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I have been an insomniac my whole life. My body has resisted sleep like a petulant child, even when I was a petulant child. I read all the recommended articles and tried all the techniques, yet sleep and I remained contentious frenemies (a word I learned thanks to an insomnia fueled all night Sex and the City marathon).  Not having consistent and restorative sleep led to a number of other ailments as well. I went through battles with migraines, teeth grinding and TMJ, just to name a few. I was sleepy all the time and never truly felt rested.

But then I discovered my wonder drug – which is not a drug at all: The Alexander Technique.  The Alexander Technique is commonly taught in acting programs (which is where I learned it), but I truly believe that it would be more popular than massage and visits to the chiropractor if more people knew about it.  Very long story short, F.M. Alexander (1869-1955) was an Australian actor who began to experience chronic laryngitis whenever he performed. When his doctors could not help him, Alexander discovered a solution on his own. He had not been aware that excess tension in his neck and body were causing his problems, and he began to find new ways to speak and move with greater ease. His health improved so much that friends and doctors asked him to teach them his methods. Alexander taught for more than 35 years and continued to refine his exercises, which has now become known as the Alexander Technique.

Well, that was a nice little history lesson, but what is it and how does it work? The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change movement habits in our everyday activities to improve ease and freedom of movement, balance, support and coordination. The technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities. It helps you to release unnecessary tension and can be applied to sitting, lying down, standing, walking, lifting, and other daily activities.

Again, you’re probably thinking “nice description, but what can I do with this today?” Great! Here are 2 simple ways to bring some “Alexander” into your life today. The next time you are walking up stairs, simple tuck your chin down closer to your chest and lead your body up the stairs with the crown of your head versus your eyes and chin.  You will feel like you are flying up those stairs! Seriously! Our heads weigh a lot (thank you kid from Jerry Maguire), so use that weight to your advantage by directing it towards your destination, not away from it. Just tuck your chin and allow the momentum of the weight of your head to start to propel you up those stairs.  You’ve just Alexander’ed!  You’ve made better use of your body and used less energy by working with your body versus against it.

Next up, constructive rest. Never has improving your life been made so easy. It involves lying down for 15 minutes a day. What could be easier?!? Here’s how:

  • Find a reasonably quiet place. Lie on your back on a flat, firm surface, like a carpeted floor, or a wooden floor with a yoga mat or thin blanket beneath you. Do not lie down on a bed, cot, or sofa, these surfaces are too soft and will not allow for your muscles to release.
  •  Place something firm beneath your head, such as a few thin books or magazines, for support. The height of this support will vary with each individual. The idea here is to lengthen the spine, so you want to find a height that allows your neck to stay in line with the rest of your spine, not bent too far back or forward. Try different heights to find the one that feels best to you and allows you to let your shoulders relax.
  • Now, bend your knees to bring your feet flat onto the floor. Keep your heels in approximate line with your hips. It may take some playing around to find the right placement, but you’ll know you’ve found the “sweet spot” when keeping your knees up feels somewhat effortless.
  • Next, bend your elbows to bring the palms of your hands to rest on the sides of your torso towards the bottom of your ribcage. Make sure your hands are not touching one another, and that there is plenty of space between your ribcage and elbows.
  • Finally, close your eyes, breathe and allow the weight of your body to fall into the floor. Fifteen minutes later, you’ll feel practically brand new! (Here’s a great tutorial with a more in depth explanation: http://www.expandingself.com/constructive_rest. And here’s a video to help you out too: http://vimeo.com/170140.)

In a perfect world, we would all do this every day or our lives, but I aim for at least 3 to 4 times a week and still feel miraculous benefits.  I haven’t needed migraine medication since I started constructively resting regularly and my bed and I have become best friends forever! Enjoy!

Post authored by Erin Jerozal 

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Applications for the iPhone (or, if you insist, the Droid or Blackberry) come at all price points, and in many shapes, sizes and…well…applications.  Many people use the obvious ones; Facebook, Gmail etc.  What many people don’t know is that if you look more closely at some of these apps (let’s exclude Angry Birds for the purpose of this discussion) you will find amazing time- and sanity- savers!

