SITTING WAITING WISHING

It has come to my recent attention that I, like several others I know (yes, that’s you I’m talking to) am putting the “pro” in procrastination.  Seriously. When life gets overwhelming, sometimes a little impromptu game of hide and seek occurs. The problem being, of course, everyone is hiding and no one is seeking. . .  Oops.

I’m not saying I don’t get things done. I do. I am a Task.Master. I do more in one day that most people do in a week (she said ever so humbly). But, I also, um, seem to have the attention span of a five year old during center time when it comes time to sit and work for more than an hour.

This is hardly a problem unique to me; there’s a reason that a Google search for “procrastination” brings up “About 3,930,000 results.”  As a matter of fact, I think we ought to make our nationwide motto:

America: avoiding dealing with our own shit since 1776.”

Stop laughing. Seriously. At least try. You laugh because you know it’s true. This is learned behavior, to be sure, and learned in response to the desire to manage our emotions. When faced with a task, our brains immediately react in certain predictable ways, triggering a fight or flight response pattern, a growth or a fixed mindset, a pessimistic or optimistic point of view, and a work ethic we have trained ourselves to hold.  In sum, there are certain patterns of thought and action that either help, or hinder a person in their attempt to get ‘er done.

To clarify, let me provide an illustration, organized in a compare and contrast method to best enlighten you.  Let me present:

The Pedagogy of Procrastination: How to make difficult things take longer and get more complicated.

1. Identify the task, project or assignment. Write it down on your to-do list. It is now

o-f-f-i-c-i-a-l.

2. Stare at said herculean task. Turn it into a metaphorical monster by thinking immediately of the end result. Focus only on the outcome, that MUST be achieved, right away. Because.

3. Be sure to set a shit ton of expectations for yourself surrounding said outcome.

4. Panic a little. Slump shoulders. Complain a bit. Sigh several times, loudly. Announce to the world that those were really “deep cleansing breaths,” just to make yourself feel better.

5. Get up and do something else. The dishes look dirty. Pretty sure the laundry needs to be swapped out. And those baseboards? I mean, have they ever even BEEN cleaned? Now is a good time for that. For sure.

6.  Come back to the list. Reorder it. Do something else that looks more fun and cross it off, in permanent ink. Look at you, getting things done. #superstar

7. Give self a pep talk. Remind your reluctant brain of the super high stakes (that you set) and why it is super critical to do it. NOW.

8. Sit down, resolved to get to work. Open up five other tabs on your computer screen. Music, work e-mail, personal e-mail, other, other e-mail, social media, you know, important stuff. Respond immediately to all pings, dings, and beeps from said apps.

9. Remember that you: a) were supposed to be somewhere else right now, b) pick something up for a friend, c) are missing some material for the task, d) haven’t worked out yet.  Get up and go do that instead.

10. At 9pm walk into to the shitstorm you have created for yourself. Pull an all-nighter to get task done. Spend the entire next day completely exhausted and unproductive. Unless sleepwalking is a skill, then you get an A+.

Sound familiar? Yeah. Thought so. Let’s work through that, a different way. In other words:

Let’s do this, bitches.

HOW TO BREAK UP WITH PROCRASTINATION: ONE STEP AT A TIME:

1. Make the list, if you’d like, but limit it to what you can realistically accomplish today. No more than five items (second reference to this method) as the key here is to prioritize.

2. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  Focus on the first task. Not the fifth. Not the end result, the FIRST task. If it requires multiple steps, do not, I repeat, do NOT, get hung up on the enormity of the end product. That immediately raises our affective filter and we respond in a number of negative ways, including anxiety, avoidance and sometimes, a total meltdown. Instead, turn it into a performance goal in lieu of an outcome goal. What can you do, right now, to make progress? Do that. Save your energy for the next steps when it’s time to do them.   Sidenote- I hold to this philosophy (one step at a time) so strongly I got it tattooed on my foot written like a heartbeat; it’s my lifeline, literally.

3. Speaking of tasks… When choosing the first task, it can be very helpful to choose one that is easy to complete first. This gives you a sense of accomplishment, gets you moving in the right direction and puts your brain in happy place. Happy=productive=work=success. Bing, bang, boom, done.

4.  Work with your natural rhythm, stop fighting with yourself.  If you are a morning person, do important tasks then. Night owl? Do your work in the twilight hours, if you can. Know yourself and when you will work best and use your less productive times to do things that don’t require significant effort.

5. Set a time limit. Seriously. Ten minutes even. Think this isn’t enough time to get stuff done? Really? How much can you get done in a microwave minute? How about a treadmill minute? Yeah. Thought so. If you give yourself an end point, then devote 100% of your time and energy for that duration the quality and quantity of your work will improve, significantly. The same rule that applies to “how many miles left,” “how many more sit-ups do I get to do” also holds true to e-mails, phone calls and projects. Set a reasonable amount of time to get work done, then do it. Our brains are comforted by quantities; when we know how long or how much of something we get to endure we can better prepare ourselves to endure it.

6. Speaking of minutes and natural times of productivity- try this method for small tasks when you have a bunch of “little” things to do – if you can do it in two minutes, do it now. If it takes longer than two minutes, put it on the list for later. This adds up fast- really fast- you’ll be amazed at how many little tasks you can get done in an hour with this approach. Just remember- this is for times of low productivity. This is NOT meant to be used to avoid the big stuff. Nice try though.

7. Take frequent breaks to move after you finish a task or your timer hollers at you.  Take a ten minute walk. Do 20 push-ups, use a foam roller or a mobility ball to break up lactic acid in your arms and legs. Do not simply choose another time-sucker such as Words With Friends. Nope. Get your ass up and get moving. The blood flow will go to your brain and increase your mental productivity, energy, and mood. Don’t believe me? Dare you to try it.

8. Go incognito when you work. No phone. No e-mail, no apps open. Ignore the beeps. You can even set your browser to incognito mode to help yourself. This means, gasp, you will only have one tab open at a time. I know it looks weird to only see one label up there, get over it.

9.  Stop eating like shit. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. You are what you eat. Sugar makes you crash, hard. Ditto on empty carbs.  Eat a balanced meal that won’t upset your stomach or make you fall asleep on your keyboard. Drink lots and lots of water and minimize your caffeine intake. Really. Quick “energy boosting” nonsense labeled as “food” gives a short burst of artificial energy that dissipates quickly. Even worse, it flushes your natural endorphins out and then actually cycles your body into a craving mode leaving you tired and wanting more and more each time. Basically, it works just like a drug. Not kidding. The easiest way to avoid this problem is by not consuming it in the first place. One cup of coffee- healthy. Five? notsomuch. Remember- a fueled body is a productive body. A tired body gives up quickly and has an attention span rivaling a small furry rodent. Be a turtle, not a squirrel.

