Sometimes you’re feeling your creativity flow, and other times it seems like all you can do is lay in bed and avoid your emails. As a 20-something graduate student who works in the advertising/PR industry, I can relate. And believe it or not, “more coffee” isn’t always the answer…(just most of the time).
The Caffeinated Californian logo features a lightning bolt for two reasons: (1) It’s a nod to that jolt of energy you get from caffeine, and (2) It evokes the feeling of inspiration. I want to energize and inspire my readers, not just from coffee advice, but also from a serious place of knowledge and creativity.
Also (3) I love David Bowie.
All that said, I’m excited to finally write this post, because I’ve been in a bit of a rut for the past couple weeks. Grad school is no joke, and when I’m buried underneath a pile of papers to write, it’s hard to spend time on my creative outlets. I was spending way too much time watching Gossip Girl on repeat and playing Diner Dash on my phone at 1 a.m. Seriously.
Finally, after a spontaneous road trip to Colorado and some free time to sleep for once, I got my mojo back, and I’m here to help you find yours. Let’s get to it!
1. Give yourself a break.
This morning, I slept in until 11, which always makes me feel like a useless blob, but I’ve learned that you can’t beat yourself up too much for listening to your body and doing what you need to do. Cut yourself some slack and accept that it’s okay to feel less than okay. If you spend your relaxation time feeling guilty about relaxing, it doesn’t help anything. Take a break, maybe even a whole day off. Perfectly okay.
2. Do something for someone else.
When your work is bogging you down, it’s time to stop and redirect your attention to someone or something else that deserves your focus. When was the last time you sent a thank you note (other than for a job interview or recommendation letter)? When was the last time you complimented a friend (other than on their Instagram post)? I’m guilty of focusing too much on my work and not enough on the people and causes I care about.
We all know the whole “What goes around, comes around” mantra, and we know that doing good things = feeling good about yourself. But I’m still amazed every time all over again how much of a difference it makes in my outlook on everything. When you know you’ve made a positive impact, it comes right back and makes a positive impact on your attitude.
3. Get your thoughts out of your head and into the physical world.
If you’re a writer, start drawing on a whiteboard or easel. If you’re a dancer, stop watching choreography videos on YouTube and start dancing in the studio. Whatever it takes to get ideas into the tangible, tactile world– even if you’re just doodling or striking a pose on the yoga mat. Studies have shown that getting off your computer and getting onto a notebook can make a huge difference. Sometimes, I even start my blog posts by jotting ideas in a notepad.
Side note: My favorite phrase in grad school is “studies have shown.” So vague, and so authoritative at the same time. Everyone just accepts it. It’s magical.
4. Give yourself a beauty treatment.
This one is a pretty typical piece of advice that I give out, and sounds like such a superficial, temporary solution. But this is not the time for making major lifestyle changes. This is a rut. And with ruts, the small steps are what matter. A manicure or facial, or even a ridiculously hot shower, are all things that seem doable when all you want to do is sit in bed.
5. Plan something fun.
As important as it is to live in the now, getting excited about something in the future can be a powerful way to jump-start your positive energy. The holidays are coming up, and it’s an ideal time for fun get-togethers or getaways. Plan a friendsgiving, or a birthday, or even a weekend vacation. Bonus: You’ll still feel like you did something productive!
6. Connect with someone who inspires you.
For me, it can be one of my professors, a past career mentor, or a trusted older friend. It could be someone you know, or someone you found on LinkedIn. Reaching out can feel kinda scary, but it’s so incredibly worth it when you get crazy good advice. You’ll also be surprised how willing (and even excited) people are to offer their perspective.
I spent today sitting in my living room in my sweats and searching for potential people to reach out for career advice. But guess what? I was networking. Who else can say they were networking on a Friday afternoon with Gossip Girl on in the background?
7. Learn something new.
We live in the age of Google and YouTube, where you can develop basically any new skill you want from the comfort of your bed. This is particularly useful when you’re feeling like a slug and don’t have the motivation to get out of bed. Google Analytics, for example, offers free certifications. Obviously this is on the nerd side, which isn’t everyone’s style, so yoga classes and cooking recipes count too. It can be a beauty tutorial, for all I care. Life skills, people!
