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September Newsletter

Operating in Excellence

In my “What I've Learned from a Year of Podcasting” blog post, I talked about the importance of practicing excellence in all things. This isn’t just a lesson in podcasting but also a lesson in life, and a principle I truly live by. It’s hard work and I often fall short of its glory, but here, it’s about practice not perfection. This practice flows throughout my life and repeatedly during my day, challenging me to know better, do better and school life


5 Guiding Principles of Practicing Excellence Daily

I avoid morning routines.

I know, I know...everybody tells you that morning routines start your day and serve as a groundwork for how the day will go, blah, blah, blah. But my life is far from routine and restricting myself to a rigid list of to-do’s before the day starts would leave me defeated before I even left the bed. Instead, I try to let my body wake up naturally in the morning. I avoid alarm clocks, (unless I have an early morning flight) and instead, just feel myself wake up. This allows me to focus my energies inward in the morning and let my first conscious thoughts be about gratitude - thanking the Creator for waking me up, for my family and for a new day. This practice grounds me and allows my body (and me) to wake up grateful and ready to tackle the day.


I don’t check my email when I arrive to the office.

On average, 60 emails wait in my inbox each morning. They are a mix of reminders about assignments I need to grade, newsletters; messages from students, my administrative assistant, and colleagues requesting more meetings. It can be crazy-overwhelming to prepare for so I don't check email first thing. Instead I start with a to-do list. Armed with mechanical pencil, over-sized post-its and my thoughts is usually how I start. I prioritize what I need, want, and what my admin tells me I must do before I dive into the fires that are likely simmering. Email is often full of requests from others about what they want you to do, and that’s fine because that’s work, but practicing excellence is about knowing your own priorities and managing them accordingly.


I don’t multitask.

Trying to do everything at once is a sure-fire way not to get anything done in excellence. Hopping from phone call, to personal text, to email, to Twitter, and then off to a meeting with my boss ensures that I am not prepped for said meeting and that I’m in there, distracted by the last thing I did. To avoid this and focus on the task at hand, I try to break my day into micro-chunks using the famous Pomodoro Technique. This time-management method uses a timer to break down work into intervals, separated by short breaks. As I worked to complete my dissertation, this was my tried-and-true method and I use it still. It ensures that even the little chunks receive my best, because I’m focused on each contributing factor instead of the outcome.


I operate within my values.

Values can seem like a nebulous concept used by companies completing their mission and vision statements, but having a values-based lifestyle drives my pursuit of excellence in key areas. For example, I value autonomy, exploration, and adventure. I love nothing more than jet setting to my favorite city for the weekend or to an exotic destination for an extended vacation to explore the culture and cuisine. I don’t like to be beholden to anyone and so I’m generally fine with doing these things on my own. With this value in mind, I tend to avoid people who see my autonomy as a threat or perceive my love for exploration and adventure as dangerous or risky. I recognize that we don’t value the same things so it's likely that things won’t end well. Operating within my values guides what I say 'yes' to and what I say 'no' to, and ensures that if I am engaging in something, I can actually practice excellence in it, because it’s aligned with my own values.


I’m mindful of my need to decompress.

I’m a busybody; always have been, hoping I always will be. I love being booked, having a full calendar, and being on the go. Couple this with my extroverted tendencies, and I’m a ball of energy. However, as I get older, I’m more aware of my need to decompress. I get my energy from being out, about, and among people, but because I’m an empath, I often carry the weight of the day on my shoulders. When I get home, I have to release it somewhere and decompression helps me do that. Just sitting on the couch, relaxing my shoulders, arching my back, and doing some deep breathing can be the release I need in order to approach the next task positively. Sitting in silence, letting my mind wander, and staring at a blank wall gives me a bit of reprieve, helps me realign my values and focus on the excellence ahead.


How do you operate in excellence? Are there things you do every day to enhance the spirit of excellence in your everyday life?


What I did to Rally for a Gala
on 3 Hours of Sleep


In my “Life Lessons from Essence” blog post, I shared that I got a spur-of-the-moment invite to McDonald’s 365Black Power of Inspiration Awards Luncheon right after coming in at 6:30 a.m. We needed to arrive at the luncheon by 11:00 which meant that I had to SLEEP, hydrate, get dressed, and arrive at the high-profile event looking easy, breezy, and beautiful on basically no sleep. Here I'll share tips with you about how I rallied:

I slept.

With only hours before the event, I did consider staying awake fearing that I’d oversleep and miss out, but I knew that I’d be loopy if I didn’t at least try to get some sleep so I closed the blackout curtains, started humming (a random technique that helps me fall asleep quickly) and got in a 3-hour power nap. Initially I felt powerless when I woke up, but I didn’t fall asleep in my eggs so it worked.

Concealer is your best friend.

After a long night out, your face can tell a horror story. To hide the nightmare and bring in a little light, I used M.A.C. Studio Conceal and Correct Duo. It's my go-to for covering up dark circles, fine wrinkles, and giving me a fresh-face glow.

Don’t skip the details.

When you’re in a hurry it can be easy to forgo lotion, jewelry, flossing, clean nails, and other details that complete your look. Don’t be that girl. Doing so could have meant I left a lasting impression of the wrong kind. Even in a pinch, don’t forget the little things; put on your earrings during the elevator ride or lotion your feet in the back of the Uber. People will notice and even if they don’t, you will know that you forgot to shave under your arms and now you can’t wave your hands in the air, like you just don’t care. Details matter, act like it.


In My ears


Nicki Minaj - Queen

Despite Nicki’s insistence on being loud and wrong, I’m still bopping to her new album Queen. Some of my favorite tracks include “Majesty” (feat. Eminem & Labrinth), “Good Form,” “Sir,” and “Come See About Me.” Too often Nicki gets set up as the bad guy (No Chun-Li) and while she starts plenty of fights, this album proved she can back it up.


Ariana Grande - Sweetner

Sheldon—good friend and #schoolinlifepod listener—hooked me up and I’m so glad he did. I expected her melodic sweet nothings over trap beats, but not the depth to her lyrics and flaw-free range. My favorite tracks are "R.E.M.," "God Is a Woman" (her dope MTV performance of this is a must-see), "Sweetener," and the self-care anthem, "Get Well Soon." Ari (can I call her that?) is like a sweet summer day, and this album makes me wish it would last longer.


Bobbi Storm - "Lazy Love"

This was an Instagram promo track for some hood novella that I’m never going to watch. Little known to me, this artist is a Beyoncé lover (gotta listen to the track to catch the reference) with a beautiful voice and I am a fan. Currently in the dating game, I totally identify with not wanting lazy love or the resulting disappointment after something you once lusted turns lackluster. Definitely worth the listen.