Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, loves!

Look at me sliding in here on the last day of the week with a quick post because I made you a promise last week to be here at least once a week the rest of the year.

Well, I didn’t fail this week, so go me!

This week has flown by! Of course, everything this time of year flies by. Now that we are in November, we are officially into the part of the year where we have an event or thing every weekend until after the New Year, which means very little free time, but a lot of fun in the books. These events and traditions ae among our favorites of the year, and we look forward to them all year.

Because I’m short on time due to having zero time, I did want to throw a quick Friday Favorites at you. Just a few of the things I’m loving most right now. I love to share those with you guys because who doesn’t love things that they love, and who doesn’t want to share the love?!

That said, here you go!

Gratitude

This week’s Friday fave is not a material possession or even a tangible possession. It’s just something that I’m loving right now. It’s easy to forget to be so thankful and filled with gratitude sometimes, but nothing is better than remembering that no matter how many negatives, bad days, difficult people, difficult moments, stressful situations, etc. you might be dealing with right now, you always have so much to be grateful for. I know that I’m blessed with such abundance, and I’m so appreciative of that even when I’m annoyed or irritated. You guys…gratitude costs you nothing, but gives you so much.

The Best Running Shoes Ever

I love to run, and the weather is finally nice enough I can run outside a few times a week without choking on the humidity (Florida problems). However, when I run on the pavement, I’m prone to shin splints. The treadmill isn’t so bad, but the outdoor situation is bad for my legs. I’ve gone through about 3 million pair of running shoes looking for the best ones, and hands down my very favorite are my APLs (that’s Athletic Propulsion Labs). I love them because they are not only the most comfortable shoes EVER and they’ve completely eliminated my shin splint issues, but because they are beyond cute, too. They’re so cute, in fact, that even my 1-year-old daughter has a few pair now. Our favorites are the Women’s Techloom ($225) and the Techloom Bliss ($200) (and in all the colors).

SPANX Faux Leather Leggings

But, really, though; I detest pants. I dislike them in every capacity imaginable. I prefer dresses, but sometimes you have to put on some pants and call it a day. These are the ones because they don’t feel like pants, but they do make you feel instantly slimmer and amazing. If you don’t have a pair (um, or 9…but I really love them, okay???), get them now. They are only $98 and they are the best non-pants pants ever.

Clinique’s All About Eyes Rich Eye Cream

If you’re struggling with puffy eyes (and girl, you know you are), this is for you. I’ve been using this cream for a few weeks now, and even my husband has noticed how much brighter my eyes look. The puff is gone – even when he and I got a collective 2 hours of sleep one night last week while our sweet Charlotte was up all night vomiting everywhere (he has bedroom cleaning duty and laundry duty when that happens, I have shower and shampoo duty…followed by hair blow dry duty because our kids are high maintenance little assholes sometimes…they might get that from me, but no comment). Seriously, though, get this. It’s magic, and it’s only $54.

Date Night

If you aren’t regularly dating your spouse – and I’m talking at least once every two weeks – it’s time to make some changes. You need that time to connect. You need that time to focus on one another, to look one another in the eyes and to carry on conversations that aren’t interrupted by tiny humans, to just be young and in love without distraction. I love date night, and it is a Friday favorite. Tonight’s date night includes some of our favorite couples, our favorite brewery our friends just opened, and the knowledge that we will wake up tomorrow with cheeks sore from laughing. Best life, you guys.

 

What are some of your Friday favorites this week?

Life Lately

Happy Friday, Loves!

It’s been too long, and I know that. This year is one that has gotten entirely away from me, and I’m almost positive it’s my own fault. Unfortunately, my blog is my creative outlet – and it has nothing to do with my business, so it’s been pushed to the backburner more often than not this year. That makes me a sad, because I love the creativity that comes from this space. However, it also means that my client list has grown, my time has gotten more precious, and I’m over-committed.

Not to worry – this year is almost over and 2020 is the year of no. If, “Yes, that’s amazing!” isn’t my first reaction to something, my immediate answer is no. I’ve given up too much of my time, and I’m ready to take that back. I’m losing my work/life balance a bit this year, and that’s my own fault (and let’s face it, finding a balance is hard enough when your office is 50 feet from your family room, right?) but I’m committing myself to blocking time for this every week – even if it’s just one blog post a week.

Aside from my everyday obligations, this fall has so much fun. Of course, it always is, and of course I’m always shocked how much more fun is actually possible when you think you’ve peaked, but it’s been fun. From four days in my favorite city and home away from home with my very handsome husband and our sweet friends to ring in 36 to family fun days to time spent laughing with those we love the most, it’s been sweet.

I have been so awful about updating everyone on things via social media when I receive questions, and I’m sorry. I try to answer them as quickly as I can, but I usually turn my phone off during the day while I’m in my office. It’s become a ‘phone-free zone’ and I don’t use social media on my computer or iPad. So, my phone is on Do Not Disturb until I make the decision to look at it myself – which I only allow myself to do when I walk out of the office. That means I have some questions I haven’t answered, and I’m sharing some things I got a lot of questions about!

Specifically, some of the things I wore when I was in NYC last month.

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This look was my favorite all weekend. So simple, yet so chic.

Let me preface this by saying I had the most difficult time packing for NYC this year. It was unseasonably warm that weekend (in the 80s) and I struggled. We spend my birthday in NYC every year, and it’s always freezing! I wasn’t thrilled about the heat (even if it is so much cooler there in the 80s than it is here in Florida, but I am so over heat and sweat and hot weather…yuck).

I actually had nothing packed, hated everything I owned, and panicked until the morning of our trip. Our flight left at 8:30 pm, and I went shopping as soon as I took the kids to school that morning hoping I’d find something I liked (because, let’s face it, my closet is 75% Lilly Pulitzer, which is not fall in NYC appropriate in Tiffany-land). I was shocked that I did not find anything at any of my favorite stores, but that I did find things in the places I went out of desperation.

Case in point – this dress is from Old Navy, and it’s currently one of my favorite things to wear! Unfortunately, I cannot find it online right now, but I did find several that are quite similar and can be styled the same way here, here, and here. (wearing size XS for reference).

