Category Archives: Daily Habits

11 Ways to Move Forward When You Feel Stuck

photo cred: lauren-mancke via unsplash

No matter how meaningful your work, everyone feels stuck sometimes. Here are research-based quick, easy actions for getting past the inertia and taking action when you are feeling stuck. Pick one when you are resisting moving forward or are generally stuck on what’s next.

  1. Plan ahead. Make a task list for your day (or week) the evening (or weekend) before. In the morning, go through your list of to-dos in a mechanical way. Nothing to think about. No decisions to make. Look at your list and do it.
  2. Don’t worry alone.* If you cannot get out of your own head or past your resistance, call a friend who believes in you. Make a pact with someone who will be there for you, with an ear of support. Promise to always answer calls from one another and to only take a few minutes.
  3. Take a shower. There is actually science behind this method. A shower enacts cornerstones of creativity including: dopamine release, relaxation, and distraction from decision making. Some creatives/innovators are known to take several showers a day when in the middle of a project.
  4. Exercise. Go for a quick walk. Try an interval app. Jog in place. Do 20 jumping jacks. Stand in mountain pose.
  5. Take a micro-action daily. Break down your to-do’s into steps that seem ridiculously easy. This is the most effective way to break free of inertia.  
  6. Clear out a drawer or quit an activity. Clearing physical space or your schedule can clear your mind and energy too.
  7. Use the power of morning pages. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, suggests starting each day with a written braindump – no agenda, no worrying about how it sounds. Even if you write, “I don’t know what to write over and over again.” I’d say start with one page and see if it helps free your energy.
  8. Know your goal. Remind yourself every day where you are headed and WHY. Write your BIG goal and your WHY down everyday. If you are unclear on your goal, download this exercise from Reclaim Your Dreams to get started.
  9. Read every word of The Art of War.  In his book Steven Pressfield focuses on how to move forward on creative projects and work through resistance.
  10. Start with thanks. Begin every day with a list of one to three things you are super grateful for.
  11. Rest. Don’t quit. We all need a break so step away from the computer and take a nap or grab a cup of tea or….you name it.

*Thanks to Dr. Halowell via Marie Forleo for this gem of a quote.

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Money Matters

“Invest in yourself. It will pay you for the rest of your life.” -Aristotle

Courage and Confidence Challenge #9

Money matters. Think about the messages your daughter receives about money both in the media and at home. Earning it. Investing it. Making lots of it. We know the media does, but consider how you subtly or indirectly tell her that she can depend on others (like a future husband) to take care of her financial needs? Is earning power a factor when she considers her future? Today make sure to frame earning money as a path to freedom, empowerment, and the opportunity to make a broader difference in the world. This isn’t about greed or doesn’t mean giving up on a dream. In fact, the goal is the very opposite! It does mean making choices that assume she is responsible for her financial well-being. If you need more direction, start with education by checking out The Daily Worth and Amanda Steinberg’s accompanying book, Worth It: Your Money, Your Life, Your Terms In addition to helping empower women financially, Amanda is a serial technology entrepreneur and an inspiring role model.

Here’s Why

So many reasons why. For starters, statistically, women are more likely to spend time on budgeting/expenses than investing, more likely to feel anxiety around investing, less likely to ask for raises, less likely to consider financial impact when making career decisions, and less likely to feel confident around making sound investment decisions.

Anecdotally, I can share countless stories of how economic disempowerment plays out at every life phase. There was the mom who suggested her 13 year old daughter consider a “flexible” career path – i.e., let’s set the vocational dream bar low and think about how you might work part-time once you have kids before you even start high school.

And the teenager who thanked me for saying, “making money was a good thing” because she thought it was selfish and felt guilty about considering finances when dreaming about a career path.

Or the messages everywhere telling girls to focus on marrying an ambitious person rather than being the ambitious person.

