the courageous task of saying “no”.

Ahahah so it’s crazy. This post [rather the thought of writing on it] has been taking up a lot of headspace recently. So here we go.

I am an ENFP [“the campaigner”], my Enneagram puts me as a “Helper” as my paramount personality trait. [If you’ve never heard of this or tried it for yourself, I highly encourage it! It’s very cool to see the results.]

I love challenges, I love helping people, I love being busy.

I don’t like inconveniencing others, I don’t like living up to expectations, and I definitely don’t like confrontation, and things like saying no. 

Oof.

If there’s anything that 2018 taught me, it was that it was busy.  It was packed. Why?

Because I consistently didn’t say “no” to things. 

I like feeling like I can do and give for everyone but WOW that’s so mentally taxing, and emotionally exhausting. I think I only realized this in the past 3 months. Taking time for myself was still a foreign concept, and I couldn’t fathom “letting people down”.

What I’m learning, however, is that part of the time it’s like being on an airplane. When shit’s going south and things are nosediving, you do have to put the mask on yourself first in order to help others.

I don’t like thinking about this, partially because it feels like I’m neglecting others by doing so. But it’s true. Sometimes, you just have to barge forth and make that call to take the time for yourself that you need.

Chris Bailey [YES I KnOw I reference him so much he’s my idol sue me] suggests this pretty golden rule for determining whether something is worthy of your “yes”. You can think about how every “no” you throw out is actually a “yes” for something later on, or you can think about how every “yes” you commit yourself to is a “no” to something else later on.

It is this train of thoughts that makes me think about all I’ve said yes and no to. Some things are an obvious yes– visiting with family I haven’t seen in 5 months or more over the holidays when I could be working? For me, this is an obvious “yes.”

Following up on flaky plans when the other person has no real interest in making time for aforementioned plans? Tough. As badly as I’ve tried to make this work in the past, it just doesn’t. It also has led me to start thinking about the fact that I actually may be someone’s “back-up plan”. Yikes. That’s gonna be a “no” from me, dawg.

[I’m still in the works of trying to release some big things in the next weeks related to this specific topic of money and stufffff buuuut….!] Spending money on impulse for the instant gratification and to feel “one of the group”? So so tough. But it’s gotta be a no, because I have to think about the “yes”s I want later. Like paying tuition. And my rent. And being able to afford food and gas.

And it’s crazy! I kind of stretched out writing this post across two days– the second day I’ve spent on this post has actually found me feverish, throat sore, and chilled to the bone even with masses of sweaters, coats and blankets [greetings from my blanket cave, as I do my best to balance under all this weight on my chair and just get thoughts out].

After the trials of today, I get a text. One of my friends asked to hang out.

My brain immediately said yes. Yes! I leave to go back to school in less than 48 hours of *course*! But my body put the brakes on that. It was all I could do to get up this morning, sit like a potato at the DMV, and then drive to my nanny gig. When I got home I was *robbed* of energy.

I revisited my brain’s talk. Come on, it’ll just be for a bit, you need to see her before you leave, you can sleep and finish work later! Enticing, right?

But alas. I’ve been *super* super harsh on my body in the past month [one of my 2019 #DoThings I’m working on yike] and it was screaming at me to stop. And also not to get my friend sick *sob*

So I listened. And promptly made some mac n cheese and green tea and headed for the blanket cave to embrace the minimal arm movements I use for work and for writing here.

And this handy-dandy “no” thing doesn’t just apply to seeing friends! My goodness– these “no”s apply to *EVERYTHING!*

It’s 2019, I’m trying to start new, and make micro improvements to my lifestyle.

I picked 3 to concentrate on this morning [bold, I know!] and they were, essentially, 3 little “no’s”:

No to coffee, yes to water. The first of those micro-improvements was waking up and immediately downing a glass of water. Sometimes my desire path is quite literally down the stairs and to the coffee, without the notion that maybe, just maybe, that’s not what I actually *need* right now.

No to notifications, yes to waking up more mindfully. The second of those micro-improvements happened the night before, actually, and I honestly *need* to keep doing this– I set my phone to airplane mode **NOTE: NOT “DO-NOT-DISTURB”, I repeat, not that little moon setting that’s so handy when you want to ignore people lol]  The reason why is because I use my phone as my alarm… [I’m actually thinking of going back to my old-school alarm clock with actual buttons and dust on the unnecessary sound ridges atop the faux wood casing] …and I wake up and I shut it off and I am immediately aware and flooded with notifications.

