BeforeYourNext Birthday-DeniseFisher’s Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Healthy Eating’

How To Create a Weekly Schedule

Posted by denisefisher on May 29, 2009

Coffee & Planner

People of importance have schedules. They live their lives with purpose and have things to accomplish. They can’t afford to set aside their planned obligations to tend to the interruptive whims of others. They don’t wait to find out what’s going to happen before deciding what they should do; they have a vision of where they’re going and they plan ahead. Michael Phelps doesn’t swim laps only if he can find time to fit it into his daily agenda. Oprah Winfrey doesn’t go on the air without having scheduled her guests and program topics far in advance, or without having coordinated countless details in preparation for the show. Seth Godin doesn’t wait to write a blog post until he feels like it, nor does he casually think about writing a book without scheduling when he will work on it and establishing a deadline for completing it.

These people didn’t start scheduling their time once they became prominent figures. They reached their celebrity status largely because they’ve had the self-discipline to follow through on their directed planning. Sure, these people may have trainers, managers, producers, and support teams to help them with their itineraries and agendas now, but even with assistance, they still have the responsibility of making time to pursue their goals while managing day-to-day tasks and obligations. They learned to work with a schedule that would assure that they were doing the things they needed to be doing when they needed to be doing them.

How can you create a schedule that works for you?
You can create schedules for different timeframes (daily seems to be the most common), but I find it effective to start with a weekly schedule. By focusing on just one thing each day – one project or one type of task (using a specified theme of your own choosing) you can create a manageable and flexible weekly format. There will be tasks that you do daily at their appointed times, but if you don’t plan for other projects, the daily minutiae will consume your entire day, and subsequently, the entire week. And if you don’t schedule the time, you’ll never make any progress on those larger projects that need to have time designated for their attention.

Lets look at a low-tech way for creating a reusable weekly schedule that incorporates recurring tasks, and includes a designated day for working toward a long range project, one week at a time. By designing a template-like schedule, you don’t have to create an entirely new schedule every week. Similar tasks are grouped together to be done on a designated day of the week. When new tasks arise, they are incorporated into the weekly schedule on the day designated for those types of tasks. When your dry cleaning is ready to be picked up, you don’t have to adjust your existing schedule to accommodate that task, you simply add that task to the next day designated for errands.

If you have a good feel for how to structure your week, you can jump right in and label each day of the week with a preliminary theme. Alternatively, you can draft a concept schedule that describes your anticipated energy level or other factors that will affect how you plan your week. Shown here is a such a draft:

Weekly Schedule First Theme 
Make a list
If you want to make your schedule comprehensive, you need to identify recurring tasks as well as project-related tasks that you want to accomplish, and make sure that your themes cover those tasks. Start by listing the type of activities you engage in on a weekly basis – not necessarily the specific activities, but the type of activities you could describe as a category. Things like running errands, studying, home maintenance projects, writing, or socializing with family & friends. Add to that list projects or pursuits that you want to accomplish (write them all down, you can edit or prioritize or phase your goals as your schedule develops). Projects and pursuits might include reorganizing the garage, creating a business plan, writing a song, restoring a classic car, planning and saving for a two-week trip to Australia, reading 12 business books over the span of a year, or making a quilt. You can create a separate schedule for work and personal tasks, or you can combine your roles to focus on the system holistically – the latter is especially helpful for those who work from home or have unconventional work schedules.

List of Weekly Activities 
Group your weekly tasks
Categorize your list of tasks and activities by a descriptive label (such as “errands”, “correspondence”, etc.). Identify and mark similar tasks on your list by circling them, color coding, or using symbols in the margin. Think about where and when you will be doing these tasks as you create your categories. You will most likely end up with too many categories of lists on your first try. On your next revision you can look for categories that can be combined under a broader heading (for me, I eliminated the theme of “laundry/wardrobe” and reassigned the related tasks to my “catch-up day” or my “home projects day”). Some of your tasks will probably fit into more than one category – that means you either need to refine your theme description or identify the primary aspect of the task that helps you select the appropriate category.

Categories List - 2nd RevisionCategories List - 3rd Revision
Create a daily theme
Whittle down, combine, and refine your categories until you come up with a list of 7 theme names – one for each day of the week. You will probably need to play with this step and do some editing until you find suitable descriptions for your themes – you can also go back later and revise them after you’ve created a prototype or given the plan a test drive. The important thing is to make it work for your own personal style.

Categories List - 4th Revision 
The importance of a name
The words you use when naming your daily themes can have a profound psychological and motivational effect on you, so choose your labels carefully. If the theme name “yard work day” makes you think of drudgery to be avoided, change the name to something more inspiring, like “landscape architecture day.” The naming process can be broken into a series of smaller steps. For me, it worked best to write up a bunch of descriptive words or phrases to articulate the “feel” of a particular day’s theme. I wrote something like “people/calls/correspondence/follow-up/obligations” to start with, and eventually ended up with the label of “business day,” since it’s a day for which I want to approach my tasks in a business-like manner. The cool thing about this technique is that a well-chosen name really helps to create an image and set the tone for that day’s activities. It’s almost like taking on a role, dressing the part, assuming the characteristics, and behaving in a manner consistent with that image. After creating a patchwork of descriptive words and phrases, it was easier to select the theme name that summarized my intended focus. You can also change these names later if you come up with a better title, so don’t get too perfectionistic about it.

