Sleep…Priority #1

So, I realize the irony that I’m starting this post at 10:30 pm, when I’ve decided to stop with the responsibilities of the day and get on with a big week. This week will be one of the most important for me, as we welcome our teaching staff back to school and help them to prepare for the coming year. Students come soon, and all in our district need to be ready to support them!

This time of year can be simultaneously the most energizing and the most demanding. Last week, we felt a clear change in our work as a technology department, as we saw more and more teachers rolling into our schools to prepare for the year, and the deadlines of summer projects really began to tighten.

Personally, I respond to deadlines in a couple of ways. One, I work towards them and feel motivated by them. Two, I can be overly stressed by them and make choices that aren’t healthy for myself or for those I lead and support.

Last week, I ran on a sleep deficit all week–3 or 4 hours each night–

3 hours and 18 minutes of sleep. Even my Fitbit is telling me to sleep more.

not enough to be at my best. So, while I worked hard and forced my mind and body to perform for long hours, some of which were highly productive, there was a price. I definitely could not be at my best, and I put my capacity at risk.

I apologize to my team for not being the best leader I could be. I apologize to my family for not being the best mom and wife I could be. And, I promise my colleagues, my family, and myself to be a healthier version of myself as we start this school year.

What I realize is that not getting enough sleep negatively impacts every other aspect of my life (duh…this is what all research says!).

This hits home to me in a few ways. First, I went for a run on Saturday after a better–but not great by any means–night of sleep on Friday night. I did fine, but I didn’t feel great. Saturday night I got great sleep, and on my Sunday run, I felt AMAZING! A good night of sleep (even after neglect) prepares our bodies to perform. Second, my clarity of mind and productivity are better when I’m rested. Third, neglect of sleep is the first domino in a series of other poor choices. When not rested, I’m quicker to give in to convenient and unhealthy nutrition, my patience suffers, and my exercise–something that typically yields positive gains in many aspects–is skipped.

So, as the school year begins, I implore all who go back to school or quicken their pace to also take care of yourselves. Treat yourself to downtime. Be sure to get some rest. Keep up your good eating and physical activity routines. Carve out time to socially engage with those who matter to you. Spend quality time with family after the work day. And for goodness sake, get good sleep.

Good night, all!

Decision Paralysis (Less is More)

Does this ever happen to you? You have a whole host of options available to you, and just the sheer number of choices makes you just stop? I’ve been there, and I’ve blown some opportunities because of not knowing what to choose. This particular weekend, I’m in the midst of something I haven’t experienced since the establishment of the Briske family: down time at home by myself. Yes. Down time. At home. By myself. Nobody is there, and there’s nothing on the schedule.

So, as I was anticipating this time and contemplating how I would spend a Saturday and Sunday on my own, I had a lot of ideas. My extroverted self went right to thinking about who I would see…maybe some friends I haven’t seen in a long time, maybe a girls night out, maybe inviting friends for dinner. The options seemed endless, and my goal was to maximize my enjoyment of this time.

Then, my active self kicked in. Maybe I’d go for a long bike ride or drive to a new trail for a run. Maybe I’d get up early and go for my normal run while the family was still here, then get another workout in later on Saturday, and something else on Sunday. Adventure, here I come!

I also thought about the craziness of day-to-day life and what would be renewing and refreshing on a weekend to myself. My thoughts shifted to making this a very low key time. I love to cook and try new foods, but my family isn’t always as intrepid as I am when it comes to food. Maybe I would make some new international dishes, learn some new techniques, experiment with new ingredients. I should probably have seafood or fish, since those are not appreciated by the fam. Yes, new foods, add in some outdoor exploration, time for reading, maybe a massage, good rest. This is shaping up nicely.

As the options hovered around my imagination, I knew I was in danger of decision paralysis. You see, I’m the type of person that needs to read the whole menu at a restaurant because I want to be sure I’m ordering the meal that I will enjoy the most. I will weigh the options against one another and take care to choose wisely, even when there are numerous satisfying options.

I started whittling down to the things I love that I could do without guilt or accommodation. What I realized in this process is that I really just crave some simplicity. I think about simplifying life often. I try to focus on the things that matter. Why do there have to be so many things that matter?! Life stays busy. I decided I’d be content staying close to home, cooking, enjoying my food, reading, getting some time out in the sun, maybe watching a movie, maybe even taking some unhurried and uninterrupted time to organize my closet. That might seem like a crazy way to spend this time, but the satisfaction in it sounds appealing to me.

