40 Day Devotional: Day 20: Facebook Fasting

Image“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.”

Matthew 6:16 NLT

When reading the above text, I can opt to keep it a secret what I’ve been trying to change for Lent: spending less time on social networks like Facebook, to be able to create more time and space for creating, praying, meditating and living

Nevertheless I am sharing about it, to show you that you don’t die from cutting back on time consuming potentially addictive sites like Facebook. On the contrary.

I’ve been fasting Facebook for Lent for four weeks now. For me that means:

  • not scrolling through the newsfeed like a zombie (ok once in a while my eye might fall on the top story but THAT’S IT)
  • going on it only once every 3 or 4 days to check for private messages
  • using it as a tool to promote my blogposts to my audience (I do that by autoposting, which means I don’t have to open Facebook at all to do that)
  • scrolling quickly through my “notifications” (like I said: only every 3 or 4 days) to see if there’s something I might want to actually react to (instead of opening every single notification)

I think it’s been a success so far, I have been keeping this Daily Devotional up and I am sure I would have had a way harder time to accomplish that (among other things), if I would have been on Facebook, to scratch the unhealthy “I HAVE TO CHECK FACEBOOK NOW!!” urge.

In fact, I like this so much more than the way I used to go on Facebook and linger there and get lost and/or checking it compulsively ten times a day, that I don’t want to go back to my old ways.

Are you inspired to cut back too?

Read this post by Leo Babauta from Zenhabits:

Walled-in: Life without Facebook


A survival guide for beating information addiction



Focus of 2013: Creativity!

Amanda Cherie

My focus for 2013 is: getting more creative!

The past year I’ve been looking inward, searching for ways to be more balanced and self-loving, dealing with fear and procrastination and from there reaching outward in love to others, rekindling old relationships.
I regularly wrote about the benedictine monks and their daily practices, which inspired me and led me to interesting insights about time, setting priorities and being mindful and grateful.

I also found out that from silence comes balance and serenity which in turn gives birth to inspiration and creativity.

Here’s a sneak peak at ways in which I want to
BE more creative and DO more creative things regularly in the new year:

1) Chihuahua A Day


On the first of January I started my Chihuahua A Day project on Instagram. I love taking little snapshots of pretty things and animals, making a cute little virtually framed ‘painting’ out of them. It makes me feel joyful and gets my creative juices flowing!
And who would be better and prettier to portray than my precious blonde 10 pound chihuahua Kiara.

2) Writing regularly with low thresholds

via Pinterest: etsy.com

In 2012 I have learned an invaluable tool in my battle against perfectionism and fear based procrastination: setting encouragingly low thresholds to start an activity: committing to write at least 1 line a day. Possibly more, but one is enough and is just as big an accomplishment as writing whole page.
I’m learning that there are shades of grey between black and white.
I apply this to my blog writing as well as other activities and tasks. A true breakthrough for me!

3) Creative prayer and meditation

via Pinterest: benedictinemonks.co.uk

I also want to get more creative in my prayer and meditation.
Recently I got a lot of helpful hints from different sources suggesting I can pay or meditate as I am. Everybody is made unique, so why do I think I have to pray or meditate in the same way as other, completely different people and that there’s even a right or wrong way to do it?

What freedom lies in that notion!

4) Following the Artist’s Way image
I’m also planning to follow Julia Cameron’s widely acclaimed program: the Artist’s Way, in the new year. Just like a whole lot of (aspiring) artists, I deal with a lot of negative self talk and assumptions about myself, my work and my potential. The Artist’s way deals with that, in a very gentle and encouraging manner, by means of weekly assignments and encouragement.

I cannot wait to share my progress (not perfection 🙂 with you all!

Do you have a creative focus for 2013 as well? Let me know! Leave a comment below or contact me via:

Facebook, Google + or Twitter

You can also follow my Chihuahua a Day project 365 via: www.instagram.com/esterkaren or http://www.tumblr.com/blog/simple-inspiredliving

Love, peace and happy newyear!


Declutter your input!


All year I have been carrying my ubiquitous capturing tool: my paper notepad everywhere, becoming a ‘Capture‘-ing blackbelt. But something kept nagging at me….

