Kids Activities, side hustles

How I Wrote and Self-Published a Children’s Book using Kickstarter!

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With small children, my days are filled with requests to read a book.

Especially before naptime or night time!

As a book lover, perusing stores for wonderful children’s stories has been a fun part of parenthood and I hope to instill a love of reading in my children with beautiful stories and rich imagery.

Do you remember in elementary school getting the little scholastic flyer with books you could order, and you’d get so excited waiting for your order of new books? Ahhh, such a good memory (if you liked reading of course!)

There are some amazing childrens’ books, and I’ve taken to buying independently published books like this incredible book by adventurer and photographer Chris Burkard. Check out his Instagram account, by the way!

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The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth, my Favourite Childrens Book That I Found on Kickstarter!

Truth be told, there’s some shitty ones on my bookshelf as well.  And my kids pull those to read alllllllll of the time, and I catch myself moaning and promising I’ll get rid of them secretly.

As a side note, never be afraid to get rid of the books you don’t like.  The whole point is to actually read to your children and if it’s a book that YOU don’t enjoy, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to read it to them, right? 

Here’s the process of how I self-published a children’s book (step by step overview)

There are so many things we can decide to do with our money.  We all make decisions around where we want to spend it.  What if you took some of your money you were going invest in your child’s education, or toys, or clothes, or whatever, and created a permanent, long-lasting legacy for them, by writing a book just for them?  Honestly, it is such a cool thing to do, regardless of whether you want to sell the book later on.

I personally couldn’t find any beautiful fantasy-inspired children’s books with gorgeous artwork (I grew up loving fantasy stories, mermaids, Pegasus and other magical creatures) so that got me thinking, it would be nice to have one for my children.  I also wanted to impart some really important lessons to my children.

We all raise our children hoping to share the truths we’ve come to discover in our time on earth.  What legacy do I want to pass onto my own children?

-A beautiful, creative and magical imagination they can tap into and escape to.  I want my children to have a vivid inner world. I believe magic exists if you believe in it.

-A sense of stewardship and love for the natural environments they have the privilege of growing up in.  Our next generation are the caretakers of this earth.

A sense of adventure and playfulness.

-A connection with bravery and courage.  I want both of my children, both male and female to know that courage is being afraid and doing it anyways, and that the greatest rewards & growth come with the greatest challenges.

-The knowledge that they have a deep inner well of innovation and creativity.  I believe this is something no computer, no technology could ever replace, and it is our duty to encourage each generation to tap into their brain’s potential (the human brain is not used to its full potential yet, we have far to go.)

The importance of lifelong learning and the constant pursuit of gathering knowledge and wisdom.

Big stuff, right? I decided to put these into the story.

 

The project was daunting and in all honesty, I didn’t know where to begin. But it felt right.  And that’s an important point.  You can have the biggest bucket list in the world but you also need to have an intuitive sense of when the time is right for one of those projects, and the patience to wait if it doesn’t quite feel right. I thought about this for 2 years before I did it, and felt ready in 2016.  I consider this the biggest check mark off of my maternity leave #2 bucket list (I started it on mat leave #2 and finished it just before mat leave #3.)

 

SKETCHING OUT THE STORY LINE & WORLDS OF KINTARA + FIND OUT A WAY TO BRING THE IMAGES TO LIFE

I started with sketching out some visual representations of the images I had in my mind for this story (many are based off of recurring dreams I have had since I was a child.)

I turned to Deviant Art.com, an incredible community of artists, and found a spectacular fantasy artist who took commissioned work and who had a beautiful visual style that matched my vision for the book’s artwork.  Over a number of calls and emails back and forth, we decided on 8 different worlds and renderings for a negotiated price.

BOOK COST RESEARCH

Next, I researched how much it would cost to put the whole thing together and print it, using different size dimensions and options.  I went with a Canadian company to start with, because it felt right to do so for the first edition print which was for my Kickstarter backers, and it was also my first time doing it.  It worked out to a few thousand dollars.  On-demand printing seemed to be in the $30-$40 range through blurb.ca (eventually I’ll find a more affordable printer but in the beginning my priority was to just get it done!)

RAISE SOME FUNDS TO PAY FOR ARTWORK AND A FIRST PRINT RUN

Obviously, I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw around on mat leaves, lol, so I decided to put myself out there and launch a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funds to pay for the artwork and print about 50 copies for backers.

I set the reward to be a copy of the book. It was my goal to cover the graphic design and printing with my campaign, which I set at $2000.  I really didn’t research Kickstarter a lot, I just figured it out as I went and looked at campaigns for books that I had bought for my kids and studied what they did.  I’m sort of glad I went in there so naive and overly confident.  It’s a lot of work to run a good Kickstarter campaign and once it got going, I threw myself in with daily updates, sharing of the story and development as it went along.

The Gates of Kintara Childrens’ Book Kickstarter campaign was successful.  To be honest, you really have to hustle hard on Kickstarter and social media to raise funds in time (Kickstarter prefers you stay within a 30-60 day window btw.)

Kickstarter also works on an all-or-nothing basis.  You have to meet your stated goal.

I was so grateful for my network of family and friends who were incredibly supportive and generous – they were the primary source of startup funds (95%) , with a few random donors  (5%) from the Kickstarter world!

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DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARTWORK:

The process was very fun, taking each image, developing the structure, then the colours, and sending each written page to the artist with an outline of the message I wanted to convey.   It is a surprising amount of work.

I spent every lunch time at work, over the course of a year working on the book, but what a cool way to spend lunch hour!

Here’s an example of the forest world.  In this world, the little girl (in her dreams) meets a magic being who encourages her to take her magic talents (caring for the natural world) back to her earthly life.

 

The little girl in this book is actually my daughter (I sent a photo of her to the artist) and each world is the landscape of recurring dreams I’ve had since I was a child.

PUTTING THE BOOK TOGETHER, FORMATTING AND PRINTING:

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This is where things got technical and if I’m being honest, super frustrating because this is where I hit a wall with technical ability. I simply couldn’t get the hang of how to use the Blurb Book formatting software or In Design software, and the terminology for the book dimensions and setup was like another language entirely to me.    Not to mention at this stage, I was very pregnant and about to go on maternity leave #3 and wanted to be done!

My brother has graphic design knowledge and totally helped me out with the formatting,  I pretty much sent him the artwork and he managed to get it all into the dimensions and pdf format for printing through Blurb.  The thing with blurb is that they offer discount codes of up to 40% so WAIT until one comes out and THEN print.  A 40% off code was conveniently released just in time and the second it came out, I jumped on it.  WITH the code it still cost over $30 per book, so anyone serious about self-publishing and selling printed copies should definitely consider other means, as you simply cannot compete with the children’s book market at those prices.

GETTING A BAR CODE IN CANADA:

In Canada, you have to register (free) for an ISBN Code (ISBN = International Standard Book Number) and all of it is done through the following Government of Canada website for no cost. Simply follow the steps and it is a very quick (less than 2 weeks) process start to finish.  I did this step right before formatting the final book for printing, as you’ll want to put the ISBN on your book cover (I put it on my back cover.)

PRODUCING AN E-BOOK

Once the hardest part is done (formatting for printing) I had to think abut formatting for an E-Book and possibly selling on Amazon.

I approached the project as three parts:

1.) Develop the book (1 year)

2.) Get the first edition printed and Kickstarter pledges fulfilled (2 months)

3.) Share the second edition with the world 🙂

     This third and final step has a lot of pieces to it:

– Edit a second edition (I am picky and want to edit the fonts and story now that i           have read it to my children many times!)

– Find cost-effective printing to make it commercially viable.

-Share it on my Podcast, the Great Parental Leave (read it for the kiddos!)