There are a few big ideas that crossed my mind in this decision-making process, so maybe I’ll expand on them on a later day. One thing I realized is that we are often striving for the big events in life–extravagant vacations, nights on the town, laughter with groups of friends, new adventures, accomplishing stretch goals, extravagant purchases, or indulgent outings–smiles, leisure, excess, and experiences to enjoy and share on social media.  Don’t get me wrong, there is good in those experiences, yet what I really wanted was not more, but less. Less running around, less spending, less time crunching. I didn’t want to fill up the time. At the same time, I wanted some ideas of what I would do, so I wouldn’t get stuck weighing the menu of options or scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, or email while having the chance to do whatever it is I wanted. What did I land on? Some simplicity. Time to read, time to write, a pedicure, a nap, late afternoon in the coffee shop, soaking up sunshine on the deck, a walk with a friend. And what do I know about this choice? Down time is good for the mind, body, and soul.

If you’ve found your way this far in my ramblings, I hope you also have some time to just sit back and enjoy some unstructured, un-rushed, and uninhibited time of rest.

The Longest Short Week

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As I was having some morning coffee on Thursday before heading to a meeting, I had the thought, “This has been the longest short week.” The thing is, I was home on Monday with a sick kid, we lived the MN dream of a snow day on Tuesday, I worked on Wednesday, then Thursday morning I already felt like it had been a long week. This is after one day of work. ONE DAY! Granted, I had already worked through some dramatic kid breakdowns over things that seem pretty inconsequential, but that shouldn’t sap my energy or drain my spirit too much.

Here’s the deal, though…even when I don’t physically go to work, it is still with me. There are pieces of work that I do from afar because they just need to be done. Then, there’s all the work I needed to do, but didn’t get to because I wasn’t actually there, so it builds up. And the real kicker: even though nothing brings more joy to our little family than the gift of a snow day, the disruption of routine also brings challenges that we don’t even notice.

I have the power to impact how smoothly my days and weeks run. What I realize is that the week feels long not only because of the things that happen at work and in life in general, but also because of the chaos I allow. By maintaining routine (even with sick kids and snow days) and simplifying our family’s lives, I can make the week much less burdensome and tiresome.

My takeaways from realizing my tired and dragging self after one day of real work this week:

  1. Cut what’s not needed–eliminate clutter, unnecessary events, and time/resources spent on things that don’t add joy and value to our lives.
  2. Keep the routines that matter–real meals, a good amount of sleep, daily responsibilities for myself and my family.
  3. Practice gratitude, encouragement, and service–take time to realize how great life is, encourage those around us, and find opportunities to serve others.

Living with intentionality and purpose even when life throws curveballs–both fun (snow day) and not so fun (sickness)–brings a sense of satisfaction and contentment overall. Here’s to rolling with the punches by taking simple steps to be prepared for whatever life brings.

Living in Mission

Have you ever had the experience of two completely separate events or endeavors pointing you in the exact same direction? As I wrapped up one book I’ve been reading recently and started into another, I found such overlap in the content, that it gave me pause. Now, we are likely to pick similar topics to read, so it isn’t entirely surprising that two separate works I choose to read would be similar in their suggestions for living well.

Surprise the World 2

The thing is that one of these books is focused on Christian mission and one is entirely secular relating to energizing work and life. The first I was reading specifically as a Lenten study. The second I am reading out of seeking personal and professional accomplishment and satisfaction. What do they both say? Serve others and live with purpose, meaning, and intentionality. In the first book, this is a means of living out my mission as a believer in Christ. In the second, this is a means of gaining energy and personal happiness.

The first book I’ve been referencing is Surprise the World: The five habits of Highly Missional People, by Michael Frost. The second is Are You Fully Charged?: The three keys to energizing your work and life, by Tom Rath.

Fully Charged

While there are clearly differences between the two books–perhaps the biggest difference being that one draws on references from the Bible, while the other references scientific research–both of these books point me towards serving others, intentionally seeking a purpose greater than myself, and prioritizing interactions with others. As I read and reflect on these texts, I’m challenged to check my habits and assess my calendar and my budget. Where am I investing my time, skills, and treasures? How am I practicing my interests? How am I fulfilling my role as both a leader and a follower? In general, I live a very good life. Still I know (and these two books remind me) that we are all best off when we live in service to others, in relationship with others, and in contribution to a purpose beyond ourselves. If you’re looking for some inspiration, I recommend both of these books!

