Minimal Monday

What I love most about a minimalist philosophy is that it can cover our inner and outer worlds, our belongings, habits, thoughts and defenses. It is not a mindset in adding, doing, changing, but rather one of uncovering. Simplifying is subtractive, not additive. It is stopping the critical thoughts, removing what is blocking your innate joy, peace, and authentic self.

Here is an analogy: If your diet was poor and it caused your body to feel bad, and so you added some healthy food on top of your daily junk food, that would not solve the problem. But if you first eliminated what was making you feel unwell, you’d start to feel better pretty quickly. That is an oversimplification, but you get the idea.

There is so much information available on how to improve ourselves, and information is good. But it also makes it easy to busy ourselves with strategies and distractions while avoiding what we need to stop doing, saying, thinking, judging, avoiding.

I think we are already amazing, powerful, creative and good. We just have to remove all that stands between us and our true selves.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

Here are four things that having a deadline for finishing my book is teaching me:

#1 I should have stopped procrastinating long ago, and taken my creative work more seriously. Now that I have a guarantee of publication, I have to acknowledge all of the time that I could have been working on my book but didn’t. Then I have to let that go.

#2 Doing my craft consistently and for reasonably large blocks of time makes me present, fulfilled, and at peace. I am pretty sure no one promises this more completely than Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art. I read his book at least twice, and I knew he got it right, but now I am living it.

#3 FOCUSING my ATTENTION is the most important factor in getting something done and it is also the action most likely to be sabotaged and stolen in modern times. Focused attention needs to be planned for and protected. Without it, I am rendered useless, at the whim of every distraction.

#4 I need breaks, and when I’ve written for a good chunk of time, the simplest things feel like the most satisfying indulgences: Basking in the sun for a few minutes, playing with my granddaughters, cooking a meal, taking a walk.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

I have a deadline of October 31st this year for completing the final edits to my memoir. I’ve got a lot left to do and now Halloween is hovering over me like a taunting ghost, as if writing down my deepest thoughts and memories isn’t spooky enough.

Fortunately, I have fallen madly in love with Cal Newport’s Time-Block Planner, a productivity system like no other. Newport is the author of Deep Work and he has created this tool in order to help us focus deeply in a distracted world. This unique planner is helping me to be intentional with every block of time in my day. It does not replace my calendar, or my regular “to-do list”, but it makes it simple and clear what will happen and when. The objective of the planner is to get the most out of the time and attention that you have. It is the best way I have discovered to Get. It. Done.

I was gushing over this planner so much to one of my daughters that she suggested I give it a name. So naturally, I’m calling it Cal.

And since my memoir is the most meaningful and in- depth work I’ve done yet, I am embracing this method every day from now until October 31st. If all goes as planned with Cal, I will surely be celebrating Halloween this year, ghosts and all.

Minimal Monday

Summer can be a fun season with all the events, activities, mini-vacations and days in the sun. But for someone like me who lives a healthier, more productive and creative life when I follow a routine, summer can easily throw me off my game. It’s not that I want every single day to be the same, but as a writer, I’ve got plenty of adventure going on inside my head, thank you very much.

So here are a few things I like to do to try to keep the words flowing, and the good habits going, even in mid-July:

#1 Before I go on vacation, I put everything I can in order at home first. This makes for a swifter transition back to home and to the projects I may have left behind. It also enables me to “let go” more completely, and enjoy the time away.

#2 If I am going away, even if I know I won’t do a lot of writing, I at least bring a notebook and pen to catch the inspiration when it strikes. I also bring my walking/running sneakers and my yoga mat.

#3 Even during lazy summer weeks, I keep up with my agenda. I know where I am at with my writing, and where to pick up next time, even if several days go by before I get back to it.

#4 If you read last week’s post, you know I am trying to give up eating sweet, sugary things. If you missed it, you can read it here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/07/11/minimal-monday-21/ . So I do my best to focus on summer treats like healthy smoothies, fresh fruit, and a refreshing swim; and I look the other way when I see something like, say, double scoop mint chocolate- chip ice cream.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about creating structure in my life around certain goals and habits. If you missed that post, you can read it here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/04/18/minimal-monday-10/

As of yesterday, I added some much-needed structure around finishing up my memoir. I am in the editing stages of my memoir, but have gotten stuck there for so long, I had to do something different.

