Tag Archives: productivity

Letting God Manage My To-Do List

2 Feb

IMG_20160126_124010You may have noticed that my blog posts lately have just been updates on my girls. That’s not because I haven’t had thoughts I wanted to write about. I do have thoughts, and I do want to write – it’s just that when I sit down to write, sludge comes out. A few words emerge from the muck of my brain, but they’re incoherent and incomplete. Even writing this paragraph has been sludge-like, letters forming into words at the speed of molasses.

My problem is that I have too many thoughts. There are too many things going on in my head. This actually happens a lot. I’m struggling with things, so I go to God in prayer but I can’t even get words out about my emotions because there’s just too much all at once. It’s like there’s this giant bottleneck at the point of my thoughts merging into external expression. (At those times, I’m incredibly thankful that God knows my thoughts without my needing to actually say them!)

This also happens when I’m talking to Travis. Poor guy. I often start telling him about an idea I had but while I’m talking, a voice in my head counters it or offers a different idea, and I swerve mid-sentence to disagree with my idea before I have even finished telling Travis about the original.

Just as I am a chronic over-thinker, I am also a chronic over-planner. I suffer from the condition known as “Too much to do and too little time.” I frequently find myself stressed out over my own imposed to-do list – things that I alone have decided must be done.  During this past Christmas season, when I was just beginning to see this tendency of mine, I found myself thinking, “Well, when the holidays are over, things won’t be so crazy.” Before I had finished that thought, the dang voice in my head interrupted and said, “No they won’t.” And I realized, that voice was right.

I have been stressed out over my imposed to-do list since even before I had kids. There’s this blog post from my life pre-kid, lamenting my ability to turn even a day off into a stressful situation.

The truth is that I’m not stressed out because of the time of the year, or because I have two young kids, or even because one of those kids is a toddler tornado. The “too much to do” does not come from the laundry, dishes, cleaning, grocery shopping, diaper changing, mess cleaning reality of being a wife and mom.

I’m stressed out because of me. I’M THE PROBLEM.

My stress comes from wanting to do extra things like update baby books, create scrapbooks, write blog posts and books, plan elaborate birthday parties, repurpose furniture, decorate the house, go thrift store shopping, get my craft on.

In short: THINGS THAT AREN’T NECESSARY.

It’s the unnecessary things (that I like to think are necessary) stressing me out.

But here’s the tricky thing: it’s also the unnecessary things that bring me joy.

For several years, I fell into the trap of feeling like I “should” do certain things because they were either expected of me, or because I was trying to “keep up with the Joneses” as it were. But that’s not the case here. If I didn’t want to scrapbook, craft, decorate or update baby books, I wouldn’t. But I DO want to do all of those things – because I ENJOY THEM. (Case in point, back in high school, I planned a formal New Years Eve party in high school FOR FUN. Formal as in, we sold tickets, wore formal dresses and suits, and held it in a hotel ballroom. Kudos to my mom for indulging my whim and helping me with the process!)

So it’s not that I’m doing things I don’t want to do. I have whittled my list of All the Things down to those that I personally want to prioritize, but I still don’t have enough time in a day to fit it all in. It works on paper, and I have contemplated implementing a more rigid, set schedule for the purpose of using my time wisely and intentionally. But then the girls have several days when for some unknown reason, they don’t follow their usual routines and the whole idea of having a set schedule seems laughable and completely unrealistic.

Obviously I don’t have the answer to the question, “How do you do it all?” (Not that anyone’s asking me that anyway, ha!) I’m caught between wanting to be intentional with my time and wanting to be flexible for whatever the day holds. I don’t want to be completely rigid, but I also don’t want to fritter away minutes here and there on “who knows what.” Minutes add up to hours, and hours to days, and think of the things that can be accomplished with that kind of time!

The only thing that has brought me peace in the midst of this swirling whirlwind of emotions and plans is trusting God. Several years ago, God used a particularly stressful time of my life to teach me that while I love me a to-do list, it cannot serve as the agenda for my day. Peace comes from holding my plans with open hands, doing the One Thing in front of me, and entrusting the rest to God.

I like to picture God sitting at a big table, tall enough that I can’t see the top, with all of the items of my to-do list sitting before Him in 3-D form. He hands me the first item, saying, “Do this first.” And I do it. When I’m done, I go back to Him. He hands me another. “Now do this one.” My job is to complete the tasks He gives to me; His job is to show me which tasks to do.

