10 Tools, Books, & Practices that Changed My Life

by Amy on May 6, 2015

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(Farley the cat, Joy Joy and my Five Minute Journal)

NOTE: I do use affiliate links (if I have them) when I recommend stuff I love.

The Five Minute Journal

After five days in a row of writing “be more patient with kids,” under the question “What could you have done better today?”, I’m starting to notice, to my utter amazement, that I’m actually being more patient with my kids.

Under the question “What would make today great?” I consistently write “laughter.” And after a month of writing in a journal that really does take five minutes a day, I’m laughing more, especially with the kids…

I’m convinced that the simplest things yield the most powerful results. The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day proves it. I’m seeing miracles in my life after using it. It’s one of my absolute favorite things EVER.

The Day Designer by Whitney English

After the kids started school, life got a hell of a lot more complicated. Just this week I had to buy flowers for teacher appreciation day, sign field trip releases and write checks for a farm visit, order another month of school lunches, get snacks for Anthony’s little league game, make sure my husband knows about four-year-old’s upcoming Family Music class, mark the calendar for a school Field Day visit and set up 3 play dates.

I loved my Daily Planner in college but after the Internet (yes I went to college before the internet), I didn’t think I needed to lug around a physical calendar, what with ical, iphones and google calendars. I was wrong. I’ve been using The Day Designer by Whitney English since January. I can see now that I’m one of those gals who needs a physical calendar. Thanks to this discovery, I’m managing to save my children (mostly) from embarrassing mommy oversights.

I love THIS Day Designer because it’s pretty, it helps me track every day, week and month in tiny detail and also manages to keep me focused on big picture stuff.

YNAB

Excuse me if I declare something you already know but I LOVE YNAB!!!!! (YNAB stands for “You Need a Budget.”) This budgeting software has changed my life. I’ve been using it for over a year in my household and my business. And since that time, I have not created a penny in new debt. And thanks to the help of Mark Butler aka The Budget Nerd who helps me use YNAB to manage my business finances, I’ve been able to come back from owing a surprise 20k in taxes (What??? I thought I paid it!), and budgeted myself so far in the black that I’m ahead almost 3 months, which is why I can take time off to be with my kids this summer. If he can help a gal who forgets about owing 20k in taxes, just think what he could do for YOU.

Instacart

At the beginning of each month, I make a colossal COSTCO order to make sure we are stocked. Then each Sunday I plan meals for the week. The idea is this: Less trips to the grocery store = less money spent on groceries.

Because if you’re anything like me, you step foot into a grocery store needing bananas, and leave with a bag full of other stuff and a very long receipt (and you forget to buy the bananas). Well, Instacart is my secret weapon. It saves me the time-consuming, oft-harrowing trip to COSTCO (without even needing a COSTCO card) and it keeps my tush out of Whole Foods which is located conveniently down the road. As a result, I’m stocked up. I spend a little bit on a tip (you just add it in when you order) but I figure that amount is offset by what I save on gas.

Sadhana

I learned about “Sadhana” in November 2014 when I attended a yoga retreat in Costa Rica with Tommy Rosen and Kia Miller. After a week of daily Sadhana there, I came home and shit hit the fan. I completely changed my life and my business because I could no longer tolerate the feeling of being out of alignment with my spirit.

It’s a kind of spiritual practice that you do early in the morning. I’m now in the habit of getting up before the sun to practice 3 minutes of “Ego Eradicator,” meditate and chant. I don’t know the science of this kind of Kundalini Yoga but I’ll tell you that since I’ve started this wacky combo of breath work, movement and vocalizations, I’ve had WAY more energy, lets just say my libido (ahem) has improved, I’m calmer and more patient. But most of all, doing Sadhana makes me more sensitive — even a little intolerant! – of anything that doesn’t FIT in life. Which is a good thing, I promise! Try the two links above to get started.

