What To Do When You Get Off Track

Per last week, I am feeling a bit off track. For example, I’m releasing this on a Thursday afternoon instead of Wednesday morning like I normally do because I’m behind schedule. I’m barely keeping up with work, my personal projects are all taking a backseat, and my routine is messed up. PLUS my site decided to freak on me a bit yesterday so that was yet another unforeseen thing to throw me off track. 

It’s just a hectic week. I have more social, work, and project commitments than normal so I feel like I am all over the place. I feel like I don’t have enough focus time with any one thing so I end up behind on all of them. But if I step back for a second, I’m actually not doing too bad because of a few techniques I employ to get everything done relatively calmly, even if I’m feeling behind. 

  1. It’s not all or nothing. If you miss a couple things in your day, like a meeting runs long, or you oversleep and miss your morning workout class, you don’t have to give up. Get as much as possible as is reasonable done, and then move whatever you didn’t get done to the next day. Don’t let the sheer amount of things to do overwhelm you to the point where you don’t do any of it. For example – I missed my workout on Tuesday. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t let it ruin my whole week. I just worked out like normal today. 
  2. Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. When you don’t have enough time in a day for everything, you need to be quick at figuring out what things absolutely must get done in a given time period. The task of prioritizing itself also needs to be done quickly so you don’t waste time figuring out what’s important as opposed to working on what’s important.  For me – I very easily determine what is important because I’ve been honing my list for years, check below if you want to see it*
  3. Small chunks.  When your to do list is a mile long it can feel overwhelming just to look at it. So chunk it out. Find small ways you can start, check little tasks off easily, or delegate as you go. For example, yesterday my to do list was so long so I started with making my waxing appointment. It was tiny but it was something small that was easily done and gave me the momentum to keep going. 
  4. Block your time. This is something I sometimes struggle with, but if you’re at work and you need some uninterrupted time to work on a document or problem, don’t feel bad putting your headphones in or going to a different space so you’re not distracted. If you need to isolate yourself, be proactive and tell your boss, your co workers, even your MOM, that you need some heads down time, and then get it done. Don’t be afraid to ask for your focus time if that’s what it takes. 
  5. Zoom out. Day to day might feel hectic, but if you zoom out and take a look at all the things you needed to do in a week, you may see that you’re actually not doing so bad even if you miss a couple things each day. In the grand scheme of things, there might only be a few things that have actually fallen off, and you’re doing a good job of getting the majority of it done. Don’t beat yourself up over the small picture. 
  6. Have a plan to get back ON track. It sucks to be off track and it’s not sustainable long term because eventually more and more things will be compromised. It’s important to figure out when you can get your plate cleared and start fresh. For me, I usually block a whole day on the weekend where I have no commitments except to myself, and just check off anything that had fallen by the wayside during the week. I feel so much better afterwards, and am usually able to regain my sense of routine. 

 

I don’t get overwhelmed easily. I literally made it my job to plan, so I love to structure and organize my life, but sometimes it just can’t be helped. Things happen at work, things happen in life, and sometimes (like this week for me), you simply bite off more than you can chew. The most important thing to remember is to not panic. Then you can break everything down, prioritize, and ultimately get back on track. 

 

*If I have planned on attending anything that affects others whether that’s a work event, or a dinner date with a friend, I’ve committed to them and I will do everything I can to keep that commitment. Next comes work stuff – like my actual job that pays the bills. I make sure all of that work gets done before working on anything else. Next comes health – I will make sure I get a workout and an adequate amount of food and water. Next comes personal projects. These don’t pay the bills, these don’t provide anything really other than a personal sense of accomplishment so in especially busy times, they often take the back burner and I just fit them in where I can. 

 

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PC: Marketa Benedetti

 

New Years Resolutions?

I don’t make resolutions for New Year’s. The chief reason being because I’m a firm believer in the fact that you don’t have to wait for a new calendar year to make changes or set goals for yourself. It is an arbitrary measurement of time. (I also hate them because many people’s resolutions have to do with getting fit which means the gym is super crowded in January until people start to drop off the wagon – yes I am a scrooge about my gym space.)

HOWEVER, despite my new year’s resolutions misgivings, recently I talked with my friend Jordan, who introduced me to the idea of having a ‘theme’ for the year rather than specific resolutions. In this method, I would pick a theme for myself whether it’s health, consistency, communication, etc, and spend the year devoted to that theme in whatever way I saw fit.

