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Overly Connected, Social Media, Productivity and Swiss Steak - Welcome to September!

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“The most valuable thing
one can do for the psyche, occasionally,
is to let it rest, wander,
live in the changing light of a room.”

-- May Sarton

How has your week been, Blue? Did you have a relaxing Labor Day weekend? Is everyone getting back to “normal” routines now that school has started? Or are you trying to create some fresh and new routines?

We had a nice Labor Day weekend. I did work a little bit, but not very much. And I used the time to kick off some new, healthier (for me) routines and habits.

The biggie: cutting back my time on social media.

I can’t imagine my life without all the connections I’ve made through blogs and social media. There are folks I’ve known for more than a decade, good friends, that I met thanks to the digital ether. I love seeing the pictures of everyone’s growing families. I get super excited to see new blog posts or canvases covered in paint or wax.

But frankly, I’ve found myself just scrolling and clicking just to fill (aka waste) the time. Or as a way to avoid doing something on my “To Do” list. And, honestly, I love all my friends – and I want to stay informed about the happenings in the world – but the constant stream of the horror stories in the news and the political stuff is disheartening and exhausting.

And yes, as much as I love my friends and appreciate their opinions, I’ve been hiding the feeds of people that post snarky political stuff.

I have big stuff on my "To Do" list this fall. 
Next month, I'll be release Clearing Soul Clutter AND Clearing Brain Clutter as Books.  (Yes, I retired them as digital programs!) .
I've also been working  a brand new, original book is slated for the end of November.

I need to focus!! The new book, especially, is requiring more effort, as I am writing...differently.

When I first graduated from college, I went to work for ABC News as a News Assistant in the Dallas Bureau. (My Bachelors is in Communication with a focus on Broadcast Journalism). This was before the internet, and on the edges of birth of the 24-hour news cycle. Each day when I went into the office, we had all the newspapers delivered and four televisions playing all day – ABC, NBC, CBS, and the newbie: CNN.

After a few months of this kind of media consumption during my work day, I stopped watching the news at home in the evenings and the weekends. And after I left ABC and began working an “office” job that suited my needs as a new mom, I didn’t watch much news then, either.

I burned out on information, at least that kind of barrage of news stories. Over the years, that have been spells of being glued to the news – like the events of 9/11/01 (fifteen years ago this week).

But the constant, daily assault of information and the repetition of the same stories over and over all day isn’t good for me mentally or emotionally. And, it’s tanking my productivity.

It’s so easy to skim Facebook while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store….a habit I have been in, and one that I am breaking. Because standing in line and watching folks and making eye contact is more rewarding and inspiring than keeping my face down and looking at the phone.

I feel more connected to humanity when I am looking it in the eye and not just scrolling through my feeds on Facebook or Instagram. And I also feel more connected to my own creativity and find myself inspired and intrigued about the world as I witness it.

Oh, and the greatest spark to our thought processes – curiosity – gets sparked constantly. Like what kind of party is the man next to me hosting? Because he has 6 six-packs of craft beer and only a single jar of peanuts in his cart. Oh, and the elderly man going into the bank with a leather briefcase: what’s his story? What’s in the briefcase? And why is he wearing knee-high black socks with his white sneakers?

Earlier this week, I was on my way home from the grocery store. The car next to me was driving a little slow and erratically. I looked over, and sure enough, she was on her phone. The car in front of me – which was in front of me because I moved aside due to her tailgating me – was driving faster than the speed limit. And yes, you guessed it, she was on her phone, too.

Two drivers, both driving unsafely at the same time and both of them were texting or reading something on their phones as they drove.

This tells me that our society has a problem with all this connection. And I don't want to have THAT kind of problem.  We are addicted to our devices, to social media, and I don’t see that it can be healthy.

What urgent need can there be for either of these two women as they drive down a two-mile stretch of road that connects commerce to our suburban neighborhoods?

