I was talking with some friends about work/life balance, productivity, and rest. One of my friends dropped this bomb on me:
“I don’t feel that I need to earn my rest.”
It seems so simple, but it Blew. My. Mind.
I like to be playful, but I am a chronic “do-er” and place a high value on performance and productivity. To a fault at times. In the past, I didn’t give myself enough time to sleep or eat or rest but just kept working. I distanced myself from people using workaholism as an excuse.
Changing workplaces a few years ago showed me just how out-of-whack I was. It was in the little things– taking the time to re-do your hair before starting on your next task. Taking a break from work to slowly walk around the shop with a co-worker to catch up and get water. A group of people standing around just talking instead of jumping straight into labor. Taking extra-long bathroom breaks just to have some alone time. I even found more than one roadie napping in a rolling chair behind a power rack.
Some friends share this workaholic personality. We’re both appalled when 9-5-ers claim that no one really works more than 4 hours in an 8-hour day. Even wracking my brain I could not figure out what you do in those other 4 hours a day. How do you not fall behind on your workload? Are the expectations of employee performance so low? One friend of mine countered that she gets 10 hours of work done in 8 hours.
Sure, there are positives of having too flexible of boundaries at work – employers love you. But the detriments are far greater, they are your own mental and physical health and personal life.
When I was younger, I didn’t see the value in rest that I do now. I used to set up my work and my personal boundaries so that I took care of anything and everything personal outside of work, left all my baggage at the door, and at work, I just performed. My order of priorities was: what others thought of me, work, money, food, family, friends, my own time, and health. Taking care of my body was simply another chore, but because I was the only one that suffered, I would take care of myself last with whatever time and energy was leftover if there was any.
I did this in my mental health as well. I was not my own advocate; I actually threw myself under the bus more often than not. Saying yes to things that were beyond my energetic means because of how my work would make me appear to others. I would become overwhelmed and overworked and turn to those closest to me to help close the gap. My advisor in college. My closest friends. My husband. I gave away the parts of myself that I needed to keep for myself, and I gave away those parts of me that I gave to those closest to me. To whom? For what? To work and relationships that gave me little back and aren’t around me anymore.
So why is it that running around pleasing others does not bring us into our authentic power? It comes back to this idea that you must fill your own cup before you can serve others. That if you are not in your own authentic power, then you cannot bring others into their authentic power.
Another part of this lesson in rest and personal boundaries is between myself and my loved ones. It is difficult to tell those I love “no,” and set boundaries around my time. However uncomfortable and sad it feels to “let them down,” that alone time fills and balances me.
It is scary to choose sitting in the discomfort of something unfamiliar (rest) instead of going along the well-trod path (restless productivity). On my days off my husband chuckles as he points out that I am assigning myself busy work on my day off, that I should practice relaxing. And he’s right. When I am relaxing my brain and my body, I get super uncomfortable and guilty, still to this day. I fold laundry, and work in my planner, just to satisfy that busy-busy brain track. I do consciously relax and give that brain pathway a chance to build up and become more comfortable, but it’s a process.
Lately, I’ve found that my only “relaxing” activities besides sleep are watching TV and scrolling on my phone. Scrolling my phone, though relaxing to my body, is not relaxing to my mind. I’ve started to categorize any time I’m on my phone as a distraction, not as rest.
So how do you relax? How do I relax? HOW do I RELAX???
What has been working lately:
Slowing down. When I’m mowing I downshift from M2 to M1 and just practice being unhurried.
Drawing or painting. Bullet Journal included.
Cooking. Another “flow state” activity.
Going outside. I enjoy doing chores outside or going for a walk to shake up my mental space and get fresh air.
Snuggling. With family or furballs. Or with a nice blankie.
I have been working on my thinking around rest as a basic right and basic need, just as water and food are needs. And rest is not exclusively sleeping, but unscheduled and un-busy waking times that are necessary for my mental and physical health. A benefit I use to calm my inner critic is that studies show how much rest, enough sleep, a creative mind, and a healthy lifestyle contribute to productivity. If I can maintain my personal boundaries around my health and wellness with myself, my loved ones, my employer, and greater society I will not only produce higher quality work and products, but I will be healthier, happier, and more balanced in my personal time and with my family.
Make the best out of your time on this earth! I’ve assembled my top 10 habits that will make a difference to your health and wellbeing.
Face & Skin Care
The fuel that you put into your body affects how much energy you have and your long-term health. Learn a few go-to strategies to take your eating from “okay” to crisp, clean fuel. When planning your plate fill half with vegetables, then use the remaining space to portion meat and carbs/starch. If you’re an omnivore, that is. Portions in traditional American food put more weight towards proteins and bread in a meal. Another rule of thumb for clean eating is to create structures for decision making—for instance if presented with fish as an option for a meal decide to always say yes to fish. Some fish are high in mercury, like tuna and shark, but overall fish have quality nutrients and are high in good fats, omega fatty acids. Another idea is to limit processed sugars by putting a cap on grams-per-serving. Anything over 10grams is a “no,” anything under is a “yes.” The fun of this is to think up mantras that will help you to put the highest quality fuel in your body that is available to you.
Get good quality sleep.
Nap, if you must.
It is easy to cut sleep when you are in a busy season of life. But you will be more productive at a high quality of performance if you get enough sleep. Medical Research has concluded that getting enough sleep is linked to better brain function, among many other benefits. If you have been feeling friend, think about your sleep. Tracking your sleep can help you monitor your rest—most smartwatches will track your sleep if you wear them to bed. You can set goal bedtimes and wakeup times and length of sleep as well. Having a good bedtime routine will help you get the rest you need.
3) Wake. Up.
Without snoozing multiple times.
