productivity: the best system is the system that you *use* {life balance 2.0 series}

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In this edition of Life Balance 2.0, I'm bringing y'all a fresh video blog on one of my favorite topics: productivity.

You've probably heard that saying about exercise that "the best form of exercise is the one you'll actually DO." The same goes with systems for productivity: tracking your to-do's and calendar items, having a place to store and easily access your big ideas and project plans.

I can geek out all day long on systems, tools, and apps for productivity, and in this video I do share a little about my current system that works well for me. But the biggest message is that you need to do what works for YOU, and if your current system isn't working well, there are so many great resources out there to improve it. 

Check out the video blog below, and if you're on a mobile device, you may need to click here to watch it directly on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUnGj3ymmwk

What are you favorite tools or techniques for organizing your tasks and appointments? I'd love to hear them in the comments! 

the next 5 minutes you've got? move your body. {life balance 2.0 series}

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I need the next 5 minutes you've got.

Why?

I'm finally watching The West Wing with my husband right now, and we're SO. HOOKED. Clocking in around 150 episodes (twice as many as the show we finally conquered last year — Lost) at a rate of maybe 3-4 episodes a week, this could take a while.

Apparently we like to arrive a good 10-15 years late to the primetime party, and I'm okay with that. It was pretty funny last year when I was walking around wanting to talk to anyone and everyone about Lost like it was something novel and exciting, not something that the rest of the world was buzzing about almost a decade prior.

On The West Wing, one of the funny little White House insider phrases that his staffers use a lot (to their respective assistants) is "I need the next __ minutes the President's got." When I started writing this little mini post, my first thought was:

I need the next 5 minutes you've got. 

Really, YOU need them, but I'm making this request of/challenge for you:

The next "free" 5 minutes you've got? Use them to move your body. 

That's it.

I could go on and on about the benefits of movement for mental clarity, productivity, yada yada yada. But you know all that. You just need the reminder to get off of your 'tocks and DO IT.

And notice the word "free." It is in quotation marks because we are never just "free" with nothing that we should/could be doing. Just like President Bartlet on The West Wing. But after whatever immediate activity or scheduled thing is done, that's when you're "free." Don't fall prey to the cult of busy.

I'm not asking you to go run 3 miles or book it to the gym ASAP. If you have plans to do that later, great! But that doesn't mean that you can't also use the next 5 minutes you've got to stretch, dance, walk, do a few qi gong movements — whatever.

A huge part of this whole "balance 2.0" thing is working smarter, not harder. It's challenging the old all-or-nothing thinking and saying, "you know what, I may or may not have time for yoga class later, but I do have 5 minutes right now and I'm going to use them."

We are a culture of head-dwellers.

Do yourself a huge favor right now and remember:

There is a body. 

There is THIS body.

And the next available moment I have, I will honor it by becoming more fully present with it, and more fully awake to this day.

That's all for now. Let me know how it goes.

Struggling to integrate joyful movement into your day-to-day life, and want some guidance, support, and accountability? Shoot me a note. 

the one thing all the best productivity advice boils down to {life balance 2.0 series}

life-balance-simplify Last week I introduced a new weekly blog series, Life Balance 2.0. In the second installment today, I’m jamming about one of my favorite topics...

PRODUCTIVITY!

Confession: I am a productivity junkie.

The lovely irony, of course, is that productivity is a daily experiment and challenge for me, despite my intrigue and breadth of knowledge on various philosophies, systems, and tools.

It reminds me of how I used to be with diets and fitness. I spent hundreds of hours obsessing over the latest trends and methods in magazines, books and online, but that didn’t necessarily mean I was practicing them. (I’m reminded right now of my fridge magnet that says “It took a lot of willpower, but I finally gave up dieting.” Thank God.)

My point is that this is one of those situations where the teacher is very much the student. Nonetheless, my countless hours of reading, podcast listening, and app testing means that I have tons of knowledge to distill and share in this series. (So consider the dirty work done for you!)

From dozens of experts across all these various channels, I hear one single message repeated the most, albeit in slightly different words:

SIMPLIFY. DO LESS TO GET MORE DONE.

