How to Have a Focused and Stress-Free Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, thoughts turn to the stress that holidays can bring … and how to avoid that stress this year! We still have time to make a plan to get focused and breeze through Turkey Day (relatively) unscathed. Here’s how!

 

 

One of the best, surest solutions for busy people on a busy week like the days before Thanksgiving is to use a timeline and/or a checklist.

So I’ve come up with the Thanksgiving Countdown to help you navigate through last-minute details and help you make sense of everything that needs to be done. And it’s free!

The Countdown includes essential tasks from shopping to homekeeping for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then a full-blown hour-by-hour schedule for Turkey Day. Plus, this year I’ve included directions on how to roast a turkey, including a roasting timetable.

My goal is to help you arrive at your own dinner table a little less stressed and filled with gratitude for the gathering of family and friends. Download your copy of the Thanksgiving Countdown here.

And don’t forget all the resources available to you in the Etsy shop, including the more expansive and comprehensive Thanksgiving Planner. I’ve included suggestions on organizing your time and resources, setting a gorgeous holiday table, and of course lots of space to write out your plans for:

  • The guest list
  • The Thanksgiving table
  • Menu planning and budget
  • Shopping list
  • Thanksgiving decorations

And lots more — like getting ready for Black Friday with a gift list planner and a holiday card organizer. It’s only available on Etsy. Click the graphic below to learn more!

Thanksgiving planner for a stress-free Thanksgiving

I’ll be giving more tips and last-minute solutions on social media over the next ten days, so be sure to follow Smart Solutions for Busy People on Facebook and Instagram.

Sending you lots of love and wishes for a peaceful, joyful and grateful Happy Thanksgiving.

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It’s the De-boo of Our Etsy Shop!

Etsy Shop holiday planners Hallowen

 

If you’re looking for a way to stay organized and focused on what’s most important for your holidays this year, have I got great news for you!

All of the Smart Solutions planners for holidays and home will be available on our new Etsy shop!

It’s been years since I’ve updated our signature planners that use my POPS system to Plan, Organize, Prioritize and Schedule everything for your holidays. Now you’ll find the Halloween Planner updated and expanded to 16 pages of fangtastic Halloween organizing glory.

Smart Solutions Studio Etsy Shop Halloween Planner

 

Also up in the shop right now are the Holiday Home Essentials with checklists and shopping lists to get you ready for all of your holiday entertaining including the essential pantry, essential utensils, holiday table essentials (including the best diagram on how to set your table) and the essential guest room and more!

Smart Solutions Studio Etsy Shop Entertaining Essentials

 

 

I’ve also posted the Room Arranger room layout toolkit with everything you need to re-arrange the furniture and accessories in every room of your home. Over 40 furniture icons and step-by-step directions make it easy to move things around without breaking your back!

Smart Solutions Studio Room Arranger room planner Etsy shop

 

Each of the planners is listed for $5 or less! Click on the links or the planner photo to go directly to the shop!

Over the next two weeks I’ll be adding the Thanksgiving and Christmas planners, as well as in-depth holiday handbooks with daily to-do’s, recipes, decor ideas and much more. Stay tuned!

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Easy Summer Salad: Antipasto Chickpea Salad

Antipasto chickpea Salad Hero

One of the thing I love about summer cooking is that it’s not really “cooking” at all; there’s an emphasis on easy to put together salads and other cold dishes.

This easy and flavorful chickpea salad has 3 basic steps: (1) purchase yummy antipasto from your supermarket; (2) open a can of chickpeas; and (3) combine, season and chill.

Antipasto chickpea Salad strip 2

I love the antipasto bar at my local store. It’s abundant and filled with variety of antipasti that make it easy to pull together a simple but elegant and filling appetizer platter. You can take as much or as little as you want, put it all in one container or separate containers, and the price is calculated by pound. It’s also economical if you don’t want to store full-size jars of olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and more. (No more opening a jar of fuzzy sundried tomatoes!)

I thought up this easy chickpea summer salad on my last trip to the store. I knew I wanted a mix of spicy, vinegary flavors with fresh basil and lemon. So, I selected just a few of each of: marinated artichokes, jumbo black olives, sundried tomatoes, peppadew peppers and roasted garlic cloves. You can mix and match whatever you enjoy the most, what looks great and sounds great that day. I used a 1-pound size container, but it was only about 1/2 full. It was a good chickpea-to-antipasto ratio in the final salad.

Antipasto chickpea Salad strip 1

The chickpea salad came together really easily, in minutes actually! The longest part was waiting for it to chill and blend before devouring it! Serve it as a side dish or to make it an entree salad, serve on top of a bed of mixed greens drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.

Easy Antipasto Chickpea Salad

1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and air-dried

1/2 pound of mixed antipasto

Juice of 1 lemon

1 T. olive oil

2 T. grated Parmesan cheese (or more to taste)

5 or 6 large basil leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place chickpeas in a small serving bowl.
  2. Chop antipasto into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Add the antipasto pieces (and any oil from the container) to the chickpeas.
  4. Roll the basil leaves together into a small, tight roll and slice thinly into a chiffonade.
  5. Add the basil, lemon juice, olive oil and cheese to the bowl and mix gently. Season with salt and pepper (and if you like, a bit of onion powder).
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

This chickpea salad is even better the next day! It’s a great dish to take to a summer barbecue or family reunion. Enjoy!

