working from home

the WFH challenges of the holiday season.

Happy Tuesday, friends! (This feels super weird to say because it’s a fact universally acknowledged that Tuesday is the unhappiest day of the week. But it’s the holiday season, so we’ve all gotta spread as much cheer as we can whenever possible, right?)

Tell me — do you notice anything different here today?

I should hope so! I spent some time over the weekend (when I wasn’t binge watching the most recent season of The Great British Baking Show, of course) installing a new look over here on Finding Plan A and generally moving some things around. What do you think!?!? I, for one, am super psyched about it! It’s really fun to get a jump on the new year with a fresh design and I’m feeling all kinds of energized about continuing to grow this little space with you in 2018. Thanks, as always, for your support! (Also, if you’re ever in the market for a new theme for your own WordPress, check out Bluchic. The prices are super reasonable and everything is fully customizable, plus user-friendly.)


Now that we’re done collectively fawning over the new look of the blog — you can continue to fawn if you’re not finished, of course — I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve been having recently about the particular challenges I’ve noticed about working from home during the holiday season. I’ll start with the disclaimer that I fully realize that working from home is, in many ways, a serious luxury. Having commuted in and out of a corporate office for five years, I totally feel your pain if you’re over there thinking to yourself, “This girl and her whining! She’s working out of her apartment!” I really do get it. All of that being said, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting about this whole self-employed-freelance-creative-working-from-home lifestyle lately… and you know that I can’t help but fill you in.

This time last year, I was very new to freelancing. If I’m being honest, I was spending most of my working hours chasing down work, and I could devote all the time I wanted to my few paying gigs because, well, there really weren’t many. Officially, I didn’t take “off” at all during the holiday season — but I wasn’t exactly overextended. I remember last year’s holiday as a time to really savor the fact that I’d taken the leap and embarked on a new journey. I wish I’d appreciated it for what it was: a time to rest and relax before real work picked up and I became a full-on freelancer who also had no choice but to become a bit of a workaholic. This year, I’m faced with a very different (but good) problem: when — and how — can I take some real time off to recharge before the new year?

If it sounds like I’m patting myself on the back, I might be (just a little). The holidays always stick out in my memory, so it’s easier than ever these days to think back to last year and realize how much has changed… and what all of that means for the progress I’ve made over the last twelve months.

There are, however, some unique challenges to working from home and working for myself at this time of year. Some are serious and some are a little silly, but I’m here to share them all with you today. Fellow WFH-ers, I know you feel my pain.

  • I miss all the fun holiday vibes! Working in an office in December felt a little like being back in elementary school, with gift exchanges and cookies being passed around and festive sweaters. Plus, we got to leave early once or twice for a holiday party. How great is that?
  • Our holiday decorations are admittedly a little distracting. As you know, we tend to go a little crazy around here with our seasonal decor (you can read/see all the details here), and sometimes I’m really tempted to spend more time than is appropriate just taking in the winter wonderland. I definitely allow myself to work in the living room more often than usual these days, but it’s hard to strike the right balance between my workspaces.
  • I can’t stop picking up pine needles. Here, my friends, is the downside to those beautiful holiday decorations that I was just gushing over. Our tree is pretty much shedding constantly, and neat freak that I am, I can’t help but try to retrieve every single pine needle I find on the floor. When you’re home all day, you just notice these things more! It’s driving me cuh-ray-zee.
  • Holiday snacks are ever-present. I’m usually pretty disciplined about staying out of the kitchen between meals while I’m working, but that’s way harder when there are delicious seasonal treats sitting right. on. the, counter. SOS.
  • I feel totally overwhelmed by work. The company I worked for before I became a freelancer was officially closed between Christmas and New Year’s, so there was a natural winding down process that started to happen in early December. Yes, there was plenty to be done before the holiday, but it also seemed like all of my colleagues and I could breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that business would have to come to a halt on December 25. That’s not what happens when you’re running your own business. If anything, I feel like I’m ramping up more than ever to ensure that all of my clients and other contacts are set to go before they leave the office for their own Christmas vacations.
  • It’s tempting to work on my other holiday to-dos. In the midst of the aforementioned overwhelm (ugh) it’s easy to consider just breaking away from my laptop and getting away from work for a bit by shopping for gifts, prepping for our upcoming Cookie Swap, or doing pretty much anything that feels both festive and even the tiniest bit productive. Also, there’s a TV full of Hallmark movies on demand mere steps from where I work. Temptation, thy name is fake snow and wholesome Christmas romances.

