David Allen wrote a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity, which I've read a couple of times. It has some useful techniques that I have employed mostly at my Day Job. One key tool I have developed, though I suspect it's a less efficient hybrid of what Allen was suggest I do, is sort my life into projects, do a brain dump-list making sort of exercise on each project (and to write down stuff as I think of it) and then for each project, figure out first next step and then proceed. It's a way of getting unstuck that I find very manageable. A lot of the other stuff I've tried and will try again, which is why I keep re-reading the book.
In my own life, especially after the release of my e-book Gluten Free: Practical Advice for a Happy Healthy, Gluten-free Life, a number of people asked where I found the time to devote to writing it. What a lot of people don't know is that also in the last year, I created a information marketing, consulting and coaching business, wrote and published So What CAN You Eat? Gluten-Free Paleo Vegan (mostly) Recipes for Health and Weight Loss, taught a webinar series, formed and scheduled a gluten-free meetup group and became an amateur expert in social media, took two week+ vacations, all the while working a full-time job, exercising 4 or more days a week, parenting my two kids, attempting to be a good spouse, and keeping up with my friendships. LOTS of people ask how I do it. In addition to the David Allen project list techniques above, I have developed some other strategies that work for me, so I share them here in case you too are always on the quest for how to get it all done and keep smiling.
Know what I want. I think one key to my productivity is having goals. If I didn’t set forth the plan to write the books or do the webinars, I certainly wouldn’t have stumbled upon doing those things. It’s super easy to get caught up in lots of stuff that’s not really what I want to accomplish, especially if I haven’t been clear in defining what I want.
Be held accountable. I have a weekly call with my friend Lisa, and besides laughing and yacking up a storm, we tell each other what we plan to get done on our respective projects each week. It’s really more about thinking about what we ought to work on, which takes us back to #1 above about having a goal. And then it is a pretty good motivator to know that someone’s actually going to ASK me what I got done on what I said I wanted to do.
Get up REALLY early. I started getting up early to exercise and to get other stuff done when the kids were little. I found that if I tried to have “me” time when it was “family” time, I felt guilty and either didn’t exercise or work on whatever it was that I wanted to accomplish or if I did, I didn’t enjoy it at all. I discovered that if I did my stuff while everyone else slept, I felt much better about it all. The big downside is that I poop out pretty early in the evening. If I manage to stay up until 10:30 pm, it’s a rarity.
Skip watching TV. I like television. I grew up watching and enjoying crap – Gilligan’s Island, Love Boat, Flipper (just having fun with the aquatic theme.) My taste has improved as far as shows go, but the combination of having a kid and a tween and wanting to keep the shows age appropriate means that we usually watch programs that don’t require much of my attention to get the gist. It’s not too hard to multitask while the boys are watching a rerun of Suite Life on Deck (keeping with the seafaring theme…)
Use my commuting time productively. I take public transportation to work. It gives me about 45 minutes twice a day that I use to read, study, and meditate, or more usually, check in on Facebook or Twitter, read and answer email, or even do a blog post. I’ve made a friend from my neighborhood on my commute, so sometimes I visit with another actual human being. Novel, right? And on the days when I drive, I listen to recordings on my iPhone or mp3 player. Lately I’ve been taking a couple of on-line classes and have been able to listen to the lectures while on the road and have been pretty successful keeping up.
Build as much social life into my work hours – lunches, coffee right after work – as I can. Because I live out in the ‘burbs and the majority of my friends live or work in Center City Philadelphia, I do my best to book lunch dates or right-after-work coffee dates several times a month. It keeps me sane, and I like to think I’m modeling appropriate workplace behavior by actually leaving the building sometimes to see and do stuff that has nothing to do with my job.
Do it on weekends. Weekends, especially during the cold months, are pretty good times to get things done when they aren’t too booked up with kid sports or other activities. I have to confess I didn’t clean the bathroom as often as I should have this past year. Something had to go, right?
Say no. I say no a lot, mostly to work things that take place beyond normal work hours. By work things, I mean cocktail parties and receptions and the like. I do have other work commitments that are actually more “work-ish” that I do when the job calls for it, but if I can avoid the schmoozier activities, I totally do. They usually cut into my family time and I find them dreadful. Don’t tell anyone.
