Archive for the ‘Focus’ Category

One Point in Time

I sat there among the paper, projects, commitments, emails, bills, promises and looming deadlines. And I sat and continued to sit, unable to move on any of it. Full blown inertia set in and I was hopelessly stuck in it. This familiar moment in time is one I relive over and over and have little warning when it will show up. Several inner sparks tell me to gather the bills, write an email, or sort through the file. Others say create a plan, prioritize, call someone. Still more admonish my laziness;others push my head into my hands and plead with me to do something! No thought of threat or reward can lift me. I have lost many opportunities, much money, jobs, potential clients and a few friends over the years- all traceable to one or more of these quick sand moments in time.

On its face this does look like simple procrastination or laziness. I have work to do and promises to keep and I am doing nothing. There are reasons why I’m in this predicament- most of them the results of choices I made. I took on too much. I waited too long. I over-promised. I allowed too much to accumulate. I did procrastinate and succumb to more interesting pursuits instead of doing what needed to be done when it needed doing. This is all true. There is no one to blame but myself.

I have shelves lined with advice for how to organize my time and space; how to manage my things and my schedule. These are valuable resources in my life and in my work as a life coach. The myriad tips and tools for managing oneself are like bricks and mortar for creating an empowered existence. Each tool is an opportunity to build a stronger foundation and a calmer, more successful life. I can start fresh each day with a new way of being: From this day forth, all my incoming mail and papers go in the red basket. Starting right now, I check my emails three times a day and turn off my Blackberry between the hours of 2 and 4pm. I do a lot of cooking on Monday nights so that I need not cook for several days. As soon as I accept a new project, I outline its parameters and create a time line for completing it. These are all tools I use to create order in my life. When I commit to these kinds of activities, over a period of weeks, months, and years, much of the mundane aspects of living are automatically handled. With the start of these kinds of habits I have come miles on this journey toward living a fully harmonious life.

And yet even the finest sieve lets particles through. Despite my efforts to form good habits and commit to them, I sometimes forget to turn off the Blackberry. I’ll sign up for a Monday night exercise class or the red basket is co-opted for another purpose, leaving the incoming papers to fend for themselves. Without a contingency plan, there go the systems. This partially explains why, on this particular day, I sat there among the paper, projects, commitments and looming deadlines and felt so overwhelmed. My pre-frontal cortex, that part of my brain that plans and organizes and handles the details of my life, seemingly shut down. All the books, advice, tools, programs, habits and support groups in the world could not help me in that precise moment. I was stuck.

One Point in Time:
Sitting there at my desk at 7:07pm, mental wheels spinning wildly, I saw in my mind’s eye, a large period. I picked up my pencil and drew that large period on a piece of paper. Then I put my finger on that period. I thought of it as a pause button. STOP! Stop spinning. Stop thinking, ruminating, judging, deliberating, drowning. STOP. Breathe. Keeping my finger on the dot, I then I drew a small circle. What should be the very next thing I do? I wrote it in the circle. (walk to ladies room). When I returned to my desk I put my finger back on the circle. I drew a triangle. What is the very next thing I should do? Pack up to go home. I put my finger on the triangle, took a moment to pause and breathe. I packed up to leave. I drew a square. What next? I wrote in the square Go Home.

This whole process from the moment I drew the first period to the time I locked my office door took 7 minutes. At another time I would have sat there until 10pm feverishly plugging away. During my pausing moments, I focused only on what I need to do in the next moment. You can only fill a moment with one activity. My periods and other patterns represented those moments for me- one at a time. They allowed me to pause, and consider what do I really need to do next. I could take myself home to my family and make dinner for us, and sit down and eat it. Once I did that, I came to my home office and drew a diamond shape: 10 minutes plan for tomorrow. I made a list of 5 important things to take care of, with a reminder to place Periods through out the day in order to STOP, breath, notice, and decide. What’s Next?


Food is delicious when prepared well.  Unless you are a fat juicy summer peach tasting perfect just as you are.  It’s yummy to drink coffee at the bakery, biting in to a freshly made glazed donut or ruggulah.  Sirloin steak medium rare with garlicky mashed potatoes and asparagus, the thin kind with a squeeze of lemon, a pat of butter, and a dash of salt.  Oh my God.  This is best eaten when you are really hungry.  It is absolutely best when eaten during a diet when you take the time to really prepare it well and make it pretty on the plate with curls of parsley and carrots to brighten the plate.  Umm.  Everything tastes better when dieting.  You appreciate what you’re eating, fully conscious of the flavor, texture, smells and colors.

Food, yes, delicious.  And yet that isn’t the whole story.  There are moments that hang off the shrub of an hour perfectly ripened by the rays of time.  That precise juicy moment when you say YES.  YES, I’ll marry you.  YES, I’ll play with you.  YES I’ll accept your offer; your invitation; your generosity.  YES, I’ll pick up my roots and move to the other end of the country.  YES I’ll accept the job.  YES I’ll come to your poetry reading; take that photo; hold your little hand while you splash in the wading pool.  YES to walks in the park, laughing at the moon, the movies, at parties and picnics.  Fun time with you.   Spectacular moments savored in delicious memory sauce simmering on the back burner, ever changing flavors.  Made most delicious by making them with you.

