Tag Archives: time

Stress Relief

As I am writing this on September 11th, I am entering a couple very busy weeks. As an introvert, some of the most stressful times are those when I am spending every waking hour with people. Add to that a lack of routine, and I can be quite discombobulated.

So what can I do to combat this stress? Here are a few things that I have found to help me stay a little more sane.

1. Get proper rest. This can be hard, especially as my schedule changes. As I transitioned from evening work hours to day work hours, I had few nights in a row of sub-optimum sleep. I know that there are people who live on fewer hours of sleep than I do, but I know that if I am going to perform my best, sleep cannot be skimped on.

2. Remain on a good (little d) diet. This is not something I’ve ever really tried before. Previously when I entered stressful seasons of the year, I used it as an excuse to become even more excess in all the junk I craved. By keeping on my healthy diet, it has helped me not to feel entirely off kilter. Helps to stay regular in the bathroom, too.

3. Find the fun. Right now part of the stress is that I’m preparing to play a team game at work. While it can be easy to think of the game as fun (and it is!), the pressure to study as much as you can and perform well can be great, especially as this pressure is mostly internal. I’m continually reminding myself that this is fun and to enjoy it.

Even when my primary task is not preparing for a game, I want to do what I can to find the fun and the purpose in what I’m doing, and remind myself of it.

Ronnica at Fern Falls4. Find a vacation. This time last year I went on a 3-day weekend in Estes Park, and I loved it. I had hoped to do it again this year, but my budget (of time and money) doesn’t have that much room. However, I did take a full day to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park a hike that I have been wanting to do for over a year. That was just the “vacation” I needed before I dived back in to these busy weeks.

5. Give myself permission to let go. In order to focus my mental energy on the task at hand, I’ve had to stop some things temporarily, like extra reading. I can’t do it all, and I need  to constantly reevaluate what is important to me at this time and focus on those things.

6. Keep things in perspective. Ultimately, a game is just a game. While I am stressed, I have taken on this stress because I really love it. Others are in stressful situations due to circumstances outside of their control. This too is temporary, so I want to enjoy the good parts while I can.

For the Love of Routines

Recently at work I received a new schedule. While my new shift is only 30 minutes different than my previous one, I decided to take this opportunity to reevaluate my routine.

I absolutely love routines. I feel more at peace if I can practice the same routine. If I don’t make up a routine for myself, I’m bound to fall into one anyway, making habits of things I’d rather not make a habit of. I’d rather be proactive on this point.

sunny streetOne of the best things I’ve added into my routine this year is a morning walk. While I could get my 10,000 steps in other ways, this 30 minutes walking outside not only ups my step count, but it gives me a good dose of fresh air and sun. This is a great way to start my day.

Another part of my routine that I’m definitely keeping is the 30 minutes of cleaning I do. Between dishes and laundry, this seems to be a daily necessity. I’ve been able to clean up my apartment into its cleanest state it’s ever been by spending a few minutes a day on this task.

As a part of my routine, I’ve also been able to read Scripture more regularly than I have in previous years. This provides the proper spiritual grounding for my day.

With my schedule shifting later, I have decided to shift some of my reading time from the evening to the morning (going to bed about the same time I was on my earlier shift). This will help me from using that time watching TV as I’m more prone to do in the evening.

While I’m glad that I spent some time thinking through this, it looks like my next few weeks are going to be a bit up in the air. More on that later!

Photo by David Schiersner

How I Began to Read More

Goodreads to readDisclaimer: This post is meant to encourage you if you feel you should be reading more. Everyone does not read at the same pace nor has the same amount of free time. While I believe that everyone should regularly be reading books in some form, how much and how fast will vary, and that’s okay.

I love to read. Always have. In the past decade, I’ve averaged finishing 95 books a year, including re-reads.

It would seem that I wouldn’t struggle finding time to read?

