Thriving In Simplicity

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Happiness, Mindfulness, Stephanie, Time Management

by Stephanie Harbison ~

What would life look like if things in life were less complicated? Would people be happier, less stressed, or feel more empowered to make big decisions? Would we be healthier, have better relationships, and perhaps even be more successful?

About two years ago I had to ask myself that question. “What IF my life didn’t feel so complicated?” At the time I was dealing with a recurring illness that was taking a lot of my energy and confidence; I was overwhelmed with work and had too many outside commitments; and I wasn’t making time for the people I cared about most. I couldn’t even make time for the simple things I really enjoyed, like cooking or running — they actually just caused me more stress!

Sleepovers! Cheers to good friends and comfy PJs!
Oh the days of sleepovers; cheers to good friends and comfy PJs!

This was definitely a time when I did NOT feel like I was thriving. Life just felt so complicated and I longed for the days when things were simpler; when I could just enjoy the moment. I didn’t want to worry about living up to society’s standards for success, I just wanted to be myself. I wanted life to feel simple again.

Like the days when you were a kid and you could play all day in the pool with your friends and never worry if anyone was judging you, or wonder if there were something more productive you should be doing. Or when you found the perfect pumpkin in the pumpkin patch and were so excited to carve it as soon as you got home.

And sleeping in … oh the days of sleeping in and not thinking about a laundry list of all there was to do that day. That’s the kind of simple I missed. So I started to envision what my life would look like if it was simpler, and what would I change to make it that way.

Dressing up never gets old. I knew it even when I was 5 years old!
Dressing up never gets old. I knew it even when I was 5 years old!

I envisioned being able to enjoy the things I care about without feeling distracted. Being more present, so I can be a better listener and a better friend. Feeling at peace, even when circumstances aren’t perfect. Finding purpose, even in simple everyday tasks. And making room in my life for the “good stuff,” so I could actually experience all of the blessings in my life.

I’m working on simplifying my life as I write this, but a lot of it has to do with changing my perspective. Instead of feeling unproductive for just watching football with friends and family, I want to cherish that time instead. Rather than dreading the grocery store or cooking dinner, I will find the things I like about those tasks and decide to enjoy them instead. Being intentionally positive is not always easy, but when I do it, I feel I can start to enjoy the little things a lot more.

I also realized I wasn’t dedicating enough time to the things I said were important to me; my supposed priorities. For me, these things are my faith in God, my family, and my health. I was spending plenty of time at work and with outside activities. I would offer to take the lead on any and every opportunity that came my way. Eventually, I had no energy to dedicate to what brings me the most happiness.

In order to bring life back to what makes me happy, I have learned I need to say “NO” to opportunities without feeling guilty, build routines around my priorities and “schedule” in free time. That last one is the hardest most days, but it is when I can be free to relax and read a book, go visit a friend, or say yes to an unexpected dinner invitation. The best stuff happens when you make time for the unplanned.

Chocolate is my simple pleasure, and Dove reminds me to take time for the other simple things too.
Chocolate is my simple pleasure, and Dove reminds me to take time for the other simple things too.

So what would I say about my life today? It’s a work in progress. Some days I feel energized by all that they day brings, and I feel like a multitasking queen! Other days I feel the weight of all the expectations I set upon myself. It’s on those days that I need to remember to take it one day at a time and not to feel guilty if I just don’t feel like being superwoman that day. Tomorrow is a new day and has enough worries for itself. Today, I will choose to live simply.

by stephanie harbison | email | linkedin

stephanie copy

Save

Save

Save

TwitterLinkedInRedditStumbleUponPinterestGoogle+WordPressShare

It Just Takes A Little Time (Management)

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Planning, Stephanie, Success, Time Management

By Stephanie Harbison ~

Anyone who knows me probably knows I’m a little neurotic when it comes to time management, and almost everything goes on the calendar. I’m a pretty organized person by nature, so I always have to-do lists and carry around a cute planner.

But it wasn’t until I started my career at Northwestern Mutual that I started to take time management really seriously. In fact, everyone around here takes it really seriously! When you are managing a client base and meeting with several clients a day, you can’t afford be anything but purposeful with your time. I realized I wasn’t going to be successful if I didn’t have a plan going in to each day, and a way to evaluate my progress at the end of the day. At Northwestern Mutual this is actually called posting & planning, and it has been an absolute life changer. I’ll talk more about this later.

Time management is one of those terms that is tossed around, but what does it actually mean and how do you become good at it? A person may think he has good time management skills and work well under pressure at the last minute when in fact, that is just called procrastination!

