Building an Artificial Pancreas: An Interview with Dana Lewis

pink diabetes supply kit

When most of us think about patient empowerment, we think about choosing a health care provider or researching treatment options. But Dana Lewis took patient empowerment to a whole new level in 2013, when she set out to find a solution for a small problem: the alarm on her insulin monitor wasn’t waking her up at night to alert her of severely low blood sugars.

Initially, she brought her concerns directly to the industry, but to her dismay they responded with comments like, “It’s loud enough” and “Most people wake up to it.” Fortunately for her, and for many others around the globe who are struggling to manage diabetes, she didn’t accept those answers.

I first met Dana while attending a Meetup on Health Care Design in Seattle. She was a panelist who shared her personal journey–specifically, how she co-created the DIY Artifical Pancreas System when no one was able to deliver one. As I listened to her story, I remember thinking to myself this is the most powerful example of self-care I’ve ever heard!

How exactly did she do it?

She reached out to other smart people who had the answers she needed, and with a “design and build” mindset, they promptly got to work. And after months of testing and tweaking, the OpenAPS solution was born.

The cost? About $150 USD on average.

As you might imagine there are a few risks involved with building Do-It-Yourself medical devices. There’s no FDA stamp of approval, no experts standing by to make updates or repairs, and device failures could result in complications. Still, it’s easy to see why the idea is so compelling: often, the alternative isn’t much better. For example, not awakening to a low blood sugar alarm can be fatal. Suffice it to say that managing complex medical conditions like diabetes is anything but easy, even with today’s modern technology.

Lewis admits this project has been “a gradual awakening,” or a process, rather than something she simply decided to do. It certainly didn’t go from idea to reality overnight.

“It was a realization that we don’t have to be passive recipients of care as patients.”

Indeed, we are the owners of our health just as much as we are recipients of care.

Her mantra, we’re not waiting, tells the story quite clearly. And she certainly isn’t waiting. Neither are the more than 200 others around the globe who are now using a DIYOpenAPS system to not only manage their chronic condition, but also to improve their quality of life.

For Dana, self-care involves getting enough sleep, spending time with family, and reading. Like so many of us, she understands that when she doesn’t get what she needs, it impacts everything else.

Empowerment lies at the heart of self-care. It’s taking ownership of what we need and then experimenting until we get it right.
Design thinking can be applied to an endless number of life’s challenges. If you’re feeling particularly empowered by this story, you can learn more about the Open Loop Artificial Pancreas System by contacting Dana directly or exploring these links:

Dana Lewis
dana@openAPS.org
@danamlewis #werenotwaiting #DIYPS #OpenAPS
www.OpenAPS.org
Background and details on how Dana built her OpenAPS: https://diyps.org/2016/05/12/how-i-designed-a-diy-closed-loop-artificial-pancreas/
Why DIY-ing #OpenAPS is important: https://diyps.org/2015/03/31/why-the-diy-part-of-openaps-is-important/

Please Note: The Artificial Pancreas System, like other DIY devices, is not FDA approved, which means individuals assume any and all risks associated with its use. Please talk with your doctor before undertaking a DIY project like this, and be sure to keep them informed of your progress.

Other Exciting News: This hybrid closed loop technology is the future of treatment for diabetes, and several versions of it are currently in the commercial development pipeline. It’s expected that an FDA approved product will be be available in 2017.

Self-Care Idea List: 366 Activities for a Beautiful Life

8 Dimensions of Self-Care

Having trouble coming up with fun and interesting self-care ideas?

Last year, I took on a self-care challenge. For each of the 366 days in 2016, I experimented with a new self-care activity and then blogged about it.

What would you add to the list? Be creative and come up with your own bucket list of activities that reflect your personal style, needs and priorities.

