Ronda Bowen

Author, Editor, Blogger, Consultant, Scholar, Volunteer, Maker, Photographer

#MotivationMonday: Plan Your Week for Success

Mondays are a great day to hit the ground running, but if you wait to plan your week until Monday, it’s likely that you’ll spend most of your Monday planning rather than working on what you want to accomplish for the week. Thus, it’s best to set time aside either on Friday or on Sunday to plan out the work week to come. I tend to plan out my week on Sundays unless I know that I’m going to have a hectic weekend. Then, I plan my week out on Friday afternoon.

Since I’m a fan of David Allen’s GTD, I always conduct a quick weekly review. This helps to ensure that no project falls through the cracks and that I’m on top of all my inboxes. Once I’ve finished the weekly review, I start planning my week out. What will I do when? What is my over-arching theme for the week? What has to be done this week? What would be nice to get done this week?

By planning my week out ahead of time, I can create a bit of a stir about the week to come. I really do get excited when I see everything I want to accomplish for the week, and when I think about what theme I want to focus on. Bit by bit, by planning my week this way, I move closer to completing my goals. I also am happy to say, that planning out my week helps me feel more motivated.

I do have one more component of planning my week, and that’s my weekly Monday morning meeting with my accountability partner. I will talk more about that next week.

How do you prepare for the week so that you look forward to the week to come?


#MotivationMonday Multiple Planners for Multiple Purposes

Part of getting things done involves staying on top of all the things that need to get done. As you can imagine, the more complex your life gets, the more help you need in staying on top of everything. Rather than carry everything around in my head, I like to follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done with a few other things thrown in. I keep projects organized, tasks grouped by context, etc. But I had a big problem: My calendar of “things” started to look really cluttered when I’d look at it.

So, I created multiple calendars for Outlook – one for each blog, one for my writing business, one for family stuff, etc.

Then, one day, my electronic calendars malfunctioned in Outlook. I couldn’t access them or my task lists because the program got a bug in it. I had to come up with something new.

Todoist, Trello, OneNote, Pocket, Airtable and Outlook 365

I use these programs to organize my active action items, projects, notes and research, article reading list, and appointments and deadlines. It may seem like overkill, but things are now working great. Appointments and deadlines go in Outlook 365, on the appropriate calendar for the project, and that’s synced up with my phone and my desktop email client. Project tasks are put into Trello. Project Notes go into OneNote. My reading list for professional development goes into Pocket so that I can read when I’m waiting around somewhere or during found time. Tasks I’m actively working on go in Todoist. Checklists, contacts, lists of books to read, etc. all go in Airtable.

The Physical “Planner Team”

I also have an analog system of tracking everything. At the beginning of each month, I make sure that I have all important deadlines and appointments on the calendar in the appropriate planners. My main planner gets everything – the other planners only get the deadlines and appointments applicable to that area of life. During my weekly reviews, I plan out the week in each appropriate planner. I have three notebooks, each with lists of current projects and project tasks as well as phone call notes  and brainstorming notes. I also have a fitness planner where I track my activity and food for the day.

When I’m working, I only have open the planner that goes along with the project I’m working on (i.e. the blog planner, the handmade business planner, etc.) This ensures I don’t get overwhelmed and distracted by other things.

What Works for You?

That’s my system, in a very brief nutshell, and it’s been working for me so far.
What’s your planner system? How’s it working for you?

#MotivationMonday Don’t Stop on the Coals

So there you are, in the middle of moving toward a big goal, and suddenly, things get hard – real hard. You want to give up. The hill seems insurmountable. The coals are too hot. Don’t stop, you’re almost there!

My Firewalk Experience

In 2011, I was undergoing a whirlwind of personal transformation. I’d left an abusive marriage, I’d found myself becoming more spiritual and attending a Methodist church, and I lost a significant amount of weight through falling in love with running. It only made since, then, that once I met Claudia Weber, I would walk across fire through her Ignite Your Spirit firewalk and motivational talk.

After a long talk, Claudia shouts, “What is your purpose?”
I yell back: “To get to the other side!”
“Go! Go! Go!” She and the other firewalkers shout after me. And go, I went. Here’s the video of that firewalk.