What do you find to be the most challenging thing about these pre-holiday weeks of work — whether you work from home or in a more traditional office? I’d love to hear how you manage those challenges in the comments below! 

 

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my first WFH sick day.

FIRST OF ALL, I want to say a big, fat thank you to each and every one of you who reached out with encouraging words about my very first podcast guest spot! AHHH! This was such a bucket list thing for me, and I’m so grateful to everyone who tuned in. And if you haven’t listened yet, you can check it out here (or you can find it as the most recent episode of the Day in the Life podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, etc.).

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I’m so grateful to my friend Brittney Lynn for giving me the opportunity to share my journey with freelance writing (so far, at least) on her show. Honestly, I was nervous to listen to it myself, but once I got over the fear of hearing my own voice for an hour-plus (eek!), it felt great to give myself permission to lean back and listen to my story. I’ve definitely learned a lot in the past year!

Anyway, what I really wanted to share with you today is what I can see now was actually a pretty major milestone in this seemingly never-ending transition to working from home. When it happened, I didn’t think much of it, but Matt immediately told me I should blog about it, so here I am. (And if you don’t think it’s interesting, you know who to blame!)

The week before Thanksgiving, I was totally off my game. My throat was sore, I had a headache, and (as always seems to happen when I’m sick), I was struggling to get consistent sleep. I just felt… crappy. And run down. And, if I’m being honest, maybe even a little sorry for myself. As great as it can be to work from home and to be my own boss, it’s been easy to build up a narrative in my head about how impossible it is for me to slow down or take a day off. If I don’t do it, no one will. Nothing will get done. Which is true! I’m a one-woman operation, so any day off for me is a day off for, well, everyone. Shop’s closed, people.

When I woke up that Thursday (I use the phrase “woke up” loosely here, because I only actually slept for an hour or so), the thought of working my full Bustle shift was totally overwhelming to me. I couldn’t imagine staring at my computer for that long. It felt like my brain wasn’t working, and even the smallest amount of light was hurting my eyes. And it wasn’t just my Bustle shift! There were plenty of other things that had to get done — interview prep and blog posts a few stories with a deadline. In order to accomplish all of those things and put in my time with Bustle, I would have needed to start working the moment I got out of bed at 6 AM. On a normal day, that would have been a non-issue for me. But on this particular Thursday, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I asked Matt what he thought I should do. I texted no less than four of my friends, asking them what they thought about my taking a sick day. I asked Matt what he thought I should do again. The thought of telling my Bustle editor that I couldn’t clock in that day made me feel sick in an entirely different way.

The whole scene reminded me of the first time I’d wrestled with the same question — to take a sick day or not to take a sick day? — when I was a newbie at my corporate job. Back then, I was living with my parents in Pennsylvania and commuting back and forth to New York (yes, that was about four hours on the bus every day), so I naturally consulted with my mom first. I had plenty of sick days to use, but I was afraid of how my boss would react if I actually took one. I didn’t even know how to word the email telling her I wouldn’t be showing up.

In the end, taking that first official sick day was just like (and I realize this is cliché) ripping off a band-aid — and when I finally swallowed my own pride and told my Bustle editor that I couldn’t work that shift two weeks ago, it was exactly the same thing. She wasn’t mad. I didn’t get fired. She just told me to feel better.

Being a freelancer is weird. I work for myself to the extent that I manage my own time, but I’m also accountable to a lot of people. And while there have been days in the last year or so that I’ve allowed myself to take it easy or to sleep in because I wasn’t feeling 100 percent, last Thursday was the first time I was in a position to ask for “permission” to be sick, largely because I work with Bustle on a per-hour — instead of a per-story — basis. It was interesting to be reminded of that feeling of clearing something with a boss.

I have zero regrets about taking that sick day. I took a Benadryl and got a few hours of sleep. I drank a lot of tea. I watched a lot of embarrassing TV. And the next time I talked to my Bustle editor, she didn’t even remember it had happened. It’s freeing to realize that these decisions aren’t quite as important as they can feel in the moment, don’t you think?

