Achieve More by Doing Less!

SweetSpot_10.30B-1 (1)It’s very hard for us to accept that more is not necessarily better, and that busyness is a mark of importance and success. But when we operate from our “sweet spot”– that place of both ease and strength — we accomplish more. Learn more by reading this article in the Washington Post, or by watching this Wisdom 2.0 talk.

If you are in the Bay Area, I hope you’ll join me this Saturday! 
March 14, 2015 at 4:30 pm 
Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley
1 Lawson Road, 
Kensington, CA


Tickets are available in advance from A Great Good Place for Books and include a copy of The Sweet Spot. 

A Quick Way to Clear Clutter


Photo by Iain Watson

It’s approaching that time of the year again: spring cleaning. Although we may know that we want to deep clean or straighten clutter this year (at some point), just the thought of actually doing it can fill us with dread. But putting off what needs to be done can make an already overwhelming task an even bigger deal. 

Two smart ways to prevent clutter clearing procrastination: 

(1) Start small, tackling just one drawer or shelf a day. 

(2) Reward yourself immediately for the small win by congratulating yourself or doing a little victory dance. When we keep rewards simple and immediate, our brain makes a little “note to self” that a behavior is worth repeating in the future. 

Take Action: Take no more than 10 minutes to tackle a messy drawer, or stow some winter gear. Thenimmediately give yourself a “yay me!” or mental high five — a little triumph over the accomplishment. Savor that good feeling while you plan your next small win. 

Join the Discussion: Share your small wins here as a way to celebrate! What did you accomplish today? Extra credit for clutter clearing that takes less than 5 minutes.


Thursday Thought

tt-dyer How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. –Wayne Dyer

Wisdom 2.0

I love love loved being at Wisdom 2.0 this weekend. One of the great highlights of my life.

A Lesson on Focus

Photo by Michael Dales

I’m naturally very distractible and messy – a “big-picture thinker, but not so much a detail person,” as my father would euphemize when I was younger. I’m often tempted to work on a lot of things at once, inefficiently, and without finishing much. This tendency can wreak havoc on my ability to get anything done as a writer.

I work from home most of the time, so the pull of all the things that I could be doing instead of writing is usually more powerful than any intention I have to just focus.

(Some of the things that tempted me this morning: the laundry, the breakfast dishes that didn’t fit in the dishwasher, chatting with my neighbor, retrieving the dog’s ball from behind the sofa so he stopped barking at it, e-mail, texts, a quick thank-you note, bills, yesterday’s mail, and chatting with my husband on the phone.)

I had to carefully construct a work structure for myself that would support focus rather than allow me to hop from one easy but not important task to another.

Forcing myself to stop multitasking was a process. I had to create a formal ritual to get myself into the zone. Here it is:

As I’m brewing myself a second cup of coffee or tea, I take a quick peek at my calendar and e-mail on my phone. Is there anything urgent? The idea isn’t to respond to e-mails; it’s a check that keeps me from worrying while I write that I should have checked my e-mail, and keeps me from wondering if there is anything on my calendar that I should be preparing for. Then I head to my office, with my coffee and a full glass of water. (I’ve also had a snack and used the restroom. I’m like a toddler going on a car trip.)

I do a quick cleanup, removing yesterday’s coffee cup from my desk, closing books left open, putting pens back in their place. I put all visual clutter in deceivingly neat piles. I put my phone in do-not-disturb mode, and close any unnecessary applications or windows that are open on my computer. I launch Pandora and choose the “listen while writing” radio station I’ve created (mostly classical piano because it doesn’t distract me like music with lyrics does). I tell Buster, my trusty canine colleague, to go to his “place” – a bed right next to me where he’s trained to stay while I work.

I write at a standing desk that has a small treadmill under it. When I’m ready to start writing, I start the treadmill. Walking slowly while I work has a lot of positive outcomes; one of them is that it more or less chains me to my desk. Finally, I launch the app 30/30, which times my writing and break time.

At first, I actually felt guilty for carving out such dedicated time to focus on my writing. Perhaps that sounds ridiculous to you – it’s my jobafter all! But honestly, I felt like I should be more responsive to my colleagues’ e-mails throughout the day, and I shouldn’t be creating the scheduling nightmares that blocking off dedicated work time does because it’s basically at the same time every day. It’s very hard to schedule a meeting with me in the morning, when I do my best writing, or in the afternoon, when I pick up my children from school. This means that it’s pretty hard to get me to go to a meeting.

So how did I ultimately let go of the guilt? Instead of trying to conform to the norms of the ideal office worker (which made me feel a little terrified anytime I was straying from that path), I started to see myself as an artist. I read everything I could about other writers’ and artists’ work habits, and talked to a half dozen successful writers about how they get things done. Guess what?

They have writing rituals just like the one that I set up. Seeing myself as a part of their tribe made the whole thing easier for the part of me that is people pleasing and wanting to conform with what people see as hard-working.

Do you struggle to block off dedicated time to write? If so, I welcome you to join my tribe.

Instructions For A Bad Day

Having a bad day? Take a few minutes to listen to these truthful and poetic words. Let them uplift you and know that this too shall pass.

Thursday Thought

TT-MBeck“You will never realize your best destiny through the avoidance of fear. Rather, you will realize it through the exercise of courage, which means taking whatever action is most liberating to the soul, even when you are afraid.” –Martha Beck

How to Find More Than 24 Hours in a Day

Find the minimum effective dose — of everything.

The “minimum effective dose” (MED) is considered to be the lowest dose of a pharmaceutical product that spurs a clinically significant change in health or well-being. In order to live and work from my sweet spot, I had to find the MED in everything in my life: sleep, meditation, blogging frequency, checking my email, school volunteering, homework help, date nights.

We have a deep-seated conviction that more work, more enrichment activities for the kids, more likes on Facebook or Instagram, more stuff would be better. Unless we like feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, we need to accept that more is not necessarily better and that our go-go-go culture, left unchecked, will push us not only beyond our MED — but beyond the “maximum tolerated dose,” the level at which an activity (or drug) becomes toxic and starts causing an adverse reaction.

Take Action: The first step in dialing back the busyness of everyday life is to figure out your minimum effective dose of everything. Ignore what other people think and assume and demand of your time. Figure out how much time you actually need to spend on your email, going to meetings, driving your kids to their activities, etc. in order to be effective at home and at work.

Join the Discussion: What activity have YOU found the MED for that surprised you? Your story will help others have the courage to dial back their own busyness.

“Genius” Relationship Advice

Love this advice for navigating all important relationships in your life.

Thursday Thought

tt-buddha “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” –Buddha