Eventually I noticed my Weekly Review consisted of a lot of Someday Maybe’s related to consumerist wants on the one hand and quotes for blogging on the other, which I was dutifully entering into Evernote and Nozbe. At some point I started losing sight of the bigger picture and didn’t have time to actually complete my Review.

My friends Tara Rodden Robinson and Augusto Pinaud suggested in my fun interview with them on @Context (episode 16) that I could buy an Iphone to make data entering easier. We even joked I would blame them if I eventually couldn’t resist buying one 🙂

…….Bigger – faster – harder – stronger!!!!!!!! was ringing in my ears….my head was spinning..it had to stop!…….

“She said run, but I’m not running no I’m not running.
Let ’em come, let ’em come but I’m not running, no, I ain’t running no more.
No more!” Children 18:3 (@Youtube)……..

It turned out I didn’t need a more sophisticated capturing tool but an other view on what was actually worth capturing at all.
These were Fr. Roderick’s epiphanic words from the Health and Holiness Bootcamp-podcast episode 33 for me:

What is decluttering your life? Getting rid of anything you have in abundance, living a life detached from stuff. Because that can be hampering to living a happier and holier life. I mean, getting to inbox zero is amazing but I wouldn’t trade it in for more important things like family, workout, prayer(…)
Decluttering is also letting go of the desire to be always up to date with everything that happens, constantly mastering the stream of communication, keeping tabs on all that I have.”

I listened to his words, sitting on the side of a canal in Amsterdam, dangling my feet and smelling the Summer air, my eyes unfocusing on the water.
Then and there I decided to slow down and change my ubiquitous capturing to not writing down every detail, every shop I want to visit, every restaurant to remember, every thing I want to have and buy buy buy, but instead go for the quotes and ideas that come up in my creative mind and not to obsess over collecting everything like a teenager keeping pictures of her favorite boyband.

So there it is! Now I am very relieved! But it’s only the first step. I want to set my mind on:

“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—anything excellent or praiseworthy” (Phillipians 4:8-10)

“Let ’em come, let ’em come but I’m not running, no, I ain’t running no more.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Please leave a comment below or tweet me @E5ter

Mixing GTD with ZTD

Yesterday I got a great tweet-question about GTD and ZTD from@raymondu999

@E5ter ah. Alrighty then!! Thanks for your info 🙂 Which one do you use by the way? Is #ztd flexible enough to let you use #gtd programs? which I answered with:

#ztd #gtd Sure! I am using GTD http://wp.me/pKD06-1v and I tweak it with ZTD. Going to make a blogpost this week to explain.

In my last post I told you all about my GTD-system; today I want to address my way of blending a zesty hint of ZTD into my good ol’ GTD-system to get that extra tasty productivity melting pot.
In his excellent post Leo Babauta explored the topic GTD versus ZTD but here I want to make clear that it’s not a matter of choosing between Getting Things Done and Zen to Done but that you can have your cake and eat it too :-).

I will explain to you how I do it:

1. Weekly review

First I do my regular GTD-style weekly review and then I add an extra five minutes to it to choose my Big Rocks for the week. Those are the things I really really want to accomplish for the week. This is the way to focus myself, so that my attention doesn’t get spread too thin over all the tasks that are on my plate. n addition you want to make sure that your big rocks are right under your nose the whole week: I use a nifty little pink notebook with a cute ribbon but you could use sticky notes too or put a reminder on your mindmap.

2. Daily review

I think many of you who are already using GTD may have some sort of a daily review as well. The daily review ZTD-style consists of choosing 2 to 3 (or more if you’re a busy bee) MIT’s (i.e Most Important Tasks) for the next day. The evening is a nice time to do that in order to be able to jumpstart your day in the morning. At least one of my MIT’s is part of a Big Rock for the week.

Big Rocks for the week:
1) scan 20 pages of my rabbit photobook into Evernote
2) write 2 blogposts for Pursuing a Holy Life
3) write 2 blogposts for Inspiration and Productivity
4) prepare Rabbit Circus Training workshop
5) prepare little Lewis my dwarf rabbit for the Rabbit Exhibition

MIT’s for Monday:
1) scan 5 pages of my rabbit photo book into Evernote (for Big Rock 1)
2) go grocery shopping
3) clean the kitchen
4) comb Lewis’ hair and put ribbons in it (for Big Rock 5)

The idea is also to do at least one of your MIT’s first thing in the morning to really get you going before you start checking blog stats, e-mail or cuddling your rabbits.

