Chopped Salad [Leaf-Eating 101]

If you’re anything like me, you probably enjoyed a some lovely meals yesterday, finely balanced between the essential food groups: Peeps marshmallows, champagne, deviled eggs, and good old ‘Murican casserole.  Or maybe you just ate your bodyweight in Reese’s peanut butter eggs.  I certainly made the most of Easter brunch and the opportunity to raid my little sister’s Easter basket.  However you went about it, I hope you went hard.

But if you’re like me, you’re probably craving something a little more…nourishing today.  I’m am not of the mindset that you need to “make up for” indulgences or less-than-nutritious meals in any way.  Life is meant to be enjoyed, so eat a damn burger and get on with it.  At the same time, I can tell when my body is running well on nutritious food, and I really like that feeling.  I also really like good food.  So if I can make nutritious food taste fabulous, then it’s an all-around win: I feel good, I enjoy what I’m eating, and my poor little pancreas doesn’t succumb to diabetes.

One of my favorite healthy meals is salad…except this is not your typical salad.  See, we all know that green leafy things like spinach and kale are “superfoods” and “nutritional powerhouses”  (sidenote: I hate those buzzwords), but I absolutely cannot stand eating a plateful of leaves.  First of all, it makes me feel like a baby dinosaur.  Second of all, it tastes like dirt.  (Being that I am not a baby dinosaur, I am not a fan of leaves that taste like dirt.)  Still, knowing that these greens are actually great for my health, I force myself to find ways to enjoy them.  Often, I’ll blend them into a smoothie.  Other times, since I like to, you know, chew my food, I throw them in a salad.  More specifically, a chopped salad.  Chopped salads are far superior to normal salads because everything well mixed and they’re much easier to eat – you don’t have to try to shovel full-size leaves down your gullet, you can just pick up a forkful (or spooonful?) of chopped goodness.  And let’s be real, mama wants to use her finite brainpower to scour PubMed’s archives, not to figure out how to fit half a head of spinach in her mouth.

So here’s a simple little chopped salad “how to,” in case you feel like enjoying a meal that is slightly more nutritious than Peeps and Schlossberg (but arguably just as tasty).

Chopped Salad 

Basically, you’re going to throw some tasty things of your choosing into a bowl with edible leaves and then chop it all up.
[For more detailed instructions, keep reading.]

What you should include:

  • green leafy things – your choice: spinach, kale, butter, chard, romaine, cabbage, broccoli slaw, or a mix
  • protein – chicken, steak, turkey, bison, salmon, tilapia, etc. (whatever you choose should be ground or roughly chopped before mixing and more chopping happens)
  • fat – avocado, nuts, cheese (feta, bleu, parm, etc.)
  • vegetables and herbs - sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, cilantro, roasted squash, carmelized onions (or raw), chopped carrots, jalapenos, etc.
  • dressing – oil+vinegar, oil+lemon, or dressing of your choice (but sometimes the goodies are enough and you don’t even need dressing!)
  • optional: beans, rice, croutons, dried cranberries, etc. (if you include these, add them after chopping.)

 

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Before…

What you should do:

  • Throw everything  in a round metal bowl except dressing and optional items (if using).
  • Grab a pizza cutter.  (I’ve found special “chopped salad cutters” on Amazon, but those suckers run around $25.  This redneck way of going about it works just fine and leaves you $25 extra to spend on tasty things that you can actually eat.)
  • Holding the bowl steady with your free hand, run the pizza cutter back and forth through the bowl.  Change angles and really make sure everything gets chopped up nice and tiny (or to your liking).
  • [For safety reasons, I'd suggest wearing an oven mitt on the hand holding the bowl.]
  • Toss with dressing, etc.
  • Go. To. Town.  Seriously, don’t even bother putting it on a plate.  Time is of the essence when you’re hungry.
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…and after.

I know it may not seem like much, but a chopped salad truly tastes 20x better than a regular old “lettuce-heaped-on-a-plate-with-other-things-heaped-on-top” type of salad…Which means I’m 20x more likely to eat it.

And those aren’t bad leaf-eating odds for someone who’s not a baby dinosaur.

Grown-Ass Woman-Body

I spent most of the week before last wearing little more than a bikini and, when necessary, daisy-dukes.

