It seems like everywhere we look, we’re bombarded with messages — some more blatant than others, to work harder, go faster and do more. We’re told to grind. We’re asked about ‘how hard we hustle’ on a daily basis. We’re told that if we don’t grind hard enough, then obviously we don’t want it badly enough. I suppose the it is referring to success, happiness, love or prosperity; but the idea of grinding is so deeply embedded in our vernacular now that people are out here grinding to buy shoes, catch trains and get their ‘gram followers up. (You want that last donut; you need to get your grind up, son, hustle hard, there are not enough donuts for everyone.) Chill.

My people, my people, yes, we’re strong and we’re most certainly capable, but let’s pause for a moment and reflect on the literal definition of the word ‘grind’: to reduce to fine particles by pounding. The word grind is often followed by the adverb ‘away.’ We are, without exaggeration, being encouraged to work ourselves into oblivion! What the what?  As people of color, we carry the world on our backs, and have been for centuries; however, this sense of impending doom and urgency that motivates some to “grind,” “hustle,” and “go hard” isn’t sustainable in the long term. It’s time we acknowledge that self-care is just as important as the grind. It’s a two-part dilemma: In order to grind, you need to be whole. We need to work smarter, not harder, and here are four ways you can boost motivation and productivity without losing your mind.

Photo: Tumblr

Don’t be a one-trick pony

So you rap, but you’ve never listened to jazz, funk, soul, disco or read poetry? Ehh, how’s that working out for you? You’re a writer, but you don’t read other people’s books? When I say don’t be a one-trick pony, I mean be open to new hobbies, experiences and have that hunger for knowledge because every experience, good or bad, can be used to push you further and higher if you let it! You can be focused on success but still make time for your hobbies and, believe it or not, you can have more than one passion! Grinding doesn’t mean that you get tunnel vision and lose yourself in the process. Don’t be a one-trick pony, friends, be a sponge (yeah, I just asked you to be a sponge, stay with me) soak in all you can and use what you need to get the job done.

Rise well

How you start your day makes all the difference in the world. Sleep is essential! It’s one of the only times that our bodies can rest and re-charge. Again, you can’t grind if there’s nothing left of you. What kind of alarm are you waking up to? Is it your neighbor or your partner screaming? Is it that obnoxious “beep, beep beep” noise that makes your heart jump out of your chest? Think about finding an alarm that eases you into the day: A song that gets you hype, earth sounds or even a lamp that gradually gets brighter that simulates a sunrise. Also, I don’t mean to be a mom, but breakfast is a thing. Whether or not it’s your jam is another story entirely. If you’ll spend three weeks debating which shoes to purchase only to wear them on your feet… you can dedicate a few minutes a day to picking fuel to maximize your productivity. Ladies, I’m talking to you too: Don’t spend 400 dollars on your head and hair care, then eat turn around and crap masqueraded as ‘food.’ If your goal is to work as swiftly and efficiently as a well-oiled machine, you need to eat more than Cup-O-Noodles.

Check yourself

It’s so easy to get caught up in a goal. Our mind, in an attempt to keep up and stay balanced, will do anything in its power to convince us that what we’re doing is right and something we want. Basically, the mind is a little shady, and when it goes unchecked, you might switch over to autopilot instead of being present. This is why it’s so essential to take a moment and ask the most basic question of all: Why? If you’re getting out of bed at 5 a.m. every morning to go to a job you despise, why? If you’re spending time with people who are worse off than you, with no foreseeable plans to take things to the next level, why? Ask yourself why you’re doing or not doing what’s necessary to accomplish both your long and short-term goals. It’s all good if your ‘why’ changes, but be aware regardless!

Photo: Justin Amoafo
Photo: Justin Amoafo

Don’t wait for someone else to pat you on the back

There are people out there who simply set their default to living petty. If you’re constantly waiting for others to validate your dreams and accomplishments, you might be waiting a long time! Think about it — haters love to hate. No, seriously. You need to be your own cheerleader. If you don’t believe in your hustle and you have no idea why you’re working, well, that’s the fastest way to deplete your motivation. When you know the why, and you’re also taking some time to celebrate small wins, the how is less important. Just reach 2k followers on your business’ Instagram? Did your idol start following you on Twitter? Did you make a new contact or meet a possible investor? Celebrate! You can get back to the grind in a few minutes, after indulging in a mini solo-dolo dance party.

Want to hear the other, albeit more optimistic definition of the word grind? “To be polished or sharpened by friction.” It’s a fact that pressure makes diamonds. No one is telling you to throw your hands in the air out of pure exasperation and pull a Britney Spears (circa. 2005). Please, don’t do that. On the contrary, work hard! Grind, and hustle until your heart’s content, but work smart. Don’t over-complicate an already extremely difficult journey. When we start seeing success as a marathon and not a sprint, our mentality changes. Ask yourself — be honest, no cheating — if you truly believe you can keep up this pace for 5, 10 or even 15 years. If you hesitated, or the answer is a straight out no, it might be time to reevaluate and make some smart, yet effective tweaks to your routine. There’s enough shine for everyone, and even if you don’t snag that last donut in time, you might end up with a beignet and your sanity if you go not just hard but also smart.

Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a 20-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid, Spain. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.Reach her on: Facebook, Twitter @MorenasdeEspana, or Instagram: @lasmorenasdeespana

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