On Diets vs. Lifestyle

Illusions of Productivity

I was having a wonderful conversation with friends over the weekend over some sweet treats and wine about healthy habits (ironic, I know). As I happily indulged in a glazed Krispy Kreme donut, I found that I wasn’t engaging in the normal internal dialogue and guilt of “oh it’s OK, I’ll start eating healthy tomorrow” which would then usually give me permission to indulge even more. Instead, I was enjoying every last morsel of that donut and after I was done, I was done. There wasn’t this crazy ravenous sugar monster inside me wanting to eat as much as I could before my “cleanse day“. It was in this moment of donut bliss that I realized I had finally broken through years of unhealthy eating habits and perceptions.

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“Even my conditioning has been conditioned…”

For starters, my sister and I weren’t allowed to eat any sweets when we were young. It’s funny now to think about how I would hustle hard on the playground- I’d persuade my classmates to swap my pretzels for their Twinkies, or my cheese-its for some gushers. Then, when I’d go to a friend’s house, I would eat as much sugar as possible.

In addition to the binge habits that I developed through deprivation of sweet foods early on, I’m half Filipino, so grazing all day over rice and meat during family gatherings was something I just grew up with. Eating everything and a lot is sort of mandatory in my culture. When family gatherings rolled around, it was a given that I would eat until I was uncomfortable and in pain, and just stuff myself until I felt like I was ready to pop!

Now, let’s throw in the fact that I played competitive soccer all my life… playing it so much made working out a chore at times. I remember during my off season, my teammates and I would just binge and binge on junk food, sit around, and just wait until training season started before we “got back into shape”. Saying that it was “seasonal” is even being a little gracious to tell you the truth… all we needed was ONE day off from practice and we would be stuffing our faces with burritos and cupcakes and all the heavy stuff we couldn’t eat before practice or a game. This cycle continued through college and it wasn’t until I was 25, and started dating a vegetarian (who is now vegan) that I realized I had it all wrong. The perception of the words cleansingdiets, and getting into shape were just making it harder and holding me back from being my healthiest self. I’ve wiped all these words out of my vocabulary and replaced it with just one: Lifestyle. 

Whether you have chosen a vegan diet or not, erasing those words from your mind body and soul, will help you achieve the health goals you want.

I always knew that I should be working out a little everyday (I would always curse myself on the field my first week back from a break); I always knew I should eat everything in moderation, and I always knew I should make my own meals to ensure the best quality goes into my body. But as we all know, it’s easier said then done. So what I hope to give you here is some insight and tips that I’ve gained and learned through my crafty planner journey and how it’s helped me improve my healthy lifestyle.

Tip #1. From Diet to Lifestyle – Don’t put a timeline on it.

In talking to friends, and also something I experienced myself, switching to a vegan-ish (more thoughts on that term coming soon 😉 ) lifestyle has helped me make healthy choices everyday instead of seeing it as a punishment for X amount of time. The problem with that, is that once you hit your finish line, you start to #treatyourself, and that one treat turns into a whole pint of ice- cream and a downward spiral back to square one.

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Tip #2. Don’t Lie to Yourself- Log it!

Since March, I’ve been working on the habit of logging my food. I’ve never really been into this and to be honest I only started doing it because I bought a new planner when I wasn’t supposed to! #plannerproblems. At first I had a hard time keeping up with it; but now I’ve realized that seeing all the meals and snacks listed in front of me, has stopped me from my mindless munching.

I make a goal to strictly log my meals Monday-Thursday, the days that I go to the gym. Then over the weekend I loosen up a bit and just enjoy whatever comes my way.

BUT in building up the habit of food logging, I noticed that even when I’m not making a point to log my meals, I’ve developed the habit of eating with awareness. I no longer eat when I’m bored, and I still choose to eat clean.

*side note- you’d be surprised how unhealthy you can still eat as a vegan…I’m totally guilty of being a lazy vegan and eating overly processed food* 

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This is a picture of my fitness journal. It has vertical logging space for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with snack space in between. When I started, I was finding that I was running out of space to fill in all the snack breaks I had. This helped me quit that habit and focus on eating substantial meals instead. On the right, I’ve added a Health Tracker to keep track of my healthy habits that will help me reach my goals: drink tea, take vitamins, stretch at home, and take a walk during my lunch break.

