in it for the long haul.

Wow, what a week. If you could see me right now, I’d probably be doing a happy dance. Or sleeping. Either way, I would be celebrating the end of what feels like one of the craziest five-day stretches of the last few months. I have even more to celebrate today because we are heading home to Pennsylvania this afternoon for my sister’s high school graduation tonight… and I have another sister turning sixteen and getting her driving learner’s permit tomorrow. Life never stands still over here, and it couldn’t be more fun.

Lately, the whole rhythm of my work has been a little bit different, because I’ve been spending a lot of time on longer-term projects. Typically, I write a few articles on a shorter turnaround every week, with a handful of “bigger picture” pieces that I’m brainstorming, researching, and drafting simultaneously at any given time. I’m also always trying to grab time here and there to work on writing my book, which, as you all know, I accomplish to (seriously) varying levels of success.

These days, I’ve had to shift my focus a bit, because I’m also tackling a massive copyediting project. For a variety of reasons, the timeline went into overdrive a few weeks ago, and I’ve really had to pick up the pace so I can meet the deadline. In order to make that happen, I’ve had to shuffle my other priorities and put other things on the back burner. At the same time, I’m working hard at being more disciplined with my book writing process, which is a majorly long-term project in itself. Basically, the whole tone of my work has changed over the last few weeks, and it’s been an adjustment.

When I was working in corporate America, I worked almost entirely on a long-term project basis, so I’ve been trying to dust off some of those handy skills. One thing I’ve been missing as part of that process, though, is the teamwork element. When you’re working on the same thing day after day, only slowly chipping away at something that feels totally overwhelming, it’s nice to have a group of people around to help motivate you. Doing it on my own, I find that I’ve needed to put some systems in place that can keep me focused and visually remind me of the progress I’m making.

I’ve always loved the feeling of checking things off lists, and my experience working in sales has given me a forever fondness for what we used to lovingly refer to as “grids.” I’m bringing the grid concept into some of the long-term work I’ve been doing lately, and it’s been really helpful, especially since I’m more or less operating in a vacuum!

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I’ve been tracking my progress on the copyediting process chapter-by-chapter since the beginning, but it’s really been keeping me motivated in this last stretch. (For those of you who are fans of The Office and Parks and Rec, I also like to think that Michael Scott and Leslie Knope would be proud of this whiteboard action. Didn’t they both use “thermometer-style” drawings to keep track of things over the years?) I love the way it feels to fill in each block — so much that I think I may even be sad when it’s finished and there’s nothing left to fill in! (That might be an exaggeration, but, you know what I’m saying…)

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This week, I expanded this tool to help me stay on point with working on my book. As you may remember from my latest goals recap, I’m trying to work toward setting aside a few hours, two to three days week to do this (instead of a few minutes every day, which was sort of overwhelming me). I started creating these little time trackers and taping them into my Passion Planner, and I’ve already seen a major difference in just a week! (I know, I’m a total nerd. When I was in high school, I was the girl who carried a pad of graph paper and a pair of scissors to math class so that I could draw perfect graphs and tape them into my notebooks. Yeesh.)

Working on these bigger-scale projects all on my own has definitely been a challenge over the last few weeks, but I do feel like it’s been a good opportunity for me to figure out some new ways of managing this whole work-from-home thing. I’m definitely excited to keep up with my new time tracking habit when it comes to working on my book, and I have high hopes that it will help me pick up the momentum that I’ve so desperately needed.

How do you manage bigger-picture projects at work and home? I’d love to read your tips in the comments below!

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seventh month recap.

Happy Monday, friends! Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, I hope you got to enjoy some quality time with loved ones over the last week. Matt and I were traveling to see family for the weekend, but just like that, it’s back to the grind today! Saturday marked seven months since I left my job in corporate America, and since I was busy watching my sister’s college team kick butt on the lacrosse field, I’m sharing my monthly recap today instead (you can check out the last recap here).

Check out some of this month’s developments below. The spring weather (and blooms!) has really given me a new outlook on work, life, and everything in between. I’m loving it!

