I Love Mondays (and Why You Should Too!)

I have a confession to make: I love Mondays! 😱

I know, it sounds crazy right? I’ve spend most of my life longing for the weekends and dreading the return of Monday. Monday means work, obligations, chores, routines, schedules, appointments, and all of the other things that we don’t necessarily look forward to as school children or as adults. There’s a reason that having a case of the “Mondays” is a thing.

This was my life for the last 30 or so years. Don’t get me wrong, typically once my Monday started and I was off to school and back with my friends, it ended up being just fine. Of the many Mondays I have been blessed with on this earth, I’m willing to bet there’s actually a decently small percentage of time that I dreaded them. Sure, I went through phases, and I most definitely had some very “Monday-feeling” Mondays, but overall I don’t think I’ve ever hated them.

Now, I don’t just tolerate them, but I actually love Mondays. I’ve managed to switch it up in my mind where quite often Monday is the best day of the week. If all goes according to plan, I went to bed at a decent hour on Sunday after a relaxing evening at home so I’m energized and ready to hit the ground running. Let me tell you, it’s truly a game changer.

Monday has the power to set up your entire week!

Do you ever notice that most of the time the type of day or attitude you have on Monday tends to carry over to the rest of your week? If you start the week grumpy, stressed, and bogged down with work and life, odds are you’re going to feel that way until Friday when the work week finally ends and you can let loose and try again next week. Take a second and and flip the script. What would your week be like if you had a spectacular Monday? You woke up energized and happy, ready to tackle the week’s tasks (both planned and unplanned) and take steps toward accomplishing all the things? What would your week be like if you started it like that? What does that ideal Monday look like for you?

Go ahead and visualize it for a minute. I’ll wait..

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5 Things I Do Every Single Night Before Bed

Just like I have 5 things I do every morning, I also have a set list of things I do every single evening before bed. Bedtime routines are ideal for helping set the tone for getting ready to go to bed and fall asleep easily, making sure you’re rested and ready for the day ahead. My evening routine, like my morning routine, is flexible based on what is actually happening, but there are several things I do every night, regardless of what is going on, what time it is, or what I’ve been up to this evening. 

1. Skincare

Beauty experts everywhere will emphasize the importance of “taking the day off “of your face at the end of the day. Makeup, dirt, grime, and everything else we encounter throughout the day needs to get washed off. This helps prevent clogged pores, acne, aging, and is overall just good common sense.  The older I get, the more I’m getting into skincare instead of makeup. A solid evening skincare routine is relaxing (warm water, rubbing in moisturizer and serums, etc feels very pampering and spa-like) and so beneficial. I’ve got several steps in my evening skincare, and I’m really loving the results I’m seeing as I prioritize this routine each and every night. 

  • Remove makeup with an oil-based cleanser
  • Swipe micellar water over my face to make sure the makeup is all gone
  • Cleanse with a cream cleanser
  • My new favorite exfoliating peel pads
  • A moisturizing serum
  • Night Cream
  • Eye Cream
  • My all-time favorite nighttime lip moisturizer

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5 Things I Do Every Single Morning

I have a morning routine, as most people do, and while it’s sometimes a bit more flexible on some days than others, there are a few things I do every single day, regardless of how much time I have, what’s going on, or what might get in the way of my normal routine. 

1. Make the bed

I can not stand knowing my bed isn’t made. There is something that feels refreshing about a made bed. I feel like no matter what other messes are in the bedroom, if the bed is made it feels a lot cleaner and more organized. In the same way, even on days where my bedroom is perfectly tidy, if I see the comforter all piled up in disarray (something that typically only happens when my husband is in the bed), it completely takes away from the tidiness of the room and all I see is the chaos. The bed gets made every single morning. This is important enough where I’ve even managed to get my husband to see this is important and he will make the bed too. Epic wife win!

2. Drink Coffee

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My 5 Favorite Self-Help Books (and How To Read Them For Free)

Today is Book Lover’s Day! To celebrate the day I want to share a few of my favorite self-help books with you. I am a huge lover of the self-help genre, as I firmly believe there is always something more that we can learn to grow, develop, or simply gain a different perspective on life.  I’m not just talking about diet and fitness books either. I love reading about everything from productivity and changing your habits to marriage and relationship development. Within the self-help genre, there is definitely something for everyone. 

