An ending is a time for reflection

An ending is a time for reflection, and the end of the year is no exception. I don’t much like to look backward, but the year-end is a natural time to do it.

No looking backward

I don’t like to look backward because the past is done. If it didn’t go well, there’s nothing I can do to change it. If it did, well, that’s great, but you can’t live in the past. But if you’re going to look back, the end of the year is the time to do it.

No resolutions

I also don’t like to make resolutions. “I resolve …” has a negative connotation. More often than not, the sentence continues, “… to not eat sugar.” Or “ … to work out every day.” But, really, how realistic is that? I don’t believe in absolutes – I believe in moderation. Everything is a possibility in moderation. Chocolate? Definitely. Financial stability? Working on it. A little bit at a time, and everything will get done.

But an ending is a time for reflection. Take a look back. Look at the good, the lessons learned, the things we wish we’d done differently. 

And if there’s an ending, it follows that a beginning follows. I like the idea of a fresh start. Clean slate. 

Be smart and plan

An ending is a time for reflection - and highlighters are tools for the next step - looking forward.
Highlighters are great tools for categorizing my brain dump.

But to ensure that my year starts the way I want it to, I have to be smart and plan for what I want to achieve. So I start with a brain dump. This can take me a while, because I have many, many thoughts flitting around my brain. They’re the ones that keep me up at night. Get everything I have to do, want to do, or think I might need to do, down on paper. I find that actual paper and pen (or pencil) is most useful for this exercise. Sometimes taking a walk around the house can spark a reminder. There are no filters with this – get everything down so there are no stray thoughts in your brain. Now I classify everything. Business-related, personal, dogs, or anything else. Colored highlighters are helpful with this.

Now for every classification, prioritize. Things that are urgent, necessary at some point, and the “It would be nice” priorities.

Look at the big picture

Take a couple of days for this. Make sure you take into consideration the things that you really want to accomplish in the coming year, or quarter, or month. Because you can do this exercise whenever you need to. Any given Wednesday is fine, or at the end of a semester, or the start of a week. It could be that you decide to take a different route in your business or things happen in your life that change your direction. No matter – you’re not tied to a specific date.

An endings is a time for reflection, and a time to look forward.

Have fun this holiday season

Have fun this holiday season! Have a snowball fight with your siblings!
Have a snowball fight with your siblings! Have fun this holiday season.

Have fun this holiday season! Loads of fun! Never, ever moderate your fun. That’s what the season is about – fun and family. Cherish your time with loved ones. Enjoy every moment you have together. Watch that cheesy old movie. If you have snow, go out and build a snowman with your siblings – you’re never too old to build snow people. Or have a snowball fight – no rocks, though.

Watch the whipped cream…

And then when your toes are all cold, go inside and enjoy a hot beverage. Warm up from the inside – tea warms me up the fastest. Hot chocolate cools down too quickly – especially with cold whipped cream. (It does sound good to me, though…)

For people like me who’ve struggled with my weight my whole life, I keep a calorie count in my head of what I’m consuming. Hot chocolate with whipped cream has more than I’m willing to spend. I’d rather save those calories for something else.

Never, ever deny yourself!

I always say, “Moderation in everything” and I never deny myself anything I really want. But I have to really want that something if it’s super-high in fat and / or calories. Much of the time when I think I might want something, I do something else for a few minutes and after that I don’t want it so much anymore. In the hot chocolate example – what’s for dessert? If that’s something I’d rather have – like chocolate cake, I’ll skip the hot chocolate or the whipped cream and save those calories for dessert.

Don’t rely on food for happiness

I’ve learned that most of the time food is not the thing that makes me happy. Sure – I’m happy when I’m eating our Pasta Bolognese or pizza from my favorite pizzeria, but I don’t need food to be happy.

If one of your goals is to be fit, an essential part of fitness is eating right. And chocolate – anything – in large quantities cannot be considered eating right! Once in a while a major chocolate indulgence is great (and a little chocolate every day is a necessity!), but if you’re trying to get fit, a daily sundae is out.

Happiness must come from things other than food for us to become fit, healthy and happy. In fact Deepak Chopra told Oprah Winfrey that true happiness comes from within – aiming for internal fulfillment rather than external fulfillment, giving to others, and appreciation for natural beauty, among other things.

Have fun this holiday season – be happy with your family and other loved ones. Gain fulfillment from your surroundings – go outside for walks. Enjoy the world.

Don’t overthink it

It's easy to think and think and never act on a great idea. Don't overthink it!
Fran’s twirling an idea in her head…

It’s easy to do – we’ve all done it. Twirl an idea around in your head and not act on it. I’ve done it more times than I care to admit. You think about it, approach an idea from all different angles and sort out the “What if’s …?” and not do anything. It’s called “analysis paralysis” – when you think about something for so long that nothing gets done. Here’s some advice: Don’t overthink it.

So you think you have a great idea. It doesn’t matter what context it’s in. You have this idea and start thinking about all the eventualities and then you decide it’s not so great after all.

But what if it is and you just over thought yourself right out of acting on your idea? You’ve spent so much time thinking about it that it’s impossible for you to act on it. And then you feel guilty about spending time on nothing.

