Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: One Word

Organizing Your To-Do List and the $10,000 Idea

I love a good to-do list. Who’s with me here? Without my daily/weekly/monthly list, I’m not sure I would get anything done. Actually, I think I may be a little addicted to my lists! I love to finish something and cross it off the list. Not only is it good to finish it, but it’s also rewarding to see all those items crossed off! Plus, as many of you know, in 2016, my word of the year was organization, so this all fits together. But where am I going with this post and what is a $10,000 idea? (It’s not, by the way, an idea that will make you $10,000! But don’t stop reading.)

The way I have chosen to organize the tasks I need to accomplish each day and week is on my weekly desk calendar, where there is plenty of room to write several items on each day. But last week, even this wasn’t working for me. I felt like some of these tasks I was simply moving from week to week, and they also fit in different categories in my life. There were tasks I needed to do for the house, for my day job, for creative writing, for freelancing, for Katie and Chester, and so on. So I took five blank sheets of 8.5 x 11.5-inch paper and labeled them:

  • Freelancing
  • Cleaning/House/Bills/Paperwork
  • Personal
  • Writing/Blogging
  • Day Job

Then I put the tasks that I needed to accomplish (some new, some left from my calendar) on the sheets in the appropriate category, so I could wrap my head around what I needed to do and what area of my life it would benefit. For some reason, this made my stress level go WAY down, and I felt like I could accomplish many of these things. Some of the items needed to happen immediately (like the laundry, critiquing my writing group’s work, and finishing my day job’s publications), and some of them were things that could be finished at some point (like writing a blog post and cleaning out my email inbox).

And then there were the $10,000 ideas. 

I noticed on each page, there were some ambitious goals, projects like: cleaning out the basement and finishing my novel that weren’t going to be done in a day or a week. They were also items that would make my life better and richer, and so I decided to call those my $10,000 ideas. I drew a spiky circle around each of these and wrote $10,000 idea next to it

This is very similar to making New Year’s goals; with these ideas, I’m saying: these are things I want to do, and they will make my life better, and I will do them eventually. I love how I have them on these lists in categories; and how every time I look at my list, I am reminded of these BIG TICKET items that will improve my life.

So if you see me around, ask me: how are your $10,000 ideas coming this year? And…of course, I must ask…do you have any of these ideas on your to-do lists?

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My One Word for 2018 and a Look Back at 2017

Each year, I pick one word to focus on, instead of making a bunch of resolutions I won’t keep. Sure, I plan to continue to do the things I’ve already been doing (somewhat imperfectly) in 2017: exercise, write and read more, eat healthy, spend time with Katie, sleep enough, enjoy life–but if I make too many goals, I’m really hard on myself when I don’t complete them, and that doesn’t do anyone any good.

So, in this post, I’m revealing my word of the year for 2018 and looking back at the words for 2016 and 2017 and how I’ve been doing.  No more suspense, my word for 2018 is CALM. (This is not that much different than peace from 2017, but read on to see what CALM means to me.)

As always, in December, I start thinking of what I really need to work on the next year. I don’t think you should just wait and start improving your life magically on January 1, but it’s a placeholder for reflection since it happens at the same time every single year. (Yay! for order and routine from the universe). I was going to pick LOVE, not necessarily because of being back in the dating game, but because I found myself being hard on people whom I love, and wondering why I do that to them (and myself). Love could also focus on doing the activities you enjoy and getting rid of the ones you don’t. And making sure to spend time with the people whom you love that bring joy to your life, and finally, even finding glass-half-full moments in activities you don’t LOVE doing, but you have to.

WOW! Why didn’t I pick love for 2018? Well, I feel like I’ve already been doing many of those things (or trying to) with the word PEACE, so I decided CALM was a better choice.

