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Tiny Goals

When setting my goals for this year, one thing I noticed was that I had very little stress or self-doubt about my ability to complete the “scripture reading goals” that I set.  This is a new feeling for me, because ever since I started recording my goals on my blog, I have had to post time and time again that in the end I did not complete what I set out to do.  So, when setting my goals this year, I definitely felt some hesitation…a sense of will I complete them this time?  But not so with the scripture reading goals.  Instead, with these there was a feeling of excitement and confidence.  So, being analytically-minded as I am, of course I had to think about why.  And I came up with two reasons:

  1. I’m in the habit of reading my scriptures every night.  So, it’s just a matter of what I will read during that time.
  2. I have completed a similar goal in the past (reading the Old Testament along with the Institute Manual) and not only was I successful, but I really enjoyed it.

How My Scripture Reading Habit Got Started

With all of this reflection, my mind wandered back in time to when I first developed the habit of reading my scriptures.  I was just about to have my 12th birthday, and in my church at age 12 children start attending youth classes instead of children’s classes.  As the day approached, my older sister said to me, “when you go to Young Women, you will have to read your scriptures every day.”  And she was right.  The Young Women President had put up a chart and every Sunday we reported how many days we read our scriptures.

In response to this new requirement, every night I picked up my sister’s scriptures and read exactly one verse (I used hers because she had some verses marked).  Then on Sundays I proudly reported that I read my scriptures for 7 days that week.  It wasn’t until later when I spent that night at my friends house and noticed that she read a full chapter a day, that I realized that maybe the amount I was reading was a little small.  After that, I increased my reading to a full chapter per day.  Over time, I studied the scriptures more formally through Seminary, Sunday School, Institute, and on my mission.  I not only learned to understand better what I was reading, but also found that I really enjoy studying them.  But no matter what, I have always kept the habit to make sure that I read something every single day.

My point is this:  It has been more years than I’m willing to say since my 12th birthday.  A major reason that I have stuck with this habit over the years is because I started small…not just small, but tiny.  I never felt over-whelmed by it, or too tired, or even too bored.  No matter what else was going on, I could always find the time and motivation to read a verse.  And the result was consistency that has definitely paid off over the years.

Defining Tiny Goals

So, especially in thinking about my health goals and I how I have been up-and-down, back-and-forth, and all-over-the-place with my eating habits, I’m finally admitting to myself that I’m trying to start too big.  I’m always trying to “make-over” mine (and my family’s) eating habits in one big swoop.  It never works and I always end up feeling like I’m a failure.

This is when I began thinking, how small of a goal could I set that would move me towards the big goal?  And then I thought of the fact that my first goal to read scriptures wasn’t just small, but it was tiny.  And that’s how the idea of “tiny goals” was born.

This is how I define Tiny Goals:

  1. Achieving it moves me in a concrete way towards the bigger goal.
  2. It is simple and clear.
  3. I have very little resistance to doing it.

Setting My Tiny Goals

As a result, I have set several Tiny Goals, so that I can work on all 2015 goals at once.  Here they are:

  • Eat at least one fruit or vegetable with breakfast and lunch (serving-amount doesn’t matter)
  • Eat at least two fruits and/or vegetables with dinner (serving-amount doesn’t matter)
  • Do some exercise everyday (amount or length of time doesn’t matter)
  • Complete one reading lesson with my 5-yr old every day (except Sundays)
  • Get rid of or put away 3 things from my bedroom every day (except Sundays)
  • Study some Spanish vocabulary every day (except Sundays)
  • Read something from the New Testament, Isaiah, General Conference, or Ezra T. Benson book every day

Aren’t they tiny?  I actually started these goals on Jan 5, and I’m amazed at how well I have done with them.  Not 100%, but I’m really satisfied!  And I’ve noticed that some days all I can do is the bare minimum, while other days I find myself doing much more.

So, I’m really excited and very hopeful that I can make some progress.

When have you had success with setting small (or tiny) goals?

My 2015 Goals

I have actually been spending the past couple of months in a great debate within my own mind.  The debate being, “do I want to keep blogging?” and “do I like sharing my goals and my experiences so openly?”  So, what I decided to do is to finish what I started for 2014, and then make a new decision for the New Year.

