How do you prioritize?

priorities

When you think about your top priorities, do a dozen different things come to mind?

If so, we’re a lot alike. But I’ve realized what I call “priorities” pretty much encompass my entire life—everything from school to relationships to my health to this here blog make up all of my top focuses, which in fact makes it pretty darn hard to focus on anything, really.

Nicole wrote a very insightful post that made me reconsider what my priorities were. This particularly stood out to me:

“Before last week, since my mental health wasn’t my clearly identified top priority, other ‘priorities’ such as training, social and family stuff, and even work would often slip into that top spot and monopolize my attention. I didn’t have an iron-clad priority, which made everything seem like the priority, but the truth is that a priority isn’t a priority if you have 50 of them.

Simple, right? It was refreshing and kind of a relief to read this. I realized I wasn’t failing at life because I struggled to balance grad school, two writing jobs, my health, a social life, and my blog. I was just a normal person who had a lot on her plate and felt like she had to do all the things when in fact she should’ve focused on the first thing on her list: grad school. Are the other things still important? Absolutely. Are they the most important? Well, no. Not right now.

But how do you stick to one priority when other things are still important?

Obviously relationships and health shouldn’t go out the window just because school or something else gets top billing. The most helpful way I’ve come to think of it is to schedule your top priority in ink. Schedule the rest in pencil. 

In other words, plan time on your calendar that’s dedicated to whatever’s most important and stick to it no matter what. That way, even if you only accomplish one thing on your list, it’s the most important thing. Allow yourself to be flexible on the rest, and you won’t feel guilty if today’s cleaning session becomes tomorrow’s instead.

If you’re a master procrastinator, it also helps to identify your biggest distractors and schedule those, too. For me, scrolling through Twitter, Instagram and my blog feed is how I procrastinate. That not only takes away time from my top priority, but from my downtime, too. Now, I’m setting a limit on that time to 5-10 minutes in the morning and evening and 15-20 minutes at lunch. And blogs? I can catch up on those over the course of an hour on the weekends. That’s plenty of time to stay active and engaged online—but most importantly, that also leaves plenty of time to be active and engaged in the real world.

By keeping your number-one priority in mind every time you have to make a decision about how to spend your time, you’re a lot more likely to make the right decision and stay focused on the main goal. It helps to keep expectations for other aspects of our lives in perspective, too. In my case, that means from now on, I plain to aim on publishing two blog posts per week instead of three here at WTH. I have a lot of other writing responsibilities, and if I get too ambitious with my secondary goals, I’m unnecessarily setting myself up for disappointment if I fail to reach them.

August has been amazing and filled with lots of travel and quality time with family and friends, and now I’m ready to get back in the blogging groove—albeit at a different pace than before. Now that I have more realistic goals in mind for this space and can focus on grad school, there’s no mistaking what my top priorities are any longer.

How about you? What’s your top priority, and how do you work toward it every day?

Interweb Finds: Cats against feminism, why we blog & more

Golden West

How has your August been going?

Mine has been great—I visited home, wrapped up my summer class, am hosting my visiting BFF/college roomie here in L.A.—but it’s also kept me away from this space. I’ve been thinking a lot about priorities, which I think I could write a lot about. There’s a lot I’ve been wanting to write about, and I’ll be sharing those thoughts here soon.

But for now, interweb finds!

The story of the skydiver who saved a woman’s life by breaking her fall with his body.

My new favorite meme: confused cats against feminism.

Vintage photos of Ellen O’Neal, the greatest woman freestyle skateboarder in the ’70s. (And a cool documentary about skate and surf culture during the same decade.)

Allie’s post “Why I Blog” resonates with me because I’ve come to similar conclusions about why I blog. (Plus, I’m also digging the sneak peak of her upcoming ebook, “Charge Up,” an ebook for introverted entrepreneurs.)

You need to read Hannah’s words on the fragility of life.

I’m fascinated by personality types, which is why Erika’s “Beginner’s Guide to Personality Type Systems” is so interesting!

Jenny Lewis has a new album out (have you seen her sassy video for “Just One of the Guys”?), so I really enjoyed this interview with her about life after Rilo Kiley, stories from her childhood acting days and songwriting while dealing with insomnia.

 

That’s all for this week! I’ll be back with more soon. Until then, enjoy the start of your week.

Summer Road Trip Series: a trip around Iceland

Do ponies, waterfalls and a glacial lagoon sound good to you? Then you’ll love Inness’ trip to Iceland.

