Mindfulness

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Menu Planning

Simple tips and tricks to make menu planning less stressful and more efficient!
Mom Improvement Presents: The Busy Mom’s Guide to Menu Planning

Is Menu Planning a Chore For You?

I have a love-hate relationship with menu planning and grocery shopping. Sometimes I am excited to try new recipes I have found, or we have special events planned and I get to do some special cooking. Other times, it feels like I’m trudging out the same tired old recipes, the stress of trying to reduce our grocery budget is exhausting, and I just can’t imagine dragging myself and the kids to the grocery store!

If you share any of those feelings, I’m sure you can relate! These are the best tips I have found to help bring mindfulness and stress reduction into my grocery and cooking habits.

Make Menu Planning less stressful and more straightforward!
What’s on the Menu?

Tip 1: Make a List of “Backup” Meals

This was yet another tip from the amazingess that was the Budget Boot Camp. But it’s really, really helpful. You just make a short list of meals that you pretty much always have the supplies/energy to make. The quickest, easiest dinners at your fingertips. My family uses something off this list about once a week; my husband comes home late from work, I’ve been too tired and busy with the kids to bother cooking, we’re in a time crunch before bedtime and we need to get a meal on the table. We take a deep breath, and we consult our Backup List. To give you some inspiration for yours, here is ours:

  • Hot Dogs
  • Chicken breasts, a vegetable and a starch (bread, potato, rice, etc.)
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • Chicken Parmesan
  • Macaroni and Cheese (from a box)
  • Homemade Pizza
  • Soup and bread, salad or sandwiches
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches and fruit
  • Eggs and Toast
  • Breakfast for Dinner

(Obviously I need to make sure that I stock up on the ingredients for these meals when we are running low, so I have this list on the fridge so I can reference it when I’m preparing to go grocery shopping)

When Menu Planning, try doing an ingredient search to find new recipes and use up what's in your cupboard!
Quinoa

Tip 2: Search for Ingredients for New Ideas

Right now, in my cupboard, I have not one but two bags of quinoa. Presumably, I bought it for a recipe I never made, then forgot I had it and bought another bag the next time I decided to make a dish involving quinoa. I make unfortunate mistakes like this on a relatively frequent basis. The first and easiest solution to this problem is to keep a good inventory of your pantry and cupboards somewhere that you can reference when you’re making your grocery list. I still need to do this! Let me know if you have a good system already in place, I would love some tips!

There’s an easy way to solve this problem of too much quinoa, however, and that is to search a recipe website for quinoa. A bunch of interesting recipes will pop up involving quinoa and I can pick something new to add to my menu planning that will use up my extra ingredients! You can do this with anything in your cupboard, and sometimes some really unexpected things will come up! I have a terrific recipe for a dessert made with garbanzo beans that I never would have found if I hadn’t had an extra can of garbanzo beans in my cupboard and decided I needed to use them up! You can use any recipe website you like, really, and don’t be afraid to go looking for new recipe sources. Let me know if you’d like me to write more about that, too!

PepperPlate has made my menu planning SO much easier!
PepperPlate App

Tip 3: PepperPlate (or something like it)

One of the best investments of time I have ever made was to manually upload my recipe collection to an app called “PepperPlate“. It’s really easy to use and it has a built-in menu planning Calendar. You can also add ingredients from your recipes right to the built-in shopping list in the app. It’s been a really big time-saver, because all of a sudden, all my recipes are in one place. Building a menu is only a couple of scrolls and clicks!

Plus, if I happen to be out and about, and decide to pick something up for dinner, I have the recipe and ingredients list right on my phone, so I know I won’t accidentally forget something. It took a long time to set it up initially, but it has been completely worth it. It helps me rotate through a much larger selection of recipes. This helps prevent us from getting bored with eating the same foods over and over again. It also helps me avoid some of the pitfalls of menu planning: over-planning and over-buying (hence, overspending).

There are probably a few different apps like this one, so pick the one you like the best and take the time to get all your recipes in one place. You won’t regret it! Plus, then you can store your cookbooks wherever you want (and they don’t have to take up space in your kitchen if you don’t have the room!).

If Menu Planning has you overbuying your groceries, try planning fewer meals for the week!
Try not to overbuy your groceries!

Tip 4: You can be a little under-prepared

You don’t need to plan a meal for dinner for every night of the week. Especially if you are well-stocked with items from your backup menu. Things happen- we get invited to eat dinner with our in-laws, maybe a conflict comes up or the kids don’t want what we planned to eat and we need to improvise a little. I usually plan about five meals (for dinner) in a week. Those extra two nights can be taken care of in lots of different ways, including eating leftovers, as well. It saves money on our grocery budget, it allows for flexibility and improvisation and it keeps me from buying too much food.

