Category Archives: Productivity

Simplifying Dinner

I just finished reading the book Simplicity Parenting, and thought it was great. The title, “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids” is pretty self explanatory, and it’s full of great information.


One thing we were already doing, but not to the extent in the book, was simplifying dinner. We have the same basic meals over and over again. It does get a little boring sometimes, but it was the only way we wouldn’t deal with random “ew, I’m not eating that” nights (even though we still get that with our usual rotation). I figured out a basic schedule that we did, spaghetti once a week, pizza once every two weeks, tacos/enchiladas/something Mexican once a week, etc. It made it simpler for grocery shopping, and it was full of no conflict meals. (I already tried the usual tips, have kids help cook dinner, pick out colorful veggies, etc.)


After reading the book, I wanted to simplify it even more. Stirfry night was sometimes an issue, and for some reason quesadillas, despite having the same ingredients as the tacos, were usually a problem. So my new schedule had even less options.

Each week we have the same things, but can have a different variation, for example, Sunday night we had portobello soup, and next week maybe we’ll have vegetable, etc. Taco night might be tacos, enchiladas, or taco salad, etc. Spaghetti night might have pesto sauce or different kinds of noodles. Pizza night could also be a calzone or pizza braid. Veggie subs might have a different variation of veggies/sauces.


This way, it still leaves options for the spur of the moment breakfast for dinner, or pot pie, or stuffed peppers, or the amazing Corn Dog Muffins that we had the other night. All things that we eat semi-regularly, but now it’s even simpler…”what are we having for dinner? Oh, it’s Taco Tuesday”.

In theory, it should be shopping even simpler. I’m hoping because I seem to run to the store just about every day for *something*.

There’s a lot of good information in the book, even without regards to parenting. I think simplifying and minimizing is always a good thing. Next up is donating all the old clothes and toys!

(*Chicken patties are “chickn”, and grilled cheeses are made with Daiya.)

How do you plan out your meals? Do you like to keep things simple?

Becoming an Early Riser — Week One Recap

Last week, I started creating the habit of becoming an early riser, specifically getting up at 5am. I have to admit I’m so jealous of the people who told me that they have no problems getting up, or that they simply cannot sleep past 5. Wow, I’m really hoping I catch on to that. So far I’d say my success rate is about 50%. With only 1 day being 5am on the dot, but the others being 5:30 or 6.


  • I feel so much more productive and just better in general when I get up early. It’s like sleeping in late sets me up for being lazy all day.
  • The earlier I get up, the more excited I am about it. Getting up at 6 when the sun is coming up isn’t as cool as getting up at 5 when it’s dark.
  • I love having quiet alone time. I used to get this at night, but if I do it in the morning I set the rest of the day up for success.
  • I’ve been able to fall asleep at night easier for the most part, but I have more energy during the day overall. Friday night we lost electricity until about midnight and I couldn’t sleep, so I caught up on the first half of Spies of Warsaw on my laptop. Then Saturday morning I was up before everyone at 6, and I thought I would regret it during the day, but I felt pretty good.
  • I’ve found that if I make it absolute, and say to myself, “This can either be an awesome day where you totally kick butt, or a lazy day that you waste your life away”, and make things black and white about getting up, it’s easier to get up even if I don’t feel like it. I’ve kind of boiled it down to making the right or wrong decision, and this morning (at 6) I decided I wanted to make the right decision (although late) and got out of bed.
  • I’ve been using Alarm Clock Xtreme on my phone. I just it pretty much like the standard alarm app, but I like that you can set the music to go off and gradually get louder. I have it set to increase to 100% over 5 minutes, even though it usually only takes a couple of seconds to notice it. 



  • Twice I woke up between 4-4:30 and was wide awake, but went back to bed “til 5”, which turned to to be closer to 6. Not a huge failure, but I should’ve just gotten out of bed when I woke up.
  • I like to get up and brush my teeth, and get dressed first thing in the morning before doing anything else, but I’ve been putting it off til later so I won’t wake anyone else. Not a huge deal, but my mouth feels pretty gross for a while.


Even though I haven’t been completely successful, due to my own lack of will power, I will keep trying. I don’t see me changing my mind about this being a great decision, so hopefully I’ll train myself and then stick to it.

I love having uninterrupted time in the morning, and I feel like I want to get as much done as possible. So far, my routine has been to put the kettle on for tea, and do a quick and quiet workout. I’d love to be able to do 45-60 minutes so I invited Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels to be my at home trainers for a bit. Thank you public library for having these available! I watched through some of Jillian’s last night (we’re already on a first name basis) and it looks pretty good. I think I might run through the dvds and when I return them write down a list of the exercises. Now that I have them, I’m questioning about playing them in the morning because I want to be super quiet, I also want to keep the jumping down to a minimum, so we’ll see how it goes.


What is your morning routine? Any tips to make mornings easier?


An Experiment in How to Become an Early Riser

I’ve always been a night person, and have had the worst sleeping habits. Until this past year, I’ve needed a tv to fall asleep. My mind would run and run, usually about the least important things, and in turn that would keep me up later than I should be. Of course, I always feel more awake at night no matter what, not to mention more focused and creative. At the same time, I’ve always liked being up early and getting things done. I feel the same creativity at 5am as I do at 2am, I just thought it was an extension of being up late.

