The Time Blocking Cube That Saved My Life

It’s no secret we ALL have a lot of shit to get done every single day… I’m a busy, boss ass betch getting shit done and so are you.

I have limited energy, brainpower, and fucks to give, so making the most out of what I’ve got has become a big focus for me lately… Specifically, I’m talking about productivity hacks, and how to use them to optimize my time and make the most out of my life every day.

I first learned about this game changing, lifesaving timer cube this past summer, and then nothing was the same. Implementing time blocking has had a trickle down effect that has helped me develop good habits in various other aspects of my life, and I am thrilled. I have ADHD so finding a “structure” that worked with my idiosyncrasies as well as my work and life schedules has been a struggle… This is truly a great tool for anyone looking to get a better grip on their time, to-do list and life. I’m writing this to share info about the cube and time blocking as a productivity tool in general, but also some personal anecdotes for color as I assume I’m not the only one with my kind of struggles.

It’s literally… a cube with a timer… It has 4 options to set: 5 min, 15 min, 30 min, 60 min. You place it on whichever side of time you want to give yourself, and it starts. You can see how much time is left as it counts down on one side, though I usually keep it out of sight so I’m not thinking about how much time I have left.

I used to/still struggle with the bad habit of overbooking myself and expecting myself to get more done in a day than is realistically feasible. This keeps me stressed out and running late, two things I hate being but have never really found a permanent way out of… Using a timer and blocking out my time/schedule/LIFE has been hugely effective with resolving both of those issues.

I have also always been motivated by deadlines, so this is a stress-free way to replicate that kind of environment without the actual pressure on my performance. (I think there’s some kind of bad that’s what he said joke in there.) That’s probably the biggest benefit of using it for me – having the chance to immerse myself in something without having a nagging fear of losing track of time or becoming late, something that has always haunted me.

It reminds me of a simpler time in my life, HIGH SCHOOL. We had block periods and it was so great because I had only 3-4 classes each day. I didn’t have to jump from subject to subject all day, which I loved because spinning up and down and shifting topics quickly can be tough for me. I like to take my time and get balls deep with whatever I’m doing. You know?

Also, like a high school bell, the timer cube’s beeps SCREAM at you when time is up — there is no ignoring it. I have jumped out of my chair multiple times because I’d get so in the flow and forget I had even set a timer (which is exactly why I started using it in the first place, LOL).

Another productivity hack I’ve started doing is grouping similar tasks together to knock out in a sequence for optimal efficiency. I drill down on my action items and list all the steps required for completion, find common ones, and then sort and schedule them into my day in my planner. Doing this extra step to plan out my process for accomplishing my tasks each day helps me get WAY more done because if I don’t have a plan, I’ll start doing one thing and before I realize I’ve blinked it’s been an hour and I’m now trying to do 5 things at once, and wonder how that even happened?? Using time blocking and this timer cube has really helped to keep my feet on the ground even when my head is in the clouds.

It’s helped to manage my unrealistic expectations for how long something will take me… I now write my life and work schedule in blocks as much as possible, in an hourly planner I have from Erin Condren. I write EVERYTHING down. When I wake up, work out, take my meds, eat lunch, go to the store, meditate, read books, etc. Surprisingly, this method has also made me better at penciling in and following through on important self-care activities, like taking epsom salt baths or meditating. Having hard stops on my time with the timer helps me to actually use the time I theoretically blocked out for myself, on myself – instead of 300 extra emails or running errands. I know I can do that because I already blocked all that other shit into other parts of my day on my calendar! In case you hadn’t noticed, keeping a hard calendar (especially because I can cross tasks off) really makes me feel confident and like I have my life together.

I’ve also narrowed down my to-do list each day because I know I don’t have enough time for everything anymore, which has done wonders for my stress levels and mental health/peace of mind!!!!!! I can’t emphasize this one enough!!!!!! Do the exclamation points make my point clear?!?!?!?!?! PEACE. OF. MIND!!!!!

And, having a more realistic to-do list and expectations for myself each day has done WONDERS for my anxiety. It feels like it has just evaporated from some aspects of my life because they’re finally working in smooth order.

PS. Big thanks to Lauryn of The Skinny Confidential who first tipped me off about this miracle productivity cube!

