Books for a Year of Personal Growth

The activities for a year of personal growth are divided in four areas: mind, body, heart, and soul, with three topices within each. I recommend the following books for a personal growth journey.

MIND – Mental

• “Code of the Extraordinary Mind” by Vishen Lakiani
• “Getting Things Done” by David Allen
• “The Personal Efficiency Program” by Kerry Gleeson
• “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R Covey
• “Mindset” by Carol Dweck

MIND – Career

• “What Color is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles
• “Now Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham
• “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working” by Tony Schwartz
• “Indistractable” by Nir Eyal
• “Designing Your Work Life” by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

MIND – Finance

• “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Richard Kiyosaki
• “Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey
• “I will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi
• “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham

BODY – Physical

• “Breath” by James Nestor
• “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner
• “Atomic Habits” by James Clear

BODY – Recreation

• “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyl
• “The Power of Fun” by Catherine Price
• “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon
• “The Art of Gathering” by Priya Parker

BODY – Organization

• “The Organizing Sourcebook” by Kathy Waddill
• “One Year to an Organized Life” by Regina Leeds
• “Get It Together” by Melanie Cullen

HEART – Relationships

• “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman
• “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman
• “Real Love” by Greg Baer
• “All About Love” by Bell Hooks
• “Getting Love Right” by Terence T. Gorski

HEART – Emotional Intelligence

• “Emotional Intelligence” by Dan Goleman
• “How to Control Your Anger Before It Controls You” by Albert Ellis
• “Taking Charge of Anger” by Dr. Robert Nay
• “Six Pillars of Self-Esteem” by Nathaniel Brandon

HEART – Social

• “You’re Not Listening” by Kate Murphy
• “Connect” by David Bradford and Carole Robin
• “We Should Get Together” by Kat Vellos
• “Getting to Yes” by William Ury

SOUL – Character

• “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield
• “Moral Courage” by Rushworth Kidder
• “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise” by Andrea Rains Waggener
• “Grit” by Angela Duckworth

SOUL – Purpose

• “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
• “Upgrade” by Rana Florida
• “Living Forward” by Michael Hyatt
• “Is Your Genius at Work?” by Dick Richards

SOUL – Spirituality

• “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz
• “The Road Less Traveled” by Richard Peck
• “Fully Present” by Diana Winston and Susan Smalley
• “Emotional Life of Your Brain” by Richard Davidson

Download the Year of Personal Growth Booklist pdf and learn more at the Brand and Purpose Toolkit.

Posted in Books, personal development

32 Creative Arts to Try

The creative arts can be a wonderful way to add beauty and enjoyment to life. Try the 32 Creative Arts spinner for ideas to get started! See a list of A to Z Creative Arts to print.



1. Alcohol ink
2. Beading
3. Calligraphy
4. Cartooning
5. Crochet
6. Clay
7. Drawing
8. Engraving
9. Flower arranging
10. Glass etching
11. Home & interior design
12. Ink & pen
13. Jewelry making
14. Knitting
15. Lettering
16. Macrame
17. Needlework (cross stitch, etc)
18. Origami
19. Painting (acrylic, oil, watercolors, etc)
20. Photography
21. Quilting
22. Rock painting
23. Stained glass
24. Sculpture
25. Tie dying
26. Upcycle
27. Videos
28. Woodcarving
29. Writing
30. Xacto knife paper cutting
31. Yarn crafts
32. Zentangles

See more ideas for how to get creative.

Posted in personal development

Scheduling with Time Blocking and Focus Themes

Schedule the action required today

Scheduling can sometimes be as simple as adding an appointment or meeting to your calendar. Scheduling is one of the skills of time management, and an important part of Planning. Remembering to include action steps for your goals on your To Do List or schedule is the way to make progress towards their achievement. But other things like repeating tasks can be handled with time blocking and focus themes.


Time Blocking, (sometimes called time chunking) is about blocking off chunks of time in your schedule to group like tasks together and optimize your day to make the most of a daily routine. It helps you to focus more intensely on one thing at a time. First break your day into four blocks with a: Wake up routine, Morning routine, Afternoon routine, and Evening routine. Make checklists for these daily routines. Also think of things that you want to Always do today. These may include habits you want to create, like drinking 8 glasses of water daily, etc.

Focus Themes can be used to block out times during the week for various tasks. Themes can handle things like a daily focus, menus, cleaning, and adding positive shift throughout the week into your schedule. The Weekly Schedule above includes examples of Daily Themes that I use. Both Time Blocking and Focus Themes are not meant to box you in, but to free you up! They provide a flexible structure for organizing time.

