Focus on the Day

Ten minutes. That’s all it takes to start your day with a clear vision of what you’d like to accomplish, and a plan to get it done. But it’s not always as easy as that.

Anyone who’s attempted to start a new daily routine knows that old habits are hard to break. Furthermore, it seems like even a small diversion from the routine, such as a vacation or similar change in schedule, can completely derail our regular daily rituals. But starting the day with a mindfulness of intentions can change your life.

But first the “why”. Why is there so much written about starting out the day “on the right foot”? Because it works! There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that morning meditation brings less stress, more energy, self-confidence, and a greater feeling of accomplishment. In part because it lets you take time to  focus on what’s important to you, and recognize your successes. This new daily habit is the key to working through your list of intended accomplishments described in my last post! This is the way to keep yourself motivated, and on track, throughout the year.

Here a some steps to begin focusing on your day.

  • It’s important to start your day with this process. Set your alarm 10 minutes earlier. Come on. You can do this!
  • Find a quiet place away from distractions where you can sit comfortably.
  • Start with mentally going through the accomplishments of your prior day. Give yourself credit for a job well-done. Likewise, give thought to how to get past any set-backs which may have occurred.
  • Think about the tasks for the day at-hand, and how they will help you achieve your goals.
  • Record your thoughts for review during the day. It really helps keep the motivation going.
  • That’s it! Just a little time for yourself to reflect on what’s important to you.

In several past articles, I’ve written about developing and using checklists and journals to create and review a game-plan for life. I’ve also written about creating new habits to help review and maintain goals. Last January, I recommended downloading a free copy of the Today’s Expectation journaling worksheet described in the article to help keep track of intentions and accomplishments. It’s available at this sites store at It is not secret that I truly believe that these habits are key to creating the home and lifestyle you desire.

Sometimes, however, we just don’t know where to begin.  And we surely don’t know what steps we may be missing in our quest to gain control over the chaos of daily life . Our soon to be released book gives readers a plan to follow. It walks through a series of steps with recommendations and explanations for organizing your home and life.

Thanks again for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

The New Year’s Re-solution

Why is it that this time every year we think about those things we want to change in our New Year’s resolutions? What is a resolution anyway? A resolution is usually something that we’re trying to do again because we didn’t quite have success the first time. In this case, we truly are looking for a re-solution. Perhaps a few steps will help examine our behavior with a new perspective.
Making even a simple change can seem insurmountable once the endeavor begins. We often find ourselves routinely slipping into our old habits; bringing us back to the behavior we want to change, and eventually asking ourselves why can’t we make the transition. Often our behavior is so automatic that we aren’t even aware of it until we experience the ramifications. But this year let’s try a new approach. Let’s take just one resolution and dig a little deeper than just resolving to do things differently this year.
For this process we’re going to use a journal. If you prefer to use one of the many preprinted journals available today, make sure that it is designed to track at least one single topic for at least one month. But you can make your own journal by following the steps below:
1. Start small. I suggest starting with the smallest resolution you have. The idea is to build upon success by using your smallest resolution to prove the method to yourself. Think of a title for your smallest resolution and write it on the top of a sheet of paper.
2. Ask yourself why is this change important? This always sounds easy, but sometimes is remarkably deceptive. Instead of just saying I want to lose weight ask yourself if it could be more than just being healthy or feeling better. If you want to return to school is it just so that you can get a higher degree? Or maybe it’s deeper than that. Maybe you want to learn more so that you can bring about a deeper impact in this world. Whatever the change, dig for the underlying ‘why’ until you are satisfied with your answer. On that same sheet of paper, write down your ‘why’.
3. In a new paragraph, write down a few thoughts about how making this change will affect your life and/or the lives of those you love. It’s important to write these down so that you will recognize the changes as they begin to occur. This is fuel for change.
4. Divide a new sheet of paper into 4 sections. Title the first section ‘How I will change today’, the second ‘What I noticed today’, the third ‘What can change’, and the fourth ‘Tomorrows Changes!’. In the first section, record your early morning intentions for focusing on your resolution. Think about what situations may entice you to veer off-course and back into old habits. The second section is used during the day when you become aware of your actions regarding your resolution. You should be sure that whether your actions are on or off-track, these are positive thoughts to write down. It means you are aware of your actions. This is where you can capture the recurring daily actions which trigger your subconscious habits. In the third section, record your thoughts about how to change the behaviors you noted in the previous section. In the final section, to be filed-in before going to sleep, record only positive thoughts about today’s successes and your anticipated accomplishments for tomorrow.
5. Repeat step 4 for at least 30 days, or until your resolution has been met. If you have trouble sticking to the plan, review the first page to refresh your motivations for making the change. You may want to place reminders to write in your journal around your home and office. A calendar application with auditory reminders is also a great tool to keep the process going.
Journaling is both simple and powerful because it slows us down to reflect on our actions. It can often uncover the underlying autonomous behaviors which take over our day. Let me know how your journaling goes, or any tricks you use to help you remember to review and record your thoughts and actions.
Thanks for reading,
And remember to take the next step…

