Like so many of us, Sarah Im is searching for a workable balance between work and family. This week she and I talk about that search, and about raising children in a thoughtful and intentional way. Searching for balance and building a productive life Sarah Im is a mom of two young kids under five, a wife, and a Realtor serving Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs. She grew up in Chicago, Seattle, and Seoul, South Korea. After graduating from college in Korea, she moved to Tokyo, Japan for a year, after which she spent a year in Florence, Italy, and another year in New York City. She now lives in Glenside, PA with her family, but is planning a move to Souderton next year where her family is building a new house. Currently, Sarah's main interests in life are her Christian faith, living well with ADHD, how to be an awesome Realtor, minimizing her possessions, Montessori education, making children’s clothing, and searching for the elusive balance between work and personal life. She says she tends to have a wandering soul, and she has aspirations to world-school her children, and would really like to order her family’s life to make that happen. When it comes to her realtor work, Sarah says the Covid-19 pandemic has not negatively impacted the housing market. On the contrary, there has been a boom and a huge demand for homes for sale. Sarah says this a great time to sell and buy because the interest rates have never been lower. She also says that it is a good time to be a Realtor, but she is presented with the challenge of trying to balance her very busy job with also spending time with her husband and children. A typical day Since the pandemic started, Sarah's typical day has changed a lot. In the past, she would wake between 7:00 or 8:00, but now she is waking up earlier--between 4:00 and 5:00--when the house is quiet. During those early morning hours, Sarah likes to sit down with a glass of water and listen to her favorite devotional, Solid Joy. by Pastor John Piper. She also subscribes to a service called Sendoutcards.com, which allows her to make a custom card to send to a friend or loved one. Sarah tries to send out one card a day. Next, Sarah likes to plan her day. If she has appointments or meetings that day, she will get out her planner and review all that needs to get done. If she has no plans on that particular day, she will make a list of things she would like to do. If she is feeling a bit anxious or restless, she will take out her Morning Pages notebook and gets her thoughts out on paper, which helps her to feel less overwhelmed. Around 7:00 a.m., Sarah's family starts to get up and around so she will make them breakfast. On the days they go to daycare, she will get them ready and have them dropped off by 9:00. On the days the kids are home, Sarah will do a bit of homeschooling with them using Montessori materials she purchased at the beginning of the pandemic. They also like to get outside and play in the park. In the afternoon the kids nap for a while, which gives Sarah some time to work. By about 5:30, if the kids are in school, she will pick them up and head home to have dinner. Sarah and her husband Sam then spend time with the kids, playing games, or listening to music and dancing. Then it's time for baths and bed. Sarah and her husband have a system in place where they take turns getting the kids ready for bed. When it's Sarah's night to get the kids to bed, she will go to sleep when they do at 8:30 (this makes it easi...
What actions can we take in the last quarter of this year that will set us up for a productive next year? Productive things to do now that will kick off next year We've now entered the final quarter of the year and we are less than three months away from the end of 2020. In this week's episode, we're talking about some things we can do in these last 3 months to make sure our year ends on a productive note and to prepare for next year. 1. Evaluate what you’ve learned from this most extraordinary year and what lessons you can take into the new year Many have said that the events of this year have helped clarify what matters most to them, so how can you emphasize that in 2021? What has become more clear to you about what really matters? What things have dropped off of your schedule this year? A lot of activities or events we would typically participate in have been postponed or completely canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thinking back over these events and activities, which ones are worthy of adding back into your schedule next year? Be intentional about which activities you add back in and make sure they bring value to your life. For more ideas about using the last quarter of the year to look back and reflect over this year, check out TPW120 (Year-End Wrap-Up) and TPW170 (Taking Care of Future You). 2. Choose a goal for Q1 2021 that lights you up Whether it's a professional or personal goal, what is something you want to pursue in the coming year? Have you been thinking about something for a while, or is it a totally new idea that's come about recently? Whatever this goal is, work towards accomplishing it during this last quarter. Develop an action plan! Don't wait until after the first of the year--start now. Think about what obstacles you might run into and what your plan is to overcome them. What are some resources you might need or courses you might need to take? Is there anyone you need to talk to, or a space you need to set up in your home? Whatever these things may be, develop your action plan so you can start pursuing the goal that excites you now, rather than waiting. For more ideas on setting (and achieving) meaningful goals, check out episodes TPW4 and TPW285 (both about Setting Goals that Matter), TPW223 (Resolutions and Goals), TPW6 (Overcoming Obstacles to Achieving Our Goals), and TPW5 (A Step by Step Process for Setting Goals). 3. Clear out the clutter-physically, digitally, and mentally Remove apps you haven’t used this year (or the past 6 months) from your devices. Unsubscribe from email newsletters, podcasts, YouTube channels, etc., that you haven’t read, watched, or listened to for the last 3-6 months. Spend an hour each week going through your home and office removing things that don’t serve you. We've talked about this recently in TPW277 (10 Things to Decl...
