Improve Yourself!

I hope you were able to continue making strong progress toward your goals through the Improve Yourself! 2010 challenge this week. As always , I trust that these weekly posts will offer value to anyone looking to improve their life and their marriage, regardless of whether you are officially part of the contest.

If you are a participant, you must leave a comment below giving an update on your personal progress. Please do so by Tuesday, January 19th at 11:59 p.m. central time to be eligible for this week’s giveaway. If you are not signed up, feel free to leave a comment anyhow and give your thoughts on this week’s post or your own progress…you just won’t be winning any prizes.

Time Keeps on Ticking…

If you have not read this week’s giveaway book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  The seven habits Dr. Covey outlines are legitimately vital and practical.

Want A Happier Marriage?

Great! Grab our 7 simple steps to improve communication in your marriage (in less than 15 minutes):

My favorite principle from the book is Habit 3: Put First Things First, which is focused on personal time management.  Basically, there are four areas, or quadrants, where we can classify every task in our lives: Urgent/Important, Not Urgent/Important, Urgent/Not Important,  and Not Urgent/Not Important.  The key to success is to maximize the time you spend in “Quadrant II: Not Urgent/Important” and this is where many of us struggle.

When we manage our time effectively enough to focus on issues that do not require immediate attention (not urgent) but are in fact important to our lives, we become strategic planners and we take actions that will benefit us in the long-term.  If you are a regular reader of Engaged Marriage and/or you are actively participating in the Improve Yourself challenge, you are spending at least part of your time on Quadrant II activities.  Nice work!

Expect in emergency situations, there is nothing necessarily urgent about your fitness level, your financial strength, your spiritual life or even your marriage.  That’s why it’s so easy to get into a rut in all of these areas.  When we lose focus and don’t manage our time effectively, the more urgent (even though less important) tasks begin to rule our days.

By setting goals and devoting your time to meeting them, you are setting yourself up for success and becoming effective in that area of your life.  When you use your time wisely, you not only help yourself, but you are making progress in your marriage and family life as well.

I look forward to hearing about the progress you have made this week, and I certainly know that it takes wise time management and sacrifice to make it happen. Please leave a comment below letting us know what you did during Week 2 to better yourself.

This Week’s Awesome Prize

7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleThis week’s giveaway is another great one. If you want to learn how to be more effective with your time and efforts in all areas of life, then I highly recommended that you read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Just enter your weekly update in the comments below, and you’ll be eligible to win your own (gently-used) copy of The Seven Habits. Click the link above to read more about this best-selling book.

And please don’t forget that you must subscribe to Engaged Marriage via either RSS or Email to be eligible for prizes. There is a secret code at the bottom of the post (just above “Related Posts”) that is only visible if you read this post via an RSS reader or in your email. If you are selected but aren’t subscribed (you don’t know the code when I email you), the prize will instead to go the next person drawn.

Last Week’s Lucky Winner

Congratulations to the lucky winner from our Week 2 drawing:

Sherry who won The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Slacker Alert!

Unfortunately, we have had numerous people “disappear” since the original sign-up for this contest.  Out of the original 64 participants, 51 commented in Week 1, and only 33 commented with their progress in Week 2. For those of you sticking with it and progressing toward your goals, your odds of winning each week and overall are improving with each drop-out!

Please note that missing one week doesn’t drop you from the contest, so if you simply forgot to leave a comment last week or just got off-track for a week, I encourage you to refocus on your goals and get back to work!  Leave a comment here and let us know you are still working alongside us all.

And, yes, if you signed up originally and you are not around for Week 8, I will be posting your name and, if available, your website address at the end of the contest for being a slacker.  You wanted accountability and I want to give you some! 🙂

Thanks to This Week’s Awesome Sponsors!

The great prizes being given away throughout the challenge are only possible through the generous support of our sponsors. Please take a few minutes to visit this week’s sponsors and check out what they have to offer.

Personal Finance Notebook is a great site created by Patrenia Spears after her family paid off an incredible $93,000 in debt! Her posts are intended to empower her readers to achieve their financial goals. Her tag line says it all: “A website that offers ideas, education and the motivation needed to create a personal finance portfolio to be proud of.