You’re never not going to have ideas

So – here’s the plan. You’re never not going to have ideas. We’re people. We think. That’s a good thing. But a while ago you set goals for yourself: Set goals – big and little. So you don’t overthink this idea – ask yourself first if this idea fits into your overall plan. Will it help you achieve a goal you set for yourself? If not, then move on. Unless the idea is so attractive to you that you can’t put it aside.

Don’t overthink it – don’t think

If your new idea is still appealing, let your mind go blank for a little while. Just forget about it for a few minutes. Then come back to it and think about how to go about this idea. If a really great plan comes to mind – revise your goals and go for it!

Give it a time limit

If you keep cogitating about this new idea and whether or not you should go for it, give yourself a strict time limit: “I’ll decide whether or not to go for this by noon on Thursday.” You’ve given yourself a deadline. Act on it.

Go for the gut feeling

And when all else fails – write down your options on small pieces of paper. Fold them up and shuffle them around. Pick one. How do you feel about it? If your gut clenches, it’s the wrong decision.

Now, don’t overthink it. Go do it. Plan for it. Embrace it – whatever that “it” is.

Timing doesn’t matter when it comes to exercise

Timing doesn't matter when it comes to exercise - the important thing is that you do it.
Timing doesn’t matter when it comes to exercise – I do it in the afternoon!

Do you think that you have to work out in the morning? Or afternoon? Here’s a hint: the timing doesn’t matter. The important thing is to work out when you can!

I work out in the afternoon – it works for me. Most days I exercise at pretty much the same time. I don’t have to think about it – exercise has become a habit for me.

Trainers get real

And the trainers agree.

 Morgan Rees, an ACE-certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and health coach in Los Angeles says, “Some people work out in the morning because their schedule only allows that time to work out. Others work out in the morning because they genuinely love being active in the morning. I have always enjoyed working out in the evening because I have the most energy in the afternoon and early evening.”

And Sarah Pelc Graca, an NASM-certified personal trainer and founder of Strong With Sarah, agreed that there is no ideal time for working out. “The number of calories burned from the exact same workout will remain the same whether you work out at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m.,” Pelc Graca said.

Morning people have one advantage

But some research has shown that if you like to work out in the morning you may have made exercise part of your regular routine and developed the habit of working out. In addition, if you exercise early in the day, your body will continue to burn active calories during the day, and you’ll be fueling your body as well to build muscles. 

On the other hand, working out in the evening gives your body recovery time overnight, and can also give your muscles the opportunity to build. It can even improve your sleep, since exercise can reduce the stress that you’ve built up during the day.

The bottom line

So, it really doesn’t matter when you exercise. The important thing is that you do it.

If exercise hasn’t yet become a habit for you, make a date with yourself – schedule your workout in your calendar. Since long-term consistency is key, try working out in the morning some days and in the afternoon or evening on others. See what works best for you. When in your schedule are you most likely to keep your date? That’s what you should stick with. Of course, everyone has days that mornings don’t work or afternoons are booked – I know I do. I try to think ahead and figure out alternatives. Because if you’re skipping a workout with only a time excuse – the only one you’re cheating is yourself.

Take a step back and things will get done

Feeling blah but overwhelmed?

Exercise helps me release stress.
If I’m going to tackle my to-do list, I need a workout.

Are you you feeling blah but still have a multitude of things on your list that have to get done? Then take a step back. If your to-do list has gotten out of control, it’s time to take a step back to reassess. Figure out if everything on there is really necessary. If you’ve just been adding to your list without evaluating the items on it, it’s probably time for a to-do list overhaul.

If you’re feeling stressed about everything you have to do, perhaps the first thing is to release some stress with an intense workout. I always find that I’m better able to focus after I’ve exercised.

Lists are good

I’m a firm advocate of lists. The more lists I have, the happier I am. My Google Keep screen is my happy place. That’s where I store all my notes and lists. If something is on a list, I don’t have to remember it. As I’m getting older, I find that every little bit helps. Every few days, though, I revisit the lists and see if I can delete anything – if my priorities have shifted or if I’ve done things without crossing them off my list.

Although crossing things off a list is one of the best feelings in the world. Plus, the act of crossing items off your to-do list is a stress reducer too.

To-do list overload? Take a step back to reassess

If your to-do list is overwhelming, take 15 – 20 minutes and redo it. Take a step back and go through your to-do list to make it more manageable. Take a look at your existing list and copy to your new list the things that are still important to you to get done. If your situation has changed, don’t hesitate to leave things off your new list. Once you’ve finished copying old items, put them in priority order. (Crucial, Important, Nice and Can Wait.) Then add any new items with their priorities noted. Put your new “Crucial” items at the top of yet another new list, and follow with your other items. If you’ve copied “Crucial” items from your old list, time to reassess: chances are they’re not that “crucial” after all.

Now, every day identify 3 or 4 crucial items to get done and perhaps a couple more things you’d like to see off your list.

So, to move forward toward your goals, take a step back to reassess the things on your to-do list. Make sure that the items on your list actually move you closer to your goals.