You’re food log doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t even have to count calories. Getting into the habit of writing down every meal and every little snack is a great way to start. Try it! Challenge yourself for two weeks!

Tip #3. Reflect, Review, and Revise!

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This is the most important! Like I said, I started my habit tracking and food logging in March, I was kinda just doing it for the fun stickers 😉 . It wasn’t until a month in that I realized I should revise a few things. So for April I started the habit tracker, making it a goal to log my food everyday. I also started a weekly reflection every Sunday as a part of my habit regimen. This was a total game changer!

I’ve always been one to journal about my emotions, but never even THOUGHT about writing about my health habits. When you journal about your emotions and experiences, you learn from them. You learn about your thought process, how to better communicate to yourself and others. When you reflect on your weekly health habits, you are able to look back on your strengths and weaknesses and revise a plan to make it work. It also pumps you up for the upcoming week. Goals are no use if you don’t look at them from time to time, and setting time to reflect, review, and revise is the foundation to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

What to write about in your Health Journal:

Every Sunday I reflect on food and fitness. This past week I noticed that I didn’t make grocery shopping a priority, so therefore I bought too many meals, and in doing that, I wasn’t able to keep a balanced vegan diet. I noticed that I ate a lot of carbs and not enough vegetables. So I revised my plan, got my a$$ to Trader Joe’s and meal prepped for the week. Meal prepping is hard! But this is the new challenge that I hope to turn into a lifestyle.

This fitness planner has a spot for a Progress Selfie, but I feel weird flexing for the camera, so I just use that space for more health reflection. And not to mention, Polaroid film is expensive and I’d rather save it for other things ;).

Mood tracking is another great thing to include in your journal and also new goals for the next week that may develop. I definitely develop new goals as I let others slip away… and that’s OK! That’s all part of the revision process. =)

Happy and Healthy!

All in all, adopting a healthy lifestyle perception will help get rid of the guilt and self loathing associated with words such as diets and cleansing.  If you need a scoop of that Ben and Jerry’s, go have some! But know that you can have another scoop tomorrow. Log your food, but don’t just log it and forget about it, go back, review it, take note of what you’re putting in your body. Most importantly, be honest with yourself and make it fun! I started doing this because I love stickers and wanted something else to decorate and feed my #planneraddiction; so find a way to make it fun! Healthy choices should make you happy, not miserable.

Keep it up!

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May 2017 Layouts & Mantras

Illusions of Productivity

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On Mantras

Each month I review my successes, areas of improvements and ways to to tackle those areas. Last month I incorporated a weekly habit tracker in my planner layouts, which turned out to be a great success.

This month I wanted to focus on having a more mindful approach to my day, so I decided to start with a daily mantra. Keeping up with a daily mantra was a lot harder than I thought! With the constant thoughts running around inside my head, it took a lot of focus to really give my undivided attention to the words I set for myself. I wasn’t always successful and I actually dismissed it some days because I felt my mantra wasn’t good enough or it was too similar to the day before; or I just simply avoided it because I felt I just didn’t have time to think about it. I found that I had to be very intentional about my mantra, I really had to be still physically, in a comfortable place, to say it with a few deep breaths so that my whole body could acknowledge it. I will admit, some days this is hard to do when your focused on fitting so much into your day. But on the days I was successful, I remember it having positive effects on my mind, body and soul.

One day, I was leaving a weekly meeting with my team and left feeling very overwhelmed realizing the long list of to-do’s that suddenly multiplied on my plate. I was getting overwhelmed to the point where I was feeling frustrated; it was almost consuming me because I was holding it all in. When I do this, a knot grows in my chest and I can feel my muscles tense up; I know better than to show this hand at work, so I decided to take my lunch break and go for a walk.

