What Shall We Eat? Part 1: An Open Mind

One of the most interesting side effects of de-cluttering and exploring simplicity in all areas of life is a newfound desire to challenge myself.

I think a shifting perspective on “stuff” and all the discoveries I’ve made about myself, my assumptions and my beliefs has made me more eager to question other areas of my life. Have I been blind to other things? Why do I believe what I believe or assume what I assume in the first place?

It makes sense that we accept as normal what is happening around us when we are young; we don’t really know we have the option to question it. We grow up and realize that we do, and hopefully we do some research before we draw conclusions, but we are still largely shaped by what we’ve experienced – and my experience isn’t necessarily the same as yours.

If we’ve been positively (or negatively) impacted by our experiences, we may become very passionate, based on the intensity of that experience. And then we might want to shout what we’ve learned from the rooftops, in hopes of helping someone else gain (or avoid) something.

It’s easy to get defensive when a very passionate individual is calling into question your

cow-face
Spoiler Alert: This is not what life looks like for the vast majority of cows in the United States.

normal way of being. We might snap at that person, or dismiss them because we feel uncomfortable. But I think we sometimes forget: these folks are usually passionate for a reason – because of an intense experience – and in most cases, they ultimately want to share the knowledge they’ve gained for the benefit of others.

Likewise, it’s easy for the passionate person to vilify the one that gets defensive or is resistant to change. At the end of the day, we all must arrive at change in our own way and time. Can we agree to give each other grace in this area?

All it took was one such passionate individual and her Facebook posts to convince me to re-evaluate what I am eating (Thanks, Erica!). And now, husband and I are adjusting our eating habits. Not in a diet-y, lose-weight-y kind of way, but in a “where does food come from, how is it made and do I want to support that” kind of way.

Having an open mind is so very, very important – even if you don’t end up changing your mind. Along the way, you learn new things, engage with new people in new ways and have a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the world around you.

I’m going to be writing a little bit about simplicity as it relates to food and all the things I’ve learned in the past few weeks about where our food really comes from. I’ve felt shocked, disgusted, hopeless, frustrated, sad, angry and, ultimately, hopeful as I’ve delved into this topic. The more I’ve learned, the more passionate (though not extreme nor rigid) I’ve become.

I hope that you’ll read my upcoming posts about this, and maybe somehow these words will impact your food journey for the better as well.

 

 

On Politics, Suffering and Our True King

You guys…all the division, fighting and nonsense. Lately, it’s enough to make me want to bury my head in the sand, or at the very least, swear off social media. But as the endless name-calling and “you’re-on-my-side-so-therefore-you-must-be-smart” gang building continues, I’ve seen some very shiny diamonds in the rough of all the ugliness.

I want to share them here, and share my own thoughts, if only to get them out of my head and onto a page – my preferred method of processing life’s hard stuff.

First, is this article that a friend posted the other day. This is the best, most un-biased description of Trump’s Immigration EO that I’ve seen. It’s so easy to latch on to the parts that one thinks are either worthwhile or completely, er, deplorable. But the parts that each side chooses to latch onto are simply that – parts. We could all do a better job of researching the issues in their entirety and acknowledging all the parts. It doesn’t have to change which side we land on, but man, it sure makes us look a lot less jerky.

Next is this little gem called “The ‘Other Side’ is Not Dumb.” I was having a discussion about something similar with husband just last week. We all tend to forget that our opinions on things are heavily, heavily influenced by our own experiences. In fact, I’d venture to say it’s nearly impossible to view the world without looking through the lens of our own lives. It makes sense; experience is a powerful teacher. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be acknowledging and seeking to understand the life experiences/reasons behind the differing views of others. If your social media feeds are filled with opinions identical to yours, consider seeking out those that are different. Listen. Love. At least consider questioning where your own assumptions and opinions came from. I can’t change the experiences that you’ve had which shape your world view today, and you cannot change mine. But we can seek to understand each other out of love and accept that many of our differences come from our widely varied life experiences rather than black and white or “right vs. wrong”.

And from a Christian perspective, I must comment on the blog of a friend from college in which she’s apologizing for a generalization she made in a post about the Immigration EO. You can read her words here. This is a woman who is passionate, out-spoken, and always encourages helpful dialogue rather than fighting. I commend her for that; it’s not easy! But she is proof that I don’t have to agree with everything someone says in order to find value in their thoughts and opinions and be encouraged to examine my own.

