Setting Systems and SMART Goals to Help 2021 Start on the Right Foot

A #Reclaiming2020 Thread

For so many of us, the end of 2020 can’t come soon enough. The allure of a new year and the proverbial blank slate is something that has incredible psychological power.

Well now we’ve got 30 days left and, though the last few months have given me hope for a brighter future, my own personal future is still a bit of a hot mess.

While the allure of January 1st as a clean start is tempting, I know from personal experience that starting a brand new routine or adopting new habits is a process of trial, error, success and failure, highs, and lows. Starting on a new blank routine from day zero anticipating perfection and success is a recipe for disappointment. Logically, you wouldn’t sign up to run a 10k on January 1st without participating in some kind of training regimen beforehand. So why do we consistently operate on the idea that we can successfully launch ourselves into a brand new routine or lifestyle with zero preperation?

There are 30 days left in 2020, and I intend to use them as my ‘training period’ for 2021. Trying new routines, new habits, training for a fresh start at the beginning of the new year.

So, with 2020 coming to a close, I’m setting SMART goals to try new habits and routines leading into the New Year.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART Goals are something I first learned about in business school, but have recently been used by self improvement and study guru’s to help people create more effective and targeted methods of reaching their goals.

Full Function Rehab | SMART Goal Setting Vaughan
For more on how to create SMART Goals, click HERE

The underlying idea of SMART goals is to find a way to make us accountable. ‘I want to find a job’ or ‘I want to write a book’ or even ‘I want to get an A in Genetics’ are all wonderful goals, but because they are so vague they can often be difficult to track, and therefore difficult to stick with. You can find more on how to create effective SMART goals HERE, but the general idea is in the name; make your coals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

Kaizen – The Art of Continuous Improvement

Something else that I have found makes a vast difference for me ties in with the Japanese Concept of Kaizen – or the art of continuous improvement.

Kaizen de-emphasizes perfection, which can be a leading cause of stress and a major contributing factor to giving up or abandoning our goals altogether, and instead focuses on improvement. The idea is not necessarily to get it right the first time around, but instead to do just a little bit better than last time.

In that thread, I focus less on my relation to an ultimate and ever-changing goal, and more on my engagement and performance in the day to day process of it all.

Otherwise called a ‘System’.

Atomic Habits – Systems not Goals

If you have not yet heard of Atomic Habits by James Clear, I really must ask what rock you have been living under. Even if you do not have the time to read the book in full, there are plenty of taking aways and summaries that can be of tremendous insight. But for our purposes, we are going to be focusing on the delineation between goals and systems.

If your goal is to be able to deadlift 200 lbs by the summer, and you spend every day pushing yourself closer to that goal, you may ignore warning signs from your body in favor of adding on just a few more pounds. But if you end up injuring yourself in the process, you could be setting your goal back by months if not years. By shifting focus from your proximity with the end goal to continual growth and consistently showing up, this changes the pressure we put on ourselves and makes our goals, ultimately, more achievable.

My 30 Day End of 2020 Goals

My general goals for 2020 focus more on routine and continuous improvement. They also happen to fall into the four general categories of self-improvement that most of our New Years goals tend to fall into, but perhaps that will make them easier to relate to or use to draw on for examples when making your own goals.

My 2020 – 2021 Goals

My general goals are blocked under four categories but are free to change from day to day. The ultimate takeaway is my ‘participation’ in that given area.

Physical Goals

I want to be more physically active and just generally take better care of myself. Sitting in front of a desk for hours on end is not generally a good thing for either my spine or general level of fitness. It would also be good if I ate less like a gremlin and more like a hippie, but I’ll settle for somewhere in the middle.

Intellectual Goals

I want to learn something new every day. And yes, I’m in grad school, so learning is kind of par for the course. But diving through pages of notes often feels less connected to learning than mastering a singular concept. So even if I’ve been studying ‘phenotypic heritability’ for hours, I’ll only be counting it if I have an ‘Ah-ha!’ or ‘Eureka!’ type moment while doing so, or if I have that moment in a completely different subject.

Creative Goals

The same general principle holds true for creative enterprises. As a children’s author, I spend a lot of time thinking about stories, characters, impact, engaging readers… but that doesn’t result in a finished product. So much my collecting of ‘Ah-ha’ moments above, I want to be able to wield tangible results in my hands for it to be able to count. Whether that is words written, pages drafted, characters sketched, or even scarves knitted… I will be focusing on things that yield tangible results in real time.


Being in Sweden, so far from most of my family, in the middle of lockdown, the short days and long nights are easy to let get to you. It is so much simpler to turn to merge dragons than it is to turn on mentally. But that is neither healthy nor sustainable. I want to do things that feed my soul. I want to reconnect with friends and family (even if it is digitally). I want to consume media that helps me grow. and I want to take the time to check in with myself on a regular basis, rather than just keep on pushing forward.

Trackable SMART Goals Example

The four categories above, while representative of most of what I want to do, are hardly specific. So for a better idea of what those goals will look like in the real world, here are a few of the micro goals I will be setting myself.

Drink Water

And oldy but a goody, and yet I still never do it. I will be attempting to drink 2 liters of water, each and every day, of 2020 and beyond.

Read in Swedish

This is really a 2 for 1 so I should want to do it even more but, again, it often gets pushed to the wayside. I’ve picked up two children’s chapter books in Swedish from the second hand shop and intend to read 5 pages (one sided) before bed at least 4 times a week (70%).

Stay off Social Media

I feel bad leaving this for last as this goal will actually affect those reading my articles here at TNN. I walk more about the why’s behind this on my YouTube channel HERE, but suffice to say I have a busy month coming my way in December. And, as such, for the rest of 2020… this will be the last you see of me. I will be staying off Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and, yes, even for the remainder of this year.

At the end of my free trial run for 2021 (also known as December 2020) I will create SMARTER Goals moving forward. SmartER because I will Evaluate (E) and Review (R) the steps I have taken, the systems I have tried, and see what really works for me and what doesn’t and adjust. Hopefully, I’ll be back and writing away with a clearer head and more time to focus on what is important, but I am trying not to enter into this trial run with any preconceptions. This is an experiment after all, and as any student at the school of Bill Nye will tell you, bias = bad science.

So, until next time, here’s hoping to a better and brighter future in 2021.

Check out this and more original content available every week at by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Healthy Study Habits for Students

A #Reclaiming2020 Thread

School can be a lot for students under the best of circumstances, and this is equally as true for grad students as it is for kindergartners

Burnout, Screen Fatigue, and Other Anxieties

Mental health, establishing healthy study habits, and knowing how to find an appropriate balance is something we put a lot of focus on her at TNN.

Our students, especially in the US educational system, can oftentimes be put under extreme amounts of stress, and are very rarely given the tools to know how to deal with it. Even more so now during the age of COVID as classrooms shift into bedrooms and the lines between ‘study’ and ‘sleep’ become blurry at best.

Identifying the early stages of burnout (difficulty concentrating, poor sleep quality, irritability, eye strain, and more) is crucial to help curb it’s effects.

Knowing When to Walk Away

Burnout is something that is more often associated with high paying executive positions or even online content creators. But it is a common experience in all walks of life. Any time you expend more effort than you receive value from, you a prone to burnout. That could mean working at something for an hour and not making as much progress as you would have liked, or it could mean studying for months without feeling like there is no return.

To recognize if you are approaching or at risk of burnout, here are a few resources that can help.

The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout from Psychology Today

Burnout Self Test from Mind Tools

Burnout Prevention and Treatment from Help Guide

Productive Procrastination

Procrastinating one activity by performing another is a trick as old as time. It’s why students who have a dreaded assignment suddenly find themselves with one thousand and one other little mindless things to do.

And while procrastinating something at all costs can easily develop into self-sabotage, there is a way to use that procrastination instinct for good.

If you are staring blankly at your screen, don’t know where to start, or just otherwise fighting tooth and nail to focused … stop fighting. Frustration and anxiety make focusing on a new subject even harder and that natural resistance you feel towards getting into a project can sometimes (not always) be your bodies way of telling you that you need a break.

