Being in school for so long has taught me to create a plan for each semester. So how exactly do I go about this? Basically, every spring, summer, and fall, I look at all of my deadlines and map it out onto a Google Doc with the weekly dates for the 12-16 weeks. I color code the main categories and have a key in the header and footer of each page. I learned this method from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity.
Even though I’m now graduating, I am going to continue this method of planning because it truly helps me to get a big picture overview of my goals. I can then match my big goals to subtasks by making weekly progress toward completion.
Here is a snapshot of a week from last summer (with some items removed):
Each week would have a similar format that I copy and pasted for the whole summer. In May, I go through and add in important deadlines and repeating tasks. For example, my teaching timesheet is due every two weeks. Now, I also include these repeating tasks in my Google Calendar. Some may find this process repetitive, but it actually helps me remember things by keeping it in multiple places.
So, because it’s time to think about Summer 2021, I am in the process of creating my next 12 weeks or so goals. I’m still working out what I’d like my categories to be, but I’ve started to put in my dates and then will create my outline and fill in goals. The first pass through is all the big items, and then I re-evaluate every Sunday and prioritize my week, filling in additional items as needed.
Sometimes I get stuck in this mindset of how people see me. Do they see me as the rebellious child, the dutiful teenager, the naive twenty-something, or who I actually am today? And honestly, I’m still figuring out who I am in a lot of ways. This year, especially, has been an opportunity to reflect and evaluate.
Over the last 5-10 years, I’ve taken time to work on my anxiety, leaving me to feel like a failure at times and at peace other times. However, it’s necessary to do the work on yourself before you can give to others. I used to think that was selfish, but now I’ve come to learn that I have to step back when needed. This is particularly true for overachievers like myself who just want to dive in and do the most. But, I also have to give myself the same grace I wish to offer others, in learning and becoming a more critically thoughtful, kind, goal-oriented person.
I just recently graduated with a terminal degree and this was my first weekend in 5 years that I didn’t have editing or work to do on a specific paper or assignment for school. Do I have other projects that I can work on? Yes, I do. But it’s not so pressing that I have to give up my Saturday or Sunday to complete them. With a more open schedule in the week ahead, these are things I can work on starting Monday morning for a more traditional work schedule.
So in light of this period of reflection, I thought I would share some of the resources I’ve used to continue my personal and professional growth.
Project Implicit – One of the areas I’ve been working on is becoming more actively antiracist and aware of my own personal implicit biases. This website from Harvard allows you to take a series of implicit bias tests to see where you are on a number of important issues. It’s a starting place to then seek other resources to continue to learn and grow, such as “How to Be an Antiracist”, by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.
Inspirational books – Although I haven’t had a ton of time to read for enjoyment, I plan to change that in the near future and dive in to material that inspires me to reach for my goals and aspirations. Two of the books I’ve really enjoyed these last couple of months are “Hello” Fears by Michelle Poler and “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. Both taught me to embrace new opportunities and not let fear hold me back. For example, even putting this blog and my YouTube channel out there is scary for me.
Free online courses – There are sooooooo many ways to get free knowledge. I paid a lot of money for my degrees, but you don’t necessarily need to pay for information now. You can go to YouTube or websites with free courses. Some are even worth paying for a membership if you intend to continue your professional learning. I wrote another blog post here about some of the websites that I utilize to take free courses on topics of interest.
Therapy/counseling – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I think everyone could benefit from talking to someone outside their day to day interactions. It’s helpful to process information, get strategies to change thought patterns, or deal with trauma. If you don’t know where to start, you can visit the CDC resources or National Alliance on Mental Illness. The process of counseling has helped me become more self-aware and grow my confidence.
Affirmations – Along with counseling, the idea of positive affirmations is helping me to grow into the person I wish to become. I try to start my day with affirmations. Additionally, I have all of my 2021 goals posted next to my mirror on index cards by category. Each day, I see the goals I have for myself and I repeat statements that affirm my capability of achieving these goals for my future.
The final takeaway is that it’s never too late to change your thoughts, learn more, and become the version of yourself you wish to be. Don’t let fear or lack of time hold you back. Commit to 5 minutes each day to work on something for your personal self-improvement. Then, gradually increase that time as you are able to do so. I believe in you!!
I try to keep my email inbox at zero or as close to zero as possible at all times. During the day, the emails that are still there serve as my to-do list of sorts. I work through at certain times throughout the day and make a plan to address it on the spot. I also do not like to have email on my phone. I find that I get distracted by the numbers and notifications and then I’ll read it and have to go back through it on my computer later anyway.
