When You’ve Lost Your Way

I’ve had so many clients tell me recently that they “just don’t know how they got off course” or that they feel like they’ve “somehow totally lost control of their lives.” Of course these feelings extend far beyond having a cluttered or disorganized home.

I’ve also had this feeling of being “off track” pop up more than a few times in my life. I’ve learned it can be triggered not only by significant life events – like losing my father unexpectedly – but also seemingly minor hiccups, like losing my voice for a few weeks or even just waking up and feeling like something’s out of whack.

I’ve found a few tools that have proven helpful, and of course I wanted to share them with you:

Try these helpful tools when you've lost your way or feel off track. Get Quiet

Sometimes when I’m feeling off it is because there’s so much noise in my head it’s hard to think straight. It helps to make space for myself and find pockets of quiet. I recommend a ten-minute walk to reflect or a five-minute meditation to help quiet your mind and slow down your racing brain. I particularly love the five to ten-minute meditations on the Rituals app.

Practice Acceptance

There’s nothing like resisting emotion to make negative feelings drag on even longer. My tendency is always to push against any kind of negativity that crops up, but I’ve learned that as soon as I surrender things shift, sometimes instantly. Practice paying attention to how you feel like an outside observer. Write down all of your thoughts and feelings and don’t judge them. Maybe you feel totally overwhelmed in every area of your life? Maybe you feel ashamed of the state of your home? All of it is fine. This is where you are, and it’s ok.

Connect with People Who Get You

Sometimes, when I feel like I’m so off track I can’t even remember who I am or what I care about, I connect with someone who does. A call to your mom, a session with a therapist, life coach, or teacher who knows you, or lunch with an old friend can help you feel more connected, and integrated, in your life.

Practice Doing Things You Enjoy

Whenever I’m in a rut or feel disconnected from myself, I make sure to start practicing things that I love. Take a yoga or dance class, dig into a good book, take a writing class, or meet a good friend for dinner. Sometimes you have to “fake it until you make it,” but taking these actions can help propel you forward and will certainly feel better than sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.

Create a Daily Routine

I remember when I broke my foot and couldn’t workout or see clients for weeks. I felt not only frustrated, but totally disconnected from my life. What helped the most was establishing a daily routine I could practice even with my given circumstances. No matter what you’re going through, you can still schedule meals, social outings, and create space for activities you enjoy.

Start Small

Whether you want to lose weight, declutter your home, get a new job, or start a relationship, it’s always best to start with one small step at a time. When we feel overwhelmed it’s almost impossible to take action. Think of one tiny thing you can do to move towards your vision or goals. Focus only on completing that one micro-action so you can experience a little victory. Ignore the rest. Momentum will follow.

If you’re working your way through a difficult time, I hope you will try some of these techniques and let me know how it goes for you. If you have others to add to the list, please share in the comments below or DM me.

PS. The waitlist for the Virtual Closet Makeover Program is open. Get on it today so you don’t miss your chance to join us when we open up registration in September.

Images: Vivian Johnson Photo

5 Simple Ways to Declutter Your Digital Life

Do you feel overwhelmed by the constant buzzing of computer alerts and mobile phone apps calling for your attention? Digital clutter can take a toll just as much as physical clutter. Here are a few simple ways I’m trying to quiet the noise and declutter my digital life:

5 Simple Ways to Declutter Your Digital Life

Clear Your Desktop

When I open up my computer and find the home screen cluttered with photos and documents I find it difficult to stay focused. Try deleting any outdated items and then organize the remaining items into labeled files for easy access when you need them. A blank screen feels like a clean slate. Ahhhh…

Limit Open Tabs

I was shocked to notice the other day that I had ten tabs open on my computer! Stay focused and increase productivity by closing up shop so you won’t be temped to peruse social media, or other sites, when you sit down to work.

Delete Unnecessary Apps

Take ten minutes to delete any apps from your phone that you don’t use or reference. You can also try organizing the apps that you do use by type. I love to keep my home screen blank and store all of my apps on the second page so I’m less tempted to go down a social media rabbit hole.

Turn Off All Notifications

Tired of alerts on your devices distracting you throughout the day? You can easily adjust your settings to turn off all notifications so you can enjoy the sound of silence and stay focused throughout your day.

Unsubscribe

Whenever spam or junk mail lands in your inbox, take a few seconds to report or unsubscribe. I’ve committed to this practice for just a few months and I’ve seen a massive drop in unwanted emails.

Interested in trying a full blown digital detox? Read about how right here. 

