This Is Why Having A Nice Work Space Matters

I’ve developed a bit of a nasty habit: I leave piles of things on my desk and I do all my work in my bed.

I don’t think I’ve used a desk for its intended purpose since my early high school days, and as a result, my desk has become a sort of dumping area for all sorts of things. Bills, notebooks, snacks, clothes, everything. Of course, there’s no way this is really conducive to me getting work done, even as a so-called “creative”. Slouching under the covers while I design logos and come up with ad copy is keeping my mind and body in the entirely wrong mindset. I tell myself that I’m supposed to be working, but my body and mind is ready for sleep.

Deep down, I’ve been wishing I actually made use of my desk space for awhile, especially after seeing so many pictures of gorgeous work spaces splashed all over home decor sites, but I haven’t brought myself to get my desk together until today.

I realized I needed to take the plunge as I was lying in bed reading an article about people who work from home. I’m a full time student, but all the time I spend doing homework in my apartment is akin to what it is like to work from home, so I figured the principles would easily apply to myself. Most stay at home workers strongly recommend that you keep a clean (upright) work space so you don’t find yourself getting distracted. Imagine your room as a metaphor for your mind. If your room is a mess, your mind will become equally messy. Your thoughts will get tripped up and trapped between mounds of clutter and piles of paper. It might seem silly to think this way, but if so many stay at home workers agree on this as a universal truth, I figured it can’t be far from reality.

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Of course, being a highly aesthetic person, I believe there is more to the equation than cleanliness. When building a productive work space, you must not only make it neat, presentable, and easy to use, but also inviting. A work space that does not fit your aesthetic tastes will not draw you in. You’ll inevitably retreat back to your bed or wherever you are most comfortable.

You can brighten up an otherwise cold work area by adding warm lighting and pops of color. You can do this fairly cheaply with some fabric and a DIY attitude. A couple of my favorite ways to add pops of color is by adding fabric to boxes or push pin boards. These are items that are used for decluttering and make your work space more efficient, so why not make them an attractive focal point while you’re at it?

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Of course, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. I knew I needed to walk before I could run. I decided to start overhauling my workspace by cleaning up all my clutter. I’ll tackle the DIY projects next time. Stay tuned.

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Ancient bottles of water were dumped. Nail polishes were returned to their assigned seats. Piles of mail were organized. Loose change made it back into my wallet. I have to say, it was all pretty darn satisfying. But the most powerful part of the process? Sitting down at my desk to work for the first time in years. And honestly, I have to wonder if the reason I had enough time to write a post today was entirely a result of my space change. I found myself flying through my work today at breakneck speed. Maybe it was just a fluke, but I’m certainly not going to find out by climbing back into bed.

When Does A Routine Turn Into A Rut?

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Routines can be both a blessing and a curse. I love routines for small tasks, such as, a routine for putting my makeup on or a routine for how often I work out. Yet when it comes to the bigger picture of my life on a week to week, month to month basis, I find that routines sap me of my productivity and creativity.

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The other day, as I was getting ready for work, I experienced the type of heartbreaking boredom that comes with daily monotony. As I sat down in my car and turned on the engine, I realized I had done almost the exact same things every day for the last week. My daily routine was certainly keeping me organized, but at what cost? I felt tired, un-inspired, and even a little lazy. I knew I needed some more action in my life or else I was going to slip into a dreaded rut (one of those periods of time in which you feel like your life will always be exactly the same from that moment until the day you die).

Sometimes a rut can be caused by living a life that’s too busy and sometimes it can be caused by living a life that is seemingly empty. For people who have a busy job and home life, you can easily end up feeling bored and depressed because your days become so structured that you have no room to breathe. People who are unemployed or just generally less busy might make the mistake of doing the same things every day because it’s hard to imagine all the endless possibilities of life. Either way, once your routines extend from your small daily tasks to the point that they take over your entire life, you will probably have a difficult time feeling satisfied or excited.

Once you fall into a rut, your entire life will seem boring, and that makes it harder to complete daily tasks. As you become sick and tired of doing the same old things, it becomes increasingly difficult to power through the day. As a result, you may become less productive on the job or you won’t be able to make yourself focus through a creative project. You’ll also feel like you have constant déjà vu. For example, you might have the same conversations over and over, but with different people, because you have nothing new to talk about.

When you start having these types of experiences, you absolutely have to make a change. Even if it’s small. If you feel cooped up sitting at your same desk everyday, see if you can find a different place to work, like another space in your office, a nice coffee shop, or outdoors somewhere. If you feel bored when you come home from work, you can take up a new hobby or try to learn a new skill. You can learn a new language or take a trendy fitness class, which can be both fun and rewarding. If you’re sick of seeing the same people all the time, try meeting new friends at your next office party or invite someone interesting out for drinks. You can also use books and blogs as a way to refresh your mind after a particularly unmemorable day.