I suspect the only one to take longer than me to finish writing a book is Joy Imboden Overstreet. I learned through the #amwriting podcast that she ended forty years of procrastination when she finally published her book, The Cherry Pie Paradox last year.   Yes, you read that right; forty years! Joy is in her eighties and described the great sense of relief she felt once she did it. Can you imagine? I can.

So to try and end my own procrastination, I joined a May Day Facebook group in which we authors will check in with each other every Monday for the month of May. It won’t be as motivating as hiring a book coach like Joy did, but it will help.

So, with the loose but added structure of my May Day accountability group, my task at hand for the month of May is to make progress every single weekday, whether I feel like it or not.  Clear and simple, day by day, I am committed to moving forward. I just know I meant to have my memoir out into the world before I am eighty.

Minimal Monday

This is the day of the Boston Marathon, a race that takes place every year on Patriots Day in Massachusetts.  I grew up just down the street from the start of the race, so it was tradition to see the runners off every third Monday of April. In later years, both of my sisters ran the race, along with an uncle, a niece and a handful of other people I know.

A half marathon is definitely my limit for running, and when I ran The Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, Maine last fall, I gained valuable insight. When my youngest daughter enthusiastically suggested I join her in the race, I went with my very first instinct which was to grab the opportunity. Had I paused long enough to consider the likelihood of failure, or the dread of running on days when I really didn’t feel like it, I would’ve said hell no.

Once I committed, I knew I did not stand a chance of finishing the race without a structured plan to train. I had rarely run more than three miles at a time, so this was new territory. I found a beginner’s training plan online and simply followed it like a recipe. And on race day, I met my goal of finishing.

I don’t necessarily see any more half marathons in my future, but because I had been following “the recipe” for months prior to the race, I kept Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays as my cardio days. The habit was in place.

The experience highlighted my need for structure in facing any challenge, or creating any habit that is important to me. Without it, I set myself up for failure. I believe this insight is what led to my intermittent fasting which I wrote about here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/03/07/minimal-monday-4/

It is also why I recently joined an accountability writing group in which we check in each week to demonstrate our individual progress.

Left to my own devices, I can be unfocused and unproductive. Alternately, creating structure around my goals – imposing some deadline, accountability, or “recipe” to follow – I stand a chance of succeeding.

I think this is a common human trait.

Do you agree? What structure serves you well?

Minimal Monday

I love the momentum that takes place while decluttering. Clearing off my writing space by putting some books back in a bookshelf led to me organizing the whole bookshelf. A few books got donated and the rest are now properly categorized. I no longer feel the need to keep my desk cluttered with writing books because if I need one, I know exactly where to find it now. Simplifying one area often leads to a desire to simplify another area. Best of all, as tolerance for clutter decreases, clarity and inspiration increases.

Happy Monday!

***

I am so very grateful for the 5-star review I received on Amazon yesterday for The Uncluttered Mother! I appreciate each and every reader, and I hope my book continues to inspire moms of all ages and stages.

My publisher has entered my book in the 2022 COVR awards and I am including the voter’s guide here: https://covr.org/2022-covr-visionary-awards-voters-guide/. Voting will begin next Monday, April 4th and I will include a voting link then.

Minimal Monday

Several years ago, I worked at a college as an academic coach. My students needed assistance with organizing their workload, breaking down large assignments into logical small steps, making lists and recording important dates in their academic agendas. Sometimes I would help them with assignments such as writing papers, but mostly my job was to help them with executive functioning skills and meeting goals.

Their parents were paying the college a premium price for this coaching, and for some of them it worked very well. But for many others, there was a glaring problem that was getting in the way of their success.

The goals weren’t theirs.

