Tag Archives: choices

The Two-Letter Way to Manage Your Time: “No”

Sands of Time

October is National Clock month, and funnily enough, it’s been a month where I’ve been very challenged with time. It seems to be human nature that when we’re looking at something closely – such as time management – then we become very aware of how accomplished (or not) we are in it.

Time can’t be managed. Time is an intangible resource that we can use, or ignore, or waste. Time isn’t concerned with what we are doing – it keeps going along at it’s own regular pace as it has for millennia. We, in our infinite wisdom, attempt to bend, manipulate, distort and control time. For some reason the concept of controlling time reminds me of the quote that mentions nailing jelly to the wall….

We all have the same 24 hours in every day. Why is it that some people power their way through mountains of work, absolute pillars of productivity, while arrive at the end of their day wondering what they achieved?

If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got. – Lee Iacocca

Priorities. Actively deciding what we’re going to do and then doing it. How often have you found yourself checking Facebook just one more time, looking to see who’s on Twitter now, checking that forum you found last week… and then realise that a couple of hours have passed with nothing to show for it. Then you tell yourself that it’s ‘networking’ and therefore productive. Uh uh. If it’s not what you needed to accomplish that day, then it’s wasted time that you can never get back.

We must use time as a tool, not as a couch. John F. Kennedy

Too much to do. I’m guilty of this one. There’s always time for just one more thing. Sure, I can take on that project. Want me on a committee? Love to. Only problem is that we have to schedule it for 11.30 to 11.45pm on Friday nights, because all my other time is booked up – unless you’re available at 2.00am on Wednesdays? One of the most important things you can do for yourself is learn to say ‘No’ and stop taking things on.

I am definitely going to take a course on time management… just as soon as I can work it into my schedule. – Louis E. Boone

You don’t have to explain yourself or justify your answer. Have an answer prepared in advance “I’m sorry, I have too much else on my plate to take that on right now”. Or the much simpler “No”.

Life is as much about what you choose NOT to do as it is about what you choose to do.

Do what you enjoy. Ok, I’m not saying that we’re never going to have to do things that we don’t enjoy, there’s always going to be filing and housework for instance, but for the most part you should be doing activities that you enjoy.

When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute — then it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity! – Albert Einstein

If you’re thinking about your job or business with dread – it’s time for a change. If you’re always procrastinating a task, think about why that is –often it’s because you don’t enjoy it. Filling your days with tasks, work and activities that you dislike is soul destroying and sucks the life and joy right out of you. You deserve better, and all you have to do is make a choice and put it into action.

And finally my favourite quote about time (having just turned 40 this year and had to start dying my hair):

Time is a great healer, but a poor beautician. – Lucille S. Harper

About Mel

Melinda BrennanMelinda Brennan is a Business Coach who helps Work at Home Mums find clarity and direction amongst the enjoyable chaos of working at home.

You can find her online at WAHM Biz Builder or come and say hello to her on Twitter.

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Getting Time on Your Side: The Creating Time Contest

October is National Clock month and what better way to kick it off than with a contest! But first, let’s take a look at an excerpt from the upcoming ebook I’ll Get Around To It Someday

  • Someday Lesson: The world may always spin at the same rate but we create or destroy time depending on how we use it.

mad hatter tea partyTime is money… Time is of the essence… Spending time… Wasting time… So little time to do so much…

We have so many phrases that talk about the preciousness of time. We worry that we don’t have enough time to do what we want to do and we spend too much time doing what we have to.

We end up looking around in amazement and saying “Where did the time go?” And we have done only half the things we need to do, a quarter of the things we want to do, and none of the things we dream of doing.

In Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter says “If you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock.”

Well, unfortunately, very few of us are on that good of terms with time and the clock does exactly what it wants.

In the age of multiple commitments to family and work, we find ourselves scrambling to accomplish anything.