My top 5 books cover all different genres and I believe each one is worth a read for one reason or another.  If you’re interested in getting your hands on these books for free, it turns out they’re all available on the Scribd app (this isn’t sponsored by them or anything. This just happens to be how I consume most of my books as of late). If you want two months of Scribd for free, use my referral link and your first two months are on them ($8.99 a month after that). Some of the books are audiobooks on Scribd, but there is access to all 5 in one form or another. Of course, you could just go on Amazon or even your local library to get your hands on these books too. Whatever works for you. Read more

5 Productivity Hacks That Actually Work

 

Productivity is something that everyone could use a little bit more of. Whether you’re a stay at home mom, running your own business, working 9-5, 60+ hour weeks, or are a housewife, I’m sure there isn’t a single person out that that doesn’t think a little more productivity in their life is necessary.

You will find countless books, blog post, youtube videos, TED talks, basically any content delivery system you can think of, filled to the brim with different tips, tricks, and techniques on how to be your most productive self, get organized, and get things done. We live in a world of hustle and fighting the to-do list that never ends, and we are dying to learn exactly how to get it all done,

Becuase there is an oversaturation of productivity advice and techniques, it’s really easy to get so wrapped up in learning about the different techniques that we never stop looking and start implementing what we’ve found. I’m here to solve that problem for you. I’ve got 5 productivity hacks that I’ve tested, tried, and use on a regular basis.  My favorite hacks are simple and yield high productivity results, which is what productivity is, right? Getting things done in a timely manner. 

Here are my 5 productivity hacks that actually work.

#1 Blocking and Scheduling

This is kind of 2 things, but I figured we can lump them together.  First, schedule everything.  Sure, we always write down our planned appointments, but have you ever considered scheduling the things that you don’t consider to be an appointment like your workouts or your time spent with the kids or your spouse? Scheduling all of your items, even if they don’t necessarily feel like something that needs to be scheduled, ensures that you have a period of time blocked off for that item, even if it’s just cuddling on the couch with your significant other and giving your relationship an hour of your time.  That’s a pretty important to-do list item if you ask me. So, part 1: schedule everything. 

Part 2 is block scheduling.  This falls under the “schedule everything” umbrella, which is why it’s lumped together under tip #1. Block scheduling is basically blocking off larger periods of time to help you specify what types of things you’re doing throughout your day. I regularly have several different time blocks located throughout my week to help me stay on task and organized.  I have a color-coded system that helps me understand at a glance what types of tasks I’ doing throughout y day. Here are examples of my block schedules:

  • “Work”: I have many different types of tasks under this umbrella: blogging, filming, editing, shooting photos, social media, admin, emails, and other things that fall under the Diva and the Divine umbrella. It’s coded in purple (like my website. See what I did there?) and I try to give myself a solid, several hour blocks a few times a week to be my “work days.”
  • Errands: If I can help it, I block out one chunk of time per week for errands. If I have a doctor’s appointment or something that gets me out of the house anyway, I try to make that my errand day, and the entire blocked chunk of time consists of getting all of my out and about tasks done in one go, leaving me a lot more time during the week to accomplish everything else since I won’t need to run an errand every day. This doesn’t always work out, but I do my best.
  • Cleaning: I also block schedule a few cleaning times in throughout the week. I typically have a 15-minute block of time every night for general tidying, and I’ll mark of one or two power hours (more on that in a minute) to get my longer list of cleaning tasks completed.

I find block scheduling is a great tool for me to try and make my days as a non-working (outside of Diva and the Divine) housewife resemble a typical work week as if I was employed.  I’m still working on the whole procrastinating and straying from my block schedule thing, but at least I’m getting things in writing. 

#2 Today’s Top 3

Let’s face it: we live in a world where our to-do lists are so long that there is no way we can actually get every task completed before more get added. It’s a vicious cycle that makes us feel like we are constantly behind. That’s where “Today’s Top 3” comes in.  I know you have a crazy list that might be 20+ items long, but today, your job is to pick your top 3 (not 5, 8 or 3 sets of 3…JUST 3) and those are the tasks you prioritize for the day. 