-List the 2nd edition on Amazon as a paperback and E-Book

I hope this gives you some inspiration!  Of course this is a major bucket list item and isn’t for the faint of heart but truly, you can do anything your heart desires and if you approach it the right way, it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune to self-publish a children’s book.  I did mine for less than $500 net cost when all was said and done.

I have a beautiful book written for my children now (my daughter loves that it is her in the book!) and a permanent legacy to leave them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grounding, Happiness, Technology

Kicking the iPhone Addiction

Kicking the iPhone addiction is about cultivating a greater awareness and also greater intentionality with phone usage.  I run several businesses on my iPhone alone, and I love social media, so I am as guilty as anyone else for spending too much time on this little box of fun.  Honest to goodness, I started getting numbness in my little fingers from holding the phone with them.  That’s always a pretty good sign, isn’t it?

One of the foundations of my work as a coach, is helping people change their actions.  I don’t tell people to do something differently, I simply help them shift their perspective.  When you see something differently, you find it easier to take different actions.

It is fun seeking out and trying on different mindsets and perspectives, and in the hunt for new ways to see things, we find ones that stick, and DO permanently shift our view.  Today I wanted to offer what helped shift my view on my iPhone. Though I still have to use it alot, I am more intentional with it, and am very guilty of “forgetting it” or “not having it on me” which is code for I happily left it at home to hang with my family.

So here’s a picture I wanted to share with you today.  Feel free to pin it, share it if you feel it may help someone else regain control over the phone.  The difference between iPhone as a useful tool and iPhone as a harmful tool is whether we are an active, strategic and intentional user (and aware of such use) – or – a passive user and unaware of the extent of our use.

 

Each time you put down your cellphone

 

The iPhone can be an amazing tool for inspiration, motivation, connection and enhancing the lifestyle you have.  Or it can go the opposite way and cause you to miss out on the life in front of you, because your face is in your phone.

It can also be like any other addictive tool.  A short, quick hit of pleasurable dopamine (a like or a comment) or an escapist moment, to depart from the pain of reality in the present.

Remember, it’s always your choice.

YOU use the iPhone, it does not use you.

Ask yourself why you use it.  Are you using IT to augment and design your own reality?  Or is IT using you as you try to escape your own reality?

Powerful questions.  I think we all catch ourselves in different places along this spectrum.  The key is to be aware of WHEN our iPhone usage escalates and WHY it does.   Always remember to use it for the right reasons, as I speak to today’s instagram post of the above image.  Just click on the image to check it out.

 

xo

 

Carina

Building a Business, Essays, Life Hacks, Lifestyle, Productivity, time management

Why you should reject the “OMG I AM SO BUSY” Busy Mom Mindset

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In my professional job at a Canadian University, I design and give seminars on a variety of topics that help students be successful at University.  It’s one one my favourite parts of the job and it has some selfish benefits – I get to learn and experiment with these principles in my own life before I share with clients.  I get to read books and research and then teach principles to others, that help me, too.

At this year’s class of 2020 induction the University brought in NYT best selling author, Psychologist & TED Talker extraordinaire Kelly McGonical speak to the class of 2020 on her new book, The Upside of Stress.

At its core, this amazing book is really about how to reframe stress and use the power of our own perspective and our own mindset, to reframe stress into a good thing. Chock-full of anecdotes and research, The Upside of Stress demonstrates the power of mind over body – and mind over life.

Those Books that Make a Difference

Often, the books that resonate with us the most, are the books that simply frame in English language, some kind of principle we’ve understood or known all along, but couldn’t fully frame. I think that’s why the book did so well.  The Upside of Stress hit home in so many ways. I only wish I had read it when I was in undergraduate studies myself.  It would have saved me so much self-imposed “I’m soooo busy!” drama.

I didn’t figure out my stress stuff until the age of 30, when I experienced really heavy stress.

In the spirit of this book, and the approach McGonigal takes on reframing stress, I wanted to talk about how we can re-interpret stress & the cult of “busy” in the journey of motherhood. We can’t change events or circumstances, but we can work on how we viewtalk about and decide to interpret things.

 

Mom 1 to Mom 2:  Hey…are you a member of the cult?

Mom 1:  wtf?

Mom 2:  The cult of busy of course! WE ARE SOOOO BUSY! (takes off chasing toddler)

 

Whenever I mention to people that I have two small children (toddler and 1.5 year old) the first thing they do is shake their heads and say “oh, that’s busy.”  I often don’t even mention that I have children because I don’t want to induce such worry!

Sometimes I get “oh my god, you must be so busy” with a shake of the head, other times, slightly more worringly, it is with genuine concern / resignation.  I catch myself thinking  “oh?” and sort of start to doubt myself, like I should be more stressed than I am.  Maybe I’m not working hard enough?  Am I not doing something right as a parent?  Because I feel actually ok? Am I being a horrible parent because I’m obviously taking time out of parenthood to work on some business goals and people don’t do that?  Oh yes, they creep in.  As much as I keep them out, they creep in when someone looks at me with an alarmed look on their face with the mention of two children under three.

The problem is, I kind of don’t want their perspective.

If bought into this whole “my life is so horribly busy and I work so hard and I am exhausted and omg” it would be a bit of a disaster.  I would have immersed myself in the cult of busy. I’d probably be on a really high SSRI dosage.  I’d be in counselling.  I’d be struggling to deal with the left curve balls that sometimes get thrown my way.

It’s a devious cult, this cult of “busy” and it is hard to emerge from because it takes over the way you see things.  It’s a mindset.

If my mindset is like this:  MY LIFE IS MAXED OUT, I AM SO BUSY AS A MOM HOLY SHIT, I definitely would not be giving myself the mental space for anything else to happen, ever.  Because I’d be red-lining on everything, all the time. I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’d done on mat leave, or started any businesses or projects.

It led me to wonder, how come everybody says “you must be so busy.”

Why?  There’s tons of influences. In coaching we call it societal discourse.  It’s the hum of conversation around a topic that seems to be widespread.

First, it might be a cultural thing.  There’s a sort of pride, achievement in saying how busy you are.  If you are busy you must be super productive and successful.  I must be super productive and successful.  Therefore I must be busy. That’s the underlying assumption that occurs out there in the world when you have a lot on the go.  The ego likes that.  Then it doubles down when you are a Mom, because we have this weird guilt thing where we feel like we have to justify our very existence with double the hard work, right?

Some people are genuinely maxed out with life, and that’s totally cool.  I’m not judging.  But I write this post to help others who want to “catch” themselves in the mindset and take the edge off of it, because I think a lot of opportunity opens up with just a shift in mindset.

Where else does this whole busy mom thing come from?

There’s movies about the harried, flustered Mum.  Commercials that want you to think you are busy because then you’ll need their product.  Capitalist society wants you to be busy and stressed, because then they have solutions for you for only $10.99.

Moms are always portrayed as stressed and frazzled, aren’t they?  Everywhere we go, everything we see.  And it’s kind of our fault.  We don’t look up from our phones to pay attention to a mom calmly playing with their kids in the park – we only notice the exceptions.  They’re more interesting.  The 5 minutes in the day where the kid has gone bat shit crazy, and is about to take down a shelf at the grocery aisle, with Mum valiantly trying to save the kid from himself.  But we don’t notice the quiet moments – not the other 1440 minutes where they are doing well and things are calm.

The exceptions become the norm, then media and society immerses us in that norm.

 

Because of reading books like McGonical’s – books from different people with different mindsets, who all experience the same things we do yet see them in a different way –  I discovered that there is more to it.  There are people out there who achieve amazing things as parents, and they think differently.

The key is if we want to be something, or do something, we need to study those who are successful at it, and look at their mindsets.  

