Finding focus amidst chaos

Let's talk about life.


You know how nicely cafeteria trays separate out each piece of your meal? Everything is neatly divided, potatoes not touching green beans (or quinoa salad not touching sauteed spinach—whatever’s your thing). These items all exist within the same whole (the tray itself), but there’s a clear line between each element.


My life is not like a tidy cafeteria tray. Not one bit.


And I’m guessing many of you can understand that, whether it’s because you're a parent...or a creative working on your business while also working full-time...or a caregiver who’s also trying to maintain their own life...or just a human being living in a world that (unfortunately for so many of us) isn’t easily compartmentalized.

Currently, for me, the chaos is coming from parenthood. We made the decision for me to stay home with Nathan while also working as much as I can. We knew it would be an adventure, an experiment, and it's one I've been thrilled with—I love our days at home together and our adventures and the freedom to continue being my introverted self. I know how incredibly lucky I am, believe me.


But I’ve always been someone who does well with a cafeteria-tray kind of world, keeping each portion (or part of my life) carefully divided out.


I like separation between work time and personal time. I like to finish a project before moving on to the next thing. I prefer not to work on vacations at all. I like things neatly compartmentalized.

But life with a baby is not like that. Lately, my days are all about changing. Switching tasks. Turning my brain from one thing to another with lightning speed. I immerse myself in work, then I pick up a hungry baby. I immerse myself in play, then it’s time to eat lunch. I begin doing laundry, then it’s time for a nap (for him, and occasionally for me). I go back to the work, trying to pick up the thread of a half-finished sentence, but a call comes in about scheduling an appointment. And on it goes, over and over.

For someone who’s always been easily distracted anyway (I’m famous for switching over the laundry and forgetting to turn on the dryer—or boiling water, turning off the kettle, and then never making tea), this jumping around is tough. Some days I feel like I have a handle on it all, and some days it wears me out. And it’s meant some things have been sacrificed—I’m moving much slower on the work front than I’d like, even as my brain buzzes with ideas and plans. (I mentioned that here.)
 

But I’m content with where I am, truly, so I’ve been looking for ways to struggle less and simply be where I am each moment—while also honoring the part of me that needs some measure of focused time (even if it’s a small amount).


For me, right now, that looks like: exercising each morning (shout out to The Balanced Life Sisterhood, which is currently saving my sanity), meditating for about three to five minutes each morning using an app or guided meditation (still working on finding something I truly love; open to suggestions), and writing.

Yep, writing. Not for someone else—obviously I’m not writing to you guys all that often (sigh)—but writing for me.

These days, that looks like spending about five to ten minutes each morning doing my own version of a gratitude practice. I write the thing I’m grateful for, and then I write a little more about it—what I’ve learned, what I still have to work on, why that thing is on my mind that morning. It’s more about exploring my feelings and ideas and where I am currently; the gratitude part mostly provides structure and a way in. It’s simple enough that I’m able to fit it in most days, and it makes me feel more grounded (especially when I do all three things—exercise, meditate, and write, which only takes about 30 minutes total).

Explore, to me, is a similarly grounding experience. It’s quick—no mega commitment needed. But there’s also accountability and a reminder—an email in your inbox each day—which makes less work for you as you try to get into the routine. (I had to set a reminder until I got into the habit, which is another way to go!)

I had planned to open Explore to you before the holidays, but I’ve dedicated less time to it that I planned—see the above about all the crazy. Just know that I’m working on it and I’ll get it into your hands as soon as I can.

I’m also working on a new website, which will speak more to my focus these days—a blend of connection (with yourself, your ideas, and your audience), the tension between knowing and doing (which I talked about recently), and sustainable growth and change (something that’s really on my mind lately). I’m excited to keep working at whatever pace I can, and look forward to sharing more with you along the way!
 

Until then, what are some ways you can find focus in your own chaos?


Some ideas:

  • a five-minute walk (yep, just around the block...or your backyard)

  • a simple meditation (simply lie on your back and think of a light traveling slowly from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head as you breathe)

  • a quick workout (search for one online that's under ten minutes that you can do at home)

  • five minutes of free-writing (just write about anything or pick a topic)

  • enjoy a snack without distraction (no Instagram, news-reading, podcast-listening, etc.)


The idea is that you spend a few minutes focusing on what you want to focus on rather than getting swept away in the tide of the everyday. I'd love to hear what other ideas you have!

 
Okay, that's it for today. Happiest of holidays to you! I'm wishing you many moments of focus as the year draws to a close.


With much love,
Erica


P.S. If you’ve already done Explore, I hope these emails are a good reminder to you about why the practice is so important. When I’m ready to release Explore again, I’ll be emailing you to see if you’d like to do it again (for free, of course)! So keep an eye out. I can’t believe it was a year ago that we were all preparing for the first round! Whew.


More Thoughts


>  There’s one more technique I’ve been using for my sanity—you can read about it on Instagram!

>  I haven’t done much planning for the New Year yet (and I'm feeling strangely unstressed by that!)—but if you’re in that mode, check out this post I wrote a couple of years ago. Lots of options for you there. I particularly recommend Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year—so, so good and totally free. Her Word of the Year email course, also free, is a great companion. Wishing many good things for you in 2017, whether you plan or not!


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Just Try It Out (don't add the pressure of "forever")

We've been, at least indirectly, talking about pressure a lot lately (and how to put less of it on yourself).


A few weeks ago, I talked about how balance might not look like doing something every day or every week—instead, it might look like doing something a couple of times a week or a few times over the course of a month (or whatever else feels right). The bottom line? You get to decide. No pressure.