What’s your best productivity tip or trick? Please share.

xx

 

HOUSE OF INTUITION HAUL & MY FAVORITE ONLINE SHOPS FOR CRYSTALS

Acquiring new crystals is my go-to guilty pleasure these days. I already told you guys in my post on the Daft Punk pop-up shop that we stopped by the House of Intuition on Melrose later that day… So now I’m sharing what I got and their metaphysical properties and benefits!

In case you’re all like, “WTF Nicole? Crystals? What happened to the makeup? Have you lost your mind?”

NO GUYS, I am alive and well. This shit actually helps me feel better/calmer and deal with my anxiety and ADHD more effectively. I want to share about it because I think it’s useful and of equal or more value to knowing what I think about the newest foundation launch. Also, they’re PRETTY AND SPARKLY. I am bougie and like to decorate with them and enjoy the actual good vibes… Get into it or just don’t read it. K? K.

I have a bunch of big ass scholarly books and articles explaining crystal healing, vibrational resonance, and all different kinds of energy medicine. I’ll get down to the nitty gritty scientific ish on how it physically affects our bodies in another post… For now, let’s talk about my new crystals and their metaphysical properties, aka how they can help support/align/clear/help US. Maybe one of these will catch your interest!

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Starting with the big black piece in the center, going clockwise:
Black Kyanite > Lepidolite > Snowflake Obsidian > Blue Calcite > Turquoise > Smoky Citrine > Fenster Quartz

Black Kyanite: I am obsessed with regular (blue) kyanite, so finding this blade was easily the highlight of my trip. Black kyanite is a high vibration, powerful healing stone. It is grounding and energizing, helps align all the chakras, unblock stagnant energy and balance yin/yang in the body, and fosters communication. It’s popularly used with meditation and dream recall work.

Lepidolite: Lepidolite is that pinky, purple-y slice of stone off to the right in the picture. It is derived from the Greek word “lepidos,” meaning scale… It helps relieve stress, promote calmness, awaken insight and remove and restructure outgrown behavioral patterns, and dissipate negativity. It contains lithium, which is helpful in stabilizing bipolar disorder (there is also lithium quartz). It’s beneficial for use with addictions, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, depression, nightmares, obsessive thoughts and stress.

Snowflake Obsidian: I have a bracelet made of snowflake obsidian… I just really like how it feels to me so I wanted a piece to keep somewhere in my office. It is an empowering stone of purity – helping to provide balance for the body, mind, and spirit. It helps eliminate disruptive thoughts and beliefs, increase feelings of safety and security, and release emotional blockages.

Blue Calcite: This is a super chill stone. Calming and soothing, blue calcite promotes relaxation, enhances intution, and improves communication, focus, and memory… It helps quiet mental chatter, soothing nerves and lifting anxieties. You should *NOT* use salt or water to cleanse this crystal.

Turquoise: This is a well known protection stone that helps foster honest, truthful communication and free expression. It’s useful for situations around friendship, loyalty, self-realization, mood swings, romantic love, exhaustion, subtle energy fields, shame, guilt, and detox… Basically it works with you for basically anything and everything. And, it’s a Pisces birthstone! You’ll find turquoise in a LOT of jewelry, as it’s been used in talisman pieces and amulets since like, ever. Literally forever. It is sacred to Native Americans and has adorned the rulers of ancient Egypt, the Aztecs, Persia, and more…

Smoky Citrine: Smoky citrine has a mix of the properties of smoky (quartz) and citrine. The golden abundance/high vibe traits of citrine are grounded by those of smoky: it is protective, stabilizing, and helps provide boundaries. Citrine is a feel good stone, one to support feelings of abundance (not just financial) so I love that it’s grounded by smoky.

I gravitate towards crystals that are useful for mental support (anxiety, focus, creativity, etc.) or those that are grounding. If you’re into astrology, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I am super water/air dominant and I have (almost) literally no planets in earth/fire signs. I’m always up in my head (hence the affinity for “mental” crystals) and need help being present in my body and the real world and staying grounded, which is why I go for crystals associated with the root and lower chakras – obsidian, hematite, and smoky quartz are my top 3.

Now, let’s take a sec to look closer at this piece of quartz.

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 Now, this isn’t just any regular old piece of clear quartz – it’s Fenster Quartz. 