Last year, Inness and her partner Tyler traveled clockwise around Iceland starting in Reykjavik, visiting thermal pools, wearing Icelandic sweaters and eating local fare along the way. She sums it up well here: “One of the best adventures of my life.” Read on!

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THE INSPIRATION

“We took our trip last July (2013) and it lasted 8 days. We traveled clockwise around the entire country in that time, although we didn’t reach all of the periphery (or the islands off the mainland). The main places we hit were Reykjavik, Snaefellsness, Akureyri, Myvatn, Northeast and East Iceland, Vik, and the Blue Lagoon. Every stop was a fun stop!

I had just turned 25 and I wanted to commemorate that milestone birthday with an epic trip to an I-named country (“I” for “Inness”). I told Tyler, my partner, to choose from Ireland, Israel, Iceland, or Italy, and he chose Iceland.”

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THE HIGHLIGHTS

“The most amazing thing, no, ONE of the most amazing things about Iceland is that the terrain is ever-changing. There is so much to see packed into one tiny little country, and that’s even excluding the entire middle! One minute you’ll be trundling through a lava field; then you’re barreling down a gravel path toward a humongous waterfall; then you’re rounding the bend and your breath is taken away by a sudden glacial lagoon that appears through the parting mist. You can see a lot in eight days, since it’s a small country, but you could also spend a month or more and never exhaust all of Iceland’s wonders. I highly recommend renting a car and getting out of Reykjavik, as cool and charming a city as it is – road trip is definitely the way to enjoy Iceland! (At least in the summer.)

Memories that really stick out to me: drinking Brennivin at midnight (with the sun still up!) in a thermal river; eating a giant bowl of perfectly buttery, garlicky Icelandic lobsters in Hofn (which is pronounced like a hiccup, kind of); trying to pronounce Icelandic words in general and failing completely; filling my water bottle from a waterfall; Akureyri’s perfect ice cream and weird parking rules; sticking my feet in Dettifoss, the world’s most powerful waterfall; picking out the perfect handmade Icelandic sweater; all the amazing pools. Also, the Icelandic people – they won’t always return your smile (they just smile less than Americans do, which is true of most other countries apparently), but they are outrageously kind and generous and will go out of their way for a stranger. They are also very well-dressed, and men and women alike appear to be very fond of tailored red trousers.”

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THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“I either want to drive around all of Ireland or Scotland, or drive through all of the lower 48 states in the U.S.”

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Inness’ Blog // Twitter // Instagram

Thanks for sharing your trip, Inness! Iceland is officially on my list of places I need to visit.

And just like that, the Summer Road Trip Series has come to an end.

We’ve met eight fascinating explorers with eight incredible adventures to share, and I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I have. (If you haven’t seen them all, you can check out the rest of the series posts here.) But just because the series is over doesn’t mean summer is yet. Do you have any trips planned before the end of the season? And what’s your favorite road trip you’ve ever taken? 

It’s been a busy summer around these parts (especially this month), but I’m looking forward to getting back in the blogging groove with a few minor changes to make balancing grad school, work and life a little easier. Thanks for following along!

Summer Road Trip Series: biking from NYC to San Francisco

A lot of people have driven across the country, but how many can say they’ve biked cross-country?

Our next Summer Road Trip Series guest can. Meet Anne Wave, a member of the Illini 4000. This nonprofit dedicated to fighting cancer just wrapped up its annual cross-country bike ride, and Anne was one of the 20 riders who braved the elements and elevation to ride exactly 4489.6 miles across 16 states. Badass? I think yes.

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THE INSPIRATION

“I decided last September that I wanted to join this group of crazed people so full of life, and we were going to bike from New York City to San Francisco. I just graduated from college this May so I wanted to take charge of my last possible summer, and biking coast-to-coast was my answer. Also! This group of folks happens to be a 501(c)3 non-profit that raises money for cancer research and support services. We’re at right about $90K for the 2014 team so far. The trip takes 72 days—I’m writing on the road!—so we left on May 24 and we arrive August 3. For a rough description, our route took us from New York through the Appalachian mountains through the plains (with a stop in my hometown, Chicago!) to the Rockies up to Oregon and down through the Cascade mountains, south through California so that we end in San Fran.”

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THE HIGHLIGHTS

“We’ve had really interesting days. The day we rode into Alliance, Nebraska was one of the more challenging ones for me; we had strong headwinds that whipped up across the plains plus intense heat. But! The end of that day took us to Carhenge, which is America’s Stonehenge made of old cars spray painted brownish tan. It’s like, a big thing. Car art. It was bizarre and awesome. Mostly bizarre.

