Why You Can’t Get Through Your To Do Lists in Your Thirties

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who is also my new accountability partner. We check in every Friday to see if we’re staying on track with our goals and tasks that each of us have laid out for ourselves.

I usually don’t like this sort of thing- being checked in on by someone to see if I accomplished something. Even when I was a kid I didn’t like due dates or people telling me what to do. I’m pretty independent and quite self-motivated, so usually when someone tries to manage me, I want to do the exact opposite of what they say. I like, instead, when people are encouraging, like “great job! You’re amazing! Keep doing that unique thing, you extremely special snowflake!” etc. But I guess everyone likes that.

However, accountably partnership apparently works really well for me! Who knew?  I’m really trying to stay on track with certain online business tasks, and when my friend proposed the idea of checking in on each other, I thought I’d give it a try. And it has been great! Beyond great! It has been brilliant. I’ve gotten SO. MUCH. DONE. Sometimes something you think won’t work because it hasn’t ever worked in the past suddenly works in the present. So really, you never know. Try new things, guys. Or try old ones again…

Anyway, something we both discovered when working through our numerous To Do list items is that some items are super easy and can be crossed off in milliseconds, and others seem to drag on for yearsssssss…

Well, maybe not YEARS…but a really long time. And then you don’t get that awesome satisfaction of checking off a to do list item (isn’t that the best feeling ever?) Instead you get stuck on one darn thing.

Why does this happen? My friend and I asked ourselves that question numerous times as we struggled on sudden tasks that brought us to full stops and felt crazyyyy slowwww. And then we realized it- sometimes a task is a zip file. You know, those files that you open up and suddenly see….more files. Sometimes a whole lot more files.

So when you’re working through a task list, watch out for those ZIP FILES that will slow you down. When you realize a task is a zip file (hint: it has many parts and takes forever), break it down into smaller tasks! Then you can check them off and gain satisfaction from checking items off and, you know, accomplishing stuff! A good example of a hidden zip file is a list that looks like this:

  • -Get groceries
  • -Do Laundry
  • -Write novel

I’m kind of exaggerating, but which one of these tasks do you think is a zip file? Yeah, probably not laundry. So, if you’re struggling to check off your novel-like task, break it down into something like:

  • Write first draft of chapter one of novel
  • Edit chapter 1
  • Write first draft of chapter 2 of novel
  • Celebrate with glass of wine!

Open up the zip file! Then do your laundry. And your tasks may truly get a whole lot more manageable!

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Quitting My Job and Hitting the Road

I gave my “I’m quitting” notice at my job in June. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled and certainly wasn’t having enough time to focus on my writing (which is the reason I moved to Los Angeles in the first place). My last day was July 14th. Since then, I’ve traveled to Montana, NYC, and now Iceland. I’ll be back home to Los Angeles in less than a week. I knew I’d be getting a new job once I returned (not sure what job, though!), so I wanted to take advantage of this time while I could.

Travel always clear my brain, and re-sets my mental system. Seeing how other people live helps me figure out what I might want to do with my life going forward. In NYC, I got some inspiration when I met a hospice care counselor at a brewery and talked to her for over an hour about her work. If I wasn’t aiming to be a working television and film writer, I’d be very interested in getting my social work degree.

Anyhow, I’ll share two of my favorite experiences in Iceland so far:

Dettifoss: The most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. It really is awe-inspiring. You feel the pounding of the water trembling under your feet. I imagine it’s like Niagara Falls, though I’ve never been.

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Solfataras: This is a sulphur geyser type place. It’s very, very SMELLY. Imagine bad eggs times a million. But it’s very cool, as there are a lot beautiful colors and vistas.

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Travel Makes NYC Feel Like Land

I have a list of blog topics that I jot down when ideas strike me but I don’t have time to write an entire OMG post. When I go through this list weeks or months later, a funny thing happens. Old ideas don’t always make sense to me anymore. I forget where my head was at when I made the note. I literally have hundreds of these random topic notes. For example, I have one item labeled “a small concession in your 30s.” I assume this was to be the title of a post, and it’s maybe sorta catchy now, but for the life of me I’m not sure exactly what I was conceding at the time. I have some ideas now of what this could have been, but none of them necessarily sound familiar. There has not been an “ah ha!” moment. 

One of my topic notes is “Travel Makes NYC feel like land.” When I saw it again after what must have been at least a month, I thought I must have meant “travel makes NYC feel like home”..or even, “traveling for work makes NYC feel like home.” Because I feel like I usually enjoy traveling for fun, and less so for work. But even with pleasure travel, I always end up taking myself with me, so if I had any worries before traveling, being away doesn’t necessarily solve them. Being away makes me aware of other things, which in turn does help a lot, but it’s different…if that makes any sense.