The Effects of Social Isolation

By now, just about everyone has experienced some form of social isolation due to the pandemic. The effects of social isolation are real but not always obvious. Arming ourselves with a little information can give us an advantage in combating its effects.

We are social beings. We are genetical programmed to seek-out interactions with our fellow humans. A perceived loss of social support creates an emotional and chemical response that we call loneliness. Biologically, this response compels us to take action to remedy the situation. And when an immediate remedy is unavailable, anxiety develops, and the stress only compounds upon itself. This affects everyone, regardless of age.

So what can we do? First, arm ourselves with a little information. In his June 03, 2020, article titled “Five Reasons Why Being Home All the Time Is So Hard, How can it be so unpleasant to be stuck in a place we love?”,  Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D. outlines various ways we are affected.

  1. It Signals That We Have Lost Control Over Our Lives
  2. The Sheer Amount of Change Is Stressful and Exhausting
  3. Social Isolation Runs Counter to Human Nature
  4. Being in Isolation With Others Can Be Challenging
  5. Isolation Creates a Ripe Environment for Depression

This may seem like old news now, but reviewing it will help keep focused on efforts to combat these effects. Taking steps to plan and organize or life and home will reaffirm our belief that we are in control of our lives. Create a calendar of events, tasks, and activities for yourself and your fellow dwellers. Encourage them to do the same. Make sure to include some repeating events that add consistency to some activities throughout the week. This will create a new normal routine and lessen the feeling of constant change. And be sure to include some time alone, away from any of your cohabitants increasingly annoying idiosyncrasies. And if there isn’t any behavior annoying you, yet, time away will help keep things that way.

Work to set up a few recurring video or telephone visits with other households. Giving and receiving communications is a way of showing others that they are not alone in these times.

Be open to the fact that depression is not uncommon in these circumstances. Look for signs in yourself and others, and be receptive to expressions of concerns received from others. A continuing lack of sleep, appetite, or interest in normal activities should be noted and discussed in order to subdue depression before it can advance.

As a side note, many of our elderly were dealing with social isolation long before the pandemic, and will continue to do so after we emerge from its grip. I will bet that our new-found empathy for those still living in isolation will remind us to give them a call now and then.

So grab a calendar and take some proactive steps today!

As always, thanks for reading. If you have a moment, please Like this page and consider sharing this post it with others. It’s greatly appreciated.

And remember to take the next step…

Check out some of my early posts for coping with the effects of the pandemic:


PS: More information on the effects of social isolation can be found here:

Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D.
Five Reasons Why Being Home All the Time Is So Hard
How can it be so unpleasant to be stuck in a place we love?
Posted Jun 03, 2020

Hämmig O. Health risks associated with social isolation in general and in young, middle and old age. PLoS One. 2019 Jul 18;14(7):e0219663. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219663. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2019 Aug 29;14(8):e0222124. PMID: 31318898; PMCID: PMC6638933. From

Pre-tax Healthcare Spending Accounts

It’s that time of year when we’re frequently asked if we’d like to enroll in a healthcare spending account for the next year. If you haven’t enrolled in one previously, they can be a little confusing. And sometimes that’s all we need to avoid something that may save us a little money. Today’s post is written to provide a quick review of some of these options.