Do you see the triangle-y formations etched in the crystal? It’s almost like a mirror effect within the planes… That is what sets it apart. This is a high vibration stone that harmonizes all the chakras and aligns the aura (I’m not even sure what that means, but I’ll keep you posted on how my aura feels). It carries the generic properties of crystal quartz the “master healer,” and specifically it helps heal dysfunctional patterns and outgrown emotions. I was really intrigued so I got it. Stay tuned.

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DSP and I each got a “magic candle” as well – clarity for him, strength for me. I am a candle fiend as most of you probably know by now… I love having candles that are for a specific purpose, i.e. writing, meditating, taking a bath – whatever, so one that’s programmed with a quality I want more of or feel I’m lacking in, is totally my kind of thing. Specific candles or scents (double points when paired with crystals!) always help get me in the groove and stay focused on task.

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(L-R: smoky quartz, celestite, howlite, titanium quartz, amethyst)

SO, that’s all of the new new I’ve got going on in the crystals department. As I said in an earlier post, I am planning to continue on with my crystals series so I’ll cover a lot more stones and their functional uses in life soon. To learn more general info, check out this post, or the one I wrote about my favorite crystals for some book recommendations, many of which I referenced for info writing this post.


ALSO… I thought I would share my fave websites for crystals if you’re interested to try them out and start using them on your own. I’m lucky to be in LA where there are a TON of crystal shopping options, however living in Seattle there were fewer, so I did most of my buying online. Here are some of my faves:

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(Celestite from The Hoodwitch)

The Hoodwitch: Bri is my GIRL. My first crystals were from her, and I am still a huge fan of The Hoodwitch and her product selection. She has all the sage, tarot cards, vintage occult books, and crystals you could ever want. This big ass celestite cluster I just got myself for Christmas was from here – this is my #1 go-to place for crystal shopping online.

Light Love & Lace: If you like watching YouTube you’re probably familiar with Marissa Lace. She has a crystal shop now that has some pretty legit little bundles of tumbled stones (all small pieces you can easily keep with you or around the house). I got a heart shaped piece of labradorite from her that I keep in my office. Her shop only is open during launches – one is this Sunday at 1:11pm PST so if you’re interested, mark your calendar.

Sage Goddess: Besides obviously having a lot of sage-focused items, this shop has a tonnnn of other goods. I really liked the candles I got from here, as well as the sage bundles, but she also has a variety of crystals and bundles to help a beginner get started.

House of Intuition: You can get a few things online but you really need to visit one of their stores in LA for allllll the crystals and other goodies.

Blue Button Boho: If you’re into crystal JEWELRY, this is where I got a ton of my necklaces, pendants, and rings over the last few years. Sarah is a super rad girl and is always updated her shop with cute new pieces – there’s something for everyone. If you’re not sold on crystals yet, maybe start slow with some jewelry!

Cleanse your crystals when you receive them, and you can program them if you have something specific you’re working with them for. Be sure to check that your stones can take salt or water cleansing if you’re going that route – clearing them with sage or using (Full Moon) moonlight is also just as effective.

If anyone has questions about what crystals are good for what (i.e. stress, anxiety, creativity, dreaming, shielding bad vibes, etc.) leave me a comment here so I can cover it in an upcoming post! Or, if you want me to talk about a specific crystal and its uses/benefits, tell me about that too.

xx


ADDITIONAL READING:

STONE: The Crystals App You Need In Your Life

I found a really cool crystals app the other week, that I wanted to share with you guys who are interested in crystals and crystal healing! Alternative medicine and healing modalities have become a serious interest of mine in the last few years – but it started with crystals.

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Amethyst was one of the first stones I ever got. At first I just knew it was a Pisces birthstone, but turns out it is SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT.

“Amethyst’s purifying energy is linked to releasing addictive behaviors and can help illuminate an inner purpose… When it’s time to surrender vanity, pride, and victimhood and start living with positive purpose, gear up with Amethyst and start really living.”

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STONE is “the crystal app designed to bring a little light to the modern life.” It’s a gorgeous visual reference guide, with metaphysical properties and background info on a continuously growing list of crystals. To give you a preview, let’s look at a few of my most-used and favorites for managing life.

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Howlite is one of my favorites, probably because having zero chill is a chronic issue of mine… It’s a “heady, clutter clearing stone.” It helps with creativity, calming the mind, and improving emotional well being and attitudes, and effective emotional expression. I have a small piece I can carry around with me.