This little blog of hers was certainly thought-provoking. She’s drawn a fabulous distinction between “The Kingdom of Men” and “The Kingdom of God”. Her description of it is beautiful.

But I want to talk about the overlap of these opposing kingdoms, too. I think the overlap between the kingdom of man (namely, governments and the rulers thereof) and the Kingdom of God is significant – especially in the face of division among Christians.

Daniel 2:21 says, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.”

Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

And Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

(Here is another short read on what the Bible tells us about government.)

Regardless of who is in power, these verses give me such peace. They were as true of the last administration as they are of the current administration. They remind me who is really in control here. It reminds me that whether I agree with what those in power are doing or not, God has gone before us all, He sees all and He knows all and the kingdoms of man are at His disposal. My job is not to try and figure out what God is up to, my job is to trust God with all my heart, for His ways are higher than my ways. I never, ever want despair to win in my heart, for the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, of love and of a sound mind. 

This becomes admittedly more difficult as I let my mind drift to the rest of the world; the countries whose citizens are routinely tortured, the refugees, the hungry and the multitudes without the conveniences of life that we Westerners typically take for granted. I often feel so powerless in the face of the world’s realities.

So again, I look to Him. What does God say about this? About suffering, and about how I am to conduct myself in the face of the magnitude of hardship people endure?

One of my favorite verses is John 16:33, which says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In this world, you will have trouble, trials and suffering. One of the hardest things to accept about suffering is that even it can serve a divine purpose. Without question, the church is meant to care for its communities, to reach out to and provide support for those who are suffering. Yet, we also must acknowledge that suffering can be a mentor, a teacher, and, yes, even a friend to us in our walks of faith.

I just finished reading Kara Tippett’s book “The Hardest Peace,” which illustrates this in such a heart-breakingly beautiful way. Kara passed away at age 38 – leaving behind her husband and 4 children. This book was tough to read, but it and many others like it tell the same story – beauty out of brokenness. It’s the gospel; it’s our Lord’s own story as well. He was persecuted, even to death, that we might live. Broken and beaten only to be raised and glorified.

So let us all prayerfully approach how we balance acceptance and action in these days. Our God is in control, but that doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing for our fellow man. There is mighty suffering in our world, but in our desire to alleviate it, we forget to consider the notion of God using it to build His kingdom.

I am humbled and overwhelmed by the privilege of living in this country. I am humbled by the huge, big-faith-through-intense-suffering stories of my brothers and sisters. I can’t know their experiences, but I can pray about how to help and how to humbly accept suffering of my own. I know how easy it is to become fearful at the thought of what lies ahead. But when I turn my mind to things eternal, I am also reminded that this life is not all there is. There is eternity after this; glorious and huge and too big to really comprehend. Free of suffering and full of glory – the great reward for all who place their hope in Him.

 

 

 

Why Minimalism?

A few weeks ago, I had the joy of spending some time with my Great Uncle Fred. Though I haven’t spent much time with him in my life, I can safely say he’s a hilarious wealth of stories, travels and a life very well lived. He also happens to read this blog from time to time, for which I am deeply honored!

When we were together at his son Brian’s lake house, he asked me why I want to live a minimalist lifestyle. I said, “Because it helps me focus on what really matters in life.” While this is a true and honest answer, I wish we would have had more time to talk about it. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that someone who isn’t a minimalist can’t focus on what’s important in life, although I think living minimally makes it easier.

I always want to make the disclaimer that minimalism means different things to different

minimalism-definition
Photo taken: The Stephanie Inn; Cannon Beach, OR

people and I believe it’s helpful to provide my definition of it before I can really flesh out it’s full appeal in my own life. I’d define minimalism as “The pursuit of simple living; keeping just enough possessions, things on my mind and things on my schedule to encourage living in and being thankful for each moment.”

Here are the reasons minimalism is attractive to me…perhaps loosely in order of least to most important.

1. Cleanliness and Order. I struggle with anxiety, people. One of the things that always makes me feel more calm is to be surrounded by clean, clear, open and well-organized spaces. I’ve always been a fairly neat/organized person, but as I began to get rid of physical possessions, I realized my time spent cleaning our house went down a good bit. Since I am the maid around here, that was highly appealing to me. The less crap I have to pick up to wipe down the surfaces in my home, the faster I can speed through cleaning. This is also one of the reasons I like the idea of a smaller home. The less time I spend cleaning these worldly possessions that cannot accompany me to the hereafter, the better, if you ask me. And of course, a less cluttered room = a calmer, more contented Sarah.