It’s so easy to become addicted. It’s so easy to use the constant scrolling as a way to numb. It’s so easy to believe that we are MISSING OUT if we aren’t constantly looking.

I want to a part of the social conversation. I want to connect to my friends and colleagues. I want to be a part of different communities, be they about coaching or writing.

I initially thought about taking another sabbatical, going cold turkey.  Getting off line so that I can finish this next book. But that isn’t a long-term solution. No the long-term solution is to be more judicious and self-disciplined in how much time I spend on Facebook VS Writing. And the long-term solution isn’t to remove myself from Twitter or Instagram, but to utilize it briefly, and then go for that walk or sit on the porch and read a book.

And I can’t ditch email, but I can choose to check it and answer it twice a day instead of watching for each new email to arrive!

Like any new routine, I am finding my way on how to make it work for me. I’ve been using my phone’s DND feature, which allows me to mute all notifications except for those folks on my “Favorites” list. I’m playing with timing of checking emails and social media. I’m pondering a “Sabbath” day, where I unplug completely, and not necessarily on Sunday, but in the middle of the week.

I am a work in progress, but I am determined to be the one in charge of my time.....for Social Media to be a way to connect, not a way to numb myself.

So, tell me, darling, what about you? Do you use social media to  numb? Have you caught yourself checking your phone in line or at a stoplight? Are you addicted? Do you worry you are going to miss out?

Are you bombarded with information? How can you use social media wisely?

Though I'm not visiting your in-box each week - and I may not be on Facebook as often as I used to be -  know that I'm just an email away. I love hearing your stories and helping you find the resources you need to create a life you love.

With so much love...........

PS - See you in two weeks!!

Fresh from the blog:Productive Not Busy: How to Love Your Life More.  The kids are back in school. We’ve moving into fall and are thinking about the holidays. People get a fresh start in the fall, as if it’s Back to School for all of us. We’re moving into the busy season. Everyone is OH, so , busy. You vow that now is the time! You are going to use the energy of the new school year to be more productive!

You’ve decided that now is the time when you are going to get busy and slay all your dragons before breakfast and cook ‘em into tasty little dishes before bedtime.

The first few weeks (or days) of your commitment to do more seems to be working. Your calendar is packed and your to do list keeps growing. You begin pondering how little sleep you can get by on.

Your will begins to slip and that vow to get more done is making you feel irritable and exhausted. You aren’t getting as much accomplished as you imagined when you conceived this plan. You begin to think that you just don’t have enough self-discipline.

I hate to break it to you, darling, but the problem isn’t self-discipline. The problem is, you’ve gotten stuck in the trap that being busy will equal productivity. The truth is, though, being too busy isn’t sustainable as a lifestyle.

Even more telling: researchers in multiple studies have found that working more hours didn’t equal being more productive when it came to quantity and quality of work.

Trust me when I say I feel you. We live in a culture that demands that we join the Cult of Busy. We revere our too-packed calendars, and seek badges of honor to prove just how BUSY (and therefore worthy) we are. Yes, Busy becomes how we prove our worth, so we hold up our To Do list for others to admire and coo over, just so we can prove how valuable we must be!

No matter how noble our intentions, we become accustomed to walking in endless loops on society’s Treadmill of Busy. And if you want to be more productive, it’s imperative that you get off the treadmill.

The problem with being too busy? Stress. Unhappiness. Health issues. Frustration. Exhaustion. Burn-out….Shall I go on?

Don’t you want to love your life, not feel as if your calendar is ruling it? The key isn’t to get busy. The real key to being more productive, you need to work smarter. Here are a few strategies to ramp up your productivity, reduce the hours you’re working, and allow you to love your life.

Before the Week Begins

A productive series of days begins by preparing ahead.

