5 Ways to Keep a Productivity Mindset and Achieve Goals Faster

How do you keep a productivity mindset and achieve goals faster?

If you find yourself getting derailed from productivity, or your goals when the motivation is gone, keep reading.

Or, if you’d rather watch this content as a video, I’ve recorded it here.

This can be applied to anything that needs to get done: work, relationships, fitness, education, you name it.

If you allow me, I’ll give an illustration from my own life. It pertains to my fitness journey.

I took up running when I was in my 20s. Though I still had that youthful metabolism, I’d seen that I was not immune to the “freshman 15” with a reckless diet. Since I still looked “pretty good*” I thought, and I had learned that the weight I gained from a period of excess junk food consumption could be easily burned with a short period of intense discipline.

*In retrospect, I look back at pictures of myself in my 20s and can’t believe I thought I needed to lose weight. But I digress.

Before my productivity mindset

In those days, with the smugness of a good metabolism, the motivation to exercise wasn’t inherent. I needed people to run with me, or I wouldn’t go.

  • I’d gather friends from the college dorm to go running with me after work (going for a run at 10 pm would never happen now!)
  • After college, I’d rally friends to go running on the track or neighborhood streets

In 2007 I caught the footrace bug as a group of friends signed up for the Shamrock Run. From that point, training for the next race was the motivation. But I still needed the accountability to train.

Fast forward to my late 30s/early 40s. With age, wisdom, and the sad realization that my ability to lose weight quickly was gone, to be replaced with an ability to pack on pounds faster than ever before, things changed.

I suddenly found intrinsic motivation to strap on my shoes and run. Because I knew I needed to.

Also, getting married to a man who was willing to run, but preferred to run in the evenings vs. my love of morning runs, left me without a built-in partner.

The problem: a need to work out to stay fit.
The solution: let’s get into it!

How do you dial in a productivity mindset when you don’t feel like it?

I’m glad you asked.

Through a continual quest to optimize my productivity, I’d read a lot about the subject, given it a lot of thought, and tested different ideas.

Here are six things I use as guiding principles in my endless quest.

  1. Don’t skip twice. Thanks, James Clear & “Atomic Habits” for that one.
    We’re all going to miss a day once in a while. Skipped workout, a day without flossing or doing planks or working on that great American novel. Miss one day? Make sure not to miss two days in a row.
  2. Nike was right.
    “Just do it.” So painfully simple. It often comes down to gritting your teeth and forcing yourself to just do it. You know, and I know, that you’ll be glad you did.
  3. Keep the streak alive.
    There’s something powerful about stacking up days in a row of working on your goals. When you are consistent over time, results start to come. I’ve heard tremendous stories from people who set out to do something and kept it going for hundreds, if not thousands, of days.
  4. Strive for discipline, not motivation.
    Motivation comes in and out of focus. It vanishes like a fake friend when you tell her you don’t have money to go out. Rather than wait for motivation, apply #2. Then do it again. And again.
  5. Kill the all-or-nothing mindset.
    It’s tempting to get gung-ho and go all in on an unrealistic way of thinking.”If I can’t run five miles, I’m not going to run at all.”
    “I don’t think I can beat my record pace today, so I’ll skip.”
    “I’m going to quit drinking alcohol altogether.”
    “If I don’t get that promotion, my life is meaningless.”
    “I can’t lose 30 pounds before the end of the year. So I’m not going to try.”Instead, recognize that some effort is better than none.If you don’t have time to run five miles, run two or three. Get out there at whatever pace you can. Personal record days are built on the back of dozens of average days. If you can’t lose 30 pounds by the end of the year, maybe you can lose four. All the sudden, you are 13% to your goal! Keep going!6. Grace + commitment > Failure + slipping into despair
    The key here is being committed to your goal.

“I’m going to get this accomplished, no matter how many setbacks I endure,
and how long it takes.”

Once you’re committed, be ready to show yourself grace for those inevitable setbacks.

It’s as simple as it sounds. Simple, but not easy. We all have “those days” when it isn’t in the cards:

    • You slept poorly
    • You don’t feel well
    • Your accountability partner bailed on you
    • You have an injury
    • Your schedule got too packed

When those things happen, don’t beat yourself up. Remember your commitment and get back to it as soon as possible (like, tomorrow, per #1).

This adaptable mindset will keep you from getting derailed with anguish when you slip up.

Conclusion

Considering productivity is a multi-billion dollar industry, there is a lot more than has been and could be said about the subject. This is a collection of some of the best things I’ve gathered as I’ve studied it.

What have you found helps with your productivity? I’d be glad to know in a comment below! Thank you for reading. I appreciate you!

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4 Unusual Things I’m Thankful For

The month of November in the United States is “National Gratitude Month“, and an opportunity ripe for people to rightfully declare the standard things that fill their hearts with gratitude: family, friends, shelter, love, pets, etc, etc.

This is not that post. Instead, I will deviate from convention and hail some odd and vulnerable things I am grateful for.

Let’s jump into my nightmare. πŸ˜‰

  1. My own awkwardness (and what I’ve learned from it)It’s difficult to pinpoint when I first became painfully aware of my awkwardness. Maybe it was the time I saw someone wince when I stood up to address a crowd. Or when my boss agreed with me that I was awkward.

    Or the time I nervously admitted it to a room of co-workers only to get the reply, “When are you not awkward?”

    I may or may not have cried myself to sleep a few times over that last one.

    Lest you feel sorry for me, I write this with a smile. Because of the (what I’ve learned from it) part that I am about to share.

