The Credit-Free Summer

At the beginning of the summer, I made a promise to myself to not use my credit cards for the next three months. Yes, the joke is on me. However, I’ve limited my use and figured out how to better budget for the lifestyle I want.

I only have two credit cards but it’s amazing how quickly each swipe adds up. I was casually using my card all of the time, not realizing how much I was spending. Now that moving out is becoming a real possibility, this summer was the opportune time to start the proper savings plan.

So for the last couple of weeks, while it’s been somewhat challenging, I’ve figured a couple of tricks that have helped increased my savings and not my spending.

dollar sign

  • I made an actual budget spreadsheet that was divided into categories like transportation, fitness, food, etc.  Then I decided on a set amount for each of those categories as well as an amount to put into my savings at each pay check. I suggest using automatic online banking so the money is pulled right as you get paid. If you don’t see all the money, it feels like it wasn’t there!
  • I’ve tried to limit eating out to once a week especially in New York City. When lunch is ten dollars a day, it quickly adds up. It’s more economical to buy food in bulk or head to your local farmer’s market and make meals at home.
  • Gas continues to climb so be strategic about where you’re driving. Carpool if you can and have adult sleepovers if it’s more convenient! Your wallet will thank you.
  • When you do get a credit card, find one that has a rewards program. My American Express card has a great program specifically if you use your card for gas or at department stores. Some programs will let you use these rewards dollars towards your bill or you can purchase something from their rewards store. Usually, there’s a lot to choose from.
  • I leave at least one of the credit cards home every day. See no evil, can’t use the evil, it’s as simple as that.
  • You are allowed to SPLURGE, you’ve earned it! Just be smart about when and what you’re spending your money on. Also, websites like Groupon and Living Social typically have great deals on more expensive items or experiences like massages or fitness classes.

While it hasn’t been the easiest to limit my credit card use, it has certainly been worth it! The summer isn’t even over yet and my savings has increased. Feel free to share any other budget tips with my in the comments section!

 

Dancing Through Life

If you live anywhere on the east coast, lately you’ve experienced crazy thunderstorms complete with heavy rain, bright strikes of lightening and overall miserable conditions. It’s hard when it’s gloomy out to keep a positive attitude, much like it’s hard to be happy when life throws you curve balls. How do you keep moving forward when life drags you down?

Recently, I saw a quote that read, “Happiness is a choice, choice it.” Even when life downright sucks and nothing is going right, we all have the ability to choose to be happy. We can make the decision to see the glimmers of hope instead of being negative. I can attest that it is extremely difficult to stay positive, to look at the glass half full. I’ve been trying hard lately to stay positive through some challenging family situations that I could allow to affect my happiness. But what good does that do for anyone involved if I’m miserable?

When things don’t go right, absolutely allow yourself the momentary second (or more) to grieve, be angry, cry or feel bad for yourself. All of those emotions are probably valid and totally normal. But don’t get stuck there! Despite your hard situation, it could always be much worse. The situation that provides the most discomfort will be the one that teaches you the most.

You might have seen my post about Zumba and how it’s changed my life. Dancing and music have amazing benefits to both people’s physical and mental health. Next time life brings you down, find your favorite song and dance it out. You might need a couple of songs to cheer you up but I promise it will. I also suggest singing at the top of your lungs while dancing.

Below is a song from the musical Wicked titled Dancing Through Life. All of the characters face different obstacles but the song, sung by the charming Fiyero, proclaims “It’s just life, so keep dancing through.” Sometimes bad things happens that shake us to our core, but that’s no reason to stop dancing! No one said it would be easy, but it will be worth it.

Is Being Busy a Badge of Honor?

It has been two months and a day since my last blog post. This fact saddens me but the reality is I haven’t had time to fit writing into my schedule lately. Depressing to a degree, but the truth nonetheless.

