Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Busy Sweet Spot

In recent years, busy has become the proverbial four-letter word. More and more articles warn us about the dangers of becoming someone who's busy. Busy people aren't mindful; they're not present; they're not focused on the right things; they can't prioritize; they're distracting themselves from what really matters; they're simply not as good as the rest of us. Busy has somehow picked up a negative connotation, and we no longer feel we can say we're busy even when we are.

But busy also has a purpose. It can help you be mindful, present, and focused. I'm currently in my busy sweet spot and it feels great.

Too much uninspiring work used to leave me feeling overwhelmed. I started to worry about meeting deadlines, wasting time, and whether my work even mattered. My racing thoughts left me unable to fully concentrate or relax. In the past, I've turned to pacifiers -- like shopping or eating or drinking -- to take the edge off and escape from the stress.

On the other hand, too little work in recent days left me feeling lethargic, bored, antsy, and even a little sad. I got stuck in a rut, wanting to do lots of things, yet also not wanting to do them. I became the opposite of busy -- idle, inactive, unoccupied.

The busy sweet spot is where you have just enough interesting work to keep yourself motivated and inspired. Not too much, not too little. We all need a certain amount of busy to maintain momentum. If you're moving too quickly, you're at risk of burning out. If you're moving too slowly, you're at risk of standing still. The key to productive forward motion is to find your busy sweet spot -- the quantity of busy is important, but the quality of busy is equally important.

How do you feel when you say yes to new projects? How do you feel when you say no? What kind of work makes you thrive? What kind of work is merely a distraction? Slowly, bit by bit, if you pay close attention and listen carefully, you'll arrive at your busy sweet spot.

Note: I've been on a brief hiatus from filming videos lately because I've been focusing more on my writing. My project work has ramped up again, and that has gotten me excited about sharing my thoughts and ideas through the written word. I'll be back very soon with some new vlogs! In the meantime, here are a couple of my most recent videos.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Productivity Hack • The Ivy Lee Method

At the end of May, I fell into a rut and somehow lost all my creative motivation. I wanted to play, eat, drink, and sleep -- I was happy and enjoying life, but I could never fully relax, because I felt like I was wasting time. I knew there were things I wanted to accomplish, but I couldn't seem to focus on any one thing long enough to actually get it done.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was going through my emails, I came across a newsletter from James Clear that I had parked for another day. He wrote about using The Ivy Lee Method to increase productivity, and I was intrigued enough to leave it in my inbox to implement "one day." Upon re-reading the newsletter, I noticed that I had received it on my birthday, which was right around the time I initially fell into my creative rut. After feeling unmotivated for what seemed like forever (in actuality, it was only three weeks), I decided -- spur of the moment and with gusto -- to give the Ivy Lee method a try. "One day" had finally arrived.

The Ivy Lee method is essentially a daily to-do list. It was developed as a way to prioritize and complete work tasks, but I'm using it every weekday to further my creative pursuits. The method is super simple and entails the following:

Step 1: At the end of every day, make a list of 1 to 6 tasks you want to accomplish the next day.

Step 2: Prioritize each task on your list (1 = the most important task).

Step 3: The next day, start with your highest priority item and complete it in full before moving on to the next one.

That's it!!

A few tips to get the most of this method:

1) Break down a large project into manageable tasks. Identify tasks you can complete in a reasonable amount of time that will (a) contribute to your overall goals and (b) keep you motivated without feeling overwhelmed.

2) Refer to your list multiple times throughout the day to keep yourself on track.

3) If you have the time and inclination, you can leverage your momentum to accomplish additional tasks that are above and beyond your list.

This method is beautiful in its simplicity and has also proven to be highly effective for me. Since implementing the method on Jun 12/19, I've recorded four YouTube videos (three have been completed and posted), written three short memoirs (one is still in draft), started reading two books, shared a bunch on IG, and journalled consistently -- these were all creative pursuits that I couldn't seem to get done when I was deep in my rut. I'm so pleased with this method that I'll continue to use it until I no longer feel I need a daily to-do list to keep motivated.