Remember your backup list- it’s important to stick to it, especially if you are like us and you have a very slim budget for eating out or ordering in. It takes a little bit of extra willpower sometimes, but sticking to a strict grocery budget is a major contributor to our monthly financial discipline and planning, so we make it a priority, my husband and I talk about it a lot, and we strategize how to keep everything running smoothly.

What do you do to make your menu planning easier and less stressful? Leave a comment and let me know!

Road to Minimalism: Creating the Perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe

Practicing Mindfulness and Minimalism to create the perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe!
Mom Improvement Presents: Road to Minimalism: Creating the Perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe

The Road to Minimalism

Every once in a while, I’m going to write about de-cluttering.  I’m calling it “The Road to Minimalism”.  This is because I hope to achieve a minimal amount of belongings by the end of my journey.  I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who could count all my possessions on one hand or anything like that.  I would never try to convince you to live like that, either!  But my personal feelings about ownership have been shifting lately.  Maybe you share some of my feelings?

My new motto, inspired by my journey towards mindfulness and minimalism!
Have nothing in your home that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful!

Mindfulness and Messes

A great source of stress (for anyone) is clutter.  When stuff is everywhere, we tend to feel a little claustrophobic, no?  Plus, I realized that I would rather have a few nice things than a bunch of crappy, cheap things I don’t really like or use!

I decided to start with my wardrobe because it seemed like a practical, essential place to start.  If I had a small amount of nice clothes, that went together, that I also liked to wear… well, that would be perfect!

Creating the Perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe

I am not fashionable.  Not one bit.  My shopping habits can be described as “erratic”, “random”, and “quirky”.  I tend to just choose single pieces that I like, and assume they will incorporate in with the rest of my wardrobe.  SPOILER ALERT: More often than not, they do not!  And especially after a friend of mine started selling LuLaRoe, my wardrobe became full of things that couldn’t possibly be paired together, because they were unique or crazy prints.

So, time to purge… and wait quite some time before I start replacing.

My Main Methods and Philosophies

There are a lot of articles out there already about how to create a “capsule” wardrobe.  I think this method is a little different than the usual ones.  How?  It’ll be slower.  I’ll be honest, I don’t have the money to buy a bunch of new clothes, so if you’re in that boat, too, try my plan!  The goal is to figure out what we already have.  And figure out how to put those things together in as many different combinations as possible.  So here is the basic plan for creating our perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe:

  1. Go through your wardrobe once each season.
  2. Pick things you know you’re never going to wear again.
  3. Sell them on ebay if they are in good condition
  4. Or donate them*
  5. If you can fit it into your budget, GYPO (see below) can help us figure out as many combinations for outfits as possible
  6. Keep track of what you wear and how often.
  7. At the end of this season, purge yet again, removing the items that just didn’t get used.
  8. Depending on the balance in my paypal account after my ebay sales, I may be able to invest in some new pieces… but that remains to be seen!
Creating the perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe with minimalism and mindfulness!
A well-ordered closet!

Getting Started: Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe Style

To make outfit planning easier, create a “hanger system” in your closet.  I moved all the summer clothes, dresses, and everything else to the back of my closet (I have a walk-in).  If you don’t have enough room to do this, put everything you don’t need away somewhere.  Then put everything you want to incorporate into your seasonal wardrobe on hangers.  We want to see it all together.

Start Removing!

You know what you don’t need anymore.  Get it outta there and decide what to do with it!

*My neighborhood participates in this awesome local recycling program called “Simple Recycling”.  We can leave out bags of clothes and other household things and they get collected right along with our recycling every other week!  It’s a great way to get things out of the house.  If you need suggestions on where to give your stuff, this is a great article.

Creating the perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe... with a LOT of help from an expert!
Photo Credit: Get Your Pretty On

Get Your Pretty On: *Affiliate Link*

If you used my link to sign up for a style challenge, I would make a small commission- not paid by you, paid by the affiliate.  Feel free to refer to my Privacy Policy, Disclaimer, and Terms and Conditions if you need any more information!

Even with all my clothes laid out in front of me, I am not good at putting together outfits.  I need help.  So, I turned to “Get Your Pretty On”.

It’s a pretty awesome “Style Challenge”, created by this adorable woman named Allison.  I loved getting an email every night telling me what I was going to wear the next day- and I didn’t even buy anything, I adapted every outfit suggestion with stuff I already had in my closet, so it was a major savings.  Plus, I put a lot of my clothes together in a way that I never have before!