Another day in Nebraska, we were stopping for a quick water break in Atkinson when a man came up to me and asked about all the bikes outside; when I told him what we do, he asked if I knew Jack, the kid that ran the touchdown in the Nebraska Huskers game last year. I said “yes! The little boy with cancer?” And he told me that’s his son. He and his wife started the Team Jack Foundation two years ago, have raised nearly $2 million for pediatric cancer research, and he happened to be at the gas station filling up before going in to work when my team and I stopped for a rest. He was such an inspiration for us; we dedicated the next day’s ride to his son, Jack.

The day we rode into Lancaster, Pennsylvania was also a riot. First off, Lancaster is the Amish capital of the country. We were about 15 miles outside of our destination for the night when winds whipped up and a storm came speeding towards us with such intensity that we had to get off the road. We were wandering the streets looking for shelter when an Amish man hollered at us asking if we wanted to seek refuge in his barn. We parked it there for two hours rationing out what snacks we could find in our pockets while rain and hail came down on the roof. Then we booked it in.”

anne-8

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THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“As for my next adventure, I’m trying to get my post-grad life together to move to New Orleans when my trip is over. On the traveling side, I would love to see the Andes and spend some time in Ecuador and Peru. I’ve loved the time I spent in Central America—it’s time to go South. Maybe I’ll even bring my bike!”

Anne’s Twitter // Instagram // Team Website

Since Anne wrote this from the road, the group completed its ride and reached San Francisco. Read more about it here!

Any cyclists out there who would love to do what Anne has done? I’m pretty inspired myself to go on a long bike ride… up the street.

Check back this time next week for the final installment of the Summer Road Trip Series for some incredible photos from one of the most gorgeous places on earth.

Summer Road Trip Series: from Melbourne down the Great Ocean Road

It’s time for an international road trip, yes?

Olivia of Halfway Somewhere took an amazing trip along the southern coast of Australia, and she shares her journey with us here today.

In her own words:

“The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s iconic destinations, and in December of last year (I’m in the southern hemisphere, so it was a summer trip!), I finally took the time to drive most of the way along it with my sister. We grew up just a few hours away but, like is often the case with places in your own state, it took me over 20 years to get there.”

Great Ocean Road

THE INSPIRATION

“I’d been wanting to do the trip for a while, but since I live far away for uni, whenever I went back home, I was too busy seeing friends and family to take the time. There really wasn’t any particular reason for going other than it was just time to get our act together and finally visit this area of the country.

We drove from Melbourne down to Geelong and from there it’s straight down to Torquay and onto the Great Ocean Road. There’s a lot of awesome little beach towns to stop in on along the way – Anglesea, Airey’s Inlet, and Lorne, to name a few.”

Great Ocean Road

THE HIGHLIGHTS

“One of the most fun stops along the way was the Split Point lighthouse. There’s nothing extraordinary about the lighthouse itself, except for the fact that it was the setting for a popular kids show in Australia in the ’90s, Round the Twist. We were singing the theme song for hours that day.

The other obvious one is the Twelve Apostles, the main attraction of the Great Ocean Road. We stopped by a few times since the first time they were mostly shrouded in fog and we stayed overnight close by. In the evening the view was amazing. Then as the sun went down, there were hundreds of baby penguins making their way in from the water, which was awesome to watch.

We stopped in Port Campbell, which is a really fun small town. The official Great Ocean Road goes all the way down to Warnambool, although you could actually keep going all the way to South Australia if you wanted to and had the time.”

Great Ocean Road

great-ocean-road

THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“I just ticked off two road trip I’d been wanting to do (around the south of the USA and around the redwoods in California). My ultimate dream road trip is to buy an old Winnebago and spend a year or more slowly driving around. I’ve been a bit obsessed with this idea for a while now and my short recent trips and have only made it worse. Hopefully I can save up enough to do that in 2016, but we’ll have to see.”

Great Ocean Road

Olivia’s Blog // Twitter // Instagram

Have you ever been to Australia? Olivia’s trip makes me want to visit.

There’s another featured road trip scheduled for this time next week—but it’s not a car. Stay tuned!

Through the Lens: photos from July

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Summer is flying by.

I know, who wants to hear that? But even though I’m a little sad July is coming to a close, I’m really looking forward to August. I’m flying home for the first time since Christmas, my BFF and college roomie is coming to L.A. for a visit, and then I kick off my second year of grad school. It’ll be a busy month for sure, and I plan to soak it up before another crazy semester begins.

