It’s Self-Improvement Month! Here are easy(ish) ways I’m trying to be a better human being

This morning, something made me feel like going on a run. It was a super bizarre feeling, considering I dislike running. I dislike it very much. When I run, all I can think about is not running. But for some reason, this specific morning I woke up and just…felt like running. So I threw on my Nikes and started my playlist and just casually went out the door and did a 5K without even realizing it.

Going on a 30-minute morning run is something that a lot of people do every day without a second thought. But for me, it’s a damn big deal. When I first moved to San Francisco a few months ago, it had probably been at least two years since I had gone on a run- and not like a 20-minute stint on the treadmill before kickboxing class. I mean an honest-to-God run outside where I run with the full intention of doing my best and going as far as I can.

When I moved here, I looked around at the Golden Gate Bridge, at the ocean views, at the beauty of my city, and I knew it would be a crime if I didn’t at least try to become a runner while I can run by the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. So I started by running for 10 minutes (yeah, 10 minutes, I totally sucked, okay? But like, everyone sucks when they start something, right?), and then for 15, and then for 20. I downloaded the Nike run app for motivation and before I knew it, I got into a rhythm of running 3-4 times a week, and I was getting farther and farther. After just one month in, I could run 5 miles and not die. I legitimately felt like an Olympic champion. And today I got up and ran 5K without even noticing it. In the next two months I’ll probably get to 10K, and then within six months of starting to run I’ll be able to run a half marathon. All this because I just wanted to give it a try.

This all brings us to the whole point of trying to do things like running, which is that we all want to be our best selves. We’re all looking for ways to improve ourselves, whether we want to be better at our jobs, better at our health and wellness, better partners and friends, better learners. This is why there are so many industries dedicated to self-improvement, and you can probably think of a few things off the top of your head that you’ve spent money on for self-improvement- I know I’ve bought a yoga membership to get better at fitness and mindfulness, pre-made meals at Trader Joe’s to get better at spending less money on takeout, and even a subscription to the New York Times, just to do a better job of staying informed from a credible source.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the little ways I can be a better self- not a better version of myself trying to be like someone else (there is a DIFFERENCE people), but just a better me. A better Alex doesn’t necessarily mean better at sports or better at cooking. A better Alex means I take time to read more. I take care of my mental health. I spend more time on the things that are important to me, like my career and my family.

Here are some of the little steps I’ve taken (and that you can take) toward your better self:

Wellness

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  • Download the Headspace app to practice mindfulness
  • Start journaling, even just in bullets
  • Stop obsessing about things that upset you. Let things go. It’s fine.
  • Pick up all of the clutter in your room. All. of. it. Clutter in your physical space causes clutter in your brain.
  • Call your family.
  • If you have a bad headache, take an Advil instead of just sitting there trying to tough it out. You are accomplishing nothing. Take the Advil.
  • Spend more time just listening to new music and discovering bands you like instead of complaining that “there’s no new music that’s good anymore”
  • Reach out to a friend you’ve lost contact with.
  • Go on more walks during the day, even just a 10-minute walk in the middle of a busy workday

Fitness/Health

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  • Go on a run- even if it’s just a short run, it’s better than if you had never ran at all
  • Show up at the grocery store with a grocery LIST and have meals planned out (I have a bad habit of just running in with no plan and I end up making dumb purchases like frozen mac ‘n cheese bites)
  • Switch afternoon coffee for green tea
  • Drink more water. And then drink more.
  • Put at least one vegetable in every meal. No more popcorn for dinner. Or if it is popcorn, at least eat it with carrots?
  • Eat almonds NOT chocolate covered almonds FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST
  • Try a new fun workout once a month, like aerial yoga or hip hop
  • Laugh more! Watch more funny Netflix shows, go to a comedy night at the neighborhood bar, talk on the phone with your hilarious friend