We are not resigned to this fate of busy, harried, stressed out moms.  We can be busy, yes but we can be in control and cooly, calmly and pleasantly say no if we need to, or yes if it’s a priority. We can choose yes or no and make our lives as busy, or quiet, as we want to.

The luxury of choice also extends to our own minds.  We have the luxury of making a choice of whether to believe we are busy or not.  With two under three, I decided that I was not busy; I still had time.  And with that time, I could pursue goals and dreams and projects and priorities.

Sure, free time was compressed from 3 hours (luxurious evenings pre-children) to 1 hour (while children or napping, or while I am on lunch break at work.)  but I still had an hour free time each day in some form or another.  Free time is free time.  I sat down and looked at my week, and where the gaps of free time happened (6-7am, lunchtime at work, and 8-9:30pm) and decided what my most deeply held goals and values / priorities were. A crystal clear priority plan I still have on my iPhone notes when I need to remind myself what I want to say “YES” to, and as a source of strength when I have to say “NO” to things.

In this or that hour of free time, there went the goals and projects.  Writing a childrens’ book.  Running an Etsy store.  Reading and learning.  Finishing my coach training and launching a coaching business.  But they weren’t OMG JUST MORE SHIT TO DO.

These were all consciously chosen and pursued dreams and goals that I looked at as my idea of fun on free time.  I wanted to do these.  That’s just me. That’s what I define as enjoyable and rewarding.  Others may be Netflix or catching up on laundry, that’s okay too!  But do you tell yourself “AAAAGH!” or “COOL, IT WILL BE NICE TO SWITCH IT UP AND DO THIS INSTEAD.”

Is your approach an “ I HAVE TO” approach or a “I WANT TO” approach?

I don’t mean to be a jerk but I do mean to give a cold hard dose of reality with this post –  if you came back and said to me NO SERIOUSLY I HAVE NO FREE TIME I would debate that. I would want to see a week’s breakdown of your life, and I would ask you about your mindset.  I would ask you about what you said yes to, what you said no to. I’d ask you to put “yes and no” in the box according to what you said when that opportunity came up.

What qualifies in your life as free time?  What activities are you designating as “I have to” and  as “I want to.”

Let’s take this external event, I’ll show you an “I have to” and “I want to” mindset.

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Deciding to take the kids to the library.  Two different experiences.

Mum 1:  Agh I have to get them out of the house and this is my to do today.  It’s just one more thing on this massive list of things I am supposed to get done today. Work work work! Busy busy busy! I have to get this done!

Mum 2:  Ah awesome, with this hour I’m going to decide to take the kiddos over to the library, that’s a treat for us, a fun excursion and a break from the day’s routines. I want to do this !

SAME external life event for both moms.  Two TOTALLY different ways of perceiving it. No wonder when you come across people in the library everyone is in a totally different state of mind; look at how different their beliefs can be.

Mum 1 is living in the  “holy shit I’m so busy / stressed” narrative. Mum 1 feels that everything is outside of her external control and she’s just dragging herself along.  Mum 2 is living in a more in-control narrative that doesn’t see everything as obligations and duties.  Mum 2 is operating by choice.  They may both have busy lives and the same schedules, but they have different mindsets and ways of perceiving the situation.

What do you think Mum 1 and Mum 2’s lifestyles look like?  Do their thoughts serve them well?  Do their mindsets move them closer to goals they have?

 

 

When you wake up in the morning and you have a particularly big day of activities coming up – whether you work or stay at home, do you feel that anxious energy and think “I JUST WANT TO STAY IN BED OMG LIFE IS SO OVERWHELMING AND THIS IS JUST CRAZY”  Or do you feel that anxious energy and think “cool, this is a little tingle of excitement and anticipation getting me ready to execute a big day!”

The brain quite literally  changes its wiring and neural pathways to accommodate your thinking patterns.  Each time  you choose to think a certain way, you are either reinforcing the pathways present – or helping the brain to reshape itself and habitually think a different way.

If you start reading books by all of these cool women who have kids and have achieved awesome things, youll notice that most them tend to go through the exact same scenarios that we moms do – but they frame it differently.  They make the choice to think things, and form their brains in ways that will help them toward their goals. You as a mama know how quickly time passes, so think about what you want to achieve.  Whether you use it or not, time will pass.  You already know this better than anyone, as you sit with your baby and think “where did the time go?!”

If you want to join the cult of busy and the stress narrative, that’s your choice but ask if it serves you and gets you towards your goals.  There’s an alternative that will help you take on new things and grow.  You just have to choose it.

xo

 

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Extra reading *and viewing

 

Amazon link:  https://www.amazon.ca/Upside-Stress-Why-Good-You/dp/1583335617

McGonical’s online course through Stanford University http://online.stanford.edu/course/upside-stress

Kelly’s personal website http://kellymcgonigal.com/

 

Happiness, Lifestyle, Personal Development, The Projects

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Create a Vision Board on Pinterest – It May Change Your Life.

 

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Do you remember watching the Secret years ago, when it came out?  John Assaraf, one of the entrepreneurs talked about setting up a cork vision board and he’d pin magazine pictures, etc. to it.  Back in the 90s I had what was like the early predecessor of a pinterest board or vision board.  I had a black journal and in it I added pictures of Britney Spears, dream wedding rings, TONS of nail polish art and urban decay makeup swatches, my dream car, my wedding dress, all that usual teenage dream stuff.

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The strange thing is, I found it the other day and I was more than a bit taken aback by the photos of women I wanted to look like, and the engagement ring I had pinned all the way back then.  I have that wedding ring.  My husband chose it out independently.  My dream car in that book. I am driving it now.

At the time, when I added those magazine pictures at the age of 14 these were all just pipe dreams.  Yet, so many images from that book, I have in my life now.

This brings  me to today’s topic:  How Pinterest has been an absolute game changer for me in strategically and intentionally crafting my goals and lifestyle.

I started Pinterest about 3 years ago and have accumulated thousands of pins and hundreds of boards.  One of my most active ones and a regular practice to this day, is pinning images from the future that I would like, to a board I called “My Future Life.”

It is the most relaxing, enjoyable activity. I could have the worst day possible and aside from having a nice craft beer, lol, this is one of the single best tools to lighten my mood.  But, my pinterest habit has turned out to be more powerful than that.  My life is slowly becoming that board.  I am skeptical and I don’t like woo-woo. I shut down at the mention of feelings, emotions and heart chakras and dreams.  But there is most definitely something going on here.  So what is it?

Actively pinning images onto a vision board has profound effects in the brain, and your own awareness/energy flows.  The act of immersing yourself in visualizing a future life that excites you is good for the body, the mind, the emotions. It turns your attention to your goals and a place of deep motivation.

After an evening of pinning, imagining the future life you will have, it is implanted both in your conscious and subconscious. You can’t help but subconsciously and consciously make small decision that will get you closer to that vision.  I have one beautiful image of the hot tub at the  Willowstream Spa, up here in the castle of the Rocky Mountains – the Banff Springs Hotel.  It is VERY fancy, VERY expensive and something a bit outside of my lifestyle.  But, I pinned it to my board as a future goal, a future vision.  And I wrote under it “one day I will be doing my work from a laptop here with a glass of wine.”

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Pins from my future life 

 

 

I pinned that 3 years ago, and this past March, I found myself sitting in the hot tub at the Willowstream, sharing a day pass with a good friend and business mentor, having a business strategy summit.  The moment I realized it, an excited chill went down my spine.  This stuff works.

The beauty of that hot tub and spa never left me after I pinned to that board, and as I went along my in my day to day life it was there, sitting in my unconscious.  When an opportunity to go there came up (that required some shuffling of schedules) I didn’t even hesitate.  On the secret they talk about how events, people and things are attracted to you if you put the intention out there. Is it a coincidence of all people, my friend asked me to go to the Willowstream Spa with her to do some business coaching and strategizing?

