No More Notifications

Apparently, I’m one of the last people to do this, but this past week I removed all of the notification dots from my iphone. It has been amazing. The week before, I stopped all notifications from popping up on my locked screen or when I was using the phone. I didn’t really think about the dots when I made the initial adjustment, so it was a kind of baby stepping withdrawal, and it feet so good that I just kept going.

What made me want to do this was that as social media was such a large part of my day work wise, it was getting harder than ever to feel like I was not being constantly interrupted. I was feeling bombarded with work, news and mostly, a whole lot of spam at all times and add to that a stream of ig likes and comments scrolling through my screen, I felt like I was drowning trying to keep up with staying on top of this and all the usual work.

When I finally reached the point where I was close to panicking every time a message notification came though because I felt I had to answer NOW (I will say that FB biz pages constantly rating your page based on response time is largely at fault for this), I was at my breaking point. I was feeling like I was getting nothing done, and was irritable at constantly being interrupted. I was beginning to resent everything I was stopping work to do and was in a constant state of irritation.

So I did two things. I closed my email on my computer and shut off all notifications on my phone, requiring that I open an app to see if there are notifications (except phone calls and texts, which still pop up, soundlessly). I also stopped reading my email when I first wake up. I do my morning routine, and then I sit down at my desk with time to answer anything I need to get to. I close everything and a few hours later, open the email to check it.

Doing these two small changes has made a world of difference in my mental state and my productivity. I felt calmer within hours of the red dots going away and I no longer stop work to stare at a spam email that i just delete. Of course, I also can absolutely still obsessively check things if I’m in the mood, I simply have to open the app.

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Don’t Break The Chain

I don’t always know what I plan on writing when I sit down to write. This makes me not want to write, but it’s not enough of a reason not to. This is also most likely how I end up letting weeks go by without ever even logging in to this blog. Although to be honest sometimes I don’t have enough time to actually sit down and write and sometimes I’m not physically in the studio to sit down to write. But most of the time it’s simply the lame excuse that I don’t know what to write. I even keep lists of topics and drafts of post ideas that come to me when I don’t have time to write, just time to jot down notes or a sentence in my phone, and still, most of the time I just move onto to something else and decide that I’ll do it later. I got really tired of later never coming though and frustrated with days and weeks going by without writing anything.

So at the end of the year I was looking back on what I did over the past months and of course I started thinking about goals, and what I’m good at and what I like to do. You know what was on all three of those lists? Writing. You know what I did the least of in 2016? Write. So I started working on changing this. Writing more both privately and publicly. I’ll admit that I’ve been doing a lovely job of it and part of that is because unless I’m not actually near my computer at all on a given day, I sit down, set a timer for 60 minutes and start writing. I do this twice in the morning; once with the Manic Trout blog and once here. I aim for 1000 words on each. I enjoy both spaces for what they are as the Manic Trout blog is much more research driven, and jewelry and style related. In this space, I get to write what ever I’m feeling that day, which is actually why I think it’s harder to sometimes thing of things.

These two blocks of time are a priority to my schedule and what I do first thing in the day after my morning routine which includes writing my daily morning pages. Morning pages are a concept that many writers and non writers alike use to sort of journal a few pages of longhand about whatever pops into your head. I aim for two pages of anything that’s on my mind; what I was proud of the day before, what I’m excited about that day, what I want to do better today, what I grateful for, even progress reports to myself. I follow this with one page of my plans for the day and how I see it playing out. It’s a great activity to both jump start my day and get my creativity flowing.

What I find interesting is that because I started writing first thing to make it a priority, I discovered by mistake that I write much better early in the day. I was pretty surprised to realize this as I am actually really strong at doing other creative tasks, like designing and making jewelry in the evening and late at night. For a long time, I had in my head that I needed to write blog posts at night for the next day, assuming that I would be able to write better at that time. I always though that I was never writing these because of time, or other things that got in the way, but really it’s just not the time of day when my brain writes well. So this whole exercise and schedule has been working really well so far. I however still often have no idea what to write about.

