Forming Habits……Again

So, 9 days ago I finally kicked some sense in to myself and got back on Weight Watchers.

I already have the fitness habit formed (albeit a little modified with the car accident injury) so now it’s all about getting my eating habits back on track.
Apr21_2014_quote_first_we_form_habits_then_they_form_us_featured

As you know I work from home, so temptation is surrounding me all day long. Typically I eat a sandwich for lunch. Occasionally I’ll have a salad, except then I tended to have a sandwich for dinner – oops.

This week I focused on changing habits.  I made it a point to NOT eat sandwiches all week. That mostly worked – I had one sandwich all week long!

How’d I do that? It was actually rather simple once I went food shopping, once searched for recipes or attached pinterest for ideas.

I made a salad or omelette for lunch. I had a salad or some other meal for dinner. I made my own cucumber roll-up concoction. I went food shopping so I wouldn’t be tempted with bad food ideas.  I also started making the Weight Watchers Chocolate Smoothie with their shaker as my afternoon sweet treat. It was a great idea. I would make it with water + ice in the shaker. I used cubed ice and it would take easily take me 30 minutes or more to drink it all – definitely a lasting afternoon snack.

This week I also focused on my running. I managed to get 10.25 minutes in over the week. Monday and Wednesday I only hit 2 miles; my lungs have been angry, I have felt quite fatigued this week (not sure where that is coming from) so I listened to my body and ran what I was able.

Friday I hit the boardwalk again for a nice sunset run. My lungs weren’t quite 100% still, but my stamina and endurance were definitely feeling better because I managed 4.10 miles! This was my longest non-race outside training run in the 2.5 years I have been running. Clearly I haven’t been training properly outside for my half marathons. Though I did train hard on the treadmill last winter for the NYC Half Marathon, logging more treadmill miles than I ever have before!

The end result, I lost 2.2 pounds in my first week back. I have no expectations I can duplicate my plans and loss from last week in to this week, but I can try. Habits form slowly, day by day, week by week until you wake up and your habits are just part of your every day life without question.

How do you keep focused on healthy eating when its easier to make a sandwich or go out to dinner?

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Decisions Made – Adding to My Crazy Life

Well, after yesterday’s post about having a blank mind when it comes to writing, I have decided to attempt to fix that problem. I am going to focus on writing more. On improving my writing abilities. On getting rid of my blank mind.

I may be stretching myself a bit thin here by doing this.

I am less than two months in to my new job (and loving it) where I am getting busier and busier by the hour as my meetings take shape and pass through the various stages of planning.

I am working hard to get my running shape back on track. I have started PT again, on my dime until I can get my no-fault benefits back on track. I am going to progress my runs longer, further, hopefully faster. I am hoping to get back to strength training shortly as well.

I am also 16 books behind my goodreads goal of reading 100 books this year. To be fair, I failed at math when setting a target goal of books ready and didn’t realize till about a week later that the goal would require me reading roughly 2 books a week – oops!

writingBut all that busy aside, I am determined to start writing again. To start writing more often, to become a stronger writer, to better myself.

This means, hopefully, you will see more posts. You will see varied posts, even though this is supposed to be a fitness and travel blog, but now it will become something a bit more. What that bit more is am not 100% yet sure, but I will use this space to grow, to expand my abilities.

Wish me luck. Shortly I will sign up for some online writing classes via Gotham Writers Workshop. I will write down any idea, tag line, topic that comes in to my head as a potential writing piece either my own or a blog post.

Written Blank Mind

For the past few days I’ve been wanting to post a blog. Obviously I have not posted one. I have run in to a form of writers block. I have nothing clever, witting or informative to write. I not good stories to share or recap. I have nothing. I can’t even begin to pull a topic out of thin air.

I feel my mind is a written blank. I feel I have lost my written creativity. I question how much I ever had.
writers-block-quoteI love writing. Every so often I remember how much I love to write. I used to keep a 5 subject pink spiral notebook behind my bed so after lights out I could turn on a flashlight under the blankets and write. I’d write scripts, I’d write stories, I’d write ideas.

If I were to do that now, I think the entire notebook would be blank.

That makes me sad.

How do you keep your mind full of ideas, of topics, of creativity?
How do you keep yourself from drawing a written blank?

Can One Have Too Many Hobbies?

Over the years I have had numerous hobbies.  In HS I started collected quotes. Somewhere I even still have the journals I wrote them down in – I think I had 4 by the time college was over!)

Since I was little I have loved reading. I like to pick authors who write series books – they have one character and stick with them on a long journey over numerous books. What can I say, I get invested. Then I get sad when the story ends. I get even sadder when I know its a standalone.

I enjoy watching TV. Who doesn’t like watching drama’s, or even a mindless dramady.  I am not afraid to put it out there, some of my favorite shows are (or were) on the CW or ABCFamily Channel.  I even still watch General Hospital. I mean, who doesn’t love being able to shut down their real world or the make believe land presented on the TV screen?