    What I learned from my awkwardness:

    1. It stems from a lack of self-confidence. I was afraid of my own shadow when I first started my career. My sheer discomfort at so many new scenarios no doubt oozed from my person like a rank-smelling fart that made others uncomfortable as a result. Increase confidence, decrease awkwardness.
    2. People that tell you you’re awkward are helpful. Helpful jerks, that is.
      It’s sometimes nice to know how others perceive you, but often not. Sometimes, it hurts. I recommend it in small quantities, to keep you humble. Otherwise, the mantra of “what other people think of me is none of my business” is among my faves.
    3. The ultimate cure is choosing not to take yourself too seriously.
      Some of the most painful scenarios from yesteryear involve me obsessing over doing something “perfectly” and then dissolving into a puddle of nuclear-waste-level awkwardness when I did something wrong. I can laugh at it now.That’s not to say I handle every situation smoothly. Some of you who know me might think, “No, Summer, you’re still pretty awkward.”

      The difference between early 2000s me and today me is, I don’t care. I can laugh about it, because it’s genuinely funny to me. If I can show myself grace, you can do the same for yourself.

    4. Everyone else is too busy worrying about themselves to notice your awkwardness.
      The sooner we can let this truth sink in, the faster we can all live gloriously in “C.” Repeat after me, “everyone else is too busy worrying about themselves to notice my awkwardness.”There are always exceptions, like those helpful jerks I mentioned. But seriously, how miserable must their internal monologue be if they choose to demean you?

2. Crippling fear and self-doubt

This goes hand-in-hand with #1. I have many memories of moments with sweaty palms and shallow, panicked breathing. Dozens of frantic phone calls to my parents, asking their advice for a situation I couldn’t see a way out of. Many sleepless nights and stressed-out evenings, crying out to God for peace and calm. Wow, this is getting pretty deep.

Those felt like the norm as a rookie diving into the deep end of my chosen career field.

“I don’t think I can do it.”
“What if I fail?”
“This is too difficult.”
“Maybe I should get an easier job.”

Those thoughts plagued me night and day for many years. Have you experienced that, or is it just me?

Lo and behold, I am still here. With God’s help, that of my folks and other trusted advisors, I faced each day. Usually, with a high amount of awkwardness. πŸ™‚ I learned, I made mistakes, and I humiliated myself in front of important people. Regularly. And I lived to see another day and learn from my mistakes.

3. The freedom to end sentences with a preposition

Gotta mix up the tell-all with an off-topic one. I’m aware that the title of this blog post ends with a preposition. And I’m, OK with that.

4. Being ignored

Oh goodness, here she goes again with more sob stories! It’s part of our self-centered human ego to assume that people are ignoring us, when really, they are just self-focused. Probably not even thinking of me at all. So in a sense, I guess that is ignoring me??

I used to get my feelings hurt when a friend “ignored” me. How did they do such a thing? Not calling or texting back immediately. Neglecting to invite me to hang out on a Friday night. DARING to attend a concert with someone else, and not me.

I’ve come to realize, as an adult, it is a rare person indeed that checks in regularly and invites you to do things consistently. Otherwise, we all tend to get busy. We neglect reaching out to people, even people we think about with fondness, often.

So if *I* do that, maybe I shouldn’t worry about it too much if others do the same to me. If I’m being honest, it’s actually pretty egotistical of me to assume that someone is “ignoring” me, when its more likely that they are just busy, as most of us are, and haven’t taken the time to reach out.

Why are you thankful for those things, weirdo?

In conclusion, I can say that struggling through all those things in my younger adult years shaped who I am today. That’s not to say that I have it all figured out. I don’t. Spoiler alert: no one does, despite how perfectly curated their Instagram feed is.

My countless moments of embarrassment, failure, lying awake at night replaying my mistakes over and over again in my head, all helped make me a stronger person.

I have learned that no matter what the unknowns are, it will be OK.

Every mistake I make, I can and will correct. Many missteps will be instantly forgotten with a smile and making a joke about it. I can give myself grace and move forward. Most importantly, my confidence comes from the unshakable hope I have in Christ.

I hope, that if you struggle with these painful lessons I learned, you will be encouraged. If you are determined to learn from the past, you can master the future, no matter what it holds.

I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts in a comment! Thank you for reading! πŸ™‚

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On The Power of Curiosity

“It’s a Saturday night at a tropical beach in paradise; what are the odds we’ll be able to find a hotel room?”

That was the question my husband Mike and I pondered after “stumbling upon” the most magical beach in Queensland, Australia, where we had spent the afternoon swimming in the gentle turquoise waves.

The figure in the center is me. Mind blown, walking onto the most beautiful tropical beach I had ever seen.

This story, which has many delightful twists and turns, underscores the power of curiosity. What I mean by that is choosing to adopt an inquisitive mindset can lead to the most expected outcomes — more wonderful than you might realize when approaching the same scenario without curiosity.

This is a hard-learned lesson for me as a stubborn, self-reliant introvert who is hardwired to Google things endlessly before asking a human the answer to a query. That quality is good in some ways, but detrimental in others.

Our story in paradise continues, and I’ll wrap it up with some takeaways.

The man who stops for directions. What??

We knew that we had found a special place, and we didn’t want to leave, even though we had, just that morning, set out on a 1000-mile, six-day road trip down the east coast of Australia, from Cairns to Brisbane. We had a flight to catch out of the latter and a lot of miles to cover, while doing maximum sightseeing, and less than a week to do it.

