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When I first considered talking about this…I didn’t know how to go about it. A video? A blog post? I don’t know. I still don’t know. But I’m too lazy right now to make a video and I’m already sitting at my desk, so blog it is.
I’ve been mulling something over a lot lately and it’s this notion that sometimes these qualities, these things that so often are seen as strengths, well, how they play out in our lives sometimes can be a detriment. Take integrity for example…
I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT INTEGRITY IS SUCH A GOOD THING.
It’s a value that I’ve ingrained so deeply into who I am and, along with authenticity, it’s always been something I’ve pride myself on having so much of. But, you know what? It’s occasionally problematic. I can already see you there, shocked, thinking, “Ellyn how can that possible be the case? How could having integrity ever be a bad thing?” Well, let me give you an example.
You see, I have followed a plan my whole life. And I did a damn good job at following that plan if I do say so myself. Seriously, I followed it to a “t”. I got my degree, a job out of college, published papers like a good little scientist, went on to get my PhD, and was sciencing like the good little grad student I was. Until I realized something kinda important…I hated that shit.
Seriously, two full years into my program, and I hate it! And ya, maybe it was the rotation projects and research that was just never working, the endless bouts of impostor syndrome I was constantly trying to fight back, maybe it was the bullying I experienced in my program (true story – it happened), the fact that I felt I wasn’t learning anything except how to diligently bang my head against my benchtop repeating the same experiment over and over again, or the fact that I felt like there was this gaping hole inside of me every single time I donned my lab coat for another day at the bench. I was bored. I wasn’t excited. And I felt like everything about what I was doing was sucking the life out of me. I knew how much I hated it and yet, I was still in grad school.
The problem was that I had built science and research up in my head for so long. They were seemingly the only option for me as a career. So I told myself I couldn’t possibly leave. If I did, I’d have to start over, go back to school and completely change my direction in life. I built this whole thing up in my head to be this huge impossibility. So, dissatisfaction and emptiness be damned, quitting wasn’t an option.
But more than all that, quitting meant going back on my word. It went back on my admissions essays saying that I wanted to be an academic research (let’s be honest, I only said that because it’s what the Admission committees, who are made up of Academic researchers and PIs all want to hear that you want to follow in their footsteps). It meant going back on my world to all my graduate school letter writers, so many of whom had played such an important role in my training. It meant guilt about the person who’s spot I took and all the money that had been invested in me and my education. I couldn’t go back on my word. My integrity. I WOULDN’T let myself. That is until my mom truth bombed me one night.
It was August and I had had a day which would ultimate be the final straw in me making the decision to leave school. But inwardly, I was freaking out. I had talked to my friends and they had told me to leave the program. That it was changing me in such a negative way. Sucking the life out of me. I finally called my mom. I had to tell her. But, as always happens, she already knew exactly what was going on. And she said to me that night something that I will never forget. She said, “You’re your father’s daughter. You’ll stay in something come hell or high water just because you said you would.”
Shit. Mom called me out. And she couldn’t have been more right.
Hell or high water was already a thing. And yet, despite my hate, despite how much it sucked the life out of me, despite how each day that passed I had to drag myself into work, I had to feign enthusiasm for damn near everything I was doing, I stuck it out. Not because I wanted PhD for myself. Not because it would enable me to have X, Y, Z career when I was done. I didn’t give a shit about any of that. I was in graduate school for 3 reasons and 3 reasons only – 1) My stipend was my income, 2) a PhD would mean I would inherently be respected in whatever I did, and 3) my parents were proud of me. Oh and because I was scared that quitting called into question my integrity.
How stupid is that?
That’s ultimate the pitfall of integrity…that sometimes it keeps us holding on for too long to things that we said we wanted and that we don’t feel like we can change our minds about. We hold onto relationships. Careers. Mindsets. All of which might not be serving us. And if you’re anything like me, you might be holding on for the wrong reasons. Cuz you know what I realized? That there is something that is vastly more important than integrity. Authenticity. And my fixation on integrity was driving me away from being authentic. And I think as soon as I realized that, that shit wouldn’t fly.
Ya, integrity can be a bad thing if you take it to extremes. But it’s not the only one…
INDEPENDENT TO A FAULT, BECAUSE, YES, INDEPENDENCE CAN GO TOO FAR TOO.
My mom, sage that she is, used to tell me all the time that I’ve been independent since I could walk. As funny as that phrase is, truer words have never been spoken about me. Except maybe when someone polite said that, “Ellyn has a big personality…” Hehe. In all seriousness though, I’m hugely independent. And sometimes it’s a proverbial thorn in my side. Because being so independent and so introverted…well, sometimes it bites me in the ass.
I pride myself on being independent. On not needing others. On being able to figure it out on my own. On having the internal drive, motivation and discipline to get my shit done. I’ve always been that way. That autonomy is something that drives me and is one of my biggest motivators in life – to just show that I can do it myself. And it’s a desirable quality! Seriously, how many job ads do you see where they’re looking for someone who is self-motivated? In relationships, how often do you hear a guy saying that he wants a woman who is independent. Hell, there is a freaking anthem about females being “Independent Women” (cue Beyonce…)
People love that shit, right?
Well, there are also a lot of ways in which being so independent and having such pride in that part of my personality has, well, kind of bit me in the ass.
Grad school is a good example. I remember a long time ago I wrote a blog post called “The Overly Confident Rotation Student” (which has since been taken down) about an instance when I was early in graduate school and I made a hugely stupid mistake because I wasn’t willing to ask for help or clarification. Obviously, by the title of that article, I realized that I was being overly confident in the instance. But a big part of what factored into it was my independent streak. I wanted to not need help. I wanted to be self-motivated and do it on my own. I wanted to show that I was already there as a researcher, and, well, it crashed and burned, unfortunately.
