What is your favorite summer memory?


Photo courtesy of Mike Renlund (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Mike Renlund (Creative Commons)

Mine is our family trips to the beach, walking on the beach, finding beautiful shells, and doing things as a family. It’s been a long time since I put my toes in the sand, but I still remember the sights, the sounds and the smells.

I used to love the 4th of July too, when we would cook out, then light sparklers, and settle in to watch the local fireworks that we could see from our back yard.

I treasure those memories. We spent time together, focused on the people and the activities around us. And none of these favorite memories involves a cell phone or a website!

These days it seems we get so caught up in work and worries and connectedness that we forget to enjoy simple things anymore. At least I do. When was the last time you just unplugged?

I have to admit the thought of going even half a day without checking my email, texts or social media makes me start to hyperventilate.

But I know because I have that reaction, it’s even more important to disconnect at least a bit.

We shouldn’t be more focused on the phone in our hand or the comments people are making online than the people around us and the simple pleasures we can get from a walk in the park with a friend or sitting on the porch watching the lightning bugs come out at night.

In what ways can you unplug this summer?

Enjoying life’s little pleasures


Photo courtesy of L-Ines (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of L-Ines (Creative Commons)

Do you fill your life up so much that you don’t have time for little pleasures?

I am often guilty of making lists that would take several people to finish – and then wonder why I’m tired and burned out.

This weekend, I took a little time to step back and pause. One of my three focus words this year is PAUSE (read more here), and I have gotten away from it. To remedy that, I spent time at the pool, sunning and relaxing, then sat on my porch reading and enjoying the birds singing in the trees.

To cap things off Sunday evening, I sat on the porch and watched the lightning bugs come out. Seeing all those little lights rising out of the grass brought back memories of catching them in jars with holes in the lids when I was growing up. Definitely something I need to make time for more often.

What little pleasures should you be enjoying?

Kitty whiskers and butterfly kisses


CallieSome early mornings, my cat likes to snuggle with me, and her long whiskers brush my cheek like she’s giving butterfly kisses, a gentle tickle made more special by her vibrating purrs. Time seems to stand still when we’re snuggled like that, and the day always seems somehow easier to face.

I need more moments like that to slow me down. I need to pause more often.

Lately I feel as if I’m being swept along, almost as if I’m on a raft in the rapids, turning and bouncing through the waters so fast that I miss the scenery altogether. I can’t keep up with what day it is as they fly by, and suddenly it’s the end of the month when it feels like it just started. When I look back, I can’t even tell you what I did that kept me so busy but I know I wasn’t just sitting around.

One of my three focus words this year is PAUSE (read more here), and I’ve gotten away from it. But this weekend, I plan to spend time pausing. I want to take a step back from the everyday crazy, and spend time reflecting, having a deep conversation with a friend, doing things that are different from the normal routine.

My guess is that the frustrations and headaches of all I’ve been dealing with will melt away, and I’ll start the new week refreshed and ready to tackle whatever comes my way with a new attitude and resolve.

How can you pause and reset the craziness?

Remembering to pause



Photo courtesy of Brett Jordan (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Brett Jordan (Creative Commons)

Running headlong into my day seems to be the norm lately. There’s so much on my plate that it feels there is hardly a moment to waste – the list feels like it goes on forever, the interruptions disrupt my train of thought. There’s always something else – a new challenge, a new task, a new responsibility.

Even if I had 48 hours in a day, I wonder if I could ever catch up. But that’s when it’s most important to take a step back. To stop blindly stumbling forward. To pause.

One of my three focus words for this year is PAUSE (read more here), and it seems to be the one I’m having the most trouble remembering. Living in such a busy world, it’s hard to justify slowing down – or stopping.

And yet, pausing might be the single most effective way to deal with all the busyness.

How much more could I accomplish if I just pause first thing in the morning to plan out my day? Create a list and plan for what needs to be done, leaving time in the day for the interruptions and emergency situations that always seem to pop up.

Leaving a few minutes at the end of the day to re-evaluate and set myself up for success the next day would help me too, especially since the activities of the day would still be fresh in my mind.

One of the most important things I need to do, though, is to pause to rest. Instead of moving directly from thing to thing to thing – I need to take a break – even just a few minutes, to redirect my attention and my energy. That might be a chat with a friend, or a walk around the block, or even just a few minutes of reading or just sitting on the porch. On weekends, I need to unhook even more, and not try to cram as much as possible into the time but to recognize that rest heals my body and spirit.