8. Create a “smile file” for a self-boost.
I picked up on this tip when I interned at a big PR agency and got overly stressed out every day. Sometimes you feel like you fail ten times a day, and during those times, it’s hard not to feel like you’re doing the wrong thing or you’re in the wrong city or have the wrong career. During these times, you need reminders that you’re killing it, and this is where a smile file is handy: Keep a file on your laptop or in your email (or even a physical folder) with things you’re proud of. Maybe it’s an email from your supervisor telling you that you did a good job on something. It can be a project you enjoyed, a huge challenge you overcame, positive feedback from a customer, or anything else that makes you feel great.
9. Make a vision board or gallery wall.
I don’t mean on Pinterest. I mean go to Target, get a corkboard and some magazines, and go to town. You might be in a rut because you’re having trouble visualizing a lifestyle that inspires you. Or, if you have a creative project you’ve been struggling with (for me, it’s my master’s thesis), make a vision board specifically for that project. Putting together images that inspire you can help you see for yourself what direction to take.
10. Go outside.
The simple action of leaving your apartment can work wonders. A five-minute walk around your neighborhood, a park, the mall, or your college campus might make a world of difference in helping you feel refreshed and motivated. Even if it’s just a coffee run. One small step for Starbucks, one giant leap for your creative well-being.
What do you do when you’re feeling stuck? Let me know if you have any tricks or tips!
Whenever someone asks me, “What inspires you?” I tell them literally everything. Which isn’t super helpful, I realize, but here’s the trick: I look for inspiration in the daily, everyday moments that would normally go unnoticed.
Of course, it’s obviously important to seek out new experiences. I love a good Lollapalooza weekend, or a hike in the Grand Canyon. But you don’t always need a life-changing adventure. Sometimes, nothing sparks the mind like a five-minute walk. Or an ice cream flavor. Or the country music coming from the bar next door. The packaging of a makeup product. The mall. The gym. The bubbles in your bath…or your champagne! When you keep your eyes open to the ordinary, the ordinary suddenly becomes the extraordinary. And there’s your inspiration.
When you keep your eyes open to the ordinary, the ordinary suddenly becomes the extraordinary. And there’s your inspiration.
To get you started on finding your extraordinary in the ordinary, I’ve listed a whopping 100 sources of inspiration you can probably find across the street or even your own room. Now you have no excuses. Deep breath, here we go:
100 Places to Find Everyday Inspo
A new neighborhood
Dreams (day or night)
Rom coms (with life lessons of course)
Full Kanye West albums
Full Beatles albums
Full Pink Floyd albums
Full Daft Punk albums
The weird part of YouTube
Reading the entire Harry Potter series from the beginning as an adult
Listening to a new music genre
A walk around the block
The Food Network
The fancy stationery store
Bath and Body Works
Free People catalogues
Netflix musicals (try Chicago, personal fave)
Community theater musicals
High School Musical
The bathtub…anywhere with water is good
Champagne. IN the bathtub. Double whammy. You’ll be writing novels in no time.
A frat party
Pizza. Pizza is always inspirational.
Donuts. See above rationale for pizza.
A blank canvas
Whatever new Urban Decay Naked palette is out
Pottery Barn catalogues
A blank notebook
Canned soup (hey, it worked for Warhol)
A new shade of lipstick
Lightning bolts (the inspo for my logo)!
Old books in general (Tip: Visit one of those tiny bookstores with vintage books.)
The self-help section of Barnes and Noble
The classics section, if feeling ambitious
Driving along the coast
Driving through cornfields, if in Midwest and cannot access coast
24 hour diners
Whew! So much inspiration, so little time…better get cracking and start appreciating your Walmart!
It’s never too early to start your dream career, especially when it’s a tough industry like fashion. The problem is, you have the catch-22 of getting entry-level experience: To get experience, you need experience. So how do you go about getting your first job or internship when you don’t have a previous experience? WHAT IS THIS CONSPIRACY??