Seeking Clarity

OrionDuring the day today, it seemed like a good idea to go for a run while both kids were at gymnastics. This would give me an hour of time, but it would be dark, and I’d be on my own. Dark is my least favorite part of winter. And a run by myself gives many opportunities to cancel the date and stay inside. I went, and I’m glad I did.

Someone said to me today, “Since you’ve been blogging about running…” Really, this post is not about running. It’s just that running is what I’m doing when I get to experience the gratitude of sunshine on a sub-zero day, the sense of accomplishment in physical exertion, a simple form of focusing on my well-being, and today–some clarity.

When I run, I typically don’t wear headphones. I use it as a time to disconnect. If I’m with others, we talk. If I’m by myself, I hit pause on information intake and noise. I take the chance to notice my surroundings–the critter keeping an eye on me from the woods with just its glowing eyes visible in the light of my headlamp, Orion’s belt and the big dipper on a clear and dark night, the sound of my breath and my shoes hitting the ground. My mind lets go, but also does some work. The run time gives me time to process the day, nothing to pull me away from just being and thinking.

I talked at work today about clarity in the objectives of our work and setting up the conditions–strategies and structures–to focus efforts on the clear path of our goals. Tonight my thinking was different. It was about the time to process and the clarity of thought we can achieve when we let ourselves be alone, uninterrupted, and unhindered in allowing for our minds to focus and wander almost simultaneously. It turns out that the open time was the only condition I needed to bring some clarity. Perhaps this is even better on a clear and quiet night. So, it’s a good thing I went for the run, but this really isn’t about the run.

New Year, New You?

I’m a fan of setting goals at any time. As I said in my “Reset” post, I’m not really making resolutions, but a new year brings opportunities to start fresh, take stock, and move forward.

Today, I’m thinking about a couple of ways that people look at New Year’s goals–whatever we may call those goals. And, I don’t necessarily like some of the ways we look at them.

I think the phrase, “New year, new you!” has got to go. I got a new hairstyle on Friday (thanks, Lana!), and while others have complimented it, my son says it’s weird.

The new do.

He said it seems like I’m a different person. The truth is–as you all know–I’m the same person. And so it is with the goals we set. We make some changes, but we’re really the same people. This is good! We bring a lot of history with us, and it would be ridiculous and unsustainable to decide that who we’ve been no longer applies in order to achieve a new goal we set. Changes to our lifestyle are just that–changes, adaptations, adjustments to ways of doing things, not who we are. They don’t typically change us in the core of our being. If you set a goal that does that, it’s much harder to maintain without a lot of other decisions that support that change.

Next, I’m going to push back a bit on how many goals we can work on at a given time. Many experts say we should have 2-3 goals at any time. In general, that’s probably good. However, the stretch you make for the goals and how much they actually change you and your practices matter. This month, I’ve focused on simplicity, a reset, starting from the basics. My goal has been to have less excess and more focus on the essentials. The way this walks out for me is several micro goals–meal plan, cook and eat at home, run four or five days a week, cut out alcohol, cut out frivolous purchases, keep the kitchen clean. So far, so good on these goals. I think it’s easier to be successful when we build on previous practices. None of these habits are completely new to me; I’m just more focused on them. They all point to the same main objectives–simplicity, less spending, better health.

It seems that having multiple objectives working in concert supports success. Plus, getting on a winning streak feels good and promotes sustaining practices. New year, new me…not really. I’d say it’s really the same me, just continuing to develop.

Curiosity and Wonder

Curiosity and wonder are good things, yet as (choose your adjective–boring, routine, focused, busy) adults, we can miss out or even squash them when they are in front of us. Of course we don’t think of ourselves as unimaginative or not easily inspired, but when it comes to being taken by a moment of joy in exploring even the simple things of life, adults don’t come close to measuring up to kids. Moreover, we can be quick to redirect kids to tasks or a state of mind much less exciting than the delight of their moment that might be driving us a bit crazy.