Over the last two months, I’ve been to five different states, worked three different events and have had to make the choice on what the priority was that minute, hour, day and week. Some might call this busy and I did too, until I read a powerful article from the Harvard Business Review, sent to me by an esteemed colleague. The two-page article, “Why we Humblebrag About Being Busy,” should resonate with anyone who’s ever said “Oh I’m so busy,” in response to the simple question “how are you?”

busyThere’s so much to obsessed over in this article. You can bet that mine is highlighted, underlined and has been read approximately four times. In short, an epidemic is occurring where people are so proud of being busy that their lives are becoming a giant rat race of more. The more bubble, as author Greg McKeown suggests is enabled by “smart phones, social media, and extreme consumerism. The result is not just information overload, but opinion overload.” That thought, opinion overload, struck me as the greatest factor aiding the growth of everyone’s more bubble.

The opinion overload epidemic has been aided by advancing technology that allows us instantly post on a zillion different forums how late we’re working or actual photos of the work we have left to do. Twenty years ago, people didn’t feel the need to share about their overtime because there wasn’t technology for them to make this private information public. Now, it’s a constant competition of who is the busiest and when translated that means the most successful, happy, satisfied or important.

McKeown suggests four helpful tips to become more of an Essentialist or the type of person who actually read books instead of strolling through Facebook before bed. I’d like to add two more suggestions on how to become an essentialist:

1) Stop playing the comparison game. It does not matter what someone else is doing at work, at home, for their community or on the moon. This is your life, your journey to forge and I bet you are doing just fine.

2) Believe in balance. Some days, I have time to write  a blog post and exercise, but not all will be like that. Some days work wins and others my family come first. Priorities are allowed to shift as often as you need them to.

I am no where near being an essentialist but this article has inspired me to try harder. Being busy aka not sleeping, missing family time and being generally unhappy is not the badge of honor I want to wear any more. Join me in the essentialist movement and please share your tips below!

I’d like to add two more: work smarter, not harder and stop playing the comparison game. Most supervisors are not going to hover over your desk as you work. They trust you to get the work done in the most efficient, best way possible. Maybe that means you work 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. Or maybe you go to yoga on your lunch break. Figure out how to be more efficient and make that your routine. Working more hours does not always make you more productive.

Oh the comparison trap, how it ruins lives! Please do not scroll through Facebook or any other social media site and compare yourself to your co-workers, neighbors, relatives, friends, etc. It unhealthy and unproductive to make comparisons when no two lives operate in the same way. We each need to live our own life, on our terms. Sure, it’s fine to want more but not at the expense of your health, family, sanity or anything other life necessity.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Regardless of your profession, planning is mandatory for success. From surgeons to PR professionals, failing to plan will promise to give you a wealth of headaches.

I experienced one of these such headaches last week when it was 4 p.m. on a Friday and we didn’t have space for an event that was less than two weeks away. Backup plans and analyzing risk should be part of your routine when planning out schedules, events and pretty much anything else. Here are my tips when preparing for a presentation, meeting or whatever your need might be.

  • Write down any and all things that could go wrong. When I was an account executive at PRowl Public Relations, anytime we had an event, we listed out everything that could go wrong and what we would do if it did. This ensured that each member of the team was prepared to handle any unexpected challenges.
  • Have communications ready in case all of things that could go wrong actually do. Sometimes things happen in an instance and you need to fire off communications to target audiences immediately. Having these already drafted and patiently waiting in a Word document will save you the time.
  • Do your homework. If you’re presenting at a meeting, know the target audience and what questions they might ask. Also, do not read off a piece of paper, it’s not professional.  If you’re planning an event, know all the venue and hotel options in case your preferred venue cancels.
  • Hold a debrief after the meeting or event concludes. If you presented at a meeting, ask the audience for feedback and evaluate yourself too. Post event debriefs are pretty much essential so the team can evaluate its success and see what they could improve upon in the future.

Regardless of your profession, planning needs to be ingrained into your brain to guarantee success. As part of this, you should be organized, keep a calendar and communicate clearly. My friend and mentor, Jason Mollica, provides more planning tips here on his video blog.

What tips do you have when it comes to planning? How has it impacted your profession? Please share your ideas!

 

Slam Dunk Controversy

If you’ve been near a television, radio or basically any social media outlet over the last couple of days, you’ve heard about Donald Sterling and his less than appealing commentary. In short, Sterling made negative comments about his girlfriend being friends with “blacks” and said he did not want them at his games. Once the audio of his remarks were made public, Clippers players as well as the NBA were outraged. In response, the NBA banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million dollars. Anyone else think Sterling is kicking himself right now?!

