Wednesday, March 31, 2010

oh, the irony

three days into my week dedicated to health, i've come down with the sore throat and cough that has been rampaging through the office like wildfire. the good news? so far, two days in, i'm not half as sick as everyone else has been, so maybe this whole health-focus thing is working after all.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

lesson two: have the right tools before you start

so far, i'm doing a pretty good job of keeping up with all of my resolutions. i'm doing my exercise, i'm eating (mostly) right, i'm making progress on my decluttering... where i'm not doing so well is with my mindfullness activities and with scheduling (which technically isn't on the list, but with so many tiny tasks, it helps to have a way to keep track). why? because i don't have what i need to get the job done: a dedicated notebook for mindfulness and a calendar for scheduling. 

i thought i could get by just doing my mindfulness exercises in my morning page journal, but it just isn't working out. the notebook needs to be bigger. and it needs to be easier to find the mindfulness entries for easy reference.

and then there is the calendar. i have a lot i want to accomplish in the next five weeks (and beyond). i have a great system at work. i use my outlook calendar to note meetings and block out project time and a whiteboard for tracking status on specific goals. i think for this project, a weekly planner would take care of both birds in one binder -- something that i can use to schedule my time, jot down my goals, and keep track of my to do lists (ideally in a size that i can slip into my purse).

looks like i'll be making a stop on my way home tonight.

Monday, March 29, 2010

week one challenges

okay, so here we are at week one and so far so good. i got through my morning routine and continue to check off daily goals from sunday's list, so i figure it's time to take on the biggest goal for this week: the food challenge. firstly, i figure i need to set a few rules to make sure it's actually a useful exercise. i am easily distracted by the glamor of unique foods, but let's face it, i need to learn the basics and no matter how yummy kohlrabi might turn out to be, a staple it's not. so then here are the rules:

- selected item must be a basic, staple food that can be stored for at least a few weeks in the pantry, fridge or freezer
- food should be edible when served alone (no "ingredients" like flour or brown rice syrup; at least not right away)
- selected food must be nutritious

given that, here are a few examples of foods that fit the criteria: tofu, quinoa, rice sticks, black beans, frozen spinach, sweet potatoes, eggs, almonds... you get the picture.

and the winner for this week is: frozen spinach!

i usually don't like spinach much, but i know it's good for me plus it's so easy to fit lots of the boxed variety in the freezer. i've even figured out what i want to cook with it:

- spinach quiche (with a gluten-free crust, of course)
- creamed spinach
- sag paneer

it should be a fun one.

oh, and as for the weekly declutter challenge, i'm going to see what i can do to simplify the weekly food challenge by tackling: the kitchen.

wish me luck!

to do lists

the best way to handle a quick to-do? just do it! it often takes less time to finish it off while you have it in front of you than it does to write it down and come back to it later.

case in point? the random, unrecognized charge on my visa card. since the number was on the bill i just gave them a call and sure enough, it was something i charged. bonus of quick action: not having to spend days fretting about whether my card had been compromised.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

week one: better health

okay, so i'll admit it. i cheated a little bit. to get ready for week one i did a few things ahead of time so i could hit the ground running. you already know i joined a gym. i also met with a nutritionist to get some advice on how to tackle the diet part of the program. i even started meditating. but enough about prep-work. here's the plan:

- stretch every morning
- gym 3x/week
- take the stairs
- walk (yes, mall-walking counts)

- eat breakfast every morning (sitting down)
- take vitamins
- eat 5-6 small meals a day; include protein in each
- weekly food challenge: cook selected food three new ways

emotional balance
- sleep 7+ hours/night (or at least in bed by 11)
- create and implement daily routines
- write morning pages
- meditate
- begin mindfulness work

- 15 minute pick-up every day
- weekly declutter challenge: purge one room per week

it looks like a lot on paper, but each one is really a pretty small change, so it should all be completely doable. i guess we'll know soon enough. (check my joesgoals banner to watch my progress.)

this week's book and website reference list:

Grow Younger, Live Longer
The Self-Healing Cookbook
The Schwarzbein Principle
The Wheat-Free Cook
8 Minute Meditation
A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook
The Power of Now
The Highly Sensitive Person
How Did I Get So Busy?
You Can Find More Time for Yourself Every Day
Let Go of Clutter
Unclutter Your Life in One Week
Rightsizing Your Life

some i've read, some i plan to read, others i'll probably just flip through and pull out whatever sounds interesting, but i will post reviews when i have them.

Friday, March 26, 2010

the plan

okay, so a couple of days i hinted at a plan. here it is in a nutshell:

5 weeks, 5 goals

week one: better health
week two: stronger relationships
week three: personal style
week 4: joie de vivre
week 5: meaningful work

each goal will contain a number of smaller resolutions and actions, some of them already in motion, others to be added on as i go along. each week i will not only work on the goals for that week, i will also try to maintain everthing from the previous weeks as well. i've even set up a joesgoals account to help keep me on-track (and give you all a chance to check up on me). you can see the overview in the right column. want more detail? just click.

week one starts monday. between now and then i'll be posting more details for each goal.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

book review: the happiness project

i had planned to post today about eating right (the second part of the "good health" resolution) today, but instead, i'm going to tell you about the book The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, which i just this minute finished reading.

