Meditation

I went to my first meditation class in college, where we did 30- and 45-minute sessions. I enjoyed it so much that I went back to my dorm to place a big Amazon order: floor cushion, mala beads, an eye pillow, most of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s books. It turns out that buying a bunch of props does not automatically create a consistent meditation practice, but that first experience stuck with me and I’ve enjoyed meditating ever since. Here are some ways that meditation has been especially helpful since becoming self-employed:

Transitioning between tasks

Running a one-woman shop means that I’m not just doing work for clients, but also marketing my services, preparing for taxes, and sharpening my skills. More and more studies are showing that multitasking is a farce, but meditation can help! Taking a couple minutes—or even just a few breaths—between to-dos can make all the difference in refocusing my energy and preparing for the next item.

Calming anxiety

Dealing with anxiety is no joke, and the more tools you have the better. Meditation has been a great way to keep anxious feelings in check during busy days and stressful situations. I’ll often put some time of my calendar to meditate, but it’s helpful to remember that I don’t need a whole hour (or a special cushion) to get the benefits. Just taking one or five minutes can be enough to slow down and feel the present moment, lessening the anxiety.

Getting to sleep

Especially if I’ve been up late watching TV or working on a big project, it can be hard to get past the thoughts of to-do lists, the next day’s plans, or upcoming deadlines—instead of getting to sleep. Meditation is a great addition to a before-bed routine. Focusing on my breath and waiting for the change in my heart rate can help me drift right off to sleep with ease.

If you’re interested in starting a meditation practice, I highly recommend calm.com and their app (as a customer, not an advertiser!). Have you tried meditating? What tools do you like?

Planners

I really miss the joys of buying school supplies, so each September I treat myself to a new planner or journal. It’s nice to get something after browsing the stationery and back-to-school aisles, and starting a new planner in the fall makes me feel like each year has two fresh starts—New Year’s Day and back-to-school—even though I’m not in school or have kids in school.

I read years ago that the average person uses something like 12 ways to keep track of their time: wall calendars, work planners, personal notebooks, online calendars, Post-it notes. It can get crazy.

I’d tried going super structured with the Productivity Planner from Intelligent Change, which helps you prioritize a few essential tasks each day. It’s based on using the Pomodoro Technique to complete them. (The Pomodoro is named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Francesco Cirillo used to set 25-minute sprints for himself. The idea is that you stay completely focused on a task for 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes, and repeat. You take longer breaks every four rounds and keep going until your goal is complete.) I love the idea but find it difficult to stick to it past a round or two.

I loosened up and hopped on the bullet journal bandwagon, buying a dotted (rather than lined) notebook and using the grid to create elaborate charts and monthly, weekly, and daily schedules. While I appreciated the excuse to expand my washi tape collection and indulge in fun pens, it gets exhausting to recreate templates every day/week/month, rather than just dropping in my to-do list or upcoming deadlines.

plannerThis year I went with a spiral planner from Paper Source [I’m not getting paid for that; I just really like their stuff!]: it’s got a lined two-page weekly spread that I can fill up however seems most helpful at the time and monthly calendars for longer-term planning. I like that it’s sturdy enough to toss into my giant bag, has a pretty, plain design, and already has all the dates and days of the week in there so I don’t have to write them myself.

Do you use a planner? How do you like to keep track of your time?

Daily Rituals

One of the best and most immediate perks of giving up my corporate job was that I could stop setting my alarm. I’ve always struggled with getting up in the morning: no matter what time I go to bed or how long (or how well) I sleep, I’m always happy to stay in bed a little longer. The snooze button and I have a close, personal relationship. I really hated having to be somewhere at 7, 8, or 9:00—especially if I was expected to wear business casual clothes and more than a swipe of mascara.

daily-rituals

But left to my own devices this summer, the pendulum swung the other way. Having no routine has made me feel anxious about how I’m getting things done and guilty for eschewing all structure in my day. As I started trying to come up with the perfect daily agenda, I found the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work from Mason Currey. He compiled the daily routines of writers, composers, painters, choreographers, philosophers, filmmakers, and scientists—often in their own words. It’s a wonderful and interesting collection of insights.

Some wake at 4:00 in the morning, others at noon. Some follow a minute-by-minute routine and others let their intuition guide them. Charles Dickens went for “a vigorous three-hour walk through the countryside or the streets of London” ever day promptly at 2:00. Truman Capote only wrote while lying down, always with a cup of coffee and a cigarette . . . shifting from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis as the day progressed.

It turns out there’s no one schedule that defines the creation of good and important work. I still haven’t decided on a routine that works for me, but I’m slowly carving one out. So far it includes making the bed as soon as possible, finding a half hour for a walk, leaving my phone in the other room when I’m writing, and still not setting an alarm. I’ve decided I don’t care whether I wake up with the dawn or just in time for lunch.

