Dec 16

Setting Your Own Agenda

One of the most frustrating things is the feeling that you aren’t setting your own agenda. The day gets away from you. You feel obligated to do things for others. The line between your day job and your home life blurs. It’s all well and good to intend to set your own agenda, but how do you keep it?

Setting Your Own Agenda

The Problem

Logically we know that there are 24 usable hours in every day. We know that we have to sleep for about 8 hours, and that we probably have to work roughly 8-10 hours. Then, that leaves anywhere from 6-8 hours for our own pursuits.

So how is it that days pass and it feels like we’ve got nothing done?

I used to find myself in that weird time warp all the time. See, I’m a procrastinator by nature. (Or maybe it’s nurture. I think I started doing it in high school as a way to take control of my personal agenda and rebel against how my parents thought I should be using my time.) I can take any little thing and turn it into a full-blown project if it means that I’m not working on the task I should be working on.

Example 1: Once, in grad school, when I needed to be writing a novel for my novel writing class, I completely arranged my bookshelves by subject, and then alphabetized them by author. (It is worth noting here that when I was in library school, I didn’t engage in that sort of behavior at all. Again, I can’t be made to do the thing I ought to be doing.)

Example 2: Remember the perfect storm? Yeah. I totally wrote a blog post instead of writing my course schedule.

Anyway, I have this tendency to put off what needs to be done. I like to do that by taking up other activities. And since I’m a first-world consumer with access to functionally everything I need, plus like 98% of the things I want, that means I have all the distractions I could want.

So, how do you get away from reading the internet for hours or scrolling through your phone when you should be working?

The Key to Setting Your Own Agenda

I wish I could say there was a way to cut out distractions easily so you could focus on work. There isn’t. But there are some good workarounds.

If you find that your phone sucks you in when you only intend to like a couple of Instagram posts, then may I recommend this super simple phone hack? This won’t stop you from reaching for your phone when you’re bored, but it will stop you from always feeling like you need to reach for it. Cutting out notifications was key for me, because it allowed me to focus on my own agenda, rather than letting my phone set it for me.

It’s been about 8 months since I first posted about that phone hack, and it’s definitely changed my relationship with my phone. I no longer feel obligated to respond to notifications simply because I don’t get them. And when I do stop to check my phone, I can do it on my terms and at a time when I have a moment to do so.

Oddly enough, the sun still rises and sets just as it always has if you aren’t constantly checking on who liked your tweets.

But maybe your problem is the internet in general. Maybe you find yourself sitting down at the computer to get to work, only to lose the first hour to nonsense. I totally get it. The struggle is real.

But here’s how I tackle that. I have a three-tiered approach.

Firstly, I only check email after I’ve completed at least three things on my to do list. If it’s a day I’m teaching, that means I may enter grades, scan student papers, and lesson plan before I check any emails. I also try to only check my email two to three times a day. That way I’m not babysitting my inbox all day, hearing notifications and adjusting my schedule to meet that of those who happened to send me an email.

Secondly, if I know I really have something to get done, I use the Strict Workflow Chrome Extension. When I click that little tomato in the upper righthand corner of my browser window, it gives me 25 minutes of focused time by not letting me access social media. Then, once that 25 minutes is complete, I get five minutes of break. And I repeat that as many times as necessary. It’s really good for grading and editing sessions.

Thirdly, I try to drown out all distractions. I used to exclusively use Stereo Mood for all my ambient music needs. They had some great channels with instrumental music that were ideal for writing. Now, I either find an instrumental station on Google Play, or I find a fantastically rainy soundscape on Ambient Mixer. (Check out my favorite Ambient Mixer atmospheres!) When something is playing, it’s much easier for me to ignore all the other sounds that usually become distractions.

Setting Your Own Agenda Is an Uphill Battle

Now, here’s the thing. You have to make yourself set your own agenda. My three-tiered approach and phone hack won’t do anything if you aren’t fiercely trying to control your time. You have to have the willpower of a saint, and you will have days where you fail miserably.

But remember, everything is a process. Don’t be hard on yourself if you lose an hour to creating the perfect Snapchat story. (I have been known to do that.) Take the yoga approach, here. You’re growing. And each new day is a new day to put some of this into play.


What about you? How do you go about setting your own agenda?

Dec 16

The Yoga Approach to Life

I’ve written about a transformational experience I’ve had in yoga class before, but I think the real change comes with adopting the yoga approach to life.

