What Can We Learn From Catherine the Great?

In the last few years, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, has become a popular historical figure with the 2019 miniseries Catherine the Great as well as the 2020 Hulu series The Great. I recently watched The Great, which is a satirical retelling of the rise of Catherine the Great. Soon after I started, I had to google her, as you do. I found that the story told by the show was vastly different than the actual story of the rise of Catherine the Great. This made me wonder, who was Catherine, and what was her story?

Empress Catherine II was born Princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst in 1729 in the Kingdom of Prussia. While she did have the title of princess, her family was not very wealthy. Because of this, her mother groomed her from a very young age to marry into a powerful family. And boy did she. At the age of 10, Catherine was introduced to Peter III, who was in line to become Emperor of Russia. Upon meeting, Catherine states in her memoirs that she disdained Peter for his raucous habits. This did not stop them from marrying, though Catherine’s mother almost ruined the betrothment. At 16, Catherine married Peter, who was 17, in 1745. The two had a tumultuous marriage, wherein both took multiple lovers. Catherine would bare four children, two boys, and two girls. Her daughter Anna would die very young and her other daughter Elizabeth was not acknowledged by Catherine. In her memoirs, Catherine would make statements regarding the fathers of the children, alluding to Peter not being the father of any of her children.

It would not be until 1762 that Catherine would throw a bloodless coup against her husband, taking the throne as Empress of Russia. Shortly after this, Peter died mysteriously under unknown circumstances, though there are of course rumors. She reigned from 1762 to 1796 where she died from what is presumed to be natural causes though some think she may have been assassinated. Catherine’s rule is considered to be a golden age in Russian history and still has a lasting effect on Russian society to this day.
For each notable person, I believe there are lessons to be learned from them. What are the lessons we can learn from Catherine the Great?

-Ambition and Self-Discipline

While Catherine was a princess, her family did not have much in the ways of financial means. This meant that Catherine’s mother, Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp, raised and groomed her daughter to have a high level of ambition. Accounts say that Catherine’s mother was cold and abusive as well as obsessed with gaining fame and fortune from her daughter.

From a young age, Catherine was set to betroth Peter III of Russia, in line to the throne. While Catherine despised Peter from the moment she met him, she worked diligently to become the person she would later evolve into. She studied Russian daily, including waking in the middle of the night to review her Russian lessons. On top of learning Russian, she worked hard to integrate herself into the court and to adopt Russian culture.

Her planned marriage to Peter was almost ruined by her mother. Johanna’s behavior caused the Empress at the time, Empress Elizabeth who was Peter III’s aunt, to ban her from the court. While this could have ruined Catherine’s chances of marrying into power, Empress Elizabeth had taken a great liking to Catherine. All of Catherine’s work trying to become a true Russian had paid off and the marriage was allowed.

From a young age, Catherine was taught to be ambitious and she developed strong self-discipline when it came to her goals. Holding fast onto her goals, she worked behind the scenes for many years until she was able to become Catherine the Great. Being able to hold onto your goals and continuously work on them is a skill that anyone who wants to accomplish great things in their life will need. Keep in mind what you want and why you want it to remind yourself regularly of what you are striving for.

-Networking

Most that have heard of Catherine the great have also probably heard the rumor that was spread during her time in Russia. While there were probably many rumors, the most prevailing through history involved Catherine and her “love” of horses. Though she may not have been popular with the royal court or her husband, Catherine worked to gain a trusted network of confidants and acquaintances that would aid her in her coup against her husband. As stated in the previous lesson, Catherine worked hard to integrate herself into the Russian people.

She regularly communicated with great philosophers, artists, and political leaders. This would help her in her ascension to the throne. As empress consort, she worked hard to cultivate a network of coconspirators and supporters.

While networking isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do, it is an invaluable skill and practice. Networking opens many opportunities and opens your net to collaborators. Take the time to do a bit of hob-knobbing and schmoozing to see what great benefits can come from it.

-Education and Reading

One of Catherine’s goals was to spread art and literature throughout Russia. While Empress, Catherine had the Hermitage built, which held upwards of 38,000 books. She was known to read three types of books, those for education, philosophy, and pleasure. She was also known to be an avid writer and patron of the arts. As a follower of Western education and philosophy, Catherine worked from the beginning of her reign as Empress Consort to Empress to educate the Russian people.

Catherine even tried to put together a public-school system. She endeavored to educate many of Russia’s children, including young girls. This resulted in a less than successful program but was a start to bringing the Russian people forward in terms of education.

Much of Catharine’s ambition for greatness was aided by her strong desire for knowledge and education. Much of her life she was an avid reader and lover of philosophy which helped shape her ideas. Everyone can benefit from the constant self-improvement that comes from reading. Even reading fiction can result in a better understanding of oneself. Learning more about yourself and the world will help in your goals of pursuing greatness.

-Pettiness

Much of Catherine’s story is told through her memoirs as she was an avid writer. Though while I was reading up on Catherine, a common sentiment was that a piece of information could not be verified due to the fact that it comes from her memoirs. Essentially, she’s not trusted as an entirely reliable narrator.

