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With the wind at your back

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Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

 

Do you ever have those days where you look at your to-do list and your whole being just yells no?

“#1: No….#2: Noooo….#3: That’s a no…#4: HELL NO….#5: Not today cuz no….”

I have those days, a LOT. I have days where I can barely do anything productive at all, and days where I have just enough energy to do the bare minimum, or days when certain categories seem fine but others not – so I’ll clean my entire house but won’t be able to look at the emails I have to reply to.

Some days I’m fine with this, with no guilt whatsoever. But most of the time I’ll have to wrestle with at least some guilt or frustration that I can’t just muster up the mojo to get all the things done. Especially when I have a few days like these in a row – I start to think “all this will never get done in time – I’ll never ever get to these gross things on my to-do list, ever”.

My first reaction is to try and force myself to do it. Sometimes a little bargaining works – “just do this one small thing AT LEAST – then you can at least say you did SOMETHING today”. But sometimes my desire to ignore my to-do list is like an elephant, and I’m trying to just pick up one leg and move it an inch forward with no luck.

Then my whole day is about this battle, and how I’m failing, and I’m such a lazy person, etc. etc.

But, around this time last year, I started making a big effort to cut out the guilt. And it’s been working out great. I still have to take a moment and talk myself through it, but I am so much better at letting things like this go now. I also trust more in a pattern I know that I have – where I can put things off for a long time, to a point where it seems like disaster is just around the corner, but then have one super productive day and wipe it all out in one sitting.

My sister and I have tried to remind each other of this cycle over the years – we’ll call the other person and we’ll be convinced that this is our life now and we’ll never get anything done ever again. The other will bring up how we always come through eventually with a super productive streak, and there is just no use in worrying. Thank god for sisters.

We’ve both gotten better at trusting this cycle, but we’ve never had a name for it. Then the other day Mary goes “I just have to wait for the wind to be at my back, yunno?”

It was the perfect way to describe it. Everyone is different, but I know that for us, we will just make ourselves miserable if we try to do things before we are ready. Of course we can meet deadlines and all that, but when it comes to that boring adulting stuff, or work stuff that doesn’t have a deadline but you want off your list, etc. – if we try to get all that done on a day where it feels like a battle, then we’re just wasting a day. Our bodies and minds are telling us it needs to rest, even if it seems to make no sense to us. Regardless of the reason, it’s best to (as my sister said) “just chill in the boat and have a margarita”. When the wind comes back, things will be SO much easier, and you’ll go so much farther with a lot less effort than if you tried to move yesterday.

And isn’t that just more efficient? I know that eventually I will have one of those days where I wake up just READY to kick some ass. And I always surprise myself on those days with how much I can get done and how many names I can take.

Today is not one of those days. But today, I’m trusting what my past has proved to me – that eventually I WILL make those doctor appointments, or write that blog post, or finally clean the shower… No use in trying to move mountains when it will just make me cranky.

Wanna have a margarita with me while I wait?

 

 

I’m back!

FINALLY! The blog has been down for a couple of months, but after multiple support calls and breathing exercises, I finally got MM back up and running!

I missed you guys. And I want to catch up! So I thought I would just give an update of what’s going on and what I’ve been up to lately…

First off, Anthony got a job! Yay. We were pretty concerned like, a week before he got it – we were hoping we wouldn’t have to move to where there were more opportunities. But luckily, we are staying put. And after the idea of leaving was a real thing, I’ve been so into Santa Barbara – I’m falling in love with our place and our city all over again.

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I am re-watching my favorite show, Buffy. This is amazing for a few reasons – one, I haven’t rewatched the series since I was probably in high school, so I have a less black-and-white view of the whole thing, and can appreciate some of the nuances a bit more – plus catch on to the obvious metaphors a lot quicker. Second, it keeps me totally entertained while Anthony is gone at work in the evenings. And the best part – 90s and early 2000s fashion. Which is now… now fashion. This article pretty much sums up the hilarity and fascination.

