a day off.

For the last two months (check out my February and March posts for proof!), I’ve been prioritizing a day off. Not just a Friday afternoon that frees up by default because we have to drive somewhere or a holiday like Christmas day when everyone has off. A real day off — the kind I used to take when I worked a corporate job that usually involved little more than binge watching the Real Housewives and getting a manicure. Putting this kind of day for myself on the schedule didn’t pan out for the first few months of the year for a variety of reasons, but about two weeks ago, I glanced at the calendar and realized that last Friday looked promisingly free. I immediately blocked out the day in my planner and started thinking about ways to keep it free. I got weirdly protective of Friday the 13th. It was all I could think about.

So, yeah, I guess you could say I really needed a day off.

I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to put on the brakes and step out of the work routine for a day — let alone a week! — but I’ve found it even more challenging to do so since I started freelancing. There’s no one else who can serve as my email back-up, no reliable colleague who can handle any surprises in my absence. Plus, since so much of my workflow now revolves around rolling deadlines, I almost had to pull back on commitments for the whole week leading up to my day off, simply to ensure that there wouldn’t be a last-minute Friday deadline added to my calendar and that I didn’t leave anyone hanging on emails about big new projects! As a result, I ended up with a slightly calmer week, which was just what I needed. It’s nice to be reminded of what it feels like to work an eight- or nine-hour day (instead of a twelve-hour one) and to realize that, even if you bring in a little less money than usual for a week or two, there will still be plenty of opportunities waiting for you when you get back.

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Somehow, I lucked out and ended up with the best weather day of the year for my day off, which was the cherry on top of an already perfect sundae. I tucked away my winter coat and broke out the denim jacket I bought when we were in Charlotte a few weeks ago and pulled out my favorite sandals from the back of the closet. Here’s how I spent the day off…

  • I stayed in bed until 8 AM — which is pretty late for me, even on the weekend — watching old episodes of Trading SpacesI’m so glad they brought this childhood favorite of mine back to TLC, and as fun as the reboot is, having access to the classic shows might be the best part.
  • An unhurried workout! It’s nice to have a little extra time to play with at the gym.
  • A stop at Books Are Magic, the independent bookstore here on my block that I mentioned in last week’s Brooklyn-themed Gratitude Diaries. I picked up copies of Text Me When You Get Home (the next pick for my book club!) and The Female Persuasion, written by one of my all-time favorite authors Meg Wolitzer. Both books were signed, which makes them that much more special.
  • As soon as I officially decided to take a day off a few weeks ago, I booked myself a massage at Element Healing Arts here in Brooklyn. At this point in the half marathon training process (more on that later this week!), my body is never very happy with me, so it was nice to have some of my knots worked out… though I was pretty sore after!
  • I treated myself to a makeup facelift at Sephora. As I’ve started prioritizing taking better care of my skin, I’m also trying to test out different kinds of makeup. Since I work from home, I don’t put on a full face of makeup every day, which has given me some wiggle room to spend a little more money on higher-quality products. My favorite buys? The Anastasia Brow Wiz (how have I not been using a brow pencil for all these years???) and the Smashbox Be Legendary lipstick in Pretty Social. With springtime almost in full swing, I wanted to treat myself to some new goodies so I can feel totally confident and fresh.
  • met Matt near his office in Bryant Park and we went to grab a drink with a friend at a patio bar in Midtown Manhattan. From there, we got a bite to eat at the Urbanspace food hall and finished the night with some spontaneous McFlurries on the steps of the New York Public Library.

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Start to finish, it was a pretty perfect day.

I’m not usually one to love shopping or pampering myself, but when I do, I go big… in case you couldn’t tell from that list : )

The biggest lesson I learned from this day off is that email has far too much power over my time and mental health. I knew that in order to really appreciate some free time, I would need to ignore my inbox, but I took the extra step of deleting the Gmail app from my phone entirely. I didn’t reinstall it until Sunday afternoon, and I can’t tell you how big of a difference it made. Now that I know how great it feels not to be so tied to my email 24/7, I’m going to try to make more of an effort to avoid obsessively checking it on my phone whenever I have a free minute. It’s all about phone boundaries, right?

What does your perfect day off look like? Tell me more in the comments below!

Finally, if you have a small business or side hustle that deserves a little love for press and podcasts (or know someone who does!), check out this deal that Brittney and I are running for our complete Partnering for Press series! Through tomorrow, we’re offering 25% off, which grants you lifetime access to all of the highly informative free webinars we’ve been running over the past few weeks, as well as an invitation to an even more comprehensive live session tomorrow night. You’ll also get a set of customizable tools that you can use to pitch your own business to the press so you can increase your reach and revenue! Click here for all the details — and to register! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

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gratitude diaries: brooklyn edition.

This week is a special one around here, because yesterday marked a whopping three years since Matt and I made this cozy little corner of Brooklyn our official home.

If you’re reading this from the house you’ve owned for more than a decade, I understand that this seems insignificant, but it’s a pretty big deal for us. My fellow New Yorkers know how rare it is to find an apartment that you want to stick with for longer than a single lease term — but beyond that, even the math speaks for itself. Matt and I aren’t 30 yet (though Matt’s a whole year closer to it than I am!), so we’ve lived here for more than 10 percent of our lives. That’s a pretty big chunk! Growing up, we also did some moving around, which gives me an even greater appreciation for the roots that I’ve grown here in Brooklyn.

