Saturday, January 8, 2011

Are you still thinking?

Yesterday, I talked about Obsessive thoughts and you took inventory of what you are battling as obsessive thoughts. This is my strategy to work on these obsessive thoughts.

-- Be in the present

-- Do something

-- Let go

This is obviously a very simple strategy and there are thoughts that cannot be dealt with that simply. Please see your therapist for those kinds of thoughts.

I am going to use the list we used yesterday to show you how to put my strategy in action!

Thought # 1: We can't afford anything

The first thing I would say to this statement is that it is already unrealistic by having the word "anything" in it. Absolutes are an easy way to drive yourself insane. In this case, let's say that the person who is dealing with this thought is in a bad predicament financially in reality. She does not make enough money to meet all of her needs and often times has to pay bills late or even go without simple necessities. That is certainly something that would cause distress. The first thing to do is to be in the present. This means looking at the current financial situation and finding out what the top priorities are to take care of. Let's say that she has no toilet paper in her bathroom, owes her car insurance in two days which is $95, has only $100 to get her through to pay day which is a week away and is not sure what to do. Because she can't afford both her car insurance and toilet paper, she is overwhelmed with the obsessive thought of not being able to afford anything. The next step is DO SOMETHING The rational thing here is to realize that toilet paper is not an option, she needs to get to target stat! The next step is to call the car insurance and let them know that in just 7 days you will get paid and would be able to make the payment on that day. Usually companies will negotiate with you. Sometimes, making a small payment is enough to allow you some wait time. She could pay $20 on her insurance and get toilet paper and make it. The next step is to LET GO. This would look like her taking the steps to take care of her needs/obligations while also realizing how truly lucky she is as she has a job, a home, and her basic needs are met for today. This will help her realize just how silly it is to ruminate on this thought.

Tomorrow, we will conquer the next thought of "I am going to mess up my children"

Friday, January 7, 2011

Do you obsessively think?

Yesterday I wrote about adding a new habit to your life. Today, I wanted to talk about a bad habit that can really cost you your health. I am talking about Obsessive thinking! Obsessive means "an unhealthy and compulsive preoccupation with something or someone." (Google Definitions)

I am going to use the next few posts to talk about Obsessive Thoughts. Each one of the posts will ask you to look at your own Obsessive thinking and work through how to stop it or at least diminish it on your own. If you are overwhelmed with obsessive thoughts and this causes you to do rituals or anything repeatedly, please seek mental health help as these are signs of Obsessive Compulsive Behavior.

The first strategy to look at your obsessive thoughts is to take inventory. I recommend the following exercise:

  • Grab a piece of paper or open a word processing program
  • Write or type all of your obsessive thoughts in your mind right now.
  • After each item, write or type what triggers those thoughts.
Here is an example of a list of obsessive thoughts and what might trigger them.

1. We can't afford anything
2. I am going to mess up my children
3. I am going to die
4. Noone is going to like me
5. I am going to lose my home
6. My husband is probably cheating on me
7. I am never going to feel better

1. We can't afford anything --triggered when I pay a bill and see the bank account number go down

2. I am going to mess up my children -- triggered when I get overwhelmed by parenting and raise my voice at my children

3. I am going to die -- triggered when I realize I have not seen the doctor in several years and never do timely check ups

4. Noone is going to like me -- triggered when I am in a new social situation

5. I am going to lose my home -- triggered when I hear stories on the news about foreclosures and the economy

6. My husband is probably cheating on me -- triggered when I realize we have not had physical intimacy for a few weeks yet he isn't asking for it.

7. I am never going to feel better -- triggered when I have a hard day and am battling depressive symptoms

As you can see, these are normal every day concerns for some and may seem a bit irrational for others. If any of these look familiar, that is due to them being extremely common concerns. Now, you may ask..what do I do with these? Well, check in the next post for my next step of working on obsessive thinking

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Forming new habits in 2011

We've been talking about making changes in the New Year and focusing on the dreaded resolutions for all of January. Today I was thinking about how to change habits. Perhaps you want to add something into your schedule. A lot of people just try to add something and never think about what it means to the rest of your schedule. Read the following example so I can illustrate what I mean.

