My Secret to Keeping it Together: Dream Big, Act Small

So you’re sick of excuses, I’m sick of excuses, we’re all sick of excuses… but this semester (my last semester of undergrad, incidentally) is testing me in ways I had not anticipated. Between awesome, but intensive classes (LGBT Development, Women Writers, and Web design… yes please!) and all of the wonderful Women’s Center projects left to wrap up before I graduate… well, all know the story, but you’re here for a blog post… so lets go!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people ask me: how do you manage to get everything done? Its a fair question. I don’t seem to have the ability or the desire that other people do when it comes to saying “no.” Nine times out of ten if someone presents an opportunity to me, I take it despite the fact that I know my plate is already pretty damn full. Given the fact that I have serious issues regulating anxiety in even the most tranquil of situations, this seems ridiculous. And yet, I tend to manage just fine.

Why is that? Because I know that if something is intimidating, I’m just not thinking small enough.

Take my last week of classes as an example; finishing two essays, 100+ pages of reading, designing two web pages and prepping for a big job interview in just five days seemed impossible to me when I first considered it. Then, I broke it down. For this particular situation it made the most sense to take an index card and break it into the number of days I had left. Once that was done I filled in all of the social commitments and distractions that I already knew about. Based on how much time was left in each day I set myself goals like: two hours working on website or read 50 pages of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan with a small box next to it to be checked off when I was done.

I taped this list in my mirror and constantly reminded myself to focus on just one day at a time.

Five days of fun and work later and I was done (and ready to be lazy for the weekend!)

My wonderful to-do list for the past week. (via Spongebob!)

This simple “trick” of breaking things down works for everything.

Getting from being a [fill in your undergraduate] major to being a [dream job] can seem intimidating as anything, unless you break it down. Figure out what classes you need to take, what graduate programs (if any) you need to get into, what entry level jobs you need to try, who you need to meet, and so on… just break down all of the steps between you and your goal and then focus, one step at a time.

Achieving [that huge project that you’ve been dreaming of for ages] can seem impossible, unless you break it down. Write out your idea, then figure out what you are missing that is keeping you from having achieved that idea. Break it down into small steps that go from where you are now to where you want to be. Its okay if some of the steps are missing when you start out, after all you may still need to do some research (a step!) to give yourself direction.

Getting through [those awful chores that you hate] can seem much less crummy if you break things down into smaller steps and give yourself plenty of little rewards each time you get one done!

I think you get the point.

The beauty of this trick is that it works for everyone because you can tailor it to fit your exact needs! (Different sized steps, lists on paper or computer, etc.)

Miscellaneous Tips

  1. You can go as small as you want, but I find that I feel best when I break things into day-sized steps. That way you feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of each day!
  2. Scheduling in small breaks (a cup of tea, a trip to the movies, a chapter in a fun book, etc.) in between steps can help to keep you insane, especially if you are operating on a packed schedule for an extended period of time.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be flexible. Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, is a popular saying for a reason. A well broken-down list of steps can be helpful to keep you moving towards your goals, but don’t ever be afraid to cross something out (or throw the whole thing out all together!) if life starts to lead you in a new direction.
  4. If you are easily prone to stress, consider blocking each day out on its own sheet of paper. This way you only have to look at today.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up! If you get overwhelmed and spend an hour or two absentmindedly scrolling through tumblr or watching Wife Swap when you should be working, its OKAY. Any time spend moping and feeling like a failure for being distracted is just MORE time wasted, so commend yourself for taking time for self-care and then get back to work!
  6. Recognize when something is good enough. Sure, you could spend another how making sure your essay is EXACTLY 8 pages… or you could get some sleep. If you’re anything like me, letting yourself stop when a project is done is half the battle but mastering this skill will make your life so much easier!

So after writing this I did a quick Google search and found out that I am not so original :P For the record, this post was not inspired by the book of the same name (I just found out it exists!) but I plan to find the time to check the book out now… I’ll report back! (A version of this post also aired on Persephone awhile back, but I’ve made some edits and added some tips before posting it here!)

Making My Triumphant Return to Blogging!

So it has been quite awhile since my last blog post. This past semester was awful. My classes were fine, work was fine, but the amount of drama that erupted in my personal life over the last few months left me incapable of focusing on anything beyond school, work, and starting my post-undergrad job hunt. I even pushed my GRE back to June because studying for my original November date just wasn’t an option.

I’ve resolved for 2012 to be better. Even though I still don’t love the idea of resolutions, I am making a small resolution-type-thing… in 2012 I refuse to get caught up in anything that will drag me down in the way that this last year did.  My anxiety issues (which I will talk about more in a future post) have hit their peak in 2011 (seriously, I’m calling it) & 2012 will be the year that I pull myself together and become the calm, collected, kickass person that I can be 24/7, instead of just when I am out in public and my reputation is on the line. Part of this resolution means writing here (and elsewhere on the web) a lot more again, because I miss blogging & everyone who I interact with on here!

While I was missing from Imagine Today a TON happened elsewhere. The two most exciting things are…

(1) I got an article posted on xoJane.com!