Learning

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  • Learn a new skill in just one day- there are so many fun, free online classes that only take a few hours. Like this one on graphic design.
  • Stop by Barnes & Noble and buy an actual book. Yeah, books are like $15 but also how much did you spend last night on drinks? Okay? Okay.
  • Subscribe to a newsletter on something you don’t know anything about.
  • Go to a museum. Any museum. It can be the Art Institute or it can be a historic vibrator museum for all I care. You’ll learn something.
  • Watch a documentary or a “Netflix Explained” video instead of another episode of Sex and the City or Gossip Girl
  • Take a tour of something in your city that you’d normally ignore. I recently went to Coit Tower in San Francisco, which is a 20-minute walk away from my apartment, and it turns out the tower is full of these incredible historic murals that I never would have seen if I hadn’t decided to “be touristy.” And it was like $6.
  • Play games on the Peak brain training app.

Career

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  • Tell a coworker you appreciate them. It’s literally as easy as sending a quick “I appreciate you” over Slack or Gchat or IM or whatever you use these days.
  • Don’t do any work the whole weekend. Don’t think about work. Don’t try to work ahead. Just give yourself an actual break. (normal people do this anyways but I’m a workaholic so)
  • Raise your hand for a project that is scary and sounds like a pain in the ass
  • Speak up in a meeting, even if you think you’ll sound stupid. You probably won’t sound stupid, you’ll sound engaged. And anyways, why are you so worried about looking stupid? Stop that nonsense.
  • Spend a solid two hours a week just getting organized and doing administrative stuff. Like filling in spreadsheets or getting to Inbox Zero on your email. The stuff you hate and normally put off. This is the best gift you can give your future self.
  • Volunteer to attend an industry event, like a speaking panel or cocktail networking hour, which might sound like hell but actually could make a huge impact even if you just meet one new person.

Style/Beauty

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  • Read an issue of Vogue just like you used to when you were in middle school and high school, and you were excited about the different trends
  • Keep up with your skincare routine instead of getting mad at yourself when a zit pops up (it’s probably because you didn’t wash your face like you were supposed to)
  • Go to the mall more. Yes, go to the mall more. (Another Alex goal, since I have a habit of never letting myself splurge on my wardrobe. Which sounds great, but in reality I need more clothes and I forget how much I love Topshop). It’s okay to buy nice things sometimes.
  • Your eyelashes don’t have to be perfect every day. They just don’t.
  • Keep dressing up for work, even if you work in tech and you’re allowed to wear a sweatshirt. It feels good to look professional and polished.
  • Do your nails more. Plz.

Those are just some of the small things I’ve been trying to do to be a better me! Happy Self-Improvement Month, and holler if you have your own ideas for becoming a better you!

XO,

CC

3 Beach Reads for Bosses

After an insanely busy week, I finally had a Saturday for a good old-fashioned book binge. Not a Netflix binge…a book binge. Because I’m a nerd like that. And also because I ran out of shows on Netflix that interest me. You can only watch so many conspiracy documentaries before you start to lose it. Any suggestions for my next binge, anyone?

In the meantime, I abandoned the Netflix library and hit up the real library, and snagged a few of my favorite books for career inspiration. You guys, I’ve been seriously feeling the senioritis (it’s even worse your last semester of grad school) and my motivation is having some problems. And sometimes there’s nothing like a good book to get your energy back up.

The books I’ve listed below are like self-help books, except way better because they’re written by incredible business figures who have actually been there and done that, and aren’t just writing platitudes like Believe in yourself and the universe will magically make things happen for you. Those are nice and all, but I like action. I like real-life stories. I like authors who have led companies and changed entire organizations. These three books will give you that and more.

Books for Bosses

Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

Okay, so this one is a classic for a reason and I knew I had to read it at some point, so I gave it a whirl. And it. was. amazing. I have never felt so moved by a book, and that says a lot. I think it was the big dose of reality that men continue to hold more leadership roles, and that women face more risk when they try to strive for those top spots.

If you’re in the mood for a rallying cry to reach your full potential and make your impact by achieving your career goals, this is the book for you. Go learn how to save the world. No pressure though.

Onward, by Howard Schultz

Starbucks has a soul, and it’s because of Howard Schultz. The place could have easily been perceived as an evil corporation taking over the world, and it may be taking over the world, but it’s definitely not be evil. I mean, really…how can the company that created the Frappuccino ever be evil?