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Getting ready for pizza and wine on the first night in our first home together.

This milestone also has a bittersweet element this year, since it’s very likely the last one we’ll celebrate in New York City. As you may know, Matt and I are in the early stages of exploring a move to another city (don’t worry — more on that soon), and while a new beginning brings some exciting (and scary) new promises, it also means the end of a chapter that I can only describe as amazing. There will be plenty of time for me to get sentimental about this — and trust me, I will — but for now, all I can say is that I’m extremely grateful for the three years we’ve had and the thousands of memories we’ve made here in Brooklyn. With that in mind, I thought today would be the perfect day for a special edition of Gratitude Diaries, dedicated to my beautiful borough.

Here are just a few of the things I’m grateful for in Brooklyn, especially my Cobble Hill neighborhood:

  • Our local bookstore, Books Are MagicIndependent bookstores are (very sadly) a dying breed, and we’re lucky to have gotten a special one right here on my street last year. I’m so grateful to be able to take a casual stroll over to Books Are Mag, where I can always find something to buy, even if I don’t technically “need” it.
  • The dozens of restaurant patios where you can sit and enjoy drinks and snacks (when the weather is actually good, of course). I could go on and on about the restaurant scene here in Brooklyn, in general, but something that especially struck us when we left Manhattan and started life here was the availability of outdoor space! If you don’t live in New York City, this might not seem like a big deal, but it’s been a game changer for us. We love wandering the streets of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, and Park Slope in the spring and summer, finding the perfect patio where we can set up shop for a few hours.
  • It’s so easy to get around! City living is at turns wildly accessible and incredibly inconvenient, but this neighborhood in particular has been a great home base for exploring so much of New York. We’re walkable to so many awesome nooks and crannies of Brooklyn, but our location on the greater NYC transit system also makes it easy for us to get into Manhattan within just a few minutes! There are plenty of moments when I miss having the ability to jump in the car and drive anywhere, anytime, but it’s also hard to imagine not being able to walk or subway
  • We don’t have a dog — yet — but as a serious dog lover, I really appreciate living in such a dog-friendly neighborhood. Pups of all shapes and sizes are a part of pretty much everything in our area —they’re sitting outside at bars and browsing through shops with their owners and snacking on the treats that a lot of storeowners leave in a dish outside. It makes this whole city living thing feel warmer and fuzzier.
  • I know it sounds a little nerdy, especially since I’m no architecture buff, but I just love the look of our little neighborhood. The buildings are older and have so much character, and while I can occasionally catch a glimpse of a more traditional, modern “skyline,” I think the mix of old and new that we have in the architecture around here is really unique.
  • Summertime. If you’ve never had a summer in New York, you need to at least plan a day trip over the next few months so you can get a taste of it. It’s absolutely magical! Summer is a special time of year no matter where you live, but I’ve grown partial to the New York kind over the last few years : )
  • Our favorite local ice creamery, Ample Hills — which is one of my favorite parts of a Brooklyn summer! The location that’s closest to us in Gowanus even has a roof deck, which makes an ice cream date feel a little extra sparkly.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ll save the rest. I’m going to get sappy if I go further!

In the meantime, I know I’ve made a lot of attempts to capture this special place with my phone camera, but I don’t think I quite do it justice. Check out these fun Brooklyn photos I found via Unsplash! So cool, right?

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Photo by Carl Solder on Unsplash

 

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Photo by Jason McCann on Unsplash
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Photo by Jahsie Ault on Unsplash
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Photo by Robert Katzki on Unsplash
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Photo by David Cruz on Unsplash
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Enter a captionPhoto by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

What are you most grateful for where you live? I’d love to hear more about it in the comments below!

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how i handle to-do lists.

As soon as I started working in my first full-time job out of college, I became addicted to to-do lists.

You already know that I have a thing for planners (if you’re new to the blog, it’s worth noting that I use both a Passion Planner and Powersheets on a daily basis), so I was thrilled with the prospect of graduating from the academic agenda I used in school to something a little different. If you’re wondering where I got this weird obsession with stationary and calendars, you can blame my mom. Growing up, I watched her fill the pages of all kinds of planners with colorful pens and neat handwriting, so it felt natural to me to do the same. I was meticulous with my agenda as early as middle school — although I did go through this weird phase where I covered every inch of each page with a highlighter mural that, in hindsight, was very messy — and I developed different systems with each year that passed. By the time I got my corporate job, I knew that a paper planner was necessary for me to stay focused and organized. I picked one out from Barnes & Noble, packed it in my new bag, and got on my first early morning commuter bus to New York City.

Within a few days, I realized that I would need to go a step further in order to keep up with my new workload. I started sticking Post-It notes to the pages of my planner, each one with a list of must-dos for that day, the following day, and the day after that. When I got tired of juggling all of those Post-Its (and when it became clear that I was responsible for using most of the sticky notes in our department’s supply closet), I streamlined my process by keeping daily to-do lists in the same notebook that I used for projects and meetings. I lived and died by those to-do lists.

