Paper or Digital? Choosing a Calendar

I have had a paper calendar for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, I was taught that every birthday and holiday, and even household chores, were placed on a calendar. Hanging on my bedroom wall, just over my bed, was a cute little calendar with kittens and puppies, every event neatly scribed in the appropriate square.

As a teen, I wrote lists for every day of the week (inventing my own type of calendar), and as an adult, I’ve either owned a purse calendar, or had a book on my desk.

My calendar has held everything I’ve needed to know, from email address and phone numbers, to birthdays and anniversaries. Even my daily routine was written out, every hour accounted for. It gave me the freedom to follow a plan, or deviate from it as needed. Just to know it was there was comforting.

But in the age of technology, and in the spirit of simplicity and minimalism, I decided it was time to give up paper and embrace the smartphone, and the new calendar app I’d discovered.

My phone would hold my calendar, and more. I could list errands, events, and even when bills were due. It would be cool. The only thing missing would be my daily routine, something I had grown accustomed to.

My routine should be something I’d remember. And I do. Only, my routine is general. It varies in many ways, like what type of writing needs to be done each day, or whether or not my website requires technical maintenance. And sometimes, I just need to focus on my book, or do a little marketing. It’s all written in my calendar.

Here is an example of my routine:
7:30 – Tea and Reading
8:00 – Emails
8:30 – Exercise or Yoga
9:15 – 12:30 – Writing
1:00 – 4:30 – Writing

My routine keeps me on track, makes me stay focused.

This is what happened when I decided to let go of my paper calendar:

I took everything from my paper calendar, and transferred the information to my phone. Then I got nervous. It occurred to me that the app could fail, or worse, I could lose my phone.

When I finished putting all the events on my phone, I felt a tiny bit better. Reluctantly, I tore up the calendar, and threw it away. I was digital.

For a week, all went fairly well. My phone sent a reminder of appointments, and my routine was followed, mostly without a hitch. Though I did find myself thinking about my days more than I had before, and wondering if I was getting everything done.

Week two, my phone once again sent me a little reminder of appointments for the week. That part was great. But this week, my schedule slipped, and some of the work I needed to do was pushed aside.

Week three, my routine was gone. Important matters, like working on the technical side of my site, was forgotten. I also noticed post-it notes piled on my desk, and a bunch sitting in my drawer. Without realizing it, I was writing reminder notes to myself.

By week four, I wrote out a schedule on paper, and placed it on my desk. I missed my paper calendar.

Staying focused:

My calendar taught me how to focus, and kept me on track. On paper, I made goals I could visually look at every day. I could see the day and week ahead, and knew what was going to happen without constantly having to check my phone. The paper calendar freed my mind from having to think about my schedule.

I once again own a paper calendar. And I love it. Yes, it takes a little more time to write out each week. But in the end, I get more accomplished. I am more focused.

Here is an example of the calendar I use.

There are also printable calendars available online, like this one here.

If I can ever figure it out, maybe someday I will go completely digital. But for now, the paper calendar remains in my life.

What about you? Do you use a paper calendar, or are you digital? If you are the technology-savvy type, I’d love to hear how you do it.

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Learning to Let Go

I have too many ideas in my head. It’s true. They never stop bombarding me. Usually, they arrive at the most inconvenient times. Like when I’m driving. Or showering. Or standing in line at the supermarket. It’s in those moments I get big ideas, and I can’t do a single thing about them. Because apparently, it’s illegal to write and drive at the same time, and showering while writing doesn’t work well, either. As for being at the supermarket, or anywhere there’s a crowd, take it from me when I say people don’t like it when you pull out your phone, or tablet and pen, and start taking notes while they’re talking. They get paranoid.

I know, some people would kill to have too many ideas. But I’m telling you, it’s not always that great. Believe me, the grass isn’t greener in my head than yours. I would love a brain that silences itself, if only for a moment.

My brain nudges me as I drift to sleep, or if I dare wake in the wee hours of the morning, it starts chattering. It begs me to listen while I watch a movie, and invents stories while I try to read. It never shuts off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for the many ideas – I will always have something to write about. But the problem is, it’s impossible to write everything down. I’ve tried. My fingers just don’t write as fast as I think.

I used to get upset when ideas and ramblings popped into my brain, and I couldn’t jot them down. I’d try and keep the words until later, only I’d usually forget. I’d fret, moan, and be a stressed-out mess, certain I would use up all my creativity. I used to feel like I would fail.

