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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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 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
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
A year ago, I was a happy person. I had a wonderful life, and was putting the final touches on a book about practices that contribute to happiness. But then in January of 2022, my world collapsed around me. The sudden loss of my dearly loved husband James, the most amazing person I’ve ever known, catapulted me into a degree of pain that only those who have suffered such a loss truly understand. When he passed away, I found myself on an unexpected journey of grief, struggles, stress, and anxiety like I’d never experienced before. I was as far from happiness as it is possible to get. Helping me along this difficult path were people who cared, and I am eternally grateful for them. I’m also grateful for writing about the twelve practice earlier, for they are also coping strategies that can help us through hard times. This year I have often felt barely alive, and the ability to take a breath, to take just one step, and to take just one day, one moment at a time, was all that was possible, and all that kept me going.
For those who grieve, I will share some quotes that have helped me below. Some of them are spiritual in nature, for spirituality is one of the practices. However you see God, I believe He is a presence and source of strength that is always there for you.
From “the Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz: “God is life. God is life in action. The best way to say ‘I love you, God,’ is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, ‘Thank you, God,’ is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now. Whatever life takes away from you, let it go.”
But when the present frankly sucks in every possible way, the truth is that we don’t want to stay in that moment. To me, the awful present felt like it stretched into a very bleak future as far as I could see. It’s a very tough place to be. It is human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. When confronted with pain of this magnitude, nothing is more desirable than the sweetness of oblivion. I sought it in the nothingness of sleep, in watching a lot of mind-numbing television, and frequently in a tequila bottle paired with my favorite comfort food – BBQ potato chips. I had no wish at all to increase awareness, the foundational skill of happiness. In fact, I craved nothing so much as the exact opposite. I wanted only to numb the terrible pain of grief, and to avoid as much as possible all of the many problems and complications that avalanched down upon me. To stop thinking, to stop feeling, even to stop being. I knew this wasn’t really living, and certainly not in a way that expressed love for God. But I didn’t know how to make my way back to life.
Into this void, came a quote from the movie “First Reformed” – “Courage is the solution to despair.”
Courage is the way to move forward through grief. With courage we are brave enough to tell others what we need, to seek out resources that help, and to keep trying to learn how to live. With courage we are brave enough to feel the pain so that in time we can once again live fully. Courage is not easy, but it is the only way forward.
In “C.S. Lewis Onstage: the Most Reluctant Convert,” he says: ”For they (art and music) are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” Joy can be found in beauty, nature, art and music, learning, and travel to new places. Know that joy can still exist, and have the courage to look for it. God wants us to live, to not only survive but to thrive. He wants us to be happy. And there is no doubt at all that our loved ones want that for us too.
Prayers from the daily devotional “Amazing Grace” (given to me by my friend and neighbor Marcia, whose loving kindness has supported me every step of the way): “God, teach me to have the courage to act in the world as you wish me to. Help me find a way to push through the challenges that arise in my path, and show me how to overcome evil with love and compassion. Help me to stand tall against fear and stay in the light.” – p. 346 “Dear God, I ask today for a bold new vision for my life. I ask for the strength and wisdom to be a better person to all those I come in contact with. I ask for the courage to step out of my comfort zone and expand my capacity for joy.” – p. 347
First and always, be kind. If you have lost someone you love, you have been gravely wounded. If you are grieving, be especially kind to yourself as you heal, and be aware of what you can handle and what you can’t yet. But also have the courage to move forward when you are ready. Grief changes everything. The world becomes a different place, and we become different people after being touched by grief. But good can still exist, and we can be part of it. For everyone, wherever you are, whatever you are facing, I hope the practices of positive shift help you as they have helped me. Learn more about them at Positive Shift Happens: the Excerpt. May we both keep moving forward toward peace and healing with courage.