(I promise I’m not talking about this vacation to rub it in your face that I was frolicking on the beach while yall were slogging away in cubicles under florescent lighting.  It just happened to be a very enlightening week.)

This isn’t going to be a discussion on the modesty, or lack thereof, of my wardrobe.  Been there, done that, and I’d like to revisit the topic again soon…but not today.  On one of the last days of our trip, I was sitting on my knees as I pawed through my suitcase for a pair of bikini bottoms.  While I knelt there, I looked down at my legs and was struck with the memory of being 17 and working out with a personal trainer for the first time.  I was thinner then than I am now, but I can clearly remember thinking that I was chubby.  At one point, the trainer had me kneel on the floor, and I looked down at my thighs and was horrified and humiliated by how much they “squished out” when I was kneeling.  (I’m sure all you women know what I’m talking about.)

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See the difference?

I couldn’t help but shake my head at the difference six years has made.  At 17, I was terrified of being “big” or otherwise imperfect, and the sight of my own legs looking less-than-skinny was disgusting. Today? I’m not bothered in the slightest.

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I’m a grown-ass woman, with a grown-ass woman-body.  And that’s pretty great.

Am I fat? Not by most standards.

Am I skinny? Not at all.

Should I be leaner? Debatable.

But should I be ashamed of any of that?  Hell no.

Somewhere along the line as I was growing up, I was taught that there was something inherently shameful about a less-than-ideal female body.  No one ever said this (too) explicitly, but it was certainly declared in each magazine I picked up and every commercial I saw.  And more importantly, it was implied by most every adult female in my family.  Between regular comments of self-disparagement and a general attitude of dissatisfaction with their appearance, the message was clear.  No once during those growing-up years do I remember any of the women in my life saying positive things about their bodies.  None of them ever expressed pride in their body or appreciation of their shape.  Hell, none of them ever even just mentioned their body in a neutral way without some kind of complaint or attitude of shame.   I think that’s pretty much the norm for most women, and even men, these days…And that’s pretty damn sad.

Sure, I’ve had my fair share of complaints about my body.  It’s hard to remember a time that I wasn’t dissatisfied with my body.   But finally, finally, finally I’ve come to appreciate that there is nothing wrong with being less-than-airbrushed.  In recognizing that I have no reason to apologize or be ashamed for how I look, there’s incredible freedom.  Will everyone think I’m beautiful? Of course not.  But that’s neither a the goal nor relevant here.  I don’t need to be perfect to be comfortable with myself, and being imperfect is not a reason to be ashamed of myself.  How I wish every little girl and little boy could hear that before they started to second-guess and disparage and berate themselves for not living up to an arbitrary and impossible standard set for them by society.  I guess that’s what this boils down to: The attitudes we adopt set a precedent for future generations.  It breaks my heart to think that there are kids growing up who don’t have anyone modeling healthy self-esteem for them.   And given our society’s preoccupation with beauty and appearances, that’s likely the case for so very many of them.

So I’m challenging us – you, me, this generation – to change that.  Let’s stop hating ourselves.  Of course this doesn’t  mean we should stop challenging ourselves or seeking improvement (physical or otherwise).  Everyone with a body is charged with stewarding it well.  We just need to accept that we are indeed fallible humans and practice celebrating the bodies we’ve been given, for our own sake and for the sake of those who are watching for our example.

The imperfect body that you are blessed- yes, blessed- to inhabit?    Stop apologizing for it.

That includes legs that sometimes “squish” when we kneel.

That includes breasts that shift when we lie down.

That includes an ass that has dimples, and hips that are wide, and thighs that touch, and arms that jiggle, and whatever other quirks your grown-ass woman-body (or grown-ass man body) may have.

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Appreciate that body.  Care for it.  Enjoy it.  Steward it well.  Use it for good.  And stop trying to find your worth in it.  

 

Then grab some bikini bottoms (or not…I’m all for nudity), get your ass to the beach, and twerk like there’s no tomorrow.

(Actually, on second thought, skip the twerking.  But you get the idea.)

 

Sweating and Jet-Setting

When I was in San Diego the week before last, I exercised a lot less than normal.  I went on two runs (one of which was only about a mile up and back the beach), I did some pushups, and I called it good.  It was wonderful, and I don’t regret it one bit.

