To Do List Minimalist

November Chalkboard for crushin' goals. Note the two big priorities--one professional and one personal, because I'm balanced like that.

November Chalkboard for crushin' goals. Note the two big priorities--one professional and one personal, because I'm balanced like that.

People often associate minimalism with getting rid of stuff, a less is more mentality, and having more experiences over more things, and so on and so forth. All those things are great, fantastic even, and I try to incorporate them in my life. The most rewarding application of the minimalist philosophy for me, however, has been cutting the crap from my to do list and saying no to opportunities and obligations not in line with my goals and values (and I am so bad at saying no…it’s ridiculous).

I keep track of my to do’s on a giant chalkboard in my office. I got the idea from the Being Boss Chalkboard method (Being Boss is an awesome weekly podcast for creative entrepreneurs that I kind of love). I change it up from month to month to suit my mood. But I was creeping back into my "let's do all the things" mindset. In October, I had this huge long to do list where I had a bullet point for every freaking thing I was interested in accomplishing. And most of that stuff, I just didn't finish. Instead, that giant unfocused list made me feel scattered and all over the place. I didn’t make time for the stuff that mattered. 

So for November, I thought, “What if I focused on maybe one or two things? Could I be more productive, more successful at getting shit done?” My creative writing was sitting far too low on my to do list and I never got much written—starting and stopping a number of different novels, short stories, and essays (because heaven forbid I choose just one kind of project). Thanks to the added incentive of NanoWriMo 2016, I feel freaking amazing! It’s been a week, and I've written over 10,000 words towards my novel and busted my ass at the gym, culminating in a Sunday 5k for the hell of it. I think this minimalist approach to my to do list is working so far. I’ve already been more productive in a week then I was the whole month of October.  I don't have the “should have” guilt eating away at me each night when my head hits the pillow and I’m not waking up at 3 am in a panic that I’m wasting my life—I’m doing the things I want to be doing. 

There's always the stuff you've got to do like clean your house, buy groceries, go to work, etc., but what about the things that you want to do? Don't forget to make room for those! Maybe even put them at the top of your to do list every once in awhile. If we don’t make time for those goals, they will never get accomplished. As I’m already learning this month, all it takes is a little bit of time each day and a willingness to cut out the extraneous bullshit.

National Novel Writing Month 2016: It’s On!

I have signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo) for the past three years and not once have I completed the challenge. The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. No small feat but not impossible either. But this year is to be my year! With an average of about 1700 words a day, I got this. I’ve already done 1764 words this morning!

I share this with you as an accountability tool. I'm putting it out there in the universe, November 2016 is the month of writing furiously. No matter how rough my draft, nor shitty my prose, I’m letting the words flow—putting my ego aside and smothering my inner critic. This ain’t going to be pretty, but I am going to do it.

I’ve said my piece. If you are interested in tearing your hair out and driving yourself crazy for a month too, you can learn more about the challenge on the NanoWriMo website.

Happy writing!

 

My How to Guide On Scaring the Shit Out of Yourself and Pursuing Your Dream

From an interview with Jhumpa Lahiri in the March/April 2016 Issue of  Poets & Writers  magazine (p41). I found this interview so awe-inspiring. Lahiri is truly a remarkable author and person.

From an interview with Jhumpa Lahiri in the March/April 2016 Issue of Poets & Writers magazine (p41). I found this interview so awe-inspiring. Lahiri is truly a remarkable author and person.

I quit my traditional full-time job to pursue my creative and freelance writing. It feels crazy, and risky, and good! I worked hard to get here and I am excited to make it work. It won’t be easy and I will have to work harder than I’ve ever had to work at a traditional job but I'm ready for the challenge. I only half know what I’m doing, but I suspect that's how most people feel all the time anyway (I know I do) so there is comfort in knowing I am in no way alone. 

When I paid off my student loan, we reevaluated our priorities and came up with some ideas for what we would like to save for. We marked down some adult things like traveling, retirement, and a three month in case shit happens emergency fund. But the larger goal was prioritizing our spending so I could take the leap to pursue my writing. That is, after all, why I accumulated that loan to begin with...to immerse myself in the study of writing and actually do it. I had been letting fear and uncertainty hold me back.

After some deep thought about how I want to spend my time and talents, what I want to accomplish, identifying what’s important to me, and deciding what I am willing to sacrifice to make that happen, here I am pushing myself into my dream career. I’ve shared some of my self-motivation talk below. No matter what it is you are going after, these little reminders can be a big help.

  1. Start! Make the decision that you won’t make any more excuses to not go after what you want. Recommendation—start small. I got a little carried away at first and got so overwhelmed that I became paralyzed. 
  2. A little re-prioritization for when you get knocked off track by old habits.
  3. Make the commitment to yourself that you are going after that dream, that job, that love, whatever it is. If you never try, you can never succeed.
  4. Get out of your head space and get away from negativity. Get your head clear. This is a unique process for everyone and I can’t tell you how to do it, just that it needs to be done.
  5. Surround yourself with support. Even if it’s that one person in your life that says “yes you can!” Listen to that voice. Make that the loudest voice you hear. 
  6. Change the way you view your situation. Make it better one small step at a time. You are in charge of your own happiness. No one else is responsible for your happiness. 
  7. Don't waste your energy resenting others you view as happier or more successful than you, and instead make one small change that gets you closer to what you're after. We all have our own journey and comparing yours to someone else’s is craziness—you do you.

