Category Archives: Productivity

Starting a New Productivity Tool Using Unrealistic and Unachievable Goals

Me and my shiny new personal kanban board.

It’s inevitable. It will happen every time. You finish a new book that outlines a shiny new productivity system or you watch an inspiring YouTube video on how to make a personal kanban board or how to effectively separate the hours in the day or perhaps you read an inspiring post on the internet’s blogosphere.

You’re excited. This is it! This is the missing piece in your toolbox. With the new tool that you discovered, you can achieve all of your goals.

And the tool or the advice or the system is probably excellent. It will help you. But all of these various techniques miss out the very first step you must take:

When you first use a new-found shiny and exciting tool, you will populate it with unachievable goals. Every time.

Perhaps you’ll schedule too many goals. Or perhaps you’ll schedule too little time. Or perhaps your goals are simply unachievable… but let’s not go into that unhappy and emotional topic in this particular blog post.

After you have completed this first step and have entered too many goals in too short of a time, then the next step, unfortunately, is that you must fail miserably. I’m so sorry about this. It hurts, and depending how many times that you’ve been through this gauntlet, it may take a few months to get back to planning and creating your future or it may just take a few days. I’ve done this so many times now that I’m able to pull myself off the ground pretty quickly and get back to work.

The third and final step of this baptism is to use the tool again but in a much more reasonable and practical way.

I just learned how to use a kanban board. They’re beautiful! I love them! When I watched a YouTube video on using a personal kanban board, my heart actually beat faster as I became excited about the possibilities and just the sheer fun of using one.

And then, unwittingly and unwillingly, I went through the above ritual yet again. Every time. I’m 50 years old and have been exploring the productivity space for 25 years, and I still make this mistake every time.

The Excitement of the New Year

It’s the New Year which is my favorite holiday. The New Year brings excitement and hope, and, most importantly, action! We act upon our feelings of hope and desire. “This is the year that I’m going to get healthy!” “This is the year that I’m going to start my own business!” “This is the year that I’m going to write my novel!”

Unfortunately, the fire that fuels us at the New Year will die down to an ember and will no longer push us forward to our goals after a few weeks. We must find other ways to motivate ourselves, and we only have a few weeks to put those other motivators into place before the New Year’s magic disappears and we lose its power.

I’m going to share with you the two things that help me stay motivated as the excitement of the New Year grows stale, and we have to find that impulse deep within ourselves to keep going.

First, have an achievable plan in place. The key word absolutely is “achievable.” Our immediate desire almost always outstrips our abilities. We want to be fit now! We want to be an accomplished artist now! We want a successful business now!

We want to skip the journey and get straight to the result. We believe, falsely, that the result will make everything perfect. Once we are a certain weight or make a certain income or can perform a certain feat, then we will be worthy. Everything will finally be okay, and we can quit hurting, feeling less than.

But nothing exterior to you will ever make you feel worthy. If you were magically transported to your goal weight, you would still hurt. You would still feel less than.

The journey is the key. The journey transforms you. You learn and grow and become. You’re not the same person at the end that you were when you started. So when you’re finally healthy at whatever weight that may be, it’s not the way you look in the mirror that makes you feel worthy; it’s everything that you learned and experienced – your internal transformation, not external – that makes you feel worthy.

The journey is hard and long. And it starts with an achievable plan that takes into account “failure.” You’re going to fail. You’re going to make mistakes and wrong turns. You’re going to be thrown curve balls by life. Course correct and keep going.

I have found that most goals are actually built upon habits. Do you want to get healthy? Get into the habit of exercising and eating well. Do you want to be an artist? Get into the habit of drawing everyday.

And this is where your achievable plan begins: work on one small habit at a time and use a trigger. And be consistent – practice drawing the same time everyday or in the same place everyday.

One small habit. One. Small. Consistent. Move slowly and change slowly. Live your journey and inhabit your story.

The second thing that helps me is to stay positive. The negative self talk in my head can be debilitating. To combat this tendency, I listen to uplifting YouTubers. I have uplifting quotes littered around my house and placed all through my planner. I listen to positive music. I try to be a positive person, complimenting and saying kind things to others. All of these practices set up a feedback loop that keeps me from spiraling into a negative headspace.

Stay positive. It’s how you win.

Good luck. And Happy New Year!! May 2019 be wonderful!

No more goals

Photo by Federico Stevanin at

I have spent much of my life in pursuit of “goals” and learning and using different productivity systems. They’re fascinating and beautiful and fill my head with whispered promises of riches and beauty in a future that is organized and perfect.

