Welcome to 2010! Now that we’re in a new year, it seems appropriate, and completely traditional, to ring it in with some new year resolutions. A new year brings the sense of a new beginning, while also prompting us to look back at the past. It is a natural thing to reflect on the changes we’d like to see in our lives and set some new goals (which we are always encouraging at Lifebushido!). Ever wondered what the top 10 resolutions are for many of us?

  1. Spend more time with family and friends
  2. Fit in fitness
  3. Lose weight
  4. Quit smoking and/or drinking (or any other addictive behavior)
  5. Enjoy life more - slow down and be less stressed
  6. Get out of debt, make better financial decisions, and/or save more money
  7. Help others by volunteering or donating to those who are in need
  8. Get organized and manage your time better
  9. Learn something - get a better education, or learn a new hobby
  10. Take a trip somewhere

While we typically have no shortage of resolutions, the problem is keeping them. Here are a few tips to help you with following through on your new year resolutions.

  • Be realistic - instead of saying you will lose 30 pounds by April, plan to achieve a more attainable goal, like 10 or 15 pounds. If you end up losing 30, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  • Don’t overload yourself - it can be difficult to make big changes (after all, that is what resolutions are), especially if you are trying to make more than one at the same time. Instead, prioritize your resolutions and attempt tackling one at a time - starting with the one you deem most important. By the time 2011 rolls around, you may have kept yourself busy the entire year, too!
  • Give yourself some accountability - many of us keep our resolutions to ourselves, but when we tell others in our lives, they are more likely to hold us accountable and cheer us on when we otherwise might give up. And, if you need it, ask for help in achieving your goals - there’s no shame in that.
  • Reward yourself - if you’ve ever set and failed to achieve a new year’s resolution before, you know how hard it can be, so give yourself credit for meeting your goals. If you resolve to spend less, reward yourself with a cappuccino if you’re able to avoid buying that high ticket item you’ve been eyeing. If you resolve to quit complaining, reward yourself with a massage after a week of practicing gratitude.

Set a goal for your start date - sometimes the change of seasons is an easier time of year for new goals, instead of using the calendar. When springtime comes by May 1, the change in season will prompt you to make the change(s) you’re hoping to see in yourself.

Have you ever heard the saying, “there will be time for sleep when you’re dead”? I was thinking about this today - about the busy, crazy world we’re living in, and the unwritten, societal expectation that we all need to multitask so we can do more, and more, and more.

But, how much are we really getting done when we’re focused on at least three things at once, all the time? I, for one, feel like the more I try to do, the less I really get done, and the more overwhelmed I feel. Making even a small decision, under these circumstances, turns into a huge obstacle that breeds procrastination and mediocrity.

Stephen Covey’s seventh habit (of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) is “Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal.” One question he asks in this chapter is, “have you ever been so busy driving that you forgot to stop to buy gas?” I’ve always been struck by the irony of that question, which illustrates how counterproductive it is to keep pushing yourself further while failing to provide the basic fuel (or tools) required to accomplish the task that is seemingly so important.

Still not convinced that multitasking is, at the least, slowing your productivity - at most, dangerous and destructive? Consider a recent Stanford study that shows that the brains of multitaskers may be paying a big mental price. After undergoing a series of three tests designed to measure memory and attention, those who were identified as heavy media multitaskers (who regularly juggle several e-mail and instant message conversations at once, text message while watching tv, etc.), were found to be easily distracted and unable to keep things separate in their minds. This habit affects the task at hand and memory, since heavy multitaskers are constantly drawing from all the information in front of them (not utilizing or exercising their memory). Researchers are studying further whether chronic media multitaskers have an innate inability to concentrate or are causing damage to their cognitive control by taking in as much as they do at once.

If you, like most of us, think that you’re wasting time while stopped in traffic if you’re not also on your cell phone and thinking about what to pack for an upcoming trip, it may just be time to STOP. Take a break from multitasking. Challenge yourself to limit your focus to only one thing at a time, just for one hour a day, and see how you feel. My guess is that we will all feel a little more centered and a lot more productive.