How much more effective could you be if you learned to pause?

Do you pause?


Photo courtesy of Sebastien Wiertz (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Sebastien Wiertz (Creative Commons)

The sun is brightly shining, the tree branches are moving just slightly in the breeze, and the quiet is almost deafening. There are plenty of things on the “to do” list, but thankfully, for just this moment, there is nothing more urgent than just being here.

How often do you indulge in “just being”?

I can tell you I don’t very often. I read about the benefits of meditation and unhooking and down time. I know it is good to let your mind and your body rest. I recognize the benefits of living in the moment.

But moments like this are rare for me.

I am almost always moving – mentally and/or physically – from task to project to communication. Still need to do this, and have to finish that before taking a break, and then break just means a different activity, not really break from all activity.

PAUSE is one of my three focus words for 2015 (read more here) precisely for the reasons mentioned above. Break and rest aren’t strong enough words for me, but PAUSE – now that word carries more meaning for me. Like pausing a recorded show on TV – the action stops –all of it. No sound. No movement. Not changing the activity but a cessation of it. And then it starts back when you hit the play button.

That’s what I need to more of in my life – PAUSE.

Do you pause often enough?

Slow down and check once more


Photo courtesy of Jhaymeslsviphotography (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Jhaymeslsviphotography (Creative Commons)

I waited impatiently for a response to my text – wondering why on earth it was taking my friend so long to get back to me. I looked again at my phone, like that was going to speed things up, and then noticed it. Oops, I had sent the text to the wrong person! Yikes! No wonder I didn’t get an answer!

One of the problems with the fast-moving, multi-tasking world today is that we don’t always pay the appropriate amount of attention to the things we need to. At least I don’t. I’m rushing from thing to thing. My efforts are fragmented and incomplete. I am distracted and overwhelmed.

Thank goodness I can check “sent” mail because half the time I can’t remember if I actually followed up and sent that email or just thought about it before being pulled off onto something else. My attention span is about a half a second much of the time, and if I don’t write something down, forget me ever remembering it until you mention it to me again.

One thing I am consciously working on this year is slowing down. One of my three focus words (read more here) is PAUSE, and it is turning out to be an important action for me.

It’s not just about pausing in the sense of resting or taking a break from action, although that is important too. Pause reminds me to hesitate before hitting send – to read that email or text one more time and make sure it says what I want it to (no weird autocorrection) and is addressed to the right person(s).

Pause means I stop before heading out the door to make sure I have everything I need and avoid a trip back in to get that thing I had to take with me that I was about to leave on the counter.

Pause is the breath I take before reacting to a situation – so that I react more appropriately.

I even paused during my run the other morning when I crested the hill and saw the moon setting, huge and orange. I just took a moment to marvel, and thank God for such a beautiful sight. Then I finished my run more refreshed.

I am more mindful when I pause, and I can almost feel the distractions just melting away. Do this – ONLY – and then get to the next thing, instead of this and this and this all at once. You and I both know that doesn’t work well, so why do we keep acting like it does?

When do you need to pause?

When in doubt, reboot


Photo courtesy of Magnus. (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Magnus. (Creative Commons)

One of the first things I try when I’m having issues with my computer, phone or other electronic device is to reboot it. That’s right, I just turn it off.

That’s also the first question my IT guru at work asks when we have issues, “have you rebooted it?”

Much of the time, that simple action of turning off, letting it sit and then turning it back on, resolves whatever minor issues the device was having, and will help in determining if the problem is more serious.

So I wonder why it takes us so long to “reboot” our bodies and minds?

When I get tired and overwhelmed, my decision-making process is not as keen and I don’t react well to challenges and issues. That’s when I say and do things I regret later. It makes me make mistakes and missteps. But more times than not, I just keep blundering blindly ahead, getting more tired and frustrated, and making things even worse.

Once I take a break, get some rest, and step back from whatever is going on, I’m able to react more appropriately and make better progress.

Just like a computer or other electronic device needs to be shut down periodically, so do my body and mind. There’s no benefit to going full steam ahead 100% of the time, and that only leads to mental burnout and physical injury.