Gmail is my preferred email provider and has been for over 15 years. Thankfully, my job also uses Gmail so I can keep settings consistent across all my accounts. I have several accounts for different purposes. Although many people prefer to sync all of their email accounts, I actually like keeping them separate. It helps me compartmentalize the different tasks I have to do whether it be for school, personal, teaching, or entrepreneurial endeavors. And by having a separate teaching email account, I never miss a student question or concern because it doesn’t get lost in the many other emails I get on a daily basis.
Here are my top 6 tips for using Gmail efficiently
1. Compact View with Conversation Threading Off
I prefer the compact view the best in my inbox screen. I know a lot of people prefer to use the conversation view to group emails together, but I tend to get confused in threads and have to go back to figure out what was said. By using the compact view, I do not miss any comments on any emails that are sent because each one shows up separately in my inbox. The compact view is nice because you can see more emails at a glance since the space is reduced between each one.
2. Smart Compose On
In the general settings, I use smart compose, grammar, spelling, and autocorrect. In fact, it’s kind of scary how accurate the smart compose is. It allows me to respond to emails faster because it predicts what I might say when I start a sentence. If I agree with the response, then I just click enter and keep typing the next portion of my email. I’ll all about ways to save myself time, but still write a quality and professional email response to someone.
3. Using Folders
I go through my emails several times per day. Once it is filed or completed, it goes immediately into a folder. In my personal email, I have folders for advisory boards I serve on, billing information, doctor information, organizations I’m involved with, and much more. Pretty much any activity has its own folder and that’s where the email lives after it has been addressed. It makes it much easier for me to find things later and know that I didn’t delete anything.
4. Setting up Filters
This setting is helpful if you get frequent emails from a specific person or organization. You can create a label and a filter for that person. It can be color coded and make it easier to stand out in your email inbox. Once you receive an email that you may want to filter, you can click the three dots at the top and then choose how you wish to filter that type of email in the future.
5. Schedule Send
I love to use schedule send when I am trying to send an email that needs a response from other people. I tend to draft emails later in the day during one of my work time blocks. However, if it’s getting close to 4:00 or 5:00pm, I don’t send the email right away. I schedule it to send at 8:00am the next morning so that it goes to the top of that person’s inbox. Now they may have a great management system, but I’ve found that a lot people have thousands of unread emails in their inbox and may miss things, especially if they are very busy. The other great use for schedule send is to give myself reminders. Even though I keep a pretty good list of action items in my digital app, it’s helpful when I have important reminders that I don’t want to forget. For example, I needed to mention someone’s retirement at a workshop and I scheduled the email reminder to myself to come up during the week I would be preparing the agenda. I have learned that no matter how much I think I’m going to remember something, it is much better to have a plan and be prepared than to rely on my memory of something someone said 3 months prior.
This feature is my ultimate favorite use of my Gmail settings for efficiency. It is especially useful for maintaining a zero inbox. When I go through my emails throughout the day, if it is something that I don’t have time or is not urgent to respond to, I will snooze it to the next day. Sometimes the emails are informational relating to an upcoming meeting later in the week or the following week. I then snooze it to the day I plan to review the agenda or that the information is most needed. Therefore, it stays out of my inbox, but it’s not filed in a folder yet because it’s still relevant.
I’ve been working with my therapist on reducing anxiety and helping to believe in myself. Despite a lot of success, there are still times when I think it’s not deserved or I worry about potential mistakes. I’ll probably do another post on imposter syndrome and it’s impact on my life, but for now, I wanted to share some affirmations with you all.
Why should you use affirmations?
Researchers have found positive benefits of self affirmation theory (Albalooshi et al., 2020). In a study examining the impact of affirmations on two groups – the powerful and the powerless – Abalooshi et al. (2020) found that those in their powerless group had improvements with inhibitory control. This is essentially the ability to control automatic thoughts that might be negative and change it to more positive thoughts of self worth.
By taking the time to change our thought patterns, we can create more positive views of our self. Additionally, we can use those positive thoughts to bring us closer to our goals and dreams.
How I Use Affirmations
Many days I use the “I Am” app to come up with affirmations. I like to do this in the morning when I’m having my coffee. If I don’t get to it in the morning, I choose some throughout the day to repeat to myself in the mirror and write in my journal. I thought I’d use this opportunity to share some affirmations that I’ve created for myself.
I choose to be happy and thankful for all that I have.
My life is worthy of love.
I accept who I am.
Abundance is coming to me in all aspects of my life.
I am healthy, blessed, and loved.
Wealth and love are arriving in full bloom.
I am beautiful beyond comparison.
I am whole and complete.
New opportunities are on the horizon for me.
