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what i’m learning as i prepare to launch my podcast.

When I started freelancing, everything was a new project.

Basically, my whole life was a new project.

I had to figure out what time to get out of bed in the morning, how often to check my email, where in my apartment I could be most productive, how aggressive I could realistically be about approaching new editors and potential clients, and what times of day were best for me to get creative juices flowing.

I had to figure out how all the pieces of my new schedule and lifestyle were going to best fit together… and then I had to figure out how to implement that.

I’ve always been the kind of person who thrives on the idea of a good project, so — while all of this felt kind of overwhelming at times — it didn’t scare me. I liked the feeling of getting up every day (no later than 6:30, which was one of the things I figured out) ad consistently working toward the realization of something totally new and cool. Back then, that something was, well, my career. No biggie.

Thankfully, I figured out my career/life project within a year or so. While there are always new things to learn, I have the basics of my freelancing business more or less down to a science. There are schedules and workflows, more predictable rhythms to my weeks. And while the routine-loving part of my brain gets positively giddy thinking about this, I knew a few months ago that I was antsy for a new project.

I’ve been teasing a lot to my podcast over the last few weeks (check out my May goals post if you need proof!), so it should come as no surprise that it’s become my latest project. Starting from scratch on something new and different, learning about a brand new medium, and somehow figuring out how to adjust my schedule to accommodate all of the work that it requires — none of these processes have been simple, but I am getting so excited to share what I’ve been working on with the world (AKA you) very, very soon. In fact, I’ve decided that I’ll begin sharing pre-launch details of the podcast in just over a week, on Friday 5/25 (!!!!!!). I’m nervous and psyched and all of the other feelings you can imagine about putting all of this (and myself!) out there.

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With that in mind, I thought this might be a great opportunity to share some thoughts about what I’ve learned in the process of digging into this big, scary undertaking, in hopes it inspires you or gives you some perspective on any new projects you’ve been thinking of bringing to life!

  • I’ve learned that it’s important to enjoy the process of starting something new, even if it means that you need to build in extra time to make it all happen. I started actively working on the show in late February, and while I probably could have waited until April, giving myself extra time allowed me to feel more invested in every, single step. Plus, I didn’t have to rush as much.
  • I’ve learned that it’s important to share what you’re doing with the people in your life. While I haven’t released more details about the show here on the blog or on social media, a few family members and friends are in on it. It doesn’t always come naturally to me to talk about myself (I’m sure this is hard to believe coming from a blogger, but it’s true!), but bringing other people into the process has made it that much more exciting and made me all the more accountable.
  • I’ve learned that it’s OK to set other things aside temporarily so you can invest time and emotional energy into a passion project. I haven’t changed up my writing workload drastically, but I have had to give myself more grace than usual in terms of saying “no” to opportunities here and there and meeting deadlines instead of beating them.
  • I’ve learned that it’s a good sign when you can’t stop talking about a new venture. I’m so consumed with and excited about the podcast that I’ve had to apologize to Matt on more than one occasion for having so much to say about it, but he’s so happy to see me passionate about something that he doesn’t mind! When the people around you can sense that your time is being spent in the right place, you know you’re working in the right direction.
  • I’ve learned that it’s OK to invest in new projects — whether that be an investment of time, money, or energy. I talked a little bit about the mindset shifts I had about money recently in my last post, but those shifts happened long after I’d hit “buy” on my podcast microphone, headphones, and software. It was stressful to spend that money initially, but now that I’m in the thick of actually using all of those tools regularly and can see what they allow me to do, I have no regrets.
  • I’ve learned that even if you think you’ve overcome imposter syndromeit can creep back in any time you put yourself out there in a new way. And you know what? You just have to take a deep breath and get over it. (That’s what I’m trying to do, at least).

How do you approach new projects? What big ideas do you have brewing in your head that you want to bring to life? Tell me more in the comments below! 

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why i’m joining the wing.

In order to fill in the blanks in the title of this post, we need go back a few months — and we (well, just me, I guess) need to get pretty honest

I’ve never been that excited about leaving New York City. There, I said it.

I had moments when I first moved here right out of college when the city felt pretty miserable. I hated the subway and the crowds in midtown. I hated when people plowed me down, umbrella-first as they rushed along the sidewalk in the rain. I hated that it sometimes took me 30 minutes to travel less than a mile in a taxi late at night, a taxi that I knew I was only having to pay for because I had chosen to live in a place that I’d been made to believe was perpetually unsafe after 8 PM. I hated all of that.