And now, here I am in a new year, with new goals, and I’m still feeling some *blogging hesitancy*, but I’ve decided to just continue on.  I do like blogging…it’s different than writing in a personal journal.  For one thing, there is an actual audience to write to, even though I never know from one post to another exactly who the audience will be.  This is definitely helpful in my efforts to write well, and to be clear about what I want to accomplish.

I also love the interaction of blogging…reading other blogs, and getting to know a little bit about other people.  In doing this I like knowing that they can come to my blog and know something about me as well.  I could still read my favorite blogs without my own, of course, but I think I like it better this way.  So for now, I’m going to continue on with what I’m doing and see what 2015 brings!

Now – onto my goals.  I’m doing it a bit differently this year.  In addition to 3 personal goals, I’ve set some in a few other areas of my life as well.

Personal Goals:

  1. Take better care of my health (yep – a repeat from last year!!)
  2. Declutter my house (starting with my own bedroom)
  3. Improve my Spanish speaking and comprehension skills

Blogging Goals:

  1. Write a “Thankful Thursday” post once per month
  2. Include at least 8 of my favorite recipes (with pictures, of course!)
  3. Write about each of my “Personal Goals” at least once a quarter, and other goals listed on this page occasionally

Scripture Reading Goals:

(You can see that I’m breaking the “rule of 3” here.  But I’m confident that I can do this, and I really want to.)

  1. Read the entire New Testament (and some commentary from the Institute Manuals, and other resources)
  2. Read all of the talks from the previous General Conference before the next one
  3. Read the entire manual for Relief Society (Presidents of the Church – Ezra Taft Benson) before the end of the year (I have always read some lessons, but have never actually read every single one!)
  4. Read the book of Isaiah from the Old Testament along with additional commentary about it

Other Goals:

I have also set some family-type goals.  I decided these should be kept private, except for one:  I want to teach my youngest daughter to read using this book by the end of April.  She will start school in September, but she’s already 5 so I think she can do it.  And I feel like it will be good for her moral to be able to read a bit on her own.

“Set high goals for yourself, and be willing to work hard to achieve them.” –from: For the Strength of Youth, 2011 {click picture to view source}

I’m really excited about the fresh focus these {mostly} new goals bring.  I can’t wait to share what I’m doing and learning, and to hear what others are doing and learning as well 🙂 !

What I Learned This Year From my Goals

Today is the last day of 2014!  I figure I’ll close out the year by stating a few things I learned/observed as I focused on my goals this year.

Listening to my family:

1- First off, I learned that people definitely value being listened to!  I could tell this from the reactions from my kids and husband as I did (and sometimes didn’t) listen well to them.  But also from my sister who had to have her thyroid removed earlier this year.  So many people did kind things for her and her family to help out, but she told me more than once that what she appreciated (and still appreciates) the most is when people take the time to listen to her talk about what she is experiencing.

2- I also learned however, that listening can be very difficult thing to do,  It doesn’t seem like it should be, but it requires being in complete control of our thoughts which takes a lot of self discipline!  It also requires some selflessness to channel our thoughts in the direction of another person’s interest rather than our own.  I still feel like I am struggling so much with this, but I plan to keep on practicing…even into 2015!

3- The final thing I observed is that listening is so much easier when people are talking about something I am interested in.  So, while it is necessary to sometimes let people talk about something on their mind, even if I am not personally interested, often what a person wants is to just talk.  In these cases I have found that I can actively look for common ground with the person and have a conversation about that.  For example, at dinner I have learned that rather letting everyone talk randomly about what is on their minds (which often ends up being senseless giggling or joking, or worse – arguing), instead to suggest a specific topic such as, “Let’s go around the table and everyone tell what they were doing at 11:00 am.”  Everyone gets a turn to talk, (there is less giggling and arguing), and I get to listen to things that I genuinely want to know.

Taking Better Care of My Health

1- If I eat junk, I crave more junk.  If I eat good food, I crave more good food…and the desire for junk food decreases significantly.

