manage your time (don’t let it manage you)

Let me begin by saying that this post is in no way intended to be the definitive guide on how to most effectively manage your time. I am not a certified specialist in the area, nor do I believe that what works for me will work for everyone. I am sharing because on several occasions my friends have asked me: “How do you do it?? Where do you find the time??”

In order to understand why someone would ask me this, you must first understand what my life is like. I am a Big with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central Arizona, I also sit on their Professional Leadership Council and will be helping chair the Marathon for Kid’s sake this year (read: solicit all of my friends and family for money). I am a volunteer at the Phoenix Museum of History in the Archives, I sit on the Advisory Board for COMPUGirls, a program that introduces young women to science and technology as a career path, I work out at least 4 days a week, and run about 1 race per month, this past month was Pat’s Run. I work for Intel Corporation as a Design Automation Engineer, and I am a precinct committeeman for Legislative District 20 in Maricopa County. I love healthy eating and usually bring my lunch to work (because I also don’t like spending money on eating out when I can spend it on travel!) I am what one would consider a ‘social butterfly’ and love to spend time with my friends, and so they constantly as me…where DO I find the time?! My secret is this: I don’t sleep. just kidding!

My real secret is breaking things down into manageble chunks of time so that I can complete large tasks in smaller segments (note: this is not always possible). Aside from that, I know my schedule, and I prioritize. So, to my friends who asked, here it is: my sort-of guide to managing your time…hope it helps!

Scheduling is your friend!
Number one key to organizing your life? Schedule it. Make sure you know where you have to be, when you need to be there, and for how long. Know your commitments and prioritze the items that are of greater importance. This may seem counterintuitve, given that scheduling makes you less flexible, but on the contrary, it frees you to do what you like without stressing about what you are supposed to be doing. A schedule is useless if you don’t stick to it. Keep it where you can see it, check it and update it. If you need to, add reminders in your mobile device so that you don’t miss important events.

Eliminate unnecessary time leeches!
Everyone has something in their life that they can do without. I do not watch television. With the exception of an occassional program here and there, I do not turn on the tv, for me, unless I am doing laundry or work while watching, it seems like a waste of time when I could be doing something beneficial for myself. Identify your leeches, the things that suck up a lot of time but seem to have no tangible benefit, and get rid of them!

Combine Tasks
Align your extra-curricular activities with things that you enjoy doing, or need to do and then you can kill two birds with one stone. I once solicited people at Happy Hour to sign up for Early Voting (I signed up about 15 people!) because I knew I needed to get them in by a certain time, but I wanted to see my friends! Never waste a good opportunity to get something done. I always have a book, magazine, or my journal in my purse so while I wait at the doctor’s office or elsewhere, I can feel like I am not wasting my time because I am completing something that I wanted to do. Group a monotonous task with one that requires brain power: While I do dishes, I listen to the news (NPR is one of my most favorite things in life! I support my local station every year with a monetary gift!). The take away here? Find the tasks on your schedule that can be done toegether and make it happen.

Find a Good Stopping Place
I am a master of the context switch. I once read that there is no such thing as multi-tasking due to the fact that our brain can only focus on one thing at a time, so I have ceased to consider myself a multi-tasker, and instead adapted the term ‘context switching.’ Trying to do two things simultaneously often makes you waste time because your focus is not on the task at hand, so break things into blocks of time and go from one to the other in a way that maximizes your efforts. For instance, as I write this blog post, I have a load of laundry in the washer, and one in the dryer. I may not always have a solid block of time to work out, so I will break it up: cardio in the morning, lifting after work, at least 15 minutes of each.

Reduce your stress
You will not be stressed if you allow yourself time to complete things: know your committments and stick to a schedule for completion! If you have a large looming deadline, set the date, and do incremental things leading up to that date that make it easier to handle. Cook once on the weekend, freeze what may spoil and defrost as needed. If you cook something that can serve as a base for a new meal, that breaks up the monotony of eating leftovers. For instance: rice and beans can be turned into many other meals — rice cereal for breakfast, tacos, burritos, the list goes on. Packing for a big vacation? Make a list of everything you will need. Open up a suitcase, and check things off the list throughout the week, come trip day, voila, you are packed!

