Completing The Proverbial To Do List

Ball and ChainWe all have them. You know, that list of things to do that you’ve been tallying up in your head for weeks, months even. I’m not talking about the things on your daily to do list, like taking the dog out or washing the dishes. I’m talking about those items that are relatively low in priority on the daily to do list, but fairly high on the life improvement to do list.

I thought I’d remedy my to do list problem when I started this blog (about a year ago) by limiting myself to five major life improvement tasks per month. I was feeling overwhelmed with all of my commitments, and I needed to clear my head of obligations.  Getting down to only five major tasks relieved my stress at the time, but now, working on five life goals at a time doesn’t suit me anymore.  Five is too many to work on at a time, and since last year, my goals have grown and changed.

This is the current to-do list that is floating around in my head:

  1. Train the dog
  2. Spring cleaning sale
  3. Get back into an exercise program
  4. Study for (and take) the teacher exam
  5. Blogging for my other blog
  6. Work on my novel
  7. Finish my new website
  8. Find freelance writing gigs
  9. Post-defense thesis revisions (I haven’t defended yet and my adviser still isn’t satisfied with what I’ve got; she gave me suggestions to start incorporating into my piece)
  10. Find and apply for summer jobs

This list doesn’t include all of the stuff that I already do on a regular basis.  Every time I think of something else I need to do, it’s like I add a new ball-and-chain that I have to drag around with me.

I figured out that five was too many to tackle at one time when it got down to the wire with my Master’s thesis. In order to get that done, I had to forgo pretty much any other goals I wanted to complete. I had to be singularly focused.  (While I had no other choice if I want my MA), I got the thesis done, to my liking, within the allotted time frame.  Although I still have more work to do, it’s fairly limited and isn’t hanging over my head the way it has been for the past year.

When some people are extremely passionate about one life goal, they get into intense focus mode. They eat, live, and breathe that goal. They carry on with their usual everyday tasks, and put the rest of their energy into achieving that goal. Everything they see in front of them is just a stepping stone to that goal, whether it is relevant to the goal or not.

My friends, I am not one of those people.  I’ve always wished I could be passionate, dedicated, and singularly focused. But I am a dreamer, planner and a flake. I have many dreams, and I make all the plans in the world to accomplish those dreams. Yet on most days, I flake out on my plans. I flake out on my to do list and opt for internet, TV, relaxing, or lying around the house.  I read this interesting article called The Complete Flakes Guide to Getting Things Done. And it’s been helping me, so maybe it could help you too.

Nonetheless, I’d like to impart what I’ve learned from that article and from my experiences to you all.

Work on one thing from your list at a time. Like a said before, I had to focus exclusively on my thesis to get it done. Anyone that’s done a Master’s Thesis or a Doctoral dissertation knows that most everything in your life gets neglected when you are trying to finish up your degree. Don’t think about your other goals while you are completing that one goal. If you do, you’ll get distracted and procrastinate. Use laser like focus to zero in on that one goal and make it a daily priority. Work on it EVERY DAY, in EVERY SPARE MOMENT. Before you know it, you will have reached your goal and can move on to the next one. If you want life to be easier and less stressful, work on one thing at a time.

Treat every task on the list as if it were major goal. What if one of your goals is something you should be doing every day, but you aren’t  Sometimes our goals aren’t specific achievements marked with a certificate,   but habits we’d like to develop, like meditating, working out, writing every day, learning a language or working on our craft, etc. To prevent getting overwhelmed and stressed out, focus on this habit exclusively, as if it were any other life improvement goal. Don’t try to start working out, for example, if it isn’t already a habit, while you work on another goal. Starting an exercise routine is just as challenging as doing a thesis or looking for a new job. Challenging yourself to start a new habit is difficult– I’m sure you’ve heard: it takes 21 to 66 days to start or break a habit. It could be three months before you can work out consistently, without making excuses. Don’t short change yourself the time you need to get a new habit started. If you do, you are setting yourself up for failure.  And once you’ve reached your goal of making that task a habit (like exercising), then add another.