(2) I also got accepted to present at Momentum 2012 alongside Maria Falzone! Check it out, check it out! I added the conference icon to my sidebar (FINALLY) so if you’re interested at all check it out and consider attending. Last year’s conference, the first ever, was fabulous, it was new, exciting, and experimental yet the organizers obviously knew what they were doing… the workshops were well scheduled, presentations ran smoothly and were well times, plenty of delicious and refreshing snacks were constantly available. I normally really enjoy conferences, but Momentum is on another level entirely. Check out the liveblogs & recaps I wrote of last year’s conference…

Maria and I will be co-facilitating a presentation called Selling Safer Sex to College Students: Tips and Techniques of the Trade. Click the linked title to check out the description! Maria is ridiculously funny & we are both committed to facilitating a session with plenty of dialogue and engagement, so I can promise you this will be awesome. I know my biggest issue that week is going to be choosing between so many wonderful looking workshops.

So I am signing off for now, but I promise this time it won’t be for nearly three months (sorry!) I’ll be back with new content (and a renewed commitment to writing here) soon! In the meantime, do any of you have resolutions? How do you stay calm and focused when life seems to want you to lose your mind? I always love having conversations in the comments!

Weighing In

animal-scaleWatching True Beauty today I was unsurprised to see the contestants freak out when they were told they weighed ten pounds more than they actually did. I was, however, a little surprised and unsettled the other day: I was sitting in my friend’s room eating fantastically yummy taco dip and chatting, when some of their neighbors came in to drag a different girl out to party. My friends had a scale in the hall which quickly inspired some of the visiting girls to weigh themselves and express their joy at the discovery that they weighed less than before. “This is better than my birthday!” one girl exclaimed.

Let me just be clear before I begin, I have nothing against people on diets, or people who are actively trying to lose weight for WHATEVER reason. I commend your willpower and your commitment to a goal.

That being said, I have this thing with weight. I just don’t get it.

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Mirror, Mirror…

379471_broken_mirror_4I remember coming home in tears, hating myself over the fact that I’d been made fun of on the bus in middle school for my hairy legs. I remember wearing jeans even in the summer because my “thunder thighs” embarrassed me more than I was willing to expose. I remember purposely buying tight tank tops to wear underneath clothing to suck in my “gut.” I remember counting calories in a little blue notebook to the point of obsession, the point where I finally just had to say STOP, I’d rather keep the ten pounds then lose my sanity along with them. I remember wondering if boys wouldn’t date me, girls wouldn’t befriend me, because I was too heavy, too hairy, too ugly. Like millions of other people of all ages and sizes, I keep these thoughts locked deep within my heart; luckily for me, unlike many others, these thoughts are only memories.

Transitioning to college was a strange and exciting experience, however, the biggest change for me wasn’t sharing a room, spending so much time on out-of-class work, eating in a dining hall, or even being away from home… the biggest change for me was a mirror. At first it was funny: why would someone ever place a full length mirror in the bathroom, directly in line with our toilet? Then it was a bit annoying: why do I have to watch myself pee? Eventually, it became enlightening.

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Personal Inventory

20070907-notebookIn preparation for the day ahead (Mondays always seem to be just a little painful by nature… no matter how well they go.) let’s do a little something to pick up our moods. Take out a piece of paper and a pen (or open an empty word document) and find ten or so minutes to spend on this. Now, list everything you can for each topic in two minutes…

  1. Things you LOVE about yourself.
  2. Personal accomplishments.
  3. People who love you for who you are.
  4. Good things that have happened recently.
  5. Things to look forward to.

Now, tuck the list away somewhere and take it out whenever you need something to cheer you up. I did this yesterday in an attempt to break my bad mood and so far it’s helped a great deal – I keep mine in my wallet so it’s always nearby! If you have the time you could even make this a weekly/monthly activity, its a good way to take a positive inventory of your life and remember all of the things there are to feel GOOD about.

Feel free to share yours in the comments!

Beating the Blues

funny-pictures-sad-cat-blackandwhiteI’m not doing a huge post today because its been kind of a bad few days emotionally for me. It’s my own fault, really – it was not smart to watch Les Miserables, Bridge to Terebithia, Seven Pounds, Benjamin Button, and Marley and Me all in one week. However, something good has come of this because it’s started me thinking about sadness and how to deal with it. In this case I’m not talking so much about sadness with a reason that you can pinpoint – that kind of sadness needs to be confronted and dealt with before it will go away – but rather, purposeless sadness. What do you do when, like me, you’re feeling down for no reason? It’s almost impossible to talk it out because, with nothing specific making me feel this way, there’s nothing specific to talk about. However, going into hiding until its over doesn’t seem a viable option because you can’t put your life on hold for sadness, as much as you may want to. Below the cut is a list of a few possible healthy coping strategies…

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Radical Radiance: Yoko Ono

“We are all dreamers, creating the next world, the next beautiful world for ourselves and for our children.”
—Yoko Ono

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This week I’d like to highlight Yoko Ono for our Radical Radiance section. John Lennon once said Yoko was the world’s “most famous unknown artist. Everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does.” In fact, most only know her as the woman who “broke up the Beatles” (although an interesting blog series I’ve started to read lately indicates that this is not true.) I’d like to make it so that at least a few more people know what she actually does, so in this post we’ll look at Yoko Ono as a person and an artist, rather than as simply the wife of John Lennon.

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