At first, I found this idea unappealing. It felt too broad, and I doubted anyone could use it to truly focus and accomplish anything tangible. But as I thought more about it – I realized that was also the biggest strength of this method. Your theme can be anything – and pursuing it does not have to be a regimented exercise. If your theme is health – that doesn’t mean you’re pursuing a workout routine – it could mean you are pursuing learning about health, or trying different foods, or paying attention to how different sleep patterns affect you. It leaves room for goals that aren’t quite so cut and dry. 

So while we keep that idea of themes in mind – the other thing I’d been marinating on recently was a piece of advice from Jeff Bezos for those in business. He says, “‘I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next ten years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next ten years?’ And I submit to you that the second question is actually the more important of the two – because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time…’”

From Amazon’s perspective, this appears simply. Customers will ALWAYS want their stuff faster, and for less money. That is something that hasn’t changed in ten years and is highly unlikely will change ever so Amazon has built an empire on that idea. 

But I think the sentiment can also be applied to life. I often get caught up in what’s next for myself. Where will I move next? What job will I have next? How can I grow? Improve? Change? It never stops. It’s even a common interview question: ‘Where do you see yourself in the next five years?’. And these are all important questions because it is important to know where you’re going – however, I also know that I have figured out a couple things in my short twenty-five years on earth. Things that I never regret doing, things that have consistently brought me joy for years and years already.

So I made a list – I call it my ‘never regret’ list. And I’ve decided my theme for the year will be to increase my focus on those things and to add to that list. Most of these things are not groundbreaking, and I already do a lot of them regularly, but I haven’t been giving them enough credit for how much joy they consistently bring into my life, and I haven’t focused on them in a long time. 

So what will this look like? I’m going to make this as easy for myself as possible. I’m going to keep my ‘never regret’ list on my phone and will only need to make sure I accomplish one thing from that list each day. If it’s more than that – great, but I’m not going to beat myself up over this. The second part is that every time I try something new that I enjoy I will write it down in a subsection and make sure I try it again within the same month so that I can start to assess whether the initial enjoyment was due purely to novelty or if I actually enjoyed it and want to incorporate more of it. 

We tend to always be looking for something new that will bring us happiness, we spend our hours and dollars on incorporating new objects and trying new methods – all in an effort to feel better day in and day out. But I encourage you to take one small step back and at least take stock of all the things that already bring you joy. The things that have brought you joy for as long as you can remember. Why aren’t we simply finding ways of doing more of those?

For reference: here is my ‘never regret’ list as it stands right now. 

I never regret spending time with my family

I never regret watching a movie with my sister

I never regret practicing my Greek

I never regret going for a workout

I never regret going to a workout class

I never regret drinking coffee in the morning

I never regret waking up early

I never regret writing

I never regret visiting a new country/city/neighborhood

I never regret trying a new food

I never regret cooking a new recipe

I never regret cooking for myself

I never regret cooking for others

I never regret buying gifts for others

I never regret reading a book

I never regret going for a walk outside

I never regret swimming in the ocean

I never regret going to bed early

I never regret 1×1 time with a friend

I never regret stretching

I never regret learning how to do something new

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PC: Kiki Moussetis

PC:

How I Survived Being 24

It’s that time of year again. You know, the time of year somebody somewhere decided we have to reflect on time past? This year is apparently even more special because it has us reflecting on the past whole decade. 

Though I try, I cannot escape this reflection activity (especially since I love thinking about myself), SO as I was reflecting on the 2010’s I realized it’s actually kind of crazy to do a decade reflection as someone who is (now!) the ripe old age of 25. I was 15 (!!) when the decade started. I was in the middle of my sophomore year of high school (gross). So in the past decade, I graduated high school, attended Pepperdine University in Malibu California, lived in Shanghai, China for a year and worked at an investment firm for part of that, I then graduated university in three years and started a software consulting job while living in LA. Following that, I moved to Calgary Canada for a relationship, said relationship ended, and now I live in Chicago doing a different consulting gig. 

In the past decade, I’ve lived in 4 cities. I’ve visited 13 countries and 15 states. I’ve had 2 graduations, 3 internships, 2 full-time jobs. I’ve had four boyfriends, been on numerous dates, and met countless amazing people.

