One Day At A Time

Don’t wish away your time. Take everything one day at a time.

The stubborn part of me always snickers at these cliche bits of advice, but since I’ve started working entirely at home and on my own terms (and having time for more hobbies), I’ve been taking these more seriously.

One Day at a Time

Why? Because lately (as you can probably tell by my silence on the blog these past weeks), my to-do list looks like this:

  • Be a millionaire
  • Be a marathoner
  • Keep the apartment pristine – always, and no matter what
  • Be an ultra-minimalist
  • Be a famous writer (in what? I don’t even know)
  • Crochet something the size of the continental US
  • Discover the cure for sleep (who needs it?)

And, if you’re anything like me you probably understand this desire to do all the things, and the feeling of failure when all of the things don’t get done. (Also, clearly this is not my actual to-do list, but it is a good representation of how I like to overschedule myself).

Our standards, while sometimes helpful, can often be our downfall. It’s time to grab that cliche advice in our hands and read it, recite it, hug it dearly until we understand it. One day at a time. 

No such thing as overnight success

Isn’t that the truth? However, we’re constantly presented with people and stories that seem to be just that – it’s like they woke up and were suddenly more awesome than they ever dreamed they could be. I have to be honest with myself: I can’t go out and run a marathon tomorrow.

I think this is a source of frustration for a lot of us – expecting greater results (and faster!) than we actually get. So what is it – is it us just not meeting some standards that practically everyone else in the world is meeting? No, and I’m going to say something that might drive some people crazy, but it’s true:

It’s all in our head.

It’s a mental thing! Nothing more. Starting from there, you can start to readjust your expectations and mold them to fit a more agreeable and achievable reality. I’m not saying to settle for less – I’m saying to avoid frustration and burnout, you need to set reasonable expectations for your progress. It’s not easy.

How I’m revamping my to-do list

So, instead of the above to-do list, I’ve been focusing on making things a little more tame. For example, I’m nearing my two-week mark of running (or other similar activity) every day. My old high school successes in cross country (that came to a painful end with hip fracture and surgery) have been coming back to haunt me lately, so I decided to get back in the game.

Am I running 7-minute miles and knocking out 5k’s like they’re nothing? Hell. No. I want this to be a lasting habit, so my goal each day is a leisurely 1 mile run around my apartment complex and a bit of walking. Some days I feel like I could run for hours, and some days even half a mile is painful, but I always make sure to get just 1 mile and train my mind to think of running shoes as an everyday accessory.

Here’s what the rest of my to-do list might look like, keeping in mind the one day at a time rule:

  • Pursue a daily average income goal; when I reach it, I can start reaching higher if I have more time
  • Put away my dishes when I’m done with them and clean one area of the apartment every other day
  • Spend an hour each week considering what I need to get rid of before the big move
  • Write a blog post once or twice a week
  • Crochet if I find myself in front of the television
  • There’s no way around this one: actually sleep and don’t feel bad about it

It’s time we all slow down a bit and allow for a bit of sanity. I’ve already started with the running habit, but can I make the rest of these habits as well? Yes. Yes I can. It’s never too late to pursue one of those high-level goals (like becoming a marathoner), but they require small steps at first. What’s more, they require any steps at all – getting started can be one of the biggest challenges (and there, my friends, is another true cliche for you).

As for the rest of my evening, I have one more work goal to meet and then I’ll happily fall asleep and rest up – tomorrow’s a brand new day.

Any tips you have for slowing things down and getting more done?

 

“The best time to start was last year. Failing that, today will do.”

– Chris Guillebeau

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A Daily Routine

As I was reading about daily rituals of history’s most creative minds, I started to reflect on what I’ve been doing to improve my routine. It began with my daily walk at lunchtime last year around this time, and now I’ve been eating nearly the same breakfast every day. Most recently, I’ve added in flossing my teeth before I go to bed at night. No more lying to the dentist.

I’m realizing how important these habits are becoming for me.

Since no two workdays are the same for me, and since there is little else to rely consistently on (even my fiancé’s schedule varies), these things are vital to keeping myself grounded.

But routines are boring.

17-year-old me would scoff at this routine, roll her eyes and tell me that this is boring, and that I might as well buy a minivan and have three kids in a white-picket-fenced house in the suburbs. And that I might as well wear mom jeans. It’s not, and I won’t. Each daily process is strategically placed to structure and bookend my days. No matter how much work I have to do, or how much time I’ll get to spend with my fiancé each day, I still know how the day will begin and end.

Routines sap creativity.

Again, not true. There are ruts, and then there are routines. Routines have been known to help people create their best work, and they are rhythmic, almost hypnotic.

All of the above habits that I’ve incorporated into my day are intended to help me work towards a more solid, efficient routine where I can frequently produce my best work.

goodhabitsStart with habits, then move into a routine.