This is why I usually blog for Manic Trout first. That space has more of a scheduled theme and as I typically research a topic and write about it, it feels easier than pulling things out of my brain. This also means that I have a sort of double warm up before I get here. If I have no idea what to write, even after thinking about it while going though the morning, I’ll write the title, look over my prompts, maybe google a question I have in my head. This will usually strike a chord, even it has nothing to do with what I started writing, what I searched or what the title was. But no matter what, even if I still feel like I have nothing to say, I set my timer, open a blank post and write. Typically, as I’m already warmed up, if I just start typing, the words begin flowing on their own at that point and then after a bit I slow down, review what I wrote, remove the weird tangents and edit. I realize in amazement that there was a blog post in me, even if I didn’t know it yet when I began.

The biggest lesson that I learned in art school was to approach being creative like any other job. You sit down and do it, day after day. No matter what mood you’re in, if you feel uninspired, happy, angry, depressed, whatever, you sit down and write. One of my favorite quotes about this is from Jerry Seinfeld, who has always said that to be a productive writer, you have to wrote every day. His recommends marking an x on the calendar for every day that you write and what ever you do, “Don’t Break The Chain”. The chain concept has become a thing in productivity but it’s incredibly motivating in itself if you are a visual learner. It’s also an incredibly logical lesson, as to be good at something creative, you need a bit of natural ability sure, but for the most part you just have to practice. To do it over and over, day in and day out. Without the daily practice, you will never improve and become great. So do the work, every day. Don’t break the chain.

I have been using the chain with the morning pages for a few weeks so far. My chain has not broken. It usually warms me up and makes me jump right into the blogs, which is great as the blogs are hopefully something that can both get done 5 days a week. As I said, writing is the one thing in my life that is large part in more than one of my long term goals, that I’m good and that I enjoy. I am only hurting myself if I break the chain.

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Top 5 Things Right Now

I’m pretty sure that the more random theses lists are, the more I enjoy them. This one is all over the place, but I really love everything on it. Each item on this list also proves that it’s the little things, and the that the sum of a bunch of little things can make a big impact. What I mean is that it’s not really the item that has made a difference, but the constant use and what it represents. Although I did actually need most of these to do the thing, it’s not the thing that is so great, but what the repetitive action with every single one of these results in. As Chris from Northern Exposure philosophically pointed out in one of my all time favorite quotes: “It is not the thing you fling, but the fling itself.”.

1. The app Productive – I finally started taking turmeric pills much to the satisfaction of my mom, who swears by it for joint pain. She was right, my hip feels much better when I take it, but I keep forgetting to take it. I found this app on a list a month or so ago and started using it as a reminder, it’s free to use for up to 5 habits, and it has really helped! At this rate, I might just be able to run again soon.

2. My Morning Routine – It started off innocently enough. I found myself wanting to make sure that I was doing the things that made my day feel productive even on the days when I had to leave the studio to work at the tv station. I found myself getting up early enough to make sure certain routines were being done and it made a big difference. Then I started to add more things that would make my day better, such as writing morning pages and visualizing my day. I have been tweaking it here and there, adding and removing things to find my ideal routine, I’m really into the act of it. The biggest change in how my day went started when I stopped beginning my day by reading emails in bed. I now do my routine and then sit down at my desk and open the email after everything else is done. It really doesn’t matter that the first email reading of the day has been pushed 45 minutes to anyone but me, and to me, it has made a huge impact. I plan on going into this more in the next few weeks on the blog, so keep an eye out if it interests you.

3. Hard boiled eggs – These are up there on the list of things that make my life so much better when they exist, but are oddly something that I avoid doing. I prepare a dozen at once and eat one during my morning routine as are the perfect amount of food to start my day. In general, I have a problem eating enough protein, and eggs are such a great source of it, so it’s no brainer to have them readily available and easy to eat. I really need to get better at making the next batch as soon as I eat the last egg. I do buy them, I just slack on cooking them.