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  • I’ve been switching up my routine. Initially, I was more or less sticking to my old 9-to-5 schedule: get up and out of the apartment early, get to the gym, then switch into office mode for the rest of the day. In the last few weeks, I’ve sort of naturally changed things around, and I’m really liking the way it’s flowed. I’m still up and moving by 6:30 or 7 at the latest (I’ve always been an early riser, plus Matt is out the door by 6:30, so I’m usually awake, anyway!), but instead of getting right into my workout, I’ve been doing an intense hour-ish of work — and usually in bed. I know, I know… I was pretty high and mighty early on about “never working from bed,” but I find that if I can get the bulk of my administrative work and emails out of the way first thing, it gets my day started on a really productive foot, and if bringing my laptop under the blankets with me from 6:30 to 8 makes that easier, then why not? Lately, I’ve been getting to the gym for a workout (usually a run, since the Brooklyn Half is just a few weeks away!) sometime between 11 and 1, which is a nice way to break up the day.
  • I’m feeling healthy again. After the holiday season, I found myself in a bit of a rut with my exercise and nutrition. I was struggling to control my sweet tooth, having trouble finding ways to eat healthy during the day, and generally feeling icky about myself — and the lack of Vitamin D certainly didn’t help things. Over the last week or two, I’m finally starting to feel back on my game, and I think that changing up my schedule has had a lot to do with it. As much as I love to stick to one consistent ritual, I’m realizing that making small adjustments can totally change my outlook and state of mind.
  • I’ve started taking advantage of outdoor workspaces. I can definitely admit that this is a luxury of working from home, but I’m happy to say that in the first week of spring weather, I indulged in it — enthusiastically. Who knew that so many of the city’s outdoor spaces have WiFi? Over the years, I’ve struggled a lot to figure out if NYC is the right place for me, and I’ve been finding that when I have more opportunities to explore it in the fresh air, I feel a lot more at peace with being a New Yorker. Pretty soon it will probably be too hot to bring my laptop outside, so in the meantime, I’ll enjoy this fun little season of afternoons working on rooftops and in Bryant Park!
  • I’m having to say “no” to things. It’s hard to believe that seven months ago, I was practically begging for any gig I could get my hands on. I still have a long way to go in building out my writing career, but there have definitely been periods lately when I’ve had to force myself to politely turn down new projects, or press pause on hustling for new opportunities. It’s a delicate balance between stalling the growth of my business and letting things get too out of control, and figuring out that balance seems to be an ongoing process!
  • Money is finally feeling less stressful. My natural state is to be frugal, so I don’t think I’ll ever be totally comfortable financially, but seven months in, it feels like my income is now reliable (knock on wood, right?). In the beginning, I often thought to myself, “There’s no way I’ll be able to earn money like this again next month,” and I’m finally starting to believe that my work is paying off in the form of consistent paychecks. It’s important not to get complacent, but it does feel good to be able to take a deep breath and relax about money… and to treat myself to a new pair of shoes every once in a while : )

On to month eight! Thanks, as always, for being the best cheerleaders out there!

real talk #2

Last week, I wrote about a few of the things that I would call “keys to success” for work-from-homers. While I stand by those suggestions and credit them with the fact that I’m now almost six months into this journey and haven’t lost my mind (yet), my method is far from perfect, so I think it’s time for another round of Real Talk (you can check out the first one here!). You guys keep me honest, and as always, I want to be as transparent as possible about these transitions and experiences.

Matt and I spent this past weekend at the Jersey shore, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was feeling pretty burned out toward the end of last week, and even though I still had to work while we were away, the change of scenery couldn’t have come at a better time. Sometimes, all it takes to get back on track mentally is a day or two outside of your normal routine — and a walk on a cloudy beach or a few hours with a good book definitely doesn’t hurt, either.

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I’m so lucky to have this guy to help bring me back when I’m feeling down. 

I wish I could put my finger on exactly why I felt so stretched to my breaking point last week. After a weekend of traveling, I was trying to settle back into both my work and personal routines, and I just felt like I couldn’t keep up with what needed to get done. Then, as soon as I felt caught up, I realized that what I really wanted to be was ahead, and the frustration of not being ahead launched me into a whole other round of being annoyed with myself. And then, I would internally scold myself for not being more patient and not celebrating the strides that I was making. All of this ultimately led to me getting angry that I was scolding myself and not granting myself more grace… and you can totally see how this line of thought could drive a girl (especially a sleep-deprived one) crazy.

