Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What it's Like to Be a Runner in Winter

You wouldn't know it by reading a thermometer any day last week, but winter has arrived (technically...) here in New Jersey. Save for this bout of El Nino that's giving us record-high temps (literally 70º on Christmas Eve), the mercury is dropping and we outdoor running enthusiasts are doing our best to prepare.

Some people really hate winter workouts. I don't. I mean, I hate parts of them—mostly the part before I actually do them—but I hate parts of summer workouts too. But in the end, I have immense love for winter running. My first run ever was on December 26, and in the following months we all learned the words "polar vortex" and there was that one day I accidentally drove to work without gloves when it was a real-feel of -8º and I had to run my hands under warm water for three minutes just to get the feeling back in them. (But that's beside the point.)

Winter running is a unique experience, if you live anywhere that has a winter to speak of. I wrote about some of the safety factors involved in winter running here, but I thought today we'd have some fun. Because I'm determined to inspire you guys to keep on running out there during the cold months. And also because it's nearly New Year's Eve, and we've earned ourselves a gif-heavy, fun post to cap off the year, right? Right.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Tens: A Year in Review

The end of the year comes—like sleep and falling in love—slowly, and then all at once. I've been planning for 2016 for weeks now, looking at things already on my schedule and placing others in wherever I can make them fit. But in my eagerness for that fresh start I so love each year, I want to make sure I give 2015 its due.

It's been a good year. Not without its low points, of course, but with more high points than I can count. So like any good Type A blogger, I decided to make some lists to send 2015 off with gratitude.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Some Thursday Love

Merry Christmas, those who celebrate. Happy Thursday, those who don't. Happy holiday season to everyone.
Things simultaneously speed up and slow down this week, don't they? Some of you are traveling home for the holidays; some are hosting out-of-towners for a few nights. Some of you have a nice long break from work and some of you will be working through the holidays. For any and all of you who find yourselves in the mood to click around the web, learn something new, pretend you're too busy working to engage in political chatter with your brother-in-law, or pass the time before your flight, here are some links and things I wanted to share.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Don't You

Raise your hand if you've been stressed in the last month. Keep it raised if you've been stressed at some point today. Keep it up if you stress out thinking about the weeks ahead. Keep it up if you're stressed out right now and reading this blog post is making you stress even harder because either a) you should be doing something else, b) I won't stop saying the word "stress," or c) both.

I know, you guys. Me too. I can't make your to do list any shorter, your gift wrapping pile any smaller, or your flight home for the holidays any cheaper. But if you want to stress a little less right this minute, why don't you...
  • Pick a song and just move your body through the whole duration of it. Dance, move through a sun salutation, stretch, lift weights, do pushups and crunches, find whatever movement feels good and just do it.
  • Wear red lipstick.
  • Create a playlist that reminds you of your favorite day, experience, year, night out...
  • Give your office or apartment a good dusting and then light a fresh candle.
  • Close the door, sit on the floor, and close your eyes. Straighten your spine and empty your lungs. Take a long breath down into your belly, inhaling through the nose. Hold. Exhale, again through the nose, for as long as you can. Repeat for a few minutes.
  • Get rid of something that needs to be thrown in the garbage or taken to be donated.
  • Curl your hair to go nowhere, just because it's fun.
  • Watch Love Actually.
  • Stand under a hot shower with your favorite song on repeat and sing at the top of your voice.
  • Pick up your favorite book and turn to a random page. Start reading.
  • Unfollow the people whose posts you always "ugh" at and scroll past on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
  • Make a list of things you're proud of yourself for accomplishing this year.
  • Make a list of things you're proud of your loved ones for accomplishing this year. Then pick up the phone or your pen and call, text, or write them and say so.
  • Plan a vacation and get excited when you realize you really, really want to make it happen in 2016.
  • Research charitable organizations concerned with a cause you care a lot about and make a goods, time, or financial donation to one or several of them.
  • Add an extra sugar to your coffee or tea.
  • Read all the posts on my Best Of page
  • Go for a run. Or a walk. Yes, outside, even if it's cold. Wear a coat and get yourself under the sun for ten damn minutes.
  • Paint your nails.
  • Take three deep cleansing breaths. Like this: Lengthen your spine to create space in your diaphragm. Take a deep breath in through the nose and hold it for three seconds. Open your mouth, stick out your tongue, force the air out from the back of your throat. If you had onions for lunch, do this in private.
What else?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What I Was Doing When I Wasn't Here

Don't call it a comeback...because you probably didn't even notice I went anywhere. But if you do keep diligent track, you might have noticed a few fewer peeps out of me the last week or so. I don't ever intend to take a blogging hiatus—I've done that before, and it's always led to the end of whatever blog I was writing at the time. But without saying the "B" word that everyone hates for some reason (sometimes people do just get busier than they anticipated being!) I'll just say that I've had too little attention and energy to divide between all the places and people and things asking for it.

Here's a bit of what I've been doing when I haven't been updating this space...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I'll Show You Mine

In the spirit of today's linkup with Steph and Jana, I want to show you my book. Except when I say book, I mean manuscript.

I haven't done a ton of reading since we last linked—at least none that you'd want to hear about. I'm in the middle of two novels and spending more time reading yoga books than anything else, so I wouldn't have a good post for today. (I DO fully intend on sharing my best of the year when we reconvene here in a few weeks!)