MomStart is a fantastic resource created by a mother of two who provides an incredible amount of reviews, giveaways and writings related to all of the new things going on in the world of parenting.


Budgets are Sexy is simply awesome. J. Money provides a site that is packed with really useful info about the world of personal finance, and he does it in his own (pimpin’) way. Entertaining and informative.

Budgets are Sexy

Make Mine Happen “Stop Dreaming and Start Doing” by putting the motivational and informational posts at this site to work in your life!

That’s it from me for Week 3 of the challenge! Look for the Week 4 post next Sunday. Get your progress stated below, visit our sponsors and go take some more progress toward your goals!

Don’t miss the other Improve Yourself posts…here is a running list:

  1. Improve Yourself! 2010 Announcement. This is the place to start and sign-up by leaving a comment with your area of focus.
  2. The Prize List. This is where you’ll get the details about the awesome prizes and learn about our generous sponsors.
  3. Week 1: Set SMART Goals. Learn about smart goal-setting and leave your specific goals for the challenge in the comments.
  4. Week 2: Baby Step Your Way to Success. Learn how you can achieve any goal by breaking it down into small, easier-to-handle tasks.
  5. Week 3: Prioritize Your Time for Progress. Learn the importance of focusing on important, but not urgent, tasks to improve your life and achieve long-term effectiveness.
  6. Week 4: YOU are Responsible for Your Progress. Quit making excuses, take ownership for your results and do the work necessary to make your goals a reality.
  7. Week 5: Don’t Be Perfect, Be Remarkable! You do not need to be perfect, you simply need to be remarkable in what you do. Don’t you think you can be remarkable in the way your handle your finances?  In your approach to fitness?  In your marriage?
  8. Week 6: Stick With It! I applaud you for sticking with your commitment to yourself and your fellow challenge participants. You are now in the minority as we close in on the finish line. Don’t Quit!
  9. Week 7: Communicate for Success Communication is a certain key to success in nearly all aspects of life.
  10. Week 8: Don’t Accept Mediocrity! Always get better even if it’s only in small increments.  Life is just too short to do otherwise.


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. I have to say I need to review Covey’s quadrants. I’m rough around the edges right now.
    .-= Ken´s last blog ..Money Secrets? Spill the Beans =-.

  2. I had an awesome week. My “diet” of smarter, healthier, nutrition was right where it should be. When I did have have something to eat late at night after the gig it was high in protein and fiber and around 300 calories. My workout’s were tough, tiring, but very enjoyable and rewarding. Three days of tougher lifting along with 2 miles running on those days, a 45 minute spinning class one day, and a 40 minute run/sprint/jog workout another day consisted of my exercise. The great thing is that it wasn’t that time consuming. I was very productive around the house, with life, felt like I had even more energy on stage, all because of these changes. Oh, I dropped down a couple more pounds. Ready for week 3!

  3. Ok this week was exhausting may I say – but in a GREAT way! I logged 8 workouts in 6 days – which felt great. Three core classes, three spinning classes, butts and guts (ha ha) and rans three days for a total of about 6 miles. I still want to work my way up to at least 10 miles a day in prep for the 5 mile in March but I feel that I have made major progress toward being prepared for my spinning certification in March – I cannot wait to teach and then get outside and cycle this spring!

    So nutritionally I stuck with my sparkpeople diet (except for last night when I has some pizza and brownies!) and I have lost a total of 4 pounds so far! That leaves about 8 pounds to go. More importantly, I am giving my body the appropriate foods to sustain all the workouts and I just feel better in general. I even modified our grocery shopping to make sure that I am not spending more to stay on this diet… which leads me to my next goal of finances.

    Financially this week was tough because I am in between my terms for online teaching and I will resume my “normal” paychecks in February. The good news is that as of February I have fallen into a stable amount of teaching 5 online classes in addition to my work at the YMCA so we will always be able to count on a set amount of money – this is different from the past since my classes were so staggered. We ate out once last week and spent more than we should have – something I have never even watched in the past. This week we ate out once – and used a gift card AND went earlier (for sushi) and got everything 1/2 off – our regular meals at this restaurant are about $85 for the three of us and this week we spent about $38 and it was technically free to us! Little tricks like this are things that I think will become habitual and I am so happy about that! I also shopped once and spent only $21 – totally acceptable within my goals. I have no plans for any serious shopping in the near future. Lastly, I booked our annual vacation to the gulf this week and I chose to downgrade our condo in terms of space… I am EMBARRASSED to say that it saved us over $1700 – I cannot believe how much we were paying for our condo in years past. The new one we found is just as nice – just smaller and on the exact same beach. What a savings! I planned our budget for the trip and it will be paid for in its entirety before we even arrive at the beach. I am feeling really good about these efforts.