Do you use daily to-do lists? Have you heard of or experimented with the Ivy Lee method?

Friday, May 24, 2019

What I Learned in April

In April, my 30 days of self-improvement involved waking up at 5am and eating no processed junk food for the entire month. By doing this challenge, I was hoping to see positive results in my energy levels, motivation, and productivity. Now that it's mid-May, I'm ready to reflect on what I learned during my April challenge.

I love the process of experimentation and learning about myself.
I'm officially done with the April challenge, but I still haven't figured things out. I'm still tweaking my sleep schedule and I'm still making gradual shifts to my diet to see what works best for me. This is a work in progress, but the journey is incredibly interesting and fun. I love the process of experimentation -- it really fuels me and motivates me to find ways to continually improve. If you've followed my goals videos on petitepearstyle, you'll know that I've tried to make lighthearted improvements over the years like waking up earlier, decluttering, not shopping, etc. On Authenblissity, I'm ready to go deeper. May is going to be a challenge-free month, but I'm committed to working on finding my voice and better expressing myself.

I enjoy consuming sweet stuff.
I used to think I was addicted to junk food. In April, I learned that it's actually very easy to give up processed junk food as long as I don't stock it at home. That being said, I also realized I really really enjoy consuming sweet stuff. It doesn't have to be junk though -- instead, it can be a bit of dried fruit, a bowl of blueberries, a homemade dessert, or a couple ounces of port. I learned that I can make healthier choices to satisfy my sweet tooth. Now I just have to work on portion control, because if I'm being completely honest, I have way more than "a bit" of dried fruit and it's actually more like 5 ounces of port.

I need around 7.5 hours of sleep to feel my best.
Sleep is super important to me and not something I'm willing to sacrifice. One of the things I wanted to figure out during my time off was my ideal number of sleep hours. After a bunch of experimentation and noticing how I felt after getting anywhere from 5 hours to 9 hours of sleep, I think I've figured it out. In order to feel well rested and have enough energy to carry me through the day, I need around 7.5 hours of sleep per night. This realization is key to developing a healthy sleep schedule.

I find it difficult to go to bed between 9pm and 9:30pm consistently.
It was more challenging than I expected to wake up at 5am every day -- not because I don't love mornings, but because it's difficult for me to go to bed early enough that I get my ideal 7.5 hours of sleep. My life pretty much involves staying up late. My husband and close friends stay up late, I like to go to classes or events that happen in the evening, there are television shows I enjoy that air at night, I love watching sports, and I tend to blog and edit YouTube videos at night. Even though I love waking up at 5am, I have to admit to myself that going to bed between 9pm and 9:30pm is not feasible in my current lifestyle.

I identify more as a morning person.
Over the years, I've been able to shift my sleep schedule quite a bit. I used to think of myself as a night owl, but now I identify more as a morning person. When I wake up early, I feel great -- and I generally get more done and make healthier decisions. However, since I'm not willing to commit to going to bed between 9pm and 9:30pm, waking up at 5am is a bit too early for me going forward. I was short on sleep pretty much the entire month of April -- I averaged around 6h40m of sleep versus my ideal 7h30m. Accumulating sleep debt and finding times to nap throughout the day isn't sustainable for me. Even though I felt productive on the days I was up before sunrise, by the end of the month, I found I was pretty tired. For the first half of May, I've been going to bed at around 11pm-12am and I've been wake up at around 7am-8am... on most days. :) I've been able to shift my routine a bit though so I still find time for the majority of the healthy habits I showed in my 5am morning routine video.

I love the flexibility of being able to go to bed when I want and wake up when I want.
While I used to enjoy routine, planning, and discipline, I've found that with my newfound freedom, I now have the flexibility to change things up on a daily basis. I love being able to go to bed when I want and wake up when I want. If I want to stay up to edit a video, I can do that without suffering at my 9-5 the next day. If I want to sleep in until 9am, I can do that without having to rush off anywhere. If I want to take a nap in the middle of the day, I can do that too. I view flexibility and freedom as my ultimate reward during my time off, so I'm going to embrace it.