However, in the first 3 months of the year, I had only finished 3 books. One was for this blog, and the other two were read while I was flying cross-country. This was a continuation of a pattern I had been in since I stopped regularly using public transportation in late 2014.

I knew I had to find time to read in my schedule, and I knew where it was.

I was able to regularly watch 3 shows/day on a work day, and more on the weekends. I would justify to myself that it was often just on in the background, but it would still distract from reading.

Since my life plan helped me reduce how much I was saving on my DVR, I started wanting to watch less. I realized I could just watch one episode (instead of two) in the evening, then end my day spending 30-45 minutes reading a novel.

While this started out as a bit of an experiment, it has been successful. I realized that a good novel fulfills that desire for a good story that I had been filling with TV or movies. Adding on the extra reading time I have on weekends, I have been able to finish a novel a week.

After I did that, I decided to try to work in reading for spiritual growth and non-fiction, too. I get these done in the morning, either waking up early naturally for extra time in my schedule or instead of watching TV while I’m drinking my morning smoothie.

Yes, I naturally wake up 30 minutes before my alarm almost every morning. This is new for me, and almost certainly a result of eating better, being active during the day, and falling asleep faster as I’ve cut screens out of the end of the day.

When I add in my 2 hours of audiobook listening a day, I now read 3-4 books a week. At that rate I could finish my Goodreads TBR list in 3.5 years. Of course, I’d have to stop adding to it…

Ronnica’s 101 Tips for Living on Less and Loving it

The idea for this blog is taken directly from Your Money or Your Life. In the updated version, Vicki Robin removed the tips section she had previously and advised writing your own…so I am.

Here are my tips for living on less and loving it:

Attitude
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know how much debt they had to go into to buy that house/car/wardrobe/vacation.
2. Focus on being thankful for what you have instead of what you do not have.
3. Open your eyes to those in other situations than you are (at home and abroad). Much of what we think of as “needs” is culturally influenced.
4. Be more concerned about what you think about yourself than what others think about you.
5. Make friends who are like-minded and can inspire and encourage you.
6. Seek advice from those who are better than you in the areas you want to improve.
7. Avoid ads whenever possible.
8. Avoid visiting places where you will be tempted to shop without forethought.
9. When you’re tempted to splurge, remind yourself of your long-term goals.
10. Unfollow Facebook friends whom you are tempted to be envious of.

Groceries/food 
11. Buy fruit when in season and on sale and freeze or can it for later for use throughout the year.
12. Freeze unused yogurt before it goes bad and stick it in smoothies.
13. Freeze unused milk before it goes back and use it for baking.
14. Make your own dressing…better for you, and you make it for your own tastes.
15. Make your own spice mixes (ranch packet, Italian seasoning, chili powder, etc.).
16. Make sweets from scratch. Cheaper, and you’ll eat them less often.
17. Make your own ice, saving in Ziploc bags if you need to take it with you.
18. Make your own pizza crust and freeze it in appropriate-sized dough balls (wrapped in saran wrap placed in a Ziploc bag).
19. Eat more like a vegetarian.
20. Replace ground beef with black beans in your favorite casseroles.
21. Bake a week’s worth of goods in one day.
22. Know where to buy what to get the most value.
23. Freeze any unused bread before it goes bad, then use it to make your own croutons.
24. Save eating out for special occasions…
25. But be sure to tip generously when you do.

Health/beauty
26. Find beauty products that you can use for more than one purpose.
27. Wear less makeup.
28. Wear makeup less.
29. Cut your own hair.
30. Spend less time on your outward beauty and more time on your inward beauty.

Utilities
31. Turn off your electronics when you leave your house. I have my TV, DVD player and modem on a power strip that I can easily flip off when I leave the house.
32. Use a window fan to cool your bedroom instead of A/C.
33. Research the cheapest cell plan that meets your needs (StraightTalk has been great for me).
34. Pay for your cell phone by the year to save money (I pay for 11 months and get the 12th free).
35. Buy a highly-rated phone and keep it for several years.
36. Save waste water (like from unfinished cups or pasta water) and use to water your garden.