Images: Vivian Johnson Photography 

Radical Generosity

I’m reading this amazing book called “More or Less” by Jeff Shinabarger. The book revolves around a question: “What would happen if we created a culture in which we gave away whatever was more than enough for us?”

I love this question so much because it invites us to focus on both abundant thinking and radical generosity. So many of us have far more than we need and yet there are other people who lack food, shelter, clothing, and basic necessities. “More or Less” offers tools and fresh ideas for how to determine how much is enough, and how you can share your excess for the betterment of your community.

Tools and fresh ideas for how to determine how much is enough, and how you can share your excess for the betterment of your community.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas from the book:

Decide How Much is Enough

How much is enough for you? Take time to reflect on your lifestyle, your priorities, and your core values. Decide purposefully what you truly want and need to keep. What is your version of “enough”? Consider paying attention to the items you use on a daily basis and especially to the things that are just taking up space and collecting dust. Could those items help another person live a better life?

Pay Attention to the Needs of Your Community

Start paying attention to the people around you. Are there people in your life or community that are in need of items you already own and seldom use? Practice giving away your excess items. Give generously and without strings attached. You might even try giving away something you really do like. It feels pretty amazing to surprise and delight others with your generosity.

Shop Your Pantry, Feed the Hungry

Do you have a clear inventory of the food stocked in your kitchen and pantry? How many weeks could you and your family last living off the food sitting in your kitchen right now? Most people are astonished to find out how much food they own once they pull everything out and take an inventory. Try “shopping” your pantry for the next few weeks before you head out to the store. Use what you own before bringing in new items. Do you have more than enough? Pull out items that you know you’ll never use and donate them to the homeless, or bring them to your local food bank or charity.

Tools and fresh ideas for how to determine how much is enough, and how you can share your excess for the betterment of your community.

Donate Your Spare Change

Gather up all of  your change from your car, your house, and your coat pockets. Count it up and donate it to an organization in great need. If you can, add up at least thirty five dollars in change, you can send it to Amnesty International. They will use your donation to help fight for basic human rights for people across the globe. Most people don’t even realize how much change they have strewn about. Choosing to make a difference in the world with it is a total win-win.

When you take the time to determine what feels like enough in every area of your life, you can initiate meaningful and impactful change by giving  your excess to others. As Shinabarger writes, “The good life is not found in luxury; rather it is found in a life that enhances the life of another human.” I’m off to clean out my closet again!

Images: Vivian Johnson Photography

Pity Party + Powerful Questions

Last week was one of those weeks where everything just felt hard. Like every single area of my life had some major challenges to iron out. I pretty much wanted to curl up in a ball. Ever feel like that? It’s easy to wallow in self pity, but I truly didn’t want to get stuck there. So, I turned to some of my most trusted coach friends and mentors for suggestions.

The commonality in all of their responses was that they asked me powerful questions. Instead of trying to talk me out of my feelings, or make assumptions about what would be best for me, they helped guide me towards my own answers.

Similarly, when I was going through life coach training, I remember being struck by how the best coaching (or self coaching) often involved nothing more than asking the right questions.

If any of you are going through it right now, and want an easy tool to help move things forward, I’m going to share my top five powerful questions to ask yourself when you feel stuck.

Try these top five powerful questions to ask yourself when you are feeling stuck.

1. Who Do You Want to Be in This Situation?

Man, I love this question. Because…choices. We have very little control over the circumstances in our lives but we always get to decide how we want to show up. This question also gets you out of victim mode and puts you right in the driver’s seat.

2. Can You Imagine Someone Else Thinking Differently About This?

This is a question that can help shift your perspective in a second. When I am feeling super dramatic about something, I like to think about how someone very calm and non-reactive (i.e my husband) would handle the exact same situation.

3. What If You Just Wanted to Be Where You Are?

Most of us are guilty of the belief that everything would be better if we were richer, thinner, more successful, etc. I love this question because it presumes that you have the option of being totally happy right where you are without anything needing to change.

4. How Do You Want to Feel About This?

Just realizing that there are many other ways to consider something, can feel like freedom. This question helps shift the focus from “this sucks” to “I have options to consider.”

5. How Might This Be Perfect for You?

OK. This one can be a provocative and challenging question, because when you are in the midst of feeling like everything is a wreck, “perfect” can feel like a pretty unrealistic leap. Try being curious. Maybe you’ll find one small answer that will help shift your perspective. Maybe the answer is that you have an opportunity to learn to be more resilient, or you can connect and empathize more with other people who are suffering. The reason I’ve included this question, is that it forces your brain to look for the silver lining in even the darkest situations.

