2020: The Year of Vision and Clarity

December is an ideal time to plan for the year to come. A friend of mine recently shared her theme for the year as “2020: the year of vision and clarity.” I love the clever wordplay and clarity is a crucial way to shape our plans regardless of the year.

If you’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past and had trouble lasting through the first month or even first week, it’s time to try something new.

The top reasons why so many people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions are:
1) they don’t have a clear plan of action
2) they don’t assess their progress

When a colleague introduced me to the Annual Review almost a decade ago, it immediately made sense to me. Chris Guillebeau, entrepreneur and author of The Art of Non-Conformity, addresses these challenges in his Annual Review. While it sounds like a retrospective of what you’ve accomplished this year, this resource facilitates planning for success with clear and actionable steps.

A summary of the steps to complete your Annual Review:
1) Make a list of what went well and what did not go well
2) Choose categories to focus your plans on such as Business, Friends/Family, Health and Service
3) Identify “Actions Required for Each Goal”
4) Plan for monthly and quarterly assessments of your progress and add them to your calendar
5) Optional: Choose a theme for year
7) Optional: Metrics you want to track such as Income, Charitable Giving, Number of books read, Number of new cities visited etc.

For a spreadsheet and more details on how to make use of this framework, read Guillebeau’s original post:

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is! I am setting aside a few blocks of time to complete this process in late December. This is an investment of time that will provide great returns by helping you more successfully complete your personal and professional goals. Having an accountability partner can help. Reach out to someone in your inner circle and invite them to complete their own Annual Review.

If you’d like support in completing your first Annual Review, message me on the Optima Results Coaching Facebook page!

Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash

How to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Photo by Fressh Connection on Unsplash

Several months ago, I began a nightly gratitude practice. I listened to a simple 5-minute meditation that tells you to recall something that happened that day that you were grateful for and recreate how the experience made you feel.

There is a ton of research demonstrating the benefits of a gratitude practice. In particular, it helps us to overcome our natural negativity bias by noticing more of the positive. This in turn improves our outlook and helps us to be more optimistic. Studies have shown benefits for physical and mental health as well as for our social and professional lives.

In order to get the most benefit, however, it’s recommended to journal about three new things each day that you are grateful for. Keep in mind that it take at least 21 days to develop a new habit.

Since this was going to require a little more effort, I decided to recruit some accountability. I knew Erica, who is always up for trying something new, would be the perfect partner for this project. She is one of my oldest and closest friends but because we live in different cities, we don’t always connect as often as we’d like.

Fortunately, I was visiting Erica in New York City and we were able to share our first day of the gratitude project in person. It was also my birthday and I had plenty to be grateful for. I had just shared a wonderful weekend with family and friends in my favorite city.

For our gratitude project, we completed these steps each day for four weeks:

  • Texted each other about an experience that day we were grateful for.
  • Wrote in a journal (on paper or in our phones) about at least three experiences, including the one we had shared.

The accountability helped me pay extra close attention and seek out the positive. I was excited to share with Erica about my day as well as hear about her experiences. Some commonalities that we shared were the connections we made with people and opportunities to enjoy nature. Re-reading my gratitude journal was a nice boost and I can see the benefit of having a positive lift to look back on after a difficult day.

Something that may have been unique to our project was that Erica was on vacation for one week. When I asked if sharing daily with me in the US took away from her experience in Mexico she replied, “If anything, the gratitude challenge makes you more present no matter where you are! And I had time to think about how lucky I was to be there.”

So there you have it, a resounding endorsement for practicing gratitude. Speaking of which, thank you, Erica! Are you ready to get started? Do you want to recruit someone for accountability? Let them know. You can also get in touch for me for resources and support!

The most important way to achieve work-life balance

I recently read a Forbes article on work-life balance that validates exactly how I help my clients. Kevin Kruse writes, “Tips From 24 Entrepreneurs Boiled Down To 1…Reflect on your top core values and then create recurring time blocks on your calendar.” The way we spend our hours and days becomes the way we spend our months and years. Nobody wants that time to pass without being present for what really matters in life.

Sounds simple, right? However, it’s not always that straight-forward. The first step that I recommend is to track how you are currently spending time. One benefit of this is to create a visual of the potential disconnect of your values and how you are actually spending your time. In business as in science, you must have a baseline measurement that is quantifiable in order to create a process for improvement. The next step is to create small incremental steps to make shifting your schedule more achievable.

For example, if your office values late afternoon meetings or evening face-time, it may be difficult to be home for dinner every night. An alternative could be to carve out more intentional time with family in the mornings. This may mean spending time together over breakfast or driving the kids to school some days instead of rushing out the door to be at work at 8:00 am. If you want to exercise without sacrificing sleep, block out your calendar for a longer lunch break and fit in a brisk walk.

If your job puts an emphasis on metrics of productivity, schedule time on your work calendar to focus on a project undisturbed. When the task is done, allow yourself to leave a little early. Plenty of research shows that more time at work does not equate to increased productivity.

If you want to convince your employer that you can be just as productive working remotely, experiment with completing a project while working from home to demonstrate the benefit of a flexible work environment. Working from home means less time getting ready and commuting and ultimately more time for your personal priorities.

Want to get started applying these changes in your own life and have some accountability along the way? My passion is helping busy professionals like you. Together, we create strategies to align your values with your schedule so you have the time and energy for what matters most.


3 Steps to transform negativity

We instinctively scan to notice what is negative in our environment. This helps us to avoid danger and improve our chances of survival. Or at least this was the case when we needed to protect ourselves from the threat of hungry predators.

Fast forward to modern times and rather than running for our lives, many of us are battling to maintain a positive sense of self. The barrage of social media and marketing messages makes it impossible not to compare ourselves to others. We can be left feeling that others have more success or happiness and that our lives don’t stack up.

The next time you find yourself scrolling through social media with a sense of envy or feeling that your life is not as great as everyone else’s, you can try a technique employed by many therapists. It’s called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). This is used to help people stop the cycle of negative thoughts that can lead to anxiety and depression.

Step 1 – Catch it

Spot when you might be having a negative thought. Sometimes our body even has a reaction like a tightening in the chest. Nipping a negative thought in the bud can help you from spiraling from “everyone’s life is better than mine” to “I must be a complete failure and nothing is ever going to get better.”

Step 2 – Check it

Is what you are thinking really true? Since most people post the positive highlights of their days and weeks on social media, isn’t this really a skewed perspective? Whoever you may be comparing yourself to is a human being just like you. They will have good days and bad, but the latter is less likely to be shared.

Consider if your best friend told you they were a complete failure, would you believe it? Treat yourself with the same compassion you would have for a dear friend. We are our own toughest critics and we believe what we tell ourselves, even when we are wrong. It’s helpful to step back and have some perspective.

Step 3 – Change it

Start substituting with more realistic thoughts rather than blanket generalizations. Remember that if you are feeling down that much of this could be due to current circumstances. Have you been dealing with a change in job, relationships or living situation? These are some of the top stressors that people face, but even smaller bumps in the road can really impact our mood and create a negative mindset.

Give yourself a break. Remind yourself, for example, “I just started this new job and there is a lot to learn. It may take some time to feel comfortable much less feel like I am winning at work.”

To make this step even more effective, you can even journal about what is causing the negative feelings. Make a note of the automatic responses that you tell yourself. Then counter those with more rational responses. Keep in mind, that due to our innate bias towards negativity, it can take three positive thoughts to counteract each negative one. So really stretch yourself to find more positive alternatives. You find a sample journal here:

October is Emotional Wellness Month. Many people deal with difficult emotions and I hope these techniques are helpful for you. However, if you are feeling levels of anxiety or depression that our tough to manage on your own, it may be time to check in with your doctor or seek the guidance of a therapist.

What I learned from tracking my time

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

According to Laura Vanderkam, time management and productivity author, if you want to be more productive or intentional with your time, you need to know how you are currently spending it. I decided to put this to the test.

In July of 2018, I tracked my time for two weeks. I used a paper log to track 15-minute increments. Since my daughter was visiting her dad and I had a break from parental responsibilities, I knew I would have plenty of time to dedicate to my business.

Indeed my tracking showed a lot of time was spent on my business. However, without a set stopping point to help get my daughter to bed, I found myself doing work some nights right until the moment before I brushed my teeth at night.

In August 2019, I experimented with tracking again. Instead of using a paper tracker, I downloaded the Toggl app. This made it easy to track my time from my phone or laptop. Toggl also shows your time use in a colorful pie chart and sends a weekly report.

Since I am employed by a corporation almost full-time, my goal was to dedicate only 6-10 hours per week to my coaching business. I was surprised to discover that I was actually spending 18 hours per week. However, these were the final two weeks before announcing the September launch of my new coaching program.

At the same time, I was pleasantly surprised to see I was spending even more time with my family. Time with my daughter or my partner individually or together as a family totaled 24 hours per week. Much of the time spent with my daughter was helping her get ready, transporting her to activities or running errands together. However, since we were listening to an audiobook together in the car and discussing the story, the time often felt richer and more enjoyable.

Over the year between tracking periods, I have made several changes to ensure that the way I spend my time aligns with my personal values and goals. For years I have been scheduling just about everything I do on my Google calendar. I already had a recurring Friday Night Date with my partner. But we all agreed that we wanted to have more intentional time as a family. So, we scheduled evenings for playing cards or watching a movie together a few times per week at home. This was in addition to longer activities on the weekends such as bike rides, trips to the lake, outdoor music and festivals. With the exception of occasional networking events, I have also committed to protecting family time by not scheduling work tasks evenings and weekends.

Thanks to Gretchen Rubin’s idea of the 19 for 2019, I created a clearer vision of what I wanted to do on a regular basis to bring greater enjoyment to my life. These included activities like eating at a new restaurant each month and visiting a novel museum or theater venue each quarter. I set a goal to meet with friends monthly and found that I was actually meeting with friends much more often than I realized.

In the last few weeks, I’ve found that reading to my daughter as she gets ready for bed is a ritual she looks forward to. My daughter is 12 years old, and it had been several years since I stopped reading to her nightly. She chose a young adult novel. I was curious about the book and thought it would be fun to read together. After a few nights, she was asking me to read to her without prompting and it felt like a good way to slow down and connect before bed.

Another major shift was deciding to carve out a longer period of time to unwind at night. There is so much research that demonstrates the negative impact on sleep caused by the blue light from our computers and phones. Light from these devices suppresses melatonin for longer periods of time than natural light so we don’t feel as sleepy as we should. My bedtime has been consistently around 10:30 pm for several years. However, I’m now aiming to get to bed earlier to dedicate 15 minutes to reading a paperback book. As much as I love self-improvement books, I decided that my bedtime reading had to be purely for pleasure. Reading this book only in bed has created some anticipation for my bedtime. Since the evening wind-down has lately begun with reading to my daughter, I have created an even longer buffer of time between ending my work tasks, disconnecting from devices and going to sleep.

Laura Vanderkamp emphasizes that we are allotted 168 hours each week and it’s up to us to choose how we spend them. Even after 56 hours of sleep and 50 hours of work, there are still 62 hours where we can be intentional with our time. It’ not surprising that when I track my time I am more productive. Tracking helps me stay focused on a single task and make better choices, just like when I track my foods I eat better. Just as importantly, I discovered that by making some small changes I am dedicating my hours, days and weeks to the people and activities that matter most.

Bring your passion to the table!

The following are excerpts from Tamara’s interview with ProudMary.

Tamara is  personal coach offering individual and group coaching and support services.  She brings a unique background of health and wellness into her new profession. Her busy schedule balancing family and work requires that she finds the right motivators and tools to make it through her day. I was lucky enough to spend some time getting to know Tamara — mom, busy professional and entrepreneur, and to learn from her firsthand how she got to where she is today and how she stays there. 

What four words would you use to describe yourself?

I prefer to see myself as aligning with certain values. This helps me to schedule my time so that I am really doing what’s important. I can see how day-to-day, week-to-week, I am fulfilling my values and what’s important to me. These values are growth, balance, service and community.

With your busy life, what do you do to take care of yourself? How do you balance intense work, stress and the rest of your life? 

