What I Learnt From Veering Off Track

In 2015 I graduated from my languages degree and commenced a degree in Mental Health Nursing. In the last three years I’ve explained myself a thousand times over, why I didn’t pursue languages, why the change from one career path to another, why uproot myself to a new city and start over rather than getting a job in a field I was good at. It felt like people were mystified that I was deviating from ‘the norm,’ or convinced that a nursing degree must be my last resort because I couldn’t get a job in languages. Instead of detailing all of the above, I wanted to lay down what really happens when you do something that everyone is telling you not to do and why it was the best move I could have made.

People will tell you that you’re making a mistake

I listened politely as so many people, friends, lecturers, family members were awed at my decision to do another degree as though I’d just told them I was pregnant with six babies. They tried to convince me that it was easier to carry on the road I was treading and that I could decide to do something later if I still wanted to. But that’s not how life works is it? I work on a basis where you never know what tomorrow is going to bring and putting a passion off until later just isn’t something I want to do for fear of never doing it and regretting it in years to come. Yes, it would have been ‘easier’ to find a job in languages than to pursue something new and in the current climate I would definitely have made more money doing so but money and ease does not compare to happiness.

You have to listen to other’s points of view

One thing I found very difficult when changing course was that I knew I was being extremely single-minded. I had a goal and I was going to get there so to hear others tell me that they didn’t think it was a good course of action was hard. In the end I went with my gut but I do think it’s important to hear people out when they have an opinion even if it’s one you don’t share. But definitely seek out a load of different perspectives before making a big decision, it’s good to hear from people who have different experience and knowledge to you as much as it is to hear from those who have a similar background.

You will learn what you really want 

I think humans spend a lot of time convincing themselves that their current position makes them happy, that they would rather stay where they are then entertain the possibility of success because their anxieties focus on the negatives. What if I don’t succeed? What if I fail and everyone knows about it? What if I take the risk and then realise that it isn’t for me?

But what if you do succeed? What if the risk you’ve taken pays off and it’s everything you’ve dreamed of? Changing the course of your life is something that only you have the power to do. For me, the fear of regret further down the line is a much bigger driving force these days than the anxiety of failure.

The ability to assess your own position and to change that is a privilege so by not doing it, you’re doing yourself a disservice. However tiny the change is, it might just make your life a million times better, that’s not something I’d want to leave to chance.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever changed track or done the ‘unexpected.’ I’d love to hear your stories!

Rachel x-x-x

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The Death of Original Ideas

I recently sat down to plan a novel. After my somewhat successful month of NaNoWriMo, I really wanted to push myself past the 20,000 words I’d already written and write something brand new. I already had a couple of plot ideas floating around in my head and so I started to plan. But barely a few minutes in, I hit a brick wall. Everything I was writing down felt too familiar.

I’d fallen into the trap, that creative black hole of ‘it’s all been done before.’ And I finished my very short period of planning feeling deflated, incompetent and honestly, just really boring. Was it really true that I didn’t have an original idea?

I sat with this for a few days. I felt at a complete loss and it bled into other areas for a while. Why blog if all the posts have been written before? Why contemplate a blog newsletter when the internet is already saturated with them? Why do anything when everything has already been done?

The dawn of technology has been both hugely inspiring and soul-destroying for creativity. It has allowed humanity to do things we could never have dreamed of, whilst also forcing original thought into a thing of the past. Not only that, but we’re constantly confronted with what those have done before us. All those missed opportunities, the ‘if only I’d done that sooner,’ or ‘why didn’t I think of that?’

But on reflection, I’ve realised that I’ve been looking at this all wrong. It’s not that I don’t have any original ideas. I have loads. They’re just all big ones. They’re risky. Ones that would take time, effort and a leap of faith.

It’s not my lack of originality that’s holding me back. It’s my fear of failure, it’s a worry that I can’t do these things, so it’s easy to stay in my comfort zone and continue plodding along. Whether that’s creatively, career wise or my personal life, I have to step outside of the safe area and walk head first into the part of my brain that’s brimming with weird and wonderful ideas.

It isn’t that technology has meant that original ideas have died, it isn’t that any of us are lacking the ability to produce them, it’s something within us that is struggling to break that mindset. And it’s time to fix that.

Rachel x-x-x

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Unproductive Habits You Need To Quit

Do you ever feel like you’re doing everything you can and still not getting things done? I know I do. And I also know that a lot of the time it’s due to having some unproductive habits that I continue to let happen time and time again.

Here are 4 unproductive habits that you need to break right now!

Not Taking Breaks

It feels great when you get loads of stuff done all at once. You’ve ticked everything off your to-do list is finished, the chores are done and you’re just about to start on the next project when you realise you’re absolutely exhausted. So you lie down on the sofa for the next three days and can’t get anything done.

Hello burnout.

Life is about balance and when you don’t take proper breaks, it leads to burnout. Whilst it can seem tempting to work really hard all the time so that everything gets done, it never really works like that, does it? Because there’s always something else you can be doing. Even if everything on your list is done, if you’re like me, you’ll draft up a new list or you’ve already got a list in your head of long-term projects you can be doing at any time.

Take breaks whether it’s half an hour or two days of doing nothing and you’ll find that you can be a lot more productive and more consistent with your productivity.