I’m not very calm. I don’t know if I seem calm to the outside world, but to my inner circle–my daughter, my parents, my best friends–calm is not a word they would ever use to describe me. I often hear, “Margo, do you ever sit still?”  “Chillax.”  “Everything is fine, calm down.” You get the picture. So one night recently, when KT (7 years old) was in the middle of another week of constipation (there’s a practical parenting post coming about that, trust me), I was at my wit’s end. I felt like I was saying the same things to her over and over each week, and she wasn’t listening. She was crying and yelling because her stomach hurt, and then I started yelling, and then I stopped and looked at her and said, “We both need to calm down. This is not that big of a deal.” So we did. We both calmed down, and then I told her about the Word of the Year, and how maybe both of us needed to work on being calm. She agreed. We shook hands.

The other evening, when we were at my parents’ house, I had given them (my parents and KT) some instructions (drink a full water bottle and eat a fiber cookie) that I wanted them to follow during the day.  When I arrived, I discovered these instructions were not followed. Now all of you who are lucky enough to have doting grandparents for your children know this is very common. My mom said, “Well, I didn’t want to harp on her all day.” I get it. I do. But I started to get that lecture-y tone I can get, and Katie looked at me and said, “Calm, Mommy. Calm.” (insert ROFL emoji here). But you know what? It worked. I took a deep breath and said, “Well, I wish these things would have happened, but we’ll work on this for the next time.” And then we went on with eating the delicious vegetable beef soup my mom made.

So, CALM it is…in 2018, I want to work on thinking before reacting. I want to work on taking deep breaths. I want to think about my tone and the words that come out of my mouth (or on to a computer screen) before I act.

Now, how are Peace and Organization doing? Well…I would say for 10 months of 2017, I didn’t do a great job with peace. But then something happened in November (I don’t know what–I guess everything just started clicking), and Peace was actually a reality. There are many times during the week, where I can now say I truly feel peaceful with my life, in spite of there being just as much chaos as there has always been. I really am learning (imperfect progress) that it is how you react to life and not what happens to you.

And this has been the second year of organization, well, I guess it’s better…I am kind of learning that organization also has to do with prioritizing and making sure you can find things when you need them. Also, don’t let paperwork and deadlines hang over your head–face them and tackle them.

How about you? Are you choosing a word of the year? What do you want to work on in 2018? 

 

 

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Life is All About Your Reaction and Your Tribe

Today on Facebook, I saw the quote:

Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react to it.

Isn’t that the truth? It was the right time to see this because earlier this week, I had a minor meltdown (I call it minor because it lasted a short time while one of my friends was saying: snap out of this; you’re just going to have to deal with it).  So what happened? When I was checking the balance of my bank account, I noticed 5 charges for $20 each to iTunes, which were not mine. And it looked like they were happening right then because these amounts were still on pending charges.

My anxiety level went through the roof. Christmas is already a time when I spend more money than I normally do; AND in Missouri, we also have personal property tax due. I immediately called the bank, and I was immediately put on hold. Meltdown occurred while I was on hold. I had time to think of all the negative, end-of-the-world things that were going to happen to me because someone stole $100 out of my checking account. Was the person still charging away? Would the person at the bank help me? Would I get my money back? When would I get my money back? I had been carefully planning my budget for this month, and now it was all shot to hell! I was spiraling.

Eventually, I took a deep breath with help from my friend. I called someone local at my bank who helped me instantly. I still don’t have the money returned, but I will get it back. I didn’t have to wait for a debit card to be sent to me; I could get another one at the local bank. So everything is fine. And the meltdown just made an unpleasant situation much, much worse. Luckily, I have a good friend who waded through my BS and said the things that needed to be said at that moment.

So I think that quote above is accurate; but for me, it’s changed a little:

Life is 10 percent what happens to you, 40 percent how you react to it, and 50 percent who you choose to surround yourself with.

That’s the key! Who YOU CHOOSE to surround yourself with! It is my choice, just like my reaction is my choice. I am so lucky to have amazing friends, but I would say that it’s not all luck. I pride myself on trying to be a good friend, and I am NOW careful on who I let into my life.

Just this morning, I was messaging with some girlfriends in a group chat, and we were talking about life and attitude. I mentioned a particularly difficult situation I had coming up and how there was really nothing I could do about it. I said: “I am choosing to let it go. We will tackle what happens when it happens–nothing that happens is the end of the world.” They all agreed and supported me. So again, 10 percent is what will happen (beyond my control), 40 percent is my current reaction and how I will react, and 50 percent is this group of amazing friends I have who are really the ones who have been teaching me all about reaction.