….AND don’t forget to enter this month’s giveaway! I know last week was a little crazy with Thanksgiving and family and travel, but the November prize is really awesome, so I don’t want you to miss out! This month, I’m giving away  TWO (yes, two) bracelets from The Shine Project — a white druzzy and a feather charm. Both are on gold chains and would look great paired or worn separately. All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner here on the blog this Friday 12/1, so get those entries in ASAP!

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healthy work-from-home habits.

When I put out my last call for questions that you’d like to see addressed here on the blog (you can still submit them here!), a few people asked me about how I’ve kept up a healthy eating and workout routine while working from home, and if my approach to it has changed at all since I left my former life in corporate America. Due to some recent circumstances, I’ve made a bunch of adjustments to what I was doing before — both a few months ago in my freelance life and a few years ago in my 9-to-5 life — so it seems like the perfect time to share what’s been working for me lately!

Some of you may know that I’ve been working through some more general health concerns over the last few weeks, a process that’s forced me to take stock of how I’ve been treating my body and what I can do to better serve it. I’ve been pretty passionate about nutrition and exercise since my early college days, but the (thankfully minor) bumps in the road I’ve encountered these past few months in terms of my health have been a welcome reminder that there are lots of ways to be “healthy.” Just because I think I’m doing all the right things to stay well and in shape doesn’t mean that those hard and fast rules work for my body. For many years, they did, but I’m learning to make adjustments and it’s actually been a really good thing.

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I’ve written previously here about both my chronic insomnia and my long-standing digestive issues, but what I haven’t shared is that I also deal with intense hives. Without allergy medicine every day, I will literally find myself covered in a hot, itchy rash 90 percent of the time. At one point, I thought it was simply sensitive skin or a harmless allergy, but as it grew worse earlier this year, I began to wonder if it was somehow connected to my sleep and stomach issues — and if all of these problems could be addressed with one magic solution. Over the summer, I met with an allergist and immunologist, who worked with me on a few tests that were ultimately inconclusive. I have some other doctors to see that will hopefully have more answers for me, but in the meantime, I’ve adopted some new habits at the recommendation of the immunologist, and they’ve definitely impacted my general health!

Our recent trip to California also forced me to take a step back and reconsider my health habits. I guess it’s pretty cliché for my New York self to come back from the west coast with a new lease on food and fitness, but what can I say? Call me cliché! In the three weeks since we’ve been back from our vacation, I’ve noticed some changes in my health philosophy. Combined with the changes suggested by the doctor, those mental shifts have felt really good, especially within the framework of my work-from-home life.

