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Time Flies — Here’s How to Make the Most of It

Time Flies -- Here's How to Make the Most of It

Sometimes, it seems all we have to do is blink and a whole month has passed. This feeling is especially strong when we turn the calendar to August, and the countdown to fall begins. Back-to-school sales and pumpkin spice lattes complement the earlier sunsets to make us feel like yet another summer has passed us by without notice.

I’ve been feeling it lately, no doubt. The thought that’s consistently finding its way into my mind is this: “So little time, so much to do.”

It can be said of my work. Of my painting. And of my play.

But I’m also a firm believer in the idea that thoughts become things — and this is one thought I’m not willing to let become reality.

The intersection of structure and flexibility

In order to get everything done, I need a schedule. But…I also need to be able to live in the spur of the moment.

Possible? Yes. Easy? No.

One of the big keys to my flexible structure is setting up a weekly agenda, including all of the projects I have to do, appointments I need to keep, painting time, and time for fun. I carve out a few hours for most tasks or events.

Seeing it all laid out eliminates my overwhelm at housing it all in my head, and also serves as the first red flag if there’s more than I can possibly do in the time I’ve given myself.

The truth is that you can’t always predict what might come up — and it’s often the “quick” tasks that end up taking longer than I anticipate. Don’t book up every minute. The calendar will fluctuate. It’s that flexibility that allows for spontaneity.

And when there’s just too much to do? That’s when prioritization takes center stage.

The power of prioritization

Let me start with a quick story here. A few weeks ago, my lavender bushes were in full bloom. I quickly ran out and picked one bunch, put them in a vase to let them dry, and told myself I’d go out later to pick the rest.

Well, I sat back down at my desk to get back to work, and work led to the next thing, which led to the next thing. I’m sure you can see how this ends: I never picked the rest, and now I’ve missed their prime.

Had I prioritized my to-do list that day and in the days that followed, I would’ve realized that picking the lavender for a few hours was more pressing than laying out design concepts for an October project.

We often talk about productivity when it comes to work, but many of the same problems and principles apply equally to our work, our passions, and our play. (Some of us are lucky in that in many ways, those three things overlap daily.)

So when it comes to some of my summer play goals that I have yet to make good on — like taking a Learn to Ride wakeboarding class at Roseland Wake Park — or my summer work goals — finishing the winter brochure for Bristol Mountain — I know that I have to pull in the power of prioritization.

The questions I ask myself at this stage are:

  • What’s important to me?
  • What can wait?

When I stop thinking that everything needs to be done yesterday, it becomes incredibly apparent how much room we have where we think we don’t. Picking the lavender on that July afternoon couldn’t wait — timing was everything — but working on the project I have three months to complete could.

(It’s often in prioritization mode that I’m also able to realize what’s not important and what I might be able to cut entirely. Remember this: By saying no to one thing, you’re saying yes to something else.)

Like a good calendar, priorities will shift. Your time is a direct reflection of your priorities — are you spending it in a way that shows your priorities off how you’d like?

Set your intentions + let the universe assist you

It’s much easier to prioritize when you’ve first set your intention(s). At an annual retreat earlier this month, my friends and I each began the weekend trip with an intention. That intention guided everything we did in our short time there, so we could each walk away fulfilled.

Setting an intention is like building a lighthouse. You can see it; sometimes you can feel it — but you know it might take some time to get to. And that’s okay.

I often try to force certain things — a design project, for example. But when I set an intention, prioritize, and give it to the time it needs, I find the universe kicks in to lend a hand.

Suddenly, I have materials, ideas, and time at my disposal that I didn’t have before, and projects, events, or even time off becomes less cumbersome, awkward, and stressful — and whatever I’m up to often ends up better than I could’ve imagined.

Write out your list. Name your intention(s). Prioritize. And most important: Drop your concern over what other people’s expectations of you are. It’s the only way you can truly align your time with your priorities.

We Can Change the World (Yes, You and I)

We Can Change the World (Yes, You and I)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

The above is a quote we’ve all heard. It’s a quote we’ve all, at one point or another, most likely been inspired by. But most of all, it’s a quote that only a few in this world really take to heart and act upon.

Let me back up.

