Category Archives: Challenges

Goals For May 2015, Because Planning Downtime Is a Must

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If I had to sum up the past several weeks of life, the one word that best describes it would be whew. That’s less of a word and more of a sound, but since I’ve been moving at light speed since mid-March, whew it is.

That’s also a great way to describe how I feel about the fact that it’s already May! Anyway, I have a lot of things to get straight this month, but I’m trying to be careful about overwhelming myself. Joining in on the monthly goals linkup hosted by Drea from The Drea Daily was high on my priority list, so it’s time to get my goals for May out in the open already.

Travel to DC

For the past couple of years, my best blogger friend and writing partner Andrea at Be-Quoted and I have discussed meeting up ever since we met online via Britni Danielle’s The Write Pitch course. After endless emails, texts, tweets, online chats and phone conversations, it’s high time we met in person. The goal is to travel to DC where we can finally connect in person. This is already in the works, so I feel confident it will come to fruition.

Get Some Friggin’ Rest

To put things in perspective, I haven’t spent a full two weeks in a row at home since early March. Since then, I have literally been all over the globe from Atlanta to Mexico to Tokyo. With freelancing though, I no longer have the luxury of paid time off, so before, during and after some of that globe-trotting, I was working, and I still haven’t given myself time to recover because…more work. Clearly, my work-life balance is all out of whack and I’ve just been doing way too much. Before May 31 arrives, I need to designate at least a couple of days to doing absolute nothingness. Wake up. Breathe. Eat. Dassit.
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Why Morning Rituals Are Essential

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Full disclosure: Most of my mornings suck. In a perfect world, I’d start my day off like a Folger’s commercial , bundled up in a soft robe sipping a freshly brewed cup of coffee and randomly smiling to myself while the steam floats across my face, instantly perking me up and giving me a mini-facial in the process. I don’t believe it’s magic in that cup (coffee drinkers may disagree), but instead, partaking in that morning routine helps them ease into the day instead of blundering towards it like a train wreck.

A speeding locomotive heading towards disaster precisely describes the way I begin most of my days, except I’m not as swift. Generally, I roll over and scroll through my phone, check emails, texts and (insert embarrassed face here), Twitter. Then I lay around for a few more minutes and ruminate over what I have to do, why I have to do it and how I’m gonna do it. By the time I get out of bed, my mind is sufficiently cluttered, and the worst part? I’m usually not motivated. At all.

At one point in time, I practiced a simple yet effective morning ritual where I took a few minutes to clear my mind, think of a reason I was happy to be alive (because let’s face it – some days this is extremely difficult) and eat breakfast before I headed out for work. Since I’ve been working from home, it’s been a struggle to maintain a lot of the structure I had when my schedule was less flexible, hence the reasons my mornings aren’t as stable as they once were.

Bottom line is I know I need to re-establish a morning ritual ASAP because there are obvious benefits:

MORNING RITUALS HELP YOU TO CENTER YOURSELF:

There’s nothing like an established morning routine to help you focus on what’s important and mute all the background mental chatter.

THEY REDUCE ANXIETY:

Whenever I wake up anxious, I feel like crawling back into bed and resigning myself to a life of abandoned accomplishments and responsibilities. I hate not being able to silence the thoughts that instantly bombard my mind like what type of work day I’m going to have, fitting in personal errands and/or enjoyable tasks before work, paying bills, eating and… dammit it’s almost time for work. Basically my blood pressure rises before I do! But employing some sort of morning ritual helps me to slow down and minimize stress before I face the day.

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Did Your Vision Board Work? 2014 in Review

vision boardAnnual assessments have always been routine for me. The only issue is they typically leave me bemoaning the days I wasted and wishing for a time-machine to put the past 365 days to better use. However, there was a major shift this year in my attitude that propelled me to make a vision board in January.

I’d heard people discussing vision boards before, and while I’ve always been one of those people who make new year’s resolutions, it still sounded like some pseudo-spiritual propaganda. Like, really? All I gotta do is tack my goals to a board and they’ll magically manifest? Mkay.

After giving it a little more thought, I realized that a vision board simply reinforces the fact that people tend to be drawn to things they want.  If a late-night Wendy’s commercial can lure folks to the drive-thru, why can’t a board that advertises personal dreams and goals essentially do the same thing?

HAS IT WORKED FOR ME?