I work in a part of town that doesn’t always smell the nicest, isn’t always the cleanest, and the neighbors aren’t always the most polite. So walking outside with all this stimuli added a layer of frustration. The only place I could retreat to was the mall. Once in the mall surrounded by more people, the frustration kept growing. I quickly darted up to the secret office spaces on the top floor that I had access to having worked in the mall while in college. Finally with some space to think, I was able to calm down my anxieties and reassure myself that “Yes you can. Just one thing at a time”.  I was still anxious so I decided to sit for five minutes and just focus on deep breathing. While breathing, I started to focus on that mantra, saying it over and over again in rhythm with my breath. As my heart rate slowed down, and the knot in my throat softened up, I could feel my mind push aside my negative thoughts and self doubt, then I got into this military mode- where I sternly tell myself what I’m going to do- and I told myself, “You’re gonna get up, take some deep breaths, you’re gonna go back to work, and take it one step at a time. But first you’re gonna get a twenty minute massage from the massage guys outside Lucky Brand and THEN it’s game time.” And that’s what I did.

Yes, of course the massage was a big factor in all this ;). BUT I will say, I hardly felt that massage because I was so focused on breathing and repeating my mantra. I said it over and over for twenty minutes straight. I remember looking out of that little face hole in the massage chair, staring at the floor and letting my mind go numb with the hum of my mantra. With each breath, I could feel the masseuse push through the tension more and more. I carried this mantra back to work, inside me like a tribal drum making way for my path. I kept focusing on my breathing using my mantra as the metronome to my breath and could feel all areas of my being relax, and more importantly I was able to focus and finish out the day with some work I was proud of.

Now, even with a few successful days like this (I only had a massage that one day..), the true challenge was initiating this intimate moment with myself. In realizing this, I was reminded of the sad reality that it’s hard to own our waking moments, our downtime, our day, when we have some many things to do to make sure we can pay our rent, and secure our place in this cycle that gives us this “comfortable” lifestyle. Giving yourself a space of vulnerability is difficult, but once done, I find it can do wonders for my state of mind.

For June, I hope to carry on the daily mantra challenge, and hope to utilize the Relax Guided Breathing feature on my fitbit to help center myself and have “mantra time” on my commute to work.

One word that I used in a lot of my mantras was “today”. Saying it makes me feel more grounded in the moment. Today – Today is still today. Today is not over. Today you can. Today I will accomplish x, y, z. What are some mantras that help you get through the day? Do you pair it with a breathing exercise? Do you say it out loud or quietly to yourself over and over? I’d be interested to hear how you incorporate mindfulness into your daily practice.

Planner Layouts

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…and that concludes my monthly report in Illusions of Productivity =)

On Burnouts & Inspiration

Creative Writing, Illusions of Productivity

Feature Photo Cred @fitnessxart

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It’s a fact – I have too much on my plate. I have FOMO (fear of missing out) and a desire to learn everything and do everything. I work a full time job at a non-profit and do social media consulting on the side; I’m in two music ensembles; I have a personal blog (hello thanks for stopping by); I workout 4 times a week; I’m in a relationship (shout out to my awesome boyfriend <3); and I try to keep up my professional network and friendships. It’s CRAZY. I know. But I’ve always operated this way, packing my schedule to the brim. I am often finding myself in a position where I feel burned out. Here are some quick fixes to recharge my inspiration when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

First things first – routine is everything & a little inspiration along the way can help.

First of all, routine is the key. In case you couldn’t tell from the theme of my blog, I’m all about planning, down to the last second. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t stick to my weekday goals and schedule, then I get overwhelmed and frustrated when it comes time to have professional meetings, rehearsals, or even dates! I feel unprepared, stressed out that I have to catch up (which I ain’t got time for!)

I’ve joined a couple entrepreneur and solopreneur group chats on Facebook that have been really inspiring and has helped me realize that I’m not alone in my insanity. One thing my favorite girlboss duo Sarah Elder and Andrea Holland of PRtraction said was that being an entrepreneur means you’re working ALL the hours, contrary to what people assume (you know, that you get to choose your hours).

My other favorite duo are bloggers Linda and David of Kinlake, they travel the world and work remotely as digital nomads. I love their segment ‘Gone Nomadic’ explaining their journey. It’s encouraging to hear how they debunk the myth of the freelance traveler; it’s more than just wandering around aimlessly – it takes a lot of planning, preparation, structure, and discipline in order to have that freedom.

When I start to get lazy, I change it up.

More facts – I change my bedroom layout quarterly (maybe even more), sometimes all I need is a fresh start. When all my clothes have been piled and scrunched at the foot of my bed for days, maybe a week, with shoes and purses and unopened mail dispersed all over my room in disarray – I know it’s time to move my furniture around.  To me, there is nothing more inspiring than a fresh new layout, a fresh new look, and a fresh new environment.