  • Sleep: You may already know that I’ve been dealing with insomnia for the better part of four years now, but one tiny little adjustment has made a big difference recently. Vitamin D! My autoimmune doctor suggested it and I’m so grateful. It’s just the generic drugstore kind, but one pill a day has been making it a lot easier for me to fall — and stay — asleep. Game changer!
  • Diet: Since my sophomore year in college, I’ve been managing chronic digestive issues that are still generally undiagnosed. Thanks to some changes in my diet, my belly problems have gotten mostly better, but our trip to California inspired me to test out some other dietary routines, and I’m so happy did! What I realized in California (warning: another total cliché coming up) is that I haven’t been placing enough emphasis on real, well-made foods. I’ve been focusing so much on what’s gluten-free that I’ve almost totally eliminated foods that can actually fuel me, turning instead to anything that had that “GF” label on the package. And guess what? A lot of those foods aren’t really that good for you! I realize how lucky I am not to have Celiac Disease (I took gluten out of my diet a few years ago — along with garlic and onion — when I experimented with the Low FODMAP diet, a process that really did cure most of my symptoms), and I thought it was time that I start bringing a few whole wheats back into rotation. I’m still sticking with gluten-free pastas and staying away from anything too gluten-y (I know it’s not a word), but I’m feeling much healthier since I said goodbye to gluten-free packaged snack foods and started allowing myself a fresh piece of bread here and there. I’m leaner and more energized, and I suspect that this change might also have helped my sleep. Garlic and onion are still my major triggers, so I won’t be bringing those back any time soon.
  • Exercise (and not exercise): For years and years, I’ve relied on exercise as the primary factor in my health. I viewed myself as a healthy person because I worked out six days a week, and I pretty much assumed that the rest would fall into place. Exercise is still really important to me, but when I last went to see my doctor, he schooled me on how much stress I put on myself when I go to the gym on just a few (or zero) hours of sleep. This is the kind of stress, he said, that causes hives and an intensification of my stomach pain, so I’ve tried to force myself to take more rest days — and I definitely don’t push myself toward a hardcore workout after a sleepless night. Instead, I’ll take a long walk outside mid-afternoon, which has the added benefit of clearing my head and getting this WFH-er into the outside world! I’m still going to the gym about five days a week, but I’m also looking for other opportunities to be active in different ways when I know it’s better for my body.
  • Meals: Figuring out my meal schedule — and resisting the urge to snack constantly from my all-too-available kitchen — has been an ongoing process since I started working from my home office, and lately, I think I’m in a good groove. Here are a few tips:
    • Make breakfast the night before. I prep my oatmeal every night before bed so that it’s ready and waiting for me when I wake up the next day. This way, I’m not tempted to creep (yes, creep) around my kitchen considering less healthy options, and I know right when I wake up that there’s a hearty, delicious meal on tap.
    • Maintain consistency. When it comes to breakfast and lunch, I pretty much eat the same thing (or a variation of the same thing) every day, at least for a few weeks at a time. It takes the guesswork out of planning my meals for the day and helps me avoid those bouts of hanger that will typically lead me to a handful or five of chocolate covered pretzels. I picked up this routine while working in a more traditional office, and it hasn’t failed me yet!
    • Take advantage of meal prep and leftovers. I love a good Meal Prep Sunday as much as the next girl, but we’re on the road so often on the weekends that I usually can’t swing it. Instead, I’ve been upping the quantities I’m cooking at dinnertime (especially salads or veggie side dishes) and packing them away for the next day.
    • Plan your snacks. I’m a grazer by nature, and no matter how hard I try to resist temptations, my fridge is always going to be just a few steps from where I’m working. Instead of driving myself crazy fighting off snack cravings, I plan ahead by buying snack foods that won’t make me feel sick or guilty, and budgeting time to eat them into my schedule.

If you’re still working on your health journey (or if you’re in the market for advice that’s way more expert than mine!), check out the Kickstarter campaign for my friend Meghan Meredith‘s Whole Body Fitness planner. I can attest to the fact that it’s an awesome product! It’s also really special to be able to support Meghan’s big dream, which has been such an investment in time and sweat equity for her. Check out Meghan’s recent guest post for a preview of what this resource is all about — then pledge your support on Kickstarter if you’re feeling inspired! 

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shoutout to my passion planner.

Dear Passion Planner,

Thank you for helping me get through this week. It was full of all kinds of ups and downs — some I expected, others I didn’t. 

You helped me stay focused and motivated in my new daily routine, despite the fact that I’ve really struggled to keep my head together and be creative in my work amid all the ugliness of our world these past few days. 

For the last eight months, you’ve indulged my crazy obsessive behavior, provided me with plenty of space to doodle and draw, and given me an excuse to invest in lots of colored pens. When I look through all of your pages, I see a full record of my first full year working out on my own, and that’s pretty cool. On the days when I wonder if I’m actually getting anything accomplished, you remind me that I’ve already made so much progress. 

Basically, Passion Planner, you are one of the better decisions I’ve made in the process of revamping my work and life over the past year, and you can consider me a true lifelong fan. 

Thanks! (No, seriously, thanks so much.)

Alli 

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Working on putting together my schedule for next week. 

For the record, this is not a sponsored post, and I am not a Passion Planner affiliate. I just really love this product, and I want to give it the credit it deserves. 

People often ask me what’s helped me be successful working from home, and my Passion Planner is easily one of my best secret weapons. But why should I keep it a secret? You can get your hands on one, too, and I totally think you should.

