Living with Intention

Live with Intention  |  The Fresh Exchange

A couple weeks ago I woke up with the worst jaw pain I have ever experienced. For the first week or so I thought I had pulled a muscle on one side. It was not till I noticed it on the other side that I became aware that my problem was not a pulled muscle. I texted my dental hygienist (who also is one of my best friends) and asked her about grinding and clenching…come to find out all my symptoms were there. She told me about the things I could take to help and the tests I could come get to get it all figured out. Normally I probably would have just done it, but this time I realized this was my own doing and something that I could fix. Why would I use muscle relaxants to loosen my jaw when all I needed to do was slow the f*** down and take a few deep breaths and find better balance. Now I know the drugs were probably the easier answer, but I think it was that early wake up call in all this craziness that I needed to get everything under control.

For the last few weeks I have been realizing how out of control much of our day to day feels. We are answering emails, texting with a clients, changing meetings, writing a blog post, rushing to finish photos for a post before sunset, tweeting, instagramming, designing, promoting a post, trying to eat healthy, working out, and oh yeah trying to keep our finances for the business managed. Even though Mike and I work together we both have felt like this for some time. It is a lot and though I would love to say it is just part of this whole crazy time we are in, I have begun to realize that maybe it isn’t and instead we have placed that stress and craziness on ourselves.

So when I started having that jaw pain I knew it was the first sign we needed to make a change. I am always someone who has to learn from failing first no matter how many times someone tells me what to watch out for. My mom has said to me to slow down and take time off, but that doesn’t mean anything till I see the sign that she is right. Sorry mom. Thank goodness this feeling only lead to jaw pain and not something more severe.

When we went out to Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, Mike and I discussed how we wanted to become more intentional about our work, life, goals, and so on. I at first called it growing up and realized quickly that was not what I meant. Minus the kids I already feel I am a 30 year old half the time so please don’t make me be more adult than my 26 years allow me. I realized what I really wanted was to feel more control of our lives. When you own a business there is no separation between work and life…work is life and life is work. I have tried to convince myself that you can find a line, but there is not one and I have realized that is okay. In fact I have grown to dislike the word work, because it sounds like such an awful description to explain what I love to do. That in no way changes the necessity to find balance between what you love to do, that makes you money, and the quiet time you spend away from the computer or with your husband. Even though we love what we do we still felt it was time to find a way to be more intentional at reaching goals and getting things done so we could spend more time on new things and new ideas and well to be honest enjoying Summer. I wanted to feel more organized and stop falling behind even after I “worked” a 16 hour day. Our typical work day has now stretched from 8-9 hours to more like 12-14 hours and when you actaully step back and actually add up the hours it is kind of crazy.

After I had a good emotional breakdown on our road trip, I felt I was failing as a business owner and doing that typical over-dramatic girl thing, Mike and I decided there were a few intentional steps we would take to feel more in control and happy with our work day so we could enjoy our hours off more and also have more hours off:

1. Stricter bed times (go to bed between 10:30 – 11 and wake up around 6 or 7)…before we were doing more like bed at 1-2 AM and wake up at 9-10 AM

2. Schedule a time to work out everyday. Kathleen Shannon taught me this and this girl is a total business rockstar in my book (and fitness rockstar! Look at that bod!) so I know she has got this right. Working out may seem hard when you work for yourself and have a fast deadline, but taking an hour everyday for yourself will keep your stress levels lower and will clear your head to create better work. I figured it was true, but it was not till I actually started doing it that I felt better and saw a change in my focus when I get back to my desk. Even if it is 45 minutes of yoga it will make a huge difference. I use because I need to workout on my schedule and not drive and park at a studio. It helps me feel more motivated to get my de-stress time in. Yes sometimes I don’t take a shower and work for another 3 hours after the workout slightly sweaty but no judging I got the workout in!

3. Turn off social media. One reason we enjoy waking up early, which is not natural for us, is very few people are using social media between 6 AM and 10 AM EST so we can get a lot more done. As the day goes on we really try to keep twitter feed access, instagram checking, and facebook (the worst one of them all) to a minimum. It is hard because it is part of what we do, but it is not all we do. I accidentally spent more time here than I thought I was. When I started being very focused about what I needed to do when I got to these sites I noticed more got done faster. It is amazing the black hole that these sites can be…before you know it you are talking to your aunt and it’s been an hour. Damn you social media.

