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How having a hobby you suck at is essential for work-life balance

Suck at Your Hobby? 4 Reasons Why That’s Awesome

I have a talented friend who crafts with clay, and a few weeks ago she brought out her materials and showed me how she made things. Taking a few small pieces of clay, I spent several minutes crafting an animal that was supposed to be an owl, but came out resembling a dejected penguin that would have been cut from the cast of Pingu. (Don’t know who Pingu is? Get off my lawn!)

I knew my creation was terrible, but I didn’t care that his ear broke off, or that he looked more like a melting gummy bear than a bird; I created him and had fun doing it.

It got me to thinking that I need to do this kind of thing more often. In fact, I think having a hobby you suck at is essential to achieving work-life balance and maintaining your mental health.  

If you have a hobby you enjoy but lack any skill, I’ve found four empowering reasons why you should keep on sucking at it!:

You Enjoy Your Achievements More

After trying and failing so many times, when you finally get something right, the elation that follows is worth the struggle.

Another hobby of mine is knitting, and let me tell you, I sucked at that for a long, long time. I remember I wasted a whole skein of yarn trying to knit just one sock without a hole in it. When I finally finished a sock that actually resembled a garment that could don a human foot, it was a great feeling.

I never did knit the matching sock, but that’s beside the point. It was the journey and the overcoming of the challenge that mattered.

You’re Defying the Fallacy of Perfectionism

Especially if you have a lot of high-pressure responsibilities in your life, allowing yourself to be imperfect from time to time is really important to your mental health. The quest for perfectionism is an illusion that can cause a lot of mental distress. Allowing yourself to suck at something is a way to acknowledge to yourself that it’s perfectly okay to be imperfect.

You Laugh

When there’s no pressure to succeed, you can take a lighthearted approach to your hobby and give yourself permission to laugh at yourself when you fail. When I knit my first stuffed elephant, he ended up with a decidedly inappropriate bum crack due to my shoddy seaming job. Visualize that for a minute and tell me it isn’t funny. 

Life is serious enough as it is, and giving yourself an opportunity to laugh is perhaps one of the most important reasons you could have for doing something you suck at.

Bonus points if you’re with a friend and they laugh along with you. 🙂

You Allow Yourself to Live in the Moment

For me, this is what it’s really all about. So many of us get caught up in the day to day hustle and end up totally preoccupied by our responsibilities and worried about the future. Days, weeks, even months can slip by without us ever slowing down to savour things. Because your hobby’s only purpose is to bring you joy, you can fully focus on the fun you’re having without giving any thought to the outcome or consequences. 

Let the hobby you suck at be your conduit to reflection and gratitude.

 

Do you have a hobby you suck at? What do you love most about it? Share in the comments!

The fitbit at work

Desk Job? Meet Fitbit, Your New Best Friend

I didn’t give much thought to my health when I was younger.  I was a healthy weight for my height but had more than a few unhealthy habits, such as staying up late, drinking copious amounts of cherry coke, and consuming foods from 7/11 which I’m positive were about 90% plastic.

But after college when I entered the workforce, it was like flipping a switch. Suddenly those extra calories were registering on the bathroom scale. My weight crept up slowly over the years, and my energy levels flagged.

Losing that twenty-year-old metabolism and getting a sedentary desk job was like a one-two punch to my health and overall well-being. Over the past decade, I managed to implement some healthy habits like running and yoga which helped a ton, but at times it was difficult to stay motivated or know just how effective my endeavors were.

Enter the Fitbit Charge 2.

This handy device was gifted to me by my spouse last Christmas, and it’s been a total game changer. I managed to lose more than 10 pounds in just a few months! 

What Fitbit Taught Me

Yes, Walking IS Real Exercise!

I used to think that if it wasn’t hard, then it wasn’t really exercise. Walking seemed like way too lightweight an activity for me to invest my time in. Fitbit finally showed me the light! My daily calorie burn from a sedentary day at the office would be around 1600-1700, but add in a 40 minute power walk, it easily bumps it up to 2000-2100.

Not only is it great exercise, but it’s much gentler on the body than running is. I still love running, but walking is something I can commit to daily without worrying about hurting myself. (And you may remember how prone I am to that!)

Key Action: In addition to whatever other exercises you enjoy, walk, walk, walk!

