I tried the Commit30 Planner. Here’s what happened…

For almost the entire month of December, I was OBSESSED with the Commit30 Planner. I visited the website an excessive amount of times, downloaded a few of the free PDFs and challenges, and I had it sitting in my cart for a really long time.

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The, 2019 Weekly Day Planner, which I eventually purchased (above), comes in 5 colors and 2 convenient sizes. I opted for the larger 7″x10″ in gold for an affordable price of $34.99. Compared to most other planners out there – some only designed for 30-90 days – this is a steal!

Features

  • Full-year planner with monthly and weekly views
  • Yearly vision board (and space for a monthly vision as well)
  • Notes section for each month (bullet journal style)
  • 30-day challenge template and goal planning for each month
  • List of US holidays for 2019 & 2020
  • Bullet journal in the back
  • Pocket folder on the back flap
  • Bookmark and sticker
  • BONUS: Super-fast shipping (I ordered it on 12/28 and it arrived on the 31st – just in time!)

Stickers

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You can purchase stickers for the planner on the Commit30 site, but I’ve found Michael’s craft store to have more variety and cheaper prices – plus, you can’t beat those 40% off coupons! I loaded up on stickers to add dimension to my plans: budget, fitness, and random little things. Life is better in color – rainbow colors!

My Experience

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February’s looking good with a trip to Peru, Valentine’s Day, and snow tubing!

While I love this planner so, so much, I need to keep reminding myself that I’m not a planner girl. A sticker girl for sure, but I always end up preferring a digital (or mental) account of my plans and to-do list. The only section I’ve used religiously is the monthly layout, where I can track EVERYTHING that’s important to me:

  • when bills are due
  • how many times I fill up my gas tank
  • what I spend on groceries
  • number of workouts
  • starting and ending weight
  • weekend plans
  • meal prep
  • housework
  • and pretty much everything else

I’ve never been a fan of keeping a detailed daily workout log (it records on my phone) or writing down my meals (for the most part, I follow my weekly meal plan). I thought this planner would make those tasks more fun, but daily tracking will never be my cup of tea.

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Each month has a few words of wisdom at the start. 

The Bottom Line: This planner/journal is amazing and I love the idea of it. It’s perfect for someone who loves keeping lists, planning EVERYTHING, tracking food and workouts, and carrying around a journal to make note of random things. It would also be great for people looking to set and track goals, keep a physical schedule, or replace an unfavorable planner.

The Productivity Project

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I’m not one to write a review prior to finishing a book, but the thing is, I could base my entire rating on just Part One. This has been one of the best books I’ve read all year and the absolute best (ever) on the subject of productivity. If you’re looking for a great read to start off the new year, The Productivity Project is a perfect choice.

Title: The Productivity Project
Author: Chris Bailey
Genre: Personal / Professional Development
DS Rating: 4.5/5

When I was younger – maybe high school age – I thought it would be a great idea to maximize each day. If I could get by on just 6 hours of sleep, I’d have 18 to accomplish everything on my list. I’m pretty sure Chris Bailey would cringe at that rationale. What I didn’t know then was not all 18 hours are equal.

In one of the most helpful exercises I’ve ever done, Bailey suggests plotting out your energy throughout the day for a minimum of a week. Then, once you find your “Biological Prime Time,” you only complete your most important tasks during that window. Wow. Mind blown. It turns out that I’m at my prime between 7 and 11 am, and again from 5 to 7 pm. It all goes down hill after that. (Something I’ll be working on in 2019.)

Why it’s great…

Bailey spent time after college working on A Year of Productivity (which is also a blog). He read so many books and articles and studies (oh my!) on productivity and time management and shares the best in his book. He also performed some self-experiments like watching 70 hours of TED talks in one week, working 90-hour work weeks, and waking up at 5:30 am each morning to see the impact on his productivity. Basically, he does the dirty work for us. And thank God, because, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Each chapter is filled with a wealth of information to make you look at time and productivity in a whole new light. The exercises are helpful, and in between, you’ll be graced by tidbits of info that will make you a trivia all-star. Speaking of, did you know that prior to 1883 there were hundreds of time zones used in the United States? I didn’t.