Even this year by itself was a rollercoaster from start to finish – let’s recap real quick, shall we?

In January of 2019, I was living in Calgary while my long term relationship deteriorated under me. I was traveling to San Francisco every week for work, which was a double-edged sword because travel for work is exhausting but I did get to see some friends all the time which was so nice. I also crashed a ski trip to Big Bear with some of my best friends from University.

By February my relationship was over and I was still traveling all the time from Calgary. Spent some extra weekends in SF to avoid Calgary as much as possible while I figured out my move. 

In March, I moved out of Calgary, put all my stuff at my parent’s place in the suburbs of Chicago and effectively lived nowhere, mostly traveling for work and staying with friends on weekends. 

By April I had accepted a new job and had given notice at my old company. 

By May, I had ended my old job, did a leisurely trip visiting friends and family in LA, celebrated my sister’s 21st birthday and spent 3 weeks in Japan. 

In June, I started my new job, moved into a new apartment in downtown Chicago, and was dating again. 

In July, my LA friends came to visit me and I started making more connections while starting my first client at my new job. 

August brought a lot of strides for my personal projects, I finally got all my furniture delivered, and my wonderful friend Grace came to visit. 

September was all about work but I squeezed in a quick trip to NYC to repay Grace’s visit from the previous month. 

In October, I delivered a talk about adapting communication styles and did a huge girls trip to Spain and Portugal with my college friends. 

November was a lot of family time between my mom’s birthday and squeezing in a last weekend with my dad and sister before they departed for Europe, and then Thanksgiving’ of course. 

And now it’s December! And I’m 25!! PHEW – did you get all that? I sometimes get whiplash if I think about it all at once. 

A LOT changed this year. Let’s break it down —

2 jobs – went from traveling every week in an isolated culture, to a stable location surrounded by people all the time

3 living scenarios – went from living in Calgary mostly alone, to living nowhere, to living alone again in downtown Chicago

3 U.S Cities – Visited LA, San Francisco, and New York this year for fun and friends

3 Countries – Visited Japan, Spain, and Portugal for various vacations/trips

Because this year was kind of all over the pace – so was I. There were lots of ups and downs, not only emotionally, but also in my pursuits. Because breaking up, moving countries, and trying to build a new social life are so time-consuming, many of my other projects sometimes took a back seat to my emotional work. But then my emotional things would settle down for a moment and personal projects would ramp up again. I started formally dating which I had never really done so that’s been a different kind of constraint on my schedule. I changed my fitness routines, changed my skincare cycles, changed the types of media I consumed (hello anime, nice to meet you), did some of the best writing I’ve ever done, learned new recipes, drank way more alcohol than the rest of my prior years combined. I made a lot of new friends and learned more about which old friends I wanted to prioritize. This year, I’ve spent the most time alone, as well as the most time surrounded by people.

I feel like I went backward, stayed the same, and took giant leaps forward all at the same time. It was a weird year and an even weirder decade, but I think the most important thing I’ve learned in the past ten years (which was specially reinforced this past year), was how to analyze my life and make choices. I can look at myself and notice the things I want to keep the same, and the things I want to change. Not only that, but I know how to change them – and really what other skills do you need in life?

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PC: Marketa Benedetti

 

The Perfect Gift Isn’t That Hard to Find

The holiday season is in full swing which means every single company has abandoned all shame in an effort to snag that sweet end of year surge of sales. I enjoy presents like pretty much everyone on the planet, but I enjoy giving a great gift equally as much. 

It’s easier to buy for people you know well, but I also know that some people struggle no matter what. So if you’re still stuck on finding the perfect gifts for some of your loved ones – check out some of the rules I swear by in my shopping —