10. Hold yourself accountable to the realistic commitments you have set. Be your own boss, even if you’re not really. Work like you’d expect an employee to work. Would you pay yourself to browse the Twitter feed? I think not, unless you are in content marketing, like uh, me. Work with integrity, and let that be your guide. Walk your talk, do the right thing, even when no one is looking, because the truth is, someone probably is. Be who you want to be, all day, every day. #youcandoitputyourbackintoit

Well alrighty then. I can cross that off my list. Ahem. Sitting up straight now. About to take a break. Phew.

I’ll swear I’ll stop procrastinating. Just you wait and see.

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BURN

Today I told my class I would see them next week, on Monday. You know, as in five days from now. There was silence, confused looks, a question about whether or not there was class on Wednesday this week. To which I replied, oblivious, “you mean like today?”

Ummmmmmm. Nooooooo. Nope. Just no. Today is not Wednesday, today is Monday. Next Monday is not five days from now, it’s seven. As in a week. Awesome. High five self.  So glad I made that announcement while I was getting observed too, I mean, do I have my act together or WHAT? #sosmart.

So um, I maybe, again, am flying in too many different directions at once and not getting enough sleep. It’s possible. A little bird told me so. And by little bird, I mean the voices, in my head, that I may or may not be verbally responding to… Don’t judge. It’s been a rough few weeks.

Eesh. That sounded like an excuse.

And it is.

The truth is, I signed myself up for this. I make my own schedule, I choose what work to accept and which to decline and I make conscious decisions about the quantity, quality and content of the fun in which I choose to engage. I don’t have to exercise 2-3 hours a day, I choose to. I don’t have to spend my evenings and weekends having fun with my kids and my friends, I choose to. It’s worth it. Usually. Until it’s not.

Until, I hit burnout mode. Until apparently, I can’t remember what day it is. Then, ahem (insert image of old lady shaking finger at me, hand on hip), it’s time to shut down, get some sleep and recharge.

Uh oh. I feel the excuses coming on. But I want to go out to dinner with my friends. But I really should call my clients back. But I love working out. But I didn’t sweat enough today. But I really like going there. But I really have a lot of work to do. But I ought to finish this before I start that. But my favorite dress isn’t clean. But I don’t like that outfit. But I want to go there. But I want to check out that new restaurant, park, venue, etc…

Girl. Knock that shit off. Excuses are like assholes, everybody has one. Quit whining, chuck it in the fuck-it bucket and move on.

Seriously. What’s going to happen if I go to bed at 9pm instead of midnight? Will the world stop turning? If I don’t make that phone call tonight, will my phone not work tomorrow? If I say “no” to one fun event, does that mean I’ll never get another chance to do it?

Hell no it doesn’t.

I believe life is short. I believe that you should carpe the fucking diem out of every day. I also believe if you are too tired to enjoy it all,  you won’t.

So, from one overachiever, go-getter, superhero-in-training to another, here are some suggestions for recovery:

1. Be Mindful

It is difficult to enjoy your dinner if you’re already thinking about dessert. It’s hard to have a good time at the party if you’re concerned with who is going to clean up afterwards. Appreciating today is a challenge if you are hanging on to yesterday and planning always for tomorrow. Be aware of the forest, but see the tree right in front of you, and like it, dammit. Thank it for its presence. Be grateful it is there for you, providing and shit. Namaste, tree, namaste.

2. Meditate

Yep. Do it. DO IT. It takes two minutes. Seriously. Two. Don’t even try to tell me you don’t have two minutes to sit your ass down on the floor, close your eyes and just chill. No, there isn’t a right or wrong way. There just is simply meditation. The end.  Want help? Google it.

3. Write a list, then let it go

It can be hard to turn your mind off if you are worried about things to do. Make a list of all the things with which you are concerned, then set it aside. It will still be there tomorrow, I promise. In fact, I’d recommend you try this list method to save your sanity-

4. Shut down

Turn.off.the.screen. Like all of them. Remember books? Those funny rectangular things filled with paper and words? Those are books.  Real ones. They are made from trees. Check one out, literally.

5. Sleep like a baby

No wait. Babies wake up all the damn time. Sleep like a man. YES. That. Crash out, hard, despite your surroundings. If you’re a parent, pretend these are PK days, when you knew how to sleep with both eyes closed and without the ability to hear a pin drop, four rooms down, with the doors closed. Help yourself by blocking out all noise and light, making your bed super cozy and getting in it early, so you can enjoy it. Shoot for 8 hours, more if you can. Sleeping in is difficult if your body is hardwired to be awake at the same time every day. Instead, go to bed earlier. I swear this works. I read it somewhere sometime. It is, therefore, a FACT.

6. Fuel Up

Take care of your body. Stay hydrated, eat balanced healthy food, monitor your caffeine intake and watch your supplements. You are literally fueling your brain and determining how efficiently your body will work with what you stick in your mouth. Choose well.

7. Just say “no”

To drugs too. Ha! But also, set some limits. Be reasonable with your commitments so that you can maintain your impeccable word, integrity, and reputation as someone who follows through in life. Overbooking never ends well. Just ask a Southwest passenger.

8. Outsource

Yes, I mean delegate; hire out if that works better. Let someone else be in charge for the day. Will it be like you do it? Probably not. Does that matter? Yeah. . . no. If it gets done, it’s done. Who cares how they do it, so long as wasn’t you and it’s completed. Honey, let some responsibility GO.

9.  Pick your Poison (and your battles)

What are your real priorities? Really? What matters to you? Where is your time and energy going to meet those priorities? How might you readjust your life to better serve them and increase your satisfaction in those areas? Yikes, this is real talk. I feel an ostrich moment coming on. RUUUUUUNNNNNNNNN.

10. Be still

This is kind of like meditating and kind of like mindfulness. It is also known as simply breathing. Speaking of, do that. Breathe. In through the nose, hold it, exhale slowly out through the nose. Repeat up to ten times. This simple exercise creates an amazing boost in energy, mental clarity and a calm state of mind. It also prevents you from making more stupid decisions. Before you react to anything, take five deep breaths. Get your game tight. Then decide what to do.

I’m off to do step one, myself. Planning to work through the rest of it before returning to item three. At which time, I might possibly be working on um, an article about procrastinating. Like the one getting published tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. . .

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CLOSING TIME

I made a tough trip last week; a nine hour round trip drive to say goodbye to someone truly wonderful whom I love dearly. Someone who had a tremendous impact on my life and the way in which I interact with others. Someone who taught me grace, and humility, and above all, love.

My Grandma June, whose spirit, acceptance, and kindness I felt from the very minute we met, is gone.

That was a moment I’ll never forget, the day I met her.

It was late spring in 1986, and I was getting to know the family of my Dad-to-be.  I was pretty stoked to meet this lady, even in my youthful innocence, because my Dad is a pretty awesome guy. Like, if I could go to the Dad Store and pick out a Pop, I’d pick him, hands-down, every time. So, in my five year old head I figured she must be pretty amazing too, you know? Seemed logical to me. Still does, actually.