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I’m getting pumped for Halloween! Here’s what I’m thinking for my costume:

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(P.S. I don’t get this double image thing… I’m not hip.)

So basically I’m going to be a 90s robber………

Still need ideas for a costume? Check out this post or my Halloween Pinterest board.

If you already have your costume picked out, what are you gonna be??? I would love to hear in the comments!

I hope everyone is having a fantastic fall season so far, and I’m so glad to be back on your phones and computers, chattin it up again! <3

5 ways to instantly become more organized

 

I am addicted to get-organized-quick schemes. When I’m not busy at work, my favorite thing to do is watch webinars on how to best use my iPhone, Outlook, and other tools to be the most productive and organized person in the world that I can be.

After a couple of these webinars, advice from other people, and trying out different things, I found some really helpful tricks that have improved how I do things in my professional and personal life. Now I feel like things don’t fall through the cracks and I can keep up on all my random to-dos – the only thing left is finding the energy to do them….

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1.Turn off email notifications.

This was a huge one for me. I use Outlook at work, and the majority of the time I’m not so busy that I can’t stop for a second to answer an email, or even just scan the subject line of a new email that would pop up at the corner of my screen. I never thought the notifications were a big deal or that they interrupted anything.

Then I was listening to a webinar and they said to shut it off, and cited studies and all sorts of convincing shit that made me do it. I honestly didn’t think it would make that much of a difference, but it has.

Here’s why: even if the email is not in any way important, I will stop whatever (actually important) thing I’m doing to read it. It was so distracting, and I didn’t even realize it until it was gone. Now, when I start working on a project, I can actually get something done. Even if a super important email comes in while I’m working, can’t it wait 30 minutes to an hour? If it is that urgent, the person in need can just pick up the phone and call me. I’m telling you, it is so much nicer to go into my inbox after completely focusing on a project and seeing 5 emails, rather than checking each one as they come in and feeling like my brain is in 5 places at once.

I never turned my email notifications on on my phone, but it sounds like an awful idea, for the record. I have been hanging out with friends, drinking beers, when their phone makes a noise and all of a sudden they’re depressed because they got a stressful or drama-inducing email and now we’re all bummed.

I say, turn it off! You’ll start spending actual focused time on what you are doing right now, and your time will start to feel like your time, not someone else’s to do what they want with.

2. Set up email folders.

I mean, duh. But – I learned a system from a webinar distributed at work that has saved me from stressing out or losing track of important things during days when I felt like I had 324,785 things to do. I wish I could credit the correct person for this system, but it was months ago! If anyone thinks this looks familiar and knows the origin, please let me know – but it is too good not to share.

Here is how I have it set up:

 

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Seems a little complicated, but I promise it’s not! Let’s start at the top.

  • Inbox

This is only for incoming messages. Weird concept, right? I used to just work out of my inbox entirely and only put things in folders that I was saving for the future. But using this system, the inbox only shows you things you haven’t dealt with yet. Then, once you’ve dealt with everything (not finished everything, but allocated everything to its appropriate place in your folders) your inbox will be empty. It’s a marvelous feeling.

  • Today

These are things you need to deal with today. This is great for when you come in in the morning to a shit ton of emails in your inbox and you just need to go through everything to figure out what is urgent, what isn’t, if any fires are burning the place down, etc. If something needs to be done today, you put it in that folder and make sure everything in there is finished by the time you leave. Simple.

  • Tomorrow

Same deal. Except when you come in the next day, or maybe right before you leave, you shift your tomorrow stuff to today. Sounds like something you’ll forget to do, right? But just try if it sounds like something that could help you – it is way more intuitive than I thought it would be.

  • This week

This is great for having a reminder email in there to just keep up with a project, stay in touch with someone, etc – but it doesn’t have to have a specific deadline.

  • Next week

Same deal. When you come in on Monday, or before you leave Friday, you update your folders. See below on how I never forget to do that with my Monday calendar event.

