A Guide to Perfecting the Art of Procrastination

As a person whose professional title is YouTube Trends Specialist, I spend a whole lot of time scavenging the interwebs. It’s a land where procrastination runs wild and can grow from one “quick 7 minute David Tenant fan video” into hours of watching “Dr. Who” conspiracy theories. Suddenly you look up and your cats have already dibs the best pillows because it’s midnight and they have better sleep habits than you.

This is really how all my writing projects start. I begin with the perfect setup: A mug of ice tea, notes written out in my Harry Potter notebook and the greatest intention to dive right into my work. “I’ll just watch one cover of Broadway stars singing Demi Lovato covers and then tuck right into work,” I declare with a kind of conviction that would make all those productivity articles I’ve been reading very proud. 

But alas, this time is no different than the thousands of writing nights before, and one performance of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” turns into an evening concert with Jeremy Jordan’s most-viewed YouTube videos. Procrastination, what a real pain in the ass.

But as much as I want to condemn it entirely as the extinguisher of my writing productivity, I have to credit my procrastination for sending me down some very enjoyable, and very  random rabbit holes. Yes, procrastination can be a time suck that left untreated can lead to heart burn, nausea, dry mouth, hives, fatigue, and in extreme cases, death. But when approached with a little creativity, your procrastination can fuel your curiosity and in most cases, lead to some very fun facts you can then share with coworkers the next day.

Example: Taylor Trensch and Ben Levi Ross are currently playing the role of Evan Hansen on Broadway and in the national “Dear Evan Hansen” tour. Fun fact, they’re the first romantic couple to play the same role at the same time — something I wouldn’t have figured out except for the hour I spent pouring through their Instagrams. So go, spread the good word!

If you’re looking to drum up your productivity, this ain’t the post for you. But if you’re here to take your procrastination rituals from three to a solid seven, here are my top procrastination habits that spice up an evening of writing and turn it into an evening of doing everything but.

Ways to Procrastinate Like a Professional

1.Sure, you’re already a great procrastinator because you’re a normal human being. But are you the best procrastinator you can possibly be? I have spent hours, HOURS, watching famous Broadway stars sing pop songs in New York. It’s my bread and butter especially when on deadline. Because I use YouTube so often, my algorithm is now perfectly formulated to spit out golden video after golden video that sucks my productivity out with the tide. Should you need any yourself, may I recommend: Bo Burnham’s comedy specials, “The Greatest Showman’s” “This is Me” first performance (sobs), my favorite Jabbawockeez performance, documentaries on how pointe shoes are made. I made an entire playlist of my favorite videos to watch when I just need to take a minute avoiding responsibility, enjoy!

2. Attempt to figure out a couple’s relationship status through social media. Celebrities, YouTube creators, friends of friends — the world of love is your oyster! But once you figure out they’re in a long-term relationship take a moment to lament the fact that you’ll never date Harry Shum Jr. or Darren Criss or that tuba player in the Huntertones. What could have been! Then realize, this is crazy and you need to start writing again.

3. Google how to fight moths in your apartment. Then realize your apartment is too old to eradicate all the moths from your closet, give up, accidentally click on an article about bed bugs and spiral into sheer terror.

4. Learn all the words to “Baby Got Back” to sing at the next company Christmas party.

5. Organize your closet in sleeve length/color order.Attempt to ignore the seven little kids running around upstairs. Grow angry and throw popcorn at the ceiling until you see them in the stairwell and they’re adorable. Turn mixed-emotions into children’s book idea and begin writing.
6. Make a list of people who have wronged you and place a tiny curse on them so throughout the next week annoying things — like getting hit in the face by leaves — will keep happening to them.

7. Attempt to memorize EE Cumming’s poem “i carry your heart, I carry it in my heart.”

8. Marie Kondo your house before realizing you’ve never read the book and therefore don’t quite know the difference between “This doesn’t bring me joy” and “this is just a boring life necessity.” Put everything back in your closet and consider buying the book. Decide to order “The Life Changing Magical of Not Giving a F*ck” instead because it seems like a better future investment.

9. Think of the guy you once had a crush on sophomore year of college school. Debate looking him up before going full detective to see what he’s been doing for the past six years. Contemplate if you’d still date him, realize that’s crazy and quickly clear your search history to hide the evidence. Repeat as necessary with every crush you’ve ever had depending on how much you want to avoid this impending deadline.

10. Put your glasses down while you wash your face. Proceed to forget where you put your glasses and spent 30 minutes patting down the surfaces of your house attempting to find them.