So instead put on a ten-minute video, podcast, or music playlist, and use find a healthy use for that procrastination energy. Like;

By giving yourself an intentional ‘break’ that is still productive, you can start to create healthy habits around work-life balance and recognizing when you need to step away.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

As we mentioned before, with so many students performing some or all of their academic duties from home, the lines between ‘school’ and ‘no school’ can get kind of blurry. As anyone who has ever tried to work from home before can confirm, that is a sure fire recipe for burnout.

Creating physical or mental space where you can flick on and off in work/study mode is key to setting healthy boundaries, achieving a balanced lifestyle, and long term success. We all know the age old adage of the unhappy employee or executive who keeps bringing their work home with them. But what happens when the work starts at home with you as well?

There are a few ways to help deal with this but none quite so effective as creating a physically separate space for study time. Setting your desk against a wall or window so that you are less distracted by other stuff in your room, working in a separate office space, or working at the dining room table, assuming you have a supportive household, are all valid options.

It can also help to set time restrictions. Parents can enforce this by breaking up study time with schedule meal times, but also by putting a time limit on school stuff. If school work HAS to be done by 8pm, then it leaves students time to unwind and helps create that space. It also helps to include regularly scheduled breaks throughout the day. I find that I can rarely focus for more than 3 hours at a time, so I plan walks, kickboxing, or meal prep time around those gaps accordingly.

Limit Screen Time

By now we all know how bad starring into our screens for hours on end can be bad not just for your eyesight, but also for your circadian rhythm, your general physical well being, and even our mental health. This is even more true for younger kids whose brains are still developing.

In a classroom setting, teachers of younger students will routinely break up longer periods of sitting with short periods of movement. This same concept can be easily applied to screen time as well, serving a dual function here as screen time is typically relatively stationary.

Schedule regular intermissions to get up, walk away from the screen, maybe get a snack or go to the bathroom or even take a little walk (this is easier to enforce if you have pets). Do anything and everything that is not related to a screen (computer, cell phone, TV) for at least ten minutes in order to allow your eyes to rest and give you a break.

Print notes or use physical study guides when possible. Take notes on paper instead of in a tablet. Zoom your classes by connecting the computer to a TV screen or larger monitor but further away. And, whenever possible, choose options that are physical rather than digital. We will never be able to completely walk away from our screens, they are too valuable a resource. So limiting their influence where we can is a big help.

There is still a lot of the school year left, and much of the world is still in a constant state of change. As we adapt to different circumstances and try to build good habits, it is important to be kind to ourselves, listen to our bodies, and take steps to protect our mental and emotional health, particularly as students. Building good study habits and setting healthy boundaries is just a small part of that, but it is a part that we can all work on a little bit every day.

Check out this and more original content available every week at by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Reclaiming 2020

2020 has been an absolute nightmare of a year.

Between the pandemic, massive loss of life, natural disasters, widespread social unrest, police brutality, political corruption, economic distress, massive civil injustices, and the so easily overlooked Murder Hornets… saying it’s been a rough year is a bit of an understatement.

I know it can seem like a lifetime ago, but it really was only 9 months ago when we were making resolutions for a new year and a new decade with bright shiny eyes and so much hope. The dreams and aspirations we had at the dawning of this new decade, the visions of cultural and social revolution, backed by the gay prosperity of the roaring ’20’s celebrations soon twisted in a way we could not possibly have predicted.

2020 meant a lot of things to a lot of people.

But here we are. Nearing the end of our first year in this new decade. A year that held the ambitions of future generations and the hopes of so many. Whatever 2020 meant you all those long months ago may seem a lifetime away… but it doesn’t have to.

I for one am not ready to let this year become a stain in history and I am tired of letting this year take things, people, and opportunities from us.

I’m taking back my year, my decade, and my future.

I’m Reclaiming 2020.

Fall is a magical time of year. There is a reason why cultures all over the world recognize this transition as days become shorter, the leaves change color, and the very air around us shifts.

For thousands of years fall holidays celebrated around the world have long marked fall as a time of power, change, and even fortune-telling (discussed more here). It’s a concept I believe still has a place today. Setting Fall Intentions is a powerful act of self-care that can re-ground you, reprioritize, rejuvenate, and remind us of what is most important even under normal circumstances. And this year has been anything but normal.

If you are feeling run down, frustrated, and just overall sick of the events of the last 9 months, let’s take a breath, take a moment, and take our 2020 back.

There are 3 months of this year left to try and make up for the last 9 … and I intend to use every minute of it.

How to Take Back 2020


I know you will probably be sick of hearing this by now, but you will hear it again. Voting is the ONE chance we have as US citizens to make our voices heard. So many do not have this opportunity, either as a matter of citizenship, because their rights to vote have been taken from them, or for a variety of other reasons. Choosing to be silent when so many are voiceless is the ultimate act os disrespect to them, to the electorate, and to yourself.

Make sure you are registered to vote by clicking HERE. Confirm your address, know your polling location, and how to get there. Read up on the issues, know what you are going to be voting for, and know where you stand. If you are able, consider volunteering at the polls, or organizing ride shares to polling locations. Whatever you are able to do, in your area, SAFELY, do it. We can scream and shout into the void the whole rest of the year, but if we do not cast our ballots the one time when those in power are actively listening, it will all be for nothing.

Revisit your Resolutions

The dreams and goals you had for yourself in January may seem a million lifetimes ago, but they were once important to you. Are they still? Those things mattered once, and if they still do, then keep them.

We’ll go after them together.

If, however, those goals are not as important to you anymore, then what is? This year has forced a lot of us to put things into perspective. Jobs that once defined us have all but disappeared. Goals that were once the center of our world, no longer seem quite so important. Things that we never gave much thought to, are now the most important things in our world.

Whatever matters to you, write it down. Be specific and give your words power by putting them to paper. As a writer, I firmly believe that bringing words into this world will never NOT be an act of power, but that is a discussion for another day.

For now it is enough to have this piece of paper, written in your own hand, to remind you of what is important and of the promises you made to yourself.

Heal Yourself

It’s been a long road these last 9 months. Some have suffered worse than others, and some are no longer with us at all. But if you are still here with us please do not minimize whatever you have had to deal with this year by saying ‘well, it could have been worse.’ It can almost always have been worse, but that does not make your personal hardships disappear. Taking the time to yourself to recover and get yourself in a better place is not selfish, even if you are doing just ‘fine’. It is vital if you expect to be able to keep going and necessary to help sustain yourself.

The essential tenants of self-care are worthy of an entire thesis dissertation- see Maslow’s Hierarchy if you don’t believe me. But for now, the basics;

Heal your Body; take a walk, get your heart rate up, eat something healthy and delicious, drink two tall glasses of water, get 8 hours of sleep.

Heal your Mind; put your screens away. Play chess, read something, a new find, or an old favorite, it doesn’t matter. Think about things in a way you’ve never considered before.

Heal your Environment; clean off your desk, take the trash out, put your laundry in the basket, do the dishes, make your home a place of sanctuary.

Heal your Spirit; listen to music, enjoy art, maybe even doodle or play a little yourself. Smile. Spend time by yourself for a spell and just be.

Heal your Relationships; talk to that friend that you’ve lost contact with. Admit when someone did something that hurt you. Tell someone how grateful you are to have them in your life.

Taking care of ourselves is a full time job, and it is one that we are most likely to push aside in favor of getting things done. But you can only keep going so long as you have something to give.

Get Involved

Again, this is one that you’ve likely heard before. And it is likely one that you will hear again, and that is because it is important.

So many things happen in this world without our permission, but that does not mean they happen without our influence. You have the power to make a difference, right now, in some small way, in the world around you.

Get involved. In your community. In your goals. In your passions. Find a way to volunteer, safely, with an organization that you care about. Offer to help out at an animal shelter, or help organize relief for at-risk students. Have a skill? USE IT. Do a zoom story time, create flyers, raise awareness, or contribute in any other way you can to some of the incredible efforts that are being made to make this world a better place.

Reach for your Goals

You remember that list? The one from step 2 about your goals and resolutions? I told you we’d come back to that.

I want you to look at that. Right now. I want you to look at that list of generalized goals and for each one, make specific, itemized steps of what you need to do in order to take you from where you are now to where you want to be. You don’t need to have the whole road map laid out in front of you, but you should know your first step.

Do you want to leave your 9-5 and work for yourself? Look through your Facebook feed and reach out to potential clients (offer to work for free or reduced rates while you are setting up in exchange for reviews). Do you want to help others make a lasting change? Reach out, connect with others, find organizations in your area that need support. Do you want to live a happier/healthier life? Find accessible mental health support or a fitness routine or food goals that work for you.