But, what I love even more is that each chapter has a small summary at the beginning and estimated reading time. I’ve seen more and more articles list reading times, but never a book. It’s truly awesome.

What now?

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I fully intend to be more focused and efficient in 2019, and The Productivity Project is just what I needed to get started. I was even inspired to pick up a new planner to document my list of goals and accomplishments. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on that experience too.

Happy New Year, friends!

Going to Universal Studios FL? You NEED an Annual Pass!

I’ve been wanting to do a write-up on Universal for ages. My husband and I love it there, and I mean LOVE in every sense of the word. We’ve gone 1-2x a year since 2014 and it’s like our second home….1,000 miles away. Sometimes we drive and other times fly (they both have their benefits), but we always end up spending a good chunk of our vacation time in the sunshine state.

Actually, in four days, we’ll be on a plane headed back. I just can’t live without frozen Butterbeer and few dozen rides on The Mummy.

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This is, hands down, my FAVORITE ride!

In the past, only Florida residents were able to invest in an Annual Pass. But, not this year! Get this: for less than the price of a 2-park 3-day ticket*, you can get access for the ENTIRE year. Sign me up and take my money!

The Preferred Pass**

This one right here is your ticket to fun. It’s the mid-tier annual pass that gives you a year of access to both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

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The Perks:

  • 10% off all restaurants, photos, and select merchandise
  • 15% off at Hard Rock Cafe
  • 20% off Blueman Group & City Walk Party Pass
  • $3.00 off Admission at AMC Universal Cineplex 20
  • Free self-parking (after your first visit; a $22.00 savings each visit)
  • And so, so much more

Be aware that Universal Express or Express Unlimited passes need to be purchased separately at each visit.

Is a Universal Express Pass upgrade worth the price?

Universal Express grants you one-time front of the line access for each ride, while Universal Express Unlimited lets you go again and again until you toss all that carnival food you just ate. (Sorry, not sorry for the visual.)

The first time we went, we were novices. I was shocked by the prices; a 2-park 1-day base ticket will set you back $170*, so we decided to forgo the upgraded Universal Express passes, which were almost the same price as the tickets.

Oh, what a rookie mistake. We ended up standing in some lines for over an hour in the hot sun. It sucked a lot of the joy out of the day and I left with a mean sunburn.

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That step count, though…

If you want a truly enjoyable experience, it’s ESSENTIAL to splurge for the Express Unlimited pass, even just for one day of your stay. Imagine all of the rides you could take if you weren’t standing in line all day. We always get our money’s worth. Last month we went on every ride at least twice (some as many as 25! Not joking.), spent over 11 hours walking around, and racked up almost 30,000 steps. Per day.

Now go out and get your annual pass. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
*Ticket prices change almost daily. Please visit Universal’s site for up-to-date pricing.
**Other pass options available, visit Universal for more details.

Motivation 2.0

When you’re little, no one tells you how hard adulting really is. You think it will be about having money, staying up late, and eating ice cream for breakfast. They don’t say that your paycheck will be laughable, that you’ll live for naps, and that ice cream for breakfast is out of necessity, not pleasure.I always thought adults were super motivated to go to work and come home to raise their families. Then I became one. And most days I have as much motivation as a high school senior in June. None. Whatsoever.20180319_1750081693936423.pngEvery night I set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. with high hopes that one day I’ll be able to stick with it. Still, 95% of the time I hit snooze or shut the alarm off, and before I know it, it’s practically time to leave for work. Whoops!

So, how do you find motivation?

The 5 Second Rule

If you haven’t heard of the book The 5 Second Rule, here’s the one-liner rule that author Mel Robins gives:

“If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds, or your brain will kill the idea.”

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A nice Audible pick!

While it may not be a life-shattering revelation, the 5-4-3-2-1 approach has gotten me up and out of bed on many occasions. It’s even gotten me to speak up in meetings, tell friends how much they mean to me, and work through a few of my other struggles.

It’s something to consider if you need an extra push to make things happen.

The will to work out

I usually lack motivation when it comes to working out. Yes. Seriously. It’s a constant struggle to leave my warm bed, change into my workout clothes, and tiptoe down into my basement gym which is a solid 57 degrees.