Download a blank Weekly Schedule (pdf): 1. Write daily routines in the first column. 2. Fill in regular weekly meetings, appointments, etc. 3. Add themes for each day of the week for: focus, +shift, cleaning & menus, or whatever works for you.


Color coding is an option that can be helpful. Assign a color for different focus themes or activities to your calendar. This can work for an electronic calendar or with paper planners. See Color Coded Calendar from and Why You Need to Color Code Your Calendar at Asian Efficiency.


  • Allow for the unknown – don’t schedule every minute of your day.
  • Update your calendar and lists as things change.
  • Start with regular meetings and routines that must be done.
  • Use your highest energy time for high priorities as much as possible.

Read more:

See also Weekly Plan

Posted in productivity

Eating For One

It can be challenging to find options for eating when you are single, especially when you need to stick to a low-sodium diet. To expand on the idea of a daily theme, I’ve been hunting out some options for convenience foods (many are quite high in sodium) and eating out (don’t get me started!) Of course, these vary depending where you live. Download the Daily Themes Food printable. (not all are low-sodium, but some options are included) The themes can be quite flexible, so change them up however it works for you. It helps just to get some ideas for those times you can’t think of anything to eat! Listed below are some options I’ve come up with so far.

Manic Monday – pasta or pork

Taco Tuesday – Mexican

  • COOK: burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tamales, taco casserole for one
  • CONVENIENCE: Artisan Bistro grilled chicken or steak burrito (680 mg), Frontera Carne Asada Burrito Bowl (590 mg)
  • EATING OUT: Taco Bell chicken gordita supreme (530 mg), Chipotle chicken bowl w/fajita veggies

Wacky Wednesday – beef or fish

  • COOK: philly sandwich, kabobs, BBQ, roast beef, stew for one, tuna, salmon
  • CONVENIENCE: Hormel Square Table Roast Beef (540 mg)
  • EATING OUT: Chipotle steak bowl w/fajita veggies (690 mg), Subway tuna 6″ sub (580 mg), McDonald’s fish sandwich (580 mg)

Birdy Thursday – chicken or turkey

Fried Friday – hamburger

Special Saturday – Italian

  • COOK: spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, meatball sub, chicken parmesan for one, naan bread pizza
  • CONVENIENCE: Amy’s Veggie Lasagna (670 mg), Healthy Choice Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo (600 mg)
  • EATING OUT: Pizza Hut Small Veggie Lover’s Thin ‘n Crispy (250 mg)

Souper Sunday – Soup & Salad

  • COOK: chili, stew, chicken & noodles, beef vegetable, chicken salad, tuna salad
  • CONVENIENCE: Pacific Chicken & Noodle and Hearty Vegetable soup (640 mg each)
  • EATING OUT: Southwest Chicken Salad @McDonalds (490 mg), Wendy’s 1/2 salads w/chicken (600 mg), Strawberry & Chicken Salad @Panera Bread (300 mg)


When cooking things like roasts or stews that results in larger portions, it’s always possible to share with others, or to freeze the extras. Eggs are a fairly low-sodium source of protein, with 70 mg per egg. If you’re wanting to reduce sodium, eating out is quite challenging. The hacking salt website has tips and lots of guides to restaurants. It is nearly impossible to find low sodium options for BBQ, chicken, pasta, pork, and soups. Going for smaller portions or taking some home for another time can be helpful. It’s not too hard to find some things at grocery stores like low sodium tomato juice and diced tomatoes with no salt added, but sodium in other packaged foods can vary widely. Read some food labels and you will be astonished! Below are some lower sodium brands I have found.

Some Low Sodium Brands

  • Salad Dressing: Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion 80 mg
  • Salsa: Socorros’ 75 mg, Newmans Own 90 mg
  • Marinara: Silver Palate 140mg
  • Beef & Chicken broth, Swanson unsalted
  • Cereals: Grain Berry Cinnamon Frosted 0 mg, Bob’s Red Mill Oat Bran hot cereal 0 mg
  • Jif Natural Low sodium Peanut Butter 80 mg/2 Tablespoons
  • Hint of Salt crackers: Ritz 25 mg/5 crackers & Wheat Thins 55/16 crackers
  • Rice cakes: Quaker lightly salted 15 mg
  • Tortillas: La Banderita low sodium 85mg
  • Chips: 60% less sodium options from Lays 65 mg/15 chips, and Cape Cod 80 mg/18 chips

Helpful websites:

Pinterest Board Cooking for One

Posted in Ideas That Work

Daily Themes

It’s not a new idea, but having a daily theme for each day of the week can be quite helpful. Themes can be flexible and are easily adjusted while providing some structure or simply providing inspiration. If you need a way to stay on top of household tasks and figure out what to make for dinner, try the printable for cooking and cleaning below. Download the Daily Themes for Cooking and Cleaning pdf.