11. Try to take selfies with your cats who are never game for such nonsense. Instead you end up taking photos like this to prove to your cats enjoy hanging out with you.

 

Now go forth and grow into your best procrastinating self you can be! In the wise words of Abraham Lincoln, “Life is fleeting but cat selfies are forever.”

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Public Pools, 13 Mile Hikes, and Mental Health Reports

^^ First public pool visit was a super success. It’s the best way to beat the heat. ^^

There are times when summer in New York City reminds me so deeply of summers in SoCal. Those moments when the sun hits the leaves just right in Prospect Park or when the neighborhood kids whiz by on their scooters. The tank tops, the forever hint of sunscreen in the air, the restless need to be outside no matter how much work is piled up on my desk. And then there are things so drastically different from California that I often lament that I’ll never get used to them. The humidity, the beach crowds, the hour queues to get into the public pools, the fact that an ice tea is still 4 dollars!

It’s a tea bag and water, what is the other $3.50 paying for?

A few weekends ago, I pulled my swimsuit out of storage, packed up my tote bag and navigated the L train to McCarren Park’s public pool to see if this could be the heaven on earth I needed to escape the heat wave. Like any great adventure, it started with being stuck on the train and arriving an hour late to my sweet friend Bree reading by a tree outside. Now, my friend Bree is a planner — she’s a logistically queen, as a matter of fact — so really, McCarren pool was Bree’s dream and I was just happily along for the ride. Undeterred by the endless queue, we made it into the pool after an hour in line and dare I say, it was entirely worth it.

It was even worth the rule that you could only where white shirts and hats into the pool area!

I had forgotten how much I loved to swim. It reminded me of the long summer days when my cousins and I would spend hours diving for rings and seeing if we could hold our breath the length of the community pool. It was the exactly the same in New York, that communal feeling of enjoyment. You can get drunk on that feeling mixed with the intoxicating sent of sunscreen and sunshine. Suddenly even an overcrowded pool is a cause for celebration.

^^ One of the many incredible views from the office. Sometimes when my brain gets a little too full and begins to clog and spit out emails that start with, “Apologies for my sleep dehydration,” I like to come out here and take a few breaths. ^^

That day at the pool feels especially sweet because the two weeks following were a blur of long nights writing one of the largest research reports I’ve ever worked on for YouTube. I would wake up, research, write, come home, have dinner, and keep writing until I was started talking with my cats about the impacts of trichotillomania at 1am. While the photo above was the view that kept me calm at the office, below was my home view that kept me calm every night:

I know I’m a little biased but … my cats are actually the cutest animals on the planet. I mean look at that! But seriously, I was so grateful to have the cats around while I worked because they seemed to provide extra cuddles even before I had properly realized I needed them.

When I get stressed I have a habit of putting on my blinders and ignoring just about anything that isn’t work related. Yes, this is great when I need to write up a 20 page report on mental health on YouTube, but once this is done, I have a hard time reigning myself in and putting time into things that have no other purpose than bringing me happiness. For instance, planning a hike on Saturday.

This was mid-crazy mental health report writing and while I knew going on a long hike was number one on my summer bucket list, it wasn’t until I was two miles into the hike that I stopped feeling guilty for taking the day off.

While originally my friends and I were going to hike Breakneck Ridge — a trail accessible for city dwellers on the Metro North just above the Cold Springs stop — the loudspeaker was out on the train and we missed our stop. Instead of being deterred, we pooled our plethora of snacks and decided to hike out of Beacon. The hike evolved into a 13 mile scramble up and down five mountains and a water tower. Six hours later, we popped out in Cold Springs where we drank out of a hose faucet and dragged our sun-kissed-and-slightly-dehydrated bodies to Whistling Willies for celebratory burgers. My friends were such troopers and I’m pretty proud that we rolled with all the unexpected changes like the graceful mountain goats we are.

^^ View from a very high watchtower with a very nice view. If you look closely you’ll see a small arrow on the rock, that’s the trail marker that essentially points down a rock scramble. ^^

Being from the desert, it still boggles my mind there can be so much green in one place. I love hiking. That moment when you’re finally far enough away from civilization that you no longer hear cars and that feeling when your muscles start pulling in unison as you ascend a mountain — it’s all bliss. The next day, recharged from my time in nature with friends, I attacked my project with new energy (which I needed for a 16 hour work day) and proudly turned it in on Monday.

So the next time I don’t want to put energy into planning something new or I let work take up 99% of my brain space, I hope I remember the sheer joy these two adventures brought me and then pick up the phone and plan another day trekking off the beaten path.

Because it’s always worth it. Always.

