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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!

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!

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

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!