Out of bed, moving around.
Waking up is one of those elusive secrets of adulthood that I am still working to master. Getting out of bed has always been my least favorite time of day. Getting enough sleep makes this so much easier. Know yourself by knowing what your best night of sleep looks like, for me, that’s 7-9 hours. What you do within the first 30 minutes of being awake is key. Make sure it’s something that you are looking forward to and it will be a cinch to pop up and get going in the morning. If you’re looking for ideas, check out Robin Sharma’s 5AM Club for tips on how to structure your best morning.
If I had to choose between times I’ve been dehydrated and the few moments in my life I’ve been truly hydrated…. It’ not rocket science to conclude that getting enough water leads to better physical performance. The go-to advice to drink 8-cups of water is a decent goal, more and less are also good. I aim to drink two 32-ounce bottles of water each day when my job is very active. I feel a difference if I get busy and forget to drink one, in my joints, my mouth, and my brain function. Learn more about water intake and the human body from Mayo Clinic.
5) Value your Relationships.
Believe it or not, a sense of belonging is important to mental health. Feeling connected and valued by others is something humans will do just about anything for. Tend the garden of your relationships carefully. Some say this is the meaning of life. Make time to call, send a card, or even a text to just say hello and how are you to the people in your life. They cannot feel your love if you don’t show it to them. When you reach out you can sometimes change someone’s course in this journey of life. Humans are incredibly social creatures, and it is one of our biggest strengths.
You don’t have anything if you don’t have your health.
Taking a walk, doing some yoga, gardening, playing with the dog—all activity is activity, it all counts. The best kind of workout is one that you enjoy doing and look forward to doing. Sometimes that could be going for hikes with the dog. Sometimes it’s YouTube dance classes. Maybe it’s physical therapy exercises right now.
Yes, this is separate from physical activity. The goal of activity is to get your blood pumping and your muscles moving, maybe even do some impact to build your bone density. Stretching is for your ligaments and tissues. There are tons of great, quick, stretch routines online, check out this 10 minute morning stretch. Everyone’s body is different, and you know yourself best. Wherever you feel the most stiffness or lack of mobility is where you should focus. My hips and back are always my problem area, I try to stretch out the front of my hips with this stretch (9:50) and my back with this stretch. You can do a stretch routine when you first wake up, or while watching TV or listening to the news. If you want to go deeper, try Yin Yoga, which focuses on extended holds of deep stretches. If you’ve never tried Yin, you will be surprised how that long hold releases deep tension. I highly recommend Boho Beautiful’s Yin classes, they have a ton of free offerings on Youtube.
Just do it.
It took me 30 years and pandemic lockdown to get a good flossing schedule up and running. This may not be as high stakes for some, but for me it is. I have terrible enamel and get cavities easily. Flossing every day and using ACT has been a game-changer for me. I use floss picks that are disposable, so I don’t have to put my whole fists in my mouth, even though it means I am using more plastic. I have seen some great reusable pick options but haven’t tried them yet. I keep my picks right where I can see them by the sink. Anything that is part of my morning routine I can see laid out. That’s just how my mind works.
0) Do nothing.
Decompression is necessary for life, especially in the modern world of noise and short attention spans. Make time to do nothing. When I need rest, I find myself anxiously doing chores, or anxiously avoiding my thoughts with TV or scrolling on my phone. However, these activities don’t fill me or empty me, they merely distract me. There is nothing quite like sitting on the porch and staring blankly out into the grass. I am such a do-er that this is quite uncomfortable for the first few minutes as my hands and busy brain try to come up with things for me to do. I let my mind go crazy for a few minutes and then it calm. I often get my best ideas from this place of calm non-action. If nothing else, I feel rejuvenated and filled by reaching this state of mind rest.
One of the hardest “lessons of adulting” to learn is budgeting. Budgeting can feel like a drag, but it’s key to knowing where your money is, what it’s doing, and saving towards big audacious goals. On the flip side, a lack of budget is a huge cause of credit card debt. When you don’t know what your monthly income and expenditures are it’s easier to live in denial and pay for it later on your credit card bill. I’ve been there.
Digital money is totally intangible until it isn’t! Spending money on a credit card feels like nothing, having a balance on a credit card feels like nothing, not being able to go on a trip or purchase a home because of your debt? That feels like something. It would be helpful to set up positive reinforcement for the correct management of budget and debt to incentivize positive money interactions. That way it’s not becoming real when it’s almost too late.
I’ve struggled to live on a budget, as I’m sure is true of anyone who does. Besides my grocery budget, my biggest “issue” category is shopping. Like so many Americans and modern middle-class folks, the desire to buy things and treat yourself to all the comforts in life is a big draw. Everywhere there are advertisements and articles about the things we need in our lives. Every problem we find in our home or car can be fixed, but only if we buy something.
The truth is shopping is an activity -like sugar, coffee, nicotine- that gives us a dopamine boost. When you are feeling bad and go to target to buy something that will comfort you and make you feel better, it’s helpful to understand what’s happening in your own brain chemistry. That helps to explain your actions and reaction better than the joy or shame at buying another fluffy pillow or kitchen gadget. Marketing teams and stores know this, and they exploit our natural tendencies to sell their products.
All this to say there are many elements at play when we sit down to make a budget, or practice sticking to our budget. There are forces within ourselves and applied externally as consumers. So, if you’re starting to budget for the first time, or you’ve always struggled here is my advice:
Take it slow
Be kind to yourself
Speak about your struggle and your shame
Ask for help
For the longest time I budgeted and budgeted, but no spreadsheet changed my spending behavior. I’m a type-A personality, with perfectionistic tendencies, and a bit of a control freak, so it was devastating to me that I could not align my behavior to my budget and “be good at money.” I built up a wall of shame around my money, my budget, and my spending. I used avoidance to ignore the diving numbers in my account and spent to get that dose of dopamine anyway. I hated talking about money, to anyone, especially to my loved ones. It wasn’t until I opened up and started working consciously to improve my mental relationship with money that I found any real success in budgeting.