In a study done at the Princeton Neuroscience institute, they found that physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus and process information. The clutter competes for your attention, wearing you down and resulting in frustration. Scientific proof or not, I’m sure many of you can relate and agree with this point that in order to get things done, you need a clean desk, countertop, canvas, etc. I know decluttering is key, but sometimes I can lose the inspiration, and that’s why rearranging my room resurges my excitement to have an organized clean space. It’s like buying a fresh pair of white sneakers: for the first couple of days, maybe even weeks, you try your best to keep them clean, paying attention to all the scratches and marks, brushing them off at the end of the day. But after a while, you start to let it go, and eventually they become a bit battered and grey and become your go-to pair for a pickup game of soccer in the park. Then it’s back to the shoe store for a fresh pair.

Dressing for success really is a thing.

On a more extreme level – I like to change my look (obvi); my hair has been blonde, pink, blue and now I just chopped it all off. But I realize this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (or bottle of dye). But, in this same vein, a less extreme way would be to clean out your closet, sell your clothes and refresh your wardrobe. It doesn’t have to be a huge money venture, one-thing-in-and-one-thing-out is what I (try) to say. You can sell your clothes and buy some pretty awesome gems secondhand.

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In an interesting article by the Wall Street Journal,  Why Dressing for Success Leads to Success, Ray A. Smith states that in dressing up and dressing the part, people were more productive in a work setting. Outward confidence begat intrinsic confidence. Better dressers even tend to think more abstractly – which is the style of thinking seen in senior executives and other people in power.

I like to think about being a little girl and playing around with my mom’s lipstick and high heels. My mom, as a businesswoman, was always wearing the classic 90s pencil skirt with tights and high heels. To me, this carved out my perception of what being a woman was. My sister and I would play dress up and play out these scenarios of working in an office and such. Likewise, as I got older and I started interviewing for jobs, there was and still is a sense of excitement when I get to put on a pair of pumps and walk the walk. All of a sudden, with every high heel click-clack, I felt a bit more feminine (read: powerful).

So when I start feeling a bit drab or like I’m half-assing my life, I change up my look, buy a new lipstick shade, chop off my hair, and I feel like I’m ready to conquer the world again.

Step outside of yourself. Meet new people. See new things.

I mean really.. duh.. this is a given. Like you didn’t already know this. But sometimes it’s easy to forget to just be still and observe. Sometimes when I forget to bring my laptop home from work to work on my other work or if I left my cello at my boyfriends house, I’m forced to think outside of my list of to-do’s.  At those times, (with my Type A personality let’s be real, god forbid I spend this accidental down time sitting on the couch) I get outside and start walking.

I’m fortunate to live in a city where there’s always something creative going on, always an open mic or poetry slam at a nearby cafe. When I get to be an observer of someone else’s creativity, I feel a sense of reassurance and empowerment. I’m not talking about watching an A-list top 40 musician in concert (of course there’s loads of inspiration and empowerment there) but I’m talking about seeing other hustlers who work day jobs who make it a point to pursue their creativity and share it. I always write my best poetry or have the best rehearsal after I’ve stepped outside myself and watched someone else perform their art.

Everyone is different.

What inspires you? I’d be interested to hear about what you do to recharge. So please share!

Thanks for reading and keep on hustling.

Planner Layout Review: April 2017

Illusions of Productivity

And just like, that another month flies by.

This month was all about daily habits. I kept a log of fitness habits, and personal habits, after a month of tracking, I can say that I’m finally feeling the benefits.

Top 5 Successes:

  1.  Went to the gym 3 times a week at the butt crack of dawn.
  2. Played more bass guitar
  3. Cut out unhealthy snacks
  4. Crossed 2 things of my “Life Maintenance” list (FINALLY)
  5. Incorporated creativity *offline* into my everyday life.

Top 3 Areas that need improvement:

  1. More cello
  2. Less multitasking. More focus – specifically at work.
  3. I need to go through my mail. -_-

This weekend I hope to catch up on a few blog posts I’ve been drafting, and some other creative projects I’ve been working on. Thanks for stopping by.