Make your reward for reaching your goal, unrelated to that goal. For example, I’m trying to work out more. My reward isn’t “weight loss” or “better health,” even though I’ll earn those things by exercising. My reward has nothing to do with my weight; it’s not a new pair of smaller sized clothing (that I have to lose weight to wear). My reward for working out is a new guitar.  All I have to do is exercise 80% of the days from March 1st until May 1st, and I get my guitar.

Do your best to keep up with other daily tasks. This was by far the most difficult for me while working on my thesis. It will help you from drowning in laundry and dirty dishes. Also, you won’t have those little tasks hanging over your head in addition to your main task.

Prioritize your life-improvement to-do list. Training my dog shouldn’t be as high up on the list as finding summer employment. She’s not destroying anything; my little pup is defying me and it’s just annoying. But I  will survive without training her right now. I must put my to-do list in order and work on the time sensitive items first. You would do that with any other to do list. Do the same with your life improvement tasks/goals.

And most importantly, think about one task at a time. Yes, I need to I need to find a summer job, my dog needs training badly, and I’m paying for a personal website that isn’t even up right now. But if I think about all of these things while I’m trying to make those final changes on my thesis, nothing is going to get done.  It’s just the way it goes. I tend to waste a lot of energy thinking about what I should be doing, instead of just doing it.  Giving myself permission to be single-minded assuages the guilt I have about not working on the other tasks. Is it really going to hurt me if I don’t exercise for one more month, if I haven’t consistently for a year? Probably not. If I’m thinking about it and feeling guilty, then I’m wasting time and energy I could be directing towards the goal I should be working towards.

I love the lyrics to this song, they’re inspiring and relevent so I thought I’d include the video in the post.

Jordin Sparks, One Step At A Time

How To Overcome Any Fear

I find that when I’m worried about something, or if I’m afraid something, I’m stressing out. I saw this video on YouTube this evening and realized if I want to reduce stress, I must overcome my fears.  Check it out:

 

The Power of NOW

I think I figured out what prevents most people from becoming a minimalist. I know I spend a lot of time blaming advertisers and our personal greed, but that’s nto the only the problem. See, here in America, we have this NOW mentality. I need to lose weight NOW. I want to get out of traffic NOW. I need the iPhone 5 NOW. (Remember, we were talking about the iPhone 5 for a year before they even introduced it.) I can’t wait for Modern Warfare 3 to come out; I want to play it NOW. We live in a world of midnight releases, sneak previews, and early-bird specials. The problem with slowing down our lifestyles is our inability to wait. Instant gratification seems to be the cornerstone of our society.

If you want to have less stuff, and be less stressed, consider being patient. You see a cute pair of shoes at the mall… instead of buying them right away. Wait. Go home, pay some bills. Feed your dog; go for a walk. Look at all the other shoes you have and don’t wear. I bet you’ll think twice about getting them if you have to go back to the mall.

The point is this, we need to get out of this “I need it NOW” mentality. Yes, advertisers feed off of this. But once you realize what they are doing to your brain, you will be able to recognize it. Think about it: Why do advertisers prey on the NOW mentality? Because that is where they have you at your weakest: your impatience and your dissatisfaction with what you already have. If you were patient and satisfied with what you do have, then they’d have to sell you on quality, wouldn’t they?

Instead of saying how wonderful and high quality their product is, they tell you they are running out, or the sale only lasts a few days. “Hurry, or you’ll miss it.” I remember Toys-R-Us was running two-day-sale commercials for two months! It’s not really a two day sale  if it lasts for more than two days, is it? They fed into your now mentality.   Macy’s has a one day sale like every week. The “Buy it NOW” thing is going on all the time. You are in a crazed frenzy trying to get something NOW, but the NOW is always here. it will always be here. You can’t be anywhere other than now, so why worry about things that aren’t here NOW, and deal with what is. There will always be a sale or a discount or something you want NOW.

