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Own Your Calendar to Own Your Life

Inspired by this week’s featured Reflection Weeks episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with our founder, Heidi Bartolotta, who believes in owning your calendar to own your life.  There is freedom in taking back your most finite resource: time. 


One of the perks of mentoring teens through some of their most tumultuous years is getting to be a first-hand witness to their astounding growth as they step into their identity and find their passion for life.  Their contagious energy is also wildly admirable (yes, I realize they sleep in absurd stretches of time, but have you seen what they juggle and accomplish when they are awake?!) and I often find myself thinking back to my own college days while drinking my third cup of coffee, “How do they do it? How did I do it?”

Quite simply, young adults are experts at time management (please suspend your disbelief, I can hear your cries of outrage echoing across the internet).   Really, it’s true.  Their schedules are every bit as demanding and filled to the brim as our own, but they have the hard-wired training and resources to manage all the moving pieces (with our guidance, chauffeuring, and financial support of course). They know the secrets many of us have forgotten when we left the world of 18 credit semesters and part-time jobs behind: the secrets of time blocking and a balanced calendar.  Here are six strategies you can begin implementing today to take back your calendar, and your time, to find freedom for fun and pursuing your passions.


Time Blocking

Unlike teens and university students, most of us don’t have dedicated and focused amounts of time (blocks) throughout our day for specific and similar tasks, like our ENGL 101 course. When we were students, whatever remained to be completed at the end of a class got put on the back burner while we focused our attention on the next block, and it didn’t come back to our mind until we hit our study block later that day.

Looking over your own calendar, begin by identifying all the daily tasks that are an essential and necessary part of your routine, both personally and professionally.  Group like tasks, and assign blocks of time to each.  Instead of living by a to-do list that will inevitably lead to burn out, with time blocking you focus your attention and energy on related tasks in a set period of time; what remains to be done, will remain to be done, and you move on to the next block.

Color Coding

Now that you’ve organized your calendar into blocks of time, designate each block with its corresponding color of your seven chakras.  This isn’t just some new age magic or an excuse to play with colorful pens, instead this technique allows you to see, visually, where your calendar and likely your life is out of alignment.  Each of your chakras corresponds to one of seven energy points in your body; if we’re trying to better manage our time, motivation, and energy, it would make sense to start from a point of reflection to achieve more synergy.

Here is just one way to approach this technique according to LinkedIn blogger John Rampton, “For example, because red is the root chakra symbolizing survival and safety, you would want to use that color for all work-related tasks.  For creative tasks, you might choose to use orange; yellow would represent the items that help you grow; green is reserved for personal events like lunch with a friend; blue equates to activities that express your mind like writing, and indigo is meant for activities that deserve your attention.”

E-mail

It’s a necessary part of doing business, and most parts of our modern lives.  If we don’t manage our e-mail, our avoidance of it will eventually manage us.  You have to commit time to organizing your personal and professional communication, and once you have a system in place, in order to maintain it, you need to give it its own block in your day.  We said we what we said, there is no way around it.  See Do It Yourselfbelow.

Eat the Frog

There’s a reason this time management technique took the business world by storm when it first debuted, and continues to do so.  According to Brian Tracy, the technique’s founder, when you tackle your Most Important Task of the day before you turn your attention to anything else, you can, “go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse things are going to [go] all day long.”  Even science proves that our most productive and focused hours are in the morning, before other distractions and tasks consume our energy.

Determine when your “Power Hours” are and dedicate that Time Block to your biggest work frog each day; best to eat it before lunch so you can cleanse your palate as the day continues.

Schedule Everything

If it isn’t important enough to make it on your calendar, it probably doesn’t deserve one of your time blocks.  Conversely, there are aspects of our lives that are essential to our well-being and our soul’s nourishment; if these areas aren’t making it onto your calendar, you’re likely experiencing some alignment issues between your personal and professional life.  Just as you would schedule a block of time for meetings, schedule a block of time to take care of your physical and mental health, whatever that looks like for you. And, if you have a tendency to allow your work day to linger long into the evenings and time with your family and friends is continually being compromised, it’s time to begin scheduling an ‘Out of Office’ time as well.

Make yourself an optional list of ‘electives’ and ‘extra-curriculars’ you’d like to pursue if there are openings in your schedule, but that can also be the first things to be removed when your calendar begins to feel chaotic or life begins to feel unbalanced.  And perhaps the biggest challenge, dare we say it, begin to block open time into your day every single day that you can choose how to flexibly fill depending on what the day and your dreams demand

Do It Yourself

When you find the system, or systems, that work best for you, the most successful entrepreneurs have found that as soon as they begin to outsource their time management, they begin to outsource their control over their own life as well. Maintain your own calendar, reflect on it and refine it often, and share it with the people who it affects the most, but never outsource your schedule to someone else to plan for you.