My favorite application, hands down, that I’ve installed recently is called “Things”.  I have two clients, a documentary and a casting project to manage.  And yoga teacher training.  And the mundane stuff (buying groceries, cleaning the apartment, plotting world domination…).  It was too much!  I thought I was going to start ripping my hair out, tracking tasks on google tasks and with all these different lists and spreadsheets!  It was too much.  It was clunky, I needed my projects separated but not so separated that I couldn’t have them all in mind.  And then I found Things!  It was like a new religion in iPhone gadgetry!

Things can be downloaded on your mac and your iPhone and will sync between the two.  You can use it to create tasks with due dates and separate those into projects as well as areas.  When I’m sitting down to work on my documentary, I click that area and see all the projects I need to do.  I see what is due imminently on top, and can easily understand my order of priorities without any further thought.  When I complete a task, I click that satisfying little checkmark and the app logs all my completed tasks.  I’m also able to create automatically recurring tasks; every month I need to reconcile Quickbooks for a client; that task generates with a due date automatically.

Things.  Changed my life.  It can change yours

Post authored by Laura Baron 

I just so happen to come from a family of extremely talented female cooks: my mother, my grandmother, my aunt, my cousins, my sister. I’m not exaggerating when I say every woman in my family has been blessed with the Kitchen Gene… except me. To be fair, I’m not horrible in the kitchen (in fact, I’m pretty skilled when it comes to making scrambled eggs), but I definitely spend more time collecting recipes than I do testing them. I’m constantly bookmarking ideas or e-mailing them to myself—all tagged in Gmail with a “Recipes” label, of course. Then there’s my manila folder full of ideas: pages torn from Real Simple and Women’s Health mixed with handwritten recipes scribbled on scraps of paper, and, for good measure, a few childhood favorites Xeroxed from my mother’s cookbooks. The only problem? I love feeling organized, and I hate not having one consistent means by which to keep track of all my carefully collected recipes—you know, the ones I’ll probably never make.

Needless to say, I’ve given this recipe situation a lot of thought. Here are a few (hopefully helpful) suggestions for storing and keeping track of your favorites:

Create an online cookbook. Sure, the Internet is full of databases like AllRecipes.com and virtual cookbooks like MyCookbook.com, but I’d rather have more control over the layout. My solution is a blog called “The Blogged Cookbook” (creative, I know)—a password-protected collection of recipes. The best part? My mom and sister have the log-in information so the three of us can share family recipes and build a comprehensive database of all our favorites. We tag each dish with keywords ranging from “cold weather” and “baked goods” to “healthy” and “side dishes”. The best part? Your recipes are accessible wherever you go.

Save your recipes in a Word document. One of my coworkers saves all his recipes in one document so he doesn’t have to store cookbooks in his apartment. I still prefer to save my recipes in a blog so I can access them remotely, but saving recipes in Word is a great way to eliminate clutter and save paper, especially if you use the “Notebook Layout” view and assign a different tab to each food category (Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Entrees, etc.)

Create a recipe binder. If you’re the hard-copy type, you can always buy a three-ring binder and some plastic sheet protectors with holes.  Whether your recipes are ripped out from magazines or typed neatly, storing them in see-through covers keeps them legible and clean, and you can always add and delete recipes as needed. Use dividers to create customized sections—it’s like your own personalized, constantly evolving cookbook.

Go the Martha Stewart route. What’s wrong with a good ol’ fashioned recipe box? Handwrite your recipe on an index card and file it. You can always re-purpose a shoebox (I’m personally not crafty enough for something like that), use a photo-storage box, or look for an actual recipe box. Store it in the kitchen for easy access.

Use Pinterest. Oh, Pinterest. My new obsession. I just can’t get enough. If you’re already on Pinterest, you can probably relate. A virtual pinboard that allows you to organize and share images you find online, Pinterest is both useful and addictive. You can browse other people’s boards and then re-pin images you like (make sure to cite your sources and link back properly!) You can also install the “Pin It” button on your toolbar—just click it whenever you come across a delicious-looking recipe that you’d like to save for future reference. The end result? A visually stunning collection of images that would have otherwise wound up in some never-visited Bookmarks folder.

How about you? How do you store your recipes? I’d love to hear your ideas! Happy cooking!

Post authored by Lia Zneimer

Originally from Colorado, Lia is a Junior Publicist at Scholastic with a love of all things organized, color-coded, and grammatically correct. When she’s not drooling over sites like Praxis and Real Simple, Lia can be found working on her own blog, Simplicity. You can follow her on Twitter @liazneimer. (And be sure to check out Scholastic’s official blog, OOM.)