I have a big smoky quartz point on my desk – the app says, “when life throws shade, grounding Smoke Quartz acts as a super absorbent sponge that takes in the energy that orbits the dark thoughts, negative voices, and passive aggressive emails… YAS PLEASE! It’s good for clearing negative energy, grounding, and providing emotional balance and protection.

Titanium Quartz… Well, titanium quartz just LOOKS unreal — its vibrant hyper color is epic. The rainbow hues point to its multi-spectrum effects: life affirming, energizing, and fun. “Titanium Quartz can help keep the mood light. Like, candy colored rainbows light. Paid artists, writers, and funny folks can employ Titanium Quartz to stay sharper than crayons. Or, colored pencils. Or, fucking rainbow chainsaws.” 

FUCKING. RAINBOW. CHAINSHAWS.

Titanium quartz gets me excited (as it rightfully should if you just read what it’s good for) so let’s move on to a stone that brings you back into balance… Kyanite is a stone of alignment and is great for use in meditation. It helps calm us down, open us up, and gets our mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies aligned.

My most recent splurge was on a big ass piece of celestite from The Hoodwitch. Celestite is about supporting your intution and getting you to trust it (for me, at least). It also helps relieve stress, anxiety, and obsessive behaviors.

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The info on celestite is one of my favorites. One of the best parts of the STONE app is how it’s written – down to earth, easy to read and understand, and humorous. It’s relatable.

If you want to dive deeper and look into books on crystals and crystal healing, here are some I have and would recommend:

I was thinking to do a mini-series on crystals, would you guys be into it? Let me knowwww below!

xx

Best Journals For Anxiety & Mental Health Therapy | #AskSCB

Someone tweeted me recently asking me about any journals I use or think are good for anxiety. Over the years, I’ve tried to journal consistently for goal setting, emotional catharsis, mental health therapy, creative inspiration, etc. but it’s always felt a little Dear Diary to me. I love writing by hand and I obsessively buy notebooks… but, I like making LISTS in my notebooks — then getting shit done and crossing it off.

Journaling notebooks or books that give you writing prompts are way more my speed. I want something to get me thinking, I don’t want to think about what I want to think about. You know?

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I am obsessed with The Happiness Planner. I got it from Anthro when I was in Seattle over Christmas and just started it. “The Happiness Planner is a tool designed to help you re-shape the way you think and to shift your focus to the positive.” The first section is writing exercises to get you to reflect on yourself and what makes you feel happy and fulfilled… The goal is to plan ahead for the next 100 days and mindfully integrate happiness habits into your daily life.

At first this sounds just like every “think positive thoughts and your life shall become it” thing you read, but after digging in I realized you completely set the parameters and define what you want more of – so the cheesy sounding “happiness habits” are custom crafted habits to integrate exactly what you know you want/need to do in your life… Probably to change or replace habits and ways of thinking/being that aren’t so great – at least that’s me as I’m doing this.

It’s so fucking satisfying to be honest about how I feel and what I want and it makes me nervous to define it but writing makes it real… It becomes tangible, and something I can achieve. Then, actually doing what’s needed for whatever I really, ACTUALLY want or how I want to feel becomes sooo much easier. I can schedule it into my life, just like I schedule meetings or yoga or any other thing. It becomes something I can cross off. Now I’m looking forward to all of the new gold stars I’ll earn with myself from doing these little happiness habits and then checking them off my to-do list. I don’t know if that undermines the entire point behind it, but it keeps me going back so I’m rolling with it.

I’ve already written a post on why I love the lowkey 5 Minute Journalso peep it if you haven’t. It’s 5 minutes a day/night and it’s an easy way to keep track of how well you followed through with yourself on the day, plus you write a positive affirmation and there are great quotes on each page. Totally recommend — I’m on my second. It helps keep me in perspective when I get super in my head and focused on the things I still have to do and makes me pause to realize what I have gotten done.

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As far as specific journals FOR anxiety, I’m So Freaking Freaked Out is probably the only one I’ve tried that is specifically geared towards anxiety. It’s a journal notebook where each day you use it, it prompts you to tell it “why I’m so freaking freaked out today.” It also has reassuring, anxiety reducing quotes which don’t always help when I’m actually freaking the fuck out, but I appreciate the thought. My mom sent it to me in a care package after I had a panic attack and I actually laughed at how hysterical it was, EXCEPT NOW I TOTALLY USE IT… I’d much rather have an anxiety journal than have an anxiety attack, ya know?

