Jul 122016

the word endure embossed on a gray background

I didn’t manage to choose a theme word for 2016 but the word “endure” keeps coming to me of late. 2016 is an odd year! I don’t feel that I am making much progress toward accomplishing anything and that for every step forward I take, I am set back by some small emergency or another. Fortunately, I manage to recover from my emergencies and get back to where I started but for me 2016 so far has been a lot of running in place. It is no small coincidence that I am also living with a 15-month old who manages to wreak this type of havoc everywhere he goes.

I feel very fortunate that my emergencies are just small, frequent and irritating. I have heard from many people for whom 2016 has dealt some heavy blows to them personally. And in the news we also see a lot of this type of backsliding pattern:

*economic data that seems to suggest that it gets harder and harder just to maintain whatever standard of living we want to achieve

*presidential candidates from both parties who manage to slog through exhausting state-by-state primaries only to find significant parts of their own parties who don’t want to support them

*Muslim and gay Americans who found their worlds torn apart and safety threatened by the shooting in Orlando

*Black Lives Matter protesters who, just as they are gaining traction for their cause, are blindsided by a vigilante shooting police officers

When all of this chaos is going on, it is easy to get down and feel frustrated. But so far, the lesson of 2016 also seems to be that if you can just be patient, and thoughtfully evaluate and react to what has happened, life will reset to a manageable level.

It has been very inspiring to me of late to see the reactions to the police shootings in Dallas. So many people of differing backgrounds reaching out to confirm that no one in America wants a full on race war that threatens everyone’s safety.

So if 2016 is tough for you, hang in there! Endure.

P.S. Due to a recent inundation of spam comments (one of my 2016 irritations), I needed to improve the CAPTCHA to blog article comments requiring you to do a math problem to make a comment. If you cannot comment, please feel free to drop me a line by email.

 Posted by on July 12, 2016 General Tagged with: , , ,
Jun 162015


Summer is one of those natural “restart” points of the year. The weather is warmer and particularly for those of us with children, the change from school schedule to summer schedule is a chance to rethink our life goals and priorities.

As I sat down thinking about my goals for the summer, I felt overwhelmed. I began creating calendars and checklists but realized that with a major life change (the addition of another child), I needed to upgrade my time management system. In my current system, I put things in my calendar, write project-based tasks down in multiple places and keep a lot of stuff in my head.

So, I am turning to the experts for help.

Recently, I attended Stever Robbins’ excellent webinar

Stever has a great approach to time management, realizing that it is not just about logistics and planning but also your goals, personality and general approach to life. You can listen to the webinar yourself for free at the above link.

In the webinar, Stever emphasizes 3 necessary behavior changes to be an effective user of To Do lists.

1. Create a capture system and carry it with you. You have to have one and only one spot where you “capture” your to do items as they arise. For Stever, this is a hard copy moleskine notebook. It could be an Evernote tab, an Excel spreadsheet a phone app of various kinds or a sheet of paper. Whatever you use, you should have it with you at nearly all times. So, when you think “Oh yeah, I really should get around to doing X,” you write down X in your capture system.

2. Create and maintain a Master To Do List. You should have one and only one master to do list where you organize and prioritize the projects you have captured. Again, this can be paper or electronic but probably electronic is going to work best for most people since this document will be updated continuously.

3. Use your Master List. When you want to know what to do next, you need to get in the habit of referring to your list rather than checking email or addressing whatever “emergency” has just arisen.

I am just in the baby steps of this system. I am still “capturing” tasks in my head and in random places. I am trying to put them all in Evernote. Evernote is currently also serving as my “Master” list but also my Google calendar where I schedule in specific tasks. Over time, I will experiment with different To Do list formats to see what works best.

My broad goals for the summer include:

  • weight loss – losing most or all of my pregnancy weight
  • managing the renovation of the exterior of our home
  • homeschool – finishing testing and this year’s curriculum as well as planning for next year

Any one of these could be a “To Do” for an entire summer. Naturally, I am trying to do all three!

As with all organizing tasks, this one is likely to take a while to adjust to my lifestyle but I am committed to improving my time management skills.

Do you have a capture system and master to do list? What challenges do you face with to do lists? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on June 16, 2015 General Tagged with: , ,
Feb 042015
My theme word for 2015.  Font: Le Architect by Manfred Klein.

