Hurry Up and Wait – 4 Steps to Achieving your Goals

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I sure am ready for Spring!! Right around the end of February each year, I start to get that itch to go outside and do things.  (That ‘itch’ is in hibernation pretty much from November through February for me!)

As Spring in New England approaches, I plan hikes and excursions and bike rides and picnics and parties and horseback riding and on and on and on.  There’s just one little thing…I don’t actually DO half of it.  I talk about it excitedly, even research where I’ll go or how I’ll do it, but ultimately, it’s the same old, same old.

I’m in this big rush to do stuff, and then I wait for the next weekend or holiday or season.  But when November returns, I realize I really haven’t done what I was so excited about in the Spring and Summer.  So how is this year going to be different? I’m so glad you asked!

First I’m going to identify my goals.  My youngest will be college-bound in only two years, so I want to put an even bigger emphasis on quality family time.   I want to be more physically fit than I was last year.  I want to focus on delivering more innovative, kickass results professionally.  I want to build relationships with more people beyond my inner circle.

Then I’m going to brainstorm actions that support those goals.  I will consult with family members to come up with activities we can do that everyone will enjoy and commit to.  To meet my physical goal, I will reach out to those who can help keep me motivated and challenge me (I have WAY too many “Mud Runner” friends!!!).  I will avoid “death by research” and take action on my findings each week.  I will schedule time to network or take advantage of opportunities that will expose me to new people.

Weekly ‘pulse’ checks will keep me on track.  I will review my week every Sunday to see which goals I met and any periods where I went off track.  Then I will look at the week ahead and ensure there are enough actions planned that align with my goals.  As new opportunities arise, I will ask myself if they will contribute to, or take away from, my goals.

Finally, I’ll yell it from the rooftop!  For a little accountability fun, I’m going to make sure anyone and everyone is aware of my goals AND schedule a time to Pay the Piper! There’s nothing like a weekly blog for this step!! SOOOO….my November 16th, 2014 blog post will be my “Pay the Piper” post (say THAT ten times fast!!)!

So tell me in the comments section, when do you find yourself ‘hurrying up just to wait’, which of the four steps above would help you the most and what tips do you have to ensure you accomplish your goals!  I’d love to hear from you!!

Shutting the Pie Hole – 10 Tips to Being a Better Listener

Have you ever had a conversation with a person who looks like a fish out of water when you’re speaking?  The one whose mouth keeps opening and closing as they attempt to say what they need to say even though you’re not finished yet?  Annoying, right?

Listening can be so hard but it is so important.  Everyone has great words of wisdom to impart on others.  But in our rush to help, solve or just provide evidence of our superior intelligence to others, we may miss the best parts of what someone is saying.

This lack of listening is not always done with bad intentions.  For instance, I used to frequently (and still do occasionally if I’m being honest) try to finish people’s sentences.  I did (do) this to either help them out if they were struggling to find a particular word or to show that I was (am) paying attention and TOTALLY got what they were saying.  The only problem with this was my accuracy was only like 90%.

I didn’t realize how annoying this was until other people started doing it to me.  I also became hyper-aware of people doing it to others.  (The ‘fish out of water’ analogy is based on these observations).

People have so much to say, blah, blah, blah.  Shutting the pie hole is THE BEST way to learn where another person is coming from. And if you need to influence them in some way with your words, you really need to know where they’re coming from. Here are 10 tips to help you become a better listener:

  1. REMOVE ALL DISTRACTIONS – silence cell phone, hold calls, close doors (if possible) and tell any unexpected visitors you’ll catch up with them later.
  2. MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT – this communicates that you are intently focused on only the other person.
  3. KEEP YOUR BODY LANGUAGE OPEN – uncross arms and legs and lean towards the speaker.
  4. NOD YOUR HEAD to indicate understanding and attention.
  5. GIVE VERBAL CUES that encourage the speaker to continue – like ‘mmhmmm’, ‘yes’, ‘right’, ‘I see’, etc.
  6. TAKE NOTES only if appropriate – this includes what they are saying and any responses of yours you don’t want to forget
  7. DON’T INTERRUPT! – no matter what you’re feeling, allow the speaker to share their perceptions and feelings.
  8. START YOUR RESPONSE WITH A QUESTION – once the other person is done speaking, FORCE yourself to start your response with a question.  This could allow for further elaboration (ie: “When you say ‘yelled at you’ do you mean increased volume or tone of voice?”) or to confirm you understood them correctly by paraphrasing (“If I understand correctly, you feel belittled when you raise an argument. Is that accurate?”).
  9. AVOID COMPARING your similar ‘story’ to theirs – this is not a competition.  Avoid trying to ‘one-up’ them with your ‘bigger’ story.
  10. KEEP YOUR DEFENSES DISENGAGED – how they feel and perceive things is NOT up for debate.  Defending your actions, thoughts or feelings is unnecessary.  Listen to the other person and share your perspective tactfully without trying to counter their perception.