I can achieve anything that my mind envisions for myself.
I am grateful for my friends and family who believe in me no matter what.
No matter the goal, I will be able to reach it with hard work and dedication.
My life is blessed and treasured.
There are so many wonderful things in store for my future.
I am enough.
I am important.
My worth is not determined by material things.
The world is calling me to a life of happiness.
True love and abundance is on its way to me.
Nothing is impossible and I matter.
I am worthy of a successful career.
I deserve to love and be loved unconditionally.
I will protect my thoughts from negative interference.
My goals are attainable and realistic.
I am destined to have an abundant and full life.
I have a thankful heart for the many blessings in my life.
All that I do is for a better future.
My positive attitude will help me achieve great things.
Nothing can stand in my way when I believe in myself.
There is beauty in my surroundings.
Albalooshi, S., Moeini-Jazani, M., Fennis, B. M., & Warlop, L. (2020). Reinstating the resourceful self: when and how self-affirmations improve executive performance of the powerless. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 46(2), 189-203.
I’ve always been one of those people who truly wanted to be able to meditate, but I struggle with turning my brain off. I am constantly thinking, processing, and planning. Focusing on the here and now almost seems impossible. I’ve been through many mindfulness trainings and I’ve truly tried to meditate for extended periods of time with limited success.
I often talk with friends and my therapist about techniques to meditate and focus in order to cut back on the anxiety brain. I’ve had to implement several practices to calm my mind, and think of meditation and mindfulness as an ongoing practice in my life. Here are some things have helped me get closer to my goal of daily meditation.
Practice intentional breathing
With intentional breathing, I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. I’m not quite sure where I learned this. I think it was actually from when I started training for races like 5K’s and 10K’s. It helped keep my pace when I was running and made me mindful of my breathing. Now whenever I need to take a step back and reflect, I focus on my breathing and remember to go in through my nose and out through my mouth. If i’m being extra mindful, I’ll even count to three on the inhale and then on the exhale to keep my breathing consistent.
I try to do this as many days a week as I can, but it is not every day. I don’t meditate exactly, but I spend time in reflection and focus on positive affirmations. I use the I AM app on my ipad and then I write it down in my journal. I try to pick at least 3-5 affirmations per day to focus on. The simple act of writing helps solidify it more into my subconscious.
Lately, I’ve been focusing on the wealth affirmations. I’ve been in school and a student for a long time and I’m ready to start earning more for the work and effort I have been putting in. I’m using time to research areas to build this and spending time each day manifesting this and being grateful for what I have.
I wrote about Yoga Nidra in another post as well. Honestly, this is one of the best meditation techniques I’ve found that works for me. I have done many of the YouTube videos, especially during covid, but in person works better for me. I lay down with a blanket and a rest for my head and knees and listen to the guide talk through the meditation. I always leave feeling so relaxed and the worries of the day have melted away.
I have actually been quite fortunate to get the benefits of the paid Headspace app through my university. I’m glad that they saw the value in sharing this with grad students so they have a way to limit stress and think about their day. I use it primarily for two purposes. I load up the app and complete the short 5 minute meditations when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Anything longer than 5 minutes is really hard for me to do during the day. That’s why Yoga Nidra is so helpful because it’s a full body immersion. Then, I use their sleep stories at night to help me fall asleep.
I know I see lots of posts and books about successful people spending their morning meditating, but I’m still a work in progress. For now, these little bursts of mindfulness are helping me become more focused throughout the day.
I truly believe one of the biggest things that has held me back from achieving goals, or at least achieving them as quickly as I could have, has been fear or failure. This is human nature to want to succeed and not look stupid or be embarrassed by a less than desirable outcome of something.
But I have to wonder, how many times has fear of failure stopped me from doing something great or finding a new passion or hobby to enjoy? I recently read Hello Fears by Michelle Poler, which I do recommend as a positive self growth opportunity. She documents her 100 days of facing down different fears from dancing in Times Square to speaking at a TedX conference. In her story, she breaks down different emotions and feelings she had to go through to conquer each of her fears.
Fear of failure is also know by the name atychiphobia. This may be an unwillingness to try anything new unless it is guaranteed to be a success. Sometimes this is tied to another psychological phenomenon known as imposter syndrome. It makes it challenging to feel as though you deserve something or that you will be good enough at whatever it is that you need or want to do.
Why are people afraid to fail?
Some people grow up in households where they are not supposed to show imperfections or they are held to super high standards. Everything is expected to be perfect and anything less than that is unacceptable. This could be something an adult has shown them or some internal pressure placed on theirselves.