In any case, I remember being there, in her house up on the hilltop, its grand windows framing the commanding beauty of the green valley below and the blue mountains beyond.  I was crouched behind the boxy tweed couch, playing in a giant toy box full of treasures she kept there to entertain all six of her (current) grandchildren, already feeling myself at home as I tinkered.

I can recall clearly my dad entering the room, his long strides carrying him across the floor before he knelt down beside me. I remember our introduction, and I can envision my big smile as I looked up to see her, my joy at the occasion obvious. Those things I can see. But, almost thirty years later, I can still feel, in my heart of hearts, the giant hug she gave me; her warmth still lingers.  And my ears? They still ring with her first words to me, “It’s great to meet you, call me Grandma June.”

I’ve never known her as anything else since then.

This was a woman who embraced me, fully and with open arms, from the get go, no questions asked. I was never treated as a step-grandchild or in any way as less of “real” family member. I was just her Granddaughter and she was just my Grandmother.

I delighted in her company. I marveled over her sparkling silverware, her shiny china, her delicate teacups. I listed to her stories of moving to Alaska before it was a state, spending dark and frigid days working in a dry cleaning shop while my Grandfather built his business. I laughed at her tales of international adventure with her best friend Jane. Jane and June, best friends for life. What an inspiration they were, those ladies, independently traveling the world well into their eighties.

I spent summer days and nights traipsing through her house with my cousins, lounging in the depths of the giant orange flowered couch cushions watching “satellite t.v.,” (which, when you grow up on a farm in the middle of nowhere is quite a luxury, let me tell you), and spending hours upon hours learning card tricks on the pea green carpet that cloaked her massive living room floor. I recall nearly every holiday seated around her dining room table enjoying home cooked meals and learning which fork to use, and when. No matter how many people came Grandma always had a seat for everyone, even if it meant she had to wait to eat.

I cannot remember my childhood without her. She was always there, always. Feeding a crowd, taking my cousins and I shopping, dropping my friends and I off at the river for a day of inner tubing, loading a crew of kids in the back of her pickup truck to go into town for ice cream. She was always ready. Always smiling. Always love.

Over the years although I moved away I would visit every few months, and make a point to see her. To visit with her, to hear more stories, to share more smiles, to give more love. She would make me eggs and coffee each morning, despite my protest that I was happy to make my own breakfast. And the toast. Oh, the toast. White “Lumberjack” brand bread buttered just right. There was something so perfect about it; to this day nobody makes toast quite like that, perhaps because all others lack her secret ingredient of love.  Each time I left she would thank me for visiting, but really, I was the lucky one, getting to spend that time with her, what a gift.

At the end of my life, I can only hope to be known in this way by my friends and family. I want to be remembered as she is. As good, and kind, and generous. I want the people in my life to know, with that same steadfast knowledge and security, that I love them, so very much.

I have written about this before, about the legacy I’m leaving for my children. This is yet another reminder, another lesson from the universe to live, and to live well.

What lessons am I offering my progeny? What memories am I creating for them? When they grow older and have children of their own, what stories will they tell of me? What will they say I taught them? What will they say they remember doing with me, for me, and because of me?

What kind of imprint am I making?

I may never know the exact answer, but I know for certain that this powerful premise impacts my day, every day, all day. Who am I to them is the sum of my words, my actions, my habits, attitudes and beliefs. It is the example by which I lead, not that of which I speak, that they will carry forward.

Of Grandma June, I remember only good. Only love. Only happy.

If, when my time on earth is over, I have lived as she lived, with such profound value and admirable action, then I will have done well. The world benefitted from having a woman like June Sweezey in it. My life, and the lives of so many others, are better, because of her.

Life is short my friends. Be amazing. Live joyfully. Live kindly. Give love, receive love, be love. Live today as if it’s the day you’ll be remembered, because it just might be.

Like this post? Post it, tweet it, pin it, google it, trip on it, or otherwise spread the social love people.Really, really, like it? Subscribe to my feed and get posts delivered in your inbox.Can’t get enough? Stalk me: @CFOLikeaMother, Facebook or Pinterest

LEARNING TO FLY (SOLO)

Oh holy day. Oh, holy, holy day.

Let me just say, ahem, I sure do I know how to bring in the Holy day with the Spirit, in uh, all sense of the word.

Confused? Let me rationalize explain.

Easter is a consecration of rebirth,  which is like commemorating life, which is like like. . . offering reverence for our plentiful harvest and abundant food supply, right? And our ability to eat it since we are so healthy, and strong, and shit like that. Yes?  I hope so, because um . . . well . . . if our bodies, rather than requiring regular caloric input, were capable of storing food for extended periods of time to slowly release energy, then after yesterday I would basically not need to eat again until, say, next year.

In sum, yesterday I was grateful for the blessings in my life- my family, my friends, and elastic-waisted clothing.

Speaking of family, there are certain places and things that just scream “KIDS.” You know, playgrounds, theme parks, the backseat of my car. . . They just don’t feel “right” without small humans nearby. For me, at least for the past nine-ish years, holidays are one of those things.

Since having become a mother way back in 2005 when Grey’s Anatomy was in its pilot season and Martha hadn’t yet worn stripes, I’ve had only a few holidays without my children, (yesterday being one of them).  And, as you may expect, spending festivities without those minions is quite a different experience. However, by different, I don’t necessarily mean bad. There are several ways to ensure this day turns into a real celebration, and I don’t mean for pity, party of one.

Solo Holidays: How to HANDLE IT like a Boss:

1.  Put on your big girl panties.

Go to grown up parties, events and other places that children are not invited, or, even better, not allowed.  Remember – you used to do this. You did. I swear. Maybe you’ve forgotten about all those overeating feasts you attended in your PK days.  Think back. Way back. Go all the way to Jennifer Aniston hair if it helps jog your memory, (not that I’m um, speaking from experience). Right? Got it? Friends without children. A sense of humor. The ability to eat warm meals, firsthand. You have those. Go use them.

2. Love Actually.

Make sure that love is all around you; surround yourself with the people you love (and um, who love you back, we are not talking about stalker behavior here). Do not, I repeat- DO NOT spend this day alone. If you do, most likely one or more of the following will happen:  a) on a scale of “apathetic” to “miserable” you will be near death, b) you will cry, and probably on floor in the bathroom, closet or hallway, and not in a proper place, like your bed or the couch, that would be too sensible and predictable. c) it will feel like the longest day in the history of time, d) you will call your children forty-five times, e) you will overindulge in food, “beverages,” exercise or whatever your coping mechanism is and probably do something stupid. This is yet another reason why the friend component is critical- stupid things are way more fun when together, and on film. For posterity or something.