I’ve tried so many different planners and planning systems over the years, so why do I love this one so much? It gives me so much space. I use the classic size (instead of the compact), and it allows me to break down my day into hourly chunks. Since I make my own schedule, I find this really useful. I also love being able to get creative with all the white space! I keep a set of colored pens (I like Paper Mate Flair felt tips!) with me at all times, and noting my appointments, deadlines, and to-do lists in such a fun and colorful way makes the chaos seem a lot more approachable. If you’re someone who likes journaling and periodic goal-setting, the Passion Planner is especially perfect for you, because it prompts you to reflect on the progress you’re making both personally and professionally at the end of every month.

I wanted to let you all know that Passion Planner is currently running a Kickstarter for pre-orders on 2018 planners. There are tons of product options (including a new eco-friendly line), and for every planner sold during the campaign, Passion Planner will also plant a tree. What’s not to love about that? Inventory is often backordered later in the year, so if you’re interested in getting your hands on a Passion Planner for 2018, this is the right time to do it. I, for one, pre-ordered my Rose Gold Blossom planner earlier this week, and I can’t wait to get my paws on it in a few weeks when the Kickstarter is finished.

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Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have about how I use my Passion Planner. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I seriously love talking about it.

Are you pre-ordering your 2018 planner? I’d love to hear which one you picked in the comments below!

Have a great weekend, everyone! I’ll see you back here next week for the AUGUST GIVEAWAY!!!!!!

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tired + uninspired.

Yesterday was a weird one, guys.

It was also an exercise in flexibility and in being patient with myself when things don’t go to plan work-wise. So often, I share the positives of freelancing and being out on my own, so today, I thought I’d give you a peek into the days that are less straightforward, the kind of days that can make me play head games with myself if I’m not careful.

I barely slept on Wednesday night (as many of you know, sleeping — or not sleeping — is a recurring problem for me), so my day yesterday started on a very wrong, very tired foot. When Matt left for work at 6:30, I resisted the urge to try to fall back to sleep and instead started working right away. Since I was already up, I figured I would get an extra early start on my to-do list for the day, and then take a break later on if I needed it. Everything was going OK for a while. I knocked a lot of items off my list, and I was feeling pretty good — even if I was still super tired.

At the beginning of every week, I loosely plan out how I’m going to spend my time for the upcoming days, so I knew the plan for yesterday was to be as productive as possible on a few miscellaneous projects in the morning, leaving the afternoon open to work on writing the book. By the time I got to that afternoon portion, though, I was dragging.

When I opened up my work in progress and started trying to type out the next words, I was suddenly totally overwhelmed. My mind was entirely blank, which made me feel terrible about myself, only making me feel less inspired. I sat in front of my computer stuck in this vicious cycle for about 30 minutes.

When it became clear that staring at the screen was only making things worse, I considered my options. All of my other urgent work items had been taken care of, so I thought about parking myself on the couch, granting myself an official half day, and simply sleeping it off with some Hulu in the background. Then, I remembered that one of my goals for August is to avoid low quality “me time” — basically the textbook definition of binge watching.

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Instead, I gave myself permission to grab my book (I’m nearing the end of The Nix, which I would definitely recommend) and get comfy in my office chair. I left my laptop open in front of me so I could keep an eye on any urgent emails coming through, and started reading. If my problem was writer’s block and a lack of inspiration, getting lost in a good book seemed a totally worthy solution, even if it wasn’t part of my plan and even if it felt like a bit of an indulgence. I spent the rest of the afternoon that way, and it was (obviously) an infinitely more productive alternative to watching four episodes of the Kardashians.

Learning to give myself grace on days when I can’t simultaneously be the perfect boss and the perfect employee is an ongoing process, but I realize on days like yesterday that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I don’t need to be “on” or “off.” There are plenty of gray areas in between, and when I allow myself to exist in those areas, I make better use of my time than when I simply get discouraged and give up. And in my world — where words and creativity are the tools of the trade — spending the afternoon with a good book is the equivalent of spending an afternoon in meetings or workshops with upper-level management (and I know this because I spent five years in corporate America!), because it’s a dedicated period of learning and development. I’m a book lover, so I can’t pretend that it’s not also a treat, but remember — it doesn’t need to be all or nothing, one or the other. I’m working on figuring that out myself each and every day.

Happy weekending, friends. Wishing you lots of rest and inspiration!

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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.

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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.

: )

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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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