Teens and young adults are exceptional at time-management because they have no other choice but to be.  When you own your calendar, you own your time and ultimately you own your life.  Fine tune this skill and achieve your personal and professional goals while also gaining better alignment and freedom with your most finite resource: time.

 

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Manage Your Mind

Inspired by this week’s episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with Brooke Paulin who believes in the practice of managing your mind and the small daily habits that lead to great success over time.


 In a world where we are inundated with more information and more access to it than ever before, we are faced with new challenges like ‘consumer fatigue’, information overwhelm and digital burnout.  The media and social media industries are designed to be addictive in nature, releasing dopamine or cortisol dependent on the nature of the content, that keeps us coming back for more and ultimately conditions our behavior.  Information, and the way in which we access it is not the enemy, instead it is our passive consumption of that content that can wreak havoc, particularly when we are bombarded with negativity, click-bait headlines, and divisive rhetoric.  Just as we fuel our bodies and health with nutrition and exercise, we must manage our mind and the information we choose to fill it with.

With nearly 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the US using social media, it is time for us to become active participants in managing our minds, our mental states, and our mental health.  Here are a few small changes you can make to be better prepared and intentional with the information and inputs you choose.


Reality Check

We would never let our children sit for hours on end, absent-mindedly in front of screens and we shouldn’t allow it for ourselves either.  While it may not seem like you’re spending that much time on devices outside of necessity, your Weekly Activity Report likely shows something different.

Start by taking an inventory of the current time you spend consuming content intentionally vs. out of habit or boredom.  Once you have begun to inventory your passive or active consumption tendencies, track for a day (or longer) every piece of information you digest with a “+” if it is beneficial to your personal life, work life, or overall well being, a ”–“ if it negatively impacted or took away from your personal life, work life, or overall well being, and an “=” for no impact other than time lost.

Seeing our habits in black and white allows us to see where our own struggles actually exist.  It takes five positive interactions to offset each negative interaction; is it any wonder we are more anxious, depressed, and lonely than ever before?

Schedule (and plan) Your Screen time

Self-monitoring and scheduling your consumption habits can change not only your perception of the information you digest, but also, your behaviors.  In 2018 the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study that observed the behaviors of 143 undergraduates.  One group was asked to limit all social media activity to only 10 minutes per platform, per day, while the second was allowed to use their social media as usual for three weeks.   The group that limited their scrolling “showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression during those three weeks over the group that continued using social media.”

As Brooke pointed out in this week’s podcast, “I don’t think that some of the top CEO’s, and, you know, multi-million dollar female business owners … I don’t think that they’re scrolling through social media that’s not feeding their mind. There’s no room for that.”  What would you be able to accomplish in a week of limiting your scrolling habits?

Empty the Junk Folder

Once you’ve taken inventory of the information and input you’re allowing in, and you’ve refined your mindless scrolling by replacing it with intentionally scheduled time for content consumption, get rid of anything that isn’t serving you, your mental health, your professional life, or your personal life.

Once you’ve emptied the Junk Folder, take note from some of the most successful people and follow suit by replacing what wasn’t serving you with content that does.  According to research, what makes highly successful people less stressed, happier, and more productive is scheduling their personal priorities before tending to other people’s priorities.  That goes for what you’re consuming too.  Instead of starting your day by checking email, dedicate an hour of your morning hour to be your Power Hour where you replenish your motivation with podcasts, books and curated content that supports your goals, challenges you, and leaves you feeling ready to tackle the day.  Ask your mentors what they listen to, what they read, and who they follow on social media to begin refining your palate.


In order to be successful in managing our mind, our mental state and our mental health, we must be intentional about what we consume and prepare our daily activity and schedules with discernment.  Just as nutrition is fundamental to achieving our health and wellness goals, so is the information we consume.  We avoid pitfalls of hunger by meal planning and preparation, and we can avoid the pitfalls of media and social media by planning and being thoughtful consumers.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” –Alexander Graham Bell

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How to get the most out of your day & night!

Here’s 3 Tips to get the most out of your Day & Night:

1) Morning Routine:

Part of what makes us so productive during “normal life” (pre-quarantine), is that we have a schedule to keep. Now that we’re all commuting from our beds to the kitchen table… it’s easy to get to 5 o’clock and realize you never changed out of your PJ’s. (No judgement, I’ve been there)

Get up and shower, and get dressed for work. This puts you in the right mindset to get into “work mode” and be productive.

