Do Your Thoughts Stress You?

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Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, which marks the 46 day period before Easter Sunday. Today some Christians (and secular people like me) observe this period by giving up something they enjoy, or taking on an action that challenges them. Sometimes these actions are religious, but they do not have to be. Lent is an opportunity to change habits, to work on an aspect of yourself, to be more giving, or to focus on your faith.

This year for Lent, I’m doing The Work. Also known as inquiry, The Work by Byron Katie is a method of questioning stressful thoughts to free yourself from believing them. We all have stressful thoughts: about love, approval, appreciation, fear, justice, and on and on.

Katie says that “the worst thing that has ever happened is an unquestioned thought.” As spring comes and 2015 waxes on, I can think of no better project than questioning my thoughts about productivity, money, success, global climate change, and more.

Is there anything you are giving up or taking on this season?

Thanks for reading! Read Lent: a minimalist exercise for Lent in 2013.

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Define Your Own Success

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Six weeks ago, I gave my notice at work.  Two Fridays ago was my last day in the office.

It’s exciting! It’s been my goal for years to start a professional organizing business, to help people create systems to keep their professional and personal lives running smoothly. I’m also doing marketing consulting. It’s an experimental professional year as I try solopreneurship and freelancing and see what I like.

However, the transition away from a 9-5 job is tough. I knew it would be an adjustment, but I didn’t imagine the isolation or insecurity. I love to work hard, and I know I can do it. But it is not an automatic skill set (for me).

I read a lot of articles about entrepreneurship and consulting. There are many resources for self-starters. While I find these articles inspiring and exhilarating, I sometimes find them them overwhelming and intimidating.  These writers have done it already. They’ve started businesses, created blogs, published books, and made themselves known.  They’ve made it.  They’re “there.”

I am impatient and anxious to get “there” myself. But where? Where is “there”? A friend said,

And the whole “there” thing anyways? I want to save you a lot of time and energy: IT IS AN ILLUSION. I mean, what is it anyways? Having money? Well, how much? Being recognized for awesomeness? By whom? Having your own business? When you move over from where recognition/feedback is coming from an external source (school, grades, your boss, quarterly reviews) and move to where you have a blank slate, you get to define success. And I think a big part of that is realizing that right now, you are a success. Trust me: YOU ARE GOING TO LAND ON YOUR FEET.

Here’s to defining success.  What’s your definition?

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Should You Work More? Quality & Quantity

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Once upon a time I was addicted to my job. I stopped doing anything else. I worked before work and after work. I went back to the office late at night.

I reasoned that it was an investment in my future because I planned to be with the company for a long time. I would power through the tough stretch, feel the satisfaction of productivity and accomplishment, and get a raise. Besides, I loved my job.

I believe that if you want to work less at some point in your future, it makes sense to work more in your present (see Bullish: Maybe Work-Life Balance Means You Should Work MORE). This is true in the short term (if you’re taking off two weeks in June you’ll work more in May to prepare) and long term (if you want to work less while raising young children, you can work more now to write your book, establish a blog following, or learn new skills before you have an infant living with you).

Working more now means not only quantity but quality – the kind of work you’re doing. As Jen Dziura wrote in Bullish: What’s Your Business Model? (If You Think You Don’t Have One, You Probably Just Have a Bad One):

If your business model is working 40+ hours a week for a salary — something that you suspect may not be compatible with the way in which you want to raise children or write books or live your life — then I don’t blame you for not leaning into that.

This is exactly what I was doing. I was leaning into my job, but not in a way that was benefitting me or reflecting how I want my life to be. I was working more, but I wasn’t working smart. I wasn’t innovating in the company, I wasn’t developing other sources of income, I wasn’t expanding my professional network, I wasn’t teaching myself new skills.

Work for yourself, by challenging yourself, keeping your edge, and developing skills and products that you can showcase no matter where or how you work. If you’re devoting not eight but twelve hours a day to one job, those may be hours you’re not working smart for your future self (See Bullish Q&A: I Like My Job – Do I Really Need a Side Gig?).

I was wrong about my career in that company. A few months after I became obsessed, I resigned from my position. (Life will always surprise you.) I worked hard there, I loved it, and I learned a lot. However, I wasn’t always working smart.

Work hard, work more, but work smart.

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Weekly Tweaks: Break Down Big Projects

Monday – post tweaks, write, read book; Tuesday – write before work, draft pitch; Wednesday – write, update website, post; Thursday – write; Friday – write before work; Saturday – post. Thursday and Friday were days with social plans after work, no reason to schedule those days heavily. Success rate 80%

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Don’t set up the impossible
I scheduled draft pitch for Tuesday night. Ha! I ended up doing it Sunday afternoon, and it took five hours. I did not have the energy or time to do that on a weeknight after work.

I could have broken the task into pieces (duh) and completed one each day. This is possibly the only way to get big projects done over time. If you put “renovate living room” on your To Do list, it will never happen. But “choose five paint color options” is manageable.

This requires taking time to break down the task, which is itself a To Do item. So these are the options: schedule a project for a day when you have time+energy, or break the project down into small tasks that you can do over time.

This week: Monday – write, prepare for meeting, personal catch up, brainstorm name; Tuesday – write, make school list, plan trip; Wednesday – write, post, research insurance; Thursday – write, community list; Friday – write, ; Saturday – post.

Daily Practices: 

  1. If I go on Facebook or Twitter, set the timer for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, get off.
  2. Write every day.
  3. Check calendar every morning (I rarely remember to do this, so I’m adding it to my alarm clock).

Thanks for reading!

 

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Strive for Kindness

Being nice is nice. It’s nice to be agreeable in new situations. It’s nice to be polite to people you don’t know.