I don’t want to go on and on, so here are my little gems of wisdom on the time management tip: Plan your time, prioritize your tasks, and take it one day at a time.

a single woman’s rant

boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy asks for girl’s number, and so it begins. that silly little dance of getting to know you where you have to invest time up front tolerating people long enough to find out if you are meeting them or “their representative.” here is why i hate first conversations:

you ask me stupid questions that i don’t feel like answering!

  • “sounds like you’re cooking, so you cook huh? you should cook for me.” this really makes me NOT want to cook for you…ever.
  • “do you have a picture phone?” why because you’re going to ask me to send you a photo? please. stop. really.
  • and my personal all time favorite: “so, i have to ask you this: you are gorgeous, intelligent, sociable…why are you single?” the word ‘single’ is spoken as though it were some communicable disease people try not to catch. did i ask YOU why you were single? no, i didn’t.

this brings me to the real point of this post. why is it that a well adjusted, happy, single woman is called into question? people never seem to get tired of asking. co-workers, well meaning family friends, random guys…and it comes in many forms, but always with some rationalization or analysis about why: “you must party too much,” “you’re not crazy are you?” “oh i know, you’ve got a list.” but if i were a man, would anyone ask me that question? i’m going to go out on a limb and say that the answer is no.

i could give any number of reasons why (i am single), but at the end of the day it boils down to one simple fact: because i want to be; and i should not have to justify that to anyone, least of all you, mr. met-you-in the-club-first-time-caller.

i dodged salmonella!

a very interesting thing happened at the grocery store today. i purchased a few items on the way to a superbowl party and instead of getting the short receipt i was expecting, it was long. very long. i quickly joked with the cashier about it’s length. as i read the receipt, i realized that it was so long because there was information related to the peanut butter recall. i love clif bars and purchase them pretty regulary. they are great for that pre or post workout boost! i am also a fry’s valued customer (you know, the little card you swipe when you buy groceries). as a result of my participation in the valued customer’s program, the grocery store had information on things i had previously purchased, so they alerted me to return items that may have been effected. woah! i wasn’t sure what was more disturbing;

1) that i might have salmonella sitting on my shelf or
2) that the grocery store tracked all of my purchases and can use the information in any way they see fit.

i like getting savings on the groceries that i buy and never gave too much thought about what the store might do with my shopping data. i do get coupons every now and then for items that i purchase, which i like…then, i started to wonder what else they might use it for. direct marketing? collaborating with my insurance company to determine whether i was a potential health risk due to the foods that i eat?! okay, a bit of conspiracy theory there, but really, where does it end? i haven’t thought this out fully just yet. but i am keeping my frequent shopper card.

when i got home, i checked my cabinets only to find that oops! i’d already eaten the clif bar containing the bad peanut butter paste. good thing i didn’t get salmonella!

text message cop outs

technology is a blessing, technology is a curse. in the dating world…i’m more inclined to go with the latter. before the advent of text messaging, a person used to have to call if they were interested. now, they can just send a mass text message to the numbers they collected in a successful evening and see who responds. something non-descript like “hey cutie, what’s up? great meeting you last night, we should get together sometime,” and see who responds.

some people also use this tactic as a means to clean out their phone of numbers that they don’t recognize. i just delete numbers if i don’t recognize the name, which is not always the best course of action. some of those people were in there so that i remember NOT to respond if i see their number appear, i’m going to just start changing the name to “do not answer.” what spurred this post? there is always a catalyst, i don’t blog for nothing! here is the transcript:

anonymous txter: “hey cutie, how you doin”

me: “who’s number is this?”

anonymous txter: “what’s yo myspace?”

me: “who is this.”

anonymous txter: “benjamin”

me: “we’ve already established that we don’t know each other, so why don’t you delete my number and you can stop trying to figure out who i am.”
(after i saw the name, i realized that this dude has tried this before)

benjamin: “Man if I got you in my fone I must kno you. That’s y I ask wut yo myspace. So I can at least see a pic of you. I jus getting to I got u in my fone and don’t kno”

me: “well i don’t have you in my phone.”

benjamin: “Can I get a pic”

me: “where are you even from?”
(i googled the area code, so i already know this…houston)

benjamin: “houston”

me: “well, i live in arizona, so i don’t even know where we would have met.”

benjamin: “Wuts yo myspace”

me: “we probably met in a club or something and never talked, it obviously wasn’t that deep, so let’s leave it at that.”