4. Plan errands. So you have a food post to prep for this week, garden stakes you need to buy, a check to drop off at the bank, a lunch meeting, and a hair appointment. The thing I have found as someone who lives 10 minutes (on a non-snowy or low tourist day) is that errand running can be a total time-suck and it is tiring. I didn’t realize how much time every week I was spending doing these things. Now we are trying to keep our outings to a minimum and when they happen we group them together. We say today is errand day let’s get it all done.

5. Get things done. If you have a deadline get away from everything and do what has to be done. Simple as that. Put headphones on and jam. We find that keeping a time tracker when working on projects is helpful to tell us how long it took and to keep us focused. We don’t use hourly rates anymore, but using a time-tracker is a good way to keep the reality of time in perspective.

6. Find a rhythm. I began trying to find a rhythm a few month ago. I have failed multiple times at this so far, but have also found some things that work for me. I know I don’t do good doing just one task all day so I try to break things up by focusing on blogging and email in the mornings when the world is quietest and then designing in the afternoon or working on whatever project we have. This is usually the best time to get a hold of clients if you have any questions. If we have to work in the evenings it is a shoot for the blog or it is more design work.

7. Find a stopping point. Yesterday was a good example. I was trying to haul through some stuff for an e-commerce site we are doing for a client. Currently we are switching platforms for them and there is some data entry we have to do to get things done (yeah sometimes you have to do things out of your job description when you are your own boss). I was trying to pound through and enter EVERYTHING…well Mike finally was like we need to stop we have worked all day since 7 AM let’s go get out and sail. I could have spent another hour entering the data but I reached a good point where my head couldn’t do a good job anymore and I needed a break. Sure enough when I came back to things this morning I hammered it out and got it all in with more ease than the day before, and got a little tan.

8. Learn to say no. The art of no is a hard one to learn. As a people pleaser saying no to something is like smacking someone in the face and swearing at them. It is no easy task. Over time I started learning that for the number of years I said yes to everything because of the opportunity I need to now learn how to pick and choose what is right for our business and blog. Mike is better at this than me, but I am the front end of the company many times so I am filtering a lot of potential clients, collaborations, and so on. This leaves me in a place where I have had to learn to have tougher skin and let some things go. Understanding our purpose for the blog and business has made saying no easier as well as having template emails that personalize. This way I am not stressed or avoidance of answering an email. It is stressful for me to say no, but every time I do I feel more relief than if I had said yes to something that was too much to take on or did not align with our vision.

It’s been about 1 week of waking up early, but almost 3 weeks working with more intention and I have to say I no longer have jaw pain and I have actually found more time to be in the garden, more time enjoying the outdoors, more husband time and have gotten more done. I don’t think it has become a rhythm yet, but I felt like I needed to share what we have been learning and how important it is as a business owner to think about your day and to realize you don’t have to kill yourself in the process. You can find balance, get it all done, and achieve your goals and deadlines. I am 26, I should not be this stressed and no matter how well I take care of myself if I am still stressed it will not be good down the road in life. I am realizing how important our habits now affect our lives as we get older.

So if you are feeling overwhelmed and things are out of control, know you are not alone and it is not abnormal either, but how you react to that feeling is the most important thing. Find a way to take a deep breathe, maybe cry it out, and then ask yourself how you will make a change to eliminate the level of stress you feel. For me I was wasting time in some places I shouldn’t have been and it was causing me to not achieve what I was supposed to and leaving me feeling behind and out of control. For you it may be different, but find a way to make an action plan to take control before it controls you.

Happy Thursday my friends! Make the choice to live with more intention. It will allow you more time to chase and achieve what you want as well as create better work that does not feel under the gun.

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  1. Such great timing for this post, Megan. I’ve been feeling very much the same for the past several months and upon returning back to the states, KNEW something needed to change. We’re all still so young, there’s no need to cary on this crazy life for who knows how many years … we’d simply miss out on so many other good things. The idea of living with intention and really owning your day, the right way, is hard work and takes patience ( as i’m learning ) — but also very rewarding.

    It’s so so nice to read that there are other people out there in the same boat as me. We’re not alone. 🙂 So happy to have read this, lady! CHEERS to living with intention … and to getting used to waking up early. That one has been hard for me, but man, it really is so much quieter in the mornings.


  2. this is an awesome post megan! I’m so happy you wrote it. it’s so important to remember to slow down and know when enough is enough and you need a break. I learned that toward the end of college and it was so helpful.

    I’ve been waking up an hour earlier this week due to construction at our apartment but I’m considering doing it for good because I love how quiet it is and it makes for a less stressed start to your day.