3. Pack It Up.

Take a vacation, even if it’s just a day trip. Traveling during the holidays without children is badass. That mom searching desperately for her child’s lost lovey at airport security? That’s not you. The dad carrying a kid piggyback while lifting three carry-on’s in front of him? That’s not you either. Smile at them. Be sympathetic. Offer help if you are so inclined. Then pop in your headphones and fly like an eagle, baby.

 

4. Go Day Drinking.

Just kidding. This can be Day Anything, actually, because you don’t have your kids so . . . while your level of sobriety can decrease, uh, significantly, if you’d like it to, really, today the world is your oyster. Want to go out for a fancy meal? Do it. Go to a non-animated movie? All you. Easter Wine Walk? Yes please. Christmas Eve Pub Crawl? Hellllllooooo Santa Suit.  Get creative, do something you really can’t do without your kids. Cross something off your bucket list.  Make the day special for you.

5. Pre-Party

Celebrate with your kids before, not after. BEFORE. Why? So you can relax silly. If you plan to have the holiday with your small peeps after the “real” day you’ll spend the whole time wrapped up in preparations for when they return rather than enjoying your (brief) reprieve from parental duty. Seriously, does this really need an explanation?

Wishing you all luck in your adventures.

Namaste, Amen, La Heim and Salud, or whatever floats your metaphorical boat.

yolo

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WORK B#TCH

This week is Spring Break. Oh Goody. Yippee Skippee. Or something.

While I may have a week’s reprieve from being Professor Talksalot, I got 99 problems and a lecture ain’t one.

In fact, my Spring Break 2014 could use a new name: current contenders include: “TWD” (Total World Domination) “SHAWD,” (Super Handlin’ All Wheel Drive, and yes, I totally stole that acronym from a friend. Oh, and from Acura, them too),  “Fix-It,” and, in homage to my provincial roots- “Get ‘Er Done.”

This week, on top of the fact that I:  a) have bucketloads of other work to do, b) should probably pull my head out of the sand and file my taxes, c) want to maintain my exercise routine, and d) have a Sixth birthday party to prep for, I also (insert dramatic musical score here), have two small children stuck at home with me on their own respite from the world of tolling bells.

Shit.

Perhaps I should not have smugly thrown away that Spring Break Camp flyer after all. Maybe it’s still in the recycle bin. Is it too late to sign up?

Karma, anyone?

Shockingly, my (rather parochial, in hindsight) master plan to casually work from home each morning in my pajamas while my children happily played nearby and we spent sunny afternoons adventuring was uh, well, incorrect. A little nearsighted, perhaps.

What I thought Spring Break would look like:

IMG_4720

What Spring Break actually looks like:

IMG_4722

Turns out this whole work from home business gets a little, uh, intense, when three is company. I am spending my mornings working in my pajamas; that part I have DOWN. Money. #nailedit. I am also, however, carrying over that lovely attire to the early and late afternoons, right around the time when all hell breaks loose.

Super. Good Times.
Luckily, I have a few things in my favor. 1- It is sunny outside, and warm but not hot. A+ Weather. I love you California.  2- I have the most amazing friends; and 3- I actually have done a practice round or two of this before, it was called “Last Summer,” and “Winter Break.” Apparently I just just had a little round of amnesia, or perhaps got a little overconfident. More breaking news, I know. #recoveringoverachiever

Here are the survival methods strategies I have found helpful in making things run a bit more smoothly.

1. Take short breaks every hour. Communication that is slightly more evolved than caveman speak with your children during these breaks is advisable. Ditto with experiencing poses other than utkatasana, in an actual chair.

2. Rather than play several rounds of “I have nothing to do,” give your children a specific menu of options for play in the morning. They will either engage happily with the educational selections you have so thoughtfully provided, or, even better, find something they actually like to do and find stealthy (read-quiet) and delightful satisfaction in doing the opposite of what you told them to do. Doesn’t matter how this turns out, you win no matter what.

3. Take an hour to exercise together. My favorite options are to either take a family bike ride (preferably to somewhere with outdoor seating, good burgers and large selection of beverages uh, on tap), or the more healthy option- Interval Walking. The kids and I do a three mile loop, with sets of five exercises OTBEB (On The Block Every Block) for at least two of those miles. We take turns picking the exercise (for example, me- push-ups, my son- jumping “jacks,”, my daughter- burpees. Yes, burpees. I know. Sigh) and we do them together, right there on the sidewalk. No, we don’t care that cars and pedestrians (and little old ladies peering out their blinds) can see us. Yes, we are providing examples of fitness for the whole neighborhood. You’re welcome.

4. Just add water.  Either- invest in a slip-and-slide or find a friend with a pool (liberal use of the word “friend” is totally acceptable if none of your actual friends have one.  Bring the lifejackets or a lifeguard (aka- someone who is paying more attention than you are), sit your ass down in the lounge chair and work away, preferably just out of the splash zone unless you’d really like to add a trip to the Geek Squad to your day. Sidenote- if you have a little extra time on your hands, day trip it to the beach, set your phone up as a mobile hotspot and get your beach work vibe crackin’. Just make sure to lube the kids up with sunscreen, pack enough food to feed an army of starving children, and like, look up from your screen once in awhile to enjoy the bliss.

5. Schedule and manage your time well so you can Shut down for a few hours. Seriously. It’s a BREAK for God’s sake. Use this time to recharge and increase your productivity when you are working.  Hit the reset button. Take a power nap, and no, falling asleep at the table does not count. Speaking of tables, go out to eat. Let Happy Hour start on Eastern Standard Time. Schedule playdates, for you and the kids. Get out of your house. Have interactions with real live people.  See your friends, in daylight, during waking hours. Gasp. Hell, if you’re really on it, you can probably arrange a mass working playdate with other parents. Draw straws to see who gets to be on kid duty first. Suckers.

So, for those finding themselves aboard the same boat as me, let  Project “I Can Too Have It All” commence. May the odds be ever in your favor.

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MOTHER OF THE YEAR

#MOMFAILS

10 Ways You Really Know You’re Doing It Right

1.  Walk your kids to school and a half block away realize that your son is wearing his sister’s shirt (backwards), your daughter’s socks don’t match and neither of them have brushed their hair. Step ever so casually into the nearest driveway, use your own ponytail holder to do the hair of Thing One, use the saliva smoothing technique on Thing Two, give the t-shirt a mini makeover and tell your girl to rock those socks like it’s 1999. Also, remind self that perhaps a full body scan of all family members might be in order before leaving the house tomorrow. . . seeing as you, yourself, actually have now walked two blocks in public wearing flip flops, yoga pants and a workout tank that says “Skinny Fit Bitch.” #stayclassysandiego

2. Locate your son’s homework. In the recycle bin. On the street. While wearing your pajamas. 30 seconds before the waste management guy (who totally digs your jams, btw) picks it up. Realize after he leaves that you are now holding last week’s work. This week’s work is actually in the backseat of the car, with the fifteen jackets that are also currently labeled as “lost.”