A few months ago, I was out for my morning walk with Banks when I ran into a neighbor who was also out with his pups. As always in our friendly Finger Lakes neighborhood, we stopped to chat. What ensued was an engaging conversation with a very low-key, humble guy. This is notable, considering what he does: He’s an award-winning, worldwide director who produces documentaries like A Closer Walk (on the global AIDS epidemic, 2003), Not My Life (on human trafficking and modern slavery, 2011), and more, and he was just gearing up for another trip to Europe for work.

When I got back to my house, I watched some of his clips. I was astounded. I purchased and dove into the full Not My Life documentary, and could feel my heart clenching. How could human trafficking and slavery be so rampant not just abroad, but right here at home in the US — and how could I not know?

Becoming aware of the world around us

The director I met that day is Robert Bilheimer. He produces his documentaries around the world in order to create awareness of issues that matter to him. Not My Life is a roundup of several stories — stories of women and children in countries like Ghana, Sudan, India, Guatemala, the US, and more — who are modern-day slaves in one way or another. He’s rounded up incredible support to create important pieces of work, and in this words, he’s changing the way the world is, one story at a time.

As my heart stayed tight that day after watching Not My Life, I couldn’t stop thinking — thinking about the issues we face in this world (those that we know about, and don’t), but more importantly, about how easy it is to think that we can’t make a difference.

After all, you are only one person. I am only one person. I am only an artist. I am only a mother. I am only a business owner.

But here’s the thing: Robert Bilheimer is “only” one guy, living in a small town in New York’s Finger Lakes.

You have the opportunity to change the world (yes, you)

For you, it might be education. Or clean water. Or animal rights. Or the environment. Or cancer. Or homelessness.

Consider the cause that speaks to you the most, and go after finding a way to make change. It doesn’t have to be money — there are so many ways to give. Your time; your skills; your presence.

We’ll all make connections with people at certain times in our lives and though we may not know it in the moment, there’s a higher reason for it. I didn’t meet Robert on his morning walk that day for nothing. It’s all about being aware. Aware of the world. And aware of the opportunity.

Start today

The first step is allowing yourself to be aware. The second is putting yourself out there. The third is believing that you can make change.

There’s no shortage of causes to care for in this world. But don’t let that overwhelm you, as I have before.

After all, I am one woman, living on a dirt road in a small town in New York’s Finger Lakes, who is finding out how much impact we can all have. Our digital world is an ever-shrinking place, where social media and email make it possible to extend our reach beyond any geographical borders.

Where will you start? What will you change?

PS — A great place to start: Join me in supporting Robert’s work.

Creative Inspiration: Just Be.

creative inspiration in morning walks

I took the leap to become my own boss in my graphic design business 16 years ago, yet it was only in the past year that I became even more daring, listened to my heart, and moved out of the office space I rented and into the coziness of my own home workspace.

With this came a lot of change: I no longer had the parameters of “going to the office” to set my pace in the morning. I no longer had the presence of other building tenants keeping me alert throughout the day. I no longer had the routine I had followed for those 15 years.

Like with any great change though, I knew this was an opportunity to grow. To appreciate my commute from upstairs to down. And to bask in the bliss that is being an entrepreneur who lives in an absolutely spectacular place.

Bloomfield bliss

I am fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth – a small town called Bloomfield in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. It’s the perfect place to draw inspiration for both graphic design and painting, where beauty is always in abundance throughout the four distinct, changing seasons.

So naturally, it didn’t take long before I found my absolute favorite routine to get my day going: a morning walk most often accompanied by my officemate and mascot, Banks. Together, we take in the fresh air — some days in shorts and sandals; others in ear muffs and boots. (Okay, that’s just me. He usually goes out in the same way each day.)

On these 2.5 mile jaunts around the wooded “block” that surrounds my home (which is pleasantly located on a secluded dirt road), we are blessed to see, smell, feel, and enjoy so much. It’s during these walks that I have the freedom to just be. To enter the perfect state of flow. To set my intentions for the day and focus on being present.

To say my morning walks inspire me would be an understatement. They do so much more: they take me to a quiet place of presence where I am able to observe. I see details, colors, and textures that would sadly be easy to overlook otherwise. More than once, a great idea or creative design solution will present itself to me as I allow myself to be in this state.

Meanwhile, Banks takes pleasure in his own way, stopping to smell at any given point. In fact, his stops are what often allow me to notice the bittersweet changing of the leaves, an interesting bird, or an intriguing texture in a tree.