The US federal and state tax codes allow some income to be set aside for certain expenses before federal and/or state taxes are levied upon it. These include expenses such as healthcare, college savings investment earnings, commuter rail passes, and retirement savings. In some cases, such as with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Health Savings Account (HSA), or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), the pretax funds must be set aside in an account managed by a third-party administrator. The administrator is responsible for reviewing the reimbursement requests submitted by the participants to ensure the requested expenses fall within eligibility guidelines.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are government approved accounts in which pre-tax income can be placed. The funds in the FSA may only be used for medical expenses expressly approved by the FSAs guidelines.  The guidelines set the maximum allowable annual contribution and the services or products for which these funds may be used. FSAs do not earn interest. Also, the yearly amount contributed to the FSA must be estimated prior to the start of the year and cannot be changed. The plan administrator will then spread payroll deductions evenly throughout the year in order to fund the account to the specified amount. Withdrawals are accomplished through a reimbursement-for-expenses process. The account holder pays for medical expenses as they would normally throughout the year. The receipts for these expenses are then given to the FSA manager who reviews the charge against the list of allowable items. Once approved, the manager then extracts the funds from the account and reimburses the account holder. A word of caution here: only so much of the funds left over at the end of the year in an FSA are allowed to roll-over into the next years account. Funds in excess of the allowable roll-over amount (as set by the IRS) are forfeited to the employer.  Anyone wishing to use an FSA should do their due diligence in estimating the amount of eligible healthcare deductions they are confident they will incur during the next year.

NOTE: With the FSA, the government gets to keep any funds left in the account after all yearly expenses are submitted and reimbursed. So, plan carefully when determining how much will go into the account.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are government approved, interest bearing, savings accounts in which employee pre-tax income can be placed. Some employers offer these plans to help pay for high-deductible insurance expenses. Otherwise, these plans may be set up with private institutions such as banks or insurance companies. The funds in the HSA may only be used for medical expenses expressly approved by the HSAs guidelines.  The guidelines cover how much may be contributed annually and the services or products for which these funds may be used. The contribution amount withheld from the employees pay may be modified throughout the year to meet the expected need. The receipts for these expenses are then given to the HSA manager who reviews the charge against the list of allowable items. Once approved, the manager then extracts the funds from the account and reimburses the account holder. Funds left in the account at the end of the year are rolled-over for use in the next year.

Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) are employer funded plans which an employer may offer to employees to help pay for qualifying medical expenses, sometimes including insurance premiums for plans not offered through the employer. For some types of HRAs, the employee must be enrolled in a qualifying healthcare plan before they can receive any payments through the HRA.

This is a fairly brief overview, but hopefully provides a good starting point for further discussion.

For more information regarding healthcare plans, see the article at

As always, thanks for reading. If you have a moment, please Like this page and consider sharing this post it with others. It’s greatly appreciated.

And remember to take the next step…

Going Back to Normal?

Educational and motivational powerhouse Lou Tice, of the Pacific Institute, often said that he never wanted someone to tell him that he ‘hadn’t changed a bit after all these years’. His point was that he always wanted to be growing and changing in some way. During this season of lockdown and self-quarantine, many of us have had a little extra time to reflect on a great deal of things. I would venture a guess also, that there have been a great many who have made resolutions of how they’re going to change when ‘things get back to normal’. But just like with those New Year’s resolutions’, if this fresh crop of resolutions are not getting a little daily care, they’ll wither a die of neglect.

To give our resolutions the best chance of success, we need to keep them in focus; finding daily motivation, initiation, and appreciation of the intended accomplishment. To keep the focus, here a few Steps For Today:

1. Ask yourself why is this change important? There is usually some epiphany driving a new desire for change. Take a few minutes to dig for the underlying ‘why’ until you are satisfied with your answer.

2. Either journal, or download the ‘Today’s Expectations’ worksheet from the website, to capture this ‘why’, and the thoughts from the steps below.

3. Write down a few words or phrases describing how making this change will affect your life and/or the lives of those you love. It’s important to write these down so that you will recognize the changes as they begin to occur.

