Is Today A Thrive Day or A Survive Day?

Years ago, when I was a brand-new mother, I saw a book titled something along the lines of: Don’t Just Survive! Thrive!!!

This rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe I had endured a string of sleepless nights or maybe it was when I was going through my epic morning sickness while pregnant with Levi. Either way, I categorically disregarded that book based on the title alone. I was in survival mode and didn’t need any pressure to start “thriving”.

I’ve thought a lot about the concepts of thriving and surviving lately and realized that it’s often helpful for me to categorize my days in one of two ways.

Sometimes I open my eyes in the morning and want nothing more than to curl up under the covers and shrug off any and all responsibilities.

Other days I’m a powerhouse of productivity and energy.

Both days are perfectly natural states and deserve their own place. But it helps to set the stage for “success” when I label the day how I see it.

Can a Surive Day turn out spectacularly well? Absolutely. Can a Thrive Day end up getting torpedoed by an unexpected catastrophe? Been there, done that.

But on a survival day, I aim for different things. On survival days I know that taking the time to get out of my pajamas and put on a bit of mascara will make me feel so much better. On survival days I know that starting a load of laundry will make me feel like I’ve done something productive. On survival days I can try to prioritize only the most necessary work tasks and leave the hard e-mails or calls for another day. On survival days I know I don’t have to take the kids sledding or make homemade meals. They can have cereal for lunch and watch movies all day. Because it’s all about surviving.

For too many years I’ve tried to force Survive Days into a Thrive Day mold. And sure, sometimes I do well to push myself harder. But more often than not – for me at least – this backfires. Better to say my goal for today is just to Survive. To take care of the basic necessities and view anything else as a major win.

There will be days to Thrive. One of those days might come tomorrow. But today? Today I just get to survive…and that’s enough.

Your turn. Do you think you’d find it helpful to label a day as a Survival Day? Would it take some pressure off feeling a need to be productive?

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Just Do The Easy Stuff? Or, Step on the Snake Before Breakfast?

February had some tough moments (as do most months) and a few mornings I woke up feeling rather blue. This is life. And I’m slowly learning how important it is to allow myself the chance to feel my feelings.

But wallowing has its limits.

A friend recently mentioned that in times of physical or emotional overwhelm she tries to remind herself to: Just do the easy stuff.

I love this idea. Lately, on days when I don’t know where to start or how to prioritize competing demands on my time, I make a point of slowing down long enough to tell myself: Just do the easy stuff. Sure enough, there is always low-hanging fruit. Routine administrative responsibilities, a load of laundry, straightening up the books on my bedside table, tackling the easiest item on my work agenda.

Some days all I manage to do is the easy stuff. But, eventually, I always find the energy for the harder stuff, too. (In a similar vein, I’ve long appreciated Tim Ferris’ advice to ask: What would this look like if it were easy?)

Contrast that with another quote I heard years and years ago: Step on the snake before breakfast. In other words, get the hard stuff out of the way first. There are days when I manage to do just that and it can be thrilling!

Days don’t come in a one-size-fits-all continuum. Some days I focus on easy stuff, some days I step on a “snake” before breakfast. And some days I manage to do both.

Your turn. What are your favourite motivational quotes? Do you like starting with the “easy” stuff to get momentum for harder tasks or would you prefer to step on your “snake” before breakfast?

You’ll Feel Better Once You Get Started

I’ve mentioned before how I only subscribe to a handful of newsletters. Of those subscriptions, James Clear’s 3-2-1 is my favourite. It’s short, but impactful.

A few weeks ago, in the throes of Levi’s “relapse,” the first quote in his weekly newsletter was: You’ll feel better once you get started.

This is practically a universal truth for me. I dread getting out the door to exercise, but then feel great once I get started. Corporate taxes loom like an impenetrable wall, but they go smoothly…once I get started.

Gretchen Rubin/Elizabeth Craft regularly bring up the following quotes: Action is an antidote for anxiety and The stewing is worse than the doing. *

Preach it.

*I drafted this post last Thursday and hadn’t listened to a Happier podcast in weeks. Yesterday, I listened to the latest More Happier episode and they mentioned BOTH of these quotes.

And while not directly related to these quotes, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a quote Nicole has left in my comments section twice now. The first time I loved it but didn’t write it down (big mistake). The second time? I wrote it in giant cursive script inside the front cover of my planner and now think about it – regularly – from various angles.

There will be a time after this.

Nicole’s friend, Allison

What have you stewed about recently that ended up being no big deal? Do you tend to feel better once you get started on an onerous task? Any good quotes to share? I still have plenty of space at the front of my planner for fresh inspiration...

Header photo by Shubham Mittal on Unsplash

Little Bites: Progress, Not Completion

I’ve already professed my love for lists. Sometimes, I even relish the assignment of new tasks simply because it allows me the satisfaction that comes from recording new items on my to-do list. Another one added…another one to cross off.