Fast forward to later in graduate school. My project was at an absolute stalemate, I was beating my head against the wall doing the same experiment over and over again, and seemingly every single time I felt like I was making progress, something would happen that would derail everything. But, that’s not the point. The point is that I wanted to feel like I could do this on my own, so I never sought out my boss to help explain something to me, to give me a new idea or thing to try until she forced a conversation on me, never expressed my frustrations to her, etc. I would have saved myself so much time and feeling like I was alone in my frustration if I had gotten off my independent, “I can do it ALL BY myself” high-horse (please let me you read that like an angry toddler because that’s how I wrote it) and asked for help. From my boss. From my labmates and peers. From my collaborators. From so many people. Independence definitely shot me in the foot there and it’s definitely something that I did wrong in graduate school.
But that’s not the only place that being overly independent has held me back. It’s held me back in relationships too, and not just the romantic kind. Friendships as well.
In relationships… I’m very independent in relationships. It’s actually something that I’ve written in to my relationship vision that we have lives, hobbies, friendships, etc. that are our own. I don’t want my whole life to be wrapped up in my significant other. I want to have a life of my own too, without them. Yes, that I’ll share with them at appropriate times, but also that I don’t have to share with them. And I want them to have the same thing. But, in past relationships, this independence has been a problem. My last boyfriend in college tried to break up with me at the beginning of the semester after we’d been dating the entire year because he thought I was “too busy” for a boyfriend and that I didn’t want to be with him because I wasn’t fitting him into my life. Cut to me being caught really off guard because here I was thinking that I’d seen him every week so that things were going well. But, now? I kind of see where he was coming from. I was taking 4 400 level science classes, working 15 hours a week in my lab, I was a teaching assistant in our Introductory Microbiology class and I was an assistant soccer coach. Oh and I was probably playing on an intramural soccer team too, but I don’t really remember. Meanwhile, he was a journalism major and was getting into working at the paper. In his opinion, the time when we weren’t in school, we should be with each other, even studying together. In my world, that’s not how things worked. I had all these other interests, hobbies and passions that were as much a part of me as my major. In my world, I would never give these things up. We’d just build our relationship around them. We tried to make things work for a few more months, but ultimately we broke up, and even though there were other things that broke us up, this was still a big thing our relationship. It made me wonder if I could have the independence that I craved, that I needed in my relationship. If that was possible. And it took until I started working with a therapist recently for me to realize that I could.
In friendships… and this is a tricky one for me to navigate. I’m very guarded with my friendships. Like so many people, I’ve had friends that have burned me in the past. Friends who have shared things about me that weren’t theirs to share. Friends who have connected with me and learned my insecurities and vulnerabilities, only to throw them back in my face when they disagreed with something I was doing. It’s made me hesitant to open up. Simultaneously, though, I have a bigger hang-up when it comes to my friendships. One that I’m constantly working on. I’m emotionally independent. What do I mean? I don’t like to burden my friends with my negative emotions and some of the darker parts of my emotions and my past. So, when I’m really struggling with something, even though I have wonderful friends that want to be there for me and want to help, sometimes getting a straightforward, honest answer to something like, “What’s wrong?” is really really hard. I don’t willingly divulge those things. My thinking is, “It’s my shit. And I need to figure out how to handle it on my own without burdening the people I love.” And that’s stupid. Stupid and not productive. It’s something that I still struggle with it. But again, with my therapist, I’ve been making progress. I also often think of something Brene Brown said…
There are people that haven’t earned the right to hear my stories. So when they ask me what’s wrong, I am not obligated to give them an honest, complete, in depth answer. I’m just not. But my friends? My close relationships? The people who’ve had my back and I’ve had theirs? Those people have earned the right to hear my stories. And sometimes the independent streak in me tried to play like I don’t need them. But I do. We all need those people when we’re going through shit in our lives. They’re the ones that reach a hand down into the pit and pull us out.
SO ARE INDEPENDENCE AND INTEGRITY INHERENTLY BAD EMOTIONS? HELL NO.
Having a high degree of integrity is a great thing. Having a high degree of independence and self-motivation is a great thing. Same goes for someone who is detail-oriented, innovative, structured, etc. Those are all characteristics that are inherently good. But we have to use care with taking them to extremes.
Being detail-oriented is great, until you get so fixated on the details that you can’t see the big picture.
Being innovative is wonderful, but innovation only gets you so far if you are so focused on innovating that you don’t follow-through and carry any of your projects forward.
Being structured is great, until you get so stuck in the plan that you let following the perfect plan hold you back from taken action and moving forward.
All positive characteristics have a dark side. They can all be taken to extremes. And I think that’s important to know and to realize moving forward. Independence and integrity are two of my strongest characteristics. But they’re also some of my biggest Achilles heels. I think it’s important for us to recognize this. Because otherwise, how else do we grow? And you know I’m all about growth… 😉
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Did you Know that Millennials are…
…THE LARGEST, MOST EDUCATED GENERATION & YET WE MAKE UP 40% OF UNEMPLOYED PERSONS & MAKE UP THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES LIKE ANXIETY & DEPRESSION?
I remember the first time I read that statistic. Oddly, it made me feel better.
I guess I only wish that, at the time when I was going through it, I knew that these things that I was experiencing were common. That other people went through them. I wish that 3-ish years ago when I was neck deep in my “quarter-life crisis” that I truly knew that a “quarter-life crisis” and that the anxiety and questioning that I experienced daily when I was in the thick of it were normal, commonplace even. Oddly, that would’ve helped in and of itself.
My Quarter Life Crisis…
LEMME PAINT A PICTURE FOR YOU…
My quarter life crisis started not long after I started graduate school. In 2013, I had joined a PhD program at the University of Michigan. I was a microbiology major in undergrad, I had worked in biomedical research labs from the moment I was 18 up until a couple years ago. So, basically, science was a huge part of my identity. So, I kicked off this journey in my PhD program, which, at the time, I was absolutely pumped about! It was a new adventure. One that involved me moving to a completely new part of the country with no one around that I knew. No family, distant or closely-related. No friends, really. I was completely on my own. And though there were nerves involved in that move, the vast majority of it was excitement.
