gratitude diaries #9.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

I typically don’t like to wait until Hump Day to make an appearance in this special space, but after a round of what I thought might be the flu over the weekend (don’t worry! false alarm!) and the quasi-day off that followed as I recovered and had Matt home with me for President’s Day, I’m feeling ever so slightly off my normal schedule right about now.

We’re also just 48 hours away from our weekend trip to Charlotte! I haven’t really spent any time there (except in the airport, of course), so if you have any recommendations for things to see and do, please feel free to share them in the comments below. We don’t have a lot of plans at the moment, and if it stays that way, I might not even mind! I’m just looking forward to exploring a new city, enjoying some warmer weather (and the spring wardrobe that comes with it!), having some good meals, and getting in some quality time with Matt. Charlotte is such an easy and inexpensive flight from New York City, so it’s the perfect destination for a mini getaway to help us get through this last stretch of winter. I’ll definitely be documenting our adventures on Instagram, and I’ll be excited to share some photos of our trip when I get back, too!

In the meantime, I think I’m a little overdue for a quick round of Gratitude Diaries (check out my last entry here). Here are a few things I’ve been especially thankful for these days:

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  • The Olympics, because I never get tired of watching skiing and snowboarding and figure skating (especially figure skating). I was particularly grateful for the Games this past weekend when I was feeling too crummy to read or leave the couch.
  • Warmer weather, because even though I’m pretty sure that the crazy jumps in temperature are to blame for my being sick in the first place, it’s pretty amazing to be able to leave the apartment without my heavy coat even for one day. Don’t worry, fellow Northeasterners — I’m fully prepared for the inevitable cold front to come and am under no illusions that spring is actually here for good.

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  • The “Here to Make Friends” podcast, because it’s making this already hilarious season of The Bachelor that much more hilarious… and is also great company for riding the subway.
  • Trader Joe’s Cocoa Almond Spread, because, well, just buy it. And eat it by the spoonful for dessert. And get back to me.
  • Running, because for the first time in a few years, I’m feeling really healthy as I finish up the first few weeks of my training program for the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and it’s a great reminder of why I love doing it in the first place. It doesn’t hurt that I’m binge watching The O.C while I’m on the treadmill, but that’s neither here nor there.
  • Wonton soup, because it’s the ultimate fix for any sickness. On Saturday, I ordered two quarts from our local Chinese restaurant, and it lasted me through the rest of the weekend.
  • Haircuts, because even if you only get a trim (and I was seriously tempted to do a major chop last week), it can sometimes be exactly the ego boost you need! If you live in New York City, I totally recommend Jade at Sam Brocato Salon. She really talked me through a hair identity crisis last week, and she did an awesome job, too.

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  • Quiet time at night, because ever since Matt started doing work at home in the evenings, we’ve been forced to turn off the TV (except, occasionally, the Olympics) after dinner, and I’ve loved all the extra reading time! I’ve been blowing through books recently.

What are you grateful for lately? I’d love to hear more in the comments below : )

And be sure to come right back here on Friday to enter the February giveaway! I’d hate for you to miss out! 

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setting phone boundaries.

After my most recent monthly goals post, I got questions from a few readers about the all-too-tricky question of phone boundaries. One of my goals for January was to stop checking my phone — specifically, Instagram — before getting out of bed in the morning, which I noted was part of a larger transition I’m trying to make away from being so tied to my phone and all that comes with it. It sounds like I’m not the only one trying to make these strides, so I thought I’d go ahead and share a few of the other specific things I’ve been doing to try to adjust my phone habits.

I’ll start by saying that, relative to the other people in my circles, I wouldn’t call myself super dependent on my phone. I’m not one to download a lot of apps, and I primarily use my phone for calling, texting, listening to podcasts, watching Hulu at the gym, and (of course) checking social media. At the moment, I don’t have a single game installed, and most of the apps on the second screen (when you swipe to the left) of my phone are rarely touched. I spend all of my days in front of my laptop alone, fielding communication from people in seemingly endless digital forms, so I really don’t crave more of that in my spare time — at least, not outside of talking to my family and friends.