Every Tuesday when Emma goes to daycare, the list of what I want to accomplish that day is 15 items long, all of which take at least an hour. There’s absolutely no chance under heaven that I’m going to even make a dent. So I lift the list to God in prayer and ask Him to help me spend my time wisely, and to trust Him to provide me with the time and energy for the things that He intends for me to get done.

In addition to prayer and the Spirit’s leading, part of what helps me determine what the One Thing to do is priorities. What’s the higher priority? Spending time with God should be #1, so that is often what I do first. I also give priority to things that are timely, like making a meal to bring to a family who has a new baby; scheduled, like doctor appointments; or necessary, like eating lunch.

Beyond that, I often experience the Spirit’s leading by feeling energized to do the task. There have been many times when I look at my to-do list and two things seem to be equally important, but I feel excited about doing one and drag my feet about the other. So I do the one I feel like doing. That doesn’t mean I never do the things that I drag my feet about – otherwise, I would never clean bathrooms! (As it is, I clean them much less often than I should.) But on the whole, it is much more enjoyable and efficient to tackle tasks when I feel up to them, instead of forcing myself to do them on a timeline I’ve arbitrarily determined on my own. Almost always, if I postpone a task that isn’t timely and I don’t feel energized for, I end up feeling energized for it a different day.

Obviously, though, I’m not in charge of everything, and many days involve unforeseen, annoying or undesirable circumstances. This way of approaching each day is still valid in those moments — because it’s God adding a few items of His own to my to-do list. Like I’ve said before, if I truly want joy, I must embrace the circumstances God allows.

Walking through my to-do list each day with God in prayer and faith that He will provide for what needs to get done, and take care of what doesn’t, has brought me immense peace and joy. And freedom! Before I learned this, I couldn’t sit and read a book without feeling guilty about not being productive. Now, I believe that if I want to sit down and enjoy a book, and have the opportunity to, I can do so without feeling guilty.

My desires are not something to be “overridden” by what I think I should be accomplishing. Jesus is not a taskmaster. He does not demand that I accomplish x and y each day. Rather, Jesus invites me to take His yoke upon me, and promises that when I do so, I will find rest for my soul. What is His yoke? “…having accomplished the work you gave me to do.” His yoke and burden were determined by God. He let the Holy Spirit guide Him through each moment of each day, and didn’t worry about how everything would be accomplished, or how He was being perceived, or what He should teach next, or where.  “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” (John 12:49)

Unfortunately, I still let my to-do list act as my taskmaster and slave-driver too often. I still get stressed out and overwhelmed by having too many things I want to do and too little time. But I’m making progress. I’m growing. I’m learning to walk by faith, and not by the sight of seeing my to-do list checked off. 😉 I do believe that God cares more about character and connecting with others, than He does about productivity and efficiency.

As for finding time to do everything I want to do, I don’t have an answer. Instead, I bring myself back again and again to this quote from Elisabeth Elliot: “When there is a deep restlessness for which we can find no explanation, it may be due to the greed of being — what our loving Father never meant us to be. Peace lies in the trusting acceptance of His design, His gifts, His appointment of place, position, capacity. It was thus that the Son of Man came to earth — embracing all that the Father willed Him to be, usurping nothing — no work, not even a word — that the Father had not given Him.”

If God intends for me to do something, whether it’s as important as spend time with Him or as trivial as making a scrapbook, He will provide the time and energy for it. I can trust that God will fulfill His purpose for me. My #1 job is walking in daily dependence on Him.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)

Christmas Thoughts: On What’s Important

6 Dec

One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season is watch cheesy Christmas movies. Lifetime and the Hallmark channels are gold mines for these, but we don’t have cable. Luckily, Netflix has quite a few of these movies too – and most of them, I haven’t seen before.

Like all cheesy movies, the plot lines for each movie are pretty similar. There’s the guy or girl who has gotten sucked into living for fame, money, or success, and lost sight of what truly matters (friends, family, true love). They end up having an experience that lasts only a few days (whether it’s going to their hometown, seeing an old flame, spending time with someone they wouldn’t normally talk to) and it reminds them of all that they’ve forgotten. They have a change of heart, make things right, and the movie ends. Aw, so happy.

I think the reason why stories like that appeal to me is because at my core, what I really want is to slow down and connect in meaningful ways with those around me.

Instead, I far too often prioritize the things I can check off my to-do list or the things our society says are valuable.

