Soniah Kamal Talks About her book Unmarriageable

As they say, all of us have a story, a book in us. So then why only a few people are able to pull that book out and present it to the world?

Because narrating a tale is not merely coining words and forming sentences.

It requires skills, sweat, and investing your heart and soul.

Writing a book, in my opinion, is similar to undertaking an arduous journey because at every step your love for telling that story to the world will be tested.

If you score high in all these departments, there is a chance to see your name on the cover of a book.  65770497_2395826940485058_4653800363197988864_n

Soniah Kamal, author of Unmarriageable, a book that is winning praise from readers across the globe shares her views on the ever-evolving book publishing scene, what it truly takes to be a writer and more.

Why did you choose to become an author?

Soniah Kamal: I actually never wanted to be a professional writer. I wanted to be an actress but, unfortunately, since my cultural heritage—I’m Pakistani-Muslim– traditionally views actresses as prostitutes, my father forbade me and, I, uncharacteristically enough, listened to him. As I explain in my TEDx talk, he said my decision would ‘ruin’ my family and since I didn’t feel right ruining everyone else simply for my dreams, I gave in. I actually refer to myself as the reluctant writer in an essay as my work tries to make sense of individual desires versus responsibility to the community and what is lost– what I lost– in-between. However, now I feel as if writing chose me and, as such, I’m grateful for the wonder it has been in my life. Reading was everything to me growing up and to think that I’m an author myself now is a surreal, fantastic feeling. As for how I began writing— since age 8-9, I was always entertaining myself with storytelling, like some might sing in the shower, and at some point, I began to scribble them down. However, it wasn’t until age 24 that I decided to pursue writing professionally by which I mean trying to publish fiction and get paid for it.

What is the key requirement to achieve the dream of becoming an author?

SK: Learning how to write really well and dealing with rejection.

Tell us a bit about the connection between reading and writing.

SK: I read for pleasure. I write to, hopefully, give other readers pleasure.

How different is the writing scene for authors compared to, say a decade ago? 

SK: Extremely different. The growth of the Indian publishing scene has been a boon for Pakistani writers. In the U.S., where I live, there is certainly more attention paid to diverse narratives and own voices. The U.S. market has traditionally published narratives about immigration and /or terrorism and Unmarriageable is neither, and moreover, it is set completely in Pakistan. 65682341_459699891485361_7913231802678902784_n

In her initial phone call to me, my editor told me that even had there been no Austen connection she would have acquired Unmarriageable, so yes things are gradually changing. Authors have to do a tremendous amount of marketing too these days though the choice to do little or none is there too.

Is success measured differently for authors than for people from different industries?

SK: For me, success is knowing I’ve written the best novel/story/essay I possibly can. It is definitely different in other industries where promotions and profits come into play.

To find out more about Soniah via her website and through social media: Twitter, Instagramand Facebook 

Ranga Rajah

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How to Pay Attention to Your Inner Calling and Become an Entrepreneur

Becoming an entrepreneur is what most people dream of, but it is only a few that push through against all odds and establish a business.

Melodie Grace is one of those few. There was plenty she had to deal with, including health issues of her own, ignore people pushing her to stay in her comfort zone, and listen to her inner calling by giving up a well-paying job to establish Tress Tea LLC. a plant-based healing company where she makes compounds that deal with the root cause of most illnesses.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York Melodie says, “my blood cleansing, liver detoxes, and anti-inflammatory compounds have proven to align with holistic methods of healing and disease prevention”.

Screenshot_20180705-231738Taking care and maintaining health is one of her reasons for starting the Tress Tea.

Her mother passed away at a young age of 38 that also made Melodie take her own health very seriously and nudged her to choose the path to health and wellness.

Melodie was born with whooping cough and throughout her childhood, she suffered from several respiratory infections.

“It seems as if I was always in the doctor’s office”.

Visit to the doctor meant prescriptions for antibiotics and by the time she was in her late teens, Melodie started having more complications and in her 20s she had to deal with allergies and a serious bout of bronchial asthma.

Instead of helping Melodie fight the ailments, prescription drugs were making her feel worse and sick all the time.

“I hated working in office environments because I was susceptible to everyone’s germs. In my early 30s, a blood test revealed that I was iron deficient, vitamin D deficient and my copper/zinc levels were off. With this history of bad health, I decided that I wouldn’t let my fate rest on an institution that only tended to my symptoms.

