Friday, December 12, 2008

finding more free time

"I'm just too busy."

"I can't get things done because my schedule is jam-packed from morning to night."

"I don't have time to make change."

Want to believe these things about yourself? Or would you like to find out if you have time to make some changes? I happen to know from my own experience that there is plenty of time tucked away inside a day. "So trust me," I say. "Believe me!"

(And then hundreds of very busy people tune me out because I tell them to rely on my experience instead of their own.)

Luckily, I know about a great tool to show people their hidden time: the Life Log.

I first read about about the Life Log in Fearless Living by Rhonda Britten. She says, "When you write down in black and white exactly what you do all day, you end up with a clear picture of whether you are frittering away your life on low-priority activities out of fear, or whether you are bold enough to use your time wisely and well in order to go where you were meant to go."

The exercise is simple, really. Every half hour, you record in a journal what you did in the previous half hour. It can be simple, like "work" or "eat," or it can be more complex, like "worked on outline for 2pm meeting" or "ate cake because I felt crappy." (Not that I know anyone whose done that...) You're recording this for you, so the shorthand only has to make sense to you, but you should be as honest as possible in this record so any patterns that exist can start to reveal themselves.

Once you've done this for a week, divide your life into categories (the categories from the Wheel of Life are a good place to start) and then apply a category to each of the half hours you've recorded. Tally up the half-hours, and you'll begin to see where you spend most of your time... and where there might be more time to be had.

Not finding any time? Hmm, are you being brutally honest about how you're spending your time? Are the changes you're trying to make a high enough priority for you? What else might need to shift in order to find the time you need to make those changes?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Wheel of Life

When I first started working with my own coach, he taught me to create a Wheel of Life so we could see where I was and where I wanted to be in the various areas of my life. It's a great tool to periodically check in on, and it reminds me to aim high in the most important areas.

Luckily, I recently found a website that will help you generate your own Wheel of Life. If that's too high tech for you, go ahead and draw a circle on a piece of paper, and then subdivide it into ten areas:
  1. Home/Physical Environment
  2. Partner/Love/Relationship
  3. Health/Fitness
  4. Growth/Learning
  5. Career/Business/Work
  6. Money/Finance
  7. Family/Friends/Social Relationships
  8. Community
  9. Fun
  10. Spirituality

Then, on a scale of 1-10, rate your satisfaction in each area. With 1 being the center of the circle, draw an arc in each tenth around the level you rated that area. (So if you rated Home a 5, you'd draw the arc in the middle of that section.)

Once you're done, you can see how well your "wheel" would roll... which might just give you the motivation to make some changes in the most troubled tenths.

An added exercise? Define what a ten in each area would look like!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Secrets of Six Figure Women

Here's an interesting list of characteristics, taken from the book Secrets of Six Figure Women, by Barbara Stanny, which I heartily recommend. She says you should try to whittle the list down to five values you couldn't live without. I managed to get it down to about 11, but had a hard time after that.

Go ahead, you try it.

Being free
Being generous
Leaving a legacy
Life partner
Making a difference
Physical activity
Seeing the world
Time alone
Using my talents

If you show me yours, I'll show you mine...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

lesson learned

I have a theory:

Everything happens for a reason. And the key to making the most out of life is focusing on learning the right lesson from your mishaps. [although that word, "mishap," is one of those words that distracts me. Shouldn't it be pronounced "Mis-shap?"]

So, earlier this summer I was repeatedly getting cancelled on at the last minute, and it was starting to drive me out of my mind. "Don't you have the consideration," I would shout to my empty shower (in lieu of said cancellers), "to think ahead and make a plan you can stick to?!?!" And I would roil and stomp and do all those things we do when we think nobody else is looking.

I thought (naively) "what lesson could there POSSIBLY be in this crap?!?" and then tabled the discussion with myself, and just kept on trucking.

And then I got stood up. I didn't think much about why that happened, I just thought, "oh poo, a Friday night ruined" and "eh, he sucks" and I went home. Well, last night I got stood up AGAIN, by someone else entirely, under completely different circumstances. (He, too, was a douchebag about it, though, TEXTING me a weak apology and asking me to hang out later if my previous plans fell through. I should have made a plan with him and then stood HIM up! Drats! Next time!) And that conversation I was going to have with myself jumped right up off that table and came waltzing into my brain.

I learned two things:

1. I would much rather be cancelled on at the last minute than stood up; and
2. It is far better to have risked and flopped than not to have risked at all.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

to produce or support, that is the question

Dear Hamlet,

Forget about to be or not to be. You know full well that, eventually, you're going to be the King of Denmark. (That is, of course, if nobody offs you before you grow up.) So you've never had the fun of going through the What the Hell Am I Supposed To Do With My Life game. Let me tell you, it's a trip.