YogaGlo

YogaGlo is a great way to get some of the best yoga, including Kundalini, from some of the best instructors — Kia Miller is one of my favs. It’s an easy peasy subscription service. For $18 a month, you have access to buckets of yoga classes that you can download to your phone and do anytime, anywhere. I also LOVE that you can search and find classes for balancing chakras, improving certain kinds of health issues, dealing with emotional stress, or train for a different kinds of sports. And thanks to YogaGlo I don’t have to drive across town to the one yoga studio that offers Kundalini (there aren’t many!) and talk to a bunch of strangers in dreadlocks with Bindis and Ganesha tatoos.

Spotify

My kids love music. I LOVE music. Thanks to Spotify, I can access ANY song I want anytime, anywhere. I create playlists and connect them in with my SONOS speakers and play music while making dinner. Or I play tunes from the car – Spotify hooks right into the Bluetooth speakers. Be sure to order the Premium service for this kind of access. It’s about 10 bucks a month. But it will save your tail when your son wants to listen to UpTown Funk in the car a bazillion times.

Not Drinking

Sorry to get heavy on you, but I haven’t had a drop of booze since November 1st, 2013. I wasn’t a stereotypical alcoholic like you see on TV. Nobody suspected I had a problem. But I decided to stop drinking because I didn’t like the trajectory I was on. Now that I’m not dealing with hangovers and worrying about whether or not I’m an alcoholic, I have so much more time and focus!

Other unexpected benefits: I can get up earlier now that I’m not hanging from wine the night before which means I can wake up for my spiritual practice and go to an early morning bootcamp class. I’m making more money, I’m closer to God AND I look better naked. It’s a win, win, win!

Yes whether or not I’m a “drunk,” is sort of besides the point. NOT drinking is my super power. If you want a little of where that comes from, check out: Recovery 2.0: Move Beyond Addiction and Upgrade Your Life by Tommy Rosen, Alcohol Lied to Me: The Intelligent Way to Escape Alcohol Addiction by Craig Beck or The Easy Way to Control Alcohol by Allen Carr (I’ve actually never read this one but I hear from a lot of people that it’s helpful) or just go to a 12 Step Meeting.

The Miracle Morning 

Week day mornings at my house are grueling. By 7am I wake up two drowsy seven-year-olds and a grouchy four year old, cajole them to get dressed while attempting to entice them down the stairs with the promise of food. Once in front of said food, I somehow get them to finish a page of homework and groom the long-haired ones while they’re holding still holding still. Then it’s time to persuade them to brush their teeth and put on their coats and shoes so we can make it to the bus stop on time. Then it’s back to the house with the four year old (who wants me to carry her the whole way) where I make a lunch and drive her to school in time for Circle.

Which is all a long winded, slightly whiny way to explain why I get up early. Like 4:15 am early. It’s my ME time. I write in the Five Minute Journal. I do a Sadhana. Sometimes I go to my bootcamp class. Other times I write in my office. Or look at my Day Designer. I love to wake up before the little people.

But you’re probably reading this and thinking, “when hell freezes over!” I urge you to read The Miracle Morning: The Not So Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life by Hal Elrod. Even “night people,”can and should do it he argues. Nowadays, it’s a miracle that I can’t even imagine sleeping til 7 on a weekday. By the time the kids are up, all that meditating and chanting has got me in a mindset that can handle just about anything those little hell-raisers throw my way.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

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This diagram, albeit phallic, says it all (the word in the middle of each circle says “energy”). The paradox is that the more successful you become, the more opportunities come your way. I hate to “miss out” on an opportunity. It’s easy to say YES to it all. But all those arrows pointing in different directions water down your impact and keep you from getting results. I desperately needed this reminder in my life.

With the help of this book and the patterns I’m seeing from my entries in The Five Minute Journal plus the clarity I’m getting from Sadhana, I’m learning how to DISCERN. And do the scariest thing of all – say NO to the “un-essentials” disguised as opportunities. It’s the skill of discernment combined with the act of saying no that is helping me get more done, spend less money and enjoy more quality time. Time, is the most precious, non-renewable resource there is after all.

Okay! Now it’s YOUR turn! I want to learn from you! Share at least one tool, book or practice that has changed YOUR life in the comments section below and I’ll enter you in to win a copy of The Five Minute Journal!