3.  Sign a permission slip, printing your cell number in the box that says “address” and your signature on the line that says “medical conditions.” Laugh hysterically at this freudian slip. Turn it in (late) and have it returned to you, crumpled at the bottom of a backpack, with this section highlighted in silent passive aggressive mockery: “Please include the [ridiculously overpriced] fee of $25 for the [super low budget] play with permission slip.” Oops.

4. Pack everyone a healthy lunch the night before. The next day, open your superman lunchbox at noon- WAIT- SUPERMAN lunchbox? Shitballs. Cross your fingers that your son is really enjoying the broccoli slaw and tuna with a side of celery and sliced apples that are (hopefully??) in his possession. Realize he is your kid and is most likely chowing down on the byproducts and preservatives gilding the styrofoam trays in the school cafeteria while your nutritionally balanced meal ferments in the depths of his backpack. Consider driving to school to swap out meals, then stare at peanut butter sandwich housed by superman and his rippled abs. Decide if said hero can eat it, you can too. Enjoy every.last.piece of that bread.

5. Make gluten and dairy free high protein waffles from scratch. Process includes grinding your own nut and coconut flours and making “syrup” from a berry reduction. Take one bite and realize no one under the age of 30 would eat this shit. Serve each kid one waffle with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream on top drizzled with chocolate sauce and covered with walnuts (for more protein, obviously). Be remembered as the Coolest Mom Ever for the history of time. Also be regularly reminded of “that one time you gave us waffles with ice cream on top?” and begged “could you please do that again?”

6. Finish (current) laundry assignments. High five yourself. Struggle to put on yoga pants that appear to have shrunken in the wash. Sigh. Resolve to eat less bread today. Observe your eight year old strutting around the house in lulu’s. Wonder to self when the hell someone bought that kid $80 exercise pants. Have a sip of coffee. Come to senses and figure out what’s actually going down here.  Peel Remove daughters leggings from your large behind.  In total relief, reward self for discovery with a bagel. And cream cheese.

7.  Get up extra early, have everyone ready on time, dressed, teeth clean, hair brushed, clothes matching. Do a happy dance. Take kids to school, remarking how empty the parking lot appears to be. Wonder why the doors are locked. Look at calendar, realize it’s Saturday. High five both kids and do a little warm and cool feedback session on the successful “practice run” for Monday. Take beautifully groomed family to the nearest restaurant in walking distance serving bottomless mimosas and giant pancakes. Enjoy the benefit of a vast array of open seating options available at 8:30am on a Saturday in Midtown.  Take an ultimate selfie with the wait staff to document this one time you were all well dressed and behaving in public. Frame that shit.

8. Take kids to the great outdoors for an overnight. Pack half the house in the car. Successfully set up camp by yourself, including giant air mattress that you are all, ever so cozily, going to share. Go to bed, gazing up at the stars shining through the opening at the top of the tent. Forget names and stories of all constellations (except the Big Dipper) and offer nomenclature inspired by Disney characters instead. Try to go to sleep. Realize all of the following actions make the mattress (and thereby all three of you) move: a) tossing, b) turning, or c) BREATHING. Recall that your Swiss Army Knife of a car is never sans yoga mats. Grab them and set up both (whining) kids to either side of you. Sigh with relief and enjoy the wide open space that is your exclusive queen pillow of air. Wake up to a sore back from the matress that went flat due to your apparent lack of ability to tighten the plug, and also to rain, falling through the opening of the tent, that is NOT covered with a rain fly. . .

9.  Take kids to an indoor trampoline center on a rainy day to get their wiggles out. Decide this will be a great way for you to exercise too. Pay $50 to bounce for one hour. Jump with kids for three minutes. Use the bathroom. Jump for another minute. Use the bathroom again. Make it for thirty seconds, then realize that yes, your bladder is THAT pathetic and drag eye rolling children back to the ladies room, otra vez.   Lock eyes with another mother in the same (dire) situation. Become BFF’s. Tag team jumping and potty duty for the remaining 45 minutes of the slow and fiery death of your quads. Remind yourself to wear opaque black pants next time.

10. Sign kids up for youth sports. Spend most of your paycheck on registration and gear. Wait four months for the season to start. Exchange half of gear because it no longer fits. Attend first practice. Watch child pick daisies and trip over own feet. Shuttle children across town to next practice, listening to child Two complaining that child One “has a snack and he doesn’t.”  Sit with child One while child Two practices. Hear fifteen times that the uniforms are red, just like like blood on her knee from falling down during practice. Watch child Two run away from coach and hit other children. Sheepishly schlep home. Go online and request a refund for both sports, oxy clean the shit out of the gear, return it, and use the money to sign both kids up for swim lessons where their success is more dependent on the laws of physics and less influenced by safety hazards like grass. And flowers. And moving objects.

Cheers to adventures in parenting!

momfail1

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#FAIL

Ever feel like you are doing everything the opposite of how it should be done? Gotten the contrary result of that which you sought? Like you’re getting more things wrong than right?

Congratulations, you’re doing life right.

We learn from failure, we grow from mistakes, we gleen truth from experiencing its absence. Learning how to fail is actually critical to our social and moral development as well as our overall mental health. Developing resiliency requires a (at least somewhat) challenging life; in essence, we should seek not to lead a life free of obstacles, but instead one that includes the tools to get over them.

With that in mind, I’d like to share my biggest “failures” to date. Some of which have turned out to be my biggest successes, others for which the universe is still providing lessons, or some shit like that (it’s all about reframing, remember?).

#NAILED IT: THE LIST

1. Motherhood.

Seriously. I fail at this all day every day. But you know, the kids are still alive and stuff so. . . I also succeed, somehow, and despite the odds. Then I read stuff from other moms (see list, below) and remember that a) I’m normal(ish) after all, b) we’re all fucking this up together and c) kids don’t need perfect, they just need love. PHEW. It’s going to be okay, my hairstylist therapist said so.

Reading To Make Yourself Feel Better:

2. Doing things in moderation.

Okay, well, by things I actually mostly mean exercise, I’m pretty good at balancing the rest of my shit (except for um, finances). And by moderation I mean normal people kinds of working out habits. You know, like only once a day. Or, gasp, even maybe only a few times a week. It’s just not in my blood. Why run a 5k when you could do a 200 mile relay? Rest day? What the hell is that?

3. Dancing.

See above. This task is also not in my blood. Then see below. Don’t give a shit. Gonna do it anyway.

4. Following the crowd down the beaten path.

I love examples, I use inspiration and I seek to model my behavior after those for whom I hold reverance. However, I’m going to do this in my way, on my terms and with conscious effort and decisions for my actions and reactions. The only “right” way is the way that works in my life.