I don't love being on Instagram every day.
In April, I committed to experimenting with a new-to-me form of sharing -- posting daily on Instagram stories. While it was fun and easy (and I especially loved the polling feature), I realized I prefer sharing on YouTube. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that I pretty much disappeared on May 1st, right after the April challenge. This was intentional as I needed a break. I found that I tended to get distracted on Instagram, and I'd lose momentum and motivation on the things I wanted to accomplish during the day. I'm still planning to use Instagram going forward, but less often -- perhaps on a weekly basis.

Change is a beautiful thing.
I used to be more dogmatic, and as a result, I was hard on myself and others. Now I'm starting to embrace the inevitable impermanence in my life. The April challenge taught me that change is a beautiful thing. I tried so many things in April -- waking up early when I didn't have anywhere to go, stopping the purchase and consumption of processed junk food, posting on Instagram stories every day, taking a mini trip with hubby (our first since I left work), and taking a memoir writing class. I learned that I am comfortable with the ebbs and flows of my emotions, ideas, opinions, thoughts, and feelings. There are no absolutes. Rules are meant to be broken. Dogma doesn't serve me. It's ok to change my mind, to experiment, to learn, to grow. It's ok to be human.

What did you learn about yourself in April? I would love to hear about what you are working on!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

How To Wake Up Earlier

There is a lot of buzz about the benefits of waking up early and becoming a morning person, but it's not for everyone. In this video, I share a few key tips on how to wake up earlier -- if that's something you want to do! This video provides an overall framework if you want to make this change. I don't discuss specific tactics like putting your alarm clock in a different room, drinking lots of water before going to bed, etc. because these tactics vary from person to person. If you follow the recommendations in this video, you'll gradually find the specific tactics that work for you through experimentation.

1. Know your why. Have a good understanding of why you want to wake up early and how you personally feel when you wake up early. This is your "north star" for waking up early and will keep you motivated.

2. Don't sacrifice sleep. The key to waking up early is going to bed early enough so that you get your ideal number of sleep hours. Figure out how many hours of sleep you need and work backward from your ideal wake time to determine your appropriate bedtime. Sleep is non-negotiable as there is all kinds of research about the dangers of not getting enough sleep or accumulating too much sleep debt.

3. Create a morning routine that you love. This will provide you with the daily incentive to get up as soon as your alarm goes off. I hated waking up when I was working full-time -- until I gradually carved out time to do some of the things I wanted to do before I had to leave for work. I started waking up earlier and earlier because I looked forward to this time for myself.

4. Be kind to yourself. If you truly want to wake up earlier and become a morning person, don't give up! Be gentle with yourself and keep experimenting until you find what works for you. Don't get down on yourself if you try specific tactics that don't work -- everyone is different and you have to find the combination of tactics that "click" for you. Also keep in mind that people change over time, so what worked for you in the past may not work now. It's ok to take baby steps and get there gradually.

Please let me know if you identify more as a morning person or as a night owl, how many hours of sleep you need, and what time you typically wake up and go to bed!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Oil Pulling How-To and Benefits

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that is supposed to draw out the toxins in your mouth and digestive system, prevent tooth decay and cavities, whiten your teeth, freshen your breath, and improve gum health. I haven't noticed whiter teeth, but I have noticed that it seems to draw out quite a bit of phlegm. My mouth feels really clean after I oil pull, so I typically just rinse my mouth with some warm water after I spit out the oil. I've been oil pulling for 20 minutes every morning for the past month or two, and I plan to continue going forward.

It's really important to spit out the coconut oil in your garbage or in your organics bin -- NEVER in your sink or toilet as the oil will clog your drains.

If you're just starting out, you can gradually build up to the 20 minutes or 1 tablespoon of oil. For me personally, I find that 1.5 teaspoons is the perfect amount. If you've tried oil pulling, please let me know!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

30 Days of Self-Improvement • April Challenge • Update 3

We're over halfway through the month of April. Where does the time go? This month, my 30 days of self-improvement involves waking up at 5am and eating no processed junk food for the entire month (I'm playfully dubbing this challenge 5AM+NPJF for "simplicity"). By doing this challenge, I'm hoping to see positive results in my energy levels, motivation, and productivity.

