5 Simple Ways to Maintain a Paper Planner

If you’ve already started your paper planner research you’re going to find some super intense camps. Folks arguing Erin Condren vs. Passion vs. BuJo… it can actually get quite intense and be pretty intimidating. And don’t even get me started on Pinterest boards. People turn their planners into literal pieces of ARTWORK, and it can very overwhelming.

If you have all those artistic bones in your body and decorating your planner every week is a form of meditation for you, than by all means go for it. But if you’re just an average Jane like me looking to make sense from the chaos of your life… I am here to help. Here are five simple steps to getting a paper planner, actually using it, and maintaining it!

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1. What do you need a planner for anyway?

First step should be to really think about why you need a planner. Are you looking to manage your side hustle better? Do you have kids and need to see their days side by side? Do you own your own business? These things matter when picking out a planner.

If you’re looking to methodically knock out new goals, Passion Planner is probably your bet. If you’re a teacher, one of Erin Condren’s lesson planners is probably for you. Before you do any research think about your own needs. Maybe even think of the sections that would make your life easier.

For me, I prefer having a daily task list, rather than specific times carved out throughout the day. But you may be different. And if you’re feeling really frisky, try a Bullet Journal (or BuJo) which I started doing this year for the first time. Using a BuJo essentially means you are using dotted graph paper to create your own templates from scratch. Every week I draw my schedule. So far, I’ve been enjoying it. If a format doesn’t work for me, I just change it the following week!

I used Passion Planner for many years but finally felt strong enough to go it on my own with BuJo, and create the sections that work for me. After all, there is no wrong way to plan, other than not planning at all. (Oh wow, something actually quotable coming from the blog, yay!)

2. Start With the Facts

Just like solving a crime (at least I think that’s how you do it), start with your facts when planning for the first time. You can get crazy with colors and pens and everything later.  When do you go to work? Do you need to write your shifts in? When is your doctor’s appointment? Fill in the basic things you know today. Depending on what planner you get you may need to fill in a monthly or yearly calendar, fill it in with what you know. A vacation, birthdays etc. Then start with your first week, nailing all the easy stuff.

As you’re doing this you’ll realize how much random stuff you store in your brain! Storing that stuff takes up brain power. Write it all down and you will feel the weight being lifted. (Such an awesome feeling!) You’ll have the focus to do other things and you no longer have to keep track of 15 slips of random paper or notebooks. All your lists and to-dos are now in one place. Hooray!

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Photo by Hey Beauti Magazine on Unsplash

3. Fill In the Rest as it Comes

Don’t get carried away filling out the planner right away. I know it looks pretty bare upfront, but you will fill it over time. You’ll have bills to pay, new friends to meet, old friends to call. All of these things will come up as they always do, write them down then.

I remember when I first started trying my Passion Planner, I’d scramble to fill up my weeks with goal oriented items and to-dos. Then the days would come and I’d realize how much I had misjudged and overwhelmed myself. Let your days and weeks take shape. You can certainly nudge them along, but don’t get crazy.

4. Use Your Planner as Your Main Source of Information

This may feel off at first, especially as so many of us maintain calendars online with our e-mails, but you gotta trust me and trust that planner. If your girlfriend sends you an invite on Gmail for a girls’ night, write it down in the planner, too.

If you are doing a BuJo like me, where you don’t have weeks ready to go in advance, sit down and do a calendar review at the beginning of each week. I go through my Google calendar and write down every event there into my planner. I transfer everything. When they match, I’m done! It allows me to carve out my side hustle work around my regular day job and social commitments.

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Photo by Hey Beauti Magazine on Unsplash

5. Make Awful Mistakes

I know it sounds corny but go into planning with an open mind. It is going to take time to come to a rhythm that works for you. Planning is different for everyone, and while you can pin inspiration all day long, at the end of it, you’re still responsible for the methods you select and making sure they work for you.

Do your research but also always go back to number one on this list: What do you need the planner for anyway? Keep answering that question with how you keep it. If you forget to write something down – learning experience! If you’re messy – who cares? You don’t need to share it with anyone but yourself. And, if you’re like me, a paper planner will help you with your handwriting. Be okay making the mistakes and find your own rhythm.

I hope these steps help you to feel confident in starting your journey with paper planners. Let me know if it was helpful, and what else you’d like to see in the future as it relates to goal setting and paper planners. I have more to share!

