Wellness Wednesday: Time and Goals

We each have goals. What would it be like to accomplish them ? What would it be like to accomplish a lot of them ? Some people do. These are people with good time management. 

It occurred to me that before I discuss exercise on this Wellness Wednesday blog, I should discuss the one thing my patients say they need before they can exercise: more time. We all have one lifetime of time. What matters is how we use it. Everyone knows this, so what is the problem ? 

Most people are not fully aware of how they spend their own time.

They are not as factually familiar with how they spend each hour as the think they are. I have found that everyone thinks they’re busy, and everyone thinks they're active. People are less sure if they are efficient in their day. This is the territory I suggest we explore at this point in the New Year. 

We are talking about time management. Have you ever had a class in this ? Few people have. It seems like it would be a good idea right at the beginning of high school. Or how about right now, in the blog post ? 

Here is your mini class on time management, complete with some handouts and homework. 

  • Obtain a notebook to document this process. 
  • Record your present schedule, down to the hour, for one week. Include everything from housework to Facebook. Wear a watch all week so you will have realistic estimates of time. 
  • Make a list of goals, for the week, month, quarter, year and five years. 
  • Order the goals by priority.
  • Assess your week long log and see where you are misdirecting or wasting your time. 
  • Realign your schedule with your priorities. Include a spot for 30 minutes of exercise 6 days per week. 
  • Record what happens the next week and repeat. 

Now this is a VERY simplified version of a time management class. It is, however, the essence of the process. It only works however, if you are absolutely truthful with yourself about how you spend you day’s time and absolutely truthful about what you really want. 

I hear so much about not “ having enough time” to exercise, or to shop for healthy food, or to prepare healthy meals, that I decided to address it head on. 

For those interested in more, there are really so many great resources on the web, from, to books by Harvard Business Review. 

Here is a one page handout on the subject. Click on the title below to download. 

"Time Management" from the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning

For extra credit, here is an awesome self assessment and time management tool from University of Kentucky. Click on the title to download. 


"The Successful Person's Guide to Time Management"

This should be be printed, filled out and used. 

Class is dismissed. Homework is due next week! I’d love to hear how you do. 










Structure Sunday: The Structure of Time

For life to be good, we need a rhythm in the day, the week, the month, the season and the year. These circles within circles allow us to feel accomplishment, and to look forward to celebration. These finite periods allow what is overwhelming to become manageable. Structuring time helps us take the one lifetime that is ours, and fill it mindfully. 

I need to feel I am making progress on my long term goals every year. I use the annual holidays like Thanksgiving and New Years for self assessment. I can look back at the same time one year back and see the changes. 

The seasons hold a different joy. Each time I am sad to see the leaves fall, I am, shortly thereafter, shocked by the beauty of frost and snow. I am reminded that all seasons hold beautiful surprises, and that I am foolish to imagine that nothing exciting is around the corner. 

My business cycle is the month. This is how bills are paid, and accounts are balanced. Accountability is examined month by month. Actual money is one representation of work and effort, and as such it is a useful tool to use in gauging how we are meeting our responsibilities. 

My work cycle is the week. I want a chance to get stuff done, and I want to be creative in that work. I try to pace myself all week long, with a lighter day midweek, then forge on to the weekend, when I would hope to be creative. 

My personal cycle is the day. I believe we all thrive with a good day's work. However, in my opinion, this includes some important health and productivity features. Consider the basics:  sleep , nutrition and exercise. Most people need at least 7 hours of sleep. With this, you will have more concentration, stamina and productivity. You might even have a better mood. Life is just more fun and you will be more successful with a modicum of sleep. 

Food is so important! It is your fuel. You should frontload your day with a healthy breakfast of protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. That will turn on your metabolism and your brain. Later in the day, food can give you several healthful recharges: your midmorning snack, your lunch, and your afternoon snack. This way you will not tank your metabolism, feel sluggish, or hardly be able to think. Eating three meals and three snacks per day is a foundational principle of nutrition, and will help you feel better and perform better. 