4. Auto transfers – This is one of those really obvious things that I had sort of forgotten I could do and it was game changing when I finally did it. I started this a few months ago and was quickly obsessed with the awesomeness of it. I manage our household finances, and every week, Adam and I each contribute x amount to our joint checking account. That account is used for anything household related or for activities that we do together. So things like utility bills, eating out together, travel or home repairs would all be included. Our savings account is attached to it as well. One day as I was transferring money to our savings, I realized that if I set it up to do it automatically, just like how almost all of our bills are paid, the weekly amount would just go there without my ever forgetting or avoiding to move it over. I set it up so the day after we send money from each of our own accounts to the checking account, a set amount goes right to our savings. I even already increased it a little because I realized we wouldn’t miss it if I did it. Every couple of weeks I give Adam a status report of both the checking and savings amounts and the last couple of times, Adam has been shocked that the savings has consistently been growing, even if it’s not by huge amounts, it still has been going up and up. I was really excited too and was yelling “I know, right!?!?!” a lot.

This is not rocket science, it’s basically just paying ourselves first, which BTW, I read yesterday should be the equivalent of one hour of each of your workdays. I haven’t figured out what that would be for each of us, but I aim make sure the amount is at least around there going forward. I also started doing this with things that are paid annually, mostly taxes. I know some people prefer to open multiple accounts to keep things separate but I find that if I just note the amount put aside in my ledger that it works for me. I do this with our property taxes and with income taxes from the tv station as it’s a contract position. For property taxes, I just have it set so the annual amount divided by 12 is taken out each month, and for my self employment taxes, I manually set 25% aside from each check I receive as the amounts differ.

5. Rubber gloves – Another, duh/a-ha!, moment. I have to pay more attention to the condition of my hands and nails now that I have them all front and center on DIY videos. I am brutal on manicures, but am learning and trying to make them last. One thing I do is get the lightest, most natural polish, so you can’t really tell if gets roughed up and the other is that I started wearing rubber gloves when I do dishes (I love to hand wash dishes, its soothing to me). I started this to protect the manicures, but the extreme dryness and skin cracking around my nails has gotten better too. I also can use much hotter water as my hands are protected, so that has to be a good thing sanitation wise. Win win for rubber gloves!

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Do you make resolutions?

I’m not much of a resolution maker these days, but I do I do enjoy using the new year to analyze and regroup a bit. Part of it is that as a business owner, I do this with finances and the various things I track. I have become in the habit of spending the week between Christmas and New Years Day finishing up that year and setting up all of my systems for the year ahead. There are the obvious: closing/starting out planners, calendars, spreadsheets and files and the not so obvious: reviewing my vision, and where I am with short and long term goals. Usually there is an area where I immediately notice, if I had not realized it already, that needs improving. If I have already been aware of the problem area, I try to start in mid December so that I’m feeling the pressure of the resolution setting chaos.

This past year, I gave up all sugar and sweet things on December 19th. This was following a doctors appointment where the cause of some heath issues were not obvious. I overheard the doctor and nurse reviewing my chart and wondering if weight or diet could be a contributor. Although in the end, the problems were completely unrelated to anything I was doing, that one over heard conversation gave me the motivation I needed to get my out of control sugar addiction in check. If there were going to be issues with my health, I refused to let them ever be caused by own self negligence. I got to work immediately and by the time the new year began, I was free from sugar and had dropped the extra weight it had caused. In December, I also started “reclaiming wasted time“, so I could do my favorite thing: read more. Soon, I was reading an extra 4 to 6 books a month. Yesterday I wrote about the business goals I was working on this past year, which were about defining my skills and building my personal brand.  But I also met my goal to not stop working out when I was the busiest so I was not removing my best stress reliever when I needed it the most. I set out to schedule time 5 days a week that I would not cancel on and commit to giving to myself this time to work out. I hit that one out of the park and think the habit has set in pretty well on it now and the results have been amazing. I was so calm during the holiday season that Adam was actually worried about me. These were all areas that I wanted to improve on over the past year and are now just a part of my life. I thankfully don’t have to work on these things anymore, just be mindful that I am continuing them.