The biggest thing that’s stopping you is you. So silence that fear monster and get to work!

 

Friday Musings: On Success

When I first got this little orchid, it had three beautiful flowers. But within a month, the flowers had withered and died. I thought my orchid was a goner. But the leaves were still green, so I brought it to a new environment and continued to care for it. It took time, but my orchid has blossomed again. I think it just needed a change in perspective.

When I first got this little orchid, it had three beautiful flowers. But within a month, the flowers had withered and died. I thought my orchid was a goner. But the leaves were still green, so I brought it to a new environment and continued to care for it. It took time, but my orchid has blossomed again. I think it just needed a change in perspective.

I used to think success was:

  • Having a steady, 9-5 job in a prestigious field for the rest of my life 
  • Impressing others with my outward achievements
  • Owning a home and all the fancy stuff to fill it 
  • Having a lot of money 

As I strived for those things, I wasn’t happy, or satisfied, or fulfilled. I didn't feel successful. There is nothing wrong with the list above, but I realized they are not accurate measures of success. I was doing what society wanted me to do in the endless pursuit of "things." I realized I was following someone else’s path, not mine.

I’ve learned that my definition of success is something different. It's doing what I think is best for me and what aligns with my values, even if it isn't the norm or unpopular. I want to pursue my goals and dreams and succeed living in an untraditional way. And I want the freedom to change course and try something new. I want to inspire others to do the same… to be true to yourself.

Right now, at this very moment, my vision of success is:

  • Trying something different and succeeding 
  • Overcoming my fears and realizing I do have the capacity to do the things I want to do (like write books, and make beautiful designs, and live creatively)
  • Constantly feeling curious and invigorated by new experiences 
  • Working through the hard parts because of the satisfaction it brings 
  • Making a small difference to someone else

This vision translates in many ways. For family and friends, success means having an open mind and listening, mutual respect, and showing up. A successful relationship for me is supportive, honest, and generous. Success at work means making a positive difference and challenging myself to stretch beyond my comfort zone. Financial success is living within my means. Success in creativity means taking risks and trying new things.

To me, success is being true to yourself, being there for others, continuously growing, and always keeping an open mind.

So I guess what I’m saying is….Define YOUR OWN SUCCESS!

For more on defining your own path and determining what success means to you, see my post on Creating a Roadmap.

Friday Musings: Write It Out

My mental dumping ground is a notebook. Any old notebook. Writing in cursive. I rip out the used pages and regurgitate all my racing thoughts and ideas so I can make sense of the nonsense dancing around my brain.

The writing is terrible. Its whiny and self involved. But also urgent and desperate. Without it, I feel out of sorts. There is power in the journal, healing power. Need to calm down? Journal. Need to make sense of wild emotions? Journal. Can’t afford therapy? Journal. It helps.

Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” prompted my journaling habit. She calls them morning pages, writing uncensored each morning and filling at least three pages. I don’t always do it in the morning, but lord does it help me work through my shit. And the ideas that come to me when Im free-flowing with a pen on paper—many are ridiculous…but some ideas stick (like this blog). It fuels my creativity and prompts me to take action. And I always feel so much better after writing, relieved even, knowing that I’ve laid it all out there and can move forward.

Some people journal to write out what they are grateful for, causing an instant mood boost. Some use it to chronicle their day. Others to craft poems and stories. Whether its a notebook, computer, phone, napkin…morning, afternoon, night, witching hour…whatever works for you—write it out.

Creating a Roadmap

Wandering through a San Francisco book store, I was taken in by a colorful book cover and a tagline: “The get-it together guide for figuring out what to do with your life.” Indecisive dreamer that I am, Roadmap called out to me, and pulled me in. But I didn't buy it, just thought it was another self help book I would toss aside. My husband took note of my interest, and come Christmas morning, there it was calling out to me once again from a box, wrapped in tissue paper.

I have read (or so I thought) books like this before. They all seem to say the same thing—follow your dreams, etc.—but with no clear advice on how to go about that. Roadmap is different.

Put together by the creators of Roadtrip Nation—a documentary series on finding what you want to do with your life and full of interviews with individuals who have done just that—the book acts as a straightforward guide to discovering what you want your life to look like. No fluffy language, just straight talk on making decisions, taking risks, defining you priorities, and paying attention to what is important to you.

The primary tool is the Roadmap itself. Choose your core interests and the primary foundation for what motivates you and you’ve got a roadmap to follow. I did several combinations of interests and foundations before determining the path that best fits my life right now.  (You can do this for yourself on the Roadtrip Nation website, see the combinations you come up with, and learn about leaders who have been successful following a similar path.)

I came at this book with an open mind. I was ready for a change. I was ready to take my writing beyond a hobby. Roadmap gave me permission to follow my gut and work through the fear of failure. I am pushing far past my comfort zone. I am writing!