March Madness

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Hello world! It’s been ages since I lasted posted, but I promise for good reason – I spent the entire month of March finishing the draft of my first book!

Finishing this project is a huge deal for me. I started it in November 2014 (!) as a post-grad starter project, and promised myself I wouldn’t start anything else until I had finished this manuscript.


Fast forward two years, and I wasn’t very far on my draft. Every so often I’d work up the energy to take my computer to the library for an hour or so and jot some words down. After two years, though, I hadn’t made it past 80 pages. Yikes.

Then, I stumbled across a book recommendation for Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, and something clicked. I realized I was sick and tired of not making progress and just making excuses for not writing.

I purchased the book, and the rest is history!

Well…not quite. It was one of the most difficult tasks I’ve embarked on. I’d set a goal to write 3,000 words a day, which took me about an hour and a half. Doesn’t sound like much, but every day I struggled to stay motivated. The lure of relaxing after work in front of the TV was a constant, but in the end, I came through!

Here are some insights I gleaned while writing:

  1. You have to cater to your inner goddess. At first, I planned out that I would get up at 5:00 AM every day to get my writing out of the way. It took a week of oversleeping for me to finally cave in and admit that I’m not a 5 AM person. I also like being in comfortable clothing, having lots of water by my side, and using a legitimate keyboard, rather than a cheap travel one. Catering to these whims made the writing process so much more enjoyable.
  2. You have to rededicate yourself to your goal every. Single. Day. I wanted to give up every time I sat down to write, no lie. But I made it a priority to post sticky notes around my desk about why I wanted to achieve this goal in the first place. It was instrumental to helping me reenergize.
  3. You have to keep going no matter what. I realized my story had major plot holes / character holes / switching character names early on. There were also a handful of days where I had to either skip writing altogether or didn’t make my word count. There were many opportunities for me – the constant quitter – to stop the project altogether, but I persevered.
  4. You have to focus if you want to see this goal through. Normally, I’m trying to juggle fifteen thousand goals at once. New fitness routines, new recipes to try, new makeup techniques to perfect, etc. When March rolled around, though, I realized I could only put 100% into one thing, and I chose that thing to be writing. It made me sad to have to dial back on going out with friends and catching up on TV, but I kept reminding myself it was only for a month.
  5. At the end of the day, it comes down to your attitude. A book in a month – especially one guided by a book of the same title – sounded kind of silly when I started, and I was embarrassed to tell people. And every day I didn’t get to where I wanted was a total bummer. Nonetheless, I told myself repeatedly that I would get this done, no matter what. And I did!

There is still much, much work to be done, but I’m looking forward to it. If you’ve made it this far through this post, I hope you take away this single thought if nothing else: when you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything you want. Corny, but forgive me, I’m riding the high of following through with something for once in my life. Feels pretty good 🙂

 

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Day 13

Confession time: this week I’ve been a little…absent minded. Whether it’s been at work or home, I haven’t been 100% there and focused. Except for when I ate an entire bag of jelly beans the other night and finally hung our new lamp fixture in the dining room.
Have you ever reached a place where you find yourself slacking a bit? I used to be the queen of always finding things to do. Now, I’ve let a few things slide. Like laundry. And meal planning. And going above and beyond at work.

Today I sat in on an interview with a potential intern and I listened as my boss explained to the interviewee what kind of hard working individuals we hire. “We’re looking for people who are willing to improve at whatever it is they’re doing, at least 10% every day,” she concluded.

Where can 10% take you?

10%. I walked out of the interview fixated on that number, and it stuck with me for the rest of the day. 10%. As I was cleaning up our office, I suddenly thought what if I clean this, but 10% better than what I’d normally do? What would that look like? Before I knew it, I created a rain readiness bucket for our future battles with El Niño (think: lots of rain).
10%.

Such a small number, but even that much of a percentage had me thinking about how to do what I was currently doing, but better. It’s a small enough step to not be daunting, but encouraging enough to make me want to push for higher quality results.
May you push yourself for that 10% today in whatever you do!

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Where did 2015 go?

Planning sucks.