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This morning’s badass-ness 😉

Motivation is fluid, which means that it can be hard to keep the momentum because different things drive us all at different times. I know, personally, that some days my motivation is abundant and I can accomplish my entire task list and then some. Today – for instance, I woke up ON TIME, worked out for about an hour, burned over 500 calories, and got in over 4,000 steps before 7 am. Other days, just getting out of bed or washing my hair feels like an accomplishment.

Where does motivation come from?

For me, it comes from a desire to be my healthiest self AND to look great for my upcoming trips to California and Miami. That last reason might be a little superficial, but it’s a strong one.

In order to stick with a goal, you have to find something that – even on your darkest of days – will keep you moving.

Here’ are a few ideas. If you’re motivated by:

Challenge – play a game to be better than you were the day before.

Food – treat yourself to your favorite meal after you complete a big task (like purging your garage of junk).

Money – set aside some dough after every workout and buy yourself something fun when you’ve finished a program or month’s work of workouts.

Likes – if you’re into social media (like really, really into it), post about your progress and rack up those likes!

Just do it

In the end, take a lesson from Nike and just get it done. On the days when you don’t want to get out of bed – and there will be plenty – 5-4-3-2-1 it and move! Especially when you really don’t want to.

Cheers!

 

Finding the Balance: Self Care

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to start out this series. There are so many great topics on finding the balance that they almost compete with each other. Then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks in my intestines.

This morning I woke up at 5 am, changed into my gym clothes, got some water, and headed down to the basement to bust out my 61-minute workout. Everything was going great until about 10 minutes in when I started to feel queasy. I pressed pause. Tried again. Tapped out at 16 minutes.

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This. Never. Happens. This is how I know I’m sick. So, after much internal debate, I called out for the first time in almost two years at my job. Time for a little self-care.

Feeling Stressed

I’ve been feeling very stressed lately – at home and work. Its never ending – there is ALWAYS something to be worried or uneasy about. Even when I’m having a good time on the weekend, I’m reminded of what’s to come on Monday.

If you’ve read any of my Sugar Detox posts, you know that I haven’t been feeling well since I started cutting the crap out of my diet – ironic, right? Even after two months, nothing has leveled out. I went through extensive allergy and blood testing that cost over $800 and I’m no closer to finding out the cause of my discomfort. Talk about frustration.

Last week I talked about not having the time to fit it all in. Well, I think I peaked yesterday. It got to a point where I just couldn’t manage – it was like someone dropped all my marbles and I couldn’t pick them up fast enough before they rolled off into the unknown. Before bed, my mind was dissecting the day, and I went to sleep pretty sick to my stomach about all of my tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities. Not good.

Fun Ways to Self-Care

How often do you stop and do things for yourself? I think the only two things I consistently do for myself are read, work out, and pray/meditate each morning. And oddly enough, working out stresses my body out more.

Here are a few ideas – they are by no means a complete list – but they can help get you started finding the balance in your everyday.

Color

Adult coloring books are so fun! I thought it was great when they first became popular because here I was finishing up my old Disney or Barbie books, when I could have been fancying up a page of curse words. Bull shit, am I right? If that’s not your cup of tea, there are mild versions of flowers, landscapes, houses, cats – you name it. Just get yourself a pack of crayons, markers, or colored pencils and have at it. You don’t even have to stay in the lines 😉

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Read

Okay, so maybe reading isn’t fun for everyone, but I read over 50 books last year, so it’s definitely entertaining for me. The thing is, you could read about ANYTHING. If you can think it, someone has probably written about it. I’m a crime fiction or PD girl, usually, but I also enjoy a little chick lit – Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, and Liane Moriarty. Curl up with a book, a cuppa, (I read a lot of Aussie lit!), a blanket, and get lost in another world. Somehow Sophie’s books always make me feel better about myself. Win!

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This is a must-read for EVERYONE.