When we moved to Brooklyn, I found my groove again. As a kid, I’d always dreamed of moving to New York, and finding our little niche here in Cobble Hill finally made me feel like I was the kind of city girl that I’d always wanted to be. Almost immediately, I felt more like myself, and even though I understood that there were realities of living in this city that would make it challenging to do it forever, I pretty much forgot about them.

Matt’s experience was the opposite of mine. He hadn’t grown up with aspirations of moving to a big city (he grew up in a neighborhood with woods and a stream and spent the vast majority of his free time on the soccer field or fly fishing), but when his job led him here, he embraced it pretty quickly. While I was sobbing over subway claustrophobia and stressing about my rent, he was living for New York. He loved the restaurants and the ability to walk everywhere, and since most of his friends moved here after graduation, he had a busy social life immediately. It’s only been in the last year that he’s expressed interest in leaving, and only in the last few months that it’s become a more serious conversation.

The idea of moving away started to get real back in October, when we spent two weeks traveling around northern California. Picking up and moving our lives across the country never seemed like a real option for us since so much of our community is here on the east coast, but our vacation definitely opened our eyes to the possibilities that could await us in other places. I could feel the difference in terms of quality life between New York and the Bay Area, and I found myself growing more receptive to Matt’s comments about life beyond Brooklyn.

Matt didn’t want to start seriously thinking about the move until March, so we kind of sat in that maybe-we-will-maybe-we-won’t mindset for a few months. I’m not great at being in limbo, so this was hard for me… but life basically resumed as normal. Fast forward to March of this year, when things became more challenging.

**Insert movie-style fast forward music here…**

Before I go any further, I want to make it very clear that Matt isn’t asking me to do anything I don’t want to do with this move. Ultimately, if I was fully committed to staying, we wouldn’t be leaving. I have a lot of mixed feelings about moving on from this amazing chapter of our lives, but I also understand that long-term, it’s going to be nearly impossible for us to live the kind of life we want to live here in New York City. It’s a hard reality to accept, but it’s reality. Honestly, I would rather choose to leave now, on our own terms, then a few years down the line when we realize too late that we’ve become uncomfortable in our own lives.

Here’s where it gets tricky: Because Matt’s job is more place-bound than mine, it’s naturally fallen to him to set the pace of this move, so there were days early on when it felt to me like he had all of the control and I had none. Honestly, there are days when I still feel like this, but I’ve learned that all of this is a lot easier to swallow when I realize that my husband is almost as powerless. The mindset needs to be that it’s us against the world — not Alli against Matt. I can express that clearly now, but it was pretty much an emotional roller coaster getting there. Just ask my girlfriends.

I’ve said since October that I was going to continue to live my life in New York as normally as possible, and that I wasn’t going to get too mentally tied up on when we’d pick up and move. For the most part, I think I did this successfully. I planned for the holidays and saw friends and continued to clean my apartment within an inch of its life. It felt like business as usual.

Where I struggled most to keep on keeping on was in my work. While I will be able to continue with most of my existing freelance work in a new city, there are some changes I’ve been wanting to make to my workload that I’m not comfortable making until we move. I’m excited about the chance to do a little professional pivoting and explore new opportunities, but I’m hesitant to do that now. I’d rather make all the transitions at one time. I started to feel really uncomfortable with my lack of control in a situation that was really affecting my work, and there were days that it made me resentful. Sometimes, it felt like I was just kind of standing still, like the only thing that was actually changing for me was that I was burying myself under more and more work.

One of my best friends started working for The Wing a few months ago, and from the beginning, I was fascinated by it. To quote the Web site, The Wing is a “co-working and community designed for women.” It now has three locations here in New York City and is already growing to other cities. Girl power, people. I went to a few events with friends there, but never really considered becoming a member myself, because I was so aware that my time in NYC was ticking. I borrowed some photos of the Brooklyn location from this article in Artnet News so you can see how lovely and inspiring it is.