Housekeeping
37. Make your own laundry detergent.
38. …and your own dishwasher detergent.
39. Hang up your clothes to dry after washing, even if you have to hang a line inside.
40. Clean your kitchen with vinegar and water.
41. Clean your toilet with vinegar and baking soda.
42. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues.

Clothes
43. Buy clothes that you are comfortable and you look good in. For me, that’s skirts.
44. Hang up clothes at the end of the day where they can breathe. If they don’t have visible dirt or stink by morning, hang them back in your closet.
45. Simplify your wardrobe so that everything matches just 1 or 2 pairs of shoes.
46. Pare down your underwear down to a week’s worth, and wash by hand between machine washes if needed.
47. When buying new tops, try getting 3/4 length sleeves, as they’re wearable almost year-round.

Garden
drying oregano48. Take advantage of any sunny area to plant a container garden.
49. Starting with easy veggies that are your favorites.
50. Grow your own herbs. Much cheaper and tastier than what you can get at the store.
51. Make friends with people who grow different things in their garden than you do and trade.
52. Companion plant in a way to attract the right kinds of bugs (ex: nasturtium with tomatoes).
53. Invest a little more in non-hybrid seeds, and save the seeds the plants produce for the next year.
54. Add cleaned egg shells to your tomato soil to fight blossom end rot.
55. Fight powdery mildew with watered-down milk.

Transportation
56. Be generous in the space you give between you and the driver in front of you. Saves stress as well as gas/brakes.
57. Turn off your car’s A/C if you are driving under 45 MPH.
58. Use public transportation when traveling to high travel areas (like downtown). Cheaper than parking and less stressful.
59. Instead of buying a car with payments, save each month what you would spend on a car payment and buy your next car with cash.
60. When shopping for a car, shop according to your needs, not what others will think or how the car makes you feel.
61. Buy transit passes through work, which allows you to buy them with pre-tax money.

Shopping
62. Before buying anything, find out if someone has something that you can borrow to meet that need, or if you can repurpose something else.
63. Buy to last: it’s okay to spend a little more in the short term to get something that will last your lifetime.
64. Don’t browse catalogs or websites.
65. Research electronics so you get exactly what meets your needs.
66. Focus on buying items that can meet more than one need.
67. Comparison shop online before hitting up the store.
68. Avoid the mall, unless you have a specific purpose for being there.
69. Use reusable bags. (Store in the car so you don’t forget.)
70. Save your splurging for the library.

Travel
71. Pack your own snacks and entertainment. You’ll spend half as much at a drug store than at the airport for the same items.
72. Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at a water fountain on the other side.
73. Download ebooks from your library to your phone, tablet or e-reader.
74. If traveling over holidays, research flights on the holidays themselves, as they are usually significantly cheaper.
75. Save regularly for your travel goals, and don’t let less significant trips get in the way of budgeting for the ones you’ve always wanted to take.
76. Pack as few pants/skirts and shoes as is reasonable.

Moving 

77. Before deciding to move, come up with a budget and save up so that you’re not moving a credit card bill, too.
78. Find someone who recently moved and ask them for their boxes when they are finished.
79. Price the various moving options and determine what is the best value for you, money and time-wise.
80. Don’t forget to budget for all the little things you always seem to need when you move to a new place: trashcan, rugs, curtains, etc…
81. But also think through what you can reasonably do without.
82. If moving long distance, consider which possessions it may be reasonable to get rid of and replace when you get to your new home.
83. After you move, don’t visit any local fast food places, so you never get into that habit.