In all seriousness, though, this book is about how Schultz came back to Starbucks as CEO after having stepped down, and he showed how the struggling Starbucks reinvented itself as a company with genuine values and winning in a good way. It’s awesome for anyone interested in learning about leadership styles and “how they did it” stories. Also awesome for Starbucks addicts.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni

This one is another classic that you’ll find on the Barnes and Noble bookshelf in the business section. It’s not as well known as the first two I listed, but it’s so worth the read. I actually was assigned to read this book in one of my advertising classes, and at first I was not excited at the thought of more assigned reading, but then I picked up this book and straight up binged it like a Netflix show.

The book basically tells an entire story about a CEO who takes over a struggling team, and it reads like a soap opera. Seriously. Gossip Girl doesn’t even get better than some of the plot twists in this thing. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But you get it– it’s a fun read. And then at the end, you get a lowdown of the lessons about solving team issues that the story showed. If you’ve ever felt frustrated in a group project, this one’s for you.


Have you read any books lately that inspired you when you were feeling less than motivated? LMK!

XO,

CC

5 Creativity Boosters for When You’re Working From Home

As much as I love working in a coffee shop, library, or an office, sometimes it’s nice to just wake up and make coffee and wear sweatpants all day while you get things done. And sometimes you just need some quiet alone time to keep your sanity intact.

The huge downside of working from home is getting into that creative workflow mode when you might not be in the most inspiring environment (not that you can’t get great ideas from a living room couch, but it doesn’t help). That’s why I put together this list of my favorite strategies for getting your grind on from the comfort of that couch.

Put on some background noise.

I love the coffee shop atmosphere because it has just the right balance of noise and non-noise, which research has proven to boost creativity. I don’t know about you, but I can’t work in complete silence, and it helps to have ambience in the background when you’re at home.

Coffitivity is an amazing website that I just discovered a few weeks ago. It actually plays coffee shop noises, and you can actually pick from different types of coffee shop noise (the lunchtime rush? a college campus?) to get the vibe you want. If coffee shop noise isn’t your thing, put on a mindless TV show or your best Spotify playlist to nail the right sound for your work mode. Believe it or not, Keeping Up With the Kardashians gives me some of my most productive moments.

Go back to the drawing board.

A literal drawing board! I missed having the whiteboards and easels that office conference rooms have for brainstorming, so I bought a full-size easel at Michael’s and set it up at home. It’s the perfect blank canvas for when I need to draw out what I’m thinking, or make lists, or write down an inspiring quote. Whiteboards and easels are the ultimate place for ideas, and having that place at home will help you when creativity strikes at home.

Block out time when your brain is at its best.

Everyone has a time of the day that they feel most “on”– that is, when your brain is most productive. You’re always supposed to save the hardest tasks that require the most brainpower for when your brain has the most, well, power. That means if you know you work best in the AM, crank out your most work in the morning and save everything else (emails, phone calls, smaller tasks) for the afternoon. If you’re a night owl, do the reverse. And defend that time fiercely. Don’t let anyone take it up. Put time on your calendar if you need to show everyone that you can’t be disturbed.

Do something active, even just for a few minutes.

When you’re working in an office, you often get up and moving, even just to go to a meeting, but at home it’s easy to get stuck sitting for hours at a time. I have a yoga mat by my desk, for when I need to get the blood flowing. Even if it takes just a few yoga poses or a 5-minute walk, you feel refreshed and energetic when the home environment starts to make you feel blah.

Take an hour to shake up your routine.

Whatever you don’t get to spend an hour doing at the office, take the chance to do at home. Read a book you wouldn’t normally have time for, or catch up on the email newsletters that you don’t usually read. Buy fresh flowers for yourself and put them on your desk. Go through your closet and put together new outfits. Take a bath! Go see a matinee movie like they do on Mad Men when they’re feeling creatively stuck and need to clear the cobwebs. Shaking it up and doing something different can be a huge boost to your thinking, and while you’re taking your mind off your work, sometimes your mind will sort things out on its own.