I don’t believe productivity is dependent on particular tools or apps, but we are fortunate to live in an age when there are many resources available to make our lives and work simpler and more efficient. Today I thought I would share a few of my favorite productivity tools. Productivity tools I use and recommend for work and home My most essential tools are my calendar and my task manager. I rely on them daily to stay productive. Many people like Google calendar, but I use Apple Calendar, which I access through an app called BusyCal. I use a separate calendar for personal life and for TPW related items. I share my personal calendar with my husband and he shares his with me. I am a long time user of the task manager OmniFocus, which I use to keep track of projects and to-dos. I’ve tried some others, including Todoist, Things, and Nozbe. All of them are very good, but I keep coming back to OmniFocus because I've used it long enough to have it set up and customized to the way I work. Aside from those two tools, which are my most used, I also want to talk about the tools I use for work, for my personal and home life, and what I use to be productive for podcasting and TPW. Tools I use for productivity at work The tools I use to manage my law practice reflect the fact that I spend about half my time drafting contracts of various types or reviewing contracts written by someone else, while the other half of my time is spent on the phone (or theses days on Zoom calls) with colleagues, opposing counsel, or clients getting our work done. The tools I use to manage all this is my 27-inch iMac computer, which has lots of storage and a large, high-resolution screen, and is fast. I have a second 27-inch screen to the left of my main screen, which I keep positioned in a vertical orientation so I can look at multiple documents at the same time. This set-up makes it easy to keep everything I need right in front of me. Another tool I use every day is my iPad Pro (12-inch) and Apple Pencil. I use these two tools to review and mark up documents that have been sent to me by clients or other lawyers. I can easily open the documents on my iPad and when I turn my iPad to the veridical position, it's almost as big as a piece of paper. When I am finished reviewing, I can email the document back with my comments or share them in Dropbox. Another tool I cannot function without (whether for work or in my personal life) is TextExpander. This is an app that lets you use "snippets" or abbreviations for a longer piece of text that you use frequently.