Not Prioritising Sleep

You know that saying “Sleep is for the weak”? That’s a lie. Sleep is wonderful and without it, you’ll be extremely unproductive and likely dead within eleven days.

Sleep should be a priority. Your body knows what you need. Some people can cope on five hours a night, others need much more so there isn’t a one size fits all. If you don’t get enough sleep, your memory will be worse, your focus will be non-existent and you probably won’t be all that pleasant to be around. Get into a bedtime routine that allows you to wind down (away from a screen!) before you get into bed and you’ll feel so much more ready to take on the day when you wake up.

Looking for Instant Gratification

The world we live in thrives on instant gratification and your brain is really good at conning you into thinking you’ve been productive when you really haven’t. I often find myself confused as to why I’ve ticked so many things off my to-do list yet still don’t seem to have made any headway. It’s usually because I do the easy tasks first. I’ll make a dentist appointment, wash up and send emails long before I’ll ever make a start on that looming essay.

Ticking things off feels great but if you’re not prioritising your to-do list by urgency it might mean you end up leaving things until last minute even when you’re constantly busy.

Comparing Yourself To Others

I left this until last because YOU NEED TO STOP DOING THIS, OKAY? We all do it and it’s so harmful for our wellbeing because it makes you feel like you don’t have an ounce of anything exciting or good about you and you start wishing you were as good as someone else, which you don’t want because you’re fabulous just the way you are.

It also makes you extremely unproductive, because nothing you produce will be as good as what another person would, right? WRONG. People are different, find your strengths and work to them, not someone else’s.

Rachel x-x-x

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How To Do Everything

“I don’t have time.”

I seem to mutter this to myself on a daily basis. I’m not talking about the millennial motto of ‘I’m just so busy’ (That’s a post for another day), but rather having so many interests and goals on the regular that you just don’t know how to fit them all in.

One part of my personality that I love is how driven I am. I’m motivated and I work hard but I also hold myself to a really high standard that isn’t always achievable. My daily to do list doesn’t just have tasks but also a daily habit tracker to make sure that I practice keyboard, ukulele and guitar, read, write, exercise, practice yoga and journal every day. On top of uni work and blogging it can all get a little overwhelming. Add in all the future projects that I want to plan for, and the 5 year plan that I’m trying very hard not to stick quite to rigidly too (yes, people do actually have these), I feel like life is currently a tick box exercise of to-do lists.

I am a person who very much wants to do everything that I ever contemplate doing in my mind. And it turns out that you can’t actually do everything because that’s not sustainable and you become exhausted, over-reliant and coffee and don’t sleep.

So here are a few ways you can feel like you’re doing everything and also get some very much needed me-time too.

Cut your list down

Chances are your massive list is just too long. At one point my daily to-do list included 15 habits I wanted to keep up with. It was just too much so I cut the list down by half and now it’s way more manageable. I wrote about using a habit tracker here so you can see what my list looks like now.

Change your ‘Ands’ to ‘Ors’

One big problem I had with having lots of things to do on my list was that I just didn’t want to do each of them every day. Instead of feeling like I needed to practice guitar, keyboard and ukulele each day, I just felt overwhelmed. Now I try to do one these a day: guitar OR keyboard OR ukulele. All is just far too much.

Schedule your relaxation time

If I don’t schedule time to relax, it doesn’t happen. It might seem a bit sterile having a box to tick on my to-do list that says relax but if that’s what helps to remind you then that’s fine.

Don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong

Most of my friends seem not to understand when I say that I like to come home and write or practice guitar or workout. They like to go home and relax but I’ve realised that’s just not how I’m wired and I much prefer to use my time productively. I used to think I was the weird one in this scenario, that I should want to come home and watch television and not think about anything important until the next day, but I’ve since learned that no one is the weird one here. It’s totally okay to come home and want to do a load more of productive activities just as it’s okay not to want to.

Don’t beat yourself up

Finally, and this is the one I struggle with most, don’t feel bad for not doing everything. You don’t have to productive every second of the day. Some days you’ll be able to manage more than other days. There’s no secret formula to getting everything done but organisation goes a long way.

Rachel x-x-x

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Making It Count

The usual panic washes over me as I set my alarm for the following morning. “Did I make today count?”

The paradox of ‘just be’ juxtaposed with ‘live life to the full’ constantly makes my head hurt. We’re supposed to be mindful these days, accept the world as it is, thrive in the idea that there is no meaning of life, allowing us to create our own.

Yet at the same time we are fed a line that we must thrive. We must be successful, told that we were ‘made for more than this,’ constantly reading newspaper articles telling us that millennials aren’t working as hard as their parents, not achieving as much, as though we can’t see that for ourselves?

I feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions by a million different versions of myself. I want to be present, to enjoy every second and allow life to slow down so I can see it all. But simultaneously, I feel that I could be using my downtime so much more productively, to push boundaries and reach my personal goals.

I’m not saying that it’s necessary to choose one over the other. Both are possible but sometimes finding that balance feels unattainable. The moment you stop worrying about whether you’re living life to the full is the moment you’re doing it. Now it’s just a case of getting there.

Rachel x-x-x

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