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The timeline is relative

Based on our current understandings of the universe and physics, time is relative. It does not pass exactly the same at different elevations, speeds, or levels of gravity. And that’s super cool if you’re a physicist. For the rest of us, it can seem like that has little impact on our everyday lives (fun fact: it’s actually a necessary element in GPS satellite calculations, but you get my point).

However, colloquial relativity is all around us. Kids grow and learn at different rates after all. Still, up until we graduate high school a lot of big steps tend to happen to us at about the same time as our peers: moving up grades, learning to drive, and so on.

Recently I was chatting with a friend about how we try so hard to remind ourselves that everyone does — and should — do things at their own pace.

Because after high school, all the structured timelines kind of go out the window. Some people don’t go to college, some people take longer for a bachelor’s, some people do graduate degrees. Some people climb the ladder quickly and some spend more time bouncing between jobs or careers. Some people settle into long-term relationships quickly, and every relationship moves at its own speed. Some people have kids, and those who do might have them soon or wait until they’re well-established adults.

There might be a timeline that’s best for you or for someone else, but there’s no guarantee that those will align. Nor is there any need for them to.

It’s easy to feel like you’re behind or you’re missing out if it seems like peers (or just people you see on social media) are doing all the things you haven’t done yet. But chances are you’ve reached milestones they haven’t yet. There’s no one right path, and there’s no rulebook. And as much as that can feel really intimidating when we’re new to the whole grown-up thing and would just like a little guidance, I’m coming to realize that it’s one of the most freeing things about being an adult.

So here’s to us, living life and learning, each in our own time.

Chime in below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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It only takes a word

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how soft skills, especially in terms of communication, are underappreciated and under-emphasized by so many people. Of course, this is coming from someone who majored in communication, but I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed from folks in fields from business to STEM.

Some people espouse that to get ahead — particularly in one’s career — you can’t be kind or agreeable, or at least not too agreeable. And of course there is an element of balance; if you only ever say positive things, it will be hard to make your own ideas known and to point out risks or issues in the ideas of others.

Especially when I’m busy, my default is to be fairly stressed and fairly serious. I’ve had to learn how to make time to build good professional relationships, even if it means a task takes a little longer. But on the flipside, it’s also hugely important to me that everyone be as content with a given situation as possible and that I take regularly opportunities to boost morale. Often that means bringing in treats for coworkers or saying “thank you” more times than perhaps necessary. And these are great, but they’re also a little shallow.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some absolutely phenomenal bosses and mentors as I’ve gained work experience. I’ve also had the chance to be a boss or mentor to other folks, and to experiment with what comprises a successful leadership style.

Some of the elements are fairly standard: clear training and instruction, open communication channels, well-rounded feedback that includes praise for elements done well and actionable critiques on ways to improve.

The biggest thing that I’ve learned from my mentors, though, is how incredibly important it is to empower those who are learning from you — whether the setting be professional, familial, or otherwise. While “empower” has become a bit of a buzzword and lost some of the meaning it ought to possess, it captures exactly how we should be made to feel by those we’re learning from (and how we should be making those we’re teaching feel).

As an example, a brief anecdote: Yesterday was not a great day for me. I’m behind on a lot of at-home tasks (*ahem* cleaning) and my at work my number of tasks and the stakes are increasing. It was just one of those days I felt ill-equipped for all I was facing. During the course of separate conversations, both my boss and a former boss/mentor offered unsolicited, generous compliments on my competency and the impact of my work. They both absolutely made my day.

The comments meant so much because both of them conveyed that they actually believed in me. Which, for starters, is something we could all stand to hear a little more often. But it also made me want to prove them right, instead of trying to prove negative thoughts or voices wrong.

I’ve long held to the belief that small kindnesses can have radical impacts in people’s lives. For emerging adults in particular, it’s crucial that we not only embrace that idea in our personal lives, but also our professional ones. As we do so, we can foster and eventually create environments that encourage people’s growth through support or cooperation rather than relying on competition.

In the future, I’ll be looking for and taking more opportunities in which I can offer a word or gesture to help other folks feel as valued and full of potential as comments like the ones yesterday made me feel. I just hope we all do.

As always, comments, questions, and miscellaneous input welcome below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

P.S. I know it’s yet another sunset ocean pic, but this place was home for a long time and not only taught me a lot of what I covered in this post, but could use any extra love available as the community continues to heal from tragedy.