2- It takes a fair amount of fore-thought combined with self-discipline to go to bed early enough for a good night’s sleep.  It doesn’t seem like it should be so hard.  I’m so tired by the end of the day, going to sleep ought to be the easiest thing in the world…but I have definitely learned that if I want it to happen as early as it should, I have to be very conscientious about it.

3- I also learned that my 5 yr-old is an excellent exercise instructor! 🙂  One day she was adamant that she did not want me to use the TV to play an exercise DVD, and informed me that she would teach me instead.  She really got me moving (and herself too)!  And it was a fun activity for both of us.

Time Management:

1- I learned that I do not like being constantly busy.  I’ve been battling this idea all year, because part of me feels if I am not busy then I am being idle.  But I’m starting to think that maybe there is a difference between being “still” and being “idle.”  I think the key is balance – I do like to be (and need to be) busy most of the time, but allowing myself to be still sometimes too is something that I think is really beneficial.

2- I also don’t like never-ending to do lists.  If I write down everything on my mind to do, the list is very long and impossible to finish!  I’ve written so many lists like this, and recently I just quit doing it.  Instead, I’m making lists of what absolutely has to be done right away.  All of the other stuff I’m just trying to do as the opportunity arises.

3- And, finally I learned that the Rule of 3 works for me!  After reading the book “Getting Results the Agile Way” by J.D. Meier earlier this year, I’ve discovered that his suggestion of grouping goals into 3’s is great.  Not only did I find it less complicated to have 3 goals for the year instead of 5, but I’ve found it helpful in other ways too.  For example on Fast Sunday I always have more than one thing or person I want to fast for, so I have found that choosing three things to focus on each time feels just right.  In fact, whenever I really need to focus, 3 often seems to be the right number of things to focus on.

So that’s it for 2014!  I think I learned some good things from my efforts…however imperfect they may have been.  Tomorrow will be a new year and a fresh start.  And I can’t wait to share my 2015 goals in the coming week or so!

What did you learn from your goals this past year?

Reflecting on my 2014 Goals

During the month of December, besides thinking about Christmas preparations, one thing that has been pressing on my mind is the upcoming New Year’s Day and subsequent official ending of my 2014 goals.  I have never-ever kept any goals so fresh in my mind for a full year before, and I have this blog to thank for that!

But this month, I have to admit to feeling a bit discouraged about what I accomplished during the year.  I know that I’ve written about various changes I was making, but the truth is that I haven’t stuck consistently with any of them.  And that is so typical of me…I’m constantly starting new systems and ways of doing things, and dropping them a short time later.  Today I feel like I am operating no differently than I was at this time last year.

So, as I’ve been thinking about this, and pondering the question “why?,” I think it boils down to that maybe deep down I just don’t want to do anything differently than what I am doing.  For example:

  • I don’t want to have to be governed by a routine or a “to do” list every day.
  • I don’t want to prepare healthier meals because I don’t want to spend more time in the kitchen.
  • I don’t want to have to listen to someone talk in detail about a subject that I have no interest in.

A couple of weeks ago I went with the missionaries to visit someone they are teaching.  While we were there, they spoke to the man about our church’s Word of Wisdom, and invited him to give up drinking coffee.  (You can read more about our beliefs on the word of wisdom here).  The man said, “I guess I don’t see why I should have to stop drinking coffee.  I mean, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I don’t go carousing with the guys.  To me, it seems like drinking coffee is a small thing.”  The missionaries responded by bearing simple testimony that the word of wisdom is given to us by the Lord, and expressed their confidence that blessings would be received as he obeyed this law.  This is also something that I believe to be true too and have seen blessings of my own through living this way.

As I listened to this conversation, and as I have thought about it since, I have reflected on how the Lord does ask us to make changes in our lives.  Sometimes He asks us to do things we find to be difficult and that we don’t want to do.  But always, if we do His will, we find that we are better off for it.

In regards to my own goals, and the reality that I really don’t want to have to change, I find myself wondering if it is really necessary.  Like this man, I feel to some extent that my bad habits really aren’t that bad in comparison with some other things.  Do I really need to change?

But the other half of the situation is that I do want the results of having done all of these things.  For example:

  • I do want the chores to be done regularly and not feel constantly behind.
  • I do want to eat (and have my family eat) healthy food.
  • I do want my kids and husband to feel like they can talk to me anytime they need to, and that they will be treated with respect.