For more tips and inspiration to living a simplified life, visit the blog, mnmlist: the essentials and read this article.

How often do you take the time to focus on what you’re thankful for? Daily? Weekly? Ever? Many of us spend so much time and energy focusing on what we don’t have and how to get it, instead of taking time to appreciate what we already have - often missing the blessing altogether.

There is nothing wrong with being driven to achieve - that is what likely makes you successful at what you do. Striving toward goals is what allows you to learn more and make progress. However, there is a balance to be struck between looking ahead and enjoying the present - both are critically important to success and happiness. When one becomes more important than the other, you will be out of balance and less happy, in general.

Take a gratitude pause today - spend five minutes making a list of the top 10 things in your life right now for which you’re grateful. Try to write down things that you are thankful for right now (not something from the past, or a future hope). Make it a habit to write your top 10 list at least once a week. In the beginning, it might be hard to come up with 10 items, but push yourself. In time, you’ll find that as you’re more focused on gratitude, your list will grow. As you get more accustomed to this habit, aim to spend five minutes every day focused on gratitude.

Don’t allow the stress of daily life or the struggle of a current crisis to rob you of the joy you already possess. Regardless of any trial you might be facing in the present, if you are committed to looking for the positive in your life, you will find it. Doing so makes the difference between just surviving and thriving.

So, what are you grateful for today?

In this hurried world of multitasking and doing more and more with the same amount of resources, stress is inevitable - right? So many of us subscribe to the mentality that if we simply work more, we’ll do better and gain more. What if simply working more only makes us less effective? What if all of the stress we are under was something we could control? What if stress was a choice?

Of course, we wouldn’t pose the question if we didn’t truly believe that it is. Furthermore, we assert that you have the ability to refuse to allow stress to rob you of your daily peace! "How?" you say? Read on.

First, STOP! Slow down, take a breather, clear your schedule (only temporarily) and breathe deep breaths (research shows that deep breaths reduce stress and tension and make thoughts clearer).

Next, follow these simple steps to simplify and de-stress:

Be decisive - make a decision once and follow through quickly so that unresolved decisions cannot wear you down or cause you to second guess yourself.

Determine what is important and spend more energy on those things, letting go of the things that aren’t. If it helps, make a list of all the things going on in your life and see just where your time is going - is it where you want it to be?

Don’t be afraid to say no - remember, it is impossible to do a good job if you are overextended. Typically, a highly successful person (and one who is not under tremendous stress) is also skilled at delegation.

Get rid of clutter - extra distractions are a time killer and make you less efficient. Eliminating clutter where you work, on your computer, and in your home will keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Less IS more.

Create a routine for your day and week - doing the same thing at the same time each day prevents you from spending energy thinking about what you should be doing. Make sure to spend some time on healthy living, like exercise or prayer, which will keep you strong and release tension.

Focus on only one thing at a time - resist the temptation to multitask. In the end, you’ll get two things done much more efficiently by giving each task the attention it needs.

Do your best to not overthink all of this and go for it. Once you get on top of the stressors in your life, stay on top of them. Clearing stress will bring a new brightness and vitality to your life, which will certainly affect those around you, too. Stress is a choice - choose wisely.

“We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.”

~Konrad Adenauer

What comes to mind when you think of expanding your horizon? For me, it is a spin on thinking outside the box I’ve put myself and my possibilities in. Boxes are good for organizing and prioritizing (and moving!), but often the greatest and most influential ideas are found outside of them.

There is great value in specialization when it comes to the work you do every day. When we spend time learning and growing our skills in one particular area, we get good at it and it can be done with less effort and more efficiency. But specialization can carry with it a risk of getting stuck in a rut. Has that ever happened to you? Sometimes we become so comfortable with what we’re used to that we keep our heads down and get through our work quickly and efficiently, only to realize when we finally look up that our lives and those around us have passed us by.

