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This Summer, Get Your Life Back Together

This summer is all about big and scary changes for me. What about you? What areas in your life — mental, financial, relationships with siblings or spouses, diet, etc. — need the most improvement? What makes you frustrated or unhappy is the area that needs the most work. Let summer 2013 be all about making healthy steps forward, not backward.

1. Mental Health 

Do you wish you had someone to talk to in confidence? Do you feel depressed, angry, hopeless or frustrated and not sure how to get out of this mess? Gather up your courage and locate a mental health professional. Focus on practical methods of therapy that will help you to focus immediately on the major issues and he or she will guide you to make the necessary changes in life.

  • Find a therapist at therapists.psychologytoday.com and enter your zip code.
  • Choose someone that specializes in areas you need work on (eg: anxiety or substance abuse, marriage counseling) and that accepts your insurance or offers a sliding fee scale — one of the most common reasons for putting off seeing a therapist is the thought that one cannot afford it — not true!
  • Make an appointment for next week.

2. Physical Health

Feel sluggish all the time, tired, and winded going up a few flights of stairs? Recently gained weight? Never exercise? It’s time to change.

  • Start small — 3 times a week for about 30 minutes.
  • Make it easy — take a walk after dinner. No purchases required to get fit.
  • Make it fun — involve your friends/family. Play tennis, play tag with kids, go to the beach and walk along the shore, go swimming, take Zumba, etc. Find something you like.
  • Make it last — attach the habit of exercising with something you already do everyday. Drive past a gym on the way home from work? Keep your gym clothes in your car and head there immediately before going home. Need to watch a certain show every night? Exercise during that program.

3. Spiritual Health

  • If you are religious and have been slacking on going to your church/temple/place of worship, it’s time to recommit. It’s a great place to feel a sense of community and faith like nowhere else and feel like you’re part of a bigger whole, which is comforting. Also, start reading your passages and reflecting silently, too. How can you be a better Christian/Jewish/Buddhist/etc. person today? Can you volunteer, help someone, read a new passage, pray, be closer to nature?
  • If not religious, you can still work on your spiritual health. Practice saying a mantra everyday that makes you feel empowered. Or go to a quiet place of nature and reflect silently.Take steps everyday to remain positive in your life and believe in the magick/karma/The Secret. Meditate. Do yoga. Feel more in tune with your body & soul. Align yourself — become more balanced.

4. Diet/Nutrition

  • This is an important step. Diet has a profound impact on the way we feel, think, and our ability to perform/function in our daily lives. Take this summer to practice eating habits that make you feel better. Journal what you eat, at what time, and how hungry you were. Note how it makes you feel after eating and what emotion you were feeling. Note trends in how you feel hours later or the next day, too — especially if you eat a lot of carbs (sluggish, tired, bloated). Change your habits one meal at a time and become more conscious of the calories you consume — though you don’t have to count them, it’s a good idea if you want to lose weight.
  • Eat cleaner, local, organic foods — search for local farmers markets in your area.
  • Eat more vegetables. Every meal. And try a new veggie once a week or so.
  • Drink water, not calories. An easy way to lose weight and feel better is to drink more water and replace sodas/juices/etc. with water.

5. Social Life/Happiness/Relationships

This is an important one to work on. Ask yourself honestly: How can you be a better…daughter, mother, son, father, wife, husband, friend, relative?

  • What relationships in your life are fading and need TLC? Who can you call that will brighten their face? Catch up with old friends.
  • Ditch the toxic people in your life, as well. If you feel negative when you’re around, make bad decisions like drink/smoke, or if they treat you badly, ditch them. Life is too short to hang around with awful friends. You can always make new friends that align with your goals. Seek them out.
  • Do something that makes you happy everyday. Even if it’s a little bit selfish. If you are not happy everyday, than what is the point of living — seek help if you are feeling depressed, and seek ways to bring happiness into your life on a constant basis.
  • Make an effort to be social, friendly, and confident — even if you don’t feel like it, fake it. It will get easier, I promise.