It takes courage and self-confidence to be bad at something and ask for help. It takes strength of will to admit to your friend group that you cannot afford that trip or that restaurant instead of just playing along and paying the price later. These changes take time, patience, and emotional support. It would be great if it was as simple as watching numbers and typing in data—but humans are not simple, and with something as foundational as money we can create all sorts of crazy mental webs and wormholes. So above all, be kind to yourself as you move through this process. However, that does not mean let yourself off the hook and buy something out of budget. I can attest that this does not help. I’ve been there so you don’t have to 😛
Here are my go-to strategies for budgeting:
Tracking and Monitoring
Goal amount before entering a store
Make a list online to be sure you are under budget
Create reasonable budget numbers to hit and slowly whittle them down
Give yourself a budgeted amount of spending money/fun money
I track and monitor with multiple methods. I started with a small notebook and writing down any money that went out or came in. This was the first budget breakthrough I had. Now I do the same thing but on my phone. I keep the budget amount for each category in a note and as I spend, I tally up so I know exactly how much is left in the budget each month before I make a purchase. I keep a spreadsheet to track my spending categories from month to month. And finally, I use the free app Mint to see all my transactions in one place and quickly check my net worth.
Setting a goal amount to spend before entering a store seems all well and good as you walk up, but once you’re inside it’s the wild west. This strategy hingeson keeping track of the items in your cart as you shop. Nothing fancy, just round up and don’t forget tax! For grocery shopping I’ve been using the strategy of adding items to a cart online to determine the total and adjusting from there, then I only buy what’s on my list. That way I don’t have to check prices or add up while in-store.
When you are building a budget from scratch and don’t know how much to budget for shopping, look at your past months. Categorize your transactions and add up your totals. You will probably be shocked. A few “harmless” purchases add up right quick. If you spent $800 last month on shopping, it won’t help you to budget only $20 for next month. You will blow right past it and the point of making the budget will be moot. Try for $600, or $500, or $750. Create reasonable goals for yourself, big change takes time. If you use the strategies above you will be able to come in under whatever number you choose. The big win feeling of coming in under budget or at budget is the prize here.
The final strategy is my most recent breakthrough. My husband has been very patient and calm with me as I work through my money anxiety and shame. One day I was sharing some fear and shame about my budget and he asked a simple question: “How much do you have budgeted to spend on yourself, on fun?” And my answer was $0. I was hemorrhaging money in categories like “personal” and “miscellaneous” which were meant for shampoo and oil changes but were being used for clothes or home goods. Once I realized I had no space in my budget for fun shopping or treats, it changed everything. I was more realistic with my categories and what fits into them, and I created an actual budget number for personal spending. Then I could go to Target and not be “bad” as long as I stayed within my budget. That did limit what I could buy, maybe a new t-shirt but not a new bedding set. But I didn’t feel like anything I spent for fun was “wrong” and “bad.” When I had no budget for treats that meant any treat was a budget “indiscretion,” and I was more likely to overspend because in my mind it was already more than I could afford so what did it matter? Now, with a treats budget, I can lavish myself with the shopping experience without shame or guilt and stay on budget!
Now I ask you, dear readers, will you share with me about your experiences budgeting? What strategies do you use? What were your breakthrough moments? What positive reinforcement do you employ to help yourself make budgeting fun?
Making better choices for the health of the earth and your family, one step at a time
Have you ever thought about all the small ways that you contribute to the decline of the earth? Have you ever felt guilty for choosing the “easier” or “more convenient” option, even though you know deep down that it would negatively impact the environment? I have been there! Many times. But I’ve felt so overwhelmed by how many aspects of my life need to change and how we have already trashed the environment.
We are not all activists who rally congress or march in the street or volunteer with the Peace Corps. But we can all make a difference. It’s down to those moments when no one is around, and you make a change for yourself. Even using Tupperware for your weekday sandwiches instead of ziplock bags—that’s 260 ziplocks that are not ending up in the ocean or lakes. That small change can make a big difference. And you don’t have to make these changes all at once. In fact, I recommend you take any habit change one step at a time. Know that I am in this with you, I am not 100% plastic-free in my life by any means. I want to do more recycling and composting and continue to transition my spending to more ethical sources. I am walking alongside you as you parse through the fine print on the back of a cleaning product, through a company’s “About Us” page looking for Fair Trade certifications, and through your own house as you decide what to tackle next. I will be here to celebrate your success and mourn your failures with you.
There are 4 major categories of spending in our daily lives that affect the environment. Choose the one that speaks the most strongly to you to try out in your life first:
Cleaning Supplies and Personal Hygiene
Food Production, Transport, and Storage
Clothing and Other Material Goods
“Sustainable,” “all-natural” and “eco-friendly” are all words that can be manipulated in marketing a product. Look for substantiated claims like carbon offset of a company, toxicity of a product, compostability, etc. Check out this article on the legal side of “green” marketing. Fair Trade does have certifications, check out the details of the Fair Trade standards here.
Cleaning Supplies and Personal Hygiene
The top concerns with cleaning supplies are toxic ingredients, how biodegradable they are, and how much plastic packaging is used. Click here to check out some great non-toxic and biodegradable cleaners from the blog Going Zero Waste.