In fact, I’ve been known to add items to a list that are already completed. (Friends have confessed to the same behaviour, so I know I’m not alone).

Sometimes, though, I can get so wrapped up in focussing on the end goal, I lose sight of – or neglect entirely – the process to get there.

That’s why I’m trying to embrace the concept of progress, not completion.

Let’s take laundry. You know how I feel about laundry. The never-ending source of work for any parent. Sometimes I look at our jumble of blended cotton and want to cry. Getting it all put away before another load joins the teetering pile feels impossible. But here’s what I’ve found: making progress can be satisfying.

In one particularly tough season of a precarious work/life “balance”, I told myself I only needed to put away three items of laundry each day. My kids create three pieces of laundry before they’re out of bed in the morning, so the math didn’t really add up. Some days, I’d manage to match a single pair of socks (I counted that as a single item), a dishtowel, and a T-shirt. But, most days, I felt up to more. I’d stick to three at a time, but 3 + 3+ 3 + 3 adds up to a full load of laundry…eventually.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Sometimes the first bite is the most discouraging and daunting. The elephant – be it laundry, an adoption process, a move to a new city, saving for a college education, or quitting a smoking habit – can seem too big to tackle, even in bite-sized pieces. But, in reality, that is exactly how we have to handle each problem. One dollar at a time, we fund that education. Skipping a single cigarette (then another and another) is the only way to quit smoking.

Step by step we make more and more progress. . .which, ultimately, leads to completion.

Your turn. What project or goal are you making progress on right now? How do you stay motivated to keep taking those bite-sized steps forward?

Header photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

What Great Feature Might I Be Missing?

I’ve written before about our unwavering love for the bottom-loading water cooler we have in our dining room. After years of John wanting a water cooler (I always resisted because I thought they were a) ugly, b) physically demanding, and c) an inefficient use of space – but, let’s be honest, it was mostly because I thought they were an aesthetic eyesore) I surprised him with one (a sleek bottom-loading Whirlpool version, to counter my concerns) for Christmas 2019.

Best. Gift. Ever.

We source most of our drinking water from a local spring (we use tap water, too, but it is heavily chlorinated so, for drinking purposes, we really appreciate having the option of ice-cold spring water); aside from the one-time investment to buy the cooler and refillable water jugs – and some minor electric consumption to run the cooling functions and pump motor – this appliance is a daily, inexpensive source of practical joy.

We’ve never used the water heating capabilities – though we have friends that rave about using the warming function to quickly steep an individual cup of tea. We’ve used it solely as a water cooler. No fancy bells and whistles.

And it has been great.

Then, one day in mid-December, out of the blue, I walked into the dining room at night and THERE WERE LIGHTS ILLUMINATING THE DISPENSER AREA. John had gotten fed up with trying to fill his water bottle in the dark and flipped a switch on the back of the water cooler and – Voila! – there were lights.

Wait. Our water cooler has lights?!

Can I just say how wonderful it is to use the water cooler in the early morning hours or after dusk and not have to turn on an overhead light? Also, at any time of day, these lights make it so much easier to tell when a cup/thermos/water bottle is full. Spilling incidents have dropped precipitously.

And the sad thing is, this capability is prominently named in the product description: “Whirlpool Black & SS Water Cooler Bottom Load Self Clean with LED Lights.”

Now, will you please excuse me while I go fill up my water bottle under the soft glow of warm-white LED lights…

Your turn. Have you ever used a product for years before discovering a “hidden” capability or setting that revolutionized some aspect of your life? Do you read user manuals when you buy a new item to get a well-rounded view of what a product is capable of? Do you think there is an item in your life for which you’re not taking full advantage of features?

Here are a few of my favourite Apple-product features:

  • If you double-click an AirPod, it will skip songs (a single click pauses/unpauses; a press and hold switches between transparency and noise-canceling). This feature is amazing when I’m exercising and don’t want to handle my phone to switch up the music.
  • Triple clicking on the home button of an iPhone turns things grayscale (a commonly mentioned “hack” for making phone time less visually appealing; bright colours are more addictive than gray).
  • A huge thanks to Kaelyn for alerting me to the fact you can track screen-time use on an iPhone widget. I am really appreciating having this stat on my landing page!

Header photo by Laura Mitulla on Unsplash

It’s Inbox Declutter Time

While we all spend a lot of time managing physical clutter, in the modern age, we have to contend with digital clutter, too.

Over the last week or so, I’ve been methodically unsubscribing from the various newsletters and digital flyers that come my way.

I almost didn’t notice the increasing deluge of e-mails coming in over the year. I’d swipe left – Delete! – and move on with my day. But my heart also sank when I saw my e-mail count in the morning, even though so many of them weren’t relevant.


My local grocery store that distributes a weekly e-flyer (which I have never read a single time, despite receiving this e-mail for years)? Unsubscribe.