From Viv’s Journal May 19, 2008

Living By Your Own Rules: A Personal Vision Statement

I have always been intrigued by rules and laws.  There are basic and natural laws like  night follows day;  living things need nourishment to survive ; human beings eventually die.  Over the millenia our societies have evolved in ways that used  natural laws, enabling humanity to survive and evolve.  Understanding and adhering to the law gives structure to how we build our homes, grow our food, and live together.

Our religious texts are a form of law.  They provide guidance to people and cultures for how to live.  These laws, in tandem with natural laws, provide perspective, interpretation, and boundaries for how to live meaningfully and responsibly with people.  This is also true of governing laws, treaties, constitutions, by-laws, tax laws, and rules on the playground.  In their simplest form and without judging their individual inherent worth, we need the relative confinement of rules in order to truly be free.

In the present-day chaos surrounding us, we often feel out of control, lost, disconnected, and overwhelmed.  We can find a great deal of guidance and comfort in the Bible, the Koran, the Torah or other religious text.  As a Unitarian Universalist I find comfort and guidance in the  UU principles.  We find solace in prayer, meditation, ritual, and the performance of good deeds.  These are all part of our culture and available to us for guidance and support in this wild world.

Yet even with the abundance of spiritual and religious wisdom and authority, I believe we each have  guiding principles and vision for living- our own unique code we adhere to as we move through our lives into the waiting arms of our inevitable death. That code lives inside each one of us.  We’re born with it.  Some might call it God or soul or spirit or conscience or… Whatever you call it-  or don’t- it’s yours.

Part of my work as a life coach is to help people become acquainted with their own code.  Some call the code guiding principles, vision statements, purpose, mission, or artist statement.  Some people choose not to capture their code in words, while others find pleasure in the exercise.  I find it a great source of comfort and direction  to  have written my code down in simple words that make sense to my brain and also feel true somewhere beyond my brain’s reach. The words help guide my life, my work, my relationships and my eventual legacy.  I fall far short of the code I seek to live by.  Yet having written it down serves as my map and reminds me who I am.

Labyrinth of the Heart


Viveca Monahan,

Professional Certified Coach

I am an activist for the heart,

Playfully irreverent, loving sacred space

Grounded by realities.

Soaring with possibilities.

My purpose is to live a courageous life,

Boldly provoking humanity toward

Ever-expanding mind, heart, conscience

And Committed action

Mission:  I will spend the rest of my life calling forth the greatness in people.  And in the process will inspire abundance of unimagined magnitude, empowering me to carry out my purpose with the grandest force my being can spark

I support my mission by:

Taking exquisite care of my mind, body and spirit;

Fully trusting my intuition;

Being ever-vigilant with my promises, boundaries

And highest values;

Fostering peace, order and connection in daily life.

My vision for the world is

That all people are living in peace and dying with dignity.

My life’s work is to provide safe and inspired guidance

For people to discover their greatness,

Empowering them to honor their true calling

Whatever that may be.

I support my work by:

Staying aligned with my purpose, mission and values;

Being steeped in meaningful training and learning;

Surrounding myself with mentors, friends and other


Being vigilant with my own examination and accountability

Favorite Books for Creating Peace, Order, and Connection in Daily Life

These books are on this list of favorites because they are easy and fun to read. They help me establish a sense of focus and direction, and they teach me how to better organize my time, my space, my money, and my life. I refer to them again and again and share them with others. For people living with the challenges of ADD, these books really help.

  1. One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer, PhD.
  2. Making Peace with the Things in Your Life by Cindy Glovinsky MSW  ACSW
  3. ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize your Life by Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau, PhD
  4. Survival Tips for Women with ADHD by Terry Matlen MSW
  5. The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom by Suze Orman
  6. Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
  7. Conquering Chronic Disorganization by Judith Kolberg
  8. Do It Tomorrow by Mark Forster
  9. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  10. A Finger Pointing to the Moon by Linda Anderson and Gregg Krech of ToDo Institute
  11. The Concise Little Guide to Getting Things Done by Linda Anderson and Gregg Krech
  12. NaikanGratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection by Gregg Krech
  13. The Natural Way to Mental Wellness by Gregg Krech
  14. Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard
  15. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  16. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Daniel Amen MD
  17. The Disorganized Mind by Nancy Ratey MCC
  18. More Attention, Less Deficit by Ari Tuckman PhD
  19. Getting Unstuck by Don Kerson, MD
  20. Driven to Distraction by Edward Hallowell MD and John Ratey MD
  21. Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

The Next Step

The Next Step:  A process to help you take small steps forward on projects, tasks and other things – with built-in time to enjoy yourself.


to break down projects into short doable tasks, creating as much joy and interest as possible.

The Situation:

you have a lot of things you want to accomplish during a given amount of time, (say, 2-10 hours) and you want to stay focused and productive the entire time.