2. Financial Freedom. Most folks pursuing minimalism are highly motivated by this one. Interestingly, the more things I give away, the less I want to bring into my home. If something is not needed, or being used, I typically consider it unnecessary clutter. I don’t buy as much stuff now because I just don’t want more stuff; it doesn’t matter to me like it used to. Personally, I have found great blessing in wanting less vs. wanting more.  I would much rather use money for things that are more important and more in line with my values as a person – like helping others, traveling and experiences.

3. Rejecting Materialism. Our culture is constantly selling us the idea that we need more, newer, bigger, better things to be happy. Yet, some of the most destitute people in our world are the most content and some of the richest people in our world are the most miserable. I’m not implying that all rich people are miserable. Just that this notion that we’d all be more content if we were richer is a lie. I honestly did not know this deeply and in my soul until I started giving things away. It was only when I consciously decided to get rid of things that I realized how much I actually already had (and how little I really need). This sounds so silly and bratty to me now, but I never considered NOT following a trajectory of bigger and better; apartment to house to bigger house to even bigger house or reasonable car to nicer car to even nicer car. I never would have called myself materialistic before I minimized my belongings; materialism would not have been on a list of my values. And yet, I used to think and behave in a decidedly materialistic way. Minimalism reminds me not to go back to that way of thinking. It teaches me how much is enough for me – and I didn’t know what was “enough” until I gave a bunch of stuff away. I could still give more and not suffer in the least, and knowing that makes me overflow with humility and gratitude.

4. A Personal Response to Global Issues. One of the very first things that led me to pursue minimalism (although I didn’t know that word at the time) was a soul-gripping awareness of how we live here in America as compared to the rest of the world. I’ve always “known” we are mighty fortunate, but after fostering a more global awareness, it finally became real to me. I found myself feeling inauthentic and restless in the face of what others around the world must endure; from extreme poverty to persecution for faith in Jesus. I know I don’t deserve the wonderful life I’m blessed with; I know I “have it better” than so many people in the world. It feels wrong not to respond to that in some way. For me, there’s a fine line between feeling guilty for all God has blessed me with, and being humbly thankful for those blessings. It’s something I must be careful about because ultimately, I desire to live in the moment with a grateful heart. But as I’ve purged belongings, events from my schedule and thoughts from my mind, the clarity I’ve found always leads me back to both generosity and gratitude. I have come to view minimalism as a first step in thoughtfully responding to global issues in my own little ways. It encourages me to continue giving and asking myself and God how else I’m meant to respond.

5. My Faith. For me, this is most important reason to pursue minimalism. I have learned that when I pursue minimalism for calm surroundings, less financial burden, and a deliberate turn from the magnetic pull of materialism, it helps me keep an eternal perspective and see Jesus more clearly. When I begin to strip away my excess, I am more free to pursue the life He wants me to live – not focused on myself or on getting MORE. While we are never in complete control of how much God decides to bless us with monetary riches, we are ALWAYS in control of what we decide to do with whatever money we have. The Bible tells us to be good stewards of what we have (be wise financially!). It tells us to hold loosely to the things of this world and live with an eternal perspective (avoid materialism!). It tells us that the love of money (not money itself) is the root of all evil. It tells us that it is harder for a rich man to get into Heaven. My logic tells me that when I pine for bigger, better things, when I already have more than enough, I am both engaging the root of all evil, and I’m making it harder for myself to live for the Lord. In short – I believe minimalism is a way of living that helps me be consistent with the teachings in the Bible.

Does the minimalist lifestyle appeal to you? What is your own definition of minimalism, and why is it a worthy way to live (or not) in your opinion?

Comparison: The Joy Killer

Few things kill joy, rob us of peace, and promote self-centered-ness like comparing ourselves with others. What they have, what they look like, how they act…there are many areas in which we put others on a pedestal, wishing we “had it that good.”

At the heart of comparison are insecurity and an incorrect focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do have.

The funny thing about comparison is that it’s entirely possible for us to banish it in one area of our lives, but allow it to fester, unrealized, in another. Sometimes, comparison becomes so natural that we’ve sized someone up, decided what that says about us, and either felt better or worse because of it – all before we even notice what we’re doing.

I used to struggle with discontent from comparing my “stuff” and possessions to others’ – wishing I had more, bigger or better. But now, I’m learning to hold things loosely and finding great freedom in wanting less rather than more. I’m still tempted to think I need more than I have sometimes. But I’m so grateful that possessions no longer have the power over me they once did.