  1. Enjoy a fermented food (or learn to ferment something yourself)
  2. Set intentions for the next day, week, month or year
  3. Express gratitude
  4. Take a walk in the woods
  5. Bake whole grain bread
  6. Include strength training exercises at least 2 days each week
  7. Get a haircut
  8. Get vaccinated
  9. Give blood
  10. Buy nothing (give something instead)
  11. Use a pressure cooker
  12. Get equipped for fitness
  13. Tidy up
  14. Drink enough water
  15. Get a pedicure
  16. Travel (without stress)
  17. Enjoy a sunset
  18. Listen to the ocean
  19. Go fishing
  20. Visit a fruit stand
  21. Meet new people
  22. Enjoy the sunshine (and then apply sunscreen)
  23. Overcome a fear
  24. Give yourself a break
  25. Sleep in
  26. Get a massage
  27. Cook with garlic
  28. Journal
  29. Walk and work
  30. Pay taxes
  31. Do “The Work”
  32. Relax by a fire
  33. Peruse the bookstore
  34. Fold laundry
  35. Drink tea
  36. Write a haiku
  37. Take a road trip
  38. Play in the snow
  39. Spend time with friends
  40. Floss
  41. Join (or start) a book club
  42. Eat local
  43. Meditate
  44. Continue education
  45. Use affirmations
  46. Receive gifts
  47. Relax with aromatherapy
  48. Eat colorfully
  49. Accept what is
  50. Volunteer at the food bank
  51. Snuggle with pets
  52. Taste
  53. Shop for groceries
  54. Zentangle
  55. Learn CPR
  56. Reminisce
  57. Garden
  58. Explore new possibilities
  59. Go out for breakfast
  60. Define your “enough”
  61. Change your mind
  62. Chase good weather
  63. Love the middle seat
  64. Cool off with shave ice
  65. Explore new places
  66. Smell the roses
  67. Go to the beach
  68. See the bigger picture
  69. Be a tourist
  70. Think in traffic
  71. Get a mammogram
  72. Read scripture
  73. Make a contribution
  74. Lounge
  75. Be part of a community
  76. Cry
  77. Practice good skin care
  78. Get certified
  79. Prune what’s no longer useful
  80. Press the pause button
  81. Listen
  82. Be quiet
  83. Eat green
  84. Celebrate
  85. Meander
  86. Notice nature
  87. Make the holidays healthier
  88. Plan
  89. Go cycling
  90. Reflect
  91. Recover
  92. Try fermented dairy
  93. Walk the dog
  94. Take a nap
  95. Build a support system
  96. Write a book
  97. Calm down
  98. Be vulnerable
  99. Set boundaries
  100. Laugh
  101. Play games
  102. Dine alone
  103. Walk (in the airport or elsewhere)
  104. Plan a menu
  105. Ask for help
  106. Cook for yourself
  107. Hug a pet
  108. Give gifts of gratitude
  109. Find inspiring spaces
  110. Talk yourself into fitness
  111. Listen to an audio book
  112. Be inspired
  113. Stay in
  114. Understand your impact
  115. Set weekly goals
  116. Use an iron skillet
  117. Stay in touch with friends
  118. Do the dishes
  119. Forgive yourself
  120. Let the oven do it
  121. Go to the doctor
  122. Work in the yard
  123. Savor something
  124. Make new friends
  125. Plant some herbs
  126. Build new skills
  127. Assemble (or reassemble) a first-aid kit
  128. Make a toast to a memory
  129. Shop the farmers’ market
  130. Say thank you
  131. Give feedback
  132. Hug a tree
  133. Take a hike
  134. Read the (entire) Affordable Care Act
  135. Make broth cubes
  136. Bake a cheesecake
  137. Make a breakfast bowl
  138. Use a foam roller
  139. Change your sheets
  140. Eat 5 (to 9) servings of fruits and vegetables each day
  141. Network
  142. Entertain
  143. Sit in stillness
  144. Think positively
  145. Make chicken noodle soup
  146. Do something you don’t want to do
  147. Don’t worry (be happy)
  148. Self-direct your care
  149. Admire art
  150. Eat some cherries (or another in season fruit)
  151. Watch a game
  152. Love lentils
  153. Cultivate awareness
  154. Review your finances
  155. Fuel up for a workout
  156. Celebrate success
  157. Work to physical exhaustion
  158. Take the day off
  159. Eat a big salad
  160. Apologize
  161. Spend time with family
  162. Go sightseeing
  163. Visit a museum
  164. Marvel
  165. Color
  166. Start a bullet journal
  167. Count your blessings
  168. Bake a spaghetti squash
  169. Work in bursts
  170. Drink coffee
  171. Go to the gym
  172. Pick berries
  173. Go to the dentist
  174. Take a yoga class
  175. Track your goals
  176. Lean into discomfort
  177. Stretch
  178. Give gifts
  179. Make yourself a bouquet
  180. Take shorter showers
  181. Test your day for flow
  182. Buy new exercise clothes
  183. Get an eye exam
  184. Set boundaries
  185. Clean your yoga mat
  186. Blend a smoothie bowl
  187. Ferment pickles
  188. Volunteer at a community garden
