Life Lately: What’s Working (And What’s Not)

When I read Katie’s post earlier this week, I had to wonder if she has been brushing up on her mind-reading skills. She wrote about what systems were working well as part of her fall routine and her post came on a day I was drafting my own thoughts on the same topic!

I spend a lot of time tweaking things that aren’t working well in my routine but don’t always take time to appreciate what is working. The next step, of course, is to find ways to promote the continuation of these positive behaviours and routines!

Without further ado…

things that are currently working well

  • Bedtime. This has been so much better in September. I would say at least 5 nights a week I have been in bed – lights out! – by 10:30 pm. I still regularly feel tired, but at least I know I’m getting to bed at a reasonable time and suspect much of my exhaustion is just carryover from our busy summer when my sleep hygiene was horrific!
  • Reading less. While it’s very normal for me to slow down book consumption over the summer, I was feeling guilty about how I haven’t transitioned back into a reading routine (either solo or with the kids) now that we’re settled into the back-to-school season. But then I thought: what I’m doing is actually working for me. In between a sharp uptick in the extracurriculars the kids are involved in, work and home responsibilities, my focus on getting outside and exercising every day, time spent writing here, etcetera, etcetera…there hasn’t been a lot of excess time to read. And that’s okay! Although I enjoy reading, I don’t want it to become a tedious “to-do” I have to check off. I’m reading solo 3-4 nights a week for 30 minutes, and probably spend about 2 hours over the course of the week reading to the kids which feels like a good balance for our current stage of life.
  • Scheduling work e-mails to send in the morning. I know this “hack” is old but it is the first time I’ve used this option consistently. Even though I work from home and my hours are flexible, it can feel like I should fit every task into the confines of a normal 9-5 working schedule. This doesn’t actually happen, though, nor is it the most efficient way for me to complete work tasks. I typically receive an influx of e-mails between 5-7 pm. So, a few times a week, I’ve been doing an evening “shift.” I set all the e-mails I draft to send the next morning at 8 am (or, if I’m doing it over the weekend, 8 am on the next weekday). I’m able to put in a bit less working time each week while feeling more efficient/effective in my role. I’ve been doing evening work for years, but always sent emails immediately, which meant in the morning I’d have an inbox full of responses. This new layer of automation is definitely working well.
  • Middle school independence. I’m only a bystander to her experience, but I am so, so happy with how excited Abby has been about the new opportunities of middle school. On Sunday, after helping with preschool-age kids during the first church service along with a whole gaggle of other middle-schoolers and then attending her own middle-school group (all independent from her brother and parents!), she was positively glowing when she said: “Mom, I love youth group soooo much.” Her enthusiasm is wonderful to see. Drama camp, choir, school soccer, various groups and clubs – this weekend even involves an overnight camp retreat! It’s an exciting time in the Frost household.
That sandwich came out of the freezer seconds before I snapped this photo!
  • Freezing sandwiches. Yes, you read that right. Freezing sandwiches. This is a trick my sister taught me when we visited South Carolina. She has a big family and a VERY hectic schedule. One of her time-saving hacks is making up a batch of sandwiches and freezing them. I was skeptical at first, but it works like a charm. It takes about the same amount of time to make 12 ham and cheese sandwiches as it does 2. We’ve mass-produced (and frozen) ham + cheese, butter + jam, and egg + bacon. I just pull two sandwiches out the night before and put them into their lunchbox frozen. I might add something like mustard, mayo or lettuce/spinach to the sandwich at this point, but there are no crumbs to deal with and no cheese to slice. We do still prep fruit/veggies the day before, but not having to make a fresh sandwich has been a game-changer.
  • My Sprouted planner. I have been LOVING my Sprouted planner recently. To be fair, I’ve loved it all year (*not paid or perked!*), but I feel like I’ve made it work extra hard in September and it has been invaluable for keeping me on task. I’ve come up with some new tracking systems and have settled into a daily routine of maximizing the heavy lifting my planner can do.
  • Limiting coffee. A few years ago I had a Meridian Stress Assessment done and was told to eliminate coffee from my diet. For months I avoided coffee completely (tea and other caffeinated beverages were fine). I do not find coffee gives me a jolt of energy, so consuming it was all about taste and the pleasant relaxation of sipping a hot beverage. If I drink it consistently, though, it really upsets my stomach. Demerit alert: I had been back to drinking way too much coffee. Lately, I’ve been allowing myself one cup a week – and my stomach is so much happier.
  • Intuitive eating/no scale. For months now I have just been…eating food. Nothing has been off-limits. I eat when I’m hungry. Sometimes I eat emotionally. Sometimes I skip a meal when I’m not hungry at a prescribed time. Sometimes I have a late-night snack. Sometimes I eat carrot sticks, sometimes I eat a chocolate. After two decades of either dieting and/or eliminating foods to try to get to the bottom of health issues, this is a very, very big change. I also used to track my weight each day and haven’t touched a scale in months. My clothes might be fitting a tad snugger but such is life. I’m active and healthy and it’s (mostly – see below) working well to spend less time dithering over food.
A Sunday afternoon family walk post-hurricane. We were so relieved (and surprised) that our favourite woods path emerged completely unscathed.
  • Daily walks. These continue to be a great tool for my mental and physical wellbeing. Do 12 minutes outside each day solve all my problems? Nope. But it has felt comforting to have a daily ritual in place that I know is so good for me. Occasionally it does feel like a burden, but the majority of the time I recognize and celebrate the fact that it is such a blessing to have a body that is strong and capable of walking; that it is such a blessing to have clear air and safe streets where I can walk; that it is such a blessing to have the flexibility to make this activity happen daily.