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Hygge for New Yorkers – A Guide to Small Comforts for City People

When I first read of Hygge — the Danish art of enjoying small comforts — a couple of months ago, I was thrilled to find a word for the feeling and environment I’ve been creating for most of my life. It turns out that my mother was quite a natural with hygge and I’ve oh-so-thankfully inherited her attention to detail when it comes to creating “a moment.” As this is the first time in my life a trend has come naturally to me, I’ve created this guide to getting your hygge on in a city that isn’t always accepting of staying home and getting comfy.

What is Hygge exactly?

Hygge does not translate to English directly, but is often described as the feeling or mood that comes from making ordinary moments special, of being intimate, and of getting downright comfy. There is a lot of speculation as to why Danes put so much emphasis on making home a perfect escape but it generally boils down to the fact that the weather is often terrible, there is little to do, and going out to eat is rather expensive. To compensate, they heighten the experiences of everyday activities and find joy in even the smallest things. I often think of Mindfulness when reading about hygge, as they are built on similar pillars.

Based on these definitions and speculations, I imagine the reason that my mother and I (and many people that we know) are already hygge-ing because we are not just American, but we are New Englanders. If weather and low funds ultimately created hygge then of course New Englanders are naturals! Why else do you think Yankee Candle is such a big deal to us? We love staying home and being cozy, there’s no doubt about that.

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Cuddling your dog is very hyyge. This is my boy, Ajax.

Why New York?

Listen, anyone can take these tips and use them anywhere, but I just find that the people confined to city lifestyles (read: few trees, very busy) are the ones who are most likely doing very little in the way of hygge and are probably the ones who could benefit most from it. Now on to it…

Take it Easy

Hygge is a feeling and it takes time to cultivate it. Rushing it or forcing it by going out and buying a bunch of stuff isn’t going to make you feel better and it certainly isn’t hygge. The whole notion is to take pleasure in the small things you already have or do and elevate them. Stay mindful. Apply the following tips to your life slowly. Light a candle once a week to start, maybe on Sunday nights, or set aside the first hour of every Saturday morning to reading. Start small and then grow.

Transition Properly

If you don’t have the pleasure of working from home like some, you will have to face the commute home which is more often then not, grueling. You do not want to take bad energy into your safe place. The first thing I do after a long day is take my dog for a brisk walk without my cell phone. The disconnected, fresh-air bonding moment with my dog changes my thinking and eases me into my evening. If you don’t have a pooch, try getting off the train a stop earlier and walking home. Stop for some flowers or a warm tea and unwind your mind. No phone checking!

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Plant life, pictures of friends, and warm lights make your home feel welcoming

Make Home Your Haven

To properly hygge you have to go home and you have to stay there, so what your space feels like to you is an important part of the whole process. It should feel cozy and inviting. If you live with roommates, hygge your bedroom so it becomes your comfy cave of solitude. A good room is one that upon seeing it, you no longer have FOMO or the desire to leave it. You want to remain there for hours, totally blissful. Hygge objects bring you happiness; they give off warmth or are in colors that evoke warmth.

After walking my dog, the first thing I do once home is light the multiple candles around my apartment and turn on the string lights and LED candles I also have strewn about. I never turn on my overheard lights unless I’m in the kitchen (they’re SO harsh) and I switch into my comfiest clothes, including fuzzy socks. I leave blankets out for extra coziness. We all live in small places so there’s no need for you to go overboard with new fuzzy pillows and animal hide purchases. Take what you have and work with it! Here are some items that are easy to have in an apartment to create a hygge environment:

  • Candles… literally everywhere
  • String lights
  • Blankets
  • Clothes that relax you
  • Lavender oil for your sheets and/or blankets
  • Framed photographs of your favorite people
  • Items from your childhood home
  • Favorite books on display
  • Succulent plants or cacti
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Fuzzy carpets and funny artwork keep things light

Enjoy the Moment

Hygge is not just your environment but how you treat yourself and others in that environment. Take time to pause and enjoy even the smallest of moments. Indulge in being alive. Have a special tea or cocoa on hand, pick up a brand new book to read, take a long hot bath, massage your partner’s shoulders, share stories with your friends. Relish these moments as if they are the only time you have to enjoy them. The list of hygge moments is endless, because really it is what makes you happy, but here are some of my personal favorites that work in the city.

