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Some dinner parties require a more formal protocol. For example, a military dinner will have strict guidelines as to where personnel will sit. If you are hosting a client dinner, you might also prefer a more formal arrangement. Even in a casual setting, you can choose to follow protocol to honor a special guest. The below description is based on a social party (vs. business), a rectangular table, and includes both men and women:

When hosting a dinner party, where you place your guests around the table is a crucial element for the success of your event. You presumably put thought into who you invited to the gathering. Do not stop there. The placement of each person around the table is something that should not be thrown together at the last minute.

I love entertaining friends and family in my home, especially during the holidays. But I must admit, it can be a bit overwhelming hosting a dinner party in the stage of life with little ones running around. The cooperation I receive from my toddlers is a significant factor in how efficient I am on a daily basis. Add in hosting a party, and it can be overwhelming. If you find yourself wanting to gather friends for a festive evening, here are my tried-and-true tips for entertaining with young children:

Planning a party can be fun, but do you know the best way to ensure everything runs smoothly? Have a rehearsal for your party. Yes, you heard correctly. You have spent a great deal of time planning your theme, creating your guestlist, and delivering your invitations. Now is the time to do a mock rehearsal which will allow you to create an action list of outstanding items around your home that might need attention. It also helps solidify any last-minute details.

These thirteen tips will get your through any dinner party. Here is a quick refresher. 

1. Leave The Cocktail Glass Behind:

If you are attending a dinner party, there may be cocktails offered before the meal begins. When the hostess signals it is time to head to the dining room, leave your drink behind. Why? The dining table has been pre-set with the glasses you will need and adding another to your place setting will only clutter the minimal real estate in front of you. Your palate is another reason to leave the cocktail behind. Many hostesses go to great lengths to pare wine with the food being served. Once seated at the table it is time to switch to wine or water.

You just received an invitation to a party, and the attire says: Shabby Chic; Razzle Dazzle; Cowboy Couture. What??? Word to hostesses: when listing the attire on the invitation for a party, make it clear. We do not want our guests to solve a riddle to understand what is expected of them. There is a phrase I like to quote, “To be unclear is to be unkind.”

Table manners are the area in which I receive the most questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in managing an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction. Even if you are unsure, most people do not care.

When attending a party, there are certain expectations we have of our hostess. We appreciate everything she has done, but we do assume there will be food, drinks, a clean bathroom, and a home that does not smell like the local pet store. What some people forget is there are also expectations of the guest. When a hostess plans a party, a great deal of time is spent deciding who she will invite. What group of friends go well together?

Have you ever seen someone walk into a party looking scared, so unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screamed, “I wish I was anywhere but here!”

You are invited!!! There is something special we feel when we receive an invitation. It is the anticipation of a celebration, the excitement of choosing what to wear, but more importantly, it is the affirmation that tells us, “I was chosen!” We know a hostess has responsibilities to ensure her party is a success, but did you know there are expectations of the guests? And your first job begins when you receive an invitation that says RSVP. Follow the six steps below and the hostess will be singing your praises!

  • Lisa Lou

Bullet Journal: Staying Organized

The way my husband structures his day is different from how I organize mine, but there is one thing we both do. We start with a morning routine. I make coffee, read the news while eating my breakfast, and then dive into an hour of bible study. Once I finish, I pull out my journal and plan my day. About 2 years ago I discovered an organizational method that resonated with me. Showcasing the differences, my husband has his day planned via an electronic method. I tried this for several years, but I need to gather my thoughts with pen and paper. I am a tactile person, and I finally gave myself permission to go back to a notebook. What a difference this has made in my productivity!

No matter what method you use, a common trait of all successful people when it comes to a daily schedule is putting boundaries around their time. I want to share how I structure my day. I use The Bullet Journal Method. There is great freedom in this system, so do not let my way be a “must” in how you approach this. Part of the process is figuring out what works best for you. Let me also say a lot of people spend a great deal of time color coding and decorating their journals. I do not. Mine is very utilitarian. Do what you enjoy. There is no right or wrong way. Let me walk you through my journal.

1. Obituary: On the first blank page, I have written my obituary. What??? I learned this tip from Donald Miller, CEO of StoryBrand, in a course I took about establishing a daily routine. It might sound crazy, but it is life changing. If you read your obituary each morning, you will stay focused on the goals you are working to accomplish. I have 3 main accomplishments I would like my family and friends to say about me when I die. If I am going to reach these goals, then I better use each day productively and in service toward that end. My focus might change over the years, and if so, I will re-write my eulogy.

2. Future Log: Twice a year I do a massive brain dump in my journal. I write down everything I want to accomplish, books I want to read, projects I want to work on, recipes I want to make, etc. If it pops in my mind, even something I want to do 5 years from now, I write it down. I capture all of this in my Future Log pages. The point of this is to clear your mind. A clear mind functions more efficiently when there is not clutter clogging the brain.