I exercise and meditate and make time for sleep, every day. My work schedule varies from day to day, but I make sure that I get 7.5 – 8 hours of sleep. If things get too busy, the exercise would be shortened but I will never sacrifice the sleep. Unless I have to catch an early flight. Sleep is really key. That’s a foundation for me.  Getting the sleep I need is going to give me the energy to start my next day.

The meditation helps me to balance and get grounded. I can be a very high energy person, so my meditation usually happens at the end of the day, when I’m preparing for sleep. It’s also really important for me to make time to connect with family, my daughter and my partner, here at home, and my mom and siblings in town as well. It’s important to have time for everything and some people think it’s very odd, but I literally schedule everything. So I don’t have a to-do list. If it’s on my schedule, I make sure it happens.

I have 30 to 60 minute blocks throughout my day. They might be things like client calls, interviews, or networking meetings, but I also have things like yoga a least once a week on my calendar, or going to the gym or to swim. Family activities are also on the schedule. It’s also a good way to communicate with my partner. I schedule more than the average person. It keeps my life running!

Can you tell me about your background and experience in naturopathic medicine? Let’s start from the beginning, what is naturopathic medicine?  

Naturopathic training includes all conventional medicine, with an emphasis on treating the root cause of the ailment. We treat the whole person. We have guiding principles that we call therapeutic order to begin treatment with the least harmful measures such as changes in diet, lifestyle, and then we progressively use more aggressive strategies, such as pharmaceuticals and minor surgery, as necessary.

I graduated from naturopathic medical school in 2007 while living in Phoenix, Arizona. I completed a residency in family medicine at a primary care clinic, where we provided conventional treatments like medication management. We had a full scope of practice, including prescribing medications and doing minor surgery. I was doing what people would do in a regular primary care setting, like a doctor or physician assistant.

One of the most important things I learned was that we really have to understand all of the conventional treatments and diagnostics in order to treat our patients, because people live in a conventional world with conventional therapies. The environment that I was in served a population who knew what they wanted; they were paying cash, they wanted their medicines, they wanted their injections and they wanted to be able to get back to work the next day. This really informed my training and guided me toward a very holistic view of healthcare and wellness.

Shortly after completing my degree, I returned to Minneapolis and joined a corporate wellness company. I began coaching clients with chronic medical conditions through the wellness programs provided by their employers. This is all very conventional in terms of “What medications are you taking? How are you managing your asthma or diabetes?” but at the same time, I learned an entirely new skillset that I hadn’t learned in medical school — and it was coaching.

Previously with my new patients in Minneapolis, they would leave my office with a laundry list of things that they needed to do, anything from changing to an anti-inflammatory diet, drinking a certain amount of water, getting a certain amount of exercise, to following a supplement regimen. What I didn’t realize at the time was while it was very easy for me to do these things, for a new patient, struggling with a medical condition, it wasn’t. He or she didn’t necessarily had the same amount of time, energy, or motivation that I had.

Coaching the employees helped me better understand different personality types and different behavior change tendencies. By learning that, I was better able to meet people at where they were, and to provide more “small step” approaches, which is very much a coaching approach concept.

I really enjoy coaching people within the corporate wellness context, but what was missing for me was the opportunity to do things how I wanted to do them. Working for a corporation, there are certain products and services that we can’t endorse. I use lots of things that help me, such as technology like Fitbit or apps to track diet. These are valuable tools for people to better manage their health and habits. When I work with people privately, or with people who contract with me directly, they have the opportunity to get my full scope of experience.

My focus has moved on from medical conditions. My demographic is people like myself who are entrepreneurs, who may still be working, and who probably are balancing competing priorities with work, and family, and self care. I work mostly with people around my age, in their 40s, and what is different in my practice now is that I am able to bring more of myself. I have a lot of experience trying different businesses and learning more about what helps people become successful, whether it be managing their time, managing their energy, or developing certain habits.

My coaching approach focuses on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies. She’s the author of “Better than Before,” and she has podcasts with her sister called “Happier.” There are so many different personality frameworks, like Myers Briggs. I like the Four Tendencies because it specifically addresses how we respond to inner and outer expectations.