Janet has been working full time for several years as well as being a wife and managing a few volunteer projects like working with her church and writing a blog that she loves dearly. She writes in her blog twice daily and works at her church fives day of the week after work. Her work is fairly demanding and requires some of her free time to be successful. Janet really wants to use 2011 to be healthier and to incorporate a new habit of exercise. At this point, Janet does not do any structured exercise at all. The most exercise she gets is on grocery day when she is walking around several stores and carrying bags into the house. She would like to add 30 minutes of exercise 4 days per week. This has been a problem in the can Janet change this habit?

The first thing Janet has to realize is that if she has never been able to fit exercise in before, it will most likely end the same in 2011 if something is not changed. Here are some steps that Janet (or you) can take to form a new habit in the new year!

1. Take something out of the current schedule: Since Janet has not been able to schedule exercise in the past, something has got to give. Janet decides that she is going to cut down to only helping the church 2 days a week freeing up some time. She has also decided that it would be okay to only do 1 hour of work per day in her free time and keep the rest for the office. Janet also decides to hire someone that comes in once a week to do the deep cleaning in her house. This frees up plenty of time for Janet to head to the gym, take a walk, or even take a class! Something must give for you to build a new habit!

2. Don't do too much too fast, you will burn out: When we try to form a new habit, we often go full force and do things that we would never have done before. When we do this, it often stops us dead in our tracks at about 2.5 weeks. We are not able to meet those kinds of demands for long periods. We can however make small goals and slowly step up what we ask of ourselves. In Janet's case, just taking a 10 minute walk three times a day might be a giant feat but if she continues to step up time and intensity, she may get motivated enough to make exercise a daily habit..not just a few days a week.

3. Visualize success: Visualization has been proven to be affective to get you to do something and follow through. Janet should envision herself coming home from work and immediately getting into her workout gear and heading out to the gym or for a walk. This will help her not to go to the couch, plop down and stay there until bed time.

4. REWARD: Don't be so hard on yourself...reward your small successes. Janet decided that each time she finished one thirty minute workout she would stop by her favorite organic food store for a quick healthy snack. She now gets excited each time she works out for her whole grain bagel!

I hope you all add a new wonderful habit in the new year! Good luck!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Psychological Obstacles in your way?

We are continuing to talk about Time Management using the book "Time Management from the Inside Out" by Julie Morgenstern. See if the Psychological Obstacles below are things you deal with...

Psychological Obstacles

Obstacle # 2: Conquistador of Crisis

The Conquistador of Crisis is someone who does a great job at handling crisis situations. You probably fill your schedule up with To do's and activities and in the end it makes you not have enough time to spend on the things that really matter to you. Being able to get your schedule to a place where you are not juggling too much will help you not always be in crisis but be able to handle crisis when it occurs naturally. We all have enough crisis in our lives that creating it for ourselves by letting things wait until the last minute is just self punishment.

Obstacle # 3: Fear of Failure or Success

Sometimes failing is so scary that simply not trying is a great defense against not ever having to feel like you failed. You can just tell yourself that you didn't try or didn't spend the right amount of time instead of it saying something about you. Success may also scare you for a number of reasons. You may not know how your spouse, friends, or parents will feel about it and you may even be afraid of the pressure it will increase on your life. Fearing change can also thwart your work. My advice to all of these fears is to take a first step and begin small. If for instance you would like to go to college and get a degree, take a first step of researching schools and majors and simply asking for information to be sent to your home. Make reading the materials and narrowing your search to 5 schools one of your goals. Sometimes that first step is the step you need to let go of your fears.

Obstacle # 4: Fear of downtime

Some people get their identity from being busy and relaxing and spending time in self care is something they do not schedule. They may feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety when they are trying to relax. Other people tend to avoid downtime because it will make them have to process bigger issues like a poor marital relationship, financial difficulties, pain, depression, etc... These are great things to be aware of and work through with a therapist. Start out by relaxing for short periods of time and give yourself more and more time to relax. Yes, your issues will surface but the only true freedom from pain is walking through it and processing it.

Obstacle # 5: Need to be a Caretaker

Many of us like to do everything we can to accommodate others and do things on our own. One of the greatest tools of self care and time management is without question DELEGATION. Being able to delegate tasks that are lesser importance to your priorities is a great way to clear up time in your schedule for the important things in life. Saying Yes to everything may make you feel needed but it often can also make you feel under appreciated, resentful, and drained. Saying "I can't do that today" is a great tool for time management and proper self care.