There are times when simply acknowledging the other person and their perception can be enough to avoid any escalated issues.  So never disregard or minimize what another person is feeling.  Perception is reality to that individual.  Respect that.

Odds are that if a person feels heard and understood, they will be much more open to considering opposing perspectives.  “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  – Stephen R. Covey

Your turn:  Share in the comments section a time you listened fully and how this helped prevent an ‘issue’ from forming!

3 Easy Steps to Writing Your Personal Mission Statement

I was always a “go with the flow” kinda gal.  An Eternal Optimist.  In my youth, I was so open to whatever was coming, that I didn’t seize opportunities.  I stumbled upon them.  Or rather, they stumbled upon me.

This is a great way to live…when you’re 20, but not as effective beyond this.  At some point, we need some direction.  A plan.  A goal.  Something to live up to and become.  So this year, how about, instead of “going with the flow” of life, you create a mission and purpose for the year?  Nothing too specific.  A “theme” if you will.  C’mon…I’ll help you!

The key to making a great mission statement is to keep it short and to the point.  You should be able to memorize it pretty quickly.  It will provide just enough information to help you determine when you’re on or off track.

  1. What are you committed to?  I am committed to…
  2. How do you achieve this? By…
  3. Why do you do this? So that…

That’s IT??? Yup, that’s it!!

Here are some examples of what some might look like:

I am committed to living more healthfully this year by eating and preparing more natural foods and increasing physical activities.  I will do this so that I set a good example for my children and feel better.”

I am committed to improving the quality of time spent with my family by having more family meals together, day trips and more focused attention when communicating with them.  I do this so that my family knows I love them above all else and strengthens the bonds we have with each other.”

I am committed to investing in my own personal needs by meditating every day, reading more often and planning alone time.  I do this so I am able to be more fully present in the other areas of my life and feel less stress.”

You can expand on these if you wish, but make sure you can remember your statement.  It should be broad enough to allow for many opportunities that contribute to your mission.

Post it in places where you’ll see it regularly.  Share it with friends and family.  WARNING: Do not get upset or angry when you make choices that conflict with your statement.  It’s not about perfection, it’s about the big picture.  If you are aiming to eat more healthfully, and you do this most of the time, don’t feel bad when you opt for that special treat.  It’s a marathon, not a race!

You can create statements for any area of your life: romantic, professional, parenting, spiritual.  It can also be a fun exercise to create a “couple’s” statement or a “family” statement.

Here’s mine for 2014:

“I am committed to stretching my comfort zone this year by taking more risks and meeting new people.  I will do this so that I accomplish more successes and learn more about myself and others.”

If you’d like to share yours or offer any tips you have, click above in the “comments” section just below the title.  As always, thanks for being here!! <3

 

5 Tips to Achieving your 2014 Resolutions

Happy New Year!! Ahhh, the New Year.  Time to answer the age-old dreaded question…”What’s your New Year’s Resolution?”  The Couch Potato says, “I’d like to lose 28 pounds and run a 5K…in March.”  Uummm, hmmm, ok.  The Jaded One says, “I don’t believe in resolutions.  It’s just another day.”  Oh, well, ok.  Then there are the Greater Middle.  We want to lose weight, get fit, save money, enjoy life, etc. etc. etc.

Déjà vu?  Didn’t we all say that LAST YEAR?  Worry not!  This year CAN be different.  Here are my five tips to achieving this year’s resolution.