The paternity of her children is under question due to the fact she openly questioned the paternity of the kids in her memoirs, claiming some of her lovers were the fathers of her kids. Historians though call in to question her claims of paternity. Much of the information about their marriage and Peter himself also comes from her memoirs, much of which are very negative towards Peter and paint Catherine in a much better light. While this very well may be true and corroborated by other accounts, it paints Catherine as an unreliable storyteller who writes with pettiness and spite.

Whenever someone is known for pettiness or being spiteful, it can change the way we perceive what they are telling us. It’s not only a negative trait to harbor within yourself, it bleeds into people’s trust of you along with your story. This exaggeration of trivial matters can be the cause of deterioration in relationships and collaborations.

-Practice What You Preach

While Catherine was someone who worked to forward the Russian people and culture with progressive ideals of freedom and education, it wasn’t something that extended to all Russian people. Most of her policies seem to have affected the upper classes of Russia while doing very little for the serfs that were still a part of the Russian class system. A serf was someone who could by force or necessity fall into serfdom, where they worked in agriculture while being owned under their lord’s estate.
Catherine herself owned approximately 500,000 serfs, with 2.8 million serfs owned by the Russian State. Under Catherine’s rule, serfs did not benefit from many of her progressive policies, including education.

Her viewpoints on philosophy did not seem to match up with her treatment of all Russians. Instead, her viewpoints only seemed to benefit those that were like her and her court. From my readings, it did not appear that Catherine thought much of assisting the serfs in bettering their lives.

While we all may unintentionally “do as I say, not as I do”, being aware of how your actions and words match up can make you more trustworthy and genuine. It works the same way as with pettiness and spitefulness. If you do not practice what you preach, others will not trust what you do and say.

It can also keep you aware of what you are working towards and why. If you find that what you say is not matching up with your actions, a review of why you are doing these things may be in order.

No historical figure is perfect. Even the greats have their flaws and negative traits. We can all learn though, from their stories and their accomplishments.

I hope this was a fun, interesting article for you to read. Please let me know if I got a fact wrong or if you know some more historical tidbits about Catherine the Great. Also, let me know if there is anyone you would like to see a post about.

Seven Things to Prep the Night Before for Successful Mornings

Breakfast and Coffee

This is probably the easiest thing you can start with for prepping yourself for a great day. Having your coffee and your breakfast ready to go within minutes helps speed your morning along. Currently, I’ve been enjoying overnight oats with protein powder and a bit of hot cocoa mix. With my coffee, it’s usually some sort of iced latte made with cold brew that we make every week. There are so many breakfasts that you can prep ahead of time and the recipes are so easy to find. If making your coffee is part of a morning ritual for you, keep on doing that! For me, it’s not much of a ritual and I like to be able to just grab my coffee and get to it. Cold brew doesn’t have to be cold either, it can be heated to give the warmth of a nice cup of joe. If cold brew doesn’t do it for you though and you still want something to help out your mornings, a programmable coffee pot might be your next best option.

All Your Outfits

This is another one that many people do but you can take it a step further and prep all your outfits for the day. Laying out your workout clothes, work clothes, after work clothes, can eliminate time spent looking for these outfits. Having an outfit ready to go for you the minute you come home can help you relax and jump into whatever activity you have next or get rid of an excuse to not go to the gym. It can also help if you are working or studying from home. Having a work outfit, you can change into instead of staying in your sweats all day can help put you into the right mindset to start getting work done.

Lunch and Snacks

Usually, I would prep my lunches at the beginning of the week but I understand that it’s not for everyone. Another thing you can do is when you make supper, make a bit extra so that when you are cleaning up you have some food to pack up for your lunch tomorrow. Gather whatever snacks you would like as well with your lunch items so that when you go to grab your lunch in the morning everything is right where it needs to be and you aren’t searching around for something to eat. This has saved me many a morning by preventing me from panicking while scrounging the kitchen. This is another habit along with setting out gym clothes, that can help cultivate healthy living habits.

Out-the-Door Items

These are things like keys, sunglasses, umbrella, wallet, phone charger, you name it. The items we generally need but often forget. A great solution for this would be to have a dish or basket where you keep these things. Essentially a station for when you need to head out the door, everything you could want would be there. Put your bag there so that you can easily grab it on your way out the door. Many of us spend way too many mornings crazed because we can’t find our keys or get to work only to realize our phone charger is still plugged in at home. Make a habit of placing these items in their new home the night before and you’ll be less like to forget these important items.

Daily To-Do

Make your daily to-do list the night before so that you aren’t trying to remember everything you need to do that day, that very day. Often, we have more clarity on what we need to get done tomorrow. And while things do come up that may change our plans, it is still smart to make a list the day before to keep your mind clutter-free the next morning. Simply review your list the next morning, add anything new then or throughout the day and you are good to go. I find that unless I have plan to have the extra time in the morning to make my list, I prefer to make it the day before so that I can simply start reviewing it right away in the morning and get to work.