Create identifiable, easy to follow steps, one after another, that will get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Then… take a step. It doesn’t matter if it is three steps forward and two steps back, as long as you Just. Keep. Moving.

2020 was meant to be the dawn of a new age. Unfortunately, there is no return policy on defective years, but there is always a new beginning.

We have 3 months left.

Make. Them. Count.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Please feel free to reach out through email, Facebook, or Instagram. Tell me your goals, tell me what you are working towards and we can keep each other moving.

We can’t undo the last 9 months, but we can make the next 3 matter.

My Perfect Planner – The Lazy BuJo

Do you resentfully like photos of perfectly designed and colorful Bullet Journals on Instagram? Are you desperately trying to get organized or keep on track with your plans and goals but every single system seems to inevitably fail? Did you read the title and laugh? Good Enough. Meet your new Planner.

Hi! Just in case you’re new here, I’m the crazy person who decided to launch her own independent publishing company, apply to grad school, create 10 kids books in two years, get into grad school, and then move halfway across the planet in the middle of a pandemic. There – now we’re all caught up.

And as crazy and insane as my life may sound, finding a scheduling system that works for me has always been a problem as over-complicated minute by minute planning a) never works and b) never works. While Bullet Journaling is an artistic and utterly customizable trend that would seem to solve this problem, I was less inclined to sit down for 20 minutes at the start of each month and draw out a million little perfectly illustrated boxes in different color-coded systems.

So with store-bought planners frustrating me, Grad School creeping up around the corner and neither the time nor inclination to hand draw a Bullet Journal, I found I had to create my own.

The end result was The Lazy Bujo.

Why this Planner is Different

It Never Expires

As in, there are no dates marked anywhere in this journal. This was such a small thing but I found it severly limited the usefullness of store bought planners for me.

As COVID has undoubtedly proven over the last few months, sometimes things don’t go to plan. I always wondered why academic planners bothered to include June and July, but likewise found that, for whatever reason, I would have random months or partial months that I just… didn’t use.

In a normal planner, it’s use it or loose it. With the lazy Bujo, it’s more use it … or don’t, it’ll still be here when you need it.

Monthly / Weekly / Daily

Each section starts with a monthly spread, again unmarked and undated so these planners never expire.

The weekly break down is a little different because a) the week is split into two parts and b) there is no Sunday. By splitting up the week into two parts I found there was enough room in each grid for daily planning without needing to carry a 365-page book around (yes, that’s how many days are in a year).

Another thing I hate about weekly planners is when they scrunch the weekends into smaller squares so they all fit on one page. I have PLANs for the weekend and kind of need that space. Also, some store-bought planners start their weeks on Sunday, and some start on Monday. My weeks, frequently, will switch between both. So with the Lazy Bujo, I left unmarked slots available on either page letting you move Sunday as you will and leaving an extra slot of weekly wrap-ups or planning ahead.

It’s Customizable

The grid system that makes BuJo’s so endlessly adaptable is part of what I used to create my planner. No, there are no dots, so it isn’t really a ‘Bullet’ Journal. But the boxes that you would normally draw in are marked out in an array that I find works for a variety of needs. And, again, these boxes are unlabeled other than weekly headers.

No predetermined uses for the boxed mean that I can use them however best work for me. And whatever works for me might be different on a Monday than on a Sunday. While time blocking may be useful on days when I have school, priority lists or categories may be better on weekends.

Other Features I like

I shoved in extra planning pages around the monthly calendars as a space for a brain dump, recap, planning ahead, or, quite honestly, a messy combination of the three that somehow always seems to involve also drawing a dragon somewhere.

Because the journal is black and white I’m still able to draw in some color doodle when my brain gets bored (again, lots of dragons) but I’m not required to put in any artistic time or effort before I can even start using it. I also find it’s easier for me to color code my notes or use highlighters in a blank planner as my needs change rather than being locked into a system.

The Lazy Bujo covers six months, which is further than I am willing to plan in any single instance but also means I don’t have reorder more than once a year. It also means I get a fresh start about halfway through the year, which is normally when my planners start to look a little rough around the edges.

Well, there you have it.

I made an ideal planner for me as I started into grad school and, after some gentle nudging, I’ve made it available for you too.

If you’re interested, I’m going to be doing a short video on different organization methods I’ve found over the years that may help you getting started on the right foot or getting back on track. Whether it’s with school, work, personal projects, my writing, or just remembering what day of the week it is, life is about balance. And, hopefully, this will help with that.

Check out this and more original content available every week at by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

How to Support Black Lives Matter – Highlighting Voices of Color

At this moment, African Americans and allies across the country and even across the globe are raising their voices in protest of the treatment of people of color by police.

A few weeks back I covered a number of different ways that you can help support the Black Lives Matter movement right now (f you would like to check out that video in full you can do so here). One thing I touched on but did not have much time for was to make a conscientious effort to diversify your feeds.

Race and The Algorithm

From YouTube to Facebook, Instagram to Twitter, Snapchat to whatever other social media feed is streaming across your cell phone. Social media platforms use demographic information along with your search and reaction history to dictate what content you see, what future content you are recommended, and even to prioritize the content you are looking at right now. They use a series of complex algorithms to make these decisions based on a number of different factors. Everyone and their mothers swear they know the secret to crack the YouTube algorithm, but the real systems are more tightly guarded than the key to the Matrix.

However, one of the known demographic factors that is used to indicate content choice is race or ethnic/national origin.

YouTube knows that if you click on Black beauty tubers that it should, by consequence, recommend other black beauty tubers. And on the surface this makes sense. If you are searching through makeup tutorials you are most likely going to be looking at content creators with a similar skin tone to yours, which makes sense when looking for foundation matches.

It does not make sense, however, when you are looking for tech reviews, or haul videos, or decluttering ASMR.

And yet those same videos are also predicted and recommended using the same algorithm. Which means that if you are continuously clicking on white and European content creators, you will be consistently recommended white and European content creators.

Systemic Adversity

I can already tell that there will be those people who resent this idea outright. The idea of searching for content creators based on race or background or religion as though that somehow will bring harm to the other creators out there who do not fall into this category.

And, to be honest, I was one of them.

I resented the idea of searching for film makers of color or looking specifically for authors of a certain descent because I had the notion that, if there work was good enough, I would have seen it already.

Ah, privilege at it’s finest.

In a perfect world, my previous assessment would be absolutely correct, but as many of us know, even if it took me a while to realize, we do not live in a perfect world. There are inherent systematic trends that work to the advantage of some groups and the disadvantage of others.

When you focus on supporting one group over another, it is or should be, in direct response to systemic or global trends that actively hurt the suggested group. For example, left-handed versus right-handed.

Let’s say every year your school does a big fundraiser for school supplies, but this year they also want to do another fundraiser for school supplies for left-handed students. Some parents and faculty will undoubtedly be upset because they feel this new fundraiser may divert attention away from their event. But their event does not bring in hardly any supplies for left-handed students, things like desks, scissors, pencil sharpeners. These are things which yes, these students could do without or struggle to use their right-handed equipment, but they make life just a little bit harder for these students than they need to be.

The system, in this case the school district fundraisers and purchasing, helps these two groups of students unequally. And even if the left handed students are a smaller group, they are still deserving of the same level of treatment.

Whenever the system is set up at the disadvantage of a particular group, it is up to everyone to help remove those barriers in the first place and, if that isn’t possible, work to help those who need it the most.

Why Diversify Your Feed?

The best way to understand how the algorithm works at limiting your exposure to new channels using race and national identity is to start watching new groups.

Say for example – British content creators. You don’t need to subscribe or hit the like button, just watch 2-3 videos all the way through and your recommended videos will immediately change to include more British accents. The more videos you watch the more your recommendations will change. This does not mean that the content you are now being recommended is any less than or inferior to the content that you were recommended before. It just means that you have informed the YouTube algorithm that you are open to and interested in a new type of content or a similar subject presented by a new demographic.

This same information is fed into the algorithm when it comes to race. When you first open up YouTube or any social media stream for the first time without putting in any preferences or recommendations, you will see a whole slew of different types of content. From musicians and artists to car and tech reviews, food and lifestyle content, comedians and documentaries.