#5 – Accountability Buddy – We need some skin in the game!  If you just think about what you want to change and improve, there’s no risk in failing.  No one else will know, right?  C’mon, I don’t know about you, but I can rationalize just about anything that disrupts my comfort.  Find someone who will hold you accountable and see through the BS you’re dishin!

#4 – Clear Measurements – Those wishy-washy, half-assed, conveniently vague resolutions are lame.  “I just want to be healthier” or “I just want to love more” are weak UNLESS you have clear and concrete measurements.  You must answer the HOW then answer it again and again and again.  How do you want to be healthier?  Lose weight. How are you going to go about doing that?  Working out at the gym. How often will you go to the gym? 4 times a week. How are you going to measure your progress? BMI and weight loss. See where this is going?

#3 – Make it Fun – If you didn’t work out for 9 of the 12 months last year, what on earth is going to make that different this year?  It’s got to be fun.  If you hate vegetables, that’s not the route to take to lose weight.  If you love Designer purses, vowing to give them up isn’t going to save you money (because you’ll buy them anyway).  Like jumping on a trampoline?  That’s a great workout…get one.  Wanna save money? Brown bag your lunch and make your own damn coffee for eight or twelve weeks, then reward yourself with the Coach bag you would have bought anyway!

#2 – Several Small Steps – Resolutions have become a pass/fail test.  So if you committed to working out 4 days a week, then skip one, or two, you have now FAILED!  Game Over!  Maybe next year.  Where are the cheese and crackers? Stop this!  Make a list of several small steps you can take every day that contribute to your ultimate goal.  If your fuzzy, wishy-washy goal was to be healthier, make a list of actions that contribute to this.  Eat a healthy breakfast, walk for 20 minutes every day, eat a salad as one of your meals, etc.  This way, if you skip some, you’ve got others that you’ve accomplished, so you don’t feel like a total failure.

#1 – Resolve to Succeed Program – A little self-promotion here…This program that I’ve designed will do all of the above and TONS MORE!! This customized 90 day coaching program will ensure that you achieve your resolutions and goals this year and give you a framework to achieve any others going forward.  Bottom line- I am going to bust my ass making sure your goals become your accomplishments! Here’s the link to learn more:  http://authenticlifechronicles.com/services/resolve-to-succeed-program/

Ultimately, if you are in the great minority and can follow the first 4, you can make this happen for yourself.  But if you suspect that you will rationalize yourself right out of it, (raise your hand if you’ve been there!) then check out #1 and enroll in my program!  No matter what, I wish you NOTHING BUT SUCCESS in 2014!!

Share below your resolutions and the steps you’re going to take to achieve them!

7 Tips to Avoid Family Drama this Holiday Season

Winter, and the holidays that come with it, often result in joining family and friends in confined areas.  with alcohol…and grudges.  This is perfect if you’re a producer on the Jerry Springer Show.  Less so if you’re not.  Nothing brings out passive-aggressive behavior like a good party in the winter.

Here are my 7 Tips to Avoid the Holiday-Drama-day!!

  1. Don’t TAKE the Bait – Those digs and comments are MEANT to get you going.  Let them roll over you like a cool breeze on a hot day!!
  2. Don’t DROP the Bait – Those digs and comments are better saved for a more appropriate time.  You know damn well that you will resolve nothing today, so save it for a private conversation that doesn’t drag everyone else into it.  You know you’re right (at least partially), take that high road.
  3. Set the Example for the Young Ones Present – You are teaching them how to behave in this world.  Whether they are 3 or 23.  Show them the appropriate way to behave with class and dignity.
  4. Easy on the Alcohol – This liquid truth serum doesn’t always support high-roading.
  5. Remember What’s Important – Is getting that barbed-wire comeback in worth ruining a holiday?  Probably not.
  6. Is This How You’d Like the Story to End? – If you or the person you’re spatting with was run over by a reindeer after the gathering, what are the last words you’d like said?
  7. Arrange for Back-up – Ask your partner or a trusted family member or friend to help support your planned “high road” travel.  Ask them to get you to the nearest “rest stop” should you appear to be diverting from the plan.

I know a lot of this is easier said than done, but traveling the high road gives you a great view of those who travel on lower ground.  This means you’ll have some great stuff to talk about AFTER the party!!

Let it roll and just Love this holiday season.  Plus, won’t it be cool to show how “above all that” you are this year?