The NOW mentality is very much tied into mortality. “You don’t have forever you know, so do X, Y, and Z, NOW or you will miss out.” Our way of life forces us to be concerned about being in another situation, not enjoying the one we are currently in.   If we were enjoying the NOW, we wouldn’t be worrying about what ISN’T here NOW.  And then, we wouldn’t be worried so much about mortality, would we. We’d be enjoying every moment and making the most of our NOW, and the end wouldn’t be so bad.

Buy Nothing Challenge: Cheating

When I wrote the post about the Buy Nothing Until 2013 Challenge, I have to be honest. I really didn’t take it seriously. A couple of days later, I ordered a 50 dollar hair-styling product and a vegan meal planning book off the internet. I guess I wasn’t supposed to have either of those things because Amazon ended up sending me the wrong hair product and I had to send it back. And the book I ordered was damaged in transit, and I never received it (nor have I yet to receive a refund).  I did end up re-ordering the book, but I have decided that the book is the last thing I will buy until 2013.  Really, the challenge is about learning to do without.

Today I saw an infomercial about…. I never buy things from infomercials, but I always end up thinking, “Wow, that item would make my life so much easier.” However, I was doing just fine not even knowing about the item’s existence until I saw it on television. There are a lot of items that make our lives easier, but we were doing just fine without them.  Occassionaly something comes along that will make a monumental change in the lives of humans, but most items these days are overrated.

It got me to thinking, do I really need the meal planning book? Of course not. I have vegetarian and vegan recpie books; and if I would sit down for an hour each week, I could make my own meal plans.  Did I really need the hair product? I dont know yet. What I do know is I’d recently bought mango butter so I could make my own hair cream, and I hadn’t started using it yet. So at the time I ordered the 50 dollar product, I didn’t need it.

I’ve been going about the last week thinking of things to buy. I fault TV ads.  If you watch tv long enough, and sit through all the ads, you see all this stuff that you think you want to buy.  Commercials attempt sell you happiness, friends, “coolness,” personality, fun, excitement, frugality. You and I both know that there is no frugality in spending money at a store like Kohls because you are still spending.

If you try to focus on getting happiness (or whatever other positive emotion) without spending money, you may be surprised with what you come up with.  For example: I’ve been feeling rather crafty lately.  Last Thursday, I was feeling super down– I guess because I quit my job, and I felt like my life was nothing because I wasn’t working (even though I started a new job today). Instead of spending a gazillion dollars on crap I didn’t need, I crocheted a cute hat. (Oh- Here is a link to the tutorial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xE9X0LUbo8)

hat-blog

 

I felt happier, and proud of myself that I turned $2 yarn, that’d been collecting dust in my closet, in to something I love. The postitive feeling is enduring longer than if I had just went out and bought something similar. Everytime I put the hat on, I will remember the day I made it: I felt like crap that day, and instead of stuffing my face or spending money I didn’t have, I turned my negative energy into productive energy. Truth be told, I wasn’t even crocheting to make myself feel better, I was doing it to bide my time. And I got something amazing out of my efforts

So when you are thinking about purchasing something, think first. Can I make do without it? Am I buying it to quell negative emotions? If you answer yes to one or more of those questions, you may not need to buy anything at all.

Have a great week.

~namaste~

 

Managing Stress: Where to Start

Conquering stress is not as easy as it sounds.  If we had the resources, we could remove nearly all stressors by quitting our jobs, and buying a first class, one-way ticket to a quiet island in the Caribbean. We could spend our days sipping mojitos and sunbathing. Now, that is a stress free life. Most of us, however, can’t eliminate all of our stressful commitments with the drop of a hat. We have obligations and responsibilities– many of which we care about very much.

Managing stress is a difficult task because it comes at us from all angles and all at once: school, work, family, money, children, rush hour traffic, pets, friends, etc. I have quit jobs because they became too stressful. I’m not recommending that you do that because quitting put me in a tough spot financially. However, if you have the financial resources… it might not be a bad idea.

