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This summer, it seems like everyone has a lot going on; busy jobs, vacation plans, trying to get in shape, dropping the kids off at camp, and so on it goes. I've accomplished a few goals in the midst of everything; launching an Etsy shop, creating a habit of waking up earlier to get work done in the AM, and being a lot more physically active. Which is great... and has been pretty rough. I had a few weeks of feeling exhausted all the time. Summer is the busy time of year for my day job and trying to add all these new things at once hit me like a freight train.
I needed to get energized to power through it all, so I began seeking out podcasts or music that left me feeling refreshed and upbeat, and I played them whenever I was taking a walk or commuting home from work. I went on Amazon and ordered a few books focused on creativity and inspiration, and I read a bit every night before bed. These small things helped me sail through the toughest parts of some days, so I wanted to share them with you in case you're in the same boat... or in case you're just looking for something new! Below are the things I'm listening to, reading, and doing to stay afloat.
I've really embraced podcasts this summer; they are just the perfect way to make a 15 minute drive feeling like it was both relaxing and productive. Here are a few I've been downloading this summer:
Sincerely, X, also an NPR podcast (this is an odd one, but the stories are so compelling)
In other listening-related news, at the beginning of summer I put together a playlist specifically of songs that helped shift my mood. I was going for calming, happy and meaningful music. Songs from your childhood or that help you recall a time in your life that you were kicking ass will probably do the trick for you, but if I might offer a few suggestions from my own playlist:
America by Simon & Garfunkel (and all the other Simon & Garfunkel songs too, of course)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da by The Beatles (and yes, all the other Beatles songs too, of course)
The Weight by The Band
Nobody Compares 2 U by Prince
The Wind by Cat Stevens
Don't Stop Believin' by Journey
Also, apparently science figured out the most relaxing songs. These don't really do anything for me, but if it works for you, let me know in the comments!
I ordered three new books this summer specifically to motivate myself, and they are:
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (I highly recommend this one)
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
In the end, the books that make my feel the most uplifted every time are the books that originally taught me to love to read. They are comforting yet demonstrate strength and determination. I always turn to Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant among others. (You can also check out a longer list of my favorite books.)
Change It Up
One of my mantras this summer was to "start being that person". Meaning, if I wish I was the type of person who wakes up an extra hour early to get stuff done, then I need to be that person. If I'm feeling envious of other people who always seem to be outside and getting daily exercise, well... I can be that person too. So, I took the proverbial bull by the horns and set my alarm earlier, started wearing a Fitbit, and after a few challenging weeks I'm feeling proud of myself and enjoying that extra cup of coffee while I meet my goals in the early morning hours.
All that is to say, maybe consider switching up your routine? A few things to try include:
Change into more comfortable clothes as soon as you get home from work. For me, this helps to shed the stress of the day and change my mindset. The opposite can also be true; instead of staying in sweats all day Saturday, changing into some real clothes can make me more likely to get out of the house or tackle some tasks I've been putting off (and I don't just say this because I'm usually showered and in PJs by 7pm... Apparently, a lot of British people are too.)
Change how and when you work on specific tasks. You've probably read about how really successful people don't check their email first thing in the morning. I think you need to learn what works for you, since that's who you're accountable to. I've learned that I am much more productive when I focus on a task in a large block of time. I can create a "theme" for the day, and if I stick with it I feel like I can conquer the world. When I jump from task to unrelated task, I take more breaks between them and lose my train of thought.
Get out of town. When I used to live in a city, we would sometimes drive hours outside of it to go to strange little small towns (once, we visited Appleton, Wisconsin and went to a tiny Harry Houdini museum in their town hall.) It was just to get away from the concrete and noise, and gain some perspective. I still enjoy how even driving an hour away just to get coffee somewhere you've never gone before can make me feel.
Or, maybe don't change it up? Eating the same thing everyday has been the habit of many artists and writers; it eliminates a distraction and focuses your energy on what you need to accomplish. It's the same reason Steve Jobs wore the same clothes most of the time. (Check out a Slate article on eating the same things here, and one on Steve Jobs outfit choice here). Personally, I haven't found a food or clothing item I could commit to this fiercely, but I'm on the lookout.
What are you reading, listening to, and changing up to stay inspired this summer?