Manic Monday – pasta or pork
ham steak, smoked sausage, egg roll bowl, pork chops, pork tenderloin, pork roast, mac & cheese, chicken & noodles, beef stroganoff

Taco Tuesday – Mexican
burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, tamales

Wacky Wednesday – beef or fish
philly sandwich, kabobs, BBQ, roast beef, stew, tuna, salmon

Birdy Thursday – chicken or turkey
pot pie, French’s onion, mushroom, tenders, cordon bleu

Fried Friday – hamburger
quesadilla burgers, shepherd’s pie, goulash, sloppy joes, meatloaf

Special Saturday – Italian
pizza, spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, chicken parmesan, meatball sub

Souper Sunday – Soup & Salad
chili, chicken & noodles, beef vegetable, chicken salad, tuna salad


Monday focus – Extra Rooms
Clean: a. office b. guest room c. dining room d. deck or porch
Tuesday focus – Living Room
Vacuum rugs & sweep floor, dust, clean coffee & end tables, clean couch
Wednesday focus – Kitchen
Sweep & mop floor, Clean sink & stovetop, Organize pantry
Thursday focus – Bathrooms
Clean: toilet, tub, sink, floor
Friday focus – Bedrooms
Change sheets, sweep floors, do laundry, dust
Saturday focus – Monthly chores
a. Clean refrigerator inside & out b. Clean stove & small appliances c. Clean mirrors, light fixtures, switchplates d. File papers
Sunday focus – Soul
relax and review

While these choices are tailored to my life, they can be tweaked for your own needs. There is a more detailed cleaning checklist and a month of menus at Food is a Four Letter Word. These can be added to a household binder or other binder system. Daily themes are also an important part of making positive shift happen.


For a different view that combines daily themes for cleaning, menus, and activities to make Positive Shift Happen into one checklist for each day, Download the Daily Focus Themes printable. Make whatever changes work for your life!

Daily Regulars are things that need to happen every day:

  • Make Positive Shift Happen: exercise, meditate, communicate, follow values
  • Daily Duties: feed pets, make dinner, do dishes, declutter
  • Daily regulars: to (always) do today

Daily themes can also be used for a general plan for your week. Michael Hyatt suggests designing an ideal week. Here’s some examples:

  • Message Monday: emails, phone calls, meetings
  • Arty Tuesday: creative work
  • Whatever Wednesday: flex day
  • Tidy Thursday: regular maintainence
  • Focus Friday: planning
  • Spa Saturday: self-care

Daily themes can help you PlanIt for success!

More Resources

Posted in goals, Ideas That Work, personal development

Planning is Thinking


Planning is important for time management, goals, and even purpose. It is one of the top 10 skills employers want. The planning process is thinking about…

  • Things that need to be done.
  • How they can be accomplished.
  • In what order the steps should be arranged.
  • Narrowing large tasks into smaller action steps.
  • Knowing which tasks are the most important and setting priorities.
  • Including when they need to be done and creating a timeline.
  • Noting measures and needed resources.
  • Goals to be set.

A plan outlines the route to take to get where we want to go.

Set Up Systems

Systems are a way to organize repeating tasks like bill paying, menu planning, and job duties.

  • What – steps will you need to take?
  • Where – will you do this? where are the tools you need?
  • When – is the best time to do the task? ⤍ schedule it.
  • How – what methods will you use?
  • Why – what is the end result you want?

Every system is perfectly designed to give you the results you are getting right now. – attribution disputed

Set a Goal

Goals that WORK are

Get Organized

Gather resources & tools, and create an ideal workspace with…

  • Special lighting
  • Perfect temperature
  • Add sound & scents
  • Colors to soothe or inspire
  • Ergonomic workstation

Do the Plan

Follow a routine to automate repeating tasks and ADDRESS habits.

Act to accomplish the plan

Use your task management system and TEND to focus.

  • Tame external and internal distractions
  • Embrace values
  • Notice the feedback
  • Dedicate time to concentrate attention & feel the flow


Do a regular review to monitor progress and adjust as needed.

Look at what was accomplished and what needs to be done next in the review PROCESS.

  • Prepare needed information and tools
  • Realign priorities
  • Outline a plan
  • Check lists and follow-up system
  • Execute updates: add & delete tasks to system
  • Select next steps to do
  • Schedule tasks & appointments

Use MEASURES to quantify results.