When I first went out on my own as a freelancer in September 2016, there was honestly no need for a to-do list system. In those early days, I was still building up my workload, and since I wasn’t managing deadlines at that point, there wasn’t much to prioritize! I would make notes in my planner about what I wanted to accomplish, but it was much less specific than what I’d done before. And for more than a year, that worked!

At the end of 2017, I started to hit overwhelm. I’d taken on a bunch of new clients and projects in a short period of time and was forced to make some major adjustments to my schedule and routine. I struggled in that place for a long time, and while I still have my moments, I’ve been feeling a lot better lately. So, what’s helped? I brought back the to-do lists. And the Post-It notes. So many Post-It notes. 

In that spirit, I thought I’d share a few specifics about how I manage my to-do lists in hopes that they’ll help you the way they helped me! I know it seems like a pretty straightforward subject, but I always find that it’s helpful to break things down into their smallest details. Plus, I just love talking about systems and productivity and all things related to my planners! Here we go:

The Do’s of To-Do Lists

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  • DO… be consistent. Once something becomes a habit, you don’t have to think about it anymore. I write my to-do list every night and stick it in the same place (the bottom-right corner of my planner page for that week).
  • DO… make your to-do lists chronological. I add all of my deadlines and assignments to their respective days in my planner as I learn about them, but I’ve become so much more focused — and so much less overwhelmed — since I started creating a separate daily list of what I need to accomplish in order. I determine the order based on urgency, when I know I’ll be mentally freshest, and how different tasks will slot in around meetings.
  • DO… add the easy stuff. I’m a big believer in setting yourself up for easy wins. Once you start checking things off your list, you’re going to crave checking more things off your list over the course of the day. Even if it feels silly, add something super simple to the early portion of your list.
  • DO… write your to-do list the night before. I started doing this back in my corporate days, and I think it’s really important. It cuts out a lot of mental energy first thing in the morning when you can open up your to-do list and already know what your priorities are. In my experience, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed at the end of a workday, but if I start listing out to-dos for the next day — especially anything that I didn’t get to that day — I can wrap things up without feeling too far behind.
  • DO… include meetings and appointments. This is especially important if you’re writing out your tasks chronologically! It’s also an easy way to ensure that you’ll have something to check off.
  • DO… include email maintenance as part of your list. I don’t know about you, but managing my inbox is easily one of the most — if not the most — stressful parts of my working life. It seems like there is no end to the messages that come in, and it can get pretty overwhelming sometimes. If I don’t plan out specific blocks of time for email as part of my to-do list, I tend to feel like I need to respond to every message as it comes in, and that’s just distracting. I usually keep track of follow-ups and outreach that I need to send in my planner, and that dedicated email time gives me a chance to go through all of those at once, too.
  • DO… make your to-do list dynamic. I typically write a rough to-do list for the day as I’m finishing my work the day before, but I come back and take a second look at it right before bed. Taking some time away gives me a chance to gain fresh perspective on my priorities and have a more realistic sense of what I can accomplish the following day.
  • DO… use your inbox to support your to-do list. If there are important messages that you need to respond to within a certain period of time, keep them in your inbox so they’ll stay top of mind as you figure out how to prioritize. I tag my emails to make it easier to see what needs to happen in my email and why. I talk more about my email systems here.

What kind of systems do you use to get things done in work and life? I’d love to hear more in the comments below! 

 

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monthly goals recap -> march + april.

I’m not quite sure how we’re already halfway through the first week of April, but here we are, I guess… and it’s time to talk goals. March was an interesting one around here, with big progress in some areas and next to none in others (trust me — I do not enjoy admitting that). I’m here with all the updates good and bad, plus a plan to make April even stronger.

Here’s a glimpse at the progress on my March Powersheets. In the middle section, the check marks mean “success!” and the dots mean “well, not quite so successful.” Oops.

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Let’s tackle my March goals one by one, shall we? In case you missed it, you can read the post where I set all these goals right here.

  • Successfully launch next collaboration with Brittney Lynn.√ YES! You’ve been seeing me share all about our free Partnering for Press webinar series here on the blog and across social media, and I’m happy to say that we’ve had a great response so far! Thanks to all of you who have tuned in! The last of the three-part series is actually going to take place tomorrow night (Thursday 4/5) at 8:00 pm EST, and it would be so fun to have my Finding Plan A family join us to wrap things up. Grab yourself a glass of wine and some snacks, because it’s totally low-pressure! Check out the details and register right here. See you then!