So what do I feel are the areas that need to be worked on this year? The first area that needs to be worked on is that I stumbled a bit mentally with my vision and long term goals this past year. As I have been aware of this, I have been spending the last month working on not only defining these, but on shifting my mind set to work towards them. Interestingly, as I spent the past year defining what my skills are, I now see that there are a few things that overlap what I am good at and what I love to do and yet I have not been doing them. How sad is that??? Hint, hint, that is literally being worked on by my typing this! Another area that needs some help is that I am too often just going through the motions of my day. I’m getting things done, but not feeling excited to seize the day or proud of what I have done that day. Not that I am not proud, but I’m not all “best day ever, go me!!” as often as I would like to be. I think part of it is the lack of vision and with that, the lack of long terms plan, so although I’m getting through the to-do list, I’m not really sure that I’m accomplishing things for the big picture. I have already been working on this though, enough that I am now able to analyze it and put into words what I have been feeling and put into action some of what needs to be done to fix it.

So while I am not setting goals, I am already working on areas that need some help. I am making changes, I am researching (it soothes me to have information…knowledge is power and all) and learning from others who have succeeded at overcoming these things. I am slowly making changes, a little at a time until the change sticks and then I change a little more.

On the subject of of resolutions, goals and intentions…I was flipping through my old sketchbook/notebooks that I used to use jot down notes, lists, schedules and inspirations in (mostly pages of crazy long lists) and saw the 2 pages of resolutions I was making every year. I was overwhelmed just looking at it. I also never accomplished much of what was on those 2 pages. I then thought about on the flip side, I have veered to the polar opposite and had no resolutions or intentions some years, just took each day as it came along and acted accordingly. In thinking about both of these mindsets, the only thing I know is that neither of these work for me. I need a nice happy medium of having defined goals along with their manageable breakdowns but still allowing myself to have flexibility in my daily routine and life goals. If there is too much structure and too rigid of a plan, I freak out when something unexpected pops up and also say no to too much. If for example, I was not in the mind space I was in this last year (sort of floundering, not sure where I wanted to be doing), I never would have said yes to the interview with the tv channel. I would have said that it didn’t fit into my schedule and that I no interest in a future as a DIY host. Because I was trying to figure out some things, I thought it sounded like a fun project and why not at least look into it. I was incredibly surprised to realize quickly that it was something that I was naturally really good and at and I love it! They are great about working with my schedule (we basically took December off) and it has energized me in other areas. So finding the sweet spot where I am feeling proud of my work and what I am building, accomplishing growth personally and in business and having the time and energy to take on interesting projects seems to be what I’m aiming for.

What are your resolutions and intentions?

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Top 5 Things Right Now

butfirstcoffee

1. Coffee. This is a love affair that has been going strong for decades, but it’s in a sweet spot right now. It took me most of the year to get used to drinking it black, but I finally stopped missing the sweet taste of sugar. Speaking of which, I’m just shy off 11 months without candy or sugar. How crazy is that???

2. Shameless. I finally got around to watching the US version and love it. Not the most uplifting of shows, but I was hooked after about two episodes. I’m pretty excited that I’m still watching season 6 and there is one currently on Showtime.

3. Queso. This is becoming problematic. I had it twice on Saturday. It’s just so good though and everyone is always up to get it with me!

4. The gym. AKA, the thing that allows me to eat so much queso. Seriously, I have been anti gym for years but love the little community I have become a part of and crave my hour there every week day.

5. Sleep. I still maintain that my allergies are crazy right now and it’s not a cold. Once I fall asleep though, oh it feels so nice and to get out of bed just feels wrong.

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Coloring = Exercise

Photo Aug 29

As you read yesterday, I am having a partial hysterectomy today. My uterus, fallopian tubes and maybe cervix are being removed due to adenomyosis in a laparoscopic robotic assisted surgery. We scheduled the surgery 10 days ago so this week has been a whirlwind of preparation, mostly mentally as I get ready to be limited in what I can do for a bit. My number one concern is when I can work out again as it’s the best way that I deal with stress and what I know will make me feel better the quickest. Unfortunately, even though it will help my brain, my body could end up being on worse shape if I do too much too soon. Scar tissue can form on the internal incisions and I’l have to have another surgery to remove them so there is a big heavy line between what I can do and what I can’t. So far, I’ve talked to three people about this, my doctor who will perform the surgery, the nurse at my pre-op and the nurse in charge of my care at my doctors office and have been receiving more detailed and firm info with each conversation as I try and push the boundaries. The final conversation went something like this:

Sierra: So I should be walking every day for the first two weeks, right?

