Productivity

Tips from Toddlers

It never ceases to amaze me that most kids under the age of 5 that I've been around have an identical reaction moments leading up to their nap time. They fuss, sometimes scream, cry, throw things, and the last thing they want to do is lay down to sleep. If they only knew how good naps actually feel... I figured I'd compose a checklist for us, whenever we're feeling cranky:

  • drink some water

  • meditate

  • take a nap

Repeat as necessary.

Reinvent Yourself

Since April, I've been knee deep in socializing, job hunting, and studying for the GMAT(!). It's actually a lot more exciting than it may sound.

Working as a freelance consultant and writer for the past year has given me the ability to stress out for hours and sometimes days on end (😉), to create my own boundaries (e.g. set my alarm for 6:45 am instead of sleeping 'til 11 am), and to truly grasp what time of day my brain is the most functional for focus-driven tasks such as writing web content for a client or re-learning quadratic equations.

I can attest that I've managed to find a balance between taking breaks from focus instead of breaks from distraction, while still allowing (and often times requiring) myself to get out of the house to meet up with friends or attend an event.

However, I am kicking things up a notch by stretching my mind and capabilities even further than I imagined. As I think about what I want my life to look like 6 months, 1 year, 10 years down the road,  while connecting the dots from what I've done in the past, I aim for building social capital and wealth.

My goal has never been to be complacent, and because of that, it's important to have the ability to reinvent myself. This means pursuing opportunities that were once the last thing I wanted to do, attending events that are intended for 'members only' (shout out to my plugs) and saying no to opportunities that don't offer room for growth.

Doubling down on what matters to me right now: making money, getting into my top MBA program, and building a network of amazing humans (in that order) is a priority.

If you're reading this and have some advice, cool events, or job opportunities that may be up my alley, I'm all ears!

ease into it

We're one month into 2017. It's okay if your New Year's resolutions have already dwindled down. The fun part about this whole thing called life is that you can begin again, you can direct the path of your next step and without getting into the woo-woo Jesus and universe stuff, you are the pilot. I had zero desire to make any resolutions on January 1st. I rang in the new year on a rooftop watching fireworks, with a glass of champagne and a cigar. The best part about this night was that it wasn't planned weeks in advance.  In fact, it was planned two days prior.

This scenario is pretty much how my life goes. Open to adventure and spontaneity, especially when it's mixed with the feeling of "oh, this feels right" and "wtf am I doing."

Although I wasn't plugged into my timeline on Jan. 1, I watched the posts go up in the subsequent days after: "2017 is my year!" "Back in the gym, let's get it!" "New year new me" "Backpacking through Europe by the end of the Summer #goals"

Meanwhile, I was casually doing what I normally do. Meditate, move my body, begin again with a fresh slate.

[Full disclosure - there's nothing wrong with setting goals. What I want to iterate is that in my experience, goals are accomplished when they're influenced by a feeling that I want to have throughout the process]

I think what people get caught up most around is the feeling of instant pleasure, instant gratification and a sense of "I need to be doing something at all times to feel fulfilled and accomplished." I've had this mindset before, and it tore me apart after a few months of not feeling fulfilled. So, I decided to let go of this narrative.

It's okay to slow down. It's okay to take your time and map out your next steps. It's okay to ease into each scenario you face.

So as long as whatever decision you make coincides with the feeling(s) you want to be conscious of along the way.

how you do anything is how you do everything

I'm pretty sure I heard this phrase in one of Tim Ferriss's podcasts; or at least a version of 'the little things add up to the big things.' I paused the audio, wrote the phrase on a sticky note and placed it on a mirror in my closet that I see every day.

This has been posted for at least three months.

There were days that I blindly didn't pay attention to the note, but I'd find myself repeating the phrase in my mind the moment I would reach for my phone instead of folding clothes. Or moments when the last thing I'd want to do is twist my hair (a process that takes at least 30 minutes), read a book or write in my journal.

"How you do anything is how you do everything."

I'd pat myself on the back while shouting 'yassss Sab!' when I'd untwist my hair, look in the mirror and thank the natural hair based God for blessing me with a good hair day. Talk about a confidence booster.

The subtle habits of taking care of myself mixed with the practice of pratyahara - a conscious effort to draw away from outside stimuli and the external world (see: social media) - has helped me not only be more presentable when I'm out and about, but laser focused on making steady progress in all facets of my life.

The bonus is that I'm able to congratulate myself and celebrate the small victories that I've achieved along the way.

my voice matters.

A few weeks ago, I started recording my thoughts through the voice memo app on my iPhone. It honestly feels archaic to share this, but I've found voice memos to be the perfect app to allow me to brain dump in the middle of driving, heading from one place to another or just when pen & paper weren't near by.

voicememo

I travel a lot for work.

