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.

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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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Shakshuka for One & Getting Past Bad Days

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I’m having one of those weeks where I feel bogged down but can’t find the source of the bogging. I am searching in every drawer but I can’t find what it is bringing me down. The grind of 9-5 job doesn’t help despite the love and support of coworkers and each day I find myself coming home depleted, worn out, and demotivated. Probably sounds familiar and despite my sadness, it makes me feel better knowing I am not alone.

I am fully capable of psyching myself up, repeating mantras, believing, and feeling inspired but I find very few outlets for that good energy. I have yet to find my gift to give and the process is endlessly draining, discouraging, and tiring. Hanging on to the belief that I’ll find my gift is not easy.

When I got home last night, unable to use my subway commute to determine what I should do with my life, I focused on dinner. I wanted to eat something that would taste like comfort food to take my mind off of the chaos for a bit. I wanted something to stick to my ribs but not weigh me down anymore than my own thoughts already do. So I decided to make shakshuka and make it for the first time. And of course, being as inwardly focused as I am, I recorded the process and wrote a little recipe.

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I started by surveying what kind of spices and vegetables I had on hand to build this yummy egg dish around. I did not use a recipe. I am happiest when I am just grabbing whatever I have on hand and experimenting.

I love cooking but don’t have strong feelings toward recipes. I am including one here today and yes, I read them all the time. I believe the true pleasure of cooking is not following rules but taking something and make it your own. I like to use recipes as guidelines.

From my fridge and cabinets I pulled and used the following:

3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

I do love simple and minimal recipes and this one certainly falls into that category with a fairly short ingredient list and the use of a single pan.

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Eating olives instead of cooking

To start I diced up the garlic while heating up a decent amount of olive oil in my pan. I kept the heat on low as I added the garlic. Next I rough chopped the green onion and tossed it in. And followed it up with some olives. The only olives I had on hand had pits so I spent a good amount of time both eating them and pitting them. Do yourself a favor and just go buy pitted olives and rough chop them as well. Toss them in with everything else and keep the heat low. Low heat requires patience but I usually use that time getting myself organized.

I let everything get tender but not mushy and poured in my tomato sauce. I used a Barilla pasta sauce that, while cheap, is pretty tasty. I stirred everything all together.

After that I sprinkled on some pepper, parsley flakes, and a tiny bit of turmeric because I like its anti-inflammatory properties and add it where I can. I did not stir these in, I left them on top to help season my eggs. Which I cracked right on top of the mixture. I wish all 3 eggs would have sunk in a little bit more from an aesthetic standpoint but in the end they all cooked nicely so it wasn’t a big deal.

After the eggs were cracked and plopped in, I covered the whole thing and turned up the heat to medium. I let them cook for about 10 minutes but should have done 7. The sauce cooked down just a touch too much. Full disclosure, I was texting my friends and making my lunch for the next day so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have!

I pulled everything off the heat and after a little photo shoot I dumped the mixture onto a bed of arugula.

And then I ate until I felt better. Which is perhaps not a healthy statement, but it is true.

Cooking is soothing and keeps me feeling level when days are long and difficult. Cooking dinner gives me a sense of purpose when I feel like I have none. I think perhaps that is why I cooked elaborate meals every single night when my former relationship was falling apart. It makes me feel needed and accomplished. It is the best escape.

Give the recipe a try and let me know what changes you make. There is a million things you can add to this! (Avocado, feta cheese, tomatoes, etc.) Also, what do you cook when you are feeling blue? Why does it make you feel better?

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SHAKSHUKA FOR ONE
3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric, to taste
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

  1. In a small to medium pan, heat olive oil over a low heat and add diced garlic, green onion, and olives
  2. Once tender, pour in tomato sauce and stir
  3. Sprinkle with pepper, parsley, and turmeric, do not stir
  4. Crack eggs on top of sauce
  5. Cover and turn heat up to medium
  6. Cook for about 7 minutes or until eggs are baked through
  7. Remove from heat and lay on a bed of arugula
  8. Enjoy!

 

 

Blueberry Cobbler, Playlists, and Mid-August Feelings

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For my very first recipe post, I am sharing a recipe for Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Blueberry Cobbler. Blueberries always make me think of summertime in Massachusetts, where I grew up, and I often romanticize their fine balance of sweet and tart, purple and blue, fruit and dessert. There are few things more satisfying than popping a blueberry open with your teeth.
August is also my mother’s birth month and so I wanted to come up with a recipe that she and I could share that we’d both enjoy. You see, my mother hates anything too sweet and I love all things sugary.
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Lucky for her I tend to want to be healthy, which helps us balance. This recipe is succeeds because it can be served alone (for Mama) or with vanilla ice cream (for me and my sweet tooth). It’s also gluten, dairy, and added-sugar free so you can eat it for breakfast too! I did this and it was a fantastic experience.
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As some of you may remember, I just moved to a new place, so this Blueberry Cobbler was only my second time using my oven and my, can I say what a pleasure it is to use an oven with electric settings? I was so exited to preheat my oven!
My old oven was gas so I had to sit and wait for it to light and then had to guess when it was preheated. After 3 years I got used to it but it really was a pain. This thing preheats like a wizard and also has a built-in clock in timer. It feels magical, really.

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A New Borough & Drive Renewed

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Moving absolutely depleted me. And for that I am grateful.

It doesn’t need to be explained again, but I am a person that enjoys feeling busy. Actually “enjoy” is probably too positive a word. I am a person that needs to feel busy, I find value in busy, and that is a very dangerous way to be. I fill my days to their max which in many ways makes me very accomplished but in many ways inefficient and completing tasks that don’t mean much to me.

Because I am a busy bee, I lack focus, and jump from one project to the next with reckless abandon wondering why I’ll never “publish that book” or “finish that collage” or just “get my shit together.” I know what I am like and I am trying, really trying, to change. (Mean it!)

Having to move forced me to focus. For the past three weeks my mind has been set on a singular project, with many different tasks, with a very strict deadline. It was all I thought about and all I worked on. I was focused and driven and exhausted! But… It got done. I moved. And I love my new place! I even found my passport after I panicked that I had lost it in the move.

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Post Move//Pre AC & Bed Frame

The move reinforced what I already knew– that I work best under pressure and with an immovable deadline. Now to create those sorts of deadlines for myself… well… I am working on this. I need to find an accountability partner. (Taking applications now! Must be a hard ass!) Or a system that will place high value on real deadlines.

The move also showed me how much time I have in a day if I really dedicate it and direct it to one goal, not many. I was worn out, exhausted, and sore every night but I also was moving through my tasks on deadline (sometimes ahead of deadline) and went to bed each night with a sense of accomplishment and little panic about how I was going to get it all done. Because I was getting it all done. (The novelty.)

Moving myself, with no partner or roommates, was a terrifying task. But as I moved through the steps I realized that I was fully capable of doing it. I even called my mom and said, “Apparently I became an adult at some point and missed it.” Moving, like living alone, is not something you think you can do by yourself until you just do it by yourself.

And like my best friend, Kate, once told me, “Fear means go.” And so… as I shop for curtains and strange wall art I need to regain my strength to totally and completely drain myself with the projects that mean something to me. And to focus for crying out loud.