I know your to-do list is a lot longer than 3 items, but hear me out. 3 things is a totally manageable number of things to get done in a day. If you pick your top 3, that doesn’t mean you can’t do more, but it means those 3 items are your official priorities of the day. If you do nothing else today but those 3 tasks, the day is a success. Anything extra is just bonus points. 

The top 3 can vary greatly from day to day, but here are some examples of my “Today’s Top 3”

  • Grocery Shopping, 1 load of laundry, meal prep
  • Bodypump, film 2 videos, vacuum
  • Drop packages at post office, take blog photos, write for 20 minutes
  • Cleaning Power Hour, pick up a prescription, Upload video

My top 3 are often something from the different genres of my life. Some days are blog focused, others are home focused, and sometimes BodyPump or go to the gym is actually one of my official priorities, rather than just something I have to work into my 3 priorities for the day. Start the day knowing what your top 3 are and then don’t rest until they’re complete. 

#3 Batching

Batching is a term I heard as part of the blogger and YouTuber community, but there’s no reason everyone can use this technique.  The idea behind batching is to take tasks of a similar nature and to batch them all together to be accomplished in one go. For me, I have batches like filming videos, shooting photos for several posts at once, one period of time not focused on one particular post, but on writing, even if I get more than one post typed out.  The same goes for errands (as I mentioned, I will try to schedule a block of time to get them all done in one day. Batching!), cleaning, and I even batch together those goofy random tasks that don’t have a category. This helps the brain focus on one type of thing at a time, helping us be more productive rather than losing productivity for having to change focus regularly.

#4 Power Hour

The power hour is perhaps the productivity technique I use most frequently, and for a good reason. The concept of power hour is to set a timer for 60 minutes and go gung-ho on the task at hand, but once your hour is up you move on to something else, regardless of where your to-do list ended up. The best example of this is cleaning power hours, which I do all the time.  First, I make a list of all the things that need to get done.  It might look like this:

  • Laundry
  • Put laundry away
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Dust
  • Vacuum
  • Steam Floors
  • Change Towels
  • Clean Toilets
  • Soak Gracie’s potty pads
  • Wipe down counters
  • Clean mirrors/Glass surfaces

That’s 11 things. Once my timer starts I blitz into cleaning mode loading the laundry. While that’s running I might do the kitchen stuff and finally get around to dusting the other rooms in my home. Perhaps I get done dusting and vacuuming, but then I hear the alarm go off before I can get steaming the floors or wiping down the mirrors. That’s okay!  I’ll save that for my next cleaning power hour later in the week. I still accomplished several of my tasks, and now I can be okay with switching focus to a different genre of work, like heading to my office to blog or going to the gym. 

I’m one of those people that can use home cleaning and organization as a procrastination tool to prevent me from sitting down to work, so I know that putting a time limit on things is the solution to my procrastination problem. 

The wonderful thing about a power hour is it doesn’t have to be an hour. It can be 15 minutes or 90 minutes. As long as you make your list and stop when your time is up, it’s the power hour technique at work.

#5 Routines

Many of us have some sort of routine that we do most days, but just because it’s a routine doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a productive one.  I find that having a productive morning and evening routine really helps me be a more productive person overall. While routines will look different for every person, here are what some of my productive habits are that help me set myself up for success.

Night time routine

My night time routine is probably my more important routine as most of it literally sets up the next day.  Some of the things I do every night are:

  • 15 minute tidy: I go through the house before I start getting ready for bed and tidy up some messes that have developed throughout the day. This often includes clearing and wiping down the kitchen counters, picking up all of Gracie’s toys and putting them back in her basket, folding blankets that were thrown around the couches, picking up clothes on the floor, and clearing off my desk in the office. When I take just a few minutes to do this every night I get to wake up to a tidy house, which is a pleasant and stress-free way to wake up.
  • Set up my coffee maker: I don’t have a fancy coffee maker, but it does all I need, which is have coffee ready for me in the morning. My simple Mr. Coffee allows me to set it up the night before, set a timer for 15 minutes before my alarm, and there’s fresh, hot coffee ready and waiting when I walk out into the kitchen in my groggy morning haze. This is a life essential 🙂
  • Establish what the next day’s top 3 priorities are. That way I know what the most important tasks of the next day are before I go to bed, so when I wake up and am ready to work, I can hit the ground running.  
  • Turn the lights down low and enjoy the process of getting ready for bed. This includes my nightly skincare routine, changing into comfy PJs, enjoying my favorite magnesium drink to help me sleep, and overall getting the mind and body in sleep mode. As an insomniac, this process is essential to make sure I actually fall asleep when I get in bed. Getting a solid night’s sleep is huge when it comes to productivity.