The brain takes in a lot of data, both on the conscious and subconscious level.  It is estimated that it is crowded with more than 50,000 thoughts per day.  We are always thinking of random things we want to do , or see things that make us think “oh wow I want to do that!!” but they disappear just as quickly as the thought arrives, lost in the mass of brain activity. What if we took that thought, captured it on a pinterest board and came back to it once in a while, to keep it there, and present, floating on the surface?

 

Let yourself be absurd. Interior design. Exotic vacations. Laughing family winter pictures.  A hike that looks like it belongs on an outdoor magazine.  Pin it, and in the notes write down how it makes you feel, or something about that image.

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Underneath a hiking family I wrote “our best adventures will be outdoors” – my values and dreams wrapped into one image, and at that point my family was unborn. You can probably guess what we do these days.  I go back and review what I pinned and my weekends with the kids are anything but dull in the pursuit of these dreams.

So try it.  Pin it.  The activity of just pinning is so enjoyable, to let your mind dance among dream places, things and people.  And let your soul go to work on achieving it behind the scenes, because one day you will wake up and realize, holy shit.

I am here.

Happiness, Personal Development

I Didn’t Have a Motherhood Mentor or a Mom to Help Me – But Everything Worked Out.

Most of the motherhood and entrepreneurial podcasts I listen to emphasize again and again the importance of finding a mentor.  Someone whom you can learn from, look up to, aspire to be, and converse with along this complex journey.

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I couldn’t help but think that this is  an area of life in which I have not had a lot of luck / success.  I’ve had an interesting life path in which I haven’t had many mentors in my life other than my god father and grandfather (family.)

When my daughter was born, I was fresh out of losing my Mum to cancer and swimming in a world of overwhelm and grief and total lack of knowledge in the whole motherhood world.  I was terrified and insecure.  Unprepared, I was thrown into the deep end without water wings. I didn’t know how to bathe her, dress her, or anything.  (We chose not to do birth and babies classes because we were so busy caring for my mum through chemo, medical emergencies and the hospice process.)

In those few months of the fourth trimester, my friends all banded together and supported me in various ways, whether it was showing me the ropes, explaining the totally overwhelming world of baby bottles, or how to dress a newborn (this was totally intimidating to me.)  I also did SO MUCH you tubing, from figuring out my stroller, to installing my car seats in the car.

I have become pretty open to (and comfortable with) asking for help, knowing the day will come when I can help others.  Asking for help is hard, because you never want to be the one draining resources, but there is something more challenging than asking for help – finding a mentor. It is a two-sided process.  The mentee has to seek out or expand their social networks in the search, but the mentor also has to open up, and voluntarily step into that role, which is a commitment in itself, because it asks the mentor to open up and share their insights, successes and failures.

Last year, I met a wonderful friend who also became a business mentor – from whom I have learnt an absolute ton, which I am so thankful for.  Mentorship in this area has been deeply foundational for me as I step into the entrepreneurial world.  Mentorship can be as simple as a voice that says “I believe in you” and “these are some of the ways  you can do it” – someone to learn from as well as bounce ideas from.  The value of mentorship is being able to have open, honest conversations about strengths, weaknesses, fears and excitement.

Do you have a mentor in any area of your life?  In your spiritual life?  Motherhood life?  Self development life? Athletic life?

I longed for a motherhood mentor whose style I looked up to and identified with.  Being one of the first of my social group to have kids, was in it alone.  I had a few friends with older children, with styles of their own, who gave me tips and tricks which was wonderful, but the deeper stuff was experienced internally and at counselling.

People like to complain about the internet but I am SO thankful for it – for vloggers and websites like the pregnant chicken – who kind of became my mentors as I figured things out.

Eventually, I found my groove and the confidence to try things out myself and get a system going that worked for me.  But it was a lonely journey.

But then, looking back, maybe it was a good thing I didn’t have a mentor.  Because, in the absence of information, I went out looking.  I read about RIE parenting, I read about mothers bringing up babies in foreign countries, I created a Pinterest board with about 10 different lifestyle / mom blogs, and threw friends and older parents a million random questions.  I listened to podcasts and searched the internet for different perspectives.  The best way to learn is to seek out the information yourself.

I gathered information, sifted through it, picked a few things I liked and tried them out.

 

But there was a second piece to developing my motherhood style:

I went through a process of journaling, strengths exploration and values exploration with a life coach. I figured out what I really stand for, who I am and what I am good at.  What kind of life I had, and what kind of life I want for my children.

Knowing what your foundation is is so important.  It becomes your own compass – a compass upon which I base my parenting and all decisions regarding the life I am creating for these lovely children. No decision feels 100% correct or secure, but if the compass is pointing in the right direction, I just go for that decision with no regrets.

Mom mentors are wonderful, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry – you’ll find your way and you will develop an internal compass within a few months – or maybe a few years.  As long as you keep exposing yourself to information, exploring yourself, learning about who you are, and reflecting.   Who knows, maybe one day you will be a mentor to another mama.  Maybe they will look at you and think “I want that person in my life.”  Maybe they will look at you, and admire you, and want to understand your journey.

And the thing is, you’ll understand how they are feeling and what they are going through.  And that is what makes the best mentor.

The challenges you go through now – including feeling isolated or lonely – are meant to happen to you, because they are forming who you will become.

And maybe the person you are becoming, is going to help another mama somewhere down the road.

 

 

 

Happiness, Lifestyle, Productivity

Good Time Management is About Embracing Your Strengths

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Today I wanted to talk about an important component of time management that I have noticed successful people (especially Moms!) doing, and have been trying out the last two months or so.  As always, I try out different things, and experiment / apply them to my “mom life” before I share them here.

In my last post I talked about how the quantity of time is reducing in our day to day lives, which we can mourn, or we can embrace by shifting our mindset. 

This is a complementary post, because this post is now getting into “cool, let’s talk about the quality time and analyze it further.”

We all have things that we are amazing at, and other things…well… it’s like pulling teeth. We either procrastinate hardcore, or get it done but with a bit of pouting, attitude, or even body language that is designed to indicate to everyone around us we are not enjoying it, lol. I definitely stomp around with the laundry basket.

Successful / Engaged people are incredibly realistic about what they are good at and enjoy (today we will call these “enjoyments”) and what they are not that great at and just have to dig deep to do it (we will call these “duties.”)

Have you ever sat down and listed all of your daily and weekly responsibilities – just like you would write up a job posting / job description?

And then, have you looked at that list, and decided what your enjoyments are and what your duties are?

DO IT. 

 

Here is my list of roles / projects that fill my day-to-day rhythms.  I’ve put beside them whether it is an enjoyment piece – energizing and rewarding.  Or, a duty piece.  Don’t enjoy it, just get it done.

 

Professional Job  *Enjoyment

Commuting *Enjoyment

Exercise (running) *Enjoyment

Exercise (strength) *Duty

Laundry *Duty

Clean surfaces *Duty

Organizing / putting away *Enjoyment

Cleaning *Duty

On-Demand Cooking *Duty

Advance Food Prep *Duty

Grocery Shopping *Enjoyment

Social Media *Enjoyment

Blogging *Enjoyment

Childrens’ Book *Enjoyment

Quality outdoors time with kids *Enjoyment

Quality indoors time with kids *Duty

Quality time with husband *Enjoyment

Finances and household budgeting *Enjoyment

Social planning *Enjoyment

Relationships / Communication *Enjoyment

Research / Learning *Enjoyment

Building Coaching Business *Enjoyment

Write down the list of ongoing daily responsibilities / projects that you have in your life, and assign duty or enjoyment to each one.  

The next part is deciding how to manage all of these critical activities with our time.