Obstacle # 6: Fear of Completion

Have you ever met that person who starts a million projects and never finishes one? This person may be fearful of completion. People may also be fearful of completion because it means making solid decisions. Many people are indecisive and not finishing things makes them avoid those decisions. If you are one of these people, team up with someone who likes to close the deal or finish projects and have them help you get things done and not just start!

Obstacle # 7: Need for Perfection

This one is pretty obvious since one of the major personality types that struggles with time management is the perfectionist. Perfectionists do not like to do things unless they can do them perfect and this can clearly get in the way since nothing is perfect. This could stem from their fears of being humiliated, criticism, or harsh judgement. Some things in life are worth putting that kind of effort in but honestly, good enough is usually good enough. Again, this is a great place to start by taking one step and being okay with your best!

Obstacle # 8: You fear structure will stifle creativity

Many creative types are fearful that if they get on a schedule, keep a planner, and get things done on time than they will stifle their creativity and they will not like their lives. As a result of these thoughts, they often have a very chaotic personal and business life that makes them miserable. My theory is that if you are structured than you have MORE time to create and be open and don't have trouble meeting your deadlines for projects.

I hope you are all getting more clarity as you read these posts! Have a great time managed day!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

External Realities of life

To continue in our pursuit of better Time Management here are some External Realities that could be hindering it in your life and how to tackle them: Again, this information comes from the book "Time Management from the Inside Out" by Julie Morgenstern

External Realities

Reality # 2: You are in transition

There are so many transitions that can throw your schedule off of balance. A few of these are getting married, getting divorced, changing jobs, moving, having a baby, adopting, retirement, illness, surgery, etc... Give yourself grace during the transition and try to do things that ground you like exercise or a hobby.

Reality # 3: You are in an interruption rich environment

Many of us are in positions where we are interrupted often and on a consistent basis. A great example of this is a mom with a newborn baby. Not only does she qualify for reality # 2 but also will find it hard to meet her own time demands when her baby decides when she is available. You cannot control many aspects in life depending on your situation and career but what you can do is allow for those times in your schedule and make goals to use uninterrupted time to get your most important tasks completed. This may mean taking some time away, turning off your phone, having a colleague cover a shift, etc... Having this type of life can be very difficult but its doable!

Reality # 4: Other People's Chaos

Some of us have spouses who are chronically late or disorganized. This can cause you to get your schedule out of balance. Some of you might have a boss who doesn't communicate well. The biggest step you can take in these situations is to have a face to face conversation about what would best for both of you depending on your common goal. With your boss it may be productivity of the company while with your spouse, it might be less arguments. Use that to come up with compromises. Realize also that the person you are having problems with is entitled to their own personality so find ways to work with their quirks.

Check in tomorrow for the Psychological Obstacles that could be getting in your way of keeping a great schedule!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Those darn Technical Errors!

This post is a continuation of yesterday's post on Time Management using the book "Time Management From the Inside Out" by Julie Morgenstern. We were talking yesterday about the three ways that you could have time management issues and we identified one of each type. I am going to continue today by giving you a few more examples from her book.

Technical Errors:

Error # 2: You've set aside the wrong time

We each have natural ways that we are productive. Some of us are morning people while others are "night owls." I myself feel very motivated in the morning hours and am really lethargic after lunch and I have another boost of energy in the late evening. If you know your specific cycles, you may be scheduling tasks that are difficult for those times of day. Schedule things that require a lot of energy and may not be enjoyable for times of the day when you are energetic and at your best. Also, consider not scheduling important tasks when you will be low on sleep, are sick, or even just have unique circumstances like house guests.

Error # 3: You've Miscalculated How Long Tasks Take

If you would really like to get your taxes done in the hour you have for lunch yet you do not have all of your documents together, you probably will not get that task completed at lunch and therefore, will feel badly about yourself. Being able to adequately prepare and give yourself time for the task at hand is so important to managing your time affectively. If there are tasks you do each week and they must be done, time yourself doing these tasks in their normal routine. A great example is grocery shopping. If you go to the regular grocery store, a department store like Target, and follow up with the farmers market...time yourself on the drive over, the drive from place to place and the time it takes to shop and add thirty minutes to that for any unforeseen circumstances. You will feel less rushed and not over committed when you are realistic about what you need to do and how long it will take.