Nevertheless, our gut told us we should enjoy this place and not rush past it. We figured there wasn’t going to be any more exciting highway pullouts for many miles, and the next major town was a long drive.

Mike suggested we stop into the local tourism office to see what we could find out. Mind blown. You mean, ask a local expert about the information we were lacking, instead of making blind assumptions? You’re killing me with your common sense, dude.

So into the tourist office we went. The lady working there was extremely helpful and confirmed our suspicions that:

a) continuing on our road trip would lead to miles of less spectacular views, and we wouldn’t make the next down by dark.

(It’s not advisable to road trip after dark in kangaroo country, we’d been told, because they jump out and scare you and end up causing a lot of accidents. Just like deer do in my part of the United States.)

b) It would be tricky to come by a vacant hotel room in a resort town on a Saturday night.

BUT, she offered, “I think there might be a room at this one place I know. Let me call and find out.”

A quick phone call later, sure enough, there was one room left in a bungalow-style beach resort.

Mike and I looked at each other in delighted awe. “We’ll take it!” we practically said in unison.

Because of Mike’s idea to talk to the tourism office, we got lodging when we thought it wouldn’t be possible.Β 

I should add that, this town that we “stumbled upon,” as I mentioned above, we only did so because Mike asked some guy in a coffee shop in Cairns that morning about some good places to see. The town, Mission Beach, was only two hours from our starting point in Cairns. Not exactly a great idea, on the surface, to stop after such a short distance with the many miles we had to drive in just a few days. Our original intent was to stop for an early lunch then keep driving.

Which underscores my point that asking locals for information can lead to outstanding results. Mix that with a touch of intuition and a good nose for sniffing out fun opportunities, and you have a formula for maximizing your travel experiences.

But the story continues.

That last room available that we scored turned out to be down a small, non-descript road, down a ways, in a place we would never have thought to drive to. Heck, it was kinda hard to find, even. But it was a beautiful beachfront resort; only a stone’s throw from the same gorgeous waters we had just enjoyed all afternoon.

After another irresistible dip in the bathtub-warm turquoise waters, we showered and headed back into the tiny town to grab dinner.

Goofing off in Mission Beach

The place we ended up, which had been closed for lunch, was now alive and vibrant under the warm evening sky. Tropical music floated into the atmosphere as we looked for a table in a crowded open-air bar, with the mind-blowing beach we had enjoyed all day only a few minutes walk away, but now under the cover of darkness.

Finding a table, we gladly paid for overpriced drinks and food, soaking in the glorious beach vibes and beside ourselves with giddiness for being able to experience a moment in time we knew we’d always look bad on with fondness.

So, about curiosity curing conundrums

As I mentioned earlier, a couple of moments of curiosity by Mike led to results that we couldn’t have imagined and probably wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

Sans curiosity, we probably would have driven right by Mission Beach, keeping our timeline in mind.

Since we knew it was worth stopping at, we did. Even Plan A of stopping there for lunch and then moving on probably would have been fine. We’d likely have made it to Townsville before dark, found a decent place to stay, a fun restaurant for dinner and had a great time. But we would have missed out on what ended up being one of the trip’s highlights.

So what can we learn about the benefits of curiosity?Β 

Humans are a treasure trove of information, battle-tested with experience. Asking another person about something (in this context, about travel) will lead to invaluable information you may not find elsewhere. The old rule, “ask the locals where to go” bore out very well for us in Queensland.

No matter how much you read up on something, you can never know the whole story. Curiosity through conversation adds richness and context to just about everything.

Curiosity cures assumptions.
When embarking on something new, it is human nature to have biases and assumptions about what the outcome will be. I find this to be a liability in many cases. Asking open-ended questions opens up your thinking to new possibilities, and in many cases, unimagined solutions.

Curiosity leads to innovation and human intelligence.
One poignant example of that for this research-over-conversation introvert was from a previous job I had that involved rolling out marketing plans for events in cities where I had never set foot. How does one go about the daunting task of knowing how to market in a different city or state?

Well, duh, online research, I thought.

My extroverted boss thought differently and insisted that I call local businesses and chat them up about various items to inform our marketing strategies. I found this idea to be terrifying. Calling strangers and asking them questions?? That is as bad as sales cold-calling!

But I grudgingly did it, because telling the boss “no” wasn’t really a solid path to staying employed. I wasn’t naturally gifted at it (it felt soooo awkward), but I did it.

And you know what? It worked. At least a lot of the time.

It helped me to get on-the-ground intelligence that I couldn’t get otherwise.

“Oh, don’t advertise in that newspaper. No one reads it. Their reported circulation number is B.S.”

“Jared used to put on concerts here. He’d probably help you put up posters around town if you ask nicely and pay him. Sure, I’ll give you his number.”

“You want to do your event on a Wednesday night? You won’t get anyone to come out because (insert some reason about locals I wouldn’t have found online) Thursday or the weekend would be better.”

I still prefer to research online over talking to people, because that is how I’m wired. But now I know that conversation should be a part of the equation if I want to be more effective.

Many more volumes could be written about how a general scene of curiosity leads to innovation. Think vehicles, electric light, the printing press, and so many other inventions that are now irreplaceable parts of life. Many, if not all, great inventions came from someone asking, “what if….?” and following that curiosity where it led.

E.g., What if we could go to the bathroom inside and wash our waste away without carrying it in buckets? (A curiosity from the 1800s that I am glad someone chased down!)

Conclusion

We can all benefit from adopting a spirit of curiosity. It will lead us in unexpected directions and sometimes require uncomfortable conversations, as in my case.