And finally, I also see how it plays out on the other end of vocational life…women in their 60’s and beyond who feel handcuffed (still) by work that they dislike or don’t know how to step back into the workforce. Let’s empower our daughters to invest in their careers and their financial well-being from the outset. Much more to come on this topic from The Brave Core.

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7 Quick Fixes When You Are Stuck

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Yesterday was one of those days where I planned to tackle one strategic essential (but not urgent) task and ended up getting little nothing accomplished. No matter whether there were several one or two valid reasons or not, having days like that isn’t good for business and doesn’t feel very good.

The good news is if you struggle or feel stuck sometimes too,  you are in good company. Every successful entrepreneur and creative that I know describes a similar struggle with this thing called resistance. We all have those moments or weeks (yes, some stagnate for much, much longer than that) when movement seems slow, progress feels non existent or when we procrastinate our time away.

After yesterday, I decided to make a list of the quick (research-based) fixes I use to make a little progress, especially on the toughest days, so that I have them ready for next time:

  1. Walk away from the computer. Take a shower. Go outside for a 5 minute walk. Make a phone call. Drive somewhere. Take the dog for a walk.
  2. Pre-empt procrastination by creating a to-do list the evening before. Take a few minutes in the evening (yes even when you are tired) and write down the one to two tasks you want to work on. Remember it takes 2 to 10 times longer for the average person (you are anything but average) to complete a task than the time they estimate.
  3. Write down your goal. Are you clear on your company or professional goal and mission? Obvious, maybe for you, but write it down anyway along with why you are doing it. If your goal is long term (more than 12 months out), then write down an interim goal for this year.
  4. Get support. Most entrepreneurs, companies, and individuals that I have worked with could eventually get the job done on their own. The key word being eventually. Although you may be able to figure it out on your own, it will be easier and more fun if you surround yourself with an abundance of support – friends, colleagues, professional consulting and coaching help, etc. DO. NOT go it alone.
  5. Habit wins over willpower every. single. time. Small steps taken over a long period of time will yield results. Have a few habits and stick with them. My morning typically goes like this: drop my daughter off at school (won’t be doing that much longer as she will have her license shortly), pick up my mobile order from Starbucks, run/work out), walk the dog, write. My day starts early so I am sitting at my desk by 9 or 9:15 to write. I save all my meetings, email follow up, and project work for the afternoon because those tasks are easier for me to get done. Confession: Yesterday, I sat at in the Starbucks parking lot after picking up my coffee, and got worked up about the upcoming Presidential election by reading social media posts. The presidential election is important and I value social media as a communications method regarding big issues, but nothing would have changed if I waited until after writing or after lunch to get a pulse on the latest news.
  6. Microsteps are the magic sauce. When you have your one essential, important action you plan to work on for the day, break it up into small, ridiculously easy micro steps, especially for those hard-to-do, high procrastination tasks. And when I say ridiculously easy, I mean that. Writing a report? Open Word and create a new document may be the first item on your list.
  7. Get strategic. If your procrastination is habitual and has prevented you from making progress for weeks, months or longer, it may be time to look at the bigger picture and making sure you are heading in the right direction. Resistance is par for the course when heading toward something that is important to you so I am not suggesting quitting, but check in with yourself (or get professional support if you need it) and intentionally consider whether you are heading in the right direction.

Those are some of my favorite tools to move forward when I am stuck. Now it’s your turn. Write down what helps you feel unstuck and use one of the techniques next time you are in a funk.