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When I got back from the Ignite Your Soul Summit a few weeks ago, I was feeling ready to invest back into myself and my work, and I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I’ve always had a bit of a scarcity mentality around money, and I’ve been nervous to spend since I started freelancing, even though I’m now earning as much (sometimes more) as I was in my corporate job. Chris Harder, who spoke at the Summit, really inspired me to think about money in a different way, and to allow myself to celebrate my work by putting the resources I’ve earned back into the “system” so it can ultimately come back to me and empower me to do great things.

I happened to be meeting my friend for breakfast at The Wing the morning after I got back from the Summit, and as I was walking to the Brooklyn location, it hit me:

This is the thing I need to do.

It hit me again when I was sitting in the beautiful waterfront workspace, surrounded by brilliant, independent women doing interesting work and moving forward with their passion projects. It hit me again when the woman at the next table came over and asked me about my planner (you know how I feel about my planner). It hit me again when I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I returned to my home office later that day.

I talked it over with Matt and submitted my membership application the next morning. A few hours later, I learned that I’d been accepted. When we want to, we can work really fast over here.

To be totally fair, I wouldn’t have made the financial commitment to The Wing if they weren’t expanding, and if I didn’t think there might be a chance that I could transition my membership to another location when we do leave New York City. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a consideration. I’m happy to be investing in myself, but I’ve hardly thrown all caution to the wind.

In the meantime, I have a sneaky suspicion that making this decision for myself is going to be one of the best things I’ve done in the last year or so. Realizing that this kind of community is available for me — down the street, essentially — was a big wake-up call in a time when I’ve felt largely out of control. It’s empowered me to reengage with parts of my life that I’ve kept at arm’s length ever since we started talking about moving away. It’s reminded me that I have a lot to accomplish and create in this transition period, and that I have every right to accomplish it outside of the confines of the home office that I’m now realizing I outgrew a few months ago.

My first day as an official member is Tuesday, and I am literally counting the days until I can spend my time in the beautiful work space in the company of so many incredible women. Making this choice has totally changed my perspective on things, and I can’t wait to see how it serves me as I continue navigating big changes in work and life.

Basically, Wing, I’m really happy you exist. 

Happy weekend-ing, friends. More Wing cheerleading to come, I’m sure.

How do you cope when you’re feeling like you’re in a rut? Tell me in the comments below!

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6 thoughts on setting structured goals (even if you don’t have a planner like mine!).

love when bloggers write posts about the goals they’re setting and how they’re doing with achieving them. It’s some of my favorite blog content to read.

So I was pretty excited when I found out that people were excited about reading my goal posts : )

When I write my goal posts (check out the last two here and here) at the end of every month, my favorite planners — Passion Planner and PowerSheets — figure heavily into things, but the truth is that you don’t need to be a total stationery maniac like me to get in on the action. Since I’ve been getting so much good feedback about my goal posts recently, I thought I’d put together some more general thoughts on the process of setting regular goals like this that you can use whether you invest in structured planners like me or just want to start thinking about your approach to goals a little differently. Being deliberate about setting goals like this has been huge for me ever since I started working for myself, but I think everyone can benefit from being a little more intentional about breaking down their New Year’s resolutions or to-do lists so that things actually get done. Here are some thoughts that will hopefully get you inspired…

  • Write things down. I’m a big believer in the power of writing things down, so find a place that works for you — a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, a list on your phone, etc. — and just do it. I promise it will immediately make you feel more accountable. I wasn’t always totally addicted to planner systems like I am now. About four years ago, when I was still working in my corporate job, I got in the habit of writing out some goals for the year on a piece of printer paper and hanging it in my cubicle. The goals didn’t necessarily all have to do with work, but I knew that hanging them near my desk at the office would force me to keep them top of mind every day. I even found the Instagram evidence way back in my feed!
  • Pick a deadline. You see me posting about the goals I’m setting to achieve within a week, a year, or a month, but I put more specific deadlines on goals sometimes, too. In 2016, when I knew I needed to make a transition in my career, I decided that I needed to do it by my birthday. I drew a big star on the calendar on September 20 and worked backward so I had a plan to make that happen. Choose a significant date or an arbitrary one and write. it. down. Until a goal has a deadline or a schedule attached, it’s more like an idea. I love ideas, but they’re not always actionable.
  • Tell people about your goals. It doesn’t need to be a big, formal conversation, but letting the people in your life in on what you’re hoping to achieve is an added measure of accountability that will make it more difficult for you to make excuses. If your friends know that you have a certain goal in mind, they’ll be more likely to casually ask you about it at your next happy hour, which will motivate you to take baby steps toward achieving it. If you want to make yourself extra accountable, share some of your goals with your social media followers.

