Unfocused Productivity

5 Productive Things to Do When You’re Unfocused

Sometimes I have laser-like focus. But there are days when I stare blankly at my screen. Here are 5 things to do when you're unfocused but want productivitySometimes I have laser-like focus. With task at hand I plow through and get the work done, barely taking time to drink water and breathe. This was the case in preparing my 30 Day Self-Care Challenge in 2015. From concept to fleshed-out plan took less than a week. But not all my endeavors are like that. Actually, most aren’t.

There are days when I show up at my desk and stare blankly at the screen. This in spite of the fact that I have taken time the night before to contemplate what one thing I plan to focus on for the day. Some days, it just doesn’t click.

So what is an entrepreneur to do? Sit around and eat bon-bons while catching up on Game of Thrones and Outlander? Tempting, but I recently sat down and put together a list of 5 things to do when I’m feeling unfocused but want to be productive. Consider making your own list (and feel free to use my list as a starting point!).

Productivity even when unfocused:

1. Delete email

Zero inbox? Me neither. Not even close. So set the timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes (or whatever time you want) and start deleting and filing. I try not to get caught into reading old emails. If I run into a bunch that I want to read (often from signing up for some list), then I make a folder and stick them in it. I do take the time to unsubscribe from those that I no longer have an interest in or have turned out to not be what I thought they’d be. Don’t be afraid to unsubscribe – besides lessening your inbox load, you are doing the sender a great service. Your not opening their email hinders their open rate. If you haven’t opened a single email from them in the last month or so, unsubscribe.

2. Read articles saved to reading list

Facebook has this really great feature where you can save an article link that someone posts. In the upper right hand corner of the post is a light grey downward pointing arrow. If you click it a menu appears and “save link” is an option (but only if the post contains a link to an article). Click that and the article is saved to a list. How to access the list? When logged into Facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/saved and your list will be there.

When I find interesting articles via Twitter (often accessed from my iPhone), I save them to Safari’s Reading List.

3. Sort favorited pins on Pinterest

I favorite way too many pins, and always with the intention that I’ll go back later to see if I really want to commit to pinning it. Sometimes I’m not sure to what board I want to pin it; sometimes I don’t have time to follow the link to the original website to see if the information is really what I’m looking for. Sometimes I’m just lazy. But taking a few minutes to pin (and then unlike) a Pinterest pin is a good thing. Ideally I’ll get down to under 20 likes (I’m at 491 494 746 – I couldn’t help myself – as of the writing revision of this post).

4. Sort photos

Whether on my phone or computer – a few minutes of time can be well spent cleaning up “bad” (blurry, useless, dark) photos. Good bye duplicates. Good time to sort and tag as needed too. Certainly makes searching for that Pre-K graduation photo (to compare to the 8th grade graduation nine years later) a whole lot easier! Well, it would have.

If you’re not a Mac user, sort your photos in whatever program organizes them. You can take this task old school and sort through the shoebox of photos too!

5. Tag my Evernote notes

I don’t utilize this feature nearly enough. I’m still trying to master organizing in Evernote, and I really like how Michael Hyatt approaches this with tags. So besides tagging my notes, I guess I could use unfocused time to figure out an organization hierarchy as well!

Not familiar with Evernote? Then take some time to check it out. I have it installed on all my devices (it synchs across them all and with the cloud version), and I just learned how to clip web articles to it. The basic version is free (which is what I use).

So there you have my list of 5 things to do when your feeling a bit unfocused. Just remember to set a time limit. I find that I often get inspired by something (series of pins, interesting article, etc.) that sends my mind spinning and my creative juices flowing. Next thing you know – I’ve written a new blog post!

What things might you add or tweak to the list?

Strength and Willpower Not Always Enough

Disconnect from History

I always thought it takes great strength and willpower to survive whatever atrocities life throws our way, and then I met Nesse, a Holocaust survivor.I accompanied my 13-year old daughter and a group of her friends to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC as part of their 8th grade field trip. Although they’d been studying World War II in history and literature classes, there was a disconnect for them. It went beyond imagining “olden days” before technology. It was taking them to a place that was beyond their imaginations; a place so horrific that it seemed as real to them as a B-horror movie. These are girls who have never been touched by tragedy. They were only infants when 911 happened, and even then were isolated by being tucked away in a rural farming community.

I know the history of WWII and the Holocaust and the plight of the European Jews. I read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl when I was in grade school and was profoundly effected. More recently I’ve read The Book Thief and Once We Were Brothers. I’ve seen the movies, each with a unique perspective on the war: Schindler’s List, The Pianist, and The Boy In The Striped Pajamas to name a few. And the words and pictures, as horrific and unsettling yet moving and inspiring of hope all paled when I got to meet Nesse Godin, Holocaust Survivor.

