Category Archives: Productivity

Five Things You Should Quit Doing Today

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There hasn’t been much excitement around the Turtle lately. We’re in between trips, it’s rained nearly constantly this summer, and we’re both working hard to build our businesses. So I don’t have any great camper mishaps to share with you on this (hopefully not for you) rainy Friday.

As I sit here with my cup of coffee and watch water trickle down the windows in my tiny corner office though I do have some advice. You’re welcome to take it with a grain of salt or two Ibuprofen, it’s your choice. Here it goes…

Sometimes you have to quit before you can start.

There are things that we all do every day that can really get in the way of making life changes and doing big things.

There’s the obvious stuff, quit spending so much time on Facebook and go do something important instead. Quit eating so many miniature Kit Kat bars and go for a walk. Both of those were directed at me today by the way.

Then there’s the not so obvious stuff, stuff you may not even know you’re doing. You may have to really pay attention to realize what you need to quit.

If none of the things on this list apply to you then congratulations, you’re a robot.

Quit Doubting Yourself

You’re not too old, or too overweight, or too busy. Those are excuses your mind dreams up because you’re really too scared.

There’s a boy in our town with only one arm. I’m not sure if he lost the other one as a baby or was born without it, but now he’s around eleven years old and just as capable as any other little boy, and some grown men.

He’s also one of the best baseball players I’ve ever seen. He can catch a ball in his glove, throw it up in the air while simultaneously dropping his glove on the ground, catch the ball back in his bare hand, and throw someone out at second before some of the other kids even realize what’s happening. It’s pretty awesome to watch.

Kind of makes all our excuses invalid, doesn’t it?

Quit Procrastinating

I thought I would write about this later, but I guess I’ll get it out of the way. Badda bing.

Seriously though, 90% of the time when I put something off there’s a deeper reason for it. It’s not that I just don’t want to do it. Usually what it means is that there’s a step in the process I don’t fully understand or am afraid to do.

And nearly every time that I finally make myself sit down and tackle the issue it takes such a minimal amount of time that I can’t believe I put it off that long.  Especially when putting it off resulted in a late charge, missed deadline, or some other equally yucky thing. That just irks me.

Quit Trying To Make It Perfect

Most of the time done trumps perfect. I think the only exceptions are brain surgery and rocket science, and you should skip this if one of those applies to you. I’m flattered, but you probably have better things to do anyway.

Get it done, get it out there, and then work on making the next thing you do better than the last.

Quit Building Things In Central Park

In his book Start Jon Acuff talks about the concept of what Central Park does for New York City. It’s this huge patch of green land in the middle of a bustling city, kind of out of place really. Obviously they could find a thousand things to build in that space, there could be more offices and apartments and probably a great pizza joint. But they don’t. Because they need Central Park to keep the city working properly. Central Park is a break in the middle of the crazy. Not to be confused with Central Perk, which is what formed my opinion of Jennifer Aniston and all coffee shops.

Jon goes on to say that everyone needs their own Central Park. A space to rest, time to think and breathe. If you’re constantly rushing from one task to the next without spending a minute in your happy place you’ll quickly wear yourself down. Just like good design your mind requires white space to be effective.

Quit Forcing It

I’m talking to myself here. I worked hard yesterday… I stared at my design program tweaking pixels for nearly 10 hours with very few breaks. I wrote and did chores and caught up on lots of things.

And I’m feeling it today. I’ve had writers block all morning, I’m having trouble focusing and I just feeling scattered. And now I really just want to eat mini Kit Kats and watch Friends.

I know that pushing myself to do great things today won’t work. I’ll get frustrated and instead of getting in the ‘flow’ of work I’ll have trouble making my thoughts show up right on the screen.

So instead I’ll focus on small tasks. Things that have to be done – emptying my inbox, doing the dishes, website updates for a client, maybe just one tiny Kit Kat. These things don’t require a huge amount of thought on my part, but I can get them done and out of the way so tomorrow I can do big things again.

What have you quit in the name of simplifying or doing big things? Are you looking forward to relaxing this weekend or is that when you get things done? I’ll be catching up on Season 4 of Breaking Bad before the premiere Sunday night… if the rain will let the satellite stay on!

Experimenting With Rejection

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Editors Note: You don’t actually have to Keep Out, despite the sign. This will just probably be a slightly different post than you’re used to from me. There are no cats, or campers, or deep and hilarious thoughts. Just me musing about the direction I’m going to go for the next phase of my work and life. I’ll be back with more hilarity later this week though if this isn’t your thing! 🙂

A little secret about me, I’m terrible at asking for things. I don’t want to impose or take up too much of someone’s time or energy, I don’t like the idea of rejection and I generally don’t do well with being laughed at… unless I started it. That’s probably not earth shattering, I’m sure if you asked 100 people 98 of them would say they hate rejection. The thing is, out of those I’m sure there are plenty that would ask anyway. That’s where I want to be. And considering I’m an growing entrepreneur it would be pretty handy if I could learn to ask for things, because obviously no one is going to just offer it… despite all my hinting.