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Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Hey, ya’ll! This week’s post is from my best friend and blogger-on-hiatus, Megan. You may remember her from our collaboration post  a while back. She’s tackling the topic of emergency preparedness, given the recent wildfires and power outages in California lately, the latter of which we’ve both been affected by. Hope you all enjoy!

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As a millennial, my definition of natural disaster was characterized by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It was a defining moment in my childhood, much like 9/11. Looking back, it never occurred to my 10-year-old self that I would grow up and have to prepare for anything like Katrina, especially as a California resident. I am very fortunate enough to have grown up in an area where the threat of natural disasters had never seemed so extreme. While we have always had earthquakes and fires, they occurred few and far between during my childhood. However, as the years have gone by, the effects of climate change have not only accelerated the frequency and intensity of fires in California, but brought on several other natural disasters not only nationally, but abroad.

Just off of the top of my head, I can recall hurricanes Lane in Hawaii (2018), Harvey in Texas (2017), and Maria in Puerto Rico (2017), dangerously cold blizzard conditions on the East Coast & in the Midwest (2018), and countless devastating fires in my very home state including the Camp fire in Paradise (2018) and Woolsey in Malibu (2018) — all within the past 2 years alone. Most recently, the Tick fire in Santa Clarita and the Kincade fire in Sonoma have been brought on by extreme dry and windy conditions that — combined with at-risk power grid infrastructure — have prompted PG&E to cut power to millions of customers, including myself.

Now, I don’t mean to get all doomsday-ey, and I know emergency preparedness isn’t the most glamourous topic, but at the rate that things are progressing, it sure as hell is relevant. And if I’ve learned anything from Gen Z, it’s all about being relevant. Jokes aside, I am a camping aficionado, possess basic safety skills, and have learned a thing or two from experiencing my fourth forced power outage — all of which is to say that while I’m not claiming to be an expert, I am slightly qualified to speak on this topic. I’ve also linked plenty of credible resources. That being said, here are my five main thoughts I’d like to share about preparing and dealing with an emergency:

1.   Do your research

  • Depending on where you live, “disaster” comes in its own unique flavor. Know what to expect and when to expect it, given your own location. For me, I know that my greatest threat is wildfire and wildfire season is at its peak from September to October. If you need some guidance, ready.gov is a comprehensive resource with guides broken down by type of event and is a great place to start.
  • Stay in the loop by signing up for alerts relevant to you. You can also follow respective social media accounts, but they may not always be up to date. Here are a few resources:

California / fire alert systems

Other alert systems

2.  Make a plan

  • If the emergency you’re preparing for may involve an evacuation, be sure to sit down with all the members of your household and get on the same page of where to meet (designate either another family member’s house or a community crisis center), how to get there, and what to bring. The unfortunate nature of emergencies is that they are unpredictable and may not leave much time to gather your belongings or may interfere with communication, so it is best to have a plan beforehand. Depending on circumstances, you may not need a “go bag” lying around, but if you are at risk of being in an evacuation zone, keep an eye on your alerts and start preparing as soon as possible. Also, keep in mind that if evacuation orders are given, traffic may start to pile up, so the sooner you can evacuate, the better. If you need help creating your plan, use the ready.gov planning page as a resource.
  • In an emergency, it’s easy for things to get overlooked, so be sure to take stock of any special circumstances that may cause snafus down the line and make a plan for those as well. Don’t forget about your pets and animals, any special medication that may need to be refrigerated, medical devices, features about your property, etc. For me personally, I know that my water system runs on an electric pump and during power outages I do not have access to running water. Luckily, since the outages are controlled, I’ve been able to prepare beforehand and not only ensure that I have water to drink, but also water for hygiene and cleaning.
  • Designate your emergency contacts and alert them that they hold that role. Be sure to share that information with all relevant people.

3.  Be prepared

  • Build an emergency kit! Start with the basics, then add specific items for your particular emergency over time or as needed. You probably have many of these item lying around, but it is best to round them all up so that you do not have to scramble to find them. Time is valuable during an emergency.

Emergency kit essentials

  • 1 week’s worth food supply (and the tools to prepare it!)
  • 1 gallon of water per person per day for up to 3 days (up to 3 gallons if you lack running water for cooking and hygiene)
  • Flashlights / battery-powered lanterns / candles
  • Extra batteries
  • Lighter / matches
  • First aid kit & basic meds
  • Scissors / knife / multi-tool
  • Cash
  • Mobile phone charging bank & cord
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (preferably able to receive NOAA broadcasts)
  • See the official FEMA checklist
  • See the Build a Kit page on ready.gov

Other emergency preparedness items

  • Backup generator & fuel — for most circumstances, but especially frequent power outages. (Trust me, with all the PG&E stuff, these have been a hot commodity lately.)
  • Ice & ice chests — in case you cannot run or afford a generator to power your refrigerator during a power outage, use these to save your food and/or medication.
  • Temperature-control items such as sleeping bags, blankets, heat sources, or battery-powered fans — for any circumstance, including power outages.
  • N95 respirator masks — for areas prone to wildfires.
  • Be sure to adapt these items to what’s most relevant for your type of emergency

Don’t forget!