This is what you get when you sign up:

  • A capsule wardrobe shopping list (you’re free to shop where you want and spend as much or as little as you want; I spent nothing!).
  • Links to shop for recommended items online or in store.
  • A daily outfit idea- created from pieces on the shopping list- sent to your inbox, so you know exactly what to wear every day.
  • Plus, a beautiful, printable outfit guide so you can see all the outfits in one place!

If you are interested…

This is the GYPO website so you can check it out.

And here’s my affiliate link if you decide to buy: The Stay-at-Home-Mom Capsule Wardrobe is $29.  I know that’s a little steep, but it came with so many wonderful outfit suggestions based on just a few pieces, and I already had most of them (or things similar enough) in my closet.

If you don’t think this is the right idea for you, I know that next month, Allison is releasing something called “The Big Book of Outfit Formulas”, and I think it’s only going to be $29.  For a big book full of outfit ideas.  Yes, please!  I can’t wait to get it.  I think it will be the perfect way to look for inspiration in the pile of “blah” that I feel like I have going on right now.

Also, GYPO does a capsule wardrobe for each season of the year, as well as a yearly subscription that comes with access to all the seasons.  If you’re in the market for something like that, I definitely recommend it!  She sends awesome weekly emails with outfit inspirations, and she has a fantastic eye for how clothes go together.

Putting together outfits is just not one of my skill sets, so I am so glad I decided to get some help.  I genuinely feel like I am using my current wardrobe so much more effectively, and it’s way, way easier to get dressed in the morning.

Look for Other Resources

Don’t worry if you don’t want to spend for a program like that!  Pinterest is chock full of wardrobe boards and outfit pins (you can check out mine here).  Or, call a friend who dresses well!  People love to share their knowledge.  Maybe she can come over sometime after the kiddos are asleep and help you go through what you have.  Sometimes a fresh eye can help you see things differently!

Creating the Perfect Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe using Minimalism and Mindfulness, plus some well-organized hangers!
A hanger system helps me track what I’m wearing how often!

Use Your Hangers to Help You Keep Track

If I wear something multiple times, it is getting moved to the very front of my closet.  Things I’m not wearing are getting rotated to the back.  You could also take a selfie of your outfit to help you remember what you’re wearing.  Figure out a way to keep track of your most “popular” items- these are the things that are getting heavy rotation!  For sure you will want to keep these clothes and maybe find other ones like them in different colors/cuts.

It’s really up to you how you want to keep track of this.  Using a Pinterest Board, a Polyvore account, or just a list on paper.  Just try to track 2 things- what you’re wearing a lot of (like blouses, t-shirts or black pants), and what you would like to look for in the future to help you make more outifts.  For me right now, I am jonesing for a good pair of brown riding boots!

Start Price Shopping

I’m not going to do any buying until the end of the season, because I want to really get the most out of what I already have before I add more (remember the minimalism thing?).  I’m going to start making clothes-shopping decisions at least a week-long process.  This will just help me make sure that I really want that item.  If I’m still thinking about it a whole week later, then I’ll start looking for it.

I want to keep an eye out for things that will last me a long time, too.  If I find something at a higher price tag that’s going to give me a few years of good wear (like a good, high-quality pair of winter boots), then I’m definitely going to factor that into my clothes-buying budget.  I won’t know how much I’m going to be able to spend until I’ve sold all my ebay listings.  I’ll let you know when I figure it out!

Great New Year’s Project

If you’re looking for a New Year’s Resolution, this could be a great one!  A cleaned-out closet, a carefully-planned Stay-at-Home-Mom Wardrobe… Happy New Year to YOU!

Best FREE Meditation App for iPad (4 of them!)

Taking time out of your day to practice mindfulness can seem daunting, but a FREE Meditation App can really help!
Mom Improvement Presents: Best FREE Meditation App for iPad (4 of them!)

Taking Time for Meditation

I started meditating, off-and-on, about two years ago.  My anxiety was getting difficult to control and I was having trouble falling asleep.  Using a Meditation App was a great way for me to get started without feeling silly or like I was doing it “wrong”.

Just to clarify, I’m not using meditation to fall asleep.  I’m using it to quiet my mind.  It’s a good way to practice mindfulness.  At night, my brain is often in overdrive.  Sometimes I struggle with controlling negative, unhappy and anxious thoughts.