Error # 5: The Task is overly Complex

You may have large tasks that take a long time and require a lot of work. The best way to manage your time on projects of this nature is to break them down into feasible steps that feel good each time you achieve them. The task I thought of immediately was cleaning out a garage. It is usually a pretty big task due to our nature of accumulating things and treating our garages as catch alls. If you break the task of cleaning your garage out into several steps like Organize tools, Hang up shelving, get out all trash, remove all donation items, and general cleaning like sweeping and shelving items your garage could be clean in a few simple steps and you won't continue to put it off.

Error # 6: You Can't Remember what you have to do

This one is super simple but using your tools is a great way to not procrastinate and get behind. Most people say that they "forget" to do something but never get a tool to help them remember like an electronic scheduler, a simple pad of paper with a to do list, or the many amazing planners that are out there. Although I have all of the new technology to be able to use my phone as a planner, I do not do very well at entering appointments and responsibilities into my phone so I use a basic pen/paper type of planner that has plenty of space to write daily tasks and a monthly calendar so that I can put in things like my exercise logs and more personal matters. The main thing is DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU!

Error # 7: Your Space is Disorganized

Some people are great at working no matter how their space looks but I am one of those people whose house has to be immaculate to be productive. I need a clean kitchen to create a great meal, a clean table to write a great blog, and a clean bedroom to relax in. Many people are not this way but finding out how you work best and keeping your space organized helps anyone because it keeps you from leaving your work to look for something you need to complete the job. A great example is getting your child ready for a field trip and realizing you have no idea where you placed the permission slip so you spend an hour looking for it the night before. That is time that could be much better spent for sure.

Error # 8: There is an absence of planning time

Taking time each day to look over your to do list and notice any possible obstacles or conflicts will save you a lot of hassle, time, and frustration. A great example is knowing that you have to get your oil changed during the afternoon as well as see the doctor for your checkup, pick up your child from school, and bake cupcakes for your child's school party. Being able to see that the next day is so booked and you will be tired when you get home might lead you to bake the cupcakes the night before and save the decorating for the next day. Being prepared and aware is very important when trying to use your time more effectively.

Error # 9: You have an unrealistic workload

This topic can fall under those Psychological obstacles as well because a lot of us who have "time management issues" also have a little issue called perfectionism. Realizing that you are limited to 24 hours a day like everyone else and realizing that approximately 8 of those you are sleeping, 3 of them you are eating, and some of them you should be resting is a great way to get perspective on what can honestly stay in your life. I was talking with a friend tonight who is very busy with many things including working full time, being a wife, being a mother to two smaller children, and working within her church on several projects. She was considering taking on a new task of coaching one of her child's sports teams but knew that it would be far fetched that she could handle this detail. I suggested she take 1-2 hours per month and take her daughter out to a girls day out instead of doing the coaching. Her daughter will probably feel more valued this way and she will get more one on one with her daughter and won't be overextended with coaching obligations. This is a good way to compromise on things that may be of importance to you.

Tomorrow I will tackle the External Realities with you....come on back!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Time is ticking away

I think that as we enter the new year all of us could use some help with Time Management so I thought that would be a great thing to work on. All of my information will be sourced from the book "Time Management from the Inside Out" By Julie Morgenstern with my own thoughts and comments thrown in. You can get the book for $10.88 on Amazon and she does have a new volume out as well.

I decided to start by talking about why we have problems with time management. Morgenstern does a three part diagnostic in her book and I will use this to help you figure out why you have problems.

Level one: Technical Errors:

This covers those people who just haven't learned a skill or don't have the right tools. A great example I can think of is people who do not have a written or electronic planner yet have an extremely busy life and wonder why they forget appointments. To those people, I would say speak to someone you know who is incredibly organized and has great time management and ask what works for them. For you, it might be as easy as an $8.00 planner.

Level two: External Realities:

Sometimes we simply have things in life that make managing our time difficult. A great example of this is being a mom of a special needs child. You can never predict how a day goes so often your schedule gets off and you end up not completing tasks you had hoped to for the day. If this is you, giving yourself grace to understand that some things cannot be controlled and trying to UN-schedule your life a bit might be the best answer.

Level three: Psychological Obstacles:

This is when certain fears or psychological blocks keep us from accomplishing our goals. By recognizing self sabotaging behaviors, we can correct these issues. An example of this might be an older student who has decided to complete college and for fear of being rejected, puts off filling out the applications for admission and financial aid.

Now that you have assessed which categories you fall into for time management issues (and it may be all three), I will use the book to help you understand several categories of each. Today I will cover one error in each category so everyone has a chance to work on their specific problem.

