Nic-Whole-ness #4 Taming the Interwebs

Image from ashersarlin.com

4. For focus and calm, check email twice a day (10am & 3pm).  Go cold turkey on Facebook & online news. Take a break from reading my favorite blogs.  And especially, stop looking at slide shows of houses on Zillow. 

I think this was the single greatest thing I did for myself. I just (like just this moment) realized that I had a hard time writing about gaining free time from stopping TV & social events (Nic-Whole-ness #3) because #4 is where I gained time & a little bit of piece of mind! But first… let me start at the beginning.

I read several blogs about things my friends are doing, cooking, and DIY home things–especially uncluttering, plus I like to check out the NYTimes every once & awhile, and I have been perusing Zillow at least once a day. I love to cook & try out new recipes. I like making crafty (& cheap!) things for the house. And I can’t resist a good closet purge or process improvement. This leads to a long list of projects that I feel I MUST do at any given moment (more on that later).  I like to gather ideas & acquire new projects, but rarely leave time to complete these new  to dos.

I also love to check email, check Zillow, & read new blog posts as a means of procrastinating. If I don’t want to tackle something, I can still work “productively” at gathering new ideas, reading new things, exploring new recipes, or browzing for a house to buy. I feel like my unproductive time is still productive because I am learning new things to help me be more efficient, better organized, more informed, etc. But that doesn’t lead to any real work being done!

So the game plan was this.  I had my blogs fed to Google Reader which was on my igoogle homepage; I removed the reader for the duration of Nic-Whole-ness & haven’t put it back on yet. Facebook , Gmail, Zillow were accessible on my ipod touch. The Zillow & Facebook apps got deleted. For gmail & my work email, I scheduled “check email” times on my calendar, but mostly tried to keep the applications closed if I wasn’t reading or responding to a message. I also created 3 new folders on my gmail that will be familiar to GTD readers…. @ACTION, @WAITING, & @Reference. Lots of the stuff in my inbox was there because I hadn’t decided what with it.

Once I tackled email & stopped adding new projects to my lists, things went much better than I anticipated. I only missed checking websites or blogs when I was trying to disctract myself from what I was trying to do.  When I wanted to check Zillow, I thought about why & realized it was because I wanted to make progress on getting a home, but wasn’t sure what to do next. So I sat down & thought about what my next action should be… very GTD… and it worked!

I worked my way through several recipes I had wanted to make for awhile. And I finally used the Costco sized bag of cranberries in the fridge because I focused on the ingredients I had on hand instead of the new recipe I saw on my favorite blog.  Eli & I finished a few uncluttering projects from Unclutter Your Life in One Week. One of my goals for 2010 was to simplify & unclutter, but only once I stopped finding new projects did we devote time to the activities we wanted to do, that were already on our plates.

Zen Habits would probably refer to this as a pillar of doing less. Dr. Edward Deming would call it constancy of purpose. Good to Great author Jim Collins would categorize it under culture of discipline. Whatever it is, I have unofficially titled it the “My brain isn’t fried when I get home & I am being more productive at work & I have stopped stockpiling random ingredients in the pantry in case we need them & we are making progress on deciding if/where/when we want to buy a house & my to do list is actually shrinking!” intervention of Nic-Whole-ness. Thank you #4!

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Nic-Whole-ness #3 Free Time

Image from BC Children's Hospital

#3. For free time, no weekday social activities or TV at night.

Having a “just say no” approach to weekday activities was helpful. We pared down considerably on the running around we have been doing Monday through Friday.  With late classes & work until 7:30 some nights for Eli, social activities, plus getting ready for the next day, taking care of the dogs, & exercising was stretching us too thin. No TV or social activities during the week was designed to open up our schedule & make our activities during the week nights more deliberate.

Not watching TV was the easy part. We watch 99.9% of our TV on Netflix & Hulu. We have about 5 TV stations, 2 of which are QVC,1 is en espanol, & 1 is CSPAN.  Riveting, I tell you.  So making the choice not to turn on Hulu or Netflix Monday through Friday was very deliberate & therefore makes it a little harder to “fall off the wagon.”