I read a blog post the other day about a man who wanted to learn to accept rejection. He knew being turned down for stuff was inevitable and he wanted to get past the fear of asking. So he decided to make sure the fear of rejection didn’t keep him from asking for what he wanted in life, because that would have actually been rejecting himself before anyone had a chance. Deep stuff, yes?

The way he decided to conquer that fear was pretty ingenious, kind of akin to the invention of sliced cheese or Redbox. He decided that for 100 days in a row he would make an intentional effort to be turned down once a day. He would ask for anything that came to mind and assume the answer would be no. He asked a policeman to drive his cruiser, a pilot to fly his private plane, and showed up on a strangers doorstep holding a soccer ball and wearing a full soccer uniform, asking if he could play ball in his backyard. He did anything he could to be turned down once every day.

The crazy thing is that according to the story, in all three of those examples, he wasn’t turned down. He played soccer in that mans back yard, he drove that police car and flew that plane. But as cool as it would be to play soccer in a strangers backyard that’s not really the part that piqued my interest. The part I thought was so interesting was the concept of asking with the intention of being rejected. It takes all of the pressure off, if the answer is no you can just shrug and say ‘Yea, that’s what I thought!’. There’s no risk of looking silly or being embarrassed because you tried and failed. Well, I suppose doing the walk of shame in a soccer uniform might be a bit embarrassing, but you know what I mean.

I think the experiment sounds pretty interesting, and I think we’ve established I like a good experiment, so I thought I would incorporate it into the Year of Change. Plus the answers may very well be surprising. Ya never know, maybe I’ll get to drive a police car.

Now, I think there’s probably a very fine line between asking in a genuinely expectant way and sounding pushy, or even having it sound like you’re just joking. I’m sure learning to ask will be just as important as learning to accept a possible no. The question needs to be phrased politely, but in a way that makes it clear you expect the answer to be yes. I’m sure a smile and the manners you learned in kindergarten will go a long way. And obviously being gracious if and when the answer is no would make the whole thing less awkward. Plus it beats silently backing away like a weirdo.

I’m in a perfect position to try this experiment. I own a small graphic design firm and I’m working on growing it by getting more clients. My ideal clients are small boutique businesses and bloggers, and I need to reach out to those people before I can offer to help them with what I do. I also need to contact other design firms and build relationships that place me on their list of freelance contractors. Another goal is to grow this blog and do more freelance writing, which might include guest posting on other blogs. That means I have to put myself out there for those possibilities.

This is the last day of my first experience with the Start Experiment (you know, the cult I joined?), and Round 2 starts this coming Monday. I’ve spent this first experiment getting my website and portfolio in order and talking to mentors, it wasn’t what I planned to accomplish, but it’s what needed to be done first. I’ve come along farther than I even planned in the beginning, and now I’m ready to reach out and start actually building the business side. So I’m going to combine the two, starting Monday the 12th I’m going to spend the next 24 days asking for things that will help me build my business. The answers might be no, they might be yes, I might even get laughed at. Whatever happens though I’ll keep asking and I’ll share it here, along with everything else we talk about! I might even throw some crazy questions in there just for the heck of it.

Also! Do you want to join me in an experiment? The Start Experiment is now open to the public! It begins Monday August 12th and lasts for 24 days. If you’re interested in getting motivated to change your life and want to join us there will be more information on Jon Acuff’s blog starting tomorrow, or you can always contact me to find out what flavor of Kool Aid to bring. 

 

31 Lessons For 31 Years

It’s become a trend in the blogosphere ( which is an actual word according to my spell checker) to take a moment on your birthday and reflect back over lessons learned in the time you’ve been here. Since yesterday was my 31st birthday I thought I would follow suit with 31 things I’ve learned in these 31 years.

Note: I won’t be including things learned in the first 5 years of my life, because I feel like learning to walk, talk, and not pee myself is probably a given.

So here we go, totally random thoughts in no particular order… other than numerical.

1. Bigger Does Not Equal Better (For Me)

I’m at a point where most people want more stuff. They start moving up to bigger houses with more storage space and extra bathrooms, filling up spare bedrooms with nice sets of furniture and adding TVs to guest rooms. But I’m going the opposite direction. I want less things and more experiences. Even if we do build another house at some point it will be small and simple. I have things I would rather do with my time than take care of a big house and the things that fill it.