Somewhere in the course of the day you must carve out at least a half an hour for exercise. It is best to schedule this formally, just like a meeting or an appointment, and to take it just as seriously. The magic of routines will reward you if you persevere. The more you do it, the easier it will be. 

 Everyone from a teen mom to the CEO of a large corporation needs a schedule. To achieve mastery over your time, you must invest in either a paper or electronic system. Smartphones generally come with everything you need in this regard, but the old school day runners can do just as well. But these alone won't do the trick. You must develop a routine of sitting down with the schedule to look it over and fill it in mindfully. I recommend looking at your schedule every Sunday to assess the coming week, and also looking every evening to prep for the next day. Make your schedule check a routine. The habit will stick better if you do it at the same time and place every day. 

Routine lowers stress. Breaking up goals and plotting them over time encourages success. These are among some of the most important things I want for my patients. The particulars I teach them about disease conditions and health maintenance will not help them unless they can follow through on the recommended treatment or prevention steps. Fostering patient success will continue to be a big thrust of this blog and the website in general. 

For more information, please see the hyperlinks in the text. Have a great week ! 

Structure Sunday: 3 Ways to get ready for the week

It is a rare day when I learn a new word. But in all fairness, this word hasn't been around forever. It is: LISTICLE. It is a composite of list and article. 

We've all seen them on blogs and in magazines in line at the grocery store. They are considered an easy way to write, and as such are looked down upon by writing and blogging snobs. But, as a doctor who teaches,  I am going to go on record as being in favor of lists and listicles. 

Lists simplify and unify a topic. They are a way of grouping items, and they help us know how many items we need to remember. And, as I have said before, establishing structure, habits and routine in life is critical to achieving optimal health, both mental and physical. (Think daily gratefulness journal or flossing your teeth. ) 

Here is my first little listicle for you on this Structure Sunday : 3 Ways to Get Ready for the Week. 

1. Clean your house. 

Did you know that there is scientific evidence that a messy space depresses the mood just as much as a depressed mood results in a messy space ?  Don't let either happen to you. (Click here to see just one of the articles.)  Just remember that you don't have to do it all at once. Click here for a great listicle entitled " 6 Ways to Clean House When You're Depressed". Here are some more interesting articles on this topic. 

Messy Room and Depression

How Cleaning and Organizing Can Improve Your Physical and Mental Health 

2. Clean your desk. 

It should come as no surprise that cleaning your desk would have the same type of mental and physical benefits. Cleaning your desk means opening all your mail, checking all your bills, and recording all your responsibilities on your calendar, with alerts. You can also dust, and redo your stacks and idea boards, making things aesthetically pleasing as well. This is a great way to take charge, reduce stress,  and make your like more beautiful. Check out this first rate blogging: 

A Surprising Happiness Booster ? Cleaning My Office 

3. Set your goals.

Look at goals for the Quarter, Month, Week and Monday. Use your choice of paper, cards or an App like Evernote. Psychology and self help experts the world round advocate the setting of goals. But it is only recently that we have gotten some real help with this. We need to have SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound.

Make sure all your goals meet the SMART criteria and you will have not just a smart, but a brilliant week.  


Want to try EVERNOTE for free ? Click HERE


Structure Sunday: Things that help keep me organized

I am not naturally organized. If left to my own devices, I would go deep. For example, I would knit for a whole day. I would read entire books, workout a little too much, or cook overly complicated meals. I don't lack for inspiration or tenacity. What I work towards, is balance and rhythm in my schedule. 

I am almost 53 and smart enough by now to seek outside advice. Lots of it. All the time. I have learned that I need it. At this point in my life, a big source of inspiration are my co- workers. They are the common sense ones. A person always needs that kind of people in their life. If you don't have any, I suggest you find some. 