D. Marie ❤


Personal Planner

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My newest planner toy! The HP Sprocket photo printer. You can peel off the back and make them stickers! You already KNOW ya girl is scrapbooking like crazy with this thing ❤

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Fitness Planner:

I bought fitness stickers mid- month, so the other two weeks aren’t worth mentioning 😉

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Work Planner:

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Happy Planning!

On Creativity

Creative Writing, Illusions of Productivity

“Creativity is intelligence having fun” – Albert Einstein


Working in front of a screen inputting and analyzing numbers all day takes a toll on me mentally and emotionally. I work full time and consult on the side, sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about all the things I want to do and have to do once I get home. It’s also hard to find personal time, I really need to carve it in anywhere I can. Having a Type A personality , I find it hard to sit still, there’s always something I should be doing.

With the constant need to feel busy, I find that cultivating my creativity helps satiate the angst I feel in empty spaces. Not only does it help my mind step away from my lists and anxiety, it gives me a fresh look at how to execute all of my projects. Even if you don’t consider yourself an ‘artist’ here are some reasons why you should incorporate creativity in your weekly or daily habits.

Creativity is within all of us.

Contrary to belief that the creative process is a right brain activity, Social Psychologist Graham Wallas’ model of the creative process emphasizes that from Preparation to Verification, creativity is a whole brain activity. When you think about it, humans in nature are a creative species, our ability to manipulate our environment is what sets us apart from other animals; so to say that one is not creative is to deny your innate ability to solve problems, which is essentially a creative process.

One of my favorite modes of creativity is sketching. The act of taking in a scene and translating it onto paper is a remarkable skill. Now, I’m not the best at it, but I enjoy tapping into the basics of perception, shadows, and shapes. The senses used to solve the problem of translation from the intake of what you see, to manipulating your tools to draw it on paper, is something I feel helps reset my brain when I’m having a stressful week or am in need of inspiration for words, or other departments of creativity.

When you draw, you become more aware of details and awaken many suppressed senses. While starting out my sketch of the Golden Gate Bridge you see above, it took me awhile to get the correct proportion of the towers, which even still could use some improvement. This mental exercise in itself- spatial improvement and functional connectivity –  helps relieves stress, sharpens your brain agility, and improves emotional awareness (Bolwerk, 2014).

Awakening of the senses.

This awakening of the senses that study after study proclaims art and creativity does for the brain, is something that is so important especially now in the digital age. One thing I hate about social media is that you can easily find yourself stuck down a rabbit hole staring at your phone screen! I’m guilty of this, and when I finally snap out of it, I feel like my brain has been buffering, numb, or blurry – kind of like when you use the street view on Google Maps and the image is a blurred collage of earth toned, pixelated streaks… yea, that’s my brain after wasting an hour of my life scrolling through Instagram.

One of the reasons I’ve started blogging is to expand my creative practice. I was telling a friend the other day that I kinda (key word KINDA) miss writing essays! That was crazy to hear coming out of my mouth; but I felt like in this ‘like, share, comment, tweet in 140 characters’ age, my thought process was becoming too shallow. So for me, blogging is another creative process where I can practice formulating complex thoughts and expand one simple idea into a beginning, middle, and end (like this post ;)).

Simple modes of creativity.

Even if you can’t commit to a full blown essay or mural of the Golden Gate Bridge, there are little things you can do to squeeze in that little bit of creativity. One of my favorite tips I heard from a colleague is that she challenged herself to write haikus on the bus instead of looking at Instagram. I don’t find myself writing too many haikus, but one thing I do enjoy is experimenting with descriptive language – writing a small paragraph about the scene I find myself in. I use my phone to keep these notes, and sometimes these paragraphs turn into something more that I expand on later.

Force yourself to learn something new.

I’m a huge fan of formal instruction, I take cello and bass lessons at a community center. I’ve finally convinced some of my musically curious friends to sign up for a class! The point is not to chase some pipe dream of becoming a professional musician, but to force myself to step away from the screen, learn something new, and awaken my musical senses. If you find that adding that little bit of creativity on your own is something you can’t commit to, then sign up for that guitar or ceramics class you’ve always wanted to try! Find a community center, many of them have sliding scale prices; you’d be surprised what your public library offers- plus you get the benefit of building your creative community.

Creativity is our super human power!