Have you found any good strategies for getting that flow going while you’re WFH? I hope my methods have worked for you!

XO,

CC

The Caffeinated Internship Series, Part I: Doing the research

Welcome to Part 1 of my internship series! In this series of blog posts, I give advice on the internship search (a lot of which can also be applied to the entry level job search)! I’ve scored my share of life-changing internships, so I’m super excited to pass on what I’ve learned to all of you.

Once January hits, it’s go time for internship application season. A few applications might have already opened, especially in the accounting/finance sector, but most companies across industries don’t start the hiring process until late winter/spring. So you’re here at the right time! Welcome, you ambitious badass, you.

Okay, so let’s dive right in. First things first– you need to find internships to apply to in the first place, right? For many, this is the hard part, because it can be time-consuming to find openings. But don’t worry, I gotchu. Here are some of my favorite tricks for starting the search:

Create a spreadsheet.

This is your home base for all things internship search. On a Google sheet or Excel– whichever scares you less– make an Internship Search 2018 sheet, with columns for the following categories:

  • company name
  • internship title
  • a link to the application
  • materials needed (does it ask for recommendation letters? does it have a weird essay or project to test your skills?)
  • deadline
  • extra details (anything interesting about the company or connections you have)
  • status (here is where you’ll fill in whether you’ve applied, gotten a response back, etc.).

Once you have a place to list all the applications and openings you find, it’s time to go find them!

Narrow down your criteria for a good fit.

Do you need to be in a specific location, or are you open to a number of cities? Does it need to be paid? What kind of company are you looking for– a big advertising agency? A small local business? These will all be important to keep in mind as you start searching.

Let the Googling begin.

Start with the basic job sites, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster are all fine and good, but not every company will post their openings there (especially internships). So in many cases, you’ll need to go directly through the company website, which means you should be googling the companies themselves.

When I was looking for PR internships my junior year of college, I knew I wanted to work in fashion, beauty or lifestyle, so I specifically searched for Free People, Nordstrom, etc. Some of these seemed way beyond my reach, but you never know what will happen: Nordstrom reached out to me for interviews, and I ended up making it to the final round even though I was just a junior.

Once you start finding openings, you’ll put them into your handy dandy spreadsheet that you created earlier. Woohoo!

As you keep going, you’ll see new opportunities pop up. Internships are constantly being posted, so you pretty much never run out of things to apply to. It’s also a good idea to set up notifications for new job postings on apps like LinkedIn Jobs and Glassdoor, so that you receive constant updates on what’s opening up.

Network. Network network network.

I know. It’s a necessary evil. But you know what? Sometimes it’s exactly what needs to happen for your dreams to fall in to place. It’s not as scary as people make it sound, especially now that we have LinkedIn. So start reaching out to professors that might have industry connections. Go to career fairs (they’re fun! I swear!) and find out what companies look for. Use your school alumni network. Talk up the guy at the bar who just happened to intern in your dream industry last summer. Yes, even parties are the perfect place to network. See? Not scary. Fun. I can tell you’re not convinced. But trust me.

There are so many networking opportunities that you wouldn’t have even thought about before. Go get ’em, tiger.

Question Time (things you might be wondering at this point)

Q: How many internships should be on my list?

A: Don’t stop ’til you get enough! You should always be adding to the list, right up to when you get that offer letter from your dream job. But if you want a solid number, the reality is that you should be applying to around 30 jobs. I am not joking around.

Q: Are you trying to kill me?

A: Maybe. But okay, you can make this so much more manageable than you think. Break down your list into 7-10 “priority” applications to focus on at a time, based on their deadline/urgency, and how much you want it. Then knock out one or two apps a day. See? Not so bad.

Q: What if my dream company doesn’t have an internship program?

A: List them anyways, and see if you can still intern there by reaching out directly and offering your services. This is where the cold email comes in: You find the right person to contact, figure out what their needs are, and send them an email describing who you are and how you can contribute to filling those needs with your skills. Kinda like a cover letter, but shorter and in email form. You got this.