4. Create daily reminder to reflect on these steps. Writing something down daily forces us to take just a few minutes to record our thoughts and accomplishments, and refresh our intentions.

5. Ask a reliable person if they can be your accountability partner. Someone who will take the time, at to whom you’ve given the ‘all clear’, to ask you about your progress.

6. Tell others about your intended goal. Knowing that others expect a change will help solidify your resolve.

These simple steps will go a long way towards helping you reach your new normal.

I’d love to hear any tips or tricks which you use to help keep focus on your resolutions!

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

PS: The Today’s Expectation worksheet can be downloaded for free from the website store. It is a one-sheet, pdf file, with an identical front and back. Each face of the sheet contains the following areas:

– A place for 3 good expectations for the day
– A place for 3 areas to focus on
– 15 lines with checkboxes for activities to accomplish
– 3 lines to write down expectations that were met and/or pleasant surprises
– 3 lines to write down expectations for tomorrow

Using Social Distancing to Form New Habits

Habits. We all have them. Most we use every day without thinking. Some we wish we could change or stop. Truly, we may never get a better opportunity to do just that.

I have written many articles about how our habits control the majority of our actions throughout the day. We go about our business throughout the day being triggered from one action to the next. Now that many of our daily triggers have been removed while we stay home, the days seem to drag on forever as we are forming new habits. I’m sure some of you have noticed the difference in your actions. But it takes a few weeks for new habits to form. Therefore, now is the time to take deliberate action to remove your undesired habits and replace them with those you’d like to instill.

Steps to create a new habit:

  1. Write down a description of the actions which you’d like to become habitual. The process of writing them down allows your brain to create a more complete picture of this new behavior; increasing its chance of success. Therefore, include the time(s) of day, tools or people needed, or a triggering event.
  2. If the new habit needs to be done at a certain time, then set a calendar reminder (with notifications) to queue your memory.
  3. If the new habit should be performed in conjunction with an existing habit, such as brushing your teeth or cleaning house, then place a written reminder where you’ll be sure to see it. Better yet, place it where it must be moved to continue.

There are times when we just want to get rid of an existing habit. To do this, we have to determine what ‘reward’ the habit brings us. Sometimes, habits are elusive. That afternoon trip to the office cafeteria or vending machine may be more about moving our body, or being social, than it is for caloric uptake. Here are some Steps for Today that may help:

  1. Identify you unwanted habits by writing them down. Use a journal to capture your daily actions for a few days. This will train the brain to be more aware of them.
  2. If you can handle a poignant response, ask others if they’ve noticed your habits.
  3. Determine the habit’s reward. If you’re emptying your pockets on the dining room table every night, it may less about convenience, and more about not having a place to put your stuff where you’ll remember it in the morning.
  4. Find a replacement, more desirable, action to get the reward. For example, a dedicated place where you can empty out your pockets each night, or just a walk without a stop at the vending machine.
  5. If this process doesn’t seem to be working, start over at step 3. You haven’t found the reward yet.

Research indicates that the length of time is takes to establish a new habit, such as remembering to check ones goals, differs depending on the individual. I’ve seen as little as 21 days (sounds a little optimistic to me) and as long as 66 days. After 3 or 4 weeks, I suggest only using calendar reminders once a week. This will “take away your crutch”; allowing your brain to take ‘ownership’ of the action, while providing a reminder so it won’t be forgotten completely if your daily routine should suddenly change.

This is an exercise which gives back for a lifetime. You can choose how much, or how little, effort you give to it. Maybe it feels overwhelming. If so, start small. You’ll probably be happy with results and continue the process.

Also, I encourage you to ask those who are social-distancing with you, to help you with these changes. In most cases, you will not find a group of people more “on your team” than these. And they’re with you all day, every day!

For sure, you are forming new habits. The question is, will they be the ones you want; the ones that will lead you to the lifestyle you want?

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

Steps to Prevent, and Fight, the Flu

With all the talk about the spread of the new coronavirus flu, why not take a minute to prepare for it, and all the other strains of cold and flu, that are making the circuit this season.