The most important thing you can do when you notice that your routines are taking over your life, is trust your own instincts. I’m sure at some point you’ve heard people say that you should trust your gut when it comes to other people. If you have a bad feeling about a romantic relationship or a new friend, most people will tell you to trust it and run. The same goes for your relationship with your own life. If your daily activities start to make you feel sick with boredom, trust that feeling. Take an honest moment with yourself and ask, “Why do I feel bored, lonely, frustrated, unproductive, etc?” Once you’re able to honestly pinpoint your feelings, you can come up with some ideas for change. Sometimes, changes can be scary, but if you don’t acknowledge the fact that you’re unhappy, you’ll never have a chance at turning things around.

I always say that wallowing in a rut is like being in a bad marriage with your comfort zone. Maybe you loved your comfort zone once upon a time because it made you feel warm, and happy, and safe. But, after a while, things turned boring and sour. Now, it’s time to get a divorce. If you feel like you’re at that point, go right on ahead, cut ties with the old and find something new.

You Should Be Setting Daily Small Goals. Here’s Why…

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If you know anything about millennials, you know that we’re obsessed with #goals. We constantly talk, Instagram, and Tweet about squad goals (having a large, glamorous friend group that drinks wine and laughs on a rooftop as the sun sets over a big city), food goals (eating nothing but picturesque avocado toasts and smoothie bowls), life goals (owning a nice apartment and working at a cool job), and much more. I think my generation has firmly attached itself to the idea of these overarching goals in life that involve everything from our social circles to our health because we are an extremely competitive bunch. Social media has created an environment in which we are constantly measuring our success against one another.

As we all strive to meet these goals, whether they are superficial or more important goals like graduating from college, we tend to think about them in very abstract ways. We know exactly what we want, but we rarely consider the tiny steps that build toward the larger goal. We see our goals as far away dreams and we don’t take the time to connect the dots or try to figure out how to make those dreams into realities. People who want a career in media don’t consider that maybe their current goal should be writing or creating something every single day. People who want to travel the world don’t realize that a current small goal could be saving a certain portion of their paycheck every other week and earmarking that money for travel only. People who want to have a better sense of work-life balance don’t recognize that daily “me-time” is a perfectly legitimate goal to have.

These types of daily small goals are extremely important in just about every situation if you want to have long-term success. Harvard researcher Teresa Amabile finds that daily “small-wins” are necessary to keep yourself motivated. Otherwise, you’ll feel like you aren’t going anywhere, and the long-term goal will seem increasingly distant.

The great thing about setting daily small goals is that you can tailor them to your exact experience. When you have a big goal, like, growing your business to the point of multi-million dollar earnings, you can easily forget that your path to success may be different from someone else’s — even if the goal is the same. One person with that type of long-term goal may need to focus on their social media plan and try to post through their business’ page twice more each day. You however, might not need to make that your goal because it’s something you already do naturally. Instead, maybe your goal could be reaching out to someone in your field once per day or personally helping several customers each week. It really depends on your current strengths and weaknesses, and carefully mapping out a game plan accordingly.

This method doesn’t just apply to business goals or concrete dreams. I have a goal of being more comfortable in social situations when I’m around new people. I tend to get anxious when I meet people and I respond to that anxiety by being overly sarcastic — not always the best look. For me, a small goal could simply be: Next time I meet someone new, I want to make it through the whole conversation without saying something negative or complaining.

I keep a journal (which I highly recommend) and at the end of my day, I usually like to write down small daily achievements. These could be acing a midterm, improving on a workout, giving my dog some extra love by taking her to the dog park across town, cooking a nice meal from scratch, or even just giving my mom a call. I’ve been writing down my small achievements at the end of the day simply because it’s a positive mood booster. Apart from that, I also have a daily check list of things I need to get done, so at the end of the day, I can see what got finished and what needs to be done tomorrow. Now, I’ll be merging these two sections of my journal. My to-do list and my small achievements will become one. Not only will my daily list have things like, “take out the trash” and “go to the post office” but also small goals that mesh with my long-term goals. I might write things like, “If you bump into acquaintance, say hello instead of avoiding eye contact”, “If another blogger likes or comments on your post, check their blog out and spread the love”, or “Watch an Adobe Illustrator tutorial while you get ready in the morning rather than endless YouTube makeup videos, because the former will more likely come in handy in your profession”.

As a stereotypical millennial, I think I’m always going to have #goals, and I’m always going to want to compete with my peers in achievement. Now, however, with small daily goals kept in mind, I think I’ll have a much better chance at becoming my best self. I might not be a super healthy, wealthy, popular person by next week, but I can go to bed at night knowing that I’m working hard every day.

 

 

Why You Should Consider A Small Town Vacation

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I have several family members who live in Lumberton, North Carolina, a rural town with a population of just over 20,000 people. After spending many summers there as a child, playing with my cousins, running around barefoot, and helping my grandmother set up for garden parties and cookouts, I’m no stranger to country living.