The Christmas season is full of fun activities — baking cookies, mailing and receiving cards, singing in or attending concerts, buying and wrapping presents, decorating the tree and home, and viewing light displays. And there’s this notion that enjoying the season to the full means Doing Stuff.

Doing Stuff at Christmas time is fun, but not when it comes at the price of your sanity, health or relationships. How many years have I let my to-do list and grand plans of festivities set the agenda and stress me out? Too many.

So the past couple of years, I have been earnestly trying to let go of my perfect plans for the holidays — even the spiritual ones like our Jesse Tree — and instead focus on walking in step with God. This means a few things for me practically:

1) I declare that nothing is necessary.

I don’t have to bake cookies. We don’t have to put lights up outside. We don’t have to attend a holiday concert, lights show or go sledding.

If we have the time and desire to bake cookies, great. If we forget the dough has to be refrigerated after being made and then we try to speed things up by freezing it which just makes the cookies impossible to roll out for cookie cutters, we can just bake them normally.

Or if we plan on tromping out into the middle of the woods to cut down our own Christmas tree but everyone gets the flu Thanksgiving weekend so we end up buying one from Menards again, that’s ok.

When inconveniences and setbacks happen, I take them as hints from God to slow down and look around, and to remind myself, “Embrace slowing down. Embrace doing less. Embrace life as it really is.” Christmas festivities are fun, but what really matters is who you do them with.

2) I say no when I need to.

It’s hard for me to say no to fun things. Especially around the holidays. Especially when a bunch of my friends are going. I was invited to a cookie exchange this year but I know that making that many cookies will stress me out. So I declined.

I also have “said no” to social media for the months of November and December this year. I plan to do a separate post on this in January but for now, I will say that it has been so. refreshing. to just BE with my family instead of being distracted by notifications of what others have posted, or by what moments in my day are “worthy” of social media. I am most likely going to return to Facebook and Instagram in January, but my involvement will be very decreased from before.

3) I prioritize the right things.

My three most important roles in this season of life are, in order: follower of Christ, wife, mom. I am a firm believer that when I spend time with God in the morning, play with my girls instead of just moving them from babysitter to babysitter while I get stuff done and connect with my husband at night instead of getting stuff done or going straight to bed, I am a happier person. My to-do list has to include quality time with those I love, not just tasks I accomplish in a flurry of activity.

But this is real life so do I always prioritize quality time like I should? No. I get sucked into what I call “task mode.” I hate quitting a project in the middle so I stay up too late, or let the girls fend for themselves (with supervision). But I don’t beat myself up for failing; I just begin again. Everyday, every moment is a chance to do things right, to live how I really want to live.

Swimming against the tide, of both society and my natural tendencies, will require a concerted effort. But it’s worth it. Because just like those cheesy Christmas movies show, we lose out on life when we lose sight of what’s most important.

Worth Repeating {6/2/15}

2 Jun

Often when I find that I’m learning the same old thing yet again, I pull up old blog posts that I’ve written. I’ve been thinking lately about my propensity to prioritize “getting things done” over serving people. What I realized is that the whole point of getting things done (in my case, laundry, dishes, house cleaning, dinner, etc) is serving my family! How often I lose sight of the purpose of those tasks, and just focus on checking them off my to-do list. I pulled up the following blog post and it was so exactly what I needed to remember that I thought I’d share it today. Enjoy!worth_repeating

{First posted on 12/13/11 as “Life is a Glorious Mess”} 

I woke up yesterday morning wanting at least 4 more hours in bed. Instead, I got up to make coffee – an hour after my alarm went off the first time. The kitchen counters overflowed with dirty dishes; the table drowned in Christmas presents, mail, and other things used over the weekend but not put away. The cupboards were conspicuously bare from my lack of grocery shopping. The fridge held potatoes from our garden and spinach from the store, wilting and rotting before I could use them. The dogs wagged their tails in hope of a walk. A temperature of 63 degrees revealed that the furnace wasn’t working again.

I was frustrated. Mad. Why is life so hard?

I do better when life is organized. When things are in their place. When I’m on top of what I need to be on top of.

I could have been there this morning – except I chose to relax and watch Christmas movies last night instead of doing chores.

And I’ve realized that my affinity for order and perfection has a price tag – it costs me Life. Joy. Peace. Patience.

When I admire people in movies (like J. Lo in The Wedding Planner) who have every piece of their life in place with predictable schedules and unvaried routines, I fail to realize that they’re paying for that perfection – with human relationships. I mean, how often do those same perfect people have an intimate marriage, loving kids, and open their homes to others?

