• Category Archives simple productivity
  • New Year Mind Map and Freebie

    mind map daisy

    I have nearly completed my writing project that has kept me away from you these past several weeks.  I will be launching it in January, just in time to help you eat better and take charge of your health in the New Year. More about that in a future post…

    But today, I want to share a simple mind map with you (please see image, below).  I originally created this map to help me focus on my themes for the upcoming year.  Being a very visual person, I find choosing a symbol I love (in this case, a flower) makes it easier for me to concentrate.

    In the next 12 months, I will focus on living and writing about an elegant simple life based on a foundation of joyful minimalism.  The main elements of this focus will include:

    • Creativity
    • Beauty
    • Mindfulness
    • Health
    • Relationships
    • Prosperity

    These themes are shorthand for a variety of my current interests and serve as reminders of what I would like to attend to in 2011.

    But enough about me! I want you to have an opportunity to create a simple mind map, too.  Below, I have added a free, blank copy of the mind map flower for you to use.  To download, simply right-click the image and save it to your computer.

    I suggest printing a hard copy of the flower mind map and getting out your favorite pen or a variety of markers to mark up the page. Let your mind come up with all sorts of themes you would like to focus on in the coming year.  Use the page to doodle, scribble and scrawl. Have fun!  The sky’s the limit!

    Sometimes the simple process of coloring in the petals is enough to let your mind reach a meditative flow and allow deep thoughts to bubble forth.  Free associate, don’t censor, and do allow your ideas to spill out onto the paper. At other times, a more linear approach is preferable.  In that case, itemize your goals and themes along the edges of the page or in the petals or wherever you feel led.

    The time for this process will vary; for some, it can happen in a matter of minutes.  For others, several hours on an off throughout the day are required.

    When you have your central idea, your overarching theme, put it in the center of the flower.  If you have a base, or foundation, for the year, place that at the bottom of the flower.  And, finally, choose your top 6 or so priorities for the year, and add them to the petals. And feel free to add more petals or use fewer petals for your priorities.  This is your mind map.  Adjust it to meet your needs.

    If you’d like, print out another copy of the flower and rewrite your thoughts in a clear, easy-to-read format.  Conversely, use the original flower map you created as your focus for the year.  Regardless, once you have your map finished to your liking, place it someplace special to you.  Perhaps hang it on the wall by your computer.  Or post it on your refrigerator.  Or fold it up and place it in your journal.  Or scan it and use it as your desktop wallpaper. Do whatever seems right to you.

    Here’s the secret: the act of going through the process, contemplating and writing things down, is where the magic happens.  You have set the wheels in motion at an unseen level and that is what is most important. Having a hard copy for future reference is just the icing on the cake.

    So, there you have it: a simple mind map to help you begin the New Year.  And, if this all seems too much to take on right now, feel free to simply print out the flower and give it to a child to color!

    Happy 2011!

    flower mindmap

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  • Why You Need Padding in Your Schedule

    There is an important concept in web design known as “padding.” Padding refers to the space around an element (e.g., the content: a photo or block of text). It surrounds the element but is inside the border and inside the margin.  The purpose of padding is to provide visual space for an element and help it stand out from the background.

    In life, it is important to include plenty of padding in your schedule.  Like a design element in a web page, you will be much more balanced when you give yourself time on either end of appointments.  If you can buffer the elements of your day with a little breathing room on either end, you will feel less stressedfunction more efficiently, and enjoy your activities more, and generally feel better.

    In a calendar, I refer to this padding as white space.  Looking ahead at my week, I try to consider the amount of unstructured time, or white space, in my days. I aim to achieve a happy balance between structured activities and down time. Ironically, sometimes it is necessary to schedule the white space.  But be that as it may, time to reflect and just “be” is vital to my sense of well-being and harmony.

    This is definitely easier said than done.  In addition to the “must-do’s on my list, it is easy to get enticed by the variety of enrichment classes, workshops, concerts and events that are available in the greater Portland area.  As a society, we emphasize the value of enriching our minds at the expense of allowing ourselves time to just “be”, and I often get caught in this trap.

    And it’s not just adults.  Researchers are beginning to evaluate the downsides of over-structuring our lives and the lives of our children. For instance, Howard P. Chudacoff suggests in his book, Children at Play: An American History,” that organized activities, over-scheduling and huge amounts of homework are crowding out free time and shrinking children’s imaginations and social skills. As parents, we can greatly help our children by modeling our appreciation of unstructured time, and by limiting the amount of structure we give to their days to a reasonable level.

    What to do?

