Reclaiming My Mornings

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

This morning, I overslept. I actually woke up with my first alarm at 6 a.m. and went back to bed. I had another alarm at 6:25 a.m., and I vaguely remember it going off, but I must’ve turned it off. I woke up after 7:30 a.m. and could hardly move. I decided to take an hour morningsannual leave to give me some time to wake up and get to work, and it was annual leave that I really shouldn’t have used. I drained my sick time and annual leave with the aneurysm rupture recovery and rehab, and it’s been quite slow to build back up.

This morning, I also decided to change my ways and do what it takes to get up and out in the morning…without stressing and/or rushing. Since coming home from rehab in Atlanta, I feel like my time is not my own. After forming some good habits during rehab, they’ve slowly made their way back to not-so-good. I’m staying up later. I’m on my electronics too late into the evening. And I’m living by the seat of my pants again, especially in the mornings.

To prepare, I read 19 Ways to Trick Yourself to Become a Morning Person from Daily Burn. None of the ideas are rocket science, but these spoke to me in particular: 

Practice good sleep hygiene. “Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting quality, restful sleep,” says Dr. Watson. If you need to shift your schedule earlier, start moving your bedtime forward by just 15 minutes at a time. Adjustments more drastic than that will keep you rebounding between early and late bedtimes rather than creating lasting change. In Atlanta, I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. like clockwork. And while it sometimes took a while to fall asleep, I was in bed. I can do this again.

Take your time. Balancing your own well-being against other personal and professional responsibilities is tough. Often, finding the right work-life equilibrium starts with saying “No,” and so does getting enough sleep. Pare down your evening commitments so that you’ve got an hour completely blocked off to wind down before bed. Next week, I plan to start back at the gym after work; this will be an additional two evening events each week. My church is starting new small groups this month. While I really want to do a small group, I’m going to wait until I have a better hold on things to add yet another evening commitment. It’s hard to say no, but I know that I have to do so for my sanity and health.

Power down. Any kind of light can shift circadian rhythms, making it harder to sleep at night. And if you’re constantly plugged in, you’re even less likely to hit the hay right away. Research has shown that the blue light emitted by electronics like laptops and cell phones disturbs sleep even more than natural light. Turn off those electronic screens at least an hour before bed to make dozing easier. I’m torn to do everything I want to do in the time I have, so I started pushing the envelope, especially when it comes to electronics. Someone just gave me a new book; I think I’ll start it now so I can wean myself from my cell phone and laptop. I gave up evening TV in Atlanta, largely because I didn’t have a TV for the bedroom in the apartment. I’ve been able to keep this habit, thankfully, with only a few exceptions.

Prep before bed. Wondering what to do with that electronic-free hour? Use the time to get together anything you’ll need in the a.m. Shortening your morning to-do list just might make it easier to roll out of bed. My big time kill in the morning is deciding what to wear. I could do this in my electronic-free hour.

Get cozy. Temperature, noise, light and comfort can all impact your ability to sleep well. A cool, quiet room (around 65 degrees) has been shown to be an effective sleep environment. Since the aneurysm, it seems like I’m always cold, so I’ve been setting the thermostat up. Instead, perhaps I should just crawl in bed. I know that would make my sister roommate happier since she likes it cooler than I’ve been keeping it.

Play a mind game. The alarm goes off, and the immediate temptation is to hit snooze. Go ahead, do it — but then stay out of bed for those next nine minutes. The idea of the so-called “inverted snooze” is to ease the pain of waking up by telling yourself you only have to stick it out for nine minutes. Move around, stretch, start brewing coffee — anything to keep yourself awake. By the time the alarm goes off again you should be awake and alert enough to start your day rather than still grumpy in bed and (likely) hitting snooze again. I love the idea of the inverted snooze. This will give me time to bump up the heat and get a head start on breakfast.

Bite the bullet. If you naturally wake within minutes of your alarm, it can be tempting to close your eyes and relish in a few more minutes of rest. But you’re better off just getting out of bed. When you wake spontaneously, you’re likely in a light sleep stage, explains Dr. Watson. Going back to sleep could send you into a deeper sleep stage, making it harder to wake up and start your day. Enough said. I can go ahead and get up.