All but my very favourite newsletters? Unsubscribe.

Those “Microsoft Viva Insight” e-mails automatically delivered to two work e-mail addresses every single day (which I never, ever consult)? Unsubscribe. I organized a meal train back in October 2020. It’s time to…Unsubscribe.

Removal from a few local mailing lists required more specific attention: a youth choir Abby is dropping in 2023, weekly e-mails from a church we no longer attend. The extra step of preparing/sending a personalized message did feel like a hassle, but I put on my big girl panties and distributed the relevant messaging (in under a minute) and I’m now off those mailing lists, too.

I’ve been shocked at how many times over the last week I’ve been able to click Unsubscribe without a moment’s hesitation. And I can’t tell you how liberating and light it makes me feel each and every time. The last few days, when I check my e-mail, it’s mostly messages I want – or need – to receive. Which feels…refreshing!

Happy New Year to me…and to my inbox, too.

Your turn. Do you subscribe to a lot of newsletters, mailing lists, or other alerts? Do you mind having excess e-mail clutter? I didn’t think it bothered me, but I’m amazed at how much more pleasant it is to check my e-mails after hitting unsubscribe a few dozen times.

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Sometimes It’s Easier to Do Something Instead of Making It a To-Do

I can’t even recall the specifics of the task now, but a few weeks ago I instinctively reached for my planner to write down an item on my to-do list. I stopped – pen poised over paper – and thought: Elisabeth, it would be a lot less work to just DO the task – now.

So I did it, patted myself on the back, and moved on with my day.

Your turn. Do you love lists? (I do!) Have you ever discovered that – sometimes – it takes less work/mental energy to just do a task versus adding it to a future to-do list?

Header photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My 2022 “Ta-Da” List

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. I’m still in a post-holiday haze, complete with fevers (yes, really) and canceled plans. Despite more brushes with illness, we made many wonderful memories this season and I’ll recap them all…eventually…when I start sleeping through the night again. Which will happen. Right?

While I love the structure of my annual goals list, I appreciate the complimentary nature of a Ta-Da list. This record is an art, not a science. I don’t keep an exhaustive list; some items are basic and ordinary (like taking the kids skating), others are arbitrary (I recorded buying a treadmill desk attachment, but didn’t think to list getting two robovacs), and others feel momentous (like finally deciding to take next steps toward scheduling a hysterectomy).

Periodically I flip to my Ta-Da list – maintained on a bonus page in my planner – and get a real morale boost from adding new items. I forget lots of things and don’t have any regimented tracking method, but enjoy the process and find it motivating.

Here is a random assortment of Ta-Da’s from 2022:

Ice wreaths!
Treadmill desk (attachment)
One Line A Day Journal
Took kids skating (three times; each time inviting friends) at outdoor rinks
Ordered treadmill desk attachment (8 Jan)
Confirmed with OB/GYN about going ahead with a hysterectomy (10 January)
Survived online learning with kids (10-17 January)
Submitted T4’s + corporate taxes online (February)
Made ice wreaths with the kids (+ woods walk to collect natural materials)
Took kids + friends sledding (17 January)
Took kids to after-school skate at the arena
24-hour water fast (22 February)
Ordered house number (24 March)
Finished paint + caulking in living room
Ordered 2023 ski passes (31 March)
Went to PEI (8 – 9 April); completed daily walk on Haunted Woods Trail
Met “The Knitter” (went to her house for coffee + hosted for supper)
Got a Pap Smear + tetanus shot
Ran my old running route – 8.34 km – (19 May)
Trip to Toronto, NYC, Maine (June/July)
Laser treatments (x3) to remove a spider vein on my forehead; $115 total and so worth it
Applied for NEXUS/TSA Pre-Check (July)
1st pedicure (August)
Survived summer company
Meatball joined the family (12 July)
Got fall mums for our front step (September)
Painted shed to match new house exterior with a friend (participating in any home improvement task feels like a huge deal)
Bought a new-to-me yoga mat (didn’t really use it though; sigh)
Took our own family pictures!
Exercised final stock options
Booked two 2023 trips to maximize 2022 flight deals (Rome + South Carolina)
Began eating “intuitively”
Walked outside a minimum of 1 km daily (technically on two occasions my 1 km happened inside airports – it was the best I could do)
Completed NaBloPoMo
Made several (anonymous) appearances in Laura Vanderkam’s Tranquility by Tuesday book.
Completed a cooking competition with the kids + neighbours (minutes after a kitchen flood)
Performed in the angel choir at Live Nativity
Wrote in my One Line A Day Journal every day
New York City
Daily walks – including one on the “Green Gables” property
We became pet owners! Welcome to the family, Meatball!

There you have it – some Ta-Da’s for 2022.

Your turn. Do you actively track “Ta-Da’s”? If so, how do you monitor, record, and/or celebrate these non-goal successes and accomplishments?

Header photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash