Every once in awhile it’s good to unleash your Inner Monica.

Monica from the 90s TV show Friends was a super neat freak who would run organizing circles around Martha Stewart. She’s your total Type-A personality. One of my favorite moments from the series is during a trivia game in season 4 – about how many categories of towels Monica has (jump to 3:10):

If you didn’t watch the video, she has 11.

I have an inner Monica. I don’t let her out very often because she’s hard to put back once she’s out. But every now and then it’s worth it to get the extreme attention to detail and momentum to tackle a big project.

Inner Monica totally geeks out on making order out of chaos. She doesn’t need breaks, in fact she can’t stop until the task is done. Set aside a weekend. I like using her for purging and organizing mostly (she’s excellent at the tupperware organization), though she also comes in handy when I have a garden to plan or a flower bed to dig up and redo. Every task I’ve given to her, she’s totally nailed it.

I’ve been keeping her penned up, but today I let her out, and I felt unstoppable. A project that probably would have taken another week or so to finish got done in 12 hours today.

I’m totally spent, but also gratified.

Inner Monica is like having a superpower.

 

-Mikita

 

 

 

 

 

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What do you see when you look at this photo? Some pink roses. Maybe you find them pretty or maybe roses aren’t your thing.

What I see when I look at this photo is a night in early June. A lovely summer night, where the air smells fresh and full of anticipation of what the rest of summer will bring. A simple night where people walk their dogs and sit on front porches after a long day at work. A night where I met some friends for pizza.

Parking for the pizza place was a block or so into the surrounding neighborhood. It made for a lovely little walk to the pizza place. I noticed these pink roses on my way; they were really quite striking and just seem to sing of summer, so I stopped to grab this one pic.

When I look at this pic, I’m instantly reminded of the good memories made that night – sitting in the giant corner booth with eight or nine of some of the loveliest, creative minds I know. Just talking, laughing, eating the most enormous pizza you’ve ever seen (seriously, it’s over 2 FEET in diameter). It was one of those perfect nights.

So long after the pizza is gone and we’ve all driven home and plunged back into the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, I look at this pic and am transported to that evening.

For everyone else, this is just a pic of some roses, for me it is a memento. I stop and look around at my desk here at home and see I’ve surrounded myself with little notes, objects, etc. that hold special meaning to me. I know the same is true for you. Take a moment right now to notice something you keep nearby and what memory or feeling it sparks for you. If you can, share the story behind the photo, trinket or note with someone in your life.

And if you are feeling so inclined, I’d love for you to share one of your objects and stories with me in the comments below.

-Mikita

I was driving home from dinner tonight. I had family in from out of state and met them in another town about 60 miles away. Cruising along the highway tonight reminded me of the daily commute I used to have. No, it wasn’t 60 miles, but it still took about 50-65 minutes most days.

This is a significant chunk of time. Time spent sitting in traffic. I could have focused on how long it took, how crappy the drivers were, or the never-ending construction. I could have been annoyed and irritated, thinking of all the things that commute was robbing me of. And I think I would have arrived home on those days in a pretty rotten mood.

Knowing that I really couldn’t change or affect the traffic, I decide to use the drive home to call loved ones. Some days I’d spend the whole drive home talking to my father-in-law. Other days I’d talk to my grandma or my mom or a close friend. I’d get to hear their voices – the excitement if something good happened, or the flatness in their tone if something was bothering them. I got to connect with them.

These days I have about a 10-15 minute commute. I never call anyone on my way home because I’d have to wait until I pass the regional airport (where I always drop calls), and then it hardly seems enough time to have a decent conversation, so I figure I’ll call when I’m home. But I hit the door, and there are dogs to feed and walk, projects around the house to do, dinner to make, etc. I never call anyone anymore. I don’t hear my friend’s voices. I zip through Facebook, to stay up to date, but not really connected.

I drove that hour-long commute for about four years. If we average 22 working days a month, that’s over 1,000 hours just spent driving home during that period of time. I don’t remember all the traffic jams. I don’t remember hating it, or being terribly irritated by it – maybe on occasion, but it’s not what stands out to me. What I remember, what is ingrained in my memory, is having an HOUR A DAY to just talk to people in my life I care about.

I’m not ready to trade my teensy commute for the one I used to have, but it struck me how situations can definitely be about HOW we perceive them, how we choose to respond. It’s the cliche, “LIfe gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We have the power to make the most of any given situation and I think we forget that. So this is my little nudge, my little whisper to you, “find the silver lining in a current situation that’s less than ideal for you right now.” None of these things last forever. One day it will change, so do what you can to find the bright side.

– Mikita

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Day 4.

Have you ever been around someone so toxic you had to leave the room?

What if that room was in your own house?

On the last season of Celebrity Apprentice (which is my reality TV addiction), Omarosa was on. I love Celebrity Apprentice because it puts all of these people who have been stars in music, sports, tv, etc. onto a fairly level playing field where they have to set egos aside and work on teams. I love the psychology of the group dynamics. I enjoy seeing how they handle curve balls. And I am always taken with how Ivanka conducts herself. I recommend reading her book, Trump Card. She’s a smart, beautiful woman who wields power in the boardroom with a huge amount of grace.