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  • Be realistic when planning over time. This is one I really struggle with, since I set specific monthly goals. As you’ve probably noticed if you follow my goal posts closely, I tend to create a pretty long list for myself every month… but since my schedule and responsibilities are different every month, that doesn’t always make a lot of sense. Give yourself “margin” (one of my favorite concepts from the Cultivate What Matters team) on your goals during more hectic periods. Just because you set (and achieved!) ten goals for yourself last month doesn’t mean you need to set ten — or eleven — goals for yourself next month. I’m going to try to follow my own advice here, too : )
  • Your goals don’t need to be super serious. I think that people get spooked at the idea of setting structured goals because they associate it with quotas at work, meeting financial milestones, and the like. These things are important, but not always “fun,” right? When I’m setting up my goals for the month, I include things like weekly date nights, places I want to check out in my neighborhood, friends I want to see, and days off. This makes the process more fun and ensures that I’m achieving a little more balance.
  • Don’t fear the rollover! When I don’t achieve a goal I’ve set within the original timeframe I determined for myself, I swallow my pride and simply move it over to the next timeframe. This can be especially hard when you’ve started sharing your goals with other people (no one likes to feel like they’re failing or behind schedule!), but it’s way more important for you to make them happen eventually than it is to be sneaky just so you can impress your family and friends. Just roll those goals over, friends.

Do you set structured goals? If so, I’d love to see your suggestions in the comments below! 

 

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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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on saying yes.

On Wednesday, we had a girls’ night at one of my new favorite events here in New York City — Changemaker Chats. I learned about this awesome organization from a sorority sister a few months ago, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few of the Chats since then. The Changemakers are active in eight cities, and if you have a chapter where you live, I would definitely recommend checking it out. Once a month, they bring a butt-kicking female leader, influencer, or entrepreneur to speak casually about her experiences in work and life, and it’s just a really cool opportunity to listen to a successful person share their insights. I absolutely love these events, and it’s been fun sharing it with my friends, too. Even my mom has gotten in on the fun! She took the bus in for just a few hours on Wednesday so she could join us for the Chat. This month’s event was hosted at HBO HQ, so there were obviously photos involved.

One of the best things about Changemaker Chats is that the conversations are off the record, which makes them all the more honest and comfortable. Because of this rule, I’m not going to share the details of Wednesday’s event (you’ll just have to come check out the next Chat to see what it’s about!), but the amazing speaker did get my wheels turning with one simple thing she said, and I wanted to tell you about it.

JUST SAY YES.

It’s a philosophy I’ve heard from several inspirational writers and speakers over the years (as a diehard Housewives and Bethenny Frankel fan, I devoured A Place of Yes when it came out a few years ago), and each time I’m reminded of it, I realize how important it is. It’s taken on a whole new meaning in the adventure I’ve been on this past year.

I’ve been pretty honest with you lately about the moments of doubt I’ve had, the growing pains I’ve been experiencing as a person working out on my own, and the many questions I’ve been asking myself about whether or not I’m using my time wisely and pursuing the right things. Last night’s words of wisdom felt like just the advice I needed, and I’m going to try to keep them front of mind as I move into my second year of writing.

Saying yes to opportunities that come my way instead of overthinking whether or not they’re the “right” opportunities. Saying yes to meeting new people and hearing what they have to say. Saying yes to sharing my story with people who are interested. Saying yes to jumping headfirst into whatever work is on my plate each day. Saying yes to meetings and coffee dates. Saying yes to new projects and opportunities, even if they feel overwhelming or out of my comfort zone. Saying yes, yes, YES. It’s an easy philosophy to remember, and one that I think is going to lead me in the right direction with my writing. And if it leads me to a wrong turn now and then, at least I’ll have tried a lot of things. Right?

JUST SAY YES.

It’s my new motto, an easy-to-remember little mantra.

Say YES to a great weekend, everyone. You all are awesome, and I can’t wait to see you back here next week : )

 

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eleven month recap.