  1. Do a quick list of what this person’s ‘things’ are. Are they obsessed with working out? Coffee? A sports team? Organization? Reading? Beauty? Whatever those categories might be – use them as your guide. Remember, you are buying something for someone else, not for you so don’t buy someone else something just because you’d love it yourself (unless of course, you have the exact same level of interest in a topic)
  2. Gift Giving does not have to be too expensive, but people love thoughtful gifts. If you have $20 to spend on someone, think about the highest quality gift you could get for that money. Quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. It could mean the funniest, the most thoughtful, or the craziest. Something that will speak to that person. Don’t fall into the trap of buying a ton of little cheap things just because it feels like more. Keep the thoughtfulness despite the cost. Even something like baking cookies for a couple dollars shows more care than a bunch of nonspecific trinkets from a novelty shop. 
  3. Don’t fall for the gift lists. Every year – every blog and store release gift lists. Must-haves for the woman in your life blah blah blah. These can be great as inspiration but so often they are built merely to sell specific products so be careful putting too much stock into any of them. I recommend building your own for the people in your life using tip number 1. 
  4. Experiences almost always win. Experience gifts can be pricey and should be handled with care, but they almost never fail. A boyfriend loves a certain band? Concert tickets. Your dad loves a certain basketball team? Game tickets. Movie tickets. Massage voucher. Free ice skating. Your friend has always wanted to go paintballing? Make a reservation and take her. I’ve gone so far as to book plane tickets or spa treatments as gifts. These don’t have to be expensive, but it shows direct thought and experiences are so much more fun than things. 
  5. Lastly – if you’re really a planner, keep a running gift list throughout the year for the most important people in your life. Every time you’re out with them and their eyes light up about something, you can make a quick note and BAM, you know exactly what to get them when the holidays or their birthday rolls around. This can be hard to keep up but if you have a partner or close friends you see all the time, this can come in handy. 

Christmas is exactly one week away and I’m sure Amazon employees are being worked to the bone as we speak, but I wish you all the best of luck in your holiday shopping. I, of course, am insufferable and am already done with mine 🙂 

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Photo Cred: Marketa Benedetti

 

Present Me is Always Looking Out for Future Me

As I’ve been going through and writing these recent productivity articles, I realized that all of my ideas about personal effectiveness can be condensed down into one idea: Present me is always looking out for future me. 

This means that I am always planning for the future whether that is just this evening or a few years down the road. I plan as far in advance as I can and do everything in my power today, to make life easier for who I will be tomorrow, or in ten years. The reason I’m able to find the motivation to stay organized, disciplined, or try new things is because I want life to be easier and better for the person I’ll be later on. 

In small ways this manifests itself like this – I never procrastinate on homework or work assignments. If something comes up at work that would take me five min or less like walking to someone to get a question answered or responding to a quick email, I do it right away – less on my to-do list later. I put things back where they came from which makes them easier to find later. I plan my to-do list and outfit and meals the day before which means I don’t need to waste decision time on the day. By doing these little things – I make the following hours or days easier because I’m consistently organized. I rarely lose things or spend too much time deciding what to do or how to structure my day because I already thought ahead for myself. This habit is so strict that I literally make myself this little kit (actually fits in this bag) when I go on dates that has my contact solution, skincare, and makeup in it because I hate sleeping with my contacts in and makeup on so much that if there is even a TINY chance I don’t sleep in my own bed for the night, I need to be prepared. Future me is always thankful.

In larger ways it manifests itself like this – I work out and try to eat and sleep well every day so I can stay healthier for longer, don’t run into issues with new activities, and don’t get sick very often, I practice language so that I can improve brain function and for when I actually need them, I read to make connections to concepts or ideas in the future, I take classes and boot camps for future job opportunities. I travel to learn about new places and put myself outside my comfort zone. I study investing and have several accounts to plan for unexpected things and to aim for early retirement. Even though I may not know what the future five or ten years may hold. I already know I want to be healthy, and ready to accept any opportunities or incur any failures that may come my way in that time and I prepare as such. The larger actions prepare me for all the unknowns of life. 

I like this way of living. Very few things catch me off guard, I am almost never unprepared, and rarely take long to make decisions. However, it doesn’t come without its cons. Chiefly that living this way usually means I have trouble truly living in the moment. If I go out with friends I’m constantly thinking about how this will affect my sleep schedule and if I’m drinking too much to feel like working out the next day. If something doesn’t work out as planned (which to be fair, is pretty rare for me since I usually also plan for the unknown), it is quite possible my brain shorts out and I freak. In the past, I’ve also said no to opportunities that could have been great simply to comply with all of my own routines and habits. 