And then you have the complete antithesis of Ivanka in Omarosa. I’m watching episodes of Celebrity Apprentice and every time Omarosa came on the screen, her negativity was so palpable that my husband would literally have to leave the room. He could not handle it. He said it felt like she was attacking him. It was no longer separated by the TV screen. It was in our house. It was pervasive.

I didn’t fully understand his experience until one day I was listening to The Adam & Drew Show Podcast. Adam was clearly having a very bad, no-good day. He’s a crusty, cantankerous character to begin with, but this day was punctuated by him taking his bad day out on Drew. It bothered me so much, that I had to stop listening to the podcast. I needed a Carolla detox.

I’ve never really understood how people can be so toxic, to continuously operate from a place of fear and anger and general paranoia. I wonder if they were always this way. I wonder if they never added more tools to their toolbox, so their only response to everything was to pull out the hammer and pummel things with it, like a primate.

Me, I operate from a place of learning. I give the benefit of the doubt. I work towards a solution, not on assigning blame. I’ve had my share of real-life toxic people and the best advice I have if you are dealing with a Toxic Personality in your own life is to keep your cool and get out that situation as fast as possible. There are no merit badges given for hanging in there and putting up with it.

 

-Mikita

 

 

Momentum.

Yesterday we talked about overcoming Inertia. Today It’s about keeping the momentum going.

Yes objects in motion tend to stay in motion, but they also need a little help to keep it going.

What happens when the excited energy that kick started a new project wanes? How do you avoid Resolutioner-syndrome (ya know – all those people who resolve to be fit and go to the gym in January and who fizzle out in February)?

You can force it a bit through sheer willpower, but that isn’t enough. Willpower gets used up through out the day; it is a finite resource – meaning some days, you just CAN’T dig deeper or force it to happen.

So what then? We outsmart ourselves in the following ways:

1. Build a better habit.
We are delightful creatures of habit. One of the best ways to keep a new plan in motion, is to find ways to tie it to something we already do. My houseplants used to suffer a cruel fate of drought-flood-drought cycle. I could never seem to remember to water them regularly. That changed when I looked at my week and chose to test out watering plants on the same evening I take out the trash (since these are both weekly tasks). Progress check: success.

2. Plan for our own pitfalls. 
I’m most successful at going to the gym if I come home, feed the dogs, change my clothes and go straight to the gym. I’ve learned that if I sit down, even for a few minutes, I’m toast.

3. Enlist an accountability partner.
We can rationalize out the wazoo to ourselves on why we didn’t do X or Y this week. And we might even be able to do it once with our accountability partner – but that’s not going to fly next time. An accountability partner is a great cheerleader when you need it as well as a great ass-kicker.

4. Track our progress.
Without tracking, it’s all just guesses and usually pretty bad ones at that. You have to track something meaningful to the goal at hand. If the goal is to pack your lunch instead of eating out 4 days a week, then you simply add it up at the end of each week. You are either on track (yay – you get a gold star) or off track – and that let’s you evaluate how to adjust to get on track for next week. Also it can be super gratifying to see a string of successful weeks and that visual reminder is an effective reinforcement tool. So bust out a sheet of paper and some gold stars like in gradeschool and chart your success!

5. Exist in the Moment.
You got not future, you got no past. There isn’t anything else except what is it front of you. As my husband says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” You don’t think about the whole elephant or how much you ate yesterday, you just do what is in front of you today. If you are operating from a strategic standpoint, you put the stuff that’s important (but not urgent) in front of you – the stuff that pays off in the long term.

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So whatever your goal or project, once you overcome Inertia, keep the momentum going. I believe in you.

-Mikita

An object in motion tends to stay in motion.

Inertia

With every goal we pursue, there are two hard parts: (1) getting started and (2) keeping the momentum once you’ve got it. Today I want to focus on the getting started part.

Getting started requires a lot of energy to overcome the inertia of our actions.

Sitting down on day 2 to write this post required a lot of my energy. Now that I’m here and writing, it’s moving along. I’m reminding myself of the goal right now – the goal is to build the habit of writing and to take away my excuses of not having time to make this blog a higher priority. The goal isn’t an epic post. Good, bad, ugly, it is no matter. Today I merely have to overcome Inertia and write.

It wasn’t easy. I had a lot of Resistance to sitting down to write. But I’ve put myself out there – am I seriously going to bail on day 2 after I just wrote about starting where you are? Nope. I’m going to do it. So I took a page from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and reminded myself that sitting down to write was the hardest part. I trusted that once I got going, things would work themselves out.

“There’s a secret that real writers know that wanna be writers don’t and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”

This is the truth for any endeavor.

So how do we get over this and get started?