This week, as I celebrate eleven months of writing and working for myself, I have to admit that my spirits are a little low — a serious contrast to how I was feeling last month. I think I speak for the vast majority of this country when I say that the events of these past few days have felt like nothing short of a punch to the stomach. I’ve been glued to the news since Saturday afternoon, and it all kind of seems like a bad dream in slow motion. It’s hard to believe that such hate is not only so deeply rooted in our society, but also that it continues to grow. I am disappointed — in people, in our leadership, in the fact that so many seem to have taken so few lessons from our history. If I’ve learned anything from the ways these events have unfolded, it’s that words matter. Hateful words matter and unsaid words matter. As humans, we have the right and the responsibility to communicate with one another, and when we don’t do that appropriately or respectfully, there are consequences — some serious. This week, let’s be intentional with our words and use our voices to be clear and kind. 

Jimmy Fallon can do no wrong in my eyes, but I especially appreciate what he had to say about what happened this weekend. Before I switch gears, I want to share this clip with you. If you haven’t watched it yet, I hope you take a minute to take it in now.

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Something I’ve been thinking about a lot this week as I try to focus on my to-do list in spite of the chaos around us is my work from home routine. It’s been a crazy summer for me personally, and as it winds down and I look ahead to calmer days, I’m excited to ease back into a more predictable, more consistent daily rhythm. As you know if you’ve been following the blog for a while, I’m constantly adjusting how I approach this whole work from home thing. It’s not a perfect science, and this lifestyle allows for so much flexibility that I feel it’s important to consistently look for opportunities to adapt my habits and optimize my time. Working from coffee shops was especially effective for me earlier in the summer, but it’s just not my preference right now. Spending the first hour of my day working from bed was a great way for me to build momentum a few months ago, but I’m trying to move away from that now.

When I think back on the things I’ve tried that are no longer working for me, I remind myself that making adjustments to the routine are not a sign of failure or of being “bad” at being my own boss! Part of working for myself is learning to motivate my team (ME… hah!) to do my best work. I’m learning new things about how to get the most out of this freelance lifestyle each and every day, and trust me — I am no closer to being an expert simply because I’ve been at it for eleven months now!

I was especially inspired this week by my friend Casey’s most recent post on The Intentionally Good Life (if you love images of beautiful food and amazing travel adventures, you should check out her Instagram feed, too!) Casey is a fellow freelancer and WFH-er, and in her latest blog, she shared some of her own notes on creating a work routine based on focus and intentionality. While some of her suggestions aren’t the perfect match for my personal situation, Casey has definitely motivated me to step back and reconsider my own habits, and I’m excited to move forward with a few changes inspired by her routine.

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  • I’m going to get more consistent with my wake-up time. While I’ve always been up and working by about 8:30 AM, my specific wake-up time has varied over the last few months — and since I’m usually awake by 6 with Matt, this inconsistency seems a little silly! Moving forward, I’ll be getting out of bed at 6:30 when Matt leaves for the office every day so I can get to work.
  • I’m going to put on my gym clothes as soon as I get out of bed. There are a lot of schools of thought across the working from home community about whether or not you should work in your pajamas. To be honest, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with doing this for a few hours in the morning (especially if it gets you working earlier!), and it’s been perfectly OK for me for the last few months. That being said, I’m going to reclaim one of the “rules” I set for myself when I first started freelancing and put on some “real clothes” right after I get up each morning.
  • I’m going to change up my morning work spot. love my home office, but I find that starting my day there often makes me feel isolated and un-focused. It’s a small room tucked in the back of our small apartment, and there’s just something about the energy of the space that doesn’t feel suited to the start of the day. Instead, I’ll be kicking off my workday with my materials spread out on the kitchen table, next to a big window that looks out onto the street.
  • I’m going to try to make my break times more consistent. I take one break from work every day to go to the gym (which is part of why I get started so early!), but for the last few months, the time at which I’ve done that has been really inconsistent. Assuming I don’t have calls or meetings, I’m now going to try going to the gym at roughly the same time daily.
  • I’m going to force myself to focus on one thing for certain increments of time. This is one of my favorite of Casey’s suggestions. In her blog post, she references listening to a podcast featuring a blogger/writer who said that he sets a 30-minute timer for himself when he’s feeling especially fidgety. For those 30 minutes, he’s only allowed to work on a single task — or, if he’s still struggling to focus, to think about that task. If I’m having trouble working on a particular assignment, I’ll typically just move on to something else. I can see how blocking out my time more intentionally will improve the quality of what I do, so I’m going to give that a try.