2. Being Positive Creates Opportunities

I’m a pretty content person. I’m sure that’s partly just my nature and partly an intentional choice I make to stay positive. But it really does go a long way toward creating opportunities. I won’t get all new agey on you, but positive thinking really is all it’s cracked up to be.

3. You Aren’t Your College Major

I graduated college with a degree in software applications programming. In layman’s terms that means Big Huge Nerd. This is definitely true, but beyond that I’m a creative. I write and draw, I design and constantly look for art in everyday things. This is something I’ve done as long as I can remember, and it’s time to stop ignoring it. The programming background helps when I work on websites, but my college major didn’t define who I am today.

4. Do Everything You’re Big Enough To And Then Some

I’ve spent far too much time being worried about what other people think and listening to the voices in my head that say I’m not one of those people who does big things. This last year especially has shown me how important it is to do what you want and do it now. You only have so much time here, don’t waste it wishing you had done more.

5. Luck Doesn’t Happen On Its Own

Wayne Gretzky had a great quote about this one – “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. I firmly believe that luck is the intersection between created opportunities and hard work.

6. Mornings Are Awesome

I wasn’t always a morning person, but I definitely have been for most of my adult life. Mornings are quiet time, the world hasn’t fully woken up yet, thoughts can float around all free and happy, and you become part of the day as it wakes up. If I sleep later than 7 o’clock I feel like I’ve missed something.

7. Travel Often

Not only is it fun to get away and see new things, but leaving your comfort zone can open up parts of you that you didn’t know existed. Go somewhere new, try a strange food, maybe walk around with an Australian accent all day because no one knows any different. You won’t regret it.

8. You Aren’t Going To Please Everybody

The only way to not have haters is to never do anything. Make the choice instead to make yourself happy, the people that matter will follow if they’re meant to. On the same note, some people will never be happy, no matter what you do.

9. If You Don’t Ask The Answer Will Always Be No

I actually wrote about this one here, and it’s still proving itself to be more true every day.

10. Eating Raw Cookie Dough Probably Won’t Kill You

Despite what my mom said. I ate some last night, and I feel fine.

11. Relationships Are Important

This one seems kind of like a no brainer, but I have a tendency to get so involved in my own life that I don’t take the time to keep up with my friends. I lost a good friend from college that way… I’m sure he got tired of me not answering the phone. Nowadays I try harder to be there, because some things you can’t erase.

12. Cats Are Jerks

Which is probably why they’re so fuzzy and adorable. But they’re still jerks.

13. Investing In Yourself Is Worth It

I don’t like spending money, especially on myself. But I’ve learned that sometimes investing in a course, conference, or just a haircut can have a profound effect on how I feel and act.

14. Everybody Has Fears

I honestly thought I was the only one who had that little voice who said I wasn’t good enough or people would think I was a fraud if I tried to do the things I wanted to do. Turns out, pretty much everybody has some version of that voice. And they’re all wrong.

15. Redbox Is One Of The Best Inventions Of All Time

Seriously, whoever decided to put movies in a vending machine was a genius. The only thing better would be a pizza oven mounted on the side.

16. Better Is Better

This is related to #1. I’ve recently learned that while more stuff doesn’t make me happier, better stuff does. And fortunately enough when you buy better instead of more you tend to spend the same amount of money in the end.

17. If It Scares You It’s Probably Worth It

In general if you find yourself uncomfortable or afraid of taking the next step you’re probably headed in the right direction. Unless you’re approaching a bear, rabid wolf, or giant cave cricket. Then you should back slowly away, perhaps using your Australian accent to confuse them.

18. My 30s Are Already Better Than My 20s

My 20s were good years, lots of great things happened – I got married, built my first house, and had a ton of fun. But as far as my self esteem and attitude towards life in general my 30s are clear winners so far. I spent a lot of my 20’s wondering if what I was doing was right or wrong, wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up, and feeling not so hot about all of it. Now I have a clearer purpose, a better sense of who I am, and better hair… I can’t explain that last one.

19. Marry Someone You Like

I don’t care how uncool it might be to want to hang out with my own husband (really, when did that become uncool?). He’s my best friend and we have fun together no matter what we do. I couldn’t imagine it any other way, and I highly recommend marrying someone you actually like to be around.

20. You Don’t Live In A Bubble

Although I wouldn’t consider myself an introvert I’ve spent years acting like I live and work in a bubble. I’m realizing now that it doesn’t matter what you do or how good you are at it, you need other people around you to succeed.

21. Consistency Matters

You become what you do every day. Do the things that will lead you where you want to go and you’ll eventually get there. Do the wrong things consistently and the grand gestures won’t matter.

22. If You Don’t Make A Change No One Else Will Do It For You

If you are stuck at a certain point in your life, spending your time unhappy and wishing things were different, you have to cause change to happen before it will. No one is going to come along and offer you a new life. Unless you witness a murder.