I also don’t regret the chips and salsa, margaritas, and wine tasting shenanigans that transpired.

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Post-wine tasting. Who knows what was happening…

This is a huge change from my normal vacation habits.  On virtually every trip I took after the age of 13, I would get incredibly anxious about making sure I was able to work out enough.  If circumstances prohibited me from working out, I became a major Grumplestiltskin.  Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore.

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After a run in Solana Beach. Something about that sea air makes the endorphin rush 10x better…

Now that I have a much healthier (read: “less obsessive”) attitude about exercise, and a far better understanding of physiology, I am not worried about skipping a week of normal workouts.  As much as I love my training, I know that my hard work won’t be undone by a week off.  I ended up being relatively active on this vacation anyway, with exploring the city on foot, swimming around in the pool, walking to dinner, riding a surrey in Coronado. At the same time, travel isn’t something that often interrupts my training schedule.  There are plenty of people who travel often enough that it’s not practical for them to completely abandon exercise every time they hit the road.  This is especially the case for those who are on the road for business or similar situations where their itinerary doesn’t involve much physical activity.  Working out while traveling can be tricky, though – you don’t always have guaranteed fitness amenities, and unless you have a private jet, your packing space is limited.  For those of you who need to break a sweat while jet-setting, here are some ideas for workouts that will work when you’re on the road.

Resistance Bands

Resistance training is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.  Many people turn to weights and/or cables for resistance training.  But if you won’t have access to a fitness facility, resistance bands take up hardly any suitcase space and can be a great way to still get in some good resistance training.  You’ll want to use higher reps in order to achieve the same muscular fatigue that you would with heavy weights.  I like doing shoulder presses, chest flyes, rear delt flyes, rows, curls, and tricep extensions with a resistance band.  Throw in a bit of ab work and some bodyweight lunges, squat jumps, etc. and you’ve got a full body workout!

Bodyweight Circuits

Speaking of bodyweight moves, your body is the most portable fitness equipment of all! Try one of these 10-minute circuits to break a sweat when you’re short on time, space, or equipment.  If you have a jump rope (portable) or chalk/tape (portable) or a kettlebell (if your hotel gym has one), you’re good to go.  It’s also easy to make up your own bodyweight circuit by stringing together traditional bodyweight movements like pushups, squats, chin-ups/pull-ups, lunches, crunches, planks, jumping jacks, etc.

Fitness DVDs

Obviously, DVDs are very portable.  If you have some fitness DVD’s that you enjoy, then by all means, bring them (and use them) on the road.  But even if you don’t, you can take advantage of all the workouts that you can stream for free with an Amazon Prime membership!  Since leaving my job at the gym (and, consequently, losing my gym membership there), having my running sidelined by some joint issues, and a general case of DGAF-ing, I’ve started looking for new ways to get a little conditioning in.  To my surprise, the fitness DVD’s on Amazon Prime have been a decent success.  So far I’ve tried several of Jillian Michaels’ (more cardio based) and a couple of the Ballet Beautiful workouts (more strength based). Don’t forget, there’s always YouTube, which is where I’ve found some of my favorite yoga practices.

The Just-Enjoy-Your-Damn-Vacation Workout

Whenever possible, forget formal workouts and just take advantage of whatever city you happen to be staying in! Take a walking tour, go for a hike, snorkel, surf, rent a SUP, swim, snowshoe, ski, go out dancing, ride a bike, roll around in the sand…have fun!
Go on adventures.

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Exploring a stranger’s dinghy.

Eat some tacos.

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Margaritas go great with tacos.

Don’t worry about it.

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Making friends at the San Diego Museum of Natural History.

And just enjoy your damn vacation.

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After hiking in Torrey Pines.

Drinking Season

The season for drinking…smoothies….is upon us once again.  Well, maybe not for yall who are still recovering from that little Polar Vortex thing that turned the East Coast into a tundra.  But out here in California, it is definitely smoothie season.

I mean, I already have tan lines on my donk, yall.  That has to mean something.

At any rate, I’m a big fan of smoothies.  Not some crazy obsessed smoothie freak like I used to be (mama likes to chew her food, you know?), but I’m still a fan.  Partly because I got a Ninja blender for Christmas.  Seriously, it’s easily the best (tangible) gift I’ve ever received.