Often we reach for something familiar or are tantalized by a product that promises a “new” or unique experience when in reality the old standards are incredibly effective. Like simply using vinegar as a cleaning agent. I can fall prey to this for sure! My tub is dirty, and I just want to be able to spray scrubbing bubbles on it and forget about it. But with just a little research I found out that using warm white vinegar and dish detergent is an absolute miracle worker for the tub!
I started to really take my cleaning products seriously when I moved into a home with a septic tank. The microbiome of the tank means that we can’t put bleach, anti-bacterial products, or anything that isn’t biodegradable down the drain in significant quantities. So I’ve found my new favorite biodegradable alternatives to go to cleaners inside our home. Consider also the chemicals you use outside– from lawn sprays, to fertilizer, to bug spray with DEET. All of these contribute to the health and wellbeing of your family, and to the health and wellbeing of the bugs, birds, and plants that call your property home.
For example, Force of Nature is an all-purpose cleaner that kills 99% of germs and bacteria, but it is so safe you can clean pacifiers with it. No bleach-based cleaner can say that! I’ve been very impressed with the dissolving and odor-fighting power of this cleaner. Plus, all you need is a tiny tube of the cleaning solution, mixed with water from your own house. It goes through electrolysis to create the final solution. Read more about how it works here.
The quick and dirty techniques I use for these products is to check the ingredients and warnings. In the United States, cleaning products are not required to disclose their ingredients, which can be very problematic, but the warning labels can help guide you. If it says to keep it away from your eyes, but it’s just a dryer sheet? Probably not worth it and I will find an alternative.
As far as packaging, anything is better than plastic. Glass, aluminum, paper, cloth, etc. More companies are considering this when packing their products these days, but keep this in mind when you are shopping. Bringing your reusable grocery bags to the store? That’s 8 plastic grocery bags a week that aren’t being produced! Over 400 a year. Or do you have reusable bags, but always forget them? Try storing them in your car 24/7 so you will never be without the option.
To reduce your plastic consumption from cleaning products, consider integrating the following into your home:
Buy concentrated fomulas and refill with your own water
Buy solid-form shampoo, conditioner, and soap
Buy sheet-style laundry soap
Buy products in bulk and refill your containers
Food Production, Transport, and Storage
So much of what we do is based on time and effort, and we live in a culture of convenience. It is challenging to go against the status quo and take the time and put forth the effort to make more ethical choices about food. It is more popular than it was in the past to be “eco-friendly” and sustainable in your food choices, but it is still a fringe lifestyle. Growing up I heard associations of organic food with crusty hippies, to shame the mainstream away from that choice for the convenience of big agriculture. It seems straightforward to avoid eating pesticides and other added chemicals, but that is not how the majority of our food in America is produced. Choosing organic, non-GMO, and non-hormone foods can be inhibitive to some people and some budgets. Organic costs more because it takes more effort and care on behalf of the farmer to produce products without the quick-fix of the chemicals. However, the effect of those chemicals on our own health and the health of the ecosystem is significant.
Some of the negative impacts of using chemicals to alter food production include:
Pesticides can contaminate the earth, water, polinators, and vegetation. They can harm non-target plants including neighboring farms. They are also toxic to other organisms including birds, fish, and insects. Source here.
Pesticides have known short-term and long-term health concerns for humans as well. Long-term effects include cancers, birth defects, immunotoxicity, and disruption of the endocrine system. Source here.
Growth hormones and other hormones used in the production of beef and cow’s milk could lead to higher hormone levels in humans, though research is spotty and divided. Source here.
If you are committed to reducing your carbon impact, look to your own community. Is there a farmer’s market where you can buy greens, veggies, local meat, and eggs? Do you have a co-op that stocks locally grown and farmed products? Buying local cuts down on the fuel burned to transport products, this also supports smaller farms that don’t contribute to emissions the way big mono-agriculture does and reinvests in your own community. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your local shops. I love my local feed store/farm co-op as a source of information. There I can ask if they know anyone who raises meat chickens or pasture-fed beef. Tapping into the growers and ranchers in your community will help you get quality products without them being shipped across the country.
Clothing and Other Material Goods
We may not think about it, but there are many toxic chemicals used in the production of fabric and the farming of the materials used. Not only that but there are harmful workplace practices used in the garment industry, hence the term “sweatshop labor.” When thinking about your clothing and materials look for information from the company about how the products are farmed, processed, and if their employees earn a living wage. Within a company, there may be some products that are produced differently than others. Brands such as Prana and Patagonia are doing well to move toward ethical global production, however not every one of their products is there yet. There are many smaller companies that are devoted to doing ethical business as they create quality goods at reasonable prices. The Honest Consumer blog has an amazing directory that can help guide you as you search for the ethical version of whatever it is you need.
As consumers in American Capitalism, our money is our power. When we spend more carefully on quality, well-made goods instead of buying into fast fashion, we shape the future of the market. It’s not only a change in where our money goes, but in our mindsets. Instead of buying another pair of $40 boots to make it through the year, try saving up for a $200 pair with a lifetime guarantee, or a great pair of leather uppers that have soles you can get replaced for $30-40 every three years. By using quality goods and repairing them as they wear, fewer goods are produced over all.
Another trick for buying goods that are ethically produced is to buy products “Made in the USA.” The regulation on labor conditions, breaks, minimum pay, and work culture is more consistent with “Made in the USA” products than in factories that have outsourced labor overseas in order to avoid the cost of better conditions for the workers. Buying American Made will also reduce the carbon impact of the transport of goods. Duluth and American Giant are good examples of Made in USA companies.
Another suggestion to cut down on the environmental impact of shopping is to buy used products. Quality items can last for decades and serve many owners. Instead of paying full price for everything brand new, save some cash by buying second hand and use the extra money to repair and refinish older, well built products. Not handy? Hire a craftsperson to breath new life into your second hand furniture, clothing, shoes, or tools.