I am a firm believer that you embrace and work with your strengths, and partner with your (partner) on weaknesses (your weaknesses may be their strengths.) Even just the conversation around your strengths and not-so-strengths is valuable.  After a talk about our cleaning strengths and weaknesses, my husband and I decided I would be the organizer / put stuff away person and he’d take care of the cleaning jobs.  After years of us disagreeing over things this has been a big improvement for us!

Make a conscious decision about which will be your daily activities (a little, often) and weekly activities (a lot, sometimes.) 

The secret to being productive (and pretty happy about it) is tackling all of the enjoyment pieces of our life on a daily basis.  I crack away at each of these, a little bit every day.  But the “duty” items drain me, put me in a bad mood and just straight up take willpower.

Recently I made a conscious decision to tackle duty items  in one big day, once a week instead of facing them down every.single.day.   That works for me – and that’s what I want to stress: decide what works for you. What works for you? Do your “duty” items feel better tackled a little bit at a time every day? or would you rather roll up your sleeves and get ‘er done in one big blitz?

My husband’s strengths complement my weaknesses in cooking and cleaning – but when I do them, I try to blitz them so that most of the week, that precious time is spent in my strengths, dialing in our budgets, building businesses, planning social events, organizing and putting things away, etc.

One big cooking blitz, one big laundry blitz, one big cleaning session. I am totally okay with letting these to- dos stack up during the week while I engage with strengths, like getting my kids outside and doing cool stuff and quality time.

(Sometimes other people do not think this is okay – I’ve had my fair share of other people’s judgements –  but I think you just have to steel yourself against criticism and hold fast to the fact this is what works for our family and lets us engage on a daily basis with our priorities and places of engagement and enthusiasm.)  

“But if you are deciding put off important items, how do you keep track of them?”

You may want to ask that.  Here’s another thing I do to make this system work.

 JOURNALLING.  

I could write an entire post about journalling. I’m a passionate journaller.

I’d love to write about using it to keep track of projects, inspiring your life with bucket lists, tracking how you are doing mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually with daily check ins, intention and goal setting, or even just helping your memory out by transcribing dates from iCal into a written journal.

(I promise I’ll get to a post on this.)

Anyways back on track –

On Sunday night I sit down and set intentions and goals for the week, but I also write a comprehensive list of important things to get done, and I add to it as ideas randomly pop in my head, or as I suddenly remember things (I don’t have a great memory.)  I’m known for remembering random things we need to do, and it’s only because I carry around this journal and get it down the moment it appears in my mind.

This technique also helps me maintain focus on my work by not getting sidetracked.  Thoughts pop up, I put them into the journal to be deal with and evaluated later.

Depending on whether it is a duty or enjoyment item, I either tackle things daily, or I save the duty pieces to one dedicated evening / morning or day at when I have a chunk of free time and can tackle them all at once.

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(This is what an ENTP journal looks like, if you know your MBTI types)

 

LET’S TALK!

I am dying to know – what are your systems, how do you manage the great work and the grunt work?  Are you a little every day, are you a all-or-nothing type? Have you ever sat down and thought about this?

If you have, is your system working for you so far?  Any unique tips?

Let’s chat!  I’d LOVE to know.

Happiness, Organization, Productivity

Babies are the Best Thing To Happen To Your Time and Daily Schedule.

 

Most of us have been unwilling (and unconscious) participants in a popular dialogue.  “I’m a mom!  I don’t have time!”  We just buy into it and assume its the truth, right?   And then we get to the newborn stage and think my life will never be the same again.  It’s like deer in headlights stuff.  What just happened? 

Tell someone you have two babies:  “wow, you must be busy!”  or you tell them you are working and have two young kids – they shake their heads in disbelief and mutter under their breath “have fun with that.”  Then you wonder if you are making a massive mistake, if it’s truly possible.

Before I even had kids people would hush their voices, grab my hands and whisper, as if disclosing a deep dark secret.  “your life is over.” (Okay maybe not that dramatic but their tone conveyed this hidden message.)

I came into motherhood literally bracing for a vortex.  A giant black hole into which my time, my previous life, and my identity would get sucked into. Oh my, it was scary. I was bracing.

To be sure, the “fourth trimester” – the first three months of babykins’ life – are this endless loop of feedings, naps, diaper changes and cooing over a miracle, and googling like you’ve never googled before.  And crying.  Lots of crying  But… BUT…once you get your groove, slowly, ever so slowly you begin to do little things again.

Stand in the kitchen and sip a coffee.   Watch netflix.  Read a book.  Go out for a quick date with your husband.   Paint your toenails (oh yes, believe it!  Those 7 layers of crusty sparkly stuff from your pre-baby life will be removed – it happens!) Laundry.  You get to this stage where you sit down at the end of the day, feet aching, bracing yourself for the night shift, yet you think “shit, I am more productive than I HAVE EVER BEEN BEFORE.”  You, my lady, are a machine.

The argument I am going to make here, is that HAVING CHILDREN IS THE BEST THING THAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN TO YOUR TIME.

A pretty absurd statement isn’t it?  I am sitting here on my laptop, struggling to stay awake at 9:54 pm, but I am telling you that how you use your time will be transformed, and you will use it ore effectively than you ever have before.

Is this shocking? When you are hurriedly showering hoping your little humans don’t  destroy something (or themselves) in the living room upstairs?   Or while they are howling downstairs in the bathroom from their car seat / swing / whatever restraint device?  I hope it does feel a bit shocking.

But hear me out mama.  I speak from two mat leaves, and the future.  

I’ll tell you a quick story.

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I work with olympic athletes.  If you think you are busy, let’s talk about olympic athletes who are studying at University.  Swimmers.  Swimmers are some of the craziest of that lot. 5am swims.  Quick breakfasts.  a full day of university classes.  Back in the pool early afternoon.  Another session early evening, if not dryland training.  Somewhere in between there, eating and recovery activities such as massage (don’t think this is relaxing massage, it’s terrible, I’ve use an olympic team masseuse and it redefines torture) – and rehabilitation if they are injured.  I didn’t even mention part time jobs in here.

Yet, when I work with these people, they are the people who have the best attitude about time.  This group, who have almost NO downtime, can tell me without hesitation how they enjoyed their downtime, and are quite dialled in on their time management! It comes down to the age old phrase of “quality over quantity.”

Olympic athletes are not that much different from us new mamas.  Limited downtime.  A physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting job that goes from the crack of dawn to well past sundown.  They have maybe an hour of downtime in their days.  I know this, because I literally map out their schedules with them as part of my coaching profession. I also map out schedules with new mamas as a professional coach, and the short bursts of free time are not all that different.

What we can learn is when we have just one precious hour, one delicious break where we sit down with a sigh, feet aching, we are that much more mindful of the beautiful but short break we have. More so than we have ever been before.

Remember the days spent on a couch, 10 hours passing by with only our hunger telling us to get up and go to the kitchen?  There’s no time to waste time away anymore.  I don’t ever hear a mom say “just killin time.”  NOPE.  If there is an hour of free time, the mums I know are strategically planning out the best use of that.  Maybe it’s laundry.  Maybe it’s making a meal. Maybe it’s some kind of critical budgeting or administrative activity.  Maybe it’s (equally important) sitting down or having a nap.  No drop of time is wasted.  It is planned and used with intention.  And that occasional glorious break? A glass of wine? A magazine?  We remember those moments.

I challenge you to remember one moment drinking a glass of wine in your house ten years ago, versus one moment doing it now (probably chugged because you’re not sure when the baby will wake up, haha.)  We savour that which is sacred.  So much more.

And this, is why I think children are the best thing to happen to our free time.

We are so much more conscious and intentional with it.