But it is usually worth it.

The job seeker, when asking just a few more questions about why the position is vacant, may get invaluable insights that will help her decide if she wants to take the job.

The person that suffers from ill health and often feels terrible could well benefit from asking different questions. “Is there something I could change about my lifestyle that may help?” vs. “What medication do I need?” may be on the road to dramatic improvement.

And travelers that seek to maximize their short vacation on the other side of the world may do well to stop and ask a tourist information lady rather than drive into the hazardous kangaroo-encroaching night-time highways.

A question for you. Can you think of a time when being curious helped the outcome of your situation? I’d love to hear your story in the comment section!

Most of all, thank you for reading this! I appreciate it.

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How to Prepare for the Coming Diesel Shortage

This post on how to prepare for the coming diesel shortage is a major deviation from my normal range of topics. I rarely write about current events. But this feels important enough to write about.

The US Energy Information Administration announced recently that the United States’ supply of diesel fuel is not only at critically low levels but that there were 25 days left of supply, and at it was at its lowest point since 2008.

That means the country could run out of diesel fuel before the end of the year.

Unless something changes soon, this is a real possibility. The Biden administration is surely working on a solution, but will they be able to get something done in time?

For the average person, the implications are unfavorable.

Fewer trucks will be on the road because there won’t be enough fuel for all of them. That means store shelves will not be restocked promptly. And with soaring diesel prices, brace for inflation to continue to climb.

If you thought empty shelves in 2020 were bad, I fear this could be worse.

Oh, but not to worry, I can just order from Amazon. Unfortunately, that includes Amazon trucks too.

So how do we prepare for the coming diesel shortage?

The easiest thing to do is to stock up on essentials.

I’m not suggesting you hoard (Please don’t. Remember the toilet paper hoarders in 2020? Don’t be that person.).

Just stock up. Think to yourself, “What would I need to have on hand to be comfortable at home?”

Food. Cleaning supplies. Water. Personal care items.

Anything that you take for granted that you can just run to the store and pick up. I suggest we forego taking things for granted and instead, be prepared.

Also, how do we get our regular gasoline delivered to gas stations? Via trucks that run on diesel. So it wouldn’t hurt to keep that tank fuller than you might otherwise. Preaching to myself as a roll-in-on-fumes regular.

A caveat.

I hope I’m wrong.

I hope the powers that be figure out a solution so that we can replenish our diesel supplies.

But again, if you can look back at me this winter with hindsight and sneer because I cried wolf, that would be the best outcome. Except for the sneering part, that would be mean. πŸ˜‰

Why write this?

Because I want to warn the people that are important to me. Just in case I’m not over exaggerating the problem.

If your household is prepared, you are more likely to not only minimize hardship, but you will be in a position to help others if you so choose.

Thanks for reading!

If you found this post helpful, I welcome you to share it with others who might be helped by it.

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An Organizational Plan To Get Those Neglected Things Done

If you’d rather watch this content, view here:

Do you ever wish you could be more organized? Or use your time more effectively?

I do. I think about it a lot, and I write about it a fair amount too. That is why I devised this organizational plan to get those neglected things done.

My goal is to find a way to build my own business, and not always just work on marketing material for my clients. (Although I do really enjoy that work, and my clients are fantastic.)

Recently I devised a plan that I think will help me take baby steps toward building my business. It involves taking only 30-60 minutes per day to focus on something specific. Something that I am apt to neglect if I don’t carve out time for it.

I’m sharing it with you for two reasons.

  1. Maybe it will get your wheels turning on ideas to help you
  2. Making it public provides a layer of accountability for me to actually do it. Because I know at least a few of you will be kind enough to ask me how it is going.

So here we go. My weekly organization plan that I am starting this week! I like alliteration, so I employed it here.

Mess-free Monday

The idea is that I will give myself permission to stop down and spend 30-60 minutes clearing clutter and getting my workspace physically organized.

Me and my “creative person” messy desk. πŸ™‚

As you can see by this picture, this is something that would be beneficial. πŸ˜‰

I rarely take the time to organize my workspace. Instead, my default is to dive right into the workday, eager to plow through a mountain of tasks. As it turns out, messes don’t really bother me. (I can’t say the same for my husband Mike. A messy work area drives him crazy!)

On the rare occasion that I do take the time to declutter, I feel so much better. The chaos in my mind naturally calms down. So why not schedule some time to do that?

Tactical Tuesday (and Thursday)

Setting aside a chunk of time for tactical work 2x/week means taking a bite out of one of the many things I only think about doing. Sometimes these things make it to a written list, where they go to die or be ignored indefinitely.

Things like:

  • Order that piece of office equipment
  • Research a software subscription I’ve been considering
  • Troubleshoot a tech issue that has plagued me, but I’ve put up with
  • Write a thank you note to a client or colleague
  • Research a personal item like a recipe, supplement, exercise regime or health matter
  • Really anything that isn’t urgent, but is important, that gets neglected

Again, the key here is

1) giving myself permission to take the time to work on that stuff and
2) scheduling time to actually do it

Wednesday Wins / Wednesday Wisdom

This is two things, but I’ll explain both. These will be alternated as needed in my weekly plan.

Wins

A business coach I worked with previously always had me tell him about some “wins” I’d accomplished since our last call. Why?

Because it forced me to think about the things that went right. In our context, it was often business wins. But it could be expanded to personal as well. Taking the time to reflect on those things was a big mindset shifter. It made me realize that I was making more progress than I thought.

