Stop Putting Things Off ( A Pep Talk)

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Raise your hand if this has happened to you: You wanted to do something (check out that cool exhibit, see that Oscar-nominated movie all your friends said was incredible, take a day trip to see the poppy fields in full bloom) and then you blinked and the exhibit had closed, the movie was out of theaters or the poppies were no longer in season. You wanted to do something, but you just kept putting it off. What gives? 

I had an experience this passed week that was a unexpected reminder of how fast time is moving.

My car was nearing the end of its lease and it was time for me to figure out my new "ride". (Do the kids still say that?) The process is not what I personally would call fun, mainly because I'm up against the clock, it leaks time I would rather devote to literally anything else, and the experience has the added "joy" of trying to figure out if someone is lying to you about the "deal" they're promising you.

But, thankfully, it all worked out. When it came time for me to exchange cars with the dealer I noticed a few things that made me laugh and gave me pause: As the salesman stuck my temporary tag to the windshield of my new car, I realized I still had my temp tag on my old car!!! I had looked at it every. single. day. for 3 years (or in car terms 36 months). I definitely thought about taking it off, but I just figured I would do it tomorrow. And then I woke up, and 3 years had gone by! 

It was the same with my car radio. It still had the preset stations from when I drove off the lot back in 2015! I figured I'd bust out the manual and set them myself, but I just "never got around to it" . It didn't feel like that much time had gone by, and that was the scariest part. 

It didn’t feel like that much time had gone by, and that was the scariest part. 

I laughed as I mentioned the radio and the temporary tag to the salesman. As I signed my new lease, I thought ahead (and out loud) about all that could happen in life on a macro and micro level between now and the end of this next lease. "Wow, 2021. We could have a new President by then!" He was definitely in a reflective mood or interested in joining me on my emotional journey. 

As he drove off, I took a moment to think back on the journey that car had afforded me in the last three years: my first dance squad rehearsal (that's right I was on a dance squad!), job interviews, hikes, road trips. And I thought about those extra miles on left my lease that I never used either because of the experiences I "never got around" to do. 

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AND NOW FOR YOUR PEP TALK:

After you reach certain major "mile markers" or milestones in life, and once your year is no longer segmented into Summer Break and Back to School, time starts to blend together. (This can be especially true if you're like me and live in a warm climate with no clear seasons). Which means it's up to you to make sure we're not letting the days slip by. The results sometimes aren't as minor as, "I didn't get to see that museum exhibit." They can be painful either financially, "The late fee on this parking ticket is HOW MUCH?!?!"  or emotionally like thinking you had more time left with a beloved grandparent than you actually did. You always have to keep in the back of your mind: Time is the only thing I cannot make more of. 

I don't want you to beat yourself up about the days you've let slip by. You're human. We've all gotten caught up in the minutia of the day. Instead I want you to feel empowered by this consciousness of time's speed. Right now, make a list of three things you've been meaning to do. Be sure to include in there at least one thing you actually would LOVE to do (take a pottery class, get coffee with your BFF who just moved across town) as well as the life necessities like get your oil changed. And then I want you to add a fourth thing, that's one thing you can do right now, immediately after reading this article. Doing the immediate thing will build the momentum to put forth the steps towards the rest of your list, and the awesome feeling you get when you finally do those things will be a reminder the next time that little voice tells you to just put it off until tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next quarter. 

And if you're still struggling, I invite you to join me this Sunday, March 11 for my Snap Out Of It workshop in Los Angeles. Hope to see you there!  

On Feeling "Behind" In Life (A Pep Talk)

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At some point while hitting the snooze alarm one morning, or driving one afternoon, or turning off Netflix one night a thought crept into your mind: "OMG. I'm behind. Everyone has moved on but ME." As David Byrne would say, "And you may ask yourself — well, how did I get here?!" Let's take a look back, shall we? 

Let me guess, you made Honor Roll all through grade school. You were accepted to your first choice college (and every other college you applied to), and even managed to graduate a semester early. You landed your first job, and then another, maybe moved cities and made friends. Life was tricky at times, you made mistakes — but then again so did everyone else around you.  I mean, isn't that what you're 20s were for? 

And then one day you woke up and something had shifted. Maybe while everyone else was moving up to mid and upper management positions, you found yourself laid off — and then laid off again. Maybe while everyone else was coupling up, you found yourself on a never-ending stream of comically bad dates. Maybe it was both of these things simultaneously.  

If you're like, "Wow this sounds a lot like me. How does this person know my life?" Simple: I lived it. I have been a single and underemployed Maid-Of-Honor at not one, but two weddings. (Granted the weddings were months apart.) I've been up for a major promotion to have the company that offered me a position lose funding. I have enough bizarre dating stories for my own one woman show. Trust me, honey, I have BEEN THERE. 