I was chatting with a friend the other day about my instagram feed.  I do enjoy social media and it is part of my wake up in the morning routine.  I get my housecoat on, sneak into the lounge before anyone is awake, sip coffee and wake up.

I know I only have 30 minutes to do this.  I want to make sure I use those 30 minutes well, and a few months ago I thought “wait, why am I wasting this amazing break on useless shit on instagram that doesn’t help me?” so I’ve pared down my social media to 25% of the accounts that I followed previously.  Most of the accounts I follow now are connected to a greater meaning.

They either give me ideas or inspire me to work towards the vision I have for my life, the lifestyle I am working toward, the goals I aspire to, or remind me of the values I hold.

I’m sorry random online business hustler taking selfies with hot women – I’m not giving you a few minutes of my attention.  My time is too precious.

That which is limited, we value even more.

Think about anything in your life that you love.  If it becomes limited, you appreciate it even more.  It’s true.  Try drinking just one coffee a day and then come back and tell me how much you appreciate that one cup of coffee. 🙂

When the quantity decreases, the quality increases.

Your downtime may have literally decreased, but figuratively you have gained so much more.

Will you take advantage of that?  Or continue to pine for that which was in the past?

 

 

Book Club, Happiness, Productivity

A Day in The Life of a Working Mom and the 168 Hour Log. How to be More in Control of your Time.

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One of the most influential books I read on maternity leave was Laura Vanderkam’s book I Know How She Does It:  How Successful Women Make The Most of Their Time.

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In the book, Vanderkam gave a number of successful women diaries to keep.  For one week they logged every activity from the first shrills of the alarm, or cries of their babies, through to the last moments of consciousness.

From those diaries, Vanderkam distilled her findings, culminating in the New York Times Bestseller book (link above.)

There are many fascinating practices that came up again and again across these women.  I am sure you can guess many of them – in fact, Vanderkam reviewed some of them in this article for CBS.

Everybody wants to have better mornings.  I know a bad morning for me, is being in a reactive place – not being prepared and then waking up to my baby or toddler’s voice, then scrambling to get coffee in me, lunch prepped, breakfast ready and then out the door.  Why is it bad? I feel rushed. Scrambled. Unorganized. I forget things.

A good morning is having some time to wake up before anyone else, slowly reboot my brain with some reading and social media scrolling, and then get some idea of the things I need to get done in the quiet moments because I’m not a good details person.  I’m calm and grounded when the kids get up, and focused on what needs to be done.  Not all over the place.

That is so much easier said than done, hey?

There are countless articles on the web, advising you on what the most successful people do in the morning. They all start like this “The 10 most important things that…”  “Twenty ways to change your day” etc etc.

My hangup has always been – and always will be – “We already know!   SO HOW DO WE ACTUALLY DO THIS EVERY DAY AND IMPLEMENT IT WITHOUT FORGETTING?”

It turns out, that to take new actions, we must first know ourselves inside and out.

You cannot reprogram yourself without 100% total awareness of what you were doing before.

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I spent a week doing what Vanderkam calls the 168 hour challenge.  I logged my days from wakeup to pass out.  I’d put “go to sleep” – but most days, I’d literally collapse into bed with a blissful sigh, absolutely pooped after a baby or toddler wakeup at 10pm – just when I thought I was in the clear! 

In recording just one week, I was astounded at the patterns I could see. In reflecting upon those patterns, I was astounded at the lessons I learnt and the newfound motivation to adjust my daily practices and incorporate new ones that I had studied (but never implemented.)

I learnt what I needed from my mornings.  What I needed to set my energy up right for the day.  I learnt that with a monkey brain, I needed to set clear intention and focus in my first few moments of the day. I learnt what my natural tendencies are, when my discipline and focus are missing.

Everyone is different.  Where I am trying to slow down my energy in the morning, others may be trying to improve it.  So take the log here with a grain of salt.

The point of this entire post is to encourage you to journal your day and reflect.

Then, set some new intentions.  Try them out with the new motivation you will have.

Try out new things.  Scrap what doesn’t work.  Keep what works.

There’s a reason this entire process took a year.  It’s constantly trying things out, reflecting and going back to the drawing board, researching some more, and adopting other techniques.  It’s not about a perfect 100% dialed in day; it’s about the journey to get there, the constant little improvements, day by day, week by week.  Then, a year later, you realize that a whole chunk of your day has shifted.

It’s about the bravery to break out of unconscious routine and habit, and choose to implement new things with the type of intention that propels you toward your life goals.

I bring to you a before and after  –  a peek into my own day (this is just a 1 day sample.)

Here’s a typical “unconscious day” before I studied and learnt from this book, followed by a “conscious day” where I have successfully implemented a few of the “successful women strategies” as well as other daily routines outlined by people like Tim Ferriss (see his 24 hours schedule here.)   Once you listen to hundreds of hours of podcasts, you realize successful people tend to have very similar morning routines and daily habits.

 

BEFORE – APPROX 1 YEAR AGO

7:10 AM – wake-up to the sounds of my toddler.  10 minutes lying there thinking it’s too early.  Scroll Facebook.

7:20 – Realizing I have to leave for work in only 20 minutes.  Why didn’t I get up earlier?  I could have worked out. I should have gotten up. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.  

7:25 – 7:45 – Get coffee machine on, get toddler up and half dressed

7:45 – 7:55-  Realize I need to leave in 20 minutes.  Berate myself.  Get snack ready for toddler, coffee made and get my underwear on.

7:55-8:10 – Get mascara on, baby awake.  Go get him up and dressed, prepare some milk.  Get back to getting dressed.

8:10 – Remember I haven’t made any lunch.

8:10-8:15 – Quickly throw together some breakfast food, get my handbag and get my toddler dressed / brush her hair.

8:15 – Look for shoes, car keys, other random things I need.

8:25 – Couldn’t find car keys, or coat, or something else I need.  Hop in the car.

8:25-8:50 – Drive to work, get there in the nick of time.

9-5:30 – Work at the University.  Wind up staying a bit late and feeling guilty about it.  Don’t take a lunch break or my morning and afternoon breaks – maybe a random 30 minute break  (I am bad for this and it’s a habit I am trying to break.)

12:00 – Buy lunch briefly and go back to work, eating lunch in front of computer.

5:30 – 6:15 – Drive home with a podcast, stress a bit about not being disciplined about leaving on time.

6:15-7:45 – Intentional, present family time with the kiddos.

7:45 – 8:15 – Bedtime preparations, get kids in bed.

8:15 – 8:45 – Husband and I make dinner, eat late.

8:45 – 9:30 – Have a glass of wine, relax and chat.

9:30 – 10:00 – Clean kitchen or complete a short tidying up task so house is clean for morning.

10:00 – 10:30 – Tuck in, read non-fiction.

10:30 – lights out.  Spend next 30 minutes thinking about the non-fiction I just read.

 

AFTER – CURRENT STATE

**Note:  This is an ideal day here- in any one day I don’t check off every one of these things.  I am at about 60% success rate at this point in the game.  For every one item dialed in, I miss the other one.  This is a work in progress (and a fun project at that!)  – but after trying each one of these components, I know now what an ideal day looks like, and what to work towards, and it ALL starts with how that first 2 hours goes in the morning, before I even get to work.  

5:50 – Get up naturally without need of alarm (if I go to bed at 10pm and keep a routine – this takes a lot of discipline!)   I’ve been experimenting with programming thoughts before bed to have my body wake me up – it WORKS.  If you trust it….
5:50 – 6:10 – Lie in bed, slowly wake up with scrolling through Instagram (I only follow accounts whose images represent goals, lifestyles or lessons I want to learn.) Good inspiration.