Podcasts/Audiobooks/Playlists

This might sound small and insignificant but I find that I end up wasting more time than I ever intended looking for something to listen to. And sometimes, I even end up so distracted that I end up on another app altogether, not even looking for something to listen to anymore. I like to make sure I have something ready to go before my morning commute or workout the next day. Any time you would spend listening to something you should plan and make a playlist of the things you want to hear. It will also prevent you from looking at your phone while driving.

Gym Bag/Workout Clothes

If you go to the gym to workout, you’ll want to make sure that your gym bag is packed with everything you need. Many times, I’ve gotten to the gym and didn’t have my pass, so I need to manually check in, throwing me off and frustrating me. Or I get into the locker room and realize I’m missing workout pants, so I just decide not to workout at all. Make sure you have everything in your bag the night before to make your workout smooth and easy. If you leave packing your gym bag until the morning, you’re more likely to forget or just flat out say forget it. By making sure it’s ready to go you make it that much easier for you to hit the gym the next day.

Let me know if you have anything you like to prep the night before. I love hearing new suggestions and others would as well! I hope these tips were helpful in starting your morning out right.

Five Meditative Hobbies To Improve Mental Health

As I’ve personally delved into building a daily meditation habit recently, I’ve been thinking of all the other ways I’ve tried or have found myself meditating. Or more like, in a meditative state. I’ve noticed that I’ve felt this feeling doing other things throughout my life and know people who have experienced that same feeling doing other activities. If you find yourself having a hard time meditation while sitting still and quieting your thoughts, you might find trying these activities will help activate that sensation for you. You don’t have to sit in silence in order to experience the beneficial effects of meditation. Here is a quick list of meditative activities and hobbies.

1.Playing or Listening to Music
I played various instruments growing up, piano, guitar, flute, xylophone. It wasn’t until I got older and tried meditating that I noticed the same feeling was happening while I was playing music. Now this feeling usually didn’t occur when I was actively learning or practicing a song, but once I had learned it, there was a sense of peace that would happen when playing a song. My brain would go silent and I would just hear the music in my head and feel my fingers moving effortlessly. I’ve found this feeling while listening to music, but often times than not, just listening to music and not participating in it, doesn’t always produce the same effect. Though for many people, this is a form of meditation for them and they don’t even know it. Try picking up an instrument, or relearning one that you used to know. Listen to some of your favorite music or loose yourself in something new. Not only is it a good outlet for a hobby but over time you’ll find it soothing and relaxing to sit and play.


2.Painting or Drawing
While I have never experienced this feeling while drawing, many people do. My significant other included. He’s mentioned that when he was sketching regularly, how it was a relaxing hobby, to sit outside and sketch a dirt road or an old farmhouse. For many people this is a hobby where they find their mind shuts off and they can just create. This is another great outlet for creativity by drawing, painting, sketching, doodling, or whatever it is might be. All you need is a writing utensil and some paper. If you’re like me and you get frustrated easily while drawing, take it as another meditative opportunity to process those feelings, recognize them and let them pass. Nothing has to be perfect, just relaxing and calming.


3.Knitting, Crocheting, Embroidery, Etc.
I personally love to knit and crochet, though I usually do it while watching TV or videos. It calms a part of my brain that would otherwise become distracted from what I was watching/listening to. For some, it can be very meditative to be able to sit and have the rhythmic movement of their hands take them to a meditative state. Same with embroidery. While I have never embroidered myself and am currently waiting on a beginner kit, I absolutely love watching embroidery videos. There is something mesmerizing and relaxing about it. Finding a simple project to start you off is a great place to begin. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do really well. Just put your creativity forth and create as you see fit.

4.Baking and Cooking
I see with individuals like my significant other and my grandmother, who both enjoy cooking and baking, that it is almost meditative Especially when it’s a recipe they’ve done a hundred times. I’ve experienced a meditative state while cooking as well, where I forget that I’m cooking and find that I am fully engulfed in what I’m doing. With cooking, you’ll become focused on watching the food you’re cooking for changes, or how the bread feels under your hands, that you may enter this calm state. Many people love to cook and bake, and it’s no wonder if this is part of the activity. It can be incorporated with mindfulness meditation, where you feel the texture of the food, take time to smell the spices as they cook, and create a dish that is beautiful to look at. Leave the pressure of creating something masterful and create something you will truly enjoy.

5.Movement
When I thought of this one, I thought of yoga and kundalini yoga. When I was in high school, I got my hands on some kundalini yoga DVDs. They soon became my favorite thing with the upbeat music, bright colors and rhythmic breathing exercises. But really, this movement can be anything, running, dancing, gardening, walking. There are so many activities that you can use to help you reach a meditative state. I believe this is why so many people love yoga, because it not only feels great physically but mentally as well. Kundalini yoga involves repetitive movement, focused breathing and chanting that induce a meditative state while building stamina and endurance. Try them all out if you can, find one that works best for you. You’ll not only work your cardiovascular system but also your mind, both in positive ways.

I hope this list sparked a bit of creativity for you. What sort of meditative activities do you like to do? Maybe you hadn’t thought of meditation in that way before. Sometimes meditation either doesn’t suit us or won’t suit us until we can experience the same state through other activities. I hope you enjoyed this list and go forth and try out some of these hobbies and activities.

