Social Isolation Doesn’t Have to Be Monotonous

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Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

It’s a scary time in the world right now. The experts advise us to stay inside, self-isolate, in order to protect others from the spread of COVID-19. But we are social creatures, and even as someone who loves to stay home, I am feeling like I’m in the early scenes of a movie where shit is about to get very real. 

There’s a line between panic and caution, and I want you to be cautious. Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, phones, and your steering wheel and gearshift in your car. Stay inside as much as you can, and if you do go out, stay away from crowded places. 

There’s also a line between social distancing and solitary confinement.

Now is the time to recover and rest from the constant to-do list of your life. If you can work from home, do it. Use the time you used to commute to get extra sleep. Make sure you turn off your work email after quitting time. Honor that boundary between your personal time and work time.

Water and wipe down all of your houseplants. Pour care into yourself too. Remember to hydrate. 

Break out your stash of “for a rainy day” spa items and do a face mask or have a bubble bath. Paint your nails. Experiment with bold, fun makeup looks. 

Grab your yarn and needles and finally learn to master a knitting stitch. Teach your kids how to crochet. Paint something. Write poetry. Journal. You may be stuck at home, but it doesn’t mean you’re stuck doing nothing. 

Get online and video chat your friends while you watch a movie together. 

Remember that you are not alone. 

Looking for something to read while you’re home? “The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation” is available on Kindle, Audible, and Google Books!

Look for the Proof of Your Progress

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

I was thrilled in November to see that my dormant orchid was growing a new stem. I hadn’t really expected it to rebloom, since I hadn’t taken any special care of it. I watered it when I thought about it and kept it in a sunny spot. 

The temperature outside dropped and boom – new stem.

In the wild, orchids spike when the winter is coming so that they can reproduce. The spike kept growing and growing, and soon I had buds. I was thrilled. 

But unfortunately, my first buds dropped off before they bloomed. The buds kept dying before they opened. 

By early March, the entire stem of seven buds was lost, nothing bloomed. 

And yet, I was still encouraged. I had proof it could grow. 

How many times have I thought I was blooming only for the conditions to not be quite right for me to truly step into the space I deserved to take up? 

I resolved to care for it better for the next time. I will give my orchid sun, I will water it on the right schedule, and I will fertilize it so it has everything it needs. I will repot it so it has fresh nutrients. 

And I will trim back my overcommitted schedule, I will get time outside in nature, I will get the water and nutrition I need, and I will create the environment I need in order to fully bloom. 

I can look for the proof that my growth is possible.

At the end of March, when I was watering my orchids, I noticed that this stem has started to bud again. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I write up life lessons and pep talks every week(ish) for my mailing list. Subscribe today for pep talks and news about my writing and speaking engagements. http://eepurl.com/gQthpX

How to create a healthy work-life balance

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Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

Finding the right balance between work, rest, and play can be difficult to master. While success at work is important, so is your mental and physical health. Here are some tips to help you maximize your personal time so you can be your best self in and out of the workplace.

Work smarter, not harder

Your time is a precious resource, and making sure that you are always making the best use of it can be tricky. One of the ways that many people do this is by delegating tasks when appropriate. Knowing when and how to delegate is a very difficult skill, but when done correctly, it not only helps give you some time back, but also shows others that you trust them. Delegating work can help bring a team together, and in the end, create a better overall product.

Some companies have even started delegating tasks to robots. These robots help companies remove repetitive tasks, and make sure that the employees can spend their time on more interesting and important jobs.

If it’s within your means, you can also find a way to delegate housekeeping and home tasks as well, such as using a grocery delivery service (tip well, and in cash!) or hiring an occasional housekeeper so you can maximize your home time.

Find interests outside of the office

We are a society of tired people. To help break that working for the weekend mentality, finding ways to bring downtime and fun into your regular routine can make a big difference. Making sure that you have something to focus on outside of the office can help you mentally de-stress from all the pressures a workday brings.

Personal activities and hobbies can range from anything like learning how to knit, reading a book, or even just binge-watching a new series of your favorite TV show. While the main purpose of these activities is to get your mind off of work, having a hobby can actually help you in the office too.

Taking a little vacation time is also a great way to stop worrying about work. A nice change of scenery can do wonders, and it doesn’t even have to be across the country. Go explore anything within driving distance, make a day out of it. Get out of the office and go find something fun to do.

Pay attention to you

Many people get overwhelmed with stress and forget to take the time to check on themselves. If you’re starting to feel a little too much pressure at work, saying “no” to people isn’t something you should feel badly about

Make sure your self care routine is solid. This isn’t all about bubble baths — make sure you schedule time to shower and wash your hair, go to bed on time, and prepare meals that make you feel good. When we’re overwhelmed, these basics are often easy to overlook. Living off granola bars and dry shampoo is okay in a pinch but you’ll feel better if you can get the basics handled.

Physical exercise is also a great way to reduce stress. This doesn’t mean you have to spend 3 hours in the gym every day, but find a good way to get out and get moving in a joyful way that feels good. There’s always an interesting way to get your body moving, and you’ll find that it helps deal with some of that mental stress.

Use your time effectively

One of the best ways to make sure that you are staying on track is by setting goals. Similar to New Year’s resolutions, goals are very easy to set and then simply forget about. When creating goals, try and create SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

SMART goals can greatly help with your time management skills, and make sure that you always have something to strive for. Break down your long-term goals into 90 day goals with monthly or even weekly tasks to keep moving forward.

Utilizing your workday hours to prioritize and focus your work means you can leave work at work and not be glued to your email or computer after-hours. Bringing your job into your personal time is never good for your mental health.

Take a break from technology (every now and then)

Avoiding technology can feel like an impossible feat, but making sure that you aren’t surrounded by it at all times is important, especially before going to sleep. Technology can affect the way you sleep, so try and have at least 30 minutes of technology-free time before going to bed. It will help you get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go.

 According to a study by Udemy, 36% of millennial and Gen Z say they spend 2 or more hours per workday looking at their phones for personal activities. While this isn’t always a bad thing, make sure that you are aware of how much time you spend on technology at work, and make sure that you’re getting enough work done at the same time.

Work-life balance is often a mystery to most people, and it’s ok to not have all the answers. Trying a few of these tips might be able to help you or someone else, and as long as you’re always trying to move forward personally or at your job, that’s progress in itself.

How I Check My Email to Be a Better Writer

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I aspire to be a person who goes to sleep with zero unread emails every day.

It doesn’t always happen that way, because I’ll end up saving something as a to-do and then before you know it, that little red bubble on my phone says I’m slowly piling up emails again.

But I need these.

These are my Medium digests, with important information I need to be a better writer.

These are emails from workshops, coaches, and courses I’m in, with important information I need to be a better writer.

These are fourteen thousand emails from Shaunta Grimes.

These are business expense receipts, submission deadlines, and form submissions from my website.

These are, okay, that one is just a reminder that I need to skip this month’s MeUndies order.

Getting started

I set myself a timer and decided I wouldn’t check my phone or Facebook until the timer went off. Until then, it was just me and my inbox.

I powered through about 80 emails in 40 minutes and that little red notification bubble has (temporarily) gone back to hell where it came from.

To get started, I opened the following tabs in my browser:

I ended up opening a budget spreadsheet and WordPress as well, which I explain below.

I just started at the top of the email list and went through one at a time. And I took an action with each email.

  • Medium Digests: I opened each article that I wanted to read later and saved it to my reading list within Medium, then deleted the digest email
  • Mailing Lists: I unsubscribed if no longer relevant or simply marked as read if I wanted to stay on the list
  • Bills: I paid them, opened my Google Sheet where I track bills, and recorded the payment
  • Submission Calls: I put a card in my Shiny Object List describing the submission along with the deadline and link to submit — if I have time for shiny objects, I’ll submit during my next Shiny Week
  • Guest Posts: I get inquiries to submit guest posts to my website, so I responded to these with a no thanks or a tell me more
  • Account Confirmations: If I needed to click a button to confirm my email or reset a password, I took care of it in a few seconds and moved onto the next email
  • Valuable Emails: Emails that I want to keep handy but don’t have the focus to deal with right now got a label applied in Gmail so I can find them easily later

I also realized that I received a guest post inquiry through my coaching client inquiry form, so I hopped over to WordPress to adjust the verbiage and hopefully make it clearer what each form is for.

Building the new email habit

My goal is to handle my unread emails in this manner once or twice a day, but I’m not hung up on the zero as a marker of my success. What I want to get from this habit, however “successful” I am at keeping my inbox at zero, is a more intentional approach to my email inboxes and professional development.

It does me no good to be on mailing lists for writers and saving articles about writing if I’m not taking the time to read them, learn, and implement what they teach me.

Handling my email inbox is the first tiny step toward building the habit of improving my writing.

How Your Surrounding Space Can Help Improve Your Mental Health

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Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Whenever there’s an opportunity to make yourself feel better, seize it! The world is a hectic place, but your life doesn’t have to be.

Therapy isn’t the only way to improve mental health. There are some things you can do on your own to make yourself feel better – the space around you plays a big role in that. 

Do you know that feeling after cleaning up the house or decluttering your desk? That’s exactly what we mean by making yourself feel better. That feeling of motivation and positivity proves to what extent our surrounding space impacts our mental health. 

Here are some tips that can inspire you to improve your well-being and make meaningful changes to your space (and hopefully your inner and outer peace). 

Declutter regularly

“When my house is not in order, I don’t feel in order.”

Clutter can feel like your worst enemy. Picture yourself at the happiest you’ve ever been. Now imagine entering into a cluttered apartment. That feeling of disappointment that you are feeling only at the thought of clutter is proof that your surroundings play an enormous role in your life. The good news is that it doesn’t take that much effort to bring a positive change and to make yourself feel better. Decluttering requires a little will power and a couple of hours of your life (weekly or monthly depending on your desired level of decluttering).

Redecorate

Everybody enjoys a change here and there. Redecorating and changing your space can have a positive impact on your mental health. Those changes don’t have to be immense. Even the slightest update in your living room can put a smile on your face.

Why don’t you consider adding more plants to your space? You probably already know how healthy they are for their air-purifying elements, but they have some healing powers too. Plants will create a more natural atmosphere that will be more pleasant to be in.

(Caitlin’s note: I recommend Wild Interiors and Just Add Ice for indoor plants!)

Apart from adding green to your surroundings, you can bring more colors to your life by painting the walls. Colors can influence moods, so you should choose them carefully. For example, the blue color is known for its calming and soothing power, while yellow can boost your energy and put you in a better mood. 

Rearrange the furniture

While redecorating might require some time and money investment, rearranging the furniture definitely takes less effort but has a big role in elevating your mood.

My mum used to do this a lot when I was a kid, especially when she was feeling blue. A different living room set-up would always brighten up the house. Since my childhood, this was my go-to method for making myself feel happier.

Eventually, which furniture set-up works the best for you and your family depends on, well, you and your family. Try more options until you settle for the one that fits you the most and supports your daily activities in the most productive way.

Spruce up your workplace

“We are defined by where we spend our time.”

For most of us, our workplace is where we spend the majority of our time. There’s no denying that our job and office highly impact our mental health. So how do we turn this to our advantage? 

1) Add more plants

Plants are a must-have for every office space for health reasons and productivity. Even if you’re not working from home, but in a shared office space, there’s no way your colleagues or managers will object to having plants in the office. 

2) Clean and organize your desk 

Your desk needs to be taken care of regularly. Try to tidy up your office desk as soon as you are done for the day. Avoid keeping unnecessary documents or paper on it, that’s what file cabinets are for. Your desk should be fully optimized and free of clutter. Office tools like binders can also be very practical and can help you keep your space organized.

3) Let there be light and air

Good lighting and fresh air are crucial for every workspace. Nothing like those sun rays to make you feel productive and alive! 

Bonus tip: Leave the window open while you are on your lunch break. There is less chance that you will feel sleepy after eating if your office is well-aired. High temperatures can also cause you to feel sleepy, hence not productive, which is another reason to let air circulate.

4) Get a pet

A pet-friendly atmosphere will lift the mood of any workplace. If you are working from home, why don’t you consider getting a pet? If you are managing a workplace, definitely consider getting a pet for your employees. Not only that you will have a beautiful distraction from work, but you will also give and receive so much love, which will eventually make your work blossom.

5) Get inspired

Different people get inspired by different things. Your office space should reflect your personality, your desires, and your goals. You’ve surely noticed how some parents put framed photos of their children on their desks. It is what keeps them going, what makes them feel good and productive. It can be anything, from photos of your close ones to vision boards, places you’d like to visit, anything. What makes you good at your job? What’s your goal? Feel free to frame it and put it in a visible place so that you can get daily reminders of your path.

6) Add some colors

You will hear quite often that employees complain about the lack of color in their workplace. If you are one of them, share this constructive feedback with your managers so that they can consider adding some colors to your office. 

If you are lucky enough to be working from home, you should definitely do some research on colors that would fit you the best – not only can the right colors do wonders for your productivity, they can also improve your well-being and lift your mood. No need to paint your home office walls if that’s not your cup of tea; there are other ways to add color – rugs, paintings, photos, ornaments, etc.

The most important advice I’ve ever received was to always listen to myself. You should do the same. If it makes you feel bad, get rid of it. Experiment with your home, office space, walls, and furniture as much as you want until you get it right. Create a space where you will feel peaceful and happy – what more could a person ask for?

About the author

tess

 

Tess Cain loves being organized. If she is not working at office.eco, then she’s dedicating her time to staying clean, clutter-free and organized. She also likes the outdoors, working out and volunteering.

Get out of your own way and do something

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I’ve had a lot going on lately.

You know.

I left an abusive marriage, wrote a book, fell in love, moved in with him, broke up, settled back in Cleveland. The usual.

My office is still packed up in boxes, waiting for a wellspring of motivation to encourage me to put things on shelves and hang art and find a hot pink desk chair so I can have a place to write that isn’t propped against my bedroom wall in bed in my pajamas.

I’ve been writing, sporadically. I’ve been posting, occasionally. I’ve been working, a lot. Just not on this. Not on the things that set me on fire, make my heart pound, and make me pause for a break to say “Yes! This! Exactly!”

I love blogging. I love talking to you over this vast internet of so much happening in the world. I love the few minutes we share as you read what I have to say after I’ve had such a great time writing it.

And yet, the ideas tumble around in my brain like a pair of tennis shoes in the dryer.

Do a podcast. Teach a course. Write on a more consistent schedule. Work on your next book. Do more social media. Book speaking engagements. Do a book tour.

And I know I want to do all of these things, but it’s so hard to get started when everything is a great idea. That’s the trouble: I want to do it all, and I want to do it all well.

I get in my own way because perfectionism tells me I shouldn’t do anything if I can’t do it right.

And I am really not that great at Twitter.

So rather than figure out Twitter, I just don’t post anything on my social media. I am social media crickets right now, and I have a book out I need to be promoting and I have things I need to be saying for people who need to hear from me.

In the middle of last week, all these tennis shoulds bouncing around in my brain dryer, a post came across my Facebook feed that said:

That thing you’ve been indecisive about? The one (or 20!) things lingering in the back of your mind, taking up mental space, keeping you unconsciously stressed – what if you just decided NOW?

What if you decided and then implemented that decision? Right now. Today.

I was 100% called out by my friend Melanie, who is a professional coach. She’s amazing, and we met through some beautiful serendipity in 2015. She and I have worked together on and off through her various courses and opportunities to chat one on one about something I was working on.

I commented on the post:  I want to start a Patreon but I am not sure what levels and what rewards. I took tomorrow off as a mental health day. Perhaps I can launch a Patreon.

I’d had Patreon on my to-do list since at least 2017, so I’d been sitting on it for two years and never took action. I was paralyzed by the questions that prevented perfection: What do I have to offer that people would pay for? What if nobody signed up? What if?

I came back a few hours later with a Patreon link. I just made the damn thing. And I had two supporters within an hour.

I kicked imposter syndrome out of the way for two seconds and got something done.

I set up a Patreon page. 

And then I did something batshit amazing.

Today, I opened one of Melanie’s emails and saw a link to get on her calendar for a free one hour “clarity call” that promised to help me make a plan to get things moving. I just needed some guidance on what step to take next.

I scrolled through the week looking for a convenient time, and then realized I was putting it off for no reason. I booked a call tonight at 6:45pm. We talked until a little past 8:00 and I made the decision to book her for professional coaching for six months.

I am extremely privileged to be able to adjust my budget for professional coaching.

I completely acknowledge that not everyone can just rearrange their finances to prioritize paying a pro coach for a few months. It’s a huge deal, even to me. But the one simple action I took was setting up that Patreon page.

As soon as it was published, I felt great. Relieved. I can always tweak it later, it does not need to be absolutely 100% perfect at the time of launch. In fact, it never will be.

That feeling of elation carried over into the next day. I wrote some content for my Patreon page to give a preview of the patron exclusive content. I had a great weekend. I took a self care day Sunday and wrote all day. And that brings us to Monday, the day I signed up for a free call and decided to take the next right step — for me.

I took the next right step for me.

Me. This is what I need to hold myself accountable and advance my goals to their next level.

Because I know I will fall right back into the habit of being paralyzed by too many great ideas. And I also know that this notebook I used tonight to take notes during my call with Melanie is full of OLD notes that say “Get Melanie an outline by the end of the week” which I probably never did, since I never finished that project.

I had to take it to the next level.

What can you take to the next level?

Whether it’s your self care game, picking up one more client for your business, paying a bill you’ve been forgetting about, or asking for a raise at work, I want you to get out of your own way and just do ONE THING that’s been in the back of your mind bothering you for ages.

Tell me what it is in the comments. You can get it done!


Read more from me

If you dig my brand of encouragement, you might like my Patreon page, where supporters receive a weekly pep talk post! You can sign up at varying levels for different content access, starting at just $1 per month.

You can also support my work by purchasing my book, The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. I’d love for you to let me know what you think of the book, so please give it a read and leave a five star review on Amazon. If you’re morally opposed to Amazon, I have some other links here.

13 Life Lessons from a Half Marathon

I recently did something way out of my comfort zone: I ran a half marathon. I spent weeks training, running miles and miles, preparing for this huge day. The day did not unfold ideally, but I learned a lot from the experience and hope any of you working on a fitness goal (whether or not it’s running-related), a business goal, or any goal can learn from my experience too. After all, it’s all about goals, progress, and pacing yourself.