23. The Journey Is More Important Than The Destination

You should have a destination in mind, but don’t rush the journey trying to get there. Enjoy it, savor it, get lost a little along the way. You may end up somewhere better than you even expected.

24. Laugh Everyday

Even if it’s just at yourself. Find something to laugh at everyday and you’ll be just fine.

25. Don’t Worry So Much

It doesn’t do any good most of the time. I’m not great at this one, but I’m working on it.

26. Find Something You Love And Do It Often

When I was younger I read a lot, wrote often, sketched regularly, made cool things out of random stuff I found outside, and had a ton of fun. As I grew up I quit doing those things because they didn’t fit my new life. Now I find myself going back to the very things I loved to do growing up, and even incorporating them into my dream job.

27. Start Now

Whatever it is you want to do or be, if you start now you’ll be that much closer a year from today. The time will pass whether you start or stay where you are.

28. Do Your Best And Then Let It Go

I’m a perfectionist, if I can’t get something just exactly like I want it I have a tendency to trash the whole thing. But sometimes done is better than perfect, and sometimes the act of doing is more important than the result.

29. Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously

This whole life thing is marvelous, but unfortunately you’re not going to make it out alive. I hope you already knew that, if not I’m sorry for ruining your Tuesday. But now that you know you might as well make the most of it… have fun, laugh, play, work hard, do big things, and eat cake.

30. You Will Regret What You Don’t Do More Than The Things You Did

This speaks for itself. Base your decisions on whether you will look back at the end of your life (see #29) and wish you hadn’t been too much of a wuss to (insert awesome thing here).

31. Keep Learning Everyday

Try your hardest to learn something every day. If you pay attention it doesn’t even take that much effort. There are lessons everywhere, and there is always someone who knows more than you do. Ask questions, pay attention, read everything you can, and soak it in.

Ironically enough I wasn’t sure I knew 31 things when I sat down to write this post, but 1800 words later I guess I’ve proven myself wrong!  If you made it this far I commend you, and your commemorative lapel pin will be in the mail shortly.

Do you have any lessons to add? What would you tell you from a decade ago if you had the chance?

 

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Average

First off, I have to apologize for having gone rogue and left you hanging here. I hope you found the Oreos and the remote.

Evidently our brief tent camping adventure actually tried to kill me, which might make me the biggest wuss in the history of tent camping.

In reality that’s probably not what did it, but the timing is definitely hard to ignore. I’ve been sick for the last eleven days with pleurisy. Which I now know is a Latin word with the literal translation “Horrible stabby pains throughout the torso accompanied by sudden onset asthma”. I think the Greeks referred to it as “Oh my God why does THAT hurt now?!” and it’s marked on the Mayan calendar as a series of flying monkey carvings and comic book swear words.

Needless to say I’ve had trouble focusing on writing anything of any significant purpose. But as of yesterday I’m feeling much better. I believe it’s due to threatening myself with a return trip to the doctor… cleared it right up. Others might attribute it to the round of steroids, but I’m sure it was just my super strong self control.

I haven’t just been lying around groaning though. I mean, I have been lying around groaning, but I’ve done plenty of other stuff as well. Remember that secret society I joined a couple of weeks ago? The one that you probably thought was a cult when I disappeared? Well you can quit tracking down their bearded leader, it’s turning out to be one of the best things I’ve done in quite some time.

Last week we were placed in groups of 24 and given a partner. We introduced ourselves, started private Facebook groups, shared a cup of Kool Aid, and waited for the actual experiment to start on Monday.

The experiment itself is nothing overly magical. Right now it consists of a short email every morning asking us to do something very simple, to take one small step down the path towards our goal. Pretty basic stuff.

If I’m being totally honest with myself I was actually pretty skeptical when I joined this group. As excited as I was about the mysterious aspect of the project and the possibilities that came along with it I really didn’t know how it was going to help any of us face our fears, much less achieve our goals. I’m not sure Jon Acuff even knew what he hoped to accomplish, which is probably why he called it the Start Experiment and not the Definitive Start Project.

I’m no stranger to goal achieving attempts either, I’ve done plenty in the past in an attempt to try and move myself along. I’ve read books and bought courses, I’ve joined small groups of other entrepreneurs. I’m a pretty smart girl and when I set my mind to something I can be very motivated. But despite all that I’m still basically in the same place I was 5 years ago career-wise. Nothing significant has changed. I’ve learned things, improved things, gained business and lost business, worked and not worked. But the net result of it all is that I’m still not where I want to be, nor am I much further down the path. Things were getting stagnant in the life’s work department.