Exercise

Now, I don’t expect everyone to wake up before the sun and bang out an hour-long workout. I won’t impose my antics on you. Exercise comes in many forms – long walks on the beach, chasing a toddler on a mission, trip to the dog park, line dancing, club dancing, watching dirty dancing (kidding) – you get the idea. It doesn’t have to feel like work, but exercise is shown to make people happy, so why wouldn’t you at least try? Don’t believe me? Take a lesson from Elle Woods.

Craft

Do you crochet? Bake? Needlepoint? Arrange flowers? Sew buttons? If it relaxes you, find time to do it every day. If you get upset that your version doesn’t look like the Pinterest version, this one might not be for you. Shop on Etsy instead.

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My happy place is in the kitchen. These are Pinterest inspired.

Bathe

Hot tub. Pool. Beach. Bathtub. Pick the one that interests you and take a trip – even if it’s just ten paces away to the next room. Nothing beats a good soak, especially if there are BUBBLES! Pour yourself a glass of wine (or sparkling juice!), play some soothing tunes, and light a candle. As an added bonus, throw in some Epsom salts, essential oils, or a fun bath bomb. Ahhh the relaxation.

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Halloween Special bubble bar from LUSH. So many suds!

Uh, note: I wouldn’t recommend any of the above for anything but a tub 😉

Take a Happiness Challenge

I’m on day 99 of my second #100HappyDays Challenge. The main idea is to post a picture on social media of something that makes you happy each day for 100 days. Is it possible? Well, I can attest that all days won’t be happy. In fact, some will be downright miserable. But, if you can find something good – just one little thing – in each day, your life will be a little bit brighter. I’d recommend you at least try it. Its fun to look for a piece of happiness each day and it’s nice to look back on those moments after the challenge has ended.

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My inspiration.

Do Yoga / Meditate / Pray

This really could be its own topic. Matter of fact, it might be (Gucci Mane voice). I’ll leave the good stuff for another day, but if you’re into quiet time, you might want to investigate the power of prayer, meditation, and yoga. They do wonders for the body and soul.

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Don’t lose sight of you

You can still take care of others and do things for yourself. It doesn’t make you selfish. Quite the opposite, actually. It helps you do everything a little bit better because you’re you at your best. I feel like I should start reciting a Dr. Seuss poem right now!

How do you relax? How do you take care of yourself? I want to know!

Check out the first post and stay tuned next week to learn about finding the balance at work.

Peace, Love, Zen

DS

Finding the Balance

To me, peace is sitting in the dim light with a cup of tea, a book, and a nice fuzzy blanket. I enjoy silence above many things. It’s so calming to sit with oneself and read, meditate, or pray. In fact, I’ve worked this quiet time into my daily routine each morning. After I rise and before I press play on my workout, I spend a little time on my yoga mat praying, journaling, and setting my intentions for the day. The only noise I hear is the rumbling of the furnace when it kicks on and off. I am at complete peace.

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A rare lunch break reading sesh.

Lately, though, I’ve been having trouble finding the balance between many things outside of this brief morning routine. Typically the topic of balance comes into focus when talking about work-life balance. Everyone wants more weekend, vacation time, PTO. I think I just need more day.

I struggle with the fact that five days a week I work a 9-hour day (with a lunch in between, sometimes) and come home with a depleted energy supply. It leaves little time to spend with my husband (why can’t we both work from home?), crochet (I’m working on an Etsy shop), write (one day I’ll finish a book), cook (do we really have to eat dinner every night?), read (there are so many books on my list), study Spanish (I want to be fluent by December), as well as the countless other things I want to do.

You may be thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot!” Yes, I have a very FULL life. It’s full of many wonderful people, things, hobbies – you name it. But it’s also overflowing with stress and anxiety when I can’t fit in ALL THE THINGS. Most days I overextend myself until around 11 pm when I can barely keep my eyes open. Then I wake up at 5 am the next day to do it all again.

What ends up happening is that I crave vacations to escape my everyday life. Everything is blissful while I’m away – no qualms about waking up just before noon, no deadlines to meet, and the biggest worry is whether to order a Pina Colada or Angry Orchard at the poolside bar. Then, when I come back to reality, it’s almost as if a deep depression settles in. I feel worse than before I left. The peace I sometimes feel melts into a despair that’s hard to break out of.

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Isn’t this heavenly?