Do you ever get caught in a negative mindset? Fighting self-doubt or wondering if you’re making any difference? You’re human, so of course you do! Brainstorming your wins might help more than you think!

I’d talk with my coach about things minor and significant. They all add up. Things like:

  • Having a tough conversation with a client (got through it, whoo-hoo!)
  • Achieving demonstrable benchmarks for a client, such as
    • increased social media followers
    • driving more sales
    • increased engagement on social media posts
    • better Google rankings thanks to content I created for them
    • an increase in positive Google reviews
    • establishing a positive rapport
  • Pushing past the fear of sending a proposal with increased prices
  • Actually taking a day off during the week after working a client event all weekend! (Yes, that was a win for me, because I was having a hard time doing it.)
  • Tactfully resolving a scheduling challenge with family, friends or a client

If I take the time to brainstorm wins, I’ll continue to have a realistic (not pessimistic) view of the progress I am actually making. Not subject to my mood or emotions.

Wednesday Wisdom

If I’ve brainstormed all the wins I can think of, I can instead take a few minutes to focus on sources of wisdom, for inspiration.

Perhaps that means Googling “inspirational memes” to flood my screen with feel-good vibes.

Maybe that looks like reading a chapter of a business book, even (gulp!) at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday when I “should” be doing “real work.” (The words in quotes are to denote the toxic self-talk I have to sift through when attempting to break the mold.)

Ultimately, whatever it looks like for you, it means taking the time to find inspiration from others to give you a new or fresh perspective to meet the day.

That brings us to the next day of the week (since Thursday is in the same category as Tuesday)

Financial Friday

Quite simply, this is a day to work on my books. Update my mileage log, enter receipts, update my income spreadsheet. Yes, I use a spreadsheet, not accounting software. Judge me if you want.

This could also be a day I set aside to write proposals for potential clients or update financial projections and goals once I enter the actual numbers.

Confession: I’m not good at setting aside time to do this, which is why I earmarked “Financial Fridays” as a thing. I’ve heard of some people who update their books once a month. I like that idea too.

Bonus: Superstar Saturday or Shoutout Saturday

As a self-employed person, there is rarely a Saturday when I don’t work. Even just a few hours – it seems to be unavoidable unless I have a scheduled item that prevents me from working.

But as a bonus, I can take 20-30 minutes to reflect on someone or something that has had a positive impact on my business. Behind every successful person is one or more people that have helped them get where they are.

  • A mentor from a previous job or time in life
  • A previous boss that really invested in me and believed in my potential
  • A person from my sales team of referral partners who made an introduction that changed the course of my business for the better
  • It could even be a “thing” like a piece of software that saves me tons of time or an indispensable tool or hardware item

Once I’ve identified that person or thing for the day, I can do a little giving back:

  • Write them a card, send an email or text telling them how I appreciate what they’ve done for me
  • If it’s a business, leave them a Google or Facebook review. OK, I guess Yelp might still be a thing too??
  • Share or comment on one of their social media posts to highlight their business or shower them with gratitude

Doing this does two things.

  1. It keeps me grounded in gratitude, reminded of the good that has come my way.
  2. It helps others.

I truly believe that if we focus on the good, and intentionally give back, it makes life so much more enjoyable. Plus, it embodies the adage, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

In conclusion

This is a weekly flow that I’ve devised to give me a framework to address things that I’m likely to neglect. Now the trick is implementing it and sticking with it!

I’m curious about two things:

What would you add to this list or take from it?

What is your secret for staying accountable to your plans? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment!

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On Competing Against Yourself: A Runner’s Confession

If you’d rather watch this content on YouTube:

The subtitle of this article is: Don’t worry about the fast girls.

There’s a story behind that and a broader application to non-runners, both of which I’ll share below.

As a runner out there for my fitness, I must constantly remind myself that my main competition is not the other runners on the trail. It’s me.

I’m competing against:

… the time from my last run.
… my temptation to skip that workout for various reasons- some legit, some not.
… getting complacent because I’ve already worked out x times this week.

Don’t worry about the fast girls

I’ve been running for fitness off and on since high school. During the “off” times, I hesitate to describe myself as a runner, because, imposter syndrome. But I’ll claim it — I’m a runner.

In my mid-20s I got into road races because I realized that training for a race was the surest way to keep me strapping on those running shoes consistently. In those days, I didn’t need to do it to lose weight because I was already reasonably fit and had that excellent young adult metabolism that I didn’t yet know was a short-term gift.

Fast forward a few years, a few “off” times and a few dozen pounds, and I was back at it. This time I ate regular servings of humble pie as I realized that pace and endurance that came so much easier before were now a challenge to chase down.

But what about the fast girls you mentioned?

At the time of this writing, I once again find myself building my cardio base back up after a few years of focusing on strength training and letting my running habit lapse. I don’t regret my decision, but now I am facing the implications as I train to complete a 10k trail run this fall.

Humble pie is back on the menu as I hit the running path and clock times that are waaay slower than during my last bout of consistency. But I’ve played this game enough to realize that “use it or lose it” is a thing. I have to earn back that endurance.

Enter: the fast girls

The other day, as I felt proud of myself for putting in an extra half mile over my previous run, a young lady with her dog cruised by me at an incredible rate.

She looked familiar. Yes, I recognized her from when she used to blow past me a few years ago when I was in the same situation I am now. (When you run the same route at the same time of day, you often see the same faces and get familiar with them, which is fun.)

