Common Resolutions to Tackle in the Workplace–Made Easy

Article originally written for Wekudo and can be found here.

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Tis the season to hit the gym, eat healthier, and be a better version of yourself–at least for the next couple of weeks. Most of us begin the new year with great intentions to lose weight, be healthier, and get organized. But after a couple strong weeks of conquering our goals, most of us find it impossible to keep up.

Fortunately, there are some little things we can all do to tackle some of the most common New Year’s Resolutions all year long.

Cultivate a healthier lifestyle. We all know that being healthy requires making smart choices about our diet and exercise. When life gets busy, it can seem impossible to find time to hit the treadmill or plan and prep healthy, nutritious meals. Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

On days when you can’t make it to the gym, fit micro-exercises into your daily routine. Take the stairs, walk on your lunch break, or do calf raises while you stand at the copy machine. It may not seem like much, but even a little exercise can do a lot of good.

A few simple dietary changes can go a long way. You’re more likely to make better choices if you make it easy for yourself to do so. Pack healthy breakfasts and lunches for work, and don’t forget to bring easy snacks like mixed nuts and whole fruit. If you’ve got tasty (and healthy) options sitting at your desk, you’ll be less tempted to hit the vending machine.

Get more organized. As much as we often like to convince ourselves that a messy desk is a sign of genius, a disorganized work space can be mentally overwhelming and stressful. Plus, it’s just plain ugly to look at. It can be hard to stay organized when to-dos are constantly flying into your inbox, and paperwork piles up on your desk faster than you can address it. Trust me–I can relate. In a world where many workers waste valuable time each day just searching for lost items, a simple tidy-up can be the obvious solution.

This year, make a plan to tackle the clutter–both physical and digital–methodically. Identify your major problem areas and address them in order of importance. Do you find that critical documents often get buried on your desk? Are you constantly digging through your inbox to find a helpful response?

Make a commitment to spend a few minutes at the end of each day tidying up your work space. Review your daily emails and delete anything you know you don’t need. As for your physical desk, put away anything that isn’t in its proper place. Taking just a few minutes a day to tidy up is a simple and sustainable way to declutter throughout the year.

Make time for loved ones. This is arguably the most important resolution, but can often be the most difficult to achieve. How do we make more time for loved ones when we can barely find the time to take a lunch break or schedule regular doctor’s appointments? We all block off time to attend meetings with our coworkers, so why not apply this same strategy to spending time with those we care about most?

If you often find it difficult to leave the office at a reasonable hour, then consider making specific plans for date night or family night. Hit happy hour with some of your old friends, or meet up for a movie on a weekday evening. The more specific the plans are, the better.

Even if you’re not able to meet up in person, use your lunch break to make some calls to family or friends. I began doing this a few months ago, and found it to be incredibly fulfilling to spend 15-20 minutes on the phone catching up with my grandma during my break.

Finally, take a few well-planned vacation days to simply spend time with loved ones. Taking off a Friday to go shopping with your mom, spend the day at the zoo with your uncle, or try a new restaurant with friends will be time well spent for everyone.

Major lifestyle changes can often feel impossible to uphold. You’re more likely to keep up with your resolutions by making small, manageable changes to your daily life. With persistence and dedication, these little acts can make a big difference.

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My Bucket List as of 6/17/14

Setting goals makes me excited, and putting them down on paper makes them feel more achievable. Below is my bucket list as of today. I’m sure it will continue to change, and I’m hoping that as the years go by, I can begin crossing some of these items off and creating bigger goals. I’m ready to get out in the world and make these things happen!

  • Pay off my car and student loan in 5 years or less/become financially independent of my parents
  • Visit India, the Ganges River
  • Backpack through Sequoia National Park
  • Backpack for a week straight, period
  • Establish myself as a writer (whatever that means)
  • Get published in literary magazines (poetry and academic writing, literary analysis)
  • Write and publish a chapbook
  • Write and publish a collection of poetry
  • Meet Richard Siken (or at least see him at The Pygmalion Festival 2014)
  • Survive for 6 months straight on freelance work alone
  • Road-trip the U.S./live in a vehicle
  • Live in Portland, OR
  • Start my own zine
  • Work full time as a poetry editor
  • Meditate regularly
  • Get paid to record an audio book
  • Read every piece of literature that T.S. Eliot refers to in The Waste Land and blog about my journey/experience/thoughts/analysis/etcetcetc
  • Practice writing in meter so thoroughly that it begins to come naturally
  • Master the art of scansion
  • Run a marathon

What’s on your bucket list? Do we have anything in common?

Writing Life and the 9 to 5

As I neared college graduation 6 months ago, I was most excited about the prospect of being able to spend my free time reading and writing for leisure. Although I work a minimum of 40 hours per week at a pretty typical office job (and spend another 5 hours per week on my commute), I figured I’d have an abundance of free time to work on all my passion projects (poetry, blogging, reviewing, reading, etc, etc). But there are a couple of things that make the day job/night writer thing a bit tricky.

(1) Once you leave college, no one will hold you accountable for doing your work. Despite how badly I wanted to write, it took me months to sit down and discipline myself to work hard on a regular (ie. daily) basis. It’s still a struggle. It’ll probably always be a struggle. You want to write? Then sit down (or stand, whatever) and WRITE. Seriously, go do it right now.

And (2), no matter how hard you were able to work yourself in college, you’ll likely need to change your ways once you adjust to the daily grind. In college, I regularly functioned on a few hours of sleep. Because college offers such a flexible schedule and (in comparison to corporate life) is incredibly laid back, it’s possible to get three hours of sleep, roll out of bed, and still function perfectly fine during Advanced Shakespeare. But in the “real world,” I have to wake up out 6:15 each morning, guzzle coffee, don my dress slacks, manage my hair, and be alert enough to, at a minimum, reasonably operate a computer for 8 straight hours. It’s an unnatural schedule, and more taxing than it sounds.

If you want to work all day, and spend your nights writing, you need to hold yourself accountable. I set reasonable goals for myself (ones that I’m capable of accomplishing, and that still allow me to get at least 5 or 6 hours of sleep). Some reasonable goals I try to follow:

  • Publish one blog post each Tuesday (a new goal!)
  • Write 2-3 articles per month
  • Write one book review per month
  • Read 2 books per month
  • Write every day, primarily focusing on poetry

These goals are reasonable. They give me some flexibility, because although I strive to write every day, I allow myself to write in different styles and genres. Nothing is off limits. Some days I work on my poetry, some days on a research paper, and other days on a blog post. I give myself some deadlines to work with, I put them in my calendar, and I commit to them. In fact, right now I’m missing out on watching a comedy with my family to write this blog post. After all, my calendar says “Writing Life and the 9 to 5,” so duty calls. I find it helpful to write my “assignment” directly on my calendar instead of simply writing “blog due.” Being specific about what I want to accomplish each Tuesday gives me a gentle reminder of what I want to write about, and allows me to brainstorm throughout the week.

I have long-term goals too, things like getting published in literary magazines, blogging for a literary site, writing a book, recording an audio book, becoming a poetry editor, etc, etc, etc. but I’ve found that it’s best to start with manageable goals that will help me to accomplish these bigger ones in the future.

My point is that working full time and finding time to establish yourself as a writer is no easy task, but many people do it, and they do it with kids, with extensive household responsibilities, and with far more distractions than I’ll ever have. So what’s my excuse? The goal is to someday (someday, someday, someday) be able to write full time, but for now, I’m working hard, paying my bills, and always, always writing.