And FYI, cold emails are often a great idea even when you apply through a formal application system. We’ll cover that next in Part II: The Cover Letter and Resume. Stay tuned!


How are you feeling? Overwhelmed? Excited? Internship/job apps can be stressful, but I’m super hopeful that I can help. The search is on!!

XO,

CC

Keeping it positive in 2018: How to bring a new attitude to the new year

2018 is coming. Are you ready for it?

I know I am. After what might have been the hardest year of my life, I am so ready for a new start. The funny thing is, 2018 isn’t a new start. It’s just a new number that I have to remember to write when I write the date. But it somehow represents a new chance to change something about your life for the better.

Not that we need an excuse to do that, but New Year’s gives us an excuse to do that with style. It’s not every night you can celebrate life changes with champagne. Or maybe it is. Shoot. I’ve been doing it wrong.

But anyways. My point: New Year’s is a perfect time to think about having a more positive attitude.

How do you know when you need an attitude adjustment? Is it when you wake up and realize you can’t remember the last time you woke up excited for the day? Is it when you break down into tears from one small setback (which may or may not include broken escalators)? Or is it when you just have this general feeling that you’re just not giving enough, to your job, to your friends, to the world, to your life?

Maybe you feel this. Or maybe you don’t, and you just want more ways to feel positive. Whatever your situation, I’ve been there, and I know the power of positive thinking sounds cheesy, but hear me out: It’s legit. Your mind is a powerful thing, and once you believe in that power, you can honestly do whatever the hell you want. This includes eating ice cream for breakfast, and having a positive attitude. Both very important priorities.

And as usual, I’ve got the details…


What you should be doing this year to keep a positive attitude

  • My analytical-brain twist on the whole “count your blessings” game: Whenever something happens that puts you in a bad mood or bums you out in any way, big or small, write it down. Whenever something good happens, write that down too in a separate list. Compare the lists. Did that many bad things actually happen, or does the good outweigh the bad? Were all the bad things that big of a deal?
  • When a challenge or crisis comes up (you mess up at work, you have a big presentation coming up and your team isn’t working well together, your boyfriend is talking to that girl you hate, you drop your pizza…okay, some bad examples in there but these things tend to throw us off), allow yourself to have a private mini freak-out session. This can be as simple as screaming for ten seconds into a pillow. Let it all out. Cry if you need to. But then you’re done. Panic time is over. And then you can focus on solving the problem.
  • Speaking of problems, there is a solution for all of them. Believe this. Make it your mantra. If you buy into the prophecy that there is a solution, you’ll be a lot more likely to fulfill your own prophecy and actually find the solution.
  • Figure out what helps you feel invincible. It can be clothing (I have this gorgeous floral print Free People kimono that for some reason gives me all the confidence in the world when I wear it), a song, a workout, a perfume, a photo, anything. It can be a combination of all of the above. And then keep those things close. I love the scent of rose, and I love skincare, so I keep a rose water face spray at my desk for a quick spritz whenever I need to feel refreshed and powerful. Sounds a little crazy but it works!
  • Heed the wisdom of Legally Blonde: Endorphins make you happy. I’ll let you finish the rest of that line, but the point is, get the endorphins going by exercising frequently. If you feel your mood dipping, take a 5-minute walk and see how you feel after. My guess is you’ll feel magical compared to your mood before.
  • Create a “smile file,” or a list of all the good things people have said to you. I have a folder with emails from my supervisors whenever they tell me I did a great job on something, and I look back at it any time I need a boost.
  • Surround yourself with as much positive energy as possible. This especially means keeping positive people close and cutting negative people out. If some toxic friend is bringing down your mood with constant complaints and anxiety-inducing behavior, distance yourself ASAP because you do not need that around. Even the most optimistic among us can get dragged down by pessimistic people if they let it happen.
  • Focus on a positive vision: It’s like they say with practicing a sport or doing well on a test. If you even just imagine yourself performing the perfect pirouette in the ballet performance, you’re already setting yourself up to do the real thing. Focus on believing in your ability to do what you need to do. Envisioning success and happiness will help you make it happen. Because self-fulfilling prophecies are a real thing and the power is all yours.