Quality Sleep is Important

These days it’s common knowledge that sleep is critical to maintaining your health. Getting less than 6 hours can lead to increased stress hormones and food cravings, neither of which are good for the waistline. Although late nights had long since been a thing of the past for me, I still wasn’t getting enough quality sleep. The Charge 2 monitors your heart rate while you sleep and compiles the data into neat graph when you sync the next morning. Not only does it show you how long you slept, it shows you how long you spent in deep sleep, light sleep, and REM sleep. This data helps to identify patterns in your day to day that may have an effect on your sleep.

For example, if I had two extra large coffees in the morning instead of one (Yeah I know, I never said I kicked all my unhealthy habits) I would get much less deep sleep than on days when I had a more reasonable amount of caffeine.

Key Action: Aim for a minimum of 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Study your sleep cycles and see where you can tweak your routine to get better ZZZs.

There’s Always Time for Exercise

Sometimes I have a “go big or go home” type attitude towards things. I used to think if I wasn’t logging a 5k run then there was no point in exercising at all. I’m not sure where this all-or-nothing attitude came from but I was dead wrong. Even a few minutes of walking can make a difference, and it all adds up! Fitbit makes it even easier for you to sneak steps in during the day by gently zapping your wrist once an hour, signalling you to get off your duff and go for a jaunt to the water cooler.

Key Action: Whether it’s 10 minutes of walking logged before work, at lunch, or after dinner, get in short spurts of activity to boost your daily calorie burn!

Calories Add Up Super Fast

For the first few weeks I used the food logging function religiously. The app has a daily suggested allowance for calories that fluctuates throughout the day depending on how many calories you’ve burned. Calorie consumption is prorated to discourage you from eating all your day’s worth of calories at breakfast.

At first I was discouraged at how often I was going over my daily budget, but it helped me identify what the big “calorie bombs” were. For me, the main culprits were the calories I clocked at happy hour. Even just one or two drinks a day can add hundreds of empty calories. So, I cut out the 5 pm martini and it made staying within the calorie budget infinitely easier. 

After a couple months, I stopped using the calorie logger because I got a lot better at gauging how many calories I was taking in every day and I didn’t really need it anymore.

Key Action: Don’t worry about every single morsel you’re eating. Instead, identify your “calorie bomb” and either remove or mitigate it.

Competition is a Strong Motivator

Early morning runs, lunch hour power-walks, and lengthy, post-dinner scuffles around the living room became commonplace whenever I was engaged in a Fitbit challenge instigated by fellow fitbit friends. Every time I checked the current standings, I’d exclaim things like “There’s no way I’m losing by 200 steps!” or “Gah, they passed me again!”, and I’d get off the couch and walk some more. It’s surprisingly fun no matter who ends up taking first place, and since in a close game everyone typically ends up hitting their step goal, everyone’s a winner in the end.

Key Action: Never back down from a challenge! Compete in a step-off with your friends as often as possible.

Knowledge is Power

There have been some studies that show the Fitbit isn’t 100% accurate, and I agree that this is completely true. The technology has come a long way in the past couple years but there are still times when it thinks I’ve logged 100 steps when I was simply blow-drying my hair. That being said, I would estimate that it’s still anywhere from 70-80% accurate. That is more than enough to gauge your habits and activity level to see where you can make improvements!

Key Action: Use the data as a guideline to help you make healthier decisions during your day-to-day.

It’s All About Balance, Balance, Balance

The biggest thing the Fitbit taught me is that being healthy doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t have to walk ten thousand steps every day or never eat cake again to be healthy. You don’t have to be perfect.

You just need a little bit of knowledge, motivation, and moderation.

 

PS –  If you’d like to pick up a Fitbit or learn more about them, you can check it out at the link below. (Affiliate link – rest assured I only promote products that I really love!)

Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate Plus Fitness Wristband, Black, Large

Why I stopped blogging

Why I Stopped Blogging: 3 Excuses and a Game Plan

I woke up from my proverbial nap today and was astounded to find that 2017 is already half over. Then followed the horrible realization that I haven’t updated my blog in nearly a year. I can’t have that. You can’t have that. The fate of the world hangs in the delicate balance of my blogging, after all. I can only imagine how lost you’ve all been without my random musings on cardigans and bees

So, where have I been for the past 11 months?