To truly embrace the presence of others in my life, I have to let go of perfection. Because a life filled with relationships is messy. As Emily Walker wrote in her post The Messy Table:

My table is not perfect, but it has done the job it was meant to do very well. Life has been lived at it. Lessons have been learned at it. Memories have been made for decades, right there at that table. It tells the story of lives being lived, not life missed out on in the name of perfection.

That. Exactly.

When I think about what kind of mother I want to be someday, do I want my kids to remember how well-kept our house was, elaborate our dinners were, and how we were always running around doing stuff?  Or do I want them to remember how I played with them in our backyard, dropped whatever I was doing to listen or laugh, and didn’t get mad when they trampled little dirty footprints all over the carpet? Obviously, I want to be the latter.

And here’s what I’m learning: I don’t become the peaceful, patient, loving woman I want to be by being perfect and on top of things. Rather, I grow to be that woman as I learn to let things go. If I expect the house to always be orderly, I get frustrated when something is out of place. If I map out my schedule for the day and a wrench gets thrown in, I’m mad.

People who exhibit the fruit of the Spirit aren’t isolated from problems and frustrations. They have just learned to embrace the messiness of life. Be content in chaos. See each moment for what it’s really worth – not a time for getting things done, but a time to connect with and serve others, and to be filled with the joy of knowing Christ. Instead of running around checking off my own to-do list, I need to walk through each day with God, trusting that His grace is sufficient – He will provide the energy and wisdom to work when I need to, and to rest when I need to.

A comforting idea I’ve had in my head for several weeks now is that God is more realistic about my abilities than I am. Like QuatroMama writes in this post, I tend to set up my own (perfectionist) standards and then beat myself up when I fall short.

But God is realistic. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”He doesn’t ask me to be Mega Woman. He understands that I only have so many minutes in a day and if I spend time doing this thing, I don’t have time for that thing. If I’m exhausted and want to veg instead of clean, He doesn’t accuse me of laziness and not being productive, like I do to myself. Unlike me, He is full of grace, understanding, and patience.

This is where the Gospel makes all the difference. The Gospel allows us to admit that we fall short of what we wish we were, but reassures us that we’re loved anyway. And God’s love for us isn’t despite how we’ve disappointed Him, or failed to live up to His standard. Because when He sees us in Christ, He sees perfect beings. We are completely and utterly righteous in His eyes. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us.”

He doesn’t mutter “I love you” through gritted teeth while trying to not be mad over all the things we’ve done wrong. God’s love abounds for us. He lavishly pours out grace upon grace into our lives with delight.

In the words of John Piper, remind yourself, “I am holy and I am loved.” Even when life is messy.

Harnessing Guilt for Good

19 Dec

A feeling I have often, but especially at Christmastime, is Too Much to Do and Too Little Time. I’m sure a lot of people can relate. This year, I had wanted to take some time everyday to sit down with our family and do an Advent activity. Here it is, December 19 and we haven’t even cracked our Bible. One day last week, I was thinking through all the things on my to-do list and thought, “Wait a minute. How did my schedule get completely filled up?” I thought that I was being modest with my Christmas plans but December has a way of filling up without you even trying.

And as it happens whenever I start feeling overwhelmed by one aspect of my life, I started thinking about all the other aspects of my life that I’m “failing” at – like prayer, Bible study, thoughtfulness for friends, exercise, organization, etc. – and then I not only feel overwhelmed, I also feel guilty.

guilt

At those times, I think most people (including myself) have two main reactions: 1) Try to do it all or 2) Stop caring. In a sermon I heard several years ago by Steve Shank of Sovereign Grace, he told of a 3rd option. Talking about Philippians 4:12, he said that apostle Paul had learned to be content with what he had, while also desiring more. How is that possible? When you recognize that the person who gets you from Point A to Point B, from the reality of your life to what you want it to be, isn’t YOU but GOD, then you can be content with What Is, while still longing for What Could Be.

So I don’t have to choose between trying to do it all or just not caring. I can stop trying even though I care. Instead of swinging to one end or the other of the spectrum, there’s a tension in the middle where I can recognize the things I want to be true in my life, but I don’t strive to make them happen. I don’t stop caring, but I do stop striving.