    Today is Sunday and we are off to church and Italian dinner (and someone’s birthday party!). Spiritually it has been somewhat of a touch week for me – we need to decide if we are going to keep our daughter in private school for Kindergarten and I am quite stressed out about the decision but I will keep praying and I know we will make the right choice. This is a hard one – it deals with two goals (finances and my personal relationship with God) so hmmmm…

    Overall I love this challange and working towards goals with my husband has been a great process. Good Luck to all for week three!

  4. I’ve been studying every day for my qualifying exams (which are only a few days away). I’ve also made several sets of flash cards. I just need to calm my nerves and then I’ll be fine.
    .-= SavingDiva´s last blog ..2010 Resolutions Check-In =-.

  5. This week I made good progress again towards my goal. I have been actively keeping up with my daily To Do list in order to make progress on the small items. I find I’m struggling with the larger items on my list, partially due to the fact that I’m having trouble moving with my giant 8 month pregnant belly, and partially because I’m tired from carrying around the giant belly at work all day. Next week should be better as many of my urgent task require me to sit. I’m also going to be trying to rest more often during the day to decrease my night time exhaustion, and break up my larger tasks into smaller ones with breaks in between. All things considered, I’m progressing nicely.

  6. I did not get every day scheduled as planned, but that turned out to be a good thing. A few of the things that needed to be on that schedule changed which means I’m glad I don’t have to go back and redo schedules because of that. While I did not reach my goal for the week, I have realized something very important. As a full time mom and student I have asked myself to complete some of these goals much too quickly. The amount of time it takes to be a mom and a student doesn’t allow for all the time I needed to complete each of the daily schedules. Since I’ve realized this I am ok with being a bit behind my plan and have decided to adjust it so I can finish them this week and then start implementing them by the end of this week or the very beginning of next week.
    .-= Cassidy´s last blog ..Quick Takes #3 =-.

  7. Time Keeps on Ticking…

    I have read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and taken workshops geared around the book. For instance in the area of health…if I don’t stay in the Not Urgent/Important quadrant in regards to my health I am likely to fall into the Urgent/Important quadrant, ie: the hospital or something worse. My goals are not just a matter of feeling better. I have to keep telling myself they are ultimately a matter of life and death.

    As for my progress…I wish I could say it has become habit but it isn’t true. I still have to push myself to do what needs to be done. Many areas such as taking my meds as scheduled I am doing okay; eating the proper meals I am doing okay. I am not spending as much time as I would like on the rebounder. My goal is at least once per day although I would like more times or longer time. I’m at about 5/7. As for the weights the goal is 3x per week. I am meeting the goal; however, due to lack of time on some days I am not doing full sets.

    The goal is to plan my days better.

    Thanks for helping me to stay on track.

  8. I had a rather frugal week! Still taking baby steps to get debt paid down. This past week, about $350 in overall debt was paid down. There wasn’t anymore money saved, but I’ll some to put away next week.

    I found out at the last minute I needed a new outfit for an event coming up next week. Seriously, nothing in my closet is appropriate for this event. So I went shopping, trying to find something on clearance and found a dress that was 25% with a special (additional) markdown of 50%. Got a total of 75% off and paid about $30 for an $80 dress!! Total score! I get so excited about saving money…

  9. I have really enjoyed this challenge for the group. My wife has been really pushing me with the diet we have been on and without her I could never do it! She is amazing! It really is awesome making progress but I could not do it without her support. I have also told everyone about the diet that I am on so it makes it a lot harder to back out. To date I have lost 13 pounds.

    We are also paying off the Credit Cards little by little and it is on track!