But there is something I believe to be far worse than feeling behind and that's feeling stuck. Feeling stuck is what happens when you try to manic fix your life and nothing changes right away so you throw your hands up in the air and say "SEE! Nothing ever works!" Feeling stuck can breed resentment towards friends who have the thing that seems just ever out of your reach (and resentment and jealousy is no bueno for friendships). Feeling stuck wants you to believe that you're a victim of life's circumstances and you'll just be in this chapter of your life forever and eventually you'll just turn into the old lady who lives upstairs who has one too many dogs. (This is also a thought I once had during one of these "dark night of the soul" moments.) 

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But I promised you a pep talk so here's what I know to be true:

  1. Life is a game of Chutes and Ladders. Remember that game? You spin the wheel and sometimes you land on a ladder that puts you waaaaaaay ahead of everyone else. But at any turn you could land on a chute and wind up all the way back at the beginning. At any given time anyone who seems "ahead" of you could wake up feeling lost, with a struggle they never saw coming or with some other chute that makes them feel like they have to start all over. You don't know how someone else's story is going to unfold for them. So drop the resentment.
  2. Your path isn't supposed to look like someone else's path. To quote Joseph Campbell: “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.” Stop beating yourself up because you and your high school best friend have lives that look very different. That doesn't make one life better or worse, it means you have or had different priorities, made different choices and were dealt different set of cards to play. 
  3. You know what that "stuck" voice LOVES? The time you spend on social media comparing yourself to everyone else. You're not even comparing your "real" self to the "real" them, you're comparing yourself to the Facebook or Instagram version of them. It is OBSCENELY HARD to "keep your eyes on your own paper" (as your biology teacher would say) if you are spending hours a week looking at everyone else. Part of the calm and confidence I felt during my 30 Day Social Media Detox came from not knowing who was having a "better" day than the one I was living. Honestly, it was liberating.
  4. One Sunday night a few years ago while I was getting ready for bed so I could wake up to go to a job I felt pretty unhappy and checked out in, I glanced around my room and heard a voice that said "Everything in your life right now that you don't like is a result of what you have settled for." It was painful but true. Whether it's I believed that's all I could get in my life, or all I deserved, in that moment I had to admit I had been a passenger in my own life. I made the commitment to get back into the driver's seat. If you are a backseat driver to your own life and you don't like where you're going — stop the car and get behind the wheel. Don't do a single thing until you own that you are steering the trajectory of your life. You have the power, right now. 
  5. You are only as "stuck" or "behind" as you believe yourself to be. Don't buy into this story, or buy into a story anyone else tries to project onto you about where they think you should be right now. That's not a place of power, that's a place of setting yourself up to make a ton of fear-based decisions. And those fear-based decisions lead to more settling. 
  6. Know that one day you will look back on this feeling of "behind" with laughter or with a loving presence. You know how you look back on awkward photos from middle school and either laugh at how ridiculous you were to try and get the Rachel haircut or wear JNCO jeans — or wish you could wrap your arms around your adolescent self and tell him or her that it was all temporary, it would get better and you're not as awful as you feel? Well I PROMISE you, you will one day look back on this painful time with the same feeling. So start giving yourself that laughter or love now. No need to wait.

For more on how to shake things up in your daily life to get yourself moving towards the direction of your dreams, sign up for my Snap Out Of It workshop on March 11.

I also recommend Tara Brach's podcast on self-acceptance as well as listening to "Wasted On The Way" by Crosby, Stills & Nash

How A $3.49 Purchase From Ikea Can Make You Feel Like A Million Bucks

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After a hard day's work you come home to more work, or your side hustle or your passion project.  Or maybe tonight's your one night of the week you left open to recharge from all your hustling, so you're looking forward to some TV binge watching with a side of social media scrolling and some Postmates. 

But how do you signal to your brain it's finally "quitting time"? How do you transition from screen time (yes TVs count as screens) to bedtime? 

If you're like me, you have a sleep window. If you're smart enough to finish your bingewatching or lucky enough to finish your work just before or during that little window where your body is telling you "I'd like to go to bed SOON, if not RIGHT NOW!" you're all set for the night. And if you miss that window, that's too bad. Now you're up for the night. Or even worse, you opt to do something stimulating during your sleep window (which would include eating lots of sugar, watching or listening to something that could amp you up) and now you're going to be staring at your bedroom ceiling all night wishing that counting sheep actually worked for you. We already know looking at our phones in bed is a no-no. 

A new personal ritual is my now favorite way to power down because it really helps me transition from the craziness of my day to bedtime without longing to check back in with anything that's on my phone right before bed (when it's most likely to amp me up). 