Now, I know you're going to say "wah wah wah, poor me, you have no idea what it's like deciding whether or not to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune!" Well, to that I say: would you rather deal with a few slings and arrows, or have a job that doesn't totally fulfill you and begin the quest for a new one?

I think thou wouldst not choose the Quest For Thy Future.

Now, you know I've got some daddy issues. Hell, you can probably relate. But I had an interesting conversation with mine the other night about what I wanted to be when I grow up. (By the way: it doesn't in any way, shape or form involve a nunnery, so keep your helpful suggestions to yourself.) He made a very useful distinction in the world of business between producers and supporters.

All my (professional) life, I've been a supporter. First an admin, then a legal sec'y, and now a trainer. (I'm leaving the acting out of it for the moment.) So I have no real idea what it even means to be a "producer," although I understand my father's concept -- someone who delivers a product, whether that's a sale, a presentation, a speech, or what have you. I have always enjoyed my support role, but I see the appeal and allure of the producer role -- producers get a lot more of the kudos and prestige. Supporters get the sense of well being that comes with helping.

My father's convinced I would make a good producer. (I fear that it's similar to how your father thought you would make a good avenger, though, so I'm not going to bring your dad into this for now.) I already know I'm a good supporter. I shy away from the producer roles while imagining the Perfect Future. Is that because I'm not capable of producing? Or simply because I have a natural affinity for supporting?I know not.

It's interesting to think about. I'll wager that there're some gender differences at play here, though I'll be the last one to say that women don't make good producers. I also think it's an issue of confidence being born from experience.

Or maybe I just want to sleep with my mother.

Hard to say.

Anyway, Hamlet, hope you're doing well.

xoxo k8

p.s. Yorick says hi.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

my own inner Statler and Waldorf

You know those muppets who sit on the balcony, kvetching about the show the whole way through? They're Statler and Waldorf. And I don't know about you, but I seem to have my own version of them in my head, endlessly muttering about what I'm doing, what I'm not doing, and whether or not I'm doing (or not doing) things I'm doing (or not doing) the right way.

It's annoying.

Anyway, over the weekend, I really socked it to them, and managed to shut them up for a whole afternoon!

I went for a group hike this weekend and found myself in a group where not one, but TWO of the guides were really cute. I chatted with both as the hike began, and discovered that I'd have a really flirty, good time if, when the groups split, I went in their group. However, the non-cute-guide group was smaller and was going to go on a slightly more hard-core hike, and I was drawn to that.

When we were splitting up, Statler and Waldorf started to chatter.

Statler: What's she doing? Is she going on the easy hike just because the guides are CUTE?
Waldorf: I think so.
Statler: I thought she wasn't dating for a while.
Waldorf: She ISN'T!
Statler and Waldorf: Wah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

(Am I unfairly representing their style? I always thought they laughed awfully hard at things that were barely funny.)

Anyway, before the groups got too far apart, I changed my mind, and joined the hard-core group. I'm not focusing on dating right now, I'm focusing on me, and what I want, and who I am, and the choices I make that have to do with me, and not boys. And that meant I was doing the more hard-core hike.*

And boy, did Statler and Waldorf not know what to say to that!

(In the end we all reconvened and hiked back together as a group, and there was some charming chatter exchanged, but I did that with my self-regard rather high, thankyouverymuch. Nothing beats sticking to a promise I make myself.)

*Editor's note: as it is used in this post "hard-core" means "less wussy and more hikey" but in no way implies that I'm remotely a badass.

Friday, August 8, 2008

a theory on dating serially

Yesterday a friend of mine asked herself this (by asking me): do I take a break from boys for a little while and just clear my mind? Or do I start dating and do it right -- not just date one boy or put all my eggs in one basket?

I learned a lot while serially dating (by which I mean ending one relationship and then instantaneously starting another), but the key theory that I developed (after stopping) was that wherever my first relationship was at when it ended (my last serious was about a 8.5 out of 10, on a completely random and self-generated scale), my next relationship STARTED somewhere pretty close by. (The following guy and I started at about a 6.5 or 7.) That really didn't work for me, because we hadn't earned that intimacy. It wasn't until I had taken some time completely alone (I did six weeks) that my internal intimacy-meter reset to zero.

And now I operate at a fairly consistent zero. It's made it easier for me to really reassess, and to be On My Own. It's taken me out of "we" mode and back into "me" mode. Zero has allowed me space to tackle some other demons, instead of always being focused on boys boys boys and what was going wrong (or right).

It took a lot of effort, a lot of nights at Lisa's house, a lot of girls' nights out (to non-guyish events) and even some turning down of dates until my sabbatical was over.