  10. I think I’m one of the slackers that missed week 2. My mom was hospitalzed unexpectedly and was so ill we thought we were going to lose her. I ended up taking a quick trip to visit her and somehow missed the last checkin.

    I also didn’t follow my weight loss plan. I’m back home and started walking and am back to eating healthier. It’s okay to fall off; just havae to get back on; right?
    .-= Bucksome´s last blog ..Week in Review: Haiti Edition =-.

  11. Packing my veggies to take with me for our days out worked well. I did better eating veggies as snacks. I got on the treadmill twice and had planned on walking Saturday morning. Instead, my husband came home early Friday and we all went to the woods to get fire wood. So, instead of walking, I moved two small trees (with the help of my 2 boys)! It took at least 6 hours, so that should count for workouts for the week, but I’m not going to count it that way. I will be able to work out at least twice while my boys have swim lessons.

    As for reading the Bible, I did well by making myself read when the boys are reading the Bible for their school work. Usually, I use that time to do housework because that is a time they don’t need me teaching them, just a review at the end. So, things are looking good here. I just need to keep it up.

    Thanks again for the book last week. I look forward to reading it again.

  12. Doing well, and still plugging away! I’ve continued to make improvements in myself as a mom.

    This week, I have been using the book I won here and have been taking Baby Steps to unclutter my life, which will ultimately help me in my goal.

    This challenge is serving me very well!

    More detail is available in my blog:
    .-= Krystal´s last blog ..Improve yourself 2010 update =-.

  13. Once again, I reached my goal of writing 3 blog posts and 1 story each week. Setting my timer and unplugging the internet while I work has continued to help me reach my goal. Yay!

    The Covey book sounds pretty cool. I like the emphasis on taking care of “non-urgent/important” tasks. I would have never thought to put it that way, but it totally makes sense!
    .-= Kathleen Quiring´s last blog ..A Manifesto for “Pretty OK” =-.

  14. This past week Alisa and I were asked to speak at a Fireside Chat for The Church at Rancho Bernardo on February 28th. The title of the chat is: Coming out Stronger on the other side of Lies, Loss, and Hardship.

    Even though we had planned on working with a speaking coach during this time we needed to push that to another time. So, Alisa and I have been working on our presentation ourselves and are beginning to get comfortable with what we will be speaking about.

    Our goal for this Fireside Chat is to not just tell our story, but to actually engage couples to take action in their own marriage. Looking forward to it.

    1. Tony, we must be neighbors. I live in Rancho Bernardo (although I attend another church). Good luck on the presentation!
      .-= Bucksome´s last blog ..My Sunday Treat Now Has Rewards =-.

      1. We are neighbors indeed. We live in Poway and love this area. Maybe you and Mr. Boomer will join us for the chat at CRB. Should be a relaxed setting and fun.

        Great blog you have going on too.
        .-= Tony´s last blog ..High 5 =-.

  15. I have been doing pretty well with my Paleo “diet” which is really more of a changing in the way we eat. My huge weakness is chips and salsa, so I am working on finding arrowroot so I can make chips that go along with the criteria. I also went running 3 times last week, so a little short of my goal, but overall I have lost 5 lbs, and am still on track to reach my weight loss goal. I’m so thankful for my wonderful husband for doing all of this with me! Hope next week goes well for everyone!

  16. My goal this year is to diet and lose my baby weight and then to create a new career for myself. I want to help contribute to my families income.

  17. It is sad that we tend to wait until there is a tragedy or death to appreciate what we have. One of my husband’s good friends at work died unexpectedly last weekend. She was young and healthy. They had lunch together on Friday and she died Sunday. This last week has been hard for him. We both made it a point to be at home so that he could process what he was feeling and so that I could be there for him.

    The beautiful thing about this last week is that it forced us to spend a lot of time together, just being together. Not answering cell phones, emailing, posting blogs (ok I may have snuck some of that in still, but only when he was not aware), not watching TV.

    I thought I would have to put working on my communication goal on hold for the week so that I could focus 100% on him, but by the end of the week I found that spending that much time with him actually helped me with my goal.

