Tag Archives: tackling your to-do list

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Feel Productive This Summer

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Well, it’s summer again. Here in the U.K., the concept of “summer” is decidedly shorter than it is in the States. (Because school holidays are distributed somewhat differently, most schools break from anywhere between 6 and 9 weeks rather than a whopping 3 months.) Still, we are most definitely in the era of flip flops, sun tan lotion and beach reads over here.

While summer is a great time to relax, much like the New Year, it’s also a great time to set resolutions for yourself.

To that end, here are five ways to feel productive this summer:

1. Try something new. When I posted about my staycation in London last year, I talked about the value of learning a new skill. Last summer we taught my son to ride a bike and I myself became the proud owner of a Brompton.  This summer my “new thing” is Pilates. I’ll be honest. Until recently, I had no idea what Pilates was. (I also noticed that even people who did it regularly had a hard time explaining it.) I’m still learning (enough to know that it’s all about obtaining core stability in my abdomen which – as my Pilates instructor quickly observed – currently exhibits the fortitude of a wet noodle.) But let me be the first to tell you that if you’re having back trouble, get thee to a Pilates class tout de suite. Wow. I feel 300 years younger. Next up? Zumba. All the cool kids are doin’ it, I’m told.

2. Return to something old.  Of course, there’s no better way to feel productive than by completing a project that you’ve left half-finished. We all know the joy that attends tackling your dreaded To Do list. Me? I’m going to confront a biggie this summer: revising my novel one last time. With the help of my fiction writing group, I now have a much better sense of what doesn’t work about the opening (and we all know that if the opening of a book is weak, it isn’t going to be read.) But I also know that in order to do this properly, I need to have a block of time so that I can get back into the story and inhabit it for awhile. So I’ve decided to devote the month of August to fixing that sucker.

3. Fix something around the house. And speaking of fixing, summer is also a great time to fix things around the house, whether it’s cleaning out a spare drawer, tightening up the screws on a loose door knob, or adding a touch of paint to the wall that your kid drew on with crayons. In my own case, I keep a little box of broken jewelry on my bureau. It contains all the jewelry that’s gotten damaged over the years, but which I like too much to toss. There is, for example, a blue earring in that box which I bought in Paris when I spent a semester there in college (cough) 25 years ago. All that earring is missing is a back, and yet in all that time, I’ve never quite gotten around to gluing one on. No more, I say. I plan to wear those earrings this Fall! Need motivation for tasks like this? Find a fix-it club.

4. Read something that you wouldn’t normally read. Summer is also a great time to get out of your comfort zone in terms of reading. After all, most book groups go on holiday during the summer, and even if you aren’t in a book club, you generally have more flexibility – and time – to mix things up a bit. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction.  But I’d like to try and read more of it. So I decided that rather than plunge into War and Peace straight away, I’d first read a book that’s been on my shelf for quite some time: Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side.

5. Make something by hand. Over on The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin recently posted on the value of making something by hand. I’m not very crafty, but my daughter is. She frequently embroils me in her hand-made projects, whether it’s sewing a piece of clothing, designing a marionette or weaving a friendship bracelet. And it really is deeply satisfying to create something with your hands. Try it!

How about you? What are your productive plans for the summer?

 

Image: Pilates Video Class Exercise by myyogaonline via Flicker under a Creative Commons license.

Tips For Adulthood: Managing Re-Entry After A Vacation

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Re-entry following a vacation is trying at the best of times. You come back to “normal life” with looming deadlines, piles of unwashed laundry and all those things you really did mean to finish – but didn’t quite get to – right before you left. (Not to mention that fresh take on life you developed while travelling that you’re darn well going to start implementing…now.)

Toss in some jet lag and – if you’re me, about 10 gazillion bags worth of purchases you made at Target – and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Which is why – having just returned from a two and a half week vacation to the U.S. yesterday – I decided that this time, I’d really work consciously not to make re-entry the agonizing, adrenaline-fuelled stress-fest that it usually is in my life.

Well, I’m pleased to report that on day five of the Good Lord’s Year 2011…something I resolved to do differently in the new year actually worked.

Here are five ways to manage re-entry after a vacation:

1. Shower First. Pay no attention to that whole soap-dodging trend. It’s amazing what a shower can do to wake up the senses. Make sure you do it as soon as you get home, even if you’ve already taken a shower that day. A shower – plus a good, strong hot cup of coffee – are, I am convinced, the foundation for a successful re-entry launch.

2. Make Piles. I’m a big believer in lowering your expectations. Once you’re clean and caffeinated, the single best thing you can do for yourself upon re-entry is not to take on too much that very first day. You’ll exhaust yourself. Instead, what I’d recommend is making piles:  bills to pay…holiday cards to answer…dry-cleaning that’s accrued during your trip.You don’t have to actually *do* any of these things. But just putting them in the right piles will contribute enormously to your piece of mind knowing that they will, eventually, get done.

3. Fill In Your Calendar. Another small but not over-whelming task you can assign to yourself on that very first day back from a trip is to fill in the dates on your calendar (or “diary” as we say over here in the ‘hood.) Much like making piles, inputting your daughter’s swim class schedule, noting the next few book club meetings and (hopefully) setting aside a few date nights out with your partner can go along way towards making you feel in control of your life, before you actually step in to control it. And the beauty of this task is that it can be executed in a near-somnolent state.