There aren’t many survivors left. Nesse is 87 and was a young girl when Hitler’s forces invaded her native Lithuania. She works as a volunteer at the museum and was on hand to tell her story. At age 13 (the same age as our group of 8th grade girls), she and her family were rounded up and sent to one of the Jewish Ghettos. She survived there and was then sent to a concentration camp. She survived there only to be herded into a Death March of women, a last ditch effort of the Germans to kill as many more Jews as possible before the Soviets liberated the camp. Nine hundred women and girls died on that march; only 200 survived.

Strength and Willpower?

It is hard to imagine the strength required to survive the Ghetto – with barely any food and poor living conditions. It is harder to imagine the determination required to survive the concentration camp, where not only food, but clothing and heat were scarce. It is hardest to imagine that after four years of starving and freezing the amount of perseverance required to survive a march that you know has the sole purpose of killing you. But Nesse survived.

Nesse Godin, Holocaust Survivor
Nesse Godin, Holocaust Survivor

“How?” I asked, tears welling in my eyes. “You must have had so much will to live.”

“No,” Nesse said. “I wanted to die. Many times I wanted to die. But Jewish women kept me alive. ‘Why do you cry little girl?’ they would ask. ‘I am hungry,’ I would say. They placed tiny crumbs from their own meager rations in my mouth. ‘Why do you shiver so?’ they would ask. ‘I am cold,’ I would say. They showed me how to wrap myself in straw. Who knew you could gather warmth from straw? They would tell me, ‘God doesn’t want you to die. He wants you to live. You must promise that you will share your story so these terrible things never happen again.’ So here I am.”

Her story left me in awe. I always imagine that it takes great strength and willpower to survive whatever atrocities life throws our way (and none in my life even come close to what Nesse went through). But she gave me a different perspective: perhaps it is not strength we should seek, not determination we must muster, but rather surrounding ourselves with loving support and selfless kindness that can carry us through life’s storms; that the giving souls, who had nothing to give, still gave and cared for a soul more lost than their own.

I hugged Nesse. Blessed that I had heard her story. Thankful that I could share it with others. As I hugged her I told her I was so glad she had survived. She chuckled and smiled, “Me too, my dear, me too.”

[Note: Book and movie links are Amazon affiliate links. I receive a small percentage of the sale should you make a purchase on Amazon using one of the links. This does not effect the price you pay. Thank you for supporting me!]

Great Expectations of SMART Goals

Making SMART Goals

People view the new year as a time to create goals. Be explicit and be sure to set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.The new year is upon us, looming on the horizon with possibilities and potential. People often view the new year as a time to shed their old skins and create new ones. And the goal setting and resolutions begin: great expectations of what can be if only willpower holds out.

The statistics for realized goals is staggeringly bleak: only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution. Why are the odds so stacked against success? One of the main reasons is that people often set unrealistic and vague goals. You are ten times more likely to attain your goal if you explicitly make resolutions. Ten times. So get specific.

If you are familiar with the acronym SMART in relation to goal setting, then you know that the “S” stands for specific. It’s not enough to say “I’m going to get out of debt.” You want the goal to be more specific. A more specific goal would be “I’m going to pay off my $3000 credit card debt in the next six months,” or “I will pay an extra 10% on my student loans each month for the next year.”

Now let’s see if one of our specific goals is measurable. We’ll be able to take a look at the monthly statements to see if the balance is decreasing, so yes, that goal is measurable. If losing 20 pounds is your goal, then having a scale so you can weigh in weekly makes that goal measurable. If reading 50 books over the year is your goal, then keeping a list of the books read makes that a measurable goal. Measuring isn’t difficult, you just have to have a means to track progress along the way.

How attainable is your goal? If you are between jobs and your goal is to pay off that $3000 credit card debt in six months, that may not be an attainable goal (at the moment – don’t give up yet!). If you want to get your weight down to 150 pounds (and you’re currently 250), think about when you were last 150 pounds. Was it a few years ago? A couple of decades ago? Middle school? Have you arbitrarily chosen 150 as the magic number? If you were 150 pounds within the last decade, it’s probably an attainable goal. If you were last 150 in middle school, and you’re middle-aged now, then revise that immediate goal to a more attainable number. That’s not to say that you’ll never get down to 150, just that you’re making the current goal more attainable.

What about relevant? By relevant, I mean how important is this goal to you? If it’s not important, then the chances that you will take any action towards the goal are slim to none. Do you really need to get out of debt? You are more likely to want to stick to the goal is you’re trying to get out of debt in order to buy a house or car versus just trying to get out of debt because you think that makes a good goal. Likewise, you’re more likely to want to lose weight if you’ve had a health scare and the doctor has told you if you don’t lose weight you will likely have a relapse. Think about what your motivation is to reach this goal. Is the motivation – the WHY you are doing this – strong enough to carry you all the way to the finish line? If not, you’ll want to revise the goal.

Finally we’ve come to the “T” in SMART – timely. Do you have a specific time frame in which to achieve the goal? With whatever goal you make, be sure to answer the question: by when. “Someday” is not a time frame that your mind can work with when it comes to achieving goals.