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All of that being said, I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t love the mindless Instagram scroll or a quick Twitter check-in during a free moment. Catching up on my Instagram feed first thing in the morning used to be my way of waking up slowly, of transitioning from cozy-in-bed to work-ready. I don’t think there’s any harm in these social media rituals and I have absolutely no judgement if it’s part of your routine, but I will tell you that I’ve loved easing my way out of some of my own, and it’s made me really excited to make even more changes.

If you want to shift your own phone behaviors, here are some ideas based on what’s been working for me!

  • Leave your phone at home. Nothing will happen if it doesn’t come with you everywhere you go. I understand that emergencies can happen and, yes, it’s important to be accessible — but an hour here or there without your phone is going to feel great. The only thing I’ve really missed since doing this more often? The camera! You may have noticed that I’ve been posting fewer photos here on the blog and sharing less on Instagram — but I can buy an actual camera to fix that. The mental shift you’ll feel when you start to physically separate from your phone is actually pretty surprising.
  • Switch up your email app. A few months ago, I finally caught up to the rest of the world and downloaded the Gmail app. In doing so, I hid the standard Apple mail app (you know — the white envelope on the blue background) in another app folder so it would be out of sight and hid notifications for Gmail, which means that I don’t have to see that annoying red bubble constantly tallying up how many messages are waiting in my inbox. This allows me to check my email on the go only when I need or want to, instead of every time I see the red bubble. The red bubble is stressful, and more often than not it signifies the arrival of some random coupon or discount code I don’t even want. Along these same lines, I’ve also started to unsubscribe from as many mailing lists as possible so that I can streamline the time I’m spending across all devices.
  • Put the phone away during “down time.” One of the things that most inspired me to take stock of the role my phone has been playing in my life was an episode of the Beautiful Writers podcast that Matt and I listened to when we were driving back to Pennsylvania for the holidays. The guest was Tom Hanks, and he spent a lot of time generally lamenting how obsessed everyone is with their devices — and while a lot of his thoughts on how to fix it seemed a little idealistic to me, I was struck by what he described as our inability to be bored. If a commercial comes on during our favorite show or if we’re bored during a movie, we check our Instagram to pass the time. I hate commercials as much as the next person and I’m not a big movie watcher, but this really got me thinking about what it was like to be a kid in the world pre-cell phones, when all you could do during that time was, well, sit. Or read (which is one of my favorite things, anyway!). I’ll admit that this has been a really hard one for me to keep, especially because Matt’s not on the same anti-phone crusade as I am right now, but it feels really good when I get it right.

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  • Put a hard stop on the phone at bedtime. I don’t pick a certain time to put my phone down for the evening because our routine can differ a little from night to night, but when I’m done with my final social media check for the night, I set the phone face-down on the nightstand and pick up my book. This might sound silly, but it’s huge! I used to keep my phone face-up on the nightstand, so if I caught the screen lighting up out of the corner of my eye with a notification, I was more likely to grab it again. I know there are a lot of people out there right now advocating for everyone to charge their phone outside of the bedroom at night (Arianna Huffington even put out a “phone bed” to spread the word on this!), but with a little self-control and a slight tweak to the habit, I’m not sure this is necessary.
  • Don’t look at your phone first thing in the morning. Seriously. Turn off your alarm and just. get. out. of bed. If you can go for even the first 10 or 15 minutes of your day without checking in with the rest of the world, I think it’s really going to help! I find that what you do in the morning really sets the tone for the next few hours, and as my phone has become less of a priority first thing in the morning, I’ve naturally become less attached to it later on, too.

What are your thoughts on phone boundaries? Do you want them? Do you need them? What have you tried to put them in place? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.

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happy valentine’s day!

Today is Matt and my ninth Valentine’s Day together. Ninth.

I’m really not quite sure how that happened.

Like most couples, I think, we aren’t always on the same page about how to celebrate this one. There have been years when one or both of us has been really excited about the occasion and other years when we’ve agreed to basically skip it. More than other holidays, Valentine’s Day has the potential to breed disappointment (we’ve all been there), and Matt and I have learned the hard way that it’s best to have a casual conversation upfront about how “into it” we want to get from year to year. Most of the time, we don’t do presents, but every once in a while, we’ll forego Christmas gifts and make a bigger deal of Valentine’s Day instead. Most years, we stay in for a casual date night, but last year, Matt took me out for the best dinner of my life at an amazing sushi restaurant (fifteen courses of my favorite food in the world). One thing we always prioritize is cards. February 14 is, of course, a card-giving holiday for most people, but cards are generally a pretty big deal in our house, so regardless of what else we’re doing to celebrate on Valentine’s Day, we commit to thoughtful, handwritten cards. I’m already counting the minutes until the end of the workday so we can do this year’s exchange.

