Just Get Started

I’ve wanted to start and maintain an active blog for a while now. I’ve spent many days and evenings pondering over the theme, the purpose, the content, the layout, and the name. Some days, I’d think I was getting close to really diving in, only to hear doubtful thoughts creep in, saying, “Will anyone read this?” or “Is this a good idea?” or “I’ll start tomorrow, I’m not ready today.” All of this mental back-and-forth, I finally realized, was wasting precious time.

Although it is important to solidify your goals and figure out the details, too much idle time is counterproductive. I needed to be learning through doing and creating, not by playing it out perfectly in my head.

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A few days ago, it dawned on me how much time I’d lost by not getting started. WordPress greeted me with a “Happy 2 year anniversary!” announcement, and I couldn’t believe it had been that long. How many posts did I have now, maybe 10 and another 10 in drafts? If I had written just 1 post per week, I’d have over 100 posts by now. They might not be the greatest, but it would’ve been something more substantial than what I have now. I’ve decided not to waste any more time; I’m going to start my goal of having an active blog and start now.

No matter your goal, it’s important to just begin. You won’t be a pro at first. You’ll learn as you go and you’ll learn by doing. Sometimes, a goal can seem daunting and lofty and you’re not sure where to start – that’s how I felt with this blog. Make a list and break the larger goal down into small pieces. I recently bought a planner that says on the front cover, “Dream Big, Start Small.” What great advice!

Sometimes, when I’m feeling discouraged and as though my goals are out of reach, I look at where other people started to help me refocus. I’ll scroll through the profiles of my favorite Instagram accounts: The ones with 100,000 followers and perfect, well-edited pictures. Usually, there’s a beginning at some point, and sometimes it surprises me when I see those old, grainy, average photos begin to appear on the feed.

Remember, everyone has to start somewhere, but the key word is start. 

Stream Your Music: A Review of Pandora Plus

It is often tempting to start (or continue adding to) a tangible music collection. There is definitely nostalgia and enjoyment that comes with browsing a record store or CD department in search of an old classic or a new favorite. All too often, though, “physical” music collections take up valuable shelf space in the home and don’t get their fair share of use. Additionally, the existence of a CD uses many resources (plastic for packaging, ink for printing, and fuel for shipping).

Streaming music, rather than purchasing physical copies, is better for a minimalist and sustainable lifestyle, and luckily there are many quality streaming services available.

A few months ago, I subscribed to Pandora Plus for $4.99 a month. I was drawn to Pandora Plus primarily for the “offline” feature, meaning you can stream a few of your favorite stations without using cell phone data. How exciting! For me, this was perfect, especially for the gym and driving on country roads. I wanted my music variety everywhere but I couldn’t keep using my wireless data plan.

 

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A screenshot of the Pandora Plus Offline Mode.

The offline music quality is very good; I’ve experienced minimal skips and interruptions. On my phone, there are only four to five stations available at any given time; four are your most-listened-to stations, and the other is your “Thumbprint” radio, a collection of music you’ve thumbed up (is it thumbed up? Or thumbsed up?). This could be because of the amount of storage space on my phone, though. I’ve also noticed that each station loops about 20-30 songs, so once you’ve listened to (or skipped through) every song, the station goes back to the beginning of the queue. This is not ideal, but with four other stations to choose from, you still have quite a bit of variety. (Important to note: the next time your device is connected to WiFi and Pandora is running, the offline stations will “re-sync” and a new playlist of songs will be added to your offline lineup.)

The online listening perks include less advertisements and more skips, both of which I have been pleased with. Overall, I enjoy my subscription to Pandora Plus and would recommend the service to anyone looking for an affordable way to enjoy new music on-the-go, especially in places without WiFi or cell phone reception.

Which streaming services do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

How Instagram Helped My Anxiety

I’ve read many articles about social media’s destructive effects on mental wellbeing. Social media does indeed have the capacity to foster negativity, unnecessary comparison, and feelings of inadequacy. But what if we focused on the beautiful things social media does? That’s what I try to do, and it’s changed my life.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. I constantly needed something to worry about. I could recognize that most of my worries were irrational “what-if?” scenarios, but that didn’t keep them from playing over and over in my mind.