So excited to put these new habits to work in my own routine! Thanks so much for the inspiration, Casey!

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for all my ladies.

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Yesterday was a pretty incredible day to be a woman. Every time I checked my social media feeds, it seemed there were a hundred more amazing testaments to International Women’s Day — tributes to family members, inspirational quotes, photos of powerful female friendships, and articles (by women and men!) featuring amazing stories and reflections about ladies in our society. In the midst of so much political disagreement and tension, it was pretty amazing to see people in my life from all opinions and backgrounds agreeing on one fact: women are worth celebrating.

It was also a relief to see that the fundamental message of International Women’s Day wasn’t overshadowed by the controversy about this year’s Day Without A Woman protest, because I think if it had, the tone of the whole day may have turned more fundamentally negative. I run with a pretty outspoken crew of liberal lady bosses, and still, almost everyone I knew went about their usual business and went to work like it was any other Wednesday. It made me fall in love with these women all over again to see them making a statement with their presence instead of their absence. We all have so much to contribute to our workplaces and communities, and while I respect anyone who took part in the protest, it was inspiring the way so many people took the opportunity to lean in (cliche, I know).

I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the wonderful things I saw and read yesterday, and it fills me with so much hope in these weird times. I love seeing people come together for something positive — to celebrate all that’s already good and to speak constructively about how we can keep moving forward. I have my own serious concerns about how our current political administration is (or, really, isn’t) going to support women. It was hard to watch the first potential female presidency slip away, and it’s been even harder for many of us to wrestle with what comes next. But on days like yesterday, I remember that it doesn’t have to be so uncertain. When I see the grace, confidence, creativity, and intelligence that the women who surround me possess, I actually feel pretty certain that politics isn’t what’s important. We are what’s important.

I’m grateful for the confidence that’s been instilled in me by the incredible women in my family. A girl couldn’t ask for a stronger female tribe — my mom, stepmom, and grandmothers, in particular, push me to always do my best and (even more) to be myself. My four younger sisters inspire me every day — to set a good example, and also to be imperfect. And when it comes to friendship? I hit the jackpot. I wouldn’t want to figure out this life with anyone other than my incredible girlfriends.

My hope for all of you as we wind down from the excitement of International Women’s Day is that you can find grounding in your own support systems. When we have each other, we have it all, and we can do amazing things. Let’s get ’em, ladies!

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tuning out today.

This is me in 2009 at President Obama’s inauguration.

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Please try to ignore the poor photo quality and my hilarious outfit choice, and pay attention instead to how excited I look.

I was eighteen and a freshman at George Washington University. One of the reasons I’d decided to go to college in DC was because I knew I would have the chance to be part of the 2008 inauguration festivities. It made it all the more special that we got to celebrate Barack Obama, who so beautifully tapped into the imagination of me and my fellow students. I remember how cold it was that day. Under that hot pink coat, I probably had on three layers of sweatshirts, and even though I genuinely thought I looked adorable in that white hat, I really was wearing it to stay warm. We woke up when it was still dark and trekked to join the crowds coming from all directions, my new friends and I buzzing with excitement as we waited in line to get through security. It was the first time in my life that I truly felt like I was part of something bigger than myself, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve felt that way since. There was an incredible energy in the crowd, as if a huge weight had been lifted and everyone just wanted to dance. I’d felt great the previous November about my vote for Obama, but on that cold day in January, I knew I’d made the right decision, and I felt confident about what was ahead for our country.

Today, we’ll witness another inauguration. (I wrote briefly about my feelings regarding the election back in November.) For the past two months, I’ve been constantly engaged with the news. After placing my vote for Hillary and watching as Donald Trump secured a victory, I’ve felt a compulsive need to see what happens next, perhaps more than I ever have in my life. My choice for the rest of today, though, is to disengage. I will not be tuning in to watch the inauguration coverage. It’s important to be informed, but it’s equally important to know your mental and emotional limits. Most of the time, I believe that we should pay attention to milestone moments — even when we don’t agree with them — simply because they are history, but for me, part of the historic nature of today is my personal choice to take a break. I’m going to share this blog, send a few e-mails, stay off Facebook, spend the rest of the day outlining my book, and maybe even sneak a little trashy TV in there if I need it. I am protecting the magic of my experience back in 2009 and choosing not to engage in any additional negativity.