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We’ve had some amazing celebrations over the years, but our first one was actually the best. I was visiting Matt at his college for the weekend, and because we were dating long distance and had only been together for a few months, I didn’t quite know what to expect. At some point in a text or phone conversation, though, Matt must have picked up on me saying that I was craving a brownie sundae… and he delivered on it for Valentine’s Day! I have such a clear memory of watching him unload gallons of ice cream and a box of brownie mix and all of the other necessary sundae fixings (sprinkles, of course!) from the kitchen of his grubby dorm kitchen. He was so shy about the whole thing, and it meant so much to me. Last year, we started a new tradition of eating big sundaes for dinner on Valentine’s Day, and I love that it’s going to help us keep that early memory alive.

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Because I’m already sappy — and because I know for a fact that I don’t always give Matt the credit he deserves for being the best husband I could ask for — I decided to put together a list of nine things I love and appreciate about him, one for each of the years that we’ve celebrated this holiday together.

1. His patience: Patience is definitely not one of my better qualities, which gives me that much more respect for my husband’s ability to take things as they come. He’s patient with me (major blessing!) and with basically everything else that life has to offer, which sets a really healthy tone for our home and relationship.

2. His confidence: There’s something about it that I just can’t put my finger on : )

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3. His easygoing nature: If I could only tell you how much better of a person I’ve become thanks to this. Matt’s inspired me to live my life with less judgment, less drama, and less unnecessary stress. I have endless appreciation for the fact that this comes so naturally to him.

4. His silliness: I’ve especially loved learning about Matt’s goofy side over the years because, for as long as we were students at the same middle and high school, I only ever knew and saw him as a “cool guy.” The moments that we share cracking each other up with hilarious inside jokes or exhaustedly dancing to Fleetwood Mac in our apartment are to this day a reminder that you can never judge a book by its cover.

5. His ambition: In our house, we play hard, relax hard, and work hard. Matt’s laidback temperament definitely doesn’t keep him from dialing up the intensity when the time is right, and I love watching him succeed at the things he’s passionate about.

6. His integrity: Matt’s about as true to his word and to who he is as anyone I’ve ever met. He’s taught me a lot about the value of relying on my own sense of right and wrong instead of worrying about what other people think.

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7. His reliability: When he says he’s going to do something, my husband does it. It’s taken me a long time to realize that he doesn’t always need to do things my way, but coming to that realization has made space for me to really appreciate how much he can be counted on to stay true to his word.

8. His curiosity: Matt is super smart, but what I think separates him most from other smartypants-es out there is his inherent love for learning. I joke about how his obsession for research can slow down our takeout ordering time or make our vacations a little less spontaneous, but it’s really cool to be with someone who enjoys asking questions and is never bored of exploring new things.

9. His kindness: I swear, friends, that there is not a mean or selfish bone in this man’s body. I love him for that.

Now that I’ve sufficiently embarrassed my husband, I guess all that’s left to do is wish you and yours a fantastic Valentine’s Day! Whether you’re single, attached, or somewhere in between, I hope you have plenty of opportunities to celebrate love today.

xoxoxo 

 

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february stir craziness.

I’m about to share a riveting series of photos with you. Are you ready?

… are you sure you’re ready?

You might want to hold on to your seats.

It’s almost mid-February, and I feel like this picture represents the scope of my life for the past few weeks. Like, the whole scope. One end of my entire living and working space as viewed from the opposite end.

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Actually — you know what? That’s a little unfair.

Sometimes, it’s actually more like this picture:

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Or maybe this one:

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(Yup, that’s approximately two feet away from the last photo.)

Occasionally, when things are getting really crazy, this becomes my perspective, and I get to stand up!

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I told you it was going to be riveting.