I also enjoy listening to music. I love picking out lyrics that mean something, whether they have relevancy now or in my past, or could have in the future, I store them away for usage later.

I am also a bit fanatical about the New York Rangers. I am counting down the days until pre-season hockey starts up (48 more days!).  I try to watch as many games as I can, I read the game reports, I follow trades, standing changes.  Some may say I obsess a bit, but I’m a New York hockey fan, we take that seriously!

Of course, I also love to run and workout.  Not going to lie, this has been a rough 5 months with my lack of ability to do much of either. Turns out I can run, as long as my neck is taped, something I never had to worry about before. I still cannot lift anything above my head or carry on my shoulder, so that limits many other exercises I can do.

There is also my love of travel. Yes, to me this is a hobby because I have goals associated with it. I want to visit all 50 states (if I can run a half in each, well, two birds, one race!).  I want to see as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as I can. I wan to gather stamps in my passport.  This is a hobby, its something I want to do, it’s something I enjoy doing, it’s not something I am required to do, its my choice.

So again I ask, can someone have to many hobbies? Sometimes it’s hard to find time to work on all my hobbies.  Sometimes it’s tough to be able to afford them all.  My DVR often gets backed up because I would rather be running or reading then watching TV.  Sometimes I have a list of movies I want to see but never got a chance to see them in the theatre. When that happens I get sad because without video stores, it’s getting harder and harder to locate a movie that was released 6, 9, 13 months ago!

What are you favorite hobbies?

Balance Act – Work & Travel

open roadAs I mentioned last week, I am lucky enough to work remotely.

But given that freedom, I am hesitant to use it to the full joys of virtual employment.

So far I have been able to work remotely locally, or on weekend trips to visit friends in Maryland.

I am nervous to test the limits of just how remote I can work. It stems from my lack of knowledge on available Wifi elsewhere.  I know that, through my cable provider here on Long Island, that I can access Wifi from almost everywhere.

I can go to the boardwalk or a local park and do work, but can I go to any of the 20 or so states I have not yet visited, easily access Wifi and successfully complete my work for the day?

I need to jump out of my comfort zone, just pack a bag, pack a car and hit the road right?

What are you favorite American Road Trips or Travel Destinations?

American Vacation Policy Fails Again

travel is the only thing

I am a traveler. I also have a full time job as a meeting/event planner.  I am a bit of a workaholic.  I love what I do. I also love to travel.

There has been many a discussion regarding how infrequently American’s travel. How we work to much and lose money each year by not taking those 2 weeks of vacation the corporate world has allowed us to earn..  There is even a  MasterCard commercial about it!

What I have figured out is that it is hard to take a proper vacation with only 10 vacation days allotted to us each year.  Relaxing vacations to a beach location can yes happily occur with only 10 vacation days a year. But a true trip, the ability to actually see and explore the vastness that is Planet Earth – 10 days per year is definitely not enough.

I am single, I have no children, very little over head and bills I pay off each month. I can afford to travel.  I NEED to travel. Yet I run up against a vacation policy that isn’t very forgiving when it comes to grand trips, experiences, adventures.

In the past 8 years, I have spent 2 weeks in Italy, 2 weeks in China, and 2 weeks in South Africa.  At the time of each trip, I was freelancing.  I worked as an independent contractor for meeting & event planning companies. I may have ‘lost’ money by taking each trip because I wasn’t working as a salaried employee, so I was not given paid time off (PTO). In the long run, I am ok with that, I gained so much more by the experiences I had, the things I saw, the things I ate, the people I met, the world I ventured in to.

However, in addition to those trips, since I was freelancing and working remotely at the time, I was able to take a few other shorter trips throughout the year: a long weekend in Maryland, a long weekend in Las Vegas, wherever I wanted to go I was able to. I could easily take my work with me.  However, had I been working full time and not freelancing, I most likely would not been able to do that as I would have used up all 10 of my days.

We are an overworked society that places to much emphasis on learning and working then on experiencing the world, or even our own country.  Case in point, if you haven’t already seen the letter floating around social media from the father back to the school principal regarding his children’s “unexcused” absences so the father could run the Boston Marathon! (Yes, there is not scandal within the running community as he may not have legitimately qualified for the Boston Marathon)

American’s have falsely been labeled as non-travelers.  This is probably because it has been said how few passports American’s as a whole actually hold.  A 2011 article on CNN informs that only 30% of all American’s hold a passport.  I can believe this number.

Truth be told, our country is a phenomenal one.  The amount of things to see and experience are astounding.  Each state has its own historical value to showcase, even if it is not as historically long as many other countries around the world; each state, each city in America has it’s own historical flare.

IMAG3027We have our National Park system, we have various national landmarks or monuments scattered around the country.  There is plenty to see domestically, but we just do not put a priority on see it all, we put the priority on working long hours, on making more money then your neighbor.

To push that point home even more, according to an article in the Atlantic (The Only Advanced Country Without National Vacation Policy? It’s the US), America practically the only developed country that does not have laws in place requiring a certain amount of paid time off per year.