When you are choosing your daily products –say bread, eggs, lunch meat, or laundry detergent– look not only at the ingredients but also the packaging. If each of us can reduce our use of plastics by even one or two items a week, that makes a difference! We can’t be perfect, but we can put forth the effort to be a little bit better than we were yesterday.
We just switched over from jug detergent to sheet detergent bought directly from the supplier, and I am so excited to be able to reduce that one piece of plastic trash that our household used to generate. Now we generate just a small piece of biodegradable cardboard.
There are many things that contribute to your carbon footprint, from your daily commute to your power bill, but how you spend your money affects the free market. What people are buying determines what companies are making, and more importantly how things are being made. Being more ecologically sound is becoming more mainstream, but not fast enough to counteract the damage we have done to our environment. It can be overwhelming to think about, so focus on one or two things that you can do today that will reduce the amount of toxicity and waste in our world.
We’ve all been guilty of putting something off because it is hard or boring, or worse—both. Recently I put off sending in my passport to update my name… for about 9 months. It wasn’t a surprise, I knew this was something I would have to do, changing my name and all, and yet I still just kept re-writing that item on the list and migrating it with me. Although boring, this task wasn’t difficult—all I really needed was the passport pictures. I got stuck on this and my mind whined at me. Last time we got passport photos at Walgreens, and they messed up and post office wouldn’t accept them. Yes. I remember brain. It was annoying. Something that small was a big enough speed bump for me to just not drive there for 9 months! It doesn’t take much to weave a thought pattern that relieves me of immediate responsibility. The problem is the passport is for my own benefit, allowing me to travel abroad! I didn’t get the kick in the pants to complete this task until I changed jobs back to touring and I knew I would need my passport. Literally within 24 hours of accepting a gig I had my photos and check in the mail. For that task I needed the motivation.
Tasks you may have been avoiding for months or years (and you’re not alone)
Cleaning out the garage
Going through a storage unit
Going through a loved one’s clothes
Having coffee with an acquaintance
Going to an event you’ve been invited to so many times it seems crazy to go at this point
Getting rid of a piece of furniture
Organizing a filing system, or let’s be real, making one!
Going to a school reunion
Organizing your digital files
Finishing reading a book
Making a scrapbook or photo album
Going to the Doctor
Finishing editing a paper or project
I started to really pay attention to this phenomenon when large swaths of my to-do list would go undone. When 15 items were completed that week, except the one that’s been on the list for 4 weeks…. Something about that task or that week was triggering my avoidance. There are plenty of tasks we must do in our world that are not fun, motivating, or engaging, but they need to be done. Everyone responds differently to this kind of forced executive function. At some boring tasks, like dishes or laundry, I barely bat an eye, but some tasks are just stubborn. The more I let those undone tasks wear me down, the less I noticed when other things were not done. Having that undone item on my list took power away from my list! It would be better just to shut the door to that task and not see it pop up every week….
You’ve got to face the fact that shame and guilt about not doing this task have made it harder and harder to do. All the emotional weight and judgement you may have had about not doing this task are between you and completing it. Start by forgive yourself for not doing it in the past. Visualize how good you will feel, and how unburdened, when it is done. Release the tension around the task.
Now be painfully honest with yourself about why you haven’t done this task. If I have been avoiding doing something, then I have also been avoiding thinking about why I haven’t done that thing. Avoidance is one of my go-to protective behaviors. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or chaotic, I will choose an avoidant behavior because it feels like temporary escape. But the power in those shadows is being unseen, when the light of day is shone on those shame monsters, they lose power. To acknowledge that I avoided dealing with my passport because I was annoyed at having to waste my time on someone else’s potential mistake—somehow relieves the judgement and pressure from the task. All that to say that being direct and honest with yourself about why this task is hard or has been put off will diffuse some tension for you.
Now, let’s tackle a task that I’ll bet almost every single person reading this has avoided or struggled with! Cleaning out the garage. For our family, this is often where we put backstock, memories, actual trash, and things we didn’t have time to think about right then. The problem with having a space to stash stuff, is that we use it to stash stuff. And then there’s all this uncategorized stuff. If at first you don’t know where to put an item and so shove it in the garage, how easy is it going to be to go through a pile of 15 things, none of them with clear homes? Sounds exhausting. Garages and closets seem to be the hardest because they do such a great job of containing things and letting us forget about them.
So, the goal is the “clean out the garage.” First, I would get really clear about the goal:
“Open up one shelf on the left side.”
“Get rid of baby clothes.”
“Clear space to park my car.”
Give yourself something specific and measurable. A way to know that you are done! You did it! Otherwise, you will never be done, and it will be demotivating. Don’t make your task too hard or too big. If your goal is to clean everything out of the garage or convince your husband or wife you to get rid of a sentimental item, you could be aiming your sights too high. Break it up in chunks. Remember, this is a mental minefield, it is not just going through stuff. Every item in your garage is a series of thoughts and actions that lead you to acquire that item, to keep, and to put it in the garage. I bet that you’ve seen these items in the garage and felt bad about them for some reason or another. There’s a lot of emotional energy stored in our stuff. Expectations about what we will or should have done with these resources. So be kind to yourself and understanding as you layout the game plan for this task.
Let’s say you’ve tried this task before; it’s been on your to-do list as “clean the garage” for a month. You got yourself out to the garage with some cleaning supplies, and looked around, only to turn tail and scamper for the hills. Break it up! Make planning and setting the stage items of your to-do list that you get credit for doing. Pick one item a day for a few weeks.