Waking up early
I've been waking up -- and getting out of bed -- pretty much right at 5am for the past 5 or 6 days, and it's felt great. At first, I feel a bit sluggish and sleepy, but as soon as I brush my teeth, I feel alert. The key is not snoozing! The hiccup this week though is that I've been sleeping late. Playoff hockey + Game of Thrones = mandatory late nights. I've been going to bed at around 11pm, which sounds early, but when not for someone who wakes up at 5am and needs 7.5 hours of sleep. To make up for my later-than-normal bedtime, I've been taking 1-2 hour naps almost daily. These naps are two-fold: so I can catch up on sleep (I don't want to accrue sleep debt) and so I can stay up late to watch more playoff hockey. I know, this is a vicious cycle, but one that I've been in before. I'm confident that I'll be able to break free.

Stopping the purchase and consumption of processed junk food
This part of the challenge is rolling along nicely. I did have some minor junk food cravings a couple of times, but nothing severe. The only issue is that hubby and I have been eating SO MUCH cheese, crackers, and bread. I gained a little weight this winter when I was overindulging on chocolate, so I've been meaning to trim up a bit. But that's next to impossible with the amount of bread and cheese (and dried fruit) I eat. I'm going to try to scale back a bit. In terms of my skin, I ended up breaking out pretty badly during my "time of the month," -- the pimples seemed more surface level, but I picked at them, so they got much worse than they would have if I had just left them alone. Henceforth, I resolve not to pick at my skin anymore!

Note: for the purposes of this challenge, processed junk food will include potato chips, bagged popcorn, chocolate bars, candy, rice cakes, tortilla chips, cookies, etc. — basically anything that comes in a box or bag that you would keep in your pantry and consume as a snack. I’m still going to be eating bread, cheese, plain yogurt, crackers (e.g., with my goat cheese appetizer), etc.; however, please feel free to set your own rules!

Daily updates will be posted via Instagram stories @Authenblissity. I’ll also be posting periodic updates and standalone videos (on topics related to waking up and healthy eating) on YouTube.

Not sponsored. Amazon affiliate links included above.

Monday, April 15, 2019

My 5am Morning Routine • Healthy Morning Habits

Now that I’ve been waking up at 5am somewhat consistently for the past two weeks, I wanted to share a quick video on my morning routine from 5am to around 7:30am. Over the years, I've picked up some healthy habits, I've started waking up earlier, and I've developed an appreciation for quiet mornings. This wasn't always the case, but now I can safely say that I love mornings!

A few notes:

- Do you make the bed? Yes! We make our bed every day. Hubby is a bit of a night owl though, so he often wakes up well after I do. I didn’t show footage of me (or him) making the bed because he was still sleeping on this particular morning. :)

- When do you eat? I intermittent fast so I eat my first meal sometime between 11am and 1pm.

- Do you pay attention to Truffle? YES! Truffle gets tons of attention in the morning. He’s usually resting under the table though, so he’s difficult to capture on video before the sun comes up.

- What do you do during “personal growth”? On this particular day, I did some writing for a personal project. I also like to journal during this time.

- What hair products are you using in this video? I’m trying to use up a bunch of random products that I’ve had for a long time. In this video, I used the Chi Silk Infusion before blow drying, and Frizz Ease to tame flyaways after blow drying.

- What does the rest of your morning look like? It’s always different so that’s the main reason I only showed the first 2-3 hours of my day. Usually, I’m on the computer — either doing some project work or working on a video/blog post. I also do a few chores or cook. At some point, I eat. Sometimes I go to the grocery store or to a yoga class. I've really been enjoying the flexibility of being home. :D

That's it for today's video! Are you a morning person? What is your morning routine like? I would love to hear a bit about it. :) Thank you for watching!

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