I couldn’t think with all those thoughts running around, wondering what I should remember, and what I should let go. And when I sat down to write, it got worse. If you could get inside my head (and believe me, you don’t want to), I’m pretty certain it would look like a carnival gone amuck.

I started getting panicky, and knew I needed a plan. I thought of buying a recorder for the car, extra notebooks to place by the bed, and one of those waterproof shower pads to write on. But none of them interested me. They seemed more of a hassle than they were worth, and not really a part of that simple lifestyle I desired.

One day I was driving in my car, and sentences filled my head. I wanted those words to remain, I wanted to use them one day in a future story. And then it hit me. Yes, I had an epiphany.

I came up with this brilliant plan for all those random thoughts. And let me tell you, it’s been a life-changer.

Do you want to hear it? Do you want to change your life forever? Listen close. This is my secret when I can’t write my ideas down.

I let them go. I do nothing.

You read that right. Absolutely Nothing. Do you know why? I’ll tell you, but just to warn you, you may not like it. Because, and this is big, it Just Doesn’t Matter.

It’s true. It doesn’t. Because the fact is, we can never run out of ideas. Our brains are a constant source of energy, always creating, forever thinking. Whether we are receptive to listen or not, that part is up to us. But we can never stop creating. I truly believe that. No matter what our gift is – writing, selling, painting, or one of a million other things – our creative resources can never be depleted.

Sure, some ideas enter at the most inopportune times (I think it’s some weird law that says they must), but still, they come. They always do.

And when they do, let them. Let them sit and stew and make a fuss. But don’t let them consume you. If you are meant to have them, they will stay. If not, another will arrive another day, and chances are, it will be even better.

We can’t hang on to everything, whether physical ‘stuff,’ or mental thoughts, we need to release. When we do, the most amazing thing happens. It happened to me.

I am calmer now, and more importantly, I am in the moment. When I write, I think about what I am writing. While I drive, I see the cars around me. And when I shower (and this is the best), I enjoy the hot water that rushes over my face.

It’s not to say that thoughts don’t still flit through my head at the worst times ever. I am human, after all. But I am learning to let go.

I dare you to try this plan, to be where you when you are there. I dare you to let ideas flit away, just like the tiny creative butterflies they are. I guarantee they will come back. And if not, there will be more to take their place.

Live the simple life.

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Lessons from a Two-Year-Old

I’ve been watching little children lately, and got to wondering . . .

Don’t you sometimes wish you were a two-year old? You could scream whenever you want, giggle at anything, and make faces and no one would look at you funny?

Okay, I don’t really want to be a two-year-old (though there are times I have wanted to stand in the middle of a store and scream), but sometimes I’m jealous at how much more together they seem than me, and how they relish in the simple act of living.

These are some lessons I learned from a two-year-old:

Giggle. Two-year-old’s giggle when they are happy. They giggle at simple things. Loud, continuous, contagious giggles. Giggles keep us young and make us happier. When was the last time you laughed like that? Find a funny show, or a two-year-old, and giggle till it hurts.

Scream. They scream when they are sad. Okay, the screaming part might not make you any friends. But you can go in the quiet of your home and scream (into a pillow). The thing here is that their emotions are real. They hide nothing. Hidden emotions cause stress. And stress causes, well, all kinds of disease. If you can’t scream, find a way to release your frustration – like running, or punching a bag.

Eat. They eat when they are hungry . . .no less, no more. And they know when to stop.

Have One Thing. They cling to one simple object. Or two or three. A blanket, a doll, a big old stuffed bear. Give them one thing, and they are content. As adults, we surround ourselves with hundreds of objects, many of which we don’t even like. And why? So we can say we have them, so we can place them on shelves and show off how much money we spent, or where we like to shop? Maybe we should be like the two-year-old who picks his favorites, and keeps only what he loves.

Easy Entertainment.
They are easily entertained. A box, a crayon and paper, a little toy car. They have fun with what they own and aren’t always looking to get something new.

Go Outside. They love the outdoors. Nature mesmerizes them. They explore. Their world is new every day.

Create. They are creative. They see new ways of doing things. (Not always good – like sandwiches shoved into a DVD player, but they are creative.)

Exercise. No one forces them to exercise. It’s just what they do. And it’s all so simple. Run. Jump. Play.