In this week's episode Mary Cheyne and I talk about finding your voice, speaking with confidence, and how to bypass your inner critic. Even if you have no interest in speaking from a stage, Mary has some great tips for speaking confidently in any situation. Speaking with confidence--and cultivating your environment for meaningful productivity Mary Cheyne is a Transformational Public Speaking Trainer & Coach who has trained over 15,000 people in 30 cities internationally. She’s the 2009 World Champion of Public Speaking first runner-up, out of 25,000 contestants from 14 countries, and is also the author of the book "Present” Yourself in Public Speaking – Tell Your Inner Critic to SHUT UP! And the Real You to SPEAK UP! Mary holds a Karate Black Belt rank and plays the ukulele. Mary was born in Hong Kong but was raised in Australia. She moved to the United States in 2001 and currently lives in Boston. Mary's first job out of college was as a computer programmer. She was shy and reserved, never eager to speak up in meetings. She was never open to sharing unless directly asked. Over time, she realized if she wanted to progress in her career, she would need to learn to speak up and speak well. She began researching public speaking and challenged herself to get outside of her comfort zone. That led her to enter speech contests and begin learning from mentors who had won public speaking contests. After 4 years, she got to the World Championship stage herself, which was a huge accomplishment and showed her what she was truly capable of. Now she teaches others who struggle with public speaking with confidence, helping them to grow by using the skills and experience she has acquired. A typical day A typical day for Mary is based around a daily routine, which provides her with meaningful productivity and energy management. Mary has run her own business for 5 years now and knows that a routine is essential to being successful. She begins each day by waking up between 6:00 and 7:00, getting herself ready, and waking her 6-year old son. She gets him breakfast and then takes him to a child care center for the day. Mary then spends the next couple of hours focusing on herself and getting her energy right. She'll go for a run or walk for about an hour, then return home for stretches and strength training. She will then do 30 minutes of meditation, where she will sit quietly and observe her breath and thoughts. After meditating, which is an important part of her morning routine, she will then journal. She likes to begin by gratitude journaling by writing down 5 things she is grateful for. She then writes in her self-empowerment journal, giving herself positive affirmations and making personal declarations. After her journaling session, she has some coffee and starts her day. At this point, it's about 10:30 in the morning. Her mind and energy are centered and she can focus on what's ahead. After work is done for the day, Mary focuses on evening activities, which include her karate training three times a week, or perhaps preparing for, or leading an event for her business. Even after a full day, Mary is naturally a night owl but understands how important rest and sleep are to success. She has found over time that if she doesn't get enough sleep, she is irritable and just doesn't function as well. Your body is the hardware, your mind is the software, and the results you produce from all your hard work are like the printout. Even if your progress takes time and you aren't noticing a lot of change, stick with what you're doing. You're on the right path and change will happen over time. Biggest productivity challenges Mary's biggest challenge is recognizing that she can't...
No one likes to think about an emergency occurring, but it's important to be prepared. Since September is National Preparedness Month, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned about how to prepare for an emergency situation and ensure you and your family are safe. How can we best prepare for emergencies? Preparing for a possible emergency is not about panicking, but thinking ahead and investing a little time and money to help ensure that if difficult circumstances arise, you and those you care about will be ready. So what kind of emergency could occur? An emergency could be any event that might make it difficult or impossible for a period of time to get food and other supplies. For purposes of this episode, I'm not talking about evacuation but will link to some resources that give suggestions for preparing for that (e.g., having a go-bag, and what to keep in it). This episode will focus on preparing for an emergency or other situation that requires you to shelter at home and/or where you might not have access or funds to buy food and other supplies. Some emergencies could include: * another lockdown * something weather-related, such as a hurricane or blizzard * maybe even another national emergency * a job loss, where you are going without income for a period of time * an illness (yours or someone you're caring for) These are all situations that could potentially happen, and something we should plan and prepare for. Where do we begin? One of the first places to start is to have enough food and other essentials on hand to sustain you for 2-4 weeks. There are people who prepare for even longer than that, having several months of food and essentials on hand. However, begin with 2-4 weeks and go from there. Depending on the size of your family, you may need more or less, so plan accordingly. Start with the basics. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) suggest the following for a basic disaster supplies kit, stored in airtight plastic bags in a couple of easy-to-carry duffles or totes: Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation) Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food) Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert Flashlight First aid kit Extra batteries Whistle (to signal for help) Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air) Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place) Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation) Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities) Manual can opener (for food) Local maps Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery Download the Recommended Supplies List (PDF) here! Important note: There is a difference between preparedness and hoarding. Preparedness--having a reasonable stockpile--puts you in a position to help n...