Every time I travel, I run in to folks from countries with amazing vacation policies thus allowing their citizens to take a two weeks grand trip somewhere and still have vacation days left over for shorter trips somewhere else!

There are now some companies that are giving unlimited PTO.  This can be a double edge treat. To me this can mean the work is going to so continuous that the employee will not actually get to use their unlimited PTO?

Why do we put so little value on traveling and vacationing while the rest of the world is always out there seeing it all?  Is it because back in day when the country started there was a bit of an isolationist mentality? Is it because of how high a premium we put on making/having money?

This article on CNN, Why is American the ‘No-Vacation’ Nation?, puts everything in to nice little boxes of why we don’t do it and why the rest of the world embraces it.  A large part has to do with our limited vacation time compared to countries like German or New Zealand who are given 6 weeks vacation a year, from day 1 at the job.  This is in addition to the national holidays they are given.

How did our super advanced, democratic championed nation lose the focus of how important vacation and travel is.  Now only in terms of relaxing and decompressing, but for those with children, for educational purposes, for learning about other cultures, other historys, other lands.

As I noted in the image above, Travel is the only you BUY that makes in RICHER in the end.

What are you next big trips planned?
I’m working in either a Mediterranean Cruise, Iceland, Peru, some good old American Road trips…I just can’t decide, and I’m not sure I have enough PTO to handle all of that (even though I do work remotely, and wouldn’t mind working while away, to a certain extent, I still want to SEE the places I venture to!)

How to Successfully Work Remotely

work from homeI am one of the lucky ones – I work from home nearly 95% of the time.  I have a full time job for a small company that has embraced the ease at which employees have the ability to work from almost anywhere. 

Yes, I’ll admit there are a number of industries in which remote work is not feasible, but there are more in which it is.  There is a growing number of virtual or remote workers in our country.  Technology today has made working remotely extremely easy.  

Flexjobs.com has explained a bit more all the different types of remote work or remote employee and how each can be achieved in this article.

For me, I love getting back the nearly 2.5-3 hours a day I would spend commuting. I love being able to sleep until I wake up instead of waking up to the buzzing alarm.  I like being able to roll out of bed in to gym clothes, sit at my laptop and start working. I like being able to go for a short run at lunch time without having to worry about how sweaty I am afterwards. I love not having a manager directly over my shoulder, yet having them know I am accessible to them almost any time they need me.

I have worked remotely on and off for the better part of the past 7 years.  I have mastered the art of flexible scheduling, of time management, of prioritizing.  Yet, many employers still do not believe in remote work or flex schedules.  That is probably my biggest issue since going back to work full time from freelancing – the lack of flexibility within the work day.

I am able to easily, most days, overcome the lack of flexibility due to always being connected.  I receive my emails on my cell phone so regardless of where I am I can see if something has come in.  If I bring my laptop with me wherever I go, I can usually access and respond to any email that comes over the wire.  This is the true meaning of working remotely – not being tied down to one place, one desk, one office, one room.

This is where being a workaholic comes in handy.  I don’t let work drive me, but I do make myself available when emails that require responses come in.  I pay attention during 9-5, obviously I do the majority of my work during that time, but as a workaholic who has perfected the art of remote work, I also know that sometimes life takes over.

Sometimes you have a doctor’s appointment during your lunch hour, but end up waiting nearly an hour before even being called to the back, thus you have gone over your lunch hour. Well, as a remote employee, that doesn’t affect me all to often. I don’t have an office to be back at, my office is wherever I am located. I have answered calls or responded to emails from the waiting room, or even the patient room while still waiting for the doctor.

There has been much discussion over how American’s are obsessed with work, how the typical 9-5, 40 hour work week no longer exists (as noted in this article by Kevin Mercadante).  Yes, it’s true, many people are now working early in the morning or late at night, sometimes both in one day.  There are even people out there who simply refuse to take their work home, instead staying late at the office just to finish a task. To me that is a dis-service to your family, your friends, your work/life balance.

Now my industry has never been a 9-5 industry. We work with vendors, contractors, attendees who are sometimes located across the country. Some even based internationally. I have been known to take my laptop to dinner with me if I am waiting on emails, or if I am working a program with vendors/clients in multiple timezones or pressing deadlines.  My friends understand. I delegate my time so I can do it all, I am less stressed this way because I don’t feel as though I am letting something lag.

Personally, it bothers me, concerns me even, when employers would rather have their employees stay late hours instead of taking their work home with them. Or if they know a project will require long hours, why not let them split time, do half days in the office with the rest at home.  This will keep their employees happier, less stressed, more free.

Just check out this article on Forbes.com: Top 10 Benefits of Working From Home.  For me personally, my top reasons for LOVING remote work are: More me time, less commuting time, higher productivity, more flexibility. Of course there are the perks: I can travel a bit while still working because, let’s face, as long as there is a Starbucks nearby, I can get on Wifi from anywhere!

Would you rather work remotely or work from a dedicated office building?