Skills to Build While in Quarantine

During quarantine, many of us are going through a whirlwind of emotions, including boredom and the loss of purpose. For those that are laid off, feeling stagnant due to current work from home conditions, and those that were forced to leave their jobs due to unsafe work environments, now is the best time to take advantage of and up your game for when the job market opens back up. It’s also a time to develop skills that are not only useful but will help you out for a lifetime. This list isn’t comprehensive, but the way I see it, these are some of the most important in my opinion. A long list is fun to read, but not always easy to execute. Here are my picks for skills to learn while quarantined.

-Coding

This is the hottest skill for new and old hires right now. So many jobs are starting to need some skill in coding. If your field does not require it, it still looks great on a resume, showing your resourcefulness, that you work to continue learning and it can make you look accomplished. There are so many free or low-cost options to learning to code out there. I myself have dabbled in coding and would love to expand on my base during this time. Some of you out there might think, “I’m not smart enough to learn how to code”. But that’s far from the truth! Learning code is a skill like learning how to juggle. It may be tougher for us non-analytic types, but it’s still possible. Find materials that suite you and be easy on yourself. I highly recommend you give this a shot.

-Graphic Design

Maybe coding just doesn’t interest you but you’d still love to break into tech. Graphic design is a good place to start then. Like coding, there are tons of classes, books and tutorials out there to learn the basics of graphic design. You can also play and experiment in order to learn. There are many different avenues for you to go down such as user interface design, 3D modeling, online illustration, video graphics. Even if you don’t feel like you are artistically inclined, go for it! Like coding, it is a skill that must be built up. Most people can’t do a handstand right away, you need the muscle, balance, and coordination to do one. But you can work on these and eventually you will be able to do a handstand. The same is with tech.

-Baking and Cooking

Everyone should learn to cook to some degree at some point in their lives. I’m not saying you have to learn to make some complicated French dish or bake some intricate desert. Learning the basics is the first thing. From there, a whole world of possibilities opens up. You can cook dishes as complicated or simple as you like. Maybe you enjoy bread baking over all other types of baking and cooking, or you take a liking to recreating Japanese dishes you see online. The best cooking skill to learn right now, is to learn how to make delicious dishes with whatever you have lying around. It’ll give you the confidence you need to continue growing and learning to cook and bake. Whatever you find most interesting, try and build up your cooking skills while cooped up.

-Writing and Reading

Writing and reading aren’t for everyone, but they are important skills to every aspect of life in my opinion. Being able to write a grammatically correct and concise email is invaluable. Being able to put your words down on paper so they make sense when you read them back later is an amazing feeling. Something as simple as writing in a journal every day, whether you write out your feelings, take notes on your day, or use writing prompts, are great ways to start. I believe it’s a great skill to start working on and developing. There are so many parts of life that call for an ability to write. Reading, which I believe goes hand in hand with writing, is also invaluable. You can learn so much about yourself, others and the world, just by reading a couple books a year.  Look for books online, try everything if you just can’t seem to decide on something. Take five to ten minutes out of your day to read something and write something. Starting off with five to ten minutes allows you to not feel bogged down by the task, and permits you to continue on if you please.

-Investing and Budgeting

Learning to budget your money or keep track of your accounts will give you a great picture of your spending habits and your future that you may not have already thought about. There are free courses, books, and videos on the topic and are usually pretty accessible. Finding a budgeting system that works for you is part of the whole learning process. There are apps as well that track money, goals and teach you about spending all at the same time. But maybe you want to learn a bit more than just basic budgeting. For some, delving into the world of investing could not only help them in their life but also in their future. Finding courses on investing may be the best next step if you’re looking to go beyond budgeting. There are also apps and courses that are available online for you to take part in, all about investing for beginners.

-Foreign Language

This is another skill that looks great on a resume, adding a huge boost to your hireability depending on the language. And again, there are so many resources out there for you to use! Off and on since high school, I’ve tried learning German. I still remember a few words here and there, but I’ve always wanted to make it a true skill of mine. Finding music and tv shows to watch has been so much easier than it was when I was sixteen. Finding books, courses or apps online and jumping into a new language is great during this time. Immerse yourself if you can and put yourself through a language bootcamp. Or if you are living with someone, make it a group activity. Either way, take this time to start developing this new skill that you can easily take into the future.

-Crafty Skills

This is more a set of skills. Learning what I would call “crafty skills”, can be useful through out your life, much like cooking and baking. Repairing a rip in your favorite pair of pants, making some cheap durable dishcloths, canning your own salsa, theses are just a few of the things you could learn right now. How to install a light fixture, make candles or sew up a last-minute outfit are skills our parents and grandparents learned and now is a great time for you to learn as well. Search the internet for tutorials (again, lots out there), or call up those that have done these things for years and get your own personal lesson from family and friends.

I hope this list was helpful and got you thinking about developing some practical skills during this time. It’s also a great reminder of all the resources we have available at our fingertips. Utilize them to the best of your ability right now and learn as much as you can!

Stay healthy and stay safe.