Do you have a big project you've been avoiding because you're overwhelmed, don't have time, or aren't sure how to get started? In this week's episode we're talking about how to figure out what's holding us back and come up with strategies to get started. How do we deal with those projects we've been avoiding? Many of us have projects we need or want to undertake but haven’t been doing anything about. It might be a work project, such as that big report we need to write, or a new system that needs to be implemented. It might be a personal project, such as getting our taxes done or organizing the family photos or writing a book. We procrastinate for many reasons, and we’ve talked about this in the past (see episode 286-11 Time Wasters to Eliminate) It's a common thing, and always has been, to have plans, dreams, and goals that we never take action on. It’s been around so long that, according to writer Madeleine Dore: “Philosophers such as Plato and Socrates developed and debated a term for it: akrasia, which in part describes the experience of not following through on what you set out to do. . . . Aristotle suggested two different varieties of akrasia: the first occurring when we are distracted by pleasure — TV binges — and the second stemming from a lack of self-accountability.” In her article, Ms. Dore points out that akrasia is not the same as procrastination. As she puts it, “Procrastination is the act of delaying something until eventually deciding to do it — albeit at the last minute — whereas akrasia is a deeper feeling that you "should" do something, without necessarily deciding to do it.” Whether it’s procrastination on a discrete project or akrasia with respect to a long-deferred dream, there are steps we can take to get past it, get started, and get it done. How to get started (and keep going) First, figure out what’s holding you back. Be honest with yourself! Is it a fear of failure? A lack of confidence in your ability to do it? Overwhelm? Not sure where to start? Your days are too full and you can't find the time to do it? Do you really want to do it? (This applies more to a project you're procrastinating on, not a dream or goal.) What if you have to do it? What if you don't have to do it? What if it doesn't really have to be done at all? If you've waited this long, it may not be that important. Can you let it go, or let someone else do it instead? Next, brainstorm solutions to whatever’s holding you back (this is a place where an accountability partner or business buddy can help). If fear of failure is holding you back First, “give yourself permission to fail. Assuming your life and livelihood aren’t on the line, failing is rarely as dramatic as we fear” (from What Stopping You from Getting Started (And What to Do About It). Remind yourself of past successes, regardless of whether they are similar to each other. Make a list of accomplishments and times when you did something you didn’t think you could do. Imagine what success looks like. Visualization is a powerful tool. Picture what you want to do and visualize everything coming together just as it should, and what that would look like. Imagine every step of the way of getting to the point of succe...
In this week's episode, Autumn and I talk about mom guilt, practicing gratitude, and keeping our kids engaged and happy in a fun, low-prep way, all while dealing with hectic schedules and time constraints. (And check out the link below for her free gift for The Productive Woman community!) Practicing gratitude - and keeping your child(ren) engaged and learning Autumn McKay has a degree in Early Childhood Education and has been certified to teach in several states, where she has taught both in the classroom and as an online teacher. After her first son was born, she wanted to be involved in helping him learn and grow, so she began to develop color lessons to help engage his developing mind. Autumn also wanted to help other moms dealing with hectic schedules and constant time restraints. These activities evolved into her first book, Toddler Lesson Plans: Learning Colors. She has continued to create many more books for preschoolers including Learning Numbers Workbook, Learning ABC’s Workbook: Print and Precursive, Learning Preschool Math Workbook, Learning Kindergarten Math Workbook, and Learning 1st Grade Math Workbook. Autumn has a passion for helping moms be able to educate their children in a fun, low-prep way that she shares on BestMomIdeas.com. She lives with her husband and 3 children (ages 6, 4, and 3) in the state of Georgia, here in the U.S., where she enjoys spending time with her family and reading nonfiction books that help her think outside the box. A typical day A typical day for Autumn starts at 4:30 in the morning when she wakes up with her husband. He goes off to exercise while Autumn uses these early morning hours to work in the quiet without distractions. After a while, the children wake up and Autumn puts her work away so she can focus on them. She prepares their breakfasts and gets the two oldest children off to school. If the children are going to be learning from home that day, Autumn will have them begin their school assignments after breakfast while she provides an activity for her youngest child. They have lunch and playtime later on in the day and then take a nap from 1:00-3:00. Autumn uses this time to get a little more work done. After this time Autumn will get in a workout, make dinner, and then end the evening by spending time with her family. Because she gets up so early, Autumn goes to bed around 8:00 pm in order to ensure she is fully rested and can be productive the next day. Biggest productivity challenges One of Autumn's biggest challenges is coping with mom guilt. Any time she has a work task that needs to get done outside of her normal working hours, such as an email that needs to go out, she feels guilty for not focusing on her children, since that was her original goal in working from home. She deals with this by explaining to the children that she will only be attending to these work tasks for a specific amount of time, and then the rest of the time is for them to do whatever they would like. She finds that when she explains the situation to them and reminds them that this is unusual and a special circumstance, they don't feel put aside. However, it's beneficial for children to see that moms are human beings who have other interests and responsib...
