September is typically a pretty tough month for me. How many of you are also struggling with the change of pace and the more hectic days? Now, to put tough in relative terms, I mean that it is tough for me to transition from summer to the chaos of fall. Nothing different from what many of you experience, and admittedly, there are people who have it much tougher than I do; many because of the loss of a loved one, or because of first-hand experience with 9/11. I am not comparing myself to people who are in that situation, and I empathize with them wholeheartedly. This is just a post about some of my personal struggles and how I plan to battle back.

Autumn leafQuite simply, I find it very difficult to transition to this time of year. It’s sort of like seasonal affective disorder, except I don’t have a hard time with any other seasonal transition, just this one (I even like winter). As someone who is severely ocean-centric, it is difficult to acknowledge that my time by the shore will be basically non-existent for the next 8 months. It is quite literally like a part of me dies at this time of year, much like a leaf on a tree (could be why I blubbered at The Odd Life of Timothy Green — I felt a connection to those leaves). I get dreadful blisters when I try to put shoes on after three months of sandals and flip-flops — even my feet rebel against the transition. Because of our schedules, true “family” time gets tougher and tougher to come by, which I dislike because I actually enjoy spending time with my husband and children. In many respects, I tend to feel like my schedule owns me instead of me owning my schedule. It just kind of all-around moans.

So, I had an epiphany during a spur-of-the-moment yoga class last week. I think this might help you too, so keep reading. It was at the end of class when I was feeling mildly sweaty and bendy and relaxed, and where, for a brief period of time, I was not wearing my shoulders like earrings. My instructor put a lavender-scented cloth over my eyes and we did that thing (the technical terms escapes me) where you basically just veg out, clear your mind, breathe, and melt into your mat. In my semi-vegetative state, I started thinking about how my time management skills have been lacking lately. What really came to mind is how I have largely *let* September kick my ass so far. “Let” is emphasized in that last sentence because I am ultimately the boss of my schedule, but I have been letting my schedule (and LOTS of subsequent distractions) run the show. I’ve been letting the inmates run the asylum, and I know better.

So, what that yoga-induced stream of consciousness helped me decide is this: I am going to stop trying to SURVIVE this time of year, and I am going to make some changes to ensure that I THRIVE instead. Believe it or not, there is a huge difference. Surviving is a reactive state of mind. Thriving is a proactive state of mind. Surviving feels like tons of running around and constant lack of planning. That’s how I have been feeling the last couple of weeks: slapping a half-assed dinner on the table because I didn’t make shopping a priority, sometimes not knowing how my daughter is getting home from middle school on a given day, not dedicating adequate time to my profession because I am distracted by the apocalyptic mess that has appeared in my house seemingly overnight (among other things), and getting away from the practices that have kept me calm, cool, collected, and healthy over the past 14 months (like taking my vitamins, drinking enough water, eating healthfully, exercising, and practicing my affirmations). Once the myriad soccer practices, homework, forms, basketball practices, and teacher meetings hit, I let all of that REALLY IMPORTANT self-work fall by the wayside. It has felt really yucky the past couple of weeks! So, I came up with a plan to get myself (and my family) back on track. I am sharing it today because I know time is everyone’s most valuable resource, and in this day and age we need to make the most of it. I hope it helps you as well.

File by month

I started to think about non-negotiables: things that absolutely must get done in order for there to be peace, harmony, and an asylum-free mother running the house. Brushing our teeth is a non-negotiable, but I am going a bit deeper than that. This is about the things that will bring a sense of calm, a dash of control, and contribute to making the most of the daily allotment of time. Here are my family and my non-negotiables moving forward (Full disclosure: I have yet to run this by them, but I am pretty sure they will be on board and we will have a family meeting over the weekend to discuss.):

  • Along with a heaping spoonful of discipline, I feel like advance planning and preparation is KEY. Life will throw plenty of curveballs, but this recipe will eliminate a ton of confusion and set a tone for the week. We will now have regular Sunday night planning sessions, both by myself for the things I need to focus on (Nu Skin, teaching, art programs, personal development, business coaching, etc), and with my husband for more family-related things (car pools, kids’ sports, date nights, etc).
    •  I will be using this time to take as much guesswork out of the week as possible. It is where meals will be planned, exercise will be scheduled in, family time will be decided upon, and alone time will be carved out.
  • I will be practicing numerous non-negotiable DAILY DISCIPLINES because they make me feel better and keep me in control. Those include taking vitamins, drinking a gallon of water a day, eating healthful meals, daily affirmations, daily reading/writing, time to reconnect with my girls after school/sports, and a nightly check-in with myself to go over how the day went and what I can improve upon. It will also include scheduled time to reconnect with my husband; because you would be surprised how little two busy/distracted people can communicate when they have other things on their mind. If we allow it, days can go by without us saying much else to each other besides “who is driving Brenna home, did you pay the mortgage, what’s for dinner, what time is your soccer game, etc.” I don’t care what you say, a strong marriage is not built on a foundation of “what’s for dinner.” Lack of communication causes breakdowns. Breakdowns cause resentment. I’m all about trying to keep things happy, happy, happy.
  • There will also be non-negotiable WEEKLY DISCIPLINES: yoga at least once a week, alternate cardio/strength training at least 3x per week, weekly planning, making time for art and creative pursuits, weekly check in with my sales team, weekly class prep for my art class, at least one family dinner a week with no distractions, and social time – such as checking in with grandparents, friends, etc.
  • Monthly DISCIPLINES: special one-on-one mom/daughter time with each of the girls to do something they want to do, date night with my husband at least once a month.
  • SAYING NO! How many of you have said “yes” to things merely out of obligation or guilt? Yeah, me too. And, it ends up costing me in the long run, so I am going to get more proficient at politely, but firmly, saying no thank you to things like negative energy, things that are not a good use of my time, things that do not get me closer to my goals, and things that I simply do not want to do. It’s simple arithmetic: doing less “have-to’s” makes much more time for the “want to’s.”
  • Listening to the quiet. I have very little free time, and could easily fill it up with all kinds of “stuff.” But, sometimes I actually crave alone time. Time to read, time to nap, time to write, time to garden, time to think, time to listen to some music, and time to take a few deep breaths and stretch. It’s restorative — and absolutely necessary to my well being.
  • Resisting the 24/7 pull of technology. I am self-employed, but I am not on call 24/7 — I need to stop acting like I am. Same goes for my husband. We might toy with the idea of “office hours” and see how that works.

This list isn’t all-encompassing and it is a work in progress, something that will be tweaked as needed, but it is a good start to getting both my family and myself into a calmer, more organized state. The key components here are organization, dedication, following the roadmap that makes the most sense for us, and staying true to our values, ideals, and goals. Our lifestyle doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else — it just has to make sense to us.

One final thought: time is your most valuable currency. It is finite and absolutely non-renewable. Please remember that you have ultimate control over how you spend it, and don’t let anyone else try to tell you differently! If you ever feel like I have felt the past few weeks, make the time to take control. It will be time well spent!

Bill Cosby quote

I hope these ideas have proved helpful and have given you some things to think about. Maybe you could start implementing some of these tips in your household to make the wheels turn more smoothly. If you have something to share or swear by a particular time-saving tip or sanity saver, please leave a comment below and share with other readers. We’re all in this together!
With love and peace,