 

 

More Yes? More No? Lets Call the Whole Thing Off

^^ My friend Elizabeth and I at KCon 2018. ^^

It all started during a recent quest to discover the secret to peak productivity mode. While I figured a month into this journey I’d transform into that person who wakes up at 6am to go running, in reality, I instead spent an embarrassing amount of time watching YouTube videos. One of the conundrums these videos continued to present was the idea of saying yes more versus saying no more.

This summer, the New York Times published a piece about the importance of saying no to things you’re not full-bodied, head of heels excited about. As someone who is ridiculously bad at saying no, this article struck a cord in me because it highlighted the fact that by trying to do everything all the time, I never have enough energy to hunker down and focus on the things I’m most passionate about. On the flip side, Shonda Rhimes champions in her best selling book “The Year of Yes” the power of saying yes to all things outside of your comfort zone. This also speaks strongly to me. If I had stayed in my comfort zone I would have never moved to New York, never become a journalist, never climbed Half Dome or built relationships with some of my closets friends. I’d be lost without the power of yes and yet, saying yes all the time exhausts me. So which is it — more yes or more no?

In an attempt to answer this question for myself over the last month, here’s what I’ve learned.

Comfort Zones, Like Me, Are Always Changing

New things can be hard. Events where I don’t know a lot of people, walking into parties where I don’t know if my friends are already there, planning my own birthday party, going on blind dates, joining new groups where I don’t know anyone, giving presentations at work — what these things all have in common is they are completely out of my comfort zone and can often leave me feeling incredibly anxious beforehand. Then again, not all new things or people leave me feeling this way.

On the flip side, like all great Gemini’s, I also love taking new adventures! I love traveling with friends, or by myself, to somewhere I’ve never been before. I love sharing my work with coworkers or trying a new hobby or restaurant or workout. I love planning events for friends or hosting dinner parties. I love talking to people and making them feel comfortable and learning their stories. Before becoming a journalist I would never have imagined myself cold calling people for interviews and now I don’t even think twice.

In remembering the ways I’ve evolved over the years, I’ve realized that comfort zones aren’t permanent. True, things might be outside of your comfort zone right now that doesn’t mean you can’t do them anyways. Many of the most worthwhile things are the scariest, that’s how we know they mean something to us. But it’s also okay to know when something just isn’t for you and your comfort zone. That leaves more room for you to say yes to something that does.

This summer I’m flexing my yes muscles in different directions (hello public pool visits!), but also really enjoying the sensation of saying no to things that just don’t fit me.

Yes Cannot Exist Without No

I used to believe that to step outside of my comfort zone was to say yes to everything. “Perhaps I’m just being too much of a homebody,” I’d think when friends would invite me to concerts at midnight. “Everyone in New York seems to be using dating apps so that must be the only way to meet people,” I’d tell myself. For a long time, the idea of saying no translated in my mind to missed opportunities and missed connections. I’d say yes until, like a pendulum, I’d find myself swinging into the no camp and striking out everything on my calendar. Overtime it tallied up to me feeling like I was doing too much and too little at the same time.

The fact of the matter is, yes cannot exist without no. I cannot say yes to everything and I don’t want to say no to everything either. It’s a partner dance. This year, my 2018 resolution was to simplify in order to find balance within opposites. Instead of swinging so far into the yes camp and then catapulting back into no territory over and over again, how do I make these opposites into compliments? How do I stop feeling guilty when I have to — or even just want to — say no to something? And how do I encourage myself to say more yes to things that are nerve racking but exciting?

For me, it’s been learning to give my gut some credit and trust the fact that it’s probably not lying. The gut always knows the right answer but often, I choose to ignore it and over plan. I can’t do everything at once and thus, no is necessary in order to make space for more yes’s that are right for me.

Case in point, the weekend where I went to KCON with my friend Elizabeth.

Cue the KCON Storytime

What is KCON you might be asking yourself? Well, it’s a conference that celebrates all the ways Korean music, television, and media has influenced American culture. A huge focus of it is on Kpop — which my friend and coworker Elizabeth specializes in. With Kpop fans being some of the most dedicated fanbases in the world, I wanted to observe how the fandom interacts in real life and more about this genre that has taken over YouTube.

^^ This was my excitement level after two days of KCon. I was LIVING! ^^

I didn’t know much going into KCon but that almost turned out to be a blessing. I spent the entire weekend learning something new and from people so passionate about Kpop. There is something very humbling and exciting about learning something from scratch and this feeling I had at KCon was the same excitement when I first started pottery. I watched people jump in and out of dance circles singing every Korean lyric in time. I saw fans comforting one another as they discussed mental health in the community and listened to some bomb Kpop performances at night.