benjamin: “That’s not nice but u got it”

me: “No it’s not, but what’s the point.”

benjamin: “I jus want see a pic of u and then I kno wut it is then”

me: “well i don’t know you, so i’m sticking with my original answer.”

benjamin: “I guess dats it den”

me: “yeah guess so. peace.”

obviously i must’ve given this guy my number and don’t remember or it was so long ago that i forgot. either way, after the first time he tried it he, should have given up. i have now saved his number in my phone: “do not respond.” fellas, if you don’t know the number, just delete it; don’t try and get the myspace page, that is so lame.

calm down tomcat, i didn’t kill your girlfriend

there is a family of stray cats that roams my apartment complex like they own the place. i can usually find them sunning on my patio or scavenging for food. one day i saw the female cat laying out on my porch, and thought nothing of it. day two, same position…i’m thinkin she’s dead. a quick check confirmed this, and then the “not my responsiblity” game began.

first, i called my landlord, who said i should call the humane society, and they said i had to call animal control who told me (after 45 minutes on hold) that they didn’t do dead animal pick up and referred me to a third party contractor who told me that i would have to pay for the removal of said dead animal since it died on my patio instead of “community property.” i didn’t want the cat laying out there collecting germs, so i paid the animal pick up fee and notified my landlord so they could reimburse me only to find out…”not their responsiblity.” argh.

so the following day i am going out on to my patio, and the Tom cat is near the place where his lady died, he looked up at me with hate in his eyes, the kind that said “i know what you did, and you’ll pay for this.” but i didn’t do it! i didn’t kill his girlfriend, she just died on my patio :- he has not returned to my patio since, but i see him stalking around the complex and he always stops and gives me that same death look. if i turn up missing, please put out the APB: black tom cat, white paws.

what’s in a name?

have you ever uttered the sentence: “funny, he/she doesn’t look like a ?” i met a (black) man named shamus with a last name that is equally irish. it set me to thinking. our parents (presumably) carefully select a name that will reflect who we are, or who they would like us to become. i did not have a name for the first week or so of my life. my mother wanted to see what type of personality i had instead of giving me a name and hoping that it fit. i was “bright eyed and bushy tailed” to hear her tell it, and emerged into the world curious and ready for something new, so she named me Eshe, Swahili for “life.” how much of who we are is determined by the name that we carry?

i have often met people who didn’t seem to match their names. i have known certain names where the bearers share similar characteristics (i would never name a child bertha). many a person has renamed themselves upon reaching adulthood because they felt mismatched with their given name. there is a certain power in naming something. a thought, a feeling, person can seem intangible until you give it a name. on several occasions, i have struggled to find the words to convey an emotion, and once i found them, i felt more at peace. God gave man the great responsibility of naming all that he had created. are people trapped in the wrong name doomed to a life of feeling out of place? it must be terrible to wake up every day feeling…not yourself.

if you can speak things into being, and i believe that words carry weight well beyond what we are willing to admit, then by haphazardly naming a child, a parent does them a great disservice. we spend so much of our lives trying to find ourselves, that adding a name mismatch to the equation is just cruel. to all people: choose your words carefully, and to the parents: name your children wisely.

“Well then, if i’m a Namer, what does that mean? What does a Namer do?…When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a Namer’s job. Maybe you’re supposed to make earthlings feel more human.”

–Meg/Cherubim, A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle

men behaving badly

typically, i try to give people the benefit of the doubt. i am beginning to rethink that practice, especially where men are concerned. now, before you condemn me with your diatribe of “here goes another bitter woman,” permit me to explain myself. i have several married male friends with whom i hang on occasion. one of these friends constantly laughs at me for saying that married guys are “safe.” i believe in the sanctity of marriage, so my assumption is that when a married man says “let’s grab lunch” that is all he means.

i went to an art show with one of my married friends, and we stopped for a bite to eat beforehand. while we were dining, he casually tells me that he has divorced his wife, stating “i didn’t want you to feel strangely about spending time with me.” yeah, i didn’t, until he told me he’d divorced his wife! he then ended our outting by inviting me to a game of one on one basketball, needless to say, i never took him up on the invitation, i just felt strangely about the situation. fast forward to this past weekend.