To be blunt, there is no real good reason for my hiatus, only a handful of excuses ranging from poor to semi-acceptable. Here they are, make of them what you will:

Life & Work

I brought home a kitten in August of last year and she’s pretty much become a permanent source of distraction. It would seem that having a cat constantly hanging off your laptop is not conducive to productivity. When she’s not claiming the computer as her own, she’s demanding attention, food, and cuddles – and who am I to deny her any of those things?

Meanwhile, my day job keeps me on my toes. Weeknights are usually a write-off because after a long day at the office, my brain starts to melt and takes on a consistency similar to scrambled eggs.

Therefore in the evenings, writing quickly gets trumped by wine, Netflix, and sleep. I would say that about 75-80% of any writing I do happens on the weekend, which ties into the next two excuses.

Ghost Writing

I’ve still been doing a lot of writing outside of this website, but the vast majority of it has been ghost writing. One of the reasons why I started this blog was to create a writing portfolio to show potential clients. Thanks to this website and the course I took on HorkeyHandbook, (<- yes, this is an affiliate link) I succeeded in finding paid writing jobs! But once I had clients to write for, I found it difficult to keep up with both the blog and assignments, so I prioritized the writing that paid. 

Unsustainable Goals

If I’m honest with myself, I had unrealistic expectations for myself and this blog. My original goal was to post once a week, but in the end that proved too much to handle on top of my other obligations. I’ve always kind of been an “all or nothing” person in that regard, so when I missed a couple posts, I let it slide even more. A few weeks turned into a few months, and here we are.

The New Blogging Plan

I’ve really missed blogging so I’m officially ending my hiatus here and now. Strategies to resume posting on a semi-regular basis include but are not limited to:

  • Redefining my blogging goals: I will now aim for 1-2 new posts a month, which is definitely more attainable than my original goal of 1 per week.
  • Designating days/times to focus on certain projects: I need to consciously schedule in advance when I will work on ghostwriting or blogging.
  • Striking a balance: Work-life balance applies to writing too, as it turns out. I need to cut myself some slack now and then instead of getting discouraged when I don’t finish everything I set out to do. In order to enjoy the journey of a writer, I need to find balance. That means not taking on more ghost writing assignments than I can reasonably handle, and allowing myself some weekends off from writing all together.
  • Get another kitten to keep my cat distracted. (Fool proof plan, right?)

What do you do to stay on track with your long term goals? Share your tips in the comments!

Rejuvenate

Easy Ways to Rejuvenate Yourself this Summer

If you’re someone with a challenging career that engages you for the majority of the week, finding time to unwind and rejuvenate can turn into the most difficult task of all.

Switching off your work brain at the end of the day can seem impossible. You may find yourself writing off weeknights and living for the weekend. Yet, once the weekend arrives, your time is often commandeered by chores or errands, and the next thing you know, you’ve forfeited any opportunity for R&R.

It’s a recipe for burnout and needs to be avoided at all costs!

So how does one recuperate from the daily grind when there are only a handful of hours during the week at your disposal? The key is to schedule time with yourself and practice mindfulness.

Here are a few simple ideas to help you rejuvenate yourself this summer. 

Sit in Your Backyard

On a sunny weekend, there are few things I enjoy more than grabbing a cold drink and sitting on the back deck. But you don’t need to wait until the weekend to get some time on deck. (Or on patio… Or on grass!)

Take advantage of the long summer days, particularly right now when it’s summer solstice! A couple days ago, I ventured outside just before 9:30, and it was the perfect time to sit outside and watch the sunset. The light made everything a gorgeous rose colour. I was only out for ten minutes, but by the time I came back inside, I’d forgotten all about work.

So as corny as it sounds, there’s something to be said for stopping to smell the roses. Watch the birds or squirrels that venture into your yard. Enjoy the colours in the garden or focus on the gentle flutter of the leaves.

I know you’re busy but trust me, you can afford to take ten minutes to just sit outside in your own yard!

Get to Yoga Class

If you’ve read anything else on my blog, you’d know I’m all about the yoga. If you can’t get out to a class, then roll out your mat at home and do your own thing, or download a yoga app. My favourite yoga app is Yoga Studio, which you can actually download for free today, June 22nd, in celebration of International Yoga Day! (I feel the need to mention that I’m not in any way affiliated with this app, but it’s my absolute favourite so when I heard they were giving it away for free, I had to mention it!)

