The Holidays are upon us! While I am, like all of you, still a goal-oriented person, this is your last post here until next Tuesday arrives; I love blogging but even I need a break while doing a whirlwind Christmas visit to both the in-laws and my family.

That being said, I chose that this last day, a day off work but still a day before I head out to see family, as a big day: on a variety of projects, my goal is to complete 4000 words of writing! I know that technically I don’t have to do that much, but if I do accomplish that goal, I will feel incredibly fine with taking 4 full days off of writing so much and devote all that time to family.

Why can I take four full days off and not feel like I’m lagging on my goals? Easy. One of the goals in my Best Self Journal is to nurture relationships with my friends and family. That isn’t something that is easy to quantify (I cannot make a goal of “speak 4000 words to my family today” like I can about writing). What I’ve chosen to do instead with the next 4 pages in my notebook is to just… journal.

That’s the truth; it’s still a journal. So instead of spending hours each day trying to meet my writing quotas, I’m going to try to take 10 or 15 minutes at the end of each family-filled day to write what I’m grateful for and to process any interactions I had but didn’t think about thoroughly. As we all age, each person in my family needs different things, and sometimes I’m too busy to notice what those things are. I hope that spending just a little bit of time journaling will help me notice how to be the best daughter, sister, friend, and in-law I can be, for the specific people in my life.

I hope that your holidays are full of rest, if that’s what you need, or activity, if that’s what you need. I hope that all of us are able to tell the difference between joyful productivity and drudgery, and choose productivity at the times when it thrills us. See you all next week!

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I’ve been trying like crazy to avoid caffeine lately, since drinking it makes me jittery, but one of its other great effects is productivity. For a long time, a cup of coffee was the way I jolted myself up to speed after lunch. Getting work done after lunch is now slow going, and I have to struggle to do as much in two hours as I can do with one good hour in the morning.

That being said, I’ve given myself a few new Motivation Monday tips for getting through that time of day:

Schedule Physically Active Work: I have been trying to put meetings on my schedule for afternoons, especially meetings where I have to get out of my office and go to a different building. This means a brisk (cold!) walk and a conversation, which I usually find so engaging that I won’t be tired. I also do things like hanging up posters, cleaning my office, getting and returning library books, and going out to purchase supplies during afternoons. This physically active work makes me more prepared to do mentally active work when I get back to my desk.

Get up, get water, drink it, get back to work: While water has zero caffeine in it, the activity of walking across the building to fill up a cup with water, drinking it, and getting back to work tends to revive me at least temporarily. I like it also because I am not all that good at staying hydrated, so this simple routine means that no matter how drowsy I get, I always have a little excursion option.

Use the last 15 minutes of the Day to Make Plans for the Next Day: For some reason, even my snooziest afternoon can get exciting when I get to make plans (who me? your resident productivity-and-organization blogger?). Coming up with a list of how to best utilize my morning the next day is a good way to invest in the fact that having a waiting list the next morning will make me very effective.

How do you get through the post-lunch drowsiness? I know it’d be great if all 8 hours of my workday were as productive as 9am-10am, but since they aren’t, I’m still looking for new tips!

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Guys… it’s been 5 weeks of Best Self Journaling! In that time, I’ve run a 5K, resisted some substantial piles of unhealthy food while aiming for tons of veggies and fruits, and written more than 50,000 words on articles and blog posts. It’s been a landmark 5 weeks.

That being said… I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times. My ideal usage of this journal is for an initial 5-minute entry in the morning, a couple of notes all day, and a 5-minute entry in the evening. Those aren’t big time commitments, but especially while I was travelling, they were hard to fit in.

I’ve now passed my first cringe-y milestone: two full days without writing, returning only in time to work on the third day’s goal setting and gratitude.

What I realized is that these kinds of moments are not where goals go to die: they are where goals are actually forged. We all start projects all the time; it takes a serious person to get back on the horse after falling down.

So that’s what I’ve done: rather than dwelling on two days of not getting my work written down, I push myself to write on the future pages. I push myself to write on whatever is relevant now.

A small silver lining I’ve found is that, once every week or so, I’ll be BRIMMING with gratitude. More than 3 items. More than the 3 items for my next morning or evening session. So what am I doing? I’m putting gratitude in all the empty spaces in my journal. It is a nice metaphor: filling the parts of my goals and plans that are currently empty with the things that are filling me up at the moment.

I’ve only begun to think about how the Self Journal could help me after I have completely filled it, but this seems to be one of the ways: I want to be able to look back and see what simple things gave me happiness and contentment during a time when I was very busy.

Those future looks back? Just might be worth the frustration of not quite measuring up in the moment when I get behind on my journaling. Alright, time to get back on that horse.

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In college, I developed a habit. Every time I went to a new large city, I’d try to find a free tourist map. Obviously, these maps are useful for finding your way around anyway, but they also became one of my most treasured souvenirs.

My map of NYC is nearly falling apart at the creases from having been folded and unfolded so many times. Each day after I got back from hiking around the sites and seeing the amazing landmarks of Manhattan, I’d take a black permanent marker and outline my route. This was before smart phones would do things like this for you on apps like Trackmywalk.

Now, I have a visual memory of everything I was able to do during the week I was there: the crazy detour we took through Tribeca on our way to Chinatown, wandering the city late at night after seeing the Blue Man Group, and obviously Central Park and Times Square. When I just try to think of the trip, my memories blur together, but when I look at the map, up on the wall of maps in my house, things come back to me as individual steps in the journey.

Some cities are only given a few lines of walking because I got the map on a day trip, but that still helps me remember simple days of visiting a brewery and a museum with someone I care about. Others are completely filled in: Madrid, in particular, got to the point where I’d criss-crossed almost every street in downtown over the 2 years that I lived there, and many of the streets of outlying neighborhoods as well.

I’d love to hear how you organize your travel memories so that you will remember them well; do you do anything with those free tourist maps after you are done with them? They aren’t as pretty as framed fancy map prints, but they certainly hold a lot of long-term memories for me.

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