Gather empty bins and boxes and place them in work area
Change the lightbulb in the garage so you can see
Get yourself a special hydration beverage for when you are cleaning
Open door and dust off all the boxes and bags
Take out any identifiable trash
Decide what categories you will have (i.e. tools, athletics, memories, etc) and write on boxes
Spend 30 minutes going through tools
And on and on. Until I’m ready to sink my teeth into a project for 1-2 hours, I will make these smaller moves. Anything, even just dusting things off so I don’t get distracted doing this in my later organizing sessions, will help me. This also gets me in the practice of showing up and doing something in the garage space, for the garage space, that I come away from feel good about. It’s almost like re-training your brain to associate coming to this area of your house with positive feelings and results instead of feeling guilty for ignoring it. Because let’s face it, you aren’t gonna spend 2 packed days cleaning your garage and be done forever. You are going to have to come to the garage, use things, store things, and get rid of stuff again and again. It’s not just about getting through this one to-do item but using your to-do list to help you develop a more positive relationship with keeping your garage tidy.
My final three tips for you in dealing with tasks you’ve successfully avoided for over a month:
Acknowledge that the task got increasingly harder each time you avoided it. Tackling it now will be easier than tackling it later.
Do yourself the service of calculating your workload in emotional weight, not in hours or boxes. If you have spent a long time avoiding something and it is emotionally dense, it will take a lot out of you to move through that item. Be kind to yourself.
Ask for help! Even if they aren’t doing actual work, having a buddy there to support you as you move through these heavy tasks can be the boost you need to make it through.
I started traveling with tours in 2018. Usually, I travel with the band and other technicians by several 12-person buses, but sometimes we fly. Either way, our showers and facilities for the day are always different and never ideal. When going for just 3-5 days, I recommend traveling light. Camping, traveling often, and minimalist travel style will go far to lighten your load and make the experience about where you are, not the stuff you have with you. Here are my suggestions for top 3 travel tips to make your experience shimmer.
TALK TO STRANGERS
Being in a new place can be overwhelming. A great way to get the gist of a place and narrow down your focus is to poll the locals. Find a food/drink stand that seems popular and ask strangers for their recommendations. You don’t have to feel obligated to follow through, but usually people are proud of where they live and will offer you honest insight. Where not to go can be helpful too. A concierge at a hotel is great choice for advice too. They know what people have liked when they return from an experience.
If the strangers you find are shy, ask them more specific questions, like best pizza in town, or barber shop—whatever you need. Hiking trail. One of my favorite things about being a “roadie” is meeting the stagehands for the day. They are the lifeblood of a place, and will be a fountain of knowledge if you ask good questions. If you drink, bars are good polling places, and storefronts. Park benches. Waiters. Google is great, but if you are traveling to go outside your comfort zone and broaden your horizons, then just choosing what appeals to you on google maps may not be the best itinerary possible.
When I’m traveling it’s important to me to feel comfortable, and to take every opportunity to stretch my legs and get some fresh air whenever I can. When traveling with the tour you don’t always get that opportunity. Always choose the bigger life when the opportunity presents itself! That feeling of freedom is supported by a lightweight travel bag that can hold my important items and any I acquire along the way. If I’m weighted down by a heavy bag, it will be harder to walk around, and I will spend time checking my bag at a hotel or locker. Save time, save your shoulders, and pack light.
Never once have I packed super light for a trip and then resented how easy it was to carry around all my belongings. I have, on many occasions cursed my past self for saddling me with the bag of bricks. Unless it’s for your health, try to go without for a short trip that will involve a lot of walking. I was able to utilize a light pack when I visited my husband in NYC, he was on tour, and I was off. I saw the show and him, and when they left town I was able to have a day of sightseeing in Brooklyn. Then I headed to a shuffle board bar in the evening and a friend’s house to crash on their couch. I packed 4 days into a backpack and no more. I even brought my dslr camera. I walked around with my pack all day, rode the train, buses, etc. without an issue. Plus- it was super easy to fly. I was so grateful that day I lugged my pack with everywhere that I had not packed an ounce more!
I never thought of the importance of pack weight until I did overnight backpacking. Those 40-60 lb bags need to be loaded and strapped just right or they can be very uncomfortable. Though not as heavy, being a pedestrian on the train and bus is good training too. Carrying your own things can be a big pain, or it can make your nomadic exploration of the world a real breeze!
No matter how much research you do for your trip, there is likely going to be a change in plans. I’ve been a part of trips that were rigidly scheduled and trips that were the definition of winging it. There is no exception for the unexpected. Remember that spontaneity can be a good thing on a trip, and you might see something you never would have thought of seeing. If you find your anxiety spiking when a trip goes off itinerary, take a deep breath and enjoy this time to decompress and not perform. Sometimes museums are closed. Or roads. But adventure does not have to stop. Roll with the journey. One of my favorite de-escalation techniques is 5-4-3-2-1. Notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. That always helps me to get out of my head, disrupt my emotional response, and ground back in my body and the world around me.
I hope that my 3 tips for travel helped you to plan a trip all about freedom, authenticity, and expanding your horizons! Don’t forget to poll the locals, pack light, and stay flexible next time you are out in the wild world. If you have your own travel tips to share please do so! Comment below, email me at email@example.com, or contact me on Instagram @optimizewithivy.