First a little information about our adversary. A coronaviruses is an very common type of virus which causes colds, flus, and other upper respiratory infections. This particular strain, named 2019-nCoV, is new; and therefore no antivirus medication has yet been developed. Time will tell if it is any more deadly than previous strains of the flu; all of which, we want to avoid. That is why health officials always recommend getting the flu shot. These only cover specific strains of the flu. But the strains chosen for the inoculation are usually those that are deemed to be the most likely to be encountered during the current flu season. These have worked wonders. In addition to receiving the shot, however, there are things we can do to prepare our homes for the flu season.

Here are some steps you can take today to fight the flu:

Proactive measures
Get a flu shot
– Wash hands frequently and properly
– Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
– Clean and disinfect your environment frequently
– Avoid close contact with people who are sick
– Keep alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes nearby and use them often

Give your immune system a fighting chance
– Get a flu shot
– Eat properly. Including fruits and vegetables
– Drink lots of fluids
– Get plenty of sleep
– Get some protein in every meal
– Stay away from sugar and processed flour
– Eat some probiotics
– Get some exercise every day to move white blood cells throughout your body
– Take a contrast shower
– Make sure to get some sunlight to boost Vitamin D

What to do if you have the flu
– Get a diagnosis. Early detection and treatment can dramatically reduce its severity
– Stay home
– Make sure someone knows you’re sick and will check on you
– Ask for help if you need it
– Get plenty of rest
– Drink fluids
– Medicate your cough
– Keep the humidity up in your environment
– Don’t shy away from the saline nose sprays. They’ll work to relieve congestion.

What are some of the ways you prepare your household for the flu season?

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

Below are more articles on flus and how to fight them.

The new coronavirus: What we do — and don’t — know

Contrast Showers: 5 Key Benefits & The Correct Technique

Check That

Near the end of last year, I had to the opportunity to talk to employees from several local gyms. Of course I  had to ask them about the impending, predictable, January flood of newly resolved patrons. Sadly, they all stated the same thing; that only a few of the new members would continue their exercise ‘routine’ past January. 

Why is it so hard to make change? Why can’t we simply just reorganize or lives and schedule to include our new endeavors? Could it be that as we age, we increasingly become a creature of habit? These habits subconsciously run our lives; imploring us to get on to the next task, without any conscious thought on our part. Experts agree that habits can be changed. But they don’t always agree on how long it takes to change them. That is why I firmly believe in a daily tool and process that, once established, helps to usher-in any change we’d like to make.

Ask any teacher how to properly prepare students to make a change to their routine. They’ll probably tell you it’s through setting expectations. Here at Steps For Today, we’ll tell you….you haven’t changed much since grade school. Having a daily routine that starts and ends with setting your expectations will help focus your thoughts and organize your activities. A tool to help establish this new routine is our ‘Today’s Expectations’ worksheet.

The Today’s Expectation worksheet is a one-sheet, pdf file, with an identical front and back. Each face of the sheet contains the following areas:

  • A place for 3 good expectations for the day
  • A place for 3 areas to focus on
  • 15 lines with checkboxes for activities to accomplish
  • 3 lines to write down expectations that were met and/or pleasant surprises
  • 3 lines to write down expectations for tomorrow

That’s it! It’s simple to use. To get the best use, we recommend dedicating 10 to 15 minutes of quiet time after waking in the morning, and before going to bed. But if that seems impossible, just print the thing out and fill it in while eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, or putting on your makeup. The point is to write something early in the morning and get the habit established.  I truly believe that once you see how much change this simple tool can make, you’ll want to give it more of your time and energy.

To download a free copy of the Today’s Expectation worksheet visit our store at:

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step..

A mind-bending Scientific American article on the power of expectations, written by Gareth Cook can be found at:

Making It Clear

My last post discussed being a good advocate for your, or your loved-ones healthcare. The following is a re-post of my 2017 article identifying the need for Advance Healthcare directives and medical instructions which should be considered when we can no-longer speak for ourselves.