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  • Start buying podcasting equipment.√ YES! I have a microphone (for my fellow podcasters and aspiring podcasters, I went with this one) and a set of big fancy headphones that can’t wait to be used.
  • Finalize podcast title and start working on art/logo.√ YES! I met with my fabulous designer friend in mid-March to talk all things podcast branding. It was the first time that I really got to talk specifics with someone about this project, and I loved every minute of it. The title is locked down and I’ll get to take a peek at the first pass of the logo in the next week or two. I. can. not. wait.
  • Share draft pages. Things with my book took an interesting turn in March. I had some good work sessions in the first week or two of the month, but I found myself having a bit of a creative crisis after that. I’m finding myself wondering if I’m writing the “right” book… or if the doubts I’m having are just a normal part of the challenging process of becoming an author. I’ll share more about what I’m doing to manage all of this in my April goals, so keep reading!
  • Refocus on Pinterest. √ YES! I shut down my old Pinterest account and started totally fresh. Check it out here.
  • Pitch to at least one of the outlets on my target list for 2018. √ YES!
  • Read three books.√ YES! I read Manhattan Beach (a great piece of historical fiction that I honestly thought may have been just a little too long), Bachelor Nation (the perfect palette cleanser after said historical fiction that I would totally recommend to my fellow reality TV fans!), and FeastYou can learn more about Feast in my March giveaway post (unfortunately, the contest is now closed!), but the short version? I loved it.
  • Take a day off. I’m not proud to say that I didn’t make this one happen in March — and considering I’m inching closer and closer to total burnout every day, I think it might be a non-negotiable for April.
  • Taxes.√ YES Matt was a total champ and braved our complicated freelance tax process all on his own. We’re so relieved to have this behind us!
  • Work on the book three days a week, every week. Like I said above about sharing (or not sharing) draft pages, my book-writing process got turned upside down over the last few weeks. All I can do is try to move forward!
  • Save Fridays for big pitches and passion projects. √ YES I’ve spoken to a few fellow writers who are planning to implement this kind of routine into their own weekly schedule. You may not see it written into every one of my monthly goal posts — I don’t want to bore you! — but you can bet that this one is part of my new normal.
  • Find time once a week to write just for meI pulled this off about half as often as I would have liked to in March. Womp womp. The mental blocks I found myself hitting with working on the book toward the middle of the month kind of freaked me out, and as lame as it sounds, it turned me off of creative writing altogether. Like I said, I have a plan for how to turn things around moving forward!

Let me be totally honest — mentally and creatively, March was a tough one for me. I felt more exhausted and less confident than I have in a long, long time. My workload seemed bigger and more nonstop than ever, and while I made good progress on passion projects like Partnering for Press and the podcast, I can’t help but feel a little guilty for being so stalled on my book. No matter how much momentum I maintain with my existing clients and editors, I’m disappointed in myself when I struggle to move the needle on other things — and, in the case of writing my book, the things that matter most to me.

With the imminent end to winter weather (that has to happen soon, right?) and some new ideas about how to get inspired and stay focused, I have high hopes for April. Here’s what I’m working toward:

  • Start scheduling podcast recordings. This sounds a little boring and logistical, but it’s going to bring me a lot closer to hitting that June launch date for the show : )
  • Restore a positive attitude about writing the book! I’m reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (if you’re a writer, you need to get your hands on this one ASAP!) and it really has my wheels turning about how to get back on my creative writing game. She offers some great assignments that I think will help me figure out if it’s time to redirect the subject matter entirely or simply dive back into what I’ve already started. I’m going to stop putting pressure on myself to work on drafting the book for a certain number of days per week and instead take that time to work on these assignments and get my confidence back.

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  • Plan travel to Ignite Your Soul Summit. At the end of the month, Brittney and I are finally going to meet in person (!!!!!!) at Amber Lilyestrom’s Ignite Your Soul Summit in New Hampshire. Before that magic can happen, I need to finalize my travel logistics.
  • Read three books. As always! This month, I have a feeling I might actually get to four.
  • Pitch to 1-2 target outlets. Again… as always!
  • Create social media for the podcast. I can’t wait to build a community for podcast listeners… and to have you all be part of it! This month, I’ll be setting up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts so that when the time comes, you can join.
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A very blurry photo of me at my high school graduation TEN years ago. TEN!
  • Finalize reunion details. I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it’s been ten years since I graduated from high school, but that decade milestone seems to have really snuck up on me, because planning for the reunion has officially begun! I’m working with an awesome team of former classmates, and I think we’re going to have some of the logistics ironed out by the end of April.
  • Take a GarageBand editing tutorial. For the time being, I’m going to be editing the podcast myself, and while I have some basic editing experience, I need to brush up. I’ve been jokingly calling Matt my producer, but a girl’s gotta be able to rely on herself!
  • Have one phone-free night per week. I’ve been thinking a lot about phone boundaries in 2018, and while I think I’ve already made good progress, I want to challenge myself even further. A lot of people are big believers in social media-free weekends. I can’t say I’m quite there yet, but I do like the idea of putting my phone in the bedroom as I’m finishing up work one night per week so that I can be fully present with Matt for the few hours we have between dinner and bedtime.
  • TAKE A DAY OFF! We’ve gone all caps, people. This needs to happen. Do any of my fellow freelancers or solopreneurs have specific suggestions for how to plan a random day off? I’m very, very open to your ideas.

What are your goals for April? Fill me in with a comment!

 

 

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march giveaway winner announced!

It’s time to announce the winner of the March giveaway, and I’m over here dancing in my PJ’s and desk chair because I get to gift a very lucky reader with their very own copy of Hannah Howard’s Feast. (I’ll let you and your imagination come up with the dance moves.) I’m just a few pages away from the end of the book now and I am so impressed by it. Hannah, I am so grateful to you for partnering with me on this month’s giveaway! Thank you for sharing your work with all of us : )

The winner of Feast is…

Victoria Munn!