(These items are commonly forgotten during an evacuation or relocation to a sheltered space. Keep these in mind when building your kit.)

  • Prescription medication (including for pets!)
  • Backup glasses / contacts & solution
  • Menstrual products
  • Infant formula & bottles
  • Diapers & wipes
  • Pet food
  • Disposable dishes & cutlery

 

  • Not only do you need to build a kit, but you also need to keep it accessible. It doesn’t do any good if it can’t be found or used by everyone so keep in mind those in your household who may have accessible devices such as wheelchairs or the height limitations of older children. Remember that you may not always be there or able to access your kit yourself.
  • Replenish your kit as needed, and be sure to make sure to replace any expired items (including bottled water) when necessary. Also be sure to test batteries and make sure that they work.
  • Set up protection measures as needed. This may include assessing your property and ensuring it can be a safe shelter. For fires, this means keeping a 100-foot radius clear from your home of brush and flammable debris. For flooding, it means being able to safely access high ground. For earthquakes, it means securing large furniture so it does not fall. For tornadoes, it means having a basement or shelter. Know what your needs are, and prepare your property accordingly. Protection also includes storing important documents and irreplaceable family memorabilia in a fireproof safe and/or digitally archiving them somewhere that isn’t subject to natural disaster (such as a backup hard drive in a safe and in the cloud). And as a final measure of protection, be sure that you are properly insured.

4.  Take a moment for yourself

  • In an emergency, it’s easy to get swept up in the adrenaline. Make sure to keep a calm, level head during the emergency — and once it’s safe to do so, take a moment to decompress. Not only do you need to ration your energy in an emergency, but it’s also necessary to show yourself some love and compassion by filling up your cup so that you might give to others. You know, the whole “put your oxygen mask on first” thing.
  • When disaster strikes, it is not always easy to be positive, but giving a moment of gratitude really helps to put things into perspective.

5.  Pay it forward

There isn’t much you can do to prevent a natural disaster from coming; however, it is crucial that we acknowledge their more persistent presence due to climate change. We can make a difference by not only donating to organizations that provide relief in the aftermath of such tragedies, but also to those who do work in order to combat one of the sources of increased disasters. Here is a list of charities you may consider donating to below:

Disaster relief charities

Climate activism charities

Closing remarks

So with all of that said, the three main takeaways are:

  1. There is always more to know. While this is quite a lengthy post, it still does not cover the breadth and complexity of emergency preparedness. If you are interested in knowing more, please use the following resources:
  1. Better to prepare now, rather than later.
  2. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and our planet, not just others.

Thanks to my best friend for allowing me the opportunity to get back into blogging. If you’d like to keep up with my own exploits, and hear more rants about PG&E, find me here:

Blog: thechroniclesofmegan.com

IG: @chroniclesofmegan

Twitter: @meganchronicles

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As always, thanks for reading and good luck adulting! Stay safe out there, and let’s do what we can to help others do the same. Comments always welcome below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. See you next week!

P.S. Happy Halloween! Due to the whole just had a wedding/honeymoon and then got our power shut off thing, I’m recycling last year’s costume. Enjoy the holiday!

(Photo is a free stock photo because this sums it up better than I thought a single image could.)

 

 

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Calm the [bleep] down

Okay so we are 9 days out from my wedding (!!!), and while I am enormously excited, it seems like everything in my life decided to get really hecking busy at the exact same time. Literally all of ‘em. Work, wedding, the water leak in my apartment that turned into big holes cut in the drywall.

Luckily I’ve got great people around me and we are making do, making it happen, etc. in all areas. But that doesn’t make it magically not busy, or not stressful. Some of the things are worth getting a little worked up about. Last weekend was crammed with wedding stuff. Tuesday I woke up at about 7:10 and then remembered I had an 8 a.m. meeting at the office. Still, the adulting lesson I’ve been working on lately is that the stakes are lower for most of this than I often feel.

Being a Type A, organized-to-the-T, enneagram 1 person, my default mode is not what most would describe as overly chill. In a lot of ways, it’s really helpful. We’ve got a fairly intense Google Drive folder for the wedding, despite the constant stream of new adventures at work I manage to remain organized and at least decently on top of things, and I can usually find whatever I’m looking for in my apartment. The downside is that it feels like everything is urgent and that if it’s not done as perfectly as humanly possible, that the whole house of cards might come crashing down. Not exactly a recipe for relaxation.

Maybe I’ve finally started listening to my fiancé, or maybe I’m actually starting to grow up in this area, but lately I’ve been able to occasionally pause the stress, mentally lower the stakes, and calm down.

There is a balance that we each have to find of being chill/letting things happen and getting stuff done. But even when getting stuff done, not every single decision has to be fretted over and examined in excruciating detail. My job does not involve any life-or-death situations, so while there are a lot of urgent things going on right now, I do what I can, and then leave it be at the end of the day.

The wedding is very soon, and has involved a lot of big details and important decisions, but when it comes down to it, I’m just excited to celebrate with so many people I care about. The rest is icing.

Reminding myself that none of these situations include saving lives or rocket science — plus a few deep breaths and learning when to take a break — has proved incredibly helpful in the last few weeks, and I’m counting on it for the next 9 days.

Bonus thing that helps remind me to calm down is this scene in a show called Schitt’s Creek (seriously watch it if you haven’t yet) where David, one of the main characters is stressed out over potentially making a mistake and his sister Alexis just keeps telling him that no one cares. At first it seems flippant and dismissive, but he finally realizes that all she means is that it isn’t nearly as big of a deal as he believed it was, and therefore can finally relax and get through it. So on really crazy days you may occasionally hear me muttering, “No one cares, David” under my breath.

What helps you the most when everything starts to pile up? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

 

P.S. I’m still going to try to get a post out next week, but after that I’ll be stepping away for 2-3 weeks while I’m on my honeymoon and actually relaxing, instead of just squeezing a little calm into the chaos.

(Photo is a free stock photo because just looking at it is like 10 minutes of deep breaths or the bliss of my weighted blanket.)

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When words are all we have for now

This last week, for me, has covered almost the full spectrum of joy and pain. It would feel disingenuous or disrespectful to focus on only the pain, or only the joy, of recent days. And I firmly believe that the only thing we can count on — the only thing I am sure life offers each of us — is the opportunity to know both, most often mixed together in a way that makes describing how we fully feel beyond the reach of everyday language.

The human condition seems to be that we harbor both love and hate, crave one but are drawn to the other, and that being a wildly social species we are both burdened and blessed to share that with others as well as have it shared with us.

I wish that as a kid, I had been given a better grasp on how shatteringly messy everything is. All the good and bad and kind-of-both are tied together, and that is the invisible, palpable truth we exist in. As an adult, I’m trying to not just acknowledge that, but make peace with it, while simultaneously working toward increasing the proportion of love in anything I share. Sometimes that love looks like joy, and sometimes it exists in pain.

When words fail, I tend to fall back on touch, hoping that it will say what I can’t seem to. But of course the medium of this blog makes a hand on your shoulder impossible, so we’re back to words. When words fail and they are still all I can offer, I fall back to poetry.

This poem* is one of my favorites, and holds the tension between the pain and the joy we’re faced with better than almost anything else I’ve encountered:

 

“On Kindness” by Aracelis Girmay

        after Nazim Hikmet, for & after Rassan

 

At the Detroit Metro Airport

with the turtle-hours to spare

between now & my flight, there is

such a thing as the kindness

of the conveyor belt who lends me

its slow, strange mollusk foot

as I stand quiet, exhausted, having been

alone in my bed for days now, sleeping

in hotels, having spent months, now,

without seeing the faces of my family, somehow

its slow & quiet carrying of the load

reminds me of the kindness of donkeys

& this kindness returns me to myself.

It reminds me of the kindness of other things I love

like the kindness of sisters who send mail,

wherever you are, &, speaking of mail, there is

the special kindness of the mail lady

who says, “Hi, baby” to everyone, at first

I thought it was just me, but now I know

she says “Hi, baby” to everyone. That is kindness.

Too, there is the kindness of windows, & of dogs.

& then there was that extraordinary Sunday

back at the house, I heard a woman screaming

about how she was lonely & so lonely

she didn’t know what she’d do, maybe kill

herself, she said, over & over like a parrot

in a cage, a parrot whose human parent

only taught it that one sentence. I looked out

the window & saw her from behind, the way she flung

her arms like she was desperate & being killed

or eaten by an invisible predator, like a tiger or a lion, in the chest.

& her voice seemed fogged out with methadone, I don’t know,

something, & I walked away from the window

& sat, angry with her for screaming, & sad,

& not long after, I heard her saying,

What’d you say? What’d you say to me?

& a man’s voice, low, I could not tell if it was kind.

& she said, I’ll kill myself, I’m so lonely.

& did I tell you, yet, that it was Mother’s Day?

Flowers & mothers, flowers & mothers all day long.

& the woman saying, I’m so lonely. I could kill myself.

& then quiet. & the man’s voice saying, It’s okay.

It’s okay. I love you, it’s okay.

 

& this made me get up, put my face, again, to the window

to see my landlord’s nephew outside, just hugging her so, as if

it were his mother, I mean, as if he belonged to her,

& then, again, quiet, I left the window but sat

in the silence of the house, hidden by shutters, & was amazed.

When the front door of the brownstone opened up

& let the tall nephew in with his sad & cougar eyes,

handsome & tall in his Carolina-Brooklyn swagger, I heard

him start to climb the stairs above me, & my own hand

opened up my own front door,

& though it was none of my business

I asked him, Do you know that women out there?

& do you know what happened next?

He said, No. The nephew said no, he didn’t know

the woman out there. & he told me Happy Mother’s Day

as he climbed the rest of the stairs. & I can’t stop seeing them

hugging on the street, under trees, it was spring, but cold,

& sometimes in the memory his head is touching hers

& sometimes in the memory his eyes are closed,

& sometimes she is holding him

& singing to him I love you. It’s okay.

I mean to tell you that everywhere I go

I hear us singing to each other. This way. I mean to tell you

that I have witnessed such great kindness as this,

in this, my true life, you must believe me.

I mean, on a Sunday, when nobody was supposed to be

watching. Nobody at all. I saw this happen, the two

of them hugging, when nobody was supposed to be

watching, but not a secret either, public

as the street, not for glory & not for a joke,

the landlord’s nephew ready to stand there for the woman

like a brother or a sister or a husband or son,

or none of these at all, but a stranger,

a stranger, who like her, is an earthling.

Perhaps this thing I am calling kindness

is more simple than kindness, rather, recognition

of the neighbor & the blue, shared earth

& the common circumstance of being here:

what remains living of the last

two million, impossible years…

 

Hopefully today we can help each other be a little more human, and find peace in that. For more thoughts like this or a bunch that aren’t, leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

 

* Note that this poem is “On Kindness”, from KINGDOM ANIMALIA by Aracelis Girmay, copyright © 2011 by Aracelis Girmay. I don’t own or have any rights to the poem, but first discovered it via The Slowdown.

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How to train yourself out of a short attention span

I don’t usually go for such clickbaity titles, but it seems like this skill is something we could all use a little more of. I know that both at work and at home, I’ve had noticeable trouble paying attention to just one thing for any significant length of time, and that the problem has gotten worse as I’ve shifted into emerging adulthood.

Not that I had some insanely impressive attention span as a kid, but if it was something that mattered (either directly or indirectly), I could usually gather up the will to focus on it until it was done or I judged it time to move onto something else. (Note that this wasn’t always the case early on in project deadlines, but procrastination is a whole other issue.)

In college, it was a little tougher, in part because there were so many things to be juggling and my schedule was constantly shifting not just between semesters, but from day to day and week to week. So I often brushed off any problems focusing with being tired or lacking routine, and I assumed it would get easier once I had some steadiness post-college. Of course, life circumstances that could be called steady took a while to achieve — like a lot of recent grads, I moved back home and worked part-time. Then I moved to a new area with a new job. Then I changed jobs and moved again. Whew.

I’ve been in my new jobs and new digs for several months now, but I still find myself often struggling to focus for long stretches of time, or even to devote myself entirely to a single task for a shorter amount of time. And frankly, it’s annoying as heck.

So what to do about it?

First things first, I had to stop making excuses. Sometimes I really am tired or the thing I’m working on is just super boring, and that genuinely is the main cause of my inattention. But that’s rarely the whole reason. And that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be taking steps to address it. (Super important note there that while all the stuff I mention below can help, prolonged or increasing issues with focus may be part of another issue like ADD or ADHD. If you think that might be you, definitely talk to a doctor and/or psychriatrist.)