6:10-6:30 – Make lunch while coffee brewing.  Make the bed if husband is working  (watch Admiral McRaven’s speech on making the bed every day for reference to the importance of this task and how it sets you up for a good day.)

6:30-7:00 – Drink coffee in living room and cross off some to-dos with my businesses I am building on the side.  Last week, this time was for my Kickstarter campaign.  other weeks it might be packing an order I received through my Etsy Store.   *A less “dialed in” version of this would be 20 minutes of Facebook and only 10 minutes of work, lol.

7:00 – 7:20 – Get dressed and actually do some decent makeup beyond mascara.
7:20-7:30 – Specifically assign myself 10 minutes to find shit like my car keys and sunglasses, which I know I constantly misplace.  See, I haven’t improved on it, I just build this time in now and ALLOW myself the time / acknowledge this as a regular event.

7:30 – 7:45 – Assemble breakfast and lunch for the day.

7:45-8:30 – Run on a nice trail somewhere along the commute to work.  Also listen to a favourite podcast for inspiration and to set my frame of mind for the day.

8:45 – Arrive at work with time to change out of running clothes; enjoy a nice americano and a green juice / hard boiled eggs (my go to breakfast.)

8:45-9:00 – Take the time to write down my to-dos and goals for the day in a little journal I carry around.  This helps me control the bazillion ideas I have each day, and maintain a focus.  I repeat this practice at the end of the day before I leave the office, making a note of a small success that day.

9-5:00 – Work at the University

12:00-1:00 – Take lunch.  TAKE the break. Get outside. Do.Not.Work.  Ideal is excercise or listen to the Headspace Meditation App.  

5:00 – 5:30 – Before leaving office, reply to personal emails,plan social events, life administrative stuff like budget checks, iCal updates (my husband and I share one.)

5:30 – 6:00 – Commute home with another (easier listening) podcast, intentionally focus on leaving work at work.

6:00 – 7:00 – Fully present time with the kids, relieve husband while he preps dinner. Best case scenario is to go outside in garden or to park or walk along ridge.

7:00-7:30 – Eat in various stages depending on who wants to eat and who does not lol.  You know life with toddlers 😉

7:30 – 8:15- Kids ready for bed: Bath, teeth brushing, bottles for baby, set up beds, put on pjs, etc.  Each of us takes one kid, gets them down at same time.  Intentionally focus on breathing and clear mindedness while rocking baby to sleep; not on kindle.

8:15-9:00 – Cup of tea and talk time with husband in living room.  Also: Myofascial rolling while talking a few times a week.

9:00 – 9:30 – Clean kitchen, tackle a few house tasks.  Somehow the physical activities shut down the brain for bed

9:30 – 10:00 Reading fiction (so I can’t think about it) or another Take 10 session from headspace app.

10:00 Lights out.

 

 Evernote Observations from Keeping This Log:

-How much time I was wasting scrolling through social media before.  I still love social media, but filtered it so that the accounts showing up are inspiring or help me proceed towards goals.

-How precious  free, solo time is and the need to get up before my family to get set on the right foot.

-That email can wait.

-That a small habit like a green juice, making my bed, or a good cup of coffee actually does set the vibe for the rest of the day. Small, seemingly mundane tasks have a powerful ability to shape our mindset.

-Morning is a prime energy time.

(When are your energy flows?  Worth noting in your time log)

-The best business ideas for me, happen in the car.

-I use my phone and check emails a lot less often, this has helped with focus and not jumping among too many tasks and diluting energy / effectiveness.

-That there are 168 hours in a week, after sleeping and working, that leaves me 72 hours to decide intentionally what to fill that space with, and how.  

 

Now, here’s your homework:

Spend one day in your typical cycle.  Record what you get up to.

Then, design an ideal day and make it your goal to execute that one ideal day, with the purpose of writing about it – either privately in an email to yourself, your journal, in Evernote, or in your phone notes.

The moment you record your day, reflection happens and a world of motivation opens up.  You can’t help but notice where the obstacles and opportunities are, and you can’t help but become intentional with this one gift we have; time.

You have 168 hours in a week, what do you do with that time?

Happiness

How to Avoid Talking About Poop and Diapers: A Conversation Upgrade Guide for the New Mum

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How do we get away from the Mom conversation loop?  How do we insert conversation in that doesn’t revolve around Diapers. Husbands. Naps. Sleep deprivation.  Losing weight. Diapering. Poop blowouts.

How do we reconnect with ourselves and others beyond “Mom?”

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for these topics above.  I’d go crazy if I couldn’t discuss the reality of my days with my friends.  But today, we’re talking about upgrading our conversation.  Adding another level to it, and staying out of the endless loop.

So, let’s chat.

I definitely get it.  The first chance you have for some social interaction with other Mums is amazing – you finally have the opportunity to run through successes and challenges, ups and downs, and you try to figure out what the hell just happened to you, and your life with a sympathetic, understanding, and knowledgeable ear.

The tricky part though is how do you get away from the same conversations?

I bet you know the loop I am referring to.   

Feeding habits…Diapers…Naps…laundry…Complaining about mom things.  Husbands coming home late from work.  Those universal touch-and-go points that fill our days on maternity leave.

Remember those days when you used to talk about world events? Interesting facts, maybe a dash of celebrity gossip?  Dreams and things you were looking forward to?  Positive things?  

Then you get to this place where you realize you are replying to “how are things?” with “good” and then discussing bowel movement highlights of your baby.

It’s a slippery slope down into the same Mom conversation loops.  Especially if you are with a group where there are varying degrees of friendship and familiarity.

It’s just too easy, right?  Find something in common with someone you don’t know, and establish a rapporal by connecting on your similar experiences.

“Oh, how old?”  “Eating/walking/rolling yet?”

But, what then? How do we move beyond that?  How do we get back to the place of conversation we miss so much on maternity leave and connect with other mamas beyond diapers, and naps, and feeding, and sleep deprivation?

How do we acknowledge in ourselves -and- other women, that we are so much more than our babies? That there is more to our identity?  More depth than just that? 

Shifting conversation is surprisingly difficult because it takes forethought, putting ourselves out there and intentional effort.  

Every few years we run into life changes where we have to re-examine and upgrade our skills.  We have to overhaul our nutrition and workouts after pregnancy and childbirth to lose that baby weight.  And just like our physical health, we can re-examine and overhaul other areas.

Ramit Sethi runs a fantastic series on how to master group conversation – which is a must-read (and watch) for anyone who engages in networking and different forms of group conversation.  Sethi’s blunt honesty is not for everyone, but I love his insights.

You can access this series here.

I recommend it as a supplemental read to deepen your knowledge and motivation.

Here are some tips from the best conversationalist Moms I know, on how to have better conversations on mat leave and stay away from the bitchfests (they feel good but they have a *limited* time and place.) 

First, become more aware.  Your job is to start becoming conscious and notice when the conversation gets stuck in the usual loop.

Follow a few fascinating facebook pages or general interest blogs and put them at the top of your feed “appear first” so they don’t get lost in the other content.

(Some of my favourites)

Kara Cooney, Egyptologist posts really interesting archaeology & anthropology related topics

Brain Pickings or Wait But Why – Long form blogs on interesting topics of relevance to all of us. Gets your brain ticking and leaves you with questions you want to ask your friends about. I often read these while I feed the baby.

Blinkist for iPhone summarizes all of the latest non-fiction books into nice 15 minute condensed summaries and is smart at picking up on your favourites and suggesting other new releases.  Another go-to during baby feeding time.

I purposefully don’t watch the news – but I do like to maintain a connection with world events – the Skimm, a daily (sassy) summary email is a great quick + short read to stay on top of important topics.  Get this summary delivered to your inbox each morning.