In 2013, while living in Montreal, I started researching herbs and administering concoctions to address my various ailments”.IMG_20190518_212936_547

In 2015 Melodie moved to Atlanta and met like-minded people who also leaned towards the holistic approach of healing.

People close to her saw her transformation and Melodie started sharing some of her compounds because she wanted to help people.

Support was not easy to come by because people were not in favor of her wanting to leave her job as a VBA Developer to work on her herbal remedies.

“I guess I must attribute a little bit of my journey to stubbornness. I don’t want folks to suffer unnecessarily when the Earth yields natural remedies”.

Coming from a family of programmers, teachers, nurses, and military professionals, Melodie had to learn the ropes of setting up and managing a business on her own and understand by experience what works and what doesn’t.

 

No matter what the circumstances, your true calling has the ability to draw you in, and Melodie started Tress Tea LLC in December 2016.

Screenshot_2017-10-26-00-49-27_2“I haven’t been to the doctor since and I’m in the best shape of my life. I love to ride my fixed gear bicycles, meet new people and read books”, says Melodie.

Melodie’s Instagram page not only reflects her multifaceted personality but it also gives us a peek into what goes on in an entrepreneur’s mind. The self-doubts, levels of motivation, struggles to make that breakthrough in the sales and last but not the least, making money.

Her social media page played a role in reminding Melodie that she had to make use of her knowledge. Thereafter she took charge and decided, “I shouldn’t let lack of support stop me from doing what’s in my heart”.

Melodie wants people to learn how yielding and forgiving the human body is once it is cared for and nurtured for.

“I want to expand the business so I can make more custom compounds for people based off of private consultations”.

Apparently, in 2017, Melodie made quite a few sales but not enough to stay afloat. So, in 2018 she had to get a job.

Melodie currently has five products up on her Etsy page and she will be adding more in the near future. She is also working towards creating awareness about holistic healing and tries reaching out to ailing people by giving free advice and tips.

Melodie, who is working towards obtaining a Master Herbalist’s certificate believes word of mouth is the best way to promote her business.

“I want my business to grow organically and touch lives one individual at a time”.

Ranga Rajah

 

 

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Entrepreneur Danielle Ross: Realizing One Dream at a Time

Owning a business is a dream most people want to achieve. But how many actually make it happen depends on many factors.

Just having an idea about owning a business and actually owning one are two different things.

We all have friends that keep talking and sharing their ideas about starting a business.

When you meet them a few months later, they are still talking about their plans.

A few more months later, they have either abandoned that idea or feel the need to improvise and add to it.

I call this group as people who are seriously ambitious in their thoughts, but lack the drive and direction and are unwilling to get their ‘hands dirty’.

The other group is one that not only has an idea but starts working on their plans by investing time regularly until they achieve their goals.

If you want to start a business, you must take the risk of jumping in and investing yourself.

You do not have to give up your job yet. All you need to do is, hold on to that drive and put it to use.

Danielle Ross is a tea lover from Michigan and she is a student going into her last year of college.FB_IMG_1561164282350

About 5-6 years ago she discovered her true love for tea and says it has only grown since.

As they say, business is all about love and passion and Ross put her love for tea to good use by starting her own business. She started approaching small tea companies and showed them how she could assist them.

Companies need help selling their tea, and Ross decided to assist them to sell tea by spreading the word around to her social media followers by creating awesome content.

A business model cannot get any more straightforward than this.

Ross’s business is still in the developing phase.

Ross says there are many steps that still need to happen before she reaches her final “goal”.Snapchat-373664931

Which is fine, nothing happens overnight. It is the dedication and the time you are willing to devote that matters.

Ross is active on her social media and is always updating and adding new information. Her followers get to know about new products in the market as soon as it comes to her.

This is devotion because unless she informs her followers, they will not buy the product and customers not shopping for products means loss of a sale for the companies.20190526_230537.jpg

There is a lot resting on the shoulders of entrepreneurs like Ross.

Ross and many people like her spend a fair amount of their time every day working on forming collaborations, writing reviews, posting, and connecting with their followers.

How do they get compensated?

Are there any benefits in this line of business?