Assign each theme to a day of the week
To make your recurring schedule work, it’s important to identify which day of the week is best suited for your particular themes of tasks and activities. If you have competing days, you’ll have to play around with your options to get the best fit. I like Sundays for planning, in anticipation of the upcoming week. I like Mondays for assigning myself the hard stuff, doing important tasks, and working through meticulous details – the tasks that I can do best when I’m fresh and ambitious.

Categories List - 5th Revision

I’ve recently realized (after 50 years of life experiences) that I need to include some kind of catch-up day in my schedule to accommodate the unexpected things that come up and interfere with my plans. This also allows me to complete tasks that take longer to finish than what I’d scheduled, and it provides some forgiveness for good intentions gone awry. If you don’t have some kind of catch-up day included, every little obstacle and diversion will put your remaining schedule behind and might make you want to write off the rest of the week as a loss, and wait to start anew on Monday. However, if you designate a weekly catch-up day and you don’t actually need the day to catch up on your tasks, you can use that time to work ahead or to do something just for you.

If you don’t know where to start – start with “Trash Day” 
When a major construction project is planned and scheduled, it’s the industry standard to start with the demolition and excavation. You’ve got to clear the project area to provide room to start on the new construction or renovation. This standard also works well for planning a personal schedule. If you’re not sure which days should be assigned which themes, start with the day before your community’s scheduled trash pick-up. This will be your demolition and excavation phase. The trash pick-up will always come on that day, and will not fluctuate, even if something important comes up (except, perhaps, around certain holidays, in which case there is a planned shift in scheduled trash pick-up). So on the day before trash day, designate it for cleaning out your refrigerator, and from there, you will find that other tasks will naturally flow.

If you’re clearing out your refrigerator, it may also be a good day to schedule leftovers for dinner, a day to plan your grocery shopping list and upcoming menus; and while emptying the waste baskets in other rooms of the house, you might find another compatible task to include for that designated day. In mild weather, if you have a yard, the day before trash pick-up may also be the ideal day to bag up yard waste, assuming you don’t have yard work scheduled for some other day of the week. My “day before trash pick-up day” is Wednesday. Wednesday is also the day I chose to designate as my catch-up day. It’s a nice mid-week break that allows me to purge unwanted items, clear the decks, and regroup for a second phase of productivity for the week.

Weekly Schedule Themes 
Put your plans & schedule in writing
This step is really important. If you’ve taken the time to think through the details of an effective schedule, it’s worth the extra effort to write out your final draft in a presentable form. This reinforces the notion that your schedule is of some importance, not just a whimsical exercise done for fun. Writing your schedule on card stock or on an index card makes it easy to locate for quick reference; an index card can double as a bookmark for your planner or a book. Post your schedule where you can see it or just establish it as your policy.

Weekly Schedule Themes Extended 
Expand the theme
Once you have a theme, you can use it to create schedules for other roles, projects, and pursuits in your life. I created a schedule for blogging, exercising, meal planning, wardrobe planning, and TV watching. Each of the subsequent schedules kept with the original scheduling theme to keep the activities compatible.

Act like a “schedule person”
For your schedule to be effective, you have to honor your commitments and expect that others will do the same – especially the activities that are scheduled for yourself. Don’t allow others to trivialize your planning by asking you to set aside your plans “just this once” to go do something fun or to help them meet their deadlines, with the rationalization that you can catch up on your things tomorrow.

Refer to your scheduling policy when coordinating tasks with others. Your daughter needs some new shoes for soccer or it’s mentioned that the car is due for an oil change? Say, “I’ll put that on the agenda for next Tuesday, when I do errands.” If you are working on a personal project which needs 2 hours of uninterrupted focus each week, go to the library or someplace where you won’t be disturbed. Tell your family and social contacts who might randomly call you that you’re not available on Thursdays – that’s your research & writing day. 

Colorful visualization
I even created a themed schedule of colors for the week (this was actually an integration of a color-coded system I had previously created to help organize my “to do” lists). This may seem to take the concept of a theme to extremes, but hear me out. The colors I selected visually reinforce the emotional setting for that day’s activities and helps to create the image and enhance the story behind the theme. I also use descriptive words that remind me of my color choices and provide an association between the colors and the themes.

Now, here’s the cool part: Selecting colors allows you to color code tasks on your master list – just put an appropriately colored dot next to the associated task on your list. You’ll be able to add tasks to your list as they occur to you, in any order, then categorize them with colored dots than you can easily identify when you scan your list. Take the color coding even further by integrating color-matched folders, post-it notes, and page tabs. If you are a visual person, and you like themes, categorizing, and colors, this could be a motivating factor in getting you to create and use such a system. If not, skip the color-related mentions. As always, the best plan for you is the one that you’ll use.