But graduate school was a wild ride. My first year of graduate school was plagued with the most intense feelings of imposter syndrome I have ever experienced in my life. Imposter syndrome is essentially a feeling like you’re an imposter in whatever you’re doing. In graduate school, it manifested for me as just feeling like I was stupid, that I got into my program on a fluke, that everyone was so much smarter than me, that one day I was going to show up to class and I was going to be found out. That my professors and my peers were going to realize that I didn’t belonged and it terrified me.
So needless to say the first year was rough. But, as much as my mentors and the higher-ups tried to tell me that it would get better. However, my peers that were later in the program warned me otherwise.
Graduate school was a marathon. The first year was made up of me trying to find my place and some sense of belonging in my program and in my lab. Second year was kicked off by prelims, which are also called qualifying exams, depending upon the program that you’re in. They’re basically huge exams that will determine whether or not you’re qualified to continue on in your program. So, that was stressful as fuck to say the least. I passed, thank God, but everything about the process really called into question a lot of why I was doing this to myself. Over the next year, I struggled and struggled and struggled to get my experiments to work. I struggled to feel like I had anything to contribute. I constantly felt plagued by these feelings of competition, of not being good enough. Then, at the end of my second year of graduate school, I experienced two separate instances of what can only be described as bullying by my peers, one of whom was one of my labmates.
I didn’t talk about the bullying to anyone that could do anything about it. Hell, for a while, I didn’t tell anyone in my immediate circle. The first instance of bullying, I found myself crying at my desk, shielding my face when my labmates walked by, sending emails to my coach and one my best friends just trying to understand what I’d done wrong to deserve being treated like this. The next instance happened probably a month, maybe two later. And I’ll never forget that when it happened, it was like 2 or 3pm on a weekday, I was at work, and I was so upset that I grabbed my stuff, walked out of my lab and cried from the moment I stepped into the elevator until the moment I got home.
THAT’S HOW THINGS STARTED…
And this is something that I actually didn’t appreciate until later. Those two events and the time that followed kick started the period of time that I call my “quarter-life crisis”. A time where I closed myself off from everything. Where I essentially became a hermit. Because, despite being bullied, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it!
I finally started talking about it in late 2015. It was then that I realized what kind of relationships I’d built in my new home. They were relationships with great people, but at that point, I had portrayed myself so much so as the “social girl”, the “party” girl, that few of these friendships were people who I could go talk to about deeper things. Who I could tell about being bullied and the people that had bullied me. Who I could tell how miserable I was and who would actually listen without saying “Ya, but that’s just graduate school…” I didn’t feel like anyone cared. So I buried myself, hiding from my friends, my labmates, my boss, my peers, etc.
All Groan Up posted a list of the Top 25 Signs You’re Having a Quarter Life Crisis, and let me just say, I realize now that I checked many of the boxes…
- I was asking myself constantly if I was “ever going to feel like myself again…” because during the time that I’d been in graduate school, I had lost all of my vitality.
- I couldn’t see myself doing the work of all the people around me, the people that I should be aspiring to be like…
- I was constantly asking and saying to myself, “There’s got to be more to life than this…”
- I would have paid anything and everything I have to have one damn moment of clarity
- I felt like my anxiety, fear, uncertainty, etc. was crushing me.
- I was drinking my feelings…even by myself in my apartment.
- I wasn’t working at work…I was just surfing the internet, watching YouTube videos, reading BuzzFeed articles until the clock said I could go home.
- I couldn’t stop looking back at college wondering how things would be if I did things differently.
- I didn’t know where to go for answers or what questions to even ask.
- And because I was so far from myself, I hid myself from my friends. Not that they seemed to notice or care.
It was around this time that I realized that graduate school may be the thing that needed to change. Graduate school was sucking the life out of me in lots of ways. I started enthusiastic and passionate about science and over the next couple years, that enthusiasm would be sucked dry from me, so much so that when I finally went and met with our Student Services Rep for our graduate program about she said something akin to, “I feel like this program stole the light from you…” and she wasn’t far off. But it wasn’t just that. As I dove deeper into my quarter life crisis, I started trying my damndest to dig myself out. I invested in personal growth. I did only training programs trying to find something that light me up again. But, many of the books I read and programs that I did didn’t reveal what I thought they would. If anything, they suggested that I should get the hell out of graduate school.
I realized during this time that I was in my graduate program for exactly 3 reasons.
1. I wanted to be Dr. Ellyn and have PhD at the end of my name.
2. My family, particularly my parents, were proud of me.
3. It was my income.
None of this had anything to do with being passionate about what I did. I knew this. And I continued to know this with 100% certainty over the next approximately 10 months that I would spend in my graduate program. But I had no concept of what I would do instead. I had no clarity or certainty about what I would do with my life if I wasn’t doing science. Science had been such a part of my life and such a part of my identity for so long that I didn’t know who I was without it. The only thing I could see myself doing was coaching…but how was I to make my living as a coach?
So, I grew to resent things. I grew to resent science for not giving me the kind of success and fulfillment that it was “supposed” to. I grew to resent Beachbody and the coaching community that I had been a part of since April 2014, that had brought me so much fulfillment because it threw a monkey wrench into my life. I may not have been perfectly satisfied with being a scientist up until I started coaching and getting involved in the personal growth sphere, but I was content. But Beachbody and coaching introduced me to something new, something different. It introduced me to this entirely new way of living and this community of people that were fucking excited to do their work and were endlessly fulfilled by it and making a kickass living while they did. I loved personal growth, fitness, learning, growing, mentoring people and helping them improve their lives. But I was scared AF.
My quarter-life crisis probably started around mid-summer of 2015 and continued until early 2016 and during this time, the best way I could describe it is that I went into a state of disconnection. I fell off track with coaching, the community of coaches that I had been involved in, the healthy lifestyle habits that had lead me to a 25lb weight loss, with the personal growth habits that had helped me change my mindset and confidence so profoundly, and last but not least, my work. I completely disconnected.