  3. Fantastic post & insight, Megan! It’s so easy to get caught up in the crazy social media world (guilty as charged!) & this served as an in depth reminder that we ALL need to force ourselves to take a break, relax, & refresh. Thanks for sharing!

  4. this is SO good! megan, i’ve been quietly reading your blog for a while now (i think i found it when you guys were posting about your trip to italy&france and fell in love) and i love your words and insights. i also resonate a lot with your thoughts as i have OFTEN felt the same way… loving what you do, but at the end of the day feeling like you’re losing a part of yourself by working so much! last year i had a similar wake up with a stomach ulcer! i found a lot of that stress was attributed to social media too, and took a bit of a break from it and am still trying to work it into my life on my own terms. i work with my husband too, and something we’ve found to be so good for us is to set aside sunday dinners (or lunch.. but we can usually count on being in our home for one of those) to talk about our week and how we felt loved by the other person that week. it’s been really affirming and bringing us closer and helping us find that balance between being business partners and love partners 🙂 anyway, this was a big long ramble just to say, hello, i love your blog, and i feel you! cheers to living with more intention & striving to be a more whole person. xx

  5. I grind my teeth when I sleep so I hear ya. But I’ve done it all my life, since I was a kid, so I think I’m just always stressed no matter what I do lol. Now I just sleep with a mouth guard. Sigh. Great tips, though!

  6. I am so on board with this post. I work an 8-5 job, and when I used to come straight home and dive into freelance projects for the rest of my nights and on the weekends, never taking any time off or a vacation, I got into this insane cycle where I never felt rested, never felt satisfied…and it left me feeling so confused — about everything! I also have TMJ, so jaw pain is just a factor that I have to accept, but it began getting seriously out of control when I wasn’t taking any time for myself (headaches/dizziness/spasms…ugh!).

    I had a turning point this Spring when I finally had to get a cortisone shot in my neck and jaw, and I knew it was time to make a change. I quit taking on freelance projects (not doing any more freelance now), started working out again, and cut down a ton on social media. All of those things have drastically improved my outlook and overall happiness/satisfaction with my life. I’m a better worker at my day job, a better girlfriend/friend and just all around more joyful. The physical symptoms have subsided a lot too, which is a relief. It’s shocking what stress can do to your body!

    Good for you guys for making yourselves and your downtime a priority! It’s absolutely essential to your well-being! 🙂

  7. Thank you so much for this post Megan =)
    Life is about trying, experimenting, failing and then starting again, but a bit more wiser than before.
    I’m glad you’re already feeling better and thanks for the yogaglo link. I’ve always postponed signing up in a class as where I live (Crete, Greece) as there are not many available options for yoga classes here that suit my schedule!

  8. Great post. It’s interesting how this stuff/stress just creeps up on you and kind of settles so that you think it’s just your daily life. I recently took a little short vacation and realized that I hadn’t developed a sleeping disorder and my body isn’t naturally nauseous all day long. It was work (and not freelance at that). I hadn’t realized how the stress how worked it’s way into my non-working hours, how sometimes I went into a daze thinking about work. I like your goals. I’ve been trying to figure out and align my next steps because being physically sick from stress is ridiculous. I’m 25 and only have to support me and my dog; I don’t need to driving myself crazy. If feels nice to know we’re not alone. Keep us updated on progress!

  9. I definitely know what you mean about all this. I have totally found that putting the phone down, not checking my email first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and going to bed earlier really help me feel less stressed! I loved loved loved The Happiness Project for motivating me for just this kind of practice–a short read and really inspirational! I posted about some fave quotes from it here… good luck with intentional living, such a great concept!

  10. Living with intention is probably one of the hardest, but most rewarding things I’ve ever tried to do. And you’re right, as soon as you get into a rhythm, everything starts to flow more easily. There’s this post on how boundaries are awesome ( that shines some great light on the subject to.

    And yay for you for going sailing halfway through your day yesterday!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this, Megan. I’ve been struggling with the same thing lately myself and reading your words brought tears to my eyes because it’s so true. Here’s to slowing down and taking back control!

  12. Hazaah! I’ve been discovering this “life with intention” myself over the past few weeks.

    Kudos to you for taking the reigns and making some changes. I love this post and I can’t wait to hear the follow up about how lovely and stress-free your life has become.

    Keep it up lady! 🙂

  13. Megan, thank you for writing this post. I’ve been feeling like things have been out of control. It’s been hard to reevaluate were change can happen and then follow through. But when I seek to find an intention for my day, things tend to work out better and end with a smile. Love your blog, it’s so very beautiful!