It’s easy to get absorbed in our days and lose sight of the bigger picture (those things that matter most) unless we intentionally make the time and opportunities to remind ourselves why we’re doing the things we do. A life well lived incorporates on a day-to-day basis the principles we hold as most important. Living a well-lived life that matters If we sit down to think about how to live a life well lived, we might find our mind is blank. One way to think about it is to imagine you're at the end of your life, looking back. What would make you feel you lived your life well? What is the big picture? What does a life well lived look like to me? A life that reflects those things I truly value, the guiding principles of my life. These are the things that are easy to lose sight of when we are trying to work and take care of our home. But they are so important to remember! What defines a life well lived for you will be as individual as you are, but here are my thoughts on what it means to me: A life well lived is one that... * Reflects integrity. This word means honesty, uprightness, probity, rectitude, honor, honorableness, upstandingness, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, nobility, high-mindedness, right-mindedness, noble-mindedness, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, or trustworthiness. In order for me to feel that I have made a life that matters, these things would need to be reflected in my words and actions on a day-to-day basis. * Reflects authenticity and being my true self. To me, this doesn’t mean simply accepting my less than admirable characteristics. Authenticity doesn’t preclude seeking to improve and do better; it just means not pretending to be someone you’re not, and risking being vulnerable enough to let others see you for who you are (here, Brené Brown talks about how essential vulnerability is to connection) * Results in a legacy of contribution to the well being of others and the larger world. It's important to make a difference, which we talked about when discussing what a productive woman is, which is someone who orders her life in such a way as to maximize her positive impact on the world around her. We aren't here just to consume, but to contribute and create and leave the world and the people we interact with better by meeting us. * I put people ahead of things, so my life includes deep, lasting relationships. What matters most to me is those key relationships with my husband, my children and theirs, and my friends. Relationships need to be nurtured, which can be difficult if we are focused on our productivity and accomplishing goals. If we are not careful, we can lose sight of the importance of relationships. * Reflects faith in God and faithfulness to my understanding of his teachings. This may not be an element of a life well lived for everyone, but for me, it's a bedrock principle. How to incorporate these elements into your day-to-day life * Integrity. Let it guide your actions in how you interact with people and treat them, whether they are your family members, friends, or co-workers. Act with integrity even if no one is around to see it. Let integrity be an integral part of your character. * Authenticity. Be willing to be vulnerable with others, showing your true self to the people you interact with. Be mindful of when you may be posturing or hiding out of a desire to protect yourself from judgment. * Contribution. Look for ways to serve others and make their lives better. This doesn't have to be a big event or something that takes a lot of time. But rather, it can be little efforts,
"Keep calm" is easy to say but sometimes harder to do. The week we're looking at ways to cope with anxiety and stress during tough times. Keep calm--getting things done without stress and anxiety When the unexpected happens or when challenging circumstances occur, it’s easy to get anxious and stressed out. These days, with all that is going on, we may have extra responsibilities or larger workloads than usual, or decisions we need to make that we haven't had to make before. The anxiety that can result from stressful situations interferes with our productivity and can be harmful to our mental health. Learning to "keep calm and carry on" productively takes intentional practice. What is anxiety? It's important to distinguish anxiety from stress. Here are some resources that offer a good description of what anxiety is. “When we talk about stress, we are talking about the external factors that are causing our anxiety. . . . When we talk about anxiety, we are talking about a physical response. Anxiety is our natural fear response that occurs when