My reaction to that kind of statement 4 years ago would’ve been “Say what?!? If I’m not the one doing it, then how will it get done?” And the answer is the Holy Spirit. The presence of God. When we have a relationship with God through Christ, we not only have His promise that the verdict is in and we are righteous in His eyes – we also have His promise that He will make us into the people He has created us to be. “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”

The Spirit is the connection between God’s promise and the reality of it happening. He is the tangible, practical outworking of God’s power in our lives. So when I want to be more intentional about praying for people, I don’t have to say “Ok, I’m going to pray for 15 minutes every morning starting at 7:30.” There’s nothing wrong with that if God leads me to that, but my first response to a conviction shouldn’t be activity. Instead of seeing a problem in my life and determining the course of action to remedy it, God wants me to take that conviction and turn to Him in prayer. Ask Him to help me pray for others more often – and then TRUST that He will help me, by reminding me to pray for others, giving me the desire to pray for them when I do remember, growing my understanding of His love for me so that I think of myself less often and of others more often.

When God is the one leading, real change happens. When I’m the one determining what needs to get done, I eventually lose steam and end up right back where I started – and so the cycle begins again.

That’s why there are no specific commands in the Bible. Because the outworking of the Spirit’s conviction and the Christian life look differently for everyone. God says “Be hospitable” and “Give to the needy” and “Remember the poor” – those are pretty vague. I used to be frustrated and think “But what does that look like?” Answer: Only God can show you. Because it’s different for everyone. You might have the idea that to Be Hospitable, you have to open your home to exchange students, or invite your in-laws to move in. And for some people, it does mean that. But maybe for you, it’s just having friends over for lunch. Or hosting a baby shower.

So when I’m thinking about all the things that I want to be doing during Christmas, or the things that I wish I were doing in life but am not, or the things I would change, I don’t have to cast those things aside as “guilt producers” or stupid “expectations imposed on me by society.” I feel guilty about those things because I really want to do them. I want them to be true of my life. I don’t feel guilty about not going bungee jumping or not being a CEO. Because I don’t want those things. I feel guilty about the things I care about.

I read an interesting article about guilt in a parenting magazine the other day while I was pumping at work. The author said that guilt in the right degree is healthy because only sociopaths don’t feel guilt. That was interesting to me. I have always thought about guilt as a bad thing, as in I shouldn’t feel guilty ever. But now I can see guilt as a tool to show me what really matters to me. And instead of trying to deal with that guilt via self-improvement and to-do lists and productivity, or a Who Cares? attitude, I can recognize that I feel guilty because I wish those things were true about my life. At same time, I recognize that I can’t make them a reality on my own. I need God to help me, to show me the One Thing to do right now, and to trust that somehow, by following His leading on the Little Things, He is shaping the Big Picture into something glorious.

It’s hard to do in practice. Our house projects for moving have not gone according to our plans, and Travis and I both have responded poorly at times. Whenever that happens, I know that the cause is we’ve stopped trusting in God and started trusting in ourselves – in our actions, our planning, our common sense. God doesn’t work that way. His ways are higher. His plans are better. We need to trust and rest. “In quietness and trust is your strength.”

Training Recap: 4/2 – 4/8 & Unofficial Half PR!

9 Apr

This morning, I was so exhausted from the weekend and the past 5 days that I didn’t get up until 7:15. Picture me lying in bed with my battery-powered alarm clock resting on my chest under the comforter, my hand sitting on the snooze button, ready for the alarm that goes off every 3 minutes. Now picture that scene from 5:30 to 6:45, at which time I finally wised up and reset my alarm clock for 7:15. Apparently, even in a half comatose state, I’m stubborn and refuse to give up trying to get up early.

I was so tired because last week, I went straight from work to church functions Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (and rearranged my schedule to fit in runs). Saturday, I ran 13.1 miles with Heidi (more on that later), then proceeded to:

  • buy a salad spinner and steamer basket from Bed, Bath and Beyond
  • buy this skirt and these pants from Old Navy
  • go to Sports Authority (I had a 20% off coupon and found nothing to buy, what’s up with that? Travis is going to use it for new shorts)
  • go to the post office and grocery store
  • do laundry
  • make watergate salad for Easter lunch
  • walk the pooches

Yesterday, I walked the dogs before church, went to church, came home and got lunch stuff, went to Easter lunch, read Vogue for 2 hours (my sliver of relaxation), walked the dogs again, cleaned the house, made banana bread, and then relaxed with Travis and 2 glasses of Cab Sav. While I was walking the dogs, I realized that I still have a productivity complex – I cannot relax. Some people play now and work later. Others (like me) work now and play later. Only I never actually get to the later because the work is never done. There is always something more to do, something that catches my eye, “Oh I’ll just do this and then I’ll go relax.” Or if I go relax, I sit there bothered either mentally or visually by something that “needs to be done.”