Colored folders, notepads, markers, tabs 
Weekly scheduling time
Once you’ve developed your weekly schedule template, you will have to take time (usually once a week) to decide which specific tasks will be scheduled for the upcoming week. You only have so much time each day, and your master to do list (color-coded or not) has more items on it than you can fit into your schedule. So you have to be selective and be careful not to overbook. 

Productivity studies suggest that only 40-60% of your available work hours be designated for structured activities. The rest of your day will be consumed with daily tasks and unstructured activities. As you start to do the math, you’ll quickly realize why you never seem to have enough time for everything that you want to do. But don’t let that deter you. Focus on finishing the tasks you start. You won’t be able to complete everything, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of finishing your selected tasks. That’s better than working on twice as many projects but completing none of them. The beauty of planning a weekly schedule is that your plan will be in place before your day begins, and you won’t need to feel overwhelmed by the number of things you have to do or waste your time deciding which task should have priority at any given moment. You’ll already have that plan.

The weekly schedule and reality
Focusing on one theme per day allows you to postpone to-do tasks to their designated days without getting distracted or worrying that things will fall through the cracks. Your weekly schedule is the Plan A. It has flexibility to it, but be careful about how frequently you resort to a Plan B. If the exception becomes more of the rule, you’ll lose the benefits of having a weekly schedule. However, if unavoidably urgent issues come up, or an unexpected opportunity arises, you can often swap days, and avoid pushing your entire schedule back a day. That’s when those scheduled catch-up days come in handy.

Expect that you will have to refine your themes and revise them from time to time, due to such things as changes in seasons, life situations, or personal preferences. But don’t think of your schedule as an assignment that is imposed on you. Instead, think of your schedule as your script – a directed plan that’s standard issue for people of importance, like you.

P.S. For time planning purposes, it took me about 3 hours to set up a weekly schedule template, following the steps I’ve described. I do things slowly and very thoroughly, so adjust your own time estimate accordingly. Once your schedule is initially set up, you can do your weekly planning without so much intensity and detail. Please comment with suggestions and scheduling tips that have worked for you. I’d like to include your successful techniques in a future edition on this topic.

Posted in Organization, Personal Style, Productivity, Routines, Time Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

7 Salads for 7 Days

Posted by denisefisher on March 4, 2009

When you’re hungry, you seek out whatever’s ready to eat. If you want eat more salads, do some advance preparations, so that healthy foods are what’s ready to eat. What follows is a plan that I used for a week of salads. It’s based on my personal preferences, and is meant as an inspiration for you. Make your plan to match your own preferences, using whatever amount of variety or repetition that you want. The important part is having a plan.

Preparation for 7 Salads

The first day of the 7 Salads for 7 Days plan is the most labor intensive. But if you’re like most people who are enthusiastic about a project in the beginning, when the idea is new, then this is perfect. Advance preparation sets the stage for the subsequent salad days and gives you the foundation you need – the lettuce.

Romaine - 3 heads

The Lettuce

For most of my salads, I prefer romaine. It’s more hearty and flavorful than the popular, but virtually tasteless, head lettuce. Romaine has the crispness to hold up for a week, and the moderate flavor that lets the taste of other salad ingredients and dressings come through. Of course, you can use other greens or hearty staples to your salad mix (shredded red cabbage or carrots are popular), but for purposes of simplicity, in this demonstration, I’m going to focus on using romaine.
6 Salads in Containters

I separate the leaves from the head as I wash them, and then split each leaf in half lengthwise. Then I cut the stacked halves crosswise into bite-sized pieces. Jeremy, at Generation X Finance, shows his technique in great detail on his blog post, How to Prepare a Salad to Last All Week. He uses a salad spinner to drain the excess water after cutting, and adds a paper towel to the storage bowl. I keep the leaves wet and seal the cut lettuce in plastic containers. Try your own techniques to see what works best for you, considering your storage containers, your refrigerator temperature, and the shelf life of the lettuce or other greens you’re using.

7 Salads for 7 Days
On the first salad day of the week, I store six containers of salad lettuce for the week, and prepare one salad to eat now. For this week, my first salad is a Caesar salad.

Caesar Salad Ingredients Caesar Salad Prepared

Salad #1 – Caesar Salad

This is my “default” salad. When I don’t have a good selection of other salad vegetables to add (or when I just don’t feel like going to a lot of trouble), the Caesar salad is the easiest, least work-involved salad I can make. I use bottled dressing, packaged croutons, and pre-grated Parmesan cheese to keep it convenient. If I have some fresh mushrooms available, and the inclination, I’ll slice some mushrooms to add. I have a bottle that I use to shake up the dressing with a little water so that I can add enough dressing to coat everything without making the salad too heavy, and it keeps the calorie count down as well.