One thing you can really miss when you’re working from home is the voice of reason that often comes to you in the form of incredible office friends and co-workers. I hit plenty of low points back in my old job, too, but there was always someone in the next cubicle ready to talk me down and put a pin in the irrational cycle of thinking described above.

Most of the time, I enjoy being alone in my home office. I’ve always been inherently independent, and I find that I’m much more productive when I can be self-directed about my work. When things are status quo, this is all true, but when I’m talking myself into a pretty depressing corner (like I was last week), I really start to miss the tough love and listening ear of colleagues. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — working from home is not all easy, and it’s not all glamorous. The highs feel super high, but the lows are no fun. And that’s your Real Talk for the day : )

Luckily, as I start to rack up more projects, I’m able to surround myself with new contacts who are definitely feeling more like friends every day. I’m trying to learn to open up to these new people, and I’m also working harder at asking for help from my loved ones when I know I need their support to snap out of a freelance/work-from-home funk. Like I did this weekend, I need to allow myself to take a break from the daily routine so I can reset my attitude. A little self-care really does work wonders!

What do you do when you’re stuck in a cycle of negative self-talk? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

***Don’t forget to enter the February giveaway so you can win this beautiful blue necklace from The Shine Project!  All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post here. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Thursday! ***

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the work-from-home “should list”

I just got back from a weekend in Savanah, Georgia, where I had a chance to celebrate the bachelorette party of one of my closest friends! It was so fun to have lots of girl time, and Savannah also happens to be one of my favorite places in the world. I couldn’t be more honored to be part of this wedding!

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After a whirlwind weekend, it’s always a little stressful to settle back into my everyday work routine, especially since I’m trying to catch up on “life stuff,” too! Since this is a pretty typical challenge of working from home (I feel like I can both be unpacking and answering all of my e-mails at the same time!), I thought I’d share more today about what I think it takes to really be successful outside of a standard office. I get questions about this a lot, and although I’m definitely not an expert yet, I do have some thoughts about what you “should” do to get the most out of the experience. Here are some of the things I’ve learned in my first few months:

  • You should be motivated and self-directed. When I first started telling people that I was leaving my 9-to-5 job to work from home as a freelancer, the first reaction I got from many of them was, “I could never do that because I couldn’t force myself to get things done. But you probably can.” I’ve always been pretty proactive, which is a total necessity in my new life. If you’re not someone who’s driven to get things accomplished on or ahead of a schedule — even when no one is reminding you and there’s no official risk of being fired — working from home could definitely be a stretch for you.
  • You should understand your ideal work habits. It’s pretty amazing what you can learn about your work habits when you get to explore them outside of a traditional office environment. For the first few weeks after I went freelance, I tried out different things — working in lots of coffee shops, sitting in my home office all the time — until I had a feel for what would be most efficient and effective. In the end, I’ve found that I work best when I spend the first half of the day with my things spread out on my coffee table and the second half at my desk. I think you have to be open to figuring out how to make the most of your work-from-home routine.
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My typical morning work environment.

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And the typical afternoon!

  • You should be flexible. Every day is different, and even though I tried to set some rules for myself when I first started working from home, I’ve learned that I’m more productive when I allow myself to be a little less rigid. When I allow myself to lean into the different routines of each day, everything works better.
  • You should be able to be patient and forgiving with yourself. Since every day is different, there are definitely days when I get more accomplished than others. This was true in my old job, too, but I think I’m more aware of it now because I put added pressure on myself to really come through and be successful (and because now, if I’m not focusing 100% on work, I can read a book or run some errands instead of just messing around on the internet, which somehow feels like cheating the system!). I still have to remember to be kind to myself on those days, and I can’t allow myself to discredit the work I’m doing by being my own worst critic.
  • You should be prepared to develop some workaholic tendencies. When your home is your office and your office is your home, all of the lines that separate your professional life from your personal life get pretty blurry. In my former life in corporate America, I didn’t even get my work e-mail on my phone. These days, I’m constantly connected to my e-mail, and I’m usually sending messages first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to sleep.
  • You probably shouldn’t enjoy being in your bed too much. While I definitely wish I was a better sleeper, I’m honestly kind of relieved that I’m not someone who likes to snooze until 10 in the morning or lounge in bed all day. There are moments when I feel tempted to snuggle in a little longer, but if that was more of a habit, I think that working out of my home would prove a much bigger challenge.
  • You should feel really confident about what you’re doing. Other people aren’t always going to understand your job. In my experience, they may not buy into the “work from home lifestyle” or give a whole lot of credibility to your work simply because you don’t report in to an office every day. I’ve learned to let these comments roll off my back — but, admittedly, that’s easier on the days when I’m feeling extra confident about my work and how I choose to do it. It’s important not to allow negative attitudes to throw you off your game!

my would-be milestone (+the giveaway winner!)