So I’m pondering the idea of truly observing the Sabbath. Taking a day off. I’ll save the details for another post, but I’m thinking that I might need to “force” myself to relax a bit (which honestly, I never thought I would say).

Anyway, here’s what last week’s training looked like:

Monday: Rest (traveling back from Evansville)

Tuesday: 3.04 mile tempo run (30:52; 10:09/mile) + 20 min strength/physical therapy exercises

I ran the first mile in 9:42!

Wednesday: 6.09 mile hilly run (1:08:40, 11:16/mile)

Thursday: 20 min Pilates video + 3.04 mile easy-ish run (35:15; 11:35/mile)

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 13.1 mile long run in 2:24:59 – an Unofficial Half Marathon PR! (personal record, for those of you who don’t speak Runner)

Sunday: Total of 4 miles walked with pooches (@ approx. 20:00/mile)

Total Miles Ran = 25.27

…………………..

So about that Unofficial Half Marathon PR… it was awesome.

The wonderful Miss Heidi joined me at Cherry Creek State Park for what was planned to be 12 miles (mapped out as 12.4). But then the run went so well (and quick with someone to talk to!) that she talked me into running a full 13.1. Not going to lie, the last 4 miles or so – and especially the last 2 – were challenging. I was very much over the rolling hills and my big toes were crying out for mercy. But as always, pushing myself past those mental hurdles is in the end totally worth it. Because I ended up dominating my official half marathon PR of 2:30:52 by almost 6 minutes! Might I also mention that that PR was set on the Colorado Half Marathon course, which kindly features an elevation loss of 1353 feet. This run was most definitely not that kind:

It’s actually only a difference of 100 feet elevation either way, but it looks impressive, no?

Heidi and I met up at 8:30 and probably got running around 9:00. No clouds in the sky, the sun was shining, and there was a nice little breeze that kept things from getting too hot out there (as there was no shade where we were running).

{Thanks for the pics Heidi!}

We met this big guy around mile 4.5:

And decided it was a good time to take pics, in case we forgot like we did last time:

A little after that, I took a Triberry Gu and decided that I definitely like the consistency of Clif Shots better. The Gu is too thick (even though it was tasty!).

Since we were running on new-to-us trails, we got a little lost and ended up turning around on our dog leg a little early (sorry about that Heidi!). We had to be a little creative at the end but it worked out okay. And because Heidi brought a real Garmin, I didn’t have to use my Poor Man’s GPS (which is good because I would’ve been really off!)

Here are our splits:

1 – 10:34
2 – 10:56
3 – 11:00
4 – 11:01
5 – 11:25 (hill!)
6 – 11:09
7 – 10:55
8 – 10:51
9 – 11:08
10 – 11:37 (hill!)
11 – 11:28 (dying!)
12 – 11:01
13 – 10:44
.1 – 1:05

13.1 miles in 2:24:59, average pace of 11:04

I am completely ecstatic about this pace and it gives me hope of running an Official Half Marathon PR in the Platte River Half this coming Sunday!

Anywho, I am convinced that the best way to recover from a long run is to keep moving. I kept myself busy after this run and have had very minimal soreness and stiffness. Being productive on Saturdays, even after long runs, will also hopefully help me reserve Sundays for rest and relaxation.

Tonight I have to burn through the rest of The Tipping Point because it’s due at the library tomorrow and I can’t renew it (for a second time) because someone else has it on hold. I just might be incurring a few more library fines so that I can finish it…

So much to do and so little time. The story of my life.

Are you more prone to relaxation or productivity?

Getting Motivated When You’re Bored Out of Your Mind

19 Jan

You’ve probably heard me mention before how slow things are at work, and have been since May when I was hired. Luckily, I am good at entertaining myself or I would have quickly gone mad.

However, I stink at being motivated when there’s nothing I have to do. And I find myself pushing the tasks I do have off until the next day because frankly, I can’t be bothered to stop reading blogs, mapping running routes, modifying training plans, and reading other useless nonsense on the interwebs. When I do have more than one work-related thing to do each day, I find myself annoyed because I had other things I wanted to do today. I already had plans, thankyouverymuch.

Someone driven by career goals would have quit long ago. My only “career” (and I use that term loosely) goal is to be a published author so I’m not sad to not be “succeeding in corporate America.”