Belt (mine is the 85) – Gucci

Tory Burch Millers in “Makeup”

My hat is old and from Norsdstrom

Bracelets are Tiffany & Co. and David Yurman

Phone case and wristlet strap are Bandolier

I wore this outfit on our first full day in the city. We spent the day shopping on 5th Avenue, we had brunch at the Boathouse in Central Park, cocktails at the Plaza, the rooftop at the Le Meridien, the rooftop at the Peninsula, and more. This dress was perfect for the day!

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I received so many compliments on this outfit the third day of our trip! I wanted something comfortable and fun since we were showing our friends around the city for their first (ever!) visit, and it was the day we headed downtown to the financial district to visit the 9/11 memorial, to see the Statue of Liberty, and to take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Lots of walking. Lots of fun.

Corduroy skirt (runs really big! I’m wearing a small and had to pull it up all day and rely on my belt to keep it where it needed to be) – Forever 21 

Black Shirt (love this shirt and have it in every color!) – Nordstrom 

Same Gucci Belt as above

Adidas Superstars

Givenchy Sunglasses are from last year, and they appear to be sold out everywhere, but these are similar. 

A Beautiful Smile Made Simple with Smile Brilliant

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Growing older is exciting, and I should know. I just turned 36, and I’ve never felt more confident, happier, or more beautiful in my life. Growing older doesn’t scare me, but that’s because my grandmother – who is as beautiful as ever even after a century of living – taught me that there are two things that make you beautiful no matter how old you get.

Your smile and your attitude.

Attitude is easy; be kind, be grateful, and seek the good in life.

My smile is just as easy; brush, floss, visit the dentist twice a year, and find the right toothbrush. Finally, after 36 years, I’ve finally found the perfect toothbrush to give me the most beautiful smile. It’s the cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush from Smile Brilliant, and it’s everything. What makes it different from all the other electric toothbrushes on the market is that I actually love it, it doesn’t make my sensitive gums hurt, and I didn’t bleed even once (you guys, I can make my own gums bleed brushing my own teeth with a regular toothbrush).

Why I love it

An electric toothbrush that throws 40,000 vibrations at you every minute is amazing. Not only that, but this is one electric toothbrush that works for you by pausing momentarily every 30 seconds to ensure you know it’s time to switch areas in your mouth. Every area gets the same time, attention, and fabulous cleaning with this helpful feature. Oh – and did I mention the battery lasts 30 days when it’s fully charged? This is great for someone like me who doesn’t like clutter on the bathroom counters and forgets to charge it every night (out of sight, out of mind, right?). It was also a relief when my husband and I spent four days in New York City this past weekend I realized I never put the charger in my carry-on!

My favorite thing, however, is the five brush modes. I’ve tried them all – several times – and my favorite is “White”. I promise you I can see a difference in the mornings after I’ve had three cups of coffee and brush my teeth before I walk out the door to take my littles to school. The other four modes include:

  • Clean
  • Massage
  • Gum care
  • Sensitive

I love all four, but what I really love is that I find I don’t need the sensitive mode as much as I thought I would. With such sensitive teeth and gums, I worried I wouldn’t use any of the other modes because I’d need the sensitive mode, but it’s not true for me. I can use all of them with the same great feeling, less stress, and no sensitivity. Every mode is amazing, and you might find yourself wanting to keep brushing just to use all of them at the same time!

It’s professional teeth cleaning from home (please continue to see your dentist every six months or sooner, if necessary, to ensure your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible). Even better, though, is that I can multitask by brushing in the shower when I’m running behind – I do have four little ones, you know – because the cariPRO is completely waterproof.

I’ve used a few electric toothbrushes in the past, but I’ve never been overly impressed. My teeth are sensitive, and the other electric brushes I’ve used caused bleeding and additional sensitivity. I never felt I was getting any more of a ‘clean’ feeling than I did with the brush my dentist gifts me at the end of every appointment, so I always used them, put them aside, and moved on from them. The cariPRO, however, has changed the game for me. I’m excited to brush my teeth every day, and I’m not worried about hurting myself or causing additional stress to my mouth. It’s such a refreshing change! And it’s affordable, too, starting at only $119 ($199 for a set of two if you and your spouse both want to have the best smile…it makes for great kissing!).

Oral Health Care is so Important

Now that I’ve shared with you the million and one things I love about my new cariPro, I wanted to make sure you know that your oral health is the most important thing you can pay attention to as you age. Now that I’m 36, I get what my grandmother was saying. Being happy and having a beautiful smile keeps my looking youthful, but it also keeps me healthy.

Good oral health care is directly related to good overall health. Using the cariPRO and visiting my dentist every six months helps me improve my chances of living a long, healthy, youthful life that extends far behind just having a beautiful smile thanks to my healthy, white teeth. Good oral health care decreases my risk of developing periodontal and gum disease. Did you know both of these oral health problems can cause an increased risk of developing certain health issues, such as cancer, endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, and pregnancy complications such as low birth weight and premature birth?

I don’t know about you, but having a beautiful smile and a decreased risk of developing serious health problems as I get older is all I need to know to keep me brushing, flossing, and visiting my dentist. It’s also why I am so excited to partner with Smile Brilliant to offer one of my readers/followers a chance to win your very own cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush! Here’s how to enter my giveaway to win your very own cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush.

The winner will be randomly chosen and notified shortly!

If you don’t win your own cariPRO Ultrasonic, don’t stress – you can get 20% off your own by visiting https://www.smilebrilliant.com#tiffanyraiford and entering promo code “20TIFFANYRAIFORD” at checkout.

For more information about my new favorite toothbrush, visit https://www.smilebrilliant.com/frequentlyaskedquestions#tiffanyraiford to learn more.

PS: I’ll be sending Santa my promo code so he can make sure everyone in my house gets their own cariPRO in their stocking on Christmas morning…what better gift than the gift of a beautiful smile and a healthy life?

Fall Bucket List

Happy fall, y’all.

I know I’m a few weeks late to the party, but you know the drill. I’ve been busy, guys! I’m always busy. I don’t love that my calendar is never empty, but busy is just a way of life sometimes when you’ve got four little ones and stuff. But, it’s fall, it’s my favorite time of year, and it’s literally the best of the best of the best right now. Try arguing with me about why this is not the most fabulous time of the year, I dare you.