Right now, there’s very little in my life that’s conducive to a full fledged routine. However, I’m taking baby steps by developing good habits now so that I don’t have to think about them later. Here are a few tips that have helped me form habits:

  1. If you can, make it pleasant. I make my already pleasant daily walks even better by taking the opportunity for some positive social interaction. I typically call a friend or family member and get a status update – typically it’s my mom and I bouncing wedding ideas off each other.
  2. Start small. This one is difficult. With the new year coming up quickly, I realize that many of us are going to resolve ourselves to working out every single day, and every single one of us will likely fail. Not because we’re lazy – but because we put too much pressure on ourselves from the beginning. How about running 2 miles once a week? Start small so that your accomplishments seem bigger.
  3. Reward yourself. I’m not saying that flossing your teeth each night warrants a Starbucks reward in the morning. Learn to reward yourself by allowing yourself some sunshine, or simply by amplifying your positive thoughts. When I started flossing, my reward was knowing that my dentist no longer has the upper hand when they ask if I’ve been flossing. Strange, but also strangely affective.
  4. Practice makes perfect. Continuous practice. Don’t let yourself slip, especially during the first month of practicing your new habit – this is a vital time, and when it comes down to it, it makes or breaks your habit. I ran nearly every morning before work during the summer, but soon I started letting myself sleep in (as a reward for what? who knows), and I began putting my run off until the evening or the next day and then boom my habit (still in its infancy) dissolved out of my sleepy mornings.

What kinds of habits do you have, or which ones are you working on? I’d love to know how starting small and moving forward has worked for others.

The Fear of Imperfection

This is my first post on the blog in 11 days. I know this because I quietly check off another day each night before I go to bed not having written a blog post. I could say that it’s just too busy, or that I’ve been tired, or that I have nothing to say. But the truth is, I was paralyzed by fear of imperfection.

I’ve always wanted to get into the practice of writing every day. But there’s always been an excuse to not show up, to put it off until later in the day. Until tomorrow. Until next week. It’s easy to use excuses as band-aids to cover up the injuries you choose to inflict upon yourself. In my case, I complain that I don’t write enough; yet, I so easily excuse myself for not writing enough.

So I’ve taken a lesson from my wedding planning, and I think it’s going to help me get over this fear.

Currently, I’m working on creating hundreds – I mean literally hundreds and hundreds – of tissue paper flowers for my wedding. I realize that I won’t make the perfect flower the first time, or even the hundredth time I make one. But you can bet that by the time I’m making number 650, I’ll not only be making gorgeous flowers, but I’ll be doing it quickly and without much strain. And all of the imperfect flowers? They’ll be there, adorning walls and tables while my most perfect flowers grace the bouquets of my closest friends.

Wedding Flowers

What I mean to say by this is that  too often our fear of imperfection slows us down to the point of complete inaction. I could wait until I perfected the flower before cranking them out for my wedding, but would all that time be worth it? I want to share my work, not throw away hundreds of “failures” before I start making the real thing.

This blog is a compilation of imperfect posts. They’re not all researched and targeted to just the right niche, and they’re far from refined. So often we get caught up in the technical side of things, the numbers of shares, the views, the buzz we’ve generated. But if, at the end of the day, we haven’t said what we wanted to say, we’ve wasted our opportunity.

If you have a personal blog, let go of this immense and unnecessary worry. You don’t have to be perfect before you publish.

My Break from Pinterest

That’s right. I’m officially off of Pinterest for the next 9 or 10 months. I’ve already shared my opinion about Pinterest before on this blog, and I wanted to reiterate it now that I’m engaged (gasp!) I’ve spent my fair share of time pinning away dreamy things on Pinterest and thinking of the day when I’ll walk down the aisle.

Pinterest makes me think everything in a wedding looks so rosy. Not quite. I’m sure I’m going to be tired, my teeth aren’t going to be glowing white and I’m absolutely, 100% sure I’ll be sweaty. (Sorry for that–but it’s true). I’ve sworn off Pinterest while planning so that I can clearly imagine my wedding the way I want it to look and not be inundated with possible alternatives that might make me second guess myself about silly things like colors and the amount of mason jars I can realistically fit into my decor.

Pinterest has started to come out as an added stress during wedding planning, setting unrealistic expectations for the day. With all of those beautiful and widely varying images laid out in front of me, I can’t help but think I’d want it all and then be disappointed when it doesn’t come true.

My less-than-perfect fix? Google images. That way I can only see precisely what I type in to the search bar. I see pink and green weddings. I see paper flowers. I do not see royal blue weddings with 24-Karat details. I do not see purple macaroons or yellow and white fresh Easter Lilies. I’ve picked my colors and my flowers. Pinterest, you’re just too tempting.

See you on the flip side, Pinterest!