3. Creating habits

What rhymes with rabbits? Habits! An important addition to GTD is that the ZTD focuses a great deal on habit change, on the doing. You can find Leo’s website on creating habits here.
What I do is take one habit every month, keep track of it in my pink little notebook (I check off the days). For example last month I was trying to ingrain the habit of checking e-mail only twice a day and not before an MIT or task. It takes about a month to successfully ingrain a new behavior; I was very successful and boosted my productivity a lot by this habit during the month of February and further.
You could also form habits for all the stages of GTD, like for example capturing everything on a notepad and tossing it into your in-tray everyday. See my previous blog post for the other stages. Leo wrote a great post on creating habits especially for ZTD too. (See the latter part of his post.)

4. Flowing with the moment

In the GTD Virtual Study Group podcast of January 14 2010, Leo Babauta was interviewed and he shared with us that he’s increasingly letting go of the whole idea of goal setting and live more and more in the present moment. This appeals to me greatly because I have always been struggling to set my goals for 1 year and 3 to 5 year (resp. horizons 30k and 40k from GTD). More about the horizons of focus of GTD another time.

In this age of information tsunami staying in the present moment is extremely precious and wholesome. I think this topic deserves its own blogpost too so keep an eye on my blog.


GTD and ZTD have a great synergy. You don’t have to choose between GTD and ZTD; ZTD has a bit of a different angle and is more focused on the doing, the habit change and focusing on the present moment than GTD is, that’s why they work great for me in combination. And to answer raymondu999‘s question: I use all my good ol’ GTD programs like Nozbe, Evernote and Gmail in conjunction with my pink ZTD-notebook 😉

If you have any questions about GTD/ZTD please take the time to comment below or leave me a tweet. I’d be happy to answer your questions or to discuss the topic.

Travelling light

I just returned from an amazing trip to London, where my favorite and only sister is living with her fiancé.

This city enthralls me, excites me and at the same time gives me a great sense of peace.

It’s great to be able to spend precious time with my sister and brother-in-law-to-be as well as enjoying the courteous English people who never cease to amaze me with their friendly unasked advice when they catch you struggling to hold a fumbled tourist map on the double-decker bus.

I’m also loving the Anglican churches around London which I try to visit every day to get my spiritual food (figuratively and literally). I found out — to my surprise — that those churches are even present on Twitter nowadays.

On past visits I used to drag this enormous suitcase to London, which is a total pain because  London tube stations are mostly surrounded by steep staircases, unsuitable for disabled people, or even tourists dragging excess baggage

I must pause and correct myself in all honesty here – on my way there I used to drag a ginormous empty suitcase…to fill it up with heaps of newly purchased clothing from the Monsoon’s season sale. So, on the way back it would cost me a lot of stress to carry it around with me, it being way too heavy.

This time was different though:

I travelled light and left my excess baggage at home as well as at Monsoon, feeling rested and peaceful and keeping my credit card happy at the same time with the positive side-effect of frugality, because there is a cosmic rule that says: what you don’t buy, you don’t get to hurl around on the London tube.

How did I travel light?

  • I left all my toiletries at home and plundered my sister’s bathroom instead.
  • I took only one changing of clothes (but enough underwear!) with me and only wore the trousers I had on me.
  • I took only half the portions of my regular vitamin pills with me.
  • My final and best secret was: taking my Amazon Kindle (E-reader) with me for the first trip ever. I tell you why it is such a nifty device for light travellers:
    1. It’s got my 1200-ish page Bible on it
    2. It’s got my 1000-ish page Book of Common Prayer on it
    3. It can store a stunning 1500 books (as well as pdf’s) if you like
    4. I can take all my blogs with me via the file I can drag from www.instapaper.com to my Kindle
    5. It is the size of a dvd and weighs only as much as one regular paperback book.

Now I found there’s a spiritual parallel to this story as well:

What kind of excess baggage do you carry around with you?