Without your input, these platforms are a blank canvas. But as all of us have a history when it comes to one social media platform or another, and as these platforms speak with each other on increasingly deeper levels, it becomes harder to overcome inherent bias and systemic disadvantages.

How to Diversify Your Feeds

Take a look at the subjects that your social media platform already believes you to be interested in. If we are sticking with the YouTube example, this is a running bar along the top of your YouTube home page.

Mine, for example, reads; cooking, lo-fi music, beauty, ambient music, taste, new age music (okay, so I have a type) and reading. These are the things that, based on my views likes and watching habits, YouTube has decided that I am most interested in.

Within each category, or even just overall, take a look at the types of recommendations you are getting. If you are into cooking, for example, but your feed is predominantly white, take a look at BIPOC, Latinx or asian cooking channels or content. If you are into tech reviews but, again, every face is a little pale, do the same thing (but also make sure to check out Marques Brownlee, he’s awesome). Take a look as some of the videos you see and, if you like them, give them a thumbs up.

This new data will have an immediate impact on what kind of content you are recommended and will, by default, open your recommendations up to new possibilities. The same process works for Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms to some degree.

Supporting creators of color isn’t just about reducing inherent roadblocks to success and systemic bias for creators, it’s also about opening yourself up to more diverse and incredible content.

It’s a big world out there, but you’ll only ever see so much of it if you are looking through a shuttered window.

For more on this, you can take a look at some helpful tips I’ve put together for on YouTube HERE and HERE. You can also show your support by shopping at BIPOC owned businesses or services. There are additional resources linked below the videos and, as always-

Do Good.

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How to Talk to Your Kids about George Floyd

I had planned to write about summer reading recommendations this week, but some things take priority.

Right now there are a lot of scary and very intense things happening in the news all across the country and they are not likely to go anywhere anytime soon. As with most things, our kids pick up on more of what is going on around them than we may realize, and keeping an open and realistic dialogue with them is one of the best things we can really do to make a lasting impact on how they interpret and internalize what is happening in the world around them.

The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police officer in full view of a crowd, on video from multiple angles, and carried out in clear disregard from protests by EMT’s and medical professionals, has re-ignited a spark that smolders at the heart of the American consciousness. That spark has, quite literally, turned into a blaze that is burning its way across the country. The initial protests were met with tear gas and rubber bullets and quickly devolved into riots and looting in some areas. As store owners board up their places of business and protests continue, it is important to take a moment and consider how these events are meant to be interpreted by the most impressionable around us – our kids.

How much do our kids already know?

Kids see more than you think. I don’t mean that your toddler is secretly watching the news while you are not looking. But they are catching glimpses, some longer and more revealing than others, of a situation that is big and scary and difficult for even some adults to understand.

If you have a teenager who is on social media they probably know more about what is happening than you do right now. If you have a preteen with a Tik Tok, they have seen cuts of the footage, the protests, and probably even a few people “recreating the scene” for laughs (yes, the internet can be a disgusting place). If you have a younger child who plays computer games, they will still probably get banner ads for news networks containing images of cities on fire and protests if not the murder itself. If it is out there, it is online and it is everywhere. They will see it – the only questions are how much will they actually see and whether you will be the one to provide the context for them or if they will get that from the internet as well.

Obviously age will have an impact on how much you child will have access to, how much they actually see, and how you should talk to them about it. But please, do not make the mistake of assuming they have not seen anything about it because, if they are online at all, they probably have.

How to start talking to your kids about George Floyd

Broaching the subject can be tricky, especially if you are not used to practicing open communication about difficult topics. As much as I feel this should go without saying, as you go into this conversation, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU LET YOUR KIDS WATCH THE VIDEO. Again, I feel like this should go without question, but I also know individuals who struggle with expressing difficult concepts. For these parents, it can be so much easier to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’, a simpler way to explain what started this all.

As an adult, I watched the events George Floyds’ death unfold and I struggled. That kind of content is far too extreme for kids and I would even advise against teens seeing it. Though if older teens are determined to see the footage for themselves they will find a way (ie – the internet), so it may be valid to be there with them when that happens. Otherwise, just click away.

Unpopular Opinion – Conversations on Race will Differ with Race

This conversation will look very different for families with children of color when compared to this same conversation in predominantly white families. And it should.

The disparities that we see in police-involved shootings, incarceration rates, and criminal profiling are something that many people of color will have to deal with, first hand, during their lifetimes. It is horrible and distressing but that does not make it any less true. Conversations about how to stay safe, how to behave around police, legal rights and other concerns that most Caucasian families would never even consider worrying about are happening in households all across America right this very minute. As they will tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. The hope is that one day those conversations won’t be necessary. But today is not that day.

The other side of the conversation is something that, for older kids at least, may sound familiar. In middle school, we learned about first-hand experiences during the Holocaust as a way of understanding human rights issues that underpinned the policies and politics of WWII. Only now those stories of violence and fear are taking place right in our own backyards, to people we may know and care about. Opening up that possibility also opens kids up to the potential for empathy and deeper understanding.

Teaching Kids to Hold Authorities Accountable

We want to teach our kids to trust authorities because we want them to listen to their teachers, their coaches, and to us. Now we need to teach them to hold those authorities accountable. We need to teach them to trust their instincts and stand up for themselves and others in the safest way possible when they feel something isn’t right. The good news is that many teens and young adults today are already doing just that.

Between growing up in the fictional worlds of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Hunger Games and the real-life events of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Black Lives Matter, Global Climate Change – today’s teens and young adults are already starting to take things into their own hands. They are protesting against their school for siding with teachers who are abusing students (Seatle, 2020). They are speaking out when fellow students are being discriminated against (Texas, 2019). They are protesting for gun control (Parkland, 2018) and environmental policy reform (Internationally, 2019). And they are standing witness to police brutality to hold those responsible accountable for their actions (George Floyd’s murder was filmed by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier).

Talking to Your Kids about Difficult Subjects – Actionable Advice

  1. Start by Asking Questions and see what your kids already know, it might surprise you.
  2. Open up a dialogue starting from what they already may have worked out on their own and see how they feel about it.
  3. Do not pass judgment on your kids’ knowledge, impressions, or interpretations right now. Without context, there is no right or wrong.
  4. Work on your kids’ age level – do not introduce new information that might be beyond their ability to process intellectually or emotionally. Instead, work with what they already do know.
  5. Let your child choose the direction the conversation takes. If your child has questions or concerns you can gently encourage them to voice them by with open-ended answers or leaving gaps.
  6. Let your child decide how much they feel comfortable with knowing. You are trying to provide context for anything they may have picked up already, not tell them what they are supposed to think. If they want to change the subject, let them. The more comfortable they feel with talking to you about difficult subjects, the more willing they will be to bring you questions in the future.
  7. Diffuse the ‘us against them’ thinking by acknowledging all parties as people with thoughts and fears. Don’t be afraid to admit when ‘your side’ makes mistakes.
  8. Have ice-cream. Or cake. Make cookies. Do each other’s nails. Build something. Spend time together. This should not be a lecture or a lesson, but a conversation. The more often you do things like this, the more comfortable and natural it will be moving forward.

This is going to be a difficult conversation to have. Have it anyway.

Balancing Mental Health, Productivity, and Self Care

Over the past several weeks, learning to balance productivity and keeping busy against mental health and practicing self-care has been more vital than ever.  While productivity and staying busy are sometimes a necessary part of this, it is also important to recognize that there will be times when we just need the time and space to not be okay. 

This is where an important distinction is needed.  You do not need to be in ‘extreme circumstances’ to be struggling.  Acknowledging that others may have a harder time than you does not mean that you cannot acknowledge your own difficulties.  You do not need to be in the worst possible situation for your feelings to be valid.  You just need to feel pushed beyond the boundaries of what you are capable of handling.

Mental Health

There is a common analogy given in stress management. I will link a version of down below but the essence of which is this; 

An individual is given a glass of water and asked how heavy it is.  Eight ounces, twelve, the real answer does not really matter.  The glass is light enough for you to carry with ease for a short while but, after an hour, the strain begins to build.  After a few hours, your arm will begin to hurt.  After a day your arm will feel numb and paralyzed and unable to help you do the things you need to in order to get through the day. 