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Five Traits of Dreamers Who Do

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Action expresses priorities. -Aristotle

I have worked with many women and also researched what characteristics and actions result in growing toward successful goal attainment. It is no surprised that no matter how varied the person or goal, there are common traits and actions that separate those who move forward on their dreams and those who don’t. Here are my top five favorites:

  1. Identify a clear vision or specific goal. Know where you are headed and why. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all dreamers have a mega vision to change the world or start a multibillion dollar company (though some do). But it does mean that their actions have a measurable end in mind. In general, goals are best set within a twelve to eighteen month timeframe and should be measurable. So, even if your vision is to end world hunger, think about what you can accomplish in the next twelve to eighteen months to that end. Sometimes women that I have worked with have are interested in developing a skill, like writing. In those examples, the goal is focused on a regular practice (like writing a blog daily or writing 500 words a day).
  2. Take action. Obvious, right? Without action, a dream won’t happen. Period. Taking consistent, imperfect micro action is the best antidote for fear and inertia. Trying “stuff” out before feeling ready requires a choice not to be derailed by mistakes.
  3. Keep your to-do list short and focus on your goal first. There will be many sparkly new ideas, goals, and projects that will vie for your attention. Keeping your list of goals really, really short will give you the time and energy you need to focus and make progress. For every week, identify one to three actions that will move you closer to the outcome you desire.
  4. Know what is meaningful to you. Successful {re}claimers love (or at minimum like) the work they are committed to. But, more importantly, they believe it to be meaningful and important. Passion can develop over time when invested in something where the results matter to you.
  5. Connect to a tribe. Dream seekers don’t go it alone. Mutual, concrete support through setbacks and successes is a non-negotiable must have. Find a friend, a mastermind, a group, or coach. You will increase your likelihood of success exponentially.

Take 5

How about you? Is there one non-negotiable trait or action that helps you to reach your goals?

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The Power of the Sh*tty First Draft

One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.” -Paul Coehlo

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For many years, I didn’t move forward on what I truly desired; there were many factors holding me back.  Now, I see my most significant barrier was expecting absolute clarity and preparedness before moving forward. In other words, I was waiting to be perfectly ready and for a direction to be so unambiguous that there would be no doubt as to whether or not it was the right path for me.

That was a long time ago and you won’t be surprised to hear that I thought and worried a lot about my dreams and goals, but didn’t make much progress. Everything changed when I started to apply the concept of the sh*tty first draft. Anne Lamott, NYT best-seller author, describes the concept in her book on writing, Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Of course, this sense of doing it just right applies to more than just writing. It is relevant to starting a business or choosing a new career path or starting a blog or showing your photography or going back to school or…

Rather than waiting to be ready to start or 100 percent positive that I was choosing the right goal or creative project (read having the experience and expertise of someone who had already done it well), I started to produce sh*tty first (and second and third) drafts, by taking imperfect action.

And although mistakes are a part of the process, the sh*tty first draft is how I became a VP and Leadership Board member at a start-up, started my own technology consulting company, co-founded my first girl empowerment company, wrote my first book, traveled to India with Habitat Humanity, backpacked through Europe, and how my admittedly non-athletic self even ran my first 5k and sprint triathlon.

All, because I was ready to take imperfect action, sometimes in a very public way. I was (and still am) willing to be a novice, even when I feel embarrassed because what I am producing doesn’t match my high standards or creative expectations.

That’s how I made real progress and you can too! So, don’t wait, okay? I am down with reflecting, preparing and planning as many of you know, but action is the only way you will make progress and gain clarity.

Take 5

For more inspiration, check out this video by Ira Glass on taste and the gap. Then start working on your sh*tty first draft today.

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One Life-Changing Question I Ask Myself All the Time

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But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too  -Stevie Nicks, Landslide

Fall is a good time to get bolder and reflect on big questions like,

Am I spending my time (equals spending my life) the way I want to…am meant to?

I ask myself this life-changing question at least once a week…and three times a year (one being Autumn), I set aside bigger chunks of time to consider my time in a deeper way with openness to making changes.

As I have been consciously thinking (feeling and praying) about this question, I want to be bolder this coming year. Two goals that are core to my purpose keep coming to the surface; ones that I had get buried.

One is related to writing and I am pretty psyched to be taking imperfect action by creating a daily authentic writing (and posting) habit.  The first step to a dream that includes a creative pursuit is easy as it often requires daily habit, but not necessarily hours of time each day (yet). The other goal is more complex (because it is very time (aka life) consuming) so I am still discerning how and if I will make it work. To be continued.