If you MUST share juicy family drama, please feel free to comment below. 🙂

When ‘It’s All About Me’ Isn’t a Bad Thing

It’s tough being you, isn’t it?  Think for a moment of all the people who rely on you:  Partners, kids, parents, siblings, bosses, co-workers, customers, clients, friends, family and neighbors.  Did I miss anyone?  Are you sure?? I didn’t miss ANYONE???  What about YOU? Do you rely on yourself?  Of course you do!  But how often do you take action on something that serves only you?

Would you run a marathon without preparing your body for it with proper nutrition and exercise? Of course not, yet, isn’t this what you do in life?  You serve all these people, subsisting on caffeine, skipped meals (or fast food if you’re lucky), and minimal sleep.

The word “Selfish” has really been dragged through the mud.  Its connotation is always negative.  Yet, what are you advised to do in an emergency landing of an airplane?  That’s right…place your oxygen mask on BEFORE assisting others.  Nobody is holding up the “Selfish” sign then; they’re too busy getting oxygen!

Giving is important.  Helping others is crucial to feeling contributory.  But you can’t run this marathon of good will if you aren’t taking care of yourself.  This means doing things that directly support you and your well-being.   There are some rules though:

  1. Schedule It – You have to make it part of your day. Every day. Some days it may only be 15 minutes, but do not skip it.
  2. Give Yourself Permission – You can’t waiver on this.  We all have those ‘bottom feeders’ in our Pond of Life, who will take and take and take.  You have to stand up for yourself despite the complaints of these scavengers.
  3. Communicate – Those around you need to know when “You Time” is.  This way they know you are not to be interrupted, barring an absolute emergency.  If that 30 minute bubble bath is your time, make sure your housemates know to keep out.
  4. Don’t Justify – Finally, don’t feel like you need to justify this time to every person in your life.  Sharing this information should be on a “need to know” basis.  A simple, “I’m sorry, I’m not available then…” will suffice.

Energy is like a muscle.  In Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s book, “The Power of Full Engagement”, they liken energy, and the need to recharge, to physical muscles.  Overuse of a muscle without allowing enough time for recovery results in soreness, swelling and potential injury.  The same is true with the energy you expend serving others.  Without recharging, you are risking your own health and well-being.

So whether your selfish recharging is 30 minutes of reading, a night out with friends, cooking with the family or a 3 day weekend alone in a cabin, just own it.  C’mon…all those people are relying on you to be your BEST you…they deserve your best, but more importantly, YOU deserve your best. Comment below how you like to recharge and spend your You Time.

Tell Me How You Earned that Victim Badge (Said No One Ever)

You got screwed again, huh?  Ripped off? Robbed? Wronged? Overlooked? What the freak? Why do these things always happen to you? You haven’t done anything to cause them.  What else could go wrong?

We all wrap this Victim Snuggie around us from time to time, with a big ol’ carton of ice cream and a Lifetime movie on.  That’s alright…occasionally!!  It’s when we choose to wear the Victim Badge that will have people sprinting as if at a Bull Run.  The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different outcome.  Coincidentally, that’s also the prerequisite for wearing the Victim Badge.

I always cringe when I hear, “What else could go wrong?”  I mean, if I were the Universe, I would see that as a challenge too!  There are true victims out there, people who are wronged through no fault or contribution of their own.  Then there are the rest of us.

In every interaction and exchange you have with others, you are contributing something.  If the “same stuff” keeps happening over and over again, you need to look at the common denominator…that’s you my friend.  Of course you can look at the world as if there are villains out there whose job it is to mess things up for you; or you can see what adjustments you can make to start changing the outcomes.

For instance, you cook, you clean, you taxi, you organize, etc. etc.  You may find yourself frequently complaining, “nobody appreciates all that I do around here”.   That may be true, but remove that badge and TELL them all that you do and HOW you want them to show appreciation.  If it’s become too overwhelming for you, divvy up the duties.  However, if you enjoy doing these things, but would appreciate some “thank you’s”, than say so.

Another example might be that you don’t feel like anyone listens to you.  Ask yourself how you could be contributing to that.  Record yourself having a conversation.  Then listen back.  What are you saying? Are you being negative or whiny? Are you using “I”, “me”, and “my” throughout?