One particular student comes to mind (though there were several). He had wanted to go to a film school in California with his best friend.  He was a kid who did not make friends easily and this friendship was important to him. They shared a passion and he lit up when talking about his dream. His friend went off alone to this California school and my student talked about it with a  mix of excitement, longing, and resignation. His parents wanted him to go the more practical route of this traditional school and so here he was. Unmotivated. Sad. Bored.  No matter how detailed we made his agenda, no matter how much encouragement and perfect to-do lists I gave him, he would return to our next session with very little crossed off his list. He would make the least amount of progress towards “his goals”, and carry the same sad look in his eyes. There was no joy, no energy, no flow. The most alive I had seen him was the day we talked about what he really wanted to be doing.

Isn’t it true for all of us that working toward someone else’s goal is like swimming upstream? A goal we think we should go after, rather than the thing that our heart is calling us to try may lead to some success, but at what cost? And more importantly than what we are doing, is who we are becoming while doing that. Are we meeting challenges with optimism and courage, growing and changing, or are we on automatic pilot to attain the goals that we don’t even recall truly having a longing for in the first place?

My student’s parents were well intentioned and I certainly understand the fear and desires of a parent. It is scary to let go of control and honor our own or our child’s heart desires. But we have a finite amount of time on this earth, and our desires, curiosities, and interests are seeds planted within us like precious breadcrumbs leading us along our journey. How many of us jumped on a path that was never our own?

The more we can silence the fears, the distractions, and the doubts, the clearer the path becomes.

Minimal Monday

One area of simplifying and decluttering that I think has a big payoff is food and kitchen, so I will definitely visit this topic more than once and in many different ways.

What we eat and how we manage meal planning has such an effect on our energy! Better energy equals more creativity, wellness, peace and abundance. I’ll take more of that, please.

Today I went going through all of my cookbooks, choosing which ones to keep, and donating a few others. The ones I hung on to tell some sort of story, or were gifts, or simply have content that I love. For instance, The Cancer Fighting Kitchen was a gift from a thoughtful aunt when my husband was going through cancer treatments. Simply in Season, Buddha Bowls and Oh She Glows Every Day are some other favorites.

The next step I took is going to sound tedious, and I am sure it is not for everyone, but I decided that this effort today will simplify things a bit in the kitchen forevermore.

I browsed through my chosen cookbooks, jotting down the titles of several appealing recipes along with the book and page numbers of where to find them. This has brought my attention to several recipes I had overlooked in the past and now want to try. I will file this “master list” in a small binder to be kept in my pantry.

***

One more idea. This one is for when you need to use up a few ingredients in your kitchen and aren’t sure what to cook. I simply google the ingredients I want to use, followed by the word “recipe” and voila. Good ole Google gives me some options.

Minimal Monday

Happy 2022!  I am late to the party, I know. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want this year and it just comes back to this:  I want to keep simplifying my life in ways that support living according to my top priorities. I think we all want this to some extent, don’t we?

My top priorities continue to be health, family and writing. It was never difficult for me to narrow down what I value most to just three areas, but these three encompass a lot. For instance, “health” includes physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. “Family” includes strong relationships with multiple VIP members. And “writing” is code for completing my memoir, continuing to share my nonfiction title, The Uncluttered Mother, and seeking out various speaking opportunities. In addition, my writing life includes a lot of reading, some of which I will share in my blog posts.

I am so happy that you are along for the ride with me in 2022. I know that you have your own top priorities as well as your own challenges in honoring them.  I really think this is a universal desire – to do more of what we value and less of what we don’t – because in doing so, we feel more like our unique, creative selves. While living life on our own terms, we have more to offer the world that is authentically generous.

All of this is to say that in 2022 my blog posts will be called “Minimal Monday” and each week I will share one thing that I am doing to increase creativity, energy, and peace. Like The Uncluttered Mother‘s subtitle, I will finding more ways to Free Up Your Space, Mind & Heart.  In keeping with the minimal theme, I will keep my posts to a minimum – nothing too lengthy – just one simple idea at a time to nudge us into manifesting the lives we desire.

Are you in?

I will see you next Monday.

Life is complex, but you are simply divine.