Four Big Tips for Students During Quarantine

Many students were recently thrust into online classes due to the pandemic. And as someone who lives with a professor, I can you tell it’s not only disorienting for students, but also for your professors. Everyone’s trying to get their balance during these uncertain times. For some, at the time of this post, your semester is almost over. But for some, summer semester is right around the corner, which for many, will also be online. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered that will be huge for helping you stay centered and focused on your studies during this time.

-Schedule Your time

This is really important. Many of us don’t realize how much our daily routine rules our lives. For myself, without a routine, time slips away from me and I can spend hours on things that I shouldn’t be focused on. Without the regular schedule of getting up and going to work or class, we start to lose that internal clock and external pressure to get things done. Think of setting a schedule as setting meetings or dates with yourself. Obviously, some of you will have live video classes still, but some will have recorded lectures. Make a scheduled time to listen to these, like you would if you were attending an in-person class. Keeping a regular schedule will help you keep on top of all the things you have to do, especially when there isn’t the external pressure pushing you forward anymore. Remember to not be too hard on yourself, but try and keep yourself accountable for your classes and duties.

-Stay In Contact with Your Professors

This is more helpful now than ever. There are fewer opportunities to see your professor and ask questions. Sometimes online classes don’t offer the opportunity to get an immediate answer to your question. Email or schedule a time to video chat with your professor. This can help keep you oriented to the material, even if you can’t see the professor or visit them during regular class/office hours. Often times, the style of a video lecture or recorded lecture doesn’t provide the same context and information as an in-person lecture would, so it’s only going to help for you to shoot off an email to your professor asking any questions you may have. It also shows your interest in the course and materials. Showing interest is especially important for courses that are within your area of study. Taking this time to build a rapport with your professor could lead to a teaching assistant position, research position or letter of recommendation in the future.

-Seek Out Additional Info

Like I said in the previous tip, sometimes online lectures have less context than an in-person lecture. To make up for possible knowledge gaps during this transition process, seek out additional information. Ask your professor for more materials on the current topic, look for literature on the topic, or just do some general googling. Exploring on your own will enhance the material for you, making it easier for you to not only understand but remember. You could also stumble across information or a new topic area that you fall in love with and decide to pursue. There’re all sorts of media out there for whatever topic you are studying right now. Some are more esoteric than others, but with a bit of searching, you’ll be on your way to a better understanding of your study areas.

– To-Do List

Keep a big master list of all the things you need to do. Get your syllabi out or print out your new schedules from your professors and make some lists organized by class or date. Or put them on a calendar where you will see it every day. Put it in your google calendar with alerts. It’s most important now to keep on top of your course work and tests since professors aren’t reminding you in person every other day. By keeping a sorted list that you can visually see and cross off items as they are completed, you’ll be able to keep on top of everything you need to get done. Get creative and organize it by color if that helps you better visualize. Or post it next to your bed so you see it every morning and night. The main thing to remember about this tip, is being able to visualize or visually see what needs to be done and what has been done, as well as their due dates.

I hope you found these tips helpful and inspire you to think of more ways to stay on top of your studies. You can also transfer these tips to any online gigs you might have at the moment as well. Let me know below if you have any other tips or tricks that have been helping you stay productive and sane during this time.

Stay healthy and stay safe.

Staying Productive During Quarantine

I don’t know about you but I’ve been having a bit of a rough time staying productive. I know I should allow myself time to relax and do things that keep my calm, but I also know that part of some of my anxiety are all the things that are piling up that I want to get done. Maybe you are feeling similar too. So below are some of the things I plan on doing while on quarantine in order to stay productive and stay on track with my goals. Feel free to check them out and hopefully they can help you a bit too.

-Pomodoro Technique

During the pandemic, I’ve noticed it’s so easy for me to become distracted. I am currently without regular work and have been trying to find gig work. But during these last few weeks, I’ve noticed that I easily become distracted by everything. Looking for a new show on Netflix to watch, checking if anyone’s uploaded an interesting video, looking at what’s on my social media. There’s an endless supply of things to take in and it makes it hard to focus on one task at a time. I’ve decided to go back to basics and do my pomodoro technique. You can use the regular pomodoro but I really enjoy and work better if I modify it to allow longer breaks, or longer work times. This way, I know that a break is coming but for the time being I’m going to work and focus on the task at hand.

-Reduction of Consumption

Related to my reintroduction of serious “pomodoroing” into my life, is to reduce the amount that I consume. I’m not talking food, although I’ve been watching that consumption as well. What I plan on reducing is the amount of media I consume. Right now, we’re all being overloaded with movies, tv shows, podcasts, audiobooks, and videos. I’ve always been someone who needs a bit of noise in the background, mostly for tasks like cleaning or cooking. But I’ve found myself drawn to listening to videos that I’ve either seen a million times already or don’t really have a real interest in watching. These videos make it really difficult for me to concentrate. I’m also finding myself just sitting and letting TV shows and Youtube videos just play one right after another. In order to combat this, I plan on listening to different soundscapes and ambient noise while I work. I will allow myself to continue listening while cleaning the floor and cooking a meal but while I write, study, or work, I plan on providing something soothing and calming in the background. This will help free up more of my mind to the task I want to complete.