Be exceptionally grateful for Jennifer. Jenn is my wonderfully supportive partner since 1991. She never tells me my ideas are too harebrained to try. She reads my newsletters and fixes my typos and tries my recipes and she forgives me (I think) for those things that I DON'T get done. She knows how important our family is to me points me in that direction if I get too focused elsewhere. I know I am incredibly lucky and I do my best to not take it for granted.
Let me know if any of these ideas work for you!
[Chocolate Update: This is the end of Week 5. Since starting, I've had TWO periods. And suffice it to say that they were not little ones. Not fair! Curse you, Peri-menopause! In a previous blog post I talked about my hormonal-related weight fluctuations. The good news is that I'm still down two pounds from the start, and I like the shakes and the chocolate, so I'm continuing. I'm really enjoying playing with recipes -- soon I will make time to post one here for Cranberry-Banana-Chocolate Stripe Muffins -- and I love the extra energy I have. All the better for Getting Stuff Done.]
Here's my updated list of restaurant picks for visitors coming to Philadelphia for an event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For my day job, I am director of gardening programs at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS). I work with our community gardens and City Harvest projects. It is very gratifying to be able to work with Philadelphians to make their neighborhoods and community spaces cleaner, greener, safer, healthier and more vibrant. One way that PHS raises the necessary funds to carry on this important work is to present the Philadelphia International Flower Show every March. For the staff of PHS, it’s an all-hands-on-deck week-long affair at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to ensure that visitors have the best experience possible. The show opens to the public the first Saturday in March, and we expect that more than quarter of a million people will walk through the doors that week.
Statistically speaking, that means more than 3,000 people with celiac and many, many others with gluten sensitivity and allergies will be in attendance as well. Food services at the convention center are handled by Aramark. I usually pack my lunch. I’ve found that trying to buy my lunch there is unsatisfactory from a cost, time, vegetarian and gluten-free perspective. However, if you are planning on visiting the show and have the time to take a little walk, get your hand stamped and check out one of these four really good, inexpensive places you can get an interesting GF lunch or dinner.
Mumbai Bistro at 10th and Locust. I ate there last week, and though they seem to have changed how they mark the GF options on the printed menu, the food on the buffet is clearly marked regarding its gf status. I had a plate of interesting Indian food and a bottle of water for about $6. Can’t beat that! CLOSED ON MONDAYS! That’s gotten me a couple of times.
Fuel at 1221 Walnut Street. I haven’t reviewed it for my blog, but I should! They have an interesting menu, carry GF bread for their sandwiches, and the waiter I had was very well-versed in the steps that they take to avoid gluten cross-contamination. Probably a $10 lunch experience.
Philadelphia Chutney Company at 1628 Sansom: A little further away, but good and interesting and cheap. Also a $10 lunch experience.
Mi Lah Vegetarian on 16th between Locust and Walnut. It’s a little more – probably a $15 – but really amazing and interesting food and they clearly mark what they can make GF. Jenn and I ate there last night and I can’t speak highly enough of the place. Check ‘em out for dinner if you have the inclination. We had a shared appetizer, entrees and a dessert apiece and paid $68 including tax and tip. A splurge for us for sure, but SO GOOD!
Georgio on Pine at 1328 Pine Street is a real treat -- a more grown-up experience, so leave more time to bask in the warmth and upscale elegance of the place. Tell them you are gluten-free and they'll bring you actual delicious locally baked gf bread right to your table. You'll be able to choose pasta or pizza (with Still Riding crust) and more.
There are other higher end places that are worth a look, but I haven’t eaten at them, so I can’t make personal recommendations. I also have write-ups of more than a dozen other Center City restaurants on my Restaurants page if you are up for a walk or checking out other sites while you are in town. Or get in touch and I can tell you about the restaurants that I've heard great things about but haven't tried yet, like Alma de Cuba. If you have suggestions, leave a comment!
Come look for me at PHS's exhibit at the Show, where I'll be much of the week. And Bon Appétit!
[Three check-ins: 1) Choco-challenge week 3: Back to where I was pre-period. Whew! 2) GF Delco Meetup this Sunday Evening at 6 in Newtown Square; 3) I'll have a table at the Wellness Festival at William Way Community Center on Monday afternoon, with treats from Sweet Freedom!]
I have no amazing technical geeky skills, but I have figured out how to make e-cards and posters for any occasion using my iPhone and PowerPoint. It's really fun and pretty fast and costs NOTHING. And I can put forth my own brand of humor or motivation or whatever on Facebook and Twitter with the secret desire that one of my creations will go viral.