I realize there is a balance to be found somewhere in here but so far I still err on the side of planning and it’s gotten me pretty far. So if you’re ever wondering if you should do something, just ask yourself if future you would appreciate it. If the answer is yes, it’s probably a good idea.

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Photo Credit – Photography By Marketa

Fall Favorites

I love favorites videos on YouTube – they’re how I’ve discovered a lot of products, books, and apps that I consistently use and adore in my own life. As such, I’m going to try and post Seasonal favorites for awhile. These lists will always be varied as I don’t typically shop a lot for fashion or beauty items, but I am always trying new things.

Wellness: 

Breakfast – recently I added a new breakfast recipe to my rotation. It goes like this: One large toasted piece of sourdough bread with salted butter, arugula, two pieces of bacon, a fried egg, and some grueyere cheese shaved on top. Takes about seven minutes to make and looks like a restaurant should’ve charged you $17 for it. 

Jump Rope – There’s a standard speed rope in my apartment building’s gym complex that I picked up one day and have absolutely fallen in love with using jump rope for warm ups and as part of HIIT circuits. If I use it as a warm up – I do 40 sec on, 20 sec off for 5-10 min and I vary my jumps throughout the 40 seconds. If I use it in HIIT circuits, it’s usually 30 second intervals of speed jumping. It’s amazing at getting your heart rate up in a short period of time. I highly recommend it if you’re looking to get some cardio into your routine but hate the steady state of a treadmill, bike, or elliptical.

Olly Vitamins – These are gummy vitamins that exist for all sorts of purposes. I have the women’s multivitamin that comes in a berry flavor. Typically I don’t take any vitamins or supplements, but these are so fun I couldn’t resist. For women they also come with some extra vitamin D and biotin to cater especially to our body’s needs. I like them because they make vitamins fun. That’s literally it.

Beauty/Skincare: 

Kosas Weightless Lipstick (Fringe) – I am not a lipstick girl, precisely because I find lip products to be super high maintenance. Lip gloss? Gets stuck in my hair. Lip stains? Turn flakey too quickly. Lipstick? Fades unevenly as soon as I eat or drink anything. So when I discovered Kosas’s lipstick as recommended as one that is easy to stain lips but doesn’t try and fades evenly I was intrigued. I picked up Fringe which is halfway between a bright red and a brick red and I love it. I put it on over lip balm, blend it in with my finger to make it look less done and I don’t have to worry about it after that. Yes it does fade, but it fades EVENLY which is all I can ask for. 

Ole Henrikson Truth Serum – This is one of the best vitamin C serums on the market and it’s probably one of the most affordable as well. I recently had some pretty bad breakouts and put this product back in my rotation to prevent any scarring and I had forgotten how much it helps my skin look brighter and more even consistently. As such I’ve added it back into my regular routine with the products I mentioned last month here. 

 

Media

Red Notice by Bill Browder (book): An incredible nonfiction story about one man and how he became the highest financier in Russia, to one of Russia’s biggest enemies, to a champion for international human rights. It’s all true but it reads like a thriller. I would describe very few non-fiction stories as true page-turners but this one qualifies. The stuff that happened to Browder is so unbelievable that the end of almost every chapter leaves you shocked yet ravenous to find out how he survives it.  

One Punch Man – Season 2 (subbed) came out on Hulu and I was pumped! I love this show so much mostly because the main character is just so amazing. The show is basically about a  hero who is so strong he can defeat any villain with one punch, easily, comically. As such, he faces an existential crisis because no one is strong enough to offer a real challenge. Season two focuses more on other characters and the infrastructure behind the world and there’s some pretty incredible action sequences. 

Parasite (Bong Joon Ho) – the Korean film that stole the show at the Cannes film festival is out in theaters in the states right now and it is a banger. The movie is about a con artist family who preys on a wealthy family. It’s an edge of your seat type film with some amazing dissection of the class system baked in. The imagery is insane, the characters are charming to a fault and it keeps you guessing. This director also did Snowpiercer which is my favorite movie of all time. 

Demon Slayer (subbed) – is another anime that is on Hulu. A girlfriend recommended it to me while I was in Spain with her and it is so good. The story revolves around a boy whose family is killed by a demon. His sister survives, but barely and he becomes a demon slayer to turn her back into a human. The art is absolutely beautiful and despite the simple description I just gave, the story is rich and keeps you clicking that next episode button. 