I shared this last week on Facebook, but I’m going to post it here today, as well:

When I was a freshman at GW, I voted for the first time in the gym of a Washington, DC public high school. My ballot was cast for Barack Obama. At the time, I was writing for the college newspaper, and on Election Night, I was assigned to cover a party at the RNC’s HQ at a fancy hotel downtown. I was entirely out of my league — and so excited. Like the rest of the country, I waited anxiously for the election’s results. When the networks declared Obama the winner, I quickly interviewed a few sad Republicans and took off for campus as fast as possible. I’d heard that my friends were meeting outside the White House to celebrate Obama’s victory, so I took off my heels and ran barefoot to Pennsylvania Avenue. I had never seen anything like it. I jumped and danced and screamed with people I didn’t know, totally overwhelmed by the sense of joy and hope around me. I wish I had photos from that night, but I don’t — I was too caught up in the excitement. As I watched our president’s farewell address last night — and again this morning — I was struck by how very blessed I feel to have come of age in Obama’s America. When I ran shoe-less to the White House back in 2008, I had *so* much to learn about “real life,” but eight years later, I know without a doubt that my faith in President Obama back then was the furthest thing from misplaced or naive. Regardless of your politics, I think that many of us can agree that the future feels scary right now, but I am infinitely grateful for this man and the standard he has set for his office. Thank you, Mr. President.

Times are weird, but we have each other. I appreciate that I’ve been able to witness such strong leadership, because it gives me hope for the future and for where we can go next. Let’s love, love, love. Always love.

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You’ve made me proud to be an American, President Obama. Thank you.

 

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four month recap.

I hope you all had a fantastic long weekend! A few months ago, Matt and I had talked about taking a little vacation over MLK weekend, but we decided instead to stick around in Brooklyn and treat ourselves to a few extra fun dates. My favorite parts of the staycation? A delicious brunch at Rucola — it’s two blocks from our apartment and I’m practically kicking myself that we haven’t checked it out sooner! — and a night out at the Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn. Maybe I’m just super behind the times on this whole concept, but it was by far the coolest movie-going experience of my life. Since I’m not very good at sitting in the same place for a long time, I don’t usually love going to the movie theater, but Alamo has a full menu (including meals, booze, and even milkshakes!) and full restaurant-style service, plus really comfy seats, so the whole thing feels more special. We saw Jackie, which had been on my list for a while (totally recommend!), but now that we have the Alamo on our radar, I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot more movies.

It’s now been over four months since I quit my job and became a freelancer. Honestly, where did the time go? I guess life seems to move a little faster around the holidays, but it still feels like it’s all happening so quickly.

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Usually, when I share my monthly recaps (check out my other recent installments here, here, and here), I have a long list of observations, but at the four-month mark, I really only have one major reflection:

I made it four months, and into 2017. 

When I first made the decision to totally redirect my plan back in September, Matt and I identified the start of the new year as a sort of “soft deadline” for figuring out whether or not it would make sense to keep going with freelancing. If 2017 came and I had yet to earn a single dollar as a writer or was feeling restless or defeated, we would need to reconsider our options. As supportive as my husband has been of what I’m doing, we both know how important it is to look out for our financial well-being, plus I am not the type to feel comfortable being 100% financially supported at this point in my life. Having just made a decision to leave a job that was causing me to feel depressed and anxious, I also didn’t want to set myself up to go down another long road of negative emotions if being a full-time writer wasn’t ultimately going to be the right fit for me.

The new year has come and gone, and we never had to have a conversation about whether or not I should start looking for another “real” job. Thanks to lots of hard work and a little luck, I picked up enough momentum in the fall that I can continue to pursue my writing — and, better yet, make a career of it. As I reflect on the four-month milestone, I’m incredibly humbled by the whole thing. There have been (and will continue to be, of course) moments where I’ve questioned my decisions, but as of now, we’re still going strong. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that four months feels pretty good. : )

My plan for these recap posts was to continue to share them monthly until either the six-month or one-year mark. What do you think? I’d love your input!

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a love letter to nyc.