And they’re lies. They’re fantasies — beautiful, perfect, sad fantasies. And these fantasies come at an extremely high price for as long as my mind is focused on the beautiful, witty me in the future, I ignore the beautiful, witty me that exists now. I don’t see her. She pines away, trying desperately to get my attention. But I say, “No, you’re not worthy. Look at me in the future. She’s so much more beautiful and witty than you. All heads turn when she walks in the room and everyone quiets down to hear her tiniest word.” And I turn away from present me to gaze wistfully at the perfect future me that doesn’t even exist and never will. For, as long as I have goals and focus on the future, I will never be satisfied with the present, ever.

I’m done with goals. They are sad fantasies based on feelings of lack and inadequacy. And they take my focus away from the present. I’m blind and deaf to the beauty of this journey. It passes by me unseen, unheard, unappreciated… unlived.

I still want to learn to sew quilts. I still want to live a healthy lifestyle. I still want to write music with my husband. But instead of goals with completion dates and milestones and progress charts, I simply will live each step of the journey, each moment as it passes through my existence. Right now, I’m learning how to thread a serger. Will I ever actually make a beautiful quilt? Who cares. Right now, I’m enjoying the puzzle and challenge of a serger.

I may one day reintroduce goals within a very limited scope, but for now, they are tossed out the window. I’ve never truly lived in the present and, truthfully, I’m not very good at it. I’ve never been satisfied with the me right now just the way I am, and I have a sneaking suspicion that she’s pretty awesome and it’s time for me to get to know her.

It’s time to wake up.


Photo by Tabetha Harrison

Every one of us has a chance to be heroic. Every one of us has been given the divine providence of an epic journey and a heroic life. And hidden within each soul there lay a map, given as a birthright and waiting to be discovered. This map is the color of golden light and all of the symbols on it are written in the esoteric language of the angels. Most of the map is shrouded in a veil of unanswered questions and unlived experience. It is at the same time both indecipherable and entrancing.

The map lays out our hero’s journey. The enigmatic symbols equate to actions and events, slowly taking place, one by one, as our life progresses and we come to understand their meaning only through experience. But there is a crossroads on the map, a question which absolutely no one else on the face of this planet can answer but you.

“Do I follow my calling?”

This calling is different for every person, but we all hear the distant voice in the wind, floating through our waking dreams. It calls us, incessantly, never giving us peace. Some folks, the lucky ones, follow this inner voice and find a peaceful and meaningful life. Others of us fight it, ignore it, run from it.

But then we dream, the haunting dream of dormant passion. Dreams are worthy of pursuit. To set a plan into place to achieve your dream is a worthy pursuit. Our dreams, when realized, enrich the world for everyone. Everyone benefits. Living your passion is to truly be alive, to be present and to be accountable.

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.
I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound
to live up to what light I have.

Abraham Lincoln

Change Only One Habit at a Time

I don’t use cuss words a lot. They’re not terribly eloquent. But every now and then they are absolutely perfect for conveying sentiment. And now is one of those times, I feel.

Changing habits is a fucking bitch.

After the birth of my second child, I had become very unhealthy. Given the endless work of two small children, my husband and I resorted to a lot of fast food and processed food for quick meals. Eating these poisons disguised as food, our health declined rapidly. By 2009, I would spend days in bed because I felt too miserable, had no energy, and was in too much pain to get out of bed.

And then, I had That Moment. We all have That Moment in our lives. It has only happened to me twice in my life: once when I was 19-years-old and once in 2009 when I was 40-years-old. It’s when you wake up and say, “I’m not going to live like this anymore. I don’t want to be like this anymore.” It’s when you decide that you’re not going to be in an unhealthy relationship anymore, or you’re not going to stay working for a terrible boss doing a job that you hate anymore. For me in 2009, it’s when I decided that I didn’t want to spend everyday sick in bed and in pain anymore. I wanted to be healthy.

Now, fast forward three years to 2012. You would think that I would be the perfect example of health by now. I’ve been working towards this goal for three years. I should be glowing, strong and full of energy.

Did I mention that changing habits is a fucking bitch?

First I had to learn about nutrition. That was a journey in itself and one that I continue today. Then there were tons of attempts, failures, false starts and wrong turns. I’m much healthier today than I was in 2009. I don’t spend everyday in bed and my body isn’t in a constant state of low-level pain anymore, but I’m not anywhere near my goal of abundant energy and beautiful glowing health.

And here is my first bit of advice to you as I distill three years of experience into a single sentence: Change only one habit at a time. This statement is so simple and will be disobeyed time and time again by so many people, including me, and yet it is the cornerstone of change.