4. Set In Motion One Big Thing. This may sound contradictory with points (2) and (3) but it doesn’t have to be. You know how we all have those giant, endless to-do lists that contain a small array of intractable items that never, ever make it off ground zero? While you’re wandering around your house in a bleary-eyed state after a vacation, take action on one of those babies – the really hard ones. You don’t need to resolve it that very first day. But even if it’s just about taking one small step to activate action on said item, you’ll feel so much better. In my own case, I decided yesterday that even though I’d been avoiding it for…um, like four months…I was going to defrost my refrigerator. Yes it was a pain in the neck. Yes, I had to sacrifice my favorite brand of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to the cause (Imagine Whirled Peace, in case you’re wondering.) But the prospect of opening the refrigerator in 2011 and *not* seeing an iceberg befitting March Of The Penguins? Priceless.

5. Open Your Mail Last. While it can be awfully tempting when you’ve been away from home for a while to open up all of your mail right away, it’s a terrible idea. Mail – whether it’s personal, business or just a doctor’s appointment – is deeply distracting. You get caught up in the photo of someone else’s cute kids. You learn that you didn’t get that job you applied for. You start reading all about the latest changes to your retirement plan. Do yourself a favor and get the small stuff done first. And then reward yourself by reading your mail last when you can really concentrate. Ditto Email. Trust me.

Happy re-entry.

And Happy 2011.

Image: – Mail Day!! – by Warm n’ Fuzzy via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Things To Do On A Staycation

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

My family is doing a staycation this year. We’re taking a few local trips here and there. But mostly – due to assorted work deadlines and exhaustion from our recent move – we’ll be at home in London.

Apparently, we’re not alone. Here in the U.K., a combination of airline strikes and the Eurozone debt crisis have prompted many more British people to holiday at home this year. In the United States, the whole concept of staycation (a word now enshrined in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary) has shifted from being a temporary outgrowth of the financial crisis to a social phenomenon that’s here to stay.

I love London, so I don’t really mind being here in the summer. Still, the longer days, warmer weather, and changes to the kids’ schedules do inspire me to do things a bit differently, if for no other reason than to shake up my own routine.

So if, like me, this is a summer when you’re going to give traveling a pass, here are some ways to mark the occasion:

1. Discover a new place. One way to make a staycation feel special is to travel somewhere new near your home. This might be a new museum, a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try or that park that’s just a bit too far to visit during the school year. At the top of my list is to take a backstage tour of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London’s oldest theatre. On their tours, a group of actors perform key events from this theatre’s rich history while you look around. I may even (gasp) do this on my own, since I don’t think any of my friends or family members quite shares my thespian enthusiasm. (Adulthood fantasy #6 is where I manage a community theatre troupe in which I also make the occasional cameo. Hey, we all need to dream…)

2. Get a new toy. Usually, we associate the novelty of a new toy with children. But it’s equally valid for adults, who also need to play. This year, my summer treat to myself is a bicycle. Because our new house is located considerably further from the kids’ schools and assorted other activities, I find that I’m often in motion between the hours of three and five on any given afternoon. And so we finally broke down and bought a bike for me on Ebay. It’s one of those funky collapsible things – (a Brompton, for those in the know) – because I’ll need to take it on the Tube and the bus with the kids. Bonus? I feel terribly hip and urban. Bonus-by-association? Guess who’s got a handy new gadget to play with?

3. Learn a new skill. “It’s like riding a bike.” The only problem with that old chestnut is that it only means something if you actually *know* how to ride a bike. In light of our staycation, my husband and I took the command decision that this was an opportune time to teach my nine year-old how to ride a bike. (I know, I know. Ridiculously late to be teaching him this life skill, especially since his six year-old sis has been bike riding for more than a year. What can I say? We’re bad parents.) But we’re on it now, and – in light of #2 – it also means that we can now go for family bike rides.

4. Tackle something on your “dreaded” to-do list. I once wrote a post entitled “Five Ways To Get On Top Of Your To Do List.” One of the strategies I recommended was to divide your to-do list in half into long-term and short-term items. The idea was to tick something off of the short list every day, and to take a step towards removing something on the long list every week. I think this strategy works very well. But it does pre-suppose that every so often, you really do take that crucial step on the dreaded (long) to-do list. In my case, I’ve had “clean rugs” on there for – oh, you really don’t want to know how long. But darn it if I didn’t pluck up my courage yesterday and call around for some estimates. (Needless to say – and like most of the “dreaded” tasks – contemplation was much worse than execution.) And now I feel so much better as a result. Up next? Wash duvet cover…

5. Read some really long books. Let’s face it. We all have a list of books on our bedside table which – tempting as they might seem – we never get around to reading because they’re just too long. And I don’t mean the medicinal ones that you feel you *ought* to read so that you’re up to speed on such and such a topic. (Eternal Message of Muhammed anyone? Oh, is that just me?) No, I mean the really good ones that entail a level of commitment that’s just beyond your comfort level during a busy week. I just finished the third volume in the highly addictive Dragon Tattoo series – The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest. Now I’m on to Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall. Up next? Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. If time, there’s always Tolstoy’s War and Peace. No, seriously. Don’t laugh.

What are you doing this summer around home?

*****

For those who are interested, I’m over on Politics Daily today talking about a lawsuit against the British government on the grounds of gender discrimination in its new austerity budget.

Image: Very early Brompton (number 333) by marcus_jb1973 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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