On Establishing Routines…

Never have I ever…had a routine in life.  Is this bad?

I don’t wake up at the same time everday, I don’t eat the same thing for breakfast, and let’s not even discuss my bedtime.  Even when I had a traditional 9-5 job, I was never able fall into a comfortable morning routine. Some days I’d randomly be inspired to get up early, go for a run, make breakfast, etc, while other days I’d wake up at the latest possible second, counting off all the things I could skip in trade for a few more mins of sleep (if I don’t blowdry my hair I can snooze for 10 more minutes…and if I don’t shower at all, woohoo, another 30). When I worked for a relatively flexible company in NYC and the start time wasn’t set in stone, forget it. I didn’t even get my coffee at the same place each morning, always randomly stopping somewhere new and even switching up my subway line/walking route for no reason I can really explain.

I never really thought about it too much until recently, when I actually set out to give myself a more structured daily routine.  They say it takes 30 days for something to become habit and I honestly can’t think of too many things I’ve stuck with for that long, at least in terms of daily ritual. So now I’m curious, is this really bad? Is routine necessary for a productive life? Or on the flip side, is it better to not become too comfortable and “set in your ways?” Is being a creature of habit good, bad or indifferent?

As someone who works from home and juggles several clients and gigs, I’ve been grappling with how to best structure my days and also have time to fit in the things that are good for my soul. We’ve already established that getting up at the crack of dawn sadly didn’t work for me although I’m hoping to try again now that the weather’s getting warmer and the sun will be shining early and often.  I tried and tried to make the gym a routine but had the recent epiphany that my gym was actually a sad and terrible place for me. I’m not even being dramatic, there were just no good feelings that came from going there and so I’m ditching the membership in favor of outdoor workouts, yoga classes and maybe a little SURFSET Fitness in between.  All these things make me feel amazing, and I think that’s what working out should be about, not painfully sweating away the minutes in a grey, concrete, nearly windowless room. Sorry Newport YMCA, it’s not you, it’s me…ok, it’s a little bit you…

Recently I posted about writing everday and that’s something I’ve actually stuck to, for the most part, but I can do better! So here’s some things I’m hoping to turn into habits, and I’d love some input on how to best do it.

  • Personal Writing – Is there really a “best time” to write? I’ve read articles that say early morning is best, and even a study that stated we get our most creative ideas when we’re tired.  I think it’s about finding what works for you, but I’d like to carve out some writing time each day for blogging, journaling and ultimately for writing that damn best-seller already!
  • Fitness/Wellness – Notice I didn’t say “working out”  because I’m kind of over that word. I’d like to get into a nice routine however of yoga classes, outdoor runs and other happy activities that are good for my body and my mind. Oh yeah, and more clean eating and all that jazz.
  • Sleep schedule – A biggie for me. Seeking any tips and tricks on somehow keeping regular hours and shutting off my mind at night.

Thoughts, ideas and advice welcome, so fire away!

Write On…

Ok let me get this out of the way first, RE: my last blog. After a week (ok it was more like 2 days) of torturous early rising, I am admitting defeat. After telling a few (normal) people about my lofty goal (5:30am, ha what was I thinking?!), I was mostly met with this sentiment: Why would you willingly get up extra early for no reason? You are so lucky to be able to work from home and not have to be anywhere at an ungodly hour.

I tried explaining to my friends and family who don’t spend a large chunk of their time perusing Twitter and blogs for motivational/life improvement articles (I sometimes forget that I live in a very different world from my real life social circle) that getting up early was essentially the new trendy habit of highly effective people (or maybe it always was but there are just a lot more people writing about it now, thanks Medium…). My teacher friends/family who all get up somewhere in the 5-6 am region were pleased to hear that they are unknowingly on the path to surefire success, but after thinking about it I realized that I was being a little unrealistic. It almost seemed absurd to force myself to change my habits when my current lifestyle actually allows for me to flourish within the schedule that has always best suited me. I get a second wind at night dammit and I’m proud of it! Phew it feels good just to let it out…

Before you all go judging me and calling me lazy I should clarify. On average, I wake up around 7:30 am and start working somewhere around 8/8:30 am, which I think is totally respectable, especially since I technically could get up at 8:54 am, make a cup of coffee and “commute” down the hall to my office with time to spare before 9 am…not that I’ve ever done that…

Furthermore, I’ve realized that I should embrace my current nighttime energy bursts because obviously that’s when my brain is at its best and that’s when the universe wants me to do my thing.  Seeing as I don’t have children or any other evening obligations, I’ve decided it’s totally okay for me to use those hours as my extra time for personal writing, side projects, workday overflow, etc.