Ever had those moments when time didn’t exist? When you were content with what you were doing and how much or how little time it involved didn’t matter? In those moments we own time, it’s ours. Creating time is about structuring your life so that you have more of those latter moments, and fewer speeding bullet, or dragged out periods.

How do we do that? Through choice and action. We all make choices and each choice has a consequence. We have control over our choices but rarely any influence on the consequences. Consequences that could eat up a lot of time we don’t have. We therefore need to make smart choices about how we spend our time.

Creating Time Contest

Before getting into the contest details, let’s start with the prize because honestly, the prize this month will totally bust through your time challenges.

How so?

Because this month, the winner of the Creating Time Contest will win time with me. That’s right. If you enter this month’s contest, you could win a month of email support from the world’s only Someday Mentor. We’ll figure out what blocks you have time-wise and by the end of the month you’ll have created enough time to get everything you want done.

Now that you’re all excited about the prize (seriously who wouldn’t be excited about winning something that’s worth $400?) let’s get to the details.

Tell me, either here in the comments or in an email, what you would do with the month of time mentoring. Give me your story of woe – let it all hang out and tell me why you desperately need to get your time organized.

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Harness the Power of Regret to Achieve Your Dreams

  • Someday Lesson: For every path we take we choose not to take other paths and create regrets and a series of what-if’s.

D Sharon Pruitt on flickr.comAsk anyone who’s happy and they’ll likely tell you they have no regrets. They’ll most likely even pull out the line “If it weren’t for my past I wouldn’t be who I am today and because of that I couldn’t change a thing.”

Yeah, whatever!

I’ve arranged my life to more or less be exactly as I want it. I’ve made a lifetime of choices that have led me to this place. There’s almost nothing I’d change (other than having more money).

And yet, I regret many things in my life.

Recently went to see a production of Mamma Mia and it brought back childhood memories of wanting to perform in musicals. If only I had spoken up as an 8-year-old about my desire to take dance and vocal classes! Instead I let the gender rules of a hockey town crush the desire.

Understandable at eight, but my inability to face confrontation and my need to hang my happiness on other people lasted until quite recently and crushed not only this dream of musical theatre but many other dreams as well.

Then there’s my laziness which kept me from applying any passion to my dreams until my late 30s when the alarm on my biological clock went off saying “If not now, when?”

At forty, I’m finally willing to accept success instead of running away from the work it takes to create that success. And so I regret all the starts I made with so few finishes.

I look at my siblings and many of my peers with their well paying lifestyles, beautiful houses and the ability buy what they want when the want it and I regret not having chosen a more lucrative life path (or at least starting my current path at least a decade ago).

My life is full of many other little regrets as well.

  • I regret snapping at my boyfriend on the weekend just because I had a headache.
  • I regret the sandwich I had for breakfast yesterday when I know what does nasty things to me.
  • And I regret wasting an hour this morning watching America’s Top Model instead of working on marketing.

Everyone has regrets. For every choice we make, every path we choose, we choose not to take other paths. The faster life gets and the faster we make decisions, the more likely we’ll end up regretting a decision or two.

We also end up regretting those decisions when make choices without conscious thought, by letting fear stop us from choosing what we really want, or through laziness and a desire to avoid work that lead us to put off our dreams.

Before continuing to read this article, take a moment to think about your own regrets – the big ones and the little ones. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What choices have you made in your life due to thoughtlessness?
  2. When did you let fear dominate your decisions?
  3. Have you ever let the effort required to achieve a dream stop you from starting or from finishing things?

(And if you really want to explore your regrets in detail, don’t just think about them, write them down!)

Done? Good, let’s continue…

Using Regrets As Motivation

It’s okay to regret. There are countless movies and books that explore the idea of what-if. Anyone with even an ounce of imagination plays that game at some point.

Anyone who says they regret nothing is lying. They might not let their regrets affect their level of happiness, but they still feel regrets, even little ones.

