Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Small Steps to a Calmer Day

On Sunday night, I had a small breakdown and a significant breakthrough.  I felt overwhelmed by how much I needed to do and how little I had accomplished over the weekend.  A busy week with lots of deadlines and demands loomed ahead.

In talking through my frustrations, I arrived at a conclusion.  My breakthrough was simple: the to-do list in my head is too long... which means I set myself up for failure on a daily basis.  If I made a small change - if I continued to set high expectations but crafted a list of a realistic length - I could end the day on a positive, productive note.  And if I gave myself credit for the things I did accomplish, however small, I could feel empowered instead of defeated.  So I made a short to-do list for each day of this week (actually wrote it out) and at the end of Monday, I crossed off the items I completed.  I didn't find time to work on my final fiction piece due next week, but I did read a huge chunk of a novel for class and run the dishwasher (as I said, it's the little things!).

I also realized I typically begin the work day in a rush.  I would hit snooze, race to get ready for the day, power-walk to catch the bus, and arrive at my desk flustered from the start.  If I made a small change - if I got up when my alarm first went off, rather than hitting snooze for 30 minutes - I could start the day in a calm, prepared state.  I could take my time getting ready, allow for any bus delays, get to work early, and go through emails and sip some coffee before heading to meetings or dealing with fire drills.  So I tried out this plan starting on Monday morning and found a significant difference in my morning outlook.

Finally, I remembered that during those stressful periods of life, I need to carve out time for the activities that make me happy and for what is most important in life.  Eating well, sleeping enough, and working out can make a world of difference when it comes to my attitude.  If I made a small change - if I found moments to enjoy nature, read something interesting, savor a sweet treat or catch up with a good friend or family member - I could nurture a sense of calm and contentment.  I am still working on this point, but I am constantly trying to focus on the positives in life, even the seemingly small things.

To sum it up:
- Realistic to-do lists
- Credit for small accomplishments
- A relaxed routine
- Healthy habits
- Moments of joy

These small steps may not seem like much, but when life gets busy, it's the little changes that can have a large impact.  Do you have your own simple steps for building peace and happiness into everyday life?

Or I can always dream of Hawaii :)


  1. Melissa - you are truly an inspiration. I read this last night and thought to myself, "The Lord has truly blessed with with an amazing role model in my older sister." Thank you for the reminder.

  2. Thank you, Amy! So glad my suggestions can be an inspiration to others :) Just because you are younger doesn't mean I don't look "up" to you as well!

  3. great post, melissa! advice i need to take for sure

  4. Happy to help! Even one little change can make a difference :)

  5. good recipe for peace and to accomplish much. realizing that anything beyond your list is a plus and a reason to pat oneself on the back can be a plus for one's emotions rather than a negative for what one did not accomplish. we are only human. dad


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