Congratulations! I’ll send you an email this morning to work out the details of getting the book in your mailbox.

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Thanks so much to all who entered this month! Don’t forget to come back for next month’s giveaway on April 23. If you didn’t win, I still hope you’ll consider grabbing a copy of Hannah’s book, because it’s really a great read. Check it out on Amazon here, and note that if you purchase through that link, I’ll earn a small fee for recommending Feast to you!

In the meantime, I’m off to do a nine-mile run (half marathon training is heating up!) and finish up some projects here in the office before Matt and I head to Pennsylvania for Passover and Easter celebrations with family. Sending you all the good vibes for a great weekend, no matter what you celebrate (or don’t celebrate)!

I’ll catch you back here next week. I’ll be talking March and April goals on Tuesday!

 

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things i’m working on.

Matt and I are home from Chicago after a weekend of friends and cold temperatures! If it wasn’t so far away from family and so chilly for so much of the year, I think we would seriously consider making that our next move. Having spent a very formative summer at Northwestern University between my junior and senior years of high school, I have a lot of really significant memories of Chicago, and as an adult, I see even more how much the city has to offer. It’s a little (maybe a lot) more low key than New York, but has a similar diversity of neighborhoods, plus so many things to do and see. We’re heading back there for a wedding in August and I’m excited to have a chance to explore even more when the weather is warmer. I’ve heard that summer in Chicago is the very best! I already have a list of things I want to check out on our next trip : )

As fun as the trip was, it was also the kick-off to a hectic few months of travel and events for us, and as my plane started to land at Laguardia, I couldn’t help but find myself starting to stress over the state of the calendar from now until May. Most of what we have coming up is good, but chaos is chaos, and for me, it’s important to spend some time really getting my head right before starting an especially busy time. With that in mind, there are a few things I’m working on that I think will help me keep my cool as we enter the craziness of spring (if only we could get some spring weather, too!)…

I’m working on having a better attitude about social media. I’ve been so focused recently on setting boundaries with my phone that I’ve gotten away from the fun parts of Instagram, which is a platform that I genuinely enjoy. I want to put less pressure on myself and strike a better balance.

I’m working (as always) on improving my pitching skills! I need to get back in a better routine of reading more content from different outlets so that I can come to my editors with fresh and creative ideas.

I’m working on giving myself more time to unwind in bed with a good book at night.

I’m working on being a clearer communicator with pretty much everyone in my life. I need to do a better job of telling people what I need.

I’m working on reintegrating workouts outside of my half marathon training into my routine. Running is going great so far this year, but I’d like to find time to work in some lower-impact activities, too.

I’m working on getting back into Pinterest! I fully revamped my profile and would love for you to give me a follow here.

I’m working on comparing myself less to other writers. Social media does not help with the whole comparison game.

I’m working (with Matt) on getting date nights back on the calendar, especially as we head into this season of craziness!

I’m working on learning to see some things in my work as experiments. They don’t always need to be perfect, as long as they help me learn how to do better next time.

I’m working on overbooking myself a little less during the week : )

I’m working on saying “I’m proud of you” less, because I read somewhere that — even though it’s a nice thing to hear! — it also kind of makes someone else’s accomplishments about you, and I just thought that was sort of interesting. I want to find other, better ways to communicate the same feeling.

I’m working on worrying less about the specifics of the future and instead having faith in the bigger picture of what’s to come.

Did you miss last week’s announcement about the March giveaway? 

There’s still time to enter… and you should, because Hannah Howard‘s Feast is better and better with every. single. page.

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I want you all to have a chance to win a copy of your very own! The details about the the book (which happens to be Hannah’s debut) are available here, and all you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner this coming Friday 3/30, so don’t miss your chance to enter ASAP!

And finally…

Some of you tuned in last week for Brittney and my free webinar. It was so great to have you! We had about 50 people register and Brittney and I loved the opportunity to share the basics of storytelling as it relates to PR and getting media mentions for small businesses and side hustles. GREAT NEWS! We have another free webinar planned for TOMORROW, Wednesday 3/28 at 8 p.m. EST. Part two of the series is called Partnering for Press: Why You Need to Cultivate Authentic Relationships with Journalists + How to Get Started and you can register (for free!) right here for more helpful PR tips and for a peek behind the freelancer/entrepreneur curtain. Can’t wait to see you there!

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march giveaway.

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m lucky enough to be coming to you from Chicago this morning. I flew out of snowy New York City late yesterday afternoon  and am so excited to spend the next few days hanging out with two of my very best friends. The three of us live in different cities — New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. — and we’ve tried to make a better effort over the last few months to get together for these girls’ weekends on a regular basis. It’s a great excuse to get away for a weekend, too, and I secretly love the way it feels to do a little solo plane travel. Matt’s actually coming to Chicago later tonight because we have another set of friends celebrating their upcoming wedding here tomorrow. He’ll be able to snag some QT with one of his best college pals while I’m with the girls, and we’ll meet up for the couples’ shower. It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly!