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Lorraine Smith May 7, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Hi Amy – Thank you for sharing your list of go-to sites, it has surely inspired me. Five Minute Journal (I can do 5 minutes a day), Day Design (I am a paper calendar girl myself and love the Day Design), Yes I need a budget (she says with tail between her legs……I am signing up and making this a priority) and I am committing to getting up earlier (I am actually finding myself waking up around 4 am ish and I am now inspired to actually get out of bed – I can stop whining about not have me time and do something about it). I, like you I have stopped drinking alcohol and even recently coffee (I know, sometimes I can hardly believe it) and I have noticed that my energy has actually increased.

Thank you so much for your authenticity and inspiration to live a Brazen life.

with gratitude,
Lorraine

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Amy May 7, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Hey if you already get up at 4 might as well use the time for good, right? I took a break from coffee too. Also found I had more energy. I just went back on the it! Trying to stick to bulletproof and drinking it with coconut oil and ghee. Thanks for the comment Lorraine!

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Lindsay May 7, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Thanks for this article of books, tools and practices that you have found useful. For me, I’m militant about going to bed at certain time (9pm on weekdays and 10pm on weekends). My internal clocks wakes me up between 5-6am everyday, and I know that if I don’t get enough sleep (I’m an 8-hours-a-night gal), I will be super grouchy and irritable. So, to not have that, I need to get to be at an early hour and I hold myself to it, even if others think I’m lame.

Also, I listen to Brooke Castillo’s weekly podcasts, sometimes more than once. There is just something about how she breaks down concepts about emotions and thoughts that totally resonates with me.

Thanks for the recommendation for Instacart. There’s only one store in my area, but I think it would be great for my sister, since she’ll be a first-time mom in only a few days.

-Lindsay

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Amy May 7, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Love me some Brooke Castillo! Didn’t know she has a podcast. Cool! Yep I’m the same way about sleep which is why I go to bed at 8pm! LOL

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jean May 7, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Amy this is a great list! Thank you. I will incorporate daily Sadhana for sure as that feels like just what the doctor/coach ordered. I have YNAB but this is helping me to use it and Instacart is not yet available in NJ but hopefully soon. I so get the go in for bananas come out with everything but.

I love the pomodoro (sp?) timer you recommended one time. For my ADD brain the 25 mins I set it for to work helps and my breaks range from yoga to tea to FB peeks.

I also am reading The Big Leap and that is helping get over my fears.
Also more and more getting in to EFT, Tapping. Helps remove my ingrained money blocks and has propelled me to be fearless when it comes to networking and even speaking what I do to people. LIfe changing!!

Thanks! xxx

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Amy May 7, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Love Pomodoro! I just bought a book about EFT. I really want to learn more! Thanks Jean!

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Rae May 7, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Hello Amy, thanks for the list! There are a few things on here that I’m definitely going to check out, especially the book about getting up in the morning – I’ve recently become addicted to Morning Pages (as recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way etc) but could do with rising earlier to fit it in more smoothly.

Like you, I’ve come to regard *not* drinking as a super power (although not sure I look better naked for it 😉 ). The book that changed my life is linked to this, and it’s Caroline Knapp’s Drinking, A Love Story. In this book, Knapp describes her love affair with alcohol and how in the end she had to break up with it. I devoured it when I first stumbled across it as it resonated so deeply – like Knapp, and like you it seems, I knew I had a highly problematic relationship with alcohol but because I didn’t look or behave like the stereotypical alcoholic, I struggled to name my feelings. Knapp helped give me a framework for understanding my desires and my behaviours. Am now a happy sober – forget fashionista, being a wagonista is where it’s at!

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amy May 13, 2015 at 4:46 pm

I love morning pages as well. I’ve had some really amazing breakthroughs writing those. Thanks for the reminder. Also loved Knapp’s book.

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Wendy May 7, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Ironically my secret weapon tool came from you AMY! it’s the slight edge by Jeff Olson.

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amy May 13, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Of course! Cannot forget THAT book!!

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mara May 7, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Amy, you’re totally speaking my language right now. Just the other day (as I was being coached) I revealed to myself that what I really need to do right now is align my outer life with my inner knowing – MORE. I too have been waking up earlier to sit in silence and meditate before a 5yo plops onto my lap, and we’re off and running. The 5 min journal and the Essentialism book really speak to me.