As an aside, she’s likely been running that same trail during these years I was absent, which would explain her impressive pace.

My first reaction was bummed out that she left me in her dust.

As an aside: One of the things I do when that happens is to try to keep up a pace that at least lets me keep the fast girl in sight, instead of pulling so far ahead on the winding path that she vanishes.

In this case, I was not able to keep her in sight. Again, I had to remind myself that I am in rebuilding mode. She, apparently, isn’t.

Don’t worry about the fast girls.

All I need to do is keep showing up. The endurance will build. The improved pace will come after that.

A broader application

The “fast girls,” in this case, are the object against whom I compare myself. But the “fast girls” can be a general type applied to most situations.

Starting a business?
The “fast girls” might be those entrepreneurs already making good money that seem to be living the dream.

Working on eliminating a bad habit?
They might show up as the Instagram gurus showing you the fabulous life they’ve built after “effortlessly” slaying what you’re struggling to do.

Struggling day to day for other reasons?
They might be those folks who curate a perfect social media feed, leading everyone to believe their lives are perfect.

For whatever scenario you find yourself in, don’t worry about the “fast girls.”

Maybe they’ve chosen to overshare their successes and edit out the parts where they were broke, desperate, enslaved to a bad habit, or those pictures without the edits and filter where you see the messy background and they have no makeup.

As I feast on humble pie while girls who have been doing the work consistently breeze past me, I strengthen my resolve to keep getting out there. I hope you will, too, regardless of what you might be training for.

Because after all, I am only competing against myself.

Drop a comment below to share what you’re working towards. I’d love to hear. Thank you for reading!

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A Tribute to My Dad For His 80th Birthday

July 19, 2022, marked my dad, Doug Hamilton’s 80th birthday. Such a momentous occasion calls for a tribute!

My dad (my brother Garth and I call him Bo, and that is how I will refer to him henceforth) is an incredible man. But don’t take my word for it. Ask anyone who knows him well, and they will be easily able to expound on his many outstanding qualities.

For this post, I’ll share some memories intermixed with whatever the opposite of a roast is.

Teaching me to ride a bike, cheering me on at my first triathlon, skiing, and my wedding day!

Looking back

It was sometime in my early adulthood that I had an epiphany.

When people say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” meaning, kids often end up being like their parents, I realized that if that were true of me, that would be an accolade, not a point of shame.

To end up like my parents would be something I would be proud of! That was a profound realization for me.

But as it concerns a tribute to Bo, I’ll share my perspective on what are some cherished memories.

The formative years really were!

A theme that always jumps to the top of mind when reflecting on being raised by Bo and my mom is his consistent, deliberate efforts to provide Garth and me with various enriching experiences to help shape us into well-rounded adults. The main categories I’ll describe are recreation and travel.

Recreation

Being active and enjoying the outdoors were deeply engrained into our upbringing. From being hauled around in child carrier backpacks on hikes when I was a baby, to being taken out hiking not long after I started walking, Bo was very strategic in passing along his love of the trails.

One of my earliest hiking memories is Bo packing sandwiches and candy bars for a hike up Hamilton Mountain when I was just a little tike. Knowing that treats could bribe his sugar-loving daughter, he patiently urged me on when I got tired and crabby, providing the future reward of peeling open that candy bar when we got to our lunch break.

It worked. πŸ™‚

Dozens, if not hundreds, of hikes while under my parents’ roof translated into Garth and me being hiking freaks as adults. (Garth even more so, but that is another story.)

Same with bike riding. Being gifted a bike at an early age, and encouraged to ride it, turned me into an enthusiastic grown-up recreational biker.

Let’s talk about waterskiing. (I could talk about it all day, but I’ll be brief.) Waterski vacations/lake days filled our summers with skiing, tubing, wakeboarding, and swimming galore. I was like a little fish that felt most at home splashing around Lake Merwin, Yale, or Banks Lake for our annual weeklong trip. Those are some fond memories I’ll always hold dear.

Snow skiing too, oh my! Another regular for us that I enjoy to this day.

Travel

My folks had a motorhome for most of my childhood, which was our home base while waterskiing at Banks Lake, and the vehicle by which we’d frequently go “camping” at state parks, spending quality time together and making memories as a family.

Travel and recreation go hand-in-hand, and Bo would usually go to the trouble of bringing our bicycles along on RV trips, and would initiate rides around wherever we were staying. My adolescent self made countless loops up and down the trails and loops of Fort Stevens State Park.

Specific memoriesΒ 

On our motorhome trips, Bo would often awaken Garth and me earlier than we would normally rise so we could go on walks around the campground while Vive (my mom) was getting her beauty sleep. The extra special element is that he’d make us a cup of hot chocolate to go in our designated plastic mugs (we each had a different color) so we’d have something to sip while we walked and talked and he drank his coffee.

Bo showed a tremendous amount of patience in teaching us the recreational hobbies we came to cherish:

  • During waterski days, he’d pull the boat around for another attempt as often as we wanted when we failed to rise above the water after calling, “Hit it!” He usually had helpful, unsolicited feedback on what we were doing wrong.Similarly, he encouraged me to take as many runs as I could when it was my turn in the water. Only when my arms or legs gave out, and I was ready to surrender the rope to the next person, would I be encouraged to get back into the boat. (I never wanted to get back in; I wanted to swim indefinitely!)
  • When hitting the slopes in the winter, he endured my childish temper tantrums when I wasn’t learning the mechanics of skiing fast enough to suit me, calmed me during my freakouts when I thought I couldn’t navigate the steepness of the hill, and carried my gear back to the car when I was tired and cranky.