What I did not do, however, was stop in the middle of the coals. That would have been stupid.

I wound up going across those coals three times that night – and I wound up breaking an arrow with my neck. I really wanted to embrace a new life. Four days later, I met my now-husband. Almost a year later, we got married – and I talked him into the craziness of walking across hot burning wood chips with me hours after we got married.

You know what we didn’t do?

We didn’t stop on the coals. We still haven’t. And believe me, life has flung some flaming-hot coals at us.

What does walking across fire have to do with anything?

Since walking across fire, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of working toward a goal – from a personal goal to a business goal, from a tough training run to a 5k, and I’ve thought, “Forget it, it’s too hard. I quit!” You know what happens? That voice pops in my head:

And I answer it, and I go, go, go. I don’t stop on the coals. I keep going, pushing further toward the other side, thinking only of the end result, until I get there.
So now, I turn to you. What is your purpose? Go! Get there! Do it!

Don’t stop on the coals.
Keep moving when it gets hard.
You’ve got this.

#MondayMotivation: Down Time is Just as Important as Productivity

Motivation Monday

Have you ever felt like no matter how bad you want to you just can’t get started because you’re stuck in what feels like several feet of mud? You may be suffering from burnout, particularly if you have been super-busy for a long-stretch. Burnout sucks! (And that’s to put it mildly). If you’ve ever suffered from it, you know how hard it is to get started again, and you know how badly you wish you could have avoided it.

Taking breaks is just as important as being productive. I know a lot of people throw the phrase “life balance” around, and it can seem like balance is just not possible, particularly in 2017. Here’s why you want to strive for it anyway: Your body and brain have a way of making you stop when you’re doing too much. Not only can you suffer from mental burnout and adrenal fatigue, but pushing too hard for too long can do long can lead to long-term physical effects including weight gain, heart problems, and depression.

What Do You Like to Do for Fun?

It’s amazing how many people cannot answer this question, but it’s so important to have things you enjoy – whether it’s getting out and taking a stroll in a park or it’s knitting.  Don’t say you like to work for fun – that’s just going to lead to more burnout – and if you do things you love for work (write, craft, etc.) make sure you have other things that you do to decompress.

Schedule Down Time Each Week

Put your down time on your calendar each week. If you schedule time for it, you’re more likely to do it. Consider making plans with a friend or family member to engage in the fun activity – that will help to keep you accountable.

If Your Schedule is Full, Say “No”

“No” is not a bad word. Look over your obligations. What do you already have on your plate? If you are already close to being booked or overbooked, there’s no shame in telling someone you don’t have the bandwidth right now. Even if you do decide to say “yes” now, make sure you don’t make a habit of overbooking yourself, and schedule some extra time off after the busy period is over.

What do you do to ensure you get breaks? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

#MondayMotivation – Getting Back on the Horse When You Fall

Recently, there was a lot going on (isn’t there always). The kids were sick, then I got sick. We had the oldest come in from college for Thanksgiving. I managed to overdo it while running the Turkey Trot a couple weeks ago, and then I managed to step funny on my foot, causing my knee to twist. Needless to say, by the time I finally made it back to my No Boundaries running group, it had been two weeks since I’d run.

First, You Have to Get Back Up

I cannot tell you how many times life has knocked me down. If I started to even talk about all the hurdles, you’d probably stop reading and walk away. I have tripped over a lot of hurdles, believe me. What’s important isn’t tripping. It isn’t being knocked down. It’s standing up, dusting yourself off, and continuing on your path. You won’t fail unless you decide you’re just not going to get up.

Sure, when I’m first knocked down, I talk a good game. “I’m never going to run again.” or “I’m done writing forever!” or the ever-so popular, “Maybe running a business isn’t for me.” But then, not even twenty minutes later, I’m signing up for a half-marathon, doing a word-sprint on my novel, or replying to the latest inquiry into my services and adding to my marketing plan.

Take Quitting off the Table

Just take it off. Even if you feel like you want to quit, it’s not an option if you want to be successful in the endeavor you’re undertaking. Fall down once, get up once. Fall down fifty times, get up fifty times. Take whatever caused you to fall as a lesson, figure out how you can prevent it in the future, and adjust your course of travel.