  1. Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish during this time. be sure and include some enjoyable things.
  2. When you’re ready to begin, write down the present time. Then choose a specific action. Decide how much time you will spend on it (5-20 minutes maximum), and write those minutes next to the action. Set a timer; it is very important that you stick to the amount of time you agreed to!
  3. When the timer goes off, decide what the next step will be. Do you want to continue with the same task or do something different? Again, wrtie down the time, the action, and how many minutes to spend. Set the timer.

Continue in this manner for the entire allotted time. Be sure and squeeze in 5 minutes here and there for breaks…writing them down and setting the timer. You can also include 10 minutes reading a magazine or taking a walk or writing a poem. Just stick to the time you agreed to, and you will be able to accomplish many things while enjoying yourself every step of the way.

Note: This process also helps reign in any tendancy toward “wasting” time as every minute is accounted for.

Meal Planning Made Easy

A household with two teenagers and their wacky parents can be hectic especially when it comes to planning and preparing meals.  I’ve come up with a solution that has served us well.  It requires about 2 hours of up front thinking, but then meal planning only takes 10 minutes a week from then on.  Here’s how we do it.

The Preliminaries

  1. Create a list of 21 meals you and your family enjoy.  Include the protein, vegetable, grain, beverage, and dessert.  Pull out a favorite cookbook or a few food magazines to get ideas.  Write down the page number of the recipe on your list and put a sticky note on the page for easy retrieval.
  2. Once you’ve made your list of meals, look at each recipe and jot down the staples you need to have on hand. (non-perishables like pasta, tomato sauce, rice). 
  3. Check your shelves for staple items you need to purchase and put them on your shopping list.  Once you have all the staples, you can choose any meal off your list and only need to pick up the fresh items when you’re ready to prepare the meal.

Planning the next few days’ dinners:

  1. Go down your meal list and choose the meals you’ll want to prepare.
  2. Make a list of the fresh ingredients you’ll need to buy.
  3. Buy the fresh ingredients. 

Since you already established an inventory of non-perishables, you don’t have to worry about them at this time.  It’s a good idea to check your inventory on a regular basis like once or twice a month.

Sample Plan for five meals


  • List the meals and ingredients
  1. hamburgers on buns with ketchup, mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles; Salad with dressing; milk, wine, beer, decaf coffee, cookies
  2. roast chicken with lemon and rosemary,  olive oil,  onion, garlic, white wine, Italian herbs, Cous Cous, green beans, frozen yogurt,
  3. baked salmon, dijon mustard, capers, lemon, chicken broth, red potatoes, dill, asparagus, angel food cake with strawberries
  4. beef stew with red potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, crushed canned tomatoes, beef broth, red wine, hot pepper flakes, red peppers, paprika, oregano, cookies and frozen yogurt
  5. turkey chile- ground turkey, onions, garlic, canned chiles, canned jalapenos, taco seasoning mix, black beans, corn tortillas, cheddar cheese, guacamole-(avocadoes, garlic, lime, salsa, cayenne), sour cream, black olives; lemon sherbet for dessrt.
  • Create the Staples list: ketsup, mustard, mayo, pickles, bottled salad dressing, wine, beer, coffee, cookies, olive oil, Italian herbs, cous cous, dijon mustard, capers,canned tomatoes, beef broth,canned chiles, canned jalapenos, taco seasoning, oregano, black beans, corn tortillas, canned black olives.

At this point I am now ready to prepare any of the meals I listed (plus a number of others I didn’t list).  All that is required on any given day is to choose the meal I want to prepare and buy the fresh ingredients.  I usuallydo this for 4 or 5 days at one time, including leftovers.  You can further steamline things by purchasing some of your fresh ingredients on a regular schedule like hamburger buns (freeze what you don’t use), Hamburger patties, chicken, and other meats to freeze.  In this way you can add them to the staples list.  You’ll always have the makings of a full meal in  your house.

Bon Appetit!

Do You Have ADHD?

Oftentimes you can’t keep your mind focused on a conversation or a simple task,  yet other times you are so engaged and attentive you don’t hear dogs barking outside your window.  You often forget words, names, or where you parked your car.  You get lost easily and are often running late.  Maybe you blurt out your thoughts or push the Send button too fast.  You’ll start paying your bills and while searching  your desk for a receipt, end up cleaning the whole drawer.  While cleaning the drawer you notice you’re out of paper clips and start a shopping list.  Before long, you’ve got your coat on and are on your way to the store.  Meanwhile the bills remain where you left them-unpaid!

If you can relate to what I describe, you may have a diagnosis of ADHD.  You  also know in your heart that you have untapped potential, if only you could get a grip on yourself.  You want to complete those projects, write your book, go back to school, travel to Tahiti, climb Mt. Everest!  You know it’s in you to be president of your organization, leave an incredible legacy, take your marriage to the stars.  You have things to do, places to see, people to meet.  Your life is waiting for you.

Welcome to Life Focus Coaching.  I’m glad you’re here.