  • If someone invites you to dinner, invite them over instead for hot tea and intimate conversation
  • Have a special mug you only use for cocoa
  • Take a walk the moment it starts snowing
  • Spend a Saturday reading in bed
  • Bake a favorite treat that has less than 10 ingredients (or maybe even 5!)
  • Turn off your phone for an hour
  • Turn off your phone for longer than an hour
  • Stay in your own neighborhood for a whole weekend, cook dinner each night
  • Put a crackling log video on your TV
  • Instead of going to a bar, have everyone over for mulled wine and a board game. Make it an BYOFS (Bring Your Own Fuzzy Socks) event
  • Stretch
  • Meditate
  • Pop popcorn the old school way
  • Take a freakin’ nap!
  • Eat comfort food
  • Call your mom and get an old recipe…and then make it
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Simple details remind you stay home and stay warm

Hygge Everyday

Sure, I’d love to hygge everyday, all day. But we have jobs. We have goals. We have lives. I get it. We live in a big bad city with friends all over the place. I am not advising you to stop doing the things that make you tick or make you successful, I am advising you to set time aside in your insane schedule to just be. Remember what it was like when you were a kid and had no way to get anywhere? Couldn’t leave the house? Couldn’t drive? With a lack of options, you found ways to pass the time that made you happy. You read, you colored, you made forts, and played games with your siblings. You made up languages and took naps and dreamed of your future. We still need time for these endeavors! If all that sounds overwhelming for now, at least find one way to hygge during the day. Yes, it’s possible. Here are my favorites:

  • Take a 5-10 minute walk during your work day
  • Look at the people in the coffee shop, not at your phone
  • Sit on your couch for 10 minutes at the end of your day before doing anything else
  • Hold hands with your partner on your commute
  • Flirt with the stranger that held the door open for you
  • Try and memorize a poem while on the subway
  • Lotion your hands at every opportunity
  • Light a candle at your desk (I really do this now)
  • Decorate your cube or space to the most your company allows
  • Take your heels off under your desk (cheeky, right?)
  • Listen to your coworker after you ask them how they are…really, truly listen
  • Have one piece of chocolate and savor it
  • Melt a chocolate in your morning coffee
  • Keep a special tea in your desk drawer

That’s It

I know we aren’t Danish. I know we are busy. But enjoying the smallest moments in your life and really, truly, taking the time to honor them is an important part of being happy. Stop yearning after the yacht, and enjoy the toy boat in your bathtub.

 

 

 

 

 

Do Less to Get More Done

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Three years ago I made a note to myself in my journal. I had been reading something–an article or a book– and wanted to boil down what I had read to a mantra.

The entry says this:

Work when you are working.
Relax when you are relaxing.
Write when you are writing.

And it is something I try to keep at the top of my mind every day. At the time, I was trying to do it ALL. I kept my days loaded with To-Dos and appointments and I would beat myself up mercilessly if I didn’t get it all done. I was overloaded and scattered — I got very little done for years. (Not an exaggeration. I drove myself crazy.)

I was busy for the sake of busy. Which I see as a silent epidemic in the US. We’re expected to be super fit, eat healthy, go to work, have a side gig, have a romantic partner, party all the time, have a nice home, have another side gig, have a hobby, volunteer, save money… this is a list that could probably go on forever. I thought that if I wasn’t busy, if I wasn’t part of the “hustle”, I was failing.

Projects fell apart. I spent more time making to-do lists than actually getting anything done and felt tired and overanxious most of the time. I really wanted to be perfect, or close to it, and of course it all came crashing down almost as fast as I put it up. It took a lot of time for me to realize that by not focusing on the present moment and present project, that I was ineffective and often times, rude to those around me.

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Instead of picking a date night with my significant other and sticking to it, I’d try to squeeze in a couple of hours of work before or after our “date” so the day wasn’t a “waste.” When I was at work, I was distracted by everything I had to do when I got home. When I got home I was distracted by everything I couldn’t get done at work.

I was an inefficient wreck.

I was prescribed to the “do more” movement and I was a whack job. It took a lot of time to unravel myself from this mindset, to love myself unconditionally and allow myself to be a human. Humans need rest. Humans need love. Humans need to unwind after a terrible day or week. I had to allow myself to “do some of it” and be okay with that.

My little mantra can be shortened into one word and it is this: FOCUS.

By being present to the task at hand you are able to finish it faster and at a higher level of quality than if you try to multi-task it with another or if you are distracted and distant. In the past I told myself, “Write today, all day.” Which was unrealistic and I got very little done. Now I tell myself, “You have 30 minutes. Turn off the phone and go for it.” I get more done in a shorter amount of time because I am tuned in.

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Also, another remarkable change was giving myself time to rest and recharge. To be lazy. To sleep in. To take a day off from the gym. When I am well-rested and happy my projects are easier to tackle. Slogging through a day at the office after four hours of sleep was hardly efficient and I had no energy when I got home to do a single chore or write a single line of text.