 By choosing Netflilx & Hulu over regular TV, we have already made the decision to watch the TV we want to watch when we want to watch it. Limiting our viewing to Friday through Sunday wasn’t too much of a leap for us.  We saved our Netflix dvds of Dexter for after our new Shabbat dinners on Friday night.  And because we had more free time during the week, we got some cleaning & laundry done, so we didn’t have to spend all weekend tidying up. I could feel that I was a lot more relaxed throughout the week & I feel like my focus was better. Because I knew I wasn’t rushing home from work to get to a social event or rushing through washing dishes to watch TV, I got to kick back & enjoy what I was doing. It was great!

The hard part was saying no to friends that we really like & enjoy spending time with.  We missed also out on some fun stuff, like Taco Tuesdays.  It was a hard choice.  We did “break” the rule once or twice.  When a friend, who we only get to see every few weeks because of her crazy nurse’s schedule, invited us to dinner at her new pad (which we hadn’t seen & she has been living there for months!), we accepted. It was lovely to see her, meet the new roommates, and see how well she is doing.  Another night, we were both tired, had most of our chores done, and it was too early to go to bed.  We caught up on The League on Hulu. Hilarity ensued, but we ended up going to bed too late & were tired the next day.

I thought a lot about WHY I was doing the activities I laid out in Nic-Whole-ness.  For this one, I had a hard time answering clearly & consicely. I want more chilling time, more intentional choosing of the activities we do, fewer distractions when we are home, & less running around.

Did cutting out TV & social events during the week help? YES!

Did it make a difference in how I felt? Yes.

But I am still not sure we will keep this in it’s full effect after Nic-Whole-ness.  We like seeing our friends whenever we can, and sometimes staying up too late watching TV is just FUN! (it’s the rebel in me…. I can’t help it).

Professing my love

Should I shout it from the roof tops? Take out a one page ad in the Post? Call all of my friends & family to tell them the good news?

I am in love with a website.

Five Books

More specifically a website about books. You may think I am being a little dramatic, but trust me, I’m not.  I love to read. And I especially love good books. And I really love learning new things.  And great books to learn about new things recommended by experts in that field?  I am literally swooning.

The Meaning of Life, Nazi Hunters, Marriage, and Wonderful  Cookbooks?

This is like TED for people who read. And I couldn’t be happier that  long holiday weekends that call for a cup of tea, my coziest sweatpants, and a snuggly dog in my comfy-est chair are right around the corner! Sigh…I am sinking into nerdy bliss.

Nic-Whole-ness #2 Peace

#2. For peace, incorporate intention setting or prayer into every day.

As I write this Fleckles McSpeckles is barking & whining because something more exciting than her life is happening outside the front window. Hard life for Flecky with everyone having more fun than you.

For peace, I tried a few different tactics. Many days, I read from Meditations from the Mat over my morning coffee or before I went to bed at night. It’s a nice book & I have been working my way through it piecemeal since August. I tried to make reading it more deliberate & frequent & really focus on incorporating the readings into my life.

Other days, I recited a simple quote or mantra, usually sports themed, while I ran. “Run your own race” is one of my favorites. I have a tendency to compete with myself & “others”……hypothetical people out there who are somehow racing me through life. If I remind myself to “Run my own race” when I am running or in the office, it help me remember that doing my own thing is best.  Another favorite is from a Bikram yoga teacher.  In the middle of hot, sweaty, extremely difficult positions, Eddy would say, “Smile!  The yoga, it’s fun!”  It’s a great reminder that even in the most difficult workouts, I am doing it because I enjoy it!  During my runs or while walking the dogs, I can repeat “Smile…this is fun!”

Last, Eli & I took an online Love & Religion class through Interfaith Family.  It was a great class & helped us to think about how we want to practice our spirituality together as an interfaith couple. We talked a lot over the last 4 weeks about what pieces & practices of our respective religions are important to us, what our values are, what we want to leave in our past practices, and what we want to bring forward together into our home & our family.  We had some great conversations & have started having Shabbat dinner together. We eat bread, drink some wine (or beer), and light candles. Then we hang out & talk. Last night we made a challah & watched the Thursday night line up (on DVR) with friends…. a lovely end to the week.

Nic-Whole-ness #1 Exercise

At the beginning of Nic-Whole-ness, my vision was do a run down of each goal & how I planned to accomplish it. Then at the end of the 18 days, I would give you an update on how it went & what I learned. Now with 2 days (including today) until the big day, it’s still my vision… but the posts won’t be as in synch. I think we can all live with that.