One of my three focus words this year is PAUSE (read more here). I chose that word as a reminder to step back not only throughout the day with short breaks, but to also plan blocks of time off so that I can refresh and renew both my mind and my body. It’s a lie when I let myself think “there’s no time to take off,” and I am delusional if I think I can function without an occasional reboot.

Are you making sure to pause and reboot?

Recharging your batteries


Photo courtesy of Micheal J (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Micheal J (Creative Commons)

I’ve noticed that lately, my cell phone doesn’t hold a charge very long, and I have to plug it in often (yes, that is partly a commentary on how much I use it as well as its age). It also can drop more quickly from a 50-60% charge to shutting itself off if I’m not paying attention!

I think we can get to that point too when we push harder and harder with more stress and less rest. Especially this time of year when there is so much that needs to be done at work, at home, shopping, entertaining – it’s easy to let our own personal energy levels drop from 50% to zero too quickly. I suspect that is part of why tempers flare, impatience is rampant, and meltdowns are so common.

On top of feeling on edge and overwhelmed, add the pressures of dealing with more traffic just getting around town, lines everywhere, unreasonable expectations of “traditions” and things you “should” do. You have compounded the frustration levels so they are off the charts.

It is all worth it?

Simple answer is NO.

In the end, no one will remember that you had every single decoration up, that you attended every party and event, or that there were more presents than would fit under the tree. What you and others will remember might just be the sweet conversation, that one especially thoughtful gift, or the time spent working a puzzle or playing a game together instead of rushing around.

I’m taking care of myself better this year by making smarter decisions about activities as well as food, exercise, and rest. Like my phone, I’m recharging more often – making sure to have quiet time by myself, without TV or radio blaring. That has meant saying no to some things, and knowing that in the end, I’ll be better for the people around me who matter because I’m not burned out, sick and cranky.

How are you recharging your batteries?

Getting my second wind


Photo courtesy of castgen (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of castgen (Creative Commons)

Don’t you love that feeling of getting a second wind?

I notice it especially when I’m doing a long run, at about mile 7 of 10, once I’m past the big hill (which is always a challenge), I get a surge of energy that gets me home.

Sometimes I get a second wind at work in the afternoon – I’m feeling really tired and out of focus, and out of nowhere, I feel renewed and ready to tackle the next stack on my desk.

What I would like to do is be more intentional in bringing on that second wind, instead of just hoping that I find it.

Many times taking a break can help me. Even just taking five minutes to get up, stretch, walk around a little, and not stare at the computer screen can do wonders.

Changing mental focus can help too, like when I am running. If I can stop counting how many miles I have to go, and realize I have only a few left, then I am suddenly not so tired.

Noticing that I need a break and a new focus is half the battle – usually I start slowing down way before I realize and sometimes it’s too late to salvage the day or the block of time. Working to exhaustion doesn’t help anyone, especially since that is when mistakes are made.

The goal this week then, is to take intentional breaks in order to get that second wind and accomplish more.

How will you get your second wind?


No backup plan


Photo courtesy of Tim Reckmann (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Tim Reckmann (Creative Commons)

I was talking to a friend the other day about how busy I’ve been and he suggested I take a week off. My immediate reaction was that I can only take a day or two at a time because it’s so hard to deal with the backlog when I come back.

He asked if there was someone else who could help.

Then it hit me. It is my own fault that I am not comfortable taking off because I have not made the effort to find and train any backup.

There are plenty of excuses – I’m too busy, there’s no time to train anyone else to help, who I would train, it could get confusing, it might be done wrong.

In the end it boils down to the fact that I need to DIRECT my work and my life instead of letting it manage me.

DIRECT is one of my three focus words this year (read more here), and has been a key element in helping me improve my life.

I need to take the steps necessary to designate and train someone (or several people) to help with different aspects of my job so that I can be gone and not leave people hanging or have a backlog to come back to. Having some support would also take the pressure off when things get crazy busy.

I need to be more deliberate in planning days off instead of waiting “for a good time.” The breaks would refresh me and help me focus better when I am there instead of balancing on the edge of exhaustion.

Rest is an important part of being healthy, and not taking steps like finding backup is irresponsible. Not taking rest days from running can lead to injuries, and not taking breaks from work can lead to burnout.

Do you have a backup to help you when you are off?