july giveaway!

It’s a rainy Monday here in Brooklyn, which is (of course), the worst kind of Monday EVER. Wherever you are, I hope you’re staying as cozy and dry as possible, and that if you’ve been dealing with crazy heat where you live, the rainy weather helps bring the temperature down a few notches! As much as I love me some summertime, living in the city when it’s this hot and humid is about as far from NYC glam as you can imagine. I’ve pretty much given up on doing my hair and makeup entirely, since I now show up everywhere drenched in sweat (I know, ew), and it just feels kind of gross all around. New York, is it so much to ask to have some mild weather every once in a while?

BUT, I’m about to perk up your Monday no matter how rainy/hot/humid/sticky/Monday-ish it is, because it’s GIVEAWAY DAY! I have another prize from The Shine Project to share this month (yay!). For those who don’t know, this is one of my favorite companies — and it happens to also double as an amazing cause. I got involved as an ambassador for Shine last spring. You can read the whole story here, but essentially, Shine supports inner-city American students on track to be the first in their family to go to college by teaching them to make jewelry and offering them employment and mentorship. Student employees at the Shine centers have the opportunity to work hard to earn money for their higher education, so the purchase of Shine products supports their academic goals. A portion of the profits also goes toward a scholarship fund that benefits the Shine kids. I absolutely love this organization– and I’m obsessed with the jewelry, too! It’s easy-to-wear, affordable, trendy, and supports a really awesome cause.

Before I reveal this month’s prize, I wanted to put in a plug for Shop Ashley LeMieux, an amazing online shop that’s run by the founder of The Shine Project. I hear from so many of you every month who just love what Shine stands for, and shopping from Ashley is one more way to support her and the amazing work she does — plus, the clothes are, like, crazy cute and reasonably priced. I’ve been buying tons of dresses from Shop Ashley LeMieux this summer, and I get compliments every time I wear them! (I’ll try to post some photos soon.) I recently became an affiliate for the shop, and I’m really excited to have a chance to promote the brand, which is all about “women who do” (how great is that?!). You can shop the line here (and you’ll find the link in the sidebar, too!).

Anyway, it’s officially GIVEAWAY TIME…

This month’s prize is a super versatile, super sparkly silver teardrop druzzy necklace on a gold chain. It has that cool mixed metal thing going for it, and you’ll be able to wear it with pretty much anything. I almost took this one for myself, but you all deserve it more than I do : )

fullsizeoutput_8d9

fullsizeoutput_8da

All you have to do to enter to win this giveaway is to COMMENT on this post! As always, I’d love to see you share this link with friends so that more people have a chance to win (and to check out the blog!). I run a giveaway every month, so you can count on another opportunity to win something else very soon.

I’ll draw the winner randomly one week from today, Monday 7/31. The winner will be announced right here on the blog. Good luck!

(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!)

P.S. Thanks to everyone who’s already submitted their ideas and questions for upcoming blog posts! They’re more helpful than you know. Keep ’em coming! 

i’m lookin’ at you!

It may seem pretty obvious for me to say that one of the (many) things that inspired me to start my own blog was how much I enjoy reading other blogs. Obvious, but true.

I love getting at the heart of someone else’s story. I love reading about what makes them tick. I love seeing the universe through their perspective and realizing how much easier it is to understand another worldview when you have an opportunity to get inside another person’s day-to-day experience. One of my favorite things to do in the blogging world is to backtrack through the archives of my most loved sites. It’s amazing to take a step back and watch how these women (almost all of the blogs I read are female-driven) have built a following and evolved in their storytelling.

Recently, I’ve been reading even more blogs than usual as part of the research I’m doing for my book, and it’s gotten my wheels turning at an entirely new level. These incredibly creative and unflinchingly honest voices have me feeling more inspired than ever to deliver fresh, cool content and to continue growing as a writer right here with all of you.

I woke up today with a fresh energy about this space, and I want to make it a priority over these next few weeks to brainstorm ideas for posts that will get all of you excited to continue reading and sharing Finding Plan A into its second year. Let’s do this, people.