In honor of the fact that it’s not only fall but also October, which is the official start of the holiday season (my three favorites right in a row), I thought we’d talk about fall a bit. A few of my fall favorites, if you will. A sort of fall bucket list you can use to help you get into the fall spirit now that the weekend is here (we are choosing to ignore the 90-degree temps, the incessant love bugs, and the lack of anything that feels like fall around here, mmmkay?).

Weekend is officially here, so here’s a list of things to try this fall that will help put you in the holiday spirit. They’re simple, they’re fun, and they’re going to make it worth your while to enjoy a few of them.

  • Light a fall candle (my favorites are from Bath and Body Works)
  • Bake fall cookies (not everyday cookies. Fall cookies).
  • Sit around a fire and roast some marshmallows (Floridians, hold marshmallows on a stick outside your car door…same effect).

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  • Watch Hocus Pocus
  • Carve a pumpkin
  • Find a pumpkin patch
  • Take fall photos
  • Go fall wardrobe shopping
  • Book a trip somewhere the leaves are changing and the weather is beautiful
  • Open the doors and windows (if you can do that and not die of heat)
  • Decorate your home for Halloween and/or fall
  • Take an evening walk
  • Make cinnamon rolls
  • Bake a pie
  • Plan a friendsgiving
  • Go find pinecones and let the kids paint them and make some crazy outdoor art with them
  • Watch Gator Football
  • Make chili
  • Bake pumpkin pumpkin bread
  • Drink a holiday-ish beverage

Try one, try them all, mark them off as you go. Whatever works for you is what works for me, but these are some of our favorite things to do in the fall around our house. We have to stretch a bit in the Sunshine State since it’s 90+ degrees, humid, and the lovebugs are insane, but we make it work (i.e. we crank down the AC until it’s cool enough in the house to pretend like it’s fall outside the house).

What do you love to do this time of year that makes it feel like fall where you are?

36 Things I’ve Learned to Celebrate Turning 36

Thirty-six.

I woke up Monday morning after a late night of fun with my husband and some friends, dining at my favorite restaurant in the world (Il Tinello) in my favorite hotel room at the Omni Berkshire in NYC. Room service had already delivered my coffee, my husband had gifts waiting for me, and it was glorious to sleep in, wake up at my own discretion, and spend the morning doing nothing in particular.

I took a walk down Fifth Avenue and picked up another birthday gift at Tiffany & Co. I watched the opening of the doors at FAO Schwartz so I could run in and grab my little loves a few gifts to bring home. I had breakfast with my people in the hotel restaurant, and I toasted my birthday with mimosas. It was 60 degrees, it felt so much like fall, and it was sheer perfection following three days of NYC fun.

It was such a good weekend, but I was so excited to board our late flight and get home to my babies for some birthday love. And rest. I needed some rest. I mean, guys, I’m 36 now. Even if I did stay up late all weekend like I was only 21, I was feeling it at that point. As I sat on my flight listening to the pilot ask us to remain seated as we flew off and on through some storms for a marginally shaky ride home, I realized a few things I wanted to share in honor of my 36th birthday. Thirty-six things I’ve learned in the past year.

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  1. Every year is such a good year in my life, and I’m so fortunate. I get to end every year of my life with the realization that it really was better than the year before, which was already amazing, and that gets to be my every day. I love that.
  2. My son asks a ton of questions about every single thing, and it might be the most obnoxious thing in the world.
  3. I could never work for someone else. I love the freedom of working for myself. I love being able to get up and go, pick up and leave, and travel when I want. I would lose my mind if I had to ask permission to take a day off or travel, or if I had to arrange my schedule around other people (my kids don’t count). I like being my own boss, and I’ll never work for another person and lose my freedom.
  4. I lost a lot of my ‘free time’ this year, and I’ve realized it was not ‘free time’ and I do need that time to get things done. I’ve lost 21 hours a week because I have to pick my middle school daughter up much earlier than the little kids in elementary school. I’m leaving my house a full hour and 45 minutes a day earlier than I did when they were all in elementary school, and I’m losing a lot of time. I’ve also given about 5.5 hours a week to my kids’ cheer teams as a coach this year, and I’m also losing about 3 hours a week in the after school car line because it’s so long this year, and I’m losing valuable work time in the morning because my husband takes our daughter to middle school and I’m spending that time breaking up arguments between my kids and my nephew – who I take to school every morning. I’m really struggling without that time.
  5. I really dislike being hot. (is summer EVER GOING TO END?????)

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  1. I love school vacations. There was a time I detested them, but now that all the kids are a little older, they’re so much more respectful of my time in my office, and they know how to behave and handle themselves so I can get my work done before we can have some fun.
  2. I don’t want my kids growing up faster than they need to. I’m seeing a lot of girls who are a little too mature for their age, and it makes me sad, scared, and worried for them. Let them be little. Let them be immature. Let them have a few more years before they’re worried about the things some of these girls are worried about.
  3. Kind people are my kind of people.
  4. People who have to say it repeatedly are doing it to convince everyone else.
  5. I like people who keep their social media pages positive. It’s not fake, it’s just better than the depressing shit that’s everywhere else. Keep up the positivity people! And for the love of all things, stop vague-booking like you’re 16 again.
  6. Working out is really important to me.
  7. I’m much nicer when I’ve had 9 hours of sleep and a good work out.
  8. My husband is really hot (I mean, I knew that, but it’s like he just gets better every year).

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  1. I’ll probably always have at least one sick kid at a time.
  2. I’ve got some severe anxiety at times.
  3. I love Botox.
  4. I worry for my kids and the things they’re exposed to sometimes. I see the way other people live their lives – and while I don’t care how other people live their lives – I hurt for their own children. They’re seeing their parents make horrible choices, and they’re teaching their kids horrible habits and those are the kids my kids are growing up with. Destructive parents raising the future of our world scares me to no end…
  5. I’ll never be the wake up and go type. I need to do my hair. I need to put make up on. I need to get dressed in something I love. I feel more confident, it’s polite, and I enjoy it.
  6. My biggest pet peeve is when people complain about their lives (their weight, their appearance, their marriage, their finances, their whatever) yet they do NOTHING to change it. Don’t complain about it if you’re not willing to get off your ass and make a change. Otherwise, you’re just complaining, and it’s unattractive.