In the meantime, though, it’s GIVEAWAY DAY… and I couldn’t be more excited to share this month’s prize with you. 

For the first time ever, I’ve teamed up with  an author for the March giveaway. How cool is that? Meet Hannah Howard.

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Hannah and I met at the very beginning of my freelance journey when we both took a Freelance Bootcamp class at the Brooklyn Brainery. At that point, Hannah had recently sold her debut book to a publisher, and although I was having some serious writer FOMO at that point (guilty!), I was so intrigued by the premise of her memoir that I got over it pretty quickly. I was so excited when Hannah reached out a few weeks ago with the opportunity to work together to share Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen with my blog community. Thank you so much, Hannah!

Many of you already know that a healthy relationship with food hasn’t always come easily to me personally, and since Feast (just out this month!) shares the story of Hannah’s own journey to find self-acceptance in spite of her disordered eating — all while exploring the unique and colorful food scene of New York City — I knew even before cracking the cover that it would be right up my alley. I started reading the book on the flight yesterday, and before I knew it, I was 100 pages in. Hannah’s writing is absolutely stunning. I love the way she describes food and the city that I love, and her reflections on how we feel about ourselves as we grow up (just wait until you read about middle school!) are wildly relatable.

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Even if your relationship with food has never crossed the threshold to disordered, you surely have had other moments of self-doubt, and Hannah’s narrative will really resonate with you at that level. Plus, her writing is beautiful and offers a fascinating peek into the NYC food scene.

Here’s a quick summary:

Hannah Howard is a Columbia University freshman when she lands a hostess job at Picholine, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan. Eighteen years old and eager to learn, she’s invigorated by the manic energy and knife-sharp focus of the crew. By day Hannah explores the Columbia arts scene, struggling to find her place. By night she’s intoxicated by boxes of heady truffles and intrigued by the food industry’s insiders. She’s hungry for knowledge, success, and love, but she’s also ravenous because she hasn’t eaten more than yogurt and coffee in days.

Hannah is hiding an eating disorder. The excruciatingly late nights, demanding chefs, bad boyfriends, and destructive obsessions have left a void inside her that she can’t fill. To reconcile her relationships with the food she worships and a body she struggles to accept, Hannah’s going to have to learn to nourish her soul.

The winner of this month’s giveaway will receive their very own copy of Feast! So cool, right?

All you have to do to enter to win this giveaway is COMMENT on this post! I’ll draw the winner randomly one week from today, Friday 3/30. The winner will be announced right here on the blog.

(Unfortunately, you’re not eligible to win this contest if you live outside of North America, due to shipping concerns. I’m sorry about that!)

… and if, as you’re typing in your own comment, you feel so inspired, I’d love for you to pass the giveaway along to a food- or book-loving friend who might also be interested in entering. Grab that URL at the top of your screen and text it to a loved one or share it on social media. It means so much to me to able to share Finding Plan A with more and more people — and I would be all the more excited to have more eyes on this post in particular, since it will allow us to help Hannah get the word out about Feast!

Happy commenting! And happy weekending! 

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real talk #4.

Hi friends! Welcome to Tuesday! I, for one, am feeling like a million bucks after finally getting a solid night of sleep post-three straight days of pretty frustrating insomnia. It’s amazing what a little rest can do for your spirit!

We spent the weekend celebrating Matt’s return from London, which mostly involved drinking mimosas and ensuring that he beat jet lag (AKA me waking him up every time he fell asleep at a weird time on the couch). I also spent Sunday afternoon with some friends at The Wing — my new favorite place — working on some fun projects and catching up on life.

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My only complaint about the weekend? This weather! What is going on? Today is supposed to be the first day of spring, and the end of winter couldn’t seem farther away at the moment.

It’s been a while since I checked in with some Real Talk, and the last one was pretty intense, so I thought I’d go ahead and get real with a few embarrassing and hopelessly honest confessions from the last few weeks…

  • For the first time in my work-from-home life to date, I snuck a few spoonfuls of ice cream in the middle of the day. It was cookie dough and it was Friday. Beyond that, I have no explanation.
  • Sometimes, I fantasize about a genie showing up in my office and offering to grant me a single wish, because I’d quite simply ask him (or her!) to help me figure out how to better manage my emails. I know, I know — it’s the lamest wish ever, but I kind of dream about it, especially in that last flood of messages that seems to come through near the end of every afternoon.
  • We’ve been stocking Reese’s chocolate peanut butter Easter eggs in the freezer since the day after Valentine’s Day.
  • Sometimes, I doodle in my notebooks when I’m on a phone interview. I’m still totally paying attention, of course, but I have lots of great art to show for those hours, too.
  • I’ve cried during every episode of the American Idol reboot so far.
  • Bachelor Nation might be my favorite book of the year so far, in spite of the fact that I’ve read a lot of highly-acclaimed historical fiction and literary fiction. Hey, we like what we like.
  • I immediately delete any email in which my name is spelled incorrectly. Like, immediately. Without even opening it.
  • When things feel frustrating here in the home office, I typically turn to Broadway soundtracks. Recently, I’ve worked my way through Oklahoma!, Fiddler on the Roof, and Waitress. Repeatedly.
  • Lately, I’ve found myself feeling a lot of jealousy toward other writers. Before I started working for myself, I think I assumed that these kinds of comparisons would go away as soon as I was laser-focused on my own work exclusively, instead of seeing what other people were doing in their cubicles. If only that were the truth!