Let It Out is a GREAT book I have by Katie Dalebout that has journaling exercises, prompts, and techniques that help shift your perspective and have helped me better manage anxiety and stress… Now that I’m thinking about it, I should probably revisit this one as life has been high stress lately. It’s reflective, creative, cathartic, and realistic – I really enjoyed reading/doing this book. She’s about journaling for anything, so this would be great for anyone who wants a guided journal that will kick them in the ass.

One of my faaaaves is The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. It’s half book, half journal. She also has Desire Map planners on her site (linked above) which I haven’t tried, because I already have a planner and many notebooks and lists, but I want to at some point before I die. Has anyone tried? LMK in the comments what you thought if you have. This book literally scared me at first. It was too loud. I was not feeling sure of myself at the time I got this and what it was asking me to do and think about was SCARY. Doing the workbook gave me anxiety at first! This was the first journal that forced me to think about and define what I really want. It was what made the whole “if I write this down, it’s real and then I can break it down and actually do it” thing real for me at first. Would highly recommend.

Hopefully these titles are new and exciting — do you guys have any to add to the list? Which ones have you tried? Do you do any form of journaling or goal setting regularly? Talk to me.

xx


Got a question to Ask SCB? Send it in through the submission box at the top of the #AskSCB & FAQ Post Index Page.

RECIPE: Trashy, Delicious Warm Bean Dip

Happy Sunday Funday, guys! Or rather, HAPPY SUPER BOWL SUNDAY. Just gonna start this off friendly with a GO PATS!!!

Full disclosure: I’m still a Seahawks fan, but when your team’s not in the Super Bowl, how can you NOT root for Tom Brady and Gronk??? I would anyway, but today I don’t really have a choice as we’re watching the game with diehard Patriots fans. DIE. HARD. The way I see it is there are football fans — and then there are Patriots fans.

Anyway, so this year my friend Grant (the hardcore Pats fan) and his wife Molly are hosting a party for the game, and it’s *dip* themed. Yessss, DIP THEMED. We’re making ALLLLLLLL the dips: spinach dip, artichoke dip, bean dips, cream cheese marshmallow dip, funfetti dip, etc. etc. etc.

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I perused Pinterest for approximately 192888915 hours in the last week to find the most drool-worthy dip, and I’ll share the recipe in case anyone needs a last minute dish to bring to a party today. Super easy prep, quick bake time and it looks deeelllliiiccciiioouuusss.

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TRASHY, DELICIOUS BEAN DIP RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cans (16 oz each) refried beans
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans
  • 1 can (15 oz) corn
  • 1 can (3.8 oz) sliced black olives
  • 1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles, drained
  • 4 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • TOPPINGS: Cilantro, cherry tomatoes, red onion, avocado

Making The Dip:

I tweaked the prep process a bit as I’m prepping the dip early and am going to pop it in the oven right before the game so it’s fresh and warm… I made the bean dip mix without the cream cheese/sour cream and put it in the fridge, covered. When it’s closer to game time, I’ll preheat the oven and melt down the cheese/cream combo and add it to the mix, then put it in the dish and bake it. 

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Microwave cream cheese and sour cream in a large microwaveable bowl on high until cheese is softened, about 1 minute. Mix with wire whisk until smooth.
  2. Add refried beans, black beans, corn, black olives, green chiles, seasoning mix and 2 cups of cheese, mix well. Spray a 13×9 baking dish with nonstick spray (I like coconut oil) and then spread the bean mixture in. Sprinkle remaining 2 cups of cheese on top.
  3. Chop cilantro, cut tomatoes in half, chop red onion, and slice avocado if desired for toppings and set aside.
  4. Bake 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted, then add toppings and serve warm with tortilla chips.

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(Images and original recipe from The Recipe Critic)

Like, HOLY GUACAMOLE does this look good or what?!?! I can’t wait to dig into mine, AND all the other dips. Basically, I can’t wait to gain approximately 37 pounds from snacking and stress eating today. It’s fine. Calories don’t count on Super Bowl Sunday… Right?

What team are you rooting for? Do you even care, or are you just watching for the commercials and halftime show? I mean, no judgment because personally I can’t WAIT to see Gaga.

xx

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