_____________

If this article helped or inspired you in any way please let me know what you will be working on this summer. I have my own list and I’d like to see what you will be up to.

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11 Tips for How to Be Productive Right Now

keepcalmgsd

You may be mindlessly searching the internet, looking for ways to be productive, asking yourself, “what is something productive i can do right now?” You might have a huge list of things that need to be taken care of but you are overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated, and annoyed at your insane level of procrastination  But that will get you nowhere. You can read all the blogs on the internet about productivity and you won’t learn about how to be productive right now without actually GSD.

The hardest part of being productive is getting started. I love the acronym GSD because it’s a quick reminder to “Get Shit Done.” This is based off the popular and less vulgar term GTD which stands for “Getting Things Done”, a term from time management guru David Allen (and from the book of the same name).

The battle for focus is fierce, but you can GSD right now.

  1. GSD right in the morning. Wake up, get dressed and all that, and then go straight to work. Work first, play later.
  2. Do your worst, most dreaded task first. Get it done first, and it will feel like pushing a huge boulder down a mountain.
  3. Unless your work requires it, disable your internet connection and work offline.
  4. Or move entirely away from the computer.
  5. Blast your favorite music (epic movie soundtracks work great for monumental tasks) and GSD.
  6. Work for 5 minutes. Just five fucking minutes, dude. If you want, take a break after. But most likely you will have gotten the hardest part over with (starting) and will continue easily.
  7. I swear by Evernote — if you are distracted by a link, thought, image, video, etc. just copy and paste in an Evernote page and it saves instantly. Go back to it later.
  8. I make to-do lists on Evernote, too.
  9. Promise yourself something to look forward to (like watching that funny video) after you finish say an hour of that project. It’s good to take breaks. Just get back to work right after.
  10. Sometimes it’s easier to just work for the 2-3 hours full speed, no breaks. Then reward yourself with a sweet lunch or a smoke, whatever tips your hat. Think of this tip as “college finals” mode and you’ll get it.
  11. If you have a huge project ahead of you and you are distracting yourself from starting it because it’s so damn hard to start, spend time just chunking it down: take the boulder and turn it into rocks, and then pebbles. Then take that first step, that first pebble and start it.

What productive things did you just do, or are about to do after reading this article? Share any of your GSD tips!

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The “Better Life” Epic Brainstorm List

My previous post has me thinking about how I want to be looking back at my life 5 years from NOW. I want to be leaps and bounds away from where I’m at currently, in multiple areas of my life, physically and mentally.

So here’s how I’m going to do that: epic brainstorming sesh.

I’m going to uninhibitedly thing of anything and everything that I want my life 5 years from now to consist of, include, become, do, have, and think. because in order to change, you must first write it down. so do it with me.

i will be 100-120 pounds thinner. i will eat a low-carb paleo-inspired diet rich in greens, healthy proteins, and whole foods. i will regularly engage in exercise, and become someone who likes running. i will participate in 5Ks regularly for the fun of it, especially the Color Me Rad event. my brain won’t be foggy and it will be easy to concentrate and focus. my mind won’t wander; mostly, because i will be eating the right foods and giving my body vitamins and nutrients. i will drink plenty of water, and almost never soda. i will learn to love coffee with either  splenda, truvia, or drink it black. i will drink tea mostly, unsweetened, if i desire a caffeine boost. i will have protein shakes for breakfast and make delicious smoothies. i will walk to places that are close by. i will play tennis at the park. i will go hiking for fun, and explore nature around me. i will take a jog by the beach at sunrise. i will take hard boot camp classes and kickboxing and feel healthy and strong like a woman should.

