MY NEW TOY (& Some Tips for Accomplishing a Big Goal)

Guys, guys, guys! Exciting news!

After four long months of endless stress and studying, grades are finally in and I got an A! This is no small feat for an Organic Chemistry class (especially when you take that class around a full time job, 6 years after taking any other form of chemistry). I promised myself at the very beginning of it all that if I got an A I was going to buy myself an espresso machine, so here we are!

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Thrilled doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel (mostly for the grade, but also for this awesome reward). So, details: I ended up purchasing the Breville Nespresso Creatista Plus machine. I’ll admit I was really skeptical about the Nespresso program at first because the pods seemed so wasteful and I knew next to nothing about the quality of Nespresso coffee. I was worried about being limited with the type of espresso I’d be drinking. But after doing some research I found out that the pods are actually made from aluminum, which makes them more recyclable, and Nespresso has it’s own recycling program so when I’m done with I can easily send them in for free with a bag they provide! I also learned Nespresso has a huge variety of coffee that’s responsibly sourced from different parts of the world and they classify all their options based on intensity, aromatic profiles, and tasting modes. Which makes it so easy to choose what I want to try next.

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Another thing I appreciated is that with this kind of automatic machine less depends on the user’s skill & consistency, there’s more of a built-in quality guarantee (which means in the morning I can pop in a pod and let the machine do the work while I focus on becoming a human). I liked the idea of having a frothing wand because I’m always getting nostalgic for my brief stint as a barista in college (best job, ever) and can’t wait to practice some latte art again. And with this model I can choose from a variety of espresso drinks and even customize variables like milk froth and temp. So I will literally never get bored. I had a few other models I was briefly looking at but with all the factors I detailed above, it quickly became clear that this was the one for me. Not an ad, by the way, I’m just so freaking pumped!

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So, now that I’ve got my home-cooked latte (hehe) I want to write a little bit on how I go about tackling big goals. Throughout the past semester a few people said to me “I don’t know how you do it”, and I’d like to first start out by saying that the way I handled things was by no means perfect. A lot of people probably definitely do a better job than I do. With that being said, I do think over the years I’ve compiled a good list of tips and tricks on how to stay motivated and succeed (in anything, not just academic!) that I’d like to share here.