I don’t know about you, but I find this late-January-to-early-March period pretty brutal. It was the same when I worked in a corporate office. The excitement of the post-holiday return to routine wears off. It’s endlessly gray outside (and endlessly cold, too, if you live in most parts of the country). Spring feels impossibly far away — and don’t even get me started on summer. Regardless of where or how you work, I just think this can be a really challenging time mentally. I find myself dragging out of bed most mornings, checking things off my to-do list throughout the day but never feeling quite inspired by any of it. When you do creative work like I do, that lack of inspiration just adds a whole other layer of mental exhaustion.

When I told my family almost a year and a half ago that I was planning to leave my job and try working as a full-time writer out of my home office, they were almost entirely supportive. My mom’s one concern — and as moms tend to be, she was right — was that the work-from-home lifestyle would be especially difficult come February. Like I said, I struggled with Februarys even before I was working for myself, but this month’s low energy is particularly draining when you spend the vast majority of your time in a teeny tiny apartment with the windows closed. My routine isn’t that much different in the spring, summer, or fall… but the whole world feels different — and that translates into my apartment in a really heavy way. Do you know what I mean?

Because I’m so busy these days (a good problem to have!), I’m finding that I need to make that much more of an effort to combat the February stir craziness, since it’s really easy to drown myself in work for ten or more hours in a row and finish the day feeling like a shell of a human. Whenever I can, I’ve been trying to take my exercise break in the middle of the day (I usually go first thing in the morning) to break things up, and if I can’t do that, I’ve been prioritizing a walk in the afternoon. Fresh air goes on my daily to-do list with everything else! Even if it’s raining, I bundle up and get out of the apartment for half an hour. It’s amazing what a difference that time can make. And how could I possibly miss out on exploring all these pretty streets in my neighborhood?

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I guess what I’m trying to say is that if February is wearing on you, you’re not alone. And while working from home in the winter does offer some serious perks (I’m definitely very content to not have to rush out the door to the subway every morning at 7:30), it comes with some unique challenges, specifically an intensified version of the general feeling of “meh” that sets in with so many of us in late winter. We’re all in this together!

How do you handle winter stir craziness? Whether you work in an office or from home, I’d love your suggestions! 

 

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half marathon-ing.

Is everyone fully recovered from Super Bowl weekend? I know it was a big weekend for so many! I’m (very openly) not that into sports, so I can’t say that I ever feel super invested in any kind of professional sports event, but it’s fun to get into the spirit of things… and to have an excuse to gather with friends and indulge in some good snacks on a Sunday night! I’m originally from the Philadelphia area, so even though I can’t truly call myself an Eagles fan (I’m basically neutral where most sports are concerned), I know this win meant a lot to many of the people I care about. An underdog story is also pretty irresistible, which makes the victory that much sweeter! Honestly, I’m always sort of relieved when football season is over, if only because it frees up Sunday afternoons for a lot of my superfan loved ones. I do, however, love the Olympics, so it’s kind of fun to be able to transition directly out of the Super Bowl hype and into the Opening Ceremonies later this week.

Does anyone else count down to the Olympics? It’s such a fun time!

Obviously, it’s a big week for sports, and while my annual trudge toward half marathon season is hardly on par with Nick Foles or Lindsey Vonn’s athletic endeavors (pause for laughter here!), it did seem like a great time to update you on my running — especially since last Wednesday was registration day for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. I’m happy to report that I managed to get into this popular race for the fifth time this year, because it’s become such a hot commodity that I’m never quite sure if I’ll make the cut. I’ve learned from previous close calls that it’s best to be logged in to the registration page a few minutes before the window actually opens, but there’s such a flood of people onto the Web site at that time that the whole process always ends up being very slow and nerve-wracking. Especially with a potential move out of New York City looming for us (eek!), I would have hated to miss out on this race — which has become such a part of my NYC experience — in 2018.

As you might remember if you read my post about half marathon training last year, I got into this whole running thing with absolutely no experience. When I ran the Brooklyn Half for the first time back in 2014, it was my first race *ever* (with the exception of a few charity 5Ks that I most definitely walked). Given the fact that I have so little background in sports, running has proven to be really empowering for me. When I ran my first race in 2014, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to finish it. The most I’d run in training was 10 miles (a half marathon is 13.1), and when Matt dropped me off at the starting line that morning, I think we both had an attitude of cautious optimism. If I didn’t finish, the experience of working hard throughout the training process would still be worthwhile… and if I did finish, it would be amazing and maybe a little surprising.

