Coloring toward goals

I found an article earlier today in an email list I’m part of. Basically, the premise is that a woman, Amy Jones, had a large amount of credit card debt to pay off. To inspire her to actually pay it off, she drew a doodle with a number of swirls in it and committed to herself that for each $100 she paid off, she could color in a swirl. It was a way for her to visually track how she was doing on her goal. Now she is selling her maps so other people can do the same thing.

I absolutely love this idea. However, because I’m currently paying for college, I don’t have the money to buy one of her maps (I hope to some day when I have more disposable income, as they’re lovely!). However, I do have a printer and an internet connection. So I found these two mandala coloring pages:

mandalas_mandalas23a34_007 mandalas_mandalas35a46_019

I couldn’t decide between the two and so I’m going to print them both out and work on two different goals. There’s somewhere between 35-40 things to color, so I’m going to use both of them to create a habit. One is going to get a piece colored in if I accomplish 75% of my to do list for each day (now on a sticky note, more on that in a later post). The other will get a piece colored in if I get up on time (I have a bad habit of sleeping in later than I should!). When they’re each completed, I’ll get some sort of reward. I haven’t decided what yet. And by the time they’re completed, hopefully they’ll both be habits and just automatically happen!

I’ll report on how this is working as I make progress on it. What goals could you use a visual map for?


Bulletin Board Project

In my bedroom, I have two bulletin boards. I’ve got all sorts of things on them, from quotes to things I need to deal with to library receipts to whatever else. However, it’s on there so willy-nilly that it’s not actually all that helpful. So I decided to something about that. Here are what they looked like before I got started:

Bulletin Board 1
Apologies for the blurry picture.

Bulletin Board 2Quite the mess! I pulled everything off of the boards and sorted it out on my bed. See the big red recall notice? Turns out I had three of them. I don’t need three to remind me to take care of that! I also discovered an expired coupon, my voter registration card, and a few other things that either belonged somewhere else or were just trash.

Sorted pilesOnce I had things sorted into groups, I borrowed some wrapping ribbon for the next step. I cut a few pieces of ribbon and used them to divide my boards into sections, using the push pins to keep the ribbon in place.


Bulletin board divided 1

Bulletin board divided 2Once that was done, I put things back, keeping them in their own section. For example, on my bigger board, I had a section for quotes, things to take care of, and my library receipts telling me when my books are due. I also included the paper for the adult summer reading program in that section so I knew where it was.

Bulletin board completed 1On both boards I even had a section left over! It’s so much easier to see what I have and what’s going on. It was a quick, cheap, and easy fix that makes the boards so much more useful and organized! I love it when I can manage to make this happen. 🙂

Bulletin board completed 2What sort of quick organizing projects have you done lately?

Returning to planning

Yesterday evening I did something that I haven’t done in a couple of months. I sat down with my planner and actually planned out the most important things I wanted to get done today. It used to be I did that every night before going to bed, but somewhere along the way I lost the habit.

In the past, I would make enormous lists and rarely ever accomplished everything I’d set for myself to do. This time, I chose the three most important things I wanted to get done: laundry, a large planning session for my life, and this blog post.

I had forgotten how wonderful it was to get up in the morning and know what I was going to do today beyond just when I needed to be at work. I actually had a plan today!

My planning session this morning was even better. A couple of weeks ago I made a list of my highest priorities (or what I wanted them to be). Today I decided to group them into four categories: physical, mental, social, and spiritual. This was easy to remember and helped me limit my focus, as I decided each month I would set a goal in each of those four areas. For example, I decided that my desire to become more organized would fit under physical, as it often involved my physical space and time. (It made sense to me!) For this month, I decided my goal would be to use my planner by planning every night and completing my top three to do items each day. I have a sneaking suspicion that doing so will help a lot of other things fall into place in my life!

Beyond identifying my priorities and setting goals, I also made a to do list of things that I needed to get done this week. I can pull my top three to dos each day from that list now.

Honestly, doing this has been such a relief. And limiting myself to a top three things that absolutely have to get done in a day is also a relief, because when they’re done, even if I didn’t get anything else done today, I know I accomplished the most important things to me. And three items is actually do able. Sometimes in the past I would have 5 or more, especially if I had a lot of homework due. When I couldn’t finish them all, I felt like a failure. Thanks to my depression, I can feel like that without any sort of cause, so no need to set myself up for failure in planning and time management!