5. Being in charge of whiners. I mean, um, being a School Administrator.

Really. There are some things I am really skilled at. This (at least at present) is not one of them. This is also a good thing, because that working lifestyle sucks every living breath out of you. Thanks, but no thanks.

6. Saying “No.”

I don’t like to say “no,” (unless, apparently, it’s to my children, in which case it’s my most favorite word in the history of time). I like being a “yes” girl. However, as is evidenced by my schedule, this creates some logistical problems in the time-space continuum as there is little availability in my life for things like say, sleep, or, grocery shopping.

7. Doing nothing.

Um, about that. I’m not so great at stationary activity. Or being still. The closest I get is the five minute savasana at the end of a yoga class and even that is a stretch (haha, literally. Get it? A “stretch.”). But really, single tasking is not my strong suit. And am I busy? Uh, that’s the understatement of the year. My google calendar makes the rainbow jealous (see #6, above). I’m not so sure this if is a good thing or not. For now, it just. . .  is.

8. Making a mistake an exclusive event.

Missed my latest shit show? Don’t worry, it’s playing again next week when I deliberately choose to make the exact same erroneous decision(s), but in an entirely new setting; you know, to test the theory out some more. Turns out some things I simply prefer to learn six or seven times, just to make sure I’m really wrong. Because maybe I’m not. . .this time.

9.  Being Martha Stewart.

Damn. Guess I’m gonna have to give up on that quixotic idealism. Oh darn. Wait, nope. Not darn at all. We share initials but not perspectives. I can cook, bake, sew, get my craft on, fix shit and throw shindigs with the best of ‘em, but uh, that’s not my whole life. THANK GOD.  And let’s be honest, my house is just.not.that.clean. Tidy? Yes. Free of dust? Um. Don’t look behind the couch. Okay, or under the beds. Or uh, behind the doors. Just stay in the central areas and no one gets hurt. I swear.

10. Sticking to the plan, the list, or the agenda.

Insert guilty blushing face emoticon here. Or actually, maybe don’t. Maybe put in the high five image instead. I am not the kind of person who does things because you are supposed to, I “said so,” or because someone else told me to to do it. Shocking news, I know. I may be a planner, but I’m also quite distractable flexible (and not just at yoga either). I often start out the day with a good framework of how my day is going to go and then. .  . “SQUIRREL!” Something else happens instead, and I LOVE it.  Again, #6 comes into play here, as well as a hefty dose of rationalization and some solid rearranging of said schedule (what? I like to have my activity documented, or uh, something). But really, I think on a scale of lame to awesome of this whole serendipitious synchronicity practice here, awesome wins, no contest.

So there you have it. Life Lessons 101, again. I give myself an A+ in getting an F. Go me. Now let’s see if I can learn something from these failures today, or um, maybe tomorrow. . .

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SURVIVAL (OF THE FITTEST)

Can I get a “woot woot?”

How ’bout an “A……Men?”

A fist bump?

Yikes. Tough crowd.

Well, in any case, I’m doing a happy dance. A happy, happy, happy dance, because . . . I’m getting that much closer to accomplishing several of my 35×35 list items.  Like about eight(ish), actually, including sincere progress toward my goals to continue empowering people through my writing.

WHOO HOO! Yes, I did just give myself a high five. It just felt right. Whatever. Stop laughing. Keep reading.

Okay, so. . .

Jill Smokler, the author of a few amazeballs books on motherhood and the owner extrordanairre of one of my most FAVORITE FAVORITE FAVORITE blogs as well, Scary Mommy, has just published my article on surving Single Parenthood on her site. It is the second article of mine she’s graciously posted and I couldn’t be more honored (or delighted) to join the amazing collection of articles and support found there. Seriously, the writers on this site are pretty badass broads (and gents; there are a few big papas bouncing around the pages also). Their honest and hilarious advice has gotten me through some dark days and inspired me to keep uh, inspiring others. It’s reciprocity, or some shit like that.

In any case, I couldn’t be more excited. Or honored. I’m exitored. No, honited. Okay, maybe that’s just not going to work. Um, I’m thrilled, delighted, and otherwise estatic about this moment.

Universe, you rock my world.

Oh, in case you like, want to read it or something, click here.

Sidenote- for full disclosure- I maybe, kind of, sort of don’t, at present, have every item on this list. Like, I really could benefit from some work on number 10. Sheesh. #epicfail. But hey, a girl can hope. 
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POMPEII

Okay, so as follow up to yesterday’s post; here is Part B of the whole happiness reconstruction project I’ve got going down.

DIY Happy Pills: How to Reframe Your Way Into Being An Optimist

Using the list referenced in “Carry On,” to work through this let’s use the following (totally hypothetical . . ) scenarios:

Scenario A:
It’s raining. It has been all day. Actually, it has been all week.  Sacramento Winter has finally showed up, without an rsvp and three months late. The kids are beginning to resemble caged zoo animals, particularly those of the primate species.   I haven’t exercised all day either. Both of these are impacting the two (and ONLY two) essential family rules in my house- #1- Have fun. #2- Do what Mom says (lack of adherence to rule #2 results in the breaking of rule #1, which means, um, no one is happy). More on those rules later. For now, let’s focus on the massive quantities of energy contained in one small room while the skies empty around us.
Scenario B
I have 60 midterms to grade, 3 lectures to write, 2 writing assignments to submit, an appointment to schedule, a permission slip to dig out of the recycling bin, lunches to pack, dishes to do, a phone call to make and a registration to complete and pay (with the late fees) for. Oh, all this, by the way, would best benefit from being to be done in the next two(ish) hours. Also note that the trash has now passed the “I can MAKE it FIT” level, the ratio of clean tile to toothpaste smeared/soap scum covered tile is rapidly increasing (and not in favor of the former), the laundry has been sitting, clean and wet, in the washing machine since 8am and the one basket of clean and dry clothes just got dumped out on the (dirty) floor so the kids could make a fort. Welcome to my dream life.
Scenario C
I just met some new people. It is very clear that at least one of them does not like me. Like at all. I regularly see these people, however, and despite my efforts to continue being pleasant to said naysayer, the situation has not changed.
Scenario D
I am tasked with managing a big project for an organization. A big one. One that is critical to the success of the organization and any future positive change. I spend two months preparing for the first phase; hours of my life invested in researching approaches, planning events, writing reports, attending training, generating feedback and evaluating data. The day after phase one begins and people are suddenly faced with a decision to get on the boat or keep swimming up the river of De’Nile, every employee complains, my boss pulls my funding, completely takes away my authority and undermines every action I take from that point.

So, those four (super peachy keen) examples, all sound like a total shitstorm, no? Little bit. Maybe. Possibly. But also, not.

How did I (hypothetically, remember. . .) resolve this? What did I do to reframe the situation? Well, here, juxtaposed nicely in grid form (just the way I like it) are the two ways I could have responded; I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which one I chose.