Others would have at least utilized their 8 hours (sometimes 7…) a day for something that would improve their job performance. (I’m a copywriter so blogging counts, doesn’t it?)

Not me. I have seriously done everything on the Internet I’ve ever wanted to do, except anything work-related. I’ll find myself driving by a billboard that looks slightly amusing and making a mental note of the website – I should look that up at work. Things I would normally do at home (read: everything personal) I now save for work, so that I don’t lose it by 10 am and wind up in the office coffee shop, chugging spiked frappucinos.

Some days I succeed. I have enough blog posts queued up in Google Reader from the 100 or so blogs I follow that after the morning’s work of logging my previous day’s workout, checking my email (work and personal), and doing “15 minutes of actual work,” I can easily zone out until I leave at 4 pm.

Other days, when it’s slow in blogland, Reader is empty by 12 pm and I languish. I get a headache from looking at the screen and reading but what else to do? I do a crossword, check email, visit The Nest message boards, vote for the best outfits on People.com, and ::gasp:: even attempt reading the news. (But my eyes quickly glaze over and I abandon that idea. How did I manage to major in Journalism without ever reading the news? I’m just that good.)

You’d think by the time I’m done wasting hours of my life sitting in an uncomfortable chair and causing my back to need physical therapy, I’d be rearing to get ‘er done once I got home. But the combination of the winter cold, the short days, and “I’ll do it tomorrow”s combine to make me even more lazy once I get home. It’s like I’m in a walking coma. After my workout and dinner, it’s only 6 pm and I wonder, Is it too early to go to bed?  I don’t want to watch TV but I don’t want to read and I surely don’t want to be productive. What to do, what to do…

I assure you, there is a point behind all this mindless chatter.

The point is, I have realized that I am not a victim of circumstances. I make my life what it is. And if I don’t want to spend days upon days of accomplishing absolutely nothing but running a few miles and eating a bunch of food, I don’t have to.

So I’m making some changes. I’m not going to get crazy or anything, but I think implementing a modest structure for my days and evenings of boredom would be wise. So this is what I’m thinking:

At work

Do work-related activities until at least noon. Obviously, this goes out the window once I (hopefully!) start having more things to do but who knows when that will be? In the meantime, I will read books and blogs on writing style, marketing, copywriting, etc, or do whatever work is assigned to me. After noon, I can do whatever useless crap I want (unless work comes in, then I will do that). Baby steps people. It’s harder than you would think to break out of a 9-month funk.

I put this into practice today. I had a meeting this morning, worked on some event materials, organized some files and then read The Elements of Style until noon, at which time I promptly opened Google Reader and exhaled a sigh of relief. Although I did mostly enjoy reading the book. Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE grammar and syntax? I took a Linguistics class my senior year in college for my Spanish major and wondered why hadn’t I taken any before. It was by far my favorite class ever.

At home

Do one thing every day. I have done this before and found it quite useful. I make a list of all the things I’ve thought about, wanted, or needed to do and then do one small thing or part of one bigger thing on the list every day. For example:

  • Finish race memory book
  • Find passport or apply for new one (I’m pretty sure it’s lost)
  • Buy photo corners at Michael’s
  • Work on scrapbook (1 page each night)
  • Clean the dogs’ ears
  • Brush the dogs’ teeth
  • Buy more dog food
  • Schedule bike fit
  • Clean refrigerator
  • Get teeth cleaned at dentist done!
  • Get haircut done!
  • Get physical therapy for back done!
Because…

On a positive note, I have been more diligent about going to bed early and getting up at 5:30 to read the Bible and work on my book. So at least I have that going for me!

Do you struggle with laziness when not required to do anything? Any tips on getting motivated?

Training Recap: 12/26 – 1/2

3 Jan

Yesterday was the day of organization. We took down our Christmas decorations and stored them in new totes. We went through clothes, toiletries, and jewelry, throwing out what no one would want to wear and creating a pile of stuff to donate to the thrift store. I organized my dresser drawers, 5 different closets, and even my spices. I also gave the dogs a bath (after our run, it was very necessary) and cleaned the house. Productivity is such a great feeling!

Here’s what my training looked like last week:

Monday: 3.04 mile run (35:50, 11:47/mile), 16 min weight training

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 2.73 mile hill workout (30:48, 11:17/mile)

I did this run outside my office in Broomfield. I warmed up downhill/flat for a mile, then sprinted 10 seconds up the hill, walked for about a minute, sprinted, walked. Here’s the elevation profile:

According to MapMyRun.com, where I’m running in Broomfield is actually higher in elevation than Wheat Ridge by about 400 feet. Which makes me feel better about wheezing up hills.