If you’re not into yoga, a similar effect can be accomplished through any other form of physical activity that you enjoy. Even if it’s just a fifteen-minute stroll around the neighbourhood, it’s still exercise and a great way for you to spend time with yourself. Yoga is just my personal favourite activity for both exercise and cultivating mindfulness!!

Do Something that Does Not Involve Technology

If you’re like me, you’ll turn off your work computer at the end of the day, only to come home and turn on your home computer. Give your eyes and brain a break! Try something creative like writing or journaling. Or, try an activity that gets you outside, like gardening. 

If you’re not feeling creative or active, then sitting down with a book is the next best thing. And yes, e-readers like Kindles or Kobos are allowed in this instance because the display is more akin to a page than a screen!

Plan a time to engage in these activities and savour each moment you spend doing them for maximum benefits.

To Summarize…

Rejuvenate yourself in a short time by doing something that is just for you. Most importantly, use the time to practice gratefulness, and live in each moment!

workspace clutter

Make Your Workspace a Happier Place

Although I consider myself to be a fairly tidy person, I wasn’t always that way. As a teenager, I kept an empty coke can collection that towered to impressive heights, and my schoolwork was always scattered on my bedroom floor so densely that you needed a shovel to find out what colour the hardwood was. One day, my brother stood in the doorway of my room as I waded through a sea of assignments and said, “Corrie, paper is your bane.”

It might have been the title of my autobiography.

15 years later, I was sitting at my desk and realized that the teenager in me lived on through my workspace. (And my car, but that’s another story for another time.) A perpetual stack of files served as my cubicle walls, and hundreds of crumpled post-it notes rolled across my desktop like tumbleweeds.  At any given time, there were three empty water bottles and a week-old cup of coffee conspiring on the corner of my desk. The snapshot was more than a little depressing!

It was time for my workspace to grow up.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since then, it’s that an organized desk is a happy desk. Your space should be a place that welcomes you and inspires you to do your best work.

Take your workspace from messy to dressy!

Go Paperless

Obviously, this is a tip that has some personal significance for me. The less you print off, the less paper on your desk, and the more trees you save! It’s green, and it’s practical. Get savvy with your computer’s backup functions and email archiving.

If you absolutely must keep hard copies, then make sure you have an adequate filing system in place. Trust me when I say that it’s a situation that can easily get out of control if you don’t keep on top of it. Papers breed like rabbits; you may start out with just two innocent little sheets, but you return from your coffee break to find a whole ream has colonized your in-tray.

So once a file is closed, get it off your desk and filed away in the proper place!

Get a Plant

You’ll be surprised how much a little greenery can do to lift your mood. Just do the plant a solid and set a recurring reminder on your Outlook calendar or phone to water it a couple times a week. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, there are numerous low maintenance plants that are almost impossible to kill, like a succulent or a spider plant.

My favourite viney friend is a pothos plant, which I’ve had for a good four years now and has yet to croak, despite periods of questionable care.

Frame a Friendly Photo

This could be a framed picture of your spouse, your kids, your pet iguana, whatever. As long as it’s someone you care about whose face still makes you smile when you’re in the thick of a tough situation or a tense phone call. Keep it to one or two pictures, and keep it professional. Your workspace needn’t contain a collage of photos from the weekend you and your girlfriends toured wine country. (As great as those memories may be!)

Suggest Nameplates

It seems a tad pretentious at first, but adding this small piece of identification can do a lot to boost morale and make you feel valued. The only thing about nameplates is that it only really works if everyone has one. Otherwise, it’s a little weird. My office got them for everyone a few months ago and somehow it’s really motivating to have something with your name on it that so clearly stakes your territory.

If nameplates are not an option for your office, try getting a business card holder to keep on your desk. (This also helps when you have visitors so you’re not rifling through your desk at the last minute trying to find your card!)

Accessorize

Adding one or two useful or fun desk accessories can be a great way to personalize your space and make it a more appealing place to be. There are lots of practical ways to accessorize, like getting like a phone dock or a coffee mug warmer. Or, you could go with something that’s tailored towards making you smile, like a Notester or a decorative paperweight.

Again, keep your accessorizing to a minimum and keep it appropriate!