I simply light about 4 or 5 tea lights (you can buy a pack of 100 from Ikea for $3.49 ) along my bathroom counter — far from where any shower curtain, clumsy elbow, or curious pet could get to them. And when I turn off the light, suddenly my bathroom is the world's fanciest spa. Instead of a shower feeling stimulating and perking me up (which has happened in the past), the low lights signal to my brain that we are closing up shop. And while I truly do love a bath for super stressful days, sometimes a 20 minute soak can feel like a real production. 

 How I feel during my candlelit shower. 

How I feel during my candlelit shower. 

When I'm done showering, I like to finish this ritual by blowing out the candles one by one, and for each candle I think about one thing I am grateful for as I do it. It's scientifically proven that a practice of gratitude can lead to a better night's sleep. But until now, I've never been able to keep a nightly gratitude journal. The notebook quickly turns into my bedside coaster. But a silent mental list, easy peasy.  

Then I place my phone far from my bed (thanks, Bagby). And it's lights out. 

FOMO? Social Media Won't Help, Here's What Will

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Let me guess: you had to turn down an invite because you were busy preparing for that big audition, on a writing deadline or simply practicing self-care after a busy week teaching power yoga. Just when you were getting settled in to your plans for the night, you open up Instagram and BAM! there are three of your best pals having (what looks like) the time of their lives. It hits you right in the gut, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Fomo is nothing new, and I'm sure you didn't even need me to explain the acronym. I need no further proof than the sheer fact that my 65-year-old dad knows and uses the term with his thick New Jersey accent. Social media didn't invent FOMO, but it isn't helping matters. In fact, it's scientifically proven to make it worse (more on that in a second). But I want to focus on ways you can talk yourself down from FOMO, and the only FOMO that actually matters. Yes, I believe there is one good kind of FOMO. 

Do NOT beat yourself up for having FOMO. I'm sure we'd all like to think we're well passed the point of feeling like that one seventh grader who wasn't invited to Natalie's sleepover party. No matter how old we get, it still sets off a pang that seems to bring back all of our childhood insecurities. While I hope by the time I'm 92 I won't be grinding my dentures because a lady down the hall at the independent living facility didn't include me in her mahjong night, there's a good chance I will. It's okay. It's normal. We ALL feel it sometimes. So drop the shame that there's something wrong with you for even feeling that way at all.

Feel it and let it out — in a healthy, constructive manner. Acknowledge your FOMO. Name it and feel that funny little twinge of jealousy-mixed-with-bummer wherever that emotion lives in your body. Once you're identified the feeling, reach out to someone in your support system: a non-judgmental friend, family member, loved one who you can be totally vulnerable with and just say "Hey, I'm having FOMO about missing _________." Nine times out of ten, getting the FOMO out of your head and into the air by sharing with another person starts to diffuse it immediately. Ideally, your support buddy will remind of the reality of the situation: you didn't miss much, there will be more girls' nights out, and the decision you made to stay in was the right one.

But what if my support buddy is part of what I'm missing out on? Sometimes we have to be our own floatation device. In this case, I recommend grabbing a notebook and pen and writing out the conversation you would have with your support buddy and then what you imagine they would say back. Dollars to donuts (mmm, donuts) you already have a good handle on what your buddy would tell you and it's always good practice to be able to give yourself your own pep talk.

Log off of social media for the next 24 hours. Heck, even 12 hours will do. And when I say log off, I mean literally log out of the app. This is not punishment. This is a hard reset. Because let's review what really happened the moment before FOMO: You were focused on your own life, goals and priorities — until you decided to open Instagram and check on what everyone else was doing or how everyone else was doing. And right now you need to get your focus back to you. Remember what I said about the science behind social media and FOMO? A recent study by the Association For Consumer Research found that simply looking at someone's photos or event on social not only leads you to believe that the event you missed out on was more fun than it may have actually been in reality, it also (and this is the big one) diminishes the joy you feel with your current choices. For more on this study, I highly recommend listening to this recent episode of NPR's Hidden Brain.

Every moment spent looking at your feed is another moment you could be creating the life you’ve always wanted.

The only FOMO that matters. The only FOMO that should keep you up at night, is the fear of missing out on your own life. Every moment spent looking at your feed is another moment you could be creating the life you've always wanted. Every time you let FOMO takeover, you're saying to yourself someone, somewhere is has it better than you. You're devaluing the life experience you're having (which I'm going to guess has some pretty spectacular aspects to it). On personal note, I will say that part of why I felt so darn great when I went on my month-long Social Media Detox was because it really helped me stay present in my own life and stand firm in my daily, and even big picture, decisions. There was no second guessing of whether I should have said yes to a party or wondering why some friends went to a museum without me —  because most of the time I had NO IDEA what was going on outside of my own offline existence. And after years of being on social media, I have to tell you to it felt LIBERATING! I've had clients tell me the reason they can't take a break from social is because they could miss out on something, they think it will only make their FOMO worse. Those who happen to take the leap and sign off will tell you, it's quite the opposite. 