But maybe travel does make NYC feel like land. NYC is my place- I was born and raised here. I know the crazies on the subway well. I know the familiar must-do sensation of pushing gently but hardily to get into a crowded train car. I know what it feels like to know my stop has arisen on the subway, even when I’m asleep. I know the feeling of walking along Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side, even in winter, and feeling the warm comfort of staring at $4,000 dresses through crystal glass. I have funny memories of trying to sell rocks in Central Park as a kid and dreamy memories of listening to concerts on the park’s grass while wondering about life. 

I guess sometimes I feel adrift when I travel away from my place, and NYC really does feel like land. My familiarity with New York in addition to getting to be here for awhile helps me feel centered lately. Especially after I’d been traveling for months straight without more than 4 day breaks and suddenly am able stay home for awhile- at least 3 weeks at a time. It takes awhile to clear out the imbalance from all the travel or to even realize it’s there. But I think waking up in my own bed day after day has helped me feel centered when I hadn’t completely recognized that I was off-centered. Having a similar schedule that I can control is similarly appealing. Seeing friends and family when I want to instead of being physically separated from them is very nice. 

I never would have realized that NYC felt like land if I hadn’t traveled away from it so much. I might have been one of the many people who gets tired of the big, bustling city and takes it for granted…its easy to be that way. I get that way with other things and have to manually bring myself back to appreciation. But I was adrift in the open sea and then I finally was able to get back to my land, New York, and grab ahold for a second and say yessssssss… thank you beautiful city!!!! And New York feels like a refuge.

What can I give you guys from this experience? I don’t know- I’m still figuring out the lesson. I’m resting and enjoying for now. Perhaps that there’s a centering you can only find if you go elsewhere and finally return. That’s when you really appreciate your way back to where you began.  

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Is Your Mind Worried About Becoming Jobless and Homeless (or What is Meditation?)

A few mornings ago I didn’t feel like meditating. So I went to Youtube, where I get some of my favorite meditation videos, and typed in ‘Meditation when you don’t feel like meditating.’

What came back were a series of videos about what meditation is. A few of them were created by monks, and were quite interesting. I always love when people talk about what meditation is and is not, because I sometimes get asked this question and I can’t think of the answer exactly- not off the top of my head .

Anyway, this Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche, had a 5 minute video that really clarified a lot of things for me about meditation. I’ll summarize his video here.

First, the problem most of us have with meditation is that there are a ton of thoughts racing through our heads as we’re meditating, and we feel like we’ve ‘failed’ if we can’t quiet them.

But, as Mingyur Rinpoche says, and as many of the best meditation teachers say, meditation isn’t about forcing your ‘monkey mind’ to stop.

We are trying to block all thoughts and emotions and to think of absolutely nothing.

But meditation actually isn’t about blocking thoughts and thinking of nothing.

Or can meditation just about blissing out and being peaceful and open? Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I bliss out and be peaceful and open, dammit? What is wrong with me?!

But meditation actually isn’t about doing that anyway, so relax.

Another problem many of us have with meditating is that our minds will start telling us stuff to do during a meditation, such as “I have to call Zach, I have to buy detergent, I can’t be wasting this time- I have to put my expense report together” etc.

But meditation isn’t about following each and every demand of your monkey mind.

So what the heck IS meditation all about then? If meditation isn’t about saying ‘hey GET OUT!’ to your mind and your thoughts… And it’s not about saying ‘okay, yes sir!’ to your mind.. then..?

Meditation is about making friends with your monkey mind.

So what does your mind like and want? AND what do YOU want? These questions need to have the same answer…Because you don’t want to just give your mind what it wants while you miserably follow (i.e I have to miserably think the same depressing thoughts over and over beccause I have NO CHOICE BECAUSE THAT’S JUST WHAT HAPPENS UGHHHHHHH WHYYYYYYYY.)

But screaming at your mind to STOP THINKING STUPID THOUGHTS GODDAMMIT  JUST STOP IT STOP IT RIGHT NOW doesn’t work either. Your mind doesn’t like being yelled at or told to go away or to stop thinking- and it will sometimes royally disobey and do the exact opposite of what you’re screaming at it about.

So what does your mind like? It likes to have a job. “Without a job your monkey mind thinks it’s jobless and will soon become homeless” -Mingyur Rinpoche

Your mind is always active and wants a job. So when you give a job to your monkey mind, it’s a win-win situation. Your monkey mind is happy because it has a job, and you’re happy because you’re the boss. Your mind is your employee and you are the employer-not the other way around. And in this way, you’re free. You liberate yourself from the monkey mind.