These are the best meditation apps I have found (I use them on my iPad but I will indicate whether they are available only on iOS or also for Android).  If you want to try them, you can click on the title of the app and it will take you to the apple store so you can download!  (These are NOT affiliate links, I’m just recommending them because I use them and like them).

Best Meditation App to Use to Learn:

4 Great FREE Meditation apps for iPad!
Photo Credit: Headspace Available only for iOS

Headspace

This is the first meditation app I tried.  It is phenomenal.  The beginner’s series is the perfect place to start if you’ve never meditated before.  It consists of 10 guided meditations that are the perfect building blocks.  These meditations are free, and you can listen to them as many times as you want.

The only downside is, if you want to continue your meditation journey, this app gets very expensive, very quickly.  After the first 10 free meditations, you have to subscribe to either a monthly or yearly plan.

The upside to a subscription is that you gain access to an extraordinary library of meditations on lots of subjects.  I subscribed to this app briefly and continued the beginner’s meditation series.  But eventually, I decided I didn’t want to have to pay for the content, no matter how good it was.  It was a monthly expense that I couldn’t justify with our tight budget.

  • Upsides: great for beginners who don’t know where to start.  High quality content and easy-to-use interface.
  • Downsides: content is not as “customizable” as some of the other apps (no timers, varying lengths, etc.), expensive after free content is completed.

Best App for Specific Guided Meditations

4 Great FREE Meditation apps
photo credit: breethe
available for iOS and Android

breethe

breethe is another terrific Meditation App.  It also includes a 7-day “Getting Started” series, which is very good.

Another great thing about breethe is that many meditations come in a few different lengths- for example, 12, 14, or 20 minutes.  This is really convenient if you want to include it in a specific part of your day- naptime, right when you wake up, etc.

While you meditate, the app has absolutely gorgeous landscapes you can look at on your screen.  The recordings are super high-quality.  The amount of free content is slightly limited, and the subscriptions are wildly expensive, but every meditation I have tried has been stellar.  A great variety of lengths and content.

This is a terrific app for people who enjoy meditation and want to continue with some guidance, as well as try meditating on a few different subjects.

  • Upsides: Varying lengths of meditations, great sound quality, beautiful graphics, variety of topics.  Good for beginning-intermediate meditating.
  • Downsides: VERY expensive to access paid content.

Best “Quickie” Meditation App:

Great FREE Meditation App (4 of them!)
Photo Credit: Aura
Available for iOS and Android

Aura

Aura is a decent Meditation App, but it does not compare to Headspace or breethe.  I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect that people can upload their own recordings of meditations to the app.  I say this because the sound quality between the different meditations varies from good to not-so-good.

The free material consists of a daily 3-minute-long meditation (I am doing the “learn mindfulness” series right now).  However, if you want a break from your “scheduled” meditation, you can click the “I’m feeling” button, and the app will select a different meditation for you based on the feeling you choose.

Great FREE Meditation App (4 of them!)
“I’m Feeling…”

I tried this once when I was feeling particularly anxious, and the meditation I was given was perfect to help me feel better.  Another time, I tried the same thing and the meditation that played was totally useless, so it seems to be a bit of luck of the draw.

Great FREE Meditation App (4 of them!)
“How Are You Feeling?”

I love using Aura when I want to do a quick meditation.  The 3-minute length is do-able no matter how tired I am or how crappy my day has been.

Added Bonus: Gratitude Journal

I also love it because I am able to keep a “gratitude journal”; a section of the app on which I can record what I am grateful for that day.  It has been really valuable for me.

What I’m not as thrilled with is the opportunity to “respond” to a meditation after I’ve taken it.  It feels a little too much like homework.  There is a “Community” element to the Aura app that I have not explored at all.

  • Upsides: Great for busy people who want to take a quick breather in their day, easy to use, gratitude journal.
  • Downsides: “Busy work” meditation responses, sometimes very poor sound quality, random element of the “I’m Feeling” library.  
  • Unknown Upside or Downside: Ability to connect with the community of users.  Could be great, could be not-so-great.

Best App for Unguided Meditations

Great FREE Meditation App (4 of them!)
Photo Credit: Relax Meditation
Available for iOS and Android

Relax Meditation

This Meditation App has an awesome ambient sounds library.  There is also a library of guided meditations.  I will freely admit, I haven’t explored much of it.

This app was a little frustrating at first, because the first time I opened it, it immediately launched into the “Introduction to Meditation” program.  I had no idea how to change what I was listening to, or how to work any of the customizable options for sounds, etc.  I was instantly totally overwhelmed.

Luckily, after listening to the first guided meditation, I was able to access the rest of the app content and figure out how to work everything.