we are confronted with danger.” (from Is Anxiety/Stress Affecting Your Productivity?) “Anxiety is emotional anticipation — it’s the thought of something going wrong in the future. Health professionals use the term ‘anxiety’ to describe a persistent fear or a chronic sense of worry, the sources of which seem unclear. . . . Anxiety is not an emotion but an experience— it harms our ability to be in control making us feel paralyzed. Anxiety clouds our judgment — it’s a disorienting experience when facing a threat we can’t understand. On the contrary, fear is an emotional response to a danger that we are aware of.” (from Why Anxiety is the Number One Productivity Killer) According to several sources, the National Institutes of Health estimates that approximately 40 million adults in the U.S. alone are affected by anxiety. What causes anxiety? Anxiety can be caused by a variety of different factors and things going on in our lives. For instance, stress is one of the biggest causes. One writer warns us that “prolonged periods of stress can often turn into more persistent periods of anxiety.” In Anxiety and Productivity, one counselor notes that “Anxiety is frequently a mixture of biological causes and environmental habits.” <a href="https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics" target="_blank" rel="n...
I'm delighted to welcome Lisa Woodruff back to The Productive Woman to talk with me about how we can conquer paper clutter in our homes and offices, and how getting it all under control can increase our productivity and happiness. The Paper Solution: eliminating paper clutter and taking control of our lives Getting our papers organized and under control may seem like such a mundane thing, but it can make a big difference in your life. Knowing that your important papers are organized and in one place will reduce your stress and anxiety level. And with how hectic this year has been, this is one thing you can control. Lisa Woodruff is a productivity and home organization expert who motivates and teaches busy women to take back control of their lives with functional systems that work. She's the founder and CEO of Organize 365® and is the host of the top-rated podcast by that same name, where she shares strategies for reducing the overwhelm, clearing the mental clutter, and living a productive and organized life. She has authored several Amazon bestselling books and is a sought-after trainer and speaker. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her family. She was our guest way back in January 2017 (TPW122), but since then she’s written a new book that offers solutions to a problem I think a lot of us face: paper clutter. It began with the Sunday Basket system The Sunday Basket is a system Lisa developed over time that allows you to do away with to-do lists, rid your countertops of paper clutter, and get everything that's on your mind onto index cards. It's a way to free up each day from living in a reactive mode by instead proactively planning each Sunday and doing as much as you can in a 90-minute session. If you can't complete it all in 90 minutes, then it can be deferred to the next Sunday. Lisa has found that people who use the Sunday Basket system save, on average, 5 hours every week, within six weeks after they start using the system. The Paper Solution Lisa just published a book called The Paper Solution. She decided to write this book because she couldn't find any books on paper organization, either because the trend is to digitize everything or to rely on color-coded file cabinets, or because organizing paper is just plain hard. (I had the privilege of reading The Paper Solution ahead of its release and immediately asked Lisa to come back to TPW to talk to us about dealing with paper clutter. I highly recommend this book!) Lisa found that although the Sunday Basket system worked for people, they couldn't maintain the color-coded file cabinet system. When papers go into the file cabinets, they seldom come out. Lisa realized she needed to create categories of paper so people know which papers go into which categories, and then teach them a better to organize those. Lisa came up with the idea of using binders instead of file cabinets, so that the papers could be portable, and could be taken to lawyers' offices, your doctor's office, or outside in case you need to quickly evacuate your home. Once we get papers out of the file cabinets and into binders, Lisa says, we realize how many of those papers we can actually get rid of. How to reduce paper coming into our homes and workplaces We as a society have been talking about a paper-free workplace and home for decades,