I have avoided having a full team meeting at BSLM for as long as humanly possible. Many meetings I attend are too long, unfocused, leaderless and happen at times of day when I am starving, leaving me no choice but to daydream about my lunch choice. I typically leave meetings wondering about clear, actionable next steps other than “find food.” But, I knew it was inevitable, that the time would come to bring our, mainly remote, team together. That day was yesterday.

I knew I had to take definitive steps to make the planning and execution of ours enjoyable, or at the very least, tolerable. Here are a few things I did to that end.

Scheduling
I scheduled our team meeting about 8 weeks in advance and was careful about how I described the gathering. I made it clear this was not a super serious, Brooke-talking-about-boring-things, type of meeting. It was instead a special occasion, a gathering never before seen in our company, and, for us, a milestone. I respectfully requested the presence of each team member, highlighting the meeting as an opportunity to be a part of the bigger picture. I also made sure everyone knew there would be plenty of food.

** After I sent my scheduling emails Erin Jerozal introduced me to Doodle.com, an excellent tool for finding a good meeting time for large groups of people. Check it out!

Planning
Naturally, as we do with things we are scared of, I put off sitting down and actually figuring out the structure for the meeting day after day. As the weeks went on and I kept ignoring this task, I decided to dedicate a little notebook (Muji A6 Double Ring Lined, Gray) to recording the random thoughts that popped into my head about what we needed to discuss, what might be good to bring up, what needed a good solid group think, etc. I kept adding to my notebook as the weeks went on and the meeting drew closer. I decided I would not look critically or organize this list until the week before the meeting. This way when I sat down with the monster list the still pertinent and vital topics would pop out at me, fingers crossed.

Creating An Agenda
The week before the meeting I pulled out my trusty notebook and got down to it. There were lots of scribbles and I discovered many of my notes echoed one another. There were themes, thank god, that I could clearly discern. Using the great new, free application Agreedo.com, suggested to me on Twitter by Julian Jansen (@JJansen83), I started plugging in agenda topics and making notes about the importance of each item. Little notes and reminders could be easily and neatly nestled under large categories, and Agreedo was so pretty and fun to use that before I knew it I was done.

Refining the Structure
After I pulled together the big ideas and created a good solid draft of an agenda I got down to the details. How could I facilitate the discussion of each agenda topic so it was engaging? I came up with interactive activities for each topic to get the conversation rolling. These activities called for our team members to get up and moving and talking to one another, instead of just talking to me or to the large group one by one. This helped, not only introduce and dig deeper into our agenda items, but also provided an opportunity for everyone to continue getting to know one another. I built in stretch breaks, food breaks, chat breaks, iPhone checking breaks – we all need them.

Execution
The morning of the meeting I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. Considering I spent most of my time in front of audiences of hundreds as a performer in my past life, that is saying something. I knew I had a solid plan, which I know makes everything possible, but could I execute and not just freak out?! I took a deep breath, had an extra cup of coffee and reminded myself why I and started this company in the first place. Then I ate a croissant, mumbled a jumbled Sanskrit/Hebrew ish prayer and went for it.

During our meeting I tried to pay close attention to everyone, making sure people had all the time they needed to ask questions, bring their ideas to the group and understand the concepts we were discussing fully. If people were looking bored, I was prepared to ask why. Leading this meeting was a growing opportunity for me too after all!

We had a great meeting and now I’m not so scared of the next one. Per usual, having a solid structure and taking it step by step proved the best tools in my belt. I was a little exhausted, but thrilled with the results.

If you have any ideas, or recommendations about meeting planning and execution please share them in our comments! I try to get better everyday, so thanks for your help.

Post authored by Brooke Stone

COCONUT OIL – A Money Saving Combination 

A Conspiracy – Do you ever wonder why your pantyhose run so easily? Pantyhose are made from nylon. Mineral oil weakens nylon. Most body lotions contain mineral oil. So when you put body lotion on your legs before putting your pantyhose on, you are weakening the nylon, enabling it to run more easily. The pantyhose manufacturers and body lotion producers are making a lot of money off you!