This weekend, I played host to my sister Katie and her best friend, who were visiting Brooklyn for the day to celebrate Katie’s 18th (WHAT! when did that happen?) birthday. My family hasn’t had a chance to explore my neighborhood very much yet, so I love any opportunity I get to show them some of my favorite places. Matt and I took the girls to check out the amazing views at Brooklyn Bridge Park (plus Jane’s Carousel), we had (a very un-memorable) lunch (sorry, Katie) near the water, and then we hopped over to check out the indoor Brooklyn Flea Market, which is currently set-up in a super cool old building with a ceiling so beautiful that I couldn’t stop staring. We finished up the day with (in my opinion, anyway) the most delicious hot chocolate EVER from One Girl Cookies and a few hours of holiday-themed cooking shows in our apartment.

I had such a fun day with these two amazing girls, who are both in the middle of all of the senior-year-of-high-school craziness that is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Experiencing Brooklyn with them reminded me of all of my own visits to New York City when I was a teenager, and the way I was so dead-set on building a life here for myself one day. Sometimes, it’s still hard for me to believe that it actually happened. In other ways, my life is entirely different than what I expected, but I did manage to get (and stay) here, and that feels like a big accomplishment.

New York City gets a bad rap, and believe me — I get it. Most people who are visiting this town only get as far as Times Square and the theater district, and I have pretty negative feelings toward those areas myself. Add that to the widespread stereotype that New Yorkers are nasty (i.e. the woman who kicked me out of Panera a few months ago), and I don’t really blame other people for steering clear. What you learn when you live here yourself, though, is that everyone ends up with their own version of New York apart from the crowds and tourist attractions — and I have to say, I think my version is pretty great.

New York City — You’re not always easy to love, but maybe that’s what makes me love you a little harder. This is the only place where I know a life that’s all my own, and that life is one filled with incredible people, constant learning experiences, and delicious food. I’ve fallen in love so many times here — not just with Matt, but with the friends I’ve met who continue to make this place so special. I don’t know how long I’ll be a New Yorker — there are days when I wish I could just get out, and other days when I can’t imagine living anywhere else — but I promise to stop saying mean things about you. You’re pretty amazing. — AHK

With the end of the year coming, I’m obviously feeling a little extra reflective : ) So, to cap off my little tribute to NYC, scroll down for a few of my favorite pictures from my New York experience these past four-plus years. I had so much fun looking through old photos to pick these out, so thanks for bearing with me!

first-christmas
My first holiday season after moving to the city. Matt would take the bus in from PA to visit me.
roommates
I lived about as far east as you can get on this island (and about as far away from anything convenient) with these two.
maddie
Thank goodness for NYC for reuniting me with my journalism camp bestie. Seriously — thank goodness.
katie-and-matt
Nights were (and still are) the most fun with my two middle school loves.
first-brooklyn-half
Getting ready to run my first Brooklyn Half Marathon!
mom
I have so many amazing memories of exploring this city with my mom. Here we are with my favorite cupcakes at Molly’s in the West Village.
cat-neighbor
At my old apartment, we had a cat neighbor who would sit in the space between the wall and the open door and watch us come in and out. I thought it was the cutest thing ever.
fake-housewives
Sometimes, my fellow suburban transplant and I like to pretend we are housewives shopping for home goods back in PA.
engagement-night
The night we got engaged, right here in Brooklyn!
apartment
The night we signed the lease to our new apartment.
first-night-in-the-apartment
Our first night in Brooklyn! What you see on the counter is pretty much everything we had ready to move in at this point.
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Hosting my precious high school family for boozy brunch. Who says you can’t fit lots of people in a tiny NYC apartment?
wedding-dress
Trying on my wedding dress for the first time! Even as a little girl, I always imagined I’d buy my dress in New York.
me-and-mads
Another holiday season with one of my oldest and most special friends.
natural-habitat
At home, in my element.
brooklyn-half
The first (and possibly last) time I successfully convinced Matt to run the Brooklyn Half with me.
me-and-katie-wedding
This is NOT a cute photo of me, but my bestie was such a beautiful bride, and here we are together on her wedding day, in this weird little place we both call home. (Photo credit: Lauren Gibson Photography)
View More: http://bricibene.pass.us/kosik
A few of my beloved NYC girls squeezed into one photo. Always grateful to this city for my friendships, most of all. (Photo credit: Bri Cibene Photography)

 

 

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