The Yoga Approach to Life

What is the yoga approach to life? Well, firstly, it’s not like a thing in the official sense, unless it is a thing and I don’t know about it. What it is though is a way you are supposed to approach your yoga practice. And I’ve found that approaching life the way I approach my practice can make an immense amount of difference.

The Yoga Approach

In yoga, you are encouraged to do what your body needs, not what you think your body should be capable of. It’s very easy to think “I did this thing last week, so I should be able to do it for twice as long this week.” That’s terrible thinking because our bodies don’t conform to logical progressions.

For me, there are days when my arms feel so strong that I can hold a plank for minutes, and my chaturanga is fluid and smooth. Hell, I’m even able to hug my elbows to my ribs, and slowly flow through it. But, there are other days. And on those days, I have to stay on my knees through the plank. And my chaturanga is a terrible caricature of a belly flop. But that’s okay.

The thing about yoga is that you’re constantly evolving as a practitioner, which means your practice is constantly evolving. And like real scientific evolution, it’s not a straight line progression. There are weird forks and offshoots and strange mutations. And that’s okay. It’s your practice, and the yoga approach is to appreciate your body throughout your practice, and to do what your body and spirit need.

I can’t force my arms to be strong on days when they’re so sore from all the tension I carry in my shoulders. I can’t force myself to do a handstand just because all the other women in the class are doing one. I can’t force my body to do things it can’t do. And it’s a complete waste of time to get mad about or stew over things your body can’t do.

But you will never regret the time you spend thanking your body for what it has done for you. You will never regret the extra rest you give yourself when you know you need it. You will never regret going to the gym for a quick gentle yoga session that will help your muscles relax. You will never regret those few extra minutes of meditation where your mind is still.

In yoga there is no comparison. There is no shame. (Even if you fart in class.) In yoga, it’s just you and what you can do that day.

In yoga there is no comparison. There is no shame. (Even if you fart in class.) Click To Tweet

The Yoga Approach to Life

So, what does this look like in your everyday life? Well, a lot of things.

For me, the yoga approach to life is about not beating myself up. So I accidentally overslept. So I ate a “bad” food I “shouldn’t have.” (Don’t get me started on how screwed up it is to put moral implications behind sustenance.) So I wasn’t able to crank out 5,000 words in one day. So I didn’t finish grading every last paper by a self-imposed deadline.

If any of these events occur, the sun will rise the next day. The world will continue going on as it always has.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I want for those things to occur. In fact, I will still work to prevent them from occurring. But what the yoga approach to life lets me do is not beat myself up about it. If I oversleep and miss a workout, I may still wish that I hadn’t missed the workout. But I won’t be mad at myself because there are probably thousands of workouts ahead of me. If I miss a self-imposed deadline, there will still be hours in the future where I can work on what needs to be finished.

If I eat a “bad” food, there will be plenty of healthier meals that follow it. And, to that end, if I happen to gain a little weight around a holiday, or I don’t look a certain way in an article of clothing I’m trying on, I DO NOT LOSE SLEEP OVER IT. My body is what is at whatever time it is. It will change shape all through my life. All I can do is nourish it by eating the foods that sustain me best, by resting when I feel I need to, and doing the sorts of exercises that make me happy.

Just Weeds in a Ditch

Recently, I had the pleasure of hanging out with some fellow bloggers, and I got to meet Dee. I mentioned to Dee that I’m kind of a failure when it comes to gardening. (You remember El Generalisimo and my ill-gotten tomatoes, right? Oh, and this orchid is still alive through no fault of my own.) Then, Dee straight up dropped some hard knowledge on me.

She said that my generation is so results-oriented that we can’t focus on the journey. (GUILTY.) Then, she basically said that gardening was like yoga because it’s a practice. (Perfect metaphor for me, Dee.) Not only is she 100% correct, but it made me stop and think about how much this “failure” mindset has poisoned my self-image.

If you think about it, yoga and gardening are both very futile pursuits. Sure, you may get fitter and healthier with yoga, but mostly you’ll feel very stagnant and like you’ll never be the girl in a Lululemon ad. And sure, you may grow a tomato or two in your garden, but you may also find that your soil is infected with some weird sort of Dutch fungus that is deadly when eaten but could potentially make a great substitute for penicillin. (Or something. Again, I suck at gardens.)

But that’s the thing about life, isn’t it? You could grow up to be the very best at everything and well loved by all, but you’re still going to wind up dead in the dirt.

So, it only makes sense to appreciate your time, and do what you need during that time, regardless of whether or not it meets your expectations.

It only makes sense to appreciate your time, and do what you need during that time, regardless of… Click To Tweet