And it was totally worth it. But that was my experience. Since I know my friend and I are pretty similar (at least in this regard), I recommended it to her. And if it's not what she needs/wants or it doesn't help, it's only six weeks. And if she doesn't do it, it's no skin off my nose. All I really care is that she's asking the questions.

I try to look at being single this way -- today might be my only chance to be completely single. The next guy I meet could be Mr. Right, and then what? I might have to stop sleeping diagonally.


Monday, May 19, 2008


I'm a very trusting person. (Of everyone else, that is. Not of myself.)

I can meet someone and instantaneously trust them. And I do. All the time. And for the most part, I've been lucky, meeting good, decent people who are worthy of my trust. But it seems like it's getting to a point where I trust other people more than I trust myself.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as people have come and gone in my life. People who I have trusted as if, in some way, they have the answers that I don't. And if I trust these people, or follow their advice, or live my life in a way that they would approve of, then they're in charge, and I'm no longer responsible for whatever shortcomings I have in life. As if they know the route better, and I can relax and just enjoy the ride.

But what's funny is when I do that, I end up somewhere other than where I wanted to be.

This kind of trust, this belief that other people know what's right for me, what my inner truth is, is in fact, a huge betrayal of myself. It's almost as if I'm saying, "Hey Kate, your plans and your wants must suck, because look at all these other people, who know how you should be living your life differently --they clearly have the inside scoop!"

Athol Fugard wrote a beautiful monologue in The Road to Mecca, (which someone may or may not have auditioned with when she was acting) and it closes with this: "You know what the really big word is, Helen? I had it all wrong. I suppose like most people I used to think it was Love. Thats a big word all right, and quite an event when it comes along. But there's an even bigger word. Trust. And more dangerous. Because that's when you drop your defenses, lay yourself wide open, and if you've made a mistake, you're in big, big trouble. And it hurts like hell." It speaks to me mostly because I've been there before, trusting someone to take care of me, to be responsible for me, and in the end, letting me down simply because that's not their job.

I am so not a religious person, but the Rev. Kim K. Crawford Harvie has written an AMAZING sermon on trust. She says, "The more highly developed our trust yourself voice, the better prepared we are to trust the world, or to trust it again. The strength of our capacity to trust ourselves is the reserve on which we draw when the world betrays us. And the capacity to trust ourselves is the bedrock of our trustworthiness to others."

But what about the areas in which we know we're untrustworthy? Is the answer then to only listen to parts of yourself? To listen to those voices that you respect? Or to hear the other voices, but not let them drive? I want to live a life I'm proud of, and make decisions for myself that not only do those close to me respect, but that, more importantly, I can trust.

"In our inner world, we can cultivate a sanctuary of courage and strength. It is from within that sanctuary that we cast our lot with the world, whatever hand the world deals us. The trick here, though -- and it's a good one --is not to harden our hearts, not to make of our sanctuary an armored vehicle, or a prison," says Harvie.

And I think I can get on board with that -- finding a way to curb, but not destroy the voice coming from the needier and more desperate sides of myself. Be careful, be selective about what I listen to, what I believe and what I trust about myself. Make more choices to be strong, to opt for the clearest future I can make for myself.

I won't be my best self until I make the choice(s) to become her.

Rev. Crawford Harvie also refers to Rumi (which is actually how I found her in the first place), and the poem below really speaks to me right now, to not selling myself short, and to finding out how to trust the woman I want to become.

There is a life-force within your soul.
Seek that life.
There is a gem in the mountain of your body.
Seek that mine.
O traveler, if you are in search of That
Don't look outside.
Look inside yourself .

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Four Things I Learned Today

I had three and a half hours of mandatory diversity training today, which turned out to not be diversity training at all, but rather a course in body language, with fancy names for positive body language ("MicroAdvantages") and negative body language ("MicroInequities"). Lucky for me, the presenter was somewhat entertaining, and in the middle of the presentation I had one of those AHA! moments, in which things I've learned in different arenas of my life meld into one coherent thought. (I LOVE those!)

So please, in reading this, feel free to experience your own AHA! moments. (I would, however, recommend avoiding all EWWW, ACK! and MRRR moments. They are MicroNotThePoint.)

1. Life As Impulse Control
We humans have a wide range of emotions, thoughts and behaviors that make up who we are. And to get what we want out of life (be it a fulfilling romantic relationship, a positive work environment, or even just the last donut hole) we have to intentionally balance the expression of ourselves.

For example, if I am unhappy with the way someone is treating me, and I want to have a discussion about his/her behavior, I could go ahead and express my hurt feelings immediately and feel, as such, that I'm having my say, and being true to myself. Or, I could focus on what I want out of the situation (i.e., to be heard, to generate a change in behavior, etc.), and temper my response according to what I want.