i was doing my civic duty, registering voters and getting people to sign up for the early voter list. each person was supposed to walk their houses with a partner. i am minding my business when a very attractive man approaches and asks if i’m already partnered, i’m not. he asks me where i’m from and it turns out we are both new mexicans! we chat about loving to travel and the importance of community and civic engagement, and then he says “where were you when i was single?!” hold the phone. this sneaky sneaky so-and-so! there were a TON of other people there he could have partnered with, now i’m stuck with the married guy! to make matters worse, he called me “sexy shoulder girl” and at the end of our walking, he gave me his number and told me to call him if i was “going to be doing any more organizing.”

so from now on, married men are no longer in the safe category. i don’t want any angry wives chasing me down, that i can do without.

healthy living: because you aren’t getting any younger!

my company has a voluntary health and wellness program. each year, you can get your vital stats taken and evaluated with a health care professional, AND you get $50 for doing it!

when is the last time you had a physical? how frequently do you exercise your body? how often do you drink? how are your sleep habits? are you a smoker? do you want to have children? as we approach our 30s these vital stats become so much more important. society may have changed; 30 may be the new 20, but our bodies have not evolved to accommodate the lifestyle. the damage we do today, will now have much greater consequence than it would have in our 20s. we heal slower, and gradually become more fragile.

the simple fact of the matter is, we cannot afford to play fast and loose with our bodies and our health. if we live long enough, one day, we will be old. the life expectancy of adults in developed countries has increased by at least 10 years due to modern medicine, however, quality of life has decreased. yes, people are living longer but they are sicker. prevention is the best thing we can do to stave off disease in old age. it has to become a habit. making conscious decisions about our health should be as much a part of the life plan as that next career move! don’t think you can do it? i did, and here’s (an abbreviated version of) how…

in 2004, i noticed that i would wake up feeling like i wanted to vomit every morning. i also had stomach problems throughout the day. my mother and father raised our family using holistic medicine (tiger claw, acupuncture, detoxes, etc.), so i began looking at my diet. what was i eating? i loved cereal, and i usually had a bowl before i went to bed. i switched to soy milk. within two weeks, i stopped waking up nauseous! in the past several years, i have made many changes in the way that i live. i have been a vegetarian my whole life, but i have become much more aware of the things i put into my body. from my lotions to hair products, foods to medicines, i began reading more about nutrition. the pesticides used in farming, hormones in livestock, carcinogens in beauty products…i vowed to go organic.

the first step was to was phase out dairy and eggs. i was never a fan of eggs as it was, the texture and smell always turned my stomach, so that one was easy. i switched to sea salt, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice. i stopped buying canned vegetables, i began studying the vitamins and properties of foods, buying whole grains, and reading labels. some books that helped me along the way: “choose your foods: like your life depends on them” by dr colleen huber, and “the detox miracle sourcebook” by robert morse.

i graduated high school weighing 117. when i started college, i ate a lot of breads and pastas, my papa johns pizza bill at the end of my freshman year was $200+. my late night eating habits, and carb heavy diet (without enough corresponding exercise to burn it) kept me between 130-135 throughout undergrad. i’m only 5’2″ so 10-15 pounds on someone my size makes a big difference 🙂 my father pinched my cheeks when i came home for christmas break and told me “you’ve got a little butter on you baby!” not funny.

after graduation, i didn’t do much differently, but i was living on my own, buying my own food, and without any effort, i’d dropped down to 125. at that time, i had stopped drinking carbonated beverages. i began to make additional changes to my diet in 2006: only natural sweeteners (i.e. no high fructose corn syrup!), buying fresh foods without preservatives: i now shop more frequently. i only buy what i need as it will go bad faster, and if i’m not going to use it before it does, i cut it up and freeze. and i only drink water and fresh fruit juices…and the occasional mixed drink (caution drinkers, most alcoholic beverages are high in carbs, they don’t call it a beer belly for nothing!).

i knew that if i was changing what i was putting into my body, i also needed to pay attention to what i was putting ON to my body. i got rid of my shampoos and conditioners, started buying all natural and organic versions, and i stopped using chemicals on my hair. i am currently looking for a quality makeup line to replace my old cosmetics, since i’ve stopped wearing makeup and changed my facewash (amande pomme apple from l’occitane), i don’t get breakouts anymore (i had been thinking about going to see a dermatologist). my moisturizers (almond-aloe from earth science and alba daily shade) are all natural with spf 15+, and i just started buying green cleaning products.