If you don’t like guided meditations but have trouble focusing on your thoughts, I think the many different ambient sounds could be really helpful for you.  You could listen to the sounds and make that part of your meditation.   Or try focusing on your own breath and use the sounds to “drown out” any distracting noises.  Honestly, you can just use the ambient sounds to help you fall asleep after you’ve meditated!

  • Upsides: Fantastic library of free ambient sounds, another good app for beginners who have never tried meditating.  Also good for more advanced users looking for a new experience.
  • Downsides: Could be initially overwhelming until the interface is mastered, meditations feel long and could be boring for more experienced users.

What is Your Biggest Obstacle?

What prevents you from practicing daily mindfulness, meditation, or gratitude?  My anxiety can spiral out of control quite easily, and meditating is something that has really helped me stay on top of a healthy mind and attitude.  Write to me and tell me what’s holding you back, or if you decide to try one of these apps, let me know which ones!

5-Minute Face Makeup Routine For Busy Moms

This awesomely easy 5-Minute Face is perfect for busy moms who love makeup!
Mom Improvement Presents: 5-Minute Face Routine

I love makeup.  I love playing with it, I love buying it, I love trying new looks and watching tutorials.  But having time to “make myself up” with two kids underfoot is pretty darn near impossible these days.  So I came up with a 5-Minute face routine that even I have time to do.  I hope it’ll help you, too!  Plus, most of these products that I use are super cheap!

Mindfulness and a 5-Minute Face:

I like to wear makeup because it makes me feel put together and more professional.  If I have makeup on, I am more productive that day, because I feel prepared to work.  This is entirely personal preference, but it also fits in with my mindfulness goals because I view doing my makeup as practicing self-care.  If you are like me, and you think makeup is fun, and you use it as an opportunity to treat yourself with kindness, then this is for you!

An important note before we start:

This post contains a couple affiliate links, so if you clicked on them, I would make a small commission (not paid by you, paid by the affiliate).  I promise, I am only telling you about products that I really like, and like to use, I would never recommend anything I wasn’t totally in love with!  Because I also recommend a few products in here that aren’t affiliate links, I am notating all my affiliate links with the $ sign, to be totally open and honest with you.  Feel free to refer to my disclaimer, privacy policy, and terms of service for more information.

A 5-Minute Face requires the right preparation!

Before you start your 5-Minute Face, it is highly advisable to wash your face and use moisturizer*.  I’m not going to lecture you, but honestly, just putting makeup on your face won’t really help you much.  It’ll probably just sink into any fine lines or wrinkles or big pores.  Also, it probably won’t “conceal” anything or look very smooth or well-blended.  So, take two minutes, wash your face and moisturize.  While that’s setting on my face, I like to apply lip balm, such as Smith’s Rosebud Salve$.

Easy 5-Minute Face makeup routine for Busy Moms!
The Next Step: Foundation

The key, for me, to a 5-minute face routine, is a thin layer of mineral foundation*.  I like to use mineral foundation because it goes on very quickly!  I use a flat head kabuki brush (this is my favorite makeup brush of all time) to apply.

It evens out my skin tone and helps conceal redness, but it does not conceal my acne scars.  I am OK with that.  Mineral foundation is quite lightweight, so I can’t even feel it.  I don’t like to wear a lot of makeup anymore, I feel like I am too old (which is silly) but it’s true!

A super quick 5-Minute Face routine!
Next Step: Eyebrows and Eyeshadow

Next in my 5-Minute Face, I fill in my eyebrows with the powder from this eyebrow kit$.  I don’t do a full eyebrow routine**, which is very bad makeup etiquette!  Oh well!  #Momlife?

Then, I will sweep on some lightly shimmery eyeshadow with a flat eyeshadow brush.  From the inner corner of my eye all the way across the lid.

I have deep set eyes (see that link for definition**- make sure to scroll down), so I don’t like to put a dark eyeshadow color in my eye crease.  It makes me look older and more tired.  If you have a different eye shape (this video will help you figure out which one you have**), you can do a darker matte color or your bronzer in your crease instead, this will help define your eye shape and look very natural!

Quick and Easy 5-Minute Face Routine!
The Last Step: Mascara!

Mascara!  I love mascara.  If I felt I could get away with it, I would have a bare face and just use mascara and lip gloss.  After I have a coat of mascara on my lashes, I like to separate them with the wand because I like to look like I have a lot of eyelashes (without using fake ones!).