Then a funny thing happened. I joined a group of 2,547 other people who also wanted to push through and do something more with their lives. People who had lofty dreams and challenges and fears just like I do.

At first it was disorganized, no one really knew what to do or expect from the project, or what was expected of us. But in the last few days things have started to happen in big ways for people. Something has shifted in the wind. People are coming out of their shells, they’re making moves previously considered unfathomable, they’re doing things that were totally unconsidered, although entirely possible, before.

I personally have stepped way outside my self induced shell, and I have to say the air is pretty invigorating out here. I’ve put myself out there and asked for help on my own website (do you have any idea how humbling that is for a designer?), I’ve confessed my fears and faced them in front of hundreds of people, I’ve made great contacts with people doing exactly the thing I want to do, I’ve found people willing to mentor me and others willing to be clients, my website looks better than it ever has, my teeth are whiter, and my laundry smells like fresh cut daisies. No kidding.

I know It might sound crazy or even cult like, and it might be very hard to understand how a simple little experiment could have such an effect on so many people, but in reality it’s not just the experiment. It’s the other people going through it with you. It’s the accountability, the community, the fact that no matter what you’re afraid of there is definitely someone else afraid of the same thing and another 20 people ready to tell you that your fear is completely unfounded*.

It’s also the tasks we’ve been given. We weren’t told on the first day to write a business plan or hand out 5 business cards. Instead we were told on the third day to identify our superheroes, those people who have come before us and done exactly what we want to do. That in itself was a humbling experience, reaching out to someone and saying “Hey, I’m not sure I know what I’m doing, but you seem to… can I ask you some questions?”. That’s not something I would have willingly done before, and it’s pretty damn hard to do if you’re older than 12. But I’m learning now that it’s oh so important.

I’m also learning to ask for help, I’m learning to not stop learning, and that no one operates in a bubble. All from letting down my guard and admitting that I can’t do it all myself. Which ironically is something I actually didn’t need a group of 2600 people to learn, but I’m glad I found them anyway.

It’s been a pretty intense four days to have only received four short paragraphs by email. I feel really good things coming out of this, and I can’t wait to share them. Especially now that the flying monkeys are gone.

For now the moral of this story is this little quote, which is one of my favorites. I’m starting to think it’s the key to a lot more than I thought.

I hope you can find something scary to do today.

 

Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

– George Addair

 *Unless it’s a fear of garden gnomes, the conclusion was reached that the fear of garden gnomes is well founded.

Why Sometimes You Should Ignore Yourself

I really didn’t want to walk this morning.

I missed yesterday, so I knew I needed to, but I just wasn’t in the mood.

I was tired, it’s cloudy and still muddy from yesterday’s rain, and I just wanted to hang out at my desk with a cup of coffee. I wanted to ignore the voice in my head saying I feel better when I walk and instead listen to the other one which was loudly listing everything I have to do today and asking me to pass the creamer.

So I compromised, I put my shoes on to make a loop around the campground. If I didn’t feel like going any further at least I would have done something. Just as I suspected though, about halfway around the loop my negative voice wandered off and left me alone to keep going.

I very nearly didn’t go though. And if I hadn’t compromised and just gone, even though I didn’t feel like it, I wouldn’t have run up on this awesome little girl on the side of the road.

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Say hello to my little friend.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, or if you’re just so smart you’ve picked up on it, but I really love turtles. I think they’re beautiful, fascinating prehistoric creatures. I once had the privilege of watching sea turtles hatch on a Gulf Coast beach under a full moon and it was one of the highlights of that trip for me. I’ve been known on more than one occasion to shut down traffic to shoo a snapper out of the road or move a box turtle. wpid-IMG_20130606_080806_479.jpg

So running up on this one, which I believe was laying eggs in that hole she dug out, made my day. It really is the little things ya know.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I watched her for a good five minutes, taking pictures and sitting really still while she moved around and eyeballed me.

The point is that If I had listened to myself and gotten right to work this morning I would have missed out on seeing something that you don’t get to see every day, unless you live on a turtle farm (do those exist?).

I also cleared my mind, checked out some wild roses blooming, and sorted out the things I have to do today. Even though it seems counterproductive I always get more real work done when I slow down and take a little time. Not busy work, but real work… designing, writing, creating.

Whatever helps you unwind, I suggest you take a few minutes for it today and see the results for yourself. Instead of rushing from one task to the next stop and take some time to do something that makes you feel good. Whether it’s walking, reading, yoga, drinking coffee quietly outside, or zombie paintball, just carve out a little time and do it.

Notice the little things and enjoy them while you let your mind wander. You might not get as excited over a turtle as I do but I’m willing to bet the results will still be worth it.

How To Get A Little Better Every Day

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Sometimes it takes just the smallest shift in perspective to change how you go about your day and help jump start real change.