**Warning, for full disclosure, propriety (and/or discretion) was not used for the purpose of illustrating the Pessimistic View. There is considerable use of profainty in this post. Proceed only with a sense of humor.**

Scenario

Pessimistic View

Optimistic View

A

Why does it have to be raining on a Saturday when the kids are home? Why couldn’t it have been on a Monday, when they are at school all day? I’m going to lose my damn mind. They are acting like such assholes, what they hell is their problem anyway? Calm the fuck down already and just sit there and WATCH TV AND DON’T MOVE. Or talk. Don’t talk either. Where is my drink?

I’m so glad we are finally getting rain; we really need it. There is no thunder or lightening so let’s put on our rain gear and go splash in some puddles while we go for a family rain walk.  Goal is to: splash as much as possible, soak clothes through, laugh a lot, follow up with hot chocolate and warm baths.

B

I CANNOT do this by myself anymore. This is total and complete bullshit. Single parenting is a cruel joke. Thanks Universe. Way to hit me when I’m down. Screw it. There is no way I can get this all done tonight. No fucking way. I’m going to be up until 1am and then tomorrow I’m going to be tired and cranky and it’s going to suck balls.

Okay. So, this is a lot all at once. In the future I could plan my time differently so this doesn’t happen again. So. . . what are my top priorities? What can I delegate? What is most critical and pressing? What can I combine? And oh wait, hey, the kids are old enough to do chores now, this will instill a sense of responsibility for them both, and save me some time. BOOM. win-win. Kids are on laundry and lunch duty, bathroom sink cleaning and possibly trash taking out. Possibly. Now before I start handling this list like a boss, I’m going to take five deep breaths and send some gratitude out to the universe for giving me a) such great kids, b) the amazing opportunity to be the main force shaping their lives, c) work that I love, and plenty of it, and d) the ability to live in a beautiful home, in a first world country, where I have “problems” like “needing” to take the trash out, instead of searching for my next meal. Perspective is everything. Today I am grateful.

C

He is such an asshole. Everyone likes me. Why doesn’t he like me? Seriously. What the hell is his problem? Maybe I should try harder. I can MAKE him like me. I’m totally going to ask all my friends what they think about it. And then complain. And then get all hung up on it. That is totally going to solve the problem, because, this is clearly a legitimate problem.

I am who I am. I don’t change so that others can like me. I have more than enough friends and I am totally cool with him not being one of them. Nothing others do is because of me; it’s not personal. Like me or not, I am still going to be kind and polite.  The best person I can be is the authentic version of myself. Always. I like me, and that matters most.

D

You have got to be fucking kidding me. I am locking myself in my office, closing the blinds, crawling under my desk and throwing myself a pity party. This will be followed by a full out rant that if YouTube’d, would be labeled as #NSFW. What the hell is the matter with these people? Don’t they GET it? Don’t they KNOW how hard I’ve worked? Why don’t they understand that I’M DOING WHAT’S BEST FOR THEM? I hate this fucking job. And what the hell kind of leader does that? Doesn’t pay one ounce of fucking attention to the task SHE GAVE ME while I’m developing it, then once I implement it rather than gathering facts or asking questions just hits the fucking breaks. Nice. Awesome. So supportive. Best boss ever. NOT. I fucking quit. Fuck this shit. I’m out. Idiots.

People don’t like change. Change is uncomfortable, especially in this environment. Maybe I went too fast; they clearly aren’t ready yet. I learned a great deal from this experience. For example, I will clarify the roles and responsibilities ahead of time next time, make sure I have the support behind me that will ensure my success, and generate more buy-in in advance. Also, most importantly, I will not invest my time and energy in projects beyond my workday. I will work when I’m here. I will not work when I’m not here. It’s just work. It’s not my life.  I really am grateful for the chance to have personally grown so much and learned a tremendous amount about the subject, the organization and myself as a professional. What an amazing opportunity this has been. I am honestly grateful for the experience.

I could go on, give some more examples, but I’d rather hear yours. Share how you’ve either re-framed, or ask the community for assistance to do so. And. . .  now I sound like an ad “Have a problem, just call 1-800-FIX-IT, call now, prices increase next week.” Yikes. Time to stop.

Peace out peeps, happy Hump Day.

photo (18)

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(It’s My) BATTLEFIELD

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this whole reframing deal, and how critical it is to our level of happiness. Reframing is more than seeing the glass half full or looking at life through rose colored glasses; that’s an oversimplification. Reframing is the work of an optimist, to be sure, but it is, however, work.

Crap. I mean, um, whoo hoo! More work. I love work. Give me more work please.

Just kidding, it’s not that kind of work. PHEW.

Reframing requires a willingness to see and receive good, an honest perspective and an active engagement in a shift in explanatory style and vocabulary. When we choose to stop blaming others for our problems, acknowledge our own contributions for the situation at hand, and actively engage in doing something about that, real change can happen.

Our current reality is dependent partially (or arguably, heavily) upon our attitude.  Our attitude, believe like it or not, is a result of the conscious decisions we make all day every day. We choose our responses. We choose our reactions. We choose the degree to which we allow external forces to impact us; and of significant note, we choose the words with which we articulate that impact.

Yikes. Talk about an accountability act.

Our explanatory style assists in maintaining our own positive attitude as well as in creating and sustaining positive interactions and relationships with others. Basically, the more negative and emotionally loaded your dialogue, the more intense and less satisfied you are likely to be in any situation.

To further explore this concept, I’m going to break it down into two parts. Part A- Your Explanatory Style; and Part B- Reframing.

So, to kick it off (I know you are so.very.excited for this. Calm down, you’re almost there); here’s Part A:

Your Explanatory Style: Essential Tasks to Avoid and to Learn When Communicating With Others
DON’T:

1. Give ambiguous emotionally charged statements

ex: “You need to clean your room” or, worse, “I need you to clean your room.”

Think about it. For one, do you really need them to? Really? You need them to clean their room? Like you cannot survive a minute longer if they don’t? Negative. You need food, water, shelter, and belonging. The rest of it – those are wants.

Furthermore, when someone tells you that you NEED to do something- do you want to do it? Honestly? In my experience (on both sides of this camp) you may as well say “fighters, draw your swords,” because you’ve essentially initiated battle sequence. Using words like “need,” “have to,” “should,” etc… immediately raise our affective filters, like, instantly. As in, we hear those words and an entire slew of negative associations and connotations arrive, front and center, in our heads. We question, bargain, negotiate and otherwise try to find reasons why that statement is either: a) stupid, b) wrong, c) inapplicable, or d) all of the above.

Bottom line, people don’t like to be told what to do. Guidelines and boundaries are different than regimented task management.  The more we speak in that language (the “need to” bullshit) the more emphasis we place on extrinsic, as opposed to intrinsic, motivation, which leads me to #2:

2. Give an “if-then” consequence or reward

ex: “If you don’t clean your room then you can’t go anywhere else today.”