Think about a goal you have coming into a conversation.  Do you want to inspire?  Make someone laugh?  What is your style.  Also think of your conversation partner.  How do you want them to walk away feeling as a result of being with you?  Lighter?  Happier?  Educated? Grounded? Inspired?

We are so limited in our time to connect with others, especially our mama friends.  Let’s really make that time worth it by choosing great conversation.

Take time to think about 3 stories this week that have nothing to do with your children. They can be profound, humorous, or of a feel-good nature. Ramit Sethi calls this technique the story toolkit.  You carry those stories with you and pull them out in conversation.

For us Mums, taking time to intentionally think about 3 stories particularly important because

a.) We have brain fog

b.) Our higher levels of thinking and conversing sometimes get lost in oh I don’t know, onesie folding and isolation all week? (I can say this because I’ve been there!)  We need to retrain our brains.

c.) Poop takes over everything.  It’s amazing.  But we really should talk about more things.

Stop being weird with eye contact.  If you are in a group with more than one mama, practice making eye contact with each person rather than focusing on your nearest and dearest friend or most familiar acquaintance.  This can help with the cliquey-ness that we feel (and sometimes unknowingly contribute to!)

And if all fails.  Just drink more wine.  And maybe have the book of questions around.

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My friend bought this pre-kids and it has made for some pretty fantastic conversations. (So has the alcohol lol)

It still does.

I can’t wait for our next girls’ getaway because this book comes out and so does the laughter and connection (and for one or two nights, the chance to remember who we are and feel like ourselves again!

Try it out.

 

xo  – Carina

Happiness, Learning

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: How to get over being a rookie mom that makes mistakes.

 

Today I’m going to address some of the barriers we have to learning.  I see students run up against barriers to learning when they are immersed in courses at the University level. I wrote an article about it on Linked In today, but I decided to adapt it for the Great Maternity Leavers too, because this is such a big topic for us.

On maternity leave we are learning how to be Mums, but I’ve noticed there is an absurd amount of pressure to be perfect and that we cannot make mistakes.  There are no mistakes in motherhood.

How many of you had a moment with your baby when you learnt something new and secretly in your mind you thought “oh man, I’m so glad noone saw that, they’d think I was such an idiot.”

Oh hi, yes, I’d like to my hand up about fifteen times on this one?

To truly embrace learning and a path of change as we embrace motherhood, we must take an honest look at our obstacles to learning, shine light on them and then choose to tackle them head-on.  The fear of judgement and our own egos are an intense hurdle to overcome.

Our egos have a strong hold over us – and it is reinforced by our fear of judgement from others  (which is the ego’s work too.  The ego wants to have everyone love us and think we are amazing, lol.)

 

There’s an external battle. There are so many moms out there who are SO quick to judge and stand on their high horses, right?  Especially on the interwebs.  You cannot make any mistakes as a mom.  Their egos are running rampant.  They spend so much time judging others to make their egos feel good, that they in turn are terrified of being judged.  They are locked in a really bad cycle.  One thing I’ve noticed as I became a mum, is that it feels like all of a sudden I became an item of public interest.  The public feels it can comment / judge my mothering and offer their feedback – in the grocery store, at the park, etc.

There’s also the internal battle. The ego convinces us that making mistakes and learning will disadvantage us in life. It throws out all sorts of thinking patterns to avoid the situation.

Did you know our thoughts create a stress response in our body (threat responses) to further convince us not to engage in discomfort?

All of a sudden, it’s making sense that there is so much pressure to be a perfect mum. The pressure comes from two angles – external and internal.

This specific barrier has a nasty effect – it blocks us from learning, and immersing ourselves in a new experience.  It also blocks us from the practice and repetition that allows us to embody and master a new area of learning.

I can give you a really good example.  I love rollerblading, and it’s a key fitness activity for me.  I’ve been doing it since I was 6 and am good at it.  When I had my babies, I decided to start rollerblading with the stroller.  But, it took a few weeks to get the courage up.  I hit a barrier to learning.

Internal barrier:  What if a fall and look like an idiot?

External barrier:  What if people think it is wrong that I am rollerblading, or worse, what if I fall and people see me falling?

Those two barriers made me procrastinate and procrastinate.  Eventually, I got the courage to do it and eventually, each time I went out, the discomfort faded away.  I’ve got to tell you though, I had to face my fears.  I have people shake their heads at me (usually mums) – but I also have people say “that is AWESOME! Good for you!” (usually dads.)

And the best part? I DID fall.  I wiped out on my rollerblades with the stroller.  The fears came true.  People jumped out of their cars and ran over, horrified.

So uncomfortable.  But because I learnt about rollerblading with a stroller and figured out how to do it (failures and all) it means that now, I get amazing exercise, my kids have an absolute blast in the chariot, and I am a happier and healthier mum that gets to be around  longer for the kids.

 

Now, let’s put the story aside, let’s get back to the meaty parts.

A key to overcoming this learning barrier is first becoming aware of when this barrier occurs and how it shows up in your mind.  And in what areas of your life is this triggered?

For me, I am always a bit intimidated to participate in meetings or conversations with new people of high intellect.  I have worked through acknowledging this discomfort, engaging with it, understanding where it is coming from and choosing to go for it anyways and add my two cents.  It has become easier over time, to the point where I have moved from crippling shyness to easy, enthusiastic networking and engaging conversation.

How does it show up for you?  What do you think?

 

 

I get excited when coaching clients reveal this struggle. This, right here is fertile ground.  Their reflection and awareness is the best sign.  It is the first stage to growth and overcoming learning barriers.

The next part is what do you do in that moment.

How do you override the ego and biological systems that are conspiring against you?

They want to keep you in a net of security and safety.  They don’t want you to learn or grow.  They tell you “don’t go rollerblading!”  “don’t try to install your carseat you won’t get it right and you’ll get in trouble”  “nah, put off figuring out how to unfold your stroller until there’s noone around.” 

 

When you dig in and get uncomfortable often enough, it begins to silence the ego.

This week, choose to do something new with your baby.  Something small (figuring out that moby wrap) or maybe something big (figuring out the configurations of your stroller – I cried my first time.)

This is called embodiment.  When you practice being uncomfortable enough that the body thinks “ah, I’m familiar with this,” and the ego shifts from a shout, to a whisper.

All of the super mums you know who easily embrace challenges, new baby carriers, going on hikes or just doing really cool things that intimidate the bravest of us – they are so used to getting uncomfortable that it doesn’t phase them anymore.  They still feel uncomfortable, but the ego doesn’t overrule everything with its shouting.

 

The second technique is to actually put yourself through a thought experiment.

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Do you know anyone in your life who never challenges themselves, never learns, who cycles through the same pattern with a fixed mindset, every day in the bubble that they have created for themselves?

Do you know anyone in your life who challenges themselves, is always learning something new, who has a growth mindset and is constantly upgrading and evolving their life?

They are two very different stories, aren’t they?

 

What if you were too scared to leave the house,  try out that new stroller, what if you worried so much about your baby crying in the grocery store you avoided it?  What if you used to love hiking and don’t do it anymore because you are afraid of the weather, or stumbling, or the baby crying? What does that feel like in your gut if you imagine giving in to the fear of judgement and your ego?

What if you figured out that new stroller (but you definitely cried as you watched youtube over and over) and finally got the hang of it, and your baby got used to it, what if you found a new freedom in going out each day with it?  What if you had a nutritious meal, because that time you went to the groceries you took a deep breath and rolled with the baby crying?  What if you rediscovered the joy of hiking and rediscovered a way to feel like yourself again?

Tell me, how does each feel in your gut.

Keep pushing the edges of your comfort mama, you’ve got this. It gets easier.  Stay steady on that path to growth and evolution.

Acknowledge it’s totally uncomfortable and be ok with that.  Know that great rewards come with great challenges.  It is so worth it.