EMERGING FROM MY CRISIS…
I started to emerge from my state of complete and utter disconnection primarily because I started to talk about what I was going through with people. Some of the conversations were with that had finally reached out to me, realizing that we hadn’t connected in a long time, while others were conversations with new friends or friends who I hadn’t quite fully connected with before. These conversations grew and deepened. I started talking about the bullying. I started talking about the anxiety. I started talking about the uncertainty and the rumblings of wanting to leave the graduate program. The more I started talking about what I was experiencing, the more these new or rejuvenated friendships helped to pull me out of the hole that I’d dug myself into. And slowly but surely, other parts of my life started to get back on track too. I started working out again. I started doing personal growth again.
It was like a domino effect. Each new conversation and connection picked me up a little bit more. Each pick me up re-engaged me in all those activities that had helped me re-shape my life, my emotional growth and my physical health in the years prior. I went back to so many of the journal entries I’d written when I was in the thick of the crisis, journaled more, dug into more personal growth books and online trainings, etc. In conjunction with the passing of my grandpa in June 2016, I suddenly found a clarity that I had never had before. I finally started listening to all these rumblings I’d been ignoring or was just not tuned into the years before. So, when the straw finally broke the camel’s back in graduate school, I was ready to step away. I was ready to embrace the uncertainty. I was ready to move on.
WHAT’S THERE TO BE GRATEFUL FOR?
Because since my quarter life crisis, even though it was shitty and even though the emotions I experienced during that time are emotions that I never want to experience, I feel like I have so much more clarity on what I want in my life. Some of the questions that I was forced to answer revealed aspects of who I am and what I want that I had no concept of…and it’s been mind-blowing the kind of impact these things can have.
My life has completely and dramatically transformed. I feel authentic and more like the person I want to ultimately be in my life more and more each day. I realized that coaching is something I’m so damn passionate about after engaging in coaching and mentoring for the last 12 years, whether it’s been being a captain or coach in soccer, tutoring, mentoring, assistant coaching, teaching…it truly has been 12 years. And up until my quarter life crisis, that had never dawned on me and I had never realized that this is something that I could make a living doing. Hell, I’ve started a fucking business! It’s something I never would’ve considered doing. I’m not educated in this. I’m not naturally wired this way. Hell, I never thought I’d have the balls.
Transform my health? Start a business? Travel the world? Before my quarter life crisis, I wouldn’t have had the bandwidth of the belief that I could do anything like what I’m doing now with my life. And, hell yeah, sometimes I have my doubts. But going through my quarter life crisis gave me and understanding of not only what I want, but also what I’m capable of and what I’m capable of overcoming. It showed me that I’m much more resilient and much stronger than I’ve ever given myself credit for. And that’s a beautiful thing.
So, that’s why I’m Grateful for my Quarter Life Crisis!
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ALRIGHT FRIEND, HOW MANY DIFFERENT PLANNING SYSTEMS HAVE YOU TRIED?
WELL, I’VE TRIED A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT, AND I’VE NEVER QUITE FOUND ONE THAT I LOVED.
- The Plum Paper Planner – It’s just not great quality.
- The DailyGreatness Journal – It’s awesome on the habits. But, tried to do too much and didn’t have enough of a planning element for me.
- The Erin Condren Life Planner – Great quality and construction, but was missing the healthy habit elements and it wasn’t customizable enough for me. I know, I know. That might be blasphemy to #ECLP addicts
- The Happy Planner – Probably the closest I’ve come to absolutely loving a planner. Totally customizable with it’s removable pages, but was missing something.
Then, when I was in Medellin, I was at an art store (always a dangerous place for me to be) and I found Moleskine notebooks and I thought to myself, what about a Bullet Journal?
Well, let’s just say I’m in love. Ever since I started using it, I’ve been absolutely in love with the customizability of the system, how easy it is to implement, and how perfect the system is for me. But, as I was starting my journey into Bullet Journal-ing, I realized that there is a lot wrong with the Bullet Journal culture. Namely, it’s overwhelming as all hell. I realized that a lot of the “Bullet Journaling for Beginners” stuff you find on Pinterest are complete and utter BS. I mean, they’re incredibly artsy, photogenic layout and they’re beautiful! But are they practical? I’m sorry, but if I’m a) just getting started and b) wanting a simple solution that going to get me organized so that I have MORE time? I don’t want to do that!
What I’ve realized since starting my Bullet Journal is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can create an EFFECTIVE planning system AND you can do in a SIMPLE way that still looks incredibly beautiful and aesthetic (if you’re into that!). In my newest blog post, I’ve walked you through how I use my Bullet Journal, what’s important in your layouts and some SIMPLE places to start! Link in Bio!
BEFORE WE START…I WANT TO TELL YOU WHAT I LIKE BEST ABOUT THE BULLET JOURNAL SYSTEM
- It’s customizable. My biggest hang up with so many other planning systems is that I felt like I couldn’t adapt it to me. If it was a strict planner, I wanted it to have more lifestyle, health, habit features for me to use. If it was more habit + lifestyle adapted, it didn’t have enough planning elements. This system allows me to customize my Bullet Journal for exactly what I want to use it for and for how I want to use it. That customizability is invaluable in my opinion.
- It’s easy to implement. You really don’t need anything to start using a Bullet Journal. Ya, there are definitely materials that I recommend, which I’ve detailed below, but the bottom line is you need a notebook and a pen. That’s it. You don’t need to order off of some online store and wait multiple weeks for your planner to arrive. You don’t have to go to a special store to buy the planner. You can go anywhere that sells notebooks and pens, really, and you’re ready to get started.
- It allows me to be creative. I’ve found that I love that creative outlet with my planners. With the Erin Condren and Happy Planners, particularly the Happy Planner, I loved all the stickers and the ways that I could decorate the planner. It was fun for this former-scrapbook fiend to engage in that creativity. I was afraid a Bullet Journal wouldn’t give me that. But, what I love is that the whole process of drawing out your layout is an exercise in creativity and finding simple, easy ways to add in pops of color or creative elements allows me to play and be creative in a way that isn’t overwhelming or that makes my Bullet Journal to labor-intensive.
- It’s cheaper. Unless you’re one of those people that goes crazy with the water colored pens, Washi tape, etc., Bullet journaling is so so cheap compared to other planning systems. Erin Condren planners run for $50 a pop. Happy Planners are cheaper, but still can be steep. And then you’ve got all the add-ons and stickers and customization, etc. Basically, it can add up and it can add up FAST. With the Bullet Journal, at least with the approach I take, all you need is a notebook and some pens and that is SO much cheaper.