A few things not working so well

I would be remiss if I didn’t address a few things that are NOT going well…

  • Phone use. I’m back to spending too much time on my phone. On Tuesday I picked up my phone 125 times – 125 times?! – and responded to 91 notifications. Allow me to throw out a few flimsy excuses. Excuse #1: this fall has had a lot of logistics to juggle. This means plenty of texting to coordinate rides and schedules. Excuse #2: I have two e-mail accounts at work that require 2-step authentication for sign-in, which means I have to access my phone regularly (every time I switch between accounts which could be a dozen times a day) for the Authenticator app. Once I pick it up to confirm sign-in, I have a bad tendency of checking texts or the latest news headlines. These excuses are legitimate but, if I’m being honest, most of my pickups are superfluous and it’s starting to make me feel icky and restless. I think I might go back to tracking my time + pickups each day? It is frustrating to be back in this place after doing so well with reducing phone use in the spring. What’s that Japanese proverb? Fall seven, rise eight. I guess it’s time to get up again..,and put down the phone!
  • Fruit and veggie consumption/menu planning. While I’ve worked really hard to retrain my brain to think about food less critically and to eat more intuitively, I definitely feel like I’m in a cooking rut. We’re eating fine. I’ve made several soups. We consume fruits and vegetables every day, but I don’t feel like there is any rhythm to food prep these days and I’m definitely often throwing something together out of convenience. For years I had a very concrete structure for what I always had available (e.g. homemade salad dressing and fixings for salads) and I’m just not energetic or organized on the kitchen front right now and I’m not sure how to jumpstart my enthusiasm. While I want to eat intuitively, I also want to make it easy to make choices that will fuel my body to perform well…and that takes a bit more mental bandwidth than I’ve been allocating to the task lately.

Your turn. Any current routine that is working particularly well for you (or not) as we transition into fall?

Header photo by Tetiana Padurets on Unsplash

29 thoughts on “Life Lately: What’s Working (And What’s Not)”

    1. Ugh. Sorry, Suzanne. I can 100% relate and basically felt like nothing was working well for big stretches of this summer. Hope things settle down soon and everyone finds a good rhythm!