In Summary

Every now and then when things get hectic, you may find your workspace reverting to its old evil ways. Don’t sweat it, work happens! Just regroup when things calm down and clean up. With practice, you can keep your desk an organized, personalized, and comfortable place for you to crush your workday.

 

How messy or dressy is your workspace? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Credit: The Lone Traveler via Compfight cc

The daily commute grind

Regaining Perspective on the Daily Commute

Two years ago, I looked out the fourth-floor window of my office building with a familiar feeling of despair. An ominous black cloud had just broken into a thunderstorm, and the rain pelted the windows so hard that I could scarcely see the parking lot below.

“Gonna be a long drive tonight,” my coworker said.

A feeling of resignation gripped the office as my colleagues and I got ready to leave the office. It was already 4:45 pm and gridlock was imminent. We filed out of the elevator on the ground floor and somberly uttered our parting mantra, “drive safe.”

As I sat idly on the highway staring out at the sea of brake lights ahead of me, I thought about a friend of mine who had just been complaining about their 30-minute drive to work each way. All I could think about was how lucky they were; I would kill to have a 30-minute commute!

A lot has changed in two years. Perspective is a funny thing, and in light of recent events, it seems wise that I should commute now down memory lane.

My time as a commuter has been a constant cycle of progress followed by ingratitude. When I first started out eight years ago, I took the bus to work. Actually, it was three buses and a 20-minute walk, which was three miles uphill, in two feet of snow in my bare feet.

Okay, that last part isn’t quite true. I was wearing heels.

On average, it took about 90 minutes or more each way. I’m sure that given the GTA’s less than stellar commuting standard, my journey was far from being the worst. However, those were definitely the dark ages of transit for me. It was a seemingly endless purgatory of cold bus shelters, cramped seats, and missed transfers.

After about six months of obsessively saving for my own car, the magical day finally arrived when I rolled into work driving my new, gumball-blue Toyota Yaris. My bus days were officially behind me, and I was ecstatic that I could now relax in my own car, blasting my own music, while shaving about half an hour off my transit time.

It was perhaps only two days later that I had resorted to cursing every car that cut me off, and every red light that prolonged my decidedly intolerable trip home. The next six years yielded many tales that included fender-benders, traversing through “snowmageddons”, and narrowly escaping the Toronto flood of 2013.

Near the end of 2014, I took a great new job that was much closer to where I lived. Just like that, my commute was less than ten minutes each way.

I went home for lunch almost every day. Naturally, I took to complaining about how many stop signs there were along the way.

Even so, I would sit on my couch at home during the lunch hour and think, “Now this is work-life balance!”

Unfortunately, in a recent stroke of destiny, this commuting bliss has been rendered temporary. As I write this, there is a sign on the front lawn that reads, “SOLD”. There’s a good chance that my family and I will be moving to the next town over. This could mean a commuting time of up to 30 minutes each way.

I’d been sulking about the prospect for weeks.

Then a couple days ago, I stumbled across one of my old blog posts about my 90-minute commute, and I remembered my own thoughts from two years ago that I’d feel lucky to only have a 30 drive.

So maybe work-life balance doesn’t simply mean having a 5-minute drive to work. Maybe part of it is having the right attitude about a drive that’s doable.

In eight years, I figure I’ve clocked around 4000 hours of commuting. That’s more than 160 days solid that I’ve spent sitting in a car shaking my fist out the window, zoning out to an album I’ve heard a hundred times, or clunking my head repeatedly against the steering wheel.

But that’s nothing when you consider that the average person spends 3 years of their life doing laundry, 4 years making business calls, and 7 years suffering from insomnia.

So I’ll keep it in perspective, and keep on rollin’ – whether it’s for 3 minutes or 30.

 

What’s your commute like? Comment below!

 

Photo Credit: Michael R Perry via Compfight cc

Make Monday Suck Less with Just 10% More Effort

One Monday morning not so long ago, I left for work in damp pants, in a car that was perilously low on gas, ten minutes after I was supposed to be already out the door. I gazed longingly at the Starbucks as I drove by, but the drive-thru line was so long that I knew I would have both run out of gas and been late for work had I got in line.

I arrived to work barely on time in my cold clammy pants and turned on my computer to find a slew of emails that I would have to face without the crutch of caffeine.

It really did set the tone for the day.