Do What You Want. They know what they want and when they want it. No guessing games. If they want to sleep, they do. If they want to play, they will. They aren’t wishy-washy.

Just Say No. They are never afraid to say ‘no.’ I know, we usually wish most children didn’t say ‘no’ so often. But I wish I had learned that word as a young adult. ‘No’ can save us from being over-worked and over-extended.

Nap. They take a nap. Naps have been shown to help us live longer and be more productive.

Simple Foods. They like simple meals, sandwiches, fruit, or mac-and-cheese. They don’t the need the fancy stuff.

I don’t really want to be a two-year-old again, but I do wonder, what happens when we turn into adults? How do we lose the simplicity of childhood? How do we throw away simple pleasures for such a complicated life?

Just something to think about . . .

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Simple Hygge

Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), a Danish word meaning comfort and coziness, warmth and connection. (Though it is said there really is no good English translation.)

Hygge was one of the most popular words of 2016. But I’d like to think it wasn’t the word, but the interpretation, that people fell in love with.

Pictures across the internet portray hygge scenes: friends gathered by a fire; a woman quietly sipping tea; someone reading a book with nothing but nature to distract. Hygge is, in my words, tranquility. Peace. Serenity. I love hygge, and I’m trying to practice it daily.

My morning begins with a session of hygge-ness.(Is that even a word?) Sipping tea. Reading a book. Glancing out the window, seeing nothing but the trees in the distance, and the elderly man who walks his dog in the early morning hours.

Hygge is found in the middle of my day, though sometimes it slips between the pages of my calendar. But usually, I can pull it out, find time to just breathe and whisper a few words of prayer, or maybe jot notes in my journal. Hygge keeps my day relaxing, even in a sometimes hectic world.

My day ends with hygge, quiet reading in bed, sipping more tea as my husband and I cuddle on the sofa. I take a few breaths as I lull into slumber.

But my favorite hygge practice is on the weekend, when all cares are cast aside, all chores forgotten. The dark morning calls my name. As I slip out of the bedroom, careful not to wake my husband, the cool crisp air touches my skin. I hear nothing. It is silence. The world is still asleep.

I pull out my mug, listen to the teapot whistle my name, and crack open a book. Nothing but me, darkness, and hygge.

It is then I know, I have hit upon something great.

The concept of hygge is changing my life. It is changing me.

Hygge may not have a perfect English definition, but the concept is about as perfect as it can get.

What can you do to have a little hygge in your day?

Need a little inspiration? Check out these pictures of hygge.

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A Simple Lesson from “Frasier”

It’s amazing how true to life a sitcom can sometimes feel. I was thinking this the other night as I was watching “Frasier,” the show about a loveable, quirky, albeit haughty, psychiatrist who lives in a Seattle loft with his father, Martin.

In the episode “They’re Playing Our Song” (season 7, episode 13), Frasier is asked to compose a theme song for his radio show. Instead of a short simple ditty, Frasier brings in the big guns, everything from a choir to a full orchestra, along with some unusual instruments.

When the song doesn’t quite fall into place, we find Frasier later sitting in his loft with Martin, wondering what to do.

Scene:

Martin: “And the tune should be something simple . . .”

Frasier: “Truth is, Dad, I’m not sure I can do simple.”

Martin: “I don’t know if you can or if you just don’t want to. But you know, some of the best things in the world are simple. Just like that art gallery you brought me to, you were ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over a painting of a big red dot.”

Such a simple scene, and so much power inside those words.

It seems we often make things harder than need be. I know I do. Like this last Christmas. I over-planned our holiday meal, cooking two main courses, tons of side dishes, and serving two desserts alongside cartons of ice cream and many toppings.

Ironically, the ice cream was the biggest hit. Looking back, that meal could have been a lot simpler than it was. All anybody really wanted was just to be together.

I think life is often like that. We over-plan our schedules, throw ourselves from one activity to the next. We put our children in three different sports, sign them up for everything under the sun. But all we ever want, all our children ever want, is just to do something simple.

It’s often the simple things we love the best. The simple activity. The simple dessert.

Next year, I will know better. I will make less food, and make it easier. And maybe I will forego the three desserts and just serve ice cream.

What can you do to simplify your life?

(Oh, and in case you are wondering, Frasier did finally come up with a short, simple ditty for his show.)

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