Give yourself breaks, but make sure they’re structured. I have a bad habit of looking at my phone whenever I reach a pause in concentration, and guess what? It literally makes my problem worse. One recommendation is to use the 25-5 approach, where you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break (the times can be adjusted based on personal need, but this number seems to work well for a lot of people). The trick is confining breaks to that time, and then when it’s time for a break fully embracing the distraction.

Get off your phone. I absolutely hate being told to do this, most connective electronics (phones, computers) are quite literally filled with stuff meant to distract us from whatever else we’re doing. The internet is never-ending, and social media and video games offer little dopamine hits every time we use them, which then trains our brains to want more, and it becomes harder to stay away from them when we should be focusing on something else. I often put my phone face down out of arm’s reach (and my line of sight), or even on do not disturb, to make it feel less easily accessible. I also have all notifications that aren’t text, calls, or email turned off.

Stop multitasking. Unless I’m doing something truly mindless, I’ve been trying to avoid multitasking. As much as we like to boast about it, humans actually aren’t that great at multitasking precisely because our divided attention means we often miss crucial elements of one or both tasks. So I might listen to a podcast doing simple edits on a document, or plan the grocery list while I drive home, but once it’s time to pay attention I just go one thing at a time.

Pay attention to your body. If you’re hungry, thirsty, exhausted, or even the wrong temperature, focusing is naturally going to be more of a challenge. Make sure you have snacks and water available, and adjust your temperature surroundings if you can. I find all of these help me feel less tired, but if I’m truly falling asleep at my computer I’ll use my short break mentioned above (I actually do 7-9 minutes in this case) for a power nap.

Find a change of scenery. Often when I’m struggling to focus, moving to a different spot in the office or my house will reset whatever was stuck in my brain, and then I don’t move from that spot (or at least back to my original spot) until the task is done.

On that note, just move around. A couple minutes of walking or a few quick stretches can settle your body enough to focus more readily on a non-physical task. Exercising daily or at least a couple times a week also seems to be linked to better focus long-term.

Alternate the types of tasks you’re doing. I find that I feel bored less readily if the kinds of things I’m doing don’t all feel the same. For example, at home I’ll sit down to do the budget, then get up and clean the kitchen, alternating mental/stationary and more physical chores so it feels kind of like I’m getting a break even when it’s just to do another task.

Read a dang book. Or a long internet article. Or listen to an audiobook. I am fully aware that I have preached the virtues of reading many a time on this blog, and I am not sorry. One of the things that finally motivated me to work on my attention span is the fact I couldn’t get through even a chapter of a book in one sitting, let alone huge chunks like I used to. I’ve been extra intentional about making time to read lately, and I’ve noticed a correlation with my (slightly) improved focus.

Meditate. I am awful at being consistent about this, but meditation has been demonstrated to significantly help concentration. I have an app called Headspace that I like a lot for short meditations, and one of the podcasts I love releases semi-regular meditations as well. But you can also find lots of free options that offer everything from 1-minute to hour-plus meditations.

Sometimes, it’s also okay to just admit that you’re having a tough time focusing, and not be hard on yourself for it. We’ve all got a lot going on, and the world we live in doesn’t make it any easier to slow down and just pay attention to one thing.

What has helped you focus better? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo honestly because that’s all I had time for.)

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It’s the little things

Yesterday was a bad morning. I killed a plant and two more are sick, and that opened a door to a deluge of thoughts biting at my ankles and draining my carefully gathered positivity.

But that night — despite the day’s challenges and the dark corners in my head — I felt the best I had in a little while. Not just enjoying myself, but content with myself as I am. There was no dramatic moment behind the change. My plant is still dead and my to-do list is somehow longer. The shift came in small moments, when I opened myself up to the little things that make me feel connected to the world.

I watched the orange light on the hills as I drove past. I looked up to see planes landing and taking off just over my head. I played the music really loud. I went to my favorite yoga studio with my best friend. I bought dessert afterward at the grocery store. I sat down with a heavy blanket and finished a book, even though I (as always) have lots to do.

This isn’t meant to be some pithy call for “self-care,” at least the way it’s popularly understood. A lot of those those things were previously planned or even outside my control. The different was that I stopped clinging so desperately to my own thought patterns and actually let myself have space to enjoy those moments.

Today is my first day without plans in I actually couldn’t tell you how long. And I finally feel ready to enjoy it.

So enjoy your day. (If you’re from the U.S., have a responsible Fourth.) If you want, share a favorite little thing that makes you feel content in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. And as always, thanks for reading and happy adulting!

(Picture credit goes to my mom, for finding the best in every city.)