when it comes to this book (and the associated blog and online toolkit), what's not to love? i mean, pretty much everyone could stand to be a little happier and the idea that we can take actionable steps to improve our happiness isn't a new one. but the systematic way the author chose to tackle it -- one topic per month for a year, complete with resolutions for and research to support each -- was completely inspired. and inspiring.

it was also reassuring to see that others a) felt the same way i did about wanting to build a happier, more fulfilling life and b) came to a number of the same conclusions i have (beginning with her first commandment "be gretchen" -- or in my case, layer).

while there are a number of commandments and resolutions i definitely plan to apply to my own life (her whole first chapter "boost energy" was already pretty much word-for-word the first items on my action plan), there was one thing that especially stood which i want to mention here.

secret of adulthood number eleven: you can choose what you do; you can't choose what you like to do. i especially love this because i have struggled with finding the balance between what i think i should enjoy and what i actually do enjoy. like collage. i love the idea of collage. but i find the act of collage too stressful. on the other hand, i absolutely love apocalypse fiction -- novels, movies, TV shows, you name it. by all accounts, reading or watching that kind of stuff should be a massive stress producer, but somehow the resonant themes of these stories -- banding together, overcoming unbelievable obstacles, surviving against all odds -- are extremely life-affirming for me. which leads to my first great truth: that which makes you happy makes you stronger, so embrace it with both arms.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

book review: how did i get so busy?

i'm a busy girl. just juggling my job, my boyfriend and trying to keep myself fed pretty much takes up all my time, so i had to wonder just how i was going to fit anything more into my schedule. but given that a big part of the refabbing project will be making more time for things like hanging out with friends, exercising, actually cooking, making art and a whole host of other inspiration-focused activities, i knew i had to find a way.

enter the book: How Did I Get So Busy?: The 28-day Plan to Free Your Time, Reclaim Your Schedule, and Reconnect with What Matters Most, which i came upon randomly during a trip to my local library.

now, this is not a time management book. it doesn't tell you how to shave precious minutes off your daily chores or how to squeeze out pleasurable activities in tiny chunks between meetings or on your way to pick up the kids. instead, it asks you to really look at where you spend your time to help you re-prioritize what you do and how you do it.

each day serves up a topic, such as "hurrying up is slowing you down" then provides a discussion of that topic, a related challenge, a journal assignment and a one-minute meditation. going through the exercises helps reveal places we may have let shoulds overwhelm wishes and provides insight into how we can turn it around.

the chapter on creating daily rituals has already had a huge impact on my life. i already knew that i needed to make time to meditate, do stretching exercises and eat a real breakfast in the morning. but how? by looking at what i spend my time on in the morning i realized that by changing my before bed rituals to including pulling together my next day's clothes, pre-packing my lunch and by paring my morning journal writing from 10 pages to 3, i would have plenty of time to add what i needed. it was shocking to me how little i had to do to create time for things that have a huge impact on my health, productivity and happiness.

i definitely recommend it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

lesson one: more is not always better

when it comes to improving health, the first two things that come to most people's minds are diet and excercise, so in the interest of starting simple, that's where i've decided to start. to that end, last week i made an appointment with a nutritionist and joined a gym.

joining the gym was easy. there is one right down the road on my way to and from work. it's actually a circuit gym -- a 30 minute loop through three rows of mats and machines. now, as you've probably guessed, i am not the most physically fit person on the block but when i went in to sign up there was an 85-year old man with serious health problems and a recent double-hip replacement who wasn't even breaking a sweat, so i figured, how hard could it be?

HARD. the trainer walked me through slowly, setting up the machines, picking the tensions, explaining everything. and still, during the first row i started to get dizzy. so i sat down for a quick rest, letting a sprightly 75-year-old pass me. by the end of the second row, i nearly threw up. so i rested again, then sucked it up and finished it up. it took me only 65 minutes to finish an abbreviated version of the 30 minute course. and yes, by the time i got home after a quick smoothie pick-me-up, i hurt.

still, the next day, i went back again, doing my best to shake off the lactic acid burn. i maybe did half the work-out (less if you consider that not only did i skip a lot of the machines i also reduced all of weights).

and it helped. i was tired, but in general, held up okay. until yesterday when i went back again, determined to push through. bad idea. immediately after finishing i felt like i'd been felled by the flu. muscles ached and temperature fluctuated as though i'd caught a nasty bug. i am only now beginning to feel marginally okay after nearly 24 hours of straight rest.

the moral of the story: listen to your body. there is a difference between pushing through and pushing too hard and since i clearly can't tell the difference between the two, i really need to start erring on the side of caution.

next time, i'll limit myself to a few minutes of cardio and work up to the rest one machine at a time.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

every project needs a plan

so now that i've figured out what fabulous means to me, it's time to figure out just how to take my life from drab back to fab.

the first step is deceptively simple. all you have to do is figure out which parts of your life need work. of course the short answer for me is all of them, but that's not at all helpful (not to mention completely overwhelming). so i decided to break it down into more manageable chunks. for me it boils down to five basic goals:

- good health
- strong relationships
- meaningful work
- personal style
- joie de vivre

of course, these are all still pretty broad, but at least it's place to start. and since, for me, good health is the foundation for being able to accomplish anything else, that's where it truly begins.