The brainstorming is already in full force over here, but I’d love to give you the opportunity to be part of this process with me! We’ve gotten to know each other a bit over these past ten months, so tell me:

What do you want to know? What haven’t I shared? Are there topics you feel I’ve been avoiding? (This might be the case without my even knowing it!) Do you have specific questions about what it’s like to freelance or to work from home? Do you want to know more about my relationships or my life here in New York? Do you have questions about how any of what I’ve written so far can apply in your own life? What makes you laugh? Is there a topic that you’d like to know my opinion on? Is there anything you wish I would never write about ever again?

Seriously, friends, I want to know. I’d love the answers to these questions, and any other input you’d be willing to share. Growing this community with all of you has been one of the best experiences of this first post-corporate year for me, and I want to keep the love going. Please, please, please consider adding your two cents to the comment box below — and don’t worry about whether you’re hurting my feelings or asking a question that’s too crazy. I’m 100% all ears, and I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

 

(I’ll see everyone back here on Monday for GIVEAWAY DAY! Happy weekend!)

ten month recap.

Happy Monday, fabulous friends! Matt and I spent the weekend here in Brooklyn for the first time this summer, and I’ve gotta say, it was pretty magical. We slept in (which, for me, means I stayed in bed until a little after 9… luxurious!), went to brunch with friends at Rucola (this is one of our favorite spots, and if you’re in Brooklyn, you should definitely check it out — and get the smoked salmon), drank watermelon margaritas at Bar Bruno, watched movies, napped, read books and the newspaper, baked these Brownie Krinkle cookies, went to the gym, and explored a Bastille Day festival hosted by a French restaurant on our block. It was a weekend of yummy food and of summery drinks and of catching up with our NYC community and of cozying up in our little home and of spending low-key quality time together. I loved every minute of it, and I’ll admit that I had some serious Sunday scaries last night (while Matt watched the Game of Thrones season premiere and I sat in bed and wrote, which becomes our Sunday evening routine as soon as GOT is back on — sorry, I just can’t get into it).

I’m a few days behind on my monthly recap post (you can check out the last one here), but I’m happy to report today that I’m now ten months (and a few days) into the freelance journey. It was this time last year that I begin to do some serious soul searching about what the next right step for me would be. While I love celebrating each milestone of my “new life,” it’s difficult for me to look back on how I was feeling and what I was walking through twelve months ago.

Matt and I were newly married, and while I’d struggled to decide whether or not I was built for corporate life before our wedding, I’d fiercely hoped that, once all the chaos of planning our big day had died down, I’d feel comfortable and confident at the office again. I wanted things to go back to normal for me, emotionally. I wanted to wake up every morning and know that I was going to the right place and doing the very best I could for both myself and my co-workers. I always felt very blessed to work for my company — I still feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to start my career there — and I was enormously conflicted about the fact that I couldn’t make it work when I had so clearly landed my dream job.

And so, coming back from our honeymoon last July, I started riding an emotional roller coaster, knowing that I still wanted to be part of the something greater that my company represented, knowing that I wanted to figure out why I suddenly felt so confused so I could fix it and stick around, but also knowing — in my gut, which is where I feel things most intensely — that I needed to make some changes. It took many more weeks and many more tearful conversations for me to figure out what to do next, but July is when my wheels started turning, and I can’t help but think of that now.

Working from home and being out on my own was not then and still is not now a simple solution. As all of you know better than anyone, this journey continues to be an emotional roller coaster, and there have been plenty of moments when I’ve wondered if those scary thoughts I started thinking last July brought me to where I’m truly supposed to be.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

All of that said, though, I feel really happy writing this today, because today is a really good day. This last month has led me to some of my favorite projects to date, and since I’ve freed up a little extra time here and there in honor of the summertime to allow me to invest more in working on my book lately, I’m feeling more creative than ever. I’m obsessed with writing. I think about it constantly.

Guys, it feels really good. At least right now, it feels like I made the right decision — and that, even better, the decision kind of found me.

I love when I can share a recap like this one, because it’s satisfying to have an emotional high point so perfectly match up with a chronological milestone in this ongoing transition. I also know that these moments of reflection don’t always feel this great, so I want to celebrate the ones that do.