Regrets can actually be good for you – and act as motivation for your current dreams. And when you feel pressured for time on choices or decisions, remembering what choices you’ve regretted in the past can help you make regret-free choices quickly in the moment.

Let’s take each one of my regrets and see how they can help me now.

I regret not standing up for my creative desires as a child: in another thirty years I don’t want to look back at my life and say that I regret not pursuing my writing, so I pursue it now.

I regret not having the strength to deal with confrontation: if pursuing my happiness means confrontation, then I don’t just accept the confrontation – I embrace it because it takes me closer to my dreams.

I regret hanging my happiness on others rather than finding it within: by seeing how unhappy relying on others for my happiness made me, any time I slip back into bad habits I can use this sense of regret to propel me back into developing new (and healthier) habits.

I regret avoiding working hard to achieve success: I don’t want to lose any more dreams due to laziness, so daily commit to the work it takes to achieve my version of success.

I regret not choosing a more lucrative life path: that’s just not me – I’m working on my dreams right now, and that’s enough. Even if the money doesn’t come, I’ll be happy.

By firmly putting my regrets in the past and using them to change my actions in the present to reach my future dreams, I’m creating progress and success.

Plus, when I’m aware of my regrets I don’t allow myself to make thoughtless or fear-filled dreams and I give myself a kick in the butt to get to work instead of lazing about.

We are not our pasts and our actions in the moment are what matter, but we can use the less than stellar past choices to make sure that every choice we make right now is exactly what we want and takes us closer to our dreams.

No matter how fast the choices are zooming past.

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Dreaming of the Future: The Lab Rats Set Goals

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland the Cheshire Cat’s conversation with Alice sums up the need for a clear purpose when it comes to dreams, so I’ll let the conversation (started by Alice) lead off this post…

‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’

Lab Rat Dreams

Y on flickr.comThis week, after exploring all the possible reasons why their lives aren’t working for them now and what might stop them from reaching their dreams, I asked the Lab Rats to explore possible somewheres and I was thrilled with the results. Not only did each one come up with a great list of possibilities, but they were all able to apply a reality-check filter on each of the dreams and then come up with a clear idea of what they want out of life.

Here’s what they each came up with. And since everyone has their own way of expressing themselves they all came up with a different way to express their dreams.

Wendee:

  • Live in an open space, with a porch looking out, garden in back
  • Live near a large body of water
  • Work involves a good deal of creative writing and visual creativity
  • Work in an environment where my skills are recognized and utilized, and where my energies can be focused and are acknowledged
  • Have ample free time (at home) to make healthy activity (hikes) and creativity (writing and art) a significant part of my everyday life
  • Earn a living to be able to travel (domestic US, National Parks, Hawaii) as we want to and to be able to provide for ourselves what we need, and to be able to splurge with much less guilt!
  • Have enough saved so that we know we can continue to live our lives this way

Alessio:

  • Travel: Travel overseas at least twice a year, eventually settling in Buenos Aires.
  • Blog: Author/Run successful technology, self improvement, travel and design blogs.
  • Web Design: Be a successful web designer, working from my laptop, anywhere in the world.
  • Be Rich: My successful web design business and blogs provide a highly substantial income for me.
  • Location Independent: Due to the nature of my web design and blogging businesses, I am able to work anywhere in the world from the convenience of my laptop.

Horatio:

  • I run a lab of eager junior scientists doing diverse and interesting work
  • I am called on regularly as an expert to talk in public or at conferences
  • Work has taken to many different cities around the world and on regular breaks I travel to more remote locations
  • I can take pride in the tangible benefits my work (and life) has had – it had actually made people’s lives better
  • My books have been well reviewed and I receive letters thanking me for them

Lizzie:

It’s a weekday, May of 2010. I have breakfast with my daughter on the screened in porch (we have muffins that we made together earlier in the week and homemade yogurt with blueberries) before sending her to kindergarten by bus. I then head to the gym for a spin class.