  • Metrics
  • Explain how much, how many, how big
  • Add checkmarks to a chart
  • Steps to completion
  • Use numbers
  • Rating scales
  • Examples of challenges met
  • Success file – celebrate!

Repeat the process!

Download a printable pdf of the Planning Process

Beware Planning Pitfalls: The Planning Fallacy and Parkinson’s Law at dansilvestre

Find courses and links to develop planning skills – Learn more about daily planning, weekly planning, time management, and goal setting. Also see infographics at Optimize Your Day With the Science of Productivity and Why Goals? The Science of Goals.

Posted in goals, productivity

A Year of Personal Growth (free printable)


Download a free one page printable of Weekly Activities for a year of personal growth. This version is arranged by twelve life areas within Mind, Body, Heart, & Soul.


Posted in personal development

Four Fantastic Tools For Focus

What we see depends on what we look at. What we look at depends on what we see. – the Daily PlanIt

Just as we can hear a sound without really listening, so too can we see something without really noticing. And it is the listening and noticing that improves life. This is the reason why focus is the key to so many things. The difficulty is that it can be hard to gain focus and to retain it when life is full of so many interruptions, notifications, and distractions.


Four ways to TEND to focus:

  1. Tame external & internal distractions
  2. Embrace values
  3. Notice the feedback
  4. Dedicate time to concentrate and feel flow

Tame external and internal distractions

To maintain focus, train yourself to forget about distractions. Exterrnal distractions and interruptions can be challenging, so Design Your Ideal Workspace to help with these. Turn off notifications, use headphones, and put out a do not disturb sign. Also be aware of your own favorite internal distractions and practice strategies to overcome procrastination and maintain motivation. Use discipline but also take breaks and get creative. Begin with top priority tasks: choose priorities and concentrate on the one thing that is most important to you.

Embrace values

When you know what is most important to you, you will have not only direction, but also incredible focus. Choosing priorities is easier when you follow your values. Start by mapping your values to find your guiding principles.Then learn how to create a value statement of what you do and why, which becomes a power tool for purpose.

Notice the feedback

If you can not measure it you can not improve it. – Lord Kelvin

Measures matter, so find feedback. We need to know how we are doing. It’s not fun if we don’t know we are getting somewhere. Feature your goals, keep them visual and visible, and review progress. The sweet spot is a place of high value and low effort, but some goals involve sacrifice and sometimes even pain. The Economy of Goals means that goals are more likely to be accomplished if the benefits outweigh the resources required to obtain it. End goals lead to a meaningful journey by providing intrinsic motivation.

Dedicate time to concentrate and feel the flow

Block off time in your schedule to concentrate and get intensely involved in important work.This kind of deep involvement can lead to feeling the flow experience. To inspire flow, look for the right balance of challenge and skill. To prepare, take care of yourself with enough rest and a proper diet to be at your best. Follow a routine and run your day like an athlete to cue work flow. But also be curious and have the courage to explore new areas beyond your comfort zone.

Focus for the 4 Ps of Positive Pscyhology Practices

Focus is a thread that weaves through many of the practices shown to increase happiness. The building blocks of Pause all require the ability to focus attention.  The practice of meditation is a way to train attention, and to breathe deeply can assist in the process. Both require an inner focus, while the ability to notice and be mindful can mean an outer focus. To Power Up, it takes attention to uplift ourselves and others and to be grateful. For Purpose, we must keep our focus on chosen goals, and to be in flow is to be so focused that you lose all track of time. For People, it takes attention to cultivate relationships, to notice emotions, and to communicate well. The challenge can be knowing when to pause and shift.

Resources to manage and maintain focus:

Learn more at A Mindful Moment, Challenge Yourself, Inspire Flow, & the Pinterest board on Focus


  • “Indistractable” by Nir Eyal, watch video (23:38)
  • “Triggers” by Marshall Goldsmith
  • “Focus: the hidden driver of excellence” by Daniel Goleman, watch his Google Talk
  • “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield, watch Overcoming Resistance, try the 27 min. mini course
  • “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, see this article at dansilvestre
  • Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky
  • “The One Thing” by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan
  • “80/20 Principle” by Richard Koch

Posted in positive shift, productivity

12 Gifts of Christmas


The following ideas (with some of my favorites) to celebrate the 12 gifts of Christmas can make the holiday meaningful:

1. family – share the holiday with laughter and games, watch “Little Women” or “The Family Stone”
2. friends – send Christmas cards & letters, plan a get-together or a party, watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Elf”
3. love – light a red Christmas candle, watch “Love, Actually” or “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”
4. joy – watch “a Christmas Story,” “National Lampoon Christmas,” or “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” read “A Christmas Carol” or “The Night before Christmas
5. hope – put up a nativity set, watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or “The Little Drummer Boy”
6. peace – attend a church service, listen to “Silent Night,” or “Peace on Earth” by Casting Crowns
7. presents – shop, give a gift to someone in need: donate to a food pantry, shelter, or cause of your choice. Watch “The Ultimate Gift” or “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” read “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
8. sights – decorate a Christmas tree
9. lights – view Christmas lights and firelight
10. sounds – listen to Christmas music, go caroling or to a sing along
11. scents – plug in scented oil fragrances of pine, bayberry, or cinnamon to smell
12. tastes – eat peppermints, candy canes, peanut brittle, chocolate covered cherries. bake Christmas cookies, gingerbread, or red velvet cake

See also BAH: Barely Able to Handle the Holidays and 12 Ways to Give

Download The 12 Gifts of Christmas

Posted in positive shift

BAH – Barely Able to Handle the Holidays

BAH – Are you Barely Able to Handle the Holidays? Perhaps your family has made a choice to limit gift-giving and focus more on the true meaning of Christmas, or maybe you have experienced a loss. If so, a new approach the holidays may be needed.

BAH – the dreaded trio
When you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, some days are especially difficult, and three of them are: Birthdays, Anniversaries, & Holidays. To turn the BAH of the coming holidays into Ho Ho Hope, try wrapping a package.


Plan for these days, prioritize, and practice self-care.
Acknowledge the loss and find ways to honor your loved one.
Choose new traditions, and connect with others who are grieving.
Keep it simple and as stress-free as possible.
Ask for help and any support that you need.
Give what you can to those in need and give yourself a special treat.
Express your feelings in a journal or create a piece of art.

Fill the gaps:
If this holiday is different than it’s been in the past, if there is an emptiness in your heart and under the tree, there are new ways to approach it.

As the holidays draw near…
Give a gift to someone in need: donate to a food pantry, shelter, or cause of your choice. Make cookies or muffins to give to neighbors.
Attend church, a concert, or an event.
Plan a get-together with a friend.
Share time by volunteering or spend time with someone who might be lonely.

Presence over Presents

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! ‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!’


Consider filling the gap under the tree with:

  • An advent calendar
  • A basket for cards that arrive to represent the gift of friends and family
  • A flameless candle to represent the gift of love
  • A beautiful scented oil diffuser to represent the sights and scents of the holiday
  • A new calendar to represent the gift of time
  • An ornament made from Christmas carol sheet music to represent the gift of music
  • A favorite book of cartoons or funny movie on dvd to represent the gift of laughter
  • Thank you notes to use in the coming year to represent the gift of gratitude

Fill the gap at gatherings when there are not gifts to open with fun activities. This may be as simple as singing carols or play a card or board game.

Other ideas:

  • Find your elf names and get a peppermint when you remember to use them.
  • Play games: Christmas candy pass or candy cane games. Christmas Taboo or Scattegories (scattegories-think of items that fit particular categories that start with random letters)
  • Christmas Conversation Bingo – take an m&m for each answer.
  • Use the colored m&ms to decorate a printed Christmas tree – The first person to fill their tree wins a small gift.

Find links to these activities at this Pinterest board.

Have a no-cost or low-cost gift exchange.

For a no cost gift exchange, have each person find, print, and put in an envelope to bring:

  • a new or favorite recipe
  • a joke or cartoon
  • a bookmark
  • a poem
  • a quote
  • a coloring page

Roll a die. If it is…
1. Everyone pass left
2. Trade with anyone
3. Everyone pass right
4. Choose 2 others to trade
5. Unwrap yours or choose someone else
6. Roll again to choose one of the things below to share

1. Favorite book you read this year
2. Favorite movie you saw this year
3. a Fav Christmas movie
4. a Fav Christmas song
5. a Fav Christmas candy
6. a Fav Christmas cookie

Ideas for a low cost gift exchange:

  • a Christmas ornament
  • a Christmas candle
  • a Christmas kitchen towel
  • Christmas candy (candy cane, peanut brittle, chocolate covered cherries, kisses, etc)
    something chocolate


Holiday wishes for you:

  • enjoy-mint, amuse-mint & content-mint
  • encourage-mint, amaze-mint & refresh-mint
  • involve-mint, commit-mint & engage-mint

Download the ideas in this post as a printable pdf

Posted in positive shift

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