I just experienced the cycle this week after I came back from a long weekend in Canada. I realized that I end up surviving – not living – until my next break. I can tell you that there are exactly 57 days until I board the plane for California – a place I have been dying to visit for about two decades. After that, there are two months until we drive to Florida for our annual vacation.

This is clearly not a healthy way to think, live, or rationalize. And I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way. So, I’ve decided to create a six-week Finding the Balance series, where I’ll share ideas to combat stress, live in the moment, and find a little zen in every day. We only get one life, so why not choose to be happy?

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A friend sent me this beautiful card. It inspired me to complete a second 100 Happy Days challenge.

Check back every Friday for the next six weeks. Let’s make this year our happiest yet!

Peace, Love, Zen

DS

Motivation, where art thou?

In simple terms, motivation is the desire to do things. One quick Google search will produce almost 500 million results including articles, books, images, and studies on motivation. “5 Ways Millennials Can Fine Motivation At Work” (Forbes). “This Navy SEAL Says Your Lack of Motivation Does Not Matter…” (Inc.com). “Motivation may be less limited than we think” (Science Daily). You get the idea.

What does this tell you? Other than bundles of contradicting information, it shows that motivation is a hot topic and many people must be in dire need of it.

About two years ago I read a book called “What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions to Work” by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. It included a code to take an assessment that would produce my top motivators. Usually, I’m skeptical about these types of assessments because who knows me better than I do? It turns out that my results were SPOT ON.

I’m driven by challenge, creativity, autonomy, and money.

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At the time, this book helped me understand that I wasn’t getting what I needed out of my job. I felt stuck and couldn’t understand why I had no desire to get up and go to work anymore (other than the hour-long commute I faced every morning, of course!). I realized that I wasn’t passionate about the work I was doing. It wasn’t creative, there was a ton of “red tape,” I felt micro-managed, and the pay wasn’t nearly enough for the work I was doing and the distance I was traveling. Even though I knew my work, in a way, helped other people, that wasn’t a big enough factor to keep me motivated.

The authors suggest trying to revise your work responsibilities to better suit your needs to be more productive. If you try it, and it doesn’t work, move on. That’s exactly what I ended up doing.

What motivates you?

The first step in getting motivated is finding out what exactly drives YOU. I highly recommend taking The Motivators Assessment for yourself – even if you don’t want to read the book, you can purchase a code online. You’ll end up with a detailed printout of top motivators that I have found invaluable.

Motivation is fluid, which means that it can be hard to keep the momentum because different things drive us all at different times. I know, personally, that some days my motivation is abundant and I can accomplish my entire task list and then some. Those are the days I get in 7,000 steps before 9am. Other days, just getting out of bed feels like an accomplishment. Sound familiar?

You have to find something that – even on your darkest of days – will keep you moving.

Look forward to your reward

Let’s say you’re driven by chocolate. Get a special bag of truffles and reward yourself with one after doing something big – like organizing your kitchen cabinets or meal prepping for the week. This way you have something to look forward to. (I promise that one chocolate won’t break your eating plan, if you’re sticking to one. Plus, it’s better to eat one than the entire bag!)

Make it a game

Maybe you’re motivated by a good challenge like I am. Some days I dare myself to burn 5-10 more calories in my workout than I did the day before. If I do, I can revel in the satisfaction that is “winning.” If I don’t, I make it my goal for the next day.

Just get it done

There will be days when you won’t want to get out of bed. The worst thing you can do is punish yourself for it. I allow 3-5 minutes of wallowing (or snoozing the alarm) before I break out of the funk. Let the feeling pass, pick yourself up, and just do the task – even when you really don’t want to. The ability to do so is the sign of a successful person.

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A passage from Big Magic.

 

While no book, article, etc. can give you motivation, they can give you ideas on how to motivate yourself. Here are a few favorites that have helped me along the way:

What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions to Work by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy

 

DISCLOSURE: This post is not sponsored by any of the books or authors appearing above. I appreciate your support for books and programs that I love, but I will not receive any commission or affiliate compensation if you make a purchase. I just really enjoyed these reads and hope that you can also snag some positive takeaways.

Happy Reading!