Mandarin Orange Salad Ingredients Mandarin Orange Salad Prepared

Salad #2 – Mandarin Orange Salad

This salad includes the benefit of a serving of fruit with your healthy greens. Canned oranges make this a choice that’s convenient and uses fruit that can be stored longer than fresh items. My salad ingredients also include glazed almond slices, chopped celery, and a blended dressing of oil, vinegar, sugar, and juice from the oranges.

Chix Thai Salad Ingredients Chix Thai Salad Prepared

Salad #3 – Thai Chix Salad

For this salad, I toasted a frozen chicken-patty substitute. Then I added chopped tomato, cucumber, sliced almonds, to the salad mix, and topped it with a spicy Thai peanut sauce.

Greek Salad Ingredients Greek Salad Prepared

Salad #4 – Greek Salad

This salad combines cucumber, tomato, red onion, black olives and feta cheese over the lettuce foundation. The dressing is a simple blend of oil, vinegar, and seasonings – shaken, not stirred.

Strawberry Spinach Salad Ingredients Strawberry Spinach Salad Prepared

Salad #5 – Strawberry Spinach Salad

Even though the original salad recipe calls for spinach only, I use my romaine lettuce base, and add leftover spinach from earlier in the week. Cucumbers, red onions, and almonds were also ingredients that I had on hand for use in other salads (are you noticing that several of my food items are used in varying combinations in other salads, so that everything gets used up and nothing goes to waste?). The dressing was a sweet and tangy poppy seed mixture. And, like the mandarin orange salad, this one features the bonus of a adding a serving of fruit to your daily diet – strawberries!

Taco Salad Ingredients Taco Salad Prepared

Salad #6 – Taco Salad

This salad is hearty enough that it can be the main entrée. Add a side serving of warm tortilla chips with salsa, and you’re all set. This salad can include a combination of whatever appropriate ingredients you have available. For mine, I started with a ground beef substitute, heated, and mixed with taco seasoning. Then I added avocado, tomato, black olives, and shredded cheese. When it comes to a dressing, there are a few compatible choices that can be used – sour cream, salsa, or a bottled dressing with essences of tomato, like Catalina French or Thousand Island. Taco salad is also a good way to make use of the broken tortilla chips that settle to the bottom of the bag, instead of throwing them away. Toasting them briefly in the oven will rejuvenate any chips that have a hint of staleness.

Whatever Salad Ingredients Whatever Salad Prepared

Salad #7 – Whatever Salad

This is the name that I chose to describe what is basically a tossed salad – romaine lettuce, mixed with whatever combination of ingredients or leftover vegetables remain to be used. For my Whatever Salad, I used a hard-boiled egg, avocado, carrots, green pepper, mushrooms, and croutons. The salad dressing I chose was a honey-mustard variety.

Caesar Salad PreparedMandarin Orange Salad PreparedChix Thai Salad PreparedGreek Salad PreparedStrawberry Spinach Salad PreparedTaco Salad PreparedWhatever Salad Prepared

7 Salads for 7 Days

So there you have it – a plan to incorporate salads into your daily menu choices every day of the week, starting with the convenience of prepared lettuce (or other mixed greens), and adding other healthy ingredients for variety. If you make a salad for dinner, you might even want to make an extra serving that you can have the following day for lunch. Keep certain ingredients and dressings separate (depending on the types of ingredients involved and your own tolerance for sogginess), if you want to assemble your salad just before eating it. To get additional ideas and inspiration, search through cookbooks, magazines, or online recipe sites. The ones with photos are best. Now doesn’t this make you want to put together your own 7-day salad plan?

Posted in Diet, Personal Style, Routines, Time Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

The Best Grocery List Format

Posted by denisefisher on February 24, 2009

I have decades of experience in writing up grocery lists. As an obsessive list maker, I’ve tried many formats. Two of the most labor-intensive models had great potential, but weren’t practical to maintain. One was a pre-printed list of  “grocery staples”, which listed everything I might possibly purchase (by designated categories), and a check mark would be used to indicate each item I needed to buy. It was terrific as a comprehensive reminder of items I might have overlooked, but the list was two pages long and had to be printed out each time I needed to start a new list. The other was an electronic grocery list that I “typed out” on the keyboard of my Palm PDA. That ensured I always had the list with me if I was out and happened by a store where I could pick up a few items. After buying the products on my electronic list, I would move each purchased item below the “line” to indicate that I had bought it, and to make it easy to move each item back up to “active status” the next time I needed it, instead of retyping it. Close, but no cigar.

I’ve tried arranging my lists by the layout of the store (which assumes that I go to the same store every time), but the list that I’ve found that works best is low-tech and elegant in its simplicity. Here it is:

grocery-list

I use a 4”x 6” lined post-it note, onto which I draw a 4-quadrant grid to sub-divide the list into categories as labeled on the photo above. I stick the note onto the door of my refrigerator, where it stays until I’m ready to take it with me. As I notice food items that are consumed or running low, I add them to the list. Also, if I think of a dish that I’d like to make in the upcoming week (usually one that requires fresh ingredients that I don’t regularly have on hand), I add those needed items as well. Four general categories cover everything in the store by location, no matter which store I go to. And the limited size of the list serves as a visual reminder that if I start running out of room on the list, I may be purchasing too much.