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The face of a girl who has just spotted her people in her least favorite stretch of the race! Those hands belong to my dad and sister, who drove in from Pennsylvania to cheer me on for the first time last year. It was so fun!

Five half marathons later, I still go into every race with this same attitude. Because running doesn’t come naturally to me, I don’t take these races for granted, and every time I cross a finish line, I’m secretly a little shocked. When my time is good (at least by my standards!), I’m even more shocked.

Every year when I start training, the whole process is mostly a game that I’m playing with myself. Unlike a lot of runners, I would say that I only love running about 60% of the time… but even during that other 40% of the time, I feel powerful and strong — and that sense of empowerment is why I keep doing it year after year.

If you think you can’t accomplish something like this, but are sort of wondering if you might be wrong, my advice to you is that you’re probably wrong.

(That sounds harsh, but it’s true!)

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My awesome support team after the 2017 finish!

Once again, I’m using this 16-week training plan this year. It’s the same one I used back in 2014, and even though I’ve probably “advanced” past it, I’ve found (after testing a few out over the years), that it’s the one that consistently gets me in good running shape and that prepares me best to run the full 13.1. Since I know that this training schedule is pretty much a sure thing, I’m going to focus more on nutrition this year! As you know if you read my February goals post, I’ve been thinking a lot about “feel good food” lately, so that’s definitely going to be top of mind leading up to May. It’s always a challenge for me to figure out how to eat enough calories, protein, etc. without giving myself license to eat whatever’s in sight before and after my longe runs (it happens!). If anyone has any tips, I’d love for you to share them in the comments below!

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monthly goals recap -> january + february.

I drafted up my January and February goal recaps and realized that this is about to be a really longgggg post, so I’ll spare you too much of an intro — BUT, I do have to say that January was a really productive month from a goal perspective, and I can’t help but feel proud of it. At the risk of being too cliché about the power of New Year’s resolutions, it really was helpful for me to come back from spending time with family over the holidays and recalibrate my daily routine. I’m being a lot more intentional about my time, and I find myself wasting a lot less of it! Another helpful tool has been my Powersheets, which I’ve loved using to break things down and to track them on a monthly and weekly basis. I’m a really visual person, so having a place to actively mark off the steps I’m taking toward completing my goals is a great motivator.

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Monthly, weekly, and daily progress bars from my January Powersheets.

OK, let me tell you more about how it actually went down:

  • Create a list of target outlets for the year. √ YES! Friends, I’m learning that there is very real power in writing. things. down. Back in December, when I sat and thought about some of the bigger writing goals I had for 2018, imposter syndrome set in and I felt pretty intimidated. I couldn’t help but think that I — a relatively new freelancer who feels overextended 99% of the time — have no business trying to write for some of my dreamiest outlets. And you know what? There are a million reasons that those outlets might not end up being the right fit for me and my work. But I have absolutely nothing to lose by physically writing them down and hanging them in my office! Making that list was an entirely reasonable and actionable baby step that has already made me feel like some of those goals are within reach.
  • Work on the book three to four times a week, every week. √ YES! I had a slow start here as I got back into the post-holiday swing of things, but I stuck to it three out of the four full weeks of January. I call it success!
  • No sweets during the week. I’m not giving myself a check mark here because I only did it for the first three weeks, but there’s a good reason for that. First of all, I’m so glad I did this. It’s amazing how much better I feel when I eliminate the unnecessary, mindless, sweet tooth-motivated snacking from my day. My energy is up, my skin is clearer, and I feel generally better. All good, right? Yes! For me, things get a little challenging when I start patting myself on the back a little too much for doing something like this. By the third week of the month, I was positively thriving on that feeling of control, and that’s when I knew that I’d crossed into more negative territory (totally a personal preference!). I started working a small treat in at the end of the day (a spoonful of Nutella, a mug of hot chocolate) and felt like I had the right balance back in check. This goal helped me recalibrate my appetite a bit and purge my kitchen cabinets (and I needed to do both of those things!), but the restrictive element of it stopped serving me at a certain point.
  • Get back on track with weekly pitching.√ YES! Setting Fridays aside as my day to work on bigger pitches has been huge. It’s given me the time and space I need to come up with more creative ideas and to research new writing opportunities.
  • Eat better lunches.√ YES! Figuring out how to “do” lunch will always be tough for me, but I made progress this month. For the first half of the month, I threw a ton of veggies and ground turkey in the Crock Pot on Monday morning and portioned it out for the rest of the week, and in the second half of the month, I made big batches of salad with chicken and quinoa for extra protein. I’m not totally happy with how either of those attempts worked out, but at least I’m getting used to making lunch prep more of a priority.
  • Continue podcast research.√ YES! I bought myself a new notebook (which makes a new project officially official around here), and filled it with tons of notes about how all of this is going to work logistically.
  • Plan weekend trips with Matt. We’re halfway there. Matt and I planned a weekend in Charlotte for the end of February, and while we have an awesome Airbnb booked (seriously, how cute is this place?), we still need to lock down our flights.
  • Read 3-4 books.√ YES! In January, I finished Crazy Rich Asians (fun, frothy — can’t wait to see the movie!), Little Fires Everywhere (one of my favorites of the last few months), and A Wrinkle In Time (which I loved as a kid and was inspired to reread thanks to all of the awesome trailers for the upcoming movie).
  • Stop checking Instagram first thing in the morning.√ YES! YES! YES! YES! I can’t say enough about how great this has been. Life has just been a whole lot better since I stopped starting my day scrolling through my phone in bed.