Too many questions and there is a simple reply.

“I am still working on that (monetary) part, but yes there is a little bit. It is in no way a steady stream of income, but it is enough to cover some of the basic costs of the website and the website host. Anything left goes into buying more tea”, says Ross.

There are no major benefits yet, but the determination to keep working to establish the business is very strong.20190614_171755

And not just that, Ross understands the importance of investing back in the business.

In the initial stages of business, unless you try and strengthen your business, it will not survive.

You also need to understand; you cannot reap as soon as you sow. You have to nurture, wait, and then enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Ross has a minor in Entrepreneurship and says she wants to own business on these lines in the near future, but for now, she is happy to be known as an influencer.

Ross further adds, “if I see something that is a cool tea related item, I would consider reviewing/focusing on it. It really would depend on the situation”.

Ross says her ultimate goal is to help people achieve their dreams. “I truly believe that anyone can make it (however they consider that) and sometimes it is connections and people you know that get you there. I want to use my platform to help others”.

The size of your business does not matter, what matters is the difference you are making to your life while adding value to other people connected to you.

You can find more information on Danielle’s blog.

 

https://www.teaandmeco.com/

Ranga Rajah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tips to Use Struggle as Your Motivator

Understanding Struggle:

The struggle is a part of our existence, encountered on a daily basis, it comes in many forms, including emotional, physical, and mental.

One important thing to keep in mind is, there is no end to this thing called struggle.

And guess what? It is a good thing.

Think of struggle as adrenaline.

If not for struggle, we won’t be motivated to do anything at all.

We have an idea of what we will receive at the end of our efforts and that is why we try and work.

An effort is the other side of the struggle, and it is good to plan our bouts to achieve success.

Let us try and understand some of the key struggles and how to handle them.

Identify the Struggle Type:

Is it physical, mental or emotional?priscilla-du-preez-107403-unsplash

Because, physical, emotional, and mental struggles need to be handled differently.

Recently I had a very bad attack of cold, and for the next three to four days, I could not get any work writing done. Not only was I feeling physically sick, but because I was not able to post blogs, etc. I felt emotionally and mentally sick too.

I had an inkling of why I was feeling down and out.

If ever stuck in a similar tug-of-war, analyzing the type of struggle helps us deal with it a lot better.

Mental:

Right from remembering things like setting up the alarm to turning off the stove before leaving the home can be a struggle.

Forgetting to turn the stove off can lead to some serious outcomes. Including damage to your property.

Struggling to remember and do things comes under mental struggle.zachary-nelson-172215-unsplash

Whenever I have something important to attend like an interview, I am always anxious and at such times I struggle to remember all the important stuff I need to do before leaving home. There are even times when I drive back to check if I have locked my front door, etc.

For such times, a checklist comes in very handy.

Think of all the stuff that gives you anxiety moments after you leave home.

Take a few minutes before leaving home to strike them off and it is one less struggle for the day.

Reaching late to work, missing a deadline could be something people struggle with.

Prioritizing and putting things in perspective could be a solution to your challenges.

Emotional:

A classic example is where a person has to choose between spending time at work and family.

And often we get caught in some kind of emotional turmoil because both work and family are essential features of our lives.

Another example is where a parent feels the pain of having to go back to work after being with the newborn for a few months to a year.alex-pasarelu-223684-unsplash

Leaving an infant and going to work is a big emotional struggle and I have read articles/blogs where the parent/s decide to work from home and win over the battle between the mind and the heart.

Moving from one place to another can make people emotionally weak.

After working for many years at a job I knew I had to move on to make progress. Yet, my heart would not cooperate and it was a big struggle between my heart and mind.

At such times, all one can do is to understand emotional reactions are normal and it is temporary. Sometimes a good cry helps you to deal with it.

Watching a light-hearted movie, serial, or reading something funny helps.

Going out with friends and trying to spend some quality time is great support too.

Physical:

Sometimes getting that much-needed exercise is a huge struggle.

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Maybe because every muscle in your body is sore and aching, no matter how much you want, you are not able to make it to the gym.

In this case, the mind is willing, you are motivated too, but the body is unwilling.

This is another form of struggle.

How do you overcome this?

You have to do some self-talk and tell your mind to take it easy.

Most trainers recommend resting your muscles after a strenuous workout.