Do you find yourself in the same types of relationships?  Do you pick partners that ultimately disappoint you?  Time to look within.  Find the similarities between these relationships (how they began, what attracted you to them, how they began to decline, how they ended) and start looking at what you could do differently.

I understand that wearing that Victim Badge likely makes a person feel highly significant.  The more struggles they’ve faced, the more times they’ve survived after being wronged is supposed to show how brave and strong they are, right?  Not so much.

The Badge Wearing Victims tend to provide an accounting of every bad thing that has happened to them.  This is often communicated through the alternate use of sarcasm and bewilderment.  They don’t typically share how they overcame issues and got out of their own way (likely because they haven’t).

So take off that Victim Badge and replace it with a Badge of Victory.  Life wasn’t meant to just be survived, it was meant to be conquered!! Then ask the Universe, “What else could go right today?”  I’m betting the universe will see that as a challenge as well!

I’d love your comments below!!

If you would like to partner up and work on living a life by design, then an Empowerment Session is for you! Take advantage of the complimentary strategy session!

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email April@AuthenticLifeChronicles.com 

 

6 Tips to Breathing Life Into Your Work/Life Balance

Scales.  We hate them.  Our efforts never seem to be reflected in the numbers, am I right?  This isn’t true only in our bathroom scales, but often in our ‘work/life’ scales as well.  Now visualize a scale with one side ‘work’ and the other side ‘life’?  Which one is heavier?  No really, think about it.  Unless you work a second paid job, I’m willing to bet the “life” side is heavier.

Let’s break this down:  We all have the same 168 hours per week.  No one gets more.

168 hrs/week
– 45 hrs/week paid work time
– 49 hrs/week sleep time (7hrs/night)

74 hrs/week “life” time

That averages out to about 10 hours each day!

What are you doing with those 74 hours?  Yes, there are many tasks we must take care of, but are you allowing enough quality time to truly enjoy and appreciate this gift of life you’ve been given?

Here are 6 tips to better balance the “Life” side of the scale:

1 – DELEGATE – Yes, sometimes you have to put that Super Hero cape on and git ‘er done.  But not evveryy time.  There are people around you who would be happy to help you.  Your partner, family, friends, neighbors, etc.  Maybe that’s sharing ride responsibilities with another parent or giving the kids some responsibilities around the house like yard work, laundry, dishes, etc.

2 – OUTSOURCE – The average price for a thorough house cleaning is about $125.  Even if you only used this service once a month you could eliminate or lessen some of those time-consuming tasks.  See if your local dry cleaners do laundry pick-up and delivery.  Look into hiring landscapers, painters, professional shoppers, etc.  Yes, we’re all looking to save a buck where we can, but at what expense?

3 – BUDGET –If you don’t pay attention to how much money is coming in and how much is going out, what is likely to happen?  Bounced checks, declined credit cards, additional debt.  The same is true with your time.  The result is loss of sleep, unhealthy food choices, non-quality time.  Make a plan for the week and do your best to stick to it.  Make sure to include all the activities you want to enjoy (working out, traveling, education) and quality time activities like family meals, date night and reading together.

4 – PLAN AHEAD – Maybe that’s making a week’s worth of meals on Sunday’s.  Maybe that’s scheduling time to do absolutely whatever you want to do!!  This could be the hour the kids are at soccer or the hour between meetings.  You can read, workout, nap, shop, meditate or get your groove on…whatever.

5 – GET CREATIVE – Are there personal tasks you could do at work?  Does your company have a laundry service where you could drop your laundry off and pick it up at work?  Do you have work-from-home options so you can occasionally multi-task at home?  Check out your local chamber of commerce to see what new businesses have opened in your area that could take something off your plate.  They often offer deep discounts to new customers.

6 – JUST SAY NO – We all want to be Super Parents, Super Partners, Super Friends, but we can’t do it all, all of the time.  Can you really be the Full-time employee, PTO President, food bank volunteer, football team rep, sexy partner, home repair person AND best friend?  Does your kid really need to play a team sport, take dance, play an instrument, be on the student council, chess club and the honor roll?  Learn to say, “I’d love to, but I’m stretched too thin right now.”

There are moments in our lives when we just have to suck it up and make some sacrifices of our time.  But that should be the exception, not the rule.