-Learning to meditate

My significant other and I have taken to learning to meditate while in quarantine. I’ve meditated in various ways in my past while he has never meditated before. It’s a great time to start if you want to learn how to train you brain. I plan on using it not only for the mental health aspects of relaxing, reduction of anxiety and stress, but also to learn how to focus for longer periods of time. You can take this back to the use of the pomodoro method with me. I have a hard time concentrating on something for long periods of time if it’s not wholly engulfing to me. If it’s something like learning a new fun hobby or playing a fun new game, I can go on for hours. Transferring that skill to other more important aspects of my life, like getting work done, has been more difficult. Currently I am using an app to help guide me back into meditation, but I hope to get back into unguided movement meditation which are my favorite.

-Having a dedicated workspace(s)

You could call me a working nomad. Whenever I have had the opportunity to work and study from home, I’ve had a hard time staying in one spot. I usually like to drift from one place to another. I just enjoy mixing it up every now and then, even if it’s in my own house. This means I’ve never really had a dedicated work place in my home, ever. I’ve always kept my stuff packed up and just moved it along with me from room to room or spot to spot. Right now, I’m taking advantage of having the extra room to set up a work spot. My significant other surprised me while I was out a couple months ago and set up a cute little office space. I plan on utilizing this so that I start to associate a productive working mindset whenever I enter it. That way, it becomes more likely that I will work on things I need to get done, and not just hang out or drift from the room to another spot.

-Movement breaks

I’ve been working out while on quarantine, but I’ve noticed that even that does not seem like it is enough. When I was working outside the home, I was occasionally getting up and going to a meeting, walking from one place to another in order to talk with colleagues or drop off paperwork, and then the movement of going to and from work. Even with exercise, I feel myself getting stagnant throughout the day. I’ve been trying to take movement breaks and plan to do more structuring to those breaks in the coming days. Things like going for a walk, doing some yoga in another room, or just getting some cleaning done between tasks have so far been tremendously helpful in keeping my mind fresh and sanity in check.

-First things first

And funny enough, the last thing I plan to do, is try and get the most important, pressing or significant tasks done right away. I’ve let myself get slide out of my usual getting important things done right away in the morning slide to a more relaxed morning. But they keep me on a somewhat unmotivated, sluggish schedule where when I finally get my day started, it’s almost starting to wind down. I plan on jumping straight into important work and tasks as well as trying to exercise right away in the morning. I used to exercise straight away in the morning, but since moving have not had the schedule or the gusto to do so. The plan is hopefully to jump back into some semblance of those habits while the opportunity for change during this time exists.

This was my list of things I plan to do in order to stay productive during quarantine. I hope that you found it helpful. What are things you plan to do or are currently doing that help you stay productive? I would love to know.

Stay healthy and stay safe.

Practical Quarantine Self-Care

These are unprecedented times. This is a phrase I’ve not only used multiple times, but have heard everywhere. Many of us have never gone through such an intensely scary and unsure time as this, and we may never again. But right now, so many of us need help trying to navigate stay at home and shelter in place orders. Our hours, days, and weeks have been and will be filled with worry, endless news cycles, and the never ending “What ifs?” and “What nows?”.

Some of us are quarantined with family or roommates, while some of us are alone. During this time, mental health will be one of the most important things, next to our physical health. In a world of aesthetic self-care and influencers showing off their lavish quarantine lifestyles, how do we regular people stay sane? I’ve compiled a list of things that my significant other and I are doing, as well as other practical ideas for taking care of yourself during this time. They’ve been helping us and hopefully they can help you and your loved ones during this time.

-No COVID/Pademic Hour(s)

We came up with this after noticing how focusing on trying to find the most recent news and rehashing what we thought of that news, was making our anxiety skyrocket. I’m not advocating for you the reader to quit the news all together and live in a bubble. Trust me, I tried this and it makes things ten times worse when something big happens. What we’ve done is decide once we start cooking supper we will stop looking at, reading, watching, or listening to any pandemic news and do this until we got to bed. Only if we see something major happens will we bring it up to the other person. For myself, I’ve found that this gives me a breather from the constant worry that is a constant in our lives now. We try and focus on something that will make us happy, even if it’s just sitting around talking.  Find a time that will work for you and your family. Maybe you’d rather spend the mornings quiet and away from COVID news.  Or have a nice quiet lunch with your kids. It’s whenever you want, however you want. Take time to breath.

-Accessible Hobbies

Finding accessible hobbies has been something I’ve focused on. What do I mean by accessible? I’m thinking of things you have lying around, things you meant to try at one time but never got around to, or things you can order online easily without putting anyone at risk. I had an electric piano from when I took piano lessons as a kid lying around, and decided to set that up. Sheet music is easy enough to find online, same with tutorials. I had yarn left over from when I was a teen and college student and I was into knitting and crocheting. I pulled those out and have started that back up again with the supplies I had available. Get creative! Maybe there’s a local plant nursery you can support and order some plants for drop off or pick up depending on your area’s current situation. Have extra notebooks lying around? Try writing poems or short stories. A sketchpad, some pens, and some free tutorials online and you can easily start drawing. Now is a great time to develop a stress relieving hobby to help pass the time.

