How to get a lot of work done in a peaceful way

Though I refuse to accept it, it seems as though the days are getting shorter. It’s getting darker earlier. Semesters have begun. I’m hanging on to as much summer as I can, but I also want to acknowledge that many of you college girls are back at school, and that many of you post-college girls are getting back into a more structured work routine.

One of my readers (hey lady!) wrote to me and asked for some help with handling the large amount of work and responsibility she’ll have this semester. I know that many of you are facing the same challenge, so I want to speak into that and give you some juicy tips on getting a lot of work/stuff done in a peaceful way.

It’s so easy to associate work and responsibility with stress and overwhelm. We assume that when we have a lot to do, we’ll be running around like crazy, won’t have any time for ourselves, and that life will just suck. And know what’s sick about this? Our culture supports that! Our culture created this idea that we HAVE to be stressed out when we have a lot of work on our plate. We give stress and overwhelm a purpose, as if to say that if we’re not stressed out and overwhelmed, then we’re not working hard enough.

What are the consequences of that way of thinking? We run ourselves into the ground. We get sick and really anxious. Our grades or work may actually suffer. We don’t enjoy life. We cry a lot. We turn to binge-eating or to alcohol just to get some relief.

But there really is a different way to get all of our work done, even during those really crazy semesters/periods of life. We can do our work in a peaceful, gentle way so that our physical, emotional, and mental health are protected.

Here’s how to do it!

1. Adopt this perspective: The reality of getting all your work done is always better than how you envision it in your mind. I remember sitting in class on the first day of every semester and having a silent meltdown. I looked at all of my syllabi and would get so scared of all of the work ahead of me. My thoughts did some major future-tripping, making me think that I would never see my family or friends or have any time to myself. But as I got into the semester and banged out each assignment, I realized that I was just doing my work. I could work for part of the day, then see a friend. Then come back and do some more work. No drama. The reality of doing all of our work really is much less dramatic and intense than how our brains tell us it’s going to be.

2. Break down big tasks into super small tasks. When you’re faced with a bunch of assignments and projects that make you nervous, go through each one and break them down into small tasks that are really easy to do. Ex. If you have to write a paper, break that down into tiny steps. One step may be to brainstorm for 20 mins about a topic and by the end of the session, have three ideas. The next step may be to email or talk to your professor and get feedback on your ideas. The next step may be to find one scholarly source. And keep going. One step at a time. And then be really proud of yourself for doing each step, no matter how small. View each task as a win for you.

3. Use a planner. You know how much I love the Plan Better Live Better Planner. But using any planner will help you put all of those smaller tasks, deadlines, etc. on paper instead of just letting them float around in your head and stress you out. When your thoughts are spinning and you’re getting overwhelmed, write out EVERYTHING you have to do (personal, academic, etc.), then schedule them in your planner. Again, break them down into small tasks. Then, pick a time/day to do each of those tasks and put them in your schedule. Now they’re out of your mind and on paper, so you don’t need to stress out.

4. Your work gets done when you actually do it, not when you’re stressing about it. An influx of assignments or commitments is triggering. But when you hook into those feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, the work becomes really intimidating, which can lead to procrastination and/or the perpetuation of more fear around your work. Accept whatever feelings come up. It’s totally natural and normal to feel those emotions when you have a lot on your plate. And the best way to feel calm about your work is to actually get it done. Take the emotion out of your workload. Break it down into those small tasks. Set a timer for yourself and just do it. The more you get into action with your work, the more peaceful you’ll feel.

5. Create a peaceful environment for yourself. When you’re doing your work, make your surroundings very comforting. Drink tea in your favorite mug. Wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket. Listen to music that puts you at ease. Have a glass of water with you. Pull up an inspiring quote/pic on social media to put you at ease and to remind you to keep going. Speak really sweetly to yourself while working: “You’re doing great. I love you. I’m so proud of you.”

6. Soothe your morning anxiety. If you experience anxiety about school and/or your workload when you wake up in the mornings (like me!), I have you covered. Read my blog post here.