This holiday season and in 2018, you are bound to have some challenges. We all are. My wish for you is that you can choose your reaction and the people around you, and find joy in your life.

My word of the year this past year was peace (and organization–I like to continue improving on previous words of the year). It has taken me just about all year, but I am learning to live more peacefully. (Still learning, mind you…work in progress…) More about that next time. 🙂

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Peace is the Word

You know you’re singing this blog post title to the tune of Grease’s theme song: “Grease is the word. . .Peace is the word.”

Okay, I’m weird I know, and I may just get weirder when I relax this year because my word for 2017 is PEACE.

I’m super excited to have decided on this as my theme for the year, and I can only hope that it leads to a wonderfully amazing and peaceful year. What do I mean exactly that my “word of the year” is PEACE?

It definitely does not mean that I’m already peaceful, or of course, I would not have to choose this as my word. I need to work on bringing peace to my life. I need to get rid of activities that do not bring me peace and come into less contact with people who are toxic and chaotic. I want to spend time meditating, napping, reading, and sitting in the sun. I want to exercise because that gives me a relaxing feeling when I’m finished. I want to have less schedule and more fun with my daughter. I want to nurture relationships, especially ones that bring me happiness, joy, and you guessed it, peace.

Divorce is anything but peaceful. It is the exact opposite of my word of the year. Divorce when children are involved is even worse because this person whom you cannot get along with is STILL in your life; and together, you are trying to parent your child, whom you love more than life itself. How could that ever be peaceful? I have lived in chaos for a long time. SO really, peace is just an extension of my word from 2016, organization. Clutter does not bring peace. Organization does (for me).

What I’ve decided this year is that even if a relationship cannot be 100 percent peaceful, I can react to it peacefully. I don’t have to engage. I can have mutual respect even if it is not returned. I can put my daughter first and focus on what is best for her.

I also need to STOP second guessing myself and being so hard on myself. We all do this–it’s common for women, but I think men are just as bad. We are our own worst critic–that is a true, true statement. So I want to learn to stop criticizing myself so much, and find peace with my decisions and life path.

There are a lot of things in this word I cannot control, including and most especially any other human being on this planet. The U.S. right now does not bring me peace. The world does not bring me peace. So what will I do about these situations? I will commit to responding peacefully and trying very hard to NOT be quick to judge or harsh with my words.

How do you find peace?

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Word of the Year (Part One)

A couple years ago, my writing friend, Sarah, told us about a New Year’s resolution-type thing called: ONE WORD. I wrote about it pretty extensively on WOW!’s blog last year, where I explained my word of the year for 2016 would be Organization; and I wasn’t making any specific resolutions or goals because my life was chaotic and changing, and I didn’t think I could stick to anything too specific. This One Word theme really worked for me. I did get more organized in 2016. Here are some ways:

  • Cleaned out several closets and drawers and donated loads of stuff to charity
  • Got all of my retirement money from teaching and my new job in order with my financial adviser
  • Created this blog for writing and a separate one for Editor 911 (although still in progress)
  • Realized Katie and I need to follow a nightly routine MOST nights in order to have a successful week
  • Followed through on a system to remember to take my medicine (hormones from hysterectomy, which need to be taken twice a day)

I’m sure there are more, but for now, that gives you an idea of how one word helped me in many areas of my life. I also managed to buy a new car and set up my insurance payment and car payment to pay automatically out of my bank account. I count all of this as organization. Because I did have some female health issues this year, I lost huge chunks of time, and so I am keeping Organization for 2017 AND adding one more word. I am still contemplating 2017’s additional word and plan to decide next week. The ones I am thinking about are. . .

  • Peace
  • Practical
  • Boundaries

I probably need all 3! 🙂

I’m hoping some of you reading this post will share a word or two of the year that you would like to consider. Just because you write it down HERE does not mean that you HAVE to do this word of the year. But it might get people thinking about words they could adopt. Also if you are explaining yourself when typing a comment, it may make you think about your hopes and dreams for 2017.

 

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