Getting Stuck in a Rut

I’ve been stuck in a rut lately. Wake, exercise, work, eat, sleep. I’ve been fairly removed from anything else. Occasionally I’ll read a chapter or so of a book that I’ve been meaning to read, and sometimes I’ll toss in a trip to the grocery store, but that’s pretty much my routine.

All work and no play...

All work and no play…

There’s nothing wrong with routines, in fact I think they have enormous potential to make us more productive and creative. Scheduling time to pursue our creative endeavors can allow us the freedom to truly express ourselves. But what happens when there’s not enough hours in a day to schedule our creative time? For me, writing this blog is something that I try to pencil in as often as I can, but other obligations override it: more work, trying to keep up with my exercise routine, playing with my rabbits, sleeping.

I’m working on getting out of this rut and getting back into a well-rounded schedule and these are the activities and exercises I’m going to try.

  • Taking ten minutes a day to truly do nothingThe idea of meditation intimidates me, but when it’s rephrased as simply “doing nothing” and observing my thoughts, I’m more inclined to try it. I haven’t yet sat down to do this, but I’m looking forward to seeing how well I handle sitting still for that long.
  • As soon as I find myself in a rut, I’ll get up and take a walk. This morning, I found myself completely unmotivated, so I put on one of my signature pump up songs and hopped on my stationary bike for five minutes. Last night, I was getting tired as I was chipping away at some work on my computer, so I dropped everything and went for a ten minute walk. My usually racing mind appreciates this time to just focus on physical activity instead of brain-draining tasks.
  • Accomplish something smaller. This morning, after attempting to motivate myself, I didn’t start right in to my to do list. I washed my dishes and then cut up a bunch of plastic bags and made them into a bouquet. I felt accomplished (and a bit ridiculous), and I was then able to make myself some coffee and jump in with this blog post. Starting off by accomplishing smaller tasks makes me feel more prepared to tackle larger ones.
  • Creating habits. This is something that I’ve been attempting to do by working out every morning. I’ve been horrible about talking myself out of this lately, so I need to get back to it. (I recently read The Power of Habit–a fascinating read if you’re interested in the science behind habits) Insert your desired habit after a certain trigger in your life–like waking, eating lunch, or after you brush your teeth at night. It doesn’t matter when you do it, but by giving your mind a trigger to complete your desired habit, you’ll be more likely to create a routine. (Hello , flossing!)
  • Create a real (or even imagine) community that depends upon your progress. My goal is to run a mini-marathon with my mother in the fall. Honestly, that might not happen, but she’s able to check in on me and encourage me to continue running. When I think about blogging, I find myself noting that I have a few followers, and that they may be looking forward to my next posts. I have friends who ask about my blog. Creating this sense of responsibility may be limiting to some, but I personally am motivated by being held accountable for things I say I’m going to do.

So what do you do when you’re stuck in a rut?

The Cleanse: Instagram

Instagram

Last year, I decided to drop Instagram. The terms of service had just changed, and it was just the push I needed to say goodbye to the only remotely acceptable place to post my pictures of rabbits and cups of coffee. But, greater than any terms of service issue or lack of interesting things to take photos of, I realized it was a time and happiness sink.

The immaculate people, places, and things of Instagram were getting me down. It’s the digital equivalent of seeing through rose-colored glasses. Much like with Pinterest, I was being overwhelmed with images that were skewed from reality.

My solution for this issue? Simple. Deactivate your account. Switch to Twitter if you desperately need to share a photo, but when the need to feel “artsy” is removed from your photo sharing, you’ll notice yourself forgetting all about the app.

I’m no longer searching for exciting and beautiful things to snap photos of to share–if I come across something beautiful, I pause and appreciate it. Take some time–in real life–to appreciate the moment and notice the tiny details that even Instagram can’t capture.

Perhaps this is one step closer to being smart phone free?

Learn to Love Solitude

It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it. Rainer Maria Rilke

Living and being alone is difficult. But loneliness isn’t always a curse. In fact, it’s nice.

I’ve lived alone for a total of about two years and have had the good fortune of being able to practice quite a bit of solitude. I’ve learned to hang out with myself and rekindle some of my old favorite hobbies–I’ve started running, writing and reading like mad again. I don’t have TV or even Netflix to distract me. My evenings are quiet, but productive.

Resist the temptation to always fill your solitude with your cell phone and laptop. Take it seriously and use it to create habits that you can keep once you’re no longer alone. Pare down, organize, create, focus on what you love. Don’t seek distraction.

It’s good to be alone. Once you get into it, you’ll find it’s a simple way to clear out your mind. “How to Be Alone,” a YouTube video I came across quite by accident last year, is ultra-inspiring if you’re just starting your solitary journey:

 

While it does help me to have rabbits to interact with, I’m sure I’d find myself just as occupied without them. Have you had the privilege of enjoying solitude for an extended period of time?