I keep getting up because quitting just isn’t an option – even if I entertain the idea for a moment or two once in a while when things get tough. Instead, I take a brutally honest look at where I went wrong and then recommit myself to my goal.

Get Back on *a* Horse

Sometimes, it is true that a particular horse is not the horse for you. Perhaps a business idea you thought was viable just isn’t viable or your knees really cannot withstand the impact from running. When life deals those cards, it’s time to take a deep breath, evaluate what you can do about the situation, and modify your course. Don’t stop! Just because this horse isn’t for you doesn’t mean there isn’t a horse that you’re more compatible with. Find that horse, get on it, and get on your way once you’ve given yourself time to regroup and recover.

What do you do when things get in the way of your success? Share your thoughts in the comments.

#MotivationMonday Baby Steps Get You There

This past weekend, I ran my first race since April, 2013. It was 2 miles, and while I’m in the process of training for a 5K, I just started that training a couple of weeks ago. Halfway through the race – at about the one mile mark – I started to wonder why I had done this to myself. Why did I sign up for a race so soon into my training? (Moreover, why did I sign up for two!?! I’m running again on Thanksgiving). Then I summoned my energy: I just needed to get to the finish line.

There are a lot of steps in two miles. It can seem like a huge distance, but the thing is, it’s only a huge distance if you let it be. If you focus solely on the next step, soon, you’ll reach that finish line.

Goals are a lot like distance running.

When you have a big goal, it can seem big, scary, hairy, and audacious. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming. If you’ve already made sure that the goal you’ve set is SMART, then you’re halfway there. Just like a race has a start and finish, it’s important for your goal to have a clearly marked start and finish. Making your goals SMART does this. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

There are a few different variations of the acronym, but the idea is the same – you need to have concrete goals. “Become a raging success” isn’t very helpful.  There is no clear start and no clear finish. You can’t make a marked path to get to the end. It’s just a cloudy idea. Trying to make that goal happen will just lead you to be lost off in the woods somewhere wondering how you got there.

Goals need milestones

If you only know where the start and the finish for your race are, you’re able to get there – eventually. Having a marked race path, however, helps you get there efficiently, and with a defined path, you’ll know exactly where you stand at any point in the race. For example, when I started questioning my sanity in the 2-miler, I knew I was halfway to the finish line. I knew I just had to make my body work for me for one more mile. Had I not seen the mile marker, I may have been less motivated to finish.

How will you know that you’re on the correct path to meeting your goal? Creating milestones can help. By looking at your goal and determining what milestones you will have for the goal, you can start to map out the path to success.

Milestones need actions

Once you’ve created your goal’s milestones, you can create the actions necessary for meeting each milestone, and ultimately, for meeting your goal. The action items define the exact path you need to take between each milestone to get to the goal’s finish line. These are the baby steps you will take toward making your dreams come true. Try to make your action items as small as possible. Write them as complete sentences. You should be able to know exactly what needs to be done to call that action item done.

By taking time to plan out your goals, you have a greater likelihood of seeing them through to completion.

What goals are you working on meeting right now? Share in the comments section.



#MotivationMonday Create Habits to Make Repetitive Tasks “Mindless” Tasks

When you have a lot of daily tasks, it can be daunting to check them off. Sometimes, too, we develop bad habits with regards to daily tasks. When you have a lot of repetitive tasks, it makes sense to track them as you would a habit, so that they become automatic to you.

Define The Task

Give some definition to the task at hand. Determine what you need to do to call the task complete, and write it down. This will help you to have defined start and end points for your new habit.

Create a Habit Tracker

Many people are using habit trackers in their bullet journals and planners. Consider using a habit tracker to ensure that your tasks get done when they need to at the intervals in which they need to get done.

Don’t Skip It!

Just like skipping teeth-brushing can ruin your dental health, skipping your repetitive task can be damaging to your productivity and can inhibit your ability to meet your long-term goals. Even if it’s going to be done late, do it! It’s always worth it when you do.

Do It Well

Don’t just go through the motions. Aim to complete your task to the highest of your abilities. Take pride in your work – no matter how repetitive (and boring) a task may seem to you at the time. You never know who is watching.

