Happy Herbivore Blog

Minimalist Monday: Minimalist Schedule for Maximum Productivity

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Minimalist

I always feel like I have 50 things going on. Granted, a lot of it is self-inflicted because I'm always coming up with projects or tasks that I need to do, should do and less often, want to do. I've also been freelancing a little here and there so random projects crop up on a moments notice and as my publisher finishes putting my new cookbook together, I'll get an email asking for another picture, a clarification or some other little task randomly in the middle of the day. 

Me & my todo lists (yes that is a puzzle, I do them for stress-relief)

My point is, my "schedule" always feels all-consuming and chaotic. The todo list continues to become longer rather than shorter and just as I start to push through some of it, more piles on. Eventually, when the mound gets really high, and the todo list very, very long, I start feeling panicky and anxious and my solution is to run away and go watch TV or something. This obviously does not help the situation. 

I tried to "leave it all up to the universe," throw away my to do list and just live, figuring if it was important, if it mattered, I would get it done. It seemed like a very minimalist-oriented approach to things: only doing what was necessary, as necessary, but I found living this way only made me more stressed and more frazzled. 

I was often doing things at the last minute and I found this also meant I wasn't doing as good a job as I would have liked to do. And I just felt stressed the entire time. Plain and simple. There is no zen in chasing after the bus. The worse part to this approach, though, was that I also could never really get ahead. 

While I recognize I can't be completely proactive with everything, I can be and should be with some things, so that when the unpredictable curve ball comes my way, it doesn't cause so much chaos and turbulence. 

So I started creating a pseudo schedule. I like to say I developed "habits." For example, instead of waiting for the laundry to pile up (universe way) I created a system where I washed sheets, towels and workout clothes on Monday and everything else on Wednesday. Come hell or high water, I do my laundry on these days. The same goes for washing dishes at night. Whether I have 1 dish or 20, I wash them before bed and let me tell you how zen it makes me feel when I wake up to a clean kitchen.

I've more or less broken up my house chores so that they're always taken care of and in small amounts rather than having to schedule in a big cleaning on a weekend. Having this system in place keeps me from falling behind or worrying about when I'm going to do my laundry, or wash dishes, or sweep the floors. Plus, I like a clean and neat house. It really helps reduce my stress. 

But even with my house chores taken care of systematically, my work schedule still felt hectic and wild. For as long as I can remember, I've been a multi-tasker. I never do just one thing. Sometimes this is good. For example, I practice my French lessons while I run. But what I've realized this week is that my knack for multi-tasking is very bad, most of the time. 

Constantly shifting between tasks is exhausting. When I started to write last week's minimalist post, "Going Minimalist with Social Media," I would periodically stop because my email pinged, or someone would tweet at me, or I'd check to see if the file I was uploading to a client had finished uploading, and so on and so forth. Before I knew it, 2 hrs had gone by. It didn't seem so bad, in those 2 hrs I'd replied to 4 emails, 3 tweets, uploaded two files to my client, looked over a new assignment and wrote a blog post. Productivity at it's finest... right? Wrong.

Switching back and forth between tasks isn't productive. The utility of multitasking is a very fine line. I decided to do an experiment with myself. I would go minimalist with my schedule -- but in a different way: Instead of leaving it up to the universe, I would plow through my to do list BUT one task at a time. I would completely dive into something and only do that, until it was done. No distractions, no noise just me, my attention span and that task.

Now, I'm not embarrassed to admit I needed help with this. I downloaded a program that turned off everything else while I was working (It literally blocks other programs, the Internet, and social media -- if you tell it to). It cost me $10 and when I saw how much I accomplished in the first hour I used it, I decided it was well worth the value. 

Comparing 2 hours of productivity:

See how much is open?

Multitasking: I answered 4 emails, replied to 3 tweets, uploaded two files and wrote a blog post in 2 hrs.

Nothing is open but what I'm working on, plus the prompt for Freedom (my noise-canceler). What a zen desk top!

Single-tasking: I wrote 4 blog posts, answered 12 emails, replied to 8 tweets, read a 25-page ebook, edited 20 pictures and worked on my novel (I'm writing a novel)... all in the same 2 hrs.

Now, I still love multi-tasking for some things -- there is no reason why I can't work while my laundry is going, or why I can't practice French while working up a sweat, but tasks that involve serious brain power, no more multi-tasking between them. 

It has been shocking....SHOCKING to see how much more work I can accomplish in the same time if I just focus.I finally feel like I have control of my todo list rather than my todo list controlling me. 