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  1. I really have the best people in my world.
  2. Monday evenings are my favorite. They’re the only weekday evening we are home without any of the kids needing to be somewhere for sports or activities (or our beloved Wednesday night dinner tradition) and we spend that evening cooking dinner together and sitting in the formal dining room, we take a family walk, and we just spend time together. I really, really love it.
  3. My kids are all so different, and that’s what is so amazing about them.
  4. Anything can happen at any time, and everyday should be lived to its fullest potential.
  5. Fall is still my favorite.
  6. I will never get over my cleanliness OCD. I thought I might over time, but it doesn’t seem to be happening for me. My car must be spotlessly clean inside at all times. My house must be spotless at all times. I can’t stop. I just can’t.

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  1. I think messy houses are lazy. I know that’s not a popular opinion and that will offend some, but I cannot see how it’s even possible. I just can’t. I have four kids, a business, a husband, and we host people in our home at least once or twice a week, and it’s always clean. I mean, the kids bring things out of their rooms to play with and stuff, but they always put them back when they’re done, dishes are either washed or put in the dishwasher as soon as they are finished being used, and everything is easily wiped down, cleaned off, vacuumed, or mopped at the end of the day. It takes us like 15 minutes a day to keep a clean house even with all that, so I literally just cannot and do not understand how it’s possible for people to have messy houses.
  2. I hate lovebugs. I mean HATE them.\
  3. I really love the traditions in our lives.
  4. I don’t really love Amazon that much. It’s okay when I need something I can’t find locally, but otherwise, I don’t get the fuss that much.
  5. I like Target, but I don’t love Target. There, I said it.
  6. I’ve been into an Ulta one time, and I hated it. What a mess. Give me Sephora any day.

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  1. I’m a minivan mom, and I never thought I would be, and I never thought I’d want to be, but I’m so in love with it, and I’m loving it.
  2. I love rainy days so much more than sunny days – and I’m not a fan of summer.
  3. I do try so hard to hear people when they speak to me, I really do. However, I so often find myself wondering about people’s priorities when I hear them speaking. There are so many things that are just so much more important in life, and I don’t get why people don’t realize that.
  4. Nothing is more important than a strong family foundation and a family base. A strong marriage, strong parenting, faith, and a strong home are the most important things in our lives.
  5. I’m happy. The simplest days and the littlest things bring me so much joy and happiness, and I love those things. It’s the little things like knowing my husband and I have been going to be at the same time, together, every night for 18 years and neither of us would have it any other way, or the fact that our kids know he will always get up in the mornings, make my coffee, and make them chocolate chip pancakes from scratch before he does anything else, or that he will always be fine with them going to his side of the bed to wake him up first because they all know I’m the one who needs her sleep most, or the fact that we will always decorate our home for holidays as a family and it will make them the happiest little people in the world while we’re doing it, but that my husband will always help me take it all apart when they go to bed and do it my way so that I’m happy, too. I love the big things. The travel, the adventure, the fun. I love that, but I love the little things so much more. Those things make me so happy, and they bring me so much fulfillment and so much pleasure, and I’m so happy.

Change Your Perspective, Change Your Outlook, Change Your Life

I’m tired.

There. I said it.

I have over-committed myself this year. I have taken on too many things. I have gone above and beyond the degree of what I’m comfortable doing. While I’m happy to go outside my comfort zone, I’m not so happy to admit that I’ve put myself in a situation in which I’m forced to make choices I don’t want to make, or to do things I don’t necessarily want to do.

No one – no one – likes to admit they cannot do it all, but there’s this saying that I’ve seen around (thanks, Pinterest) that speaks to my soul.

You can do anything, but you cannot do everything.

I relate so much to this.

When I began my business more than a decade ago, it was because I had the time, I had the desire, and I had a dream. I had no idea it would grow into what it’s grown into today, and I’m so darn proud of it. Who ever thought a little housewife and mom from Florida could take a passion for writing and turn it into a business that has provided services to some of the biggest companies and brands in the country? I didn’t – and I had a pretty big dream.

I didn’t see that happening, but I also had a dream. I was going to be mom of the year every year (yeeeeeaaaahhhhhhhh…that didn’t work out how I planned). I was going to bake all the things. I was going to keep the cleanest house on the planet (this I actually do…well, I don’t personally do it, but someone does it). I was going to be at every school event. I was going to be on every committee. I was going to do it all, and I was going to do it in a pair of designer shoes and a perfectly chosen outfit.

And guess what? I did it.

And I’m tired.

I’m on the PTA. I volunteer in the elementary school classrooms. I volunteer in the middle school. I volunteered to coach not one but two competitive cheer squads (a year-long commitment) so that two of my girls could continue their dreams of being competitive cheerleaders. I run a successful business and write hundreds of thousands of words every month. I date my husband. I raise four kids (team work on that one, baby). I have an active social life. I travel. I work out 5 to 6 days a week. I do a lot of things, and I’m tired.

I find myself struggling regularly to keep up with the demands of my schedule. I don’t want to leave any of it behind, but I cannot do it all. I’ve lost 21 hours of my week this year because of middle school pick up times and elementary school pick up times and cheer practices two nights a week. I’m overwhelmed trying to keep up with everything on my plate, and it’s making me an ugly person. Literally – my face will not stop breaking out.

In this season of my life, I’m giving things up that I don’t necessarily want to give up, but I need to for my own sanity, for the sake of my kids, and for the sake of my own well-being. I’m not afraid to say no to things that don’t sit well with my soul, but I dislike saying no to thinks I’ve committed myself to doing, things that make me feel like I’m making a difference. But…I love writing. I love what I do. I love my clients. I’ll never give that up.

So, where does that leave me? It leaves me tired. I spent 20 hours at the gym this weekend for choreography weekend for the two little squads I’m helping coach. It was hot. It was long days. It was hot, long days. I missed my family. I missed home. I missed the quality time I spend with my five favorite people over the weekend, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t feeling overly happy about how I was feeling. And that’s when it hit me – my perspective is all off. It’s not poor me. It’s not feel sorry for me. It’s not omg my weekend was long.