Like ugh it’s like rush-hour just seized my brain and I can’t enjoy those blissful moments of removing myself from sleep. I also have this really bad habit of scrolling, mindlessly and like the wind through Instagram [*addict right here, raises hand*], and lingering for *far* too long, and then proceeding to do that Social Media bounce between apps to catch up on what pretty much is non-existent because most of my pals were sleeping.

No to “checking in” and working right away, yes to observing my breathing and bringing back my wandering thoughts. The third micro-improvement I tried today included a brief bout of mediation. Last night, I woke up randomly at 3am because I had crested over into being feverish and then decided to take medicine and then I think the medicine was doing weird things…..so I decided to read. [Can you guess my book of choice? LOLOL] In said book *coughTheProductivityProject* , Chris writes about how focusing on your breathing for a certain period of time can do *wonders* for strengthening your “attention-muscle”.

So I woke up [to no new notifications! #orgasm], drank a whole thing of water, stretched, and sat on my bed to breathe for 5 mins. [I think I may revise this to doing it in the middle of my working hours, cuz I realized at the end it seemed kind of silly to go from a really relaxed state [sleep] to another. Noted for tomorrow, I guess. [; ]

Being disconnected, away from the urges to check and reply […and check and reply again] and wakening my metabolism with the water was such a radical thing in my morning routine, that I remembered it. Lol maybe my memory is just bad but this is yuuuge for me guyyyss okay

But seriously. How often can you not remember your morning before you start your commute and the routine of the day?

For me, it’s definitely something I just hurry through, and then scramble late away from, and forget for the rest of the day.

So this? This feels nice.

Until after airplane mode,

xx

 

 

for the grads.

This is a stereotypical graduation post, I know.

Two of my siblings walked the stage today, and I couldn’t be more proud. It was weird being back in my high school, even weirder to be back in that ceremony. But wow, what an experience. To be on the other side, to see all of these high school seniors bright-eyed, looking forward to their summer before they start college and knowing they’ll do incredible things. I also learned a bit about myself today.

The faculty speaker at the graduation, a dude very near and dear to my heart, had some of the best words [well, more like ideas/concepts] of the whole ceremony, and I just have to put them here because they were so important, in addition to some words of my own. Being at the ceremony made me aware of so much– from my personal growth since sitting there in a cap and gown, to the acknowledgement of the growth that I know I have yet to happen.

So here’s a list of random things that I want to pass along to all those who are continuing on their journey, whether that’s jumping straight into the business world, taking a bit of a life-pause, or continuing on to college.

Remember these “inequalities of life”. [I’m pulling right from the speech of the beloved faculty speaker I mentioned earlier, here]:

EXPERIENCES > POSESSIONS
TIME > MONEY
OTHER > SELF

Fact of the matter is, all of things that are “less than” are not the things we’ll be missing when we look back on our lifetime, when we make the judgement and the statements of regret. So the gift of your time [for yourself or for others], the respect and care for others, and the memories you make are all going to be superior to any tangible thing you could ever want.

You will never regret being kind. If you have the opportunity, take it. Also, there is a difference between being nice and being kind. Flashing a fake smile is an illusion of kindness; sitting with someone, talking to them and going the extra mile is not only the better way to build connections, it’s more fulfilling.

Do your best to value sleep. If your sleep habits are reasonably good, a lot of other ones will fall into place. You need sleep to function.

Take time to self-reflect. For me, this means writing here. This means keeping a journal, this means reading other things. Often. All of these help me get back on track, whenever I feel as if I’ve gone off of the rails of who I am, or who I used to be.

Turn off your phone sometimes. Being behind a screen all day is more insidious than you’d think. Take a break, go for a walk, or a run, or pick up a book or call someone up [do people even call other people nowadays?] NOT on speakerphone, so you can’t be tempted to multitask while building friendship connections.

Do your best to fail productively. No one likes failure, no one likes rejection, no one likes disapproval. But if you know how to take those things, look at them objectively and see where the wheels came off and even more importantly, look at it from a “what did I gain from this?” perspective, it’ll be a lot more easy-going.

Build tiny routines into your week. That way, when everything feels like it’s falling apart coughespeciallyduringmidtermsfinalsweekcough   , you at least know you can expect to be doing some small things as scheduled, such as making your bed, writing/reading every night before bed, starting the morning with a stretch and/or a prayer, etc.

Drink water. Lots of it. End of story.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. This was mentioned the graduation speech today, but it’s also something I’ve held onto for a really long time that I was reminded of today. Embrace the quirks, the imperfections, and know that it’s okay to be human sometimes. There’s times and places to be serious, like in your work and at funerals. But sometimes, it’s just necessary to be goofy, to fail often, and look at yourself in an honest, candid, not-too-harsh light.