i will have an office space in my next apartment that is solely for me; with inspiring notes, pictures, and words of wisdom. i will have a bookshelf or kindle with the best books on it and read my favorites and discover new authors that i love. i will make a good amount of money writing; i will have increased my rates to one i feel comfortable working for, and my clients love my work. i get new exciting projects all the time and more people recognize my work online. i will have finished a novel and will mostly self-publish online as an ebook. i will be working on other novels and projects all the time; always many projects half-finished. but i am a productive worker, i get things done when i need to and i don’t have a hard time concentrating or focusing. i make enough money online through freelancing and website projects that i do not have to have a job, but i do anyway because i like working. i have enough money saved for an entire year of emergency income, and i am never late on bill payments. my husband and i have a one-bedroom in a southern state because i hate the snow, and he is going to grad school. our love life is amazing and we go stronger and closer everyday. i have a good circle of friends and i talk to out of state friends regularly online. i am networking with other bloggers and freelancers.  i am taking online web design classes and paying off student loans from my bachelor’s degree. my part time job utilizes my love of psych to help children, adolescents, or mentally disabled kids in some way. i am thinking of going to grad school for a teaching degree before we start a family. i am contacting agents to realize an important dream of mine, to become an offline published author, with a real physical book with my name on it.

just writing this out makes it sound a little more do-able. i am excited for my future, for tomorrow, next week, and to see how the next five years will pan out for me.

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Take a Mindful Break: 3, 2, 1

Stop what you’re doing.

Open a blank document in your preferred editor, or grab a notebook and pen.

Completely fill the page freewriting about the goal you are working on currently and specify the steps that you are going to do

  • TODAY, by the time you go to sleep.
  • TOMORROW, as early as you can fit it in.
  • BY THE END OF THE WEEK, list the steps you are going to do and what you plan to accomplish.

THREE.

How are you feeling? Do you feel good about yourself, your day, your current situation? If not, make sure you brainstorm at least 3 actionable steps you can do to shift that attitude.

TWO.

End the page with naming 2 things you are grateful for and/or love.

ONE.

On the top of the page, write the date, and write 1 word that most echoes what you’re trying to achieve. Here are some examples:

  • creative
  • inspire
  • trust
  • worth
  • health
  • fitness
  • intelligence
  • wealth
  • skill
  • YOUR OWN: ____________
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Brainstorm Your 2013 Goals Before the Ball Drops

ResolutionsSo, the end of the year holidays are upon us, and I am left laying in bed or day-dreaming in my commute to work about next year. The year 2013, where we will all gain another year under our belt and hopefully work on our goals. Have you given any thought about the new year? If not, it’s time to start, before you’re left in January 1, 2013 wondering how to make your life not suck.

  • Start small. Most people fail at new year’s resolutions because they dream too big, and have unrealistic expectations of what can be accomplished in a year. Yes, you must challenge yourself out of the status quo — but do not start out too big or you will just stare out the window, too overwhelmed to begin. Think of your overall goal and pick one aspect, that is workable in your life for one year, and start there.
  • Write in the present. A great trick to shifting your attitude that YES, you CAN do this, is to write your goal as if you are already doing that thing. For example, don’t say, “I want to lose weight next year.” Instead, say, “I am 50 pounds thinner and I feel healthy and more able to do things I love with my children.” Reading the first sentence feels scary, because not only is it an undefined goal (how much weight? what is the deadline? why do you want to do this?, etc), but it doesn’t feel attainable at the moment. When you read the second sentence, you actually feel happy imagining your life through that sentence and can begin shifting your attitude to realizing that very goal. More important, the second sentence tells you non-physical reasons to lose that weight, to be healthier and to play with your children. You feel that motivation stirring you because you have identified WHY you want this goal.
  • Once you figure out the WHAT and the WHY, you can begin chunking your goal into smaller and smaller pieces. These will become action steps for you to work on in regular intervals from monthly tasks, to weekly tasks — as small as what you can do TOMORROW for your goal.
  • Don’t make resolutions. No one sticks to those past Valentine’s Day. Consider these contracts or promises to yourself that you must keep.
  • Find someone to keep you accountable. It can be anyone, even an online buddy from a forum. I love subreddits to find great support and to find lots of information about basically anything.
  • Reflect and re-evaluate every week. Not so good this week? Figure out now what you need to to and change, even if it’s just one thing you focus on each week. Soon, you will see yourself gradually making progress.
  • Accept that you’re going to slip up, fall off the wagon, or lose track altogether. The important part is when you realize it and get yourself back on track. That’s why you re-evaluate, weekly.
  • Be thankful for what you have, everyday. Being thankful for things changes your attitude from negative to positive, and makes you take a look at all the luxuries you possess. I’ll take a wild guess and assume you have: a place to live, a bed to sleep on, heat and/or ac or fan, food and a fridge, a stove to cook food, shoes, a coat, maybe a job, maybe a family, a cell phone, internet connection and computer, money to buy things you like, a car. You’d be amazed at how many people in this world do not even have clean water, let alone any of this stuff.
  • Spend time each week reading something that is somehow related to your goals or inspirational in some way. You do not have to purchase books, support your local library.
  • There’s an app for that. If you have a smartphone, I bet there is an app that can help you keep track of your goals. Try Mint for money-tracking, and My Fitness Pal app for calorie/meal and exercise tracking.