I won’t bother chronicling just how many experts and authors extoll this as a core productivity virtue, but suffice to say it’s pretty much all of them.

The only popular advice that might run counter to this concept is the emphasis in the entrepreneurship world on “the hustle,” but even many entrepreneurs talk about how you can only rev close to the red line for so long before you’re doing long-term engine damage. Even Ms. hustle herself, mega-entrepreneur Arianna Huffington, wrote her most recent book Thrive on how she learned the hard way that good sleep is critical to overall success, because a dead person isn’t a very good business owner (and about how we can’t measure “success” just by power and money as it’s always been traditionally defined). 

So listen: if you’re like me and you’re always on the hunt for that “magical” piece of advice that’s suddenly going to turn you into a productivity ninja, well, I hate to break it to you but the closest thing you’re gonna get to that is SIMPLIFY. DO LESS. 

Which is really not what us go-go-go types want to hear.

We sometimes think, “if I just find the PERFECT system or app, I will never get distracted by social media or my cat or my thoughts or rearranging my to-do list for funsies eeevvverrrr again!" (*crickets* Oh wait... that's just me?)

I will say that of the many apps and techniques I’ve tried, there are a few that have stuck with me because they’re super helpful, at least for my me. (That’s for another post.)

But overall, I find myself circling my way up the spiral staircase (shoutout to Nathalie Lussier for the awesome metaphor which I just learned on Amy Porterfield’s podcast), encountering this same core truth again and again:

SIMPLIFY. DO LESS TO GET MORE DONE.

It pops up again, and I sigh and think about how I’d rather just continue busying away with my planner and my lists and my apps than follow this wisdom. Just like how I’d rather roll up my yoga mat and get on with my day at the end of a yoga practice than lie in savasana.

Sometimes I muscle through my way, and other times I am able to soften up to the slower pace, the simplicity of one. thing. at. a. time. I am a work in progress. 

Two of the books I hear most often recommended by successful people (often entrepreneurs) on the podcasts I listen to are Essentialism and The One Thing. Full disclosure, I haven’t yet read Essentialism, and I’ve started The One Thing, but I have to say — I believe they basically boil down to that same core truth (with their own twist, of course, to make it unique enough to pitch to a publisher).

Not that I’m saying these books are unnecessary or that I won’t ever read them, but as a person who would love to continue gathering great information rather than putting it into action, I think I will get a lot more out of continuing to challenge myself to practice simplicity and mindfulness. (Instead of saying, “I’ll just keep doing what I do until I eventually read those books and then I’ll do what they say!") Something I’ve been guilty of before.

I could go off on my own diatribe about how we can/should/must apply this truth, but of course it will look different for you than it does for me because I’m sure our lives are pretty different.

Instead, I’ll distill it down to a few important ways to think about/practice this. Likely all things you’ve heard before, and again, that’s because they actually work.

Actionable Strategies for Practicing Simplicity & Mindfulness to Be More Productive

1. Start each day from a place of groundedness. Meditate. Journal. Do Qi Gong, yoga or some other type of centering movement. It doesn’t matter what it is or that it’s “perfect" or thorough. Even five minutes is great.

2. Put a max of three things on your to-do list for each day. (Obviously this does not include stuff you are going to do anyway, like showering and picking your kid up at school.) Focus on these important things and beware of getting swept away by so-called “urgent” crap that’s usually actually not all that urgent.

3. Never hurry. Build in “buffers.” This is one of the hardest things for me, but the more I try to practice this, the better I feel. In fact, this weekend I’m making myself a “never hurry + it can wait” sign that I’m going to put on the dashboard in my car… to help with both the urge to check my phone and the feeling of needing to be where I cannot yet be.

4. Do one thing at a time. Seriously. Almost every other piece of advice would boil down to this. It can be practiced in so many great ways, like trying “Tabless Thursdays” (only one browser tab open at a time - GASP!) or the Pomodoro Technique (set a timer and do one thing for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, repeat.)

If you want extra credit on #4, I just discovered that The Atlantic did a 27-part series last year called “Single-Tasking is the New Multitasking.” I’m totally going to dig into this today.