I’m a planner girl, through and through. I’ve tried many different ones, Life Planner, law of attraction planner, printed pdf planner, goal planners, and just writing daily to-do lists off of a master list in my brain. What I’ve found to be the best mixture of organization, fun, handwriting, and art has been the bullet journal. I used to do elaborate monthly spreads with my habit tracker and spending tracker, etc. But now I’ve whittled down my go-to formula to a few key elements:
Quarterly goals spread
Monthly goals overview
Weekly/dailies spread with time blocking
Make it pretty
This system works best for me to stay focused without having to keep up with too much. I do all my planning and reflections on the couch watching TV, it keeps my hands and mind busy and gives me a place to empty all my thoughts and keep my life organized. I know that for 2021 all my goals, dreams, lists, and dates are in this one book. During busy seasons of life I absolutely found that a pre-printed planner helped me to stay organized without having to create all my own spreads. I enjoyed using stickers and markers to make it visually pleasing, rather than drawing everything out by hand. What works for you is what is best for you, and that varies by who you are and what’s going on in your life!
I suggest for your lists and plans that you devote a little energy to making it beautiful. Or eye catching. Or fun. If my list is fun and satisfying to look at, I’m excited to interact with it and it doesn’t feel like a school assignment or a burden, but a celebration of all the things that fill my life. Even if it’s dishes ^.^ I’ll do a little bubbles doodle to help me engage with playfulness. When you are low on doodle time, get some beautiful stickers or stationery to support your habits and goals being more fun and beautiful.
Doodles of bath time and working out
With those bases covered, let’s get into the nitty gritty and address the issue of not breaking goals into small enough pieces. I’m sure we’ve all been here before. We know we are confident and capable thus we overbook our “production” energy for a given day or season of life. It’s important to be kind and understanding with yourself as you try to achieve these big, audacious goals. Failure is an inevitable part of trying and stretching yourself. I’ve found success chipping away at big goals when I break them into very small, achievable pieces. The bullet journal or planner can help you with this.
Say you have the big, audacious goal of getting healthier. Let’s break this down into subsections:
Eating smaller portions
At this point it will become clearer to you what subsections you are drawn to, what excites you, and also what you are afraid of or where you feel weak. Start with an area that you gravitate towards—for me in the health goal that would be strength—I feel pretty comfortable doing strength training and I have an idea of where I want to go with this. Now break these categories down into the smallest level activities, action items! I will write out every action item that I need to get going in this area:
Write out a workout schedule
Select the moves for arms
Select the moves for core
Select the moves for legs,
Assemble a stretch routine
Bookmark 5 videos between 20-40 minutes that guide a strength routine
Post workout schedule in workout area
Gather weights, a chair, and resistance bands in workout area
Decide when during the day is workout time
Choose start date for routine
Brainstorm how to will forgive and motivate myself if I get off track, because no one is perfect, and I will get off track. Planning for getting back on track is important!
Before I move onto any of the other elements of this goal, eating healthy, etc. I want to schedule these action items in. I won’t schedule my start date until I know I have time and space in my calendar to complete all of these setup items. And while I lay the groundwork for the start of this goal, I can work on carving out that 30-minute slot in the morning I need to accomplish my workout every day. Maybe tomorrow I can spend 10 minutes during that slot writing out the moves I want to do. And by the end of the week I can hold about 20 minutes of space in that time. By the end of next week I will be doing some of my workout moves during that time because I have the space and time for it and I’m getting excited about my goal!
My quarterly reflections and goals spread
For these big goals, subsections, and action items I recommend utilizing the hierarchy of the bullet journal quarterly goals, monthly overview, and weekly spread. The quarterly goal can contain, say 3 subcategories to work on. In this example it might be healthy eating, strength, and cardio. Write those into your quarterly goals spread. They have a time and place assigned to them and will be there for you to look back on and remember when you are planning your months, weeks, and days. Now you can let go of thinking about anything else related to this goal, and just focus on those elements that are assigned to this timeframe. You can rest easy and clear your mind knowing that each element of this goal will have its time in the sun, your bullet journal or planner has got you covered, it has your back and won’t let you forget what you want your life to look like in the future.
I know that it is so hard to be patient before you jump into your goal. I’ve been there, I still am there! When I finally decide I want to go after something I want it all to happen right now. I have the energy RIGHT NOW, so I want to do ALL OF THE THINGS and then it’ll be done, right? Unfortunately, good habits don’t work this way. What you do a tiny bit every day makes a bigger difference than what you do once really hard, or for an hour once a week. Even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes, even if you just show up to go through the motions, that is more valuable to building the habit than any one-time action. So even on days I desperately want to skip working out—I still show up in my workout place at my workout time and start with stretching, or reach for something that feels a little easier like a guided or shorter workout. Showing up is the key. It’s worth having a longer ramp-up to a goal to make sure you’ve set yourself up for success. If it takes me a month to ramp up, but it serves me for the next 20 years? It’s worth it. It might take me years to ramp up to some goals, and years to implement them, but that means they will serve me for a long time.
Top 5 goals for February and Gardening notes for the season
As you create your bujo monthly spread or make note of your monthly goals, use your quarterly spread as your guide. Before you even add in any of the minutiae of everyday life, the dentist appointment or the work deadline, go to your quarterly goals spread. This process automatically breaks down your goals into time-appropriate chunks. Then each week you can chip away at your monthly list. Make sure that items on your monthly spread are actionable and not conceptual. They have to be things you can actually check off. “Make healthy choices” is not an item that you can ever really be done with. But “meal plan every Sunday in June” is something you can schedule for an hour a week.
Minimal Monthly goals for April
Okay, another problem I experience, and I see other do-ers and achievers falling prey to is expecting to magically have more time for a new goal. If I add a million things to my list, that means I can get a million things done, right? We can try. But getting to the end of every day with a long list of unchecked boxes can put a damper on motivation. I did this for many years, until I got the point that I didn’t believe myself when I said I would do something. There were too many instances of putting something on my list or schedule that then I would blow off, replace, or steam roll over that it didn’t hold any power anymore. Only add items to your list that you will do, and have the energy to do. I had a wake-up call in my planning systems when I encountered the idea that time management is actually energy management. Just because you logistically can fit something into your day, doesn’t mean you will have the juice or mental space to accomplish that item. If you are adding something to a packed schedule, you have to remove something.