What they don’t tell you is that you do have previous experience. Maybe it’s not an internship, but by the time you’re in college looking for internships, you’ve got plenty of valuable stuff under your belt, from school to extracurricular activities, to your personal passions and interests. The trick is packaging. Yup, packaging. It’s all in the presentation.
After lots of trial and error and Internet research, I was able to spin what little experience I had into resume gold. I turned my after-school retail job and my one year of college education into the first internship of my dreams at Note To You Little Sister (NTYLS), a San Diego-based online fashion retailer with killer clothes and an amazing brand story.
Here’s how I did it:
The internship search
Finding your passions and shooting for the moon and all that
It’s a rough time applying to summer internships as a sophomore. You’re competing with people who have eons of experience ahead of you. But I was both stubborn and stupid, which isn’t a bad combination when it comes to the gutsy experience of going for jobs way beyond your reach. Because guess what? You’ll get rejected, but you never know where you’ll get accepted. I applied to PR agencies that would probably not even give a junior in college the time of day, but what did I know? I just kept trying.
Tip: Start with what you’re naturally interested in, and go from there. Make a list of everything you want to apply to, even if you don’t think you’re qualified yet.
I knew I wanted to work in fashion, so I applied to big fashion brands like Free People, Nordstrom, and also smaller boutiques that I found on Instagram and just Google. I made a spreadsheet of all my dream jobs and internships, from ones I thought I had a reasonable chance with, to ones I had no business applying to. And I ended up landing one of the internships I thought I had no business applying to. You are not wasting your time if you really care about the places you apply to.
Standing out both visually and verbally
Knowing I had to stand out even more as a sophomore, and because I was applying to a creative industry, I designed my resume with some flair. I used Canva to create a gorgeous, personalized resume that was so unbelievably extra I couldn’t even believe what I had done. But guess what? BEING EXTRA WORKS. Job searches are the time to be extra, ladies and gentlemen.
(Are there any gentlemen reading my blog? I have no idea, to be super honest.)
Then, I had to make the content sing. Since I was focusing on fashion jobs, I focused my experience on fashion. My first job was at a local clothing store, so that was great, but I also had to connect my jobs as a cashier at the campus bookstore, a ride operator at Legoland, and a writing tutor. Not as easy. Yet there are so many ways to make connections– for example, with the writing tutor position, I described how I build relationships with each unique individual that comes in for tutoring, and connected that with managing client relationships in PR.
Tip: Think about how your experiences can directly apply to the job you want, even if it doesn’t seem applicable at first.
At your first job in Hollister (or Taco Bell, or wherever), you may think that all you did was fold clothes and operate a cash register. But there’s more to it, so don’t sell yourself short. You have experience working with customers. You worked on a team. You addressed problems and handled challenges that came up.
The cover letter
Being direct and being different
How many cover letters in fashion do you think have the phrase, “I have a passion for fashion”? I would literally guess that 90% of them. And the people in charge are tired of it. They’re also tired of cover letters that aren’t personalized.
Tip: Cookie cutters are for cookies, not cover letters.
When sending out applications and emails, I always, ALWAYS started with a personal connection to the company, and then made everything I talked about directly relate to what I could do for that company. NTYLS was founded by sisters, and operates with the mission of offering sisterly advice and hand-picked clothes. When applying, I told the founders that I related because my own sister and I steal each other’s clothes, and I genuinely loved what they were all about.
Fake it ’till you make it (in a good way)
Don’t have professional work samples yet? Make them up. I don’t mean lie– I mean impress the company you’re interviewing for with work samples that you created on your own as if you already worked there. For example, when I applied to places like Nordstrom and Free People, I sent a press release announcing Nordstrom’s new fall boot looks, with actual photos and links to shoes they carried. For FP, I wrote a pitch as if I were pitching Free People products for a holiday gift guide to an editor at Refinery29. And for NTYLS, the job I got, I wrote copy for an advice column I saw on their website. The devil is in the details, and you can show the company that you did your research.
Tip: Use your resources to look as professional and polished as possible.