Our brains work the same way.  We can handle almost anything for a set amount of time but, as the days turned to weeks and those weeks keep adding up, pretending that we are not holding onto a weight will only leave us paralyzed and cripple our ability to move forward.

We need to give ourselves permission to set the glass down which, admittedly, is difficult when you cannot just walk away from the situation… or even leave your house.  But if you can set aside the strain of it, just for a little while, and give yourself space to not be okay.

Previously we have talked over the science behind cabin fever and ways to combat its effects HERE.  These methods, while excellent for shaking yourself out of a funk, are not long-term solutions.  It is important to identify ways to protect your mental health, keep yourself occupied, and embrace self-care.

Protecting Your Mental Health

Limiting Screen Time

Sometimes we all just need a little help fighting our own bad habits.  Most of us are racking up impressive but terrifying average daily usage on our phones, not even counting the contOver the last few weeks I have racked up an impressive daily average of 7+ hours of screen time on my phone alone.  This does not even begin to count the hours spent binging on YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and Prime.  I had constant headaches, had difficulty sleeping and just generally could not concentrate.  Eventually, I just had to cut myself off.

  • Restricting access to certain apps or setting time limits is a great way to keep you aware of just how much time you are spending on your devices. 
  • Lock yourself out of your device entirely for one hour to stop the temptation entirely when you are trying to be productive. 
  • There are also programs you can install on your PC to accomplish the same goals
  • Turn off the ‘AutoPlay’ feature on your streaming services.
  • Try and limit total screen time to 8 hours a day and take breaks every 2-3 hours.  I know that may seem like a lot under normal circumstances, but we are not under normal circumstances.

Stay Active

Not moving is one of the biggest contributors to physical effects of cabin fever.  Muscle aches, joint pain, headaches, even digestive problems can all arise from being sedentary for too long. 

Going for long walks and listening to your favorite podcast or music playlist is a great way to give yourself a break from the screen.  Bike riding around the neighborhood with the kids is a good way to help them burn energy.  Move along to your favorite workout or stretching video, even if you do not go full force just getting up and moving is enough.  Or dance like no one is watching… and then post it to ticktock anyways because why not.


Some people have a strong internal locus of control, setting their own deadlines and sticking to them.  For others we need an external force, be it a boss, a teacher or even a friend, to be accountable too.  If you, like me, need a little bit of responsibility to help keep you focused, reach out to your friends, family, or online community to set up an accountability system.  Check-in with them and have them check in with you.  Set specific goals and try to motivate each other to keep to them.  Often times just knowing that there is someone else keeping track is enough to keep me focused, or at least more so than if left to my own devices. 


“You are not working from home, you are home during a crisis trying to get some work done.” – the internet

Let’s share a moment of honesty here.  Being ‘productive’ should not be the end all be all goal right now.  A nice perk, yes.  But not the finishing line.  Mostly I have found keeping busy to be an excellent tool in the toolbox for keeping my head on straight. So long as I focus on what’s in front of me I can forget, if just for a moment, about everything outside my window.

School / Work

For many of us, quarantine still means responsibilities.  And while school and work are not necessarily the first things you might want to jump up and do in the morning, they are a valuable avenue to focus your energy. 

If your job has more leeway it might be a good time to try putting together a new proposal or experimenting with new ideas that you would not otherwise have time for.  I’ve been experimenting with marketing options for the bakery I work at and branching into virtual tutoring for my nanny gig.

My Organic Chemistry class meets online twice a week and, without any other fixed points in my schedule, having that constant has been a tether that keeps me grounded.  I may lose track of time over the weekend but I know, come Monday and Wednesday, I have somewhere to be (even if it is only at my computer).  Additionally, the level of concentration required to even pretend to understand my course materials gives me a reason to, at the very least, keep a clear head for that three day stretch.  While few people are masochistic enough to sign up for organic chemistry unless they absolutely had to, it, if you have ever wanted to try an online class and have

Having a Creative Outlet

I am so lucky to have a creative endeavor already built into my life.  Writing has always been an amazing outlet for me, now more than ever.   That does not mean I don’t still struggle with getting motivated.  What has helped keep me inspired and focused has actually been YouTube tutorials and live streams.  Being around other people, even digitally, who are all trying to accomplish the same goals is a great feeling.

Exploring new creative outlets and opportunities can be fun, though they sometimes require special tools or supplies that you may not have readily available or could come with an unwanted delivery bill, which we talked about HERE

Try revisiting hobbies that you already love but have set aside because you were too busy. Or look at what materials you have available to you and explore from there.  Have paint?  Turn on a Bob Ross marathon.  Randomly stocked kitchen?  Check out SortedFood, Tasty 101, Binging with Babish, or even Mythical Kitchen and get cooking.  Only pencils and paper?  Try drawing your favorite TV characters from Tommy Pickles and Danny Phantom to Sesshomaru and Angewomon.  Or join our nerdy writerly collective and finally put that story idea you have had in your head to paper.  Have a phone? Photography, video, graphic design… the choices are limitless. Find a passion that interests you and that you have the resources to explore and dive in. 

Mental Outlet 

If you are actually serious about learning another language, I cannot recommend Rosetta stone enough. For those who are just curious, free apps like duo lingo are a great place to start.

We have already mentioned online classes as a great option, especially if you want to pursue a degree or certification. For those interested in learning for the sake of learning, Khan Academy and YouTube tutorials are a great place to start. However, SkillShare is still offering one month of free classes (as of the writing of this article) which are generally more comprehensive, better produced and more reliable.

Self Care

Spa Day

I am not normally a ‘spa’ kind of girl.  But even I want to be taken care of every once in a while. 

If you are feeling in a funk, try some of the methods to shake yourself loose HERE first, but then follow them up with a little self-pampering. Have a nice bath or shower, bust out the good body scrubs, clean up your nails, go for a face mask or all of the above!

Eat Right & Drink Water

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the human body was not meant to survive on coffee, potato chips, and French onion dip.  At least, I know my body seriously did not appreciate it when I attempted to do just that.  Ruling out all snacks and junk food is just not an option for most of us right now.  But taking the time to make yourself a delicious, healthy meal can help your body offset all of the sugary salty goodness we’ve been ingesting in the meantime.  A nice clean stir fry or a creamy vegetable pasta are both great places to start. Fill yourself up on fresh fruits and veggies or lean proteins. Eat as much as you want, but make it the good stuff.

Find a cup that you really like, especially one with a straw, and it will help you remember to drink more water.

ProTip from R.W. –

Drinking 16 ounces of water (the size of a large travel mug) is also an excellent way to give your body a fighting chance at normal.  You can temper your water with flavorings, extracts, or even juice if plain water is not your thing.  Water with citrus is one of the best choices, healthwise, though cucumber and mint are also popular.  A 4/1 water with cranberry juice and a little mint or lemon is a great mocktail option to keep you hydrated.

Give Yourself Time to Wallow

Pretending that everything okay is a strategy as old as time and one that, for a limited, is an effective coping mechanism.  We passed the point where that was effective in week two.  Keeping calm and carrying on may be the British thing to do, but it is not necessarily the healthiest. 

Give yourself time to not be okay.  Allow yourself to deal with the stress of this situation in whatever way helps you.  Take up kickboxing, binge watch every single James Bond movie, play Animal crossing for the entire morning.  Give yourself permission, give yourself that time and then, when you have sufficiently wallowed, pick yourself up, have a glass of water and a cool shower, and bring on the day.

Check-in on your friends.  Check-in on your family.  Do what you can to help others, but do not minimize or ignore the load that you are carrying.

We have all been under varying amounts of stress for weeks without a break.  Whether you are in an ‘ideal’ situation or one that is more difficult, do not minimize the weight you are currently carrying. 

When a plane encounters turbulence you are instructed to put on your own oxygen mask first and foremost.   We are in turbulent times, and ignoring your own strain and failing to reach for the oxygen is not a sign of strength or toughness.  Find your oxygen.  Find the thing that keeps you grounded and clear-headed and grab onto it like the lifeline that it is.  Check-in with others both for their benefit and yours.  Keep yourself preoccupied to keep your mind off of things.  And give yourself the time and space that is needed to acknowledge that yes, the plane is shaking.

Quarantine and Mental Health – Combating Cabin Fever

Day 27… I have run out of Cheese It’s.  The Gilmore Girls witty banter no longer soothes my consciousness and Captain Picard’s voice is the only thing tethering me to reality…

Okay, it is actually only day 12 for me, but it certainly feels longer.