The start of a new semester or new season in life can be scary. We have more work to do and we’re on a pretty tight schedule. Use these tips to help you. You got this!

4 easy ways to get out of your comfort zone

You know how we’re always told to get out of our comfort zones? That change happens outside of our comfort zones? That in order to grow into better, stronger, fuller people, we have to get uncomfortable in some way? I agree with all of that.

But.

I also think that it’s easy to think that getting outside of our comfort zone means that we have to experience intense pain, suffering, and/or anxiety. And if we don’t experience those feelings, then we’re not outside of our comfort zones.

It’s true. If we want to make changes in our lives, then we need to get a little uncomfortable by diverging a bit from our regular friend group, routine, thoughts, etc. But that doesn’t mean that life has to suck for a period of time. It’s totally possible for us to enjoy life and have fun with getting outside of our comfort zone, even if we do feel nervous and uncomfortable. We don’t need to suffer intensely.

Let’s experiment with this, okay? Here are some easy ways you can get out of your comfort zone and shake things up.

1. Go to a new workout class, something that scares you a little, like zumba or Cross Fit. Or, if you normally go with friends to a class, try going alone. I challenged myself to do this when I was taking zumba. None of my friends could go with me one night, so I went alone, even though I was nervous.

2. When someone asks about your preference for something, like what you want to eat, what you want to do for the day, or just how you’re doing, be honest. Tell the other person what you want (politely, of course). Don’t just say, “I don’t care, whatever you want..”

3. Run for five more minutes, hold that yoga pose for five more breaths, keep working on that task for 20 more minutes, meditate to one more song. Push yourself to stick with something in your regular routine (yoga, running, working, etc.) for a bit longer than usual.

4. When you feel emotional about something, i.e. if you’re pissed, sad, anxious, heartbroken, whatever, sit with that feeling for a few minutes. Acknowledge to yourself what you’re feeling. Determine where you feel it in your body. Breathe. Let the feeling hang out with you for 2-3 mins. The feeling will dissipate MUCH faster than if you ignore it until it bubbles up with more intensity later.

These are fairly simple ways to start stretching your comfort zone. Doing these things can help you realize that getting out of your comfort zone does not mean you have to suffer. You can still have fun and experience peace, even while you’re stretching and growing!

Free/cheap ways to have fun, kick out FOMO, and feel awesome about your life.

Not to sound like an old, out of touch lady, but it’s easy to look at our generation and think that we’re a little obsessed with living the coolest, most exciting life ever. For the most part, that’s a good thing. We want to make the most of our lives, make an impact on the world, and experience everything we can.

But I also think those goals (ha, or should I say, #goals) create a lot of pressure and inferiority. It’s easy to feel bad about our own lives if we’re not traveling around the world, going to awesome parties, writing a super lucrative blog, going to music festivals, buying photogenic Starbucks drinks, sweating it out at Barre class, etc.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything we think we “should” do with our time. Then we’re never able to really connect with ourselves and figure out what we actually want to do with our time (and money–a lot of that sh*t costs $$$). And then that feeling of inferiority or FOMO (fear of missing out) sharpens.

But there are ways to still do the things that our generation loves to do without spending a lot of money and without letting FOMO take over.

Below is a list of free or cheap things you can do to live a cool, exciting life (FOMO, bye.) that give you the freedom and space to be more intentional with your money and time (authenticity, hi.):

1. Have happy hour at a friend’s house. Ask one of your friends who has a nice porch/deck/outside situation if you (and other friends if you want) can come over and share some drinks and snacks. Have everyone bring something, drink, food, proper glasses, cute appetizer plates, etc. Play music. My drink recommendation? Skinnygirl. Skinnygirl margaritas and wines are available at most liquor stores and are pretty cheap.