But right now, let’s have one last look at July, shall we? There were quite a few highlights.

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I cannot get enough of the beach. Even though it’s often a stressful, longer-than-it-should-be drive to the coast, it’s always worth the effort of getting there. Sunsets on the beach are where it’s at.

And how did I manage to snap the following photo of Obama? Journalism has its perks…

obama

President Obama was in town for about 24 hours, and a handful of the Neon Tommy reporters got to cover his LAX arrival, a speech he gave at a college and his departure. I covered his departure, which meant getting cleared by the White House and sitting on the tarmac in the hot sun for hours. All in all, I spent an entire day mostly waiting around for a couple exciting minutes of helicopters flying the president in, him walking from the helicopter to Air Force One and giving us a little wave before taking off again. See for yourself.

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(He’s looking right at me!)

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Though a lighter picture-taking month overall, July was jam-packed. Even though I’ve been juggling a couple of jobs and a night class, I’ve managed to sneak in plenty of fun, too: watching tons of fireworks with a sweet view from the top of a hill, revisiting a couple of favorite neighborhood spots (it’s hard to be a regular anywhere in this town—too many options!), and celebrating our one-year anniversary of living in L.A.!

And the fun won’t end in August. In fact, I’ve got an open spot for August’s Beer with a Blogger. Who wants to grab a couple of pints with me?!

I loved July—how about you? And what do you have going on next month?

 

 

Interweb Finds: the most-hated dog, Eurotripping & more

avocado tree

I’m trying to be kind to my body.

Lately, I’ve had lots of aches and pains in my neck and back, and it’s no secret why. (Blogging, technically, is only making it worse.) I’ve also found myself popping more Ibuprofen than usual for headaches. So I’m doing more yoga at a new place (I’m taking a yoga studio tour, if you will, via Groupon), drinking more water and drinking less alcohol. And this week, I plan on taking the plunge and buying new running shoes. Mine are almost three years old. It’s time.

But right now, it’s interweb finds time. Check out this week’s link roundup:

Speaking of yoga, pets interrupting yoga is the cutest thing you’ll see all day.

Did you hear about the American Ninja Warrior competitor who kicked ass and broke records? She is incredible. (Kacy went to my undergrad alma mater, too—represent!)

As someone who browses rescue sites almost daily (ahem), I’m well aware of how overpopulated shelters are with pit bulls. In Los Angeles County alone, an estimated 200 pit bulls are killed every day. Here’s a powerful essay about the breed by a pit bull owner:

“There is no other dog that figures as often in the national narrative—no other dog as vilified on the evening news, no other dog as defended on television programs, no other dog as mythologized by both its enemies and its advocates, no other dog as discriminated against, no other dog as wantonly bred, no other dog as frequently abused, no other dog as promiscuously abandoned, no other dog as likely to end up in an animal shelter, no other dog as likely to be rescued, no other dog as likely to be killed.”

Check out these tree roots growing among concrete. They look like art!

I’ve loved following along on Sydney’s Eurotrip. (Doesn’t she look like she’s having a blast?)

“Women who are ambivalent about women against women against feminism.” The Bloggess nails it:

“I’m not saying you can’t choose to not be a feminist but know what you’re choosing. Don’t make a decision about a group based on the most radical beliefs of a group. Don’t get defensive if you get deeper and are exposed to difficult ideas about intersectionality and race and gender and colonialism and patriarchy and male liberation. Just listen. Some of it will make sense. Some of it won’t. Some of it will later when you’re a different person. Some of it you’ll change your mind about throughout your life and the world will change too. Some of it is bullshit. Some of it is truth. All of it is worth listening to.”

Age 30 is not a deadline. (Seriously, this mentality of “doing it all” in your twenties hurts everyone.)

 

And that’s all for now! Come back later this week for my monthly photo roundup, including shots of the Obama at LAX (!). But right now, I’m going to shut the computer and do a few stretches. What do you do when you’re not sick but your body hurts?

 

Summer Road Trip Series: from San Diego to San Francisco

montana de oro feet

Have you ever traveled solo?

Like, get in the car/on a plane and spend a night or week or month (!) discovering, eating and sleeping by yourself?

I’ve realized… that I haven’t. Long day trips, yes, but I’ve yet to experience the peaceful silence of solitude that descends at night on my own. I’d like to change that one of these days, but for now, I’ll live vicariously through my next Summer Road Trip Series featured guest. Meet Corey of But We Will Stay, and follow along on her adventure traveling from San Diego to San Francisco!