HERE ARE MY SUGGESTED MATERIALS:
- A gridded or dot grid notebook. I use this Moleskine gridded notebook, but I also really like Leuchtturm Notebooks like this dotted version. The nice thing about the Leuchtturm notebooks is that they are pre-numbered, but they’re also a little bit more expensive! But it’s important that your notebook has a grid or is dotted. Lined is okay, but I think the grid is more useful for some of the different things that you can do with the bullet journal.
- Pilot Frixion Erasable Pens. I’m obsessed with these pens and I’ve been getting friends obsessed with them for months because they’re the only erasable pen I’ve ever used that is actually 100% erasable! I love them! Here are some in multiple colors and here are multiple black pens. Plus, they’re retractable! These are my favorite pens!
- Other than that, I like to have some highlighters for some pops of color. I like these Sharpie highlighter pens. This is how I get a little bit of color and extra design elements into my planner without resorting to all the washi tape, watercolor pens, etc. that a lot of the other really crafty Bullet Journalers use. I like to keep it super simple.
NOW THAT WE’VE GOT OUR MATERIALS, HOW DO WE GET STARTED?
First step – Number your pages. Step 1 with any journaling system is to label your pages. Again, if you have the Leuchtturm notebook, your pages will already be numbered, but if you’re using a Moleskine or another type of notebook, you will have to number the pages. This is a really important first step because you will want and need to use the page numbers to keep track of where things are located in your Bullet Journal, especially if you choose to include collections in your notebook (we’ll talk about what those are later). But start by numbering your pages.
Then, create your Table of Contents. After you’ve number your pages, reserve a couple pages at the beginning of your Bullet Journal for your Table of Contents. This is an important section and where your page numbering will come in handy. I use mine to keep track of some of my collections and my calendars. The more collections you add to your Bullet Journal, meaning the non-planner elements of your Bullet Journal, the more important that this section will be because it will be important for your ability to keep track of where these different things are located. Check out these entries on Pinterest for some inspiration on how to create a simple Bullet Journal Table of Contents.
After my Table of Contents, I have my goals. Why do I include this as my next step? Because, in my opinion, before you get to planning, you need to know what you’re planning for. So, it’s important to game plan your goals before you move onto the actual planning section of your Bullet Journal planner. For me, the pages right after my Table of Contents are dedicated to my over-arching goals for the entire year of 2018. Then, I usually breakdown my goals into monthly goals. So, I made a layout for each month and what I’m going to focus on and get down by that month. So, this is something that I forgot to include after my yearly goals. Instead, I included this at the back of my planner instead. What this looks like is, If I wanted to complete 4 workout programs over the course of year, what programs am I going to do and when do I approximately need to complete them by? Basically, that means I need to complete at least one workout program each quarter. So, that becomes my monthly/quarterly goal. If I want to complete 50 interviews for my grad school book over the course of the year, what does that look like? That means I need to complete 4-5 interviews each month and I write that into my monthly goals as well. It’s important to think about this at the start of your Bullet Journaling so that when you get to your Monthly and Weekly spreads, you already know what goals need to be completed during each month/week.
AFTER THAT, I START PLANNING.
Monthly spreads. My planning start with my Monthly spread. This is a one page spread that can be seen to the right on the left side of the top image. Basically, I use my monthly spread as a broad overview of the Month. I use the date list on the right of the page to keep track of an important things that are coming up! Birthdays. Deadlines. Events. All of those go in the date list. Then, next to that, I right all of my goals for the month. Part of these goals are my goals that we discussed above. What workout program am I going to start/finish? What personal growth programs do I want to finish? What progress do I want to make on my book? All of these goals go in my Monthly goals, along with my income goals, my business growth goals, etc. I write these into my Monthly goals so that I can refer back to this as I game plan my weekly goals.
Weekly spreads. In my weekly spreads, I again take a broad overview of the week and the appointments, events and commitments that are coming up, but more importantly than that broad overview, I also have my Weekly goals and my Habit tracker on my weekly spread. My weekly goals are benchmarked and broken-down versions of my Monthly goals. If I want to complete 10 interviews in the month, then my weekly goal is to complete 2-3 interviews in the week. If I want to complete an 8-module personal growth training that month, my weekly goal will be to complete 2 modules that week. I break my monthly goals down to what needs to happen each week to complete that goal over the course of the month and write those goals into my Weekly spread. My Habit Tracker is also an essential part of my weekly spread. It’s includes the daily habits or weekly habits that I need to complete. This includes my Miracle Morning activities, which are denotes with the acronym SAVERS in the Habit tracker, waking up at 6, budgeting at least 1x a week, drinking 75+ oz of water each day, etc. Each time I complete an activity, I track it in my Habit tracker.
Daily spreads. My daily spreads are a practical version of Brendon Burchard’s 1 Pg Productivity Planner. The important parts of this daily spread, which are currently set up in columns in my Bullet Journal, though I’ll be experimenting with different layouts over the next couple months! The important aspects of my daily layout are firstly setting my priorities for each day. I try to limit myself to 3-5 priorities, which are the must-do items that have to get done that day. The next section is my “People” section, asking the question of who I’m waiting on and who I need to reach out to that day. When I get to the point where I start checking my emails or making contact with people, these are the first people I reach out to first and foremost before I get distracted by other emails or social media messages. Then, it’s my tasks for the day. Oftentimes, these are related to appointments and client meetings that I have or edits that I need to get done for my science editing part-time gig. Additional activities that I have time for during the day will also get written into this “tasks” sections. I’ve also added in a “Memory” section where I challenge myself to come up with a good memory for the day. Sometimes this is really really easy, but othertimes, when I’ve had a bad day this is a lot harder. Last, but not least, I have a section at the bottom of my planner where I keep track of Biz activities and health-related habits. REgarding my biz activities, I plan my social media posts and the LIVE videos I do in my Facebook communities in this section by writing in the topic of my video for the day. For my health habits, I write what workout I’m doing that day and I also have a water tracker at the bottom of the page. And that’s my daily spread. It’s just a single column for the day, two days per page.