Ever since junior high, I would switch my days and nights over the summer and I loved 5am. In college I discovered, and experimented with polyphasic sleeping (sleeping about 2 hours total, in 20 minute increments through out the day). It was definitely interesting. It’s really rough to get adjusted to, but then it did work. It was high maintenance in the sense that you had to nap on schedule, otherwise your body would pretty much flip out on you, and with work, it was hard to stick to a strict schedule. There’s a number of alternative sleep schedules. The Everyman (sleeping a core of 2-4 hours, with naps throughout the day) was pretty standard for me, because you could be more flexible. And then every once in a while I would crash for 12 hours or so.

Right after college when I was working full time, all the time (break-less summers became so depressing), I would get shifted. Being awake 7am-5pm, passing out right after work until 10pm, and then being awake until 2 or 3 in the morning. This gave me the night time that I enjoyed, plus I could grocery shop, go to the gym, etc, in the middle of the night when it was less crowded. The downside was that sometimes I could barely keep my eyes open at work, and I never wanted to do anything after.

The laundromat was open from 6am-midnight, so I would make it a point to be there around 6:15am on the weekends and I absolutely loved it. It was the least crowded time, I would grab a breakfast sandwich, a coffee, and do some couponing while I waited. I always felt way more productive for the rest of the day, plus I didn’t feel like I was going to get mugged, like I did when I was there until midnight.

Fast forward to now. For about the past two years, I’ve had a pretty standard sleep schedule, getting up whenever the sun wakes me up, bed around 11-12 at night. Most nights my mind still runs, but I’ve been working on meditating and focusing on breathing to help go to sleep.

I have a subscription to Harper’s Bazaar (don’t judge me, it was free), and the only thing I really read (it’s like 95% ads anyway) is the celebrity’s daily schedules. They’re usually pretty unrealistic for me, since celebrities never seem to grocery shop/do laundry/cook/plan meals, but it’s always interesting to see how successful people start their day. Whether I’m a night owl or not, I cannot deny the fact that that getting started earlier seems to lead to getting more done in general.

And that is the reason for this experiment: getting more things done, and being more successful. I have decided to resign myself to the dreaded schedule of getting up at 5am everyday. I just feel I need more time in the day to get things done, and more motivation to get them done faster.

The Plan

For the next 30 days (actually 27 because I’m already 3 days in), I plan on attempting to get up at 5am. I’ve set an alarm on my phone to start going off at 5 and gradually get louder, in an effort not to wake me in the middle of REM sleep (waking up in the middle of a dream is the worst feeling EVER). I plan on getting out of bed ASAP, no snoozing, or laying around thinking about things. Then onto making a pot of tea, a workout, and then getting some work out of the way.

Daytime naps are okay.

I’ve been working from home now for the past year, including when we went to the OBX. I can’t tell you how good it felt to sit down and get a couple hours worth of work done before anyone else was even in the office. Plus that frees up the rest of the day that I don’t have to worry about falling behind.

So Far

Well, day 1 went a little something like this: I woke up and it was still dark. I was SO excited that I woke up on my own and was wide awake. I usually wake up on my own at 5am, but I don’t have to get up…so I don’t. But today was different..woo hoo. I looked at the clock and it was only 2am. Darnit. Back to sleep. Woke up again and it was dark again. This time it was 4am. I could’ve gotten up but decided to sleep the extra hour. 5am my alarm goes off… “I’ll just snooze for 10 minutes….okay 10 more minutes…okay 5:30 I’ll get up…6 is still better than nothing…crap it’s 9.” Yep, overslept by 4 hours. Epic failure.

Day 2: 5am the alarm goes off and I’m awake and ready to go. I really have to pee, but I don’t want to wake the Mr. I’ll just lay here for a couple of minutes and then get up. No need to set the snooze button or anything….CRAP it’s 7:30. Check email/tweets in bed until 8. Get up. Another failure, but not quite as epic.

Day 3: This morning the alarm went off and I stretched my arms out, took a deep breath, and GOT UP. I went downstairs, turned my computer on, started boiling water for tea, did a quick mini workout (55 push ups, 55 mountain climbers, 20 toe touch bicycles), got my cup of tea, and started writing this at 5:15. It’s now 6, and in a few minutes, I’m going to put on a pot of coffee for the dude, and possibly whip up some protein shakes, and then start work. Success!


I’m planning to continue this way for the next 3o days. We will be moving into our new house in about a month, so hopefully it’ll give me time to get more move-related things done, and not fall behind with work. Ideally, I’d like to get a good 30 minute workout in, but this AM I wanted to get this post written. Hopefully, I’ll have more free time in the day time so I can enjoy the precious little gem below during the day for the next 4 weeks (without feeling guilty that I’m not working).


Pool in our development that I’ve NEVER GONE TO UNTIL YESTERDAY


I’ve been a reader of Steve Pavlina for a long time (I first found him because of his polyphasic sleeping experiment). I’ve been using these articles as motivation and a good how to for the next 30 days: How to Become an Early RiserHow to Become an Early Riser – Part II, and How to Get Up Right Away When Your Alarm Goes Off.

What does your morning schedule look like? Do you enjoy getting up in the morning, or do you dread the sound of your alarm?