I didn’t have enough school training yet to know exactly how to write a press release or a good pitch, but thankfully Google exists and you can learn a thing or two yourself! Be confident that you are capable of more than you know!
Show up prepared. In fact, overprepared.
I don’t actually think it’s possible to be overprepared for an interview. Beyond the typical answers to interview questions like “Tell me your greatest accomplishment” and “What do you think makes you different from other candidates?” I came in armed with knowledge of everything there was to know about fashion and NTYLS.
I made a list of fashion industry trends and my favorite bloggers, and scoured the NTYLS website and social media to prove I understood the company and meant business. During the interview, I referred to specific things, like a kimono I saw for sale on the site or an Instagram post. My interviewer let me know later that very day that I was hired.
Remember that you should have all the confidence in the world. After all, if you’re applying to internships early in the game, you’re already proving that you can think one (or two) steps ahead.
Coming up next, I’ll post about my experience in the fashion world, and how I eventually made the move to beauty!
I have this theory: If you have something to say, it should be easy to say it.
How many of you have found yourself staring at a blank Word document page with an equally blank brain? If you tell me you’ve never typed your name and spent the next 30 minutes online shopping, I’d like to know your secret.
Why does this happen? When we sit down to write, we have work to do. Maybe it’s a press release or a pitch, for us PR peeps. Maybe it’s a research paper. Maybe it’s a blog post. Maybe it’s even just a thank-you note or a text. Worst of all: an Instagram caption.
Those really are the worst.
Here’s the thing. We all have a job to do and something to say. So I think writer’s block is totally made up. Just like most of everything else in our heads, writer’s block is a mentality that you can change, whether you’re writing a novel, cover letter, skywriting, or the dreaded Instagram caption that just won’t pop into your head like it should.
5 Steps to Overcoming Writer’s Block, Which Is Completely In Your Head
- Get your facts first. If you’re writing a research report, do the actual research. If you’re pitching a product, write down the product details. Before you even dive into the daunting blank page, you’ll be armed with the info.
- Figure out what you actually want to say by making an outline. I know this seems obvious, but it isn’t. It’s so tempting to jump right in and go bombs away banging on the keyboard, and if that works for you, great. If not, you need a road map. Make bullet points of the ideas you have, and try using a regular pen and paper– writing things by hand can make it more real and less terrifying.
- Step away from the situation. Take a lap around the library or go on a Starbucks run– the fresh air, physical activity, and caffeine do wonders for your perspective. When you take time off from something, you come back with a clearer head. THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU GET TO PROCRASTINATE. I say this because I use “clearing my head” as an excuse to get margaritas with my friends.
- Draw inspiration from unexpected places. Go ahead and go on Spotify, but let it be your source of inspiration. Read The New Yorker. Watch a football game. Just don’t watch Netflix. It’s a trap.
- Find your confidence. Start small, do things in chunks, and don’t worry about whether you’re writing complete crudballs. Easier said than done, but how are you supposed to write anything if you’re always worried about it being good? Accept that you aren’t perfect, and then it will be easier to be great.
Again for emphasis:
Accept that you aren’t perfect, and then it will be easier to be great.
We’ve all got dreams about where we want to be. For some, it’s the beach. For others, it’s In-N-Out (me, 90% of the year when I’m away at school in Missouri). And for so many, it’s working in the fashion and beauty industry. Which happens to be one of the hardest, most competitive fields to be in.
Many people ask me how I ended up doing PR for fashion and beauty retailers. The simple answer to give is that if you’re passionate enough about something, the rest follows. I’ve always been inspired by fashion retailers, magazines and bloggers, and I was naturally doing my thing following online fashion retailers when I discovered NTYLS. They just happened to be hiring for a Marketing Communications Intern. I just happened to love their style and their story. And the founders just happened to love my style and story when we met over coffee.
But that’s not the whole way it happens. Yes, I got totally lucky, but if I hadn’t been actively searching for places to draw inspiration from, and if I hadn’t put myself out there, and if I hadn’t spent a thousand hours working hard on my writing and marketing skills, there’s no way I would’ve gotten my first fashion gig. And there’s no way that gig would have led to my next gig at Ulta Beauty, my big break in the beauty industry, or Ketchum, my big break in the agency side of PR.
