I was diagnosed with breast cancer on February 5, 2014. My oncologist told me after reviewing a blood report and CT scan that the cancer status was N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease) on February 5, 2016. That’s exactly 2 years post diagnosis-- How amazing is that? It felt incredible hearing the great news. And it also felt strange.
For so long, I had been thinking about my health; which supplements to buy, which type of treatment to try next, cultivating a daily practice of deep breathing, experimenting with different diets, going to medical appointments, corresponding with insurance companies and managing life on a very limited budget. I was coming from a place of survival. For 2 years, my purpose had been to stay alive, so now what?
Even though my cancer status was No Evidence of Disease, my energy wasn’t stable. I would have gone grocery shopping earlier in the day, planned out the meal and mise en place (planning and organizing the steps for cooking) in my mind, then it would hit me. My energy would just tank and I’d feel exhausted for hours. I would lie in bed, not able to sleep, too tired to read or even watch TV. I was literally doing nothing. (Looking back, that time was ideal for meditation, gratitude lists and daydreaming.)
In 2016, my new focus was to gain my strength back. Because I could run out of steam at random times, I set out to handle time and space in a more efficient way. I started new habits and worked on being consistent about it. After adopting each habit in my life, I don’t see how I would ever do without each of them.
1. Eat the big frogs at 8am, then everything else at 2pm:
In Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy, I learned it is smarter to do your big, important, most challenging tasks first. You’ll probably have more energy to do it at the start of the day, unless you’re a night owl. After my morning self-care routine, I would work on the “frog” for the day, typically around 8AM – 11AM. After you figure out when your peak is, schedule your frog at that time, then work everything else around it.
The afternoon, 2pm-4pm is used for things that don’t need high focus or energy. This time slot is used for things like phone calls to catch up with people, usually on a walk; ordering supplements, searching for new books to read, making salad dressing or dessert for dinner that night and reading online articles.
2. Walk & talk.
Since moving from Orange County to Los Angeles, I don’t get to see my family or friends as often. I started to make phone calls to catch up with loved ones during walks. It’s a win all around because I get to catch up with people, I get exercise and time goes by much quicker even though I end up walking for longer than I normally would.
3. Make exercise have a purpose
I searched for ways to take walks regularly; about 3-4 times a week. Finding someone who was free to chat didn’t always work out. I learned to appreciate my neighborhood even more and started doing errands by walking to the local library, post office, dry cleaners and tennis store.
4. When it wasn’t convenient to walk & talk or run errands, I would just take a walk in silence--no music, no calls and no affirmation tracks. I could put all of my attention to the trees and flowers in the neighborhood and began to really notice different kinds of plants, shapes of leaves, colors and hues and landscapes.
I realized that these walks did have variety. There was a unique feel depending on the time of day, amount of daylight, whether it was overcast or clear, dewy or dry, rainy or sunny, very bright or dark enough to cast shadows.
Even walking on the same street is a new experience going a different direction, on the opposite of the street; I’m able to see things from a different view.
5. Tickler File. David Allen book Getting Things Done explains using a tickler file to keep organized. You can save reminders and notes for a later date when you need it like wedding invites and concert tickets. Here’s a helpful YouTube video by office arrow, How to Create and Use the 43 Folders System: https://youtu.be/YG0FU_M_YB8?t=46
6. Konmari method. One of the many ways Marie Kondo suggests to tidy and organize is by color. She sorts clothing by color from dark to light. I figured why not apply this idea to other things?
After thinning out my book collection, I organized them by color. It sounds strange since libraries organize their books by topic or author, but after getting rid of books I didn’t want or need, I had just one row—about 40 books. The books that remain are ones I love and would re-read and I’m familiar with the color scheme. I divided the books into 2 main categories: non-fiction on the left and fiction on the right. Within the non-fiction section, I sorted them by rainbow color and did the same with the fiction.
I organize refrigerated foods by color as well. The produce drawer is divided in 2, with anything green on the right (avocado, leafy greens, broccoli) and everything else goes on the left (bell peppers, carrots, beets).
7. Choose an outfit and make it a uniform for 2 or 3 days. I don’t sweat much and unless my clothes get dirty or I’m going to see the same people during those days, I would switch to another outfit that’s also practical and comfortable. It’s one less thing to think about and I’ve already done the work of choosing the pieces once.
For new pieces I buy, I look to see if there are pockets, sleeves I can roll up or are slightly cropped, easy to put on and off and I consider tops that I can braless a big plus.