This morning as I was getting ready for work and the kids were getting ready for school, they got a bit distracted from brushing teeth and finding socks with the fun of turning the lights off and on and watching their pupils respond. They bounced into my bathroom, where I was planning out each second in my mind to get out the door on time and began telling me about this with exuberance and continuing to demonstrate in my bathroom. Lights out, I can’t see a thing, my eyes adjust enough to carry on with my routine, lights on, repeat. As the urge to tell them to stop, get ready for school, and let me get back to my own prep for the day began to rise in me, I just stopped. I waited and let them carry on. Eventually they stopped. We all still got ready. My slight annoyance was their bit of morning giddiness. And the day was better for it.

This isn’t how it always goes. I know there are also times when we (and our kids) need to stay on track–particularly after the 18th time of asking them to do a simple task. But that’s not always. As I think about this moment, my focus is on my habit. I don’t need an automatic response for moments when the kids are getting a bit crazy or causing a minor disruption. These are moments for calm and thoughtfulness that might even yield more joy for my day. After all, we can all use a little more curiosity and wonder, and more often, we should even let ourselves be taken by the moment.

Dig in

It’s pretty easy for me to have a positive outlook when I’m on winter break with my family. The kids have time to play, we can sleep in a bit, there’s endless flexibility in the day (this is my favorite!), we do a lot of cooking, there’s just a lot of goodness around.

It was almost disorienting to wake up with the alarm this morning, but we quickly got into our routine, and that’s good for us. We need some downtime, but we also need our routine and some daily challenge. We were off and running with smiles and still feeling good (if a bit tired) at the end of the day.

But I also realized that some of the desires I have for accomplishing good work during the day are easier said from home than done at work. Yet, today just as other days, I decided to dig in and move forward. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Today is one day to move forward, start a streak of small wins, work through a couple of things that have been put off, and even reap some reward of satisfaction in a job well done.

I’ll try this again tomorrow.

Below Zero Gratitude

When I got back from my afternoon run today, I snapped a shot of the weather. I had been thinking about the predicted high temp of 1 degree above zero, and how grateful I would be for that one degree. At least it wouldn’t be below zero.

Even small amounts of something can be so wonderful.


That one degree is something to appreciate. Well, I didn’t get the above-zero temp, so I had to find something else to appreciate–thankfully that’s not hard. Today, that was the sun. The sun light makes such a difference in so many ways. It deceives us about how cold it actually is–allows our eyes to relay a message to our brain that it’s not so bad. It lifts our spirits even in the deep of winter. The sun warms a space inside a window, and will even warm our bodies if we venture out in the frigid weather. Today, even if I can’t have a temperature above zero, the sun (among a host of other blessings) is enough to bring a huge amount of gratitude.

Of course, I’m grateful for a body that lets me get out and exert myself. I’m also grateful for a couple of great friends who are crazy enough to brave the cold with me. I’m grateful for clothing to keep me mostly warm and for a comfortable home and hot shower upon my return. And today, the sunshine is what brought me to a point where I could step out and experience the joy of each of those other things. Hoping for many sunny days ahead!


Well, it’s New Year’s Eve. As we look toward a new year, we may wonder what 2018 will bring. I’m not sure, and I’m not planning any sweeping resolutions. Today in church, I was challenged (by my dad!) to turn with the new year with the question, “Will I turn?” He was talking to our congregation about the ways in which we let the good news of Christ’s birth change us, the ways in which we invite the Messiah into our lives, along with us in everything we do. That’s an everyday challenge…one to take seriously.

But here we are on the day that people look ahead and decide what goals to set, what changes to make–big, small, noteworthy, simple, high-impact, only known to ourselves–whatever they may be.

I’m considering the month of January and envisioning a “Reset” button. Not goals for the year, but a simple reset, starting from zero. Strip life down to the simple essentials (plus a bit of simple pleasures!). I’m looking at a fresh start with more of the basics–cooking at home, maintaining some order and intention in our days, spending less, the simple activity of running. I’m looking at cutting the excess and reseting.  I’ll buy a new pair of shoes (and use discipline on skipping the technical wear, Air Pods, cool running tights, etc.) and step into January with a focus not on adding, but going back to the basics of life. The year of 2018 is upon us and will hopefully bring much joy in the living. We’ll see where it leads. I’m looking at January right now, just this month, and I’m pressing reset as I look at the fresh and open year ahead.