  189. Take a home-canning class
  190. Bake zucchini bread
  191. Get (and stay) connected
  192. Learn self-defense
  193. Attend a virtual retreat
  194. Envision
  195. Care for your feet
  196. Breathe deeply
  197. Make chicken salad
  198. Go camping
  199. Listen to music
  200. Use a sugar scrub
  201. Window shop
  202. Buy yourself a gift
  203. Make a Thai salad
  204. Organize your recipes
  205. Bake blueberry muffins
  206. Make a (healthy) Waldorf salad
  207. Study
  208. Try a new recipe
  209. Organize your mind
  210. Eat lunch at the park
  211. Do some gratitude journaling
  212. Be proactive
  213. Try again
  214. Brew beer
  215. Rest
  216. Learn from others
  217. Research
  218. Get a scalp massage
  219. Stop
  220. Stargaze
  221. Go floating
  222. Take a moment
  223. Get a manicure
  224. Weigh the pros and cons
  225. Share your story
  226. Travel back in time
  227. Snack
  228. Walk with a friend
  229. Savor salmon
  230. Admire apples
  231. Enjoy a mocktail
  232. Go meatless
  233. Ask for a Box
  234. Indulge in an Acai Bowl
  235. Understand the Science of Happiness
  236. Rediscover Old Recipes
  237. Experiment with Eggplant
  238. Eat (or at least try) Sushi
  239. Carry an EpiPen (if you have been advised to)
  240. Work Outside
  241. Crack Fresh Eggs
  242. Eat Tomatoes (off the vine)
  243. Say No
  244. Buy a New Pillow
  245. Talk About Ideas
  246. Monitor Your Performance
  247. Clean Your Refrigerator
  248. Treat a Minor Injury
  249. Change the Air Filter
  250. Make Moroccan Meatballs
  251. Choose My Circles Wisely
  252. Begin Again
  253. Get Acupuncture
  254. Plan a Vacation
  255. Remember
  256. Try Matcha Tea
  257. Get New Socks
  258. Commit
  259. Speak Up
  260. Prepare a Snack Board
  261. Update Your Wardrobe
  262. Sort & Purge
  263. Tour a Food Forest
  264. Be True To Yourself
  265. Donate to Charity
  266. Coordinate a Walking Meeting
  267. Ask Questions
  268. Get Your Hands Dirty
  269. Pack a Mobile Emergency Kit
  270. Plant a Tribute
  271. Enjoy a Sweet Treat
  272. Connect Dots
  273. Sip Bubbles
  274. Eat Fresh Figs
  275. Celebrate
  276. Melt
  277. Moisturize
  278. Catch Up
  279. Evaluate Your Social Media Activity
  280. Be Negative
  281. Understand Your Personality
  282. Hire a Coach
  283. Read a Book
  284. Spend Quality Time
  285. Create a Manifestation Space
  286. Reconnect with a Friend
  287. Stay Open
  288. Prepare for Emergencies
  289. Set a Deadline
  290. Do Something for Love
  291. Make Space
  292. Cook with rosemary (or other culinary herbs)
  293. Arrive (rather than impose)
  294. Buy coffee for a stranger
  295. Make a vegan dish
  296. Learn more about your body
  297. Just be
  298. Establish a morning ritual
  299. Give a random gift
  300. Try reflexology
  301. Try new exercises
  302. Vote
  303. Experiment with a sourdough starter (or other cultured food)
  304. Organize your personal space
  305. Collaborate
  306. Write down your soul
  307. Learn bonsai
  308. Create an afternoon of self-care
  309. Island (s)hop with a friend
  310. Crochet (or create something)
  311. Rake leaves
  312. Live vicariously
  313. Sit with ambivalence
  314. Gain an understanding of politics
  315. Evaluate what’s essential
  316. Clear your calendar
  317. Ask for what you need
  318. Practice something that’s difficult for you
  319. Maintain financial harmony
  320. Have a kind disagreement
  321. Support a friend
  322. Brainstorm
  323. Learn something new
  324. Rearrange furniture
  325. Decorate
  326. See your favorite band live
  327. Try reiki
  328. Bake a pie
  329. Prepare a special meal
  330. Watch a funny movie
  331. Look up
  332. Do chores early
  333. Make a list
  334. Email yourself ideas
  335. Arrive early
  336. Warm up
  337. Learn to knit (or some other form of art)
  338. Notice the little things
  339. Watch it snow
  340. Drive slowly
  341. Choose theme words
  342. Stay open
  343. Move forward
  344. Have faith
  345. Don’t make plans
  346. Stay in your jammies
  347. Stay in touch with mentors
  348. Relax at the spa
  349. Learn about gun safety
  350. Get a fluoride treatment
  351. Call in a professional
  352. Go to the symphony
  353. Challenge yourself
  354. Listen to an inspiring audio book
  355. Read old journals
  356. Be a caregiver
  357. Have coffee with a friend
  358. Find a “plan B”
  359. Enjoy a holiday tradition
  360. Feel grateful
  361. Binge watch a series
  362. Have breakfast in bed
  363. Discover your core desired feelings
  364. Go Snowshoeing
  365. Whiten your teeth
  366. Reflect on your year