2. Do a facial steam and mask. I do this all. the. time. In fact, I did it last night. Boil a large pot of water. Pour water into a large bowl. Drape a towel over your head and the bowl, with your head about 10 inches away from the water. Stay there for 10 mins. Let the steam soften and detoxify your skin. When you’re done, use a toner to clean any dirt/makeup that came off. While your skin is still damp, smear on a face mask. I LOVE the Catastrophe Cosmetic mask from LUSH.

3. Plan a phone date with a friend. I had two phone dates with friends this week. I stayed in both nights and spent my time catching up with them. Maintaining out-of-state friendships take work, and phone dates are free!

4. Bake something. You don’t even have to go out and buy ingredients. I’m told that MyFridgeFood shows you what you can make with exactly what you have at home. Then you can share your baked goods with others, get compliments from friends, AND post on social media. Brills.

5. Write thank-you notes. This is a great thing to do one evening if you keep putting it off. Also, write a random thank you note to a friend or family member, just to thank them for being in your life. This is a beautiful practice of gratitude, and when you’re in that space, you draw more good things to you.

6. Plan out the rest of your week. Doing this puts me at ease immediately. Schedule all of the work/personal things you HAVE to do, then include the other goals you want to accomplish. I highly recommend this planner.

7. Put together new outfits. Go on Pinterest or fashion/DIY blogs. Then go into your closet/dresser and put new outfit combinations together. Turn on some music. This is fun and it makes you realize that you actually do have things to wear.

8. Volunteer somewhere. I gotta work on this myself. But I love volunteering because it gets you out of your head and forces you to focus on how much power you have to help others.

9. Use Starbucks hacks. Instead of a latte, order a misto. It tastes the same and saves you a dollar or more. Last week, I ordered a misto with a pump of vanilla. Way cheaper than a vanilla latte. Also, go with a friend, order a venti frappuccino, and ask for an extra cup. This saves you two or more bucks. And the baristas KNOW that Sbux prices are cray. They won’t give you pushback.

10. Do yoga with friends in your living room. If you or one of your friends is a yogi, ask them to lead you in a yoga routine. Turn on some bumpin music. One of my dreams is to design a customized yoga routine for each of my friends with music that reminds me of them. I designed something for one of my friends, but I never actually delivered it (I still remember, Erin!).

There are tons more ways you can engage with life without spending a ton of money and without getting caught up in feeling like you have to do everything we Millennials “should” be doing. You can be you, while kicking out FOMO, and while saving $$$. And everything in my list is social media-worthy. Win-win-win.

How to make progress on projects and goals even when you’re really scared and confused

First of all, I can’t get enough of this song–probs because it was on an excellent episode of Broad City.

Second of all, how was your weekend? My brother was in town from Atlanta and it was great. We spent time with our cousins, watched basketball, and ate Easter candy. He also tolerated being put into many-a-headlock by me. That’s just what little sisters do.

Easter Candy
Third of all, I want to teach you how to make progress, take action, and be productive on your projects and goals even when you’re scared and confused.

When I finished grad school, I freaked out. I woke up every morning sick to my stomach. So many questions raced through my brain. What job should I get? Should I move? If so, where? Should I get a quick job now to make money? Or should I focus on getting a “real” job? Do I even want a “real” job? What do I really want? But is there even time to think about what I really want? Should I freelance for a while? But will that even pay enough for me to live on? Do my family and friends think I’m stupid, lazy, and spoiled?

These questions haunted me all day, every day. I was anxious all the time and never knew what to do with myself or how to structure my days. All I wanted to do was watch Gilmore Girls in bed.

But, as we all know, ignoring work for too long just makes us more anxious. So one morning, I decided to make a list of super simple things I could do to have a productive day and feel calm and strong. This is what my list looked like (no joke, I pulled out my journal from that time):

Things to do to keep me moving forward (literally what I called this list)
1. Make bed
2. Make breakfast and eat in dining room
3. Take walk
4. Figure out and test drive directions to restaurant when my family visits
5. Schedule meeting about x,y,z with Professor X
6. Clean bathroom
7. Email that woman I freelanced for last semester. Ask if she needs help.
8. Spend 20 mins updating LinkedIn account
9. Read email thread with cousins about Europe itinerary
10. Look at how much I have in bank accounts
11. Make cookies for party

See how simple and finite these things are? I had no idea what kind of job to get, whether I should move, etc., and I was so scared all the time. But instead of just staying in that place of indecision and confusion, I took very small actions forward. I put myself in forward motion, even though I was unsure of what I wanted the end result to be.