-Learning a New Skill

Now is also a great time not only for hobbies but for skills. Some of are lucky enough to still be working, while others are sadly without work. While this is a stressful time, mentally and financially for those without work, a positive aspect one can look towards is to develop skills that can assist you after the pandemic. Not only does it show you are resourceful, but also determined. With the many free tutorials and classes that are out there, I encourage you to take a bit of time out of your day to try and learn a new skill. Excel, Access, web development, writing, graphic design, accounting and so much more are available to you online. During a time when so many people are worried and seeking hope for the future, this may be a great place to start.

-Move Any Way You Can

When everyone is cooped up at home, we all quickly become stagnant. And not only is movement good for you physically, it’s great for you state of mind. If possible, take walks outside, start running, do yoga or a bodyweight workout in your backyard. Any way you can move, do it. So many apps and exercise streaming services are offering free extended trials during this time. But obviously be safe and practice social distancing as well as all other recommendations made by health officials. Video call your friends and family and have a workout session together. Find some YouTube videos and try out a new workout. This will not only help you stay healthier during lockdown, but movement can help you clear your mind and improve your mood. Something we all need right now.

-Up Your Pantry Game

So many of us are trying to make due with what we have on hand with our meals. Utilize that pantry like you’ve never utilized it before. Try new spices, new combos or new ways of cooking. There are thousands of recipes out there for literally anything you can think of. Not only is cooking a skill that everyone should have, but it could also be a hobby you learn to love. If you live with people, cook with them, or take turns cooking something interesting for each other. Teach kids the basics of cooking. Giving them some control and autonomy during unsure times can help them feel more secure and less scared. Maybe cook with someone over video call. Try and make the same dish if possible and then take some time to have a virtual meal together.

-Disconnect or (Virtually) Connect

If you’re living with other people right now, be they family, friends or roommates, remember that it is okay for you to disconnect from them, even in the same house. Alone time is so important for those living with others, so remember to take some time by yourself. This is anything from a bath to a “super staycation”. If you can, separate yourselves from others and let them know you want to be on your own physically for X amount of time and to act as if you aren’t there during this time. For introverts like my significant other and me, this is super important. Being able to step away has been huge for our mental health. But for those that are alone right now, too much alone time can be depleting. We all need some variety in our contact with other humans. Try and connect virtually with others. Video chat, text, phone call, letters and emails. Not only will it help alleviate fears you may have for those you are disconnected from, but it will give you a sense of connection to them, even when being far away.

-Freedom To Do Nothing

And lastly, remember to give yourself the okay to do nothing. For some of us, we feel like we need to be productive all the time, and that during this time we should be working and doing more. But now more than ever, you need to be nice to yourself. If you wake up and do not have the energy to do anything other than what’s expected of you, that’s okay. Take some time to veg out, to take a nap. But please remember not to sit in this feeling. Don’t let this feeling linger for too long. If you find this feeling is persistent and difficult to shake, please try and seek professional help with a therapist, counselor or doctor who will talk to you via phone or secure video chat.  Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health right now.

I hope this list was helpful. I hope you will be able to take these ideas and use them to your advantage. I would love to hear what you and your loved ones are doing to take care of yourselves right now.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Beat Procrastination With These 5 Tips

Some articles will state that only about 20 percent of the US population procrastinates. But let’s be real, it has to be larger than that.In a day and age of instant gratification and constant mind numbing entertainment, it would be shocking to imagine that only 1/5th of the US procrastinates.  While not everyone will procrastinate to the level of some of us, everyone from time to time puts off those important tasks they know they need to get done. As a procrastinator in recovery myself, I am constantly looking for new and interesting strategies to work on my bad habits of delaying tasks and not getting important things done. It’s an ongoing process and I am constantly working to be better every single day. This is a list of things that I personally find helps me battle the big monster that is procrastination. These tips and tricks have personally helped me as I work on my bad habit of excessive procrastination so that I can get things done and accomplish more of my goals.  

  1. Figure Out the “Why”

If you look into the science of why we procrastinate, it often times is an emotional response. We are avoiding that which we do not want to do and the feelings we think it will make us feel. Every activity we avoid has some emotion and reason attached to it. It’s going to take some internal digging in order to figure out your reasons for procrastinating but once you do it’s going to help combat the desire to delay important tasks. Maybe we don’t want to go to the dentist because we’re worried the dentist will tell us our teeth are terrible, or we don’t run those boring errands because they’re, well, boring. It helps to take some time to think about the task you keep avoiding, and thinking about why you might be avoiding it. Often times we know exactly what’s preventing us. It’s boring, it’ll take so much time, it’ll stress me out. Other times, it may take a bit more digging. You don’t want to call home because you don’t want to feel bad about not being able to see your family more often, or you don’t want to go to the doctor because you’re worried that you might be given some bad news. Sometimes we are even worried about failure, that what we do won’t be perfect, so we won’t even start. Identifying the underlying reasons for avoiding these things is one of the first steps to getting yourself on track.