As the saying goes, “He who fails to plan plans to fail.” How has planning helped you?

Newton’s laws and productivity: 4 ways to jump start yourself

I was thinking the other days about how to be more productive and I made a connection to Newton’s laws. Now I’ll be the first to admit I know little about physics or Newton’s laws, but I’m fairly sure there is one that goes something like: “And object in motion will stay in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.” Meaning, essentially, that a ball will keep rolling until it hits a wall, and box will stay still until someone pushes it.

While thinking about this, I thought about how this applies to humans too. I know for myself that when I’m “at rest” or not being productive, I tend to stay in that state until something, whether it’s an outside force or my brain going “okay, quit being lazy and do something!” And generally speaking, once I start on a project or start doing things, I tend to keep going until it’s finished, I have to stop for an appointment or something, or I just tire myself out.

The trick then, is to figure out how I can better be my own “outside force” to get myself moving when I’m being lazy and unproductive. For several months because of my depression, it was incredibly difficult to do that and now I’m out of the habit. So what can we do to motivate ourselves and get moving?

1. Set a timer.

This one works great for me. I’ll set a timer for 15 minutes (sometimes longer, but usually around 15 minutes) and tell myself that I need to work for that 15 minutes. Sometimes I finish what I set out to do in that time. Sometimes I get in the groove (in motion!) and keep going. And sometimes I get to the end of that 15 minutes and call it good. But I’ve done something on whatever the project is.

2. Give yourself a reward.

Set some kind of reward for yourself if you complete the project or reach some other goal. Whether it’s watching a TV show, a favorite snack, a chance to relax or pamper yourself, or whatever it may be, give yourself some kind of reward as a motivation to get the thing done!

3. Break the task down

Sometimes it’s hard to get going because the task seems overwhelming and unmanageable. Break it down into smaller steps and choose one step to work on right now.

4. Set a deadline (and tell someone!)

This one works well for me because I can be fairly competitive with myself. Even better is telling someone else my deadline because then I’m working to make sure I don’t disappoint them and can tell them that yes, I did do what I told them I would. But for smaller things, I make it a competition against myself by telling myself to accomplish the thing in the time it takes for a playlist or a podcast or something to play.

Hopefully these ideas help you to apply Newton’s law and get in motion/productivity and stay in motion!

Blowing things out of proportion

I (re)learned something interesting a few nights ago. I was feeling a bit down because I didn’t feel like I’d accomplished much that day. For example, here is my “chore list” (More on that in a future post):

Chore list

Mind you, this was part way through the week and I hadn’t done a single thing on that list. Oy. So, I decided to tackle the monster that had been mocking me for weeks: my filing.


The folders are my filing cabinet, as it were. The shoebox is a future project, and the top drawer and the pile in front were what needed to be sorted. I’d been putting it off because I was certain it would take forever and I’m not really fond of filing. (In fact, I took the picture because I planned to write a post about my fight with filing and filing systems. I probably still will at some point.)

But I needed to do something to feel like I’d actually accomplished something. So I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes, turned up some tunes, and had at it. I promised myself that whatever was done in that 15 minutes, that would be good enough and I would be done for the day.

This was how it looked 13.5 minutes later.

Finished filing

I filed everything and cleaned up in less than that 15 minutes. I’d been putting this off for WEEKS because I thought it was going to take so long and I finished it in less than 15 minutes.

I think everyone, not just people with depression or another mental illness, tend to blow a task out of proportion. We look at something and imagine that it’s going to be so much more difficult than it actually is. But I have noticed that I tend to do this a bit more since my depression really hit. I already know I’m depleted in energy, and so things seem just that much harder. And so they get put off, again and again. But really, they’re a simple job and if I would just sit down and do it, it would be done.

Was it a silly little thing in the grand scheme of things? Yes. Did I still blow it out of proportion and make it more difficult in my head than it was? Yes. Will I do it again? Probably. But maybe the next time I assume something is going to be too hard or take too long and I want to put it off, I’ll remember my 13.5 minute filing job and sit down and get to work. Who knows? Maybe I’ll surprise myself again with how little time and effort something takes.