Nurse: Yes, but by walking we mean very slowly and easy. NO POWER WALKING.

Sierra: Well, I mean, I can work up to that.

Nurse: Ok, now I’m saying three weeks. No power walking for three weeks. When you have no more bleeding you can VERY SLOWLY increase your speed and intensity but not for at least two weeks.

Sierra: Ok, so when can I do more than that?

Nurse: Six weeks.

Sierra: Well that’s just crazy talk. I know I can’t lift weight over 10lbs for six weeks, but what about body resistance?

Nurse: Do we need to go over what happens if you over exert yourself again.

Sierra: No. I understand, I just know I’ll be going crazy and need to know when to expect I can expel the energy again. I like a good plan, it makes me feel better and I’ll calm down if I know what to expect.

Nurse: What do you normally do for exercise?

Sierra: HiiT (High intensity interval training) and Kickboxing, 5 days a week.

Nurse: Ok, you were not exaggerating about liking to workout hard. This is going to be tough for you but you’re not allowed to kickbox for six weeks. You can ask the doctor at your first check up in two weeks about when you’re clear to do body resistance workouts and more than walking. The good news is that you are in great shape, so it will make your recovery much easier and quicker!

Sierra: I’m going to loose my mind.

Nurse: I get it, I really do. I know it sounds crazy, and when my sister suggested it to me when I was out for a month, I told her to shut up. But she sent one to me anyway and it really helped! You need to get a really intricate coloring book and a pack of 50 pencils and when you feel like you’re losing it, find the most complicated page and color your heart out.

Sierra: …

Nurse: I know, I resisted it too, but it really helps!

Sierra: …

Nurse: Good luck, it will go by fast I promise…and get that coloring book!

Sierra:  (silently orders a stupid coloring book because what else can I do?????)

 

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Dear Uterus, You’re Fired.

photo-1427309084144-33d7664eef17

I spent the last week wondering if I should write about this. Do you want to read about my uterus? Am I going way over the limit of TMI with this? But the biggest question won: How many of you are going through this and want to talk about it or know more? Since finally figuring out was causing the issues that I thought were just part of growing older (they sort of are but were not “normal”) I have tentatively and then more openly started talking about it. What I discovered, was that many of my friends were going through something similar and were craving hearing about others experiences as much as I was. Be warned that this may be way more than anyone wants to read, but knowing how much it helped me to read these stories, I’m doing it anyway.

A few years ago, I started experiencing what I assumed was part of reaching my mid 30’s, excruciating pain and bleeding with my period. I couldn’t leave the house for fear that I would profusely bleed through all the barriers I had in place and ruin someone’s furniture. I was getting really good at quickly cleaning mine, but would be mortified if this overflow happened not at home. At one point, I was at the finale night of Austin Fashion Week where my jewelry was on the runway and things didn’t feel right. I went to the ladies room and realized I had flooded through all precautionary barriers and my legs were covered in blood. It was bad and I was in a overly used bathroom with only cheap toilet paper to clean myself up quickly before I had to get back out there. I thanked the stars that I was wearing a dark, longer dress so the blood was not visible, that I had been standing when it happened, that it didn’t ruin my shoes and that the lights were dim out there. Besides the excessive bleeding like that horror story, I was also experiencing cramps that were getting pretty bad, and worse each month. I had passed out and vomited from the pain more than once. I started canceling plans when I had my period with greater frequency and losing days to pain. I would occasionally joke to friends about how much it sucked getting older and having heavier, really gnarly periods and was rarely agreed with, I started to realize that this may not be as normal as I thought it was. Thankfully I kept bringing it up because last December a friend of mine finally asked me what my doctor said about it. I replied that my doctor waved it off as being normal. She gave me the number of a different doctor and suggested I go asap. So I did. And yeah. Not normal. After we spoke and I had an exam, the doctor decided to perform an ultrasound. He confirmed what was suspected: I had a boggy uterus that was 5x the size it should be and all the other signs of adenomyosis. The unfortunate part was that it cannot actually be diagnosed unless the uterus is removed ad biopsied. But as I was experiencing it down to the letter, and started getting symptoms at the age when most women do, there was little doubt to what was going on.