We need to challenge ourselves to look for opportunities to expand our interests. This may be found by taking that class in stained glass you’ve put off because of time or expense, or learning a foreign language despite your fears that it may be hard. It may be as simple as listening to some of the quiet ideas of yourself or others in your own circles or industry and letting go of your predisposition to repeatedly follow the ideas of a few over and over again. Think outside the box and be willing to take the risk that comes with launching the next great idea.

What seems crazy at first glance, may contain a gem of truth - once unleashed, could change the world. Challenge yourself to capture the “crazy” thoughts and ideas you come across this week, both yours and those of others you know. Write them down and sit with them awhile. Some of them truly might be crazy, but, oh the potential of those that just might be the next great thing in your life!

For a real life example of thinking outside the box, visit www.lifebushido.com and see what we're up to!

Do you often wish you had more time in each day to get things done? Are you busy, but find at day’s end that you didn’t accomplish all that you’d hoped? If you find yourself overwhelmed with stress - you are likely in need of more effective time management skills. And, with our propensity toward multitasking and increased expectations that we get more done in the same amount of time, who isn’t?

First, it is critical for you to shift your focus and concentrate on getting results. Many people neglect to concentrate daily on the things that matter the most. Doing so, makes what we do during the day more efficient and effective. This will take work, but in the end you’ll be expending less effort and getting more done, which makes it all worth it.

Begin by completing these important steps:

Set Goals. If you know where you want to go, it is easier to do what is necessary to get there. Without goals, it is nearly impossible to focus. For expert help on this concept, visit www.goalbushido.com.

Prioritize your goals. Once you’ve set goals, you need to rate these goals in order of importance. It’s not enough to create a To-Do list, you need to organize it with the most important tasks listed first. This gives you a game plan for your day.

Minimize distractions. When you’re working on an important task, interruptions can be a huge time stealer. While all distractions cannot be eliminated, you can minimize them by planning time into your schedule for them and knowing which interruptions are necessary to attend to, and which are not.

Avoid procrastination. Procrastination can quickly lead to feeling overwhelmed -figure out when and why you procrastinate and work to avoid it. Reward yourself for completing a task on your To-Do list. This will encourage you to complete the most boring or challenging tasks without putting them off.

Schedule your time. Take the time to plan your day, organizing your tasks by importance, and planning time for interruptions and unexpected events. Make sure your schedule reflects your priorities and goals.

For more information and advice on time management, take this quiz to examine your time management skills are. Putting these principles into practice will not only increase your productivity, but minimize stress in every area of your life.

In this last installment of our Secrets of Success Series, we’ll focus on the last secret, Give More. It has often been said that there are two types of people in this world, the givers and the takers. While we all have to take at times, so that the well doesn’t run dry, we all have to give back, too. Some people are better and more intentional at this than others, but those who are happiest make giving more a priority.

Being from Colorado, where camping and hiking are favorite activities, the mantra “pack out what you pack in” is a familiar one. In other words, leave the land as you found it. The really good park rangers and teachers would go a step further and say, “leave everything better than you found it.” This is a valuable life lesson, and if practiced regularly, one that will undoubtedly grow joy and fulfillment in life.

Often, when people hear advice about giving more, they think about monetary gifts - tithing at church, charitable donations, giving money to the poor or underprivileged. These are all very helpful and necessary practices, but there are so many other ways to give. All that we have is a gift and can be given away. Money and material belongings can be a huge help to others, but so can time, skills, and simple attention to people around you.

Make the effort to spend a little more time talking with your neighbor when you’re both outside, or strike up a conversation with the elderly person sitting all alone at the table next to you at the coffee shop. Get involved in a program focused on mentoring young people who need positive role models, or volunteer to help at a local soup kitchen. Pick up that abandoned water bottle on the grass at the park and put it in the recycling bin, or take the extra time to leave a positive comment for the helpful cashier who was friendly at the store. The possibilities are endless, and many things won’t cost you a dime, but will pay you back dividends.

Imagine a world where more people (even all people!) gave more than they took. What an abundance we would all have, then. Take the time today to make giving more a part of your daily routine and see how it makes you feel.

Serenity Blogger Template