The great news about the human brain is that it loves to seek answers to open-ended questions. Just by asking yourself new questions, you may identify new answers, new solutions, and hopefully a little relief along the way.

Image: Vivian Johnson Photography

Why You Should Be Selfish

Things have gotten a little out of whack recently. In addition to seeing in-person clients and running my Virtual Closet Makeover Program, I’ve also traveled out of state five times to teach for The Life Coach School and meet with my business mastermind group. In my very little spare time I have tried to focus my remaining energy into connecting with my family, and my self care has gone out the window. As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” and so I’ve invited leadership coach and trainer, Mimi Gordon, to share her best tips on self care and why it matters. Take it away, Mimi!

Sharing the best tips on self-care and why it matters

From Mimi:

There’s a thought I’ve seen multiple places that strikes me as so true that I’ve repeated it to anyone and everyone who will listen . . . that the greatest gift we can give others is our own happiness — that being selfish is a radically selfless act.

Using the classic metaphor, imagine helping someone put on an oxygen mask if you hadn’t put yours on first — struggling to breathe, and starting to panic, you’d be pretty useless, and ultimately, terrible at the job of helping someone else. Similarly, search and rescue professionals are taught personal preparedness as a foundational component of emergency response. No matter the stakes, double-checking their own equipment and supplies is more important than racing out the door. Before you save someone else, you need water, sunscreen, and a headlamp.

So why do we so often consider it selfish to prioritize what we need to show up as our best every day? Why is getting enough sleep, or drawing clear boundaries about work hours, or planning alone time, not seen as selflessness — personal prioritization that allow us to be our best in the roles that we choose or are given?

Incorporate selfless selfishness into your life.

To do this takes courage, and often, takes changing the way we think. A few ideas about how to incorporate this selfless selfishness into your life:

Decide What Makes You Your Best Self.

What gives you the mental clarity, physical stamina, and emotional resilience needed to show up as your best? Is it getting enough sleep? Drawing clear boundaries about work hours? Carving out alone time? Exercising?

Make A Plan For Doing It.

Once you have this list, make a plan. This can look like blocking time on your calendar, or practicing thoughts that will help you build this prioritization into your brain — ”an hour of my best self is better than three of my exhausted self.”

Never Do For Others At The Expense Of What’s Most Important To You.

That list of what’s most important? Commit to it. Don’t sacrifice anything on it in favor of giving. When you do, you do two powerfully detrimental things:

  • You reinforce in your own mind that you come 2nd.

  • You increase the likelihood of creating resentment towards the recipients of your giving.

What if we reclaimed prioritizing ourselves? What if we practiced so much that it became second nature? What if every time we showed up for others, it was more likely to be at our best? What if we knew that our oxygen was already flowing, that we had the right shoes on, and that we had a backup water bottle? You with me? Let’s practice.

Improving your self care regimen.

Thank you, Mimi! Such an important reminder to improve our self-care regimen so that we can show up more fully for others.

Want to learn more? Mimi is a leadership coach and trainer with 20 years of experience working in social-purpose organizations. She works with high-performing individuals and organizations looking to lead productive, values-driven lives and companies. For more great content and to learn more about Mimi, visit her website right here.

Images: Vivian Johnson Photography

What’s Possible for Your Home?

I was talking about my house with my good friend, Carly, who happens to be an amazing interior designer. “Maybe one day we’ll move,” I told her. “This will never be our dream house.”

When Carly asked what I meant, I explained that our house feels dark and is chopped up into small rooms and that I dream of a big bright, open floor plan and a kitchen with an island.

Create your dream home.

Photo by Amy Bartlam. Design by Carly Waters Style.

She looked at me and replied, “So all you have to do is open the wall between your kitchen and dining room and paint everything white. You don’t have to move.”  Mic drop.

Because of this idea, I called a contractor to price out the job, and it was actually much less than I would have guessed to make these simple changes. The following week the project was prepped, the wall demo began, and our small dark rooms became one bright room in an instant.

Isn’t it funny how our brains decide the limits of what’s possible and it sometimes takes an outside perspective to show us that really, anything is possible? 

I want you to think about what’s possible for your home? What do you dream of? What could you create if you put your mind to it?

Start to change your reality for the future.

Photo by Amy Bartlam. Design by Carly Waters Style.