Hobby/Entertainment
colorado trail fall colors84. Find hobbies that costs no money. Mine are reading and hiking.
85. Use the library liberally to get as many as your entertainment selections as bbpossible.
86. Instead of going to the movies, make note of movies you want to see, to watch them on Netflix or borrow from the library later.
87. Exercise for free: outdoors or using frugally-acquired equipment at home.
88. Be a tourist in your own city, seeing (free or cheap!) sights you’ve never seen.
89. Cancel your Netflix or Hulu subscriptions regularly, saving up what you want to see for single 30-day windows, paying just for one month.
90. Use Pandora or Spotify instead of buying your own music.
91. When meeting up with friends, do activities that are free. Eat in together (even if it’s leftovers!) instead of out.

Holidays/Giving
92. Don’t give obligation gifts. Give according to your heart.
93. Buy a pack of blank cards, instead of holiday-specific cards. Write your own message.
94. Be intentional in your giving to charities, researching the organizations that you are giving to.
95. Pare down your holiday decorations to your absolute favorites.
96. Wrap gifts in usable or reusable wrappings (such as a reusable grocery bag in a fun color).

Time Management
97. Order your to-do list from most important to least, then work from the top.
98. Review your life plan regularly so that your to-do list aligns with it.
99. Make shopping lists on your phone (I use Evernote), saving paper and making it harder to leave behind.
100. Run your errands in one day, mapping your route to save gas and time.
101. If something has been on your to-do list for a few weeks, either do it or mark it off undone.

Ronnica’s 2016 Goal Updates

Now that we’re half way through 2016 (!), it’s time to look back on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. To be honest, I haven’t really thought about them too often, as my life plan has taken over my focus, so I was a little worried.

In January, I set 2 goals as well as spending goals. My first goal was to spend 30 minutes each day to cleaning/straightening my apartment. I’ve been pretty successful with this goal, and my apartment shows it. Accompanied by getting rid of things and organizing, my apartment looks better than it ever has. I still have work that I want to do, but I feel much more comfortable at home.

My second goal was to do my Bible reading first thing in the morning. I still spend too much time on my phone (usually 15 minutes) before I get to it, but I am regularly getting to it. I would like to keep working on keeping the phone down first thing in the morning.

As for my spending goals, here’s how I’ve done through May (haven’t calculated for June yet):

Groceries
2016 goal: $1,820, 2015 actual: $2,026.04
2016 YTD: $888.75

I’m currently on track to be a bit higher than last year, but as I’ve radically changed what I’m eating, that makes sense. I think this will balance out a little lower, probably on track to be the same as last year’s spending.

Travel
2016 goal: $1,400, 2015 actual: $743.35
2016 YTD: $847.35

I’m currently above my goal, but as my two plane trips were in the first half of the year, I’m really on try.

Hobby
2016 goal: $260, 2015 actual: $625.93
2016 YTD: $24.99

Well below goal, yay! I am saving up right now for a backpacking pack, but will probably wait until next year to get it as I’d like to fit it to my new body, not my in-between one.

2016 gardenGarden
2016 goal: $75, 2015 actual: $319.60
2016 YTD: $68.18

This has taken a lot of self-control, but I did it! My gardening expenses are probably done for the year.

Eating Out
2016 goal: $200, 2015 actual: $281.98
2016 YTD: $37.09

I’ve eaten out twice this year (while not traveling). I was already not eating out a lot before, but making my own food from scratch goes a long way to not wanting to eat out.

Gifts
2016 goal: $120, 2015 actual $179.61
2016 YTD: $62.94

I’m over my goal, and will probably end over my goal by the end of the year, but we’ll see.

Clothes
2016 goal: $20, 2015 actual: $60.86
2016 YTD $4.30

Doing great so far, but I have a feeling I’m going to need to spend more than $20 this year. I do plan on buying my newer wardrobe as cheaply as possible, getting by with as little as possible and buying most of it at thrift stores.

My Spiritual Gift

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca0263Last night, we met with our realtor to get our house on the market and sold as fast as humanly possible.  (In case you missed it, we are moving!)