Consume carefully. Be an intelligent consumer. Be thrifty, have a budget. It’ll save you SO much stress and uncertainty down the road. And that’s just for shopping. I also mean be a careful consumer of media. Be reluctant to trust things until you’ve looked at multiple sources. Be wary of the terms and agreements [read them through before checking yes!!]. Consume consciously. Aka don’t fall into auto-pilot mode and scroll for eternity– be mindful about what you’re looking for and consider why you may be looking for those things. AND. In the realm of alcohol… just remember that you have a choice, and that consequences will kick in the moment that drink touches your lips, and you have to be willing to accept those.

Do not rely solely on others for your happiness. This is something that I have struggled with [and continue to struggle with] for a long time. Whether it’s friends, a relationship, or some other source of something– the fact is, if there is unhappiness rooted deep within you, chances are it needs to be addressed where it is–deep within you, in areas you wouldn’t think to look in, in areas that instinct and desire for comfort tells you to avoid. Which brings me to the next one…

Embrace the uncomfortable. Before I left school for the summer, I saw a TEDTalk about how we should be striving to immerse ourselves [when we can] in the unfamiliar, to explore what is different from is. This is how we learn. This is how we find similarities amidst differences we thought we couldn’t see past. This is how we bridge the gaps. Try saying “yes” to things that [situationally] make you uncomfortable. I’m not saying abandon your morals or sacrifice your safety– I mean more along the lines of engaging in [perhaps] challenging civil discourse, making the first move to befriend someone, going to a club or organization meeting just to try it. Whatever you do, there’s something to learn from it.

Take pride in all you do, and don’t be afraid to be a “try-hard”. Trying hard doesn’t have to mean you’re a nerdy show-off. No, in fact, just the opposite. It means that you quietly show up, you get ready for success every day because you did your best to prepare, put your best effort forth, you do your best to meet in the middle, and have confidence in your skill.

Keep up with at least 1 of your passions on the side. Gives you something to look forward to on a weekly basis, as well as a safe space to learn and grow, and further figure out what your interests are.

Speak up when your gut tells you you need to. That’s the only way we’re going to beat an insidious indifference, looming hatred, and other nonsensical injustice.

Whole-ass everything. Your homework. Your friendships. Your art. Your instrument. Your practice. Your relationships. Things change, people change, sometimes it ends in heartbreak but embrace the risk. Embracing the risk in the first place is what catapults you into learning about yourself.

Befriend vulnerability. Whatever that means to you– breaking the small-talk routines and injecting a bit of yourself into daily discourse, admitting from time to time that no, you’re not “fine”, or not being afraid to tell someone how you feel. This one was/is a big one for me. You don’t have to be “on” all of the time, and sometimes it’s great to just be alone with your thoughts and your truth, even if it’s far from “perfect”. Perfection is a myth, anyway.

TALK IT OUT. I’m thinking more in the realm of relationships here… but. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Letting them in on your uncertainty, your doubts, your fears, your desires, whatever it may be– it’s those often difficult conversations that are going to bridge the gap between separate understandings, separate truths– and it’s ultimately what paved the way for authentic friendships.

…And LISTEN even harder. Good, active listening means immersing yourself in the words of another as they’re saying them, empathizing and showing you care. It’s harder than it looks. But it’s so much better than rapid-firing retorts back and forth and using the other person’s speech as planning time for what you’re going to say right back to the person. Also always be willing to practice this.

Have hope, and dwell in gratitude often. “When life closes a door, God opens a window.” I have never experienced this more than I have in the past year, I’m pretty sure. There’s always a way, there’s always something to look forward to, even if it seems a bit far in the distance or non-existent. Having faith is key. So being able to sit down and look around at what you have and realize that it’s enough, that you’ve been blessed with so much already that you need to put the breaks on chasing unnecessary desires, is a really, really important tool to have.

I could probably go on and on but the truth is I’m still learning how to implement these more fully myself, and I have so much to learn in the meantime.

But for now, just focus on being you and staying true to what you know you want.

xx

//re-boot: how to be *actually* productive

I did it. I can’t deny it.

I think I actually hit rock bottom a day ago.

In one of my last posts I talked about how run-down I felt. I had no energy, I felt disgusting [just in time for #nationaldoughnutday, lol], and I was mentally exhausted. The next morning, I realized something had to change. So I set out on a mission to re-fuel, re-energize, and re-orient myself for the day, taking in all of the “productivity” hacks I’ve collected throughout the years and just try to set out and do what I needed to do.

One of my all-time favourite books, The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey [I can’t praise this book highly enough], notes that productivity is not a measure of how we can get the most done, but rather, how much we can get done that we actually set out to do in the first place. 