Technical Errors:

Possible Error # 1: Tasks have no "home"

People often say that they will do things when they get time. You will never get time if that is your strategy. Things like housework, paying bills, writing thank you notes, etc... are not usually fun tasks therefore we will find anything to do besides those tasks. The best strategy is to schedule a specific time to set down and do these tasks. If you schedule these tasks, they will be done and out of your way instead of a constant nagging in your mind.

External Realities:

External Reality # 1: A health problem limits your energy

If a chronic health condition does limit your energy, schedule tasks that are of the utmost importance for earlier in your day to use the energy you have wisely. If you have a feeling that you may have something wrong with your physical body, schedule an appointment with your physician first and get a diagnostic. It could be as easy as a diet change or a supplement to turn your life around. It also could be a lack of sleep or poor nutrition. The best thing to schedule is your health care first.

Psychological Obstacles:

Psychological Obstacle # 1: Unclear goals and priorities

Often people will say that their family comes first or their health comes first but somehow that doesn't translate into their lives. The best step is to figure out your priorities in order and designate tasks and goals to those things. For example, if you say that your health is first, skipping meals or not sleeping is not speaking to that goal. Get that in order first and many things will fall in place!

Come over tomorrow for more errors, realities, and obstacles to getting your time managed!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ch Ch Changes

I came across this definition of change and wanted to make it the basis of January's blog posts.

become different in some particular way, without permanently losing one's or its former characteristics or essence

I thought this was a pretty good way to explain the kinds of changes that we try to make every new year, as some call them, resolutions. We will have a near impossible time making changes that lose our essence or former characteristics. We are who we are for the most part. When we make New Year's resolutions, we are usually trying to make ourselves better in some aspect while maintaining our identity.

I thought I would start our January series talking about something we all have. BAD HABITS! We all do something we wish we did not do. I can think of a list pretty quickly of some things that are considered bad habits that people might like to work on.

  • smoking
  • drinking too much
  • lying
  • biting nails
  • being messy
  • disorganization
  • being late
  • procrastination
I am sure you can think of 20 to each of the items that I have listed here. If you would like to break a bad habit in the new year, here are some strategies to get you started. I should start by saying there is no magic cure to stopping a behavior. It is always hard work and being completely deliberate that gets something to stop. A bad habit is often so ingrained into you that you don't even realize when you are doing it so stopping it will require work.

The first step to breaking a habit is to look at why this habit is so fulfilling for you. In everything we do in life there is a payout. If we got nothing from it, we wouldn't be doing it. Let's look at lying as an example. If you are constantly lying about things in your life perhaps there are people you are trying to impress or maybe you don't want to get judged by others. Think hard about why you are doing the habit first. This will be paramount in stopping this habit.

The second step to breaking any habit is to figure out what you are losing by having this habit. The minute we label our habit as a bad habit, it means there is something undesirable about it. In the above example, maybe lying means that no one really ever knows you and you don't have anyone to go to with problems because you would have to go back and tell the truth to someone you already lied to. This could be problematic for sure. Also, it is very hard to keep up lies and you have to tell two lies just to cover the first one. Exhausting in my opinion.

The next step is to CHOOSE. A lot of people feel like life happens to them but I am not one of those people. I think we often choose our behaviors and reactions to situations. In the case of lying, now that you know the payoff to doing this and the losses, you can choose to be honest or choose to lie. Each time that you are in a situation where lying would be something you would do, you must stop and make a choice to be honest.

Now, in any plan you have to place something in your life to replace that habit or behavior. In the case of lying, maybe every single time that you have a desire or start to tell a lie, you stop and give yourself 10 seconds of silence and try not to talk in order to avoid the lie and think of a more honest reaction or statement.

A great way to keep track of your progress is to keep some sort of log of how you are doing. This may mean writing down the lies that you tell each day and trying to figure out how to be more honest in those situations. Also, figuring out who it is you lie to most will help you work on that relationship to make it more genuine and authentic.

At the end of the day, it is all about choices. You are now aware of your habit, why you do it, why you don't want to do it and how to choose differently. If you like feeling good about yourself, you will continue making good choices, however, if you feel that the payoff is better, that is what will continue. Try to find a bad habit you can break this year and be honest with yourself and patient because they took time to become habits so they will take time to be undone.

Happy New Year To you and check in tomorrow for our next post on changes!