Perhaps you have had Mondays like mine. If so, know that with as little as 10% more organizational effort, you can make your Monday morning, and the afternoon that follows, a less wretched experience. Here are my best tips for making Monday suck less, and I’ve even broken it down by the exact percentage of extra effort required.

And yes, these are very scientific percentages brought to you by the school of Corrie’s Stories.

Get Something Done on Friday Afternoon – 3% More Effort

We’ve all been there: You get back from lunch on Friday to hunker down for another four hours of work, but your brain has already checked out and gone home for a beer.

It can be tough to focus when you’re that close to the workweek’s finish line, especially if your Friday afternoons tend to be a bit slower at the office. But have some discipline and get at least one or two significant things done. I’m not talking about starting that giant project that got plopped on your desk at 3:45. I mean that easy, but mind-numbingly boring weekly report. It may not even take that long to do, but if that crappy report is still waiting for you on Monday morning, you’re going to be overly dramatic about it and spend at least twenty minutes just moaning about it. (And then you’re just making your colleagues’ Monday suck too!)

Get Your Act Together on Sunday – 4% More Effort

In my experience, Sunday night can lead to a bit of lethargy and denial that Monday is coming. That morning I left for work in damp pants was because I left my laundry until the last minute, and threw everything in the dryer right before I went to bed. Then I learned that Sunday night lethargy can affect even your appliances because the next morning my clothes weren’t all too dry.

The lesson being, you need to make a weekend chore schedule for yourself and stick to it. Sort your clothes, breakfast, lunch, and whatever else you need in advance to make the ride through Monday as smooth as possible. It’s really not that hard, it’s mostly just making a point of getting off the couch before 9pm on Sunday night to do it.

By the way, Getting your Sunday night act together also includes going to bed at a decent time instead of stubbornly binge-watching Netflix until 2am.

Get Out the Door Ten Minutes Earlier on Monday Morning – 2% More Effort

Get out the door even just ten minutes earlier and you will be rewarded with fewer gray hairs. How do you accomplish this? Get up earlier. (Because you went to bed at a decent time, remember?) Make doing your hair a timed event. You get three tries at that cute braid you saw on Pinterest before you need to abandon the idea and settle for a ponytail. Shave off additional time by making breakfast a labor free endeavor with something simple like fruit and yogurt. Any of these little adjustments that can get you out the door a little earlier will result in a less stressful commute.

If you get out on the road and traffic is flowing, then great! You can either get a head start on your emails or wait in the car outside your office and doodle around on your iPhone for ten minutes.

Or, if it’s like 90% of all Mondays, you’ll encounter some kind of traffic jam or delay on the road, but you won’t have to stress about getting to the office on time. Not to mention you’re keeping the roads safer by not driving like a James Bond stunt double reject.

Focus on Something You Can Look Forward To – 1% More Effort

This can be something really simple, like treating yourself to fancy coffee or making plans to get lunch with a friend. Make a conscious effort Sunday evening to think about what you have to look forward to the next day. It makes it that much easier to crawl your way out from the cocoon of your bed when the alarm goes off. I picked up this little exercise in mindfulness from yoga class, and although it sounds a bit basic, you’ll be surprised how much it helps!

Bonus Tip: Take Monday Off – 0% Effort

Obviously, we can’t do this one all that often, but I’m a firm believer that in conjunction with taking shorter vacations, at least a couple of those vacation days should be used to bypass Monday. A lot of people are in the habit of taking Fridays off, but if you think about it, Friday is the most decent workday there is. You should take a day off that’s crappier, like Monday. And look at that, Monday is attached to a weekend, just like Friday!

In Summary

Mondays will probably never be your favorite day of the week, but these little modifications can help take the edge off.  So even if you can’t take next Monday off, at the very least you can take comfort in the fact that you’ll arrive to work on time and in dry pants.

Survival Guide to Friday Night at the Grocery Store

It’s 5pm on Friday. You should be filled with joy as this ephemeral time of week heralds happy hour and the start of 48 hours off of work. Instead, a feeling of dread comes over you because you absolutely must stop off for groceries on the way home. And for some reason, Friday night at the grocery store is always a nightmare.

You tried to avoid it, but despite last weekend’s expertly planned shopping list, you’ve run out of a few key staples during the week. You can’t wait until Saturday morning, because the things you’ve run out of include toothpaste, toilet paper, and wine, and going through the night without even one of those things is just uncivilized.