This week’s post continues with providing medical information and instructions during an emergency. We’ve discussed Power of Attorney, but did not cover what kind of instruction can be provided if the POA is not available. There are other advance directive documents specifically for this situation. There are several different names for the documents which share the same function as the Advance Health Care Directive; Advanced Directive, Advanced Decision, Personal Directive, or Living Will. This is a legally binding document a person uses to specify the medical care that they can be given under end-of-life conditions. Three common phrases used on Advance Directives are Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), Do Not Intubate (DNI), and Do Not Hospitalize (DNH). Another commonly used phrase is ‘No Heroic Measures’. It is often suggested to avoid the use of this phrase due to its lack of clarity. In its stead, give specific direction for medical treatment such as: the use of a feeding tube, mechanical ventilation or intubation, catheters, shock, or vasopressors. Most health care facilities have a DNR form on hand for the patient to fill out upon arrival (if able). I think we can agree, however, that this is something that should be thought about and discussed with loved ones prior to an emergency situation. But all of these documents are useless if they can’t be found when needed. This is why I recommend keeping copies of them with the EMI documents and the POAs discussed in earlier posts.

I am always amazed when I find couples who have not discussed the advance directive options with their spouse or POA. They often find that their wishes were not as clear as they believed. I suggest the following steps to avoid any misunderstandings:

1. Schedule a meeting with your spouse and/or loved ones to discuss what actions you’d like to be performed in the event of a medical emergency.

2. Search the internet for an example Advance Health Care Directive which suits your needs. There are many available.

3. Store a copy with your EMI and POA documents.

4. Discuss your wishes with friends and families to minimize the stress during a difficult time.

Be aware that requirements for advance directives can differ by state. And although states usually honor the home states directives, it is not always the case. Therefore, if you reside in more than one state, you may need directives for each state.
Below is a link to an excellent resource for further information and example documents for each state.

Thanks for reading,
And remember to take the next step…

Be Your Best Advocate

I’ve recently spent a lot of time in medical offices supporting and advocating for family members. Anyone who has done so will quickly tell you how annoying it is to fill out the same paperwork over and over. We would all like to think that the staff will have this information on file, or be able to recall it from memory. Although there are talented and dedicated people in the medical profession, the truth is that most see dozens of people a day and are hard-pressed to keep information up-to-date. Of course they keep medical records from visit to visit. But, things can change constantly, and they may no longer have the latest information. And relying on memory only works as well as our ability to recall; which can be compromised in an emergency or traumatic situation. Supporting our doctors and caregivers with supplemental information can make a big difference in the care we receive.

Here’s and idea for what should be on a personal healthcare record (PHR):

Part One: Emergency Medical Information (EMI)
– Your name, age, address
– Emergency contact name, address and phone number
– Name and phone number for your Healthcare Proxy or Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA) (if any…..and why don’t you have one!)
– Your preferred hospital (where your POA and Advance Directive documents should be on file)
– Allergies. Including medications and latex sensitivities
– Current medications. To help prevent a possible conflict with medications or procedures.
– Current health issues
– Current and past physicians, their phone numbers, and a brief description of why they were seen- Immunization history
– Past health issues

Part Two: A running log of events
– A running record of vitals provides an expectation for your normal blood pressure, pulse, etc.
– Latest test results
– A running summary of topics discussed with, and medical directions provided by, caregivers

This is Steps For Today, so let’s get started now….

1. Set a date on your calendar the date by which you’re going to get this accomplished. Give yourself a couple of weeks. If your using an electronic calendar, set a few reminder notifications along the way.

2. Much of this information is now available through online portals and apps (such as MyChart) offered by your healthcare provider. I recommend that you get familiar with what’s available.

3. Create an EMI record, even if it’s handwritten, containing part one from above. Make sure your family and caregivers know how to find it. It is recommended that part one (the EMI) be carried with you at all times. This can be on paper, a thumb drive, or something describing how it can be accessed online.

4. Create a log, either written or electronic, to carry with you to each medical appointment. Take notes on your vitals, discussions, diagnoses, and treatment plans.

5. Make sure your appropriate family members, or trusted loved-ones, know about your records and how to access them.

More information on these topics can be found at:

Remember, this information is only useful if shared with your caregivers. They can’t read your mind. Share your history, thoughts and concerns at each visit.

Speaking of sharing, I am always looking for new ways to help others. Please share any tips, experiences, or suggestions for this topic here.

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…