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But no matter what kind of blender you have, smoothies are fantastic for two main reasons:

  • they’re a piece of cake to make (but better for you than an actual piece of cake)- although cleaning blender blades can be a real pain in the arse…just throw stuff in there and hit “go.”
  • you can hide all kinds of weird healthy junk in there without having to taste it.  I hate the taste of spinach, but if you whiz a handful of that nasty goodness into a smoothie that tastes like fruit, I’ll drink it by the pitcher.

In the spirit of smoothie season, I figured I’d share some of my favorites with you.  There’s no real rhyme or reason to these “recipes.”  Use whatever proportions of the suggested ingredients you’d like and blend to your desired consistency…get creative, add your own twist, and let me know how it turns out.  After all, I have been told that I have a knack for concocting decent blended beverages.

Actually, I believe “bomb-ass smoothie maker” was the direct quote…but let’s not argue semantics.

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All these recipes are for roughly one serving.  If you don’t have an enormous appetite like me, you might have some leftovers to share.  Any kind of milk – dairy, soy, almond, hemp, etc. – can be used.  If you want to add a handful or two of spinach/kale (or flax meal, chia seeds, etc.) to your smoothie, go for it.  It might make your smoothie look like swamp juice, but it should still taste terrific.  Happy blending!  

Schoolgirl

This one’s a classic.  Think of it as a drinkable PB&J (bonus points for wearing a Catholic schoolgirl uniform while making it).

  • frozen banana(s)
  • frozen berries (I think raspberries or a mix works best)
  • a scoop of peanut butter
  • vanilla Greek yogurt +/or kefir
  • milk
  • oatmeal (blend it with everything or mix in after) or granola (sprinkle it on top)

Hungry Monkey

Named in honor of one of my best friends, whose lifelong nickname is “Monkey.” As expected, she loves bananas, and also smoothies.  I like making this with as little milk as possible, so the texture is like soft-serve ice cream.

  • frozen banana(s)
  • a generous scoop of peanut butter
  • a spoonful of cocoa powder
  • vanilla or chocolate protein powder (if that’s your jam)
  • milk
  • granola, mini chocolate chips (do it), or whatever mix-ins you’re feeling like

Wahine in a Bikini

Slap on some bikini bottoms and park yourself in a sandbox, and it will almost feel like you’re on the big island.  (Sexy cabana boy not included.)

  • frozen banana(s)
  • frozen mango
  • frozen (or fresh) pineapple
  • coconut milk +/or orange juice +/or pineapple juice
  • shredded coconut, crushed macadamia nuts, granola, etc. for toppin’ things off

Dark Magic

I mean, I’m no wizard, but the whole cherries + dark chocolate combo tastes as good as Neville Longbottom looked after he lost the man-boobs in his prime.  I’ll take a tall glass of that anyday.

  • frozen cherries
  • whatever other frozen berries you want
  • milk +/or cranberry or pomegranate juice
  • a spoonful of dark cocoa powder
  • vanilla Greek yogurt or kefir
  • shaved dark chocolate for sprinkling on top, if you’re fancy like that

Creamsicle Dreamsicle

Obviously inspired by everyone’s favorite orange creamsicle popsicle, but without quite as much Type II Diabetes.  You’ll never need an ice cream truck again.

  • frozen banana(s)
  • a hefty scoop of 100% orange juice concentrate
  • vanilla protein powder (if that’s your thaaang)
  • milk + orange juice (equal amounts of each)
  • vanilla Greek yogurt
  • whipped cream to top it all off…just trust me on this one…

Bottoms up!  

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Mermaid Life

In the past, I’ve usually tried to give at least a halfhearted excuse after an unexpected blogging hiatus.  Today I sat down to blog for the first time in 2 weeks, and I wondered why in the hell I would feel compelled to apologize for not writing.

You know, since I’m fairly certain no one’s world was turned upside down by my lack of internet-presence.