Hopefully you, like many of us, are self-isolating as much as possible and are practicing social distancing.  And while this is essential for slowing the spread of the virus, it can play havoc on your mental health.

Quarantine & Cabin Fever

As we are all self-isolating as much as possible and businesses remain closed, our levels of human contact and normal everyday routines are being severely disrupted.  Working from home, or being out of work entirely, time starts to lose its meaning.  Days blur into one another and we lay around in our pajamas and binge watch old episodes of Mythbusters for the four thousandth time. 

Having other people with you can either help or make it harder.  Another person, child, or pet can keep your consistent and grounded as their routines remain fixed.  The dog still needs to be walked three times a day, at least, your partner still watched Ellen every day at 4 pm, the toddler still wakes up at 5 am.  Other times having another person there can make the effects of isolation feel worse if your internal clocks become increasingly disparate.  When one person is waking up at 3 am and barely sleeping and the other is sleeping 12+ hours a day it can feel almost as isolating as if you were on your own. 

All of this contributes to a well-established psychological state known more commonly as ‘Cabin Fever’.

Isolation, Depression and Anxiety

Cabin Fever is a very real mental health phenomenon that most people who live up north are intimately familiar with.  The MythBusters did an experiment to demonstrate the various symptoms (currently available on Hulu) back in 2008.  Lethargy, irritability, loss of patience, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest, trouble sleeping.  All of these are symptoms of cabin fever.  They can also be symptoms of depression and can be extremely destructive to our mental health. 

Add to that the anxiety and uncertainty around everything that is happening in the world around us and it can be easy to see how people may struggle.

Combating Cabin Fever

Various medical resources such as the World Health Organization and Psychology Today have useful and more comprehensive information on how to deal with Cabin Fever, like this collated article on WebMD HERE, but below I have narrowed it down to the top three techniques for dealing with cabin fever.

Combat Cabin Fever by Going for a Walk

I know, I know. It sounds stupid. It’s also something that people have probably already been telling you to do. But did you actually do it?

One of the contributing factors to cabin fever is the lack of direct sunlight.  Broad-spectrum UV radiation, at safe levels, has a number of widespread health benefits.  The Mayo Clinic discusses using a ‘Light Box’ to treat seasonal affective disorder HERE, which is commonly associated with cabin fever.  Seasonal affective disorder and cabin fever are not the same, but they share many symptoms and often overlap.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is also known as the ‘winter blues’, but the poor weather, shorter days, an increased amount of time spent indoors can all contribute to feelings of cabin fever, which could occur at any time of the year.

Here in South Florida, we are lucky enough to have a warm sunny climate for most of the year and, as coronavirus is not airborne, we are able to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine without investing in a lightbox.  A short, 10-20 minute walk just around your neighborhood as an excellent way to soak up some sunlight and fresh air.  Feel free to put on music or your favorite podcast as you walk, but avoid just staring at the screen for the entire time.  If a walk around the neighborhood isn’t possible, just sitting on your balcony or front step and soaking up whatever light you can is still a good way to ease yourself back into reality more gently.

If however, you live in a climate that is more gray and cloudy than blue and sunny, a lightbox might be a good investment if you find that you are particularly affected by the lack of light exposure.  Various models are available for purchase over the internet with contactless delivery available.

Help Your Mental Health by Exercising Vigorously for 10 Minutes

Gyms may be closed and, if you’re like me, you weren’t going to one anyways.  But being stuck inside for several days at a time can make anyone a little bit twitchy.  Instead of fighting those nervous instincts, it is far better, and healthier, to let them out. 

The next time you are feeling just a little bit jumpy put on some pumping music, set a timer for 10 minutes, and go to town.  Run in place, do jumping jacks, do pushups, do crunches, squats, or high knees. Dance like nobody is watching. Don’t pause, don’t wait, just go to town, pushing yourself comfortably but firmly until you are mentally and physically exhausted.  The point is not to get in a comprehensive workout, but just to move and release all that pent up energy and anxiety in a healthy way.

Avoid scrolling through exercise workouts until you find one you like.  The next time you feel jittery, just turn on the music and do what feels comfortable, even if that’s only latent memories of the 4th-grade presidential fitness test, as long as you just keep moving.  After you’ve burned off all, or at least some, of your nervous energy, you can always look through exercise routines or YouTube videos for things to use the next time.

Vigorous exercise produces endorphins, increases the oxygenation of your blood and muscles and provides a cathartic release that can help to settle anxious minds and refocus us mentally, physically and emotionally.  Regular exercise can also help promote GABA production, increases your mental fitness and clarity, and elevates your mood.

Elle Woods said it best – “Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people don’t shoot their husbands.”

Shock Yourself by Taking a Cold Shower

For the record?  I absolutely HATE this method.  That does not mean it does not work or that I have not already used it twice this week, but it still seriously sucks. 

For our purposes, a ‘cold’ shower is anything below about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  We are not talking Ice Bucket challenge temperatures here, just low enough when compared to normal human body temperature to trigger a small shock reaction.  Also, while extended cold showers can help with things like inflammation, muscle soreness or joint pain, this only requires about 30-60 seconds under the spray.

Stepping into a cold shower shocks the body by constricting the blood vessels, thereby forcing the heart and lungs to punch in that bit of extra effort to keep things circulating.  It sends an electrical jolt through the peripheral nervous system straight into the brain which triggers a fight or flight response that promotes mental clarity.  Cold showers affect the metabolism by tricking your body into thinking you need to burn more calories to stay warm, and it can actually affect your blood sugar (Diabetics, talk to your doctor before starting a cold shower routine).  Alternating between a warm shower and a blast of cold also works, but if that is your preferred method you should always end on cold for the best results.

All of these come down to some form of physical shock.  Why?  Because the human body is an amazing and complex biomechanical construct – it knows when to prioritize certain stimuli over others as a matter of survival. 

Ever had a headache and then stubbed your toe?  Yeah, bet your head did not hurt after that. Your body actually took in the new information of ‘stubbed toe’ in the form of nerve impulses, compared it to your headache, and decided that it was more important for you to deal with the new painful stimuli rather than your dully throbbing head.  It works in much the same way that our ancient ancestors would have prioritized being clawed by a saber tooth tiger as more relevant than a mild sunburn and therefor reacted accordingly. 

Shocking your body physically, whether through light and stimulation, vigorous exercise, or cold, is the surest, simplest and safest way to shake yourself out of a mental funk and reorient focus to what is important.  Various tactics and techniques have been used over the decades, and even centuries, to help combat depression, seasonal affective disorder, and our old friend ‘cabin fever’.  We picked out these three because they are the easiest, can be almost universally applied and, at least in our experience, work.

As always, if you feel your mental health begins to deteriorate, exhibit unusual behavior or find yourself having thoughts of self-harm please seek out emergency medical help. Resources are available even under self-isolation advisories and quarantine measures. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 as well as the National Alliance on Mental Health at 1-800-950-6264. Other resources such as dedicated video counseling are available through various apps and you can always reach the Crisis Text Line by texting CONNECT to 741741.

The methods listed above can help shake you out of a funk, but they are not necessarily enough to stop you from sliding back into one.  It is important to find a routine or activity, we will discuss a few options next week, to help keep you grounded and locked in over the coming weeks as it is looking increasingly likely that we are in this for the long haul.

Stay Safe.  Stay Sane.  Stay with us.

Meal Prep Made Easy: Where to Start

Whether you are looking to save money, time/energy, or eat healthier in the new year, meal prepping is the easiest way to make a difference in your everyday life.

This a topic we have explored here on The Nerdy Nanny before, but it bears repeating and we have included more actionable information in our latest update.

Everyone from Oprah to Dr. Oz has been espousing the benefits of meal prepping for years, and it has taken me this long to realize they might have a point. A quick scan of the google results for ‘Meal Prep Guide’ and the various charts and tables involved always made the process seem incredibly intimidating to me. Until I learned the truth…

Meal Prep is Making Leftovers –


That is it. That is all there is to it. The meal plans, guides, charts, graphics, and shopping lists online? They are just complicating what is, inherently, a very simple process.