I am using this mascara right now, it was only $2 and I think it works wonderfully for being so cheap!  I am picky about mascara.  The last one I tried was by Rimmel London and it was absolutely horrendous.  So if you’re in need of a good, cheap mascara, give that one a shot- and that’s not an affiliate link!

So, that’s my look!  Foundation, eyebrows, eyeshadow and mascara!   A 5-minute face- I set a timer to make sure!  If you want me to clarify any of the steps or even just do a quick video, I can definitely do that if it would help!

A few final notes…

*A quick explanation of this asterisk; I used to be a Mary Kay consultant, so I’m still using a lot of the products.  I loved them, that’s why I sold them (obviously) but I feel that it would be unfair for me to try to recommend them to you, so I didn’t want to link to or promote them in any way.

** the blog and videos that I linked to above are from the absolutely amazing Sineady Cady of themakeupchair.  She is an incredible author and vlogger and basically everything I know about makeup I have learned from watching her videos.  If you haven’t checked her out, I can’t recommend her highly enough.  She is a wealth of knowledge, and she has a gorgeous Irish accent, which is very soothing to listen to!

Try this out and then let me know if you like it!

 

Re-Evaluating Your Goals and Maintaining a Positive Mindset!

If you're not hitting your goals, it may not be the goal that needs to change, but instead, your mindset and methods! The "Re-evaluating Your Goals" freebie can help!
Mom Improvement Presents: Re-Evaluating Your Goals

Re-Evaluating Your Goals

We’ve taken the last few posts to make some small improvements to your life. Your focus should still be your 28 Day Goal, and you should be giving yourself time each day to make that a priority. We also gave you the opportunity to set yourself some small daily priorities that give you some structure and balance.

After you’ve practiced those things for a few days, you should be re-evaluating and helping yourself to fix any problems. That’s what we’re going to work on today.  We will be re-evaluating the process and continuing to problem-solve to help yourself feel less stressed and more mindful! And I’ve made yet another freebie to help you do just that!

What’s Going Well?

Take some time to be positive! Before you can get down on yourself, make sure to look at everything you’ve accomplished.

The top section of your worksheet gives you space for 10 good things. Fill in all ten spaces! You don’t need to dig deep here- even getting yourself dressed, making your daily coffee or tea, or feeding your children counts towards your successes! My most successful mindful moments are the times in which I take a few seconds to focus on life’s small happy moments. Did you share a good laugh with the kids? Take them on a fun outing? Play a fun game or play outside? Give yourself credit and praise for all your hard work. Errands, housework, play time, anything you did for yourself. It all counts for your list! Write them all down and then read it back to yourself and take some time to feel pride. This is a part of mindfulness, too!

 Keeping flexibility and re-assessing your goals is an important part of the process! This will help!

What Isn’t Working Quite Yet?

Be gentle and honest with yourself about what you still want to change. Start with your 28 Day Goal– how is it going?  How is your tracking? Do you need to change what time you work on your goal or for how long? Does your tracker need to move to a place where you will see it more readily and remind yourself to work on it? Take a few minutes to look at your progress, then brainstorm and problem-solve how to keep working towards it. Do you need more resources, ideas or help? Figure out what you need and where you can get it.

Now think about your daily time-block priorities. Do they need to change? Did you get them done? Do you need to re-configure the timing or change when and how you complete them? More research and brainstorming! And always remember the alternative: you can cut down your priority list to two things for each time block instead of three. If you have been feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, cut down on your work load. Take a look at what you’ve been doing and what you’ve been trying to do, and ask yourself that crucial question, “How can I help myself?” Those answers are the first and best place to start.

The only way to get where you want to be is to keep trying and doing your best!
Don’t Give Up! Keep Trying!

Patience and Perseverance May Be What’s Required

If you’ve been having some success, but you’re just not quite 100 percent yet, then your process of re-evaluating may not need to be particularly intense. If you think you’re on the right track and you just need more practice with mindfulness, that’s totally OK! You can give yourself time and patience! Sometimes creating habits is simply a matter of taking the time to do them consistently. Consistency will come with mindfulness and intention. If you’ve picked something you really want to do, but you’re having a hard time actually doing it, you may simply need to keep trying. If you don’t need more information, more support or reminders, then all that’s left is to breathe and focus.  Take the time in your day to do what you need to do!

The most helpful thing you can do is to practice as many days in a row as you possibly can. This will do 2 things- it will give you the pride of accomplishment and it will help you get adjusted to this new routine, which is the same as creating a habit. One of the worst excuses you can make is “I don’t have time”, because the truth is, if it’s something you care about, you will make the time. This is where an accountability partner or your partner/spouse/SO can help you. If you have someone with whom you’re checking in on a regular basis, then you might be more motivated to do your task.