I know, trust me I KNOW, this is going to go against everything you feel is right. It’s going to take time to relax. It’s going to take so much time to be okay with not doing it all. It feels weird. I’ve been there. But I promise you, by doing less and FOCUSING on each individual task at hand, you are going to get so much more done and be so happy because of it.

Tales of Directionless Personal Branding

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If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you’ll notice that I have re-branded three times, changed the content twice as much as that, and fluctuated between writing every day and once a month and well, never. Running this blog has been a strange journey and I am constantly re-evaluating it and trying to determine what it can be.

The only thing that keeps me going is that every once in awhile, I write something that resonates. That moves someone. They write to me and say, “Wow, that really helped me.” Those tiny moments fuel me forward even when I have no idea what I will say next or do next.

If you didn’t know, my day job is spent branding and marketing independent hotels. I do know how to brand. I do know how to market a brand. But branding and marketing myself? I find it impossible because I change and grow and even sometimes, decline. I strive to be authentic and truthful about who I am and what I’m doing, so maintaining a brand that is no longer who I am, or just a piece of who I am feels fake and painful.

I am so impressed with the millions of bloggers out there that brand themselves so well and are so honed into what they want to share and do. I am impressed every day. And I think about the time and energy they put into managing their brand and get tired. People do manage to create authentic brands based on who they are… it’s just embarrassingly hard for me to do so. I also struggle daily with the idea of becoming a “lifestyle” blog or brand. While I LOVE and ADORE my life, because I’ve built it piece by piece, I hardly think the masses would be impressed and envious of it. But who am I to say?

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IG: @CheapCourage

 

Of course the irony of all this is it’s nearly impossible to be alive in 2017 and not have a personal brand. Social Media requires all of us to brand ourselves whether we know so or not. What news stories we share on Facebook, the jokes we tell on Twitter, the filters we use on Snapchat… these things become our respective brands. Obviously we are editing, to a degree, what we choose to SHOW about our lives and what we choose to HIDE about our lives. And in turn we all judge each other based on these very small shared pieces of ourselves.

Some of us are very good at branding ourselves, some of us are not. Some of us can monetize our lifestyle, and some of us can not. So if I am to look at it that way, as I should, it isn’t that I don’t have a personal brand, it’s that I do not know what I want out of it. That is where my confusion, my fuzziness, my lost sense of online self comes from.

So a few Sundays ago I sat and thought about it. Why was I unhappy or confused with my personal brand? If I was simply happy to interact with friends and family and occasionally spark a political discussion or make a joke, then I’d be all set. But that’s not what I want. If I wanted to be known for photos of my outfits or my makeup or my fitness regimen, I would switch gears and feature only those types of images, leave the other stuff out, and focus the lens. But that’s not what I want.

What I want, and what I too often lose sight of is this: I want people to read my writing. I want to share my writing. I want to influence people with my words. The goal of gaining followers on Instagram or WordPress or even Facebook is to funnel more readers to my work and to engage with them. And I’m not talking about my blogs, I mean my essays and my poetry. The things I write and write and write and never share because of fear. (My god I’ve written about fear on here more times than I can count.)

And so for me to build a cohesive brand that serves me… I’m going to have to start sharing some writing. I am terrified to do so. Baby steps of course… but it is possible. And all I had to do, and what I would strongly suggest to anyone going through a hard time with a creative project, is repeat to myself over and over again, “What do I want out of this?”

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IG: @CheapCourage

6 Books To Make You Feel Strong

Can you hear that? That’s me sighing so deeply that the roof is rattling. The past two weeks have been trying, tiring, and… good for my character. Two weeks ago I received a promotion at my day job. This was a position that I had been chasing for two years relentlessly. And now it’s here. And now it’s mine. And now I am hella tired.

Adjusting to my new role has, on the surface, been alright, I feel like I am where I need to be finally… however, I come home exhausted, I work later, and my balance of life has been thrown for a loop. It’s amazing how small changes affect our entire being.

At the same time as my promotion I really hurt a tendon in my left leg and had to stop training for my half marathon. I am unable to run. Running is my main source of stress relief so not only have I found myself coping with new issues but I do not have my usual coping tools available to me. It’s been a weird September.

I found myself going back to my bookshelf for comfort. Reading books I read a decade ago for the first time, to help relax me. I wanted to find a center and I hoped it would be in those pages. I read Kerouac’s On The Road, Hornby’s High Fidelity, and I’ve been eyeing my Fitzgerald collection (I own all of his books) with a hunger I usually reserve for pizza.

As a result of using texts to soothe me, where I would normally use my body, I’ve put together a list of books that have made me feel strong in the past and that deserve a re-read. I’m hoping you too will pick up on of these books and feel strong and centered.

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