Beyond that, my books and other media are very important for me. I read a self improvement article from one source or another two to three times a week. I have a couple solid go-to books on time management, and they never cease to help. Finally,  I listen to a selection of podcasts when I am in the car or doing things like folding laundry. These are weekly audio blogs on various topics, all collected for my listening pleasure by subscription, for free, on my smartphone, which hooks by bluetooth or cord into the stereo of my car or my house. I can set the settings to keep only the recent episodes, so there are no worries about all my space getting used up. To get podcasts, at least in the apple world, you go to the app store, or open the podcast app on your phone. I am sure it is just as easy for other platforms ( yeah right ; ) You'll have to pick your own topics. I defy you to find a topic that is not without a podcast. From chess to chocolate you will not be disappointed. 

For books, I recommend The Everything Time Management Book. It is clear and fun to read. My favorites are from the Harvard business review series ( the HBR series) and my favorite of those is Getting the Right Work Done. I will make sure to include these in my Amazon store which is under the Retail Therapy link in the left menubar. 

Bute even better and more up to date are articles in key magazines. I like learning about the science of human productivity and how it informs the way we conduct our lives. What does science say about habits ? What does it say about sleep or the way we study ? There's a lot to learn even in the social sciences about things like how to manage our feelings, and how we should communicate in order to get along. 

It takes a lot of reading to follow all this, and so I try to chose strategically. First, I set up a good home page on my laptop. My current one is through Yahoo, and I have it customized to the hilt. I also have a good few news reader apps. My faves are Flipboard and Currents, and these are also highly customizable. 

I still crave some paper, so I get a selection of key magazines, like Wired, Scientific American and Real Simple, to name a few. But more and more, I am choosing digital magazine versions. Oftentimes, but not always, digital versions come with the paper subscription, as long as you can log in with your subscription number. ( You all know that a subscription is much much cheaper than buying individual issues, right ? ) Digital magazines allow you to have all of your reading with you all of the time. 

Make sure there is a time for everything important in your day. Whether you are a stay a home mom or a busy executive, you should prioritize and block it out like the president. Just don't forget to block out some time every week to reassess and improve the way you keep yourself organized. 


Structure Sunday: bags, boxes and containers

You all know that I am all about fitness, nutrition and productivity. In today's post I am going to reveal the Secret behind having all of these : bags. Yes bags, and to a lesser extent boxes and other containers.

I think it is entirely possible that love of bags, boxes and containers can be taken to the level of obsession. I mean, they're not even a thing. They are a thing that hold other things. And yet, they can be so appealing and so useful. I chose to write about them today because they can make a number of aspects of your life better. 

Take nutrition. When you shop, you want to be mindful of what you buy. One way to do that is to bring your bags. Most grocery stores have their version of a reusable bag. Places like Pier One have cheap but beautiful ones. Natural Grocers has a sturdy version in burlap. At any rate, you are thinking green when you bring those, and so by association you are thinking healthy, and so you are NOT going to fill one of those up with white bread and soda pop. That just isn't going to happen. 

Once home, you have to plan for tomorrow's lunch and snacks so you can avoid eating unhealthy, eating out, or going without. A nice lunch bag makes this so much easier. It gets you excited for packing your lunch. You can also include a wide mouth or a drink thermos. Think about what you would want in your dream lunch bag, and then go find it. I saw some good ones at Target the other day. Pack it all with a lunch and two snacks while you're cleaning up from dinner. 

Then there's the ski bag, the lake bag, the picnic or go-to-a-potluck rigid basket, and so on. Fix some of these up and things will start Happening.

I would like to highlight two more: the gym bag, and the office bag. 

Regarding your gym bag, yours will not stink. The gym bag is inspiring. You have an outfit in which you feel comfortable, the right shoes, a coordinated water bottle, and your ear buds. Sometimes you need changes of clothes, and shower stuff, depending. Trick yours out and you will get to the gym more than ever. 

Finally the office bag. In order to ready your office bag, which people used to call a briefcase, you have to clean it out, look at your schedule for the next week and the next day, then pack it back up with the necessary files and items to get those things done. You make sure all your electronics are charging, and that you have enclosed your favorite things like glasses, lipgloss, etc. Doing this will of course, tremendously lower your stress and cause you to feel confident about the week.

See how bags have great health benefits ?