  • 1. Accept that this will be the hard part. Period.
    2. Negotiate with yourself. “I’ll do it for 20 minutes.” 20 minutes is manageable, doable, and generally once you get going, you’ll find yourself working longer than 20 minutes.
    3. Break it down into a bite-size piece. In the battle to get started, all you have to do to win, is take some small action, something tiny that gets the ball rolling. If the goal is run a 5k, you start with something small, like alternating jogging and walking in 60 second intervals. If it’s writing, negotiate a page or a paragraph at a time if you have to.
    4. Reward yourself. Put a little bribe on the other side of the task at hand: watching a TV show, have a little scoop of ice cream, etc.
    5. Stop psyching yourself out by over-analyzing. As Nike has told us for years, JUST DO IT.
    6. Invoke Bob Ross, “no mistakes, just happy little accidents.” Make it play, make it fun. Take the pressure off.
    7. Let yourself grouse if you must. Let the inner 3 yr old wail, “but I don’t wanna!” and then do it anyway. Sometimes we just need to release the fear and anxiety we’ve built up.

Seven, that’s what I’ve got, seven ways to get yourself over the inertia and started. Maybe I should cut it down to 5 or expand it out to 10, because those numbers sound better. At least that’s what my Type A/perfectionist side is fussing about. Today though, I see through that ruse. Today, I’ll stick with seven because seven is my lucky number.

Day 2 done. 19 more to come.

I’m all ears – tell me how you overcome inertia and get started on your own projects.

-Mikita

A friend of mine a few weeks ago wanted to see if anyone was interested in doing a daily blog challenge for the month of October. I said yes, thinking my life would be a fairly manageable spot to take on a little challenge, to kickstart the blog habit again.

Today is October 7th, a full week into the month and this is my first post in the daily blogging challenge.

Do you have that? Something you are thinking you can fit into your life and then it doesn’t work out as originally intended?

What do you do? Do you make excuses for it? Do you rack it up in the ‘failures’ column of your life? I know I have in the past. Doing that (making excuses or letting it be one more thing you failed at) keeps us from diving in trying. It has us put off starting until next month, when we can start fresh, on a nice first day of a pretty, untarnished, full-of-hope-and-possibility month. I could do that. I could say October is way too packed and that I’ve already let a week go by without posting and gear myself up for 11/1.

Or I could choose differently. I could choose to start where I am, even if it’s a week in. Because does it really matter if it’s a neat start and finish of a specific month? I could start today and find some tiny bit of momentum in a small win of posting today, when it’s not neat, or planned or convenient. I could start today and do my best for the rest of the month…or run 30 days until the 7th of November. What’s the goal here really – a specific month of daily posts? 30 consecutive days of posts? maybe 21 days? Afterall, 21 days is the basis for forming a new habit.

So I’m starting today, no matter how off-guard I feel or behind the 8-ball.

My goal: I’m totally going with the 21 days goal of a daily blog post. The posts might be heavy or light-hearted. I’m not committing to any specific theme, instead I’ll go where the day takes me, and I’ll post every blog post onto my facebook page: https://fb.me/kisabirdstudios

Now, words are great and all, but to really meet our goals, we need to help ourselves out a bit.

Here are 5 ways I will increase the odds of meeting my goal:

#1 Post something today – to just get it going, no matter how bad. CHECK.
#2 Define the goal for myself. CHECK.
#3 Carve out a dedicated time each day that’s only for blog posting, much like carving time out for the gym or making dinner. I’m choosing to set aside my lunch hour or 45 mins after I get home from work – first thing. CHECK.
#4 Put it out there to more people that this is what I’m doing – to help keep myself accountable. CHECK.
#5 Make the goal doable. I don’t have to write EPIC posts each day. A post could be bite-sized or ‘fun size’ like Halloween candy, just something, good or bad, on the page and published to the site from now through October 27th (counting today, 21 days is 10/27). CHECK.

These 5 things apply to you and whatever goal you are pursuing:
#1 Start TODAY, where you are.
#2 Define the goal for YOU.
#3 Set aside the dedicated time – and commit to it, whether you decide on a specific time of day or a specific amount of time. Keep the promise to yourself.
#4 Share your goal with others so you have some accountability or get a solid accountability buddy
#5 Make the goal doable. Make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria

Doing all of this means in 21 days I will have more published posts than I have since 2010 when I had 30 posts for the whole year. Hopefully of my 21 posts, there will be a couple of gems, but I’m also prepared that there will be a fair amount of ‘meh’ ones and some ones that just flatline. Again, I say to myself, the goal is 21 days of daily posts to kickstart the blogging habit, to remove excuses that I don’t have time, to stop myself from holding back by saying that I need to keep massaging the post or craft a cool image for the post. Those parts come later. Right now the goal is to put myself out there. Even if the only person who reads these is myself, my husband or my mom.

-Mikita

PS: I’m not in love with my title for this post, so if anyone has a better alternative, send it to me and I’ll gladly replace mine with the better one you have. (sidenote: this is the kind of thing that would sideline a post for MONTHS while I ‘found time’ to come up with a better title. Nothing but fear giving me an excuse to stay small and quiet.)