The one area in which I cannot seem to stop comparing myself to others is my weight and

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Photo Taken: Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, GA

how I look. I think most women struggle with this at different times and in different ways. I’ve got a lot of scars from past experiences and my struggle is pretty constant in this area.

But let me drop some perspective on myself. (And maybe someone out there needs to do the same!) I am not sick, and I do not have injuries that render me unable to move or live life freely. I am not the weight or size I wish I was, but I work out 5-6 days a week and I do my best to eat well. I have made and met fitness goals. I continue to try new things (like scary road bike rides in the mountains!) and face fears because I can. What I need to train myself to do is focus on what my body can do rather than compare myself to skinnier people and wish I was different. If I must compare, let me compare myself to someone cannot do all the things I can do.

When I think about my body in this way, it makes all my complaining seem utterly ridiculous. Nevermind the fact that pretty much no one cares what I look like as much as I seem to! If there is someone out there who is critical of how I look, who really cares? Why do I care? God loves me and approves of me and He knows my heart; He knows that I want to take care of the body He’s given me. I have a fantastic husband who loves and respects me and tells me I’m beautiful every day. It’s only my own stubborn inability to give myself grace that pulls me downward into despair about my body.

What are the ways in which you’re most likely to compare yourself to others? Is it your weight? Is it how much money you have? Is it the kind of car you drive? Your job? Your abilities as a parent?

Let me just tell you: you are enough. As you are, right now, today. God loves you; your family and friends love you. Maybe it’s time for you to give you a little love, too.

If you’re overweight and wish you looked different, do what you can. Move, eat foods that will optimally fuel your body and celebrate what you are able to do. If you wish you had a nicer car, start focusing on the fact that you have a car that is getting you around. If you aren’t happy in your job, look for a new one, or think of ways to make the job you’re doing more meaningful and fulfilling to you. Mamas, don’t worry about being perfect or being anyone other than you: you’re doing great!

Comparison is the great joy-killer. Make an effort NOT to engage those comparative thoughts when they come; make a habit of turning them into something uplifting and positive. And whenever possible, turn your mind from your dark thoughts about yourself and reach out to help someone around you who is in need or just say some kind words to a friend. I guarantee you anyone you choose to show kindness to will appreciate it. Just don’t forget to be kind to yourself, too!

Give A Little Grace

I’m sitting here today, a few hours from boarding a flight to Pennsylvania to visit family. I’m excited to see everyone, but my peace has been missing for most of the day.

My travel phobias strike again!

This is frustrating. The flight to PA is less than 2 hours, and I did just fine a couple months ago on a 5 hour flight to OR.

My immediate reaction is to be really irritated with myself, and berate myself for not feeling peaceful and letting these dumb fears affect me in the slightest.

But today, I’m choosing to take a step back and let mindfulness lead. Step 1: WRITE. Step 2: When I can feel I’m starting to be too tough on myself I ask this question: if my best friend were describing my own feelings to me as hers, what would I say?

The short answer is: nothing close to what I am tempted to say to myself.

My usual inner dialogue snarls things like: “I can’t believe you’re letting this affect you AGAIN.” Or, “You are such a failure! I thought we conquered this fear already. You’re such a baby.” And my favorite, “You haven’t changed at all!”

What would I tell my best friend were she having the same feelings as me? I’d say things like: “Don’t be so hard on yourself! You may always have this fear, but remember how many strategies you’ve learned to get through it.” And “It’s OK to feel the fear; you’re going to get on that plane anyway and conquer it.” And “Just think how good it will feel once you’ve got another travel experience under your belt.” And “You’ve done this a bunch of times before, you got this!”

Have you ever noticed how much harder we are on ourselves than we would be on our friends? I’m actually kind of shocked at how stark a difference there is between the two for

minfulness
Photo Taken: La Jolla, CA

me. But self-hatred and perfectionism have an insidious way of creeping in until you barely even notice them. I had these negative thoughts about myself in a split second. They felt so familiar and it would have been easy to just accept them rather than grab them and throw them out.

It takes mindfulness and sometimes, retreating to a quiet place, to recognize harmful self-talk and decide to talk to yourself in a different way. Now, I have the option to re-write my bad thoughts and focus on good thoughts instead. I don’t have to accept whatever happens to pop into my head first.