And then last week, I talked about giving yourself a break when you need it—essentially, not forcing yourself into an arbitrary schedule when what you really need is rest. Again, no pressure.

So when I talk about Explore (a writing experience I offered in January and will be offering again soon), whether you've participated in it or not, you might be a little confused about where it fits into all of this no-pressure talk. Because the whole point of Explore is that you write…every day.

Waaaait a minute. (I can hear you now.) I thought we didn’t have to do these kinds of things every day! I had just gotten cozy with that idea! What’s going on?

Here’s what's going on: Explore, and other pursuits like it, are simply experiments. They allow you to try something on and see how it works. No pressure.


The thing is, we don't usually think in terms of experiments. Instead, unconsciously, we think in terms of forevers.


I'm sure you've had a thought that goes something like this: Okay, that’s it. I have to step up my game. I’m going to:

  • Share a post on Instagram every day.
  • Publish a blog post every week.
  • Meditate every morning.
  • Read one book a month.
  • Write 500 words every day.


At first, that kind of statement makes you feel good. Powerful. In control. Like your future self has it all together.


But while you may have excitement around those Instagram posts or your meditation time the first few days, when that initial jolt of energy wears off, you may feel tired at the thought of continuing to do that thing.

So you stop. You miss a day because you don’t feel good or you get busy or something unexpected happens and or you just don't want to...and then it’s a quick slide back into your old patterns. But something else also happens—you get frustrated with yourself. You start to believe you’re not the kind of person who can start new, meaningful habits…and slowly, you become that person.
 

What’s so often tripping us up is the implied forever. There’s no end date—so your mind gets worn out at the thought of making such a huge change.

But when you decide to simply do something for a set amount of time—an experiment—you know when the end date is, and you no longer face the pressure that of forever.



That’s why I’ve set up Explore as a 31-day experiment. You commit to yourself that you’ll write every day—but only for 31 days. Once that specific amount of time is up, you can choose to do whatever you want. You can keep going. You can stop. You can change it up. It’s your choice, and you can do whatever feels right to you.

And the same is true for any experiment you decide to create. Want to post on Instagram every day? Try it for a week and then reevaluate. Want to read one book a month? Try reading one book this month and see how it goes.

Then, when the time is up, be honest with yourself. How did it go? What do you want to keep doing? What do you want to change? Then reset that experiment timer (every day, every month, every Tuesday, whatever it is)…and keep on going.

I’ll be opening the doors to Explore very soon, and I’d love to be a part of your writing experiment. But don't feel like you have to wait to start experimenting.
 

I’ve created a simple but powerful worksheet you can use to create your own experiment right now!

 

It's in the Library with several other worksheets you can use to create meaningful connection with yourself, your ideas, and your audience. Sign up below to get access, as well as weekly(ish) emails from me. I would love to hear what you’re experimenting with!

When You Get Off Track

I’m going to be really honest here.


It feels a little odd to have gone on Being Boss a few weeks ago to talk about creating content (thank you so much for your interest and love and support!)—and then have gone through a period of sharing my own content either sporadically or not at all.

Typically, I send out an email each week on or around Wednesday. But the past few weeks, I’ve either sent out something on Friday…or I’ve sent nothing at all.

I could definitely get pretty upset about this—but I realized I don’t want to, so I’m choosing not to. And I’m hoping you’ll give yourself the same kind of break when you don’t stick to your predetermined schedule. Because here’s the thing:
 

It’s easy to tell yourself that people will judge you if you don’t keep up a rigid schedule.


It’s easy to tell yourself that your entire audience will simply disappear if you get off track a bit.

And it’s way too easy to tell yourself you should give up important things like sleep or relaxed meals at the table with your family or side projects you really love to keep your content schedule going.
 

But those are just stories you’re telling yourself.


If people judge you or disappear, I’m guessing they weren’t right for you anyway, which is totally fine (and normal). And those things you want to give up? They’re the very things that give you fuel to create content—and often, inspiration as well! I’m guessing your content well would dry up pretty quickly if you gave them the boot.
 

So giving yourself a break when things get a bit busy is crucial.


And today, I’m going to tell you what’s been going on with me—so you can see the kind of choices I’m making (I’m creating my own balance!), and so you can get a little nudge to be kind to yourself as well.

The reason I’m not sharing as much here is not for lack of things to share—I actually have tons of ideas and partially written posts (writing in layers, remember?). In fact, the post you’re reading right now has been mostly written for almost two weeks.

The reason I’m not sharing is that I’m (as they would say on Being Boss) doing the work. I’m knee-deep (although that doesn’t seem very deep now that I type it) in incredible client projects, relaunching Explore, and creating something to share with you while I’m on maternity leave.

In short, I’m working on things that will help you connect with yourself and your ideas—so you can create content that connects with your audiences. And I’ve found myself wanting to just be honest with you. To say, Hey, I’m doing some cool things. I haven’t forgotten you. I’m just softening a little around writing right now—but I still want to say hello and tell you what’s going on. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.
 

So if you’re going through a time when you’re not sharing as much—no matter what the reason—give yourself a bit of a break.


And consider just being honest about it. Let your readers know where you are (and, if it feels right, point them to some other posts they may enjoy). Here are some ways I’ve done this in the past:


Or you can simply give yourself some space and then come back when you’re ready and keep on going. I’m guessing the people who want to hear what you have to say, the people your message is right for right now, will welcome you back with open arms.


Sending lots of love to you, whether you’re right on track with your content schedule or feeling a bit behind!


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