Take a day off and instead read or watch something related to health and wellness.

Struggle is Good:

Bear in mind, struggle per se is not bad. It is a sign for you to move forward.

Sometimes you have to shift the gear, at other times simply keep going the same path by using motivation.

Ranga Rajah

Photo by Alex Pasarelu, Matthew LeJune, Zachary Nelson, and Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Combat and Celebrate Homesickness

Thanks to modern technology, the best thing that has happened is the ability to connect with our loved ones in any part of the world.

There are WhatsApp, emails, phone calls, followed by sending and receiving audio/video messages. FaceTime, another aid to help us all connect and stay in touch with our loved ones.

Listening to voices and seeing friends and family virtually via technology is all great, but we still cannot get the real feel of being there.

In order to get that feeling, it is important to sense and relive moments.

When our senses are awakened, we experience joy, sorrow, and moments that make us feel alive.erik-lundqvist-219020-unsplash

We need to experience those senses including familiar smells, tastes and feelings and when possible indulge in some nostalgia to stay connected to our past we left behind.

Staying connected to moments from our past is not very difficult because no matter what part of the world we move to, something as simple as a familiar fragrance can evoke memories and take us down the memory lane.

And then we begin to feel that familiar tug in the heart followed by either moistening of our eyes, or getting that distant look where even though we are physically present in our new home, but there is a movie our mind is screening and we are watching scenes of siblings, friends, family, the neighborhood we left behind, etc.

Give a Different Twist to Nostalgia:

It is very normal to get hit with a bout of recollections and feel down and low.

The best thing to do during such times is to handle and celebrate them instead of getting depressed.vivek-baghel-1424633-unsplash

Treat it as an opportunity to meet and spend time in your past for a few hours.

Here are a few things you can do to live it up every time you are hit by this sentimental longing.

Find Stuff to Create Home Away from Home

Kitchenware:

There are those little things that represent our identity.

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Cooking vessels and utensils play an important role in every kitchen. My new home has two sets of cooking utensils. One for continental cuisine and another set I use for cooking food I grew up eating.

Back home, we used to cook bhakris, which are breads made by patting with palms and baking them on a clay baking pan. I bought one from a local Indian grocery and use it when I get hit by nostalgia.

If and when possible, try making those special dishes you grew up eating and make sure to use the cooking and serving utensils used in your kitchen back home.

Fragrances:IMG_5185

Certain fragrances including those of flowers, incense sticks, the aroma of food, etc. can help you to not only connect with memories but bring about some peace and joy and give you a feeling of home away from home.

If you are unable to find them in your local store, make use of modern technology like Amazon online shopping and get them delivered.

Music and Entertainment:

Music is definitely universal, but there are a few songs, tunes, movies that perhaps hold the key to your heart. Find some time and listen to songs, or watch movies that have the ability to not make you feel low or depressed but give you a feel of being home.

Use these methods as tools to combat the feelings of missing home, allow them to help you soar rather than allowing them to pull down your spirits.

Ranga Rajah

 

Photo by Erik Lundqvist, Vivek Baghel on Unsplash

 

 

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4 Tips to Help you Work Around Your Problems

We all encounter problems, during the course of our day, we navigate, push, and do all that is in our capacity to find solutions.

On some days, we manage to strike that perfect balance, and other days, probably get a migraine trying to break free from the clutches of our problems.

No matter what you do, there will always be something waiting to pull you down.

It depends on how good you are at defending and shielding yourself. Followed by managing your problems.

Problem #1 Unemployment

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This is one of those problems we all encounter. Be it a self-employed person, or working for a big MNC.

Every time you encounter unemployment, it is accompanied by worries, anxiety, and many similar emotions.

And these bundle of things attacking you means you get weaker and at times can end up feeling helpless.

Indulging in things that make you weak is not an option at all. Stepping away from those thoughts is one route you can make use of.

Try and take a break from those thoughts.

How? Try these methods. Tell your self, it is a temporary situation and you have the confidence to handle it.

Also, put your skill set on the table followed by your experience. Then make a list of all your positive attitudes.

If possible, trash the old resume and create a new one.

This step energized me so much, I felt all new and renewed.

It is okay to once in a while feel that fear and insecurity about the job and the paycheck, use that as your motivation to surge ahead and deal with your situation.