    On the small scale:

    1. Try to get to work 15 minutes before you need to so that you can settle in and get comfortable before being consumed by the tasks of the day.
    2. Try to leave openings in your schedule for unstructured “just being” time.
    3. Take a lesson from Mad Men’s creative director Don Draper.   How much time does Don spend sitting at his desk, gazing out the window, or, even better, stretched out on his office couch, sound asleep?  Window-gazing is a highly underrated art form and a great way to let your brain rest and allow creative ideas to percolate just below the surface.

    On the large scale, adding padding into your weekly schedule is vital for a healthy mind and a healthy body.  By this, I mean:

    1. Give yourself large chunks of unstructured time, to just be.  To read whatever strikes your fancy.  To sketch or doodle.  To call a friend.  To write in your journal.  To knit a sock.  To thumb through a favorite magazine. Whatever.  Just unstructured time.  This is when your brain gets to rest and recharge. An added benefit is that solutions to problems frequently bubble up when you’ve taken the mind off of your problem.  Great ideas and solutions are percolating beneath the surface, and giving yourself some unstructured “me time” is one of the best ways to allow these ideas to surface.
    2. Think about coming back a day early from your vacation so that you can transition between play and work more easily. We’ve all had the experience of staying to the last possible minute on a vacation only to come home, late at night, exhausted by delays and the stresses of travel, only to be faced with mountains of mail to sort, laundry to wash, groceries to buy and meals to prepare. Whenever possible, I use my last day of vacation as a transition day, rather than a travel day, and it has made a mountain of difference, both in how fondly I recall the vacation, and how easily I transition back to work.
    3. Consider a digital sabbatical, àla Rowdy Kittens or Gwen Bell. Unplug and unwind.

    To recap: Why do you need padding in your schedule?  The short answer: because it provides breathing space in your day. And why is this important? Because you will be happier and less stressed if you do. Try not to over-schedule yourself to within a nanosecond of your life.

    And, if all this talk about planning has made you want to be more organized with your planning, you might be interested in Charlie Gilkey’s Premium Planners. Charlie has designed a great series of planners to help you plant your blog posts or plan your day. Here is a link to his free planners*.

    *While I am not an affiliate for these planners (i.e., I don’t receive any commission), I am always glad when I can bring great products to your attention.

    Your turn: Do you have enough padding in your schedule?  What can you do to bring more white space into your calendar? Please let me know in a comment below.

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  • How to Decide When you Can’t Decide

    Question MarkLet’s say you are facing a major decision. You have made an exhaustive list of pros and cons. You’ve solicited opinions from your partner and/or friends. You’ve done everything you can think of to help you decide.

    But you are stymied. For some reason, on this question, you are unable to make up your mind.

    I have found a super-simple, effective solution to this problem.

    It takes seconds to perform, requires no special equipment, and can be done any time of the day or night.

    I call it “the imaginary coin toss.” Coin Toss

    But first, you need to get in touch with that part of yourself that knows what’s best for you. You can do this by closing your eyes and asking yourself an easy yes-or-no question that you already know the answer to. For instance, ask, “Is today Tuesday?” And you will get an immediate answer, yes or no.

    Pay attention to how that feels in your body and, more specifically, where it occurs in your body. Do you feel it in your gut? In your heart? In your brain?

    And now notice the difference in how a “yes” answer feels compared to how a “no” answer feels. For instance, with a yes, I find my energy goes up and I feel lighter and more energized. Conversely, a “no” answer causes my energy to contract and I feel tighter and more concentrated.

    Try it again. Ask yourself another question you know the answer to; close your eyes; and feel what the yes or no feels like to you. Do not judge or elaborate; simply make a note of the feeling.

    Now, you are ready for the imaginary coin toss.

    Ask yourself the question that has you flummoxed. It must be phrased in a yes-or-no manner. So, for example, regarding a move, do not say, should I move to Toledo or Miami? Rather, start by asking yourself, “Would it be in my best interest to move to Toledo?”

    And, as you are asking yourself the question, close your eyes and imagine a coin being tossed into the air. “Heads” means, yes, you should move to Toledo. “Tails,” no, you should not move to Toledo.

    It lands heads. Yes, you should move to Toledo.

    Now, quick, what is your gut reaction? Do you feel uplifted and energized by this imaginary outcome of the coin toss, or do you feel disappointed? In other words, are you relieved at the result, or do you suddenly wish it had been the opposite?

    Pay attention to that lightning-quick inner reaction, because that is the answer that is true for you. That is the inner-knowing that can help you decide what to do.

    Your turn: Did you try this technique?  Did it work for you? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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