Everyone has something they would love to make happen, but most never take the steps to get there. They sit there day after day, unhappy with the situation but unsure if they could ever change it, so they do nothing. Maybe it’s because of fear, or not knowing where to start, or maybe it just feels like real change is too hard. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re working towards a goal, no matter what it is.

Maybe you want to be debt free or a size 4 and you feel like it’ll take you forever to get there. Maybe you want to declutter your house, simplify your life, or build a business but you don’t know how to even begin. All you can see is the huge gap between where you are now and where you want to be, you don’t see the thousands of steps that will help get you there.

You start to think one decision won’t matter in the long run because the task you’re looking at is so big. Today doesn’t feel very powerful when it could take years to get where you’re going. That’s when you start making bad choices, because if today doesn’t matter then the choices you make today are miniscule compared to the huge goal in front of you.

But what if instead today is all that matters?

Unless you’re in the waiting room about to have liposuction or have just won the lottery you’re probably not going to drop 3 sizes or be debt free by the end of today, but you can be in a little better shape than you were when you woke up.

You can choose to go for a walk, no matter how short, or to not spend $4 on a coffee, or to take one small bag of unused stuff off to donate. You can choose to do things that cause you to make just a little forward progress. Even if it doesn’t feel like it will make a difference at the time, it will.

All those little choices add up, and winning is almost always the result of being born Charlie Sheen making small intentional choices every day. You don’t have to make the right choice every single time, that could cripple anyone with indecision. All you have to do is make sure that the net of your choices at the end of today has made you a little bit better in some way.

Your life is the sum total of your days, which are the sum total of your decisions, and those days are going to pass regardless of how you spend them. You can either sit idly by and wish things were different, or you can use the time you’ve been given to change for the better.

You could…

  • Get out and go for a walk around the block. It may be a short walk, but it’s a lot farther than you would have gotten if you’d stayed on the couch.
  • Eat a little something before you leave the house if you’ll be gone for several hours, that way you won’t spend money eating out.
  • Put a $5 bill in a jar. Next time you have a $5 bill, put it in the jar too. Only put fives in the jar and see how fast it adds up.
  • Take everything out of one drawer, separate it and decide what goes back in the drawer. Get rid of the rest.
  • Read an article on something related to your dream. Google is a wonderful thing.
  • Want to start a business? Decide to do one thing every day to get started – read articles, find your domain name, set up a price structure.
  • When you run up on something in your closet that you don’t love or don’t wear much, take 3 seconds to take it off the hanger and put it in a donate/sell box.
  • Start planning a trip if your goal is to travel, even if you don’t have the resources to go yet. Doing the research will make it more real in your mind and give you a good idea of what you’ll need.
  • If you want to be a writer, start writing. Sit down for 20 minutes and just write the first thing that comes to mind.
  • Clean up. If you’re anything like me you’ll be more motivated and feel better at the end of the day if your space is clean.
  • Say no thanks to a commitment you don’t want to take on. Just one for now.
  • Say yes to something that scares you. Push yourself to go outside your comfort zone and see what happens.
  • Set up a budget so you know how much money you really have.
  • Take a class. One class on something you want to learn how to do. Or even smaller, just research and find that one class so you know what’s out there.
  • Do something totally unique to your dream or goal.

Incidentally, the majority of this post was written in my head while taking a short walk this cool quiet morning. More often than not I think you’ll find that one good choice leads to other things falling into place. I always feel more productive when I walk in the morning, I have more energy to make better choices, and I nearly always clear my mind enough to be much more creative the rest of the day. It’s worth far more than the few minutes out of my day that it takes.

All you really need to focus on right now, at this moment, is making one decision that will ensure that tonight you are just a little better than you were this morning. Not perfect, just a little better. Don’t worry about getting it all right, one day your choices will have become habits and you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come.

You don’t have to sell your house, run a marathon or win the lottery to get started, you just have to start. One day, one hour, one choice at a time.

How To Have A Four Digit Yard Sale… Or Man My Feet Hurt

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After spending 14 hours on my feet Saturday I was afraid I might never walk again, but since I did I thought I would fill you in on our sale this weekend.

For those of you just tuning in we got together with some good friends of ours Saturday and Sunday, who just happened to have the best yard ever for selling things, and had the biggest yard sale in history. Or at the very least it felt like it should have been in the top five.

We’ve had several sales in their yard in the past which have always done very well, and this one was no exception. They are in such a good spot that you don’t even have to advertise, you just set it up and they will come. It’s on the corner of two well traveled roads, but neither one is so busy that you can’t slow down or find parking.