When you think about possibility, you create something that never existed before. You start to change your reality for the future.

As I write this I am sitting at my kitchen island. The new lights haven’t arrived, the countertop hasn’t been installed, but I see all of the possibility coming together and I believe I will be able to create my dream home – and for much less than I anticipated investing. I’m so excited to share the transformation with you when it’s complete!

If you’re on a limited budget, or in a rental, maybe it’s just a fresh coat of paint or rearranging the furniture. One of my favorite ways to transform a room is simply by taking things away and that doesn’t cost a dime. Get creative. Get some fresh perspective from someone you trust and stay focused on moving towards your vision.

How can you make the most of what you’ve got right now?

How to Create New Results in Your Life

I just returned from a full week of teaching for The Life Coach School, and I am fired up! One of my favorite tools that we teach as part of the training program is the concept that in order to create new results in your life you have to be willing to think new thoughts. In other words – what got you here won’t get you there.

If you feel stuck in any area of your life, and want to commit to make big changes this year, follow these steps and blow your own mind:

Identify Your Desired Result

What is the specific and measurable outcome that you want? Take ownership of it. Write it down. Talk about it. Commit to it. Believe in it even though it hasn’t happened yet. Whether you want to make more money or lose weight or transform your home, you must clearly define what you want and commit to it 100%.

How to Create New Results in your life.

Break Down Your Action Steps

Now that you have clarified and defined your desired result, you’ll need to create a plan to take massive action to get it. Write down every single step you would need to take to make the result you want inevitable. For example, if you want to declutter and organize your home, you will need to schedule time to sort and review all of your belongings, you will need to purchase organizing products, you will need to identify a place you can take all of your donations, etc. Each one of these action items needs to go right into your calendar.

Determine Your Action-Fueling Feeling

Feelings drive our actions, and we will not take action unless we experience an action-fueling feeling. Next you need to consider what specific feeling will motivate you to take action and complete your to-do list. Some common examples include: confident, motivated, inspired, or determined. Pick one that resonates with you and write it down.

Start Thinking New Thoughts on Purpose

Now, here’s the most difficult and important step. The good news is that you cannot create positive results in your life from negative, unproductive thoughts. You must identify what useful thoughts you would need to be thinking in order to create your action-fueling feeling.

You must commit to believing new thoughts, and practicing them on purpose, in order to create new results in your life. So, if you want to declutter and organize your home and your action-fueling feeling is confidence, what would you need to be thinking about your home in order to genuinely feel confident? Make sure to identify a thought that feels believable to you. So, instead of leaping to something like “I’m amazing at decluttering and organizing” which may not ring true for you, try on something like “I know I can tackle one small area at a time” or “I’ve figured out how to do challenging things before and I will figure this out too.”

Once you’ve identified what new thought you need to believe on purpose, focus your energy and attention on it like crazy. Believing new things does not come easily and requires commitment and practice. Commit to this new belief and use it to generate your desired feeling which will drive you to take action and ultimately create your desired results.

Start thinking new thoughts for new results.

I have used this framework in my own life to transform everything from my relationships to my annual income, and I promise that it works. If you have been spinning your wheels in any area of your life, I invite you to give it a try and see what new outcomes you can create for yourself. I promise the work will be well worth it.

Images: Vivian Johnson Photography

5 Ways to Survive a Home Renovation

Renovations can be a major source of stress, especially if you decide to stay in your home through the construction process. Home improvement projects frequently exceed projected timelines and budgets, and can come with a whole host of surprises and challenges.

By preparing yourself mentally, and being organized from the start, you can help make the process significantly easier on yourself, and your family. See below for my top tips on how you can handle your home renovations without losing your cool:

Order in Advance

I was surprised to learn that the lead time on items like tiles, fixtures, and hardware can be weeks or even months. Do your best to select and order all of your materials well in advance so your project can keep moving forward. It’s also important to open and inspect packages as they arrive to make sure your order is correct and nothing got broken or damaged in transit.

Handling your home renovations without loosing your cool.

Plan for Contingencies

Save yourself stress and pad your initial budget by at least 20% to account for change orders and unforeseen circumstances. You should also make sure to budget for meals out and hotels or rentals if you need to leave your home for some or all of your project.

Pack Like You’re Moving

Construction dust can be pervasive and hard to clean. Declutter your living spaces and pack up all non-essentials to protect your belongings from dust and grime. You’ll thank yourself later.