An Economic Solution – It is more economic to use organic coconut oil for two reasons: organic coconut oil is cheaper than body lotion – one jar of coconut oil can last over a year – how many bottles of body lotion do you buy during a year? Your pantyhose won’t run as often so you won’t need to buy as many. Use pure organic coconut oil on your legs instead of body lotion. Organic coconut oil can be found in the cooking section of your health conscious grocery store. I keep a jar of organic coconut oil in the bathroom for moisturizing after showers.

To the Naysayers – If you say, “Isn’t it greasy?” The answer is a resounding “No!” My skin has never been healthier looking. I’m 51 and my skin is soft without any dry wrinkling. My elephant elbows are no more thanks to a little dab of coconut oil (a little goes a long way). Your body heat melts the oil into an easily spread-able liquid.

But Wait There’s More! – I also keep another jar in the kitchen to cook with! It’s a delicious and healthful alternative to cooking with butter. If you can eat it, I figure it is healthier to put on your skin than any man made moisturizer, which usually contains chemicals, preservatives, scents, etc. Your skin is one of your most important organs and it is better to avoid having chemicals touching your skin.

CHOCOLATE CHIPS – Getting a Cheap Fix

Are You a Chocoholic? – I am! Dark chocolate and white chocolate are my preference. And I’m always looking for new ways to buy chocolate cheaper.

Tax-Free! – Did you know that baking chips in NY are tax-free but chocolate bars are taxed? So, to get my fix cheaper, I buy bittersweet dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips instead of chocolate bars. If they are on sale, I stock up.

Calorie Counting – I bring them to work in glass jars and snack on them as needed. This also cuts down on calories – instead of having to eat an entire candy bar, I only eat a handful of chocolate at a time.

VINEGAR AND WASHABLE & REUSABLE RAGS – Being Green Can Save You Money

Nature’s Way – Buy vinegar in 1 gallon bottles from any grocery store. Make sure the label says “made from grain”. If the label doesn’t say “made from grain”, the vinegar was made in the laboratory. Vinegar is 5% acid, which kills everything except mold spores. Vinegar is much cheaper than most cleaning products you buy. Even better, stock up when it is on sale! Pour into spray bottles to use.

Rag Time – Instead of using paper towels to clean with, try using washable reusable rags.  I bought a 2 foot high stack of ugly 100% cotton washcloths on sale several years ago and I’m still using them wherever possible to clean with. Of course, for really gross things I do still use some paper towels, but for every day cleaning using the rags vastly reduces the amount of paper towels I buy and throw away.

Go Green – In addition to minimizing the cost of buying cleaning products and paper towels, I’m also helping the environment by reducing waste and using products that pollute less.

Post authored by Elizabeth Metura 

As a creative type, it can sometimes seem impossible to stay on task.  New ideas, inspirations and hierarchal intentions spring up like haphazard wildflowers on the side of the road.  And I’m supposed to make sense of it all?  “Ooh, that looks pretty.”  “Oh, purple AND yellow, how quaint.”  Sometimes, my right-brained nature makes me feel like a puppy, pouncing wide-eyed at every new adventure, abandoning the last with little initial thought.  Of course, this is wonderful if I’ve been challenged with the task of designing centerpieces or choreographing a dance.  When it comes to answering emails, doing my taxes, scheduling appointments or any other task that my passionate, imaginative self considers mundane, haphazard tendencies take over.

But there is that analytical, sensible left-brained part of me that yearns for purpose and productivity.  It insists on having every thing in its place, it thrives on crossed-out to-do lists.  And I can’t kid myself.  Staying on top of things, making the most of my time, crossing off to-do lists—these are all essential to leading a successful life.  From my relationships to my career to my personal health, meticulous left-brained praxis is essential.  The key is training the right side of my brain to take a back-seat at times.  I have come up with several strategies to aid me in “reining it in

1.  Compartmentalize 

Divvying up my “to-dos” into several categories helps me figure out what holds the most importance or needs to be completed first.  Because I am so visual, it takes more than a simple list to discern urgent from not-so-urgent tasks.  In the past, I have compiled tasks into different circles on a sheet of paper, the most important ones listed inside the largest, boldest circle—the least important in the smallest circle.  Even naming the circles things like “Serious Stuff” or “Just For Fun” helps me stay on task.  After the “serious stuff” list is crossed out, the “just for fun” circle is like a reward!