Buy in bulk, cook larger portions, and have enough leftovers make up a few extra meals for the week ahead. Meal Prepping saves time, energy, and money by cooking only a few times but in larger batches. It also makes it easier to choose a healthier option by having meals at the ready instead of being tempted by the drive-thru when you are on your way home and really don’t want to have to cook.

If you still are not sure, or even if you are but want a little help, here are three questions to ask yourself to help get started.

Meal Prep 101 – How Many Meals Do You Want To Plan?

Part of what always made Meal Prepping seem so intimidating to me was the idea of scheduling out every meal for the next week. How was I supposed to know if I wanted chicken fajitas for lunch next Wednesday or not?

Over scheduling anything is a sure way to set yourself up for failure. Life happens, situations change and the best-made plans need to be able to adapt.

Three meals a day, seven days a week comes out to 21 meals (assuming you aren’t skipping any) per week. In general, try and plan for somewhere around half of that. Cooking two large meals per week, with extra servings for lunches, and a breakfast option (click here for a few ideas for fast and easy breakfast solutions) is usually more than enough for me. That amount of food generally breaks down like this;

  • Meal One (3-4 servings per person)
  • Meal Two (2-3 servings per person)
  • Breakfast Option (4-5 servings per person)
  • Snacks (4-8 servings per person)

Two big meals plus breakfast generally gives me enough food for 10 – 12 meals, plus a handful of healthy snacking options. This is enough for two meals per day during the workweek with a couple to spare. And, really, that is enough. Plans are going to change. If I really don’t want to each my beef and broccoli for lunch that day, I don’t eat it, and I don’t worry about it.

The trick with this situation is really having a good understanding of your own needs. Do you have a rigid work schedule week after week? Or do your shifts change depending on other circumstances? Do you work two days on two days off or more on the weekends? Do you work from home? Are you able to store or heat a packed lunch at work?

My shifts vary, and though food is readily available at both jobs, it is not exactly the kind of food I should be eating. To counteract that, I try to stash a couple of healthy alternatives or bring in a two-day lunch supply to the one job where no one will mind my lunchbox taking up refrigerator space. The other job I pack meals less frequently as changing schedules means meals tend to be forgotten. But I do try to at least bring healthy snacks.**

Meal Prep 101 – When Do You Want to Cook?

Planning out all the super nutritious and perfectly portioned meals in the universe does nothing if you don’t set aside the time to actually turn those ingredients into real meals. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to do all of your meal prep for the week in a single massive cook-off.

This is not Thanksgiving.

The trick is to find the windows of time that are most likely to be available week after week and blocking them off as much as is realistic. Scheduling ‘Cooking Time’ makes it more likely to follow through. Things will come up, schedules will have to change from time to time. But by choosing times that are more likely to be consistent it builds the practice into a routine.

For me, finding time between the two jobs, school, and everything else that needs to get done is tight. Sunday afternoons are generally my biggest window and are also when I generally tackle all of my other housework. Adding grocery shopping and cooking into that chaos of cleaning, laundry, and dishes was surprisingly seamless.

I prepare a bigger meal and breakfast for the week and I set up a few snacks. I know myself, if the hummus and celery aren’t already in containers and ready to go, I’ll eat donuts instead. I usually cook a smaller meal on Thursday (depending on work) and that is really all I need to have enough meals for the week.

Find times that work for you. If you are in a multi-person household, don’t be afraid to share the load. Cooking together is great when the stars align. But cooking for each other when the schedules don’t line up is an act of service that can mean just as much.

Meal Prep 101 – What Meals Do You Already Know and Like?

In an ideal world, all of our meals would be fast, delicious, easy to make, inexpensive, and nutritious. And while that is an excellent goal, it is not a realistic starting point.

Sit down with a pen and a notepad (yes, there is probably at least one floating around your house somewhere) and write a list of a few of the foods and meals you already know and like. And yes – there is a difference between ‘foods’ and ‘meals’.

The examples I am using are not gourmet for a reason. Building habits begins with what you know. If that is buffalo chicken and broccoli, then guess what will be on the menu tonight?

‘Foods’ are individual dishes. Things you already like and know, or at least kind of know, how to make. You do not have to be a master chef to have a favorite food or even a preference. Frozen chicken tenders are a staple in my house because they are fast, easy, and can be used in a variety of dishes both hot and cold. What you cook will change as time goes on and you become more comfortable in the kitchen, but more on that later.

‘Meals’ are generally one-pot dishes including several foods that are already irreversibly combined somehow. Individual components baked off casserole-style in a single dish. These are generally less work to prepare and a lot easier to deal with when dishing out servings for the week. They are also a little less flexible if you are trying to deal with the varied tastes of multiple people, or just like to mix it up a little.

The advantage of individual foods over meals is that you can mix and match. If you make were to make chicken tenders, cauliflower mash, and broccoli, you don’t have to eat those same three foods in that same arrangement. Chicken tenders with honey mustard one day. Cheesy cauliflower and broccoli another. And chicken and broccoli together to make ‘stir fry’ for lunch if you have a few soy sauce packets.

Once you have determined how many meals you want to prepare, what day you want to cook, and have a few foods you already like, you will already have a solid platform to start from.

Pick a few of your favorite foods or a big batch meal, make too much of it on purpose, and pack up a few Tupperware containers. You don’t have to start with a plan or a schedule or a chart. Just pick a few of the foods you already like, and get cooking.

The more you cook, the more recipes you will add to your list of meals and individual foods that you feel comfortable with.

The more recipes you feel comfortable with, the more willing you will be to experiment or try something new.

If you are still uncertain or looking for good place to start, keep tuned for more ‘Meal Prep Made Easy’ coming soon.

If you are a novice in the kitchen or even if just want a solid review of the basics, I recommend checking out these free web series below to start –

Basics with Babish

SortedFood – Now Cook It

Tasty 101

Check out this and more original content available every week at by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Great Expectations

Setting Realistic Goals for 2020

Tuesday night brought an end to a rather tumultuous decade. For many people, the years between 2010 and 2019 passed in a blur. But with the stroke of Midnight, Wednesday surged forth to usher in a new year, and a new decade, and a new beginning.

New Beginnings have a magical effect on our psyche. The idea of a fresh start or a chance to begin again is something that, as human beings, we find desperately alluring and, at times, almost cathartic. Nothing inherently magical happens at the ticking of midnight as seconds bleed from one year to the next, but the psychological ramifications are very real and can be an amazing leg up if used to our advantage.

In a tradition as old as time, many of us have scribbled down a few well-meant goals, vague wishes, or firm self-imposed edicts. But creating those resolutions is a process that that is often paved with the best of intentions and, as a result, just as flawed as you might expect.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. Making, and subsequently keeping, a promise to yourself is one of the hardest things you can do. It is also the most worthwhile. If you cannot be held accountable to yourself, you will be perpetually reliant on others to provide the motivation and structure needed to grow.

Knowing how to set realistic goals and expectations is a necessary life skill that is important for everyone.

For kids making their first attempts at resolutions to working adults struggling to find enough time in the day to take care of their careers, their relationships, and themselves, to retirees trying to make the most out of every moment.

Creating realistic goals is difficult. Following through on them day after day will ultimately be down to you. But knowing where to start? We can help with that.

*If you go through the steps below, and trust them in their entirety, it can help you create a realistic set of goals for the year to come.

Start from Scratch

Think you know what you want to set as your goals or resolutions for 2020? That’s great! Write them down, create a list on a piece of clean paper, and fold it in half…

Now burn it.

We all have preconceived ideas of what we want to do or accomplish which also means that, more than likely, you have preconceived ideas about how they are going to unfold based on your experience attempting them before. Which means you already have a bias, for good or for ill, which will influence your behavior.

Forget what you’ve done before. Forget what you think you want to do. Start from scratch and we’ll get there.

The 7-3 Rule

Human beings are not generally able to juggle more than 7 distinct items within their short term memories. It is a general principle of psychology known as “Millers Law”. On a practical level, this generally means that if you are trying to instigate changes in your everyday life, the same limits apply.

Now, this has nothing to do with the practicality of implementing 7 distinct changes to your life or routine but purely comes down to the simple task of memory as you try to juggle all 7.

Realistically, when it comes down to large sweeping changes, it is more helpful to look at our ability to concentrate on more than one subject at a time. Generally speaking, the Rule of 3 applies here.