Also, a little “Me Time” in the morning goes a long way. What fills your “happiness tank” up? Do that first thing in the morning. Maybe it’s taking time to read, listen to music, or go for a walk. The point is, “put your oxygen mask on before assisting others”. A happier you is a more productive you.

2) Turn OFF the News!

We get it… there’s a virus going around. It needs to be taken seriously. Give yourself 15 min to get caught up on the developments of the day, at the end of the day. Very rarely is anything SO important that you can’t learn about it in the evening after the day is done. Too many people are glued to their television sets or social media… all. day. long. It’s just gonna raise your stress levels and make you overly emotional. News today is incentivized to be “click-baity” and sensationalize everything. Take precautions, wash your hands and take your daily vitamins!

3) Bedtime Routine:

Since there’s no boss to see you show up late, you might feel the urge to binge watch all 7 episodes of your new favorite series in one night… alarm clock be damned. Resist this temptation and keep a bedtime schedule to maintain your natural circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle). Study after study points to the physical and mental benefits of a balanced rhythm and 7+ hours of sleep a night. You’ll experience:

An Improved Mood

Improved Weight-Loss

Increased Energy

Improved Focus & Memory

Improved Exercise Performance

Reduced Inflammation

Improved Immune Health

Just to name a few. If you need help you can try a hot bath with a relaxing essential oil.

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Effective Time Management Tips for Busy Moms

Does it ever feel like 24 hours in a day just aren’t enough? Those deadlines, meetings, and endless chores can leave you time for little else. Add kids to the mix, and it’s a whole different ball game.

You’re always on your children’s time. Their sleep schedule, school runs, sports and other after-school activities, bath time, homework… it never ends. As working moms especially, we can feel like we’re constantly playing catch-up. If only we had more time, we could do it all!

Unfortunately, I can’t give you more hours in the day, but I can share with you effective tips to better manage your valuable time. We can all use more ways to stay organized and find those hidden pockets of time in our day—believe me, they do exist!

How Much Time Do You Really Have?

It’s easy to get so busy that hours can rush by in what feels like minutes.

Let’s say you have 4 hours from the time you get home until you go to sleep. It may seem like plenty of time to get things done, but in reality, that time gets used up quickly. Between cooking dinner, helping the kids with their homework, bath time, and chores, you’ll be lucky if you get an hour to yourself.

Be realistic about gauging how much time you actually have to accomplish tasks so that you don’t get overwhelmed and try to accomplish too much in the time allotted. Follow these time management tips to get a better handle on your valuable time!

Prioritize and Eliminate

Do you ever feel like you’ve been busy all day, but haven’t gotten anything done—running to put one fire out after another? I get it! There are days when the unexpected just keeps pushing you off track.

Try to avoid unexpected delays by planning ahead as much as possible. On Sunday night, write down your tasks for the week and prioritize them. Don’t try and do it all—you don’t need to! Make appointments with yourself to finish the important tasks first. Be specific about when each task will start and end, and complete it within that time frame.

Also take a moment to identify the time-wasters throughout your day. A 5-minute break to check your Facebook page can easily turn into 30 minutes or more if you’re not careful. Save these things for the end of your day, when the priority tasks on your list are done.

Learn to Say “No”

I’ve said it before: it’s okay to say “no”! It’s wonderful to volunteer, but you don’t have to participate in every school fundraiser or take on additional projects at work.

If you find it difficult to say “no”—or feel guilty when you do—try to put it in perspective by looking at the big picture. Saying “no” will free up time that could be better spent having fun with your family or accomplishing a project on your to-do list that’s been bothering you for months. Just be polite about it—there’s no need to feel bad! A simple, “No thanks, I can’t make it” will suffice.

Interruptions: The Reality of Mom Life

No matter how perfectly planned your day is, there is always something that interrupts your plans. Such is mom life.

Schedule time for these interruptions. If you have 4 hours to accomplish your tasks for the day, factor in a at least one hour for unexpected interruptions. That way, when you are interrupted, it won’t derail your entire day. If—by some miracle—there are no interruptions in your day, then you may even be able to get additional things done or enjoy some rare “me time”.

Remember, interruptions can occur at any time and you may have to rearrange your schedule around them, so it’s important to stay flexible and not panic if things don’t go as planned.

Get Good Quality Sleep

Your kids shouldn’t be the only ones with bed times—you should too! Even if you can’t plan out your day as much as you’d like, make sure to get some sleep by scheduling and sticking to a time for going to bed.