Create a Trigger So It Becomes Automatic

If you cannot automate the task yourself, you might as well figure out a trigger task that will make your repetitive task automatic. Trying to keep on top of budgeting? Go out for a coffee on a Monday afternoon. Trying to keep up with your weekly review? Put on your favorite music to rock out to for a soundtrack.

How do you make repetitive tasks automatic?

Share your favorite #MotivationMonday tip in the comments section.

#MotivationMonday The Fine Art of Writing a Crappy First Draft

I’m working on a novel, Dances With Crazy, for NaNoWriMo (You can follow my journey here), and I’m 10,009 words in. Those 10,009 words are very rough, they make up what Anne Lamott in Bird By Bird called a “shitty first draft.” Giving yourself permission to write a less than stellar first draft is perhaps the most important thing you can do in order to boost your productive writing time.

Just Get Words Down on Paper

It doesn’t matter if those words will wind up in your final draft or not. But if you’re editing while you’re writing, you’ll take much longer to finish your project than you would if you wrote the first draft straight through. When you already have the words down, it becomes much easier to edit those words and move them around on the page. Whenever you write anything, your first goal should be to get as many words down on paper as possible.

Don’t Edit, Don’t Delete!

Now is not the time to perfect what you’re trying to say. Don’t go back and fix the spelling error; don’t go back and delete those extraneous words. Not yet anyway. Wait until you write the last sentence of your piece before you start the editing process. Remember, it’s a completely separate step in the writing process.

Set a Timer

If you have to, set a timer and race it while you write. This is especially handy if you’re not like me, and you don’t have a built-in toddler timer who will start eating the paint instead of putting it on the paper if you take too long writing your shitty first draft. See what you can lay down in 10 minutes.

Give Yourself Permission to Make it Terrible!

Seriously, you’re not trying to write the best thing that’s ever been written right now. In fact, the crappier the draft, the better. That way, you’re not too attached to it when it’s time to edit. Sometimes, the simple act of saying “It’s okay. I’m going to write a messed up, horrible first draft” is all the gas you need to get it done.

If you write, and you haven’t yet read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, I strongly recommend it. While this is one of my favorite pieces of advice coming from the book, there is a lot of good information in the book. You can purchase it here. (Affiliate Link)

So tell me, do you give yourself permission to write a terrible first draft when you sit down to write?

#MotivationMonday: Enlist Others on Your Journey

You can’t do it all alone. You might try, but it’s rough. Even if you’re a practicing solopreneur, you’ll need people in your corner cheering you on when things get rough – and they will get rough. When you’re trying to be productive, knowing that someone is waiting to hear whether you met your goals can make all the difference between a day spent on the couch and a day making things happen. This is where an accountability partner or a mastermind group can really help boost your success.

What is An Accountability Partner

Years ago, when I first started getting super-serious about the whole success thing, I read “Find A Writing Partner; Make Yourself Accountable” by Anne Wayman at About Freelance Writing. I wound up meeting my first accountability partner through the post, and it was a great experience. We would check in with each other Mondays and Fridays, bookend things we were trying not to procrastinate on, and support each other virtually through our writing ups and downs. Then life happened, moves happened, and very unfortunately, we moved on in our accountability journey.

I do have an accountability partner now, and like clockwork we meet on Mondays and check in throughout the week for “water cooler chat” while we work on things. This makes the whole working at home thing a lot less lonely and isolating – and it helps keep us both on track for our goals.

What is a Mastermind Group?

A mastermind group is a small (under 10 usually) group of people who meet to go over their goals and what they need to do. I run a Facebook group for women who would like to boost their efforts to do well. Mastermind groups usually meet either weekly or monthly, often over coffee or lunch (or virtually), and they answer four questions:

  1. What successes did you have?
  2. What challenges or obstacles did you face?
  3. What opportunities did you come across?
  4. What is your next set of goals?

People in the group work together to ensure that they help build everyone in the group up by answering questions about strategies for overcoming obstacles and challenges and by cheering one another on.

What’s Best for You?

What’s best for you and your situation will depend upon your goals, the stage of life you’re at, and what your preferences are for getting together with others. Accountability partners and masterminds can be virtual or in-person meetings.

Have you had an accountability partner or worked with a mastermind group before? Post about your experiences in the comments.

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