I'm also leaving on Wednesday for a 2wk business trip/vacation (It's a vacation with a business trip slipped in the middle) and although I couldn't completely get ahead on everything (i.e. I can't predict if my clients will send me work or my publisher will want something from me) anything that I could do in advance, I've already done. Last week alone I accomplished almost three weeks worth of work. 

For me, being a minimalist is about being efficient and feeling zen --- and getting things done gives me that. Getting my work done faster also means more time for play and doing things I really want to do. 

Has anyone else tried single-tasking? Did it improve your productivity? 

Foodie Friday - June 24th

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Here are some of the foods coming out of my kitchen this week:

Tofu Ricotta Pizzas (using whole wheat pitas and pasta sauce). This was a quick & filling lunch on a very busy day. 

"Italian" Salad -- lettuce, tomatoes and leftover tofu ricotta. 

I used canned pumpkin instead of applesauce in my Cinnamon-Raisin Biscuit recipe to make fat-free, whole-wheat pumpkin-raisin biscuits!!

These burgers are from my new cookbook, Everyday Happy Herbivore -- just 4 ingredients! They're based off of my hotel room burgers.

Cornbread Casserole, from EHH as well. If you like the Tamale Casserole in The Happy Herbivore Cookbook, you'll love this new one. It's spicy!

Baked tofu smothered in Mole Sauce. The mole sauce is also from EHH and it takes 3 minutes to make! 

The yellow rice is also from EHH. Sorry for all the teasing pictures, I had to reshoot a lot of photos this week so the "props" became our meals!

What delicious foods did you have this week?

Guest Blogger: Michele B.

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Guests

Chickpea tacos are one of the most popular recipes on happyherbivore.com and one of my favorite healthy snacks (the chickpeas are great for nibbling!) Needless to say, I was thrilled when Michele (a.k.a a vegetarian who hates tofu) asked to guest post about them, showing how she made small changes to make the recipe "her own." That's what I love about home cooking so much: you can take a recipe and bend it to your palate, desires or simply, what you have on hand. After all, recipes are just suggestions.

So without further ado, here's Michele and her little helper:

HH: What made you cook up the chickpea tacos (p. 97)

Michele: I started making lentil tacos a few months back because my husband missed tacos. That was my first attempt at vegan tacos and while they are quite tasty, I got bored so I needed to change it up. I flipped through my Happy Herbivore Cookbook to the chickpea taco picture and they looked so yummy I had to give it a try! The great thing is that they're totally different than the lentil tacos I had been making, in both texture and flavor, which is exactly what I was looking for.   

HH: I love the idea of using lettuce cups instead of traditional taco shells because they're healthier. What gave you that idea?

Michele: Umm... I forgot to buy taco shells when I was at the grocery store! I always write a list of meals I'm planning to make that week so I can plan my grocery list and every week, no matter how organized I try to be, I forget at least one item on my list! That week I was planning for tacos and some kind of lettuce wrap for another meal but when I forgot the taco shells (and I was really in the mood for tacos, especially after deciding on the chickpea ones in your book!) I improvised and it turned out quite nicely. In fact, I am planning to make it this way again!

HH: Did the lettuce wraps add anything "extra" to the dish? For example, did they give a cool, refreshing crunch?

Michele: Absolutely! It was hot that day (humid, 95 degree Jersey weather = yuck!) and this was such a perfect dinner for a hot summer day. Even though I had to run the oven for a bit, it didn't take long to cook and it was totally worth it! The lettuce was crisp and refreshing and made it a perfect summer meal. When I made leftovers, I didn't reheat, just ate them chilled, and that was really good too and quite refreshing!

HH: Tell us about your toppings and what made you use them.

Michele: I topped the lettuce cups with some freshly picked cherry tomatoes from my garden, diced avocado, fresh cilantro and a sprinkle of crushed tortilla chips. I used the usual toppings I'd used for tacos, except that the tortilla chips (taco shell) and lettuce were reversed. 

HH: What did you think of the dish?

I love it! Chickpeas are on of my favorite things in the whole world to begin with. In this dish I just love the combination of flavors in the taco seasoning and the crispness you get from roasting the chickpeas. They are just wonderful! Pair that with some fresh veggies and a creamy ripe avocado and WOW! So delicious. Also, my husband thought they'd be good with some ranch dressing drizzled on so I'll have to find a good vegan one before I make these again. Any suggestions?

HH: There is a Ranch Dressing in my cookbook (pg. 232) I bet your little helper would like the leftover ranch with carrots and celery sticks -- that was my favorite snack when I was about her age.

Thank you so much for guest posting Michele -- I LOVE the idea of lettuce wraps instead of taco shells. I'm going to try this immediately! and I'm so going to try your lentil tacos too. Yum.

Have you made HH's chickpea Tacos? How'd you make them your own?