Serves 4.

 

Like it? Pin it!

Chickpea salad pin

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How to Write Thank You’s That Create Raving Fans

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A note from Deanne: I’m delighted to have my friend and colleague Dawn Mena contribute her brilliance and guidance in a guest post, just in time for writing those seasonal thank-you notes and client letters. Be sure to read all the way to the end to get your free gift from Dawn–a valuable resource that makes writing thank you notes easy and FUN.

When it comes to building a company on the principles of gratitude and positivity, nothing is as easy or as powerful as taking the time to say “thank you.” Surprisingly, a good bit of gratitude goes a long with toward more than just making someone’s day, it can also be the spark that ignites business growth by creating raving fans who appreciate you right back – and keep coming back for more.

According to social media expert and author of the book “The Thank You Economy,” Gary Vaynerchuk once said that we need to treat each customer as though he or she were the most important customer in the world. I couldn’t agree more. And I’d add beyond customer people like mentors, colleagues, vendors, joint venture partners, newsletters subscribers, baristas, and anyone else who affects your day, your life, and your business. Since Day 1 of running my own business, I’ve made it a practice to send a variety of Thank You’s to people who make a positive impression in my life. Customers – yes. But also all the other people I’ve just mentioned and more.

How can you harness the power of appreciation? It all starts with what you say (or write) when you take the time to thank someone. And the format, or place, you send your thanks you. Cards are great, I love ‘em, but a surprise thank you in a different format can have as much impact as well.

Here are 5 unique ways you can thank those special people in your life, and a little help for brainstorming the perfect content to spread those warm, happy feelings during this season, and all year round.

#1 The Top Fan Thank You

Make a list of your Top Fans. You know, the ones that have been with you from Day 1. They’ve cheered you on, participated in your programs, given you valuable and honest feedback and support. They are the bee’s knees. Send them a personal email. And with that email, a special gift, something that took a little time or effort and they would really appreciate. As an example, I recently sent a “love” letter to one of my biggest fans. And as I knew she was starting an online business of her own, and using social media, I took some time to select something awesome she said in her online content and create a unique graphic image that featured her quote, name and website. All of this was done in less than 30 minutes (both email writing and image creation). And I used Canva to get the job done for free. (check out my user guide for Canva, it rocks!)

#2 The Unexpected Thank You

Thank someone who won’t expect it. Out of the blue. For no specific reason. Use email, or do it publicly using social media. Keep it simple, sweet, and include a silly token such as a cute photo, quote, or link to a happy, inspirational video. Put a smile on their face and a spring in their step.

#3 The Pre-Thank You

Thank new fans or followers BEFORE they buy or sign up. When a new potential customer first signs up for your newsletter list, follows you on social media, or sends you a simple inquiry, NOW is the time to let them know how grateful you are. Where’s the best place to do this? A “welcome” email. I see so many people use template messages in these that are super boring and robot-like. Take the opportunity to make strong first impression by using their first name in the greeting, telling them how grateful you are that they took a chance on you, and then send them a little hank you gift such as access to something secret, a download, a tip about a cool free graphic design site, etc. Or offer a free phone call, invite to your next gathering, or whatever else you think they would appreciate.

#4 The Old School Thank You

There’s nothing quite like a handwritten letter. Think about your best clients of all time, mentors such as business or life coaches, colleagues that cheer you on, or your biggest fans on social media. Take a minute to find out their snail mail address and send them a hand-written note. WRITING TIP: Be specific about what you’re thanking them for. Not just “thanks for helping” but “thanks for taking the time to sit down over PSL’s and brainstorm out what I needed to add to my new program. Oh, and the scone was great too!” Make them personal, original and to-the-point and you’ll really make their day.

#5 The Secret Handshake Thank You

Next time you attend a business networking meeting or any other live event, take the opportunity to sneak a thank you gift or card to someone who deserves it. Maybe it’s the leader of a networking group that has transformed your business. Or a women who took the time to make you feel comfortable at your first meeting. Someone who sent a lucrative referral your way.  A mentor, an inspiration, or maybe they just made you laugh. Write up a card, include a small gift such as a gift card, invitation, sticker, candy, etc. Slide it into their bag so they find it later. Smoothly hand it to them as you’re leaving the event. Make it low-key so they don’t feel on-the-spot or obligated – just appreciated.

If you struggle with what to write, I’ve rounded up some writing prompts for everything from fun to professional to heartfelt thank you’s that will spark your imagination and help you get started. Just click the graphic below to check it out and get started.

Bottom line, gratitude is super valuable in itself just for the joy it brings to everyone involved. But it can also help you to create a strong and growing business by creating unbreakable bonds between you and your audience – and inspiring them to return to you again and again because you make them feel special. And really isn’t that what we all want?

About the Author: Dawn Mena works with people who struggle with what to write for their blogs, newsletters, and anything to do with their business. She shows them how to get the results they are looking for by applying simple strategy principles, along with a lot of personality, to inspire audiences and keeps them coming back for more. Learn more at www.dawnmena.com.