Other reasons people are afraid to fail include potential shame or embarrassment that may come from not reaching a goal. They may place a lot of emphasis on what others think or have fear of failure accompanied by anxiety.
Perhaps you’ve been knocked down many times in the professional world when you’ve tried to express you ideas. This could be a block to further wanting to share ideas or come up with new innovative ways to do things.
How many successful people have failed?
Lots of successful people failed many, many times on their path to success. It is not always a linear process, but many times filled with ups and downs that teach lessons. One of the most famous examples is the inventor fo the lightbulb, Thomas Edison, who failed 1,000 before making the lightbulb function and work.
Have you ever heard of Harry Potter? Chances are you have because between the books and the movies, JK Rowling has made over $15 billion. It’s an international sensation, but was rejected 12 times at first.
Oprah Winfrey had a television gig that did not go so well where she faced challenges and was ultimately fired from that position. She didn’t give up and went on to have her own talk show and is a billionaire.
I could go on and on. Think of a famous person who you admire and respect. Do some research about their background. Chances are if they started a business, wrote a book, or starred in a movie, somewhere along the way they faced rejection and failure. The key is they did not let that stop them from pursuing their dreams.
Moral of the story? Failure is a step to growth so even if we might fail, we have to try. If we never try, then we’ll never know if we could have run that marathon, finished that degree, or started that new business. It will always be a “what if?”. How many what if’s do you have and what can you change moving forward?
Making to-do lists is a helpful way to organize tasks that need to be completed. While, I do use a daily paper and pen method to keep track of tasks, I currently use Tick Tick to manage my goal-related tasks. I’ve used other digital apps as well and it all comes down to preference and whatever is best suited to your individual goals at the time.
This program is a website, but also can be downloaded as an app. I have it on my Macbook, but mostly use it on the browser and keep it in my Google Chrome grouping tab for calendar. It can synced across all your devices so that if you update it in one place, it will be updated everywhere.
Within Tick Tick, you can create folders and assign tasks to a date within a folder and category. I have everything organized by school, different work tasks, bills, and personal development objectives. I also include things in my list that are recurring like do the animals flea treatment every month. You can also choose to utilize the calendar view to visually see when you have lots of tasks due or happening at once.
Remember the Milk
This app has the same basic features and interface as Tick Tick. I personally like both. Similar to Tick Tick, you can view tasks for the current day, the next day, or the week. Remember the Milk has a really nice easy share function where you can share tasks with someone’s email address.
Now, this one is newer to me and I look forward to playing around with it a bit more. The cool part is that it has different templates that you can use depending on what type of list you are trying to create. It also has the option to organize it by boards or bullet points and you can go back and forth.
If you are an avid Google user, then Keep is for you. It integrates with your calendar and you can move it up on your waffle to keep it nice and close by when you open a new google browser tab. The neat thing about Google Keep is that you can add images to your lists and move them around. There is a lot more visual customization available than the other to-do list apps that are out there. You can add collaborators, set reminders, change the color, and copy to Google Docs. It’s definitely worth trying out!
Do you often make it through the day just putting out fires as they occur, trying to keep up? Creating and sticking to a schedule can help with managing time effectively. One helpful tool is to create a to-do list of action items that you need to get done. Over the years, I’ve tried different methods of writing a to-do list, which have worked for various purposes depending on my goals at the time.
Why is it important to make to-do lists?
Making lists and prioritizing tasks helps you become more likely to accomplish your goals and reach your dreams. It also provides a way to track your progress and keep you motivated to move forward. To-do lists are great for both personal and professional use. You can use a paper and pen notebook to track it all or there are lots of great digital apps to organize tasks by category.
I’ll share some of the methods I’ve used to create to-do lists with you here.
THE EVERYTHING LIST
I like to call this list the everything list because it’s more or less a brain dump of all that has to be done. Sometimes I make columns for personal and work action items to keep them separate, but I just get it all down on paper (or digital). I’ve seen others refer to this method as the grocery list method because it’s just basically keeping a running tab of tasks as they pop into your brain.
Top Three to Five
For me, this method is helpful when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Instead of literally writing everything down that needs to get done, I write 3-5 MANAGEABLE items at a time. Then, when I’m able to cross them all off, I write 3-5 more items to accomplish. It’s comparable to time blocking a schedule. It’s focusing me to be intentional about what I want to accomplish within a certain timeframe.
This method takes the everything method and then rearranges it based on your priorities. It’s easier to do this with a digital task management system because you can easily cut and paste the items and move them up and down on your list. One way to prioritize is to use the Eisenhower matrix. Some people even recommend a simple lettering system next to your tasks with A being the most important item to tackle first.
