focus.


Finding your focus in a busy world like this one can be difficult. How do we manage it? The stress, the activities, the relationships, the daily tasks. It looks easy on the outside, but that’s only if you’re watching someone else do it seamlessly. When you’re the one trying to concentrate, it’s easy to lose attention. So let’s talk strategy.

I’d say sleep is one of the most important things for me if I need to focus on something. If I don’t get enough sleep, my mind is foggy, I’m distracted, and I would rather be doing anything than what I’m actually doing. That’s a problem! Now, this is just my experience, again, but there are so many studies that would point to the same solution. Get a decent amount of rest so you can do your best.

Change the level of noise! For some people, this may be silence. That’s awesome! I would suggest you find yourself a sturdy pair of earplugs and get cracking on those goals. For others, it might be white noise or nature sounds. Perhaps get a white noise machine, or for a more affordable option, find an alternative online. When I sleep, I use rainymood.com. Of course, I wouldn’t use that to focus because it helps me sleep… that’s a blog post for another time.

And the final few probably need music to focus. I’m in this group! I tend to turn on lo-fi hip-hop beats to keep me in the zone. Others like k-pop, classical, EDM… I would recommend, unless you find that it helps, to stay away from music in your language. It simply turns the brain on to listen in to what’s playing, and that’s not what we need.

Adjust your environment! Personally, I have a dedicated desk to anything focus-oriented. I’m there if I’m writing, studying, editing, making art… and so on. It’s well-lit, comfy, and I’m surrounded by positive reinforcement (decorations and things that make me happy). I also make sure I’m surrounded by everything I need so I’m not tempted to get up and get distracted more.

Sometimes, the reason we can’t focus is that the designated environment we have is just cramping our style. If I have writer’s block, I’ll move my writing to a café or library. And when I’m feeling brave, I’ll switch from a computer to a pen. It could even be changing from your couch to the chair next to it. The body likes routine, but our minds like new experiences. It’s up to you to decide what you need, but a shift (even going outside) can help you focus.

Do something else. Seriously. If you can’t concentrate on a task, and you’ve tried everything, and it just won’t work, do another activity. Even if that essay is due tomorrow or the meeting is in three hours or you promised your audience it would be out by a certain time. Stop. Put everything down and do something else. When you come back to it, I can almost guarantee it’ll be easier.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. I want to remind you that my book, the garden boy, will be released for pre-order on valentine’s day (February 14th). Follow this page to keep updated and be the first to order it!

-ellynn

wintertime: digital minimalism


Social media is such an easy way to hide in our shells and pretend we’re close to our friends and family during the winter. At family gatherings, it’s easy to ignore the awkward silence that comes (because we don’t know how to make conversation) and stare at a video game.

When we wake up in the morning and don’t feel like getting up, the little portable device on our bedside table can distract us and convince us to stay in bed. It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s easy to stay cuddled up with a Netflix episode… but that’s just not practical, nor is it healthy.

Sitting with our devices prevents us from getting sunlight, exercise, social interaction, and motivation. So how about, this winter, we take a minimalist approach?

back atcha with the list format: six ways you can reduce screen time

  1. Change your phone setup: This has been the easiest one for me. It’s a lot easier to stay off my phone if my phone tells me to put it down: my lock screen literally says so. “Put the phone down.” If that’s not a deterrent, then we go to phase two: the minimalist home screen. I have an app called “a decluttered launcher – minimalism & productivity,” which is still in its beta testing, but the launcher allows you a total of 6 home screen apps, Google search, and a swipe feature to search for any other apps. When I open my phone and see only Gmail, Messages, Spotify, and Notes, I’m going to quickly find what I need and lock the screen again.
  2. Have a place for your electronics: You can’t be tempted to use them if you don’t see them! This is a seemingly obvious but fool-proof trick. If you carry a purse, backpack, or just have big pockets, you can slip your distracting device into a specific spot. Sounds stupid, right? But as long as you don’t have it in your hand, you’re not going to think about opening the lock screen every two seconds.
  3. Turn off notifications: *ring ring* Yep, we all know that noise. And it makes our ears perk up. “Oh, did [insert name here] send me a Snapchat?” It’s monotonous! And don’t even get me started about emails. I’m not proud of this, but yes, I have six email accounts. Six! Is that even necessary? Probably not, but I do use them all. Gosh, I probably get fifty emails a day, minimum. In the working world, there’s a lot of information to be passed around. Can you imagine getting a notification every time you got an email? I did it for a while, and that’s fifty-plus times I was checking my phone every day. But that was only for email. Turn them off.
  4. Set a time to check your socials: This goes for email as well. When you’re sitting in line for McDonald’s, waiting for a movie, or letting your dinner heat up, what do you turn to? That rectangle in your pocket. This is a new idea! Have a set time every day that you check your social media. For me, I allow a thirty-minute window. It doesn’t sound like much (given how much we scroll throughout the day), but all you need to do is see what your friends are posting, respond, and make your own posts. You don’t need to catch up with the Jenners or yell at a heckler on Twitter. Social media should be a tool that inspires you, not tires you. Set a time, and don’t scroll aimlessly before or after that time.
  5. Get really, really bored: Boredom is a recipe for creativity. Get SUPER bored! Lock your electronics in a vault. Give it to a friend (with a passcode if you must). Use an app like Forest, which doesn’t let you use your phone while you plant a tree. Bury it in the ground! Whatever gets you away from the darn thing. Your mind, when deprived of entertainment devices, forces itself to find new things on which to focus. When the apps and games and distractions are gone, where does your mind wander? Mine tends to move toward writing, music, and physical activity. Think of it as an experiment!
  6. Don’t deprive yourself of fun: Sometimes, what we need is some good old-fashioned FUN! What do you love to do? I like rollercoasters, bike rides and hikes, cooking, dancing, exploring the city… You gotta figure out what inspires you. What makes you want to put your phone down? What whispers to you? Maybe you want to serve at a local shelter or childcare center. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try stand-up comedy. Maybe, you and your college roommate haven’t caught up in a while. Just have some fun! We spend so much time in life stressing out and trying to get ahead. Take one moment for yourself to enjoy living.