Do you have any “real talk”-style confessions you’d like to share? Fill me in by dropping a comment below?

And don’t forget…

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TONIGHT, Brittney Lynn and I are hosting a free webinar called Partnering for Press: How to Find + Share the Story of Your Business. We’ll be getting started at 8 pm EST and I’d love to see the Finding Plan A community representing! The webinar will be a great opportunity to learn more about the businesses of both PR and journalism and to pick up some tips on how to grab publicity for a side hustle you’re working on or a small biz you represent. Check out the details and register right HERE!

I’ll see you back here later this week for GIVEAWAY DAY! 

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imposter syndrome + the big picture.

Over the past few days, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with other writers — all kinds of writers: writers who haven’t been paid for their work yet but who know they have a passion for the practice and want to figure out how to make a living at it, writers who are in the freelance game like me, writers who have finished real books (insert so-impressed-jaw-is-dropped face here). I didn’t plan for all of these meetings to happen over the course of the same week, but they did, and in addition to filling my heart with all kinds of joy and appreciation for other people who do what I do (and leaving me with a bit of a scratchy throat), this coincidence of timing has gotten me thinking a lot about the journey that I’ve been on figuring out how this new career that I’ve made for myself is supposed to look. Lately, I’ve been working so fast and with my head so. down. that it’s been a while since I really thought about the big picture.

Let me tell you something that you might have already guessed…

When I first started this blog in September 2016, it was because I honestly had no idea what was about to happen with my life or how I was going to spend my time. 

I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and I had a vague picture in my head of what a writer’s day would look like. I pictured myself toting my laptop around Brooklyn, posting up at various coffee shops, always casually and comfortably hipster chic in a loose sundress — or a loose sundress with a chunky sweater and tights, for winter. I’d learn to enjoy the taste of coffee and drink three or four cups a day, mostly because the people who worked at said coffee shops would learn to know and love me so well that they would offer free refills without a second thought. I’d crank out content for magazines and Web sites and maybe a few corporate clients here and there, but being in the constant flow of writing would also make it suddenly easy for me to finish the novel I’ve dreamed of writing since I was seven years old.

I knew that this wasn’t my reality in September 2016, and I knew it was going to take a lot of work to get there (which hopefully makes it sound a little less silly), but the best thing that I could think to do in the meantime was start a blog — and to use that blog to share with a few people the journey of actually achieving that writer lifestyle fantasy. I also knew that having a blog would give me an advantage when it came time to reach out to editors who would surely need to check out samples of my writing before they could agree to work with me. I didn’t set out to be a Blogger-with-a-capital-B, and it felt awkward when I started putting links to new posts on social media. There are still days when it feels awkward putting myself out there like that, but this blog has evolved with me over the last year and a half, and I’m so grateful for the community that’s built up here in that time.

In some ways, my life looks a little like the fantasy I had — but in a lot more ways, it doesn’t. I do occasionally tote my laptop to coffee shops in my neighborhood, but most of the time, I just feel anxious about whether or not I’ve spent enough on snacks and drinks to deserve a table.. and since I still don’t like coffee, my options are limited, anyway. I can rock the sundress or chunky sweater look after a meeting, but more often than not, I show up wearing gym clothes and sneakers. I most certainly crank out content for magazines and Web sites and the occasional corporate client, but being in the constant flow of writing sometimes makes me feel so creatively tapped out that I go for a few weeks at a time without even touching my novel.

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Positively cheesing with my first official byline last fall.

I say all of this not to somehow show that going this route has proven to be less glamorous than expected or to prove that working for yourself is harder than it looks. Even with the ups and downs — and the minimal glamour — I have a genuine appreciation for the way my days look now because it’s taken me a long time to get here. I feel pretty comfortable owning the fact that I’m a Writer-with-a-capital-W, even if some days I can’t help but wonder if real writers would wear the same sweatshirt for three days in a row.

But let me tell you about something else that has happened, something that I didn’t expect.

As I’ve grown into myself as a writer, I’ve also been so inspired by the social media and solopreneur communities that I’ve found myself trying to diversify my workload even further. I’m working toward launching a podcast this summer, I’m building an awesome PR/journalism education program with my friend Brittney, and I’m even feeling added pressure to turn myself into a Blogger-with-a-capital-B. It’s in these spaces that I find myself feeling insecure again. If I’ve already “found plan A,” should I keep showing up here? And if I’m “just” a writer (even one with a capital W), will people think I’m stepping out in a way that’s inappropriate or irrelevant when I put myself out there in new places with projects that have nothing to do — in an official capacity, at least — with my work?

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Things get real with a podcast when the microphone arrives.