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5 Ways Gratitude Brings Balance and Grace to Your Life

If you’ve ever told yourself anything like, “I need to exercise more” or “I wish I could stop the negative chatter in my head” but you’ve never quite accomplished either, have I got a smart and simple solution for you! Gratitude.

Yep, scientists have proven that gratitude can have measurable effects on our overall wellbeing and very specific benefits to our physical and mental health.

This is the perfect time to start (or refresh) a habit of gratitude: a daily practice of words and deeds that generate a sense of goodness our lives. With Thanksgiving Day just a couple of weeks away, giving thanks is naturally on our minds. But more than that, the holiday season is for many of us a stressful, non-stop time, while others may experience bouts of seasonal depression or anxiety.

Gratitude to the rescue!

Research proves that professing and feeling gratitude improves one’s emotional state, life experiences, health and relationships. The word comes from the Latin gratia (grace, favor, goodwill). So practicing gratitude literally brings grace into our lives. It helps us connect to something outside of ourselves—whether it’s other people, nature, or a higher power.

Without going all science-y on you, here are five surprising benefits that gratitude brings to your life and your health.

 1. Grateful people exercise more, have fewer aches and pains and generally feel healthier than other people.

In a study by noted gratitude expert Dr. Robert A. Emmons, participants were asked to write just a few sentences a week about things they were grateful for. Another group wrote about things that annoyed or irritated them, and a third group wrote about events in their life (not specifically positive or negative). Participants that focused on gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives compared to the group that focused on irritations.

 2. Practicing gratitude can decrease a range of negative feelings, from regret and resentment to envy and frustration.

 3. You’ll sleep better. Spending just 15 minutes a night before bedtime writing in a gratitude journal was shown to improve sleep in a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. It makes sense if that’s the last thing your brain is thinking about, instead of a news program of the latest doomsday headlines, sports, or a movie.

 4. Gratitude can reduce aggression and increases empathy and compassion, according to a study by the University of Kentucky in 2012. Those who ranked higher on gratitude scales exhibited greater sensitivity and empathy toward others, even when given negative feedback, as well as a reduced desire to seek revenge.

 5. Gratitude can actually boost your immune system! By promoting feelings of optimism, being thankful stimulates the production of red blood cells which in turns boosts our immunity to disease.

All of these benefits are great, but like any practice the question is, how do you start and more importantly, stick with it? The good news is, there are a lot of simple and practical ways to incorporate more gratitude into your daily life and routine. What’s important is the intention to feel gratitude for someone or something, and to express it in some way.

One of the easiest ways is to cultivate a habit of writing a thank-you note a week to someone who has done you a good turn or provided a great service. My friend Dawn Mena has five ways to write thank you’s that will create raving fans. What a great start!

For more ways to experience the everyday grace of gratitude, I’ve put together 20 simple ways to practice gratitude. It’s surprisingly easy to make thankfulness a part of your daily life and routine and reap all those benefits!

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Why not just try and see what happens when you experience and express gratitude? What have you got to lose?

I’d love to hear your results and what effects you see in your life and wellbeing with a gratitude practice. Share your experiences on the Facebook page—and thank you in advance!

Featured image (c) 2013 Shay Cochrane

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Gratitude: It’s Just Good for You!

Gift of Gratitude

There is so much in the world to be upset about right now. Truly, deeply, justifiably upset about. And I  believe there is just as much to be thankful for. Truly, deeply, wildly thankful for.

I bet if you stopped and took a nanosecond to think about it, you’d come up with at least 100 things in your life you’re grateful for.

Personally I find that practicing gratitude makes me feel better. Whether it’s finding a penny in a parking lot and lifting my eyes to the sky and saying, “Thank you!” or commenting on someone’s social media post that impacted me, or a thousand other situations large and small–expressing the feeling is a gift to myself and the other person.

Today I’d like to share two resources with you. The first is a worthy cause that is helping children in Guatemala by showcasing some of their precious artwork on a series of thank-you note cards. Check out their Indiegogo campaign at www.SayItWithGratitude.com. Founder Scott Colby says on the site that his research into the powerful and positive effects of gratitude on us as humans is what convinced him to share this knowledge with the world. Please hop over and pick up one of his packages–you can write your first thank-you note to yourself for doing something good for yourself and others.

The second resource is my new Kindle version of “101 Ways to Say Thank You.” I wrote the book a few years ago and recently decided to share it more widely with the world. I’m happy and humbled to say in the first day on the market, it was the #1 Hot New Release in etiquette books on amazon.com!

In it you’ll find a well-phrased “thank you” for 18 of life’s occasions and situations (from getting married to getting a ride to the airport) and more than 70 specific gift items. I also included ten common business thank-you letters as a bonus. It’s available this month only for a promotional price of 99 cents. You will never be at a loss for sincere words of appreciation and gratitude again.

Between note cards for a great cause and 101 thank you’s, you’ll be all set to begin your own personal journey of gratitude. Sounds like a great way to start the fall holiday season to me!

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