We are a creative species, it is our super human power and you should find ways to inspire yourself to create every single day. When we create, we are changing the structure of our brains, creating new connections in our neural pathways, lighting up different parts of the brain (Scientific American, 2007). Think about it this way – your brain is a muscle and therefore, you should exercise it like one. Don’t let your brain become a couch potato.

Personal Reflection and Growth Mindset

Illusions of Productivity

 

I call my planner obsession “illusions of productivity” for a reason – I’m really not the best at adulting, but I enjoy making lists and goals to make me feel like I am in control and that I am going somewhere with my life. Now that I’ve been actively writing down goals, setting intentions, and reflecting on them month to month, I’ve found that even though I fall off track towards the end of the month, just the act of setting aside time to reflect on myself helps me stay motivated to keep up my positive habits. I want to do so many things, and it takes a lot of time management to put in the work to improve myself in all the different departments I dabble in – music, fitness, consulting, being in a relationship, and personal time… it’s a lot to juggle, but keeping sight of what I’m doing right versus what’s dragging me down helps me grow. So keep at it! Even if you fail, just writing down your goals will help you get there.

Someone asked me yesterday on my Instagram, “How do you view planning and what does it mean to you?”. I had a hard time answering it right off the bat because it was such a personal question. But after some thought, I realized I love to daydream, and for me, making lists, checking boxes and planning, is my way of building a ladder to reach the stars. #justkeepswimming.

Daydreaming

Creative Writing, Picture Diaries

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I remember this day. It was the best part of the whole trip. It was the moment I finally let go of all the all my preconceived notions.  Jumping on that scooter and having the ability to roam foreign territory on our own, gave me the confidence to strip away the dependencies that made me feel boxed in my own judgement. That moment was what life should be about: floating, feeling – free.

I’ve been contemplating a lot lately. Each day as I come home from work I can’t help but feel a bit of angst and heavy emptiness. My whole day gone, my eyes burn, and my muscles continue to get soft as I sit in front of a computer for 10 hours a day. I try really hard to maintain my work – life balance: I work out 2 – 3 times a week, I play in a classical quartet one night a week, I socialize with friends, I Netflix and chill, I live in an awesome city, I have health benefits, I have the weekends off… the blessings go on and on. But every Sunday night, as I get myself ready for the week, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss. What have I done wrong along the road? I’ve always listened to my parents and my mentors. I finished school, which was a struggle and a half, I really wanted to become a traveling artist – of what, I have no clue…. I took the job that not only would accelerate my career, but one that also helps others. Everyday I think, there has to be more than this, working for the machine.

Why do we work so hard for such a small blimp in time, to come back into the grind, and forget about what truly is mine – time, my day and my night- should be spent as if I own it. Time spent should be for me. I’ve been daydreaming with my boyfriend lately, about this idea of dropping everything and working on organic farms around the world, touching the earth, learning how to survive on our own. We keep toying with the idea, and as much as I want to do it, I am completely terrified. We made a promise to keep pushing each other, the only thing stopping us is ourselves.

We have a goal set for January 2018; and I’m thinking of Portugal.

 

 

February 20 – 26, 2017

Creative Writing

There are a lot of expectations I put on myself. I need to remember it’s ok to relax.

Yesterday I wanted to do so much, but with the rain, I just didn’t want to leave the house. I sat around and went through a wave of emotions, occasionally asking myself if I was OK.

I work hard, 9 – 5, sometimes 7 – 5, Monday through Friday; and I get so caught up in my future plans, which then gets me worked up on my current plans. It’s the Virgo in me to criticize myself harshly, and endlessly. It’s a viscous cycle to get caught up in. With that said, when those waves of emotions hit me, usually when I have down time, I I go through this inner battle telling myself to relax and also telling myself I’m not using my time wisely, and then another part just wanting to say fuck everything, what is all this hard work for anyways? I get so caught up in my dreams, the clouds grow and float so far away, sometimes they seem impossible to reach. Especially in moments when I have time to think about them.

This is why I’m obsessed with lists and planners, it gives me an illusion and remedy to my anxiety. Lately my mantra has been the word “EFFICIENT” what can I do now to ensure I’m setting up a solid foundation for my future plans. Instead of daydreaming about the big picture, I need to fine polish the smaller details. Mindfulness is needed to focus on the here and now.