Adenomyosis is basically endometriosis of the uterus. It occurs when endometrial tissue, which normally lines the uterus, exists within and grows into the muscular wall of the uterus. The good news is that it is contained within the uterus itself and therefore curable if the uterus is removed. The bad news is that if you don’t opt for the cure (which he was awesome to say it was absolutely up to me when and if I ever wanted to go that route), it will get worse every month until menopause. We discussed the options and as it sometimes responds well to estrogen therapy, I scheduled to have an IUD put in and crossed my fingers. I went home and thought a lot about everything I just heard. I also decided that as I had been eating my feelings with candy over the last month. I had gained a lot of weight and wondered if it would help the symptoms to be a more healthy size. So now you know what spurred the obsession I had with getting back in shape and loosing 45 lbs. In February I had lost most of the weight and had the Skyla IUD inserted. I hoped that this combo would make all the issues go away. The pain lessened, which was great, but I started bleeding everyday. At first it was heavy and still clotted but it slowly got a bit lighter. I spoke to my doctor about the constant bleeding at the checkup and he said we could remove it right then or give it 6 months. as that is how long many women experience irregular bleeding with an IUD. I continued to read everything I could find online in forums and in articles and decided to give it 8 months, as that seemed a magic number for many women in my situation to stop bleeding everyday. So I waited. At 7 months the pain came back. I was still bleeding every day and now I was back to experiencing constant cramping and backache. I would take advil when it got so back I could do nothing but lay in the fetal position but it didn’t do much to stop it. The bleeding was not only still daily, but now I was noticing that it was getting heavier as the day wore on, especially in the evenings after I worked out (another symptom!). The morning last week when I woke up in a pool of blood with it pouring down my legs (with a tampon in) causing me to start crying out of fear that I was dying and scaring Adam with how much blood was in the bed and the trail I made as I ran to the bathroom was the last straw. I called the doctor and went in for a checkup last Friday. He examined me and said the IUD was not working how we had hoped. At this point, it was bad enough that I had two choices: I could nothing and live with it getting worse every month, most likely having to go on pain medication to be able to function or have the hysterectomy.

I have at this point read enough since December that I know that a hysterectomy, leaving my ovaries so I do not enter early menopause is not as scary as I first thought. I’ve spoken with women who have had similar situations and were so, so happy to have been done with it. Their advice was across the board: DO IT! Their only regret was not doing it sooner. So I am. Tomorrow morning. I’ve never had major surgery or had to spend the night in the hospital, so I am a bit freaked out but its the number one surgery in the US so I’m not too worried. The operation will be a robotic laparoscopy so I will not have an incision to heal from, only the organ removal (oh just that, lol). They want me up and moving slowly the next day, and the doctor said I should be back to work on Monday and driving Tuesday. In two or three weeks I can walk for exercise but am restricted from lifting anything over 10lbs for 6 weeks. In 6 weeks I should be good to go.

So this is my journey with adenomyosis. If you are dealing with something similar and have been suggested to have a hysterectomy and want to talk about it, please reach out, you’re not alone and I’d love to hear from you!

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Finding the time for what we love

Reading

I have mentioned before about stolen time, and how I declared that when I wanted to find the time to read more, I did. Today I wanted to elaborate on that and explain how I did it and what inspired me. It started when this past winter, I asked myself why I felt that taking the time to do my favorite thing, read, felt like such a guilty pleasure. My entire life, I have read before bed. But oddly, anything more than that felt like I was not being productive, which is weird as reading is much more productive than for example, watching TV. It became obvious that I needed to both give myself permission to have me time and find the time to do it. Then I thought about an awesome conversation I had had with my grandmother a few years ago.