We could all stand to give a little more grace. Both to others and for many of us, to ourselves. (By the way, I think this works just as well if you catch yourself having less-than-kind thoughts about others!)

Put this little exercise on the long list of reasons I love writing and learning to be mindful! I hope that someday, my immediate reaction to my own struggling or being less than perfect is more likely to be kind than cruel.

After all, I’d never dream of saying the things I tell myself to anyone else. I’m feeling calmer and more centered at that thought alone.

 

3 Ways to Live in the Moment

At one time or another, we’ve probably all heard the adages: “Just take it a day at a time!” and “Life is a journey, not a destination!” Both these quips are fantastic advice. But all too often, I live my life thinking too far ahead, berating myself for not reaching my goals yet or focusing on everything that’s wrong in my life.

But when I am able to slow down…both in thought and action, I am able to truly see the value and peace found in living in the moment. While it is good to have goals and have a destination in mind, it is easy for the race to the destination to dull the joy of the journey.

So what steps can we take to enjoy the benefits of taking life a day at a time, enjoying our unique journeys and living in the moment?

Put off distractions. What things in life tend to distract you and disturb your peace the most? For me, it’s often comparing myself with others, or spending too much time playing on my phone. These things are an enormous waste of time. When I’m comparing myself with others, I’m allowing my insecurity to dominate my life and thoughts. And when I’m spending too much time on Facebook or Pinterest or lost in a game on a screen, I not only foster discontent in my life, but I’m also completely distracted from what is going on right in front of me in the real world. If I’m distracted all the time, it’s very hard to appreciate the current moment and it also encourages me not to deal with difficult things. If you find yourself constantly seeking distraction during calm moments, it’s time to turn off the phone/tv/internet browser. I am striving to minimize these distractions in my life.

Notice the good. When you identify distractions and begin to eliminate them, you’re free to notice the wonderful things that surround you. Just stop and look around. What do you see and feel? Is it a beautiful day outside? Is your office chair super comfy? Is your dog sleeping in a position that makes you laugh? Are your kids giggling and playing with each other? Are you working on a really exciting project at your job? Is it crisp and cool enough outside that you can wear your favorite sweater? You can’t live in the moment if you can’t see the moment.

Give thanks. I believe this is the most important step because it changes your perspective. If I’m unhappy or discontent, I’m usually doing one of two things: over-thinking and living in the future, or trying to distract myself from something. But if I just turn off the distractions for a moment, notice the good around me, and give thanks for it, my perspective shifts. When I practice giving thanks, I find there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. We can grumble, and not want the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but it is our choice whether we focus on what we don’t have or on what we do have.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste the journey of life by focusing solely on the destination or on everything that’s going wrong in my life. It’s important to remember there’s always something I’m striving for, that I’d like to change about myself, or some way in which I would like to grow. And I don’t think this will end in my time on earth – it’s human nature. I think I will always have some destination to arrive at.

If we live our lives as if we cannot be satisfied until we reach our destinations, but there’s ALWAYS a destination, how will we ever enjoy peace? The answer is to revel in the moment by removing distractions, noticing the good all around us, and giving thanks for each day, each hour, each moment in our respective journeys.

I saw a great quote somewhere a couple weeks ago by Aristotle Onassis that illustrates this

be present
Photo Taken: Amicalola Falls, GA

beautifully: “We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in the high winds.”

This is freeing to me. When I put so much pressure on myself to arrive at my destination, I cannot enjoy the path God takes me on to get there. When I accept that I will forever be growing, changing and learning, life seems more exciting than monotonous or slow-moving. When I see and am thankful for everything I have right now, I move away from discontent and into the present moment.

To me, this is the most simple way to live. It doesn’t mean things are always peachy keen and it certainly doesn’t mean that we’re happy all the time. But true growth and change often occur when we are able to lift our eyes during even our hardest moments and say, “I see all that I am blessed with, and I am thankful.”

 

5 Steps to Becoming a Writer

It’s been a little over a year since I left my job and “gave a year to God.”

A lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same during that time, but in some ways, clarity has certainly come. Now that I believe I’m meant to write, I’m trying to figure out what my days should look like as a writer. What exactly do I need to do before I can confidently say, “I’m a writer” when people ask what I do?

I’ve been reading and writing and thinking and journaling and watching videos from those who have gone before me. And the time has come to “set up shop” so to speak.