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Except when it’s not. Except when you need to look out for yourself, or someone is being a creep, or smiling feels fake because it’s a serious situation. Enter kindness.

Nice and kind are distinct. Nice means likable, agreeable. Kindness means generous and good. You can be generous and good while leaving a conversation that wastes your time or makes you uncomfortable. Being generous and good starts with yourself – by being kind to yourself and honoring your integrity. Being good and generous to yourself is good and generous to other people. It feels good to be kind. It can be painful to be nice.

Three of Kara Anderson’s anti nice girl resolutions in Why I’m Done Being a ‘Nice Girl’ stand out:

I will not use words like “I’m sorry” to soften a harsh conversation or fill an uncomfortable silence. I will apologize when I am in the wrong and on no other occasion. I will not surrender my authority in the name of avoiding awkward situations or the hurt feelings of others. I will embrace discomfort and the failure of words.

Women tend to apologize for things which are not our fault. (see Bullish Life: How to Communicate with Chutzpah). I often hear “sorry, I didn’t know you wanted that” at work. Which means “sorry I couldn’t read your mind or predict the future.” Really? You did not commit a wrong.

I won’t take the easy way out of any social situation. If I’m on a date and there is the question of physicality I don’t want, I won’t let it happen just because saying nothing is easier than “making a scene.” I will stop it and tell him I’m not comfortable with where things are going. If it turns out to be an issue I will leave.

I went on a friend date (frate?) in which the guy wanted to dance and hold my hand, and I did not. But I didn’t say anything because I was afraid to be not-nice. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, which meant I was being unkind to mine. I couldn’t expect him to read my mind, but that’s what I wanted so I didn’t have to “make a scene.” Hopeless. You must stay what you want, kindly and firmly.

I will not wait for anything or anyone. I will pursue what I want with intelligence and passion. I will not hope a job or a new client materializes soon; I will create the opportunities I want most by pitching the people I want to work with most. (So if I pitch you in 2015, remember this piece!)

It’s scary to be vulnerable and proclaim far and wide that you’re going after what you want. But you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Strive for what you want. Write your goals. Consider the steps to achieve them. Try, try, reassess, evaluate, try again.

Impressing People
To Kara’s list I add trying to impress people. It’s tiresome. It comes with a desperate sense of seeking approval and validation from others. It keeps you outside yourself because you’re concentrating on boasting about your accomplishments or being witty. Approve of and validate yourself instead by staying present in yourself and watching your behavior and integrity.

You know how you can tell when someone wants to impress you? They keep bringing up how important their work is or how crazy they were when they were younger. Snooze. No one enjoys being with someone desperate to make an impression.

(But don’t be inappropriate. Wearing the same makeup to an interview that you wore to a nightclub will give a weird impression. Dress and act in ways that let you fit your surroundings [if that’s your goal].)

Being nice sometimes sucks. Being kind never does. Do you try to be agreeable and likable? Instead be good and generous, thoughtful and honest, to yourself and (by default) to others.

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No Spend Month Recap; Live on <$20k Month 1

No spend month was easy.

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I went out once and didn’t order a drink. I had friends over or went to their houses. I ripped a pair of jeans, and instead of replacing them I wore skirts.

There were things I thought of buying: pants, sneakers, duct tape, a slip, bike lights, get my Birkenstocks fixed. My roommate asked, “what’s the point of no spending if you’ll just spend more the next month?” I explained that it’s to establish your living expenses baseline, not to avoid spending forever.

Yesterday I read You’ll Never Believe How Much the MMM Family Spent This Year… which made me rethink my goal to live on less than $20,000. The Mustachian Family of three spent $25,330 on living. That’s it. It makes $20k seem out of control for one person (although that does not include mortgage/rent because their house is paid off).

Many people cannot believe that the Mustachian Family lives on so little without feeling like their lives are one huge sacrifice. Read the article – he categorizes their expenses – and then read the rest of the blog, too. It can be done.

January didn’t turn out to be the baseline I expected, because I lost my subway card and spent more cash on transportation than usual. My EZ Pass (used by my brother) was charged, which happens every quarter. I was annoyed that transportation cost more than usual during the month I wanted to spend less.  But, it’s realistic that unexpected expenses come up, even while avoiding purchases.

Spending: 
Rent: $425
Utilities: $62.92
Groceries: $66.22
Public transit: $55.21
EZ pass: $25
Total: 634.35
3.17% of $20,000
Remainder to spend: $19,365.65

My savings rate was 71.22%, which is less than 76.06% in January 2014. I made more and had lower living expenses then, so it’s not surprising. Oh, well.

How was your January financially?

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Weekly Tweaks: If You Didn’t Do It, Maybe It’s Not Important

Tweak It 1/26 – 2/1Monday – write, email Pam, type up notes; Tuesday – write, send pitch, tally rent and groceries; Wednesday – no computer, finish Assassin; Thursday, write, send silent auction info; Friday – write, research. Success rate 77%

Be flexible!
I did most tasks on different days than I planned. Although Tweak It encourages you to schedule tasks and stick to them, it doesn’t matter when you do anything.  But if you skip a task, be aware of why you’re skipping.  Will you do it another day or time?  Will you reschedule it for next week? Is it not a priority?

Sometimes scheduling a task for a day and time nudges you to complete it exactly then. But if plans and priorities change, don’t get discouraged. Guilt is a terrible motivator. And if you’re not compelled to complete a task, it could be because it’s not important to you.

This week: Monday – post tweaks, write, read book; Tuesday – write before work, draft pitch; Wednesday – write, update website, post; Thursday – write; Friday – write before work; Saturday – post.

Daily Practices: 

  1. If I go on Facebook or Twitter, set the timer for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, get off.
  2. Write every day.
  3. Check calendar every morning (I forgot to do this most of last week).

Thanks for reading!

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