The same weekend of KCon, the YouTube conference VidCon was taking place in California and this was the first time in four years I wouldn’t be attending. Even though I knew I needed a break, it was still hard to say no to VidCon. I knew I would miss seeing people I’d previously worked with and I didn’t want my coworkers to think I was a slacker, but I just couldn’t do another consecutive year of VidCon. I’m now even more grateful that I said no because this no allowed me to say yes to KCon and have an amazing new experience that taught me about a new online community.

At the end of the day, all we can do is fill our lives with the things that serve us best; an outcome achieved with an unknown cocktail recipe of “yes” and “no” decisions. If you’re like me, it’s often hard  to break from routine, including habits like saying yes to everything or putting in extra time planning something new. But the more I’ve learned to say no, the more present I’ve become within the activities I’ve excitedly said yes to! Now, when I look back at KCon, I feel most grateful to have had a friend willing to shepherd me along and also, to myself for diving into something new.

So should I be saying yes more? No more? I vote we just call the whole thing off.

Mini, Mighty Moments in May (and June)

Hey, hey you! Guess what! I turned 28! That’s right, I’ve officially moved into my late 20s and I have to say, I’m really digging it. With 28 years of experience under my belt, I feel like I can now confidently say I’ve perfected my “whimsical tomboy” style, no longer hesitate to tell people when I don’t know what they’re talking about (sorry “Masters of None” fans), and have finally made a dent in the piles of unread books consuming my apartment.

Seriously, I need to stop buying/adopting books.

May was a busy, fun, adventurous month in the chronicles of Carly. It involved many hellos, and a few goodbyes. At the beginning of May, my friend Imali and I played hookie and went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It was literally one of the greatest experiences of my life and I could talk about it forever … which I did in this blog post. Just go see it and then when you’re done there, head over to Lincoln Center.

May was also the last month my sweet friend Jillian was in New York City so we decided to live it up like the ladies of leisure we someday hope to become. First, we treated ourselves to Gisele, starring Misty Copeland, during one of the biggest rainstorms of the year.

Due to the massive rainstorm, I arrived to the theater early after work with no where to go and a laptop to protect. Stuck outside the Lincoln Center drenched from the waist down, I threw up my hands that Tuesday before the show and found a restaurant across the street where I could grab a beer and read. Settling in between two men sipping martinis and slurping oysters, I couldn’t help reveling in this very New York moment. Despite the rain, despite the stress of rushing uptown from work, despite being in heels, I couldn’t have felt luckier to be in the city about to go watch the ballet on a Tuesday night. I mean, how is that real life!

Jillian and I met three years ago after I sent her a fan letter asking for writing advice. At the time, she was also moving to New York and asked me to grab wine at the Tippler, a bar under Chelsea Market. I was so nervous to meet her. She was a famous writer! I was just a kid trying to keep their cats fed! But that first wine date turned into another which turned into dinners and “Game of Thrones” viewing parties which turned into attending her and Andrew’s wedding which turned into New Year’s trips to New Orleans and in May, tea time at the plaza.

As a tea fanatic, this was the big league for me and in the two hours we were there, I drank six glasses of tea. I buzzed out the front door, so hyped on caffeine I couldn’t get my words out fast enough. Over the last three years, Jillian has not only been an amazing friend but my biggest writing mentor/confidant and my most honest editor. Despite whatever might be happening in her life, she’s never too busy to give a midnight pep talk when I’m knee deep in writing blues or a reality check when I lament about an editor not getting back to me 11 minutes after I send a pitch. She’s brilliant and fearless and forgets nothing. She’s my person and while New York doesn’t feel the same without her (and Andrew!), I simply feel grateful for all these memories.

So the next time you’re nervous to reach out to someone new — a friend or a colleague or hell, maybe even a crush — remember, they could be your Jillian and trust me, that’s not a relationship you want to miss out on.

Perhaps I should actually retitle May as “the month I loved on my friends a bunch.” For my birthday Amy came and stayed with me for a few days. (Well, she actually came to meet her cousin’s new baby but I’ll pretend it was for me!) I don’t know who was more excited to see her, me or the cats, but Hem was all a flutter to hang out with her best friend and would just sit and watch Amy draw every night before bed.

Thus began the birthday celebrations! Now, I’m a simple lady, so my only requests for this birthday were: German food, good beer, and drag queen bingo. Not to spoil the ending but I achieved all three of these things — plus getting birthday bagels (above), tricking Amy into taking a two mile walk through the park, and finally, going to the Sackett on my corner. To everyone near and far who made me feel so loved on my birthday, thank you thank you. It meant more than you know and made me even more excited for another turn around the sun.