    This last week reminded me of why I love him so much and what a caring person he is. My original goal was to tell him I love him every time he used what I call his “speaking to a two year old” tone with me instead of getting angry with him. But this last week, watching him process his pain and with the reminder that life can be all too short, I have been telling him I love him, and why I love him all week. It has been one of the most peaceful weeks we have had in months.

    My new goal is to tell him I love him, and tell him why I love him several times a day and not wait until he irritates me. Maybe if I communicate my love for him on a regular basis I won’t get irritated in the first place. Or if I do get irritated it will be easier for me to respond with anger.

    As for the reading I said I would do…I am 1/2 way through the 5 Love Languages and am loving it and applying what I’m learning as for the book that gives a different spiritual quality every day to work on…I’m still on the first quality. It’s not that the qualities are hard, but it feels rushed to move to a new one every day. When it comes to spiritual health I’m not willing to rush through it. I am working on one a week and will start the reading for the second one tonight.

  18. We spent a little more money than I would have hoped this week. We’re cutting it close and I can’t wait to get paid on Friday! It was restaurant week here in DC so we went out twice for that. We did have a nice date night on Friday night though and had a delicious lunch yesterday so I guess it is okay since RW only comes around twice a year…. Otherwise, we stuck to our meal plans, brought our lunches, and only bought sale items/used coupons at the grocery store today. We went shopping on Saturday, but only used gift cards, so that was really nice because we both got some nice things, but didn’t spend any money out of pocket! We are going to be out with friends on Saturday night so we are saving up all our “spending” money for that night this week. Other than that, I just need to deposit our saved up money and we will continue to be on track!
    .-= The Northerner´s last blog ..Outfits for the Week! =-.

  19. In the past week, I have kept my goal of finding a new career path by talking with a former colleague in a new position. As it turns out, her company has an opening. I talked with her boss yesterday. We’re going to meet next week for a “meeting of interest” (the step before having a formal interview. We’ll see what comes out of this meeting.

  20. Covey’s book is great… but more difficult to live by than it seems by the cover. I’m a little behind on getting my goals in place… but hoping to do so by week end.
    .-= Doctor Stock´s last blog ..Stock Screen for NUE (Nucor Corp.) =-.

  21. I seem to be plateauing somewhat. I’ve been maintaining 5 pounds lost for a little over a week. Which is really great–5 pounds already toward my goal of 8 pounds over 8 weeks. It’s been more challenging b/c I’ve been on the road a lot teaching. My usual daily home routine makes it pretty easy to eat healthy. Also, my breast pump died, and I’m looking for a new good one.

    On the road again, teaching my first Spanish NFP class tonight, with the help of a translator and an instructional video done in Spanish–great challenge! Exciting!

  22. This week I had some unanticipated medical expenses that sent cash out the door, but I have a flexible spending account at work so I will get reimbursed for everything soon. If you count the medical expenses against me then I just barely made my goal for the week but if you let me take them out because they’re getting reimbursed then I did awesome. However, the reason I did so awesome is probably because I was too sick to be tempted to spend money!

  23. Well Dustin, I have certainly been a slacker as I have already told you privately. I believe that it is mostly due to poor planning on our part and so we really have to improve in the planning department. Sunday night I believe I had a breakthrough as far as making it to the point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was watching The Biggest Loser and they were giving the contestants an much needed dose of reality. It made me think about how my decisions might affect my family, especially my children. I also went to and found out that my bodies real age is like that of a 43 year old. I didn’t take that too well but I kind of expected it to be up there.

    Anyway I am tightening up on my goals a bit and decided to add some more to the mix but they will be mainly for the year and not this challenge. I want to look online for local 5K’s and run/walk in as many as I can for this year. Last year I did NONE so I know I can beat that. I think one of my main problems is that I am on the computer sitting down a lot of the time writing, creating graphics, and doing homework for school, so I want to get my butt outside more often this week. I went for a walk with my son last night after dinner and plan to do the same tonight.

    I have also not been doing a very good job of tracking my weight watcher points each day. I know that works so I plan to keep better track this week.

    This week I had a ZERO pound loss. I need accountability! Give it to me!

    It’s now or never!
    .-= Brad´s last blog ..Tax Refund: Will You Save It, Pay Off Debt, Invest It, Or Waste It? =-.