Daily Self-Care Routines are often very effective if they include positive affirmations, belief in yourself!
Breathe and Focus on a Positive Message

Don’t Give Up; Create an Affirmation

Remember that your attitude can have a tremendous amount of power over your success. In addition to mindfulness, positivity is a huge component of a successful mindset. Give yourself a small “mantra” to say each day, either before or after you work on your goals. Giving yourself permission to change, to improve, to take time for yourself, can be very freeing. Especially if you are prone to guilt about taking for yourself when you have others to care for. I understand those feelings immensely.

But here’s what I also know to be true- something I talked about in my very first post- you will be a better mom if you are a happier mom. Constantly taking from yourself and giving to others will only lead to a deficit in your own personal satisfaction with life. Affirm your desire to create your best “self”, and then you can be your best self for others!  Affirmations can be anything; a positive word or phrase, an inspirational quote that you keep by your front door and read each day before you leave the house, the options are limitless.

What do you need from me?

My next question is very simple- what other ideas and suggestions do you want from me?  We’ve come this far together, we are working hard on small change, building consistency, and making time for self-care!  So, what’s next?  Leave me a comment to let me know what tools you are looking for.  More worksheets?  A podcast?  Posts about specific goal-setting obstacles and how to overcome them?  Let’s keep building momentum together!  And don’t forget to download the freebie!\

Pick Your Priorities: De-clutter Your Daily Routine!

I'm so excited to practice mindfulness and find some new ways to re-priorities and achieve my goals!
Mom Improvement Presents: Pick Your Priorities: De-Clutter Your Daily Routine!

When I really started to “melt down” as a mom, I lost sight of something important.  I forgot that the key to an organized day is a basic routine.  Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t running amok or something, but with the exception of meals (kids have to eat at regular intervals or they get hangry), we never did anything regularly.  We didn’t have any structure.  I didn’t have any priorities!  As a result, the days felt impossibly long and boring.  There was way too much TV watching.  I didn’t schedule any play dates, or outings, because I was trying to save money.  I felt like the world’s crappiest mother because I had no idea what to do with myself (or the kids!).

Mindfulness

Give yourself the chance to take some time for yourself! Mindfulness can help!
Mindfulness

I’ve been in therapy for almost 4 years now!  My therapist has always stressed to me the importance of mindfulness.  I’m not an expert on that subject, but the basic definition of mindfulness, to me, is trying to focus on one thing at a time.  If you have multiple kids you are probably rolling your eyes right now.  I feel you, I really do.  Having more than one kid means you literally can’t ever focus on one thing at a time, because you have at least two things that always need your attention.

However, there are still ways to practice mindfulness, even with a bunch of kids running around.  Let me give you the best example I have- making a meal.  When I am in the kitchen, if I don’t force myself to slow down, I will try to do all these things at the same time:

  1. Make food for my kids and myself
  2. Empty or load the dishwasher
  3. Clean a sink, countertop or other kitchen item
  4. Put my coffee in the microwave to warm up (guess how many times I remembered to take it out of the microwave when it was done?  I will give you a hint, the answer has a zero in it).
  5. Etc., etc., etc.

Multi-tasking on top of multi-tasking isn’t helpful to you.  It’s probably not even good for you!  My mental state, my ability to remember things, and my ability to focus on the task at hand have increased by so much since I stopped trying to do everything at once.  There will still be times when you have to do more than one thing at once.  But reducing the situations in which you are forcing yourself to multi-task will bring you so much peace and reduce your stress level.  I guarantee it.

There are easy ways to meet your top daily tasks without extending the already over-extended to do list!
Top Priorities List

What are your top priorities?

To put it simply, for right now, your day is going to contain three priorities for each “time phase”.  Three priorities in the morning, three priorities in the afternoon, and three priorities in the evening.  We are not building a full daily routine yet.  That would be too much stress and too big of an undertaking.  We’re simply dividing your day into three basic time periods, and picking three things you want to do within those time periods.

How is this different from a 28 day goal?

The three things you choose should not be big goals.  They should not be big projects.  Ask yourself, “what three things do you want to get done between the hours of 7-noon, noon-5, and 5-bedtime?”  I have made you a freebie to build your list!

What should I pick?

This is my filled out worksheet, to give you an idea of my three priorities for each time period.