You have no choice but to swap your sanity for sundries. It’s going to suck. But I’m here to help you get through this. Follow these guidelines to make this wretched errand as brief as possible:

Park at the Back

Drive straight to the back of the lot, do not waste time looking for a spot close to the doors. It may seem like a bummer having to walk the extra few yards to get inside, but by the time you wade through the sea of pedestrians with shopping carts and finish waiting for that car to finally back out of their primo parking spot, you could have already been checking out with the goods. Bonus points if you can sneak into the parking lot through a side street and avoid the fiasco at the front all together.

Downsize Your Shopping Receptacle

The point is to grab only the necessities and get out until you can return at a slower time of day, armed with a well-organized shopping list. If you can’t manage to carry everything in your arms, grab a basket. But do not grab a cart, no matter how great the deal is on that jumbo pack of paper towels. The cart is certain doom. You’ll be making your way down the aisle and encounter that shopper who’s carefully scrutinizing the jam selection while their cart is parked diagonally across your path to freedom. You’ll try to go back the way you came but at that exact moment, a grocery clerk will show up with a pallet of cereal boxes and block your way. Suddenly, you’re barricaded in the breakfast isle. The only way out is to squeeze yourself around the obstacle, but not without abandoning your cart. Either that or you’ll have to wait for the jam guy to move along, but we both know you’re too impatient for that.

Avoid the Deli Counter

This is definitely one of the bigger time-sucks at the grocery store. I broke my high score in Agario once while waiting for my turn to get serviced at the deli counter. Listen, I understand that you like a little black forest ham with your Saturday morning Eggs, but take a pass. Chances are there’s at least four people ahead of you, and all of them want half a pound of everything, freshly sliced. There might not even be any ham left by the time they get to you, so just save yourself the disappointment and skip it.

Don’t Forget the Toothpaste

You were on your way to the checkout, weren’t you? The toothpaste is the whole reason you’re here in the first place! Go back and get it.

Beware the Price Matchers

I will preface this by saying I truly admire people who take the time to price match. You can save a lot of money, and it’s a super smart thing to do. But it seems to take forever, and I’m more impatient than I am smart. I’d rather pay an extra 30 cents for my bag of apples if it means shaving 10 seconds off my time at the checkout. If you’re like me, then check to make sure the person ahead of you isn’t wielding any flyers before getting in the checkout line.

And lastly, the most important step of all:

At the Wine Shop Past the Checkout, Buy Two Bottles Instead of One

You’ve earned it! TGIF!

 

Photo Credit: domit via Compfight cc

Sneak in More Runs This Week

 

I used to be a bit of a “weekend warrior”. I would cram in two, sometimes three long runs between Saturday morning and Sunday night.

Then the most exercise I would get between Monday to Friday was a brisk walk from my car to the office building.

It can be a challenge to ramp up or maintain your mileage when you have a full-time desk job, but it can be done! Here are some tips on when to fit in some weekday runs.

Get Up Early

Pros: You can count on a pretty consistent mood boost any time you get your run out of the way early. You get to have that feeling of accomplishment before most people have had their first sip of coffee!

Cons: Getting in a run before work may sound logical, but if you’re not a morning person and you have an 8 o’clock start time at your job, this can be a groan-worthy suggestion.

Make it Work: Hear me out, there’s way to make this option suck less! Get to sleep a little earlier, and I’m not talking about making a huge adjustment to your current sleep schedule. Even turning in half an hour earlier can make your alarm clock less cringe-inducing come morning. Getting up 40-60 minutes earlier should be sufficient to pound out a few kilometers and still have time to cool down before beginning your normal morning routine. You can also plan your morning runs to be short. It’s a lot easier to get up to run if you’ve only committed to a 15-20 minute lope, and there is no shame in short runs! 3k is better than no k, right? Although once you’re out there, you may find yourself busting out a couple extra kilometers anyway!

Get Out on Your Lunch

Pros: The biggest perk is that you get your runs in during the day so your morning and evening schedule can remain uncompromised. And with enough planning, you can pull it off without returning to the office looking like a soggy tomato.

Cons: This option has to be a carefully planned event since you only have 60 minutes to change, run, cool down, change again, and get back to the office. This also might not be a great idea if you can only run outside and it’s summer, when temperatures are soaring their highest at midday. You’ll be sweating buckets before you’re five minutes in, and no amount of towelettes or deodorant is going to be adequate for that long afternoon back at your desk. Trust me, just ask your co-worker.