COLLECTIONS – WHAT COLLECTIONS DO I LIKE TO USE?
“Collections” refers to anything that you include in your bullet journal that really doesn’t relate to it being a planner. It’s anything you keep track of outside of your calendar within the context of the bullet journal. I use a number of different collections in my Bullet journal, but I would like to note that these collections are, for the most part, things that I added after the fact. I didn’t start by trying to add all these collections. I just started with the planner aspects of the Bullet Journal. So if you’re new to the Bullet Journal, I would wait to add these into your Bullet Journal until later.
My Career Vision Timeline – Aka the #GirlBoss Timeline. I don’t know what inspired this necessarily, but one of the things that I love that I included in my Bullet Journal is basically what I call my #GirlBoss Timeline. Basically, I treated this as a 10-15 year look at all the things I want to accomplish in my career. When do I want to publish books? When do I want to go to certain, high-profile seminars? When do I want to hit certain milestones in my income and my following? All of these are included in my #GirlBoss Timeline, including the phrase, “Top Female Speaker/Coach in the World.”
Level 10 Life & Plan. I love the Level 10 Life. I don’t remember who originally coined that concept, but I’ve heard and used so many derivatives of this goal-setting and visualization framework. I really enjoyed implementing this to see where I was at the beginning of the year and to really visualize where I wanted to take things in my life over the next few years! And it’s just nice to have that reminder of what the big goals are in a really simple format that I can reference whenever I’ve lacking motivation or enthusiasm.
Health Stats + Workout Schedule/Plan. I made a commitment at the beginning of this year to get in the best shape of my life by the end of the year and so far I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made! One of the ways that I’m tracking that progress is with a page in my Bullet Journal where I’m simply tracking my measurements. I don’t weigh myself, but I wanted a way to measure my progress that was tangible. So I brought a tape measure to measure myself. I also find using how my clothes are fitting to be useful as well. In addition to the page where I track my health stats, I also have a page in my planner where I track my Workout Schedule and plan. What I mean by this is I have game planned out what workout programs I’m going to be doing, when I plan on starting and finishing them, when I’m going to take a week of rest and recovery between workout programs and what workout program i’m going to plan on doing next. I also have taken into consideration where I’m going to be doing Half Marathon training in this. This is a nice reference to make sure that I have a game plan for the whole year.
Books to Read. As you probably know, personal growth is huge for me. And to make sure I’m consistent with my personal growth practice, I’ve been reading about a book a week, with the goal of reading 50 books this year. As a way to track this, I have a page in my Bullet Journal where I simply write down the name of the book I’m reading and I put a check next to it when the book has been completed. This is one of the simpler pages in my Bullet Journal and simply serves as a tracker of what and how many books I’ve read throughout the year.
Business Plan – Ex. Program Launch Map. I’m planning a big program launch for this Fall and with that, there have been a lot of logistical pieces involved in getting the program ready. These have included creating and filming the content for the programs, game-planning social media and audience growth, creating logistical plans for the launch and some of the launch details, including budgeting, revenue targets, etc. Basically, there’s a lot of stuff to keep track of and remember to do. So, I dedicated a few pages in the back of my Bullet Journal to keep track of some of these logistical pieces of the launch that I can check off once I complete them. It’s nice to have it with my planner because I can very easily reference this spread as I’m writing my monthly and weekly goals!
Business Plan – Content Planner. Similarly, I also have a content planner for my Business in my Bullet Journal. This isn’t the detailed “What I’m going to post on Instagram & When” plan. Instead, it’s just a generally outline for the types of content that I’m going to share each day and each week to help guide me as I write and plan content for the week and month. This is especially helpful when I’m running short on ideas and creativity. I also use this to set goals and plans around how frequently and on what schedule I want to post on my blo, share my Newsletter, and when I want to start a Podcast, which is something that has recently been added to my goals.
Meal Plan Ideas + Examples. Last, but not least, one of my favorite Collections and spreads is my Meal Plan. It’s not necessarily a meal plan in the traditional sense. Ever since I did 80 Day Obsession in January-March, I have been eating on a timed nutrition plan and have been eating very very similar meals from day-to-day. I use my meal plan ideas and examples to give myself examples of meals, snacks, etc. that fit into this timed nutrition, 80 Day Obsession meal plan. This is great when I’m writing my grocery lists and making plans for the next week’s meals because I don’t have to reference the 80 Day Obsession meal guide. I just glance at this spread and I know what fits into that style of eating! 🙂
Lastly, Check out My Walk-Through Video for…
MY NO-BS, SIMPLE, EFFICIENT BULLET JOURNAL TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
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WHEN DID WE GO: March 23-26, 2018
WHY DID WE GO: Side Trip from Lima, Peru, while on Remote Year
HOW LONG WERE WE THERE: 4 days and 3 nights, the final day being at Machu Picchu
TOUR COMPANY INFORMATION.
We toured with Loki Travel. Though there were definitely aspects of our Loki Travel experience that weren’t perfect, overarchingly, this tour was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone!
DAY 1 – CUSCO TO SORAYPAMPA.
Let’s just say, I almost didn’t even start this hike. Our day kicked off with a few hours of a bus ride and when our bus made
But I knew how bad I wanted this and, fortunately, a kind soul gave me their Pepto, while another made me some Ginger tea and helped me to take my mind off of my stomach with a little meditative partner stretching. Fortunately, my symptoms dissipated for the day, thank god. Because, despite the fact that I struggled up our first few hills (oh hey altitude and Ellyn not having great cardio), the next 3 days would challenge me, humble me, and show me some of the most incredible landscapes I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing how when you want something bad enough, we’ll endure a lot to make it happen!
At the end of day 1 of our trek, we were presented with an optional hike up to the lagoon. I kind of wondered, is this actually going to be worth it? Should I rest and let my body heal, even if my stomach seems okay for now? They said it was a simple one hour hike that would be “good training for day 2” of our trek. My first thought? Well, I definitely need the training. And since my stomach symptoms had subsided for the day, I decided to go for it.