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[most of the photos from the trip are from Sabrina's phone...she was the designated photographer]
While yall were going on your merry way the last couple weeks, doing whatever it is you do (when you’re not reading here), I got to spend 9 days enjoying “spring break” (or whatever you call a weeklong vacation in April after you’ve graduated from college) with my lady-bros…remember them from the Tinderella escapades?  Most of that time was spent contentedly sprawling myself on various beaches around San Diego.  I exuded the sea-loving spirit of a mermaid, the jolly silhouette of a manatee, and the happiness of a proverbial clam, all in one.  Impressive, I know.   Given my exhibitionist tendencies unwarranted body confidence, it was absolute bliss to spend a week wearing little more than a cocktail of subblock, saltwater, and sunshine.

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In addition to copious hours in a barely-clothed state, I got to enjoy an escape from the 9-5 office routine and a chance to enjoy quality time with good friends, and even a visit with my extended family.

Don’t worry, I’ve been back at the 9-5 grind since Tuesday (didn’t wear my bikini, sadly).  Mama’s gotta make the Benny’s to fund these kinds of excursions.

Through all the fun and the rest and the girl talk and the Mexican food (it was a really big deal…), I was challenged.  The laid-back attitude, flexible schedule, and relaxation-mentality that defined our trip are all very much in opposition to my natural inclinations and preferences.  I stayed up past 10pm and woke up after 6am.  I didn’t set foot inside a gym, I only wore my tennis shoes twice, and I ate more chips and salsa in one week than I had in the past 12 months.   I fell asleep not having mapped out every hour of the next day, and went through the days without a meticulous list of objectives and tasks by which to accomplish them.  I took a jog on the beach wearing nothing but a bikini.

Vacations are great because it’s a chance to escape from everyday life and enjoy a change of pace.  For some people, the thought of this kind of relaxation thrills them.  For others (as in, yours truly) it’s terrifying.  It’s good though, I think, to practice being ok – or hell, embracing – refreshment and rest.  We weren’t made to be in the fast lane every moment of our lives, and these moments and days and seasons of being “in the slow lane” help us learn to practice contentment.  It’s also a great way to discern where your identity comes from.  Do you feel like anxious or ashamed when you’re not being productive (i.e. going to work, keeping a regular schedule, etc.)?  Structure and achievement are wonderful things, and God knows I thrive on that, but they do not define us.  Our work does not define us, our achievements do not define us, and our rest does not define us.  Our identity is defined by Him for whom we work, to whom we honor in our accomplishments, and in whom we find rest and fulfillment…and our identity in Him is unshakable (Romans 8:38-39).  This means that when we deviate from the everyday grind of doing and producing and achieving, for a vacation or for a midlife crisis or for whatever it may be, we are no less of ourselves because of it.  We don’t have any reason to feel guilty for allowing ourselves to rest, and we don’t “lose points” for temporarily breaking free from the norm.  We are who we are, in the office and on the beach and at home and at sea, because we are in Him.

Maybe that’s a little “deep” for a first blog post in two weeks, but it was something that’s been a long time coming for me, and I figure maybe someone else needs to hear it, as well.  There’s something wonderful and magical about learning to let go and lean into Jesus and enjoy the life He’s given you.  Those trappings of work and routine and to-do-lists can too easily become safety harnesses upon which we teach ourselves to become dependent.  Test yourself – throw off the harness and ride bareback, or dance barefoot, or go skinnydipping (or whatever metaphor you want to use here).  Take a vacation from whatever it is that you use as a safety harness for your identity, and see what it’s like to place all your comfort and identity and contentment in the Maker’s hands.

You just might want to stay there forever.

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(Sunshine, tacos, and sand in your bikini bottom?  Well, that’s just a bonus.)

“Eeees [NOT] Ok” [Reflections on The Bachelor]

Remember back in the day – or, like, a month ago – when I would do weekly commentaries on The Bachelor?  Those were some good times.

Actually, as much as I loved writing those posts, they could be really tedious to write.  It meant either watching the episode when it aired and staying up past 9pm (Mama Bear ain’t cut out for that night-owl lifestyle) while frantically taking notes in attempt to capture the most hilarious of my comments…or watching the episode later on Hulu and blogging as I went, pausing every 5 minutes or so to write.  Eventually I realized I could just do live-tweet commentary while watching the episode the night it aired.  So much better (even if it meant restraining my wit to 140-characters).

