marvelous monday: guest post by “the sunny girl” Lauren Cook!

I am thrilled to have Lauren Cook as a guest on the blog today! She is a dear friend and an inspiration to me to live life with joy, gratitude and love. Her blog The Sunny Girl: The Brighter Side of Things is a treasure trove of insights and resources to make your daily life happier. Check it out!

She was kind enough to stop by the blog today and share some thoughts on finding happiness through a sense of daily accomplishment. Enjoy! 🙂

There are a few things in life that leave me hard-pressed for happiness. Without a good meal, a good night’s rest, and my daily to-do list, I’m lost at my soul’s sea. I love having direction in my life, both for the big picture and for the seemingly small tasks throughout the day. That’s why nearly every day, without fail, I write a check list for what I need to get done and what I want to get done.

The main reason: I love the feeling of accomplishment. Even getting that little “check” on my list for achieving something as simple as going to the grocery store keeps me on track for the day. I know it sounds silly, even ridiculous, but I think it’s so important to stay goal oriented and focused. If I leave my mind to do as it pleases, I’ll end up watching mindless TV, eating that extra scoop of Ben and Jerry’s Greek yogurt (my new obsession!), and delaying my work for the day. I wouldn’t label myself as a procrastinator, but my life is so much more productive when I’ve planned it out on paper.

I write all about happiness for young adults. I’m working on publishing my first book right now and while this is a huge goal, there are hundreds of small goals embedded within it. Without my daily to-do lists, these goals just seem to float along in my head rather than actualize.

I’m so much happier at the end of the day when I can look back on my list and see that I made an EFFORT. Even if I don’t finish a chapter or if I still have emails to send, knowing that I gave it my best for the day leaves me satisfied yet eager to start the next day.

We all have our own ways of writing to-do lists but here are a few of my Sunny Suggestions:

1. Get a planner you love to look at. You’re going to be using it a lot! No matter how you like to take your notes, whether it’s on your phone or a notebook, make sure it’s convenient to carry and nice to look at. I’m hoping for a Lilly Pulitzer notebook soon—with a notebook that pretty I’ll never want to stop adding things to do!

2. Look at it at least three times throughout the day: If it’s out of sight, it’s all too easily out of mind. Sure, it’s simple to write down the tasks but it’s a whole other thing to keep your eyes on the prize. Make sure you have your notes handy so that you can see how much progress you’re making throughout the day.

3. Make goals out of goals: Some days are busier than others. Some days I know I can’t accomplish even half the items on my to-do list. Still, set a goal for how many goals you’d like to finish that day. And if you meet your goal? Don’t stop there! Set a new one and keep going til that sun goes down!

We all ultimately strive for happiness and I think setting goals is a primary way we work towards that happiness. For me it all starts with a to-do list. Make your visual and present on a daily basis. Don’t leave your list in your mind—get it on paper. It’ll motivate you to put in the extra effort.

I hope you start seeing your goals getting accomplished more than ever and I hope you start living the happiest life you’ve always wanted!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Connect with Lauren:

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

marvelous monday: the magic of to-do lists

There’s something about the way my brain works that makes me really drawn to lists. These lists permeate my life and range from the motivating {goal lists, markets-to-submit-my-writing-to lists} to the mundane {grocery lists, thank-you-notes-to-write lists} but no matter what the topic, it all boils down to this: lists make me a happier and less-stressed person.

And the mother of all lists is the to-do list, which I write pretty much every day. I kinda feel bad for the to-do list. It gets a bad rap. People complain all the time about their to-do lists. {Sometimes I feel like people compete on the lengths of their to-do lists just to have more complaining leverage!} But I think the to-do list can be a really wonderful tool to boost your feelings of motivation and accomplishment, not to mention your sense of organization over your time, work and daily life.

The trick is to use the to-do list in a way that helps you, not hinders you. You want the to-do list to make you feel good about yourself, not stressed out or overwhelmed.

I think the first step in coming up with an effective to-do list system for your life is to take an honest look at how you spend your time. Is there something you wish you were doing more of? Is there anything you feel like you waste time on that you wish you wouldn’t? How much free time do you feel you have every day/week/month? Honesty is crucial here! I think the biggest mistake people make when writing to-do lists {and believe me, I am guilty of this too} is putting waaay too much on the list, more than anyone could possibly get done in a day, and then feeling bad about themselves when the day draws to close and there are still a lot of un-crossed-off items on the list.

So, Tip #1: Be honest and realistic with yourself.

Another thing that works for me is to break to-do list items up into categories of “big” and “small” … sometimes these categories morph into “things I need to do but keep putting off” and “things I need to do and actually like doing.” Then I try to even out these tasks throughout the week. In a perfect world, I’d do at least one “big” task every day, and one or two “small” tasks. When life gets hectic, a good balance for me is to aim for three “big” tasks every week, and maybe 6-8 “small” tasks.

Here are some examples of “big” tasks on my list this week {i.e. things I want to keep putting off but shouldn’t}: get my car in for an oil change; put some items up on Craigslist that I’ve been meaning to sell; go through my closet and weed out clothes to donate.

And here are some examples of “small” tasks on my list this week {i.e. things I should do and don’t mind doing}: go to the Post Office to send out play submissions with upcoming deadlines; try a new recipe I found for Morning Glory Muffins; write & mail a couple thank-you notes; order prints of photos from a recent trip Mike & I took to Chicago; hang up a new picture I got for the guest bedroom.

At the beginning of every week, I jot down a list of the “big” tasks and “small” tasks I want to get done that week, and then every day or every other day I choose a big task and a couple small tasks to tackle. This works for me because:

  • It really helps me focus on one thing at a time and not get overwhelmed by all the things I want to get done
  • It helps me structure the week {for example, maybe one day I’ll focus on running all my errands to save on gas & car time}
  • It makes it much harder for me to put off or procrastinate on certain tasks because I’m just focusing on one per day or one every two days.

There are also a few tasks on my to-do list every day! These relate to bigger goals I want to accomplish in the year. For example, one of my goals is to read 52 books this year, so reading time is on my to-do list every day. I also have a goal of writing at least 400 words every day {which I track on this super-motivating free website www.joesgoals.com — can’t recommend it enough!}

Chores I designate on a weekly basis, and I go through phases. Sometimes I like having a “chore/cleaning day” where I try to get all my cleaning/laundry/dishes/housework stuff done in a single swoop. Other times I’ll go for a few months when I prefer splitting up chores into smaller tasks that I will do day-by-day. I think it’s all about what works for you, how you’re feeling, and what your free time/schedule is like.

For years I’ve saved envelopes and written my to-do lists on the backs of them. Then Mike got me this pretty notepad from the $1 bin at Target — isn’t it adorable? How can you not be excited to tackle your to-do list when you write it out on paper like this? I still save envelopes though because I am always writing lists and I like to be eco-friendly!

It can also be helpful to keep a pad of paper somewhere you pass by every day so you can write down ideas or reminders when they first strike you. {If I don’t do this, half the time I completely forget!} I keep a notepad on the fridge where I jot down items to get at the store, reminders to myself of things to add to my list or places I need to be:

Do you write to-do lists? What sorts of tips work for you? What do you find helpful when organizing your daily or weekly tasks?

Have a marvelous week!
Dallas