1. Use one of your own pictures, either one that you've already got hogging up your hard drive or take a new one with your phone or other devise and somehow get it on your computer.
2. Open Powerpoint, which I think most people have if they use MSWord. Copy and paste your groovy photo into the Powerpoint and adjust the size.
3. Go to the Design "ribbon" and pick an amusing background palette. Then pick a color that looks good with your pic.
4. Add a text box and write your pithy statement. Put a little marker on it with your name or identifier so that you WILL get credit when that baby goes viral. If you are not that savvy in Powerpoint yet, set it up the whole thing in landscape view. Note that in the sample I created here, it's portrait instead of landscape. I created it all sideways and then rotated it in step 6.
5. When it looks like you want it to, select "Save as" and "other formats" and save it as a JPG file.
6. Post it on Facebook or other social media and adjust the orientation if you need to. Share and enjoy!
First, a TMI warning: One cannot talk about a woman's weight-loss journey and chocolate consumption without also talking about hormones, cramps, periods and the like. Does anyone else want to yell at the screen when women contestants have a bad week at the ranch on Biggest Loser? Why is everyone baffled that every four weeks or so the women contestants under 50 show some inexplicably puny weight loss, or heaven forbid, a weight gain? Maybe they will have me on as a guest expert to slowly and patiently explain that our bodies simply turn on us at regular intervals to make us retain, bloat, ache, crave and crabify. Yes, crabify.
With that preamble, perhaps I DON'T need to explain that I'm not surprised that I didn't lose any weight this week. I DID continue to enjoy an increase in my energy level and general level of optimism, dispite the afore-not-mentioned circumstances. Since I've only lived in my own body, I don't know if my experience is the same as other women's, but the week before my period starts is usually not that uncomfortable (no cramps yet), but the hardest to get motivated to exercise. This week on dark chocolate, by contrast, I've worked out four times since Sunday and felt good doing it.
Usually a few days after my period ends I notice a remarkable reversal of period-related bloating, etc. I look forward to getting on the scale in a week and having some good news to report. [As an aside, my heavy periods coupled with years of undiagnosed celiac disease are the current working theory as to why I continue to have anemia issues. My period really does take a lot out of me.]
In the meantime, I created a new recipe that is not too bad for me and totally fitting for this time of the month. I call it...
Gluten-free Mocha Banana Oat Squares
I had originally planned to just modify my peanut butter banana oat squares, but by the time I was done I had changed it enough to warrant its own thing. I forgot the peanut butter, added coffee, used an egg instead of flaxseed... you see what I mean. It came out really tasty and fit for breakfast.
1½ cups gluten-free 15-minutes-to-cook oats (I use Trader Joe's)
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup coffee
1 banana, mashed
1/8 cup chocolate protein powder (I'm using Xocai)
1/8 teaspoon (or less) salt
30 grams of dark chocolate broken up in chunks (I used 3 xobiotic squares, but you could use 1/8 cup(ish) of chocolate chips)
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the egg, coffee and mashed banana. Mix in the rest of the ingredients until everything is moist. Line a 6"x9" baking pan (or some other pan that's on the small size - 8"X8" would probably work) with parchment paper or lightly grease the pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the oat mixture into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly brown on the edges. Lift the food out of the pan by its parchment paper and let it cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars and enjoy!
Makes 12 squares.
I had dinner at HipCityVeg, 127 S. 18th in Center City Philadelphia. The place is tiny, maybe 4 small tables plus window seating - zoned for takeout only, so no bathroom. A hostess-type person was there to answer my questions. I think her primary role is to help keep things moving along when it's busy, but it was not crowded at 5 pm so she was able to talk me through the menu at length. By 5:30, there was a line out the door.
The hostess was VERY up on issues regarding cross-contamination, steering me away from fried items since they do not have a dedicated gluten-free fryer and accurately naming gluteny items that would need substitutions or omissions. They did not have a gf-dedicated menu, but there were probably 6 or more items either gluten-free as listed or easily modifiable.
I had the curry tofu not-wrap served on a bed of spinach with sprouts, tomato, cilantro-white bean purée & cucumber raita. Delicious. It was a big serving and a great value for $8.00. All of the packaging is compostable too. Bonus!
I will return! Maybe not at peak meal hours since the little place really filled up. But there is a lot of menu there left for me to explore.