      1. Okay, I came back because my answer was too negative and I wanted to find SOMETHING that is going well. And that thing is blogging. Not necessarily my posting record (infrequent, inconsistent), but the whole blogging community. I feel like a bunch of us read each other’s blogs and it feels like such a lovely little extended chat with friends. You and all these other ladies make me so happy. That’s definitely going well.

        Thanks for this post — it really encouraged me to find something positive and I feel much cheerier than I did when I wrote my initial comment!

        1. I LOVE this. It’s so true – the little blogging network is such a happy space and it’s great to follow along with all the relatable ups and downs of life together. I’m so glad you came back and added this extra comment – it gave me warm fuzzies.

          And I can tell from all your writing that you do in fact have a LOT on the go and you are very capably tackling all those items. So while it might not feel like any single routine is working well, you’re accomplishing a lot! Hang in there. October is just around the corner and might just help things all shift into a coherent structure that feels more settled and secure <3

  1. Our weekend routine is working really well right now. It took me quite some time to figure a routine that works but now I have it kind of down to a science – until the weather changes!

    I’m most frustrated by how hard it is to get as many workouts in as I’d like. But I am doing way more than I did after I had Paul and am trying to be realistic about my expectations. Like 3-4 workouts/week should be enough at this stage of life. And lastly, I wish my kids ate more foods, or specifically Paul. He is so particular so they basically end up eating 3-4 different meals on rotation. He has expanded his palette a bit but not all that notably. So I kind of feel like a failure on the ‘feeding my kids’ front.

    1. Yes – especially with little kids in the house, so much is tied to the season! A Saturday morning routine at the park doesn’t work as well in the middle of snow storm season!

      I know that the “feeding kids” topic is…huge. I’ll never forget my sister telling me that her pediatrician said for kids of a certain age (Abby was about 18 months at the time and in the middle of a hunger strike – like she just did NOT want to eat anything) as long as they get several tablespoons of food a day, that’s enough. She got over said hunger strike quickly, but it made me feel more reassured when we hit any roadbump with kids and eating. They don’t actually need a ton of food to thrive and this is all fairly natural.

      I will admit that our kids do have a pretty great and broad palette – they’ll eat just about anything, mostly without a lot of complaint. I know oodles of adults that will still eat only a handful of foods…and they do just fine in life!! I also don’t think there was anything we did that ensured our kids would eat a broad range of foods. I has so much to with personality and likes/dislikes! And that will ebb and flow over time…or it won’t which is totally okay!!!

  2. I love your list!

    And I really agree with you on the reading front. It is such a source of joy, that’s why I never set goals relating to how many books I want to read. 🙂

    I’ve totally gone back and drooled all over your post about the Sprouted planner too!!

    1. Do you have a Sprouted planner? I can’t remember…

      I have set a few reading goals tied to a specific series (like Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables), but I’ve stopped setting a book count because it just takes some of the joy out of the experience.

  3. I’m glad to see your list of things that ARE working is much longer than the list of things that aren’t.
    I hear you on the reading one. Every year for the past five or so years I’ve set myself a goal of reading 50 books- and I never reach it. One year I was so close, but it was causing me so much stress in December, with everything else going on, that I just had to give it up. I ended that year at 49- part of me is thinking “could I really not have read one more book???” But no- I just couldn’t. I’m gearing up to do NaMoBloPo again in November (where I post every day for 30 days) and one of the ways I’m going to make time for it is to not read any books. There goes my book goal (sigh!) But, it’s just the way it has to be.
    I just went back and reread your post…. you’ve got all the major things covered- sleep, eating, and exercise. Seems like things are running smoothly right now!

    1. Smoothly might be a biiittt of a stretch (I do feel like it one thing goes off the rails, everything might go off the rails?!) but it feels so much better than a very unstructured – but very busy – summer.

      I love that you’ve identified that the book reading goal is just not a good annual goal to set. It can really defeat the purpose of reading if it feels like a box that must get checked. I did read all the Anne books this year, but it wasn’t a formal goal and I really enjoyed that. But, as a rule, I don’t make reading goals (or weight loss goals!) anymore.