If you think you're ready to reclaim your focus and energy from FOMO to what really matters to you in your life and career, let's talk! 

 

Stop "Sleeping" With Your Phone

When the creators of Bagby invited me to try their Phone-Free Bedroom Challenge and commit to seven days without bringing my phone into my room at night, I have to be honest, I was more than a bit nervous. But I said yes. Just like going on my social media detox, I knew that where there was resistance, there was an opportunity for growth and positive change. 

As a speaker and coach devoted to helping others find their own tech balance, I'd seen the reports about how looking at your phone at night could negatively impact your sleep. So I simply used the "Night Shift" function on my phone. And yes, I'd read a terrifying article about how using your phone in the dark could lead to — wait for it — TEMPORARY BLINDNESS. And still didn't change my behavior. I even had a physical therapist tell me that my habit of watching Netflix on my phone at night was doing a real number on my neck and he begged me to stop. Instead of curbing my Netflix in bed habit, I tried to figure out a way to recreate this kid's brilliant idea: 

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So I wasn't kidding about the Grand Canyon-sized resistance I had. But I didn't realize it was resistance. I had what I thought was a valid, airtight reason why I needed my phone within arms reach at all times: AN EMERGENCY. That dreaded 4am call from a loved one or [insert super-scary reason] I would need to call someone in the middle of the night, that was my resistance in disguise. But wanting to do Bagby's challenge was greater than my resistance, so I finally told myself the truth: if my phone rang at 4am, I could simply walk 10 steps to get my phone. 

Okay so a little about Bagby: It's simple. It's a handmade bag, with a strong hook that sticks to any wall without peeling off your paint. And it has a slot for your charger to go through. Now you're saying, "That's it?" That's it. It's not a low-tech solution, it's a no-tech solution. 

Last year, I tried sleeping with my phone outside of my bedroom after reading about sleep enthusiast Arianna Huffington's nightly routine. I lasted one night. So how'd I do on Bagby's Phone-Free Bedroom Challenge? 

I'm proud to stay I lasted the full week — and have no plans to go back to "sleeping" with my phone. Here's what I noticed over the course of the seven days:

  1. I fell asleep within minutes, without fail — even on days I had caffeine in the afternoon. The first night I got into bed and laid there looking at my ceiling thinking, "Now what?" I was so used to being stimulated, looking at my phone until I passed out from exhaustion. I tried picking up a book, got two sentences in and passed out. As the week went on, I no longer had a "Now what?" moment, I just knew the second I got into bed, sleep would hit almost immediately.
  2. I actually got out of bed in the morning. As I've mentioned before, I consider mornings to be a magical time of day, which is why I stay off of social media until well after I've had my coffee. But tech addiction is insidious. Prior to this challenge, I still would lay in bed and check emails, news or even watch a show in the morning. During the challenge, I had to get up to shut off my alarm, but there was no hitting the snooze because I was already vertical! Some mornings I even woke up before my alarm — which never happens. (There is another Bagby version that comes with an old school no-tech alarm)
  3. Okay, so it was a little scary at first, but mainly eye-opening. The biggest change for me was in my middle-of-the-night reflex to grab my phone like a security blanket. For the first few nights, I would wake up startled from a nightmare and go to reach for my phone to soothe myself back to sleep. Without a phone to grab, I would have a moment of panic and then realized I was fine, and would roll over and fall back asleep instead of getting sucked into something on my phone — or worse seeing the time and counting how many precious hours of sleep I had left. On about the third night I figured out the culprit: my a/c unit in my bedroom was set to a timer and I was waking up once it shut off from the lack of white noise. So I purchased a pack of earplugs and, wouldn't you know it, no more middle of the night panic and no phone necessary. 

So what changed? Why did I make it a full week with Bagby, but not on my own? I feel making the decision to have a "home" for your phone at night helps create a new habit, just as putting a shoe rack by your front door would for those who want a "shoes-off" home. A phone "home" doesn't have to be a bag, just like you don't have to have a meditation pillow or stool to have a meditation practice. It's the sheer fact that having a pillow or stool made specifically for meditation creates ritual; it's symbolic of your choice to get serious about it. The benefit of Bagby is that it saves you the time and effort of trying to come up with your own "home" that's the right size, sturdy enough and a hook that won't ruin your wall or door. And it helps make the statement to yourself and others that this is something you're serious about.

Now that I have a ritual that helps create a tech boundary for me before bed, I want to explore other ways to create physical tech boundaries in other areas of my home and life. A way to put my phone away before a meeting, a dinner, a party. If you have a challenge you'd like to me try, let me know in the comments. And if you'd like to know more about Bagby, and learn about their incredible backstory head over to their Indigogo (and even preorder your own Bagby!) here.

*FULL DISCLOSURE: I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.*