  • Conduct a weekly review. If you want to feel productive, then it’s important to monitor your goals. Clarity on both your short-term and long-term goals will help keep you focused on what’s important. Review is an essential tool.
  • Identify your three top priorities for the coming week. Just like monitoring your goals, identifying what takes priority in the week ahead will allow you to channel your time and precious attention towards what really matters to you. It’s hard to feel productive if you reach the end of the week and haven’t hit your big targets.
  • Identify at least one task you can ditch or delegate. Like you, I want to hit all the tasks on my To Do list. But usually, my rolling list is longer than humanly possible to complete. Each week, I look for a single task that I can either remove or delegate. You can be more productive when you delete and delegate!
  • Review schedules with family. You may feel like your schedule is smooth sailing, but inevitably, the needs of a family member can throw a monkey wrench into your plans. By talking about upcoming meetings, business travel, sports practices, school projects, etc, everyone is clear the priorities and needs of each family member. This way, you won’t feel like your own productivity is being sabotaged by unexpected needs of others.
  • Create a meal plan. What’s for dinner is the never ending question.  Rather than fly by the seat of your pants, create a weekly meal plan. This way, you can be efficient when you grocery shop and be confident that meal time is less stressful. It’s mentally (and emotionally) draining to be standing in front of the fridge at 7 PM. Save your mental energy for being productive!

A Productive Day Starts the Night Before

The best time to get a jump on the day is the night before will get you in the right frame of mind and enable you start the day running.

  • Tidy up your desk at the end of the day. When you sit down to work, you’ll be ready to roll!
  • Be grateful and celebrate the day’s accomplishment. Positive focus is one of the best ways to boost your mood and foster a more productive mind. What was good about the day? What was your biggest win? What are you grateful for? You can write them down or discuss them with your family over dinner. This will help cultivate the gratitude critical for success.
  • Identify your number one goal for the next day. It’s hard to win if you don’t know what the goal posts are. Use this time to identify and prioritize your activity for the next day. What will it take to make progress towards your targets? Make a to-do.
  • Set out your clothes. One thing that slows us down is decision making. Whether we’re going to the gym or getting ready for an important client meeting, laying out our clothes the night before can help us step into the day with extra momentum. Don’t forget to help your kiddos do the same!
  • Create a launch pad. There’s nothing that will kill being productive like searching for keys, backpacks, or purses when you’re trying to get out the door. Each member of the family should have a designated spot for their stuff – a launch pad. Every evening, double check
  • Unplug early. Blue light inhibits our body’s ability to shut down and go to sleep. If you want to be more productive, you need to unwind before bed and allow your body to work. Turn off the computer. Put your phone face down, but not on your nightstand.
  • Go to bed already. The older I get, the more I understand how critical it is to get adequate sleep. It’s easy to Facebook and Netflix away hours of our night! Lack of sleep, however, is killing our productivity and our health! Science says: get your beauty sleep!

Be More Productive By Maximizing Your Morning

Remember how you wanted to slay your dragons before breakfast? One of the ways to being more productive is to maximize the first hours of the day.

  • Feed your mind and soul. The quality of your work depends upon how you fuel your mind and soul. Read something nourishing or inspirational. Write in your journal. Meditate. Commit to at least five minutes in the morning to soul nourishing.
  • Move your body. The research is clear: to be more productive and prosper in your personal and professional life, getting some exercise helps. Go for a walk or run. Do some stretching or yoga. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym, even five minutes of stretching and push-ups will get your body ready to perform better for you.
  • Fuel your body. Though I may begin the day with that first cup of coffee, I feel better when I eat breakfast. It’s hard to focus or be productive if your body is begging for nourishment.
  • Refresh your memory. Remind yourself of the top priority of the day and do a quick scan of your rolling to do list.
  • Slay one dragon. Do the hardest thing on your to do list early in the mornings.
  • Don’t hit your social feeds right away. Even if your work depends on lots of social media interaction, attack some items on your To Do list first. It’s easy to get caught up in the Black Hole of Time when you’re on Facebook, and before you realize it, you’ve lost productive work hours.