Landing your dream job in the place you’re passionate about is completely possible, even probable. But the pieces of your puzzle won’t fall into place unless you get the pieces first. Here are my pointers for working hard and sending good vibes to the universe:
- Be genuine. Before I was hired at Ulta Beauty, one of my interviewers asked me who my favorite beauty bloggers were, and what my favorite makeup brands were (of course I said the Urban Decay Naked Palette, like the majority of girls in the United States). If you really do care about the industry, you’ll have no problem being enthusiastic and knowledgeable. And your employers will see it.
- Search for opportunities, and make doors open even if they look closed. An amazing job isn’t going to drop into your lap one day while you’re eating your In-N-Out burger, unless you look like a model and a scout discovers you, in which case, can I switch lives with you for a year before I go back to eating In-N-Out? If you’re a normal person, you’re going to need to dig, dig, dig for opportunities. Make a list of places you’d love to work for. Keep an eye out for openings, or even reach out and pitch your talent to them. You never know when someone might need you. When I got the Ulta internship, it’s because my eyes were open and I saw the LinkedIn job posting, not because a recruiter plucked me from obscurity.
- Work, work, work, work, work. Says Rihanna. Listen to her. Yes, it should be fun pursuing your passion, but it also comes with developing serious skills. The most successful people spend a lot of their free time doing the hustle instead of watching Netflix, and the people who say you’re too obsessed with your career are the people who are in disbelief when you end up landing your dream. Practice, practice, practice, and you’ll find yourself rising above everyone else who just does their required work and calls it a day.
- Find a support system. I would not be blogging about reaching my dream career if I wasn’t surrounded by friends and family who are 110% behind me and my craziness. My boyfriend, bless his heart, knows to expect my frantic phone calls about things he knows nothing about (such as the Urban Decay Naked Palette). And he knows how important it is that I do what it takes to make things happen. Nothing can replace that, and you need it.
- Figure out what sets you apart. What are you good at, that other people aren’t? For me, it’s being able to learn a lot of info in a little bit of time. Or walking into a room and getting along with just about any stranger there. Or putting myself into anyone’s shoes so I can write from their perspective. These things are hard for many people, and I use it to my advantage when seeking out opportunities. Find your unique strengths, write them down somewhere, remember them when you write cover letters, go to interviews, or go to the office.
- Always send positive energy. Attitude is everything, and when you’re going for a competitive field, so many people want your spot that nobody with a negative attitude ever makes it. When you love the universe, the universe loves you right back. It’s a simple concept that everyone knows, but not everyone can practice.
We Millennials get a lot of smack for talking about “self-care” and its importance, while spending money on face masks, Netflix, yoga, crystals and candles that will promise to heal our souls. This NPR post recently described the Internet obsession with self-care, with increased Google searches in the past year.
I say, bravo. Because not only has the self-care trend increased the understanding of mental health, but it also gives us permission to take time for self awareness and happiness (not that we should even need it in the first place). In a world where we’re constantly under pressure to work our butts off while looking perfect on social media, we feel guilty for putting our lives on pause to watch TV at home and eat Chinese takeout, when it’s a super normal thing to do. We feel ashamed for doing something selfish, doing something that makes us happy. Why are we so upset over doing what makes us happy?! Since when is it a bad thing to do what we want?
Unfortunately, the flip side of a trend is that there are a lot of BS self-care tips and products out there, so it’s important to understand how to apply it to your life without getting duped into thinking a magical(ly expensive) body oil will do the trick. After lots of research, experimentation, and digging through my Instagram feed to figure out the difference between brands that actually care and products that have nothing to do with my well-being, I came up with my own version of no-BS self-care tips:
Self-care can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.
Practicing self-care doesn’t necessarily mean doing yoga every ten minutes and eating spinach for every meal. You don’t have to adopt a whole new lifestyle– but you can, if that’s what you need.
Try new things to see what works.