Most importantly, don’t waste time indulging in things that give you a temporary high and excitement. You have a problem, try and find a solution. And understand that you are capable of finding one.

 Problem #2 Moneysharon-mccutcheon-556371-unsplash

Always challenges us, even when we have it and do not have it. The idea is to understand money is a liability if you do not know how to handle it.

How to use money is an important lesson in itself. There are two aspects to deal with here. Some people love having plenty of cash, others love the feel of plastic money.

Regardless, you have to remember every time you spend a dollar, your account is in the minus of that amount.

Does that mean you are not allowed to spend? No, I am not saying that. If you have earned something then you definitely have the right to spend the money too.

But do remember to ask yourself how much you can truly afford to spend?

This step might be useful.

Make sure to pay all your bills first.

Don’t miss out on essentials like food, healthcare, and other important stuff.

Then reconsider the decisions you make on shopping, socializing, how frequently you eat out and partying.

The first time you do, it is going to overwhelm you. But it gets easier every time you track the money you spend.

Once you start tracking where the overflow is, you will start working towards sealing them.

And soon, you will be on your way to learning how to handle money.

Always ask yourself tough questions when you are about to spend the money. Is this my want or need?

Problem #3 Health

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It has to be nurtured. At the end of the day, you do not want to be sick, not just for yourself but also for the sake of your loved one. Make sure to take care of your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.

Learn to balance your emotions. A peaceful mind is more important than excitement.

Having a balanced emotional life helps and supports mental wellbeing and these two are connected to physical wellbeing.

Practice kindness towards self and try not to push yourself too much.

Be there for yourself. Make yourself a priority.

You do not have to prove you are strong by taking on things and managing all by yourself. That itself is a display of weakness.

It is always good to know your limits and not stretch them to the point where you will snap. 

Problem #4 Work-life balancedeniz-altindas-38128-unsplash

Many times people forget to create boundaries that will help to keep their work and personal life separate.

It is good to get involved, but you should also know when to get out of that. You are spending 40-50 hours or more a week at work of the 168 hours in a week.

Probably around 50-56 hours goes for your sleeping, Reserve some for traveling and then the remainder of the hours is all you have for managing your life including family and home.

Learn to be mindful of the time and use it effectively. And for this, you will really have to get rid of all that is not essential for creating the desired work-life balance.

Time and money are important resources you have. Make sure to take care of your resources.

Ranga Rajah

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Sharon McCutcheon, Deniz Altindas, Jannis Brandt and Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

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Easy and Effective Tips to Deal with Unemployment

We all go through job loss or an end of a contract. It could at times lead to being unemployed for a while. These Tips will help you combat those days effectively and stay motivated.

The first few days after a contract ends simply flies away and after the last paycheck reaches your bank, the reality sinks in—you are unemployed and no longer have a job. And that means no more weekly paychecks for a while.

It definitely is not a very good feeling to go through. It can scare the most confident and the bravest of people.

The feeling of being unemployed is quite unsettling, to say the least.

So then how do we keep our spirits soaring and stay positive?

Treat this as an opportunity for growth

Understand and treat this in-between-job period as something temporary.rafzin-p-1233065-unsplash

Next step is to take stock of what you did and what you would like to do in your career/job.

Here is a personal example. I am a professional writer/journalist but had to make a detour and take up other jobs for the sake of paychecks. And yes, I do not feel embarrassed saying this openly.

My contract ended during winter and the job market is mostly down during the holidays.

I decided to make use of that time and mentally checked how long I could survive without a paycheck. Based on my calculations, I started exploring my options.

If you like, you can take a leaf out of my example and try and explore your options.

Alternatively, you could also make a checklist and include things like:

  • Free learning
  • Jobs and companies I would like to work at
  • Upgrade my skills
  • Strengthen my network
  • Work on my social media branding

 Planning your strategies:

The goal is to get employed. Try and understand what needs to be done.

The first thing is to treat the days at home in the same manner as you would while at a job. That means working towards getting employment. dane-deaner-541785-unsplash

This time at home is all about that.

If you are looking for a better position then maybe you might want to consider working on a certificate. And getting reoriented with the current job scene will give you plenty of pointers

While the certificate/diploma is a long-term goal, how about considering part-time work?