Our friends are about to move, so we’ll be losing the good sale spot, but they have now reached the ruthless de-cluttering stage known as why-the-hell-do-I-have-so-much-stuff-oh-my-god-get-it-away! This stage most commonly occurs after moving an entire household one or two times, but can also be attributed to being overwhelmed by too many commitments and the responsibility of caring for said stuff.

Symptoms frequently include the intense need to remove anything from your home that doesn’t add value. For example – the trays and little pokey things for corn on the cob that have been innocently sitting in my kitchen drawer for years… they were pulled out in a flurry of ruthlessness Saturday night and put in the yard sale on Sunday. I’m now thoroughly enjoying 16 square inches of glorious space their absence left in that drawer.

Put two families together that are both in the ruthless get-it-away phase and you have a yard sale that causes people to do U turns in the road.

We came to the sale with two closed in utility trailers packed from one end to the other… approximately 144 square feet 6.5 feet deep, adding up to a whopping 936 cubic feet of our belongings. They had a garage full too with more pulled out of the house as the day went on.

I’ll be honest, I was a little surprised myself by how much we still had. Then when I think back to everything we sold, threw away, and donated before we ever moved… well, frankly it’s shocking. Especially considering that at one point in time all of that was contained in our house and shop, which really never looked particularly overwhelming to the casual observer.

We really weren’t hoarders, I swear. I even thought we were on the opposite end of the spectrum all along, not too materialistic with minimalistic tendencies (that sounded like a professional diagnosis, didn’t it?). As it turns out, we were probably closer to normal than I ever suspected. It’s easy to miss the piles of things that are hiding in the closet, on the back of shelves, the bottoms of drawers, and under the bed. I really believe now that complacency fosters a lack of control, in all areas of life.

I think if everyone had to remove the entire contents of their house once a year and really look at what they’re hanging on to it would result in a serious shift in shopping habits and hoarding tendencies. Seeing it all in one place really leaves a weird taste in your mouth.

But, I digress!

We left the sale with approximately one half of one closed in trailer full… It might have even been less than half, but Marty had to leave early, and a professional packer I am not.

We even went so far as to sell one of the trailers at the sale too. So we pulled up with 2 trailers full, and left the next day with one trailer half empty and a bag of cash. Well, sort of… we haven’t gotten around to picking up the second trailer yet (sorry Tisha!), but when we do that’s what we’ll have.

It wasn’t quite that quick and painless though, those were two very long days, and for a short period of time Saturday night I wasn’t sure I would ever walk again. But all in all for the amount of work we put in I was really pleased with the outcome. I thought I’d share a few tips for making the most of your yard sale, since we appear to have gotten pretty good at it over the last few years.

#1 ) Set up the night before if you can

It rained all day Friday, and I couldn’t take off work anyway, so after much debate we finally decided to wait until Saturday morning to set up. Which was a wise decision, because while we were standing around talking about it Friday night it started raining so hard a duck floated past us in a kayak. Or that’s what it looked like… it could have been a canoe, it was pretty dark.

Even though we didn’t have much choice I would always advise setting up the night before if possible, especially if you have lots to set out. It’s so much easier at the crack of dawn to just raise your tents up and uncover tables. Friday afternoon we did take both trailers and our tables and tents over, but we didn’t want them sitting out in the rain overnight either.

If the weather had cooperated we would have gone over Friday night, set out our tables and unpacked all the boxes onto them, then covered the tables with pop up tents (a roll of black plastic or sheets works too). That way Saturday morning could have been spent organizing and arranging instead of hauling.

Instead we ended up setting up at 5 o’clock Saturday morning, which is a thoroughly unpleasant time to start hauling around furniture and heavy totes. We actually worried for a bit that no one was going to show up, we went from 6 to 7am with no traffic whatsoever. That might not seem unusual, but yard sale shoppers tend to be a pretty serious crowd… it’s not unusual for early birds to show up before you ever uncover your tables.

As it turned out though, the worry was for nothing, because at 8am the flood gates opened, and they didn’t close until 5pm. There was thankfully a short lull at lunchtime, without which I think we would have all starved to death.

#2 ) Don’t make it too accessible to creepers

That’s just good advice for any area of life, really.

Creepers at a yard sale though are those people that drive slowly down the road by the sale, or even go so far as to stop, but never get out of their car. They assume that they can see everything they need to see from the safety of their vehicle, without being pressured to buy a pirate hat or pre-owned Pyrex set.

Your instinct when you first set up a yard sale is to make everything visible from the road, that way someone may see something they just have to have and stop. That’s not exactly how it works though. You actually need some mystery… you need it to look like you might have some awesome stuff, if I could just get a little closer.

Make sure your sale looks big by spreading items out on tables and plastic if they’re on the ground, but don’t give away the milk for free.

#3 ) Always have a draw

At each of our yard sales over the last few years we’ve had a ‘draw’. Something that draws more people to stop and look than anything else at the sale.