  4. Yessss to the power of intuitive eating! It’s been such a blessing for me.
    Things that are working well for me:
    -forcing myself to do a monthly restock of basic household goods. i’m an underbuyer so I will procrastinate those purchases until the absolute last minute, which really isn’t a great strategy when you have a 1 and 2 year old.
    -not highlighting my hair and embracing my mousy, low maintenance hair!

    1. I’m an underbuyer, too! It’s helpful to have these things on a set routine for purchase or else certain necessary items can reach a critically low supply!

  5. Great lists and I loved this post! I’m glad you’ve relaxed your reading expectations- I’m right there with you on that one. I feel a bit sheepish/ bummed that I have not finished many books in the last couple months, despite slowly working on a couple. Oh well… Also glad that your eating has been feeling freer for you. I think getting yourself to the right balance there must feel really good! I’m also with you on the phone pickups. I wax and wane about how much I care about this. Oh, and the freezing sandwich idea is so interesting!! My boys have been eating cold lunch only about 2 times per week, so we’ve honestly fallen back on just buying those pre-frozen Uncrustable sandwiches- do you have those in Canada? I am sure we pay a premium, but they LOVE them and they are so easy to just pop out of the freezer and into the lunch box with a couple sides. I figure for 2x/ week, it’s not a big deal. But I’ll have to keep the homemade sandwich batching in mind!! Never actually crossed my mind to do that, despite the fact that we BUY frozen sandwiches…..DUH! haha.

    1. I only start caring about the phone pickups and time when I can sense it’s really controlling me. It has less to do with the total number of things vs. how I feel about the quality of the time I’m spending on my device (or how I feel when I put DOWN the device – satisfied, jittery etc).

      I’ve never heard of Uncrustables and didn’t know you could buy frozen sandwiches in a store…but this makes sense! Our hot lunch program at school is relatively expensive AND it isn’t a ton of food so I would still need to send snacks (or spend a fortune buying enough snacks along with the lunch meal)…so it’s easier and cheaper to make lunchboxes.

  6. freezer sandwich? how does it hold up? does it get soggy? I’m all for easier meals for packed lunch.
    Also i agree of accepting what’s working for us such as reading less given what’s happening in life, i haven’t read much lately and I’m okay with it. similarly on veggie/fruit consumption, I’m also low given I don’t eat much at home these days as I travel around and doing farewells meals with friends, which is also fine. It’s all about balance in the long run. 🙂
    agree with others, i love this kind of posts, good to reflect good and things for improvement from time to time.

    1. The sandwiches hold up great! I don’t put any sauce on them, but after they’re defrosted they taste…nice and fresh!

  7. We freeze pb & j sandwiches for my daughter’s lunch, and it works like a charm! We just take one out in the morning, throw in an applesauce pouch or piece of fruit, a bag of chips, and a juice, and that’s it! She’s 7 and can pack her lunch herself in about 30 seconds. Life changer 🙂

    1. I wish we could do PB, but there is a no-nuts policy at our kids school (but butter and jam is an okay substitute for our kiddos).
      And how wonderful that it allows your daughter to so easily and efficiently pack a lunchbox in the morning!

      1. Have you ever tried no nut butter? I used it as a substitute for PB when my kids went through the PB and J phase. Got it on amazon.ca for about the same as normal PB

        1. Hi Mary. Thanks for the great suggestion. I did try No Nut Butter once before (and sunbutter several times too – which I really like!), but my kids were not enthused. I think this might be because we LOVE PB so much and they found it to be a somewhat sorry substitute. That said, it has been several years and it would be handy to have another spread to use with jam. Might be time to try it again!

  8. I love how so much under the wins section is focused on self-care – intuitive eating, sleeping, exercise! All the things we tend to put off but make huge differences when we actually do them. I also love that you are at peace with not reading as much – we all go through different seasons in life and we can’t do EVERYTHING all of the time!