Morning routine:

  • Set alarm 15 minutes early to allow myself a buffer in actually finding the desire to get out of bed.
  • Wash my face, even if it’s just a splash of water. This helps wake me up. Also, down a significant amount of water. Rehydrating helps wake up your insides. 
  • Pour some coffee and sit in my recliner for some quiet time with the Lord, to read, and to gather my thoughts for the day.
  • Move over to my office where everything is already tidy and ready for me to jump into whatever I have to get done that day. 

Like I said, everyone’s routines will look different, but finding what works best for you to achieve maximum productivity is crucial in helping you get more done in the long run. 

Those are my 5 productivity tips/tricks/hacks that really work. Do you have a favorite productivity tool that you swear by? Let me know in the comments below. 

 

The Secret To Staying Motivated

Motivation is a funny thing.  You’re likely to notice it the most in January when you make resolutions and set goals as you’re determined to make this new year the best year ever.  You wake up on the 1st with a renewed lease on life, a fresh start, and with your self-confidence soaring knowing that THIS YEAR IS THE YEAR.  You hit the ground running, and for a few weeks, maybe even a few months, you’re nailing it.  You’re fired up and you’re seeing success. 
 
Until one day you wake up and you’re feeling a little less motivated and inspired. Maybe you let some of your new habits slip, just for a day or two. Then a day becomes a week, a week becomes several, and before you know it it’s December again, and you have to talk yourself back into the same new year’s goals, and how this next year is for sure your year…
 
And on and on the cycle goes. 
 
Want to know the key to staying motivated? The magic formula for reaching your goals and living your dream life? I’m about to tell you a THE secret.  Buckle up! It’s a bumpy, truthful ride.
 
The secret to staying motivated is knowing that you can NOT depend on motivation, EVER.  Reaching your goals has nothing to do with being motivated. Not really.  Sure, you start off highly motivated and inspired, but we all know that after some time, no matter if that time frame is a few days or 10 months, our motivation will lessen, our willpower will weaken, and we will start to take the lazy, easy route, even if it costs us our goal.  It’s human nature, and for whatever reason, it’s how we’re built.  Is it okay to take a little break if you’re totally burnt out? Sure, but that’s not why we’re here today. Losing motivation is the problem and we are here to talk about the solution.
 
The secret to overcoming your lack of motivation and reaching your goals can be summed up in one word:

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Current Book Wishlist | Fall 2017 |Brianna’s Bookshelf

I would love to say that I’m a reader and love books just as much as one of my favorite Disney princesses, the lovely and intelligent Belle, but alas, it’s still not so.  I’m a work in progress, and while I’m going to have to do quite a bit of reading to reach my goal of 25 books read by the end of 2017, I’m up for the challenge. 

One of the ways to get me to read is to put a book in front of me that I simply can’t put down.  I’ve never been a regular reader, but I also grew up in the generation that had to wait for the next Harry Potter book to be released, and you had better believe that I pretty much blocked off my calendar the moment I got my hands on the latest J. K. Rowling masterpiece and plowed through that sucker as quickly as I could. In hindsight, I probably should have paced myself a bit better so I had a longer timeframe to enjoy the magic that comes from reading Harry Potter for the first time, but I couldn’t help it.  The same thing happened to me as I was reading the Hunger Games series. I couldn’t put them down.

Becuase I have this desire to fall so deeply into a book that I would much rather read than turn on the TV, I always keep a wishlist of books that I think will do just that.  Lately, there have been a handful of books that have popped up on my radar that I’m dying to get my hands on, and I’m pretty positive they’ll be books I can’t wait to sit down and enjoy.  Here’s what’s on my current wishlist.