If your kids are young, this may not be uninterrupted sleep (from 1am feedings to snuggles after nightmares, it’s always something!), but make it a priority for yourself. Between 6 to 8 hours (ha!) of good quality sleep will help you function your best. When you’re well rested, dealing with both the planned and unplanned events of the day is a lot easier.

So many moms, myself included, run ourselves ragged staying up hours after the kids’ bedtime to get some of our endless tasks done. But you won’t be much good to your kids or yourself if you’re not well rested.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a good bed. The last thing you need is aches and pains nagging you throughout your busy day!

Stay on Track: Be Judicious With Your Time

There are only 24 hours in a day. If you want to clear your to-do list, your time is the one thing you shouldn’t waste. Don’t add things to your plate that you don’t have to. Prioritize what means the most to you and your family, and practice saying no without guilt. And when you do have some extra time, make sure to spend some of it on yourself—you deserve it!

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Simple Life Hacks: Stay on Top of Your Kids’ School Paperwork

Life Hacks: What to Do With All The School Paperwork Kids Bring Home

Ever feel like you’ve just cleaned up, but then you look around and your living room is already full of your kids’ stuff? Me too!

As a working mom, your time is precious. The last thing you want is to spend most of it organizing the paperwork your kids seem to bring home constantly. It piles up pretty quickly, and then what?

If you’re tired of spending the school year frustrated with mountains of school paperwork, there’s no better time than the new year to put an end to the madness! But before you resort to throwing it all away (or find yourself starring in Hoarding: Buried Alive), I’ve got some simple life hacks that will help you manage, organize, and keep track of your kids’ school paperwork.

First Things First: Change Your Thinking

Many of us might think of anything that our kids bring home from school as important and worth saving. Not necessarily! Not every single bit of paperwork is important, and not everything is worthless either.

In order to stay organized, you need to realize that some things are worth keeping, and some just aren’t. With this thinking in place, let’s get down to the business of maintaining your sanity.

Digitize and Minimize

Scan or take photos of any of your kids’ school paperwork that can be kept in soft copy. This will allow you to recycle these papers, while still retaining the information or work you need. The bonus is that storage of soft copies takes significantly less space than storage of actual printed paperwork and creates zero clutter (YES to having less to clean up)!

As with all digital data, remember to back it up, just in case.

Set Up a Homework Station

It doesn’t have to be too fancy, just a desk and some shelves will do. But don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild either. Setting up a homework station allows you and your kids to keep all school supplies (paperwork included) in one designated area, making it easier to deal with.

Start here: Label and/or color code desk drawers and shelves to keep papers organized. Create file folders for each class or subject matter and encourage your children to put all papers away as part of clean up before bedtime each night.

Invest in a Filing System

You and your kids should have separate filing systems. Your kids’ files belong in the homework station; yours belong elsewhere—your home office or a desk area where you keep other important papers like bills.

A great filing system will help you keep things organized and will give you a designated place to put paperwork as soon as it comes home. However, keep the number of files you have per child to a minimum – 2 should do:

One for class-related information
One for extracurriculars and forms

Get Your Kids Involved: Establish an After-School Routine

This will not only save you time but can be used to teach your children how to stay organized and responsible at home. An example of an after-school routine could be:

Notices, newsletters, schedules, upcoming events, and anything that needs to be signed, completed, or created should be placed in mom’s designated inbox for school paperwork.
Homework that needs to be done should be placed in mom’s action box.
Artwork, awards, and report cards can be pinned up on a wall, or displayed temporarily on the fridge.

Whatever your routine looks like, make sure it works for you and your family. Just be sure to get your kids involved in the process of organizing paperwork.

Temporary Art Gallery

As a proud mom, sometimes you can’t help but want to display your little Picasso’s pieces of art. Reuse old frames, tap into your DIY skills, and hang them up for a week.

If you really want to keep them long term, digitize and get rid of the originals. Yes, they’ll be cute to look at in a couple decades when they’re all grown up, but I guarantee the originals won’t last that long—and they’ll take up much-needed space!

Schedule Frequent Cleanups

Sometimes life gets hectic and despite our best efforts, school paperwork still piles up. Stay on top of it by scheduling one day each week or month (whatever works for you) to get rid of all the paperwork you no longer need or that is no longer valid.

Make this a family cleanup day—it’s another opportunity to get the kids involved in the organization and cleanup process!

Life Hacks: Consistency is Key

Life hacks are all about making small changes; and when it comes to organizing your kids’ school paperwork, staying consistent is key. These small changes are designed to make your life easier in the long run, and let’s face it—as moms, we could use all the life hacks we can get!

Take the time to implement these small changes, saving yourself time in the long run—moments that could be better spent on some me time (you deserve it)!