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  1. Ask for Advice: I spent a couple of hours in the days before my race browsing through Pinterest, asking in my running groups on Facebook, and chatting with a coworker who has run several half marathons to ask the very important question: What do I need to take with me for race day? The answers varied but they were all really helpful and helped me to prep a race day kit that had all of my needs covered. I could have made up my own kit and flown by the seat of my pants without too much hardship, but asking people who had been there before gave me different perspectives and things to consider that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. For example: A long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt from a thrift store that you don’t mind never seeing again. Many people tossed their sweats along the path to be collected later (many race organizers donate the unclaimed items), but I stalwartly tied my sweatshirt around my body to hang onto it. A volunteer took it for me at the halfway point and said it would be in the finisher’s tent — but when I realized I had forgotten it as I got back into my car after the race, I couldn’t have made my legs go back out there if I’d wanted to. Goodbye, sweatshirt — and thank you, people who have done this before me.
  2. Nothing New on Race Day: This was said to me several times as I asked for advice. Should I wear compression socks for the race? Should I try an electrolyte drink I had never tried before? Should I do this, or that? The answer was always the same: Nothing new on race day. With this advice in mind, I picked an outfit made up of clothes that fit comfortably and that I knew I could run in. I packed snacks I knew I could eat on the run without upsetting my stomach. I ate a typical post-run lunch when I finished (spoilers: it was Chipotle). This advice relates to many aspects of life. Going for a job interview? Don’t wear brand new makeup you might be allergic to, or new shoes that pinch you in ways you didn’t anticipate. Getting ready to pitch your boss for a promotion or raise? Stick with your usual communication style vs. an approach that’s recommended in a one-off article you read about negotiating at work. Wedding day? Don’t skip breakfast if you usually eat it, or eat something if you normally skip. When it comes to a big day you’ve prepared for… stick with your routine. The time to try a different approach comes later, when it’s not all on the line.
  3. Find a Focus: I like to focus on a positive affirmation when I am doing something new, or difficult, or anxiety-inducing. For this race, my ongoing messages to myself included “I trained to finish” and “Unafraid of toil.” More on training to finish in the #4, but “Unafraid of toil” is derived from the description of Hufflepuff house in the Harry Potter universe. No matter what you’re up against, having a go-to positive message can help you remind yourself that the stress is temporary and you’ll get through it.
  4. Done is Better Than Perfect: When I repeated to myself, “I trained to finish,” it was a reminder that I had trained to be able to run 13.1 miles. I didn’t train to do it fast, I didn’t train to win, I trained to finish. And finish I did – dead last. I was dead last from almost the beginning of the race, and I didn’t mind a bit. I got applause when I crossed the finish line and it was just for me! It was awesome to complete a run longer than anything I had done before — and though I was exhausted, sore, and cold from the rain, I was also proud of myself. No matter what project you’re working on, remember that done is better than perfect. Perfectionism will paralyze you into not even trying, because why bother if you’re not going to get it right, or be the best? I weigh over 200 pounds, I run a 15 minute mile, and I just completed a half marathon — you can do that thing that’s scaring you.
  5. Get Your Head in the Game: I was really distracted during my half marathon, because I had just dropped my husband off at the airport the day before and he wouldn’t be there to see me finish like we had initially planned. It was a sudden change of plans due to illness in the family, and I felt not only worried but guilty for being out doing this half marathon for myself when I felt I should have been at home babysitting the phone for bad news and crying. I did end up crying, when I passed the ten mile mark, making this my official longest run even if I hadn’t finished. But my husband adamantly wanted me to complete the race and would have been upset on my behalf if I had decided to quit before I started. “You trained for this, you deserve to run it,” he told me. He believed in me enough for the both of us and got me through the moments when I was out of my head. Stay in your head!
  6. Make a (Flexible) Plan: When I set out to do a half marathon, my planning went something like this: I’m going to do a 10K. I found a 10K race in early October. Better look up a 10K training schedule since I’ve never run that much before. Should I do a half? I found a half at the end of October. Can I train for a half with this 10K in the middle? OH MY GOSH I CAN! And thus began my plan. Things did not go according to plan, as I totally nailed the first week of training, started skipping cross training in week two, and had given up both cross training and yoga days by the third week. So I ran a few times a week for several weeks leading up to my 10K, and then the subsequent three weeks leading up to the half marathon I was in rare form. I ran four or five days a week, including a long run on the weekends (eight miles two weeks before the race, and ten miles the week before). I made it happen even when training didn’t go perfectly — but having the built-in reality check of that 10K assured that I would have to show up and put in the effort on my way to the big goal. You can break down any goal into manageable baby steps and just go one day at a time until you achieve it. (A 90-day goal setting planner like BestSelfCo can help you break down big goals into weekly and daily targets – use this referral link to get $10 off any purchase until 12/15/17).