It might take some trial and error to understand what you benefit from. Going to a concert or getting drinks with a big group would definitely count as self-care if you’re extroverted and you need more of those times in your life. If you’re more on the introverted side, maybe you need to try spending an extra hour on yourself. If you’re active, a new fun workout class could be it. If you’re a workaholic like me and want a way to relax “productively,” watch Ted Talks or listen to podcasts.
Or maybe none of these help and what you really need are cupcakes. Point is, you won’t know until you try it. Good excuse to eat cupcakes.
There’s a difference between indulging and over-indulging.
“Self-care” doesn’t equal “not doing my dishes.” Even if you think math problems are detrimental to your mental health, your algebra professor will probably not enjoy “I was practicing self-care!” as an explanation for “I didn’t do the homework assignment.” Self-care habits should be productive to your mindset, instead of an excuse for procrastinating on things you just don’t want to do. **ALSO: Self-care is not a replacement for seeking professional help if you need it!**
Don’t get marketed to.
Speaking as a PR professional, I totally get why brands are jumping on the health/wellness/self-care trend…if they’re relevant and could actually help someone. But I don’t believe in trying to make a buck off someone’s well-being if you’re just trying to get Instagram likes and not being truly beneficial. Think before buying the overpriced oil. Is it your thing? Does it fulfill a need? Does the brand seem like it actually cares? Don’t let self-care lose its meaning by buying into an ideal, as this article reminds us.
When it comes to spending money, though, don’t be afraid to spend a little on yourself.
Buy yourself flowers for once. Or Lollapalooza tickets, in my case.
Make it personalized.
Don’t just take self-care tips at face value from BuzzFeed, or even this post. What might make some people happy might not work for others, and you need to try different things before you see what’s best for you. I personally have no use for “be one with nature” during allergy season, but “try yoga once a week” has actually worked wonders in clearing my mind and giving me positive energy. As dumb as that sounds.
Long story short: If you think crystals are New-Age nutso, ditch them for a face mask and call it a night. You do you.
What does your version of self-care look like?
My version of self-care looks a little like this:
- Go to as many concerts as financially possible
- Find an excuse to get dressed up for something
- Play video games and drink beer with my guy friends
- Watch rom-coms and drink wine with my girl friends
- Sit in a hot tub
- Buy a coffee instead of making it at home (shocker)
- Embrace my inner nerd and do homework on a Saturday without feeling like a loser, because getting homework done relieves my stress during the busy week
- Grab Panda Express for dinner, because even though it isn’t the healthiest thing, it makes me a lot happier than it should. And that’s okay.
- Put in 20 minutes on the yoga mat by watching a Yoga With Adrienne video
- Catch up with someone I haven’t talked to in a while
- Stop by an Ulta Beauty and buy a fun new lip gloss or highlighter
- Use a minute to think about all the positives happening in my life, because it’s easy for me to get dragged down by small things
- Take the world’s longest, hottest shower, and then wear a face mask while watching really terrible videos on YouTube
Honestly, sounds amazing right now. I think I’ll go get Panda Express, buy new mascara, and watch Sex and the City while wearing a face mask.
I have always wanted to be everything to everyone. In high school, I took on cheer captain and newspaper editor the same year I was in five AP classes and applied to colleges while trying to hang out with my friends before graduation.
It was hell. But I thought that’s how high school was supposed to feel.
So then in my undergrad years at college, I repeated my mistakes. At one point, I was elected an officer in my sorority, worked two on-campus jobs, took 18 credit hours of class, and eventually had a complete breakdown. I was surprised, but my friends and family were not. I realized that I’m doing both myself and others a disservice if I try to do everything.
It’s hard not to, though, when you’re like me and you feel like you’re disappointing someone if you’re not doing everything humanly possible. You have to remember, though: You can do anything, but not everything.
Be picky with your time and your talents.
Trust me, no one will be let down when you’re doing what you love and being realistic about what you can devote yourself to.
But how to choose?
Think about what you actually enjoy.
What makes you forget about everything else while you do it? What is on your mind all day?