These next two months are bound to be a little extra emotional, since they not only mark the anniversary of starting my life as a writer, but also the anniversary of the period when I started questioning myself, wondering what I was supposed to do, and ultimately, making some really difficult decisions. I can’t believe so much time has passed, but I’m humbled by the way it’s played out, and so grateful for the chance to revel in the little victories. Thanks to each and every one of you for being along for the ride. You rule, each and every one of you.

6 lessons from my inbox obsession.

Hello. My name is Alli, and I’m obsessed with my inbox.

OK, so I don’t lose sleep in the quest for inbox-zero. (Ugh, only in my dreams do I have inbox-zero.) But the tendency toward hyper-organization that you’ve probably noticed in some of my other posts really rears it’s head when it comes to email. From the late-nineties days of my first AOL email account (#flashbackfriday, anyone?), I can remember feeling super overwhelmed anytime messages began piling up in my inbox. To this day, when email starts to get out of control, I feel a little extra twinge of anxiety. Sound familiar?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week as my inbox has exploded with post-Fourth of July sales junk mail and as I’ve gotten all of my communication back on track after spending the holiday in Turks + Caicos. People often ask me how I’m able to stay organized and (mostly) calm, cool, and collected as I’ve learned to run my own writing business, and I honestly credit a lot of it to my somewhat annoying tendencies in this area. As far as I’m concerned, a well-tended inbox is the key to tackling a busy day or a long to-do list. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by email (and, believe it or not, I’m actually really sensitive to things like this), I can get pretty freaked out — and I start to wish I could have what my parents used to call a “do over day” when I was little.

Email is such a major part of our lives both in the office and at home, and I know I’m not the only one who craves order there! More than a few times over the years, people have commented on how crazy-controlled my inbox is (if there are ten messages hanging out, that’s a lot for me), so I thought I’d share some of my weird and obsessive tips with you today. Here’s hoping they help you take on another week with a perfect (at least on the outside) composure — but not before you enjoy an amazing weekend!

Check out my six inbox tips here:

1. Don’t overdo it on the go. I only do two things on my phone’s email app: 1.) respond to urgent messages and 2.) delete messages that are clearly trash. Obviously, you may need to make exceptions to this rule if you’re constantly traveling for work, but I find that managing the vast majority of email in front of my computer forces me to stick to more of a system and to be more consistent with the other tips below.

2. Make morning and evening email purges part of your schedule. If you’re usually the kind of person who doesn’t care about an overflowing inbox, but you’re trying to get some new email habits, this is a great place to start. Kick off your day by going through your messages, deleting junk, and marking priority follow-ups. Do the same before the day ends. Even if your more relaxed nature (I’m jealous!) keeps you from purging your inbox continuously throughout the day, these two checkpoints will help you make progress!

3. Don’t be afraid to delete. Yes, I know that the new Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon you received today has you all excited about buying some new sheets, but you probably have (at least) five other Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons already in your inbox — and you haven’t cashed in on any of them yet. Get real about what you’re actually going to use, and then delete the rest. Trust me: streamlining your email is going to be really good for your productivity and for your mental health overall… even if you end up doing a little less online bargain shopping.

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 2.55.19 PM

4. Use folders, labels, and color coding. I’m not even going to tell you how many folders and labels I use in Gmail. Let’s just say it’s a lot (what you see above is only a handful of them). If you didn’t know you can create these in Gmail (I’ve found that a lot of people don’t!), you can get an easy how-to here. My favorite thing about this system is that it allows you to label things while they’re still active in your inbox and when you archive them later on. PLUS, you can color code them, which I love (duh).

5. Figure out a different place to track follow-up items. Instead of letting emails linger in my inbox simply because I know I need to reply to them later on, I archive them (in the folders described above!) and note the day I want to follow up in my trusty Passion Planner. You could do the same in your to-do list app or Outlook calendar. You’ll be amazed by how much this helps with clutter.

6. Stop procrastinating and just reply. Even on a good day, I can still feel really overwhelmed by emails, and sometimes, I just want to cover my eyes and pretend there aren’t more coming in. We all know how this ends, though. It just makes the problem worse. I’ve learned over the years that replying to emails is pretty much the last thing I should procrastinate on. Getting back to people quickly allows me to clear out my inbox… and everyone appreciates when you make a habit to respond ASAP!