To non-obsessive list makers, this post may seem kind of lame. That just means that this one is not for you. But for those of us who appreciate efficiency and organization, a productivity tool that is used so frequently is worth the thought and effort of a good design.

For the record, I keep what few coupons I use in a designated section of my wallet/purse so I have them with me when I need them. I don’t have very many because they tend to encourage purchases I would not usually make. Most of my food purchases are not “coupon foods”. Rarely are there coupons for produce, milk, eggs, or bread. But the good thing about it is that it keeps my shopping trips simple, it reduces coupon clutter, and it keeps me from overspending. Saving money by spending less on products you don’t need isn’t really a good deal, is it?

Posted in Diet, Finances, Organization, Personal Style, Routines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Watch TV as a Productivity Tool

Posted by denisefisher on February 20, 2009

I know the title of this entry sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out  before you discard this as a valid suggestion. Also, I’m aware that there are purists out there who rebuke the whole notion of TV-watching and label it as a productivity killer, and I can appreciate their sentiments,Me on exercise ball watching TV - left side but I’m not one of them. Like many other luxuries and things that can be bad for you in excess, I prefer, instead, to consume TV programming mindfully, on purpose, in moderation, and to savor the experience. Now, on to the techniques.

Watch TV when it’s broadcast
VCRs, DVRs, TiVo, and on-demand programming make it convenient to watch TV on your schedule, at your leisure. And that’s ok when you want to be leisurely. But to get the productivity benefit, you need to get your chores done, or your errands run, or whatever project you’re working on completed, before your show comes on. Don’t underestimate the power of a deadline (even a TV show deadline). If I see that I have less than an hour before a show comes on that I want to watch, I can go to the store, get just what I need, and make it back home in time for the opening theme song. It’s amazing. It also causes me to be more efficient in my shopping and to just get what I came for. I don’t have time to browse or stroll the aisles, checking out new products or enticing bakery selections – I have to get the rest of my shopping done so I can get out of there and get home to watch my program!

Plan your TV viewing schedule for the week
If you review the TV listings in advance, you’ll be able to select the shows you want to watch, catch the PBS special about the Lincoln Assassination, know if the upcoming episode of The Office is a new show or one you’ve seen before, and know what time your favorite college team is playing this weekend. Some shows are rebroadcast multiple times, which gives you some flexibility and allows you to determine if the show time is a “must be on time” event, or a “preferred, but not mandatory” deadline. Real-time programming is especially subject to this planning. Sure, you can watch the rebroadcast or the highlights of the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards, but it’s not the same as seeing it live. If you have a TV viewing schedule for the week, you can coordinate it with your other activities. You can catch the one-time programs or premieres that you want to watch. And you can use the anticipation of an upcoming show to motivate you during the day and give you something to look forward to.

Make intentional TV-watching a special event
Before cable, before VCRs, back when there were only three major networks broadcasting shows and primetime viewing was each evening at 8 pm, people used to look forward to watching their favorite shows when they aired. The whole family would gather around the one TV in the house, get settled into their designated viewing seat (or floor space), and quiet the ambient noise to focus on the show. There was no tolerance for side conversations, game play, or walking around during the show. You sat and watched the program attentively, with full engagement as a shared experience, and with consideration for others. TV watching wasn’t part of a continuous bombardment of audio-visual stimulation. It was special.

If you watch TV as a planned event, rather than as a background distraction to fill the silence and vie for your attention while just hanging out, it can be something special and worth doing for you too. Plan to enjoy the activity as something you’ve intentionally chosen to do (assuming that turning on the TV just to see what’s on isn’t a default activity to occupy your time because you don’t have anything else planned). If you want to have a snack while you watch, consciously plan it as part of the special event. Don’t just grab a whole bag of chips and some dip or order a pizza to sit on the coffee table and be mindlessly devoured while your other senses are otherwise engaged. Plan the food and the serving size that you intend to consume. Slice up an apple into wedges, or prepare a fresh fruit mini-platter. make yourself a cup of tea or hot chocolate, or even scoop out a some almond fudge ice cream into a serving-size bowl. Allow yourself a splurge, if that’s what you had planned, but do it mindfully, and in moderation. Make the entire event a planned and special activity.

Be the star
This tip works best when you are the only one watching a show in the room, but it can also be done in the presence of others with whom you feel comfortable, and with whom you have a similar passion for the show. Some shows lend themselves to audience participation, at one level or another. And part of the savoring – and the productivity – of watching TV, comes from immersing yourself in the program. For example, when I used to watch “Dancing With The Stars”, I would literally twirl, kick, and dance around the living room with the dancers on TV. When I watch “The Biggest Loser,” I sit on my exercise ball and do various maneuvers, sometimes with hand weights, or I have a “big salad” that I prepared in advance, with the intention of enjoying it while I watch the contestants in some kind of temptation challenge.