I couldn’t break the cycle of worry, fear, and sadness; it was taking over my life. And then, I discovered Instagram.

winterI first started on Instagram by following popular accounts that I found beautiful. The colors, the places, the stories; I loved it all. Scrolling through my feed of positive messages took my mind off my worries and gave me a much-needed break from my constant anxiety. I realize this is the double-edged sword of social media: its ability to distract from real life can be destructive, but in my opinion, it can also be a reprieve, a chance for mental clarity, and a launching point to realizing personal goals.

As I started discovering more accounts and more people, I was impressed, impassioned, and comforted by the sheer beauty of the world. Social media is an amazing way to connect with different people, ideas, thoughts, and cultures. I was introduced to farmers, world travelers, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, models, moms, interior designers… the list goes on.

My favorite accounts all had two components in common: passion and creativity. Each person was sharing his or her enthusiasm with the rest of the world. The moms share the journeys of their children, the artists are painting and photographing, the activists are working for change, the world travelers are exploring.

The passion of others directly fueled the passion inside me. What was my contribution? What would my space say about me? How could I inspire others and continue this positive trend that had helped me so much? I immediately reflected inward. In the wake of my anxiety, I had lost who I was. I lost what made me feel alive. I forgot I had a creative story to share. I believe that anxiety is energy being allocated to the wrong place. Instead of hiding away in fear and worry, I turned that energy into action.

Social media, I’ve learned, must be utilized only as a celebration of a life well lived. It cannot be enjoyed as life itself, because it isn’t life. Allow social media to inspire, educate, and connect you. Follow only the accounts that speak to you in a positive way. Don’t allow the achievements of others make you question your worth or importance, for you have a story and a passion that only you can share. What will it be?

Eco-Friendly at the Office

Hi everyone,

I looked around my desk today and it dawned on me to write about sustainability at work. For those of you who work an office job, there are several ways to take your “green” efforts with you to work.

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My sister’s adorable desk at school. (I love the gold accents!)

Carpool (or Work From Home)
When I worked in my company’s corporate office, I was fortunate enough to be able to carpool with my husband every day. He worked about 15 minutes away from my office and our schedules lined up, which was great. The commute is much more fun when you have someone to share it with. (Your carpool partner, though, also has to be someone you’re truly comfortable with, because some mornings, you’ll be tired and not feel like talking!)

When my position transitioned into a work-from-home opportunity, I was glad to be able to further cut my carbon emissions.

Use Double-Sided Printing
If your boss is OK with it, print all documents double-sided. I do this when I assemble lengthy meeting materials. The clients love it because it cuts down on the amount of paper they are receiving, it saves paper (which saves resources and money), and also makes the document lighter. It’s a win-win-win.

Reuse Materials
Three-ring binders, binding combs, numbered section dividers, plastic report covers, page tab markers, boxes for shipping: these can all be reused. For one particular project, I assembled materials for a mock trial at work using our comb binding machine. After the trial, all participants were required to return the materials for proper destruction. The report covers, section dividers, and combs were free of confidential information and were barely used. I saved what I could and destroyed the confidential material. Now we have 25 sets of covers and combs that can be reused for another project.

Add Some Green to your Email Signature
My email signature has a small line that says “Please consider the environment before printing this email.” If your boss is OK with this, add a similar line to your email signature.

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Recycle Old or Broken Electronics
Recycling electronics is very important. Some communities have services that recycle for free or a very small fee. My company’s outdated electronics must be wiped of confidential information, so we periodically take items to our local recycling center and ensure they are properly destroyed. Most recycling centers take printers, cell phones, batteries, fax machines, computer monitors, and much more!

Pack Lunch
Bringing lunch to work saves money and resources. Individually-packaged to-go food usually comes with an abundance of wrappers, plastic, and packaging. Plus, convenience foods are usually expensive (compared to the cost of packing) and a poor source of balanced nutrition.

Update Your Mailing Information
If it’s OK with your employer, remove your business from junk mail solicitation. Additionally, if you receive mail addressed to people no longer employed with your company, send the mail back and let the sender know of the employee’s status. Cutting down on the amount of wrongly-addressed mail and/or junk mail can considerably simplify your day.

Any other ideas for making your office greener? Share in the comments!