Come home and shower. Check email and give the okay for a couple of friends to come over and have coffee. They are both writers, and we sit on the porch for a couple of hours writing on our laptops, me also day trading and occasionally chatting. Our little writers’ group, as we’ve discovered that we’re all more productive without the chance to jump up and do housey things.

A companionable lunch at home with my partner–each of us reading our own papers, but sharing interesting stories. After lunch I answer email to set up the work that I will do later in the week in the city, to arrange dinner with friends there, and to see what stores are having good sales.

Also make arrangements for a trip to the Vineyard in a couple of weeks–I’ll go out with my best friend and we’ll spend three days getting the new house in order for the people who’re renting for June and July but also having a girls’ weekend of drinks and talk and trashy movies.

Do some work in the yard so the garden is ready to go once the freeze time is past. Pick up my daughter at school because it’s the day when we both ride at a friend’s stable. Stop by my Mom’s to say hello. Home for practicing for me and homework for my daughter.

Then cocktails with my partner (and my daughter’s 30 minutes of daily TV) and a lovely dinner fixed on the grill. Early to bed if not necessarily early to sleep…

Money Issues

You’ll notice that in each one, there’s a predominant theme of freedom from money worries. Everyone wants enough income to allow them to do what they want and not have to spend a lot of time each day to earn that money.

Everyone will have their own path to that financial freedom, but in each case it’s not going to happen tomorrow. Getting rich is never quick; even moderately well-off requires a lot of work.

Lizzie is the only one who put a timeframe to her dream – and it’s also the most fleshed out and visual. Given that Lizzie has most of the financial pieces of her dream nearly in place, the less-than-a-year deadline could very well be doable. Plus as Lizzie knows she’s a procrastinator having a fixed deadline like this might stimulate her enough to get moving.

Alessio is taking a course that will lead him to his dreams and once he’s finished the course it will just be a matter of following the steps and apply the skills he will have learned in the course and developed on his own through programs such as this one.

Horatio has already taken a huge step on the road to a new life – he has quit his job! Rather than letting the biggest obstacle in his life continue to block him from moving forward, he’s handed in his resignation and is willing to face unemployment. Already his energy has changed and suddenly things seem much more possible, including possibilities of finding a better position. Now that he’s not operating from a negative worldview and has a clear idea of what he wants, he can go get it. Way to go Horatio!

If you remember from past weeks, Wendee’s major challenge centers around wanting to teach but feeling blocked by the lack of the right qualifications. And although she would rather teach in just one school and not many across a wide region, she has been offered more than one class at a couple of locations, which is a step in the right direction.

Plus she’s found the Masters program she wants and has considered taking a part time retail job to help pay for this qualification that will get her to where she wants to go, but isn’t sure that the most obvious route is the one she wants to take.

In other words, Wendee has a clear idea of what she wants, but isn’t sure the route she sees is one that will make her happy in the long run. Fortunately we’ll be covering more on the steps between here and there in the weeks to come.

Measuring Progress

This has been a breakthrough week for almost everyone.

Alessio has been moving forward at a steady pace, each week revealing a bit more of the best path for him. No big revelations, but to achieve progress they aren’t always needed. Often slow and steady works best.

Lizzie told me that after writing out her perfect day, she realized that she is more or less there and maybe just needs to pay more attention to the present and appreciate each day as it passes.

Wendee’s frustrated by what comes across as negativity – she’s normally a very positive person and the seeming lack of options really irritates her. And although the negativity causes pain in the moment, for a normally positive feeling negative reaches a limit where they (I should say we, because I’m one of these people) say “Enough” and make the tough decisions that they (we) have been delaying for whatever reasons. So hold on just a bit longer, Wendee!