Do you have any other email tips you’d like to share? Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s a total freak about this.

: )

vacation values.

Friends! I missed you! I can’t believe it’s been more than a week since the last time I posted! That’s a new record, and I’m not sure I ever want to try to beat it : ) As nice as it was to be away, this blog is super near and dear to my heart, and I don’t like the way it feels to get too far away from it (even if other projects are set aside temporarily).

fullsizeoutput_8d3

First of all, let me just tell you how hard it was to keep last week’s vacation to myself! As you already know if you follow me on Instagram, I spent the holiday at a resort in Turks + Caicos with family, but since my sisters didn’t know that Matt and I would be joining them until the morning of our flight, I had to keep it totally under wraps. I’m not always the best at keeping secrets (even though I love a good surprise), but since the vacation was planned about a year ago to celebrate my sister’s recent high school graduation, we thought it would be fun to create a whole story about how Matt and I couldn’t get away from work and would have to miss it (adulting, amirite?). Typically, we’re not able to go on big vacations like this, but since the dates fell around the Fourth of July, Matt only had to take three days away from the office, and I was able to plan my schedule around it, too. The whole thing fell into place perfectly and we were able to be part of it, which was really special. We surprised my sisters at 7 AM Saturday morning in the gate at Newark airport wearing crazy patterned visors and pineapple-shaped sunglasses (I wish I had a photo, but I was too excited. Bad blogger, bad blogger!). From there, it was seven days of sun (too much), drinks (also too much), reading, and relaxing. And that water!

turks2

As I mentioned in my little out of office message, this trip was the first time since last September that I actually unplugged for more than a day with absolutely no work. I didn’t even bring my laptop with me! The WiFi at our resort ended up being really spotty, so I wouldn’t have been very productive even if I’d tried. Now that I’m back in the swing of things, though, I’m so happy that I decided to be proactive about setting that down time for myself. There’s so much value in taking a real vacation, and the past few days were an amazing reminder of that.

fullsizeoutput_8ce

Ever since I went out on my own and started working for myself, I’ve been harboring this (totally unfounded) guilt about taking real time off. Honestly, I’ve felt kind of undeserving and insecure about the whole thing. This isn’t a cue for anyone to jump in and tell me that I do deserve it or that I have been working super hard. It’s just a little dose of real talk that I’m ready to share with you more openly now that I know how wrong I was.

Managing vacation time is always going to be a challenge for me. I felt guilty about using my vacation days even when I was working for a huge company (where taking advantage of that time was part of a great culture of work/life balance), so it should come as no surprise that I haven’t been jumping at the idea now that I feel this additional pressure to perform and prove myself — and, quite frankly, to earn money! Now, more than ever, my time equates to a dollar value, and since I’m pretty competitive, I don’t like the feeling of walking away from hours I could be spending developing my own business. Even more than that, I like to be present. In my corporate life, I hated the idea of missing out on things at the office, or of my team realizing they could function without me. I prefer to be engaged, to be knee-deep in a million different things.

IMG_7350

BUT, here’s the thing. It’s just as important for me to be present in my personal life. I need to be engaged with my relationships and with myself. I need to be knee-deep in a good book, a great meal, a hilarious conversation. And while it’s impossible to be on vacation all the time, taking some real time away from work reminded me how good it feels to do those things. I prioritize my family and friends year-round (sometimes to the point where I’m totally exhausted), but taking some time for myself this past week helped me restore a little balance and made me feel like I actually can handle the many moving pieces I’m working with. Doesn’t it feel good to remember that you can actually do it?

fullsizeoutput_8cf

Everyone deserves a vacation. Whether you work for someone else, or for yourself, or for your kids as a kick-butt stay-at-home mom, you’ve earned it. I want to be the kind of person who can learn to see the value in time spent outside of the usual routine, the kind of person who doesn’t feel guilt about doing it.

Who’s with me????

out of the office.

Happy Fourth of July week, everyone!