Achieving a stress free life cannot happen overnight.  Like any other major life change you have to make one small change at a time. If you are anything like me, you’ve probably imagined yourself waking up one morning as the calm and collected yogi, or the surfer dude who smokes a little too much reefer and is the epitome of chill.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. You might make it through a day or two, but more than likely you will revert back to your old self sooner or later. Do one thing at a time. Maybe that one thing is quitting your unnecessarily stressful job. For me, it’s changing how I respond to driving around in Miami traffic.

Changing how I respond to that one little stressor over the last week has made a huge difference and how I feel overall.  By the time I get home from my 40 minute commute, I am relaxed. I listen to good music in the car and try to focus on myself–not the other drivers. I still don’t like driving but when I get home, I’m not as tense as I used to be. Even though I’m starting to get the hang of not freaking out at other drivers, I’m not going to start dealing with other stressors as of yet. I haven’t mastered the art of driving calmly. I still have a “freak-out” every now and again, but overall the small changes are making a huge difference in my life. I hadn’t realized how much rush hour was contributing to my stress level until I started to eliminate it.

So pick one thing. Something you can manage. I think that rush hour is a good place to start because the only thing you have to change is your reaction. You aren’t dealing with other people personally. Your finances typically aren’t on the line. It is one simple change that you can practice on a consistent basis. After a month or so managing that one particular stressor, tackle something else. Keep at it untill you’ve covered most of the stressors in your life and you’ll soon be on your way to having a lot less stress.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

~namaste~

The Key Ingredient to Reducing Stress

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling so stressed that I’ve been experiencing the tightness in my chest again. At 26 I shouldn’t be having these symptoms.  And it got me thinking.  Here I am, publishing this blog and telling all of you what you should do about your stress and how to avoid it. Apparently, I’m the biggest hypocrite of them all.

I realized I’m missing the key ingredient to reducing stress. What is it pray-tell?

Letting go and realizing that I cannot control everything, especially other people. What I’ve figured out about the world is that everybody is looking out for Number One, themselves.  Often times, problems, or stress, occurs when your number one issue conflicts with someone else’s number one issue. I can’t hope that anyone else will be courteous enough to let me focus on my number one issue, when their days are booked solid dealing with their number one issues.

Let me give you an example of something that generally presents an everyday stressor for me:

The highway exit ramp that merges onto the main road by my house consistently presents difficult challenges. When I get to the merge on the main road, I have less than 20 feet to cross three lanes to get to the left turning lane. It is easy to make it across those three lanes when there is no traffic, or the preceding stop light is red, blocking all oncoming traffic .  When there is traffic, however, it is difficult to get all the way over in time. When most people have to cross those three lanes from the merge point, they stop, or come to a crawl while waiting for the traffic to clear.

Not to long ago, I had to make the three lane cross during a particularly busy rush hour. I had to stop at the merge point. Apparently the guy behind me, was in a very big rush to head straight through the intersection. Do you see how our interests conflict? For him, I have become the epitome of the little old lady who cant see and shouldn’t be driving because I’ve “stopped in the middle of the road.” I become his problem. I become the person that is slowing him down, making him late for…whatever… And I know I stressed him out because he felt the need to flash his big 4×4 pick-up-truck lights into my tiny toyota rear and side view mirrors. He needed me out of his way to take care of whatever his number one priority was at that moment.

That other driver and I exist in two completely different self-centered worlds. Is my safety and personal property (my car) more important than his lateness? To me it is: whether I live or die is of huge consequence to me; and I don’t want my car wrecked in what I view as a preventable accident. But those issues meaningless to the stranger in the other car.

For him, being late on this particular day could be his last strike: He could be fired from his job and have no way to feed his 6 young, motherless children. Although, he could just be eager to get home from work because his dinner is getting cold.  Either way, what I’m doing is conflicting with his interests, and to hurry me along, he flashes his lights at me.