It actually happened by accident, I had a nice little wicker patio set one year that I decided to sell. It was in great shape, so we set it out closer to the road and set anything else we felt was ‘patio stuff’ around it. We had so many people stop to check it out that we joked about making a drinking game out of it.

If I remember correctly that wicker set either didn’t sell at all in that sale or sold at the very end. But it turned out it didn’t matter. People stopped all day long just to ask about it, and the majority of them went on to walk around the sale, more than likely buying something when they did. Without that as our draw we might have missed out on dozens of sales.

A good draw would be something big enough to be seen from the road easily and nice enough that it looks like it shouldn’t be in a yard sale. It helps if it’s reasonably priced but fairly expensive. If you price it too low someone will buy your draw early on, and then you’ll have to go back to standing in the street whistling at cars as they drive by.

This year our draw was a metal Coke cooler… not a vintage one, but a newer one like you see in gas stations. It looked great from the road, we had people asking about it all day. It was priced reasonably, but not at dirt cheap yard sale prices, so it didn’t sell but it did the job nonetheless.

#4 ) Have fun with it…

And for Pete’s sake, talk to people as they come up! It makes me feel really awkward when I walk up to a yard sale and no one says a word. Like maybe I’ve wandered into a domestic dispute where someone is in the process of throwing someone else out of the house, but they don’t have the heart to tell me. I have a very active imagination.

I also have a tendency to get a bit silly, especially when I’ve had more coffee than sleep, and I’ll talk to just about anybody. That really comes in handy when you’re trying to sell stuff to strangers in your yard.

By having fun and talking to people I managed to sell a pirate hat and a pair of mop slippers on Saturday in the span of about 10 minutes. All I had to do was hold them up in the air and loudly ask if anybody needed them, and both sold nearly instantly. Boom.

#5 ) Don’t hold back

There are some things that aren’t usually seen as yard sale material. You’ll know them when you see them… usually really expensive collectors items, things that would cost more than a hundred or so dollars (except furniture), and oddities. And you’re probably not going to sell a ton of that at any yard sale. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying.

I’m guilty of this one most of the time, but I set out a complete boxed set of Monty Python Flying Circus DVDs at this sale, and even said at the time that they weren’t yard sale material. I had every intention of selling them online after the fact, but they were in the trailer so I set them out anyway. No one looked at them all day long on Saturday, except for one very sweet, fairly religious lady who asked me what they were… that was a complicated explanation.

And then, shockingly, someone came along who loved Monty Python, knew the value of the set, and promptly paid me what I was asking for them. In this area the odds are probably 1 in 10 that you’ve ever heard of John Cleese, much less can recite every line from The Holy Grail, so you can imagine my surprise. But, lesson learned. From now on I’ll at least give it a shot at the sale, because now I don’t have to worry about listing that set on Ebay.

#6 ) Have a plan for after the sale

All in all our sale was a huge success, and now that we have less stuff in storage to worry about I feel even lighter than I did before. Our town is having a community yard sale in two weeks, so we’ve opted to set back up for that one and hopefully get rid of even more. After that though I’ll focus on selling things that are worth more on either Craigslist or Ebay, and we’ll donate any smaller stuff that’s left.

#7 ) Always price a little higher than you will accept

This seems like a no brainer, but I thought I’d throw it in just in case. If you price slightly higher than the price you really want to get then people feel like they’re getting a deal when they haggle you down. But at the same time always know your bottom dollar on the expensive items. We have a very confident price on our Coke cooler, because I can sell it online after the fact if it doesn’t sell, so I won’t take any less. And you never know, all it takes is one person to know the value of an item for it to sell.

In my case all my prices were in my head this time… and I think that’s how I’ll do it in the future as well. I used to try to price every little item, or decide an arbitrary dollar amount to fit everything into such as the “Everything on this table is $1”. But that just turns into more work leading up to the sale.

This time I had a good general idea of what I was asking for the big stuff, and I priced the smaller items on the fly as people asked. This may not always be the best plan, but in this case it worked well. I think it gives you the flexibility to change prices as needed, as the sale comes closer to an end prices can go down, if the customer is particularly rude prices go up. Also, you can negotiate better that way, if someone sees a price on a sticker they think is too high they’re more than likely going to walk away, whereas if you’ve told them the price you’re already engaged in a conversation, making it easier to haggle on the price until you come to an agreement… which is the whole point.

In addition to all that, just try to treat your sale like a store, keep it neat and organized, but give people a few boxes of miscellaneous things to dig through too (it’s like a treasure hunt!). Bring lots of donuts and comfortable shoes, dress in layers and have a good chair.

Did I miss anything? Are you wearing mop slippers right now? Do you know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?