Simplify.

So my head is definitely still on cloud 9 and so forming coherent thoughts has been unusually difficult this week. Instead of trying to make a cohesive post I’d like to share these suggestions on simplifying from Zen Habits. I see a lot of potential for future Jump off the Ladder challenges here!

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Productivity and My New Year’s Resolution

Last night I was at work 8:00 am-1:30 pm, then again from 6:00 pm-10:00 pm. It was one of those days where I remember why I’m leaving my job. But actually those four hours I was here in the evening I got an entire day’s worth of work done. I had thoroughly exhausted my blogging/facebooking/emailing distractions before I returned to work, and was able to focus completely on doing my job.

This morning I arrived at 7:30 am finished off my work from last night, and returned to my digital distractions. One of those distractions was this post from The Minimalists. The gist of it is that he is productive by focusing on single, meaningful tasks rather than frittering away time on distractions. He focuses on his real priorities which are defined as the things you spend the most time doing (not necessarily what you idealistically say are your true priorities).

The post reminded me of two things: one, the attitude-behavior gap where we say or think versus how we actually behave and live our lives. I might say my priority is to spend time with my baby family, but if you block out where the majority of my time is spent, it’s at work and on the internet. The second was my New Year’s Resolution.

My New Year’s Resolution was this: to become a more productive person, not through the use of stimulants (such as coffee) and stress, but through mindfulness and single-tasking.

Well it’s the middle of April now and I’ve had some success and failure with that. I don’t drink coffee. Actually I’ve been coffee-free for so long it’s anti-productive for me because I’m unable to focus on anything for more than two minutes. I’ve started a couple of blogs which is a great productivity/creativity outlet for me. I’ve upped my yoga practice. Yoga is the only thing I do where I know I am 100% truly present. When I meditate my mind is still all over the place, and a lot of the time I am thinking about things I have to do and such, but on the mat there is nothing but perfecting that pose on my mind.

Moving forward I am going to revisit this resolution. Maybe write it on a post-it or something so I can remind myself to breathe, focus, and be present rather than worrying about money/future/whatever.

Vacation: Going with the Flow

Sorry about the lack of post yesterday. It was the last day of my long weekend in Santa Barbara. The trip was definitely an exercise in going with the flow and a demonstration of best laid plans going awry.

The original plan was to drive up Friday night, crash at my friend’s place, go camping Saturday night, and spend Sunday night at a hotel, returning Monday.

Well the first plan change came after work Friday. Although I only work 15 minutes from my apartment, a series of unfortunate accidents (two. two car accidents) strategically placed on the drive home turned the commute into [Google Maps estimated] about an hour. My carpool decided that the two breweries also strategically placed on the drive home were a better place to spend our time than the car. So we didn’t make it home until 8 pm at which point I was substantially inebriated.

So we decided to leave Saturday around noon. Since LA sucks, we  didn’t get to my friend’s until 5:30 pm. At this point it was a bit too late to head out camping so we opted to spend then night then hike the next day. Sunday we went on a “hike.” My friend and his roommate (engineering graduate students, who are notoriously poor communicators) took us on this “hike” which turned out to be “summiting a 3258′ mountain with 500 mL of water.” The views were incredible and at the peak we were actually above the clouds. So we ended up being too tired to even find a hotel and ended up spending the night at my friend’s once again.

Overall, a great trip. Definitely not what I had planned, but hey, what in life goes exactly according to plan?

 

Photos from our hike:

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Inside the clouds

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Our shadows on the top of the clouds. The sunshine was behind us and made a rainbow around our shadow.

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Top of the clouds!

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Watching the clouds roll away. We climbed up the ridge to get to the top.

 

 

Views along the way:

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This is not my passion

If you didn’t know already, I work as a quality control analyst at a pharmaceutical company. When I was earning my chemistry degree, I knew I never wanted to work in industry. Specifically, I knew I never wanted to work in pharmaceuticals. More specifically I never wanted to work in quality control. And yet somehow I ended up here.