Also, I highly recommend watching this video from Prince Ea. (And then watch all his other videos, because he’s a certified BADASS. I just discovered him on Lewis Howes’ podcast.)

What are your thoughts on this productivity advice? What do you find helps you to slow down or simplify?

And if you have trouble focusing, make sure to check out my Meditation for Focus + Concentration. I created it because I couldn't find one out there that had what I wanted/needed. 

introducing "Life Balance 2.0" weekly blog feature {work life balance}

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In today’s culture, we're constantly preached to about the virtues of moderation and balance.

And I’ll be the first to admit that I am totally guilty of this, because I know that I function a lot better when I’m more “balanced” in pretty much every sense of the word.

However.

We also live in an unprecedented era of instantaneous communication and “always on” connectedness. With the lines between “work” and “life” increasingly blurring, the term “work/life balance” seems like a leftover relic of the 90’s, especially for working parents and entrepreneurs. The intersection of work and personal growth is fascinating to me, because I view them as one and the same.

I’ve heard the term “work/life integration” used to describe this new era, and I like this because it describes the reality that life is not often siloed into these separate buckets, especially with certain kinds of work. Yet, of course we need to be able to implement some boundaries, or else what's stopping us from becoming tethered to our devices 24/7 and adapting to a state of Continuous Partial Attention, especially with the flesh-and-blood people who matter most in our lives?

I don’t believe that the idea of “work/life balance” is a myth as some argue, or an antiquated, obsolete idea. I just think we need to be more aware of how we’re each defining it.

Hence, I’m starting a new weekly feature on the blog that will be published every Thursday: Life Balance 2.0.

In this series, I’ll share stories and actionable tips and strategies for how to better define and practice your unique version of balance — whatever that means at this particular point in your life.

When I was visiting family in DC earlier this week, I watched my aunt and uncle get ready for the workday as they tried to get two small kids up and ready to go on time without forgetting any crucial items. It was like a mini circus, but nothing out of the norm for their average Monday.

The old idea of “balance” would be laughable in this situation. Some weeks require travel or crazy-long hours. Sometimes the kids have camp, other days are play dates or family outings. There is no “normal” or “ideal” balance that could work all the time. Real life does not look like Pinterest. 

I picture my aunt or uncle trying to walk down a four-inch-wide balance beam while holding a phone, their work bag, lunch, a kid, the kid’s backpack and lunch, an umbrella, and car keys. If they fall of onto the left side, balls get dropped at work. Off the right side, balls get dropped at home.

“Balance” seems pretty ridiculous and impossible when you think of it that way, right? A set-up for failure. We can’t define balance so narrowly or one-size-fits all. What works for one person or family may not be work works best for another.

Where does "work" end and "passion" begin?

My husband calls me a workaholic because I’m “always doing something" (guilty as charged on that part). It’s definitely true that I need to learn to chill a little more and step away from the screens — but what drives me is my passion for constant growth and voracious hunger for learning, so I can more fully experience the world and share those experiences and information with my people both online and in my offline life and work.

I’m always bouncing around from psychology to spirituality to marketing and entrepreneurship, trying to become a little more informed and more helpful to my tribe every single day. To someone else, my life might seem totally “off-balance.” But to me, most of it doesn’t feel like “work.” It’s part of my purpose for being here. 

And just like all of you, I’m also still learning everyday about what a more holistic “balance” means for me at this moment in my life. I want to keep experimenting with new ideas and systems to ensure that the various little gardens of my life (marriage, career, finances, friendships, etc.) are all getting enough water, and that I have enough in each water “bucket” of mind, body, and spirit to properly tend to those gardens. 

I hope this series will be useful to you, because I’m already excited knowing it’s definitely going to help me on my own quest for defining my own personal Life Balance 2.0.

Also, I would absolutely love to hear your ideas or stories that I can work into this series! Just comment here or on social media, or shoot me an email.

And make sure you get my Mind-Body-Spirit meditation and Meditation Apps Resource Guide, my free gifts to you, which will be a great asset as you embark on your own Life Balance 2.0 mission.