I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post effectively.

It’s a tumultuous time, this current January. There are quite a few people in transition and more for whom the outlook just isn’t very positive. Add to it the usual round of seasonal depression, winter induced isolation, stressful job situations and whatever other variables there are and the negatives quickly seem to outweigh the positives.

I’m probably not the best person to speak on this subject, certainly I’m not a professional motivational speaker, but I offer you a few ideas to think on and some suggestions that help me. Feel free to pick and choose, if it will help, or add your own.

1) Make two lists

  • List one is a small list. It can be one thing, it can be three things. No more than five. These are your things to do today or this week. These need not be earth shattering things. My short list for today includes “water the plants” and “portion out the calico beans I made so I have lunches for the rest of the week.” (It may then later include the ever popular–wash the crockpot.) Why? It’s a self-esteem thing. I can accomplish my small lists every day or week and crossing things off helps. If I keep it short–I complete a list rather than feel like I’m not accomplishing things.
  • List 2 is a big list. Write down all kinds of things you’d like to accomplish–goals, projects, classes, travel, clean outs. Be honest about things you’d like to do, no matter how out there they may seem. Do not say “I could never do that”….it’s just a list. A set of ideas. You don’t know what you can do yet.

2) Consider journaling

  • Writing is healthy. It’s part of the reason I make lists, blog, and (unless I do something stupid like leave it on the bed in Atlanta) why I’m never without a journal. It’s easier to look back and see things that have shaped you when you have written things down. I write down the bad things and the good things. I try to write the good in more detail. Reliving good times is not a bad thing.
  • Don’t question yourself as you write–just put it down on paper. If you say a mean thing about a person in your journal (as long as that journal is properly tucked away when they visit) you’re getting it out of your system rather than letting it fester. Be willing to admit things to yourself — honesty with yourself goes a long way.
  • If you’re a more verbal type–record yourself. Microphones aren’t too expensive if you have a computer. Put it in an audio file–and talk it out. You can burn it to a cd and store the cd–so other people don’t come across the files. Yes, it may feel like you’re talking to yourself but think about the multitudes of podcasters who have to talk to an empty room for us to get episodes.

3) Go for a cup of coffee

  • How many of us are bogged down by place? If you’re frustrated at your place of work or you have no clarity at home–trying to focus at one of those places may not be in your best interest. After coming home last week from my own coffee shop visit, I made a deal with myself that I need to go to said coffee shop for one evening a week–for at least an hour. If you’re not getting traction in your current settings, take an hour and go with book or notebook (preferably both) to the coffee shop. [Insert sit in bakery, quiet room at your library, somewhere where you can handle the ambiance and tune out]
  • When you do this, consider shutting off your cell phone and not taking your laptop or other wireless device. Amazingly (as evidenced by sleep and air travel) most of us can be out of touch for 60 minutes without the world ending. I bring my mp3 player, but usually the coffee-shop light jazz is enough.

4) Set a timer

  • This can work either for self-rewards or work. I can get an amazing amount of things cleaned up, put away, dusted, vacuumed, thrown away in 30 minutes. Make a deal with yourself–if I do this for 15 minutes, I can then… Most of us are open to self-bribery. And often, it’s not the doing so much as the getting started. Personally, I tend to work in two sets of time chunks: the length of a CD soundtrack that I’ve become enamored with or however long it takes the tea kettle to heat (approx ten minutes). I’ve become the queen of tea-kettle dishes. Flip side is “when I do this, I can knit/read/

5) Take something off list two and make action cards

  • This can be an action list or note cards. I’ve seen either work for other people. If you have a big goal though, it helps to break it down into bite sized portions. And those portions need to have deadlines.

6) Find someone to whom you can be accountable and who must be accountable to you.

  • This may be a spouse or significant other but I’m guessing this is more likely to be a friend/relative you don’t cohabit with.
  • Nag and give each other deadlines. Do reminder calls. If they’re willing to fuss at you about your action cards–that’s a good thing. Fuss at them. “Should”/”want to” needs to be come “did”–even in little bitty pieces.

7) Remember that you need human interaction, no matter how wonky the public and people seem to be.

  • Human interaction comes in many forms: the phone, social networks and email are primary forms of communication for many of us. If your locals aren’t cutting it, look for an online community.
  • Community classes are available in droves and it’s a short, tangible way to get out of the house that doesn’t have to involve people you already know. If you have a shared interest for six weeks you can decide if you’d like to ever have coffee with those people again or if you think they’re all insane. Either way, hopefully you’ll learn something from the class. And if you didn’t–and you could teach it better–then you need to be proposing your own class.

8) Go through a stash and remember why you bought something you loved or wanted to try

  • Stash includes the kitchen cabinets.
  • If you’re me–this means looking through the yarn stash and saying “right, I wanted to make x with that yarn.” Then I have to go find the pattern and needles and cast it on. Right now I’m doing a cull of worsted weight yarn and trying to use it up as fast as humanly possible. We won’t discuss just how many hours a week I can find to knit.
  • If you love it–get it out. If I spend an hour knitting yarn I enjoy, that’s time well spent. It is not a waste of time to spend an hour on a project that makes you happy. Ten hours over the course of the weekend might be a stretch *cough guilty expression cough* but one hour is not.
  • This is also a good time to do light weeding. As the Incredibly-Patient-Mother was reminding me when I was home, if you don’t love it and it doesn’t have a purpose, you don’t have to keep it. She also advised working by a 20% rule—try to clear out 20% of whatever it is you’re stashing. (Yes, she does organization and clean out consultations.)

9) Exercise

  • I’ll admit, I’m bad about this one. I know exercise helps people feel better and you can look better too and it’s healthy. Anywho, do as I suggest, not as I futon-yam. Maybe I need to add a round of pilates to that short list.

10) Share the small accomplishments.

  • Certainly it’s lovely to hear that you just climbed Mt. Everest. But most of us can’t do that every day or week. So just as we’re not supposed to sweat the little things, I think we are supposed to celebrate the little stuff.

With that, I leave you with my accomplishment of yesterday: I cleaned the bathroom and remembered to order a birthday gift more than 24 hours before the birthday.

And today’s short list:
1) Water the plants
2) Portion out the calico beans
3) Wash the crockpot
4) Send out the complaint letters I wrote so the companies in question are aware of the problems
5) Vaccum the living room (use the hose attachment on the fern…it’s shedding)
5a) About that pilates….