2.  Set a Timer

Depending on how pleasant or jarring I’d like my reminder to move on to be, I’ll set the timer on my iPhone to either lightly strum or blare a code-red alarm.  If I know I’m going to be working on something I could easily get lost in (photoshopping pictures before uploading to Facebook…), I’ll set my timer for a reasonable amount of time, so that I’ll realize when it’s time to start a new task.  This also challenges me to complete tasks more expediently, since it’s fun to race against the clock!  This often saves me the frustration of procrastination.

3.  Clear a Space, Clear the Air

If I am inhabiting a messy space, or I’ve made a mess of any sort of relationship, I will absolutely not get anything productive done.  I will mill over worries, doodle, eat chocolate, check Facebook, etc., etc., because neither my physical space nor brain space is streamlined.  Clearing the air of any negativity with people in your life is imperative to productivity.  It’s just as, if not more, important than having a tidy workspace.  So, declutter.  Start with a clean slate and watch those to-dos disappear.

Now, if you’re naturally careful and analytical all the time, you may not have to think so much about how to make tasks more manageable.  In fact, you may be more suited for another blog entry pertaining to injecting more inspiration and creativity into your life.  My moral is—everyone needs balance.  Realizing what you’re good at and nourishing that while pruning the stuff you’re not so good at—well, that just makes for a better you.  We can all cheers to that!  Happy reining…

Authored by Ruby Lewis

Ruby is an actress of stage and screen who enjoys any and all things creative and inspiring.  She currently tours with the Broadway hit Jersey Boys and spends free time writing, working on her craft, meditating, eating and working out.  As she is currently on her third National Tour, Ruby is familiar with life on the road, and sees it as an opportunity for reflection, betterment and copious amounts of fun.  She is elated to be contributing to Praxis for her dear friend, Brooke!
Check out Ruby’s website here and find her on IMDB. Be sure to follow her on Twitter@ rubylewLA

I am a goal setter. I am a list making, vision board having, goal statement writing, Paul Coelho reading, life manifesting, goal setter. I am also a person who sees the end goal first. I know what my kitchen is going to look like in my dream beach house. My aforementioned vision board has goals that are in reality at least 5-10 years away. To some people that is overwhelming and scary. But here’s what I’ve learned. If you are a person like me who sees the big picture, in order to put your goals in motion you have to be specific and work backwards.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”~Mark Twain

Let’s talk about New Year’s Resolutions, for example. I love the optimism of a New Year. Everyone is excited to start anew and looking to the future with positivity. Now, as we’re almost 3 months into the year, how are you doing with your goals? If you are still on the ball, then huzzah to you! Pat yourself on the shoulder and pour yourself a glass of wine. If you’re not, let’s take a look at what probably happened.

Let’s say your resolution was the old standby of “I’m going to get back in shape.” Did you have a well defined plan or did you go to the gym every day for 3 weeks, miss a day, feel bad about yourself, miss another day, feel worse about yourself, eat a bag of potato chips while watching The Bachelor secretly cursing all of those chicks and their perfect bodies, and just give up entirely?

Here’s the thing: don’t set yourself up for failure! If you break down your goal into a series of baby-steps, working backwards from the big picture, it’s easier to get back on the horse if you misstep. So, here’s what I did.

I too set the goal of getting back into shape. However, this was my series of thoughts:

What does getting “back in shape” entail in my eyes?
• Eating a healthy diet
• Getting physical exercise 3-5 times a week
• Feeling energized and confident
• Drinking lots of water daily

And then I broke each one of those down further.

Let’s take “Eating a healthy diet.”
1. Taking my vitamins daily
2. Eating green veggies twice a day
3. Having one meatless, dairy-less day a week
4. Weekly meal planning twice a month
5. Only eating out/ordering in once a week

You get the idea, right? Managing your goals this way helps to take some of the pressure off. If I happen to eat out twice one week, it doesn’t mean I’ve failed at eating healthy and therefore failed my goal of getting back in shape. And I’m back on the horse!

Post authored by Kyra Selman

Kyra is a Taurus with a Virgo rising which means she’s a laid back and practical person with type-a tendencies.  This manifests itself most via the massive purses she carries which, packed with anything and everything she may need on a daily basis (iPhone charger, paper clips, massive supply of lip gloss) is organized into pouches and cases. Most efficient after she’s caffeinated, Kyra can always be found with a soy latte in hand as she conquers the concrete jungle one goal at a time.  
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