Here is a brief, work-in-progress list of my goals for 2013. Maybe we share the same goals?

  • Lose 50 pounds by June 4, my birthday, which is a teeny bit over 2 pounds per week: I will be 50 pounds lighter and will have established a healthy eating and exercise routine for lasting health. Figure out by January 5 my method of exercise (gym or home? walk around block etc). I will reward myself by buying a new outfit (jeans, shirt, shoes).
  • Promote self as freelance writer on Fiverr and Freelancer and find long-term work to provide me with enough money for rent each month: I will earn enough money for rent each month with my freelance writing.
  • Save at least 10% of all paychecks in savings account not to be touched.
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Are You Happy? No? Then Change Something

are-you-happy-infographicvia

I found this awesome infograph and it inspired me to write a brief post. The graph asks, Are you happy? If no, then change something. If yes, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re not happy, but don’t want to be happy, you can also keep doing what you’ve been doing. I think this illustrates very clearly that you are responsible for your own happiness, and that change begins with an awareness of the need to do something about it.

You’re not going to wait around and become happy. You’ve got to put a little work into it, and deserve that happiness. So how to do this?

Step One: Change your Attitude.

Happiness is an emotion, just like the hundreds of other emotions we have the ability to feel and comprehend and put into thousands of words. Instead of thinking negative thoughts, think positive ones. Instead of being upset about something, think of something that you can be happy about. Even if it’s, “Well, I could be dying or dead.” Because some people are dying or dead. You still have an entire life to live, so don’t waste it.

Step Two: Realize that Change is Possible.

You’ve also got to seriously believe that you can change your life. It is YOUR life, and although there are some things we cannot change (the economy, the climate), there are lots of things that you can change. This is called your locus of control. What things inside your locus of control can you change? You, your relationships, your job, your education, your location, your inner thought processes, your behavior and your actions.

Step Three: Decide What Your Goals Are.

You cannot start on a road trip without knowing where to go, can you? Sure, you can just kind of jump in the car and go, but you’ve got to at least know where the highway is, which direction you feel like going in, and where your keys are (damn!). Write down what it is you’d like to change about your life (see If Your Life Sucks, Do Something About It), and why. Then figure out how you’re going to do just that…

Step Four: Make Action Steps and DO IT

You can’t be WINNING if you’re not even trying. So once you figure out what your goals are, then you have to figure out exactly how you’re going to do it. This can take a bit of research, but it’s totally worth it, especially if you want to avoid wasting time (and probably money) through trial and error. These are action steps – your to-do list from here on out. But just writing it down isn’t enough, you have to do it. You can’t change your life without actually changing anything, duh. So don’t look stupid (even to yourself) by not following through. Don’t you care about your own life, and think you’re worthy of being kept a promise? Then don’t break your own promises to yourself.