Set Up Makeshift Kitchen

We were fortunate enough to be able to use our stove throughout the renovation process, but if you have restricted access you can set up a makeshift kitchen in a hallway, basement or other clear area. A coffee maker, microwave or cooktop can go a long way when you get tired of takeout.

Be Available + Support Your Team

Speak directly with your subcontractors as often as you can and make sure someone in your household is available to answer questions and help troubleshoot as challenges arise. Good communication will help expedite your project and make sure that your expectations get met. Above all else, support your team and treat them with respect. Lemonade or a cold beer goes a long way toward building good will, as well as expressing gratitude for a job well done.

Always make sure to keep perspective. If you have the good fortune to be able to improve your home, do your best to enjoy the ride and be grateful that you have a home to call your own.

Images: Vivian Johnson Photo

How to Organize Your Busy Brain

Do you ever feel like you have so many things swirling through your brain you can’t keep them straight? I’m right there with you! Here’s a simple 3-step hack I’ve been using to eliminate overwhelm and stay on top of my priorities:

Start with a Thought Download

Take a few minutes to get all of your thoughts out of your brain and onto the page. Just jot down every single thing you have to do, want to do, and feel like you should take care of.

3-Simple Steps to Organize your Busy Brain

Organize by Priority Level

Take each item and place it it one of the following categories: urgent, soon, or someday​. Sometimes this is all it takes for me to realize I have very few items to do that are actually time sensitive and truly urgent.

My soon list contains items I want to do that aren’t pressing or urgent, such as dropping off donations at my local charity or replacing toiletries and cosmetics. My someday list includes things like replacing the light in my bedroom, researching US road trip routes, and brushing up on my Spanish. I keep all of these items on an index card to reference when my schedule slows down. Just getting them out of my brain, and onto the page, gives me a lot of relief.

Organize Your Busy Brain

Schedule Your Top Priorities

Once you’ve categorized everything  in order of priority, make sure to schedule the most important items in your calendar to ensure they’ll get done. You can simply estimate the amount of time it will take to complete each task and then schedule away.

To give you an example of how all of this works, my current urgent list looks like this:

  • Prep for Closet Makeover Program coaching call – 1 hr
  • Write and review keynote talk – 2.5 hours
  • Confirm all in-person clients for the week – 15 minutes
  • Clean out kitchen cabinets and prep for demo – 2 hours
  • Confirm flights and hotel for Dallas trip – 30 minutes
  • Plan individual quality time with Chloe + Emilie – 30 minutes
  • Schedule weekly workouts and meal prep time – 1 hour

Once I have prioritized and assigned each task a time estimate, it’s quick and efficient to put each item on my schedule. As soon as something is scheduled, I don’t have to think about it anymore and I know that it will get taken care of.

How do you organize your busy brain when you feel overloaded with too many to-dos?

Images: Vivian Johnson Photo 

3 Steps to Improve Your Relationship with Your Stuff

Have you ever considered what you want your relationship to be like with the things you own? If you and your stuff were dating, how would you define your relationship? Needy? Dysfunctional? Erratic? Neglected? What do you want your relationship with your stuff to be like?

Read on for three simple steps to improve your relationship with your stuff
Assuming there’s room for improvement, read on for three simple steps to improve your relationship with the things you own.

Step One: Awareness

How much do you own? What do you own? Consider factors like volume, frequency of use, and quality. If you feel overwhelmed, start by looking at just one category at a time with fresh eyes. For example, you could pull out all of your kitchen appliances and then decide which items you want to keep in your home. Eliminate any duplicates, and if you own occasional-use appliances like a waffle maker or a panini press, decide whether they are worth the space they take up in your home. The most important thing is to be intentional about which items you decide to keep.

Always be intentional on the items you choose to keep.

Step Two: Use + Appreciate What You Already Own

Before you run out to the store or click the “buy now” button, try “shopping” from your own home. Most people have more toiletries, housewares, and clothing than they know what to do with, and yet we all keep bringing more of everything into our homes. The next time you find yourself reaching for your credit card, do a quick inventory check to make sure you don’t already own what you are about to invest in.

Step Three: Respect

This is a big one. Consider how you treat your physical possessions. Are the items you care about shoved in drawers or cabinets gathering dust or are they displayed in your home with care? Often, the things we would call our most valuable possessions are neglected in damp basements or crammed in cluttered closets. Decide which items you care about and then treat those items with the respect that they deserve – frame and hang your favorite photos, wear and display the jewelry that you love, care for your clothing, you get the picture.

Not sure where to begin? Start small and remember a little bit of progress is still progress.