For me, a few things stand out above the rest: Writing, reading, listening to music, dancing, and helping others. That last one is the toughest to sort out, because it means I raise my hand for just about anything someone needs, but look at it this way: You can help others with things that you enjoy helping with. I like helping my sorority with PR and dance choreography for talent competitions, because I enjoy PR and dance already on their own.
Check each box on your list, not all the boxes on everyone’s list.
Be a joiner, but be selective. Don’t just join everything to join everything– pick things with a purpose to you.
If you want to get more involved in campus clubs or other organizations and need help narrowing it down, pick up to four that accomplish the following categories:
- Career/School: Something that benefits your academic success, like an honors fraternity, a club specific to your major (Psychology Club, for instance), or a professional organization
- Service: Something that benefits others, such as Make-A-Wish or Alternative Spring Break
- Fitness: An organization that promotes being active, such as a club soccer team or Zumba class
- Fun: An organization that fits with one of your hobbies or passions, like photography club, Quidditch if that’s your thing.
Start with the essentials.
If you need to make money, make time for a job. If you need to get better grades, block out more time for studying. If you work full time and you want a promotion, stay focused to make it happen. Then, if you’re doing fine, start adding on.
Take stock of your goals and figure out what you need to reach them, and then you can zero in on what is actually important. It’s amazing how much better it feels to have three things on your plate instead of ten.
I know you want to get involved in everything, but if you spread yourself too thin and can’t dedicate 100% to each thing, there’s no point in doing it. I’ll say it again: You can do anything, but not everything. Find what you really want to do. Then go do it, and do it with all the energy you’ve got!
You’ll figure out pretty fast that 90% of the people in this world do things because people tell them to. I made that statistic up, but I would bet that it’s close to the truth. Few of us actually care enough to tell ourselves what to do, and when we do, others think it’s weird. But whatever. Let your freak flag fly. Because when you’re able to tell yourself what to do instead of waiting for someone else to, that’s how you become the boss.
Easier said than done, though. Which is why not everyone can be a boss.
It’s all fine and good to say you’re a driven self-starter, but it’s another thing to actually be one.
It means not sleeping in until your first obligation (11 a.m. class) and getting your butt out of bed to work on a paper at 9. It means waiting to binge-watch Riverdale until a night you don’t have anything else you need to be doing. And it means learning how to manage yourself, because you are a human being and not a machine that can automatically sit and do stuff. Here’s how:
Get the crappy stuff out of the way before you do the fun stuff.
You might be super excited to write a blog post or do an interesting project or get started on a paper that actually sounds fun, but to really focus, you need to clear out the cobwebs. If you have boring things hanging around in the back of your mind, it makes it harder to really enjoy doing the other things. So just do all the things.
Treat yo self.
If I have something to look forward to, it’s a lot easier to try to get things done. I’ll tell myself a goal– like, answer those emails you did not want to touch– and then once I get to that goal, I’m free to take the longest shower of my life and spend the rest of the night painting my nails, grabbing ice cream with BF, and/or watching the latest leaked Game of Thrones episode. Block out time for something fun– like, going out with friends at 9– and then tell yourself you need to get everything else done before that time.
I repeat: Do. Not. Multitask. Seriously.
I know you really, really want to multitask. Don’t do it.
They have done the studies and the facts are the facts: Multitasking does not help you. It only hurts you. It makes you so much less productive, because the time you spent shifting your attention to a new task is time you can spend on your current task. I know you think you can be a superhuman and those facts don’t apply to you, but you are a human being and you are just simply not built to do it. More on this later, because I can take a whole blog post just on this.
Alternatively, build out 20-30 minutes at a time just on one specific task. And if you’re feeling flow, just keep going.
Get out of your house.
I’m currently sitting outside the library, because on my way home I randomly saw an open table and decided to sit down instead. I have accomplished so much more in my hour outside than in five hours on my bed. Find your happy place for work– it shouldn’t be the same as your happy place for relaxation. I don’t care if it’s the library, Starbucks, or even your car dealership while you’re waiting for an oil change. I do that sometimes. Oil changes are some of my post productive hours. Go ahead and laugh. I’ll be sitting in a quiet lounge drinking free coffee at Toyota.