Now that I have a plan, I’m much more excited about trying to become a morning person again. I’m hoping my next post will be about how great my mornings are going. Are you a morning person and/or have you learned to be out of necessity? Do you have any tips and tricks that work well for you?

Reality Check

By: Shannon Shull

Lately I have been experiencing some major reality checks. My life stays so busy, and I am so stressed and overwhelmed that even when I sleep at night, I wake up exhausted from my crazy dreams. I have experienced major professional growth since I started teaching full time in the public school system. I wouldn’t take back any of the knowledge, experience and joy I have gained from my time teaching thus far, because I am a better person and certainly a better teacher for experiencing it. BUT – and here’s the big “but” – I’ve also gained about 10 pounds, sprouted way too many grey hairs, and feel like I’ve aged 10 years! I’ve only been teaching full time for a year and a half now! Folks, that’s sad! No lie, I have been more exhausted and overwhelmed than words can express.

time management

I know I am not the first person to declare that teachers are incredibly overworked and underpaid. I envy those that can go to work and leave it there – their work doesn’t follow them home, keeping them up during early mornings and late nights in an attempt to stay on top of everything. Those that think teachers have it made (thinking we get off work at 2 or 3:30 p.m. and get summers off) are clueless as to what the life of a teacher is really like. We don’t just show up, teach a few classes, and leave; it is way more involved than that! The required trainings, meetings, evaluations, and duties alone sometimes feel like a full time job.

shannon shull

What’s been so tough for me is that I was in the best shape of my life. I was teaching Zumba and Aqua Zumba classes throughout the week and getting tons of exercise, which resulted in me sleeping well, feeling good, and coping with incredible stress in my life without meds. Once I started teaching middle school full time, the health focus fell by the wayside something fierce. I had to stop teaching my regular Zumba and Aqua Zumba classes because I just flat-out did not have the time nor energy after teaching a full day. I have become a perfect example of not practicing what I preach! I know that if I could figure out how to squeeze in exercise, I would feel so much better on so many levels. Yet after an incredibly long day of being up since 5 a.m., teaching 170 middle school students within one day, making the long drive home, and then working to prepare lessons, the thought of having to add something else into my already-packed schedule seems to put my sanity levels at risk!

Obviously, my biggest challenge is time management. And I have absolutely got to figure out a way to make things work, because the utter truth is that I will feel better, sleep better and look better if I just make the exercise happen. So I’m asking you to hold me accountable! Email me, text me, Facebook me, ask me in person – “Shannon, did you squeeze in some exercise this week???!!!” If you have any tricks and tips on how you manage a busy career without losing focus on your health, please do share!

Maintaining Mentality

By: Sydney Yarbrough

Sydney YarbroughIf the recent ice storm has you feeling like going into hibernation, it’s time to snap out of it. My brain has definitely been in a Winter fog these past few weeks and I am on a quest to rediscover my motivation before the warmer weather gets here. I’ve compiled a list of tips to stay creative and motivated, and today I’m sharing that list with all of you!

  1. Find time for yourself. Take just a few minutes per day to have quiet time. Set a timer if you have to so you don’t get sidetracked and off task. Read a book. Take a bath. Sit on the couch and close your eyes to help clear your mind. This is important because often times we get so caught up with our day-to-day responsibilities that we forget to breathe. This results in what I would like to call, “burnout.” And it’s not good.
  2. Stay active. It’s so tempting to come home from work and do nothing but sit on the couch. Try to get into a routine of doing some sort of activity. There are tons of fitness videos online to watch! My favorites are Barre (a mix of ballet and Pilates) and Yoga.
  3. Write things down. It’s very helpful to me to compile a list of things that I need/want to get accomplished in a day – just so I can see it. Investing in a planner is a good idea. I have the Day Designer by Whitney English that I ordered from Etsy, but even just keeping a notepad with you can be helpful.
  4. Socialize. Work and home responsibilities can often cause you to feel like you’re too busy to make plans with your spouse or your friends. Make sure you schedule some time during the week to be around other people and maintain social interaction. It’s important to maintain relationships with others and not let your professional life keep you from enjoying a social life.