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Pay Yourself First Part II: How to Save Money and Keep a Budget

Save Money So in Pay Yourself First Part I we discussed how to make a budget. Now we’re getting to the juicy stuff, how to actually keep that budget and save money, which is the point of all budgets. If you haven’t read part one yet, go there now. It opens in a new window, so I’ll be waiting for you. It outlines how to make the budget which we’ll be working with today.

Let’s review before we continue, okay?

-you made a budget which outlines your income and your bills
-you included variables and their estimated monthly amounts, such as for gas or shopping
-you probably have little money left over

I’ll show you my budget, which will help in two major ways. First, it forces myself to make a budget, which is beneficial to myself, and second, it helps me illustrate to you what a budget looks like visually. Click on the thumbnail to view a screenshot image of a simple budget worksheet I made. You can mimic this style, too, by downloading the document and inputting your own information.

Since it is a table, you can add new rows and columns as you please. Note: in the variables section, I used three estimates of the three previous months to see my spending pattern, and then the far right column is the amount to stick to, or the budget amount. You can see that all the rows on the far right add up to my income total, which is $1,000.

The savings section is the one we’ll add in today. I broke my savings into two categories.

  • One is for a specific goal that you’re working for financially, such as getting an apartment or paying off a loan. If you don’t need this, save all money into the emergency fund, which should be a savings account and relatively hard to take money from (such as not linked with your checking account).
  • The other is one everyone should have: emergency fund. It is recommended that everyone have 1-2 months of income saved at all times to guard against emergencies, like car repairs or injuries, or other necessities. It also protects when one loses a job or hours. Even if you can only put in $10-50 a month, do it. Over a year you can either have $120-600, or nothing.
So, how do you set aside money in your budget? You can do this two ways, depending on your priorities and situation.
  • You can fill your money with set expenses first, variables next, and savings last (whatever’s left over goes straight into savings.)
  • You can start with how much money you’d like to save each month, and take that away first. Then fill in the set expenses section, and divvy up whatever’s left into your variables.
Either way is up to you. You may also find another method that works better. If so, go right ahead – nothing is set in stone here. Your budget should work for you, and it should be simple and easy to read. I completely estimated my numbers so they end in zeros and fives. You can be more exact than me, or you can keep it simple. It really depends on your personality.
Now that we have set up a cool budget and a plan to save money, the obvious next step is to put that plan into action.
  • Follow your budget. See how it works in practice now, not just theory. Test out your numbers and see if you can live with the changes. It might be hard not to party 2 times a week for you at first, and you might have something huge pop up unexpectedly that takes up a large chunk of money. It’s okay. Budgets are meant to be flexible.
  • Try out your budget for at least a month, and reflect on how it worked for you.
  • If you need to make some changes, cross out the numbers and edit.
  • The point is to keep finding a plan that works without feeling like you need to survive on ramen noodles and beans.
  • When you have racked up a comfy amount in your savings or you have met your financial goal, make a new one. Living in a rental but really want to own? Start putting away for that down payment. When you start putting away money for things that matter, saving won’t feel like work. It will truly feel like you are paying yourself, especially when that savings gets you that cool digital SLR camera you’ve been saving up for 3 months.
  • If you ever have to dip into your emergency savings, remember to work on building it up as soon as you are back on your feet. You’ll never know what else may happen, so it’s safest to be prepared.
  • An easy method to get used to budgeting for different categories is to put the exact cash amount you decided in your budget into different envelopes marked with the category, such as “food” or “clothes.” When you run out, that’s it. Combine this with online bill paying, and you’ll keep your two different types of expenses separate  (the fixed from the variable) and avoid the urge to use bill-paying money for new shoes or what-have-you. Paying bills online, especially automatically, is a great way to avoid late fees!
I hope you learned something on my first two-part series! I hope to do many more series, maybe even a week-long one. Happy saving!
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