Miscellaneous

Zojirushi Thermos  – This is it. This is the thermos to end your thermos. I have been using this to take coffee to the office on days where I just CAN’T, and I have to literally leave the lid off the thermos in order for the coffee to cool down to a drinkable temperature. I didn’t do this one day and the coffee was still burning hot well into the afternoon. Also the lid fully seals and locks so spills are kept to a minimum. Worth the investment, especially as we move into colder weather. They also make a food jar which I also have to keep soup and stews warm. I heat up my soup in the morning and it’s still piping hot when I sit down to eat at lunch. This brand is no joke. 

Dagne Dover Backpack I hate company branded attire. Even though I like my company, I don’t want to be a walking ad for them. I had been on the hunt for a good work/multifunctional backpack to replace my company bag because I hated that my company provided backpack had the logo on it and also that it had a flap top which I find ridiculously annoying. I came across Dagne Dover and finally invested in their large Dakota backpack (I bought the color Siren), and it’s amazing. The thoughtfulness of all the pocket placements internally, the minimalist design, and the comfort of this bag all make it well worth the price. 

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PC: Tiffany Wong in Girona Spain! The real fall favorite – travel

 

Vacation Fitness

Although my routine at home is pretty strict, when I go on vacation, I allow myself to go. On. vacation. I don’t work out. I don’t focus at all on my diet. I drink more alcohol. and I don’t sleep as much. 

However, despite all this, I almost always lose weight on vacation. Not a lot – but I notice the slight change in how my clothes fit. My body feels better, I’m usually less bloated, and have more energy. 

Why? Sounds fake right? Well, I’ve narrowed it down to a couple things that I always do on vacation that I have now been trying to incorporate into my normal life as much as possible. 

  1. Constant movement. Although I don’t do any formal workouts, I do a lot of walking. Like minimum 6 miles, all the way up to fifteen miles of walking sometimes. Additionally, I almost never spend more than two hours at a time seated. I walk after all my meals and start the morning off walking. This movement is energizing for my body but the low-stress nature of a huge amount of walking also allows my body to digest and function properly rather than struggling through a contorted seated position most of the day. 
  2. Real Food Only. I eat out a lot on vacation. Nearly every single one of my meals is eaten out rather than homecooked. And it’s not all healthy either. On this most recent trip, breakfast usually consists of a chocolate croissant and dinners were filled to the brim with meat, potatoes, and sangria, only to be washed down by churros or gelato afterward. The important thing to note is that all of this food was freshly made. I bought none of it pre-packaged. This means, even though I was eating chocolate pastries like they were going out of style, I bought them from the bakery which means my intake of chemicals and preservatives was minimal. Almost no prepackaged foods were consumed during vacation which really decreased bloating and improved my energy despite the fact that not all the restaurant food was healthy or even close to it. 
  3. Stress Management. When I go on vacation – I really go. I don’t look at my emails. I allow myself to completely detach from maintaining my routine and productivity. The only focus is the hour by hour decisions while in transit. This usually means my skin clears up and I’m able to be calmer for longer. I’ve allowed myself to abandon my normal decisions and worries and focus on something completely different. And since I usually am a low maintenance traveler, there are lots of little decisions and problems to figure out on a trip. For example, on this trip, our power blew out in the airbnb in Lisbon. Something as simple as finding the breaker box and successfully resetting the power was a problem I don’t encounter in daily life and even though it’s a tiny success, the feeling of accomplishment for figuring out something that was actually crucial to our stay was more rewarding than the problems I’d been facing at home lately. 
  4. Back Sleeping. One of the airbnb’s we stayed at, I stayed on the pull out couch and it was firm. I ended up falling asleep on my back and when I woke up the next morning, I felt incredible. I usually sleep on my side with my shoulders all scrunched together, but accidentally falling asleep on my back made me realize how important sleep position can be to the rest of your day. If you fall asleep on your back, your shoulders pull away from your chest and your spine can usually stay in alignment. I realize back sleeping isn’t for everyone, but I’ve been trying to fall asleep that way more and more in an effort to preserve that amazing posture I felt after that first night. 

This can be hard to incorporate when at home in the routine of it all, but there are little things I try to do. I walk wherever I can. I really utilize my standing desk, especially after lunch. I try and home cook as much as possible and don’t purchase pre-packaged foods. I compartmentalize my stress and look for more rewarding problems to solve throughout the day.