It went remarkably well. There’s just a couple of little hiccups (including our “sunny” kitchen, shown here), which she assured us are workable, provided that we stay flexible and proactive.

So of course, despite that advice in mind, I’m stewing.  Fixating on things that are pretty well out of my control is sort of a gift of mine.  I think Realtor is on the same wavelength, because she said, “I totally get it, Amanda.  Worrying is my spiritual gift too.”

I love that line.  Of course, nowhere in the Bible do I recall “worrying” being listed as a spiritual gift, but sometimes I feel like I am SO good at it, it really should be considered a gift I possess.  For as long as I can remember, I have been a worrier (much to the consternation of non-worrying family members and loved ones).

In many ways, I suppose being a worrywart has served me well.  I have never done anything illegal, for fear of being caught.  I fret over how people perceive me, so I very rarely get into confrontational situations.  I earned scholarships to college because I worried about my grades and extracurricular involvement.  I even worry about dental health, flossing and brushing twice daily and visiting the dentist twice a year…and because of that worry, I have never even had a cavity, and LOVE going to the dentist (seriously!).

But these are largely things that I have control over.  Once I have addressed the issues that I can control, it is as though I feel the only thing left to control is–you guessed it–anxiety over the situation.

That house electrical issue that I have addressed as much as I can, thus now largely out of my hands?  I still stew about it.

Fretting over how the stager will arrange the kids’ toys, despite getting rid of as much stuff as I can?  I still stew about it.

How will I get two kids and two gigantic dogs out of the house for two hours a showing?  Yep.  I stew about it.

Riley is quick to remind me that ruminating is not a good use of my time.  He is right.  Being a worrier and being a good steward of my time do not go hand-in-hand.  So I continue to try to reign in my “spiritual gift”, making to where it is a catalyst for good time management…not a thief.

As with so much in my life, that area is still a work in progress.  I have a feeling this move will be a good teacher though.

Writing a Life Plan

If I asked you to sit down and write out a 7-page plan for your life, could you do it?

livingforwardBefore I read Living Forward by Michael S. Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, I can definitely tell you that I could not. Yet that is exactly what I did after reading it.

It has been a long time since I have been as motivated by a book as I have been by Living Forward. It is practical, straight-forward and helps you to make a plan for your life that meets your desires for your life, not theirs.

But enough about the book, because that’s not what this post is about. Really, the post is about writing my life plan.

I’ve frequently considered older women in my life who I want to be like and consider what I need to do now to be like them when I am their age. Writing my life plan allowed me to imagine who I could be in 50 years, and then making a practical plan to become that person.

By writing my life plan, it helped me put on paper (or should I say on a screen?) my priorities, making clear the reasoning behind some decisions I have made, even though I was unable to voice them at the time.

Writing the plan was relatively easy. Putting into action will require continual dedication. Yet I hope to use my life plan (reevaluated occasionally) to help steer myself in the right direction.

I thought about sharing a part of my life plan, but to be honest, it’s way too personal than I feel about placing in a public forum. However, I will likely be posting about some progress I’ve made by implementing my life plan. It’s only been a month, but I have seen progress already. Now for the hard work…

2016 Goals Update

unnamed (12)Time for an update on how my 2016 goals are going!

Make one extra mortgage payment.  This hasn’t happened yet, but we are making great strides with skimming extra money off where we can (like with groceries).

To be honest, though, this goal is the one I am prioritizing last.  The bigger picture goal, of course, is to just pay off the mortgage and be completely debt-free.  Whether that happens via an extra mortgage payment per year, or in one lump sum, we will be thankful regardless.

Journal and devotions daily.  I have learned making this goal a reality really hinges on whether or not I get up early.  Peanut has been dealing with sickness of late, which makes for some irregular nights and challenging days, so I sleep when I can.  I try to give myself grace–if I can’t journal daily, that’s okay…I get up the next day and try again.