to complete “the trifecta,” i wanted to be more consistent about working out. moving to arizona really spurred my exercise regimen, i didn’t have to be indoors to work out! i joined a volleyball team, i can go hiking on weekends and i love to run outside. i made a commitment to myself to work out 3 days a week, no matter what. i bought a bike in 2005, and ride it anywhere in a 5 mile radius of my home, which includes to an from work every day. 2 months ago, i purchased a nike+ personal trainer to help track my running and it has made a difference in my motivation. i set time and distance goals, and challenge myself. today, i am ~118, ~21% body fat, and working toward my second half marathon, the nike marathon in san francisco! i love feeling good and being proud of my body, and the pool parties are always a source of motivation.

i challenge you to start by taking these small steps: get a physical, and some blood work. know your cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, and percent body fat. talk with your doctor about what those numbers mean, and about your lifestyle choices. identify those that may put you at risk for disease in old age, and then…change them.

my stats:

Your Current Medical Biometric Data Results Recommended Level
Blood Sugar (Glucose) 84 mg/dL Less than 100 mg/dL (fasting)
Less than 140 mg/dL (nonfasting)
Your total Cholesterol level 149 mg/dL Less than 200 mg/dL
Your LDL Cholesterol level 78 mg/dL LDL : Less than 100 mg/dL
Your HDL Cholesterol level 59 mg/dL HDL : Greater than 40 mg/dL
Triglycerides 60 mg/dL Less than 150 mg/dL (fasting)
Blood Pressure 108/58 Less than 120/80 mmHG
Height 5 feet 2 inch(es) N/A
Weight 118 lbs N/A
BMI – Body Mass Index 21.5801 Kg/meter squared BMI : 18.5-24.9
Body Fat %21.3 Men less than 25% Women less than 32%

disappearing acts

and no, i’m not talking about that wack wesley snipes/sanaa lathan straight-to-lifetime disasterpiece, i’m referring to mysterious television character disappearances and re-castings. this thought was spurned when the other night, i was watching my wife and kids in syndication and this girl came downstairs. tisha campbell’s character called her “claire.” i was like…hold the phone, who is this??

obviously, claire was recast early enough in the series that i never knew there was an “original” claire. now this is a common occurrence on daytime soaps so i am never taken by surprise, but at least soap operas have the decency to know that their audience members are intelligent enough to NOTICE that there has been a casting change. soap operas always have a nice voice over talent say something like: “and now playing the role of victoria newman will be *actress nowhere near as heather tom’s name here*” when the new actor appears. i appreciate that. these tv show cast changes are hiliarious. it’s like one day somebody just disappears and they are never mentioned again and the plot keeps on moving without a second thought.

case in point: judy, little richie, aunt rachael and grandma on family matters. it started with judy, but by the end of that show, nobody was safe. it was “the urkel show.” don’t remember judy? she was the pointless youngest child who couldn’t fill the “cute as a button” role, wasn’t “the stupid one” (eddie) or “the pretty one” (laura) so she had to go. in fact, upon further research, judy was recast from the pilot to the actual series run…doomed from the start.

just a random blog entry, it’s been a while. i suppose i need to return to the blogosphere.

bitter biker syndrome

i love riding my bike to work, the entire half mile commute. it takes me less than 5 minutes to get there if i catch the light just right. i go home everyday for lunch, and sometimes, catch a quick cat nap. i am helping the environment, saving on gas money, and getting a bit (albeit a very tiny bit) of exercise. so why am i bitter? i am bitter at the tax credits for people who buy hybrid vehicles. it just doesn’t seem fair. yes, it is a delayed response, the credit was enacted 2 years ago. yes i know, cry me a river, but logic should dictate that anyone who does their due diligence to ease the burden on the environment should be eligible for some sort of tax break.

granted, there are some challenges in proving that you do indeed bike to work, but what of all the commuters who take public transportation and have a monthly pass of some sort? they are helping unclog the highways for all of those hybrid vehicles. i am going to lobby for a bikers tax credit! all of those hard peddling men and women deserve to be acknowledged in some way. after all, not only are they being “green,” but also easing the burden on the health care system, working out is the best preventative medicine. people who work out should get a break for that too, or at least a reduction in their health insurance premiums, i should start a letter writing campaign to my local senator…

life is just not fair. woe is me. now i retire to wallow in my sorrow.