Big and Small
This type of a to-do list breaks task into big and small tasks. You can think of them in time commitment. If it’s something like sending an email that will take 5 minutes to write, that could be considered a small task. If it’s completing an annual report, that might be a bigger task. Sometimes it’s more helpful to break up those big tasks into smaller ones and cross of those milestones as you reach them.
No matter how you organize your tasks, the best thing to do is find what works for you. The physical act of crossing something off on paper to me feels so good that even though I manage my longer term and ongoing tasks in a digital app, I still create a daily list of items that need to get done. I also try to keep it realistic so as not to get disappointed if I don’t get everything crossed off my list.
I don’t know about you, but no matter how much I try to avoid it, stress eventually creeps in to some area of my life. It particular occurs around deadlines or times when multiple priorities are overlapping and there’s no way around it. I try to manage it in advance with good time management skills, yet I still need to find creative solutions to let the stress out when it does start to build up.
Here are five strategies that I use when I’m feeling the stress pile on and I need to let go of some tension:
This is probably the number one go to stress reliever. Even doctors recommend exercise as a great stress reducer. I am a Zumba instructor so I have my regular classes, which helps with a consistent schedule. However, if I just need to clear my head, a walk or jog is perfect to let go of some of the worries and tension of the day. A couple of years ago, I was feeling fatigued and it turned out that my Vitamin D was low. Now I make it a priority to take the walk outside anytime it is a sunny day to replenish that energy.
2. Breathe Deeply
This is a practice that has truly helped me to manage my anxiety much better. Any time I feel the stress building up or drifting in, I take several deep breaths. It’s also helpful to utilize meditation practices through apps or YouTube channels.
3. See a Counselor or Therapist
I have been regularly seeking therapy for about 5 years. The amount of personal growth and self reflection that has resulted from this has been tremendous. I highly recommend therapy to everyone, no matter your life circumstance. It is extremely helpful to talk through your life circumstances with an unbiased person who has training and knowledge to help you see viewpoints that you may not realize on your own. That alone has the power to reduce stress in your life. Many jobs offer what’s called EAP, or Employee Assistance Programs. If you’re not sure what it is, contact your HR department and ask if this is a benefit that is provided. If so, take advantage of the hotline and assistance to speak with someone about whatever it is that you are going through.
4. Find Something You Enjoy
This could be a hobby or creative talent that you already have or something new that you are trying. Essentially, you want to fill some of your extra time with activities that make you happy or excited. Some people like to paint or draw or express themselves artistically. Perhaps you like to make candles. Whatever it is, make sure that you’re not caught in the work, work, work loop. Your self care and happiness is a priority and you should not feel guilty about making time for that.
5. Do Yoga Nidra
A friend of mine introduced me to Yoga Nidra years ago and I could not believe how immediate the results were in my reducing my stress levels. If you’re not sure what it is, check out this post here. After my first time, I was so relaxed, I truly felt the stress leaving my body. I had tried yoga before, but with little success. I always found myself to be a go, go, go type of person and yoga was much too slow for me. I love my Zumba and dancing, but not Yoga. However, this is much more like a meditation and I could truly find myself relaxing throughout the process. If you haven’t checked it out, there are many YouTube videos you can follow along with that will take you through the process.
Whatever you have going on, you owe it to yourself to take a step back if you can. You don’t want to get to a point where you have no choice but to take a step back. Try to use these strategies and comment any others that you utilize to reduce stress!
Since I use my Google Calendar for all of my professional and personal tasks, I share it with anyone who might need to get a hold of me or schedule something. However, I do not necessarily need them to see all of the event details, so I choose the option of just Free/Busy.
Normally, I don’t like to have a lot of notifications coming through on my email, but I do have some calendar notifications set up. If something is changed or canceled, I do like the email to come through so I’m aware of it and don’t just happen to notice it missing from my calendar at a later time. Another helpful notification is to get a daily agenda from your calendar emailed to you.
Color Coding Events
Originally, I utilized the create calendar feature to make a separate calendar for each of my activities. But then I realized if I was using the share calendar feature to alert people to my availability I would have to then share all of those calendars with them. So although it takes a second longer when I create an event. After I make it on my calendar, I right click the event and then change the color to match my coding for that activity. Then, at a glance, I can see what responsibilities I have for my freelance work, my teaching, and my school.
Multiple Time Zones
Another setting you can utilize on the calendar is to have more than one time zone displayed. This is helpful if you have to coordinate meetings with people who live in a different area. I have to do this and so I have two different time zones on my calendar to make it easier for me to plan meetings with others.
Overall, I find Google Calendar simple and user friendly. I like that I can access it on all my devices and put everything in one place!