I have also begun to count family devotions as my own devotion time.  I appreciate the opportunity to delve into devotions privately, but also treasure the ability to share that time with my family too.

Screen time to four times daily.  I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this one.  We don’t have a landline, and as a stay-at-home-mom, my cell phone is my link to the outside world on many days–texting is how I communicate with many people, I call my father daily, taking pictures to send to the kids’ grandparents with my phone technically involves “screen time,” and things like emailing my daughter’s preschool teacher requires time with a screen.  My volunteer position also requires quite a bit of time in front of a screen lately.

Although I may not be able to scale back to four times daily (yet) for an hour a day (yet), it is still my goal.  For now, I keep my phone in one spot rather than carry it with me everywhere, which has actually proven quite helpful in eliminating unnecessary phone checks.

Invite six families to supper.  One down, one scheduled, four to go!  Making great strides with this one.

Posting my goal progress on here keeps me accountable.  How are your personal goals coming along?

Freedom of the To-Do List

to-do listI’ve always been a list person. In high school, I loved the agendas that we were given to record all our homework, tests and activities in. In seminary, I would re-write my list in particularly dry classes to help me stay awake.

When I graduated for the last time in 2008, I stopped writing regular to-do lists for my personal life. I just didn’t have enough things that I would forget what I needed to do.

Since then, the only to-do lists I write are on the weekend to keep track of the chores that I want to do. These were always written on whatever scratch piece of paper I had on hand.

Shortly after the new year, I decided that I wanted to keep a more formal list each day of the things I wanted to accomplish that day. I realized that while I could keep track of everything I wanted to do each day, I had to devote a good bit of brain power to remember these things. By writing them down instead, I was freeing my brain for other concerns.

I’ve also found that by writing my to-do items down, I don’t worry about them. Whether I get to this or that on any given day, I don’t have to worry. I simply do my list from most important to least important, and while not everything gets done, the most important things will get done.

If I had realized in December that I wanted to write these to-do lists, I would have invested in a planner. But since I decided to start in the middle of my Buy Little month, I decided to make use of a free notebook I had received at work, which works just fine.

Do you find your to-do list freeing or debilitating?

The B-Word

3053649344_2c6dcf254a_mWell, it has happened.

One of my children just uttered the words, “I’m bored.”

Growing up, my mother’s response when my brother or I would make that gripe was always, “It (boredom) is an attitude.”  At the time, of course, we would covertly roll our eyes, and think she didn’t ‘understand’ us.

As is often the way these parenting things work, I found myself sounding like my mother in response to this complaint, with some elaboration–something to the effect of, “It’s an attitude; find something to do, or I will find something for you to do, and you probably won’t like it.”

The truth is, my child’s comment really bothered me, because not only do our kids have plenty (and I do mean plenty) of things to do and toys to play with, but also because time is a gift; we have plenty of time to do the things that need to be done, and certainly plenty of constructive things to fill up that time.

But I also realize that my children are small and it is my responsibility to teach them.  I wasn’t quite sure how to go about teaching time management to a four year old and a two year old, especially since that is an area that I also struggle in.

I also did not want to be their sole source of entertainment–I will not always be around, and so they need to learn to entertain themselves. While I love playing with them, they also need to know how to comfortably play without a constant adult presence two feet away.

So in true Striving Stewardess fashion, I thought about it and brainstormed some ideas for helping my kids help themselves prevent boredom. The two biggies:

I make sure they have plenty of “open-ended” toys at their disposal.  These include toys that encourage imagination and creativity, including art supplies, books, and blocks.  It’s amazing what kids will create with some paper and crayons!

You are your child’s first and best teacher.  I have begun to speak my thought process aloud as I model how I address daily tasks.  For example:  “Since I have finished my to-do list, I could read a book or start in on tomorrow’s list.”  I feel like this demonstrates how an adult addresses potential boredom.

How do you address the issue of boredom and time management in your household?

Photo courtesy of mao_lini.