There you have it! Six small things that, when used, can hopefully help you limit your screen time. Are you going to try these? Let me know in the comments! And a friendly reminder, you can get my posts straight to your inbox (when you do check your email) by signing up in the menu bars above! Have an awesome day.

-ellynn ❤

digital minimalism.


In a world caught in the hustle and bustle of “I have to do this NOW,” it’s so easy to let clutter accumulate everywhere in our lives. I’m not just talking about your laundry, the dishes, coffee cups in your car console… I’m talking about digital clutter. Mental clutter.

How long do you spend deleting emails? Wouldn’t it be so much better if you just hit unsubscribe? What sort of posts do you see on your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat/(TikTok???) feed that you wish weren’t there? Why don’t we unfollow them? It’s hard. That’s why.

Nobody realizes it — a follow here, a like there — how quickly we can add to our mental clutter. “Oh, I get a [coupon, special offer, ebook, download] if I sign up for this mailing list!” Easy as pie. But then they just keep sending you stuff. I have emails in my inbox that sometimes, I have no idea how they got there.

The advertisements, junk mail, YouTube links, business cards. I’m tired of it! Because the good stuff, the really good stuff that I actually want to see/hear/read gets lost in the pile of crap and marketing. My mind gets so jumbled up that I’m not sure what I even want in my inbox. So how do we stop this? I made another list thing.

  1. Unfollow, Unfriend: You don’t have to do this all at once. In fact, I don’t recommend you spend hours scrolling through your subscriptions, followings, lists… Simply try this. When you see something you don’t like, get it out of your sight. Make it so that you don’t come across it again.
  2. Decide What You Want: What inspires you? What is your brand? What do you agree with? What challenges you? Answering these questions are so important because they’re the deciding factor in what media you’re taking in.
  3. Find Stuff You Like: After you consider number 2, you can go out and carefully seek the information and media you want to absorb. This is when you find content that’s good for you. The amazing part is, you can curate your emails! You can choose how your Instagram feed looks! You just have to do so thoughtfully.
  4. Take a Break: Seriously. Put down the electronics, the magazines, the junk mail. Step away from it for a while.
  5. Let It Out: Our brains can harbor all sorts of thoughts, gathered from the mass jumble of jargon spewed at us 24/7. Make a big list of what’s in your brain. On one page, write down everything you’re thinking of. Examine the list. Is any of this useful? Circle it and figure out what to do with those thoughts. The rest? Cross it off.

Of course, nothing is ever as simple as getting rid of it for good. You will likely need to make this a habit every six months, or every week, depending on how popular you are. 😉

Happy cleansing.

-ellynn

habits don’t just fall in your lap.


Today’s a tough one for many. How many times have we thought about a habit or hobby we’d like to introduce, considered it for a bit, vowed to do it every day, and then forgotten about it completely? Classic promises to ourselves happen all the time, but especially around January 1st. Promising to spend more time with family. Swearing to get better grades. Being absolutely certain that you’re going to start Crossfit.

You see, the issue isn’t the habit you’re choosing. You can do anything! Yes, anything. The issue is the way you’re choosing the habit. If I think to myself, “I’m going to get really good at physics,” but never read a single physics book or take a single physics class or watch a single video about physics, I will undoubtedly fail.