This weekend, my boyfriend and I drove to Lumberton to pay my family a visit before I fly to New York City for my summer internship. I’m extremely excited to spend my summer in the big apple, but having one last weekend in the country allowed me to really appreciate all the beautiful things about being in a small town rather than a city.

For the fortunate people who have enough vacation time to travel somewhere, cities are often a highly favored destination. Millions of people travel to to New York to see Broadway shows or Orlando to cram their vacation with as many bustling amusement parks as possible. While these types of vacations are definitely fun, they aren’t always the best way to de-stress.

Busy vacations in populous locations can leave you feeling twice as exhausted at the end of the trip because of the planning, the inclination to pack every day with tons of activities, and the crowded areas. If you’re looking to take a vacation that will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated when you head back to work or school, you might want to consider a small-town spot instead.

In small towns, you may have the option of staying in a bed and breakfast or Airbnb where your host will take care of you, plan your activities for you, or give you tips for finding the best local spots. You won’t have to worry about getting pushed around on busy streets or losing your child in a crowd. You can rejuvenate your body by eating fresh fruits and vegetables produced by local farmers rather than eating fatty street foods and breathing in smog. Most importantly for a lot of us, most small-town vacations will save you money when compared to a trip to a city.

If you’re wondering what you can do in a small town, it really depends on where you go and what types of activities you most enjoy. If you like nature, you could try a place like Estes Park, Colorado, where you can hike, go horseback riding, or take an ATV tour. If you’re a history buff, you can go to Williamsburg, Virginia, to see interesting reenactments and sites like Historic Jamestowne. If you’re looking to do something classy and undoubtedly Instagram-worthy, check out the vineyards in Walla Walla, Washington.

If you have no idea what you really want to do with your vacation time, you can try vacation spot lists like these at Fodors.com or Travelandleisure.com . As someone who has had trips to busy spots like the party-goer filled beaches in Los Cabos and conversely quieter mountain towns like Gatlinburg Tennessee, I’ve always felt more relaxed sipping sweet tea on a balcony and looking at the stars. If you want to make the best use of your time away from your desk so you can come back to work refreshed, you might want to give the slow-life a try.

When To Say No To Sharing Your Free Time

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Free time keeps me going.-Gus Van Sant

During the week, I tend to be very busy, so the weekends are my timeSure, I get work done on the weekends, but I do it at my pace, on my terms. The rest of my weekend is spent doing things I like to do.

This is why, when a friend of mine asked if I could help her with a theater project for 4 hours on Saturday, I was very clear and direct. I told her she could have 4 hours of my time and that was exactly it.

I fully realize that this could have sounded selfish or mean, but I’ve learned that if you make yourself available to everyone, all the time, people will constantly ask you for favors — and you’ll never have time for yourself. I like to set very clear boundaries for the sake of work-life balance, and I think it keeps me happier. And it helps me work better too.

I always produce higher quality work when I’m rested and happy, so rejuvenating on the weekends is crucial to my success in school and other areas. Most people I know are the same way. Whether you have hobbies, like to travel, or just enjoy catching up on TV shows, weekends are a time for scheduling in the things you like to do outside of your job. Then, when you head back to work refreshed, you don’t end up feeling burnt out.

When you have people constantly tugging on your sleeve, asking for your time on the weekends, it’s difficult to know when to say “no”. You don’t want to hurt people’s feelings and if you have a giving spirit, you probably feel inclined to please others. But sometimes, you just have to be selfish in order to keep yourself on track both emotionally and in your job.

So here’s my list of times/reasons when you should probably just say, “Nope, sorry, I’m going to be busy watching reruns of The Bachelor that day.”

When To Say No To Sharing Your Free Time

1.) You’ve worked yourself to the bone during the week and the thought of going out somewhere makes you cringe.

2.) You can’t remember the last time you did something you enjoy that doesn’t involve looking at a screen.

3.) There’s something you’ve been wanting to do (like read a certain book or try a new exercise class) and you’ve been pushing it off for weeks.

4.) You’ve said the words “I’m stressed out” more than 2 or 3 times in the last week.

5.) You haven’t had time to be alone in ages (especially if you have a family of your own, finding alone time away from spouses and children is super important. If you’re in college, taking time away from your friend group is also extremely important).

6.) You’ve been feeling irritable and you don’t even know why.

7.) You haven’t had a restful sleep without needing to wake up to an alarm clock in over 2 weeks.

8.) You’re feeling under the weather.

9.) Your friends or colleagues are inviting you to do something that doesn’t interest you at all.

If you identify with any of the above circumstances, it is completely appropriate for you to choose not to share your time. Of course, when a friend or loved one really needs to see you or needs your help, it is nice to be supportive. But if you feel like your weekends are slowly turning into stressful extensions of your work-week, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate. If you want to perform well during the week, you have to take time to breathe. Your weekend should feel like it’s yours.