You see, when you change an ingrained habit, you spend the entire day in fierce battle with yourself. It is exhausting and you don’t always win. All of your effort and energy needs to be channeled into a single significant habit change. If you try to change more than one habit, your energy becomes diluted as you spread yourself too thin, and you lose the battle.

Recently along my continued journey towards health, I tried to change three habits at once. In my impatience, I lost everything and now am back exactly where I started at the first of the year. I’ve made no progress except to learn a very valuable lesson:

Be patient. Enjoy the journey. Quit counting down the days. And change only one habit at a time.

Word of the Year

Photo by Lynn Cummings.

For the past few days, I have been thinking and thinking and thinking about the New Year and what I want to do with 2010. You see, the New Year has always been a time of brazen hope for me. For this reason, the New Year counts as one of my favorite holidays in the calendar. And as I’ve been journaling and pondering and on the phone with Shelly discussing our exciting hopes for 2010, I have been thinking about and working on my traditional list of what I would like to do in 2010.

And then I read this blog entry from Andrea Scher. To quote:

Have you picked your word of the year? Seems like the interwebs are abuzz with this idea and I love that it has taken a firm foothold over New Year’s Resolutions. I’m actually amazed that resolutions have stuck around so long. For most people they don’t work! and you know why? because they are all about deprivation. They remind us what’s wrong with us, what there is to fix. They tell us that if we were only more (fill in the blank) we would be happy/successful/a good person.

That’s the old way, right? Soooo 2009.

This is the year of the list. The Mondo Beyondo List, the word of the year, the year that we create intentions, follow our dreams, and let our passions and our joys guide us instead.

I LOVE this idea!! This resonated with me like a perfect crystal with a New Age junkie. I snatched it up and watched the light refract through it and said “Yes! Here is how I will organize my coming year!”

I could not settle on a single word, so I picked two. My two words for 2010 are Joy and Trust. I want to learn to be joyful again, and I want to trust in both my dreams and in people. I realized recently that I am isolated and lonely and it’s entirely my own doing. I keep everyone at arm’s length in order to protect myself from being hurt. And although this may be a great defense strategy, it is also very isolating. And so I’m opening up, letting go, and reaching out to touch people, which is really really really scary for me and will have to be done in small, incremental steps.

But hopefully, by the end of 2010, I will be joyful and connected.

What I Have Learned -or- 21 Days to a New Habit is a Crock


For the past year — that would be one year — my primary goal has been nutrition. When I started, I didn’t think it would take a year. I thought it would take 21 days: 21 days to quit eating fast food and 21 days to prepare healthy meals at home.

It didn’t quite work out that way. A more accurate description:

  • One year to quit eating fast food and prepare healthy meals at home.
  • One year to get into the habit of consistently keeping the kitchen and dining area clean as I was much less likely to cook the next meal if the kitchen was dirty.
  • One year to get into the habit of keeping the pantry stocked as I was much more likely to make bad food choices when I was hungry and there was nothing nutritious on hand.
  • One year to get into the habit of planning my family’s meals.
  • One year to read and educate myself about nutrition (that’s still ongoing actually) as our basic knowledge of nutrition as Americans is severely lacking.
  • One year to learn how to buck the system as our entire culture — in which ourselves, our friends, and our extended families are completely immersed — is a well-oiled machine geared towards quick and unhealthy food.

One year to change my lifestyle.

I had been reading about raw vegan food for the past year, but it wasn’t until two months ago that Matt and I started eating more raw vegan food. Twenty-one days to eating healthy, mostly raw vegan food? No.

For the past two months, my entire routine has been turned upside down as I learned how to prepare new food and how to fit this radically new way of eating into my household’s routine, culture, and lifestyle. All maintenance duties, with the exception of paying bills, were put on hold because we were making such an extreme change. Our routines were completely discombobulated. Matt and I had to stay laser-focused on our new way of preparing and eating food as chaos reigned around us.

Now, two months later, as eating more raw food feels normal and routine to us and it slips easily into our day, I have spent the last week bringing the house back under control. The backyard is still insane from lack of maintenance. It took two months for our new habit of eating raw to settle.

Perhaps you can make something like “make my bed in the morning” or “brush my teeth after lunch” stick in 21 days. But, as I discovered, a lifestyle change takes concerted effort over a long period of time. And it requires a determined persistence to continue whenever you have setbacks, which you will by the way. You will always have “failures” along the road to long-term goals, and you always have to get right back in there after you have caught your breath.

It took a year, which included many moments of discouragement and weariness, but my family is finally eating healthy. It was so worth the requisite time and persistence.