  • Waiting For

THIS IS HUGE. This, my friends, is how I become a magical sorceress who never – I mean, never – lets anything slip through the cracks. Here’s how it works – you reply to someone asking a question, or you email someone needing something in return. After you send it, go to your send folder, and plop that baby in Waiting For. Then, you can regularly check back and follow up with people if they don’t get back to you. When someone gets back to you, you delete it from the folder. (If you are in Outlook, make sure to sort your messages by conversation so everything stays together – that way, it’s easy to see that someone got back to you even when you’re only looking in the Waiting For folder – their reply will be right there with your request.) This is great for covering your ass – you have proof right there that you were waiting on someone else, and you can politely follow up with them in a reasonable time frame so things can get resolved. I am absolutely obsessed with this one – if you do nothing else that I say in this post, but you want to try one thing, do this.

Then I have just helpful folders below – that RANDY/KAREN folder is titled “RANDY/KAREN NO ACTION” (I put it in all caps so it stands out from the other system/default folders). Randy and Karen are colleagues I work with, and they cc me on a lot of stuff that I sometimes need to do nothing about. So I put them in here, so I have them on hand when they bring it up, but it isn’t clogging up my inbox or to-do folders.

The other ones are just helpful folders to save emails that describe processes I need to follow, or a place to put emails relating to the systems we use, etc. The only other one I want to touch on is the Yay Me folder. This is great for work emails – you throw in any email where someone is like, “Hey, you organized-as-hell sorceress, you are amazing at your job and I really appreciate that hard thing you did for me today via email” into this folder. Then when you’re having a bad day, or you are trying to get the nerve up to ask for a raise, or whatever, you look at this stuff and you’re like “How did I forget for one SECOND how amazing I am”. I love it.

3. Set up calendar appointments to start your week off right.

To be honest, I need to do this with my personal life – sit down every Sunday with Anthony and look at the week ahead – decide when we will go grocery shopping, when he has rehearsals, etc. The only headway I’ve made here is getting a joint Google calendar on our phones so we don’t double-book ourselves and nothing sneaks up on us (Anthony’s idea). But the last thing I want to do on a Sunday is sit down and talk about the upcoming week, so this is a work in progress.

But the system that I have grown to love and use consistently is the calendar appointment I make for myself on Monday mornings for work. I’ve actually stuck with this one, and it helps me feel more prepared for the week ahead, and less like I’m being shot out of a cannon.

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It gets those email folders taken care of and updated, plus if I have any early meetings that week I can make sure to pay attention and re-set my alarm so I don’t sleep through it.

4. Get Evernote (or something like it)

This just keeps everything in my brain in one place. Little notes, phone numbers, email responses I can copy/paste that I send a lot, blog post ideas, instructions, you name it. I use it on my phone and it syncs to my desktop. It’s simple but can hold a ton of information that doesn’t end up getting lost or forgotten – and everything is searchable. Thank god.

5. Get Wunderlist (or something like it)

I was using Todoist for a while, and then tried Wunderlist after hearing everyone highly recommending it. I just like it. I think I switched because Todoist didn’t have the capability to share lists, which was essential because I want Anthony and I to be able to both add things and check them off. Now I share a grocery list and chores list with Anthony, plus all my other lists are in the same place. There is a desktop and mobile version, and you can set up ongoing reminders for tasks, which I couldn’t figure out how to do in Todoist – that’s huge for me since I need weekly and daily reminders (mostly to not kill my plants).

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Alright ya’ll – you now have my secret weapons. Go forth into a more organized life – one with more time for beer and friends. :)

 

What are your secret weapons for staying organized?

 

 

Don’t talk it down

 

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I was talking to Emily the other day, and she was saying how much she is enjoying her job lately – she works at a little art gallery in Capitola Village, right by the beach near our hometown. The funny thing is, it took her a while to fully embrace it.

She said when she first started there, she kept thinking, “This is only temporary, it’s just a little job while I figure out what my Grown Up Job will be, or what I want to do with my life.” Then, when anyone asked what she did, she would tell them through that lens – “It’s not a forever thing, I’m working there while I look into other career paths and figure out what I want to do.”