Remember that it’s okay, and even important, to worry about yourself. Like time management, taking care of yourself requires focus and discipline. As we head into a warmer season, I hope this list will help with maintaining motivation and creativity! 


By: Katie Austin

I bet you are thinking the title of this blog post is a typo, wondering if my fingers slipped and the last letter should have been an “I” since the keys are next to each other. While that acronym could certainly apply elsewhere, I’m discussing TMO here, since it seems that each day my list of things to do gets longer. Yes, it is confession time, as I am a victim of time management overload, or what I refer to as “TMO.” Some of you may already have symptoms of this time-robbing disease and I hope this article helps you to overcome the negative side effects.

What is time management overload? I was surprised to see so many results when I performed a recent Google search. I thought I was coining a new catchphrase – starting a new trend 🙂  When you search the Internet, you will find many great articles explaining how to limit work overload. However, I am talking about overloading on the tools we use to TMOmanage the our many tasks – the daily to do list that includes work, home and everything in between. I have found myself using task applications on my phone/iPad, printed out versions of my Google calendar, and anything else I can get my hands on to help me stay on top of my commitments. In general, I spend more of my time updating my organizers than actually working on the tasks themselves.

So, what have I done to conquer my TMO? I compiled a list of eight tips from CNN Money and Time Management Ninja to incorporate into my life. Change won’t be easy but it’s worth a shot because what I am doing now isn’t working. I hope you find these to be useful as well:

  1. Stop multitasking. Instead of trying to do several things at once, plan your day so that you have blocks of time (even if they are only 10 or 15 minutes long) where you are working exclusively on one thing. You will find that you are able to give 100% to whatever you are focused on and, in the long run, accomplish more.
  2. Assign a time limit to everything you do. Once you reach the time limit for a task, stop. If you didn’t complete the task, you probably needed a larger block of time and should consider this when scheduling similar tasks in the future.
  3. Be organized enough to know your load. Multiple lists and scattered papers present a jumbled perspective. If you don’t know how much is on your plate, how can you hope to efficiently get it done?
  4. Keep one calendar.  I am guilty of keeping separate calendars for work, home, coaching, and school. And then I incorporate all calendar items into one Google calendar so that everything is quickly available across my technology. When I read this particular tip, I quickly realized that I needed to shed those extra calendars and move to maintaining one calendar. In just one weekend, I noticed a big difference!
  5. Just say no. This can be a leading source of the extra weight that holds you back.  ”Can you do this for me?” ”Can you help me with that?”  Sometimes, the right answer is “No.”
  6. Finish to done. Another reason your load may grow too long is that you never fully complete tasks. Starting tasks is easy, but finishing them is hard. A few items completed is always more effective than many things begun.
  7. Don’t do everything yourself. Busy people are often guilty of trying to do everything themselves.  Delegate where you can; ensure you are not holding on to tasks that would be better served by someone else.
  8. Defend your time.  We wouldn’t let others steal our money, yet time seems to be free game. You need to be ruthless in protecting your most valuable resource: your time.

Achieving balanceI hope you find this collection of time management tips as helpful as I did.  Honestly, when I started the hunt for information to include in this article, I hadn’t blocked off any time and was trying to fit my research in between other tasks.  Post-research, I blocked off time to not only finish the article, but to incorporate the above tips. The weight on my shoulders is lighter. I am breathing easier and feel a sense of accomplishment as I complete each task in its entirety.  And to think that just a few days ago, I felt like I was treading water every day. No wonder I was tired!

How do you manage your time? Is there a tool that works great for you? Feel free to share your time management tips here and we will grow our list.  And make sure to block off time each week to read the wonderful articles posted on the Every Woman Blog! 🙂

Wishing everyone a great day!