Don’t let circumstances determine how you live your life…that’s your job.

What tips do you have that help you stay balanced?  What aspects of your life tie you down?  Share in the comments below.

Communication – 7 Tips to Proving You’ve Evolved

So many bad things happen simply because of miscommunication or lack of communication.  You know when you’re watching a movie and the characters are clearly not sharing all the necessary information with each other and you’re sitting there like, “Tell him!” or “Don’t let her walk away!”?  There are ways to avoid these situations.  Despite the tendency of some, there is no need to revert back to the days when we all had a hairy back! Here are my Top 7 Communication Tips for the Evolved!

1 – There’s no such thing as common sense – This is evidenced by the infinite number of ways to swipe your credit/debit card in a store.  I always feel like a “winner” when I correctly swipe the card without direction from the clerk.  We all have different experiences and personalities, so our “common” differs from others’ “common”.  We also tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people, so when we are outside this group, like in a business or public setting, it can be difficult to communicate effectively.

 2 – Don’t start in the middle – Just think of some of the most classic films and what would happen if they started in the middle: Snow White would just be a creepy dwarfophile; George from “It’s a Wonderful Life” would just be a crotchety, bitter man undeserving of his wife and children; While Sandy & Danny (Grease), and Edward & Bella (Twilight) would just be your everyday conflicted teens, yawn.  So while it may seem obvious to you, don’t start communicating by assuming others know the “back story”.

 3 – Don’t make people work for it – If you have a message, be direct and to the point.  No one wants to be in a conversation that resembles the game of ‘Clue’. Dropping hints, being coy, beating around the bush, these all sabotage a good discussion.  Unless you’re handing out a secret decoder ring, just spell it out.

 4 – Be clear on the purpose of your communication – If you’re trying to help someone, say so.  If you’re upset and want to voice your feelings, say so.  If you’re ticked off, say so.  Don’t leave the person wondering what the point to the conversation is.  Confusion is not a recommended tactic if you’re trying to be understood.

 5 – Make sure your body language and tone support your words – If you’re trying to convey patience, open-mindedness, forgiveness or any other image, watch your non-verbal behavior.  Saying you’re open to hearing their viewpoint, then rolling your eyes as they share, shows them you’re full of crapola!

 6 – Listen – Stephen R. Covey said it best, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  This means you are not going to plan a defensive comeback each time your partner (not opponent) raises a point.  Listen for the sake of understanding, not strategizing.

 7 – Sometimes writing is the best method – If you want to choose your words carefully, are worried that heated statements could come into play, or that the recipient (or you) could get defensive, then write a letter.  Make sure each thought and feeling you’re trying to convey is expressed exactly how you’d like it to be.  Write, edit, re-edit, send.  This also allows the recipient to absorb and digest what you’re saying and respond in kind.

Communication is the key to peaceful relationships, friendships, and world relations.  Leave the monkey brain where it belongs…with the monkeys!

Share your comments below, I LOVE to hear your feedback (anonymous or otherwise) and I ALWAYS respond!

 

 

Top 10 Back To School Tips

I know we just started August, and we all want to pretend that back to school isn’t right around the corner so we can enjoy the remaining days of summer.  As much as I hate being a kill-joy, some of these tips require a little preparation or completion prior to the first day of school.  If you do not have school-aged children, don’t rule this post out.  I have some tips for everybody here! I also added school grades after each tip so you know whether it pertains to you or not and the best time to begin this step.  So check ‘em out, schedule tasks in your smart phone or other calendar and return to oblivion.

1 – Start a Tradition (K-12)(2 weeks prior to Day 1)

If you haven’t already, start a tradition for your kids and back to school time.  Back-to-School is practically a holiday in my household!  Other than school clothes shopping, there are ways to make the first week of school exciting.  As a working mom, I take a vacation week the first week of school.  We start each morning with a healthy breakfast, pictures in front of our old oak tree in a rockin new outfit, and chatting after school to hear all about it.  We have a full, healthy family dinner every night.  This focused attention has always been a fav of my kids.  Plus, this week allows me time to organize myself and my home.

 2 – Organize (K-College) (2 days prior-first week)

Week 1 can be crazy for parents and students.  For school-age parents there are all the papers that need to be signed, fundraisers to begin, PTO meetings to plan for, etc.  To make this process easier, go to the school’s website, find the school year calendar, and put all important dates in your organizer/smart phone.