Ready to start your own challenge? Download a free self-care planning worksheet here.

Need some help developing your own self-care practice?

Start Here

Self-Care Challenge (Day 358): Finding a “Plan B”

A long line at the supermarket

Grocery shopping around the holidays can be excruciatingly painful.

In recent years I’ve done my shopping earlier and earlier, simply because the crowds are more than I can manage. It’s just too frustrating to wait in line for hours, and it isn’t a good use of my time.

But this year my husband and I were a little behind on our holiday tradition of shopping for stocking stuffers, and we found ourselves smack in the middle of a holiday grub melee.

Honestly, I’ve never seen a grocery store this busy–in almost 40 years, and in any of the seven US cities I’ve lived in. People couldn’t even push their carts down the aisle because the line for the checkout extended to the middle of the store in every aisle. At one point, my husband called me to ask if I just wanted to bail…but then we had an idea.

Since we weren’t shopping for groceries, we might have another option. Electronics had a checkout, as did sporting goods. Yes. What would have been at least an hour wait turned into a 10 minute checkout process.

The rest of the night was ours.

Why do I consider this self-care? Because so often we find ourselves in situations where we feel helpless. We complain about it. We feel frustrated by it. Yet we don’t always consider our other options. We don’t look for another way. We become like the giant elephant that doesn’t know he can pull the chain from the ground and walk away.