These are the types of things that stress me out, people. I’m not the only one here with a strong TYPE-A personality. I have to admit, I snapped. If I had a rock in my hand, I would have thrown it as his car. And I know he felt stress, too, otherwise he wouldn’t have been flashing his lights/brights at me. We each had our own self-centered interests being conflicted by the other.

Thinking about all this stirs me up a bit. But, the reality is, I couldn’t have changed anything about the situation.  Traffic was bad, as it probably always will be. And the other drivers will always be on a mission to get to where they’re going, on their schedule, with an effort to protect their safety.

Daily stressful events, like this merge point on my commute, are killing us.  Basically, we all want to get to our destination without anyone getting in our way or bothering us. We want the world to fall into place as we believe it should be, as if we were the only person that mattered. See all of those other people on the road? You have no idea where any of them are going. You have no affect on their daily lives. You matter nothing to them. And  it seems, we are giving them all of this power to kill us, slowly, by letting their actions stress us out. The guy behind me could have flashed his lights, laid on his horn and hollered out the window at me, and I wouldn’t have budged if I hadn’t felt it was safe to do so. The only thing I could have changed is my emotional reaction to it.

We have to realize that other people are looking out for their personal interests, and those interests just might conflict with ours. Realizing this, we must accept that we can’t control everything, especially how other people relate to us.

This can be applied in many other situations: the annoying/hovering boss at work,  the attention seeking child, the ambivalent landlord, the inconsiderate roommate, the needy significant other, etc. All of those people are going to do things that conflict with your goals, intentions, choices, wants, needs, expectations, etc. Remember, it has nothing to do with you, and you cannot control what they do.

Oh, one more thing. Your motivations may actually be better than someone else’s: ie, the crack addict who steals your purse on the metrorail most likely has no healthy intentions. BUT, you have no way of controlling the actions of another.  They are going to try to steal your purse because they want your money. You can’t change that. Letting a situation like this, or others that are out of your control are a waste of time, and energy.

Good luck this week.

~namaste~

Can You Stop Procrastinating?

I am the biggest procrastinator ever!  I keep saying “If I just did what I was supposed to do, I wouldn’t have any problems.”  I believe that is absolutely true.  We all know we should not be procrastinating, but why do we do it?  I have a theory as to why.

We expect too much of ourselves. How can we not,  with the way American life is structured today? Think about when you were in high school. Maybe not high school, but middle school, when your only responsibility was school. Maybe you played a sport on the weekends or afterschool, but what else did you have to do? Make your bed, clean the bathroom? And when you weren’t in school or doing simple chores, what were you doing? You were playing and enjoying life. You didn’t have to work to pay for school, or the roof over your head. Life was very manageable. Adulthood sucks in comparison.

Who says that adults are truly capable of managing the responsibility load that our culture expects of us?  I don’t believe it anymore. I don’t believe it for a second.  We work, go to school, pay bills, deal with creditors, utility companies and landlords. We cook, we clean, we take care of our children, significant others, and pets. Running our lives is like running a corporation. You are doing all the roles at once without any assistance. It becomes all work and no play.

But what is it that you want to do? Play. What does that mean to you? Basically the same thing it did when you were a child: spend time with friends, enjoy the fresh air, play music, read a good book, etc.  So why are the responsibilities of life so overbearing? Because we live in a culture of overconsumption. Our overconsumption makes us slaves to money. If we weren’t slaves to our money, we would have fewer responsibilities.

Think about this for a moment: if you owned 10 pieces of clothing, in total, how bad would laundry be? That’s one load to wash, one load to dry, and maybe 5 minutes to fold and put it away, at the most.  Would you really have to procrastinate doing laundry?  It would take so little of your time, so little energy, that I believe it would be a non-issue. I have to do 5 or 6 loads of laundry if I wait until I get down to my very last pair of socks.  No wonder the laundry piles up for weeks on end, and I’m in and out of the laundry room for a day and a half.