To read the full interview, visit: ProudMaryOwnIt

Tips for a Sensational & Safe Summer Vacation

Summer vacation season is upon us. A trip out of town is a great way to escape from the daily grind. However, a break from our healthy routines can make us sick. Here are some tips for staying healthy on your next vacation:

Sleep – It’s tempting to get the 6:00 AM flight to arrive at your destination as soon as possible. But a late night of packing and poor sleep filled with the anxiety of missing an early flight does not start your trip on the right foot. When possible, book a flight that allows you to stick close to your normal sleep schedule, especially if you can’t sleep on the plane. There’s no point in arriving early to your destination if you are going to be exhausted when you get there. The bright morning sun or thin hotel walls can make it difficult to sleep in as much as you hoped. Bring an eye mask and earplugs to help control your environment.

Sun Protection – Apply sunscreen before going out since the sun strong can be stronger than expected. Nobody wants to be sidelined with a painful sunburn or increase their risk for skin cancer. Hats and long sleeves are another easy way to protect your skin. An afternoon siesta is a great way to avoid the sun during the hottest hours of the day. We usually spend some time indoors after lunch to relax and recharge our batteries.

Solutions – I mostly mean water but in our case, it was rehydration solution. Did I mention how strong the sun can be in hotter climates? One family trip we spent an afternoon on the beach making sand castles and playing in tide pools. Unfortunately, our water intake was not enough to keep up with our activity and time in the sun. We all ended up with heat exhaustion, which included nausea and vomiting leading to further dehydration. While we were able to nurse ourselves back to health with homemade oral rehydration solution (water with a pinch of salt and some sugar), there was a point that I thought we would all need IV fluids. On other trips, we have brought Emergen-C packets. These are convenient for travel and include vitamin C as well as electrolytes. Not sure if you are drinking enough water? Aim for half your weight in ounces as a baseline with an extra 8 ounces every 15-30 minutes in hot environments or with increased activity. It’s also a good idea to limit alcohol or have several glasses of water between drinks.

Sweets – It’s tempting to overindulge on vacation but it’s best to limit the sweets and sugary drinks. Every day we are exposed to germs but our exposure increases with air travel and crowded destinations. Too much sugar can lower your defenses by curbing immune system cells that attack bacteria. Aim instead for fresh fruits that have the added benefit of vitamins and hydration. Just make sure they are washed with safe drinking water.

Summer and vacations always seem too short. Enjoy them while they last!

Open Streets Minneapolis

I’m excited to be participating in Open Streets Minneapolis!
The event takes place on Sunday, June 2.
You can find me at Khazana:
2225 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55405
11 AM – 4 PM
Stop by and learn key steps to
achieve success without sacrificing balance.
Get a free laser-focused mini coaching session!
I look forward to seeing you there.
Here’s to Health, Wealth, and Your Best Self!

The weather does not determine my day

I determine my day and you can too. I woke up this morning to a major winter storm. It’s “spring-ter” again in Minnesota.
But I am not stopping for this weather. If I let the weather determine my day I couldn’t live here. My (not so secret) weapon is the mindset that I’m armed with every single day. One of the first thoughts I had today was that I’m fortunate to have a car and to be able to go to the gym. The management at my gym definitely has a sense of humor since they were playing Christmas music. An attitude of gratitude keeps me going.

My day is not determined by the weather or the winds. Of course in winter there are biological changes that can occur, shifts in circadian rhythms etc. For the most part, we have a lot of power over our thoughts and we can CHOOSE to have a positive outlook. As soon as I saw the snow outside my window I knew the day could include some obstacles. But instead of getting down, I got ready.

I haven’t always lived in “Minnesnowta.” Some of my favorite cities still have their drawbacks I love the sun and sand in Los Angeles. But the traffic? Not cool. New York is the greatest city in the world… if you can afford an apartment larger than a postage stamp. If not, fuhgettaboutit.

No matter where you are, no matter what the weather, I hope you have a “sunny” day. I know I will. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about coaching to change your mindset.

Spring into Action!

Spring is a time of growth and renewal. Many of us feel more invigorated as the days get longer. This is the perfect time to harness your energy. Is there a project that you want to tackle for spring cleaning or decluttering? Is there a new trail or outdoor activity you want to explore? Where do you want to see growth this season, personally, professionally, spiritually?