And then after awhile I started to get distracted by, you know, life…and when I went back to catch up on Televised Herpes-Fest 2014  The Bachelor, it was a lot less entertaining than I remembered.  Or maybe Juan Pablo’s man-whore antics were finally starting to grate on my nerves.  Whatever it was, I took a page out of Idina Menzel’s book and just “let it gooooooooo.”   (An executive decision was made to skip the whole “become an ice-queen-hermit on a snowy mountain and deny your severe avoidant attachement-style.” Probably for the best.)  I read recaps online, but I didn’t watch any of the episodes after my last Bachelor blog, except for the “Women Tell All.”  My friends peer-pressured me into it, and I love them for that.

At the same time, I still feel compelled to do some kind of “wrap up,” for Juan Pablo’s season.  The final rose, if you will…although in this case, the rose isn’t being given as a token of love/like/randiness, it’s being thrown onto the proverbial casket of reality television.  But still, it’s a rose.  There’s not much to be said, because I think the events speak for themselves.  Juan Pablo revealed his true colors as a man-whore whose brain was evidently lodged far south of his skull.  The women were, for the most part, as desperate and catty and just plain silly as usual.  I was pleased to see that Sharlene and Andi had the cajones/common sense to leave of their own accord.  (Although Andi is coming back as the next Bachelorette, so who knows how long that common sense will last…) Frankly, I wasn’t even surprised by any of it.  Disappointed, yes, because last season it had seemed that Juan Pablo might have been a bit different than the typical Bachelor bro.  But not surprised.  Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting old, because it’s come to the point where – in spite of the humor and the absurdity of it all – the show just makes me sad, because I know that, at least on some levels, it’s a reflection of society as a whole.

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And if we are treating real life and relationships anything like they do on The Bachelor?  That just “eeees [not] ok.”

Git ‘Er Done

When I was in third grade, I had a major school project due, and I chose to finish it two weeks before it was due.  After presenting the finished project to my parents and reveling in their praise, I proudly stuck my chin in the air and declared,

“Time management is the key to success!”

Yeah, I was a real peach.

Moral of the story is that I’ve always been an annoyingly-neurotic person who compulsively works at being productive all the time.  In a lot of ways, it’s one of my worst downfalls. (I am a terrible at “enjoying the moment” and I constantly try to “fix” everything I can get my paws on.)   On the other hand, when it’s time to take care of business, this is a great asset for me.

It is so easy to let our time be frittered away on social media, in front of the TV, or working inefficiently, but feel “busy” all the while…Then at the end of the day we are left wondering, “Where did all my time go?”  Life on this side of eternity is too fleeting to let the hours and days and years go down the drain like this.

Lately, though, I’ve found myself struggling to stay productive.  Somewhere between switching jobs, transitioning from part-time to full-time, planning a big (for me) vacation, and trying to invest well in the friends and family with which I find myself blessed…well, I haven’t exactly been using my time management skills so much.  Just to give you an example, over the past month, I’ve watched more Gossip Girl  reruns on Netflix than any self-respecting adult woman should admit, and yet I find myself thinking that I just “don’t have time” to clean.  The reality is that I’ve been rationalizing my laziness with the chaos of life lately, and I’ve been using that as an excuse to spend my time on meaningless pursuits at the expense of that which I truly value.

I think time management, and in turn, productivity, really comes down to priorities.  How we spend our time reveals, in no uncertain terms, what we value.  THIS article from Nerd Fitness (fantastic site, by the way…tons of great resources for fitness, life, and general nerdy goodness) explains is so well and has great suggestions for how to reorganize your life so that you do have time to do all those things you say you want/need to do.   Choose to orient your time around your priorities, and your productivity will take care of itself.   

I don’t know about yall, but I’ve got so many things that I want to achieve while I’m on earth.  I’m not about to let myself steal any more time away from those accomplishments.  Maybe that nerdy little kid was right.

“Time management [really] is the key to success.”

And if, like me, you want a little extra kick in the ‘donk to get started on this time-management objective, check out this big beautiful infographic.  You’d better believe I’ve got it plastered up on my bedroom wall so that I have to stare down this bad boy each morning when I sit up in bed.  It’s actually been helpful over the past week to have this daily visual reminder (not to mention the 30+ practical suggestions), and I’ve found myself a wee bit more inspired to be productive with my time when I look at this before flipping over to Netflix.  So if you want to, you know, wallpaper your office with it, I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a bad idea…

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