in the downfall of the economy – I felt like I had more.  For the first time in my life, I was following a true budget – and it made all the difference in the world between drowning and living.  And now, I am WINNING MY LIFE!

Take Action with a SMART Action Plan

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE “TAKE ACTION” WORKSHEET

During a recent coaching session, a client told me that she feels she is being called to help people.  She was reading and soaking up information like a sponge, but really had no direction or focus for how she was going to help people.  During our session, I uncovered that she is passionate about growing herbs and herbal healing.  As she talked about this passion, her eyes lit up, and she was very animated and excited as she went on to tell me that a great grandmother had actually been known in her community as a natural and herbal healing specialist.  By the time we finished her session, we had mapped out an action plan that had specific focus, a time frame to complete a knowledge path for said focus, and her next steps for getting involved in community groups with this focus.

The hardest part of reaching your goals is getting started.  People are often so overwhelmed with the idea of the process that they often just never start.  In order to be successful with any action plan – business or personal – your plan must be S.M.A.R.T. :

S – Specific
M – Measureable
A – Achieveable/Actionable
R – Revise for Relevance
T – Timely

SPECIFIC
A goal must be specific in order to measure success.  If you just say, “I want to lose weight”, your expectation is so broad that you will never know if you reached the finish line.  However, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you can set up smaller goals along the way until you reach the 20 pounds.  Now you have focus to your goal and can ultimately measure success.  In the example above, my client started out wanting to “help people”, but by the time we were finished with her session, she had focused her passion into a specific goal of helping others learn about herbal healing.

MEASUREABLE
How will you measure success of your goal?  You should be able to break down your goal into smaller steps along the way by which you can measure continuous achievement.  If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you may decide that you are going to work for losing one pound per week until that goal is achieved.  In the case of my client, we set some milestones for knowledge of her focus area: attending workshops, going to community classes, and ultimately getting a nationally-recognized certification.

ATTAINABLE/ACTIONABLE
Have you made your goal specific and measureable enough to actually carry it out?  Do you have the resources, including both skill and will, to achieve the goal?  Some people miss the first two steps, and by doing so, set themselves up for failure before they’ve even begun.  Any goal worth achieving is worth having a plan to achieve that goal.  You can’t just jump into it and think you are going to get somewhere.  Take the time to map it out – you will thank yourself later.  Without deciding first that you will strive to lose “x” amount of weight per week by “ABC” actions, you will never reach that 20-pound mark for weight loss.  In the case of my client wanting to help others, she had no end result for which she was working and probably would have floundered about trying to find her place in this world of helping/healing.  By sitting down and talking through the steps of a SMART Action Plan, we were able to give her measureable and achieveable pieces for which to strive and by which to measure success once completed.

REVISE FOR RELEVANCE
You may find along your journey a new direction or insight that takes you on a different path than originally planned – and THAT IS OK.  It doesn’t mean you have failed the original goal.  It just means that the original goal is no longer relevant to where you are at this point in your life.  How many people do you know that are still working in the career field of their college major ten or fifteen years later?  My guess is not many.  We all go to college with one passion or idea of where we want to go in life, but as we experience all that life has to offer, we can often be pulled in another direction.  Such is the case with any goal, so stay open and flexible so that you can revise your plan along the way to stay relevant.  My client may find along her journey to becoming a specialist on herbal healing that she has another passion that is even stronger than her one for herbal healing – and that is OK.  She will just need to revise her plan a little to accommodate the new focus in her life.

TIMELY
Without a time-bound point of completion, how will you ever know if you’ve crossed the finish line?  Choose a realistic time frame by which you would like to complete your goal, which is ultimately just another aspect of measurement.  By choosing a time frame, you are holding yourself accountable to actually getting the goal completed – even if you realize the time frame you have set for yourself needs to be revised along the way (in either direction – shorter or longer).  Choose a time that is relatively soon so that you will have a sense of urgency and motivation to actually get the job done, but that is far enough away that it gives you a realistic time frame for completion.  You will not lose 20 pounds safely in one month, but maybe you can lose 20 pounds in 3-5 months.  Again, stay open and flexible to revise your time along the way if need be, and don’t consider yourself a failure if it looks like it might take a little longer than originally planned.  As long as you are making progress in the right direction, you are successful.

I have a worksheet that I use with my clients in our initial consultation that walks them through a SMART Action Plan.  This “Take Action” worksheet aids in taking a large, non-specific goal that may seem overwhelming to tackle and breaks it down into a Specific, Measureable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely Action Plan.

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Just “Start”

Like 99% of the American population, I’m sure you’ve got a long mental “to do” list when it comes to improving your life.

“I need to get more organized.”

“I need to start exercising.”

“I need to start eating healthier.”

“I need to start spending more time with my family.”

And the list goes on…..

The problem is that we TALK about these things ALL THE TIME.  We always have that mental list of things we “need to do”- and yet, we’re not getting it done.

For most, it’s because it seems like SO MUCH that even just the THOUGHT of doing makes us tired.  You ever watch “Hoarders” and think “How in the world did these people get to this point?”  The truth is, it wasn’t what they DID, it’s what they DIDN’T do.  If you are a regular watcher, like I am, you know that most of these people had some life situation that was sort of the pivotal point – and things went downhill from there.  A loved one died, the person lost his/her job, a divorce occurred – SOMETHING happened that caused that person to shut down, and he/she just stopped doing.  The “stuff” he/she has accumulated  – as crazy as it sounds – was a comfort. When something very dear to you is ripped away, you try to hold onto anything – and everything – you can, because that’s the only thing you CAN control.

Fortunately, most of us are not in the “hoarders” category, but we still feel like we live in a world of chaos.  We feel overwhelmed by trying to balance work and home, and somehow we’ve let things get away from us – little by little – until the “to do” list has become a mile long.  But the mere thought of even attempting to tackle that list seems too much to wrap our minds around, and so we just DON’T DO.

You know that old phrase “one step at a time”?  As crazy as it sounds, that is honestly all it takes – ONE STEP.  Pick a place – any place – and just START.  I know you’re probably sitting there saying “that’s easier said than done”.  But honestly, it’s not as hard as you think it is.  Maybe today you choose that pile of mail that’s been piling up on the table.  Chances are half of it need to be thrown out, but you just haven’t taken the time to do so.  Maybe tomorrow you choose the coffee table.  I know you think that one thing can’t make that much of a difference, but amazingly, it does. It adds up over time, and after a couple of weeks, maybe that entire living room is done…and you can move on to the next room.

I didn’t say it would be easy.  You will have to muster up courage, patience, and a little focus and determination.  But just like starting a new exercise routine, it will become easier as time goes on – and you will be amazed at the results you are starting to see.  I think of clutter like the “fat” of your house – you got a little lazy and complacent and your house put on a few pounds!  But ignoring those pounds won’t make them go away; they will only continue to accrue if you don’t take action.

So as you try to decide where to start on your list of things to improve in your life, don’t get overwhelmed with how many things you need to work on.  Just pick ONE.  My suggestion is pick the ONE thing that has the greatest effect on your life right now, and start making daily time for that one thing everyday.  Maybe you choose to start exercising – so make 20 minutes everyday to start walking.  Maybe you choose to start eating healthy, but before you overhaul your entire kitchen, just choose one area to focus on – such as taking a multivitamin, cutting down on your potato chip habit, or eating one fruit a day more than what you currently eat (which, sadly, might mean eating ONE fruit a day for many people – but again, it’s a start).  The bottom line is: JUST START.  And take it one step at a time.