I’ve identified (and am working on!) 5 things that need to happen for me to get comfortable calling myself a writer. In other words, a road map to being a productive writer

1. Set Goals. As I learned working as a consultant, step 1 of just about anything is to establish goals. Why I am doing this? What do I hope to accomplish? What do I need to get started? Do I need to raise money and/or start making money right away?  Once these questions are answered, I can begin to flesh out an action plan.

Ultimately, I want to impact people’s lives in a positive way with my writing. I think that’s the goal of all writers, although it may take different forms. Deep down, we all want to leave our mark on the world somehow, don’t we? Make even the smallest difference for the better? I’d love to be a published novelist at some point, but I also don’t think that needs to happen for me to be a successful writer.

I have everything I need to get started…a computer, notebooks and pens, books, the treasure trove of expertise offered for free on the internet, this blog, and of course, the ability to think and come up with ideas. And while it would be amazing to make money doing this someday, I am very thankful that isn’t an immediate need for me. (Husband is my hero…swoon!)

2. Develop Habits. I have goals and a purpose in mind, but now I actually need to start writing, and writing consistently. I’ve been watching Jeff Goins and Tim Grahl’s free “Productive Writer” video series and their tips for developing habits are fantastic. They talk a lot about starting tiny – however small the habit needs to be to ensure it gets done – and watch it grow over time. They also suggest attaching your new tiny habit to something that you already do automatically each day. For example, I might set a goal to write 50 words per day, or write for 10 minutes each day, and (like Tim) I could attach that to drinking coffee in the morning. Right after I make my coffee, I sit down and do my writing for the day.

I think this is a brilliant idea to get started in a way that’s not threatening – especially if you are pressed for time and trying to find a way to build something new for yourself.

Jeff had the goal of writing 500 words per day for an entire year, and that turned into hundreds and hundreds of blog posts, a whole host of followers and ultimately, multiple books, more blogs, speaking engagements and more.

In some ways, it’s scary to get started. But I know rewards come when we face our fears. So I’m ready to dive in, start building new habits of my own, and see what happens.

3. Make Deadlines. “Real” writers (and all professionals, for that matter) have deadlines. In fact, I’d venture to say that if you’ve chosen the right habits to develop, you’ve already built deadlines in. I like the idea of writing 500 words daily, or at least Monday through Friday each week, and scheduling at least 1-2 blog posts each week. If I can give myself deadlines and get in the habit of hitting them, it won’t feel quite as scary if I am ever trying to meet a deadline given to me by someone else.

4. Create a Schedule/System. I love the idea of attaching your habits to daily tasks that you’re already doing. But it’s also helpful to come up with a schedule and system that works for you. I’m no pro at this, but it’s something I’m working on. I have created a rough weekly schedule in which I have two writing sessions scheduled most days – what I do in those sessions will likely look very different on different days.

I am hopeful that as I begin building my new habits and sticking to my deadlines and schedule, a system will emerge. Jeff Goins shared that he is more productive when he doesn’t try to come up with an idea, write it out, and edit it all at once.

That was a huge eye opener for me because even though I WANT to write, I sometimes sit down and have no ideas or inspiration. Now, I have a separate list of ideas that I can refer to when I’m ready to write, and I’m also just letting my writing flow and coming back to edit it on a different day. I have only been doing this for few days, but I’ve written more in those few days than I did the past two weeks combined. A game-changer, and so simple.

5. Get Organized with the Right Tools. There are a dizzying array of tools available to help you stay organized and productive. From idea dump tools to programs that help writers organize books, it makes my head spin.

But now that I’ve identified goals and habits and deadlines and schedules, I need to look for tools that enhance what I’m working towards. Again, looking to those who have gone before me is super helpful as I navigate this.

Now, I’m using Evernote to keep track of thoughts and pictures and websites that I come across on the go. I jot down notes from books I’m reading. And I also have running lists of blog post ideas and and plot twists for the novel I’m working on.

I have organized all my book projects (there are 3 now!) into some fantastic writing software called Scrivener.

These are just some of the ideas I’m using to add structure to my days and get serious productivityabout turning this into a career and my life’s work. I’m sure these things will morph and grow as I learn what works best for my own individual working style. But somehow, getting organized makes all of this feel real.

And these 5 steps can certainly be applied to more than just writing! If you don’t have goals that declare why you’re doing what you’re doing, it’s hard to figure out what habits you need to develop. It will be tough to work with/for others if you aren’t able to meet deadlines and stick to a schedule using a system that works for you. And using tools that complement your systems to organize your work is the icing on the cake.

Cheers to being productive at whatever you do!