Notice that my list doesn’t just include job-related actions. It includes other things I needed to get done and responsibilities I had to fulfill at the time (cleaning, getting directions, finalizing travel plans). Doing those things made me feel productive in the moment and took my mind off of my anxiety. And my list includes things that helped my body and mind feel relaxed and strong. All of these things helped me feel more empowered and confident, which gave me more momentum to keep taking action instead of getting paralyzed by fear.

If you’re grappling with big projects and questions–maybe a big research paper, grad school applications, a job or internship search, figuring out where and if to move–I want you to take out a piece of paper and write a list of 5-10 small things you can do to move forward. What are small actions you can take to be productive and calm down? Maybe you can make a list of potential companies to work/intern for. Maybe you can freewrite about your research topic for 10 mins. Maybe you can make an appointment with your professor to get your questions addressed. Maybe you can take a walk with a friend today.

Doing small things every day to move you forward really will help you accomplish and get clarity on your goals. Keep them simple. Cross them off as you do them. Be very proud of yourself. Trust that as you take action, you’re getting closer and closer to finding answers to all of your questions and uncertainties.

Comment below and tell me 3 simple things you’re going to do TODAY to move forward!

How to: Find your life purpose with fun and ease! (Also, I got a smartphone!)

Okay first things first. I FINALLY got a smartphone. Check it:

New smartphone

Alright now on to the juicy content. It’s really easy to freak out about finding your life purpose. It’s easy to look around you (cough, social media, cough) and feel like everyone else is living this amazing, purpose-filled life while you’re just going through the motions of the day. It’s easy to think you’re doing things wrong or not living life to the fullest if you don’t feel particularly passionate about anything. It’s easy to freak out about that stuff and get down on yourself. I do that too.

BUT. It’s totally okay if you’re confused about what to do with your life or what goals to create for yourself. Actually, freaking out about that stuff makes it harder for you to get clear on what you want. So it really is okay…and crucial for you to be easier on yourself. I’mma show you how to do just that.

Here are my two tools to help you get clear on what you want in your life:

1. Make JOY your priority. This tip comes from Gabrielle Bernstein. When you focus on bringing more joy into your life, you dwell in really high energy and vibes. And when you’re in that space…amazing opportunities come your way. You meet new people (or reconnect with peeps you know), have new experiences, and generate creative ideas. Plus, doing joyful things quiets all mental chatter in your brain. You’ll be able to get quiet and still, hear your intuition, and make decisions easily. Joy creates all that is good. So do things that create joy, happiness, and fun in your life. Follow joyful people on social media (like me!). Have dance parties. Spend time with friends and family who lift you up. Light candles. Paint your nails. Make everyday a little more joyful. You really will get clear on your life purpose.

2. Pray for/set the intention for the highest good. I did this ALL last summer and still do it today. When you have no idea what you want or are flip-flopping about stuff, just pray for/be open to the highest good. Focus on your life unfolding in the best way for you. You can use a mantra “I trust that my life/this situation will unfold for my highest good.” Whenever mental chatter or confusion comes up, just take a breath and say that mantra. Focusing on the “highest good” is so helpful because you don’t have to know what you want, but you’re still doing something proactive about living your best life ever. Plus, you’ll feel more surrendered and relaxed, which makes it much easier for your life purpose to present itself to you.

Don’t stress out about finding your life purpose. When you use these tools, your life purpose and goals will become clear. And you’ll have a much more fun and relaxed life in the meantime!

Email me at sarah@thehappycollegegirl.com and tell me one thing you’re going to do to bring more joy into your life!