It’s “How fortunate am I that I played an integral role in ensuring these little girls (and boy) get to continue doing something they love after their coach retired from the position unexpectedly and there was no one to coach the squad?” It’s “How fortunate am I to get to hang out with these kids who get to do the thing they love as much as I loved it growing up, and how fortunate am I that I have experience as a cheerleader and coach to help me help make their little dreams come true?”

When I shifted my way of thinking, my heart was immediately lighter. My mind was clearer – well, as clear as it can be after 78 cups of coffee and not nearly enough sleep over the course of two days. Perspective is everything, and I’m challenging myself to take my biggest complaints as of late and turn them into positive thoughts. Here we go.

I’m tired.

  • How fortunate am I to share my life with five people who love me so much, and who I love so much? How fortunate am I that we are surrounded by friends and family who love us all so much that they want to spend their time with us so often? How fortunate am I that our cups are overflowing with so many amazing people?

I don’t have time.

  • How fortunate am I that I get to fill my days with things I love? So many people spend their time idly doing things that don’t fulfil them and don’t make them happy. So many people struggle to find things to do, and they struggle to find peace and happiness in their everyday lives. They struggle to fill their time with positive things, people, and activities. Their weekends are spent at home doing nothing with no one. How fortunate am I that I have so little time because I live a life so filled with beautiful things, people, and experiences?

I miss my family when I’m busy doing other things.

  • How fortunate am I that I get to spend so much time with my kids, even when it’s not all together all the time, helping them do the things that they love? Taking them to the sports and activities that bring them such joy and happiness? How fortunate am I that I love my family so much that I miss them when I’m away from them, even if it’s only for a few hours? There are a lot of people who miss their loved ones all the time because they don’t get to spend time together. There are many people who don’t miss their family at all because they are so unhappy with their families. How fortunate am I to miss my people when I’m not with them for a few hours?

My kids are being special.

  • Kids will be kids, my friend, and there is little we can do about that. They get tired. They get overwhelmed. They are exhausted going back to school and activities. They are struggling to get themselves acclimated to this new schedule. They can be a little trying sometimes. But how fortunate am I that these moments are few and far between? How fortunate am I that our biggest struggle with our kids on a regular basis is how they dress? So what if they have like 3 favorite items of clothes they like to wear all the time and they have thousands of dollars in clothing in their closets with tags on them that they will probably never wear because they want to see me lose my mind? How fortunate am I that we have the means to provide them with these things even if they choose not to utilize them? So many people are not so fortunate.

My kids are expensive.

  • They really are so expensive. But, how fortunate are we that we are able to provide for them when they need something, when they want something, and even when they don’t want something but I just know they will love it so much for about 4 seconds before they’re over it? How fortunate are we that we can take them shopping when they remember that they have to dress up for AVID this week and suddenly have nothing to wear? How fortunate are we that we can send them all to school with filled out picture day forms and checks to pay for hundreds of dollars worth of pictures we won’t even frame or hand out because our kids instantly turn into Chandler when he and Monica were taking their engagement photos on FRIENDS? How fortunate are we that we can spend $600 a week at Publix on fruit because that’s what they love to eat the most?

I’m so busy.

  • How fortunate am I that I’ve been able to build a client list so extensive that I’m constantly asked to do more? How fortunate am I that I’ve been able to work with some of the coolest people in the world doing writing I never thought I’d do? How fortunate am I that they recommend me to other companies, and those companies reach out to me because they’ve heard such great things about working with me? How fortunate am I that our weekends are filled with pool days and river house days and date nights and football parties because we have friends who are the most amazing people on the planet? How fortunate are we that our kids have such amazing friends with amazing parents, and that many of their friends are kids they’ve known since the day they were all born? How fortunate am I to have a husband who wants to date me and spend time with me all the time? How fortunate to be so loved and to love so much.

Our house is always full of kids and it is never, ever quiet.

  • Okay, okay. Most of that is our fault (Raiford couldn’t keep his hands off me, and Dr. King didn’t get his hands on him soon enough) with our choice to have four kids (wait…was that our choice? We were going for a third….not a set of twins. How fortunate are we to have gotten a bonus baby we didn’t even know we needed in our lives until we had him/her?). But, how fortunate are we that my sister-aunt trusts us enough to care for her little boy for hours every morning before school so we can get him to school for her while she’s off at work guiding and counseling the youth of today? How fortunate are we that our kids’ friends love to be in our home so much? How fortunate are we that our kids’ friends’ parents trust us and love us enough to let their kid spend so much time with us? How fortunate are we that our kids have such amazing friends and sweet friendships? How fortunate are we that we have the space to accommodate a fifth child 3-4 days/nights a week most weeks without worrying it will disrupt bath time or bed time or dinner seating arrangements or whatever with our own kids? We’ve got it pretty good over here.

My husband has been working 16-20 hours days a lot lately.

  • He has been the past few weeks, and I hate it. But, how fortunate am I that he works from home, and he’s with us even when he’s in the office? How fortunate am I that he’s here to make breakfast for the kids and do the laundry and sit down with us for dinner and help with homework and pour me a glass of wine every single day? How fortunate am I that my husband’s career is one he loves, and that he is so good at what he does that everyone wants him to do their projects and they want him to work with them and they want him to handle their situations? How fortunate am I that he works for a company who recognizes his value and what he has to offer? And how fortunate am I that I get to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with the man I’ve loved for the past 18 years, and I miss him when he’s on the other side of the house?

I could go on and on with how overwhelmed I’ve become this year, but I’ll focus on how I’m learning to readjust my schedule, and how I’m learning to readjust my perspective. I might be tired and busy, but those things are so because my life is full.

My full life gives me a full heart, even when I can readily admit that I’m overcommitted and it’s time to start scaling back and saying no to things that don’t jive with my vibe this year. I’m good at that, and I’m not worried about it. But, really, if you take every complaint you have and you turn it around, you will see that your life is so full, and it’s so amazing.

Try it. I dare you.

My Fall Essentials Shopping List (for the home)

Happy Wednesday, loves!