Obviously, you don’t have to take a physics class to begin your first novel, but my point is, the habits are in the action plan. Think of it like an itinerary: you think about what you’d like to do, do some research on how to do it and where, and set a date and time. For everything on your trip.

Except the catch is, you aren’t planning a vacation; you’re planning a new habit. When I started yoga, I didn’t gracefully incorporate it into my life daily and at the same time and in the same place! When I had time, I’d do a few clumsy stretches I only half understood. It didn’t feel like I was doing it right, and I didn’t even have a mat at first! So finally, I resolved to learn yoga the right way. (If you’d like a more detailed post about my yoga practice, I’d be happy to write one.)

I decided that I wanted to devote thirty minutes of yoga in the evenings for four days out of a week. Why not every day? Often, if we fall off the habit track once, it can be discouraging. We may not want to get up and try it again because we’ve already failed. Four days out of a week? It’s more doable and leaves forgiveness for those days we can’t fit in the new habit.

I also inserted an insurance policy of sorts by telling my family and friends about it. When I saw them, they would ask me about my practice, and nobody wants to be asked about something they never really started in the first place . . .

So for that thirty minutes, I didn’t just fumble around anymore. I found instructional videos that showed proper form, breathing, and balance. I went to a class or two to pick up more tools and make certain I was doing the movements properly. I made playlists, finally got a mat (plus a block and strap once I really got into it), and bought leggings designed specifically for stretching. I know, obsessive, right?

But I did that all over the course of a year. Another issue we have when we start habits is expecting them to become second-nature in a two-week period (sometimes less if we’re extra impatient). Starting a business, cooking whole foods, getting straight A’s . . . these are not things that can happen in the blink of an eye. You can’t wingardium leviosa your intentions into existence, although that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

so, let’s recap:

  1. habits are in the action plan
  2. what, where, how, when?
  3. insurance policy
  4. do it properly
  5. things take time

comment below and tell me the habit you’d like to adopt or one you worked very hard to earn.

action breeds motivation.


It has come to my attention that New Year’s Day creates a lot of excitement about accomplishing goals. Perhaps this day is the source of human productivity? The way I’m seeing it is that every person has a multitude of goals to accomplish, but they don’t start them until the first of the year. Why? Because it’s a symbol of new beginnings. That’s absolutely fine; I have no issue with that. It simply doesn’t make sense to use a certain day to propel your motivation forward.

Think about this for a moment. I can watch a video about puppies being rescued, and I can be inspired. I can think, “Wow, what a beautiful thing to do,” and I can believe that saving puppies is something in which I’m interested. There’s nothing wrong with those thoughts, except that there is if we’re trying to be motivated. All of those thoughts of admiration are just fine until I actually do it. Nine times out of ten, I don’t get up and drive to a dog shelter. So what about the people who do?

These motivated people usually have something the average person does not. Experience. I can’t possibly know how exciting it is to work at a dog shelter, seeing the smiling faces of the adopters, until I have worked there. I can’t be pumped to take that yoga class until I have felt the rush it brings me. There are many who might doubt this, so allow me to provide with an alternative example.

So it’s the first of the year, and you’ve decided to work out. Great! But that’s not all you have to do to guarantee that you will. You aren’t motivated simply because of a thought. How will you take action? Call a friend to keep you accountable. Set up an exercise plan. Buy some new gear. And of course, among the most popular, pick up a gym membership. These are all successful actions! They get many a person to their aspirations. Taking these actions allow you to be motivated. You begin to think, “Well, Marty knows I’m doing this. I’ll go for Marty.” “Okay, so today I’ll wear those cute new leggings I bought with the rhinestones!” “I’m not just gonna waste my money on that expensive membership. Let’s go!”

There is a downside to this, in that you may realize that you are less motivated as you continue to take action. This realization is likely just that the treadmill is not for you. The upside? Maybe the track is! Maybe you’ll like Pilates or cycling or weights. Everyone has their niche, but you probably just haven’t found yours yet. So if you’re sitting there, stretch band in hand, thinking, “I’m so bored. This is annoying. Why am I doing this,” you may want to move to the Zhumba class across the hall.

The fact of life is that you can’t knock it ’till you try it. Finding your passion is much easier said than done. I didn’t discover my love for bullet journaling until I picked up the official notebook and started the damn thing. I had admired it before, but my passion for it began when I took the appropriate actions.

I suppose that’s my soapbox for resolutions, and I hope that you succeed in yours, should you make any. Always remember that your goals can be set any time you like, not just on January 1st! Good luck, break a leg, yadda yadda yadda. To our success in life!