  14. Well done! I am sorry to hear that it got to the point that it did, but sometimes in life you need a tipping point. It sounds like you’re certainly on the right track when it comes to turning things around and that intention is high on the priority list now!

    I am feeling similar things of late, and really trying to harness and focus energy where it is needed most. It can be easy to be pulled from side to side, and task to task. I’ve started setting timers – so that means when I am set down with that timer on, all of my efforts go to that one task. Nothing else. Learning to say no (even to ourselves) is difficult, but a great skill to have! Keep up the great work! x

  15. i can’t begin to explain to you how true this rang for me. just today i told my husband how overly exhausted i’ve felt, this go, go, go, busy feeling that just doesn’t stop – which then makes the slowing down and being in the moment all the more difficult. which is so not how you want to be when spending time with your husband, am i right! our bedtime schedules have been just as bad, and we too have had similar talks of attempting to wake at an earlier time. as i turn your age of 26 in a month, i can only put myself in your shoes and learn from all your honest words. good balance. that’s all i can ask for. and friends. really awesome friends – oh and of course, family. great post megan! you’re completely inspiring in every way.

  16. This is exactly what I needed to read. I have been feeling like this for a while and have been trying to find a way to change it. Living with intention sounds like the right thing to do.

    My boyfriend and I are currently traveling the world, setting up a business, trying to deal with clients, working on designs and want to see everything the world has to offer. It’s so tiring and I think we need to slow down, think about what we’re doing, where we are going and make some changes.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this all down and giving me just what I needed to read!

  17. As magical as the work / life overlap can be sometimes it can leave me feeling WAY out of control. For me, a steady routine is the answer to feeling like I’ve got it together. I eat the same thing for breakfast while listen to the same playlist (morning chants) at the same time. Every morning. It sets a good tone for my day.

    Kudos to your jaw for telling you things were out of whack – and kudos to you for listening to it! XOXO

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  19. I really enjoyed reading this post Megan, thank you. Your points on how to live with intention are so valid. Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and far from achieving my goals, but I know part of the reason is being distracted by the little things (like social media) and just poor time management. Setting a stricter schedule is a great way to get back on track. Staying healthy is really important to me as well so I’ll check out that link you suggested for Kathleen Shannon. I’ve been reading a lot of posts like this one lately, so don’t worry, you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed. This world moves so quickly these days, it’s hard to keep up or just find your own pace. I’m working on that daily!

  20. Oh no! I’ve had the problem with the jaw pain and tensing and experiencing painful muscles in the rest of my body. While these two things sucked, I used to know I was really out of control and needed calm down when one of my cats would pee in the house. She’d only do it when I was extremely stressed out and acting crazy. Some how I could never tell it about myself until she did this. Panic attacks, painful jaw, being too stressed to eat, none of this was a sign enough until the cat peed.

  21. Megan, thank you for your honesty and your candid comments. Since attending my first Alt Summit in January and discovering the countless blogs affiliated with and inspired by Alt, I am amazed at the seemingly endless pomp and circumstance that accompanies these bloggers’ lifestyles. Inspiring? Occasionally. Believable? Hardly. Far too often bloggers share the EXTREME HIGHS and the lowly lows of their lives. My hope is to learn from someone else’s experiences, but it’s challenging to do so when I don’t hear what’s happening between and among it all. Thank you for changing the conversation with this blog post. I’ve become a fan of your work and wish you the best of luck in the coming months. I will be following along.

    1. Wendy that means a lot and I really agree with you. It may be the largest thing I struggle with with the blogging community. We need more reality and honesty about the struggles. It is not all kittens and rainbows. Thank you for your words and encouragement!!! I hope we get to meet someday 🙂

  22. hi, I just want to say thank you for your post, I always feel so touched and THOUGH I haven’t have my own business now, it just starts, I mean, anyway, thanks for the words!

  23. I had never bothered with prioritizing my values or time until I started dating my current boyfriend, Zach Whelchel, who is huge on self reflection and documenting the chapters of his life. I felt like I was reading something he wrote! I love how insightful your posts are and how you never settle for surface-level discussions. Your blog feels very real and honest, which is much needed. Thank you!

  24. This is so weird. I recently started freelancing and it is very stressful at times. Last week I started noticing severe pain in my jaw and was wondering what that is all about…I tried face yoga and stuff, but maybe I just have to relax. Thanks for the post!