In my second blog entry after winning this contest, I confessed to being “fearful about the whole ‘life coach’ thing,”specifically the prize of “six life coach consultations via phone.” It turns out, the life coach was really a gift.
Here are some highlights from my five life coach consultations thus far:
Your life is like a purse. Lauree Ostrofsky, my life coach and founder of Simply Leap, began our series of sessions explaining what a life coach does. Imagine your life is like a purse, she said. A life coach is someone you can take your purse to and just dump it out – someone you can “let in” on all your crazy madness. For me that includes a jumble of business and appointment cards, balled up tissues, a finger splint I no longer need, an expired watch battery, coach’s whistle, pediatrician’s pamphlet on “Puberty in Boys,” and a battered “emergency tampon” that I would never actually allow anywhere near my body.
What a good life coach does, Lauree explained, is help you make sense of all that madness – helping you decide what you don’t need, organizing what do you need, and figuring out what else ought to be in there. After dumping out “my purse,” we quickly agreed that she could be of greatest assistance in time management and household organization.
Start small. Lauree had me start small, managing one day at a time. We pondered the things I had to do each day (freelance writing work, household chores, feeding people), the things I failed to do each day (household chores, remembering my daughter’s weekly violin lesson, working late into the night on work I should have completed during the day) and the ways I wasted time each day (Facebook). Together we came up with two simple solutions: First, I would create a highly visible, daily to-do list. Second, I would reward myself with time-wasting activities only after completing mandatory activities.
By the end of that day, I’d purchased a five-dollar 8” x 10” frame from Target. Behind the glass, I inserted a piece of paper that said “What I’m doing today.” A series of lines invited a daily list, written in dry-erase marker, of things I felt I could reasonably accomplish during the day. At intervals of completion, I rewarded myself with a little time-wasting indulgence. For me, an insanely social person who works in solitude from home, that meant the validation festival that is Facebook. And… it worked. I began churning out work and remembering to do stuff. I started going to bed earlier too.
Get bigger. In subsequent calls, we moved from days to weeks. Wouldn’t it be nice, I said, to assign specific days for my weekly tasks? So began the conversation that resulted in my weekly fridge calendar.
Lauree asked great questions:
- What do you need to do each week?
- Is there anything you do that you don’t need to? Can you drop something?
- Is there anything else you should be doing?
- Who can help you get these jobs done? (“Oh my gosh, that’s right! My kids can do some of this stuff! That would actually be good for them!”)
- What would be a good day of the week to do that?
- How can you get everyone on board with this program?
- What tools do you need? How can you make these jobs easier?
The result? A weekly calendar I created in Word. It has five rows (one for every member of the family) and seven columns (one for every day of the week). Each box in the 5 x 7 grid has a small checklist. For example:
- my son’s Monday says “feed dog, make bed, empty dishwasher, homework,”
- my daughter’s checklist includes “violin practice” nearly every day,
- each Sunday, two of my kids split cleaning the upstairs “kid bathroom,” while the other one does the downstairs half bath (we even supplied little rubber gloves for everyone), and
- my Thursday cleverly includes doing my “delicate laundry” since it makes sense for me to wash work clothes immediately after a regularly scheduled Wednesday client meeting.
Weekly vacuuming is life changing. Without question, the two most life-changing days on my calendar are Monday (“vacuum upstairs”) and Friday (“vacuum downstairs”… in anticipation of Friday’s fun “have friends over”). Gosh. What a difference weekly vacuuming makes. You can’t really vacuum your house without pretty much cleaning up the whole house. Vacuuming weekly means nothing ever gets crazy messy.
Making a weekly calendar with Lauree’s help and prompts was actually fun. (“Hey! If I’m vacuuming the “downstairs” every Friday, that means every Thursday night, the kids should clear the whole first floor of their stuff! I’ll put that on their lists!”)
I printed out a pile of the weekly calendars and put a new one on the fridge every Sunday.
Bribes work. The incentive for my kids to complete their daily checklist is simple. They love watching “Fetch” on PBS. If their checklist from the previous day is complete, they get to watch it. If their list isn’t complete, you can be sure they are using their lost television time to earn “Fetch” on the following day.
The benefits of a life coach. Had I not “won” a life coach, I probably would have been the last person to hire one. I’ve got a pretty decent life (great family, friends, career) and, like a lot of women, I hate asking for or admitting I could use help, much less paying for it.
Yet working with Lauree has had clear benefits. It forced me to make time to think about my goals and things in my life that need improving. It gave me a framework to think about my problems – a framework that I’ve since used to help my own friends with their problems. It’s made me realize the value of having a thinking partner and someone to hold me accountable as I seek change. It’s also made me realize that I am the best-qualified person to solve my own dilemmas and that the solutions to my problems are often very simple, if I just take the time to examine and ponder them.
Today my house is cleaner, I’m getting more done, my kids are gaining responsibility, I’m working fewer nights, and I’m dropping fewer balls. I still have no idea how much a life coach costs. (I do know Lauree usually advises clients to purchase a minimum of nine calls.) But I will say that, despite my apprehensive early blog entries, I’m more than happy to pay prize-winner taxes on Lauree Ostrofsky. I’m grateful for her every afternoon when I open the dishwasher and smile when I see that my son has faithfully emptied it before leaving for school. And I’ll be sad when we conclude our final call.
DAYS KAYAKED: 13 (no change; it’s winter)
GUEST KAYAKERS: 4