Don’t feel bad if you are a procrastinator. Most people are. And I would say it is because your life has become unmanageable– don’t take offence– I’m just saying you have too much on your plate. Forgive yourself.  You bit off more than you can chew, and you can’t put it back. You have to finish it all to clear that plate sometimes.  You have to work 2 jobs to pay the debt, or pay for school.

You can figure out ways to make life a bit more manageable. If you cut back on the stuff, you can cut back on your chores, or at least make them easier. Fewer clothes= less laundry. Fewer dishes= smaller dish pile and quicker clean-up. Smaller house= fewer rooms to clean. Fewer gadgets= less money owed. .

Well, what about procrastination? How does this help me with my thesis that I’ve now dragged out to a fourth semester? (I’m the guilty one here).

Tell yourself: I’m going to achieve one goal today. One solid goal that requires a bit of effort.  For me, that was turning in my substitute teacher application, and running all over town to prove to the public school system that I’m not a criminal. Yes, it was a pain and took a total of 5 hours, but it’s done now.

And after you achieve that goal, don’t feel guilty for spending the afternoon twiddling your thumbs while staring at the boob tube. I gave myself permission to watch Misfits and Glee without feeling like I should be doing something.

If you do that one thing, and complete one solid objective today,  you’ve accomplished something. You’ve taking a reasonable step towards a better life.

You aren’t going to stop procrastinating, ever. Perhaps, you can get your life simple enough that the type activities you procrastinate are virtually non-existent or minimized so that they aren’t so bad. For now, just do one thing at a time. Maybe that one thing will give you some momentum to accomplish another thing. Maybe not. Either way, it is okay.

Hope you are having a great week so far.

~namaste~

My Comeback!!

I started writing this post in my head at least a hundred times: my comeback post. I’ve neglected this blog since my double move: once to a temporary location, and 3 weeks later to semi-permanent location. While I’ve neglected my blog, I haven’t neglected my decluttering efforts.  My new apartment is smaller than the old, and I had to clear out some things to make room for the what I actually needed.  Nonetheless, I have items spilling out of closets and drawers.  It is self-evident that my de-cluttering efforts have not reached their full potential.

It’s become clear to me that I need to get reorganized. I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. What better way than to do it than publicly on a blog? But instead of milking my comeback post into 5 comeback posts, I’ve decided to squeeze them all into one post. This way, I can quickly update you on what is going on in my life.

The Four Agreements: This is an excellent book, by Don Miguel Ruiz,  for dealing with some of the stress in life.  There were two agreements that I found the most applicable to my life. The first was,”Don’t take anything personally.”  Aside from its obvious meaning, Ruiz explains that what people say and do has nothing to do with you.   I followed that agreement almost perfectly for one week. My life was utter bliss.  I didn’t care about people cutting me off in traffic. The words and actions of others were rendered insignificant.  This is great for sensitive people, like me.

The second was, “Don’t make any assumptions.”  I think it pretty much speaks for itself in terms of meaning. The reality is that we have no clue about what is going on in other people’s heads. You may think you know, but you don’t. Once you stop assuming, and start asking questions, everything becomes much clearer.  Ultimately, this is a great book. Buy it. I will be reading it again soon. Oh! This book goes really well with Ruiz’s book The Mastery of Love.

The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Living: This is a wonderful decluttering book by Francine Jay. No, I haven’t decluttered yet, but I have read the book. This book changes your relationship with stuff and forces you to think about the items you actually need.  The book also makes you consider the life cycle of stuff (old cell phones, for instance). You bought it, now you must dispose of it properly. I think of it as a sort of punishment for being irresponsible with my spending habits.

I did a huge amount of decluttering before I went to Atlanta in October. Yet, I still have too much crap.  I was pretty satisfied with what I had accomplished before my trip.  When I came back, however, I still felt like there was way too much stuff hanging over my head. A month later, my apartment is a mess and there is still stuff everywhere. I feel like I’m pretty close to where I was before started on this “Joy of Less” journey. Still this is a great book. I didn’t follow the author’s instructions to a tee. If I had, I’d probably be in a lot better shape. The book was so good, I will be trying to decultter Francine Jay’s way and not the cheating way.  My biggest takeaway from “The Joy of Less” is that having open space (not a ton of clutter) gives you space to live your life and do the things you want to do. Think about that.