I realize most of these things sound super tiny. And doing any one of them, or all of them,  won’t make you a super fit/super healthy person. But that doesn’t have to be the goal. The goal can just be to feel good on a daily basis. It can be to incorporate a little bit of vacation living into the mundane of the everyday. 

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Place: Barcelona Park Guell; Photo Cred: The effervescent Ryenne Glover

 

Why I Don’t Hate My Body

I’ve been privileged in the fact that I have never truly hated my body. Sure I’ve had bad days where I harp on my supposed physical flaws more than normal, but for the vast majority of my life (yes, even including puberty) I have maintained an above-average level of body confidence.

This can be attributed to a few things throughout my childhood, but perhaps the most important one was that I learned to not hate my body through example.

Growing up, my mom was the main female figure in my life. I have always thought my mom was tall, beautiful, and strong. And perhaps this can be attributed to a child’s reverence for their parent but here’s the thing – my mom has never, ever given me a reason to believe that she isn’t any of those things.

I can’t remember my mom ever saying she hated her own body – or even really expressing that much discontentment about it at all. Her body is her body and although she strives to take care of it, it doesn’t consume her life. She’s never acted ashamed of it and has appeared to embrace any scars or imperfections that it endured.

Hold on for a second and think about that. I was living in my mom’s house for eighteen years and in all of that time, I cannot think of ONE time where my mom seemed to be depressed about her body. Not ONE time where her insecurity seemed to get the better of her. Not ONE time where she tried to hide her body out of shame. That was a powerful message for me.

Furthermore, her attitude towards caring for her body was always rooted in feeling rather than aesthetics. My mom loves to run. And growing up, I remember her always coming back from a run saying something like “that felt good” or “I feel so much better now”. It was never about losing weight or shaping her body to fit some sort of ideal. She ran because it FELT good and she enjoyed it. Simple as that. This is HUGE to the way I approach fitness nowadays. The goal for me is never really to look a certain way, it’s to feel a certain way, and the way I look is merely a by-product of that feeling. This makes my fitness habit not only more sustainable, but it makes me look at my body positively no matter what it looks like on a given day, because I learned that the act of taking care of it is what actually improves my mood – not the mirror.

When it came to diet, my family always ate relatively healthy, but my mom has a huge sweet tooth. And if she ate a whole bunch of chocolate in one sitting – she never expressed any real guilt over it, she would enjoy the chocolate and move on with her life. This may seem small, but I realized that I, too, don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying sweets or anything supposedly ‘bad’ for me. I just enjoy it and move on.

Because my mom has always taken such good care of her body – she’s never been limited. When I was little she would be able to wrestle and do tickle fights with me and my sister. She was able to wipe the floor with us in basketball (this one is probably still true), and she could walk or hike for miles if a trip demanded it. Even now, she’s still able to participate in any and all activities our family encounters. Her body never limits her because she looks after it.

My mom is over fifty years old now (I hope she doesn’t kill me for exposing that) and she could still pass for being over a decade younger. She doesn’t work out like a maniac, doesn’t do any crazy diets, she’s had two kids, but she’s still able to be active and participate in pretty much anything that comes her way. So that’s the ideal I learned to strive towards. I don’t ever need to look a certain way, but should strive to feel a certain way and by doing so, I don’t ever have to limit myself in the process.

My mom’s birthday is this week and there is so much to thank her for, but a blog post is merely a blog post so I wanted to focus on something that she probably didn’t even realize she did for me, but that has made a huge impact on my self-confidence. Body image is something that so many women and men struggle with every day and I’m lucky enough to have a mom that protected me from most of the insecurity the media tells me I’m supposed to have.

Happy early birthday mom! You’re killing it.

 

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PC for the first photo: Kiki Moussetis; PC for this photo: Dad. Both photos taken in Greece

 

 

Making or Breaking Your Habits

I’ve been talking a lot about productivity lately, and I’ve mentioned how important my own habits are to my goals and routines. I get comments on those posts like, ‘How do you (workout, practice language, cook, write) every day? It seems like a lot so how do you find the motivation to do it?’ The answer to those questions is simple – those activities are simply habits so my brain and body require less willpower to do those activities. 