  • Is it your past, your childhood?
  • Is it the grudge you hold against someone?
  • Is it fear or anxiety?
  • Is it a secret you don’t dare to confess to anyone?
  • Is it stress, fretfulness?
  • Is it shame or guilt about things you did or things you didn’t do?
  • Is it the shreds of lost dreams?
  • Is it the bits and pieces of a shattered self-image?
  • Is it your distorted view of God?
  • Is it the memory of lost lovers?

I dare you: let go, be in the present moment and travel light through life.

The power of words

Here’s a beautiful and profound piece by Henri Nouwen, from Bread of the Journey, as an introductory on today’s topic: using creative versus destructive words

Words, words, words. Our society is full of words: on billboards, on television screens, in newspapers and books. Words whispered, shouted, and sung. Words that move, dance, and change in size and color. Words that say, “Taste me, smell me, eat me, drink me, sleep with me,” but most of all, “buy me.” With so many words around us, we quickly say: “Well, they’re just words.” Thus, words have lost much of their power.

Still, the word has the power to create. When God speaks, God creates. When God says, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), light is. God speaks light. For God, speaking and creating are the same. It is this creative power of the word we need to reclaim. What we say is very important. When we say, “I love you,” and say it from the heart, we can give another person new life, new hope, new courage. When we say, “I hate you,” we can destroy another person. Let’s watch our words.

What influence do you have with your words?

Is it creative, life-giving, encouraging, hopeful? Do you give praise, give positive feedback, say loving words, say kind words, do you create encouraging pieces of writing like blogging, noveling or poetry?

Or are you mostly lured by the temptation to be destructive with your words; do you gossip, slander, say denigrating words, say hateful words, use sarcasm or cynicism, or do you disclose other people’s secrets or give a lot of negative feedback?

Here’s a proposition to cut back on your negative words and increase your positive verbal expressions in 4 weeks:

  1. Week 1: Just tally marks every day on a notepad, noting the amount of times you used your words destructively and how many times creatively and kindly. This is just to make you aware of what you’re doing before changing your behavior.
  2. Week 2: This week’s challenge will be to daily replace two bad words  with two positive encouraging or creative words. Keep notes everyday and reward yourself with kind words or by doing something you love. Positive feedback for yourself is important!
  3. Week 3: This week focus solely on eliminating gossiping, because that is one of the most destructive uses of words. You damage other people as well as your own soul. Here’s the solution: put a rubber band on your right wrist. Every time you gossip or gossip along with somebody at home or at work you put the rubber band to your left wrist and after a positive remark you can place it back again, the goal being to keep it always on the right wrist. Quitting gossiping can be quite daunting, especially when you tell people you don’t want to talk about anybody else behind their back anymore and you could be perceived as a killjoy or a spoilsport. Just think about it: people will respect you more for your integrity in the end and you will have a clear conscience.
  4. Week 4: In this last week I want you to play with words and experience their creative usage. Write, blog, write a poem, write a tiny letter to your spouse and put it — with a hint of perfume — on his pillow, journal, write down beautiful verses of Scripture or poems with a nifty pen with lavender ink, play, enjoy, be spontaneous, be creative!

Now you are further along the path of kindness and love than most people around you probably will be .

And if you fall back again: say kind words to yourself and try again 😉

10 Ways to define 2010

Today I read David Allen‘s Productivity Newsletter. It inspired me to look ahead into 2010.

How would you answer the following questions?

What would you like to be your biggest triumph in 2010?
What advice would you like to give yourself in 2010?
What is the major effort you are planning to improve your financial results in 2010?
What would you be most happy about completing in 2010?
What major indulgence are you willing to experience in 2010?
What would you most like to change about yourself in 2010?
What are you looking forward to learning in 2010?
What do you think your biggest risk will be in 2010?
What about your work, are you most committed to changing and improving in 2010?
What is one as yet undeveloped talent you are willing to explore in 2010?
What brings you the most joy and how are you going to do or have more of that in 2010?
Who or what, other than yourself, are you most committed to loving and serving in 2010?
What one word would you like to have as your theme in 2010?

In this post, I’d like to answer 3 of them:

  • What one word would you like to have as your theme in 2010?