  24. Week 2 went okay. I haven’t posted an update to my blog yet b/c me and the rest of my family have been sick, sick sick for the last 3 weeks! The good news is that, when I went to the doctor yesterday, I noticed I had lost 4 lbs since I was there 3 weeks ago. So here’s the 411:

    1. Weight – bought a juicer and have lost 4 lbs, but haven’t met my exercise goals. I have been pretty sick, so I’ll chalk it up to my health. Hopefully the antibiotics will work so I can get to work!

    2. Marriage – had a really nice lunch date with my husband last week and talked about our financial goals. We just paid off another credit card and are doing great in this area. I only read 1 chapter in Love Languages, so I’ll read 3 this week to get caught up.

    3. Facebook Fans – I’m up to 106 fans from 60 in just 2 weeks, so I’m well on my way to my goal of 200. I’ve also sold more signs in the last 2 weeks then in the last 2 months, so business is picking up! If your readers would like to help me with my goal, they can click here to visit my Fan Page:

    Well, not all bad. I hope to have a much better report next week when it comes to my health and weight/exercise goals!
    .-= Kristin Gentry´s last blog ..What’s a story from your marriage that you love to tell or hear? (Week 13) =-.

  25. Did well this past week in the exercise department. Have to focus on healthy eating. Received the book about success and am 1/4 into it, it’ll surely help me with my goals.


  26. (Disclaimer: Not trying to win a book! Just checking in.) Well, I lost 1.5 lbs this week. It’s been a struggle though, being that I’m down to my last days at work before venturing out into Small Business land! I don’t think I’m gazelle intense and I don’t know if I will/can be through January. However, I plan on trying to stick it out and make it happen!

  27. I guess I should leave my update! I got in all four workouts this week, but I really need to ramp up the intensity. My eating was just okay as we struggled through a long week of sickness with both kids. I managed to lose one pound.

    Here’s to an awesome Week 3!

  28. My past week was a lot better than I had expected. I felt bad for not hitting my workout goals at the start, so I made sure to get 4 solid sessions in this go-round. My meals were excellent all week, the weekend was less so. Still, I lost another .4% of body fat and another two pounds. It feels good to get back on track. I’ve already lost 1.1% of my body fat, so I’m 1/3 of the way to my goal. I hope I can keep the intensity up.

  29. I logged 90 minutes of cardio this week. I feel a lot better about week 2 as far as workouts go (goal-met!). I didn’t lose any weight so far this week, and I’m SURE it was because I wasn’t as strict recording my points values on Weight Watchers online. I don’t weigh in until Thursday, so I am hoping for a great week-end. Overall, I’m proud of myself: 2 weeks-4 pounds. I’m still on track to meet my weight loss goal.

  30. One part of my weight loss challenge is to drink more water. I have been a good job the past week with getting back into the habit of drinking the amount of water that I should be drinking on a daily basis. Although I have been getting my daily amount of water in, I have also had a soda as well during the day. On a positive note about that, I have not drank multiple servings, just the one. Baby steps!

  31. This week, I wrote approximately 1,000 words for a companion piece to my novel. I also researched five different publishing houses, one of which referred me to for a good source for established literary agents. This week, I plan to finish my companion piece (it’s a short story that will follow the novel) and will edit it. I will also network through

  32. Oh no! I forgot to post 🙁

    This week I did have a talk with my husband about the possibility of me staying at home. He was not positive at all. Not that he’s against me staying at home in theory, but he’s against the whole me not making money thing. I explained how I could take on free-lance jobs and stay busy with those, but he’s not convinced.
    I did print off our bills list, and we’ll be looking at that tonight! (wish me luck)

    As I mentioned before, I was recently promoted. I was informed today of what my pay increase will be. I WILL be putting the difference in my checks towards paying down one loan that we have. Once that is paid off I will be putting half in our savings & the other half towards another loan. Hopefully we’ll get 2 loans paid off this year!

  33. Well I’m late to the party again 🙁

    During this period of the challenge I did not reach my weekly goal of 3 problem solving items completed by my team. We complete only 2. This is better than our 1 for every two week pace before this challenge, but not enough to say I’m on track.
    .-= Jeff´s last blog ..How to Calculate Net Worth =-.

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