Wishing you lots of celebrations with those you love the most — and (hopefully) at least a day or two away from your normal routine to kick back and enjoy the summer : )

As for me, I’ll be traveling with family for the rest of the week! (By the time you read this, I’ll have already been unplugged for two days eek!) It’s the first time I’ve taken “off” since I started this crazy freelance adventure back in September, and I can hardly say I’m not super psyched about it.

I’ll be back next week! xo

IMG_0075

monthly goals recap -> june + july.

June 2017 is officially in the books, people! And what a month it was over here! We spent so much quality time with family, celebrating seriously exciting milestones and accomplishments, and it felt like the best possible way to kick off the summer. I really do feel like a totally new person — a better version of myself — in the summertime. Summer forever!

I finished up this month feeling better about work, life, and everything in between than I have in a while. Without realizing it, I think I was in a bit of a mental fog for a lot of the spring, and that totally lifted in June. While I didn’t check off every goal on my list for the month, I made a lot of progress in big picture ways: working out a good schedule, making more time to be creative, pitching more stories. I call that a major success.

Here’s a recap of my June goals:

fullsizeoutput_8bc

  • Celebrate an amazing first wedding anniversary! √√√√√ YES! That’s a quintuple check right there. I won’t bore you with all the details again (I feel like I’ve been a bit of a broken record since we got back from Maine), but if you want a recap of how Matt and I celebrated, you can check it out here.
  • Successfully finish my big copyediting project. √ YES! If you could see me right now, I’d be doing a happy dance. I learned a lot from this project and I’m hoping to do more like it in the future, but because of some ongoing changes with the timeline for the assignment, the workload felt a little out of control near the end there, so I’m happy it’s behind me. In the week since I finished, I’m feeling such a difference in my schedule and the time it allows me to invest in more creative pitching and better writing.
  • Break into a new outlet. Not this month! I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed, but I got back into a better rhythm with pitching in June (I’d admittedly lost some steam there in the spring), and I’m feeling really good about that.
  • Continue research for rebooted book project and/or start outlining. √ YES! Guys. I’m so excited about how this is taking shape. I’m eating up the research process for this in a way that I’ve never experienced before. I feel like I’m drowning in things to learn and read about as I put this plot together, and I’m loving it.
  • Research writing classes and possible graduate programs. Definitely need to address this in July.
  • Read three books. I hit a reading slump (one of my least favorite things) in June. I finished The Light We Lost and Hillbilly Elegy (both of which I thought were good, not great), and started The Wangs vs. The World on Wednesday night.
  • Decide where we’re going for our fall vacation. We still haven’t finalized our plans, but we do know what factors we’re still waiting on to make that decision, so we’re not totally off track.

And now my goals for July! Next month, I’m hoping to keep up the momentum I had in June with bigger-picture projects and my focus outlets (which I keep note of in my planner) — and to check off a few more specific items, since that’s where I fell short over these last few weeks.

fullsizeoutput_8b9

I’ve spent time working on research for the book every. day. this week. This may seem like a small thing, but not to me! Investing time in this project daily is what I’ve been hoping to do from the beginning.

  • Finish book outline and start first chapter of book. Now that the copyediting gig is finished, I’m putting a lot more time into working on my book, and I’m excited to keep up that pace going into July (and beyond!).
  • Research writing classes and possible graduate programs. Moving this one over from June! I’m learning to beat myself up a little less when things like this don’t happen in my original timeframe, but this item, in particular, might be time-sensitive, so I don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.
  • Break into one new outlet. I have some prospects, and would love to make progress with one of them.
  • Get placement for a story that’s close to my heart. Last fall, I was introduced to a story that I feel super passionate about, and ever since, I’ve been relentlessly seeking the right home for it. It’s top priority for me to get it to the right editor before the summer is over.
  • Read three books. Duh.
  • Plan fall vacation. Hopefully, we’ll have answers to our outstanding vacation-related questions by the end of this month! Honestly, with all of my crazy planning tendencies, organizing a big trip like this makes me feel totally intimidated, but I’m excited to take on the challenge (with help, of course).

I blogged about this a few weeks ago, but I also want to prioritize enjoying the summer as much as I can! The last few months have been so wild and I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that most workplaces cut their employees a little slack in the summer months. It’s OK to give myself a break every once in a while, too, as weird and difficult as it might feel sometimes.

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