My theme word for 2015. Font: Le Architect by Manfred Klein.

My focus word for 2015 is something that I have been thinking about over the past year as I have conducted various diet and exercise experiments on myself and seen my body change in various ways. During all of these experiments and particularly recently when I was looking in the mirror at my ever-expanding pregnant body, I came to realize that there is no “ideal” body weight or size but rather an ideal set of proportions.

Proportion is about finding the right balance of factors to achieve an ideal result. Proportion is important in so many areas, including appearance, health, time management, social activities, spiritual and psychological growth, financial goals, parenting and yes, even organization!

What I especially appreciate about the word proportion is that it is very different from the word “perfection.” Perfection implies that there are a limited number of ways to do something and often only one “right” way. Perfection also seeks to make every single part perfect. Proportion acknowledges that there is beauty even in imperfection and that perfection isn’t necessary. It is the overall balance and end result that is the most important.

So, as I venture into 2015, I am hoping to learn the following about proportion:

  • Learn to identify the ideal proportions in many areas of my life
  • Correct areas that are out of proportion
  • Appreciate how individual preferences on proportion vary and learn to identify the proportions used by others and their results

I hope you will also take a moment to write down a focus word or goals for 2015. I don’t view the focus word as a sort of report card by which I judge myself but rather a request to the world to teach me something that I need to know. The simple act of putting a request on paper seems to give the request priority. It helps keep me alert to life in general and by the end of the year I am always surprised at how much I have learned, often with very little effort on my part.

For examples of other approaches to focus words see:

  • Marcia Francois’ Word of the Year – who also gives us the great quote, “Aren’t you glad there’s no rule that says we have to have our goals done and dusted on 1 Jan?”
  • Kacy Paide’s 3 words for 2015
  • And as one final example, over the weekend, I had the privilege to attend the funeral for a 95-year old neighbor. During a very touching eulogy, the niece of this amazing woman told us about her aunt’s unique goal-setting method. The devoutly religious woman used paper checkbook registers to track her prayer requests. In the “Payee” line, she would write down the name of the person she was praying for and what she hoped God would achieve for that person. Sometimes it was people she knew and sometimes it was complete strangers from the street. She used the registers to remind herself of how she wanted to spend her time in prayer. She could also look over the registers from time to time to see how many of her prayers were answered.

You can see that there are many ways to go about your goal-setting for 2015. Even if you don’t take any concrete action right now, mull it over in your mind and you might be surprised at what comes to you a week or a month from now.

May 2015 bring good proportions to us all!

 Posted by on February 4, 2015 General Tagged with: , , ,
Jan 262015
My theme word last year.

My theme word last year.

Inspired by Marcia Francois, the Organising Queen, I have been selecting a theme word each year for the past several years. I find the theme word concept is a great way to stay focused. If you just list all the goals you have for the year, you end up with an overwhelming list of different ideas. If you take another look at that list and try to focus in on just one word or theme that runs through all of those goals, it really does help to clarify what you are trying to accomplish.

Last year, I chose the theme word “traction” for my personal goals. To me, this word meant:

  • getting unstuck from unhealthy or unproductive behaviors
  • continuing to try new ideas until you find an effective solution for your problem
  • eliminating complacency and remaining aware of opportunities for improvement even in areas where you are performing well
  • forging into unknown, messy and complex situations
  • moving noticeably forward, whether by an inch or a mile

So, how did I do on my “traction” goals? I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to, particularly when it came to my physical environment organization goals and my blogging goals, but in many areas, I can celebrate success!

  • I completed 44 days of clean eating last spring, dropping 14 pounds. I learned to cook in an entirely new way, began to change my taste buds and have managed to continue my diet throughout the year in a modified way (more on this to come).
  • We completed another cross-country trip to visit family spending 18 days on the road with 3 children! We all had a ball and it is still on my to do list to give you a trip log of our adventures.
  • We achieved one of our milestone personal financial goals this year and have made significant progress in working toward our next goals (which will take decades to achieve).
  • Our homeschool curriculum this year is the most challenging we have attempted with more subjects and another child to preschool. So far, it is going very well.
  • We celebrated the holidays from October through December in grand style, from homemade Halloween costumes to a homecooked Thanksgiving and many activities for Christmas.
  • I did most of the above while pregnant and had to fit in numerous doctor appointments into an already crowded schedule!