I guess the answer is that I don’t know. And I’m sharing all of this with you not to imply that I’m right and other people are wrong or to make you feel sorry for me, but because I think it’s important to pull back the curtain a bit and show that imposter syndrome is still a thing over here, and that I’m still not quite sure where I’m going to land as the big picture keeps getting bigger and bigger. In that way, I guess I haven’t totally “found Plan A” yet, so I hope you’ll keep sticking with me while I do : )

In the meantime, I’m so excited to share one of my latest new ventures with you! (Cue imposter syndrome…. now.) I’ve been teasing to my new venture with Brittney Lynn for a few weeks now, and it’s finally time to reveal the details of Partnering for Press. We’re launching a series of three free Webinars all about the intersection of PR and journalism, so if you want to learn more about what I do or have a secret side hustle that you’re dying to get out in the world, I would love, love, love for you to tune into the first chapter, which will be live on Tuesday 3/20 at 8 pm EST. It’s free, so you have absolutely nothing to lose, and you may even decide to stick around for the rest of the series!

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You can register (for FREE!) right here. If you have aspiring writers or entrepreneurs in your life, I’d be so grateful if you could share the details with them, too!

 

 

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follow friday: feeds i’m loving.

Happy Friday, friends!

I’m spending this weekend back home in Pennsylvania with my family, celebrating my sister’s high school musical! We’ve been going to these shows for years, and it’s hard to believe that the youngest of my sisters is now a junior. There are only so many more musicals featuring one of our own left for us to see, so I’m trying to soak up every one of them.

I thought I’d kick off the weekend with something fun and a little different. In the spirit of the #FollowFriday movement on Instagram, I’m sharing with you some of the feeds that I’ve been especially digging lately. Keep scrolling to check them out for yourself!

Also, if you’re planning to pop in your earbuds at some point this weekend and are looking for something fun to listen to, check out my interview with The Real Female Entrepreneur Podcast right here (or on your podcast streaming platform of choice)! The episode just went live on Wednesday — perfectly timed pre-International Women’s Day — and while I was nervous to share yet another super real part of my story with all of you (swearing and all… oops!), it was great to have the chance to dig a little deeper with Lauren about the insecurities that came with leaving my corporate job, the lessons I learned about my relationship throughout that journey, and what it meant to me to ultimately be able to match as a full-time writer the income that I had been so afraid to leave behind back when I made the leap. Happy listening!

And now, on to #FollowFriday… and a chance to celebrate social media in its most positive, uplifting forms! 

Do you guys ever feel like the weirdest person that was ever born? 🙋🏼‍♀️ … Do you ever feel like you’re moving + grooving and fitting in with the “cool” kids only to realize that you’re actually a total + utter weirdo? … That you’re the only one who thinks that hilarious cat gif was *that* hilarious…or like the posts you write never sound quite right…or like the big sparkly dreams that get you all heart eyes makes no sense to the people in your life? 🤓 … Oiy…sister…been there, (still) sportin the t-shirt. 🤡 … But here’s what I’ve picked up along the way…it turns out, we A L L feel like the weird one…and when we unite our weirdness + appreciate each other’s awkward-factor we feel more united than we do different. 👯‍♀️ … So today’s message is a salute to all of my fellow weirdos. 👩🏻‍🎤 To the ones who laugh at the jokes no one else does, to the ones willing to pick up the mic, share their insides on the outside while rocking what feels right over what will get the likes. …. The world needs (y)our weird, my love. 💞 … Comment below with what leaning in to your weird looks like IRL 😻 . . . 📸 by @laurenbodwell . . . . . . . . . #entrepreneurship #entrepreneurlifestyle #entrepreneurlife #entrepreneursofinstagram #thehappynow #livethelittlethings #meetthemoment #nothingisordinary #abeautifulmess #beingaleader #creativepreneur #bedeeplyrooted #pursuewhatislovely #becomingirresistible #creativeentrepreneur #createcultivate #bloomyellow #theeverygirl #flashesofdelight #savvybusinessowner #thenativecreative #thedulcetlife #businesscoach #successcoach #femaleambition #financialfreedom #everywomancan #mumcoach #flexibleworking #motivation

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Good quote

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In case you didn't know, in addition to running a PR business where I help entrepreneurs get more press for their business, I'm also the host of the @dayinthelifepodcast. . What started as a passion project has now turned into a way for me to interview the most interesting and impactful people in the world. . Recent episodes include: 💜a former Lutheran pastor where we discuss his thoughts on gay couples and Christianity 💜@BuzzFeed Lifestyle Editor @the_rewm (I've been following her for 9 years…insane!) 💜Health & Wellness Coach @homebodysoul on the pressure to be "healthy" all of the time 💜Former NFL Coach @coachdkr on making big career changes & setting boundaries. . There's so much more goodness coming out of the podcast this year. Would love to have you listening and if you already tune in, would love it if you left a comment below and told me your fav episode! . . . #ditl #ditlpodcast #dayinthelife #podcast #shepodcasts #podcasting #podcasters #podcaster #podcastersofinstagram #savvybusinessowners #mycreativebiz #thesavvycommunity #beingboss #thatsdarling #theeverygirl #risingtidesociety #entrepreneur #womeninbiz #womeninbusiness #onewomanshop #onewomanshoplife #creativepreneur #bloguettes #womenentrepreneur #dallas #dallastx #dallasblogger #entrepreneurlife #entrepreneurmindset #solopreneur

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What feeds are you loving lately? Tell me more in the comments below! 

 

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