In retrospect, it occurred to me that Bo (and Vive) spared no expense to give us a childhood full of abundance and adventure.

As an adult, I now see how expensive and how much work goes into each one of the hobbies Bo made sure we practiced regularly. Yet he willingly chose to pour out the labor and cost necessary for us to have those experiences. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Continuing into adulthood

Bo walking me down the aisle

Bo and I have remained close over the years, and much of the credit for that goes to him for being extremely proactive about scheduling get-togethers and calling for impromptu coffee dates when he is on my side of town.

Transitioning into adulthood, I’ve had the pleasure of leaning on Bo for wisdom as I navigate challenging situations with relationships, co-workers, terrible bosses and self-doubt that threatened to crush my spirit many times.

With a successful career in management and administration, Bo always has abundant, helpful words of wisdom to share that helped me climb out of some situations I couldn’t see a way out of.

From movie nights to dinners out and holidays, it has been an absolute pleasure to be able to do life with my fantastic daddio. I cherish the time we get to spend together and hope there are many more years to come!

 

 

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On Rebounding from Failure (Or less than stellar progress)

It’s an experience that plagues all of us from time to time: failure. Although failure is a harsh term, which is why I added (or less than stellar progress) to the title.

As I’ve reflected on this year, I could easily use either term to describe how I think things have gone. Since I’m an optimist who prefers to look at things in a positive light, “less than stellar progress” feels more fitting.

What I plan to do in this post is briefly share about how my year has gone, the actions I am taking to change course, and provide some encouragement for you if you are wading through a state of disappointment on your current progress.

2022 has been weird. It came at us fast, starting with minor but prolonged illness. That threw things off course from the get-go.

As we recovered (“we” being my husband Mike and me), I found myself in a perpetual catch-up mode, from which it seems I am still recovering.

An aside: I have a deep desire to live a structured, well-planned and organized life to maximize my productivity for my well-being and the glory of God. I’ve written about my aspirations on that front here and here.

A business coach I was working with last year shared with me a principle that I found extremely insightful:

Make plans for the ordinary things in your schedule that you can control. But know that there will be abnormalities, and make room for those also.

What did I find insightful about that?

  • It acknowledged that there are limits to what we can control – a good reminder (“the best-laid plans…”)
  • To experience a deviation from what we plan is normal, and should be expected
  • Make room for exceptions and don’t beat yourself up when they throw you off track

If you have a plan in place, you have something to go back to once the disruption has sorted itself out.

How the year has gone

I won’t belabor all the details of how I perceive my plans getting derailed and my progress stalled. I will say that feeling behind from the outset of the year, and the year speeding by as they tend to do, has me bewildered that it is now June (at the time of this writing), and my best-laid plans have gathered some dust.

I expected that my new business model would be further along.

I thought surely I’d have gotten more consistent with my workouts. (It’s been hit and miss.)

I had hoped to have a bigger dent in the pile of books “to be read.”

What to do about it?

There are a few things I could do – and you also if you are lagging on your goals:

  • Allow the feeling of defeat to weigh me down – like a weighted blanket or soaking wet towel on my shoulders (saying things like, “well, the year is already half gone, so I might as well wait until January and start fresh with new year’s resolutions.”)
    No. That is not how I will react. I hope you won’t, either.
  • Acknowledge the abnormality/lack of progress for what it is.
    Think about what caused it. Journal to make sure I’ve fully processed it.
    Then:
  • Make a plan for getting back on track.
    How that looks is different for everyone. For me, it means re-committing to some of the things I’ve let slide:

    • Regular workouts in the morning before work
    • Taking 30-60 minutes at the start of each weekday for progress toward one of my many organizational and learning projects
    • There are so many more, but I’m learning to focus on 1-2 at a time, and not try to tackle everything all at once

A positive spin

Because of my recessive “woe is me” gene, it feels compulsory to add some positive notes to even what seems like a negative topic.

If you’re feeling burdened by the state of your goals, here are two things you can think about:

  • The last two and a half years have been the most bizarre, disruptive and disturbing of my lifetime. Maybe yours too, depending on your age. You’ve made it through. You’re still alive and kicking. That alone is worth giving yourself some grace. Maybe, just maybe, it’s OK to have stunted progress in the midst of a pandemic, massive recession, wars and record inflation.
  • Something I try to do is to focus on what *has* gone well, or what I *have* accomplished. Maybe even just a good habit or three that you’ve been able to maintain in the midst of chaotic uncertainty.

    – Still working out consistently? Fantastic job!
    – Flossing regularly? Go you!
    – Chipping away at some continuing education or chapters on a book?
    – Learning a new skill?
    – Keeping the house clean-ish even when you don’t feel like it?
    – Looking outside yourself to serve and encourage others?

    Celebrating the small wins is a key to keeping motivated to keep pursuing the bigger ones. At least I think so. Would you agree?

In conclusion, I hope that you are able to gather at least some encouragement from reading this. We’re navigating some frontiers that few are equipped for or experienced in.

I have a feeling I might not be alone in feeling perpetually behind on EVERYTHING. If you feel that way too, know that you are not alone. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

I’ll close with this quote (ahem, paraphrase):

When you’re not sure what to do, keep it simple. Just do the next right thing. Then the next. Then the next.

 

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Top secret trick for introverts

Top secret trick 
for introverts
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Tactical vs. Strategic: Getting Clear on How to Achieve Goals

Do you know what I mean when I say, “tactical vs. strategic” as a method for getting clear on achieving goals?