In terms of getting in a workout, I think I’ve found my ultimate workout sweet spot when my schedule allows it. This past week I’ve worked out everyday mid-afternoon as part of my lunch break. Whether it was an outdoor run, a quick gym session or a power yoga class, I’ve found that this is my peak performance time and provides the perfect break in my day and reboot of my creativity. Quick workout, shower, lunch and then back at it. I highly recommend fellow work-from-homers try this if/when they can.

You may remember that another reason behind my little experiment was for better compatibility with my boyfriend. While after only a few days of test runs and further contemplation, I realized that we both actually enjoy those quiet moments that are all our own, either early in the morning or late at night when the other is sleeping. On the first day that I did wake up early, I’m fairly sure I was interrupting his well-established routine of sipping coffee, watching ESPN and not speaking to ANYONE.

What can I say, maybe it stems from the fact that most of my jobs for the first 10 years of my working life were night jobs, or it’s just another thing to blame on my parents (kidding mom and dad!), who still stay up for the 11 o’clock news…and sometimes Leno…and usually scrabble on their computer (dad) or Pinterest on their Kindle (mom).  There’s also the whole little matter of my brain having a serious issue shutting itself off at night and thus makes falling asleep difficult, but I’ll save that for another blog post…

Whatever the reason, I’m declaring my first 2014 goal a wash, which brings me to my next fun little experiment for this year. Writing everyday. Obviously I technically already do this for work, but this time, it’s personal. I recently saw a few great blog posts (like this one from David Spinks) about challenging yourself to write everyday even if only for 15 minutes and even if (you think) you have nothing to say. Starting today, I plan to write everyday either in a personal journal, here on this blog, or as notes for future publication (for the best-selling novel I promise I’ll write someday). This won’t include freelance writing assignments or writing/blogging that I have to do for work, it will only count writing that is all my own.  To this end, I am looking to attend some creative writing workshops, writing retreats or other similar events in the coming months so if you know of any, please get in touch! There is coincidentally one this weekend right here in RI that sounds amazing but I sadly found out about it too late.

Any advice/feedback welcome. More to come!

Confessions of a Night Owl…

Just in time for New Year’s, here’s number one on my resolution list!

In an effort to be one of those people who is so successful people actually ask me what the key to my success is (and so that upon answering I can give the now clichéd answer “waking up early” with a smug look on my face…), I’d like to attempt to change my sleeping habits just to see if there’s anything to this recent trend of “look at everything I do before 5am” type of articles…(like this one for example).

My reasons for wanting to start waking up earlier are actually two-fold. 1) I want to be more productive, get more done, be a go-getter, start my day with a workout and maybe some meditation/reflecting, blah, blah, blah and 2) I want to see if it improves my relationship with someone who is on the complete opposite schedule of me. My boyfriend is a teacher and wakes up at 5:30 am every morning (sometimes even earlier, and on his own without so much as an alarm clock or anything…astounding, I know!) Even if he didn’t have to get up that early for work (which he still does even on the weekends where he considers 7am “sleeping in”) he would still be someone who lives and dies by the whole, early to bed, early to rise thing whereas me…yeah not so much.

I’ve always been a night person.  The 11 o’clock news, Jay (Leno) and Jimmy (Fallon) have always been my nighttime buddies and the Friends theme song has sung me to sleep since college, thanks to their all-night reruns and my unhealthy obsession with the show.

Now that I mostly work from home, I am able to have a slightly flexible work schedule and although I still typically start my workday by 9 am, I’d love to adjust that and take advantage of the solitude of those morning hours for some major productivity. Whenever I have been able to rouse myself in the pre-dawn hours I will admit it’s been pretty…nice, there I admitted it.  However, I still think there’s something to be said for those same solitary late-night hours that have provided me with much creative inspiration and productivity bursts in the past. I think morning people and night people are actually pretty similar, and just find inspiration in the quiet and dimly lit hours when the rest of the world isn’t buzzing about yet. I’ve always preferred to pump out work late at night and then go to sleep knowing I already have a head-start on the next day, but maybe switching things up and getting a proper night’s rest before a morning grind sesh would be better for my overall health…I’ll be sure and report back to confirm or deny this.

It should be noted that NYC certainly favored my night-owl lifestyle because I was surrounded by people who didn’t mind working late, playing late and then sleeping in just a bit, knowing that they’d have to do it all over again the next day. Here in RI however, the pace is admittedly a bit slower and it would stand to reason that an early bedtime (and apparently an earlier dinner time, because the whole 9 pm dinner thing doesn’t go over too well here) would make sense. I suppose!

Although I’ve been thinking about making the transformation from night owl to morning person, it wasn’t until I read a recent interview with one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, that I was convinced. She isn’t the first writer to spill her secrets of early morning writing binges, but reading about some of her rituals and how she keeps “farmers hours” when writing a novel, made me want to commit to at least giving it a chance. (On a total side note, how great is this sentiment when asked where you can find her writing? She answered “…on bed stands, beach chairs, and train seats all over the world, I dearly hope.” I think she perfectly captured why a writer writes, and that all they really want out of it is for their words to be read, enjoyed, shared and remembered. YES.)