  1. Have a long-term reward. There’s got to be a big reason driving you to complete whatever goal you’re working on, obviously! Otherwise what’s the point? When things get tough, and they will (life is never without obstacles), this big-scheme reward will serve as a reminder for why you’re doing this and how awesome the payoff will be in the end. For me with organic chemistry it was applying to veterinary school, for you it might be a promotion/title you’re seeking. Or maybe a more healthy/fulfilling life. Identify the thing you really freakin’ want and keep that in your mind as you werk for it.
  2. Have a short-term reward. I find that sometimes just having the long-term reward isn’t enough for me. Especially when the process to reach your reward spans a really long time and might involve a series of goals. Hear me out: There were so many times over the course of this semester that I thought to myself “ugh, why am I even doing this, I’ll never get into vet school anyway” (I know, great confidence!) and “even if I pass this class, I still might not get in and I still have to do two more classes!” and those thoughts can be a little…un-motivating. So I give myself short-term rewards that I try to make proportionate to the thing I’m trying to accomplish. That way there’s something tangible and immediate that I know I’ll be rewarded with if I do good. I’m like a rat with cheese, lol. For this class, it was an espresso machine. For my next class, it will be a new camera lens. For getting into vet school, it will be a new puppy. Kidding! Maybe
  3. Have a good support system. Nobody accomplishes anything alone. My coworkers were kind enough to allow me to change my schedule to meet my class/study needs, my parents came all the way to LA for my dad’s birthday and didn’t complain when I had to take a day to study for an upcoming exam. All my friends were cheering me on the whole time. Mark was exceptional. He never complained when I chose to study instead of spending time with him. He fell asleep so many times with our bedroom lights on because I was still up working. He cleaned when he knew I didn’t have the time but was still being driven crazy by the mess. He convinced our roommates to reign in the noise and partying. It meant everything and made it all so much easier.
  4. Prioritize where your mental energy goes, and let go of what doesn’t make the cut. If you really want to give something your 100%, you need the 100% to give! So stop wasting any energy (physical, emotional, or mental) on things that just aren’t worth it. Like maybe taking the perfect Instagram isn’t so important to your overall happiness and can actually just be a huge distraction (some might notice I’ve been less active on social media for this reason). Or maybe you stop draining energy into a relationship or friendship that just isn’t genuine and won’t go anywhere. Practice letting go of things that bother you to the point of exhaustion, like how messy your roommates can be, because the less time you spend dwelling on things you have no real control over the more time you can spend working towards your goal. And don’t be afraid to put some stuff on pause, like on-going projects without deadlines that can wait. If the idea of complete pause scares the sh*t out of you, don’t worry, because tips 5-8 can help you find a way to fit (almost) all of it in.productivty.jpg
  5. Buy a planner. And whatever you need to make yourself want to use it (markers, stickers, planner-add-ins, etc.). Buy a planner you find pretty, but make sure it’s one that works for you and the way you schedule and keep track of things. There is  nothing worse than having a planner that doesn’t really match how you map out your day/week/month. I’m super picky about planners for this reason! I think the best planners have a monthly layout and a note page at the beginning of each new month, then pages for each day with ample space to write your to-do list, plan out your day by the hour, and jot down random ideas/thoughts. I especially like if there’s an inspiring quote at the top of each page (lol). But if this isn’t what you like, go with what you need! You weirdos who say planners don’t help are either crazy or aren’t doing it right. Sorry not sorry. My planner is my lifeline, and here’s how I use it: I start by writing important dates/deadlines on the monthly layout and adding goals I want to accomplish (and blog post ideas!) for the month in the notes section. As the month goes on, I check those all off as they pass or as I accomplish them. The night before, I go to the next day’s page and I write what needs to be done that day as a to-do list to the side. Then I schedule my day by the hour (sometimes minute), making sure to fit everything on the to-do list in, and I write it all out. Yesterday, for example, looked like this (it was a pretty easy day): “7 am wake up. 7- 8:30 read book in bed. 8:45 go on run. 9 shower. 9:15 make breakfast + coffee and sit down to write blog posts. 10 am dry hair + do makeup. 10:30 leave for work, don’t forget lunch! 11-8 work. 3 pm lunch break, work on application prompts. 8 – 8:30 pm plan upcoming vacation/fourth of July. 8:30 pick up Moose for pet-sitting. 9 pm get home, feed Moose, schedule bridesmaid dress appointment, plan for tomorrow. 10 pm read in bed.” After all is said and done, I look at what I didn’t get to and I include it in the next day’s plan. Looks intense, but I swear it’s how I stay (sorta) on top of it all. I seriously feel so chaotic, like I’m constantly forgetting something, when I don’t use my planner this way.
  6. Schedule your free time. Yup! Sorry, there’s not a lot of room for spontaneity in the hustle (kidding, there can be, but not always). Mostly this rule exists to make sure you a) intentionally set aside some time for yourself where you’re not working on your goal (ya know, to prevent burnout and fuel your soul a bit) and b) don’t waste that established free time. Because you need to use your free time effectively! No more mindlessly wasting hours in front of the television, watching Keeping Up W/ The Kardashians. Unless that’s an activity that fuels your soul (doubt it). The keyword is of course “mindlessly”. There’s nothing wrong with finding an hour of free time and deciding you would really love to lay on the couch and watch TV to recharge. But you should schedule it, because if you don’t you’ll see how easy it is to realize 5 hours later that you’ve wasted your whole afternoon. That time is precious and that experience isn’t motivating. I schedule my free time for stuff I know will make me feel happy and refreshed, like a date with Mark, a workout class, a trip to the beach, a phone call with a friend, etc.
  7. Become a morning person. Read any one of those articles with titles like “8 Habits All Successful Women Have” and they all say wake up at least an hour earlier than you need to. The morning sets the mood for the rest of your day, and if you can wake up, squeeze in a workout, eat breakfast and get ready for your day in a relaxed way your day is bound to be more productive than if you rolled out of bed, threw on some clothes, and grabbed a rotten banana before rushing to work (been there, done that). If you’re like me and you live with roommates, you might find that you love the peace & quiet that comes from being up before everyone else. It’s a great time to get work done because there are so few distractions. I also remember reading somewhere (maybe?) that your brain is most alert and your productivity is at a peak during morning hours, especially the two hour window after you wake up. So don’t waste it!
  8. Remember that you always “don’t have the time”…until you simply make the time. This is something I think about a lot. I hear it as an excuse all the time. “I would work out more but I just don’t have the time”, or “I would love to learn that new skill but who has the time?!” I don’t remember when I started identifying what a cop out it was, but it really has changed the way I think about what I can fit into a day. I mean, you think it’s hard to have a full time job and work out 6 days a week? Try doing that and being a mom, because some people do that!!! Here’s a little secret. In most cases, when you say you don’t have the time, you actually do and you just need to find it. If that means an hour less of mindless Pinterest surfing or tv watching, so be it. Or it might mean waking up an hour early (see tips 6 and 7). But you definitely have the time. Shifting my mindset from “I can’t fit it in” to “where can I fit this in” was one of the most important changes I made for myself, like ever! A year ago I told myself I didn’t have the time to take classes, study for the GRE, apply to grad school, have a full time job, and still find the time to be healthy and enjoy my life. But I gradually kept adding more to my plate and now here I am…and I’ve actually been thinking of signing up for a ceramics class in addition to all of that (ha!). It’s like that saying…you have just as many hours in your day as Beyoncé.desk.jpg
  9. Find and invest in every resource that seems worthwhile. This is really straightforward so I won’t harp on it. Find books or tutors or any type of resource that can help you achieve your goals. It’s an investment that is bound to pay off because it’s an investment in yourself and your future.
  10. Be flexible with your approach. Isn’t it so me to make my final tip not to put much stock by other peoples’ tips?! What works for someone else might not be what works for you, so you should exercise flexibility when trying to find your approach.

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Whew, that’s it! That was so fun to write! I hope it made an ounce of sense. At the very least it will be a nice break from hearing about the freakin’ N-Sale.