When I think of someone with good time management skills I’m always envious of the person who always seems at ease but at the same time seems to be involved in everything! Now I know no one can be involved in everything and be good at it all, but it’s okay to dream, right?

My favorite definition of time management, according to Wikipedia, is “the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.” I appreciate that it emphasizes it is a process and one has to use conscious effort to be more productive. In other words, it takes work!

I am one of those people who used to say I was a good “multitasker,” and took pride in being able to work on lots of tasks at a time. Until I realized that I was NOT a good multitasker at all, and I am just very easily distracted! Each time I start working on something I get a text from my husband letting me know of a change in dinner plans, or another email notification, or Facebook reminds me that it’s my best friend’s birthday, or someone walks into my office.

It is easy to want to tend to those things right away, but then it just feels like I’m fighting fires all day long and nothing meaningful gets accomplished! I’m sure most people can relate to this. One of my favorite quotes to sum up this exact scenario is from performance coach and author, Jason Selk: “The noise of urgency creates the illusion of importance.” The truth is those distractions are never going to go away, so we have to work at managing our behavior so we can recognize what is an actual priority and what can wait.

As I learn from my own mistakes, and see others struggle to manage their time, I notice there are many culprits that keep people from being more productive. There is the tendency to over-commit oneself. This person finds herself saying yes to every opportunity or social event that comes up and ends up feeling like she can’t give 100 percent of her attention to anything.

Then there is procrastination, which everyone probably experiences once in a while. When there is a big or daunting project it can be tough to get started so we wait until the very last minute to pump out mediocre work.

And then there are those who are guilty of trying to do everything on their own. I see so many business owners and managers who are too afraid to delegate, then when they should be with their family or need to take a day off, they can’t because there is no one else there to step in and pick up the slack!

Maybe you struggle with one or many of these time management busters, but there is hope! I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but these are just a few tips that have been helpful for me improve productivity and effectiveness in both my life at work and at home.

  1. Identify your goals

It’s tough to know where you should be spending your time if you don’t have any established goals. Take time to understand what you are actually trying to accomplish in the short and long term, and then ask yourself if your current behavior and activities will actually help you accomplish those goals. Beware; this may bring some harsh realities.

  1. Prioritize

Once you’ve determined your goals, break them down into manageable daily processes that will help you reach those goals. This is a concept I learned as I worked with performance coach Jason Selk. These processes should be your top priority every day (your most important tasks), and you may need to rearrange some things in your schedule to make sure they happen. These things, done consistently, are what will help you get closer to those goals.

photo

  1. Get a good planner

I’m not even going to talk much about this one. If you rely on your memory to remind you of an appointment in 3 weeks, or assume someone else will remind you, you’ve got to get a planner! These are not expensive, and they don’t have to be fancy. If you don’t have a planner, chances are you are not following through on all of your commitments, and probably disappointing people around you.

  1. Have a planning day each week

Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week to write down everything you have going on that week. Are you hoping to fit in 5 workouts? I know from personal experience, if you put it on the calendar you are much more likely to actually do those workouts. This also helps you visualize all your commitments and make necessary changes ahead of time if you know you can’t fit everything in.

  1. Post and plan each day

This is that term I mentioned earlier. Take time at the end of each work day to evaluate your progress and plan for the next day. Did you complete all of the most important items on your list? What things do you need to have prepared for tomorrow? Don’t leave last minute preparations for a meeting for tomorrow morning. If you spend a few extra minutes before you head out to prep for the next day, you will get to work feeling much more confident and ready to tackle your most important tasks.

  1. Schedule time to focus

If you know you have a big deadline or know you are guilty of procrastinating, schedule time in your calendar to work only on this task, and eliminate distractions. If you wait until you feel like it to start working on that big research paper, you will most likely end up waiting until the last minute, once again.

  1. Don’t try to do everything all in one day

I am super guilty of pressuring myself to do everything on my to-do list all in one day, and then I feel disappointed when I only complete a few of them. Keep focused on those most important tasks you identified, and avoid creating self-imposed deadlines for tasks that can most likely wait.

I could probably write 10 more posts on this subject, so this list is in no way exhaustive. You may have some tips or tricks that help you stay on top of all of life’s demands. I would love to hear what works for you!

