My name is Faith and I have an addiction. An addiction to planning. I can’t stop. Not just a casual, keep-things-orderly kind of planning, more serious planning.

How serious? Serious enough to count my planner among my most prized possessions. Serious enough to spend a decent amount of time contemplating which type of planner works best for me (I went back to paper three years ago after five plus years of using electronic.) Serious enough to plan almost every minute of every day (there’s a lot to do, don’t want to waste a single minute). Serious enough to schedule not only appointments in my personal planner, but exercise, meals, meal prep, and even nights at home.

(Let me explain that last one. Between my appointments with real estate and wellness clients, yoga teaching, and Grace’s skating practices and Girl Scout meetings, evenings at home are hard to come by. About six months ago, I took to writing “nothing” on one evening per week to ensure that we are able to spend at least one evening at home each week. It’s worked well. I highly recommend.)

I obviously enjoy planning. Planning is good. It makes me feel organized and in control. It helps me to make the most of my time–which, as a single mother who works full plus time, is a valuable commodity. And, it reduces stress. It makes me happy. Mostly.

While there is no question that planning improves the quality of my life, there is a point at which the planning leaves me feeling claustrophobic. And, sometimes just plain tired.

I recently read a blog post about what makes some people luckier, and by extension more successful, than others. It was guest written by Erik Calonius on one of my favorite blogs by Jonathan Fields.

Calonius referenced a study conducted at the University of Hertfordshire to determine behaviors of people who considered themselves lucky versus those who considered themselves unlucky. Both groups of people were given a newspaper and asked to look through it to determine how many photographs were inside. On average the unlucky people took two minutes to count  photographs, whereas the lucky ones had a photo total in just seconds.

Calonius explains: “How could the “lucky” people do this? Because they found a message on the second page that read, “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” So why didn’t the unlucky people see it? Because they were so intent on counting all the photographs that they missed the message.”

The researcher, Richard Wiseman summarized his findings in this way:

“Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner, and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through the newspaper determined to find certain job advertisements and, as a result, miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there, rather than just what they are looking for.”

The post got me thinking. And wondering how many opportunities I’ve missed because I’ve been so focused on my plan. How many amazing people have I missed meeting because I was rushing off to my next appointment. How many beautiful sights, heart-warming stories, and meaningful looks have I failed to notice?

So starting this week, I have a new plan! (You didn’t think I’d give it up, did you?) My new plan is to reduce my planning and to leave time and space for luck, opportunity, and magic. Clearly, this will involve not just less planning, but cutting back on some activities as well. And that’s okay. I’m ready. I’m ready to stop always working the plan and planning the work. I’m ready to be more open to chance and spontaneity.

Starting with today. This morning, I ended up with two hours between appointments on the other side of town from my home and office. In the past I would have either found a yoga or exercise class to fill the time, or driven back to the office (spending almost an hour in the car to get about an hour of work time). But not today. Instead, I parked myself at a coffee shop. Sure, I caught up on emails and blogged so it wasn’t like I was completely wasting time. But I also allowed myself time and space to be–just be–rather than focusing primarily on crossing items off my “to do” list.

Time to be. What a beautiful concept!

Be well!

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It’s Sunday. Which means it’s time to plan my week.

Yep, I’ll admit it. I’m a planner. Always have been. I remember creating a chart of my outfits in 9th grade so that I wouldn’t wear the same clothes within the same week. Total dork! Who did I think cared? If my 15 year-old self could see me now she would freak. Since I work from home and seldom see the same people on consecutive days, I often wear the same outfit two days in a row. Shhhh, don’t tell the dork.

Today, I try to leave the planning to more important things. But I’m still a planner. For me, the less I have to think about on a daily basis, the better.

In many ways my planner is my life. Or at least a pretty darned good representation of what’s going on in my life. In addition to client and personal appointments, it includes daily to-do lists, birthdays, logs of phone calls, shopping lists, all kinds of notes, exercise “appointments”with myself and others, and what we’re having for dinner.

Yep, you read that right. Come Sunday, I can tell you what we’ll be having for dinner every night of the week. Meal planning: a small task that makes a giant difference.

In addition to alleviating the stress of scrambling to get something on the table, it saves me money (since I know just what to buy and am less likely to buy on impulse, less food goes to waste), and we eat healthier.