Well, the better question is whether I’ve allowed it to work for me. 2013 ended on sort of a high note professionally, but personally it was one of the darkest, lowest moments of my life.  Therefore, I decided that 2014 had to be better.

I had a ton of stuff on my board, but here a few successes I had this year that really stood out for me:
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Becoming a Better Writer in 2015

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This year I’ve made leaps and bounds when it comes to writing, but I still have many miles to go before I arrive at what I’ll call my optimum writer status. Truth be told, I have no interest in being the perfect scribe (whatever that may be), but I definitely have some room for improvement.

Here’s how I plan to be a better writer in 2015:

SUPPORT OTHER WRITERS MORE

I get so caught up in the stresses of creating that a lot of times when I’m done filing articles, I haphazardly tweet the links and log the hell off my computer. In those moments, I don’t want to read another headline, blog post, or article because I’ve been fully immersed in them for hours at a time and my eyes and brain just can’t take anymore. But beginning now and throughout 2015, I plan to devote more time to reading, sharing and commenting on other writers’ work, especially those who are just starting out, or those whose work I truly admire.

ENGAGE MORE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Someone one posed the question, “What does your social media presence say about you?” I’ll be the first to admit that mine isn’t very reflective of who I am.  In reality, I thrive in social settings and am at my best when I have some food, drink and good company. However, I’m old school and social media is just so…OPEN. I can’t properly convey what I’m feeling, but I haven’t gotten comfortable with putting my fleeting, uncensored thoughts and beliefs out there for the masses to consume and share. Whenever I do, it’s followed by so much self-scrutiny and anxiety that sometimes I’m tempted to delete my account altogether. Anyway, it sounds insane but it’s the truth.  But the fact is,  I need to be more engaging online. While it’s still awkward for me, it feels much better to actually interact with people instead of simply seeing their tweets float by on your timeline daily without having a clue what they’re about outside of some random tweets or blog links.  I joined to put myself out there (plus, there are work requirements), but I realize I’m doing myself and other writers who look for support a major disservice by being a hermit online.
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The 8 Most Common Excuses I Use Not to Blog

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Well, this is embarrassing—and that statement has absolutely nothing to do with Firefox failing to load all my tabs. I hate that it’s come to this, but if I have to put myself on front street just to get shit done, then so be it. Within the past hour, I’ve created two drafts (three if you count this post) in which I began a blog but didn’t see either of them through to completion.

This process of creating a bunch of possible blog posts and then leaving them to rot in draft hell isn’t a new pattern for me. It’s a bad habit I formed and haven’t quite been able to shake. The reasoning behind this pesky tendency can’t be narrowed down into one word, but I figure if I just write it down in a list, perhaps it can help me avoid my addiction to creating drafts and encourage me to write, edit and hit publish already!  Furthermore, I hope it’ll encourage any other bloggers who, like myself, can come up with 99 reasons why they shouldn’t post a blog.

So here it is, in all its unfiltered, shameless glory. The 8 most common excuses I use not to blog:

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Bypass the Burn: 7 Ways to Avoid Burnout

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Ever find yourself barely limping along with what feels like an infinite to-do list stretched out in front of you? Sometimes the end appears like a mirage in the desert, wavering in the distance. You’re approaching something alright, but unfortunately it’s not the finish line. It’s burnout, which is oftentimes unrecognizable by those whom it afflicts until it arrives in the form of depression, loss of motivation, insomnia, alcohol or substance abuse and a host of additional health-related consequences. If you feel like you’re literally teetering on the brink of sanity, a bout with burnout may be in your near future.

Here are 7 ways to avoid burnout:

Morning rituals: Instead of doing the equivalent of jump-starting your brain by rolling over and checking your email or Twitter feed, consider easing into your day with a morning ritual like meditation or sitting at the table with a cup of coffee, or partake in one of these activities that make mornings less sucky.

Take a break: This might sound obvious, but according to a recent Forbes article that states only 25 percent of Americans take their paid vacation, routinely taking breaks is apparently something a large portion of the population struggles to implement into their lives. In a society that’s all #TeamNoSleep #Grindin’ and other ridiculous hashtag lifestyles that promote excessive work over one’s well-being, it’s easy to fall into that trap of constant work. It’s OK to be motivated to reach a goal, but allowing your mind and body to take a break is less of a hindrance to success than having that body and mind break down in the process. Whether you seek respite from the daily grind by taking a weeklong Caribbean cruise or a brisk 15-minute walk around the block, regularly scheduled breaks are essential to avoiding burnout.