3. Monthly Calendar: After the Future Log is complete, I create a page for each month of that calendar year. I look at the Future Log and assign every item a month. If one item I wrote in my Future Log was create Christmas cards, then I can put that in the month of September as an item to accomplish (because I do these several months before December). Buy my husband a birthday gift is on my Future Log. Where would that go? His birthday is at the end of July, so I will put this action to be completed in the month of July. Every item that enters your brain, which you then dump onto the Future Log, can be assigned a month. If you write a goal to accomplish something 5 years from now, just leave it in the Future Log. You do not need to assign it a month unless you need to begin taking baby steps toward accomplishing that goal. You can roll this into a Future Log for the following year.

4. Weekly Calendar: My Future Log is now organized by months. At the beginning of each week, I look only at the month in which I am in. I decide what tasks I will accomplish this week based on that month. Why only look at that month? It gets rid of the noise from all the other months. If I had to look at my entire Future Log every week, I would stay in a state of chaos and feel completely overwhelmed.

5. Daily Calendar: Now it is time to create the daily calendar. Each morning, after my quiet time, I pull out my journal and ONLY look at my weekly calendar. Why? Same reason as in #4. If I looked at the entire month, I would become overwhelmed. I only look at the items I will accomplish this week. Based on my weekly calendar, I write my tasks for the day. This is where I get more specific, and more critical, as to where I will spend my time. “People who trust fate are often confused and filled with regret. God did not hand you a television to watch, he handed you a script to write,” Donald Miller. Your life is one big story, but you start with a blank script. Either you will write your story, or you will give the power to someone else to write your story. Structure your life in such a way that each day brings meaning and takes you further into the parable of your life. “Social media is great at drawing you into their story. Don’t live someone else’s story. Live your story. Turn off the TV, don’t waste time on Netflix. Don’t live someone else’s story. Live YOUR story,” says Miller. If we do not schedule our day, then the whirlwind of life eats away at our time. When we take a break at 10a.m. to check social media, suddenly we look up and an hour has passed by. Did that hour help write your story? Or did being an observer in what others are doing just cost you an hour of your own life? Having a daily calendar that keeps you focused on creating your story has proven to be the most successful approach to time management.

6. Format of Daily Calendar: I divide my daily calendar into three parts:

a. Morning Routine

i. Breakfast/News 6:30-7:30a.m.

ii. Quiet Time/Bible Reading 7:30-8:30a.m.

iii. Exercise/Get Dressed 8:30-9:30a.m.

b. My Story

i. Write “Success” blog series

ii. Edit contributing writer article

iii. Record ad

c. Tasks

i. Pick up cleaning

ii. Meet with architect

iii. Set doctor’s appointment

Morning Routine: This is how I start my day. I try to stick with the time allotted, but I give myself some grace in this area. Having a written timeframe helps me stay on track, though.

My Story: This is where I work on items dealing with my obituary. (Yep, always sounds weird and feels even weirder to write! I might change this to My Graduation Story.). Remember, your obituary keeps you focused on what you want to accomplish in life. What story am I writing? Running to the cleaners does not get me closer to my goals. Yes, the cleaning needs to be picked up, but if I get it tomorrow vs today, is it really that important? Yet, if I let all the mundane tasks of life override My Story, then this becomes a day wasted. I write three things each day I want to accomplish for My Story. If I find I can do more, then I go to my weekly calendar and choose a fourth item. Sometimes I only finish two items, and that is alright. I will just roll it over to the next day. Once I finish the items under My Story, then I move to the Tasks.

Tasks: Tasks include the more mundane items that must be tackled each day: errands, doctor’s appointments. It can also be items that do not require as much brain power: dinner with a friend, attending your child’s soccer game, volunteering at your church food drive. If you are in the corporate world, tasks might be weekly internal office meetings. They are necessary to keep things moving forward, but they do not help you in your story. Your My Story items in the corporate world would be actions that help you write your work story: creating the long-term growth plan for the business, landing the large client. It is best to put the My Story items before Tasks, because these require more brain cells. By the time the afternoon rolls around, you are fatigued and will not be bringing your A game. (Some people are more alert in the afternoon, but for the majority, this is the best approach).

Filtering my day by categorizing items as My Story or Tasks helps me focus on what is important. Putting boundaries around my day also helps me say NO to distractions, interruptions, and when others put unsolicited demands on my time. Learning to say NO is a big step that must be mastered if you are going to make progress in your story.

“Freud said man’s motivation is for pleasure. Victor Frankel said, ‘No, Freud is wrong. Man’s motivation is for meaning, and when man cannot find meaning he numbs himself with pleasure.’”-Donald Miller.

Pleasure is fleeting. Meaning is what gives us the fuel we need to persevere.

“Who is casting the vision for your life? You? Some other institution? Or somebody else? If you give control over your life to someone else (or to fate), then they are responsible for the outcome. If you have control of your own life, then you are responsible for the outcome. God gave us freedom over our lives to write our own story. This scares some people. They rather be told what to do. What we really fear is the responsibility. I don’t want you to see it as a responsibility. I want you to see it as fun. Creating your own story, with all the success and failures, is fun.” -Miller

I look forward to creating my calendar. I love doing the brain dump for the year, and it feels good to organize my life in a way that keeps me focused on the story God has given me to write. If you wake up each day with purpose, you will find meaning in your life. It is time to write your own story and stop living someone else’s life. Here’s to successful planning!

Together with you,

Lisa Lou