  7. Hold Yourself Accountable: An accountability plan is crucial to achieving your goal, whether it’s a race or a debt payoff or getting your degree. I actually kept my half marathon goal pretty quiet, telling only a few close friends rather than making a big announcement on my social media pages. I did announce my 10K plan so that my sudden uptick in weekly runs didn’t rouse any suspicions, but I kept the half quiet because publicly sharing your goals can actually hurt your chances of achieving them. So when you’re working on a big goal, loop a few close friends in to help motivate and keep you accountable to your plan (pick the friends that will actually hold you to your word, not help you make excuses), but try keeping the big announcement to yourself until it’s done. You can also hold yourself financially accountable (like I did when I spent money on my race registration or like someone who commits to applying to college might pay their application fee, or like somebody might sign up to attend a conference or book a vacation they keep putting off).
  8. Make Things Fun: Finding a way to put a little pep in your step is always better than the alternative! When running, I like to listen to music or run with a friend so we can chat. Since I had no friends ready and willing to run a chilly, rainy half marathon with me at dark o’clock in the morning, I loaded up a playlist with over three hours of music and set on my merry way. My phone died after mile 11. See #6 to make a flexible plan, and pack a backup battery and charger if you’re going to be running multiple apps on your phone. I used Charity Miles and Map My Run as well as Spotify. For non-running goals and plans, you could build in rewards (a new lipstick for each week you declutter one room of the house, a three day weekend vacation when you pay off a credit card, etc.) to keep things interesting and engaging. Because slogging along with nothing fun to do is, well, no fun.
  9. Hydrate: Just, all the time. Go get some water. Yes, right now.
  10. Find Your Power Groove: You might have a song that gets you super pumped up, a snack that gives you energy (try Delish Fish!), or a time of day when you work at your most efficient and effective. Whether you’re running a race, writing a book, or painting a bedroom, take note of when and how you do your best work. While you can’t guarantee conditions on race day, you can make the most of the things you can control and keep yourself in a positive forward-moving state of mind and body.
  11. Know When to Quit: While I didn’t end up quitting the race, at the back of the pack you tend to acquire a helpful cop or two driving by slowly to ask if you’re okay. “Yep, I’m good,” you will say — but for a moment you might just think about hopping in the car and considering 11 miles as good enough. There is a time and a place to quit running — if you are injured, if you are over-exhausted (especially in the heat), if you are violently ill. And there is a time and a place to quit on other projects too — if your goals change and the project no longer makes sense, if you leave one job to start another, if you decide that you don’t even like zucchini anyway so who cares if you stop weeding the garden this summer (true story). Know when it’s okay to quit and do it with confidence — but make sure you do it for a reason you won’t second guess forever.
  12. Get Professional Help: Between my 10K and my half marathon, I hired a running coach via Thumbtack, which is a great resource to find local professionals for basically anything. He ran and walked with me for a mile or two, observing my gait and pace, answering my questions, and giving me practical tips to improve my training for the half marathon. His most important advice that I wouldn’t have figured out on my own: run more frequently. Rather than running three times a week, he advised me to run upwards of five or six times a week in order to effectively improve my pace. And it worked — when I started to run more often during the week, my pace improved and my long runs didn’t seem as arduous. When it comes to planning for a goal, you can probably figure a lot of it out by yourself. Or you could spend a little money and get a professional to help you get back the hours you’d spend researching and planning on your own. See a therapist, hire a business coach, even hire a freelancer to help you handle day to day tasks for an online business or website. There’s always someone who can help make it easier.
  13. You’re Competing With Yourself: My first lap of the half, I was behind these two older women who were literally power walking the whole time. And I was behind them until about mile 5. Five miles of constant running from the start line and I start telling myself, “Really, you can’t outrun the power walkers?” But then when I did catch up to them, it was time for my first snack break and a quick recovery walk. I chatted with them and they said they were so proud of me and I was doing a great job, and they loved my hair and my headband, and I was gonna do great. I went from envy to appreciation in no time. They wished me luck as I finally pulled ahead and onward before they finished their lap (they did the two person relay but did it together instead of one runner at a time). The second lap, I was on the heels of a young woman in a bright yellow jacket. Yellow Girl, I called her. She had been just ahead of me the whole race. At one point I caught up to her and pulled ahead. “Hi!” I said to her, excited for a little human contact. “Hi,” she said back, with less enthusiasm than I mustered. She pulled ahead and I didn’t catch her again. She finished a couple minutes ahead of me and I completed my half marathon in 3 hours and 23 minutes, dead last. And 100% victorious. Because I wasn’t racing Yellow Girl or the power walking ladies. I was proving I could run 13.1 miles. Success. Now I have a time to beat, because I will definitely be doing another half marathon, and I will be even more prepared.