So we can start with the appropriate mindset, I’ll provide definitions of both:

Tactical:

: of or relating to tactics: such as

(1): of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose

(2): made or carried out with only a limited or immediate end in view

b: adroit in planning or maneuvering to accomplish a purpose

Strategic:

: necessary to or important in the initiation, conduct, or completion of a strategic plan

The way I like to think of it is this:

Strategic action is planning and executing the big picture of a goal or objective.

Tactical action is the carrying out of smaller steps that are necessary in the service of the strategic goal.

What I’ll do in this post is, as briefly as possible, layout:

  1. Some examples of strategic vs tactical action
  2. Why it is important to understand the difference
  3. Some takeaways for execution

My motive for writing this is because I find this to be such a critical concept to understand, and one that stands in the way of achieving bigger goals if it is not understood and practiced.

A confession: I love tactical action. I’m addicted to it. It feels so good to make a list of to-dos and start chipping away at it. But I’ve realized that tactical, in the absence of strategic, can often result in lots of small picture stuff getting done, but no movement on larger goals.

I aim to always be optimizing the way I do things, so getting a clearer focus on tactical vs. strategic strikes me as quite important.

What are some examples of tactical vs. strategic actions or goals?

A strategic goal would be something like losing 30 pounds, gaining 10 pounds of muscle, lowering my cholesterol by 50 points, reading 10 books this year, get a new career.

In other words, bigger things that require careful planning to accomplish.

It’s very likely that you’ve heard of “SMART goals.” That is a key to strategic planning; I won’t belabor that here other than to say that goals should be specific.

“Improve my running pace by 2-minutes per mile” beats “get faster at running” or “get in better shape” all day long.

Some tactical actions to support a strategic goal of losing 30 pounds would be:

  • Logging food intake: what types, the calories, macros
  • Reducing consumption of problem areas (too many calories, too much sugar, etc.) by a specific amount. E.g. Reducing intake by 500 calories per day.
  • Keeping an exercise journal
  • Weighing or measuring yourself weekly

To accomplish a strategy, it has to be broken down into tactical action. But where it gets tricky is determining which is which, and figuring out the right way to balance them.

This leads to the next point:

Why is it important to understand the difference between tactics and strategy?

I’ve wasted a lot of time over the years spinning my wheels with tactics (small actions) without clarity on the bigger picture, or strategy. In some cases, I’m ashamed to admit, I didn’t even have a strategy. I was just being busy doing things because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Without devolving too much into sounding like a motivational speaker, I’ve come to realize that strategy is more aligned with your “why” – the reason you do what you do. Furthermore, it is about your vision of who you are, who you wish to become, and what you want to accomplish.

A personal example

To turn the mirror towards me for a moment, I’ll share with you how this is playing out in my life as a business owner.

I wrote in my 2021 Year in Review post about my successes and areas for improvement in 2021.

I’ve realized that the following things all collided to contribute to my less-than-stellar performance:

  • Being blessed to have a growing client list that kept me hopping most of the year
  • My love for tactics over strategic planning, which led to:
  • Not using my time as well as I wanted
  • A lack of systems to keep me honest in how I used my time

So, what am I doing to address those things?

For one, I’m keeping it real by writing publicly about it. (Grimaces.) But otherwise, I am implementing the following:

  • I hired a business coach in the summer of 2021 that I meet with monthly to help me sort through my business challenges. (Update since this post was originally drafted: my coach took a different gig recently, so I am navigating my strategy and system-building solo at the moment.)
  • I plan to schedule regular periods of review regarding how I think things are going. Not just an end-of-year analysis, but at least twice-yearly, if not quarterly.
  • On a tactical level, I recreated my daily time planning grid to make it more accommodating to my style (I was previously using something I found online).
    • I added a spot at the end of each day to write “how did it go today?” and “what to change?” so I can provide analysis on even a daily level.
  • I am re-reading a book I read and reviewed called “Do More Better” by Tim Challies. This book was foundational in shaping my approach to productivity several years ago. I figured it was time to revisit it.

These things and likely more will be added to the mix to help me operate from a greater sense of purpose and with sharper focus and action towards my goals.

By God’s grace, I’ve come a long way over the years in increasing the order with which I live my life. But there is always room for improvement. Always. As I pursue life with the mindset of Colossians 3:17, 23, I recognize the higher purpose for everything I do, whether tactical or strategic.

Some takeaways on implementing tactical vs strategic goals

If I can distill down the top things I’ve learned, it would be:

  1. Get clear on your mission in each area of your life. Again, for Christians, I highly recommend Tim Challies’ “Do More Better.” It would help all people with organization, but its unique focus on Christian productivity sets it apart from other books of its kind. James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” is another outstanding book that will help in building better habits. Once you know your mission, you can honestly evaluate where you are and where you want to be.
  2. Write out your strategic goals (longer-term, more involved)
  3. Write out as many subordinate tactical action items as you need to under each item in #2 that will help clarify the task at hand
  4. Choose one or two things to implement to start. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you try to tackle everything at once. I know from repeat experience. Once you are established in chipping away at those few things, then add something else if you think you can sustain it.
  5. Schedule periodic reviews of both lists. Honestly evaluate your progress and correct course when needed. I’ve found that skipping this piece usually leads to any progress eventually getting derailed.

I hope you’ve found something helpful from this post. I’m curious what your thoughts are on this subject and what you struggle with. You’re not alone, whatever it is!

Thank you for reading this – I appreciate you!

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