February is a short month, and even though I’m really anxious to keep up the momentum I have coming out of January, I’m trying to leave a little margin and resist the urge to bite off more than I can chew. The list below looks long, but a lot of the things on it aren’t super labor intensive (well, hopefully).

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  • Dive into brainstorming and planning the podcast. The overall theme for the podcast is already locked down (that’s for me to know and you to find out!), but this month I need to start breaking it down into episodes and figuring out a few more details.
  • Successfully launch next collaboration with Brittney Lynn. Remember when Brittney and I did this free webinar at the end of last year???? Well, we have something else in the works! I’ll share more details soon, but I want to focus on hitting that out of the ballpark this month.
  • Stop checking Instagram first thing in the morning. This was so good for me in January, and while I think it’s almost become a habit, I want to make it an official goal for at least one more month. I’m trying to work on phone boundaries more generally, too, and I think this is a good place to start.
  • Pitch to at least one of the outlets on my target list for 2018. These are my dream sites and publications, so I want to aim to pitch to one or two of them every month.
  • Save Fridays for big pitches and passion projects. Like I mentioned above, I’ve started setting Fridays aside for more creative things, and it’s made all the difference. It’s a great way to ensure that I’m actively developing new outlets for my work and spending time writing more in-depth pieces.

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  • Read three books. I’m working toward reading 40 books in 2018!
  • “Feel-good food.” Instead of shooting for a specific eating plan like I did in January with my “no no sweets during the week” rule, I’m going to focus on balance and moderation. I know that the word “moderation” gets tossed around a lot, but I’d really just like to continue to curb my sweet tooth as much as possible (most of the time) and feel good about what I’ve eaten at the end of each day.
  • Work on the book three to four days a week, every week. I’ve realized that this is an achievable schedule for me, and one that also allows me to be pretty productive — I’m working on Chapter Six right now! — so I’m going to try to stick with it.
  • Take a day off. Like actually off. In my apartment. Relaxing. Doing nothing. Now that I’ve put it here, I have to do it, right? Please help hold me accountable!

What are your goals for February? Tell me more in the comments below! 

 

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january giveaway winner announced!

Yesterday, I was walking around my neighborhood without a jacket on… and today I woke up to snowCan someone please explain? This weather is so crazy and confusing — no wonder so many people are getting sick. (If you are one of those people, I hope you feel better soon!)

The show must go on regardless of weather, of course, and I’m so happy that today is the day I get to announce the winner of the January giveaway. Thanks to all who entered to win this month’s prize (an infinity charm bracelet from The Shine Project)! Please continue to check in each month for the giveaway… and, of course, the blog posts : ) The winner is selected based on a random drawing.

Congratulations to…

Lisa Hoppe!

Yay! You win! I’ll reach out via email today to make arrangements to send you your prize.

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I’ll see everyone right back here on Friday, when I’ll be talking February goals. Don’t miss it!

 

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