Weekly bullet journal spread with daily task assignments
The strategy I recommend is using your bullet journal daily spreads, or weekly spreads to time block your day. I do this with my regular day in a loose way, but I do hour to hour if it’s a busy day. I write in everything. Waking up time (15 min), eating time (30 mins), travel time (45 mins)—anything that takes time is on the schedule and an item I get to check off. Woke up? Check. Made my lunch and ate breakfast? Check. The most important part of time blocking your day is scheduling wiggle room. This is like a passing period for a school schedule, there needs to be time for things to overflow a little, or go to the bathroom, or pet the dog for 10 minutes without falling behind. You will know exactly where your time and energy during a day is going. In addition to wiggle room, be sure to always schedule in rest. Not just sleep, but time to decompress and just be. Action-oriented people often have trouble not being productive and just relaxing. If rest is scheduled and assigned a time, it is your job from 5p-7p to sit on the couch and doodle, or listen to a podcast, or visit with your family. Something that isn’t related to producing, but just to being. This is still something I have to practice every day. For some people the idea of scheduling relaxation, or “being” is just ridiculous, but for some of us it is a mental health necessity. When a to-do item is schedule for a specific hour on a specific day, I am much more likely to accomplish it than if it floats on a general weekly to-do list. If I know that a task has an assigned time to accomplish it, it is much easier to focus on the time that is NOW and the task that NOW.
The final key to using your bullet journal or planner to support your productivity and help you accomplish big, scary, audacious goals is using weekly reflections. I found this idea in my law of attraction planner I used in 2020 by the brand Freedom Mastery. In the back of my bujo I devote 26 pages to my weekly reflections, 2 weeks per page for the whole year. They are very simple: 5 achievements and a free write. And that’s it! I will sometimes fill out a few achievements as I got through the week, but I usually do the whole thing on Sunday as I get ready to go into the next week. This super simple practice is surprisingly fulfilling. Especially during hard weeks or weeks where I feel like I took 5 steps back on my goals. Acknowledging and recording your achievements on a weekly basis like this makes you look back on the time you spent and feel proud of yourself and impressed at what you were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. Reflecting, acknowledging your wins, and celebrating your progress, no matter how small is SO. IMPORTANT. It helps you to learn about yourself and your motivation style, and it challenges you during those really hard weeks not to beat yourself up but to find things, at least 5, that you are proud you were able to do.
To recap, here are 5 ways to use bujo to help you plan for big goals:
Quarterly goals spread: holds space top level goal concepts, but still a manageable size–3 months, 3 subcategories, or 1 large subcategory.
Monthly goals overview: Helps you refer back to your big goals, but breaks it down again into actionable items from a conceptual level.
Weekly/dailies spread with time blocking: Breaks down you goals again into bite size chunks, allows you to specify hours in a day to a task, and lets you see how you are managing your energy levels across the week.
Weekly reflections : It’s important to give yourself credit and stay motivated.
Make it pretty: This creates a positive atmosphere of engagement with your plan and to do list, your goals can a pleasure, a celebration.
We’ve all experienced some form of being the new kid on the block. Whether it’s a new school, a new job, or moving to a new state. That feeling of alienation and discomfort is usually a good sign, it means you’ve got the cajones to step outside your comfort zone and try something new and daring. You are choosing to make yourself vulnerable to invite possibility.
That being said, it does come with feelings of alienation, anxiety, and sometimes panic. You have to awkwardly step through your fears and hold-ups to meet others on the far side of this challenge.
This idea of being the “new kid” has been bouncing around my head since my husband and I moved from Metro Nashville, where we’d been for three years, to the country 10 miles outside a small town.
I’ve been casually spying on the neighbors, observing the community, listening to the accents. Trying to find my way in. First, I baked cookies for our closest neighbor and wrote a little note. She responded well and we’ve been friendly since. But she was easiest, we share part of our driveway, can wave from our yards, she’s also relatively new to the area, she’s around my age and has a small herd of dogs. Success, but I still talk myself out of why it was successful.
Now I’m stuck, frozen. To connect with the other neighbors I want to do the same, bake some cookies and write a little note, leave it on the doorstep. But I am scared. I know they are older and more established, perhaps weird about people coming around. I’ve drafted the same note probably over 30 times in my head, to the neighbor with horses.
I am a horse-crazy girl. I had a horse in high school, but haven’t connected with that part of myself since. It would be easy to come off as someone who is weirdly fan girl-ing about your horse. I don’t want to scare them or weird them out, but I am enthusiastic and a total weirdo!
In my heart, I know that all I need to do is take that step, to reach out. To make the neighborly gesture, write a short note that includes my interest in their horses but also in their boundaries as the owner, and leave it at that. Ball in their court. But I’ve found myself paralyzed by the fear of failure. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, unwilling to start a task without a clear idea of how to ace it. But that’s not how to live my best, most authentic life! I know that being human, imperfect, honest and courageous will be ultimately more fulfilling and relatable than being top of the class.
I am learning that lesson in starting this blog, too. Don’t be afraid to fail, don’t be afraid to try, just put yourself out there—it doesn’t need to perfect or polished. If we wait to be perfect to share with others we will always be waiting. We will always be on the edge of the room not talking to anyone. We have to be willing to be ourselves, flaws and all, and willing to be a little daring. Willing to fail because we know that is part of the journey to being more fully ourselves and immersed in our community.
So thank you for reading this! Comment below if you’ve had an experience of being “new here” and been able to move through it, and how. Or maybe you’re still in that experience, as I am in this new town, so please share your experience below.