This is a great post. Thank you for sharing your secret weapons!
mara

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amy May 13, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Glad it was helpful! Let me know what you think of the 5 min journal and Essentialism!

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Lauren May 7, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Thanks for all this, Amy! My morning practice includes reflection/meditative time with tea, a candle, and total quiet. My cat, Moon Star (inherited the name with the cat, but very Portland, yes?) joins in, purring in my lap, which is really sweet. (She does her meditation for 10 minutes, then she jumps off to her important Cat Things.) Books that have made a difference for me are The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron), A New Earth (Eckhart Tolle), Finding Your Own North Star (Martha Beck), and all poetry by Rumi. I look forward to trying Sadhana, and am very intrigued by the Essentialism book you list. As a new coach, my head spins daily with all the offerings I get from wonderful coaches, and I want to sign up for every single one! So much to sort through constantly, so I hope that will help. Thanks again! xo

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amy May 13, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Thanks for the book recommendations! Let me know what you think of Sadhana. And say hi to Moon Star.

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Rena May 7, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Amy, thanks for these amazing resources! I can’t wait to look into the Miracle Morning and the 5 minute journal.

The one thing that has really helped me recently is http://www.calm.com. It has relaxing meditations of all different lengths. Who doesn’t have time for a 1 minute meditation?! The one thing I love about it is that while I’m sitting and working at the computer and starting to stress out, I can turn on calm.com and help myself relax, without having to force myself up to do some yoga or something. It’s like the no-excuse relaxer.

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amy May 13, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Oh! I’ve never heard of it! I’m going there NOW! Thank you Rena!!

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Daisy Wong May 7, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Thank you for the list of recommendations. I love learning new tools. I learned about your work from Tommy Rosen and I am so glad I found you.

Be well,
Daisy

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amy May 13, 2015 at 4:49 pm

I love Tommy Rosen! He’s doing another Recovery 2.0 conference this summer!!

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Deb Coman May 9, 2015 at 7:42 am

Hi Amy,

So many great tools and tips here. I would love the Five Minute Journal. It sounds like a great resource. I also love the Wunderlist app to keep track of To Dos, groceries, any list at all and I LOVE that my laptop and phone sync the lists so that it’s easily up to date and with me when I need it for when an idea strikes or I’m ready to cross something off the list!

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Jamie May 11, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Getting enough sleep has been a huge priority for me for the last 2 years, and it is having a profound impact on my productivity at work. The “do not disturb” feature on my iphone has actually become my favorite tool… I have scheduled quiet hours and I also use the manual setting so that my phone doesn’t distract me when I am resting or working on a project or meditating. My family knows to call me right back if it is urgent (which bypasses the feature), so I can relax knowing that I am not missing anything critical. Anything else CAN, and will, wait.

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Jamie May 11, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Oh and thank you very much for your list! Lots of good stuff there!!!

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amy May 13, 2015 at 4:51 pm

I have been trying to use that feature but I can’t seem to get it to work! I’ll keep trying! And you are welcome! Love learning about everyone’s secret weapons! I’m HUGE on sleep myself!

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Lisa Jo May 14, 2015 at 9:01 pm

Super great info here! Some of this stuff I haven’t heard of and can’t wait to check it out. Interesting reading comments too because I listen to Brooke’s podcasts and I’ve recently started reading about Tapping. I was surprised Amy (hi Amy) didn’t know about Brooke’s podcasts because i picture all my coaching faves being all besties or something I guess. :). I haven’t been able to adjust to high tech calendars either; except for reminders which are great…..I still love a paper calendar. I like to make my own so they are highly personalized and I can just carry around a few pages if I want. Scatteredsquirrel.com has awesome free calendar and list printables if you like that kind of thing. Thanks for all the cool shares here!

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Mary May 20, 2015 at 12:36 am

Thanks for the great ideas Amy. I’ve tried out the miracle morning and love it. As well Hugh Culver talks about his morning routine and he gets up at 5 and has protected time to plan, write etc until 7:30. What I love is that he is unplugged – no checking email, FB or his phone. Just concentrating on projects. I’m going to give this a try.

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