Voice Lessons: A Sisters Story by Cara Mentzel

Don’t let the spelling of the last name fool you. Cara Mentzel is indeed Idina Menzel’s younger sister.  Everyone who knows me personally is fully aware of the Idina Menzel obsession I had when I became crazy obsessed with Wicked.  You all know her as the voice of Elsa from Frozen. While I adored her talent and voice, I couldn’t decide if I ever wanted to meet her because I felt like she comes across as a bit of a witch, if you know what I mean.  I had no idea this book was coming until I saw an amazing interview on the Broadway.com Youtube channel with both of the sisters on it.  Watching Idina and Cara talk about this book together actually made me feel a lot better about who Idina is as a person.  Call me crazy, but that kind of stuff is super important to me when I look at what celebrities to admire and look up to.  Anyway, the book!  This book is Cara’s story about essentially growing up in Idina’s shadow.  I am dying for a look into the home of the Men(t)zel sisters, and the book is supposedly full of great insight and amazing photos.  I can’t wait to get my hands on this and devour it cover to cover. 

Eat, Lift, Thrive by Sohee Lee

This book is written by a trainer I follow on Instagram.  She’s this crazy fit woman who is stronger than I will ever be. Her Instagram feed is full of amazing information for people looking to get leaner, healthier, and improve their overall fitness.  While I am a Weight Watcher through and through, this doesn’t mean that I am closed minded to other ideas of how to achieve weight loss and optimal fitness. I have seen so many amazing comments and reviews on Eat, Lift, Thrive, that I know it will be worth a read, even if there is not a single mention of Weight Watchers or a Smart Point in sight. Sohee discusses her Living Lean guidelines to help your diet work around you live (and not vice versa), how to overcome challenges, and her favorite strength training moves to help you reach your goals. I feel like this guide will be a perfect addition to my collection.

How A Body Should Be? by Bethany Maloche

This book is one I have to have for a completely different reason than the others.  Bethany has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, just like I do, and this book is her coming of age story about living with CMT.  As a young woman who has done the same thing as Bethany (grown up with CMT and managed to navigate life with it), I would love to hear someone else’s perspective on life with CMT.  I can’t tell you anything more about the story since I haven’t read it yet, but I’m willing to bet it is worth every penny and so much more.  If you want to know more about life with CMT, you should pick it up too. 

That’s it for my book wishlist this fall.  Would you be interested in an ongoing series involving books I’m wanting to read or reviews on books I have read?  Let me know!  Do you have any suggestions for books I should be reading?

 

*Links are affiliate links*

You have to WANT to Change

This weeks’s thinking out loud Thursday (Thanks Amanda for the link up) is brought to you by a woman I encountered at Weight Watchers this week.

 

I encountered someone recently who wanted to join Weight Watchers.  She was among a group who seemed highly motivated when they all joined, and this amazing group of people has seriously knocked out 70 lbs among themselves in the last 4 weeks.  This is totally the type of meeting a Weight Watchers leader loves to run.  They’re fired up, taking it seriously, fun, and seeing success on the plan, even with setbacks like snow days preventing us from meeting a time or two.  Excellent!  I got an email from someone expressing concern about how she doesn’t think Weight Watchers was the right decision for her.

Why?

“I didn’t realize how heavily this plan relies on produce.” She flat out refuses to eat fruits and vegetables.  Like…won’t even try.

I sat at my computer seriously mind blown.  Being someone who never really liked veggies as a kid..or as an adult for that matter, I still knew that in order to make my weight loss successful I was going to have to change my habits to help me out.  I didn’t necessarily like the veggies at first, but I would add some spices or do something to make it so I could eat at least some form of produce often because my fruits and veggies didn’t cost me any Points.  When you only have 26 Points a day to spend, there are days you really need to make them stretch so you don’t feel like you’re starving.  The easiest way to do this is to toss in my 0 Points Plus fruits and veggies as often as possible.  So, I did…and over 50 lbs lost later, I still do.  I made the change because I know it would ultimately get me to the result I wanted.  I was willing to sacrifice what I wanted to eat (bring on the baked goods, sweets, and things covered in cheese!..i wish) and exchange them for things I didn’t necessarily want to eat.