Of course the biggest change was Horatio! After several weeks of focusing on the different parts of his life, he realized that his negative work situation was blocking everything else. Here’s what he has to say about quitting:

I’ve been working a job for the last couple of years that I took “just to tide me over until something better shows up”. It’s not been all bad, but it doesn’t use my skills fully, it’s leading nowhere, it’s underpaid, and is managed from above abhorrently (constantly shifting objectives, under-resourced, active obstruction from other staff with conflicting interests). Having come to the belated realization that are worse things than unemployment, there’s a reasonable amount of work around, my finances are in good shape, and I’ve got plenty of things to use my time on, it’s time for a decision. So I quit.

I didn’t throw a tantrum but executed a dignified exit, saying I couldn’t work there any longer under the current conditions and so was moving on. It’s probably symptomatic of my situation that several people tried to talk me out of it by fiat (“You can’t do that!”) or flattery (“But you’re so valuable to us!”) without any actual promise of fixing things. Another symptom would that, even after being told, several colleagues ignored it and kept handing me work to be done in the months ahead. These are all signs that I should have quit ages ago.

So I have a few weeks of wrapping everything up and handing it off to other staff. I left open the possibility of returning at some point in the future but only under vastly different circumstances. Already, I’ve attended one interview and have a few promising on the horizon (all at nearly double the pay, which makes me feel like a mug). Fingers crossed.

Yay Horatio!

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Help Me Cure My Boredom!

Boredome catches up with Alex...I let myself get bored too easily. I do so out of pure laziness. All too often in the evenings instead of reading a book, I hang out on Facebook playing mindless games and flipping through websites without actually reading any of them.

I might have a plan to organize a drawer or go out for a walk, or even watch a TV show I’ve been meaning to catch up on, but none of it happens and I go to bed without actually being tired and yet barely able to haul myself from the kitchen table where I’ve been sitting with my laptop to the bed.

Of course, I know why I do it. I spend so much time being highly productive during the day, my brain switches off and goes into autopilot mode.

But I hate the autopilot.

So, I’m asking for your help.

I want to know what you do when you’re feeling bored and want to break free of the feeling.

What keeps the boredom at bay? Is it something silly? Practical? Totally off the wall? Or is it some hidden secret activity your mother would be shocked to hear about but falls in line with the theme song for the month provided by Macy Gray?

Tell me, please!

Help me make my evenings less boring! After filling my days with helping others bust their Somedays, I’m not capable of busting my own boredom.

Email me at alex AT somedaysyndrome DOT com with your suggestions by Monday July 27th (my 40th birthday) and you could win a rare book by one of the all-time greats in Anti-Boredom thinking: Dr. Seuss.

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Beating the Odds: The Bloggess Interview

Anti-Boredom month wouldn’t be complete without a visit from one of the funniest bloggers out there – Jenny, the Bloggess. I first discovered her with her transgendered Lego piece and am delighted to hear that she has a book in the works (with an agent already and everything!) and writes columns in newspapers. But life isn’t all fun and blogging. Even the Bloggess has suffered from Someday Syndrome…

Jenny the BloggessWho: Jenny, the Bloggess
Jenny is a broken woman who exercises most of her demons by writing nonsense and completely offensive blogs and columns.

Name one moment in your life when you threw a pity party for yourself and the reasons why you felt you weren’t able to achieve your goals. Were you feeling stuck? Had you felt you failed? What wasn’t working in your life?
I always wanted to be a mom first and foremost but I found out that I have a rare blood disease and ended up having many miscarriages. I blamed myself because I thought if I was a better person, or found the right religion or prayed the right way that maybe my children would have survived.

Even our lowest moments fulfill a need in us or express our desires. When you threw yourself that pity party, what did you hope to gain? What need did you fulfill?
It was self-preservation for me. I couldn’t function so I just hid away and refused to talk to anyone but my husband. I wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening.

Tell us what you did to break up the pity party. What actions did you decide to take? Did someone help you buoy your spirits? Push you along?
I decided to fight and I tried all the experimental drugs. The one that finally worked involved about 600 blood-thinner injections in my stomach. It helped to have friends and family who could help me laugh about it when my stomach turned into a patchwork quilt of bruises.