It is a healthy and positive habit to take a moment to celebrate your successes. Even if you didn’t achieve exactly what you set out to do last year, did you make progress in other ways? Did you gain a key insight? Did you make key preliminary steps toward achieving your goals? Did life take an unexpected turn for you and you ended up having to completely revise your goals and go in a different direction?

Take time to congratulate yourself. Life is hard and we all deserve to feel that we are making “traction” in our own unique ways.

In my next post, my theme word for 2015.

 Posted by on January 26, 2015 General Tagged with: , , ,
Jun 032014
A new project underway in our garden.

A new project underway in our garden.

My mom called the other day in alarm that there had not been a Ruly post in over a week! She wanted to make sure I was OK. Yes, all is well! We have just been extremely busy with a ballet recital last week. Between our homeschooling efforts, the extra practices and rehearsals and the performance itself, it just got a bit much to add blogging to the mix as well.

So, it’s June! We are now halfway through the year and everyone is transitioning into summer schedules. It seems that this is a stressful time for many. Just as you have just about nailed your schoolyear schedule and activities, it all changes up for the summer and you start again finding a new rhythm to your life—only to change it back again in a few months for the fall.

In general, I don’t mind changing around my daily routines but I have to say that once several children enter the picture, the prospect gets more and more overwhelming. There is just so much more to manage when you have more people in the mix.

My biggest (literally) organizational challenge of late is how to manage all the watermelon we want to eat.

My biggest (literally) organizational challenge of late is how to manage all the watermelon we want to eat.

Solution: Clear a bit spot in the fridge for watermelon, cut it up and keep it ready for snacks.  Yum!  Cold watermelon is the best.

Solution: Clear a bit spot in the fridge for watermelon, cut it up and keep it ready for snacks. Yum! Cold watermelon is the best.

It also doesn’t help when all your best plans seem to fall through. I thought I had my summer plan in place but when I went to register my children for their intended activities, we learned they were all full! While I could have scrambled around to find other activities, we instead decided to take this as a sign that maybe this summer is the one to take things a bit easier. I already had plenty of fun homeschool activities planned in subjects like art and music as well as some exercise activities with the kids and reading lots of great books from the library. We are going to be self-taught learners this summer. We will go on our own field trips and local excursions and we have another epic road trip planned as well.

I came across this chart in my summer reading and loved it!

I came across this chart in my summer reading and loved it!

For me, it was important to take a moment to visualize what I wanted to have done by the end of the summer. I realized that it was important that there were activities in there that constituted a “rest” or a treat for me. I didn’t want to go into fall feeling exhausted. Summer should be a time of rejuvenation and enjoyment.

Summer is a busy time for everyone.  I came across this busy spider in my garden toting its egg sac.

Summer is a busy time for everyone. I came across this busy spider in my garden toting its egg sac.

One of my treats to myself was reviving one of my favorite childhood summer reading memories. Every summer our local library had great summer reading programs. My favorite was the year you registered at the beginning of summer for a sort of reading board game/treasure map. Each square had a suggestion for something to read. It wasn’t a mandated book but rather a general category, like “Read a book about animals.” or “Read a biography.” You had to know how to research to find the book you needed, know where to go to find it in the library and then you had the great pleasure of choosing which book on the subject you want. If you completed all the assignments, you received some sort of prize (a free book, I think). It gave you the satisfaction that you had “earned” it.

Our local library does great summer reading programs too but I have never seen the board game style that I so fondly remembered. So, I created my own version. For my children, my husband and I came up with a list of topics for them to read. For myself, I just left it blank. I fill it in as I read through the huge list of books I have waiting to be read on my bookshelf at home. I have read two books already! In case you want your own summer reading adventure, you can download my blank form here.

For summer on my blog, I have decided to let things get a bit random. I have a few more posts for you in mind about homeschooling. I have a few updates on my diet and exercise program and there will be another road trip series as well. In between, perhaps I will share gems from my summer reading with you.

I hope you also have some grand (or restful) summer plans and that you take a moment to treat yourself. You’ve earned it!

 Posted by on June 3, 2014 General Tagged with: , ,