Writing: I’ve gotten overly ambitious again. I’m restarting my freelance writing/editing/proofreading/social media consulting business again. I’ve designed a logo and everything. I’m also participating in NaNoWriMo. More than likely I’m not going to finish my novel in a month because I haven’t been writing.  That’s okay though. I’ve at least started my super controversial novel. Also, I’m back to blogging.

Thesis/Grad School:I need to spend another semester on thesis: boo 😦 But I’ll be able to get my story closer to how I want it to be.  Unfortunately, this means I’ll need full-time income to support myself. Grad School is expensive.

Business: Recently, I’ve been inspired with another business idea. I spent all day Saturday perusing the internet for manufacturers and the like. Sorry, I’m not going to tell you what it is until it launches. I’m a bit superstitious.

Health: I’m participating in a weight-loss challenge with 9 other family members, which is kinda cool. It’s a Biggest Loser-type challenge. Except, I’m not sure I’m losing weight; the plan is to step it up this week before weigh-in on November 16th.

So that is pretty much everything that is going on in my life right now.  I have many new goals that I’m trying to implement all at once. I’m making a comeback! (and you can too).

Inspired by Anti-Procrastination Tuesday by Amy on New Nostalgia, I’m starting a new segment of my blog that briefly details what I did each day (or week) that brought me closer to my goals. It will be sort of like a gratitude journal, something I can look back on when I need motivation, and hopefully something that will inspire you to take baby steps daily to reaching your goal.

Have a great week, all!

~Namaste~

Why I’m Stuggling, and What I Need To Do About It

I prefer to tackle one major thing at a time. That way, I can devote all my energy to that one thing. Any more is not my idea of living a slow paced lifestyle. I have a 8 days before I have to move out, and my boyfriend and I haven’t found an apartment. I don’t even want to talk any more about the moving situation because I’ll get too infuriated. And my thesis (a fiction piece) doesn’t even have a conclusion. The story isn’t finished. I have 4 weeks to finish, edit and polish it for a final review.

Many people, when under pressure to “get it all done,” thrive.  I, however, tend to choke. I don’t like the pressure. Something usually get’s abandoned when it gets to be too difficult.  I’m a quitter.  There, I’ve said it.  That expression, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”… Well, I get going right the heck out of there.  I don’t like the hard road.  If something isn’t working, I’m the first to turn around and back right out the door.  However, quitting apartment hunting would cause undue and unintended disappointment and heartbreak for my significant other, and quitting my thesis (or at least postponing its completion until the spring) would result in an inordinate amount of wasted resources.

But do I really have too much going on? Am I required to do more than what is expected for an ordinary human? Maybe, maybe not…So here are a few things I need to do get from overwhelmed and struggling to productive and successful:

Accept the fact that I’m doing the best I can: Every moment that I’m relaxing, I feel like I should be looking for apartments or working on my thesis. Not to mention I’ve been neglecting this blog. There is a guilt that comes when I’m not attending my responsibilities.  But the reality is, the last thing I want to do after spending 6 hours on the computer at work researching or doing tedious data entry is go online to scour scam-jammed Craigslist, write a blog on the internet, or edit 50+ pages of my thesis. I’m doing the best I can, please forgive me if I fall short for a little while or a month.

Change my attitude: The only thing that could fix this right now is an attitude change.  It won’t find an apartment, and it certainly won’t finish my thesis. What it would do is give me hope. And with hope comes perseverance. I need to say: we WILL find the perfect apartment. We WILL find an apartment in the right location at the right price. I need to quit the blame game, nitpicking and complaining. Nothing traumatic happens if I don’t find somewhere in 8 days: I have a place to go once I move out of my apartment;  I won’t be homeless.  And we’ll have about three more weeks to find somewhere.  As for my thesis, I have plenty of time; I just need to get to work.