2. Learning to Regulate Emotions

Realizing the emotional response behind your procrastination is only one step of learning to regulate your emotions in regards to delaying important tasks. The other step, is building up the actual skill of learning to regulate your emotions. Essentially learning to embrace the suck. Part of this is recognizing your feelings, dealing with, and tolerating those bad emotions. There are many ways to build up this skill, some of which you might already practice. Journaling your emotions in general, or in regards to procrastination, can be incredibly helpful. This can help you realize the reason behind why you put things off, how to make it easier for you, and how to tolerate these emotions. Think of it like a brainstorming session, but you’ll also be getting things off your chest. Other ways may be meditation or a form of meditation,such as mindfulness. These activities, over time, can help you learn to recognize thought patterns and how to reorient yourself emotionally. Mood and emotion tracking is also a helpful way to learn to regulate your emotions. I find it helpful as it helps me stop and assess how I am doing at various points in the day. There are many apps out there that can help streamline this and even have reminders for you so you don’t have to remember on your own. Personally I like to track how I’m feeling in a notebook or a bullet journal. I work better tactically and find that writing down my emotions is a much better way of processing what’s going on with me. All of these activities can help you recognize negative emotions which can help you with the process of identifying and handling those emotions.

  1. Pomodoro Technique (Making it your own)

The pomodoro technique is a tried and true method of fighting procrastination that you’ve probably already heard of. I’m here to suggest changing it up to fit your personal productivity style. Personally, I find that the 25 minute work, 5 minute break format doesn’t exactly work for me. When I do use the pomodoro, there’s a couple of different ways I mix it up. You can make the breaks longer, instead of 5 or 10 minutes, make them equal to the amount of time that you spent on the previous work session. If you worked for 30 minutes, take a 30 minute break. I find this especially helpful for those times when I’ve fallen off the productivity train and need to slowly get my brain back into the swing of things. Usually I don’t stay in this format for long before I start working longer and taking shorter breaks. This is also dependent on the type of task you are doing. If you are studying something intense, take a longer or equal break in order to give your brain the ability to check out for a bit. Your brain will fatigue much more quickly if you don’t give it proper rest. Another thing is to mix up your breaks. If you want to be able to get more done, try mixing in household tasks like folding laundry or learning something creative like practicing drawing or guitar. By mixing it up like this, you give the more focused part of your brain a break that can help refresh you for later intense focus sessions. Experiment with the pomodoro technique until you find something you really like.

  1. Combining Passive and Active Tasks

Combining passive tasks isn’t a groundbreaking idea but when I first learned the concept I was very excited to implement it. Take tasks that do not require full attention, such as washing the dishes, cooking, folding laundry, washing the floors, and combine it with another task. Cook with your family/significant other to get some good socializing time, call a friend or listen to that audio book you’ve been putting off while you wash the floors or wash the dishes. I’m not saying to multitask though! Instead, there are tasks out there that only require so much of your focus in order to complete the task. These are the types of things you can take advantage of to get a few other things done. Not only that, but sometimes, combining things like listening to books or talking with someone while cleaning or cooking, can make the activity easier to complete and a bit more fun in the end.

  1. Creating Rituals 

You hear people say that they can’t get their day started until they have their coffee or until they have a shower. While there are many reasons these things work, one of the reasons is because it creates a bit of a habit loop. By creating an association between your coffee and getting work done, your brain will then be able to shift gears more efficiently, even to the point where some habits become automatic. The same thing happens when you get home from work. If the first thing you do is watch TV or videos online when you get home, your brain starts to associate the end of the work day with entering into relaxation or procrastination mode. Think of something you would like to do, something that will act as an enjoyable leadup to being productive. If you can do this ritual and then get to work soon after, your brain will start to associate that ritual with getting down to work. It could be going for a run, taking a cold shower, or just having a cup of coffee while watching an episode of your favorite show. As long as you follow it up with something productive, you’ll soon be associating that run or whatever with getting things done.

  1. Break it Down and Just Get Started

Another thing I find incredibly helpful is breaking tasks down into bite size chunks. It’s so helpful to write down all the things you want to have done, simply because sometimes we just forget that we have to do it. But other times a task can be overwhelming, which is why we avoid it. To reduce how oversized a goal or task might feel, breaking it down into smaller tasks will make it less intimidating. The smaller the better. If you are looking to write an essay, break it down into every imaginable step. Brainstorm 5 ideas. Pick 1 idea. Write a 10 point outline. Write for 2 hours. Writing down every task is also helpful. For me, it helps solidify in my mind what I need to do, but I also get the satisfaction of crossing every little thing off my to do list. I find that by breaking tasks down to very small pieces not only helps make a task less overwhelming but it also helps create motion. Many times, it’s as easy as getting started. Tell yourself that you’ll do just one small task from your breakdown. That’s it, just that one task. Usually you will end up doing more than just that one task. Once you get started, it’s much easier to keep going. Half the battle is always just getting the wheels turning. 

Those are my tips that I use currently to help me battle procrastination. I hope these were helpful tricks that spur you into action today. Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips and tricks for getting yourself to get things done. I’d love to hear what everyone else does to be productive.