Magical. It’s the perfect word to describe seeing the Earth change: the streams full in the spring; iced in the winter; dry in the fall.

Allow yourself to be.

Most of my working life, I didn’t allow myself this time to just be; to walk and really absorb the amazing beauty I’ve always been surrounded by. I rushed off to work. I was “busy.” I was always doing. Now, I can honestly say I’m being.

Taking in our surroundings and appreciating the small things is truly a gift. My creative work is better for it; I am better for it.

What do you work into your routine to allow yourself to just be? Let’s inspire each other in the comments below!

PS – It just wouldn’t be fair to keep these moments of pure nature and inspiration to myself. That’s why I started Instagramming them to share the beauty that surrounds me with friends and followers near and far.

Banks        winter berries in Bloomfield        leaves in the Finger Lakes

Leaping into the New Year

Oh, holiday season… don’t these festive weeks always seem to fly by? Somehow, between the gatherings, the shopping, the decorating, and everything else that comes along with whatever you might be celebrating, the days and weeks pass more swiftly than normal.

1 Partridge in a Pear Tree

In the middle of the unavoidable overwhelm, I love taking a moment to pause. I know what you’re thinking — we barely have enough time as is… how can we pause? Let me clarify: moments of pause don’t mean you have to stand still. Your “pause” might be exercise, reading, grabbing coffee with a dear friend, or getting clever in the kitchen. Whatever it is, it’s important to remind yourself to take that pause — away from the stressors — whenever you feel the overwhelm setting in during this hectic season.

My moments of pause bring me back to the passion that grounds me — my painting. Each year now for the past decade, I’ve brought to life the “12 Days of Christmas” with a brush and paints. It all started with the infamous Partridge in a Pear Tree, continuing on through the Five Golden Rings, landing at this year’s 10 Lords a Leaping. Creating these paintings at

this time of year is the perfect pause for me to bring myself back to balance so I can truly enjoy the holidays.

I’m also particularly excited for this year’s because of two things:

1. Illustrating 10 Lords a Leaping is just plain fun.

2. The Lords aren’t the only ones taking a leap!

Leaping into the new year as a business owner

This time of year isn’t just hectic because of the holidays… these weeks are also stressful because they mean one very significant thing: another year is coming to a close.

It’s December 18th. We now have just 13 days until 2014 gracefully exits and 2015 bursts open.

5 Golden Rings

Don’t let these days burn you out; use them as inspiration. A final chance to make the most of 2014 before we begin with the renewal of a new year. I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:

1. Have I reached the goals I set out for myself in 2014?

Revisit those goals you set back in January, and throughout the year. What milestones did you celebrate? What did you release? What have you created? Celebrate the wins of all sizes. The goals that you didn’t reach — are they still priorities? Don’t deflate. If they’re still important to you, carry them over. If not, it’s okay to let them go.

2. If there was one thing, and one thing only, that I could accomplish with these last 13 days, what would it be?

Creating a mile-long to-do list for 13 of the busiest days of the year isn’t the best idea — and won’t leave you time for those much-needed pauses. But focusing on one task, project, or idea that you can reasonably implement during this time will help you end your year on the right note.

3. How has my business — and brand — grown over the year?

Your brand naturally evolves as your business ages and grows. What has changed? What has expanded? Is your branding showing up in more places, and is it everywhere it needs to be? Perhaps most importantly — has your business outgrown your brand? Is it still working for you?

4. What am I most looking forward to in 2015?

We must prepare accordingly if we’re going to leap. Where is your business going in 2015? What are you looking forward to creating for your followers? What does it look like? What does it feel like?

The key to supporting your leap

10 Lords a Leaping

Here’s my secret that’s not-so-secret: your brand is the key to supporting your leap. With a solid, true-to-your-business brand in place, the foundation is set for you to focus on creating for and delighting your customers over the next year. Your brand will support you in communicating, promoting, and selling your products and services. And the right brand will expand as you do.

As a holiday treat to you, I’d love to help you figure out if your brand is on track to support you throughout 2015. Book a complimentary Brand Clarity Call now, and we’ll get laser-focused on making sure your brand is working for you!

And please, remember to take time to pause throughout the upcoming weeks. Breathe during the overwhelm. Enjoy your time with family and friends.

Then, when the clock strikes midnight and we enter into 2015, enter in leaping!

Happy holidays! What are you most looking forward to in 2015?

12 Days of Christmas