The new year brings great expectations, and you can bring those into realization with some thoughtful planning. Have you made resolutions or goals for the new year? Stop by and share in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

No Hope for Me

It’s Not That I Don’t Have Hope

I believe in hope insofar as its meaning that what is wanted can be had. I have hopes and dreams, & I’ve been putting those hopes and dreams into action.I really thought it would be easier to write about hope than it proved to be. I wondered why that was. I consider myself to be a hopeful person, yet there was no hope for me.

I believe in hope insofar as its meaning that what is wanted can be had. I have hopes and dreams, but in the last year or so, as I’ve explored what those were specifically and more concretely, I’ve been putting those hopes and dreams into action.

I used to be more of a daydreamer. Lots of thinking about “what if…” and “if I had this, then….” type of mind ramblings. Now I frame my future with “what can I do now to make that happen?” Hope, in the sense of maybe one day it will come true, no longer has appeal. That’s the kind of hope that makes me feel powerless; that I don’t have control over the outcome. I’m no longer that person.

Taking Action

Now I take the bull by the horns and charge forward with a plan. Well, maybe not charge – most days I tiptoe cautiously forward, but definitely with a plan. So for my own personal goals and dreams, I know that I control the journey to get there. I still have hopes and dreams and goals, but I’m not waiting around for them to appear in my path. I’m actively taking steps to see them to fruition. Sometimes I stumble and make mistakes, but that is all part of the beautiful journey.

Becoming Aware of Who You Are

Your personal growth is greatly enhanced by becoming more aware of who you are as a personPersonal growth is the process of improving oneself through activities that develop talents and potential, which in turn make you more employable, enhance your quality of life, and lead you to realizing your dreams and aspirations. Your personal growth is greatly enhanced by becoming more aware of who you are as a person.

In order to develop your talents, you have to be aware of what they are. Your awareness cannot stop there, you must also realize the best way for YOU to develop that talent and potential. Your method of learning may not be suited to someone else.

There are a multitude of online “tests” that will give you insight into the type of person you are. It is best to use these results not as a definition of who you are, but rather as a way of understanding why you are the WAY you are. I always like to read over the results to see with what I agree and disagree. Lots of insight can be gained just from that! There are links at the end of this article to some of the personality tests you may find insightful. Remember, no one personality type is better than another.

Action is born out of awareness

Actions that you take, particularly positive and forward-moving actions, are a result of your being self-aware. If being around crowds of people makes you anxious, and you are aware of this, then you know what actions you can take to avoid or minimize your interaction with crowded situations. I don’t go shopping at the local mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas because I don’t like crowds or the noise or the rush. This means that in order to get my Christmas shopping done, I have to shop early and/or shop online. Do I miss out on some great deals? Maybe. But I keep my sanity, and for me, that is worth more.

As you start to think about your goals for the coming year (you are starting to think about them, right?!), you will better be able to set up actionable steps if you are aware of what works and doesn’t work for you. If you have consistently failed to reach goals in the past, it may not be the goals themselves that are the issue, but rather the actions you are taking to try to achieve them.

How self-aware are you?

The definition of awareness is “knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.” Self-awareness is not just about being aware of what you are doing; you need to be aware of what you are eating, who you are associating with, and how you react to stress and other emotional triggers. Being fully aware is minimizing the amount of time you spend functioning on autopilot.

I’ll be spending this week posting about awareness, particularly self-awareness in the aspects of eating, personal associations, and stress triggers. The discussion is ongoing over on our Facebook page and on Twitter. Please join us and share! Sign up for our mailing list to receive links to all the Awareness Posts.

Links to online personality type “tests”:


Big Five (I found this one quite insightful, even though I didn’t agree 100% with my results)

Ayurveda (more about body type, but insightful to personality traits are well)

New Book and Affirmations Update

I’ve blogged about affirmations before, and I continue my personal journey in modifying and implementing them on a daily basis. I find the many variations of the “right way” or “best way” to use affirmations insightful. Some sources tout a “say it even if it’s not true” discipline and others are firm in their belief that the statement must be true at the moment. Personally, I’m okay with the former as long as the statement feels true. So even though it may not be true at the moment I want it to be true, I know it will be true, I feel inspired to take action to make it true.

Case in point: I say the following affirmation: “My home is always clean and tidy, and my family helps keep it that way.” At this very moment, my home is no where near tidy, it’s fairly clean, and my family is getting better at putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I still say the affirmation every morning with conviction even though we are a long way from that statement being true. What it has done for me is put focus on this issue daily. Every day I’m reminded of my goal of a tidy house. Every day I take action towards that goal – some days a very small action, more at preventative maintenance; and some days large strides (laundry room completely cleaned out and rearranged!).

I’m curious how many of you have used or are using affirmations? How are they working – or not – for you?