I know, I know….fall doesn’t officially begin until September 23. But, hear me out. You see, we don’t have fall in Florida. We get second summer, where it’s scorching hot all day, but sometimes it’s not deathly hot at night. So, since we don’t get a fall season around here, I feel it’s appropriate to begin fall on September 1. If we don’t get a real one, we should get an extended one, am I right?

Fall is my favorite time of year. The idea that any day, maybe, probably not but potentially, could be, maybe it will be, could it possibly be cool (read: not humid) one day is all I need to make my southern heart happy every morning. Pumpkins. Fall baking. Colored leaves (in other people’s photos, of course) and so many other beautiful things about this time of year bring joy to my simple heart. That’s why I’m so excited about this coming Sunday. It’s time to decorate my home and front porch for fall, crank down the air, and make everyone wear their fall favorites around the house while we light fall candles and pretend we live somewhere it’s not 113 degrees and there’s not a hurricane churning somewhere on one of our coasts.

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A girl can dream, right?

On that note, I’m prepping you with a fall essentials shopping list. These are the things I have showing up on my doorstep all week long the last week of August (I don’t have the willpower to buy them earlier and not use them, you guys). These things make me feel like fall is in the air, even though I know it’s never going to happen.

Candles

Bath and Body Works makes the best fall candles, and I don’t even care who wants to argue with me. Their fall fragrances are, hands down, the very best. I love to keep specifics around my house and light them every single day for some fall ambiance (caramel pumpkin swirl, warm apple pie, caramel apple are my personal favorites). I love how long they last, how good they smell, and how affordable they are. It’s only $24 for a very large 3-wick candle, and sometimes you can find them on sale for around $14 if you sign up for BBW emails.

Soaps

We go through a lot of hand soap in our house. Maybe it’s that we are a family of six with five sinks to keep soaped-up or because we are all a little bit OCD about cleanliness. It’s probably both. Either way, I like to stock up on some of my favorite fall soaps with, you guessed it, Bath and Body Works. I love their 5-packs of seasonal favorites. I bought five 5-packs to get me through until Thanksgiving. The best part is that they are only $23 per package for the foaming hand soap. Our kids love these, though they’re kind of gross in asking us to smell their hands every time they come out of the bathroom.

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Fall Coffee Mugs

I have a thing for coffee mugs. They make me happy, so I buy more than I need. More than most people need, if we are being honest. However, I love them. I love looking for the on Etsy, too. These are some of my favorites to stock up on for fall here and here.

Mums

Is it even fall yet if you don’t have at least a few different color mums outside your front door? I like to keep mine on either side of the entry way, and I like them in a variety of colors. Yellows, purples, and oranges are the best this time of year, and they are easy to find. You can get them at any home improvement store, nursery, and even the big box stores keep them in stock. They’re far better if you plant them….but, I can’t do that until after fall, so they die in my house.

Doormats

I love doormats, and keeping different ones outside our doors for different seasons is a fun way to decorate. I like these for fall, but you can look anywhere for them. Hobby Lobby is a personal favorite, but it’s Personalizationmall.com that makes them just for our home every year. We have one for the front door for every major season and holiday, and the rest we buy off the shelves or order from other places online to put at our other doors.

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Pumpkins

I love to decorate with pumpkins this time of year, and I love white ones more than anything. I use other colors, of course, but white pumpkins just bring me some sort of joy I cannot even explain. If you’re looking for the best ones, try shopping here and here.

This is just a small sample of what I do to prepare my home for fall. What do you do? What’s on your must-have fall list this year?

Monday Motivation: Five Ways to Get Motivated Any Day of the Week

Happy Monday, loves!

It’s so hard to find motivation sometimes, right? I go through off and on periods where I’m super motivated to do all the things, and then there are days that I don’t want to do any of the things. But, there are a few things that I’ve come to notice about my own personal motivation. Let me back that up just a minute and explain.

I am hyper-aware of my feelings. As an adult, I’ve become very mindful about how I’m feeling, what’s making me feel that way, and how I can channel those feelings into something more productive. I am very in tune with my body and my mind, and I’ve learned when to walk away, when to get busy, and when to shut it down and take a break. Trust me, it’s not always convenient, but there are a few things I know I can do to help me feel more motivated. And there are a few things I can do when I’m not feeling motivated to get out of that situation and fix the issues.

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Start on Sunday

The single most important thing I can do for myself is get started with a motivated week on Sunday. Church always motivates me and helps me feel invigorated, happy, and motivated. I feel so good when I leave there, and I feel so ready to tackle the week. I also like to get my calendar in order on Sundays. I prep the things I need to do workwise, and sometimes I get a little bit of a head start if everyone else is busy doing their own thing.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I go into Monday with things to do that I didn’t do on Sunday, I’m in for a stressful day. I will let that stress get to me and bring me down for the week, too, on occasion. So, I can almost guarantee that if my Sunday allows for me to go into Monday with nothing left on my checklist, I can have a productive, awesome week.

Work Out

I don’t have a lot of free time because of my business, kids, marriage, house, life, you name it. So, I tend to find myself sometimes looking for a way to give myself a little more time, and that often makes me feel unmotivated. I might assume I need to skip the gym to find the time to get things done, but that never works out for me.

I never regret time spent at the gym. I always regret skipping the gym. I find myself so much more motivated and energized when I leave the gym. So, I find time to work out. Even if I don’t have much time on a crazy day, I won’t spend my usual hour working out. I might give myself 30 minutes to run or do something that gets my blood going, and it’s always worthwhile.

Stop and Do Something Fun

You can’t force creativity. You just can’t. Sometimes, I have to stop and do something fun. I have to call a friend and tell her she’s got to get dressed and go get coffee or lunch with me. I might leave and go shopping. I might read a book or lay out in the sun or just do something that I’ve been thinking of doing. I always find that I’m more motivated after giving myself a much-needed break.

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Cry it Out

I’m emotional. I feel things really hard; especially when I’m unmotivated and feeling as if I can’t get things together. Overwhelmed is a good description. And, you guys, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when nothing seems to be going my way. Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself is give in and take some time to cry it out. It’s like a refreshing way to clear out all the junk in my mind and on my heart, and it’s a good time to pray and to feel cleansed and renewed. It might be messy – hello mascara and makeup – but I always feel so much better after I cry. Always. There is no sometimes in that one. So, don’t be ashamed to cry. I’m not.