So what do I hope to accomplish in the early morning hours? More personal writing time, better organizing of my daily tasks and life in general, getting mundane and tedious emails out of the way and catching up on news and blogs in a more leisurely pre-workday fashion, for starters. My getting up early “experiment” will be New Year’s Resolution numero uno and will begin on January 6th for those keeping track, so stay tuned for updates and other resolutions (or rather “life goals” since I kinda hate the word “resolution”). Anyone care to join me for a 6 am virtual coffee-date in the new year? (Okay, maybe 6:30 to ease into things…) Tweet me @alliezog and we can be sunrise buddies!

Officially, Official!

No, I’m not a Mrs., but I am an official RI resident again – with license plates to prove it! After somehow managing to survive more than a year in Newport without a vehicle of my own, I recently purchased my first car after more than 5 years as a car-less city dweller.

Still set in my urban ways, I had no problem walking to the store, taking the train into Boston or home to NY, and even daring to ask if we can “call a cab” when heading out.  (You can’t, in case you were wondering there are maybe two cab companies in RI…). I relied on the kindness of my boyfriend and friends for rides (thanks guys) and walked anywhere I could. I only lived about a 5-minute walk to a grocery store, drug store, yoga studio, coffee shop, etc. and just up the hill from the entire downtown Newport scene, even the beach was less than a mile walk away. I didn’t think twice about walkin’ it, but after a year as “the girl without a car,” I resigned to the fact that a car of my own was inevitably in my future.

I should probably mention that in terms of my job, I am lucky enough to work from home for the most part, only having to go on assignments, to meetings or to an office once a week or so. Because of this, I found a car not completely necessary, and although I love being back in little Rhody, maybe a small part of me was still clinging to the notion of being a city girl…

The lifeline of my NYC car-free existence was my trusty Zipcar membership and when I found out Newport had recently been added as a Zipcar city, I was even less inclined to buy myself wheels. Gas, insurance, EZ pass and even a beach pass included? Yes, please! During the summer months there were cars at a nearby hotel only a few blocks from my apartment but when summer ended and I got the unpleasant surprise that my cute little summer ride was being moved to Salve Regina (the university in Newport that it about a mile or two up the road from me), I knew the time had come.

After a few not-so-fun shopping trips to find said car, which sidenote*, you should never do with your longterm live-in boyfriend whom you are not married to, I took the plunge and am now considered a normal Rhode Islander, meaning that I drive to get my morning coffee, even though there are at least 5 places totally walkable…

I guess there’s no turning back now, so cue up that Rhody fight song!

*Because invasive and pushy sales people will find a way to ask you if you are married/why you aren’t married/whether you plan on getting married and claim it’s to find you some sort of married person discount.  But, in defense of this awkwardness, I did in fact receive a $500 discount due to the fact that my not-husband/live-in boyfriend lease’s a competitive vehicle. Yay for living in sin!

“How I spent my summer vacation…”

Remember as a kid when you had to recap your summer in those first hazy still kinda summer/not quite fall days of school? Well, yeah, I’m bring that back on the blog today and as I attempt to explain my 3(ish) month blogging hiatus. My sorry excuse can be best be summed up by the three simple words SUMMER-IN-NEWPORT because basically, yeah, I’ve been out enjoying it (as well as writing about it on other blogs and publications) and thus, my poor little blog has severely suffered.  Here’s a quick recap of my summer, which is sadly coming to a close.  More to come, promise!

First beach

“How I spent my summer vacation”

-Moving to a new fabulous apartment (and hosting a tour of friends and family now that we have guest accommodations!)

-Day-tripping to Block Island (and swimming in the bluest water around at the “secret” Mansion Beach)

-Rocking out at the Newport Folk Festival and a Zac Brown Brand show

-Hanging at Easton’s Beach in the locals section (AKA to the left of the “Meat Sticks”)

-Telecommuting from my newly minted home office or my favorite coffee shop in town Empire Coffee and Tea on Broadway

-Exploring the rest of Rhode Island (meaning I “crossed the bridge” and went “off Island”) and finding new favorite spots in Jamestown, East Greenwich, Watch Hill and Narragansett

Stop Saying These Words!

In every office, across every industry, in every city, there inevitably lies the distinct language of the land, AKA the “office jargon” that goes along with it.  Even those of us who once had to sheepishly ask what exactly “ping me” meant (do I call? email?? Is ping the latest app I don’t know about yet??), given long enough exposure to these office clichés, will eventually find themselves ending emails with “please advise” or worse yet, calling a client to “follow-up” and/or “circle back” and/or touch-base (the touch-base is my personal fave for the record).