May is the month of birthdays amongst my friends and family. It’s a straight month of celebrating and when it’s all over, I usually need a minute to curl back into my routine and appreciate the little moments of magic in my life. Like getting to walk past Paul Bettany on my way to the Brooklyn Promenade or finally making pottery pieces that aren’t entirely hideous. The night I walked to the subway after dinner with friends in the city and stumbled upon Little Italy, packed with families and young couples toasting their wine glasses.

It’s now officially summer here in New York City and not only summer, but the best part of summer; when the humidity and blazing temperatures haven’t quite caught up to the season and I can spend hours wandering through Brooklyn. It’s that time when New York is collectively pleasant; when mums gather on their stoops to drink wine with neighbors and kids fly by on scooters hoping the sun will never set. It’s a time so beautiful it almost takes my breath away.

This is what I’m learning more and more. As an overachiever, I am constantly in a state of “what can I do next.” But in this rush to do as much as I can all the time, I can often overlook the little moments of gratitude, the tiny miracles happening every single day in New York City. Like the doorman I pass everyday to work who makes a detailed balloon character and hangs it outside the apartment building where he works. Or watching fashion bloggers stream into the West Village at 2pm to take their photos which look amazing on Instagram and very awkward in person.

28-year-old Carly, I’m excited to get to know and make adventures with you. May you bring lots of pie and peace, and in turn, I promise to make you as memorable as possible.

Two Broadway Babies Meet Harry Potter

 

About a month ago Imali called me at 9am to ask if I wanted to go see “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” on Broadway. Ever since the play touched down in New York it’s been sold out. If we wanted to spend 10 hours watching the “Harry Potter” legacy continue we needed to act fast!

Needless to say I gave her all my savings and we bought tickets for a Wednesday afternoon in May. My boss jokingly told me last month I should take more vacations and who am I to argue when Harry Potter could potentially be in my future?

Now I knew very little about this play beforehand. When the book first came out I was so psyched to read it but then life — and 115 other books — got in the way and I told myself I’d pick it up in paperback one the moment was right.

For a bit of background this play is actually two plays broken up into a part one and two. Because we went on Wednesday, both parts were on the same day with one starting at 2:00pm and the other at 7:30pm. By the time we finished the last show we had been absorbed in the world of Harry Potter for nine hours — with an hour ramen break in between.

The play begins 22 years after we last saw Harry Potter. Now he’s a father and his middle son, Albus Severus Potter, is heading into his first year at Hogwarts where, following in the footsteps of his legendary father, Albus doesn’t quite fit. But, befriending Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpious on the train, the two set out to write their own story and make a little change in the world their father’s feud helped define.

I won’t reveal any more because it wouldn’t do the play justice. Plus I promised the ushers I would keep the secret, they even gave me a button that says exactly that. But I am not exaggerating when I say this play was the most incredible experience of my entire life.

For nine hours we watched magic happen on stage, magic that swirled around the entire theater and brought to life this world I’d grown up enamored with. When the play wasn’t blowing me away with its special effects, it’s exploration of friendship and fatherhood and grief and love was knocking the wind out of me. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, this play is worth every single penny. It’s proof that magic is real and proof that imagination can never be contained.

In part one, Moaning Myrtle was just *blows kisses into the air* and Scorpious’ monologue about his mother had me crying in my seat. Plus don’t even get me started on the exchange between Harry Potter and Dumbledore about fatherhood. This play is marvelous in its special effects but it’s the heart of the characters — the unconditional friendship and chemistry of Albus and Scorpious — that drives this play. Every person in the theater — who was a huge HP fan to begin with — was just losing their minds by the end. When those dementors flew around the theater, just game over!

^^ I almost got hit by a car trying to take this picture but totally worth it. ^^

But perhaps my favorite part of this entire experience was getting to do it with Imali, my person and the greatest “Harry Potter” fan I know. Numerous times during our nine hours of Potter binging, Imali would lean over to me and whisper, “Aren’t you so glad to be alive right now?” It was the same wonder she held in her eyes all those years ago when she’d pull all nighters to read the latest “Harry Potter” from Barnes and Noble.

For me, Imali’s sweet sentiment best captured that entire Wednesday. Just me and my best friend inside a world that inspired and shaped us growing up. I’ve had a Harry Potter hangover ever since and every time someone asks me about the play, all I can do is say, “It made me so very glad to be alive.”