So I am constantly in a holding-place, stuck between not wanting to change, but wanting changes to be made.  And I guess I really don’t know what to do about it.  I guess the real question is if these are the things the Lord wants me to be focusing on?  Our perspective is so limited that often, even when what we want is good, it’s not what the Lord has in mind for us.  So as this year comes to a close, these are the thoughts that will be guiding me in my approach to the year 2015.

Thanks so much for reading, and as always feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

My Favorite “Listening” Story

I can’t let the year go completely by without telling my favorite “listening” story!  As many of you know, “listening better to my family” is one of my 2014 goals; and while I have been trying to do it, I have actually written very little about the subject on my blog.

But there is one experience in my life that I almost always think of when the subject of being a good listener comes up.

My dad is and always has been a great listener, which is something I have definitely appreciated.  I try to be like him in this, but it doesn’t seem to come as naturally to me.  Anyway, when I was a Freshman in High School I received a progress report stating that I had a D in Algebra and that if I continued like I was it could be an F by the time report cards went out.  Well, you can imagine that my parents would not like this one bit, and my mom was pretty clear that she didn’t.  After talking to me a bit about it and the importance of my grades in school, she said to me “Your dad will need to see this when he gets home.  Do you want to show it to him, or would you rather that I do it?”  I opted to show it to him myself, and when he came home I bravely gave him the paper explaining what it was about.

Well, my dad looked at the paper and simply said, “Why are you getting a D in Algebra?”  I responded, “I don’t understand it!  I see what the teacher does, and I try to do it, but it doesn’t make any sense to me!”

After hearing my answer, he responded that if I don’t know how to do something, that I should come and ask him for help and he would explain it to me.  I did this once, then twice, and then all the time after.  His help was really helpful and my grade went up from a D to a B by the time report cards came out.  The pattern of his helping me continued all through High School, with any math and science that I found confusing (OK, just about all of it 🙂 ).  And the positive effects extended beyond that because when I needed help from teachers in High School and later in College, I wasn’t afraid to ask.

He really didn’t have to spend a lot of time listening, but I’ve always remembered how the first words out of mouth were not ones of chastisement, but rather a question.  He listened to my answer and offered a helpful solution.  It made a big difference, not just in my grades but how I felt about myself in regards to my school work.  And probably the most important thing was, that when I handed him the progress report I wasn’t very worried about his reaction, because this was the way he usually handled things.

When I watch people arguing (and unfortunately find myself doing it too) I often think about how much better it would be for all of us if we would ask questions and listen for the answer instead…just like my dad did.  Many times, of course, it takes longer than what I described to truly understand someone, but I really do believe that it is worth the effort and the patience that it requires.  Thanks, Dad for being such a great example!

When have you seen “listening” have a positive effect on a situation?

From Paper to Electronic: Switching My Task Management System

Wow.  When I said I was going to take a break from writing on my blog, I didn’t mean this long!  I guess it happens, right?  It is definitely time for an update.  I have 3 goals that I’ve been focusing on for the year 2014.  It is three quarters of the way through the year and I now can say that the one goal that I have been the most consistently driven to work on has been “managing my time better.”

Except I don’t really think I am managing it any better!  Instead, my true focus has been on getting more organized about my work.  I guess I have been feeling that once I accomplished that, then the management would more naturally follow.  I’m not sure that everyone agrees with me, but I’m pressing on with my theory anyway.

So, with that in mind, my big focus lately has been in switching over from a paper system to an electronic one.  Following are the steps that I have taken so far to accomplish this.

Step 1

I convinced my husband to buy me a Kindle Fire.  It is the first “mobile device” I have ever owned.  I just have a simple trac phone pre-paid cell phone that we purchased for emergencies, and it is so ancient (7 years old, lol) that all it does is make phone calls and text (and even that is very cumbersome to do!).

I’ve seen people with their ipads and other things, and they looked very interesting, but I never felt like I could justify spending my own money on one.  But in July I became so fed up with my efforts to track what I need to do on paper, I finally decided that I wanted to try using a calendar on a “mobile device” to see if that would be any better.