But I mentioned a few weeks ago that I wanted some of my manuscript to see the light of day, so I thought today I'd share an excerpt from my work in progress. It's really just for me to stop being a baby and put it in the world, but I'd love any thoughts or feedback if you have any you feel like sharing. Also, I'm having heart palpitations right now as I prepare to schedule this, and I thought you should know.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday Sweats 49: YTT Week 3

November 30–December 6
If you have any interest in the foundations of yoga and the eight limbs (asana (postures) being just one of eight limbs)
and want to read more on them, I highly recommend this text. It's incredible.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How to Actually Get S#!t Done

Working from home isn't for everybody. Most of the time, it is a good fit for me—but I'll admit, I get distracted by bad TV and dirty dishes a fair amount. Without the accountability/intimidation of the boss walking into my office, motivation to stay on task can be hard to come by.

There are a few things that that I rely on like crazy that help me get through the work day without "taking a break" every 10 minutes to do something else for an hour. (Nope, that's never happened. Not once.) This time of year we tend to be shorter on time but just as long on projects and to dos, whether the task list is for our day jobs, side hustles, or blogs. In the spirit of the season of giving, I wanted to share some of my workday productivity essentials. I think a lot of these can be really helpful at a traditional office or home office, with whatever tasks need undivided attention.

Pomodoro Technique. There's a paid app you can buy, but I think that's kind of pointless. I use a simple timer on my computer set for 25 minutes at a time. During the 25 minutes that the timer is running, I work on one task. ONE. The thing about self-employment is there's always something else demanding my attention, another client giving me another deadline, another project that needs outlining. I can't do them all at once, and I can't do any of them well if I try to. At the end of 25 minutes, I take a break and read a blog post, get a snack, move through a sun salutation, wash a few dishes. Basically, anything that has a firm end-point and won't suck me in for any length of time.

• Do Not Disturb mode. I'm not sure if there's an Android equivalent feature, but I put my iPhone on Do Not Disturb for that 25 minutes and in that time I get no notifications of texts, tweets, or emails. Calls from people in my Favorites list come through, and if anyone calls me a second time (usually the indication of an emergency) it will come through. But otherwise, what can't wait 25 minutes?

Piano/instrumental music. Silence and I aren't really a good team. It also doesn't really exist when you live in an apartment building and your downstairs neighbor randomly blasts an old radio at a frequency that somehow manages to vibrate the floor in a really annoying low muffle sound. Spotify's "Peaceful Piano" playlist is amazing for writing and editing background music, and I'm also partial to the musical stylings of Claude Debussy. Other good instrumentals I love are from the group Explosions in the Sky, but you're better off finding them on YouTube or iTunes than Spotify. (In case you didn't know, they're the majority of theme music in the series Friday Night Lights, and the title theme is their song "Your Hand in Mine.")

Don't Break the Chain. Apparently, this is the technique that helped make Jerry Seinfeld the success he is. Not that I'm seeking fame and fortune, but this method got my attention a few years ago and I've finally figured out a way to use it for myself. Basically I have a list (okay, a spreadsheet) of certain things that need to get done every workday, or every day I decide to work. (Sometimes I'll take a weekday for myself and end up working that Saturday.) If I can check off every item or it is not applicable (if I don't have information from the client that I need, or am waiting on an assignment, etc.), I get a check mark for the day. I respond pretty well to these kinds of incentives, more so than "awarding" myself something at the end of a job well done. (I just can't ever figure out what to treat myself with, honestly.)

Different mood, different tasks. One of the things I disliked about my old job was that there was absolutely no variety in what I was doing. I mean, I would write on different topics, but that was pretty much all I had to do: write. Not that I'm complaining about writing for a living, but sometimes it's really hard to just sit down and write good words. When it's really challenging to do that, now I'm able stop trying to make magic of nothing and switch to answering emails, outlining articles, gathering links and research, writing pitches, editing a submission, or other tasks that don't take as much focused brainpower as staring an editorial project. It's generally after those few minutes of super productivity that the ability to write returns to me.

Distraction pad. I have a sticky note on my desktop labeled "Distraction Pad." When I'm working and something random but important pops into my head, I write it down on the distraction pad, rather than walk away from what I'm doing to address it now. It could be something as small as "add butter to grocery list," but if I stop what I'm doing to add butter to my grocery list, I will inevitably end up rearranging my grocery list, or opening up another list in the same place (Reminders app) that I keep my grocery list, and I'll never return to the task at hand. If I jot down "butter" and get right back to what I'm doing, I won't forget to do it (whereas if I don't write it down, I know I will) and I won't get derailed either.

Worry once a week. I wish I could remember where I heard this little nugget of advice, because it really changed things for me when I did. Those little things that, when left unattended, are usually the things that end up making me feel overwhelmed and out of control of my day. Things like emails, sending invoices, recording hours and tasks completed, and all the general housekeeping stuff that comes with, well, being an adult. I used to spend time every day looking at my lists and freaking out over them (I wish I was kidding.). Now, I write lists, send invoices, outline new projects, and make a schedule on Mondays. Period.

Know when to go. Inevitably, even with all these techniques, sometimes I'm just not going to get work done at home. I'm feeling trapped in, or my neighbor is being too loud, or I just want to put real shoes on and need a reason to wear a bra. When it's not working, I don't force it. I either pack up and go to a coffee shop to work, or go for a run to spark some motivation. If I'm just sitting at my desk getting more and more frustrated (or worse), it's going to become somewhat of a hostile environment and that's definitely not conducive to good work. Sometimes stepping away from work or relocating is exactly what's needed to get back to work.

So those are my essentials to actually getting work done during the workday. Do you have any methods or techniques that have changed your workday game? We can all use a little help, especially how in the busiest time of the year so I'd love to hear what works for you.