This does not mean trying to do three things at once (ie. trying to read while doing elliptical while eating vegetables) but rather that we as humans are only able to prioritize a certain number (3) of things above everything else at any given time.

We are still not making our lists yet, but keep these two things in mind as you move forward because it will help to shape your goals into something more manageable.

The I-Beam Test

* I am failing in my due diligence here. This is an established practice by a motivational speaker who I have been unable to locate online. If anyone knows or can identify the person to give them proper credit, please list them in the comments below.

We once had a speaker in college who talked about identifying what was really important to you via something called ‘The I-Beam Test’. The basic premise was that, when offered a reward, you walked across a steel construction beam on the ground for say, ten bucks. Easy, right? As the beam was raised further off the ground, the reward increased. Two feet off the ground, twenty bucks. Ten feet off the ground, one hundred dollars. And so on and so forth. At a certain point, a thousand feet off the ground, there are very few things most people would be willing to cross that I-beam for. Even if you have crossed that very same I-beam a thousand times before without ever faltering. Even if it something that you are absolutely 100% sure you can do, the risk stops us from acting.

The challenge becomes this – at a thousand feet up, what would you cross the beam for? A thousand dollars? Nope. A million? Yeah, not happening. A hundred million? Mmmm… still thinking. So, what would you cross for?

Now let’s try this from a different angle. Parents, your child is dangling over the edge on the other side, about to fall at any moment. Are you even going to hesitate?

Most parents will be across that I-beam in a heartbeat without even questioning it.

That is what you are looking for. The things that, when it comes down to it, you would risk everything for. So really, what would make you cross the beam?

A lot of people will probably skip this step. It is hard and requires a level of self-honesty that makes most people uncomfortable. When you really sit down and evaluate what it is you would take that risk for, it can make you completely re-prioritize your life.

There was a man attending this speaker’s event some years ago who, months after the event, finally sat down and really thought about the I-beam test. He was working all the time to provide for his family and was progressing well in his career, but as a result, he never had time to spend with his wife or ten-year-old son. After examining his choices he took a step back at the company, came home early, helped his son every day with his homework, coached his soccer team, and even took his son on business trips with him, introducing the boy as his business partner. The time they spent together brought them closer together than he ever thought possible and he cherishes every moment.

Two years later the man’s son died of Leukemia. He wrote to the speaker shortly after the boy’s death to thank him for the memories and time he had with his son that otherwise, he never would have had.

I will say that if you choose to skip this step for your resolutions I understand. Evaluating your entire life is not the lighthearted tip or ‘life hack’ that many of you will have clicked the link for. But if you choose to actually sit down and put your goals to the I-beam test, it will completely change the way you think about your priorities.

Set General Goals

Remembering the 7-3 Rule, begin thinking of the kinds of overall goals you might like to aim for.

For most people, resolutions tend to fall into one of three categories; Health, Social, Career. There are other commonly reoccurring themes; traveling, trying new things, saving money. But most will fall into these general categories. Keep in mind the 7-3 Rule and, if you did it, the I-beam test.

For the sake of this exercise, we are going to use this general list of goals on the left. Some are specific to me, most are more general. I want to use a broad range of examples as we go through each of the following steps to turn them from General Goals to Actionable Resolutions. Your goals and ultimate plans may be completely different. And I advise not actually having this many. But in order to provide the broadest example, we will start here.

Be Specific, Be Realistic, Be Accountable, Be Honest

These aspects (specificity, reality, accountability, honesty) are what take the goals from our previous step and sharpen them into something actionable.

Be Specific

According to U.S. News and World Report, 80% of resolutions are abandoned by mid February. One of the most common reasons comes down to the general vagueness of the resolutions.

“Get out More” is a great goal. But because it is so vague it is also inherently harder to follow through on and a lot easier to let fall to the wayside. When trying to make a goal more specific there are 3 things to consider.

  • Parameters; what counts as going out? If you end up at the same sports bar three times a month would that count?
  • Solo or Squad; does this require other people or are you going alone? Doing things with other people can create more accountability, but also increases scheduling difficulties.
  • Timing; is this a once a week thing? Every Sunday? Or is there a minimum time for this, like exercising for 3 hours a week or meditating for 10 minutes a day? *Setting a schedule can also help you to determine if a goal is realistic and keep you accountable as the weeks and months go on.

“Go out and try something new with friends (or alone) at least once a week”. This is a lot better. It sets parameters, you can include suggestions of what to do or maybe a wish list of things you want to try, and it includes a self-imposed deadline (once a week). Additionally, because two of the resolutions were so vague, we were able to combine them, which makes it more likely that to follow through on both of them.

Be Realistic

Check that your goal is realistic in terms of time commitment, finance, and energy. In terms of the previous example, is it really reasonable to be able to go out every week?

Even if you’re just going to the neighborhood bar and grille, dinner a couple of drinks, and a tip can easily be $40 or more. Trying new experiences, attending classes, these things can easily become a daunting expense.

Will you have time/energy every week? Lots of us have more than one job, family, or other commitments that draw on our time and energy. What happens if you get sick? If you need to travel for work or family? Starting to make exceptions when things come up can make it easier to give yourself a free pass.

Be honest with yourself and your reality. Setting goals is great. But if they aren’t attainable you are only setting yourself up for failure. Adjust your goals to suit your reality.

Sometimes you will need to adjust your goals after you’ve started. Wanted to get fit so maybe you joined a gym or a club, but it isn’t working out? If you aren’t comfortable in a class, or if it is hurting your body in ways that are not just muscle fatigue you might be doing more harm than good. Don’t be afraid to adjust your method in order to achieve your underlying goals.

Be Accountable

At the beginning of this article, we discussed how a resolution is a promise that you are making to and for yourself. Even resolutions that you may make with others in mind (spend time with kids, be more present at home, call mom) are still yours and yours alone.

Knowing that you can say you are going to do something and that you will actually follow through with it is no small thing. Being accountable to yourself, first and foremost, is a hallmark of integrity and something that should never be underrated.

It is also really hard.

There is nothing wrong with needing to lean on someone else to start with. While the ultimate goal is to be self-sufficient in this matter, starting off with an accountability-buddy or using programs or apps to help is absolutely fine so long as it helps you to achieve your goal.

When you keep a promise to yourself, even with help, it is a powerful thing. And it is self-perpetuating. Being accountable to yourself gives you the power to set your own path and accomplish so much more than you might have been able to before.

Be Honest

None of this means anything if you aren’t honest with yourself. Resolutions are promises that you make to and for yourself, not others. As such, if you are being dishonest with yourself, the only person hurt is you.

We all tell little white lies here and there. Sometimes as a matter of social convention, sometimes to spare someone’s feelings. Lying to yourself fulfills the same functions. But lying to yourself also means you are the only one being hurt. And it works both ways.

Begging out of a workout because you are ‘too busy’? Trying to stick with a new routine that just isn’t working because ‘you just need to get used to it’? I would say ‘Be Honest with Yourself’, but that’s not enough. Instead, I would rather you learn to recognize when you are starting to lie and call yourself out on your bull.

Additional Tips and Tricks

Setting Gentle Goals can make it easier to stick with it. Instead of ‘Eat Healthy’, ‘Try and choose the healthier option’ or ‘make better food choices’. Setting firm rules is a great way to set yourself up for failure. ‘Breaking’ a diet or a new habit often leads to people going off the deep end and completely overdoing it, which makes it harder to get back on track. Go out with friends, order that burger- but maybe just skip the fries and the soda.

Having Accountability Buddies can be a great resource, but this is only as reliable as the buddy. If your ‘buddy’ is likely to waver or lose interest a few weeks in, it does you no favors and can actually make it harder to keep going yourself. Be honest about your buddy’s ability or willingness, or choose a group of people (online or IRL) to help keep you honest.

Know when to give yourself a break. Diets have cheat days. Plans get put on hold. Projects are abandoned and started from scratch. Knowing the difference between when something just isn’t working rather than if you just don’t want to do it is important here. We all have off days, but sometimes strategies need to be adjusted. Check-in regularly and just be honest with yourself.

For more on setting new habits, self-honesty, and accountability, check out This Video by Matt D’Avella. Seriously, he’s awesome. And so much time and work and research go into his videos to create a great platform for you to use in creating your own habits going into the new year.

Check out this and more original content available every week at by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.