And you can’t beat the view:

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 3.04 mile tempo run (31:23 total, 10:19/mile); 18 min Tabata workout

I warmed up and cooled down for .5 mile (1 mile total), running the 2 middle miles at a tempo pace. I wore my 2XU compression tights on this run and once again, I busted out speed from God-knows-where. I ran the middle 2 miles at a 10:00 pace and the other mile at a combined pace of 11:23. Not too shabby.

And then I got my butt handed to me by a Tabata workout. If you haven’t heard of them, the idea is to do something all-out for 20-30 seconds, take a rest, then do it again. This is the workout I did (and I’m sorry, but I can’t remember the blog I found it on):

  • squat with weight shoulder press
  • pushups
  • lunge with bicep curl (alternating legs per set)
  • mountain climbers
  • sumo (wide) squat with single weight tricep extension (behind the head)
  • seated lower body crunches (leaning back and curling knees into chest)
  • jump squats and jump lunges (alternate per set)
  • bicycle crunches

You were supposed to do 6-8 rounds of each exercise before moving on. I downloaded a free Tabata timer on my phone, which makes it easy and brainless to time the intervals of work v. rest. I made 6 rounds of the squats, lunges, and sumos, but I had to call it quits at 3 rounds of pushups, mountain climbers, and lower body crunches (although I added 3 rounds of other core work to make it 6.) Yeah, definitely a good workout – I counted how many sumo squats I did in a single 30 second interval. 10. 10 x 6 = 60 squats. No wonder! This showed me that while my lower body is fairly strong, my upper body and core need some work.

Saturday: 1.1 mile run with pooches (12:55, 11:44/mile); 5.2 mile run without pooches (52:01, 10:00/mile)

If you’re wondering how on earth I managed to run my first mile in 11:44 and then 5 consecutive miles at a pace of 10 minutes per mile, let me tell you about the wind. It was crazy. Power went out in places, portapotties tipped over, sandstorms were blowing from the foothills, windows were whistling. I never looked it up but Travis estimated the gusts were 40-50 mph at times.

Yes, I ran in that.

I took the dogs out for what I planned to be a short 1.5 mile run around the lake. Ha, yeah. The minute I started heading west around the lake (no wind barrier), I was leaning into the wind, tears streaming and breathless (the wind was actually kind of cold). So I said Screw That and turned around. Hence the 1.1 miles.

My route to and from the lake ran north and south and it really wasn’t that bad being out there when you weren’t running west. I tried to think of a route I could do from my house that would run only north and south but it’s a weird, old neighborhood with a lot of streets that end in weird spots. I would inevitably end up having to go west sometime. So inspired by Monica at Run, Eat, Repeat who has her husband come pick her up from her runs, I had Travis drive me 5 miles to the west, so that I could do my entire run going east. As we were driving over there, Travis said, “I can’t believe you’re doing this. I think you’re crazy.” But he knows how stubborn I am so he didn’t argue.

And I will say, it wasn’t that bad. Yes, I got blown around like a ragdoll at times and when the wind died down so that I was running on my own strength, I felt like I was running in slow motion. But I wasn’t the only crazy out there. AND there were other people running west. Now those people are crazy.

The only thing I didn’t like about the run was my hair. I had contemplated wearing a hat but didn’t want to deal with it blowing off. I should’ve worn a headband at least because my hair flyaways were constantly in my face.

If you look closely, you can see leaves flying through the air and mist rising from the reservoir.

So when I wanted to eat my Gu Chomps at mile 3 of my combined runs, I actually turned around and ran backwards, so that the wind would keep my hair out of my face while I ate.

Overall, the run was a success.

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In other news, I tried these two new foods last week and loved them both:

The Pretzel Crisps tasted a lot like mustard pretzels (which I love) and the Pure Almond Dark Chocolate milk tasted just like chocolate cow’s milk. This would be a great alternative for those who are lactose-intolerant and want to drink chocolate milk, or for someone looking for a drink high in calcium (it provides 45% of your daily value). But there’s only one gram of protein, so I’ll be sticking with my cow’s milk and Hershey’s syrup for post-run recovery.

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Food journal update: It is a lot harder than I thought it would be to remember to write down everything I eat. I failed yesterday. Whoops.

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What are the craziest conditions you’ve run in?