When have you come up with a great Plan B to save yourself from stress and frustration?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 355): Reading Old Journals

A stack of journals

I admit that I haven’t been very good at doing this over the years: re-reading my old journal entries. The truth is, there are usually at least a few experiences that I’d prefer not to relive. The disappointments. The losses. The bury-your-head-in-the-sand embarrassing moments of life. We all have them.

So instead, my journals typically get tucked away into a dark corner of the closet.

But this year my brilliant coach wisely suggested that they be used as a learning tool. I mean, why shouldn’t I put them to good use? I spent hours and hours and hours pouring my heart and soul into them, after all.

So today, my self-care activity was to re-read my journals from 2016. Sure, there are still a few more days left in the calendar year, but most of my recent entries have been reflective in nature, and will probably make more sense if I read them at the end of 2017.

Wow. I didn’t realize that simple act could feel so empowering.

It seems I’ve been quite busy this year. Traveling, taking classes, visiting friends and family, celebrating life’s special moments, writing, and coming up with copious amounts of ideas–some of which I experimented with and some I left on the page.

But it turns out that many of my journal entries have become a reality. I set out to widen my network, to make new friends, to build connections with others who are working toward similar goals. And I’ve done that. Even as an extreme introvert, I’ve done that.

I published a book, something that’s been on my bucket list for years. I sold more than I expected to, and I’ve received encouraging words from readers. Writing is an undeniable part of my soul.

I’ve also managed to keep up with this self-care challenge. For 355 days now, I’ve been intentionally engaging in some form of self-care. I’ve been experimenting with activities to see which ones are restorative, and which ones just feel like more work. (To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it a full year, but it has been so rewarding that I’ve pushed myself through the rough days even when I really felt like quitting.)

It was hard not to smile as I read through the many twists and turns of my life. In these 12 short months, I’ve considered many different business models, product offerings, and life paths. Some doors opened. Some doors closed. And some I’m still pulling on. But I have to admit that I’m almost more grateful for the doors that have closed because they’ve prevented me from drifting back to where I started this amazing journey.

Much of what I’ve written about over the past year isn’t new. These thoughts, desires, and ideas have been with me for years. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that if I cracked open a journal from my college years, I would find many of the same words scrawled across the pages.

My heart seems to know what it wants; my brain just isn’t always open to listening. But with “openness” as one of my theme words for 2017, I have a feeling things will be different.

What is your heart telling you that it wants?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 354): Listening to Danielle LaPorte’s Firestarter Sessions

A fire burning in an old wood stove

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to Danielle LaPorte’s work. Her approach to manifesting goals is quite different from the popular SMART goal-setting method that most of us are familiar with. (If you’ve read my book Uppward (Amazon Associate Link), then you already know I’m not a fan of the latter method either.)

Instead of beating our heads against the wall each time we fall short of our unforgiving, SMART goals, LaPorte suggests that we shift our mindset. (Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.)

I had almost forgotten about the Firestarter Sessions (Amazon Associate Link) until another vibrant influencer in my life suggested it. Thankfully, she also suggested the audio version rather than the book. (For those who haven’t yet had a chance to hear Danielle LaPorte’s voice, it will seriously lull you into a trance.) Check out her free workbook for a little taste of what it’s all about.

Yesterday’s self-care activity involved carving out some time to knit while I listened to the Firestarter Sessions. I’ve learned that when I listen while I’m also working with my hands, I absorb messages differently. I hear more of the emotions behind the stories rather than simply the meaning behind the words.

LaPorte’s inspiring words poured over me as I moved the yarn across my needles, mentally preparing myself for the new year.

How do I want to feel? Hmm.

It had been a long time since I’d asked myself that question.

My focus this year has been on self-care: my health, my well-being, my ability to live up to my fullest potential. I wholeheartedly believe that if we truly want to live our purpose, we must be whole. And good health is our greatest asset when it comes to being capable of achieving our goals.