As you can see, I am not doing anything strenuous or trying to shoehorn a big DIY project into my time periods.  I am picking three things that I would be doing anyway (well, OK, the yoga is the hardest one for me to fit into my schedule but I try to do it every day because it’s really good for mindfulness).  But here is why my days are so much more successful: I have basic priorities.  I have the things on my list that are going to keep my household running.  I also have a few simple “pick me ups” (I love coffee!) included to make me feel like I am taking time for myself each day.

Keep your day simple with a trimmed-down task list!
Simple is Beautiful!

Stick to the basics

When you are choosing your priorities, stick to the basics.  If you have trouble remembering to feed yourself because you’re busy feeding the kids, make it a priority.  It doesn’t need to be a gourmet meal.  If you’re not great about breakfast, make yourself have a small bowl of cheerios while the kids eat their breakfast.

If you are picking a household or cleaning task for one of your priorities, pick a quick one.  Unload the dishwasher, shake out the entryway rug, take out a garbage.  We will do a lot more work on creating a household cleaning routine.  For now, your priority should be something small that, if you get behind on it, really drags you down.  If I don’t bring a load of laundry all the way downstairs to the laundry room each day, it sits in a huge pile at the bottom of one of my staircases.  This looks awful!

Do Something for You

Make sure to pick at least one thing that makes you feel better about yourself.  It can be anything.  I picked washing my face because it’s something that I rarely used to do for myself, which made me feel terrible and lazy.  Also, I really love how I feel after I wash my face.  It makes me feel like I am taking care of myself.  That’s so important for us as moms.  We take care of other people all day.  We don’t have the time we need to take to really give ourselves the loving self-care we deserve.  The only remedy in the short term is to find those small daily “hacks” that give us back little pieces of ourselves.  It can be an enormous benefit.

Strategize some
Find your Time!

Find Your Time

Now, you have to commit to yourself.  You’ve chosen your priorities, now when are you going to do these things?  This will be the hardest part, and you may have to continually revise your strategy.  I find my best “sneak times” are at the very end of meal times, right away when I wake up in the morning (before I get my littlest out of his crib), and nap time (my oldest is in preschool for a few hours 4 days a week, this is when my younger son naps).  But if you already have a million and one things you try to fit into nap time, then don’t try to squeeze in anything more.  You will have to find another time.  You may have to get a little creative, but find your time.

Sometimes perfecting the to-do list requires some re-writing!
How many priorities did you check off your list?

After day ONE, re-evaluate

How did your first day go?  Which tasks did you do easily?  Were there any that you had trouble fitting in?  Any that you didn’t get to altogether?

Re-strategize for the next day.  Did you find an extra “sneak time” that you didn’t know you had?  Do you need to find a little extra time somewhere?  Wake up five minutes earlier?  Do a little bit of problem-solving and try again the next day.  If you are really, really having trouble getting three tasks into each time period, then you have a couple choices:

  1. You could pick a different small priority, if you had trouble choosing between a couple and think something else might fit more easily into your day.  OR-
  2. You could go down to only 2 small priorities each time period.  If you have a bunch of kids, they all nap at different times, or you are shuttling kids back and forth to a lot of classes, schools, activities, doctors appointments, etc., then by all means, trim your list.

If you decide to do this, then I highly recommend you do not choose any cleaning tasks for this particular priority list.  These things should be things you do for yourself, to give yourself a small bit of extra TLC.  Cleaning, while highly important in the daily routine, does not count for self-care.

Give yourself the gift of mindfulness- time and patience and a trimmed-down to-do list!
A small gift… to yourself!

Give these little gifts to yourself

You’re at a point in your mom journey in which you need to be replenishing your soul, little bit by little bit.  If you are having trouble coming up with small things that you can use to really help yourself feel better, I highly recommend searching Pinterest, YouTube or the iTunes store for short meditation routines, or breathing exercises.  These are things you can do anywhere, at any time, when you have a spare second.  In line at Target, in the car, right before you fall asleep.  Give yourself the gift of a little bit of love.  You deserve it!

Just the beginning…

This is the first step to a fully built and customized daily routine but you have to start small so you don’t overreach and get overwhelmed.  We are still not adding things to the to-do list, that’s why you need to edit and re-evaluate if you didn’t pick the right tasks.  You shouldn’t feel like you’ve given yourself more work.  You should just feel like you’re slowing your day down and taking a little extra time for yourself.  It probably won’t be an overnight transformation, and that’s totally OK.  The goal is for you to feel like you are working towards some much-needed inner peace.  Any small step that gets you towards that finish line is a step in the right direction!

Don’t forget to download my freebie and then leave a comment or send me a message!  Tell me what your priorities are!  I want to hear what you’re doing to take back your day!  Good luck!