Rather, planning can be life sucking. 2015 is coming to a close, and as I finally strung those glistening dollar store Christmas lights up around my living room window, I realized I was totally drained. And slightly miserable, à la Scrooge. All I could think about was everything I had not accomplished. My laundry pile was overflowing, we still didn’t have our Christmas tree, I’d missed going to the gym, why wasn’t my first draft written, why wasn’t I fluent in Spanish yet?? Wave after wave after wave of negative, downtrodden had me throwing a pity party for one.

I made a decision then and there, as I cursed that one tiny light bulb that refused to work, that I was going to just let it go. The year has come and gone. I did what I could when I could. It’s as simple as that; I gave 2015 a very hearty try, and didn’t end up accomplishing everything I wanted to. But it’s okay! Thinking badly of myself and my choices doesn’t change the past or help me get anywhere new.

It’s been a hard lesson to swallow, but these days I’m trying to just be. I’m not pressuring myself to work on any projects, or even blogging (as I’m sure you’ve noticed). When I want to go to spin class, I go to spin class. When I want to come home and go straight to bed, I do that.

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Our Christmas twig, up and decorated at last!

There’s something absolutely delicious about not having that voice nagging at you constantly, wondering when you’ll stop doing X,Y, and Z and when you’ll start doing the things you’re “supposed to”. The voice isn’t easy to quiet, but when it’s at least muted I’m able to enjoy what I’m currently doing much more.

That being said, I believe wholeheartedly in the freshness of a new year. I’ve decided to theme 2016 as “Here’s to an Interesting Life”, and I’m kicking it off with a bang, starting with a trip to Denmark and Germany in January. After some quality time at home with the folks, I’m looking forward to plotting anew for the year. By then, I hope that naggy voice in my head will have transformed into one of encouragement and inspiration.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season! See you in January 🙂

 

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Work{Book} Your Life Away

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If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. Chances are it will be the worst thing you have to do all day. – Mark Twain

Today was not the first day I noticed my to-do list remained untouched.

In fact, I actually had to go find my to-do list, which was buried in a paper bag in my apartment. Also missing seems to be my motivation. Maybe it’s just that time of year – fresh faced graduates are posting their smiling faces in caps and gowns all over social media, proclaiming how excited they are about the bright futures that await them!

Their Instagrams and Facebook posts seem to fuel my current discontent, but they’re not the source. In many ways, I feel stuck. What was once new and exciting has become more routine, and my motivation is flagging, dragging, and burning. I’m sure you’ve noticed, what with my inconsistent blog posts.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one going through these post-graduate blues. My roommates are also experiencing some ruts. Now, I’m ready to take action on them.

In researching for this post, I’ve come across several different methods to making an achievable goals list. Some use money as an incentive, others stress the steps of picking a goal, then breaking it down into quantifiable pieces.

As I stare at my planner, I realize that I’ve been doing just fine in breaking things down, assigning little chunks to different days to ensure I would never feel overwhelmed. It’s the follow through that is nowhere to be found. The pieces are all there, I just have refused to take action on any of them.

Oy.

Skip ahead. I’ve found a goals workbook that promises to help guide you through revamping your to do lists, and helps you look ahead at the future. I sign up via the blog Living Well Spending Less, which automatically enrolls me to their video mailing list. In exchange, I am able to Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 3.43.30 PMdownload the workbook, and in little breaks at work I begin to fill out the pages.

I find my problem at step one. The workbook has you list what activities you think are most important, as well as the ones you think take up the most of your time; whatever overlaps especially takes priority. I had very little overlap between my items, from which I concluded that I’m hardly spending any time on what I think is actually important in my life (health and wellness, friends and family, serving my community, writing), and wasting time (I actually wrote ‘surfing the Internet’ as something that eats up my time – yikes!).

Obviously, I spend a good chunk of my life at work, which is a necessity rather than a favored activity. There will obviously be days where I have to do things I don’t want to do (I’ve been needing to switch my car insurance for a while, I’m not looking forward to that). Overall, though, my free time has been drizzled away wasting time when I could be chasing dreams and making things happen.

Additionally, the workbook has had me imagine my dream future in five years (hello adorable apartment in San Fran!), plan short term goals, and much much more. I feel re-energized and more focused having completed it.

Feeling like you’re in a rut? Find the workbook sign up page here: http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2015/01/05/effective-goal-setter/

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