Practice yoga and exercise.
If you’re just sitting like a bump on a log all day, you’re going to put yourself in a slump where you never reach the right state of mind to work. This shouldn’t be hard on yourself– if it’s too much of a pain to get to a gym during your working hours, set up a yoga mat by your desk and take 20 minutes to breathe and stretch. It will make a world of difference. I personally don’t know how to teach myself yoga, so don’t let that stop you. Go on YouTube and find a free class. I like this one for a quick detox.
Yoga not your style? It’s not always mine either. Go to a spin class. Play football. Or literally just exit your building and walk for five minutes around the block. Just do something active, even if it’s the last thing you think will help, because even just a few minutes of exercise can get the brain going.
Just start. Tell yourself you don’t even have to finish it. Because once you start on a task, even without the intention of spending a lot of time doing it, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is just to keep going and finish it. Starting is the hardest part, and it’s also the easiest, so do yourself a favor and trick yourself into doing it by starting it.
Anyone else have ideas for staying self-motivated? Anything weirder than going to a car dealership? Please spill.
It can be frustrating spending the summer in the ~adult world~ at an internship, only to have to go back to school in the fall. I’ve spent the past three summers doing internships, and every time I went back to school, it felt like I was putting my life on hold instead of getting ahead. But this isn’t the right way to think (you are in school to get your degree and therefore get ahead, after all), and you can still take advantage of your time in school by developing new skills and gaining different experience.
Which sounds like bullshit, but I am not here to bullshit you. Some people spend college doing the minimum, which involves skipping lectures and selling your textbooks halfway through the semester to buy a burger (guilty as charged on the latter). You are going to spend it possibly doing those things, but also still growing on a personal and professional level. You can have it all. You can enjoy a burger bought using
blood textbook money and simultaneously become extremely hireable.
Sound too hard? Here are a few different plans of action for continuing your career while still making it to class and slaying that degree:
Plan A: Continue your work for the company you interned at
If you have a strong desire to keep working your internship and think you can handle it (school is, like, hard sometimes), ask if there’s a way you can continue after class. If you’e in the area, you can offer to stay on part-time at the office, or you can help out remotely. I had one internship that let me extend my internship through fall and work virtually from school, since I didn’t have to physically be in the office to do my job effectively. It will depend on your industry, relationship with the company, and geographical/time constraints.
Pro tip: Give them a reason to let you stay on– pitch your contributions and show them that they still need you!
Plan B: Freelance for local businesses and nonprofits
If continuing the internship isn’t an option, you can also take on freelance work. Into music and event promotion? Offer to help out your local concert venue. Enjoy shopping and social media? Ask around at the fashion boutiques in your town to see what you can do for their Instagram. Do you already feel passionate about a nonprofit in your area, and think you can contribute your professional talents to their cause? Volunteer on a whole new level. My sorority works with the Alzheimer’s Association, for example, and I would love to do PR for them while I’m in grad school.
Plan C: Work on your resume and personal brand
This actually should’t be a Plan C; it should just always be an ongoing focus as you start out in your career. It takes serious time and energy to update your LinkedIn profile, re-design your resume, maintain a personal website and construct a portfolio. Or at least, if you’re doing all of these things right. In school, you’ll have more time on your hands than when you’re working a full time job, so take this as an opportunity to spend time on yourself.
Also, remember that you just finished your internship, so it’s important to update everything with that new position under your belt! Know it’s a pain. Just do it.
Plan D: Learn and develop new skills
At your internship, did you realize you could work on certain areas to make you stronger in that industry? Now is the time to work on those areas. I learned over one summer that Excel spreadsheets are a major part of entry-level work in PR (Surprise! Sometimes your dream job involves things you thought you were avoiding). So now I know to focus more on learning the ins and outs of Excel, and it’ll make me an even stronger candidate since many PR/journalism/communication majors don’t think to learn it. There are plenty of online resources for teaching yourself skills, and taking the time to develop those skills while everyone else was snoozing through class will set you apart.
2017-2018 is going to be an amazing school year, and you can make it an amazing professional year, too!