That somehow was this: as an undergrad in 2009, the ice cream shop I was working at went out of business. Well being a poor college student trying to put myself through school, I needed something. My professor sent my resume to this pharmaceutical company that was seeking interns. I got the internship, and worked 10-12 hours during the week and 40 hours during holiday breaks. After I graduated I had $200 to my name and $30K in student loan debt and I was starting graduate school. So I continued at the company as an hourly part-time employee while trying to balance graduate classes.

A month in, I dropped out of grad school. I was pursuing a 1-year intensive teaching credential/M.Ed. program that was going to require me to commit my daytime hours to student teaching, a schedule conflict with my paid employment. I needed money. I had no other way to make rent. And quite frankly I was burnt out on school. As an undergrad I had forfeited all of my breaks, Spring Break, Summer Break, Christmas Break, everything to research and internships in order to make enough money to pay for rent and gas and to get some experience. I needed a break from having every minute of my day dedicated to working and studying.

So my company offered me a full-time job. Benefits, 401K, the whole deal. For a while it was great. I had enough money to make all of those purchases I had put off. A car to replace my gas guzzling monster that was on its last leg. An iPod. A haircut. A full tank of gas. Food that wasn’t from a can. My body healed. I dropped 15 lbs. I cut out coffee and energy drinks. I reduced my drinking by 80%. I got massages twice a month to finally work out all of those knots I had acquired over four years of tediously maintaining school/work/life balance. I started taking yoga classes once a week. My head cleared, and my life slowed waaaaay down.

And then after a year things weren’t so shiny. Office politics became more visible. All of the other departments hired while we downsized. The expansion of the rest of the company increased our workloads. And my projects became tedious. Every misstep, every failure meant a pile of paperwork. If anyone has worked in quality, you know it’s a bureaucratic nightmare. Dozens of volumetric flasks (pictured above) kept me company. My desire to teach resurfaced. I found it harder to relate to my peers in industry when my heart was in academia.

So in 3 months and 2 days, I’m leaving my job. Tristan and I are going to Idaho for a week to enjoy the company of family, friends, and the Sawtooth Mountains. And then I am going to graduate school.

Not Your Only Shot

Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love

This Isn’t Your Last Chance

 

Weddings are the bane of minimalism. They demand so much excess and extraneous STUFF, centerpieces, perfect venue, perfect overpriced cake, expensive food for everyone that doesn’t even taste great. It’s a recipe for a party that costs as much as a car. Actually more than my car. I read this fabulous post over at A Practical Wedding that addressed some of the pressures surrounding weddings. It points out that much of the pressure of having everything perfect comes from this idea that this is your only chance to wear a poofy dress, have cutesy centerpieces, get those lovely artistic photos, and whatever. But in reality it’s only your one chance if you decide never to have fun outside your wedding. It’s like trying to cram a lifetime of experiences into one day, like it’s the last day of your life or something. So let’s cut weddings some slack. The theme is marriage. You can have a cowboy party whenever you want. If we change our mindset in this way, we don’t have to stress over the details, and the wedding becomes fun 🙂

 

Letting Go

Tristan always tells me that everything in life is just a state of mind. If we are stressed over something, it’s because we are allowing stress to take over.Worrying is in your head, stress is in your head, unhappiness is in your head, happiness, contentment, all of it is in your head.

With all of the pressure and expectations surrounding weddings, this mental battle is acutely present. Trying to deal with the opinions and criticisms of family and friends, sifting through all the bullshit the Wedding Industrial Complex tells you you *must* have or your wedding will be a failure. Trying not to lose sight of the your identity when everyone else wants you to to it their way. Sometimes you just need to get out of your head.

In preparation for the inevitable stress wedding planning will undoubtedly bring, I’ve amassed a few resources and techniques for dealing with the stress and drama:

First, initial reactions and coping.

Then, Zen Mind for letting go of the stress.

Letting your detractors know what’s up.

And finally, revisiting my favorite book…

I kind of want to live in the Hundred Acre Wood…