Let’s just say it was a rude awakening. I was kicking myself for all those extra runs I had skipped out on. So many hills and so much fricken up. I was dying and gasping for air, realizing that day 2, by far the hardest day of our hike, was going to be a struggle and a half. Fortunately, the view from the top? Some of the bluest water and greenest greens I’ve ever seen! And the
Distance climbed: Approximately 10km (~6 miles) and 700m
DAY 2 – SORAYPAMPA TO CHAULLAY
“I can do hard things.” This was my unofficial mantra for day 2 of our Salkantay trek. It was by far the most difficult, but most rewarding day of our trek!
The day that involved dealing with stomach issues that were back with a vengeance. I was more miserable than I could have possibly comprehended. I tried to take my mind off of my sickness, but honestly, I couldn’t. I didn’t eat because I wasn’t sure what I could stomach.
Even with all the stomach issues raging inside of me, the altitude sickness that one of the fittest girls in our group nearly collapsed from, etc. we all climbed 3+ hours to the high point of our trek at 4600 meters. All the gasping for air that hiking at altitude requires was worth it to finish off that final ascent. All the beating up my body with another 5+ hours of climbing down to our camp. This whole day was definitely the most humbling experience of my life. The altitude kicked my ass and the stomach issues threatened my sanity. I was sore. My joints hurt. I was
I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of finishing our last accent. I literally got to the point where I was counting my steps, benchmarking my final ascent. “Another 50 steps, Ellyn, and you can rest!”. Couple that with rolling into camp that evening after hiking 27km and damn did I feel accomplished. Add to that all of my fellow hikers, friends and
Distance climbed: Approximately 27km (~16.5 miles) and 600m of ascent followed by ~1200m of descent.
DAY 3 – CHAULLAY TO SANTA TERESA TO AGUAS CALIENTES
SO, WAS IT WORTH IT?
HELL FREAKING YEAH IT WAS WORTH IT!
Do something that makes you proud is always something I have applied to fitness. Working out hard and eating healthy to make yourself proud because you know hat you’re doing something good for your body. But you know what? Sometimes doing things that make you proud include finally allowing yourself to take that trip or to do that thing that you’ve always wanted or been
This whole trip was a blessing. Great weather. Great people. Great guides. Great views. And hell yeah huge challenges. I think a few years ago I would’ve let the negative parts color the entire trek. The stomach issues. The cold. The altitude. Etc. And I def had my moments where they did this hike. But this experience? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
It wasn’t just about the end result of getting to the ruins and seeing Machu Picchu. It was everything. Every bug bite. Doubt. Frustration. Sore muscle. All of it. I earned the views and the smiles and the excitement. Each and every one of us did. We survived the Salkantay trek. And damn am I still so proud.
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In December of this year, just after I started working with my High Performance coach, I set some big goals. Big because, in the midst of all the travel, challenge, change and new experiences of this year, I committed to making this the year where I get into the best shape of my life! Lofty goal? Maybe. Especially since I’ve spent the 3.5 years prior to this experience aiming for just that and…haven’t gotten there. But I’m kind of over half-assing things. Especially when it comes to my physical fitness and my physical capabilities.
In making that commitment, bringing a travel gym with me would be crucial. At the time, my game plan was simple–Beachbody On Demand workouts ($99/year baby!!) and portable travel equipment like resistance and strength bands and my sliders. What I did not expect would be stumbling across perhaps the best travel fitness solution that has ever come into existence.
A couple weeks before Christmas, I saw the EmPack from Evolved Motion on Instagram. It was a pretty innocuous looking backpack, but the more I scrolled through the posts, I realized that this would be the perfect solution. Why? Because it makes weight training while traveling accessible. Not just accessible. But practical and possible. Without having to fill up a sandbag (seriously – how is that even practical!?! How am I gonna find sand?!?). Without having to go to a gym. Without having to solely resort to running, yoga, or other equipment-less workout options. Without having to commute to get my workout on, which I’m always a fan of! Plus, it allowed me to save my money for experiences, and my maybe some bomb ass meals, not spend it on gym fees or fitness classes.
After getting it for Christmas this year, I have now been using the Empack for a solid 5 months and, honestly, it’s become so freaking integral in my travel fitness routine! It’s really difficult for me to put into words, but I’ll try to anyway!
This bag is so legit! But I’m not going to stop there! Let me tell you more about why I’m so fricken obsessed with this bag!
THINGS I LOVE:
- Workouts on the go! #duh. The biggest reason I love this pack is because it makes weight training accessible anywhere, without needing to have access to a gym, a bunch of weights, etc. How does this work? Well, it works using the Evolved Motion sleeves or reservoirs. These sleeves collapse flat, which is perfect for travel, but what makes them so perfect for working out on the go is, unlike sandbags, you can fill them up with water or sand. That’s what I love! No matter where you are, you always have access to a sink and water, right? But the coolest part of this weight bag is how customizable it is. Yes, it’s a backpack, which you can use almost like a weighted vest, but you can take the backpack straps off and use one of the 6 double-reinforced handles to use the bag for weight lifting. You can see some of the different weight-lifting options in the video to the right. Plus, you can fit so much weight inside this pack! Each reservoir/sleeve holds up to 15 pounds of water and each EmPack holds up to 4 sleeves. That’s 60 pounds of water weight! Crazy, right? And you can get even more weight in it if you fill the sleeves with sand!
- Such a great travel bag! As you can see to the left, this pack, for me started as my carry-on for my Remote Year travels. Not only is the bag a perfect carry-on size (ie. it isn’t too oversized), butit has the perfect amount of room for all the carry-on essentials of my digital nomad life right now–some clothes, toiletries, laptop, noise-cancelling headphones, Kindle, planner and notebooks, etc. Also, I really love the dry bag-esque closure at the top of the bag. Security is a big deal when you’re traveling and one thing that always made me nervous about walking around with a backpack is the ease with which a thief or pick-pocket could just unzip a pocket and take something out of my backpack. With this pack, there really isn’t that option. They would have to loosen the cinches at the top and unroll the top of the pack – not exactly easy for someone to slip into your backpack unnoticed, which is such a bonus with this backpack. Lastly, you can use this bag as a daypack for hiking or touring the city, which I’ve definitely done on Remote Year.