Let’s be honest- this quickly escalates to “for the rest of the day, ever, for the rest of your life, you can never leave your room again. Okay fine, until I give in after an hour and help you do it. But then you can NEVER LEAVE YOUR ROOM AGAIN.”  Honestly, the kids stopped caring about the vague “reward” or “consequence” about three minutes ago.

Consistently creating caveats for your activity based upon the completion (or lack thereof) of a task only encourages reward-based behavior. Additionally, constantly throwing out threats just offers additional chances for misbehavior.

For example, if I keep saying to my kids “If you do that one more time...” I basically just gave them permission to do it again. Seriously. And believe me, they probably will. 99% of the time the forecasted consequence isn’t enough to prevent the behavior; in their cost-to-benefit analysis, the benefit (usually of: a) doing the action again, and b) pissing mom off) totally wins. Especially for negative attention seeking behavior. If the goal of the behavior is to get your attention and make you upset, then as soon as you respond to it- they win. You lose. Ya smell me here? Carrots and sticks are not going to help motivate anyone here, player, back off.

3. Over explain, overshare and other acts of attention seeking/ROB verbosity.

Ex: “I’m know I’m late, again. I ran out of coffee this morning so I had to run to the coffee shop to get more, and then my car was out of gas so I stopped to get some but then the kids started fighting in the backseat and one of them spilled their hot chocolate all over so we ran home to change clothes and then while I was waiting I saw a post from my ex-boyfriend on Facebook (it just popped up on my phone, I swear!)  and it was a picture of him and his new girlfriend and it sent ME into a total meltdown and so I had to take a breather to recoup before the kids saw me crying (again), and then as soon as we finally got to the parking lot I realized the other one forgot their lunch and then and so we had to run home again to get it and…”

You know what that is? YP. It’s just a bunch of excuses. What’s the real reason you are late? You didn’t prepare in advance like you might have, your priorities might have gotten out of line and then not having given yourself enough room for error in your morning, when the unexpected happened, you weren’t able to respond in an efficient manner.

Ditto for responding to requests from others. Sometimes, a person just wants to hear a simple “yes” or “no,” not the reasons why, your thought process or how it is that you came to that decision. Quite frankly, most of the time, it’s really none of their business.

Guess what else? No one really benefits from you explaining all of that (other than perhaps giving them a good laugh); not even you. Your lack of planning = your problem. Your troubles? Also your problem. Everybody everywhere is struggling with something; you are not the only one who had a shitty morning.

When you start pouring your heart out you activate parts of your brain that have been on standby, and engage the sympathetic, empathetic or “irritated as hell” parts of the cerebral crowd surrounding you. Just stop. The grocery store line is not the best place for a therapy session, nervous breakdown or emotional breakthrough. Well, unless you are on a reality t.v. show (or want to be), then by all means, let it flow darling.  I suggest, however, that you share your emotional baggage with people who you know you can count on to support you.  The rest of the time, honey, hide your crazy and keep it together ‘cuz ain’t nobody got time fo’ that.

 4. Apologize or give permission.

Ex: “I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to answer your call right away and then I misunderstood your text. I’ll make it up to you later, okay?”

Again, an apology engages our emotional center and requests empathy, sympathy or forgiveness. Asking permission suggests a power struggle and invites conflict. Do you really need to be sorry you couldn’t answer the call? You just weren’t available to at that time. Simple as that. Ditto with the misinterpretation. Are you sorry you misunderstood, or did your misunderstanding create a lack of clarity on your part? Adding “okay” at the end of the sentence is asking the other person’s permission. Are you, or aren’t you? If you are, why make it sound like a question requiring that person’s consent?

Talk less. Act more.

Now, for the Action Plan.

Do:

1.  Give positive, brief and clear directions

Ex: “Please put away your legos.”

This breaks down the steps into achievable tasks. It is clear, specific and completely devoid of emotion. You avoid the battle by not engaging in a power struggle in the first place. Be polite, say what they are to do (not what you would like them to do, what you “need” them to do or would “prefer” they do). Just say what the task is, in a direct and cheery manner. Channel your inner June Cleaver as desired (apron optional).

 2. Give a “now-that” consequence or reward, if applicable and useful to the situation.

Ex: “Now that your room is all clean we can do something fun together.”

A statement like this clarifies the antecedent to the fun behavior, validates that the task was completed and offers feedback on performance. It is also totally empty of emotion, positive or negative. Like Dan Pink talks about in his book “Drive,” when completing algorithmic, mechanical tasks and we offer rewards that are: non-contingent, unexpected, and intangible, we create incentives that work (so long as we don’t overuse them to the point that they morph into a “if-then” setup).

Likewise, when offering consequences, avoid the battle. Let’s say you asked the kids to stop doing something and they did it again (real shocker here. Major stretch of the imagination). Just give the consequence. Say “I asked you to stop and you did it again. Please __________ (fill in the blank with whatever logical consequence applies here).”

Don’t live in a life of “if-then” rule governed behavior. Give immediate feedback, be clear and be consistent. Take the emotion OUT of the reward and the consequence. This is not a debate, they don’t get “another chance” or “one more try.” Do this consistently and I promise you’ll see a change in behavior (sidenote- some kids [and uh, adults] require experiencing this lesson more frequently than others but… eventually they’ll get it. Stay strong sister).

3. Be brief, positive and honest.

Ex: “I’m late. What would you like me to do as a result of my tardiness?” 

When in doubt. Keep it simple. Spending time rationalizing your actions and choices only serves to make people question your motivation, intentions and behavior in general. It’s not personal; nothing others do is because of you. Be confident enough in yourself to be cool with who you are and what you do, regardless of what others think.

Be impeccable with your word. Keep your business YOUR business. The more (unnecessary) information you provide the more you subject yourself to managing additional reaction control as others respond to your information. Stop fueling the fire by adding unnecessary tinder. The more you share your problems and frustrations, the more attention you give them, the more they build and the more they begin to affect those around you. Likewise, your relationships are between you and that other person, not between you and all of your mutual friends. Keep your game tight. Gossiping is gossiping. End of story.

4. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Ex: “I was unable to answer your call at that time, and texting didn’t help us communicate well, my bad. I will call you when we are both available to chat.”

Acknowledge your role in the situation, be convicted in and of your actions and again, keep it simple. If you act with integrity, veracity and positive intention, there is nothing to hide nor little for which to seek permission. When you are of good character and regularly can be depended on to follow-through people will view you with respect and show understanding when things come up. When you frequently let them down, are always apologizing for yourself and often seeking permission of others you come off as weak, ungrounded, disorganized and untrustworthy. Choose your words carefully.

Whew. That’s enough for now. Up next: putting that idea in action – DIY Happy Pills: How to Reframe Your Way Into Optimism.

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