My grandmother Joanne is an amazing woman. She has done more with her life than most people put together and although getting quite up there in years, she’s still going strong. It started when we were talking about her resistance to facebook. She avoids it as she feel there are only so many years left and so much she wants to accomplish in those years. If facebook entered her life, her fear is that  she would waste so much time on it that her goals would not be met. This was my first deep nugget of awesomeness from this conversation: I spend too much time on facebook. Then she told me about how when she was younger, had 5 kids under the age of 10 and was helping my grandfather run his business, she decided she wanted to write a book. So she found the time to do it. Getting up every day 2 hours before everyone in her family, she wrote her book. My grandmother found the time somehow to get the thing she wanted done and she then kept going. So lesson two was that if I wanted to do something badly enough, I could find the time…I mean really, I already had 5 less children in my own quest!

With these thoughts in my head, I sought out to steal back lost time from myself. First by granting myself the permission to do so. If I want to be happy and healthy, I need to make sure that my brain and body are exercised. So I made it a priority to give myself the time every day to read, work out and cook. Besides giving myself the time to do these things, they do not have to be what I cross off my list when I need extra time. The things that I do that do nothing for me in return are the things that needed to go. For me, these are watching tv (with the exception of during production in the studio) and checking up on things online for hours without actually doing anything. The amount of time I can waste re-checking stats, facebook, email, twitter and on and on is shocking. I started paying attention to when I was mindlessly doing either of these things (and not enjoying either of them) and would consciously get up and go read instead. I scheduled my workouts for 5 days a week and joined a kickboxing gym so I would have to answer to my trainer and my new workout bff (Hi Heidi!!) if I wasn’t there. I set aside time to cook at the very least dinner every night and I started paying attention to when I was mindlessly eating.

You know what happened? I went from reading 4 books a month to 10-12. I lost 45lbs and now have a visible 6 pack. I found a love for non fiction and historical fiction and have greatly expanded my knowledge on a few subjects I was really interested in. I’m still blown away with how much time I have to do these things and I’m not missing at all what they replaced. I’m not writing this to say that you should read more or not watch tv or anything like that. I just wanted to share how I felt like I was missing out on the things that made me happy and with a little tweaking to my life, discovered that I did in fact have the time for all of it. It’s one of the things I’ve done in a long time that I’m the most proud of as it’s made me prioritize what’s important and I feel so much better for it. Thank you to my grandmother (whom I call Ga) for the inspiration. It’s pretty cool what we can do when we set our minds to something!

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Quick Pick Me Ups

Freshly painted, happy toes

You know those days when you just feel like you are the opposite of having your life together? Sometimes it seems beyond all hope, and I just mope through the rest of the day. But most of the time I’ve found that if I force myself to do one the following things, I’ll at least have a bit of motivation to get back on track. I wanted to pull this list together for two reasons. First is that I want them all in one place for my own reference and second, maybe you will one day fond this list helpful too.

If you only can muster 5 minutes of energy:

  • Cuddle. Significant others, kids, pets, besties…grab your nearest and dearest and squeeze for 5 minutes. Bonus points if you laugh or cry during this cuddle as both can be incredibly stress relieving.
  • Sit outside in the sun. Sometimes a dose of vitamin  can work wonders.
  • Turn up your favorite song and dance. Get the blood flowing, sing off key at the top of your lungs…basically just dance like no bodies watching.
  • Do super hero pose. You’ll be amazed how you feel you can take on the world afterwards.
  • Wash dishes. This is not so much about the dishes, but the water. Playing in water is incredibly soothing. If you have more time, get in a shower, bath, pool, pond, ocean or any other body of water. Water is incredibly cathartic.

If you have 30 minutes to spare:

  • Paint your toe or finger nails. This sounds silly, but simply removing old polish, trimming your nails and adding fresh paint can make you feel instantly better. You’ll feel pulled together and will smile every time you see the shiny, pretty color!
  • Walk the dog(s). You’ll both feel better, so it’s a win win.
  • Empty all the garbages, put away the clutter, fluff the couch pillows. This is not for everyone, but for me, when my house is in order, all feels ok in the world.
  • Make a cup of tea, turn off your phone and relax with a great book for 30 minutes. This I’m sure would also work with meditation or just silence. But the idea is shut off the noise and reset.
  • Write it down. Open your favorite place to write and let all of your words come rushing out of your brain. Literally empty yourself of the chatter.