For high school & college students, do the same, but add in any pertinent information from your syllabus.  Even if a date isn’t listed, note any rough times an important paper or project may be due.

 For high school students/parents, start a “portfolio” noting “worthy of mention” projects, grades, accomplishments, volunteering, etc. and reach out to your guidance counselor for advisement on this very important college-bound step.

3 – Prepping (K-College) (1 week prior)

I know as my kids got older, I got more lax on bedtime during the summer.  Several days prior to Day 1, is when I require a regularly scheduled bedtime routine.  Those late night parties & picnics and morning sleep-in’s can really mess with a body, so allow a little time to acclimate to any new structure.

 4 – Travel Time (Everybody) (1 day prior)

Allow extra travel time.  If you travel outside the home during typical school start or finish times, your commute is likely to be affected during these times.  Allow extra time to arrive at your destination.

 5 – Re-establish rules (K-College) (1 day prior)

TV, computer, gaming, phone, whatever.  I’m a big proponent of speaking with people and getting their feedback on decisions that affect them.  Having age-appropriate discussions that make the rules clear, provide your reasoning and allow them an opportunity for their input can result in a fantastic compromise and easier transition from summer free-for-all to school time focus and fun.

If you’re the student, giving yourself rules and abiding by them, can really help you focus and balance, while doing well and having fun!

 6 –Food (Everyone) (2 days prior)

For some reason, many of us (myself included) allow more “naughty” foods during the summer.  Plan ahead and get everyone back on track with healthier choices.  Fruits, wheat crackers & peanut butter, for snacks and more homemade meals for dinner is a great way to get everyone back on track. Planning is key to eating right!

 7 – Exercise the Brain (Everyone) (1 month prior)

If you’ve allowed yours or your kid’s brain to hibernate over the summer, it’s time to spark this organ back into action.  Homework is right around the corner.  If there is an assigned reading book, it’s not too late if you heed my advice.  Plan the number of chapters that need to be read between “now” and “then” in order to meet any deadlines.  If this is a book or several books your child needs to read, read it with them.  You can discuss highlights together, and I bet you’ll find it more fun than you thought! At the very least, they will enjoy discussing it with you.

If you’ve caught up on required reading, now is a great time to get back into the habit of reading regularly to stay sharp. Be sure to subscribe to this site to become a VIP which will automatically enter you into the August VIP perk prize, which is a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card! Nothing encourages reading more than reading what interests you.

 8 – School Clothes Shopping (Everyone) ( 1 month prior)

Full-on fun for kids, full-on expensive for parents! Check out this link for “Tax Free” dates in your US state which will help lower the expenses.  http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/08/02/2013-state-tax-holiday-calendar/ Also, for younger kids or frugal students, consider shopping at local consignment shops which typically carry hot brands, like American Eagle, Hollister, Gilly Hicks, Coach and other name brand clothes at an incredibly discounted rate.

 9 – Responsibilities (K-College) (3 days prior)

We all have them.  Kids and students are no exception.  Define what these are, discuss these with your child and communicate clearly.  Not only does this foster team work, it also prepares them for the business world.  Make sure chores are age-appropriate but don’t be too easy.  Life after schooling is tough, start preparing them for that now.  We are all part of a team. Family, school, work, church, etc.  We all play a role in making that team better.  This instills pride and responsibility.

 10 – Your Education (Everyone) (1 month prior)

Learning should never stop.  Have you reached a point in your life where you could squeeze in a little “you” time?  If you’re waiting for an invitation, here it is…”Dear (your name here), you are cordially invited to invest in your own education.  Whether through your local community college ( http://www.utexas.edu/world/comcol/state/ ), state college, adult education program, or any other program, I encourage you to review all available classes and enroll in any one that interests you!”  Learning never stops.  Music, Art, English, History, Zumba!  Stop making excuses why you can’t, and start, or finish, that degree or take a class that you’ve always wondered about.

 Learning is AWESOME!  I am lucky enough to know some fantastic teachers and instructors and some amazing students.  Happy New School Year and Happy End of Summer!   I’d love for you to comment by adding any “Top 10 Back-To-School Tips” you may have.