Establish and enforce boundaries: Typically, people who are prone to burnout have an issue with setting limits. Before they realize it they’ve committed themselves to 30 hours of work in one day, which obviously spells disaster. To this I say, exploit the power of saying no. Say no to squeezing in that extra assignment, helping a friend on your only off day or just stretching yourself too thin in general. Prioritize by using a list of wants versus needs and talk it over with someone you trust to make sure you stay on track.

 

Read this rest of this article over at ClutchMagOnline.

Image: Dskley/Flickr

My First #AskAwayFriday with Mrs. Tee of LoveLifeLaughter

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OK, so I promise myself and the world that now that I’m freelancing full-time, I will dedicate as much time to my blog as I do to the rough and tumble world of pitching and networking and finding people who wanna pay me to write and edit stuff. So with that, here’s my attempt to dedicate myself (again) to routine posts.

#AskAwayFriday! I met Mrs. Tee of  LoveLifeLaughter through a #SITSSharefest on Twitter and I thought participating in this exchange with an established blogger could help me familiarize myself with how things go in this here blogging world. I’m trying to get my feet wet and put myself out there in a way I’ve been afraid to do so far. But bloggers like Mrs. Tee give me hope and encouragement! She’s an AWESOME blogger who’s found great success in a short period of time. Reading through her blog, I learned about her family, her interests and that we have a lot in common! Her dedication to blogging despite a HUGE (and lovely) family shows me that it’s possible to do something you love and be really good at it if you stay disciplined and dedicated!

 

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She asked me some off-the-cuff questions that had me LOL’ing, which I tend to do a lot. Check them out, along with my responses below:

 1. What is your favorite hot day lunch? Sandwich, Salad or Smoothie?

Um, when I say I’m a HUGE eater…none of these would cut it for me LOL! But if I had to choose, I’d go with a sandwich.

2. Are you sarcastic or straight forward?

I’m sarcastic, but not in a jerky kinda way. I can be straight forward depending on my mood and the subject. I really loathe when I ask someone a question and they beat around the bush. In that situation, yes I’m straightforward. And I frequently sprinkle my writing with sarcasm.

3. Has either you sarcasm or bluntness ever gotten you in trouble?

In person, it has been known to piss off my husband, but that’s mostly when he doesn’t get it, which unfortunately happened when we first met. Now, I know better. I try to get to know the person before unleashing my sarcasm.  I’m wondering what you read on my site that makes you ask me this…LOL.

4. Shoes tied or untied when you take them off?

OMG, I used to be so concerned about this! But I don’t have time, so I kick ‘em off without even thinking…Come to think of, where are my shoes…

5. How many keychains do you have?

I have a few that I collected from traveling,  but I don’t really use them. I had a friend in high school whose keychain was so ridiculous and loud and that changed my entire outlook on keychains haha…

6. On a hot day do you still drink hot (coffee or tea) or only cold (shakes water iced tea/coffee)?

Well, I will but if you’ve experienced any form of Texas heat (which can strike at a moment’s notice, even if it snowed yesterday), you will run for the first cold beverage. So typically I gulp down anything that’s cold and stay away from stuff that makes me sweat even more than the sweltering heat and humidity.

7. Do you prefer poolside or sitting in the sand?

Without a doubt, the SAND!!! I was just on the beach in the Dominican Republic a few weeks ago. Ahhh, how I miss the sound of the ocean waves…I’m convinced that in a former life,  I was a beach bum. I’m trying to get back there, but the whole bum thing isn’t working out that well for me…I got bills, ya know.

 

On the beach in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

On the beach in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

8. What did you eat so far today?

Uhhh, *hides face* See, what had happened was…Let’s just say it wasn’t healthy lol.

9.  What’s is the last song you heard?

I’m not ashamed (well, just a little bit) to say it was New Edition’s “If It Isn’t Love.” I had a lot of writing to do today, and for some reason old R & B sparks my creativity.

10.  I am in love with your story of finding your ‘niche’. What advice would you give to someone else searching for their place?

Whew, I feel like a hypocrite answering this because I still don’t feel like I know my place. I’m still trying to find my way. So far, that’s involved trusting my gut, which is a bit of a struggle for me. But yeah, that’s my answer and I’m sticking to it. Do what feels right for you. Do what you would do if no one else was watching.