Make it Work: If your only option is to run outside, I would save this option for cooler months between September and May. Shorter runs are key. You’ll need to be organized enough to bring along your workout clothes and running shoes. You’ll also do yourself (and your colleagues) a great service to pack some baby wipes, travel deodorant, and a change of undergarments. Make sure your lunch is prepacked or easily accessible so you can either eat at your desk, or wolf it down in the five minutes before you need to be back. Depending on the logistics, you can probably allot 30 minutes maximum for running and the other 30 minutes should be for cooling down, changing, and eating.

Get it In After Work

Pros: Depending on your schedule, this option may provide the most time and flexibility since your work for the day is done. You could get in a run either right after work or later in the evening. In the summer months, this may be a more attractive option for the outdoor runner because its stays lighter later, and it’s cooler than at lunchtime.

Cons: Personally, I find this time of day to be the hardest to commit to because depending on how stressful or busy your day was, you may not have the energy or willpower to carry through with your planned run by the time you clock out at work. Also, unless you have access to a treadmill or indoor track, this will most likely be a no-go in the colder months when its dark and snowy.

Make it Work: If you plan on running right after work, bring a snack to nosh on in the afternoon to give your energy levels a boost. This will help keep you from flaking out on your run plan. If you need to go home first, keep all your running stuff by the door to minimize your chances of succumbing to the couch. Take it from me, if your butt so much as touches that couch, you’re done. If you plan to run later in the evening, eat an early and light dinner. Make sure you finish up your run at least a couple hours before you need to turn in, as exercise too close to bedtime can result in less than optimal sleep.

In Summary

At the end of the day, the best option for logging miles during the work week is the option you can actually commit to. You may want to try every option before deciding what’s most effective for you!

 

Photo Credit: GrejGuide.dk via Compfight cc

4 Reasons to Take Shorter Vacations

 

January might not be your favorite month as a full-time employee. The holidays are over, you’re back at work, and your pants are undeniably tighter than they were two weeks ago. To top it off, you’re about to buckle down for three months of cold, dark, harsh weather.

But not all is lost; as of January 1st, you are back to having full vacation days!

Yet the typical full-time employee only has 10-15 vacation days to use in a year. While most people can agree that time off work is critical to mental and physical health, it’s not a lot of days to work with. So what’s the best way to make the most of them?

I advocate spreading out your vacation days throughout the year rather than taking one or two longer breaks. Here’s four reasons why shorter is better!

1. You Can Take Them More Often

Studies show taking more vacations make you happier and healthier! Our brains give us a mood boost whenever we have an upcoming opportunity to take a break from work, regardless of its duration. You can look forward to an upcoming vacation from work every couple of months, instead of slogging through six long months before your coveted two week break in July. You can take six or seven vacations in a year if you only use two days at a time and tack them onto weekends and long weekends.

2. It’s Easier to Plan For

Financially and logistically, shorter vacations are easier to arrange. You don’t need to spend as long saving up for them. You don’t need to spend as much time figuring out where to eat, or what activities you’ll be filling your days with. You only have a few days to plan for, so you can focus on just a few highlight activities to make the most of your trip.

3. Shorter Vacations May Actually Be More Memorable

In 2012, Time posted this article about how shorter vacations create better memories. Evidence suggests that you’re better off having two action packed days off work than a longer, less intense vacation. Think back to the last vacation you took that was a week or longer. Chances are, there was a least one or two days where you didn’t do much, or it was more of the same of what you’d already one.. Or can you even remember those days? (See what I did there?)

4. Returning to Work Sucks Less

You’ve just returned to work after two weeks off. You have 3602 emails in your inbox, and stack of paperwork that’s as tall as your cubical. The project you were working on right before you left inevitably went sideways in your absence. Worst of all, you have to deal with the chunks of congealed milk floating in your two week old cup of coffee because you forgot to rinse it out before you left for your vacation. Need I go on?

In Summary

To reap the most benefits from your vacations, keep them short, sweet, and frequent. This year, try spreading your vacation days out instead of taking them all at once. You could take some three-to-four day trips to a Northern resort, or Southern winery. You can even take two or three well-planned “staycations”. So what are you waiting for? Take next Friday off and get vacationing!