By travel I mean, I sit in traffic and feel the need to pass the time to be productive since I  have zero control over my surroundings.

I listen to podcasts when I want to feel like I'm kickin' it with my fam & the juiciest news stories that CNN won't talk about, on morning edition.

92Q to remind me where I live & come from, and every other NPR show to expand my thinking.

I pay for a Spotify membership each month, but yet in these moments where I'm literally solo & retaining all the information from listening & tap-dancing on each platform, I feel the need to verbalize what I'm thinking and learning from these outlets.

Maybe this stems from my fear of getting alzheimer's, or the notion that I'm exposed & aware of so many things, more so than I can handle that I feel the need to record everything possible.

Sometimes learning feels like a double-edged-sword.

As I'm navigating ways that I process information, I'm breaching the edge of a visual learner to auditory, depending on the topic that I want to focus on in a particular moment.  This comes at a cost when I attempt to formalize my experiences on platforms like this.

I'm in tune with almost every aspect of my life & surroundings, that I could pick 10 things in the span of an hour that peaked my interest, or inspired me in some fashion and come up with a story on how I was meant to experience this particular topic.

Perhaps I make it difficult for myself to not just listen to what's on the radio, or hit up spotify, and just take whatever I see or listen to as is, but as an overly dedicated person to analyzing and questioning everything, more often than not, I feel that I need to hear the stuff that I'm actually thinking.

And this is coming from my personal experience of only knowing that pen to paper could clear my thoughts, to having the dopest therapist [#realtalk], to finding that I have so-many-things-in-my-head that if I don't get them out I'll feel like I'll implode.

Sort of.

My point is that voice memos have actually helped me in more ways than one to:

1. get over the fear of hearing my own [awkward] voice 2. brain dump 3. revisit and actually listen to what I'm saying, even if it's days or weeks later

It's a pause in time.

Ever since I began diving deeper into my own practice of self-care and what I define that as, I've learned to live with my own thoughts.

Replaying what I said a few weeks ago feels ancient, yet it taps me back into the feeling I had when I initially voiced my sentiments.

Most of what's shown on social media platforms are instant gratification "think pieces" on stories that have literally just been announced.

I often find myself thinking, 'did these people even try to sit with their thoughts before writing this?'  A lot of what we read and consume hasn't been sifted through and/or massaged.

Yes, massaged.

Often, there are instances where a particular topic is brewing, and someone immediately responds for reasons unrelated to building substance.

But what if instead of reacting immediately, you just sat there with the feeling, let it pass...and revisit it later when you're, a bit more clear headed & have facts to back up your assumption?

Patience should be prioritized, and I know firsthand, there's a fine-line between deadlines and getting a message across.

Voice memos allow me to dig deeper into the actual feeling I had when I initially hit record, and it gives me space to forget about that particular moment, to absorb everything else that I need in order to revisit and come back with a more complete, comprehensive assessment.

Memories come and go. Attachments to feelings can come and go as well. But what trips me out, and what I've found time & again, is that my voice matters & it's here to stay.

 

drop the weight.

Often enough, I get asked how I work out, what specific workout routine I follow and what I eat, because whatever I post on social media seems to be catching someones attention. The truth is, I stopped doing what everyone was telling me I should do: "CrossFit every other day! Eat less carbs! Do paleo!"

I tried a bunch of different workouts and meal plans to see how my body reacted/responded, and came up with something that actually works, for me.

I dropped the weight.

This means, the weight of the world, the weight of the pressures that I put on myself, the weight of sticking to a number (e.g. scale, plates on the bar, counting macros).

All this excess 'stuff' helped me focus on what I could control, which is ultimately moving in my own body weight (see: yoga) and more importantly, my breath (see: yoga, again). Something as simple as just remembering to breathe has been incredibly helpful in every aspect of my life. When the weight of the world seems too heavy to bare, deep inhales and slow exhales lighten the load.

For those just getting into the swing of things as far as working out goes, start with the easy stuff.

The things that come natural to you or things that actually excite you, that doesn't feel like a work out.  Whatever that is, stick to it for a month.  Get in to a routine of doing that thing and track how you feel each time you do it.

Don't worry about the number of pounds you're lifting or seeing on the scale. Actually, throw the scale away.

Walk outside for 5 minutes.  Do jumping jacks during commercials. Literally, just focus on breathing.

The more in tune you are with what you can control - your own body, your own breath - the weight (of starting) doesn't feel as heavy.

i've been busy.

Busy exploring my surroundings. Feeling like a tourist in the place I grew up, experiencing everything with a new lens. Busy surrounding myself with explorers. Healers, entrepreneurs, marketers, designers, teachers, activists, those who lift me up.

Busy practicing the art of self-care. Telling people no, digging in my mat, reflecting, meditating and listening.