Go With the Flow

I like things routine. Scheduled. On my terms. My way or the highway, we might say. But, sometimes, I’m most motivated after I’ve just gone with the flow. After I’ve made an impromptu decision to do something not on my radar. Going with the flow sometimes reminds me that life is not all about getting things done and it’s more about enjoying the things I’m doing. So, if you need some motivation; stop. Go with the flow. Don’t force anything. It’s better that way.

What do you do on a Monday morning to motivate yourself for the day and the week ahead?

Finding Quality Time With Your Family In Busy Seasons

Happy Thursday, loves!

Anyone else have kids struggling to acclimate to the new routine of back-to-school? Hitting the kids with school schedules, sports schedules, activity schedules, and the rest of our lives schedules is hard on them this time of year, and it’s showing in the Raiford house. The twins are the most emotional little people on the planet right now. Even our oldest, who is a dream, is a little whiny sometimes. Our 8-year-old is the only child in this house who is not tired, whiny, or emotional (except for a few minor instances).

Honestly, I think the problem is they’re starving. It’s a hard knock life when you go from summer snacking every 5.6 seconds to breakfast at 8, lunch at 11:20, home at 4:30 (thanks pick-up line). After all the snack begging we deal with all summer, we are shocked – shocked – they haven’t wasted away yet.

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In all seriousness, though, the hardest part of this time of year is losing the unhurried life we grow so accustomed to all summer. It makes it difficult to find quality time together when everyone is on the go all the time. Don’t get me wrong – my husband and I are fortunate enough to have plenty of time with our family both working from home and being present every day, but let’s be honest. Quality time is not found around the bar over frozen waffles, tired eyes, and taking requests such as “My strawberries are only cut in half. I’d like them cut in quarters,” or “Carter STOP TALKING TO ME before my eyes are awake!” and “Can I bring toys to school today?”

So, in an effort to make sure we are getting at least a little quality time with the kids during the week, we’ve been implementing a few new things into our routine, and the kids are loving it. Quality time with your family isn’t going to happen every moment of the day. It’s not even going to happen every day if you have kids, sports, homework, and the like. But, there are ways you can make sure you’re family is still a priority even when you’re all focused on other things.

*Just being there with your family on a daily basis is amazing. Your kids are going to grow up remembering that their parents were there to help with homework, that they were there to take them to the movies on the weekends, that they were there to play cards or board games or play outside or go get ice cream. It’s truly the little things that make the biggest difference.

Family Dinner

Weeknights are difficult in our house. Two nights a week, we are at cheer practice, and three of us miss dinner with the other three. One night a week, we have dinner with our best friends and their kids, which is such an amazing time for all, but it’s not like the kids want anything to do with the adults on those nights. They shovel their food in their mouths, pause for dessert, and quickly jump back in the pool or head outside to play. Dance parties are also big.

Monday night is our only at-home night during the week where no one has any activities, so we make it a family dinner night. We cook together; kids included. We sit down in the formal dining room together. We eat together. The kids tell us about their days, they ask us about our days, and we’ve found that we linger for a while after everyone’s plates are cleared. After dinner, we take a family walk around our neighborhood (every child gets to take turns choosing the route we take….walk by the Loud House this night. By the Fish Mailbox one night. By the Rooster mailbox another night…).

Our kids live for Monday nights right now, and we are loving every second of it. No electronics on Monday nights. Just good old-fashioned family fun, and we all need that. And, if life is running busy for you, don’t discount those nights you sit around a table in a restaurant with your family on the go. That counts. A dinner table is a dinner table if you’re all focused on one another.

Family Movie Night

There is nothing we love more than a family movie night. Ideally, it’s on a rainy evening where we want to curl up and watch movies from the couch. The kids love family movie night. We try to do it as often as possible on Friday nights, but it’s not always a weekly occurrence. However, when we do have a free Friday evening, that’s the plan. We take the kids to dinner somewhere (usually somewhere with really good pizza, plain pasta, and wine) and then we come home, take showers and baths, put on our favorite pajamas, and curl up. The kids love old-school comedies like “Beethoven” and “Cheaper by the Dozen,” which makes it more fun for us as adults, too. It’s simple, but it’s so effective.

The kids get to pick their treat for the night (ice cream, cookies, whatever) and popcorn, and they look forward to it almost as much as we do. They think they’re just having fun, but they have no idea they’re actually making memories. One day, though, we know they’ll look back and say to their own spouse, “I want to do family movie night like our parents did for us when we were kids.”

Game Night

Not my favorite way to spend quality time as a family, but the kids love it. We are all competitive, and some of us (Carter and Ava) are learning how not to be sore losers. Family game night takes some serious patience, but it’s fun. Cards. Board games. Trampoline games. Whatever they want to do. Our favorite, though, is the basketball game we bought and put on the lanai. I’m sure it has a real name, but I don’t know it. I’ll link it here for you, though. The kids love it, and we have so much fun with it. Our friends have fun with it. Our families have fun with it. It’s all the things, and it’s good.

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A Bonus…

I don’t want to discount quality time spent without the entire family. My husband and I are both home all day since we both work from home, so we don’t miss anything in their lives. Our kids will always remember us being here for them even when our time wasn’t necessarily spent with them. They’ll always remember having two parents home together for dinner and to help them with their homework, and to run errands, and to do the everyday things that must get done.

But, we need our alone time, which is where date nights are the best. Lunch dates are also great. Even grocery shopping dates are so much fun when the kids are not present. Additionally, one-on-one time with the kids is also amazing. We try to schedule time as often as we can to spend quality time with just the big girls while the twins are with the grandparents and vice versa. Those are things they also remember, because they’re getting more individual time with us where they can talk and no one interrupts us or distracts them. It’s really, really important to spend time with your kids on an individual basis.

Trust me. When our kids are grown, they’re going to remember the family movie nights. The dinners around the table talking about our days. The fact that mommy and daddy were at all their games, competitions, school events, etc. They’re already past caring about the trips to Disney and the vacations and the toys and the stuff they have. It’s those little moments that fill their buckets with love, attention, and the knowledge that they are loved by people who think they’re cool and want to spend time listening to them.

