Lessons from a Coffee Shop Wanderer

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 10.56.39 AMI’ve become one of those people. I’m that girl with the headphones, the Macbook and the scattered papers taking up prime real estate at your coffee shop. I’ll totally ask you to switch tables if you’re near an outlet and I need one. You probably think I’m pretentious – sorry about that!

Coffee shop working is pretty acceptable and even common place these days, especially in big cities, but when you live in a destination tourist town and summer is right around the corner? Not so much…

Most of the winter I camped out at my favorite local coffee shop, Empire Tea & Coffee, with no problem. There were plenty of others just like me there. As the nice weather rolled around however, I started seeking out some outdoor spots. I tested out the local Panera which sits across the street from the harbor and has several outdoor tables with umbrellas, a new Empire location which also has outdoor seating, and a downtown joint with no outdoor tables but good people watching never-the-less. This is when my coffee shop wandering started to present a few problems. For one, parking meters downtown switched on for the summer meaning I’d have to trek by foot to the downtown spot, lugging my laptop the whole way. This walk also forced me to walk by fudge shops, throngs of “cruise shippers,” t-shirt shops and vacationers, which can really breakdown your motivation when it seems you’re the only person that actually has a destination and obligation tied to your afternoon stroll. Then there was the sudden crowdedness of my spots. People were actually there to sip coffee absent-mindedly and chat about the weather. How dare they, I’m trying to work!

Maybe I should just hole up in my home office for the summer and leave the coffee shops for the tourists…but what fun would that be? I find it harder to stay focused at home when the sun is shining out my window and if I’m at least out enjoying the ambiance while working, I feel infinitely more motivated.

Since my current work mostly consists of telecommuting from my home base in Newport, RI or posting up somewhere on the Cape, I’ve learned a few tricks for being a New England digital nomad:

1) Tip generously. Duh, I was a hostess/waitress/bartender/shot girl for a good portion of my first quarter century of life, so tipping well has always been my mantra but some people may not realize those baristas need a little love too. If you want them not to hate you as you return day after day for that $2 coffee and a wi-fi password, make sure they see you throw a couple bucks in their cleverly wordsmithed tip jar/bucket/mug.

2) Accept the fact that the majority of people drinking coffee outside on a gorgeous June day in Newport/Cape Cod/anywhere with salty air are probably not concerned with the fact that you’re on deadline. They probably wonder what the heck you’re doing, as they order another scone and debate what they’ll do for the day (beach? shopping? cocktails?) Yeah, their life is rough…

3) Which brings me to point 3. Headphones are key to avoid overhearing the mostly vacation-minded conversations happening all around you. If you let yourself get sucked into people watching *cough* eavesdropping, you will find it extremely hard to continue working and very much want to cut your day short to go sunbathe/sip cocktails/frolic, etc. DO NOT DO THIS – you have bills to pay!

More tips to come, as well as my ever-growing list of favorite coffee shops in little Rhody and beyond.  Happy sipping friends 🙂

 

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!

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!

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!

My fifteen minutes…

It’s funny how things work out.  I just got back from a trip to LA and everytime I go there, I come back to NYC thinking I may be more of a west coast gal then an east coast one.  This trip was no exception.  Also, while I was there, I connected with someone who got me thinking about my life path, my destiny – you know, all that good LA-ish type stuff… Kidding, but seriously, this person did get me thinking deeper than my NYC brain usually thinks, but hey, I also had a 5 hour flight to sit through… 🙂

Anyway, I remembered (or rather reminded myself) that I love writing and would start doing again and I also told myself (see last post) that I would start doing more things to make a name for myself.  Well call it fate or call it a coincidence but the very next day I get contacted by CNN to appear on their CNN Newsroom show.  I also got a tweet from someone at CNN who told me he “lives for my blog” which pretty much made my life since I didn’t think anyone except my parents and my loyal Newport buddies actually read this thing!

Someone once told me that if you leave things in the universe’s hands they will work themselves out and I’m pretty sure that’s true.  There are highs and lows, ups and downs, setbacks, surprises, and things to work out, but at least tonight, I’m giving my crazy overactive, overanalyzing, ball of stress, plan-making mind a rest and having a lil’ faith…

Here’s a clip from my network television debut.  It was only about 3 minutes so I figure I got at least another 12 minutes of fame left in this lifetime! 🙂

Comments welcome…and yes, I know I say “I know” a lot!  Rookie mistake, I’ll do better next time!

Just another day…

Just another day...Some days nothing out of the ordinary happens…other days you have a totally random only-in-NYC-and-at-Likeable kinda day. Today was one of those.

The day included:

…My buzz builders (what we call our interns) making a remix of the Fresh Prince of Belaire rap and making me sport a fluorescent NKOTB hat while they filmed me

…People randomly laying face down in different odd spots around our office – or what I later learned was “planking” -Never heard of it? Neither did I! Read about it here – You’re welcome 🙂

…A good old-fashioned hot dog eating contest with an added Likeable twist – contestants had to wear our now -famous orange foam thumb while competing

Just another day...…A late lunch break at Bryant Park where I got all weepy missing my boyfriend and remembering when he used to meet me there for lunch breaks back in the day

…An awesome run along the Hudson river followed by a frozen yogurt delight on a park bench

All in a pretty solid day dontcha think? Oh – and happy #socialmedia day to those who celebrate…(I say that because I’m often reminded by my non-SM friends that they don’t know what I’m talking about half the time.) Just today, I got questioned when I wrote on a friend’s Facebook wall “FTW.” Jen/Erin if you’re reading this, it means “For The Win!

 

Pondering life from 30,000 feet…

Currently en route back to NYC from Lala land… Had a great few days in LA with coworkers and a great meeting with a new client. Sitting at an outdoor cafe a few hours before boarding my flight back to the concrete jungle I had yet another epiphany about life. NYC is NOT the place for me. This time I mean it! I am beach person – always have been, always will be. I instantly feel better just knowing that the ocean is nearby…and when I can SEE it and SMELL it and FEEL it – I feel 100% at home. I guess techincally NYC is an island and the ocean is nearby, but dirt doesn’t count as sand and for some reason there is no “ocean breeze” to be found…

When I think back on my years living by the beach in Narragansett, RI, Newport, RI and then again in Long Beach, NY – I realize I was A LOT more relaxed and “chill” and “easy-going”…

These words used to describe me but now I am just another nervous-nellie (as Carrie Kerpen my lovely boss calls me), high-strung, uptight, stressed out, negative-Nancy NY’er. Not cool 😦

Yes, I moved to NYC to focus on my career, dream big, live the NYC life and expeience it all while I was young and uninhibited. But now I’m not so young, not so unihibited and fully aware that I can HAVE an amazing job and DO an amazing job from anywhere (well maybe not anywhere, but definitely from somewhere other than NYC…like say a beach town in Cali, New England or elsewhere…)

Will I feel this way tomorrow? Who knows… When I wake up tomorrow morning to the bustling scene of a NYC spring morning on the Upper West side and go get my morning coffee and bagel from Zabar’s will I still feel like I need to immediately move to a beach town and chill down my lifestyle? Not sure… But for today – I have decided, in the words of the great Ray LaMontagne – “Gotta get out of New York City…New York City’s killing me…”