Quick Guide: Goal Setting when you have no idea what your goals are or what you want

This week I talked to my therapist (yeah I see a therapist and she’s bomb) about how our culture is obsessed with goal setting, intentions, vision boards, and inspirational quotes on Instagram. We’re bombarded with messages about living our best, most blissful, radiant life. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of that, too.

But what if we’re not sure what we want our lives to look like? What if our vision of our dream life keeps changing? What if we’re unclear about our life purpose? Setting goals and “visioning” then becomes tortuous because we’re so scared about choosing the wrong goal or not feeling super passionate about our goals and then never experiencing our “ideal life.”

I felt this way pretty much every day last summer. My anxiety skyrocketed because I put so much pressure on myself to live my best, most ideal life. But I was so confused about what I wanted my “ideal life” to look like that I became paralyzed. Every time I started to take action on something, like apply to a job, my mind future-tripped immediately about how that job may not give me my “ideal life.” And if I wasn’t living that “ideal life,” then I was wasting my life. Omg it was an exhausting and guilt-ridden season.

Can you relate to feeling so much pressure to live an ideal, Instagram-worthy life that you freak out about setting goals for yourself?

I can tell you from (very recent) experience, that you DO NOT have to worry that you won’t live your ideal life or that none of your dreams will come true…even if you’re not sure what those exact dreams are.

You can relax. You will get clear on what you want in your ideal life and you will live the life of your dreams…if you shift your focus when setting goals.

So here’s what I want you to do.

Instead of focusing on the external stuff in your ideal life—the man, the job, the kids, the wardrobe, the travel—first think about how you want to FEEL in your ideal life.

When you imagine yourself living your ideal life, how do you FEEL? What kinds of feelings do you embody and experience most of the day? What are the most important feelings and states of mind that you want to feel?

Make embodying and experiencing those feelings your goal first. Those feelings become your priority.

Then, set personal, academic, and professional goals for yourself based on those feelings.

For example, the feeling that I want to experience every day is inner peace. No matter where I go or what I’m doing, I want to feel peaceful. That’s my first goal–to embody and experience that feeling.

Now that I know how I want to feel every day, I can make decisions about the things I do, places I go, and people I see that will bring me that feeling of inner peace. I can set goals for my life that are oriented to my #1 goal of feeling peaceful. Maybe that means I set a goal to forgive someone. Or set a goal to stay up late to finish a work project because that will make me feel peaceful in the morning. Or set a goal to communicate my feelings in my next romantic relationship. Or set a goal to move my body every day because it calms down my brain.

Goal setting becomes so much easier and calmer when your top goal is a FEELING instead of a THING.

Want some help choosing your top FEELING goal?

Email me at sarah@thehappycollegegirl.com and tell me you want to schedule a 30-min strategy session with me. We’ll identify your feeling goal and create a customized plan of action for you to experience that feeling every day!

Step-by-Step Guide: How to be productive even when you’re super emotional and want to do nothing

I’m writing this blog while feeling very emotional. Honestly, all I want to do is watch a movie, eat homemade popcorn drenched in olive oil and covered with sea salt (try it. it’s amaze), and forget about the world and people and responsibilities and my feelings.

I KNOW you can relate to this–feeling so overwhelmed by sadness, heartbreak, fear, anxiety, etc. that doing anything other than staying in bed feels impossible and tortuous.

It’s totally okay, my love. It really is okay to feel that way. And it really is okay to stay in bed and not do anything.

You still have stuff to do, though. Work and school and deadlines and errands and your dreams still need your attention. And when that stuff piles up because you’ve been in bed overwhelmed by your feelings, you start to feel EVEN WORSE. Doing work feels even more impossible and scary.

But everything will be okay. I’m going to teach you a step-by-step process to still get stuff done during a period of intense emotion and not wanting to leave your bed.

Here’s my step-by-step process:

1. Tell yourself that everything you’re feeling is okay and right. This will help you accept your feelings and experience a little peace around them. If you feel heartbroken, tell yourself that it is totally okay and fine and right and normal to feel that way. Don’t beat yourself up or fight against how you feel. Accept your feelings. They are yours. They can hang out with you. Say to yourself, “I feel really sad/anxious/mad/lonely and that’s okay.”