So what does this mean????!!!

Meditation is giving your monkey mind a part- time job.

Just tell your monkey mind, “okay mind, we’re going to meditate, let’s do a job right now, let’s watch our breath.” or “let’s repeat these mantra words.” Don’t give your mind a full-time job…a few minutes a day of meditation is enough.

Also, don’t “punish” your mind if it doesn’t follow the ‘job’ all the time…just simply bring it back to it’s job. Your brain isn’t going to stop thinking just because you’re meditating, but when you give your mind a job and step back, you’ll be able to see those thoughts clearly and let them pass by. Mingyur Rinpoche says it best: In muddy water you can’t see anything, but in still water you can see all the fish swimming around.

So get still. And slowly, slowly, your mind WILL become more peaceful and pliable. And meditation really will bring you to a place where YOU are in charge and are friends with your mind…plus you may start to see some added benefits of newfound love, compassion, and clarity.

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30 Quotes About Being In Your Thirties – the Coloring Book!

When we first started this blog, I was trying to find awesome, inspiring quotes about being in your thirties, but most of the quotes that I found were negative or ended up making fun of being in your thirties.  There are enough of those, so I pored through all the quotes I found and picked out only the best, most motivational, and most interesting.

I put my favorite 30s quotes together in one of our first blog posts titled: 30 Quotes About the Thirties. It’s one of our most popular posts.

Lately, I’ve gotten into the process of making coloring books. So I’m very excited to announce that we made a coloring book with all of the 30 quotes from the blog post! I enjoy these quotes a lot (I hand picked them so I’m biased though) and find coloring to be relaxing and stress-reducing- so I especially enjoy coloring these quotes.

If you like coloring, and/or are trying to find a great birthday present for a friend or family member turning thirty-something, we hope you enjoy these thirties-themed coloring books! We’re excited to have made them for you!

Please share the thirties love and enjoy!

Here’s a link to the 30 Motivational Quotes About Being in Your Thirties Coloring Book on Amazon!

And here’s the Amazon link to the same 30 Motivational Quotes About Being in Your Thirties coloring book with a black background, if you’re into a more mysterious look.

 

Here are a few pages of 30s quotes images from the books. Enjoy!

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You Can’t Take Your Cues From Others (or Some People Have the Grumpy Eyes..)

As I was working at a convention the other day, a doctor who was standing in my display started smiling strangely at me. I was talking to him about a product, and then simultaneously wondering if I had lipstick on my nose.

No matter how confidently and seriously I described the products he wanted to know about (and I’m quite the expert on bizarre, arcane topics I never thought I’d know about, such as medical self-assessment credits (this comes from working a colorful variety of tradeshows for over 10 years)), he continued his series of bizarre facial expressions. I was able to mostly ignore this, and after he left I immediately grabbed my phone and went into selfie mode, checking my face for stray chocolate. But there were no blemishes to be found.

And this has happened to me with other customers and other attendees at other shows. This has happened to me with multiple people, when strange smiles come up for no reason, or people look annoyed or unpleasant out of nowhere. But many times, the mystery remains unsolved- my customer buys the product I’m selling or continues to listen to my presentation or gives me the information I need from them. I continue with my day,  baffled by certain expressions not matching what a person is actually feeling. I remain unsettled and uncertain for quite awhile.

I’m a big face reader and feeling reader, and I’ve recently realized that my feelings are often based on how people around me are acting. If I feel like people are upset, I can get upset. If I feel like people are laughing at me, I get worried. If I feel like people aren’t understanding what I’m saying because they don’t respond affirmatively with ‘uh-huhs’ and head nods, I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

And because I’m such a good face and feeling reader most of the time, I get thrown by people who are bad socializers, and affirmators- who don’t act the way they feel, or who look upset even when all is well. Or people who don’t affirm to me that things are okay. In other words..umm, I’m sorta sensitive…

But is it really worth getting thrown off by these people who make me feel anxious? They likely don’t feel how I think they feel, and if they do, who the hell cares? It’s not helpful to get stressed about it. I mean, so what if I have a spaghetti noodle on my face while talking to someone? I mean, that sucks, and it probably wouldn’t be the best thing for my professional career, but it won’t help to freak out inside. Maybe I’m the one judging myself in the harshest way.

So perhaps the major life lesson I take from this is to take my cues from myself and not from others. It’s hard to keep my happiness levels steady if the bizarre expressions and possible bad moods of everyone around me bring me down. Maybe I need to be the one to bring people up! Even if they’re secretly laughing at me- screw ’em! Let them laugh- maybe I’m simply funny!

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Occasionally freaking out inside at work… especially when people give me the grumpy eyes…

 

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