- All-in-one fitness and professional pack! This is probably my favorite thing about this pack – it’s versatility. We’ve already talked about its functionality as a weight pack and in fitness and if there’s one thing that’s crazy obvious with this pack on social media, it’s that it is wonderful as a fitness tool. But, what I think is probably the coolest part of this product and this pack that is a lot less talked about is it’s functionality for digital nomads as a professional laptop bag. As I’ve highlighted in the slideshow to the left, the ease with which you can take this pack from a fitness pack to a laptop bag for trips back and forth to the office is unreal. All it really takes is taking out the sleeves and re-attaching the backpack straps and you have a laptop bag in a cinch. That is so freaking invaluable for someone that is a digital nomad. When you’re a world traveler, there is only so much stuff that you can bring with you on your journey. Having a weight pack, laptop bag, hiking backpack, etc. isn’t really practical at times. I’m speaking from experience on this one. So, having a bag that serves so many different purposes is so freaking invaluable!
- EXTREME Durability. One of the biggest things that was important to me as I was choosing my gear for this experience was that my gear would be durable and would hold up to the wear and tear of 12 months of travel and day-to-day use. Especially because I planned on using this pack daily in my workouts and because, starting in April, I ditched my other laptop bag in Medellin and started using this bag 100% of the time as my laptop bag. Basically, this bag needed to hold up. And it has! Beautifully! You legitimately wouldn’t know that it gets used and abused as much as it does. It’s made of Military Grade 1000D Cordura. This is one of the most durable fabrics right now and is known for its strength and tear resistance. Basically, this sucker is built to last and I don’t have any doubt that it’s going to last me well-beyond this year.
- Laptop sleeve that fits a 15″ laptop. I do not have a small laptop, let’s just get it out there and say it. And it’s always nerve-racking when something says “this product fits most 15″ laptops” that your 15-inch laptop will be one of the laptops that might not fit. Well, good news, my sizeable laptop fits in the laptop sleeve. But, I actually find that I use the other sleeve behind the laptop sleeve much more. It’s a little bit bigger too. So, what I’m saying that if you have a 15″ laptop, you’ll probably be good to go, which is important for our digital nomad selves and the necessity that laptops play in our lives.
- The uneven weight when you’re using water! From the fitness-perspective, this is something I am obsessed with about this system. With traditional weights, your weight is stable. Stationary. Each time you lift, your muscles know exactly what they’re doing. But, the cool part about using water as weight is that the weight is unstable. The water moves as you use the weight pack, so you’re muscles are constantly adjusting and readjusting to the sloshing water. And that really helps take your workout to the next level. And, in conjunction with regular weights and resistance bands, that is a huge diversity of different ways to challenge your muscles! Such a win!
- So much support, videos and tips from Emily Schromm & Evolved Motion! Seriously, they have a whole website of how-to videos just for how to use the different aspects of the EmPack. But that’s just scratching the surface of all the resources and tools that exist from Evolved Motion and for using the EmPack. Plus, between Emily Schromm’s Instagram account and the EmFit Challenge Instagram account, there are so many tools, suggestions, and workout programs that are specific to the EmPack.
- It packs completely flat! This feature! Aghhhhh I love it! Okay…so I’m kind of a backpack queen. You know that comment I made above about traveling with too many bags? Ya…that. Especially in my travels this year. I literally have 3 different backpacks with me and I’m about to have a 4th (hey hey Empack Nomad…I see you!). They all kind of serve different purposes, which is why I have so damn many. But, when it actually comes to transitioning between the different cities we’re traveling this year, or when we’re flying to different cities, having so damn many bags is kind of problematic. That’s why it’s so perfect that this bag packs completely flat. At first I thought it would be problematic that this bag kind of doesn’t have a lot of structure, but actually that’s been one of the most important aspects of this bag and for my ability to haul it around with me this year. It slips right into my suitcase without much fuss or hassle. And that is so damn important!
- No water bottle pockets. This is periodically kind of irritating, but honestly, it’s so not that irritating. In fact, it probably makes me drink more water because I don’t have a pocket to slip my full water bottle into. I just chug my water and throw the empty bottle into my pack. So, though it can be irritating, it’s so not a deal break.
- No hip belts, sternum straps or extra padding on the shoulder straps. Now, this isn’t a deal break. Not in the slightest. But, if you’re someone who is a stickler for the extra support in a hiking pack, then it’s worth noting. This bag works perfectly fine as a daypack, but if you’re going to be doing longer or difficult hikes and you really need that extra support, that’s something to consider. In fact, Evolved Motion’s EmPack Nomad might cover that. Read on to hear a little bit about that at the bottom of the post.
- Not hydration-sleeve compatible. Again, if you’re a hiking aficionado, this is something that you’ll want to know about. You can put a hydration sleeve in this pack, but snaking the drinking hose out of the main pack is a little bit tricky (read…not super practical). But, that’s where the EmPack Nomad comes into play…
Bonus: The EmPack Nomad…
THEY JUST LAUNCHED A NEW VERSION OF THE EMPMACK ON KICKSTARTER – THE EMPACK NOMAD!
What’s pretty awesome about the new product is that it’s more gear toward the hiker/backpacker. It has the cushioned backpack straps that the original EmPack is missing (Note: This has been updated in the newer models of the Empack!), as well as a hipbelt and sternum strap! Plus, instead of just housing water reservoirs, this one has a special water bladder for day-hiking! It’s lacking the 15″ laptop sleeve, but that’s okay! Cuz it’s meant for a completely different purpose! And, of course, it can still be used as a weight pack with all of the awesome weight pack features of the original Empack! Check out the Kickstarter campaign here, which I would just like to note was fully funded within it’s first 2 days. Seriously, that’s how happy us customers are and how much we love these products! Or head to Evolved Motion to pre-order your Nomad here.