But next came the tough task of convincing my husband that it would be a worthy purchase.  Since he doesn’t make or like “to do” lists, and the calendar on the fridge has always been good enough for him for appointments, making the case that I “needed” one for this purpose was a tough sell.  But finally he conceded and so step 1 to my efforts to get organized electronically was complete!  Horray!

Step 2

I downloaded a gazillion calendar and to do list apps.  Seriously.  I thought it would be so simple to find one!  I had no idea that there were so many or that I would find something that bothered me about every. single. one!  I spent so much time on this in the first few weeks that I was very afraid of my husband regretting the purchase.  After-all I wasn’t being more productive, but less!

Step 3

I finally chose Calengoo because it had so many options to customize and I could put my task list with my calendar.  Then I got to work putting in every repeating task that I could think of, and organizing them the best that I could.  I really liked it for about a month, but one day I woke up to a cluttered mess for my to do list.  I was just as overwhelmed by what I saw on my Kindle as I had been with my paper systems.  At first I tried to just “clean it up,” but then found myself looking at the other apps I had downloaded to see if, with the passing of time, I liked any of them better.

Step 4

I switched to Tick Tick, which is not a calendar, but simply a “To Do” list.  I realized that I did like this better after-all and that it had some useful features that I had missed when I looked at it the first time around.

Step 5

In my efforts to get organized once again, I felt the need to return to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system, which I have talked about before here and here.  His system is not very simple (at least it doesn’t feel so to me) and there is a learning curve that goes along with it.  This is why I keep abandoning it.  But I keep returning to it because of 1) the encouragement to capture everything that is incomplete in our life and put it into a trustworthy system and 2) the emphasis on writing things down in an “actionable” way.  So no more feeling like I’m missing something important or looking at a list full of stuff that I can’t do anything about at the moment!

Habit RPG

This is where I am now in the process, but I know that two of my sisters are wondering, “hey, which step is ‘Habit RPG?'”  Well, the answer is that I don’t know which step it is, but an explanation of it definitely belongs in this post.  Habit RPG is a fun little game that I found in my searching for the perfect “to do list” app.   Basically you record habits you are working on, daily tasks you need to complete, and to do’s.  Then you get rewarded with coins that you can use to upgrade your character when you complete tasks and you are deducted health if you don’t complete them.  The game has lots of levels so as you complete your stuff, then you level up and if you lose health, you face the possibility of dropping a level and losing some gear (a.k.a. “dying”).  This game can be played in groups and so my two sisters and their children as well as my children have formed a group.  We cannot see each other’s tasks, but I can see their characters and watch them as they level up and down and choose different gear and even pets.  We can also chat, which is fun!

But I am having a little trouble keeping up with two “to do” lists and sometimes I feel like trying to manage both is complicating my life.  So I don’t know where “Habit RPG” fits or even if I can make it work within an on-going system.  But my kids were disappointed when I said this to them last night.  They really like tracking their tasks on it, and they like the “group” aspect of it.  My daughter even said, “but Mom, you have a flying pig! You wouldn’t want to give up your flying pig!”  So with that kind of encouragement, I figure I’d better try a little longer to make it work 🙂 .

Final Thoughts

In writing this I realize that I’m in the middle of building a system, so I’m not really reporting any success.  In fact, what I am reporting is that I still don’t have it completely figured out.  But one thing that I do have figured out is that it is OK to spend time and energy working on this!  I know that a lot of people feel it is wasting time to read about task management and creating to do lists.  As I heard one person say, “why spend your time reading about ‘getting things done’ when you could be using that time to actually ‘get things done?'”  And my answer is that “I have so many different things that I’m responsible for, I could work the whole day through day after day with no breaks, and still easily miss something that is really important.”

For example:

  • I could spend my time washing the dishes and cleaning the house and still not have anything ready for dinner at the end of the day.
  • I could spend my time planning wonderful meals, shopping for, and preparing them, and leave no time to work in the garden.
  • I could spend my time working in the garden and trimming the bushes and fail to take my kids to the park or the library.
  • I could spend my time taking my kids to the park, library, pool, and other fun and interesting places, and then show up to church on Sunday without my lesson prepared.
  • I could spend my time preparing a wonderful lesson, or an event at church and meanwhile my house is getting overrun with clutter.
  • I could spend my time diligently decluttering my house every day and fail to do my Visiting Teaching for the month.
  • I could visit every sister on my Visiting Teaching route and then go over budget because I didn’t take the time to record my spending.