When I watch some kind of moving documentary, I sit tall and start to emulate the confidence and courage of the admirable character being featured. And when it’s over, I make notes to schedule a time for sorting through my family photographs and other mementos. I use the burst of inspiration I experience to take steps toward a dream that’s important in my life. Watching Suze Orman makes me want to check my financial accounts and get my estate planning documents in order. This doesn’t apply to every show you might watch, but by being selective about your viewing habits, you can feed yourself with mostly healthy choices that nourish your soul and inspire your better nature. Who can seriously say that after watching a few day’s worth of the Olympics that they don’t feel inspired to become more physically active or join a gym? This is a great productivity tool for you; you just need to recognize it and use it to your advantage.

Posted in Exercise, Personal Style, Routines, Time Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

60 Ways To Save A Day Gone Wrong

Posted by denisefisher on February 12, 2009

A Day Gone Wrong Some days are better than others. Despite our best intentions to be productive, to be organized, to be mindful, some days just don’t turn out that way. We lack the will, the focus, or the motivation to get things done. Some days, it’s hard to even get started. What if you just don’t feel like it? After spinning our wheels and seeming to get nowhere, the day can start to seem like a total loss.

But wait. There’s hope.

If you had a list of Things To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do, you’d have options. It’s hard to come up with ideas – even simple ones – when you’re feeling overwhelmed or uninspired. On a better day, you can put together a list of your own. In the meantime, I’ll lend you some of mine. They’re simple tasks you can choose to do as an alternative when your best laid plans have gone awry. It’s a menu of “Plan B” options to salvage a day gone wrong. Even if you don’t regain your full momentum, at least you’ll get something done.

  1. Make the bed
  2. Wash a load of clothes
  3. Run the sweeper
  4. Water the plants
  5. Put away folded clothes
  6. Put away dishes
  7. Wash the sheets to hang out on the line to dry
  8. Polish shoes
  9. Clear off the table and set it for the next meal
  10. Clean the bathroom sink
  11. Check the mail
  12. Walk around the block
  13. Wash dishes
  14. Clear out & reorganize briefcase/backpack
  15. Sweep off the porch and steps
  16. Get clothes and gym bag ready for workout
  17. Clean the kitchen sink
  18. Walk around and inspect the outside of the house
  19. Pick up leaves, pine cones, and sticks from the driveway or yard
  20. Empty out the refrigerator crispers and reline with paper towels
  21. Clean out and organize the rest of the refrigerator or freezer or just a part of it
  22. Dust TV screens and computer monitors
  23. Clear off a flat surface – pick any one or more: desk top, entry table, night stand, dresser top, dining room table, kitchen counters, work table, bookshelf
  24. Straighten up and clean up the cat station and organize cat supplies
  25. Wipe out the inside of the microwave oven
  26. Empty the smaller wastebaskets around the house into the larger trash bag
  27. Find some junk mail, papers, magazines, expired paperwork to recycle
  28. Take out the trash or recycling
  29. Check your financial accounts
  30. Enter financial data for accounting into software program
  31. Inspect the condition of the car’s exterior (maybe check the tire pressure, oil & other fluids)
  32. See if there’s anything that needs to be cleared out of the car or trunk
  33. Vacuum out the car and wipe down surfaces
  34. Look through some storage space to see what you have and what might need to be done
  35. Chop vegetables, prepare lettuce for salad, or other food preparations
  36. Cook or bake something that will last for several days’ meals
  37. Check inventory levels and restock or add to shopping list, as needed (napkins, paper towels, TP, baggies, foils, wraps, trash bags, vacuum cleaner bags & belt, tissues, liquid soap, dishwashing detergent, laundry soap, stain treatment, bleach, household cleaners, refill water bottles, water pitcher, personal products, coin compartment in purse or car, checkbook, printer paper & cartridges, travel size cosmetic containers [shampoo, lotion, Q-tips, toothpaste, sunscreen, etc.], contact lenses & saline solution, light bulbs, batteries, birdfeeder, first aid kit, medications, vitamins)
  38. Take a power nap
  39. Do some type of personal grooming (tend to your nails, ears, feet, facial or body hair, hair color/length/style)
  40. Call your mother (or other deserving call recipient)
  41. Run an errand
  42. Go to the library
  43. Review your goals/personal mission statement/mantra
  44. Review your to do list
  45. Write and e-mail reply or a letter you’ve been putting off
  46. Clean one or more ceiling fans
  47. Clean the windows on the front door (and the finger prints around the door frame)
  48. Plan the details of a call you’ll make tomorrow – get the name, phone number, key points, and supporting documents you’ll need to have on hand
  49. Gather things together that you’ll need for a project you’re going to do tomorrow – set it up so that you’re ready to start
  50. Listen to an educational, inspirational, or informative podcast
  51. Clear your inbox
  52. Sort through some computer files and delete what you no longer need
  53. Meditate in a quiet space (possibly with some suitable music)
  54. Read something uplifting
  55. Ask someone else about their day, listen with empathy, and ask how you can help them out
  56. Send someone a text message or e-mail – out of the blue – to tell them something you admire about them
  57. Go to the yoga today website and do a yoga video
  58. Sort/organize/group/categorize … anything (bills or receipts to file, medicine cabinet, CDs or DVD collection, utensil drawer, spice cabinet, tool box, drawers of your night stand, jewelry or other accessories, stack of firewood or kindling, art supplies, lap drawer of the desk)
  59. Hold your baby (your little baby, your big baby, your sweetie baby, or your pet animal baby)
  60. Regroup and plan to get back up to speed tomorrow