But I ask you? Does anyone really even know what these overused and often misused terms actually mean? Ever find yourself on the phone with someone and you literally have no idea what they’re actually saying but dog-on it they sound fancy! In my experience, it seems the more of these buzz words one can fit into a conversation, the less they actually know what they’re talking about…

Ever since my first office job, I’ve kept a running list of phrases that I didn’t quite understand but often heard, and at every job this list grew hilariously longer. I’ll spare you the list in its entirety and present you with some of my favorites and also most outlandish, must-be-an-inside-joke-I-don’t-get, overused office clichés.

Circle back/Follow Up/Touch-base – These all mean the same damn thing and that thing is “get back to you.” Ironically, one can never actually say “I’ll get back to you” though, they MUST use one of the aforementioned phrases.  If anyone knows why this is please get back to me about it… :)

Hard Stop – Ahhh the old hard stop.  AKA, I’m so important that I have another pressing engagement directly following this one.  Ex: “I can talk for the next few minutes, but I have a hard stop at 2pm.” Related: Is there such thing as a soft stop?

Low-Hanging Fruit – Raise your hand if you’ve heard this gem meaning (I think) the “obvious wins” or “easy accomplishments.”

Chinese Fire drill – I honestly had to look this one up on Wikipedia after months of a certain client telling me that they had these going on. Frequently. I assumed it was a metaphor but for what, I was still unclear. In a nutshell, this is actually a borderline offensive reference that dates back to the early 1900′s and refers to a chaotic situation.  So now you know…(see also Drinking From a Fire Hose which I think means basically the same thing.)

Run it up the Flagpole – I can’t hear this one without thinking of the old Nickelodeon show “Salute Your Shorts.” Is it just me?

Going Forward - This one brings me nostalgically back to my very first job as a PR assistant. A simpler time when I had never used a fax machine, never CC’ed anyone and certainly never “gone forward.” Little did I know that I would never again hear the familiar phrase “from now on” or even the whimsical “henceforth.”  Nope from that moment on, it would always be “Going forward we will do things like this <insert thing to do forever more>.”

These are just a few of the many words/phrases that I believe are generally overused in traditional workplaces. I’m honestly curious as to why so many people use these terms? Do they make you sound smarter? More professional? More polished? Do they just seep into our vocabulary after hearing them so often?  I’m dying to know!

So, now I’ll ask you, faithful readers, what’s your favorite – or LEAST favorite – office cliché?  List ‘em now in the comments. Or you know, ping me later about it!

Just a Left-Handed Girl, Living in a Righties World…

(Editor’s note: Title will ideally be sung to the tune of Don’t Stop Believing…)

After reading this glorious article on Buzzfeed entitled The 18 Worst Things for Left-Handed People, I felt compelled to share my own harrowing tales of life as a southpaw and also add a few more items to Buzzfeed’s very thorough list.

While Buzzfeed definitely hit on the major ones including the ink-stained hand, the spiral notebook/three-ring binder debacle (which is why I  am a big fan of top bound notebooks) and even the lesser appreciated coffee cup holder and can opener dilemmas, they missed a few of my personal tribulations that I thought were worth noting. Here’s what I’d add to the list!

1) Crank-style wall pencil sharpeners – anyone remember these/do they still use these? I standby the fact that these were made for righties because I had to awkwardly reach my left hand around to crank it because my poor underdeveloped right arm muscles were not strong enough to operate this device!

The wall crank pencil sharpener AKA the bane of my elementary school existence...

The wall crank pencil sharpener AKA the bane of my elementary school existence…

2) Sweeping – I’m actually curious to know if this is just me or if any other lefties are borderline handicapped when it comes to sweeping with a traditional broom? I am convinced that the slant of the broom is righty-favored and thus this is a chore for my right-handed boyfriend in my house.

broom

Note the presumably right-hand optimized slant.

3) Renting golf clubs at the range – Maybe this is just a by-product of being a left-handed woman in the smallest state in the union (all odds against me!) but when I recently tried to borrow clubs at a local driving range the guy looked at me as if I had asked for a baseball bat rather than a golf club and laughed as he said, yeah we don’t have any of those…

My mom likes to say that I’m a lefty because I’ve been “difficult” (see also: not the norm, oppositional and anti-authority) since I came out of the womb. If I’m being honest she’s probably on to something. Being a lefty, whether genetic or a conscious choice seems to be a common trait for creative types who also happen to be just a *tad* rebellious. This is not necessarily a bad thing though! They say that most lefties are right-brained, which means they are inclined to make decisions based on emotion, intuition and nonverbal communication rather than logic.  Oh yeah and Dr. Oz even says we are smarter than righties!

Any lefties out there have anything else to add to the list of our oppression? Comment away!