To put it as clearly as I can, someone named kate periodically has to choose between "having my say" (me focused and immediate) and "actually being heard." (also me focused, but more long term and productive)

Now, in writing this, I might as well be writing an acting text, as going after what you want is one of the key principles in good acting. But this isn't acting, and more than anything, I want to emphasize that it's not lying or being phony. It's just knowing what you really want (both in the long and short term), and behaving in a way that will get you closest to what you want.

This is particularly challenging for someone named kate who often wants an immediate soothing AND the accomplishment of her long term goals.

This balance-the-expression-of-yourself lesson was reinforced for me today by a lawyer who, in the middle of training, said that not using negative body language with someone you don't like is lying -- it's not honoring your feelings. The presenter deftly responded that he didn't care about any of our feelings. All he cared about was whether or not he was fostering a positive workspace, one in which his team members could thrive and make more money for the partnership. Because in business, arguably, that's the objective. (If this were the SATs, business : money as kate : long term goals)

2. An Odd Remedy for Dry Skin

Best applied while doing dishes.

3. Giving Advice to Friends Sometimes Makes You Hear It Yourself
I have a friend who is getting married and she called me in a tizzy the other night, convinced that her fiancee didn't want to marry her anymore. She listed a number of reasons, all of which had to do with her, and not with him at all, and at one point she said, "I'm making all these sacrifices in my lifestyle to be with him, and I just don't think he appreciates it."

I stopped her right there and said, "Wait a second, you're missing the point. He may NEVER appreciate the sacrifices you're making. And that's fine. It's really not his job to validate you or your sacrifices. You can only sacrifice when it is ok with you, and never expect anyone to praise you for it. Otherwise all you're doing is storing that sacrifice in your arsenal, ready to whip it out whenever you're in a fight that's not going your way."

(Not bad for someone who hasn't been in a relationship for let's-not-even-do-the-math-on-this-one long, eh?)

4. Spaghetti Squash is a Lot Like Spaghetti
It's true. It is. You cut it in half, nook it for 9 minutes in the microwave, dump some spaghetti sauce into it, stir, add cheese, stir some more and then chow down. Totally awesome meal.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

fearless living (a totally different three day conference)

With all the fearless living conferences I go to, you'd think I'd be fearlessly ruling the world by now. Alas, I'm not. I'm focusing on conquering a far more complex and confusing terrain -- me.

Over the long weekend, I went to a Fearless Foundation Workshop, run by Rhonda Britten (of Starting Over fame) and, while I won't go into the specifics of exactly what we covered (as that would breach my agreement with the Institute) I will give you a basic outline of what I learned, and why it's important to me -- for free!

(Aren't I just the best?)

First, Rhonda argues, when we experience negative emotions (anger, anxiety, frustration, despair, etc.) it's because we're being triggered by fear. We have one major fear, and when we can identify that fear, take a step back and stop reacting to it, we have much more freedom in our lives to make choices that actually serve us. Additionally, she argues, there is an essential nature that each of us has, but which we have denied, and only when we stop reacting from fear will we start to access that essential nature and end up with what she calls our "wholeness." My essential nature, as I discovered this weekend, is compassionate. And that may not surprise many of you, as I believe I'm an extremely compassionate person... to other people. Inside my own head, however, it's a bar brawl, with Judgment duking it out with Mean-Spiritedness (who is tag teamming with Not-Good-Enough). There's definitely an element of this that has served me over time (pushing me to go to Yale, driving me to be better and less complacent in just about everything I do), but more than not, it has been a really good tool for me to use to drive myself crazy. (Just ask my ex-boyfriends. I think they'll back me up on this.)

However, the problem a self-judger faces when she feels she is now tasked with the job of being compassionate is that it's really easy to sit there and tell yourself you're not being compassionate enough, or compassionate in the right way, or compassionate at all. (This was how I spent my Sunday night and Monday morning. Don't do this at home. It's exhausting.) The upside, it turns out, is that any decision I can make from a place outside of fear is already compassionate, by default! (Yippee!) The more I can do to take a step back, examine my behavior, take a deep breath, or stand up for myself (especially in the face of my greatest fear), the sweeter I will be to myself. The more I will move towards forgiving myself. The awesomer I will become.

So, while the conference was draining, at times irritating, and I basically felt like someone had taken the Jaws of Life, cracked open my rib cage and just kept spreading and spreading and spreading until there was next to no life left in me, it was totally worth it in the Peace of Mind department.

If you're interested in learning more about any of this, please let me know, visit, or read Rhonda's book, Fearless Living. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, as it's really hard emotional work that will only benefit you if you're really ready for it, but if you feel stuck in a rut (either in your thoughts, career, behaviors, relationships, life, whatever) it'll totally help.

You may, in fact, never be the same again.