Posted in Diet, Exercise, Finances, Fitness, Health, Organization, Personal Style, Routines, Spaces & Things, Time Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Visual Guide to Eating More Fruit

Posted by denisefisher on February 7, 2009

Fruit galore

This is my plan for eating fruit for a week, in words and photos.

Take inventory
Before you go out and purchase your fruit (and presumably, other groceries), check your pantry, freezer, refrigerator (don’t forget the crisper drawers), and anywhere else you store fruit. A pre-shopping refrigerator purge is always a good idea, since it will remind you of what you already have on hand, and those cleaned off shelves and compartments will be appreciated when you return from your grocery trip with bags of food that needs to be put away.

Eat enough – but don’t buy too much
Determine the appropriate number of servings of fruit to have per day. I choose 3. Then do the math to determine how much fruit you’ll need for the week for your household – I’m only one, unless I’m planning for guests, so, 3 fruit servings a day x 7 days a week = 21 pieces or servings of fruit to buy for the week. Viewing fruit purchases in terms of the number of servings allows me to buy enough variety without buying more than I need, and then feeling guilty about wasting money and not consuming healthful fruit before it goes bad.

Fruit for a Week - Bulk This selection of fruit shows what I purchased for a week’s worth of fruit eating, except for the oranges (which were left over from a bag I purchased the week before).

Savor the variety, but don’t go crazy
Purchase a variety of fruit based on personal preferences, availability, price, nutritional variety, and number of portions. I prefer to buy mostly fresh fruit, and supplement my choices with the occasional canned, dried, or frozen fruits – which are especially suited for use in recipes, such as canned mandarin oranges or raisins that I may use in a salad,  or canned pineapple chunks for a rare pineapple upside-down cake). I used to keep significant quantities of extra items on hand (you know, just in case), but recently, I’ve reformed my philosophy to keep my stock of extras to a bare minimum. I’ve realized that my money can be put to better use than sitting on my pantry shelves or in the refrigerator/freezer for weeks or months at a time, waiting for me to decide how I might use it. My revised strategy makes for roomier food storage spaces too.

Select your default serving times
Schedule routine fruit-eating times during the day. These seem to work best when they’re planned to coincide with those times when you’re a little bit hungry for something to munch on, but not past the point when you’re intensely craving something chocolate or salty-crunchy. I choose mid-morning, late afternoon, early evening – I don’t designate my times more specifically than that, although, when I used to work in an office, I used to hold out for a fruit break at 10 am. Eating fruit an hour or two before your next meal will help moderate your appetite and keep you from eating too much because you’re “starving to death”.

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Plan for the week to avoid waste
Plan daily menus or a sequence for eating the fresh fruit that you’ve purchased, based partly on how ripe or perishable each fruit is. Obviously, soft fruit and cut/prepared fruit have the shortest palatable life, though some fruit can be trimmed, blended, or cooked into other recipes, even if they’re past their apparent life expectancy in fresh form – think… banana bread, strawberry shakes, apple crisp… that kind of thing.

Fruit for a Week - Portions This display shows how I divided my fruit purchases (shown in the previous photo above) into 7 days of 3 fruit servings per day. The only items added to the assortment (from what I already had in the pantry) was a package of dried mixed fruit and a can of mandarin oranges that I will use in a salad. The only fruit left from my purchase was 8 apples – I could carry them over for next week, or I might want to use them for cooking or baking.

Prepare portions & packaging
Wash fruit and portion it out into serving sizes, as appropriate, especially for packing lunches or making fruit ready to eat. Cut grape stems to make serving-size clusters, put blueberries or cherries into sealable baggies or plastic containers that you can pack or take on the go. You can also cut melon into wedges, cubes, or balls, and cut stems from strawberries, etc., but only if you know those fruits will be eaten fairly quickly thereafter, or if you know they will sit and rot if they’re not in a ready-to-eat form.

Fruit - red grapes     Fruit - honeydew melon

Presentation is everything
Serve fruit with visual appeal and vary the way you cut or serve it, (along with how you use dips, accompanying flavors, side dishes, or recipe combinations) to make them appetizing and enticing – for example, oranges, which can be serve peeled and segmented, cut into wedges, cross-cut into slices, or served from a can, over a salad, and topped with almond chips and a ginger-sesame dressing.