Ways to Hone Your Focus During the Work Day

After maximizing the morning, it’s time to seize the day. The trick is focus. There are a million distractions to throw us off task. But if we drill down on what matters most, we can work at our peak all day long.

  • Before you commit. It’s easy to say yes to every opportunity, even when you want to say no. The key to being more productive, though, is to say no more often. Your gut will tell you if you is something doesn’t fit your priority list. So, listen to your gut and say NO right away, but delay your “YES” until you’ve had time to think.
  • Use “Heat Mapping” to take advantage of your natural productivity cycle. Some of us are true morning people, others are night owls. I’ve found that I am the most productive before 11 AM and then get another burst of energy around 2 PM in the afternoon. Learn your own natural rhythms, and schedule your tasks accordingly. By doing the tasks that require the most concentration during my peak energy times and saving the more mindless tasks for my lower energy times, I am able to better maximize my body’s natural productive periods.
  • Silence notifications. Every time a notification sounds, it will break your concentration and distract you. To be more productive, silence your phone and/or computers notification.
  • Batch like tasks. Just like taking advantage of your natural productivity cycle, batching similar tasks allows you to focus more clearly. Work on a project exclusively. Answer all your emails in blocks of time. Deal with social media monitoring and posting in doses. I divide my time so I’m working on major projects several times a week, plus smaller projects and maintenance tasks in between. I gain efficiency by segmenting similar activities.
  • Do a late afternoon check-in with yourself. I hate it when I get to the end of my work day and realize I’ve forgotten to do something important. Make a habit of reviewing your task list to ensure you’ve been as productive as you desired.
  • Walk away. It’s tempting to keep working after your official work day is over, but you will be more productive overall if you have a designated quitting time. “Parkinson’s Law”  states “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” which means having a quitting time helps you be more productive.

These tips for being more productive aren’t foolproof. And no, they don’t work for every situation.  Each of us will have emergencies and surprises that can set us back. Emergencies don’t have to derail us from our goals, though. Choosing to focus on ways to be more efficient will be more rewarding than being busy.

We all want to feel accomplished in our lives. Being productive, not just busy, will help you feel accomplished. And I guarantee you’ll love your life more.

As we move into the fall month - even though it isn't too much cooler yet - I crave heartier dishes. Like my mother's classic: Swiss Steak. My mother made it in a pressure cooker, which I don't have. But, I was able to duplicate the flavor with this experiment gone GOOD.  Take 1 ½ pounds of stew meat (or steak or roast if on sale)  and cut into bite sized pieces if necessary.
In a bowl, add ¾ cup of flour (I use coconut flour since I'm trying to stay grain free) and then add two dozen grinds of pepper. Dredge the pieces of meat on both sides in the flour mixture.
Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the meat  to the pan, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, until seared (approximately 2 minutes per side). Remove the meat to a plate and repeat until it’s all been seared.
After you’ve removed the last of the beef, add the 1 large sliced onions, 4 cloves of garlic (sliced or pressed), and 2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and stir to combine.
Next add one 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (option)  and 1 ½ cups beef stock and stir to combine.
Return the meat to the pot, submerging it in the liquid. Cover the pot and place it on low for 30-45 minutes.  Serve as is, over rise or over noodles.

Now, you may be asking what to do with the leftover tomato paste. You can buy it in a TUBE and only use what you need. Or, you can separate it into heaping tablespoon sized globs and freeze it in those snack-sized bags for use in later recipes.

Volume 6 -Issue 19

September 10, 2016

Love Notes Published Every-Other-Saturday
Thank you, darling for the precious in-box space! 

See something you'd love to share?  I'd be honored if you forwarded this along to a friend.

About Debra

Debra Smouse is a writer, life coach, and Tarnished Southern Belle who is on a mission to help people fall in love with their lives.

A native Texan, she resides in Ohio with the Man of her Dreams. Get social with Debra on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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