If you have an hour or more:

  • Exercise. I give more than an hour here so you don’t feel rushed. There is no better stress release than a good workout.
  • Wander around your favorite time wasting, inspiring store. For me it’s Home Goods or the book section of Goodwill. It’s not really about the shopping, I more often than not spend under $50, but more about the inspiration. Something about the hunt for treasures in both of these places makes me enjoy them immensely. I also get inspired by reading the backs of the books and seeing so many colors, textures and designs in Home Goods.
  • Call one of your tribe. Those people in your life who you can be on the phone with for over an hour without realizing it and always feel happy when you hear their voice.
  • Have a lunch date with a favorite gal pal. I cherish my lunches and schedule as many as I can each month to get me out of my routine, talk through projects and not feel so isolated in my studio.
  • Make a plan. Sometimes just allowing yourself a good block of time to sit down with your planner and a pencil will make you feel less chaotic. Take a deep breath and write down what you need to do in actionable steps and in increments of time that are 1 hour or less. Remind yourself that you’ve got this!
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Deep Thoughts on Hobbies

coffe and book

I often muse on when exactly I stopped wanting to do any hobby that involved making things. It was most likely not long after I went from Manic Trout being a “jobby” to a job. Whenever I start thinking about this, it leads to a bunch of deep thoughts. Today I’ve decided to write these down as I ponder this subject.

1. I could be assuming wrong, but I would think that most of us want to have hobbies which stimulate different areas of the brain than what we spend much time at work on. Which is why makers do not often want to make as a hobby and grad students choose to not read that much for pleasure.

2. As I make, market and design for my job, and most of the time alone, I enjoy reading, physical fitness and talking/eating with friends as my areas of hobbies. I’m basically craving in my downtime all the things I am not doing during the majority of my day.

3. This also explains that when I had a talk with myself in December about happiness, I also declared I was over tv in my free time…because when I am in production, I binge watch tv shows. It’s been put into the “work” column.

4. This led me to think about how hobbies are such a wonderful way to balance out your life. Although I work alone, I am still communicating via email and social media all day and have lunch meetings virtually and in person a good deal of the week. Which I think is why I crave so much reading time. It’s my way of shutting off the noise.

5. On the flip side, when I am being social in real life, I am so often one on one, that recently joining a kickboxing gym, a book club and a networking/dining club had filled something with the group dynamic that I didn’t realize was missing.

6. Focusing on all of this for the past 6 months has been fascinating. I now have started paying attention to friends of mine and their work/life/hobby dynamic to see how they fill in the gaps too.

7. In the book Drive by Daniel Pink, he writes about a study by Csikszentimhalyi about the importance of enjoyable (play and non instrumental to work activities) experiences in your day to life. With them, you have a greater chance of reaching the beautiful “flow” in your work which is essential to mastery. Not to mention, that without these activities, you will be sluggish, have headaches, difficulty concentrating and have thoughts that wander in circles without getting anywhere.

8. Since my big self talk, I still work a lot of 15+ hour days, but as always, I read before bed and try really hard to fit in some exercise in that day. If I’m on a big deadline, I make sure the next day for sure includes something physical for at least an hour. Days when I am not in the midst of a big launch or deadline, when I find myself wasting time on non productive work, like facebook. I leave the studio and use that time to read, go for a walk or even catch up on chores. By doing this I have reclaimed so much time and made it happy time. It balances out the long days really well.

9. I also try to make sure I allow myself a few hours during the weekends to avoid the studio. If I have a week where we have out of town guests, or I know I’ll be traveling, I make an exception if I need to catch up on work, but otherwise I have granted myself permission to enjoy the hobbies and have days off. It’s been incredibly helpful in my mental health, I wish I had sat myself down sooner for this talk.

10. For a long time I had it in my head that hobbies had to be these new activities that I was not really feeling…i.e: making things. When I finally allowed myself to define my enjoyment activities to the things I was already trying to squeeze in but not calling a hobby (reading, exercise, friends), it changed my perspective and I suddenly was making time to do them. Sometimes its all about perspective.

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