Then, one day, she’s working in the gallery, and she just has a moment of happiness and fulfillment. She loves it there. She loves her job. She loves being by the beach and close to her home. Then she thought: Why do I keep acting like this amazing job is only temporary? The more she thought about it, the more she realized how it was perfect for her – she has an art degree and an eye for design and new trends – she’s great at sales and has sales experience – she has a flexible schedule in a beautiful town where it can be hard to find a job… There is nothing wrong with this picture.

Even if she had another job that didn’t line up with her background the way this one does, the bottom line is – if it makes her happy, that’s all that matters. Period.

Now, since she had this shift in how she viewed it, when she tells people about her job they react totally differently.

“What do you do?’

“I work in an art gallery in Capitola Village – I get to use my art degree and see the most amazing local pieces, and it’s just down the road from my house and across the street from the beach – I love it.”

People are all of a sudden walking away thinking, wow Emily has such a cool life! Rather than, well, Emily is still in a transition period right now, I hope she finds what she wants to do. Not that it matters what people think, but it makes Emily feel better to not talk her situation down, and people have a real picture of what’s actually going on. She liked her job this whole time, but realized she had this weird perspective on it for some reason. Once she allowed herself to love it because she loves it, not because of what it might mean on paper or compared to some Pinterest article, everything changed. Why can’t this job be a forever thing? Why act like you haven’t “made it”, when in reality, you have?

 

I had the same experience. When I moved to Santa Barbara, I figured I would work as a receptionist in a dentist’s office or something – I just wanted to live here. I had no idea there was a tech community, or that I would ever enjoy working in that world. Now I’ve been working in the industry for about 3 years, and I really like my job. However, since I got a master’s in sociology, it feels like a failure somehow to be working outside of what I went to school for, especially since I’m passionate about that subject. But I’m also passionate about living in Santa Barbara and having my own apartment and visiting family and friends. That’s what my job allows me to do, while challenging me and showing me new skills I didn’t know I had.

It took a long time for me to allow myself to be happy where I am in my career. I still have moments where I think, what the hell am I doing here? But most of the time I feel really lucky and accomplished.

Talking to Emily was a great reminder – what we say about ourselves affects how we feel about ourselves – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s important to focus on where we are now and if it is making us happy, and to not judge our life by some standard that isn’t even important to us. What is more important to me – having a fancy title and making a certain amount per year, or having a flexible schedule, an amazing boss, and great benefits? It’s hard to remember to compare things with my own priorities, not someone else’s. Once I look at what I have accomplished and how it is making me feel, things start feeling better and better. I just need to allow myself to appreciate it, and not get sucked into a narrative (“work shouldn’t feel like work”; “if you’re not doing what you love, quit now”).

I recently went home to visit my family, and went with a couple of childhood friends to a local dive bar in town to catch up. I (of course) ran into a bunch of people from our graduating class that I haven’t seen in almost a decade – it was crazy.

I was chatting with one guy and he asked what I did. I said “I live in Santa Barbara and work at a tech company. I don’t know why I work in the tech industry, but I do! Haha!” (I may have had a beer or two.)

I have a hard time with being self-deprecating, so my knee-jerk reaction was to be like, “My job is so random, right?” instead of remembering how great it is.

His reaction was like, “Oh, bummer” basically. I was like, wait. Stop it. My job is awesome.

Then I remembered my conversation with Emily while I talked with someone else. They asked what I did. “I work in Santa Barbara at a software company. It’s pretty awesome – I get to travel sometimes and I really like it.” Totally different conversation – same job.

Isn’t it weird how we can sabotage ourselves? I need constant reminders.

So here is my challenge to both of us – don’t talk your shit down. Don’t be an asshole either, and brag all night about your life, but be truthful! If it makes you happy, it makes you happy! If it doesn’t, say that too – but don’t rob yourself of a good moment for no reason. Let’s start measuring our success on our own terms, and by what makes us happy – not what we think we should be doing.

 

Does this happen to you too? Maybe with another category of life? I would love to hear from other self-deprecators!

 

 

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