Take 5

Right now, take a few minutes and consider whether you are spending your time (and your life) that way you are meant to?

Write down whatever comes to you about activities you don’t want to do anymore or a pursuit that you have let stay dormant for much too long. Don’t worry about the how as you never have to make changes if you don’t want to or can’t… (Pro-tip. Don’t skip right to the number two thing on your list because it feels safer. Start with what’s at the top, the very top of your list before you bury it. There is no risk in writing down your reflections on this question.)

 

5 Ways to Hustle Like a Motha’

untitled-design-2The word hustle is often used by online marketers to describe the relentless hard work of moving toward a vision or dream. When I read the bravado on this topic, it annoys me. Not because I judge ambition. I love and respect ambitious and hardworking people (including my own)! But I know what the hustle looks like when you have kids or are a caregiver (and/or are working a full-time while starting your dream business) and it doesn’t look like most of what I see online.

Recently, I made my perfect Monday hustle plan on Sunday evening including a check in call first thing Monday morning with a colleague that is my writing buddy who helps me keep on track with my writing goals.

Great structure and accountability habit, right?! …Except my son was running late for school (which he never is) and missed the bus. We planned to speak a little later than usual…but her mom, who is in the early stages of dementia, needed to be taken to an emergency appointment. (Backdrop…my colleague also has two teens and runs a very successful acupuncture business.) Early afternoon then? Well, typically, but my daughter was sick and had to be picked up from school. Although my husband works from home, he was at a meeting in Boston.

When you are responsible for other humans, hustle can feel disjointed some days even for those of us that have the luxury of working from home and have supportive partners to share the load. (The woman that waited on me at Starbucks this morning is not as fortunate.) The rhythm may be different and the pace even a little slower than you would like sometimes, but it is doable to make the professional progress you desire in the midst of it all. I have done it in my own life and have witnessed many other women (including some of you) doing it too. Here’s how I hustle like a mother:

  1. Know your goal, why it’s important to you, and write that sucker down.  It sounds trivial but this is the most important step. Without clarity of purpose, there is always a reason to not get something done. Exceptions are more the rule in life. The question I always ask about my goal is “how can I get this done despite my current circumstances?”
  2. Narrow your focus by quitting. I hate this one because I want to be helpful all the time to everyone. Last year I learned how critical it is to narrow focus to one or two specific goals for the year. Even dreams need to be prioritized. I rarely say an immediate “yes” to anything anymore. For example, I wouldn’t have grown a technology practice to seven figures, started the What’s Your Brave project or written Take 5 for Your Dreams and Reclaim Your Dreams if I hadn’t resigned from almost every volunteer commitment I had (and the list was long). This is hard for me; I still feel guilty about it sometimes. But I was replaceable – and I mean that in the kindest way; when it comes to volunteering/work, we all are.
  3. Plan your one non-negotiable action the night before. And I mean ONE. I make the day’s plan the evening before, know what the one non-negotiable priority for my day is and chunk that out into one to five essential micro steps I can accomplish to get there. 
  4. Focus on values. I don’t want to hire out picking up my sick daughter and my colleague wants to take care of her mom. Now that my kids are getting a little older, I see these moments as opportunities to connect rather than interruptions and distractions, but I also have vocational goals that I feel called toward and I am not willing to sacrifice those either. Now I know my values. I don’t need to clean my house or lead volunteer committees, but I want to spend as much time with my kids as I can and move forward on my vocational dream.
  5. Practice self-compassion. (Or alternatively, a who-cares attitude about stuff that doesn’t matter to you.) It never doesn’t always look pretty and my house is kind of a mess, but I am learning to keep it in perspective. 

Did I hustle that Monday in the midst of it all? You bet, though not at the time or in the way I prefer. Rather than putting my goal off until the next day, I asked, how can I get this done now despite the changes in my schedule? Later that day, I went for a quick run which always stimulates ideas and wrote in my car. It wasn’t pretty or perfect, but it was done.