    1. Eating, sleeping and exercise are such critical parts of our overall health…but they take a lot of thought and effort. In one area – bedtime – setting a clear boundary is working. In another area – eating – finally removing all boundaries is working. And for exercise having a low – but daily – bar has been working.

  9. I have become a person who is intuitively eating, and it works great for me as well. I was spending too much time thinking about food and now I don’t at all. It’s great! I haven’t weighed myself since August 2020 and that works well too. I eat when I’m hungry, I focus on foods that make me feel good and energized, and I don’t put things off limits.

    1. Your discussion of intuitive eating (and not using a scale) helped propel me forward with reading more into this approach to eating and then embracing it myself. It has been overwhelmingly positive for me – there have been some hiccups along the way, of course, but I can tell I’m slowly reworking my attitude toward food and my own body image after several decades of very critical thinking and using up a lot of mental headspace.

  10. This is a great list, Elisabeth… and it’s true, it’s actually very good to take stock every once in while of the things that are – or are not – working. I really love your little email hack (I am not a stranger to scheduling emails, but have not really implemented it with work stuff, but that it a very smart move. I tend to want to respond “right away”, which often puts a lot of pressure on myself).

    What is a Meridian Stress Assessment? I love my coffee in the morning and would hate to give it up, but I can see how sometimes it’s necessary.

    1. I have only done the e-mail scheduling with work e-mails; I still send out personal emails at all hours of the night and day – oops. I do feel like it’s not 100% off my radar until the e-mail has actually been sent, but usually it’s only a 12 hour wait in my inbox before it goes out and I’m sleeping most of that time, so it helps offset the “right away” urge.

      A Meridian Stress Assessment is a bit like acupressure meets artificial intelligence. A few natural health providers I know (and several doctors, too) recommended it. It is a bit cooky and I have no idea if there is any merit, but I was desperate to try to find some natural solutions to health issues (mostly all stemming from my heavy periods…which will soon be solved with surgery). I DO think that everything it “said” I was sensitive to rings true!

  11. I was so happy to read your bullet about intuitive eating/not weighing yourself. I have spent so much of my life on diets and trying to lose weight and it made me so unhappy. I think there’s really something to be said about eating in a way that makes you feel good and not letting a scale determine what that way is. <3

    Are you going to reorder a Sprouted planner? I'm thinking of buying one for 2023! I remember really loving it when you did your planner review, and bookmarking it to purchase in the future!

    1. This is a completely different approach to food for me. I did mostly eat this way in university, actually, but it has been over a decade of thinking A LOT about what I will eat. It’s not a perfect system for me yet, but it is so obviously positive progress that I’m really glad I took the plunge. There is comfort in doing things the same way, so it actually is harder than it sounds to “eat intuitively” – I hope this is how I manage to approach food for the rest of my life!

      I AM going to buy another Sprouted Planner. I haven’t pulled the plug yet because I’m hoping for some coupon codes via some planner sites to offset the cost (shipping to Canada is pretty pricey), but I’ll order by mid-November at the latest. I have LOVED it and at this point in the year feel like I’ve really worked out a system of tracking various things that I want to monitor in such a way that I’d love to continue on with next year using the same layout. I highly recommend this planner (though, note that I haven’t used many other planners before, and always just $3-4 ones from the DollarStore)!

  12. I am so impressed with your ability to shift (back) to intuitive eating. I really struggle with this, in part because I often must make myself eat… I know, it’s odd but it’s how I am. And if I don’t do so, well, then I never eat enough. Sigh.
    LOVE the freezing-of-the-sandwiches. Brilliant. My mom freezes everything but I bet you she NEVER thought of this when we were at home! Your kids seem good to go with it, too – always a bonus.
    I have decided I’m not a printed planner kind of person. I have tried so many times but just prefer my separate lists and then daily to-do’s drawn from those… I guess you go with what works for you! 🙂

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