Then, like many others, I discovered a wonderful thing: Balance.  Okay, so while I really didn’t like veggies (and I’ll be honest..I still don’t love them.  Carrots are great, but I pretty much eat them simply because I know I have to and I’ve learned to tolerate and even like some) I’ve always loved fruit, so filling my diet with lots of fruit has never been a difficult task as long as it’s in the house and prepped for eating.  The change came with learning to like (tolerate..) eating vegetables regularly.   I also learned that I can still eat my cheese covered pizza or my brownies, but I made changes to them to make them better for me, less Points and more filling.  I just don’t see a loss in my situation here…except on the scale, of course 😉

I was fed up with how I looked and felt, decided that my desire to change my situation outweighed my desire to avoid veggies, and I made the change.  I had to get to the point where the desire to change was stronger than anything else.

 

The psychology behind the entire process of weight loss is truly a fascinating thing.  Back in Illinois I would get into discussions with my members all the time about how weight loss effects us psychologically.  One of the biggest discussions we have is what triggered us to walk through the door to the Weight Watchers center.  I’ve seen many times people would join with their friend or family member to support them, and I’d see one of two outcomes.

  1. Both members would flourish because the support of one another kept them motivated
  2. The member that came along for the ride would do alright for a bit then fall off the wagon.

I see things like this all the time.  The truth is this:

No one can get you to change except you!  The day you wake up and decide enough is enough and join Weight Watchers (or go to the gym, start a different diet, etc) because you are 100% committed to changing your life..THAT day is the day the magic starts to happen.

I listen to Jillian Michael’s podcast quite frequently, and she has people call in with their questions.  One day a woman who was probably no older than myself called in and told Jillian she was overweight and wanted advice on what to do.  No specific question, just “what do you think I should do?”  Well Jillian of course started talking to her about her eating habits and how she should exercise because the basic weight loss formula is “calories in must be less than calories out” and all that jazz.  The listener heard everything she was saying, and her responses the entire time were very noncommittal “Yeah…i guess I should/could do that” comments.  After Jillian hung up the phone, the first thing she said (with a heavy, sad sigh) was “she’s not ready.” and you could tell by listening to the girl’s responses that Jillian was 100% right.

When it comes to losing weight, most people know the basic idea of what needs to be done.  That isn’t the issue.  The issue is having the self-discipline and the desire to be that healthier person outweigh your desire to stay stuck in the habits you’re currently stuck in.  I’ll say it again:

You have to WANT to change!

I’ve even seen all of the varying degrees of this idea within my own family…heck, I’ve seen them all within myself..

You’ve heard the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world,” right?  Well that idea applies here too.

Bethechange

Nothing is going to change unless you decide that where you are is not where you want to be anymore and you put forth that effort to make your life different.

While this entire rambling started due to the topic of weight loss, I don’t want you to think for a minute that health and fitness is the only area of life that this applies to..

  • Wish you knew how to dance or play the piano?  You won’t learn unless you sign up for a class and practice.
  • Are you an alcoholic?  YOU have to want to change that and seek help.  Without your desire to change fueling the fire, you won’t have the willpower to not pick up the bottle.
  • Hate your job? If you don’t quit your current one and look for a new one, guess what..nothing will be different!

Get the idea?

This post is also serving as a reminder to myself.  I’m currently striving to be this unrealistic superwoman with housewifing, organizing, teaching, my blog, and of course, living on Weight Watchers successfully.  There are so many elements of this that I wish would just happen, but as we all know, that’s unrealistic.  I need to not go to the snack drawer and go to the fruit bowl when I get home from work (unless I have Points left..then the ice cream is totally fair game..) to keep my eating on track.  I need to go to the gym rather than sit on my butt in the morning.  I want my blog to be successful, so I’m getting involved in ways to help me to so.  I’m consciously trying to get little cleaning and organizational things to happen at home..

I want these things to change, and I need to regularly remember that I am the only one that can create my own path in this change. Be it success or failure, my desires  (and my willingness to pick the right courses of action) will create one or the other.

 

Okay, I don’t even know if this ramble ended up making sense or not, but I’ve been meaning to say something about the fruits and veggies thing for almost a week… Sorry that it spiraled into this :-p  I guess this is exactly what Thinking Out Loud posts are for!

 

Happy almost-Friday, friends.