 

 

 

A Quote To Live By

 

imperfect blogging day 11Day 11 of the Imperfect Blogging Challenge highlights the importance of quotes. My favorite is:

“You cannot conquer what you don’t confront; you cannot confront what you don’t identify.”

This quote infiltrates my thoughts and actions each and every day. For me, it represents a simple, three-part equation that leads to personal growth. To fully explain what it means to me, allow me to break it down into two parts.

“You cannot conquer what you don’t confront.”

I think about this when I find myself constantly complaining about the same issue or when someone vents to me about something that’s been nagging them forever. Talking through it, around it, and about it is like covering a bullet wound with a band-aid. Much like the bullet, the problem won’t vacate the premises until its located and removed with surgical precision. If not, it is guaranteed to do potentially irreparable damage to whatever surrounds it, be it friends, family, jobs or health. Focusing on the first half of the quote drives home the importance of nipping a problem in the bud before it snowballs out of control.  I’ve been duking it out with some pretty durable self-doubt lately and simply writing about this quote is shedding a little light on how I’ve been breathing life into my ongoing dilemma.

“You cannot confront what you don’t identify.”

How can you resolve an issue if you don’t know what it is? Oftentimes, I annoy myself to no end with over-analyzing, but in the case of identifying the source of an issue, this trait serves me well. It encourages me to dig beneath the surface for more clues. Sometimes this comes in the form of writing down my problem then reading back what I wrote. And as weird as this may sound, lately I’ve begun keeping video diaries. They’re definitely for my eyes only and the probability of them winding up as a YouTube soliloquy is absolutely zero. So while I may cringe at how the camera magnifies that huge zit or how badly my hair needs a trim, watching these videos of myself also increases my self-awareness and sometimes what I thought was a monumental, irreversible issue really isn’t. Continue reading

Advice To My 2013 Self

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I’m a little bit behind on this 28-day Imperfect Blogging Challenge–three days to be exact. But it’s better late than never. That’s what I think about when I recall where I was this time last year and match it up to where I am now. There have definitely been some major changes, some scary changes, but I am confident those changes were necessary, even if they seem foolish and risky.

WHERE WAS I THIS TIME LAST YEAR?

I’d been working at my job for two years, had graduated to a new position that previous fall and I was already thinking of what would be next. Bored. Unmotivated. And wishing my life away by the day, trying to convince Friday to come early every week. I remember that I was always planning to do something. I planned to get serious about writing professionally. After purchasing a domain and joining Twitter, I planned to start posting blogs. I planned to submit a short story I wrote and enter it into a writing contest. I planned to resume writing a book. But I did very little of what I set out to do.

I spent a lot of time saying I didn’t have time and the rest of that time worrying about what would happen if tried to do what I wanted.  I saw the blogs of more established, successful bloggers whose sites were more visually appealing than mine. I had no idea what I was doing while they seemed really comfortable forging a digital footprint that clearly displayed who they were. Frankly, I was intimidated and my progress was snail-slow. Continue reading

Are You Addicted to Struggling?

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Growing up, several disappointments caused me to construct a wall around myself to dull the impact of any future letdowns. For a long time, that wall was my Employee of the Year, never calling in sick or sleeping on the job. I programmed myself to believe that happy times were earned by bad experiences and if something good were to happen, then impending disaster waited around the corner for me, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. But what I thought was a stealthy source of protection actually dismantled my ability to embrace blessings and happy moments in my life. This may sound insane, but I’ve come to realize that I’m addicted to struggling. Yep, the support group, 12-step program type of addiction.

In December, I finally had my first paid piece published on xoJane and Clutch. Looking through an old list from 2010 reminded me that this goal had been a long time coming. But I barely acknowledged the fact that I accomplished my goal because I was worrying about hypothetical backlash from my family and inconsequential opinions of complete strangers. I couldn’t resist manufacturing a struggle instead of simply enjoying my moment.

Before I quit my 9-5 to pursue writing full-time, I envisioned my last day on the job as a par-tayyyy filled with celebratory Tuaca shots that would leave me doing carpet angels in the middle of my living room floor. Instead, my struggle mentality lured me into stressing over whether I’d be able to make a living writing and wondering to myself how long my husband would  support me before this idealistic “chasing my dream” notion got old. Continue reading