Like most families, our evenings are busy. Between Grace’s skating, Girl Scouts, and school events and my client appointments, yoga classes, and volunteer gigs, we have activities almost every evening. Often we’re home for less than an hour before having to head out again. (And, sometimes we don’t even get to stop home for dinner—in which case I pack our dinners.)

Despite how simple and helpful meal planning is, I’m always surprised at how few people do it. And, sometimes when I suggest it to wellness clients, they aren’t quite sure where to begin. So, here’s what I do. Certainly not the only way to do it, but this works for me. Very simple, very easy, and usually takes me less than 15 minutes:

Inventory—I start by taking a mental inventory of my kitchen (sometimes I actually have to check the fridge). Do I have produce or fresh meat that needs to get used? I roast a whole chicken about every other week and then use the leftover meat in other dishes. Do I have some in the fridge or freezer?

Season & Recipes—My next step is to think about what is in season (thus better prices and better quality) and think about recipes that incorporate seasonal items. I have my favorites, but I also like to try new recipes. I love the fact that I can Google a couple of ingredients followed by the word “recipe” and come up with a bunch of new dinner ideas.

Schedule—Next step is look at our schedule for the coming week. I usually start by identifying the evenings I will have time to cook and plug something in there. Those are evenings when I don’t have to be too concerned about how long a dish takes. (Being the planner that I am, I also make a note in my calendar to remove things from the freezer or soak beans overnight for upcoming meals.) If I can get some leftovers out of the meal, all the better. I then look at the evenings with little or no cooking time which brings me to…

Cooking Methods–During the school year, I use the slow cooker for at least one weekly meal and schedule that for an evening when there’s no time to cook (but time to prep in the morning). (Tip: Every couple of weeks during the winter I make what my Grandpa Jack refers to as refrigerator soup. Whatever veggies are in my refrigerator go into the slow cooker with a soup bone, beans, and either rice or barley. This makes more soup than we can eat in a meal, so in addition to lunches, some of it gets frozen for future quick dinners. Soup and some good whole grain bread is an easy, healthy and satisfying dinner.)

Boiling whole wheat pasta and adding leftover chicken, leftover roasted vegetables and pesto (which I make in the summer and freeze in small jars) makes a quick, healthy dinner. We call this Make-Your-Own-Pasta. When we’re really pressed for time we do Make-Your-Own-Pizzas using whole wheat pitas, pesto or tomato sauce, and leftover veggies and protein.

Grocery List—While I’m planning meals, I’m also making my grocery list for the week. In addition to what I’ll need for dinners, the inventory I’ve just done means I know what we’re running low on. For me, shopping with a list significantly cuts down on impulse buying and, eventually, wasted food.

And that’s it! When I described the process to a client recently, he said it sounds hard. It really isn’t. It does require a small amount of time and thinking ahead, but I think it’s a lot easier than coming up with a fresh plan every night. And, it certainly takes less time than stopping for takeout several times a week (and is a lot healthier and a lot less expensive).

Be well!

It’s Sunday. Which means it’s time to plan my week.

Yep, I’ll admit it. I’m a planner. Always have been. I remember creating a chart of my outfits in 9th grade so that I wouldn’t wear the same clothes within the same week. Total dork! Who did I think cared? If my 15 year-old self could see me now she would freak. Since I work from home and seldom see the same people on consecutive days, I often wear the same outfit two days in a row. Shhhh, don’t tell the dork.

Today, I try to leave the planning to more important things. But I’m still a planner. For me, the less I have to think about on a daily basis, the better.

In many ways my planner is my life. Or at least a pretty darned good representation of what’s going on in my life. In addition to client and personal appointments, it includes daily to-do lists, birthdays, logs of phone calls, shopping lists, all kinds of notes, exercise “appointments”with myself and others, and what we’re having for dinner.

Yep, you read that right. Come Sunday, I can tell you what we’ll be having for dinner every night of the week. Meal planning: a small task that makes a giant difference.

In addition to alleviating the stress of scrambling to get something on the table, it saves me money (since I know just what to buy and am less likely to buy on impulse, less food goes to waste), and we eat healthier.

Like most families, our evenings are busy. Between Grace’s skating, Girl Scouts, and school events and my client appointments, yoga classes, and volunteer gigs, we have activities almost every evening. Often we’re home for less than an hour before having to head out again. (And, sometimes we don’t even get to stop home for dinner—in which case I pack our dinners.)