So I made a list.

I had to babysit that day, so that would take up a fair amount of my time. But while the amazing baby was sleeping, I sat down and pressed “go” on a bunch of buttons I’d been waiting around to push.

I know there’s TONS of productivity tips out there– it’s almost overwhelming, and sometimes it’s almost too easy to get lost in just reading about all this productivity instead of actually doing something about it! So. Without further ado, these, I find, are my favourite tips that I’ve been able to put into practice successfully, and will continue to do today because boyyyy do I have a lot of work to catch up on!

//MAKE A LIST. A realistic one. Before you set out to do what you wanna do, make a list. From what I’ve read, it’s recommended that you only have 5 things on the list– this is so you don’t get overwhelmed by a list that’s longer than your arm. It’s okay to take baby steps. Remember, productivity is all about getting done what you set out to do. And checking off 5 reasonable tasks is a whole lot easier than attempting 10 bigger ones. That being said, if you finish all 5, make another 5-item list, and keep chuggin, man!

// TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Or at least put it on “Do Not Disturb”. I like to put mine off, or on do not disturb across the room from me, so I’m not tempted. All that buzzing and notification noise for who last liked my Instagram post is just going to derail the productivity train.

//GET COMFORTABLE. This includes settling into a comfortable chair, bed, etc. Also do not forget the importance of good posture and hand position [especially when your work often involves your hands slaving over a keyboard, like mine does!] It’s a lot easier to focus once you know you’re physically well taken care of and you’ll be able to stay at it a lot easier.

//DRINK WATER. All day, preferably. Have it next to you and sip often. Your brain needs it to function. As I type, I’m drinking coffee. You can also drink coffee, don’t get me wrong! I am a coffee lover from way back but always make sure to sandwich the coffee break with a water break!

//SLEEP. I feel a bit like a hypocrite because I only JUST got my sleep back on schedule. I’ve been trying to go to bed between 11:30pm and 12am and wake up at 8:30AM so I know I’ve gotten my 8 hours. Honestly though, it’s such an overlooked part of productivity and general wellness. I used to be that person who bragged about “I was up til 4am finishing this blah blah blah”. Yeah, well I also conveniently forgot to include the part about being so sluggish and down-and-out the next day…

 //MUSIC. This one’s a bit of a hit-or-miss for me– some days I’m feeling it, sometimes I’m not. But when I AM FEELING IT NOW MR. KRABS   am feeling it, I try to stick to something that I can have passively play in the background. Unfortunately, this rules out discovery playlists on Spotify, unfamiliar songs, and stuff that’s super lyric-heavy. I can do classical music [that’s gotten me through MANY finals studying sessions!] and I can do some music with lyrics as long as it’s stuff I’m familiar with and can kind of tune out easily. Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE proponent of active listening, especially because I love being mindful about what is going into my ears but sometimes I just need noise. And, if music’s not your thing, no problem! There’s this nifty site called “Coffitivity” that literally just lets you play background noises/buzz from inside a coffee shop. Pretty awesome, right?

//EXERCISE! The first thing I did when I woke up besides getting dressed? I went for a run. After being almost a week out of commission I decided I needed to be active and pronto. I finished about 3.11 miles and felt deliciously sore afterwards, and didn’t feel my usual afternoon-sluggishness later! It’s really true what they say, that baffling mystery about how exercising actually gives you more energy. Weird. Gonna keep doing this one, even if I only go for a brisk walk or do some pushups in my room. Anything that gets the blood pumping is worth it.

//TAKE BREAKS. Oof, I’m low-key the worst at this one because I: A) forget to plan breaks into my work regimen OR B) take my breaks for faaaaaaaaaarrr too long lol this post was supposed to happen during a break and it’s taking me a bit longer than expected but it’s fine cuz this is truth that needs to be SPOKEN amirite? But honestly, it’s a lot easier to sit down and focus your mind when you know you’ve got a break coming up wherein you can satisfy your cravings. My breaks include eating sourpatch, doing personal things [like blogging or educating myself on the importance of SEO, taking a sketch/design break, getting a real food snack, a nap, stretching, etc.] ALSO IMPORTANT: give your hands a break. Right now, I can feel my left wrist is a bit tense from typing this post so intensely! Be kind to your hands and give them a break as well when you take a break.

It’s hard because I’m really stubborn and often have to try things before I realize their value, but these are the things that I find help me the most and my productivity throughout my work day, and I hope they do the same for you! I challenge you to try at least one of these [the water one is definitely probably my recommendation (; ] today and see what happens. Or you could also take a break and go order The Productivity Project off Amazon for like, $12. 

Happy productive-ing!

xx