Create a plan: I need to create a plan for finishing my thesis and finding a place. I have my day planner calendar to help me from feeling overwhelmed. I need to sit down and schedule the times that I will get down to work.  Scheduling and planning are two things that I can do quite well. It’s just following through that is difficult.

Work my plan: My dad always says “plan your work, and work your plan.” I just need to enact a little discipline on the thesis end, be a little more collaborative with my boyfriend on finding somewhere and everything should work out okay.

See, I’m already feeling a little better about all of this.  How do you persevere when you’re struggling?

What I Learned in Barbados

I had a lovely time in Barbados, and when I came back, my mind was still on the island staring at the beautiful ocean. Now that it’s been a few days since I’ve been back, I’ve come down from the vacation high. Real life has settled over me and I’m longing to be back on vacation.  So what I’m wondering is how can I bring vacation back home with me.

I live in a place that is vacation for most people: Miami has beautiful beaches with great weather year-round. But Miami feels like anything but vacation for a resident.  Driving the hour from the airport, with the blaring lights of traffic, aggressive drivers, stop lights, buildings, signs, noise, and city clutter was overwhelming. Barbados is very rural. Most streets can barely accommodate 2-way traffic. Often times you see very little for miles. While navigating the island was confusing, it was wonderful.

North Point Cliff

Find a place that makes you say “WOW” and go there often.  In Barbados, there were 2 places that blew me away. We visited, only for a moment, North Point Cliff. Thanks to getting lost, we found a spot that hadn’t been developed for tourists. We could stand right at the edge and look down at the sharp rocks and out at the clear blue sea. I only spent about 10 minutes out there.  “WOW” places can really put life troubles in perspective.  Even if it is an hour away, go there once in a while, you won’t regret it.

Seek solitude in a beautiful place. The place in Barbados I visited every day for solitude was the roof of the building. We were in a beachfront hotel, so while on the roof I could look out into the vast ocean.  The winds were strong but their caress made me feel close to the earth.  I would go up there at 6:30 or 7:00am and enjoy the quiet. No other tourists were on the roof that early.  I voluntarily worked on my thesis up there. Writing ideas came to me easily there.  For you it could be a slow moving stream, northern woodlands, a local pond, or an open field. Find a quiet place to connect with nature.

Make time for yourself while at home. We do it on vacation, why not when we come back? We go on vacation to forget work, school and the stressors of daily life.  When you leave work, do the same. Work is only a part of your life. Maintain a work-life balance. Don’t mull over a work problem during dinner with your family.  If you are, you are voluntarily working overtime and not getting paid for it. Even if you love your work, you can’t work all the time. And more than likely, that solution will come when you aren’t thinking about it. (If the idea comes during family time, jot down enough so you remember, and move on: go back to your life)

Waste not, want not. For some reason I remember that being the motto in Barbados. Compared to other countries, we live so lavishly and excessively in the USA. It is so unnecessary. Even the toilets in Barbados have significantly less water.  Do your part, and save the planet! You’ll save money, time and energy if you’re thriftier and eco-conscious.

Unplug from the internet and your cell phone. My new, cheap cell phone service allows me no access while overseas. My AT&T using family was still able to connect with the world, but at a ridiculous cost. While I had internet access in the hotel, I had to completely detach if I wanted to go anywhere.  It was liberating.  I could focus entirely at the moment at handDo the same at home. The world is not in the internet.  The world is outside of your computer screen.  Turn your computer off, leave your phone at home and enjoy the world as it is

Have enthusiasm about wherever you are. We get so excited to go  on vacation, and sort of sad when we must go back home. While on vacation, we often throw caution to the wind and try new things. Vacation is about living life to the fullest. What about weekends and holidays? Sundays sometimes become the lesser of the awesome weekend days because it is the day before you have to go back to work. Enjoy Sunday! You don’t waste that last day of that out-of-town vacation do you? Stop wasting your Sundays; enjoy them to the fullest.