The question people really should be asking is ‘How did you form the habit to do ‘x’ in the first place?’ because that’s the hard part. Once something is a habit, it’s not as difficult anymore, portions of it become automatic, the feeling is so ingrained, it doesn’t take as much effort. 

But forming a new habit? It requires a lot of effort. The concept of inertia fits perfectly here. Inertia is defined as matter’s tendency to stay at rest if already at rest, or alternatively, to stay in motion, if already in motion. 

The habit of working out is the best example. Before you are in the habit of working out, it takes a huge amount of willpower, effort, and motivation to make yourself go to the gym – your body wants to stay at rest. But once it becomes a habit – your body is in motion – and it wants to continue that way so it becomes easier. 

So how do you do this? How do you form a new habit? I’ll use my own decision to seriously commit to practicing language without the rigor of a classroom to turn to since graduating university. 

First you have to answer the ‘why?’. Why is forming a new habit important to you? Is it to improve your health? Is it to learn a new skill? How will it better your life? I chose to start my personal language journey with Greek. It was specifically important to me to improve my speaking skills in order to converse with my family more easily. That goal kept me going and expanded my language practice to my others of Mandarin and Spanish. 

Next, you gotta have a plan right? What we be the actual habits you practice to achieve the goal of starting in the first place? For my goal this meant practicing with Duolingo and flashcards that I made, every single day, as well as having a weekly lesson with a paid tutor (putting some money on the line helps any goal), and outlining my goal to my dad who makes a concerted effort to speak in Greek with me even though English would be far easier for the both of us. 

Lastly, find something to hold on to when it gets tough – because it will get tough, especially when you’re first starting. For me, I reflect after every tutoring session on how accomplished I feel and I hold onto that feeling. Every time I ever even consider skipping a day of practice or skipping a tutoring session, I remember how good I feel afterward and that’s enough to get me to push through.  

Like everything worthwhile, habits are hard to form, and in the early stages, they are also easy to break. But if you can find that thing to keep you going, habits also have the double edge of being difficult to break once they’re ingrained within you.

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New York Public Library – taking a quick two day break from my habits 🙂 

Hello? Yes it’s the High Standard Police

I wrote this post a couple weeks back about how much I get done in a day. I got quite a few responses on and offline showing interest and/or amazement at my strict productivity routines. 

These routines come at a cost though. Yes, I get pretty much every single thing I want to get done – done. But it requires a huge amount of planning, little room for error, and almost zero room for true spontaneity. 

Consider for a moment what your life could look like if you implemented my routines. Maybe you’d feel productive, motivated, fit, busy. Now imagine what it must be like to live with me. 

Structured, strict, intense. 

When I was younger, believe it or not,  I was even more uptight, so my sister bore the brunt of my unyielding need for routine. For example, I needed to be half-hour early to school (elementary school) – don’t ask why, there was no good reason – and if my sister put this arrival time in jeopardy, I lost my mind. I started screaming, crying, yelling at her to hurry up. 

I have since mellowed out in my responses on the surface to unpredictability, but it still causes a sense of panic internally all the same. 

My routines also require a huge amount of discipline. It’s not easy to make myself workout, study, work, prepare, and plan every single day. I hold myself to a pretty high standard. I basically want to be good at everything – and this pressure on myself is ever-present. 

If I happen to be in a relationship, I treat it the same as my other endeavors – I prioritize it, make time for it, and work on it. But I also end up holding my partners to the same standards I hold myself, and when my expectations aren’t met, disappointment is inevitable. 

Consequently, I always feel caught. I know putting my expectations on others is unfair, and a surefire way to experience disappointment more often than satisfaction, but I also feel like I deserve someone who also holds themselves to high standards. I feel like if the other person doesn’t want to hold themselves to a similar bar then the relationship is doomed to fail anyway, because I will always be pushing forward on myself, on the relationship, on everything –  no matter what. 

I haven’t really figured out how to feel about this part of myself yet. I know that holding myself to high standards is one of the things I like best about myself, but it might be hindering my relationships with others and causing unnecessary frustration. 

For now, I’m not planning on backing off – I do have a lot of shit to do – but I do want to spend some time learning about the areas where I am willing to compromise because ultimately, sweating the small stuff won’t get me anywhere.