Updating your resume followed by making plans to meet professionals/mentors helps.

Action time:

I am sure you have documented your plans.

Create a checklist on a day-to-day basis and start working on them.

Include things like:

  • Work on updating resume
  • Look for jobs and apply
  • Study time or class time (if you have enrolled for a course)
  • Mmichael-soledad-1283989-unsplashake calls
  • Attend interviews (if you have one)

Have a set routine:

Discipline and consistency are your friends. They really help us in achieving anything we set out to.

Make sure to eat your meals at the same time every day. Not just the meals, but also stick to your regular sleep time. Staying up late to catch your favorite show is going to interfere with your life. Employed or unemployed, having a schedule and maintaining it is very important for our overall wellbeing.

Do not forget to include exercise. You do not need membership in a local gym; try walking, or even shopping for your grocery by walking to a supermarket closer to your home.

Stay in Touch with your friends:

Unemployed does not mean you have to isolate yourself. Plan outings with your friends. It does wonders for the spirits and completely recharges us. Interactions are very important. Make sure to not isolate yourself and if possible be there for others as well.

I like volunteering and also helping out friends with anything they might need. I have walked dogs and taken care of their cats too.

Being unemployed does not mean feeling low and unworthy. There is plenty to do if you take a good look around you.

The idea is to stay occupied and enjoy life just like you would if you were working at a job.

Ranga Rajah

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Photo by Michael Soledad on Unsplash

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“The mind is what drives a human being” – Eliud Kipchoge

There cannot be a much truer statement than what Kipchoge has said.

https://www.bbc.com/sport/athletics/48055305

Kipchoge’s interview/article was recently published in BBC and it is filled with words and statements that is enough to inspire any person to want to run the marathon or climb the mountain peak.

In his words, I found the inspiration to work towards steeling my mind to not waste any time and focus on what I wanted to achieve for the day, for myself.

Key takeaways from Kipchoge’s interview we can use:

Starting with the most basic thing, imagine you have been putting off that physical activity/going for a walk for a while now.

And for some reason, no matter how much you tell yourself, it seems impossible to get started.

Try talking to yourself. Have that chat with your mind and command it to do the job.

It is all in your mind. If you are truly determined and want to achieve your goal of walking nothing can stop you. Nothing should stop you.

Have faith in yourself and believe that you can do it. Start small. There is no rush. It is all about you. You are doing it for yourself. Take all the time you need.

But keep aiming to grow and stretch your limits.

Discipline and consistency is the key:

Routine is a powerful tool. It helps you to lead a non-complicated life.

It is also responsible for consistency in your lives.

Say your routine mostly revolves around job, family, home, self-care, etc.

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Photo Credit: Ranga Rajah

These are non-negotiable routines.

The problem will arise when you start making compromises on a few of these routines either because of lack of motivation or the discipline required to carry it through.

Self-discipline means you do not wait for motivation. Instead, you go on about doing all that is necessary and find the motivation to do it.

Design your day: 

Yes, having a blueprint of what you want out of your day helps.

It does not matter if you want to spend the day watching movies. But be sure you want to do just that.

Asking questions including what kind of work you want to put in a day helps.

There are days when I make a decision to unwind by indulging in some heavy cooking. And I stick to that.

Going with the flow is not an option.

Another thing that helps a lot is dividing your day.

As in, one part of the day where you focus on your physical health.

By including activities, creating a nourishing and healthy meal for yourself and devoting some time for exercise.

 

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Photo Credit: Ranga Rajah

Then comes the mental activity.

In my case, it is mostly focusing on career development and expanding my horizons by reading, working on my writing, and even trying new forms of writing to stay on top of everything.

Finally, it is time to rejuvenate the mind by giving it a different form of activity—taking a break and focusing on leisure including entertainment.

Pick a leisure activity you love. It is ‘your time’, it is the ‘me time’ hour.

This is the time when you are not thinking about your goals, etc.

Use it, have fun with it.

I use my break time/lunch hour at work for this. My colleagues have been informed and they are very supportive of my request.

The mind is your best friend:

If you do not make it work for you, you are wasting a valuable resource.

It is the best thing you have and no one can take it away from you.

Guard it, nourish it, nurture it, make it work, and use it for your benefit, progress, and growth.

 

Ranga Rajah

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