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who entered the January giveaway! Based on a random drawing, this month’s winner is KAILA! Congratulations, Kaila! Please send me an e-mail with your mailing address, and I will have your bracelet in the mail by the end of the week. I’m so happy to be able to share my love for The Shine Project with all of my followers. Please be on the lookout for the February giveaway and don’t be shy about entering again!

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Five years ago today, I woke up at 5 AM in my bedroom at my parents’ house in Pennsylvania, put on a skirt and blazer (purchased on a J. Crew Factory shopping spree a few days earlier), and boarded a bus to New York City for my first day in the working world. Having finished up all the credits I needed for graduation a semester early, I’d moved out of my dorm room in Washington, D.C. before the holiday break still jobless, but with the help of a little sorority networking, I’d lined up an interview with my dream company in Manhattan in mid-January. Within a few days, I received the offer (confession: when I got the call, I was watching TV in bed in the afternoon and wearing my bathrobe), and on January 30, my professional life started. All of my friends were a few weeks into their final semester of college — most of them taking as few classes as possible — but my life had totally changed.

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I spent the weekend before my first day of work pretending that I hadn’t decided to graduate early.

At my company, milestones in five-year increments were kind of a big deal. If I’d stayed in my corporate gig, my boss probably would have sent an e-mail to the whole department today, congratulating me on my hard work and sharing a brief history of my time there. In response, I would have received a lot of “great job!” e-mails from my co-workers. It would have felt really, really good. As much as I love working for myself, you just don’t get e-mails like that when you’re out on your own. You just don’t.

I don’t regret my decision to leave my company and change course, but I can’t help but take a moment today to think about what that milestone would have felt like had I decided to stay.

I’m about to sound like such a millennial, but, whatever: five years is a long time. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who are still with the company that hired them today — five years after graduation. It just seems to be a rarity these days for people in their twenties. My former company, though, was the kind of place that inspired a lot of loyalty in its employees — one of my favorite things each year was to watch as people accepted their ten-, twenty-, thirty-, and forty-year milestone awards. It was pretty amazing! By the end of my first year, I had silently challenged myself to stick around for that long, too.

In the end, that wasn’t meant to be (as we all know), but I still feel lucky to have been part of an organization that modeled that kind of commitment and passion. I would have been proud to reach my five-year milestone today, and I’m proud of all of the amazing friends I made there who are reaching their own anniversaries this year.

Instead, I’m working on the couch alongside my mom, who is spending the morning with me before she heads to a meeting in Manhattan. We woke up and started working at 7 with the news on in the background, allowing us to keep up a steady commentary about the scary state of the world as we go about our business. When I feel like I need a break, I’ll go out and complete the first run of my half marathon training for this year, and then I’ll spend the afternoon getting ahead for the rest of the week, since I’ll be in Philadelphia for a project all day tomorrow.

My life is very different now than it would have been if I’d been celebrating that five-year anniversary today, but I’m not sure there’s ever an objectively “better” or “worse” choice in life. This is where I need and want to be at this stage, but I won’t pretend those four-plus years in corporate America didn’t bring incredible value to my career. I’m grateful for each and every chapter.

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gratitude diaries #5

It’s been a total whirlwind of a week. I spent about 24 hours in Pennsylvania yesterday, driving back and forth on our local highways to a few meetings and doctor’s appointments, trying to make time to stop at the occasional Starbucks to catch up on e-mails here and there. Needless to say, although I’ll definitely have some work to do this weekend, I’m so excited that it’s Friday. Matt and I are having a little staycation in honor of the holiday weekend, and I’m looking forward to catching up on sleep, finishing my book, and two date nights.

To help give myself one last boost to get me through the rest of the day, it seems like the perfect time for another Gratitude Diaries. It’s been way too long since I posted one of these (check out the last installment here). I’m going to try a more casual format today (did I mentioned how tired I am?). Here we go!