Instead of one word, I’d like to indulge myself in choosing two words for 2010:

  • Balance
  • Advance

First off I want this year to evolve around finding balance in my life: e.g. balance between work and home; fun and duty; time alone and time together; tranquility and energy; spirit and body.

From that place of balance, I’d like to be part of advancing the kingdom of God on earth. That sure sounds lofty :-), but in simple terms: I’d like to help making this world a better place. Ways in which I want to take part of this are: praying; caring for people, for animals and trees.

On a more practical note I’d like to advance in the art of e.g.: writing, speaking English, dancing, praying, being more productive, rising early, being kind and humble, not judging anyone and loving my enemies.

  • What would you most like to change about yourself in 2010?

I’d love to be an early riser, as I stated in one of my earlier posts. I have to admit here though, I succumbed to a gnawing sense of reality and my husband’s sneaking suspicions about me rising at 7.00 h being too utopian a dream as of yet and decided to reset my goal time to 7.30 h.

Next week I will be rising at 8.30 h. I keep you posted on my progress!

  • What advice would you like to give yourself in 2010?

First: be yourself, that is good enough. Second: listen to your own body.

I’d like to conclude by sharing with you this piece of wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen (Bread for the journey)

There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique.

How to make New Year’s resolutions and make them stick!

My husband suggested glueing my New Year’s resolutions to the floor in order to make them stick….
I, however prefer a more practical approach to the matter 🙂

Recently I discovered a very inspiring and motivating site on habit change, constructed by Leo Babauta, author of the Zen To Done approach to productivity, simplicity and habit change. The name is: http://6changes.com/
Leo proposes a method to change six habits in 2010, one by one.

I almost jumped up out of my seat for sheer joy!!!! Yes! I’d found it!!
For years now I’ve been wanting to be an early riser in the morning, but failed miserably at my attempts of getting out of the comfort zone of my cozy comfy bed. I’m simply too fond of sleeping.
This stirred a new feeling in me. There was hope of being an early bird after all.

Where to begin?
First go to http://6changes.com/ and have a look there. Here’s what Leo proposes:

  1. Pick 6 habits for 2010.
  2. Pick 1 of the 6 habits to start with.
  3. Commit as publicly as possible to creating this new habit in 2 months.
  4. Break the habit into 8 baby steps, starting with a ridiculously easy step. Example: if you want rise early, start by rising five minutes earlier each day for week.
  5. Choose a trigger for your habit – something already in your routine that will immediately precede the habit. For example: the card next to your bed with all the benefits of rising early. See also http://zenhabits.net/2007/05/10-benefits-of-rising-early-and-how-to-do-it/.
  6. Do the 1st, really easy baby step for one week, right after the trigger. Post your progress publicly, e.g. on your blog.Each week, move on to a slightly harder step. You’ll want to progress faster, but don’t. You’re building a new habit.
  7. Repeat this until you’ve done 8 weeks.
  8. You now have a new habit! Congratulations! Commit to Habit No. 2 and repeat the process.

It’s also very important to reward yourself:

  1. after 3 days
  2. after a week
  3. after a month
  4. after 2 months

My first habit changing challenge started the 22 of December. After three days I rewarded myself with a dive in the blogging archives of Zen Habits, after week I spoiled myself with a visit to a sauna, and I already ordered my next reward: the great print book The Power of Less by, you’ve guessed it, Leo Babauta, my productivity guru.

What six habits have I picked for 2010?

  1. January – February: getting up at 7 o’clock in the morning.
  2. March April: create everyday for an hour: journaling, blogging, creating handcrafted cards, creating material for my job
  3. May June: no impulse spending
  4. July August: declutter my home, install simplicity and keep it that way
  5. September October: visit the Daily Audio Bible prayer room twice a week at a fixed time slot
  6. November December: eat healthy: only eat cookies or candy or crisps once a week.

So, I want to challenge you to pick six habits too and your first one! Please leave a comment on which habits you’re going to tackle, thereby making your plans public too (step 3)! And we can encourage each other!

Best wishes for 2010!! Go for it!

To get your copy of The Power of Less go to: http://astore.amazon.com/zenhab-20

or if you’re Dutch: http://www.bol.com/nl/p/engelse-boeken/the-power-of-less/1001004006546163/index.html