What about you? Do you have a particular routine or ritual?

Frugality

Sometimes “being frugal” looks like loading my cart up on the Kohl’s website with flowy, comfy summer tops . . . and then closing the browser window with a shrug instead of clicking “buy.”

But sometimes it feels harder: not ordering the book from a new local author because I’ve got more books than I can actually read for the rest of the year and no room in the budget. Not donating to the ACLU when they’re running a special campaign because I’ve already made a contribution. It’s arguing with myself whether charging a $20 webinar is reasonable because I’m investing in myself or if it’s ridiculous because I already have a balance on that card.

Historically, money and I have not been great friends. You may have already guessed that. I worry about not having enough and so I spend in a panic, afraid it will be my last chance ever in life to buy a clearance cardigan at Target. It’s like when you’re about to go on a diet and you go out for one last splurge, and you eat all the fries as fast as you can even though you’re full and already regret the extra salt. No? Just me?

But I’ve been trying to work simultaneously on cultivating feelings of abundance and on trying to live simply. And I think that’s what frugality is about.

I have all that I need already.

I make enough money to support my life.

I don’t need to buy things that don’t bring joy.

I don’t need to spend money that I don’t have.

I’m trying to remember that my relationship with money is, like many relationships, sometimes complicated and sticky but also just part of the journey. It’s not going to be fixed overnight, whether or not I make the extra donation or sign up for another class. But it will improve with time. And I guess that’s plenty for me to hope for.

Abundance

I’ve been struggling with the idea of abundance lately. I have a tendency to think, “I love these shoes so much that I don’t want to wear them too often so they’ll last longer.” And also, “I’m afraid of getting too much work in case it runs out.” The scarcity mindset.

abundance-candle

A few months ago, I was in a tiny shop that was full of local, handmade, and New-Agey-type things. I was drawn to a display of chakra energy candles, and one labeled “abundance” in particular. It smelled yummy and, at the time, I was in the process of ramping up my freelance business so that I could leave my corporate day job. Abundance. It felt like destiny. It even said so on the label: Your true self will attract unlimited resources, power, and compassion to realize your destiny.

I brought it home and lit it, enjoying its pretty color and wonderful scent. It wasn’t a particularly cheap candle (and with the job change I was planning, I certainly wasn’t looking for any more expensive habits) so when I finished my meditation, I extinguished it and put the plastic protective covering back. It sat on my desk, unlit, for a good six weeks. It wasn’t until today, when I was trying on an affirmation about having everything I need, about the universe providing limitless resources, that I saw it (and my mindset) and laughed out loud.

I have a drawer full of white T-shirts I don’t wear so they won’t start to look gray. I keep gift cards for nicer-than-average restaurants until there’s a special-enough special occasion. I have a cute basket with spa-inspired face masks and bath bombs that I save for some future day when I really need one, whatever that means.

There are clients I want to work with, projects I want to pursue—but not until I’m ready. Not until I have the calendar capital to devote an entire day just to it. Not until I’m sure I’ve got other work to follow it.

I read recently: “Want it all, that’s what it’s there for.” I think that’s from Mike Dooley; I have it taped to my computer monitor. It could also be, “use it all, that’s what it’s there for.” Work, energy, and yes, even money: these are renewable resources! We don’t have to hoard them until there’s enough. We’ve got all we need already.

 

Page 2

I’ve had “start a blog” on my to-do list for approximately 11 months. As a person who likes to write, who likes to fancy herself a little bit witty and/or interesting, and who has recently started a freaking writing business . . . it seems like a totally reasonable thing to be doing. But I’m terrified of first pages.

When I start any kind of paper-bound project, and I’ve been doing this for years, I start on page two. Diaries, food trackers, notebooks for classes, bullet journals, blank calendars. I leave that first page blank on all of them and start on the second one. I’m not sure if it’s a fear of imperfection or just of starting, but there’s just a little less pressure after I flip past the first page.

I suppose I’ve avoided a blog because there isn’t a way to avoid that on-screen. I just have to start and hope that I don’t later feel compelled to come back and slide some kind of explanation in front: “What you’re about to read is a bunch of drivel and my apologies in advance.”

But if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that good stuff happens when you commit to taking leaps. I suspect that anyone reading this post is likely to already know a good bit about me—which is probably true of most First Blog Posts—but here’s my quick introduction anyway:

I’m the 30-something owner of Mallory Herrmann Editorial Services LLC. I live in the Kansas City area with my sweet husband of nearly four months and our (mostly sweet) cat Hot Dog. I’m a lifelong reader and writer with a knack for finding subject-verb disagreement and an insistence on using the Oxford comma. I’ve been writing and helping writers for a decade, and I made the leap into full-time self-employment earlier this year. This is my first (and hopefully not last) blog.