Can you look back on that moment and tell us how you felt when you did decide to take action? What results came about from your decision to take charge and move on?
I felt strong…like I’d finally gained back some control in my life. A year later I had my beautiful daughter, Hailey.

Everyone has a Someday problem hiding deep inside, even little ones. What variety of the Someday Syndrome do you currently harbor? What would you like to achieve but haven’t yet?
I’ve been trying to write a book for 10 years and I still haven’t finished it.

Examining your Someday Syndrome problem, what are you currently doing to resolve it and eliminate it from your life?
I’ve set goal for myself and I’ve asked my agent to yell at me weekly if I don’t hit my weekly deadline of pages. I don’t think that syndrome will ever be completely eliminated but I’m trying to find a way to work around it.

Many people suffer the same problems you do. You’re not alone, and neither are they. What would you tell people in your situation right now to help them avoid what you’re going through?
Have confidence in yourself. The thing that holds me back the most is the doubt I have that I’m a good enough writer. Find someone who can tell you that you’re good enough. Or drink a lot. I do both of those.

If you could ask for one thing, right now, to help you overcome your Someday Syndrome, what type of help would you ask for?
Encouragement. I’m constantly berating myself all day. I need encouragement to counter all the bad things I say to myself.

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Not Getting Started: Introducing (the rest of) the New Lab Rats

Last week we took a look at the two male Lab Rats and how they’ve decided to stop waiting for life to come to them. This week it’s the female Lab Rats’ turn… Let’s see how they’re stuck and how they hope to get unstuck through the Lab Rat program and the Someday My Ship Will Come In ebook.

whatmegsaid on flickr.comUnlike the male Lab Rats, Wendee and Lizzie haven’t been waiting for life to start – they’ve been waiting for the right moment to start any of the thousands of plans they have. They’re both big list makers and have troubles deciding on which of the many projects they’ll take on so end up choosing none.

Wendee and Lizzie will therefore get something slightly different out of the process than Alessio and Horatio. Instead of learning how to picture a future and go for it, they’ll learn to narrow down all the possible futures into a few goals to pursue in the moment.

The Too-Long To-Do List

Lizzie has a long list of desires – from weight loss to a clean basement to her mother’s house ready to go on the market. She also wants to revamp her career connections so that she can breeze into work when her daughter starts school in the fall. And on top of that, Lizzie wants to increase her sense of self-awareness, paying more attention to all aspects in her life.

She complains that she doesn’t get things done and has items on to-do lists from two years ago still unfinished. This lack of a sense of accomplishment is common for people who have a lot on the go. Without putting enough focused energy into a select number of goals, the energy dissipates and nothing moves forward in any sort of satisfying way.

The Lab Rat experience will give Lizzie the focus and the public accountability to cut down on the to-do list by weeding out what’s not important and putting concentrated effort into what’s left.

The More-Interesting Fantasy Life

Wendee has a similar problem to Lizzie – too many interesting things on the go. However, Wendee doesn’t actually get anything done because she’s busy living in a fantasy world where projects are all finished and there’s plenty of time for surfing the web, collecting tools without using them and taking classes or reading more instead of implementing what she already knows.

And Wendee has reason to find daydreams tempting. She’s mostly unemployed, without a clear idea of long-term career plans. She has many ideas, but doesn’t know how to assess them. She’s therefore looking for the Lab Rat experience to give her the tools to move past what she calls the “marinating” stage of projects (i.e., thinking about ideas without starting any of them).

Despite her love for retreating into the inner world of planning and daydreaming, Wendee does admit to having a pragmatic side and so is willing to expose the messy details of her life to get some free coaching. I’ll be capitalizing on this pragmatic side later in the program, for sure!

So, there you have it! This season’s four Lab Rats. Next week we’ll get started with the program officially, diving into the exercises from chapter one of Someday My Ship Will Come In.

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