Despite how simple and helpful meal planning is, I’m always surprised at how few people do it. And, sometimes when I suggest it to wellness clients, they aren’t quite sure where to begin. So, here’s what I do. Certainly not the only way to do it, but this works for me. Very simple, very easy, and usually takes me less than 15 minutes:

Inventory—I start by taking a mental inventory of my kitchen (sometimes I actually have to check the fridge). Do I have produce or fresh meat that needs to get used? I roast a whole chicken about every other week and then use the leftover meat in other dishes. Do I have some in the fridge or freezer?

Season & Recipes—My next step is to think about what is in season (thus better prices and better quality) and think about recipes that incorporate seasonal items. I have my favorites, but I also like to try new recipes. I love the fact that I can Google a couple of ingredients followed by the word “recipe” and come up with a bunch of new dinner ideas.

Schedule—Next step is look at our schedule for the coming week. I usually start by identifying the evenings I will have time to cook and plug something in there. Those are evenings when I don’t have to be too concerned about how long a dish takes. (Being the planner that I am, I also make a note in my calendar to remove things from the freezer or soak beans overnight for upcoming meals.) If I can get some leftovers out of the meal, all the better. I then look at the evenings with little or no cooking time which brings me to…

Cooking Methods–During the school year, I use the slow cooker for at least one weekly meal and schedule that for an evening when there’s no time to cook (but time to prep in the morning). (Tip: Every couple of weeks during the winter I make what my Grandpa Jack refers to as refrigerator soup. Whatever veggies are in my refrigerator go into the slow cooker with a soup bone, beans, and either rice or barley. This makes more soup than we can eat in a meal, so in addition to lunches, some of it gets frozen for future quick dinners. Soup and some good whole grain bread is an easy, healthy and satisfying dinner.)

Boiling whole wheat pasta and adding leftover chicken, leftover roasted vegetables and pesto (which I make in the summer and freeze in small jars) makes a quick, healthy dinner. We call this Make-Your-Own-Pasta. When we’re really pressed for time we do Make-Your-Own-Pizzas using whole wheat pitas, pesto or tomato sauce, and leftover veggies and protein.

Grocery List—While I’m planning meals, I’m also making my grocery list for the week. In addition to what I’ll need for dinners, the inventory I’ve just done means I know what we’re running low on. For me, shopping with a list significantly cuts down on impulse buying and, eventually, wasted food.

And that’s it! When I described the process to a client recently, he said it sounds hard. It really isn’t. It does require a small amount of time and thinking ahead, but I think it’s a lot easier than coming up with a fresh plan every night. And, it certainly takes less time than stopping for takeout several times a week (and is a lot healthier and a lot less expensive).

Be well!

Are your health and fitness efforts sustainable?

It seems everywhere I look these days, there are mentions of sustainable this and sustainable that. Sustainable Farming, Sustainable Business Practices, and, most recently, Sustainable Thanksgiving. In these challenging economic times, using resources wisely has become an important part of our collective consciousness.

Sustainability is also key to health and wellness. After all, your time, energy and enthusiasm are valuable resources that can quickly be depleted if not used wisely. Take on too many or overly lofty goals and you may run out of  those resources before you reach your goals.

Unfortunately, most people are used to thinking about health and fitness in terms of specific short-term goals rather than long-term success. Losing 10 pounds in time for a big event or trip, or training for a race. Although the short-term goal was reached, the efforts to get there were not sustainable and thus the results don’t stick.

Diets, deprivation and other extreme methods don’t make us healthy or well. They fail because they aren’t sustainable. Completely eliminating foods or food groups is not sustainable for most of us. Nor is drastic calorie restriction, giving up your favorite foods, or exercising too strenuously too often. Eventually your energy, your willpower, or your body will give up.

Most of my clients have achieved fitness at some point in their life. Their challenge isn’t that they don’t know what to do. Their challenge is that they haven’t figured out how to fit their efforts consistently into their lives and sustain their results.  The techniques they used in the past–crash dieting, completely eliminating foods, or extreme exercise–aren’t sustainable. My job is to help them determine sustainable practices and behaviors, and then support them as they implement those practices into the lives. For the long haul.

True wellness requires efforts that can be sustained over a lifetime–finding exercise and eating strategies that fit our lifestyle and interests and don’t feel like torture. Setting more modest goals, recognizing that lasting change happens over time, and taking time to develop a plan (often through trial and error) that works is a much more reliable path to improved health and wellness.

Be sustainably well!