Busy facing the trauma of what I'm exposed to. Gripping the wheel each time I pass a cop, tensing up, forgetting to breathe, thinking of who I'd call if I were to get pulled over.

Busy. Understanding, learning, researching and teaching.

Occupying my time to reflect and engage; to live fully present, in the midst of busyness.

"It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it." - Seneca, The Shortness of Life

 

8 minutes to post.

Writing something down is easier to get away with not doing said thing, because no one knows about it. However with me, there's something finite about seeing ink on paper. Especially if it's defined as a goal.

August 1st.

It's been 31 days since I last published, and I set my intention to post something tonight, with 8 minutes left in the day.

Thinking of every excuse means you're hiding.

Post.

project update #2: my e-book!

Back in April, I made a committment to publish an e-book by June 30th, which transpired from attending Seth Godin's Ruckusmaker Seminar.   As of this post, I'm on track to ship by my deadline as I feel this is a piece that will help inspire you, or at the very least, brighten your day.

The title is still a work in progress, but what is set in stone is the fact that I'll be sharing my own personal experiences and lessons learned on taking leaps, pursuing entrepreneurship and owning my identity, by tying it with people and things that inspire me on the daily (like CrossFit, J. Cole and #blacktwitter).

If this is something you'd be interested in reading and more importantly sharing, add your name below.

[contact-form-7 id="2051" title="Contact form 1"]

bridge the gap.

There’s an opportunity for you to expand and evolve into something greater than what is right now. Seeing what’s missing (in your life, your community, your job) and even that feeling that you know you can do more, is the core of what you need to uncover and dig up. What can you improve on? How can you make what you do best, better? This really is about you – and what you can unfold and share with the world. The only way to do so is to do the inner work. Navigate what’s holding you back, why certain things you see or people you interact with trigger a particular emotion.

A few weeks ago, I went to hear Brandon Stanton (the “Humans of New York” guy) speak at Johns Hopkins. He’s not the greatest speaker, nor is he the greatest photographer. My intention wasn’t to hear about how he takes pictures. My intention was to learn and take away one thing that is different about him as a photographer, that no one else has really mastered yet.

He’s mastered the art of talking to strangers, and more importantly, getting over the fear of rejection and approaching them. To some, he may be at the peak of his “career,” but he’s just getting started. He acknowledged that he has accomplished fame or success rather quickly, but that was never his goal. With each picture, story and caption he’s captured, he’s always looking to make his art better. Not for us, for the media or for the fame – but for himself.

Whatever it is you do, keep building, brick by brick for you. Only you know what’s keeping you from success, from being the best version of you – which in essence, is the greatest art you can share with the world.

getting unstuck.

Paralyzed. Not in the literal sense of being unable to move, but I woke up feeling stuck.  "Inspiration is everywhere" is something that I pinned to my vision board last week and I'm always amazed with how much beautiful (and not so beautiful) stories, people and things are in this world that inspire me.

Being receptive and aware of this is a blessing, as some people find it hard to sense what inspires them.  For me, this morning I woke up with a fear of not knowing what to do next.  With a surplus of new friendships and relationships I've been granted, I got easily lost in what others were up to which sidetracked me from what I set out to do in the first place.

Avoiding the thoughts about what I need to do to keep my project going,  I gravitated to wanting to help others, because that's the easy thing to do.  Generous by default.

Losing focus even temporarily felt paralyzing.  Coming to grips with what I know to be true, to be helpful and to dig myself out requires me to ask for the help and support that I need to stay on track.

I'm not in this alone, and neither are you.

subtle reminders.

About two months ago, I purchased a pendant in the shape of a turtle to wear as a necklace. As I’ve been recognizing and understanding how my body reacts to the uncertainties of life, I felt myself rushing to do things, with no sense of purpose or thought behind it. With all of my ideas and thoughts that transpire every day, my own ideas sometimes overwhelm me, which causes me to be in the own way of myself. For two years I was constantly in this get-after-it attitude where every other day there was an event happening or thing I needed to go to and on top of that, I worked out 5-6 days each week at high intensity, without really slowing down. At that phase in my life, I was able to handle it. A few years later, I recognize what my body needs (rest) and craves (mobility).

Five months ago I created an environment that allows space for me to focus on what I need. It started with a shift in my career and once that happened, it was if time magically appeared and there was so much of it. How will I fill this space?

I began cutting down on my intense workout regime and adding in writing daily for at least 15 minutes, yoga 2x/week, CrossFit 1-2x/week and one other day for any other activity that gets me moving (hiking, walking, plowing snow, etc.). Spinning off of my post on adherence, I’ve found that this is the perfect mix to hack my productivity and allow me to fill this “new” time with things that fuel my soul.

The challenging part is figuring out what works best and when.  The good news? There is no rush.

one step at a time.