#1. For health, exercise every day.

What’s my plan for exercising every day? Great question.

I have given myself 3 basic options: yoga, weight lifting, and running. This is to make it easy for me to choose an activity when I get home from work, tired, hungry, and wanting my sweatpants.

Image from YogaToday.com

For yoga, I love YogaToday.  They have free 1 hour classes that change every week & can be streamed directly from the website. YogaToday also has podcasts of shorter classes or exercises for a specific body part (e.g., core, arms, back).  The instructors are inspiring, the scenery is beautiful, and the yoga is perfect for home practice (hard, but do-able). I also enjoy YogAmazing podcasts if I want a 30 minute practice or a class that targets a specific body part or ache (e.g., Weight Loss, Headache, arms).

For weight lifting, I grab a set of hand weights & play some upbeat music like my Black Eyed Peas station on Pandora… loudly. I model my workouts after BodyPump (which my mom teaches), in which you target one muscle group per song.  Biceps, triceps, squats, chest, abs, back, lunges… I am sweating & feeling the burn in now time!

Image from Athleta.com

For running, I like to keep it simple. I get dressed, grab my Vibram FiveFingers, & hit up the park for an easy 2 mile jog.  The dogs & Eli are invited! Other than walking to work, running is the most frequent exercise I do. I can get outside for some fresh air, the dogs get out for some much-needed exercise, and I can always convince myself that I have less than 30 min to spare for some exercise.  If I get out & feel good, I can run for longer or do some calisthenics outside. 

I’ve found that the lower the energy of activation is for me to undertake an activity, especially exercise, the more likely I am to do it. However, once I build momentum & start building a pattern of behavior, the activity takes less energy to sustain. This goes for both positive (exercising) & negative (nail biting) behaviors. I credit/blame the psychological equivalents of Newton’s first law of motion & the broken window theory. If I have been exercising regularly, it is so much easier for me to keep exercising; but, if one nail is starting to tear & the nail polish is starting to chip, why not just bite them all?

rePERpoSING passion

Alice Dancing under the Gallows is an wonderful trailer for a movie about an amazing woman, Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest living Holocaust survivor.

Alice turns 107 this month! I wish her the happiest & most beautiful year yet. For all of your music, your passion, your optimism, your life–Alice, my hat is off to you!

Throughout the video, Alice plays piano beautifully.  There is something to be said for having a passion, and throughout all of life’s ups & downs, holding tight to it. To play piano is truly her raison d’etre. What’s yours? And can it sustain you for 107 years?

Sweet Potatoes

We are pretty flush with sweet potatoes at Casa de Persing. We could mash them or simply bake them. But what fun would that be?  Check out the very orange game plan below!

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Adapted from Vegetarian Times

  • 1 cup cooked sweet potatoes (2 small baked sweet potatoes)
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose or whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Combine sweet potatoes, oil, syrup, vinegar, and salt in food processor. Add flour, baking powder, and nutmeg.
  3. Cut dry ingredients into sweet potato mixture in food processor until mixed. Stir in 2 to 3 Tbs. water, or enough to get dough to hold together.
  4. Drop rounds of dough into heated & greased cast iron skillet (in a circular pattern with one dough ball in the middle) or greased baking sheet. Bake 15 to 17 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned and firm to the touch. Serve warm.

Warm Sweet Potato & Chick Pea Salad with Tahini Dressing

Adapted only slightly from smitten kitchen

  • 4 sweet potatoes, roasted with a drizzle of olive oil & salt
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/4 c purple onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Parsley or cilantro (I skipped this)

Directions

  1. Chop & roast sweet potatoes & garlic with a drizzle of olive oil & a pinch of salt in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 min. 
  2. While potatoes are roasting, make tahini dressing.  Whisk tahini, water, lemon juice, olive oil, allspice, and herbs.
  3. When potatoes are done, toss in large bowl with canned chickpeas, chopped onion, & garlic. Dress salad before serving. Add salt & pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Are you flush with fall vegetables from the farmer’s market or CSA? Do you have left-over Halloween candy that’s begging to be made into something tasty? Did you buy a Costco sized bag of cranberries  because you were so excited to see them in the store (like I may or may not have done)? What’s your game plan?