As a very wise man once said, “At the end of the day, all you have is family,” and he’s not wrong.

Wednesday Wisdom: Tips to Adjusting Your Schedule When the Kids Go Back to School

Happy Wednesday, loves!

It’s the first full week of school for all four of our littles, which means it’s the first full week of back-to-normal for my husband and me. Our situation is a little different than most considering our normal everyday commute to work is a staggering 12 feet into our office out of our master bedroom. I’ve been working for myself, from home, for 11 years now. My sweet husband has been working solely from home for just over three years.

It’s a lot more common these days for people to work from home than it was in the past. When I was growing up, there was no ‘work from home’ job available unless you chose network marketing (which is a total dream for some people, but it’s not for me). Instead, I chose the route of starting my own business writing. I started small, built an impressive client list, and I’ve grown tremendously over the years. I’m proud of my company and the work I put into it, but let’s face it; building and running a business from the ground up means you don’t get a day off. You don’t have sick time, and you don’t get vacation time.

It also means it’s struggle bus time when the kids are home for summer vacation. The constant interruptions, the noise, the change of pace; it’s a lot. Especially for my sweet husband. He’s just not accustomed to it, even after three years. He didn’t start working from home with little kids around to need his time and attention first and foremost, like I did. He began working from home long after we had four kids, and he went from the office setting where he wasn’t interrupted all day to a home office setting where I struggle to keep the kids from interrupting him all day.

If I may say so myself, I do a damn good job. But, it does require a lot more flexibility for me during the summer. Whereas before my husband and I shared a home office, I didn’t mind the noise or the interruptions so much. I’m not often on the phone, so I’m not bothered. However, my husband is on the phone a lot and that means I find myself jumping up from my desk mid-sentence to hush kids having a fight upstairs, across the house, down the hall, outside, on Mars…(they’re very noisy sometimes).

Back to school means back to a normal routine for us, though this year is a lot different for us. We now have three elementary school kids and one middle school child, and that means two different start times and end times. He’s now leaving early to take our middle schooler to school to drop her off, coming home and going to work. I’m trying to work while he’s gone and the little kids are eating, and then it’s time to get them ready and take them to school.

But, I’m having to leave our house an hour and a half earlier than usual to get our 6th grader from school, run home, drop her off, figure out what to do with a grand total of 20 minutes, and then go get our little ones from school. Add to that the fact that I volunteered to coach our youngest and oldest daughter’s cheer squads this year means two times a week we literally fly to cheer practice right after school where I spend 3 hours coaching, and we are hectic.

Any moment of free time I ever had before is now a thing of the past, and that means we are adjusting. Fortunately, we are good at that. I know so many people have a difficult time adapting to change – I’m one of them – so I’m going to share the key points I use in my life to stay on track, on my A-game, and focused when I’m anything but ready to make a change.

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Create A Power List

I read this term somewhere a long time ago, and it stuck. It’s better than a to-do list. It’s like a list of things you need to get done to actually accomplish your day, and everything else on your list is less important, but still doable. My power list always includes three items I must do before I take the kids to school in the morning or else my day will not flow.

  • Write 6,000 words
  • Edit one major article
  • Update to-do list

Each of these things, when done prior to leaving for school drop off in the mornings, sets the tone for the rest of my day. They are a big chunk of what I need to get done, and they are what need attention first. Anything after that is slightly less important, but still important.

Workout

If there is one thing I cannot give up, even when I’m struggling to find time, it’s my workout. I might modify it to fit the day, but I will not give it up. First of all, I’m not one for shortcuts to good health. I’m not taking diet pills or making myself crazy on some sort of fad diet we all know won’t be effective if you ever stop doing it, and I’m not going to put my body or my health in danger. And, well, I like to look good. I don’t give up a workout. It helps give me energy, it puts me in a good mood, it centers me.

Change it Up

Adapting to a change in your routine or schedule is not always easy or welcome, but it’s necessary for personal growth. I like to change it up a bit at first. What works best? Does this work best? Am I more productive this way or that way? If something isn’t working seamlessly, I’ll change it up.

Reward Yourself

Making it through a season of change is never a simple task, so you deserve a reward. My reward is lazy Fridays. I work hard all way to ensure I don’t *have* to work on Fridays, so I always get a three-day weekend. Of course, I almost always work on Fridays (and off and on throughout the weekend because #proudworkaholic) but I still like that luxury in my life. Sometimes, I still work, but I work on my book. I might bang out 15,000 words on a Friday to get some headway. I might do things around the house I’ve been thinking about (throwing old toys away? Sign me UP!). I might schedule coffee or lunch with one of my friends, or I might workout even longer than usual just for fun. Who knows?

Bid Adieu to What No Longer Serves You

We glorify busy, do we not? But busy sucks. I get that we are all busy because it’s impossible not to be with careers and kids and marriage and a house and travel and a social life, etc. I get it. I truly do, but being so busy you don’t have time to breathe or enjoy your life is not an ideal way to live. And, yes, I understand the irony of this from a woman who has no free weekends on her calendar until next summer. I get it; I do.

But, sometimes we get so busy doing things we don’t love. I love the things I’m doing, and that’s why my version of busy is okay with me. But, there are things in my life I’ve had to eliminate because they no longer serve me. The moment I no longer find joy or pleasure in anything I’m doing, I’m done. I have very little time, and I like to reserve my time for the things that mean the most to me, that involve spending time with amazing people I adore, and that bring me happiness and fulfillment. So, here’s what you do when you find you have something going on that no longer serves you – get rid of it. Say goodbye. Take it off the calendar, and enjoy that newfound free time or replace it with something that brings a smile to your face.

Shut Off Distractions

Distractions are the number one killer of all things productive. Get rid of them. I set my email to update only once per hour so I’m not inundated with alerts all day. I put my social media icons on the second page of my phone so I don’t see notifications throughout the day unless I have time to purposefully look. I turn my do not disturb on my phone, so I only get messages when I want to get them. We make sure we go to bed with a spotless house so that we get up to one. No laundry or dishes or mess to distract us during the day. When nothing distracts you, it’s easier to make sure you’re more productive.

Do you have to re-adjust your schedule when the kids go back to school? How do you find time to do all the things you need to get done in a day?