What you think, you become.

What you feel, you attract.

What you imagine, you create.

– Buddha (but also Pinterest)


Happy New Year and thanks for reading! I have a lot of things to be positive about, including this blog and all of my readers. I can’t wait to see what the positive energy brings this year. Cheers!

XO,

CC

Feeling Uninspired? 10 Things You Should Try to Get Your Spark Back

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

XO,

CC

Everyday Inspiration: 100 places to get ideas

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

  1. The shower

  2. Live music

  3. A new neighborhood

  4. Tequila

  5. Magazines

  6. Museums

  7. Dreams (day or night)

  8. Art galleries victor-lozano-227612

  9. Documentaries

  10. Horror movies

  11. Rom coms (with life lessons of course)

  12. Comedy clubs

  13. The library

  14. The gym

  15. Plane flights

  16. Road trips

  17. Full Kanye West albums

  18. Full Beatles albums

  19. Full Pink Floyd albums

  20. Full Daft Punk albums

  21. Chinatown mariano-rossi-330641

  22. The mall

  23. The toilet

  24. The elevator

  25. The laundromat

  26. Yoga class

  27. Beauty products freestocks-org-209882.jpg

  28. The weird part of YouTube

  29. Reading the entire Harry Potter series from the beginning as an adult

  30. TED talks

  31. Listening to a new music genre

  32. Farmer’s markets

  33. Flowers ornella-binni-106373

  34. Architecture

  35. A walk around the block

  36. The Food Network

  37. The fancy stationery store

  38. The zoo katie-treadway-253591

  39. Bath and Body Works

  40. Free People catalogues

  41. Netflix musicals (try Chicago, personal fave)

  42. Community theater musicals

  43. Broadway musicals

  44. High School Musical

  45. Spotify

  46. The ocean anastasia-taioglou-244880

  47. The lake

  48. The pool

  49. The bathtub…anywhere with water is good

  50. Champagne

  51. Champagne. IN the bathtub. Double whammy. You’ll be writing novels in no time.

  52. A frat party

  53. Pizza. Pizza is always inspirational.

  54. Donuts. See above rationale for pizza. bethany-newman-61417

  55. Starbucks, obviously

  56. A blank canvas

  57. Whatever new Urban Decay Naked palette is out

  58. Gossip Girl

  59. A globe andrew-neel-182861

  60. Pottery Barn catalogues

  61. The park

  62. Football games

  63. Disney movies

  64. Fashion shows

  65. Windows jonatan-pie-235783

  66. New restaurants

  67. A blank notebook

  68. Canned soup (hey, it worked for Warhol)

  69. Pinterest quotes

  70. Dance class

  71. A new shade of lipstick ian-dooley-298769

  72. Lightning bolts (the inspo for my logo)!

  73. Pilates

  74. Old cookbooks

  75. Old books in general (Tip: Visit one of those tiny bookstores with vintage books.)

  76. Mexican restaurants

  77. Antique stores

  78. Flea markets

  79. Candy stores delfi-de-la-rua-133880.jpg

  80. Little Italy

  81. Walmart

  82. Reddit

  83. The self-help section of Barnes and Noble

  84. The classics section, if feeling ambitious john-mark-kuznietsov-266552

  85. The aquarium

  86. Bike rides

  87. Driving along the coast

  88. Driving through cornfields, if in Midwest and cannot access coast

  89. Corn mazes!

  90. Carnivals hannah-morgan-95342

  91. Haunted houses

  92. Roller coasters

  93. Horse races

  94. Casinos

  95. Your closet

  96. 24 hour diners dani-king-261235

  97. Trains

  98. Candles

  99. Cameras

  100. Coffee shops…naturally…

brooke-lark-230509

Whew! So much inspiration, so little time…better get cracking and start appreciating your Walmart!

XO,

CC

Just your type: 5 steps to getting over writer’s block

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

XO,

A

Breaking into your dream industry

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.

XO,

CC

How to not overload yourself

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!

XO,

CC