I’m grateful for this unseasonably warm weather. It was such a treat to walk outside today without my heavy coat, and even though it’s bound to be short-lived, I’m enjoying every second of it while it’s here. 

I’m grateful for my parents and for the way my relationships with them continue to change and evolve in my adult life. 

I’m grateful for my Origins Charcoal Mask for being a total lifesaver for my face after two days full of driving. 

I’m grateful that I found a (legal) parking spot close to the apartment last night so that I didn’t have too far to walk when I made it back to Brooklyn at 11 PM.

I’m grateful to Matt, who had fallen asleep on the couch last night but set an alarm on his phone so that he would be awake and ready to catch up with me as soon as I arrived.

I’m grateful for the Hamilton soundtrack, which kept me going in the last hour or so of my drive back to New York. There were cars quite literally drag racing around me on the highway, so I was in dire need of something to distract me.

I’m grateful for the many interesting people I’m meeting and getting to interact with in my writing life. 

I’m (really) grateful for chocolate cupcakes.

I’m grateful for my cozy little apartment, which I am alway so happy to come home to.

I’m grateful for the promise of a fun night eating Thai food and catching up with my girlfriends over buy-one-get-one-free cocktails. 

I’m grateful for the (slight) improvement I’ve been experiencing in my sleep cycle lately. 

I’m grateful for the ability to take my work on the road so that I can experience life and take care of myself without having to cut corners professionally.

I am grateful, grateful, grateful. 

Check out some of my favorite thoughts on gratitude from the fabulous Danielle LaPorte. Danielle’s incredibly inspiring, and her #Truthbombs rule.

 

What are you grateful for this week? Let me know in the comments below!

let’s talk lunch.

Happy Monday, everyone! I hit the ground running this morning, and I don’t know about you, but as of today, it feels like 2017 is officially in full motion.

It felt great getting back into my usual schedule last week, but on Friday, I realized that I’d been struggling with one aspect of my routine. By the time Matt got home from the office at the end of the week, ready to start our weekend together, I was feeling run-down, dizzy, and totally exhausted. As he is always such a rock star at doing, my husband immediately sat down with me on the couch to talk through things and try to figure out what was going on.

Real talk: As I’ve mentioned previously, body image has been a challenge for me for the better part of my life, and while I’ve managed to get to a pretty good place with all of it these days, every now and then, I realize that my eating habits have gotten a little weird. Working from home has been really beneficial and, generally speaking, I feel better than ever. Unfortunately, I realized last week that I had really not been taking good care of myself where daytime eating is concerned. After a good breakfast after the gym, I was mostly just grazing on small bites throughout the day. Because I tend to work out pretty intensely every morning, my body definitely needs better fuel than I was giving it. It should have come as no surprise that I wasn’t feeling so hot by Friday!

I’ve never been a big fan of lunch foods. As a kid, I didn’t like sandwiches or yogurts or any of the other things that the rest of my classmates packed regularly. On the weekends, I would pick at leftovers or other snacks. In the years since, I’ve gone through phases where I’ve been very unhealthy about lunch (in college, often eating nothing but an apple all day), very healthy about lunch (doing a full meal prep every Sunday while I was working and bringing in grilled chicken and veggies to eat), and everything in between. Because lunch isn’t my favorite meal, I just don’t usually crave a meal in the middle of the day, and since life got so busy around here before the holidays, I admittedly wasn’t paying very good attention to my body.

The way I felt this weekend was a good wake-up call, and with training for my next half marathon starting up in just a few weeks, I’m feeling extra motivated to get back on track. I was at Trader Joe’s this morning before it opened (in the freezing cold!), and I went out of my way to pick up a few extra things that looked good for lunch. Earlier today, I mixed up a big batch of this quinoa salad, and it was really delicious. I’m excited to have it on hand for the rest of the week.

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The ingredients to this salad are quinoa, sauteed baby spinach, edamame, cucumbers, chia seeds, salt, pepper, and a dash of parmesan cheese.

Do you have any other suggestions for healthy lunches? I’m willing to get back into the habit of setting time aside for weekly meal prep or daily cooking if it means I’ll feel better and more energized! I’d love to hear about some of your favorites.

As always, I appreciate your love and support! It’s not always easy talking about my challenges and stumbling blocks, and it feels great to know I have the support of this online community : )