2. Pick a finite, concrete task, set a timer, and do it. Here’s where productivity comes in. Out of all of the responsibilities looming over you, pick something simple to do. Give yourself a set amount of time to do it. Set a timer. Then do the task. Maybe this looks like setting the timer for 20 mins and responding to emails. Or reading one chapter of a book. Or freewriting about a paper topic for 15 mins. Or doing one load of laundry. Or writing a blog post(!).

3. Tell yourself that you can feel as emotional as you want after the task is done. If feelings start to bubble up while you’re working on the task you’ve chosen, it’s okay. Tell yourself that after you do this task, you’ll return to bed/Netflix/ice cream and can feel as emotional as you want. Say, “After I finish this chapter, I can be as sad as I want. But I’m working on this chapter right now.” Then when you finish your chosen task, go back to bed and feel yo’ feels.

4. Repeat this process many times. Do these steps everyday, throughout the day. Alternate indulging your feelings (staying in bed, watching TV, doing nothing, crying/screaming) with getting work done (finite, simple tasks).

This is the exact process I used when building and launching The Happy College Girl Summit over the summer. Every day, I alternated between bawling my eyes out because of anxiety and heartbreak, and doing work–emailing guest speakers, conducting interviews, and developing promotional materials. And the summit got done and was awesome!

So when you’re in a period of intense emotion (regardless of however long it lasts), use this process. It will help you move through that emotion while still getting sh*t done and being your bad-ass self.

Let’s create a personalized success plan for you to #kickassinclass

I’m so excited! Earlier tonight, I finished my FREE training call, Kick ass in class: How to stop comparing yourself to your classmates and impress your professors. And it rocked!

Pre-call pic 1

We riffed about my step-by-step guide on how to shift out of comparison thoughts so that you can participate in class, create strong bonds with your classmates, and stand out to your professors.

Sounds good, right? Dude, fall semester is coming to an end (woohoo!), but you still have to get through a few more weeks of class, papers, projects, and then…FINALS (dun dun dun).

I want to help you finish the semester with the most success possible-in the best physical and mental shape you’ve ever been in so that you feel calm, still have fun, and get good grades!

Let’s schedule a TOTALLY FREE 30-min strategy call to create a personalized structure for you to rock the last few weeks of your fall semester. Email me at sarah@thehappycollegegirl.com and we’ll create your #kickassinclass action plan.

Let’s do this, woman! Email me now!Photo on 11-3-15 at 8.46 PM #3

 

An acronym to remind you that you’re a hustler

What up, college peeps! I’m super jazzed right now because I just got home from seeing the amazing Lauren Berger speak at my Alma mater (holla Terps!). I literally discovered Lauren LAST MONTH and then she was suddenly speaking in my area. Cray!

This girl knows her sh*t about how to get internships as college students…and how to handle post-grad life, including job searching, work attire, networking, asking for a raise, goal setting, so much!

Lauren gave us such useful content tonight…and I have to share something that really stuck out to me, an acronym that Lauren taught us and one that she used while completing her 15 internships during college. What the what!?

Here ’tis:

F.I.O. Figure It Out. This acronym makes me feel like such a hustler (or a Diva, a la Queen Bey). Lauren encouraged us to figure out a way to get what we want, even if we’re being told “no” or if something seems out of our reach. We can MAKE something happen and achieve our goals by using some creative problem solving. Want work for a certain company and they’re not hiring? F.I.O. Cold-call the company and pitch yourself. Want to work in NYC for a summer? F.I.O. Make a list of companies you’d like to work for in NYC and contact them! These are both examples from Lauren’s life, btw.

This acronym reminds me that we have the power to create anything we want in our lives. We just have to figure it out. Get creative. Be bold. Contact people. Speak up. Tell others what we want. I know that feels scary, but it’s also empowering.

You a hustler, girlfriend. So go F.I.O.