And the list goes on…but you get the point.  It doesn’t work for me to just roll up my sleeves and get to work because I have more to do on any given day than time to do it.  In my opinion it is necessary to spend time thinking about and planning work.  As David Allen says, “you have to think about your stuff more than you think, [but] you don’t have to think about your stuff as much as you’re afraid you might.”  Knowing what needs to be done is the very first step in deciding what to do!

So, for me, one thing that I have succeeded in doing over this past year is defining my work.  I’m more clear than ever on what is expected of me and what I expect of myself.  I’m also more clear on how much I can expect myself to accomplish in any given day.  And so, yes – I’m still in the process of figuring this out, but I am certain that I am on the right path and that my efforts are not wasted time.

Do you have a special system you use to track your tasks?

Simple Changes: Get a Load of Laundry Ready at Night

This is Part Two of my “simple changes” series.  Last week I wrote about how I started exercising in the morning.  Shortly after putting that in place I read a blog post on andreadekker.com which triggered the idea of getting a load of laundry in the washing machine at night, but waiting until the morning to actually start it.  I never thought of this before!  It’s a very small detail, but I realized as soon as I read her post that it could be the perfect laundry solution for me.

I have tried so many different laundry routines over the years.  When I first got married, I was working full time so I did all (two or three loads) of our laundry at once in the laundry room of our apartments on Saturdays.  Later, after moving into a house and starting our family, I set up Monday as “Laundry Day.”  With each child the laundry grew, but I was still able to get it mostly done in that one day.

For some reason after moving into the house that we live in now, “Monday Laundry Day” completely fell apart.  I’m not sure if it’s because I lost my laundry room (it wasn’t perfect because we had to walk through it to go out our back door, but at least it was a room rather than a closet like I have now) or, if it’s just because my kids were growing and we were generating more clothes that needed to be washed.  I really don’t know.  But ever since we have lived here I have been completely unsuccessful at completing the laundry all in one day.

So, after accepting the fact that I needed to change the system, I started doing a load every day.  It was very similar to what I’m doing now, except that I was gathering the laundry and loading the washer in the morning.  It worked OK, but the problem was, that unless I woke up earlier, I could not start until after everyone had left the house.  This made it pretty late in the morning when the laundry was ready to be put away, and often at that point I had already moved onto other things, which led to me waiting until later to put it away.  And, once it gets put off for a little while, it is amazing how easy it is to put it off even more! 🙂

After that I decided that I would do it in the early afternoon/evening.  The idea was that I would fold it while watching the news with my husband.  I really thought this would be great, but it wasn’t.  I was good about getting it into the washer, but pulling it out was just too difficult with everything else going on at that time of day.

My new plan combines the best of both of these ideas.  I can gather it and load it anytime in the evening that seems right; then I can start the washer as soon as I wake up rather than waiting until everyone leaves.  This means my laundry is ready to put away an entire hour earlier making it possible to get it done before I have to start doing too many other things.

The best part is that it’s a forgiving system.  Laundry is like the dishes in that I can only procrastinate so long before it becomes a crisis.  So, even if I get behind (due to being super-busy, or super-tired, or just plain rebellious), I will spend the time necessary to catch up.  But the advantage of having a working system is that by pushing it to the ends of the day I free my precious day-time hours up for other things that I need/want to do.

Here is how my morning looks currently with my 2 “simple changes” that I’ve made so far.  Of course, it’s not perfect every day, but this is the general idea:

  • Wake up
  • Push “start” on washing machine
  • Wake up kids, fix breakfast, pack lunches, family prayer, etc.
  • Say goodbye to my family
  • Change laundry from washer to dryer
  • Eat a light snack (not too much since I’m exercising)
  • Exercise
  • Shower/get dressed
  • Eat breakfast (occasionally I’ll eat before showering instead of after)
  • Fold and put away laundry
  • Now I’m ready for the day!

What is your preferred system for doing the laundry?