Spreading myself too thin can be disastrous.  More often than not, I do feel like I am superwoman - daily consumption of coffee (no sugar no cream) & avocados help - but I have learned over and over again, that I cannot do it all. This has been magnified ever since I took ownership in leading and managing a women’s health facility, that has had its share of change over the past few years.

Within my first month of the new position, I encountered what I thought was every worst-case scenario that can happen.  Reminder: I had only been with the company two full-months prior and was still on a massive learning curve of understanding each aspect of the business.

On top of what a general manager is supposed to do on a daily basis, I was traveling – almost every other weekend – because it’s wedding season. Which come to find out is year long. #blessed :) This prevented me from being fully immersed in my job initially, and I often felt guilty for not being there for my staff, because I know they needed and wanted guidance.

Things fell apart because there wasn’t a leader.  I was reacting vs. leading and trying to play catch up at the same time.

Not to say things have slowed down in the least bit, but I have a better grip on this role.  Over the course of three months, I’ve managed to say ‘no’ to a lot more things to allow myself time for things that actually matter: managing and rebuilding my staff.

This stage that I’m in now reminds me of my very first year as a sales coordinator of the HEAT. I’m 90% sure no one knew entirely what the department would look like.  However, we knew where we wanted to be, we had a plan to get there, we had the pieces to make it happen – and a dedicated leader to tie everything together. We created better habits through constant communication of ideas & best practices, we held team-building events to know each other better, and practiced the hard stuff.  The kind of stuff you hate doing, but know you have to do it (re: make X amount of calls a day, role playing, calling that client that you know owes you money but can never get a hold of, cleaning out your inbox).

It’s through my experience of going through the hard times that has helped me handle these worst-case scenarios a lot better than I would have a few years ago. I’ve created enough good habits to outweigh the bad ones, to keep me motivated and driven to make sh*t happen.

Yes, the process can feel overwhelming.  Yes, it does sometimes suck. But I know for a fact that if I dwell in all of the aspects that make me feel overwhelmed, I will never accomplish anything, nor will my team.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned so far in this role, it’s patience.  [Hard] work involves both a commitment of faith and time.

get organized.

Organization….saved my life. So did hip-hop. And CrossFit. True stories, I might tell you later.

But back to organizing.

For the past two months or so, I’ve been cooped up on the couch, sofa, bed, floor….with my Mac, journals, notes, books, magazines and dozens of articles spread out across whatever surface was surrounding me.

There is a perfectly situated desk in my house with pens, and space and other fun things that distract you from doing work, yet I never really contemplated taking over this space because well, there was just stuff piled up from years of neglect.  Stuff as in, 3.5” floppy disks from the early 90s, tokens from Chuck E. Cheese and Discovery Zone (I wanna go back), and “The New American Bible” which was published in 1991.

I finally decided that today was time to get rid of all this junk and make space for my work.  I’m most productive when I feel that I’m organized and have a designated spot to focus on what needs to be done, versus doing it where I sleep/eat/nap… you get the gist.

So as I cleared up the space, reminisced on my pre-teen years of entering commands in MS-DOS and partying at DZ, I made room for clarity.

Just within the hour I’ve focused on what needs to get done immediately. I have my vision board (almost) set up on the wall next to the desk [IKEA tends to forget to let you know that you need to purchase screws to mount things] and I have a better idea of how to structure each piece that’s needed for me to succeed.

I’m a visual learner and work best when 1. I’m organized and 2. I can actually see what needs to be done by laying/writing out everything.

I have everything that I need to succeed…an organized desk (and comfy chair) help too.

play it safe for once.

Do I give up the challenge and go for an easy way out? Do I lean towards something that provides security and a safety net? Do I follow the path where there’s a plan already laid out for me, or do I continue on the path of the unknown? I’m in another unique point in my life where I’m at the fork in the road.  One path looks clear, simple and safe while the other is covered with webs and looks too treacherous to step towards.  I can continue to push myself and walk through this unknown territory, weaving my way through a complex web of uncertainty or take the easy way out, so to speak.

So I ask myself, what do I need right now?  Stability, income, routine, structure. The idea of knowing what’s important and needed immediately can help with my next step towards progress. Going over the edge without a clear idea of what’s needed in the present moment can be destructive to obtaining a goal.  It sometimes feels like I’m falling and am trying to grab on to whatever feels right and looks good at the time, but once I grab on, it’s still not pulling me up to safety.

Of course the more I lean in towards a challenge, the more I grow and learn about myself.  There are a million (didn’t count) quotes and articles on this very topic of living out of your comfort zone and lately, I’ve been hesitant to play it safe.  It’s fun not to conform, to dance on the edge a bit, but maybe at this point in time I just need to go back to what’s familiar.  To regroup, recharge and get back in the flow of things.  Maybe instead of constantly throwing myself over this cliff, it’s time to just hang out right alongside the rim…to be safe (for now).