Fruit - orange slices

You won’t eat it if you don’t see it
Make fruit viewable as a snack option – have a bowl of mixed melon cubes with strawberries on the top shelf in the refrigerator, instead of hidden, unprepared, in the crisper; set your bananas, and maybe a couple of apples, in a wicker bowl on the table; put a small dish of freshly cut apple wedges on the table next to you when you get ready to watch TV or play a board game.
                    Fruit - apple wedges      Me Everyday in 2009 057

Keep it simple
Most of the fruit I eat is raw and unadorned. There are several reasons for this. Of primary importance is the appreciation of its natural form, texture, and flavors. As a parent and aunt, I am aware of children’s innate attraction to fresh fruit and their delight in eating fresh fruit that is served to them. They don’t need caramel dip, chocolate sauce, or whipped cream to make it palatable, and neither should adults. In fresh form, it’s most nutritious and ready to eat. I seldom buy extra quantities of fruit with the intention of using it to make desserts – most recipes call for significant quantities of sugar and fats that add extra calories that I don’t need, so I try to treat fruit-based desserts a special splurge to supplement my fresh fruit servings, rather than replace them. The major exception to this standard is when local strawberries are in season, and I go out to pick them, or when friends or family share their abundance of ripe apples from trees in their yards. It can be tempting to purchase vast quantities of fruit with intentions of making gourmet dessert creations, but unlike boxes of purchased art supplies that sit around for years, unused, waiting to be turned into inspired creations, fruit will expire if not used promptly.
Fruit - Carrie with strawberriesThe dessert option
Eat fruit in sweetened desserts, if desired, but do so in moderation (berry-banana ice cream smoothie, cherry pie, strawberry shortcake, apple cobbler). If you want to, make it a routine or policy, and give it a name, so that you can look forward to it, without mindlessly eating more desserts than you realize. Try something like Sunday Fruit Smoothie Night and Fruit Bakery Treat Thursdays. This works especially well in a family with children. They will like referring to the named days and looking forward to them, and you won’t have to say “no” to numerous requests for treats before the designated days. You can just say, “Yeah, you’re right, we haven’t had banana splits in a while. That would be good to have on Ice Cream Sunday.”

Berry Smoothie ShakeMake tracking fun
If you need additional motivation and accountability, create a way to track your fruit-eating habits. Make a chart that you can color in, cross off, post stars, or place magnets. This can be even more effective when others in your family or workplace are tracking their fruit-eating goals. I’m sure there are online methods for doing this as well, but I’d opt for the tangible methods that give you that manipulative, three-dimensional gratification.

Fruit chart

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Dinner for $1 (or less)

Posted by denisefisher on January 27, 2009

Yes, you can make dinner at home for less than $1 per person. Here is just such a meal.

Bean soup with vegetables and corn muffins

Menu

Bean Soup with vegetables (3 cups total; generous serving size = 1 cup, as shown)

Corn Muffins (6 muffins total; generous serving size = 2 muffins, as shown)

Ingredient Measure(as packaged) Price(as packaged) Quantity(per package) Quantity(as prepared) Price(as prepared)
Dried Northern Beans 16 oz.

$1.89

13 servings  of ¼ cup, dry ½ cup, dry

$ .29

Potatoes 10 lbs.

$2.99

12 potatoes 1 potato

$ .25

Carrots 1 lb.

$1.03

8 carrots 1 carrot

$ .13

Onion 3 lbs.

$1.39

7 onions ½ onion

$ .10

Seasonings (olive oil, salt, pepper, minced onion)

$ .10

Muffin Mix 1 box

$ .41

6 muffins 6 muffins

$ .41

Egg 1 doz.

$2.79

12 eggs 1 egg

$ .23

Milk ½ gal.

$2.09

8 cups ½ cup

$ .13

Total cost

$1. 64

Cost per serving (3, generous size)

$ .55

Cost per serving (6, standard size)

$ .27

House rules and disclaimers:

· This dinner is focused on healthy and inexpensive eating (primarily vegetarian).

· It’s assumed that basic staples and seasonings are on hand in your kitchen.

· Some ingredients that would be purchased for this dinner are packaged in volumes greater than what’s needed for one meal. But remaining items can easily be consumed in other meals, with only moderate planning.

· The number and size of servings will need to be adjusted according to your household. For smaller households, the leftovers can be served on another day or packed for lunch. Bonus!

· The choice of ingredients used for this dinner can be modified to accommodate food preferences, allergies, or what’s available in your kitchen.

· The cost shown does not include transportation costs for purchases, nor does it include utility costs for cooking or baking. (That’s beyond the scope of my tolerance for scientific calculations for this post. Also beyond my scope of this post is the recipe and nutritional information for this meal. Sorry, but I have my limits.)

· Minor adjustments for ingredient choices or cost of living may be required for your situation (for example, the price of eggs shown above is for organic eggs from uncaged hens).

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