 

by stephanie harbison | email | linkedin

stephanie copy

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

TwitterLinkedInRedditStumbleUponPinterestGoogle+WordPressShare

The Importance of Craft Time at Work

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Communication, Nonprofit, Planning

I love crafting and DIY projects. I have a whole board on Pinterest devoted to projects I want to try.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those people that is amazing at crafting. Honestly, I suck at it. Normally, I get bored and stop the project halfway through, only to have my boyfriend take over. Which is totally okay, because it ends up looking better than if I had finished the project myself. But I still love crafting and making things with my hands.

Seth and I made this to celebrate 1 year together instead of buying presents for each other. And by Seth and I, I mean Seth did most of it because I was apparently “doing it the wrong way.”
Seth and I made this to celebrate 1 year together instead of buying presents for each other. And by “Seth and I,” I mean Seth did most of it because I apparently was “doing it the wrong way.”

So, imagine my joy when I realized I could do my pseudo-hobby at work.

The first crafting challenge: make 15 bracelets for teenage girls. My team was going to Girls Inc. to implement our Say It Straight evidence-based practice, which builds assertiveness and communication skills using principles of mindfulness, and one of the activities in the training is called “the necklace of resources.” The premise behind it is to identify what resources you have available to you in the event you need help or need to talk to someone.

We decided to tweak it ever so slightly and changed it to a bracelet of resources. We took a piece of yarn and the girls identified a strength within themselves that would help them be able to Say It Straight. They then had one of the other girls in the group hand them a bead and put it on their bracelet. The whole activity was really fun and the girls seemed to love it, even if I did mess up tying off a few bracelets.

The girls at Girls Inc. making their bracelets.
The girls at Girls Inc. making their bracelets.

But before we got to that point, I had to prepare all of these bracelets. I’m not going to lie, it took a lot longer than it should have, mainly because I cut the strings too short the first time and had to remake the majority of them all.

Not only did I have to make all of the bracelets, I had to sort 500 beads by color.
Not only did I have to make all of the bracelets, I had to sort 500 beads by color.

No. 4
But as I was making these bracelets, I realized how important craft days at work are to me and how I’ve been having a weekly craft day since my first day on the job.

I’m not just talking about a day to build things like bracelets or a Plinko board.

 

My coworker Kira and me building a Plinko board for an event CCPE is attending in August.
My coworker Kira and I are building a Plinko board for an event CCPE is attending in August.
I needed to cover my face with a bandana to avoid a contact high from the spray paint. I’m also pretty sure I freaked some people out in our office building by walking around like that.
I needed to cover my face with a bandana to avoid a contact high from the spray paint. I’m also pretty sure I freaked some people out in our office building by walking around like that.

As an outreach coordinator, I need an entire block of time set aside every week to craft the things I’ll need for the entire week — my social media messages, flyers, posters, blog posts, etc. Knowing I have a set time every week or day to work on these tasks helps me stay focused, calm and organized. Plus, it allows me to be creative and build a stronger team environment with my coworkers because I ask for their feedback. Or in the instance of the Plinko board, they help me with the project.

My coworkers April and Kira diligently painting the Plinko board
My coworkers April and Kira diligently painting the Plinko board.

Here’s a quick overview of how I craft every week and every month. At the beginning of each month I create a social media calendar for the following month, so I’m always one month ahead. So this month I will create one for August. I find a day I can block off a solid two hours to do this, because it actually takes a considerable amount of time to research what is going on in the community, what special days occur in the month, and what my own team has going on.

At the beginning of each week, I look at my social media calendar and identify what blog posts I will need to write for the following week. Again, I like to work about one week in advance for my blog posts so I have enough time to write a few drafts.

At the end of the week, I look at my social media calendar to see what Facebook messages I will need to schedule for the following week. I like to work a few days out for Facebook, the only social media platform CCPE has, in order to adjust to unforeseen events that occur in the world.

Every day, I monitor our social media and blog posts and also check Yik Yak to see if people have any questions about sex or drugs I can address (I’ll talk about my experiences using Yik Yak as a social media marketing tool in another post).

If you find yourself stressed out at work often, I encourage you to devote a day or a block of time each week to craft. Even if you don’t have a job that is remotely similar to mine, take some time to craft an agenda for yourself and prioritize your projects. Or take some time to make something with your hands your office may need, like a Plinko board.

 

 

It still has a long way to go, but it gives us an excuse to have another team craft day down the road.
It still has a long way to go, but it gives us an excuse to have another team craft day down the road.

by Olivia Humphreys | email | LinkedIn | Twitter

Olivia

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

TwitterLinkedInRedditStumbleUponPinterestGoogle+WordPressShare