How about you? How do you hustle like a mother?

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One Change to My New Writing Habit

CreativeCommons. Copyright Steve DePolo.

CreativeCommons. Copyright Steve DePolo.

Last week I committed to blog five days a week. For the following 48 hours, it seemed like everywhere I turned I was met with advice and messages on the importance of action and daily habits. Like this one from John Rohn:

“Success is nothing more than a few disciplines practiced every day.” 

And this short video posted by a member of my private Reclaim Your Dreams community on finishing here:

Finished Not Perfect

And this on the side benefits of writing daily from Life Hack:

10 Reasons You Should Write Something Each Day

 I found it more difficult to write today (Monday) after taking the weekend off…and even missed writing on Saturday and Sunday. Interesting, that once I started, more ideas for future posts started to flow. (Though I did journal but not anything I am ready to post yet.)  

Given this, I have decided to expand my writing habit from five days a week to daily.

Even if I only post an inspirational quote or photo and thought of the day, my sense is it will help with the momentum and discipline habit of it all.

Still in the honeymoon phase according to this piece on habit formation; I hope you will join me by subscribing to my list below as I continue to focus on taking action on what matters most to me. It’s absurdly obvious, but without action, there is no progress.

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When Overthinking Destroys Your Dreams

I am a great believer in signs, but I’ve learned that we increase the likelihood of spotting them when we’re moving down a path, not waiting but expecting. -Paul Boynton

Creative Commons. Copyright Nate and Tilly Ritter.

Creative Commons. Copyright Nate and Tilly Ritter.

During a meeting on an empowerment program that I am piloting this fall (based on the work of the What’s Your Brave project), our conversation turned to the dreams of the adults in the
room. As often happens, one of the grown-ups sheepishly offered that they are still figuring it all out.

To which, I said:

Thank God!

Me too!! Awesome!

This means you and I are still growing and discerning how to achieve meaningful work and life and how we can best impact to make this world a better place. This is so alive and the alternative is to be a spectator in your own life.

Here’s where most of us go wrong.

When my five siblings and I were growing up, one of my mother’s favorite mantras in exasperation was:

You think too much.

As the ultimate overanalyzer, I was indignant that she would minimize the importance of considering issues from all vantage points.

But my mother was right. Many of us want to analyze and think our way into our dreams and goals. Reflection and planning will save you time, heartache and money, but it will only take you so far.

It’s embarrassingly obvious, but without action, you won’t progress. Action builds momentum. Overthinking destroys it.  

Listen to my mother (who is now in her 80’s)! You can’t think your way into clarity and progress on your dream; you grow into it through action.

Take 5

There is no actual risk in taking one small action toward your dream today. Not sure where to start? Do the thing that is at the core of your boldest dreams. Want to be a writer? Write (and read) every day. Painter. Paint. That’s where the magic will happen.

 

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Sometimes the Solution is Easy

The most effective way to do it, is to do it. – Amelia Earhart

It’s September and for me that means reflecting on what I have achieved thus far and what I want to accomplish in the next year. Recently, I was complaining  sharing with a friend about my lack of time for writing in the midst of growing a new company and family. Life is busy, incredibly so for those of us (which is most of us) juggling work and family and kids’ commitments…and then there’s sleep.

But I stopped myself because sometimes the solution is easy, as is the case here. And so I am taking Amelia’s advice and choosing the most effective way to do it by doing it. For this year (Wait! What?! That’s a lot of public practicing.), I will be blogging five days a week on creating meaningful work and life in the ‘burbs – keeping it real and sharing my own personal experiences on building a purpose-filled business. Asking big questions, providing research-based practical tips and case studies, inspiration, and working hard to focus on what matters most.

Take 5

How about you? Is there a goal or a dream that you don’t think you have time for? I hope you will join me in taking Amelia’s advice and do it. Start by subscribing using the link below.

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