But in my pursuit, I often find that I take the positive energy out of my goals. I set them as if I’m pouring concrete, believing that success is firmly defined by a single outcome: a digit, a number, an amount. Anything less is failure. Sure, we can say that failure is an opportunity for learning. (And it is.) But it hardly ever feels that way. (It feels more like a slap in the face…a lot of effort for a tad bit of learning.)

“What we cannot measure, we cannot improve,” you say?

Well, maybe not.

 

According to LaPorte, the pursuit of our goals can also bring us joy–if we are clear on what we truly desire, that is. Success is a feeling. (I must say, this is particularly appealing to the “F” of my INFJ personality type.)

Because isn’t what we’re really after a feeling? Confidence. Love. Joy. Connection. Power. Peace. Health. Contribution. (The great thing about feelings is that we get to define them any way we want to.)

Indeed, I can feel the fire rekindling.

 

Self-Care Challenge (Day 351): Calling in the Professionals

hot water heater

Every homeowner knows that repairs and maintenance are part of the deal. It’s an inescapable reality. They almost always come when you least expect them, and, for whatever reason, repairs tend to come in threes.

Our hot water heater is on its last leg. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason–but, then again, it is 12 years old. (That’s pretty old in hot water heater years.) So it’s not all that surprising that it decided to stop working just days before a major holiday.

With laundry piling up, and after reading the manual to be sure we hadn’t missed any DIY options, we bit the bullet and called in a professional.

I knew it would have to be replaced, but I wasn’t at all prepared for the enormous estimate that stared back at me from the duplicate form the technician handed me. Um, okay.

Whether it’s our home, or anything that involves our basic needs, being prepared for the unexpected is a solid preventive health strategy.

Imagine for a moment that you need a new hot water heater, but you aren’t prepared for the costly repair. The stress sets in. You can’t sleep. You’re worried about how you’ll pay for it and what you’ll have to give up to pay for the repair. And now imagine that you’re faced with an expensive repair, but you have some money socked away “just in case” something like this happens. You very little, if any, stress. You simply make a transaction and begin rebuilding your emergency fund.

While it does take some time to get to the latter scenario, it is beyond worth it.

Sometimes we have to call in the professionals. Whether it’s a coach, a financial adviser, or a health professional, sometimes we forget that delegating is a healthier choice than trying to do it all on our own.

 

Self-Care Challenge (Day 343): Moving Foward

a road that runs between two small hills

Have you ever felt completely overwhelmed (or perhaps even paralyzed) by the number of possible life paths you could take? Instead of making a decision and moving forward, you expend all of your time and energy weighing the pros and cons and analyzing possible outcomes?

Yep. I know the feeling.

Yesterday, the lyrics to Paula Abdul’s popular 80’s song Opposites Attract played on repeat in my head as I grasped the full reality of what I’ve been doing: taking two steps forward and then hopping right back to where I started. This back and forth hem-hawing has been going on for weeks.

But something Myers-Briggs expert Jessica Butts said recently really made me think:

“There are no wrong choices.”

(Barring choices that are illegal or immoral, of course.)

Those five words reminded me that not making a decision is still making a decision. It’s simply a decision to keep doing what you’re doing (even if what you’re doing is nothing). Likewise, to move forward we must take a step. And taking that first (or second or third or fourth) step requires us to make a choice. A choice to let go of something. A choice to bring something new into our life. A choice to take a risk. A choice to try something new.

Moving forward isn’t comfortable. It requires us to remain open to what’s next, and that can be scary, especially for those of us who like to know what’s next ahead of time. That just isn’t how life works in most cases.

Yesterday, as my self-care activity for the day, I made a commitment to myself to move forward with some goals that I’ve been contemplating for far too long.

What choice will you make today to move forward?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 334): Emailing Myself

Gold satin sheets

Ever have a brilliant idea only to later forget what it was? That used to happen to me a lot. In fact, more often than not, my best ideas would come in the middle of the night when I was fully relaxed and free from distractions. I’m probably not the only one who experiences this, but to be honest jotting down ideas in the wee hours of the night can be a challenge. Turning on a light, or even walking across the hall to my office, is a surefire way to wake my husband (and it doesn’t exactly make falling back asleep any easier either).