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THE INSPIRATION

“To get out of town. To think in quiet. To take pictures. It was to see a friend that had just gotten back from Afghanistan and then explore some places on the California coast that I had seen Kevin Russ take amazing pictures of and that I never knew existed.”

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THE HIGHLIGHTS

“I almost didn’t go in the beginning AND when I first go to Fairfield my car smelled like sulfur… turns out the battery in my car was all but bursting into flames by the time I got to a Pep Boys the next morning. My clothes, being that they were in the trunk (where my battery is in my car, weird I know) smelled of sulfur so I had to air them out a bit.

I went Zuma Beach in Malibu to take a picture of a FOOD sign and went on to Santa Monica Pier to ride the ferris wheel. Turns out you are not allowed to do so by yourself there, so by myself so an employee had to ride with me.

I also went to Photobooth SF to get my tintype taken. That was an awesome experience and I highly recommend it. They have all different sorts of toy cameras and refurbished polaroid cameras. After getting my tin type I headed down the coast to stay in Morro Bay. The next morning I went to Montaña de Oro beach and Pirate’s Cove/Shell Beach. It ended up being a nude beach, but as it was very overcast when I was there, there were only a few sunbathing.”

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THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“In the fall I am moving out to Nashville, TN. I am so, so excited not just to live in a new city but to road trip it through the states to get there. I have my current plan on Roadtrippers. I am moving and making the most out of the trip, stopping and going a little out of my way here and there to see gorgeous things. I am so excited. I love road trips so much.”

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Corey’s Blog // Instagram // Twitter 

Good luck on your big move, Corey!

The series continues this time next week—with an international road trip!

Looking back: my first year in L.A.

one year in L.A.

We woke up in the canyons of Utah, braved 115-degree dry heat in Vegas, and paid nearly five dollars a gallon for the last leg of the trip. It was a Thursday, and it was L.A. or bust.

John and I arrived in Los Angeles one year ago Friday. We’d been on the road for 10 days, driving through small towns, big cities and vast deserts. We saw a lot of incredible things, but the most vivid memory of all was when we crossed into L.A. County. The highway was wide, the mountains were high and the setting sun gave it all a dreamy, hazy glow. We had made it. This was “home.”

driving into L.A.

Adjusting to our new surroundings wasn’t easy. Within the first day, we had a stinky iPhone full of air freshener juice and a ticket for talking on said phone as welcoming souvenirs. Thankfully, we had a place to stay, but finding an apartment was frustrating and difficult. Our bank accounts took major blows, jobs were scarce and grad school was looming. It was a lot to deal with at once.

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The first year certainly hasn’t been easy, but it has been amazing. I’ve had the chance to meet some extraordinary people working as a journalist and have taken the time to explore the Golden State with short road trips and camping adventures. I’ve woken up in a tent on the beach to see seals frolicking in the ocean, I’ve interviewed rock stars and activists and politicians, I’ve made a ton of new friends at school and through the blogging community, and I’ve had my best friend and partner next to me every step of the way. Being on this adventure with John has made the difficult times easier to deal with and the celebratory times even sweeter.

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And what’s not to love about L.A.? You could look at the negatives, and a lot of people choose to. I’ve encountered many of them myself, but the good has far outweighed the bad. Los Angeles is such a diverse city, both culturally and geologically, and that has made for so many new-to-me experiences. I needed a culture shock. I needed to step out of my comfort zone. And I needed to live in a city full of opportunities to make me realize just how many are open to me if I go after them.

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So thanks, Los Angeles, for giving me the biggest thrill of my life. Thanks for making me work for it and for letting me reap the rewards. Whether I stay another year, five years or a lifetime, I’ll always look back on the first 12 months as a game-changer.

Happy anniversary, Los Angeles.

 

Becoming yourself

Joyce Carol Oates quote

So much has changed in the past few years, it’s hard not to think I’ve changed drastically, too.

I certainly feel different. Wiser, more thoughtful, unafraid to ask for what I want, adventure-seeking and self-loving. My younger self would be pleased. Pleasantly surprised, even.

But I think Joyce Carol Oates—fabulous woman that she is—said it best when she wrote the line above. At our core, we always remain the same. The potential for all those qualities I mentioned was always within me. It just hadn’t been realized to its fullest yet. And if that’s the case, how much more room for growth is there? I’ll play it safe and say it’s limitless—just in case it exceeds my expectations.

@wittycassiehere Instagram

P.S. Related reading: A woman to aspire to