So instead, on most nights I would do my best to remember the idea by repeating it over and over in my head, hoping I would remember it in the morning. But despite my efforts I rarely remembered anything, and all that brain buzzing didn’t support a restful night’s sleep in the least.

I’ve learned the hard way that relying on my memory just isn’t a good idea. If I don’t write it down, I usually don’t remember it.

But I recently discovered that I can email those elusive little thoughts to inbox, and they’ll be waiting for me when I wake up in the morning. It’s like a parking lot for ideas. If something juicy happens to pop into my head at 2 AM, I simply grab my phone and take a couple of seconds to send myself an note.

Problem solved!

I’ve noticed that this approach helps me drift back to sleep more easily, which makes it an act of self-care since it supports my health. When I’m not consumed by trying to remember my ideas, I don’t sacrifice my sleep. And that’s a big deal for those of us who rely on a constant stream of creative ideas.

How do you remember your brilliant ideas?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 333): Making Lists

a purple journal with a cup of coffee

I’m a list maker—admittedly, sometimes to a fault. I have to be careful not to spend so much time making lists that I run out of time to actually check anything off of them. My morning ritual has helped a lot with this, but making lists is important in another way too: it keeps me from feeling frazzled.

And for that reason, I consider it an act of self-care.

Some people have a great memory; their mind is like a steel trap. Mine? Not so much. If I don’t write it down, that fleeting thought is quickly replaced by another one…and another one…and another one. My brain is a virtual idea factory.

In fact, it’s often made me wish that there was a way to clear out all the useless information that’s stored in there, to make room for more important things. As nice as that may be, science reminds us that the brain has a finite capacity for memory. Mine just seems to be on the lower end of normal. And that’s why I’ve grown to love lists.

List-making prevents some pretty disastrous uh-ohs. Realizing that you’ve forgotten to turn off the coffee pot, feed your animals, or take out the garbage doesn’t bode well for a relaxing vacation. (Kevin McCallister’s family sure could have used a list or two.)

For me, lists are critical when I’m preparing to leave for a trip. Whether I’m gone for just a few days or an extended period of time, there are lots of things that need to get done in advance. Lists provide me with a safety net, helping to make sure important things don’t slip through the cracks–and that reduces my stress levels immensely.

How do you use lists to make your life better?

Self-Care Challenge (Day 332): Doing Chores (Early)

A stack of folded towels

I like to get my least favorite tasks done early in the day. Whether it’s a weekday or the weekend, I tend to work at a fast pace to get the “need to do” chores checked off my list first, leaving me with more time to work on tasks that I am passionate about.

As an early riser (4:30 AM on most days), I begin my morning with a cup of coffee, a series of readings, journaling, and a quick mapping out of my day. But before jumping on the treadmill (so that no matter what happens as the crazy day progresses, I know I’ve at least gotten 60 minutes of physical activity in), I like to tackle a few chores: unloading the dishwasher, making the bed, folding laundry, vacuuming, taking out the trash—you get the picture. Those less-than-glamorous-but-need-to-get-done tasks.

I know there are differing philosophies on this. Many people have suggested that it’s better to tackle our most challenging tasks first. But let’s be honest, who am I going to call at 4 AM? Some tasks are just better suited for the start of the business day.

And as I consider what refills my cup, those activities that I purposely include in my self-care practice, I realized that ticking these little nagging chores off my list also clears my head. My creative mind is then free to jump into a project without periodically being reminded that I have a growing list of “things” to do.

Plus, knowing that I’ve accomplished a handful of tasks before 8 AM rolls around certainly doesn’t hurt. It provides a sort of mood boost that helps me build momentum for accomplishing other goals as well.

When is your optimal time for completing tasks that you don’t particularly love?