As PR people (note applicable to all human beings), this mess can serve as a teaching moment for several reasons. Numero uno: Nothing you say is private if your life is public, meaning if you live in the public eye, you are vulnerable to have whatever you say and do examined by the world. In Sterling’s case, the comments he made were said in private but clearly it didn’t make a difference. It’s important to make our clients aware of this and make sure they know what they can and cannot say in various situations.

donald sterlingPoint number two: Trust no one. Now, this is a hard sell because you need people in your life to talk to. But for those in the public eye, it’s important for them to realize not everyone should know every detail of their lives. There are bad people out there who just want to get close to someone for the story or the almighty dollar. Public figures and celebrities need to keep this in the back of their minds.

No one is denying that what Sterling said was completely wrong. He should be held accountable for his actions regardless of where or when he made these comments. One could argue, though, that more severe acts have been committed with minimal consequences. For example, Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles made racist comments at a concert. He was fined as a result of his actions but is still an active player within the NFL. I understand each sport’s leadership is different but Sterling’s lifetime ban versus Cooper’s fine makes me wonder. Other athletes, say Michael Vick for example, have gotten away with far worse too.

The bottom line is people, public figures or otherwise, need to be held accountable for their actions. PR people need to aid their clients in being responsible for their words and actions. Donald Sterling’s situation is unfortunate but can be used as a lesson for all of us.

Punching My Card

At the beginning of the year, I made a promise to myself: to be healthy. I know most everyone starts the new year off with diets, new workout routines and juice cleanses. While all of that was part of my resolution, it has become so much more than that.

mentalityI knew being healthy was going to mean a change in behavior and a shift in mindset. I like to eat really good food and finding time to fit in a workout is always a challenge. But 2014 was the year when it had to change. I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life and knew something had to change. I found Zumba classes close to the train station, making it easiy to get there after work. My job also offers a strength training class after work in the cafeteria. These classes combined with a close-by yoga class and a run makes for a successful exercise week.

Each of my classes gives their participants a card to punch at each class. This card punching process has become addictive. I look so forward to class each week that I have on occasion flipped out when I couldn’t attend. Take last Wednesday for example. I couldn’t get to my strength training class because I didn’t take my car to the train station. I was in full tantrum mode by 6 a.m. After a few deep breaths, I realized that whybeing so upset means my fitness routine has become a priority for me. This was a shift in behavior as working out was never a constant priority; now it is. I look forward to my classes and want to order a salad for lunch. Of course priorities might have to shift some days and I will miss a class. But in the end, my overall well-being ranks high on the priority list now.

Since I’ve built working out into my weekly schedule, my body feels better and my attitude is more positive. I don’t huff and puff up the subway steps and actually look forward to my walk to Penn Station after work. Now I just need to stick through it during the spring!

Has fitness always been important to you? If not, what changed? Feel free to share your thoughts!

 

Professional F.O.M.O

FOMO

F.O.M.O or fear of missing out is something we’ve all experienced. Personal F.O.M.O gives you that annoying little pang of pity. Oh my friends are at Coachella and I’m not. Boo hoo! But professional F.O.M.O leaves you feeling anxious, frustrated and confused. The consequences are much more far-reaching when you feel like you’re missing out on your career.

First, let me state that I love my current job. The projects I work on challenge me daily, I work with some of the best people around and I’m doing work that helps people. I don’t want to leave my job, I just don’t know if I want to stay forever. Fear. Of. Missing. Out.

The plan all through college was to enter the public relations industry upon graduation. It felt (and looked on paper) that I did everything right. But the road took me elsewhere and for that, I’m beyond grateful. Still even with a great job that includes traveling, I still feel like I’m missing out. I look at my two best friends as well as pretty much everyone I graduated with and wonder about all of the what if’s. Such a short time ago, I had everything figured out. Now I have no clue where to go from here.

Admitting my professional F.O.M.O isn’t easy. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for my current job nor do I want to sound like I’m complaining. Life is good and I’m certainly developing a wealth of transferable skills. But someone please tell me how I build media contacts when I do not work with the media?

What also contributes to my F.O.M.O condition is my inherit need to plan. It’s just in my blood: the color-coding, making plans, setting goals, knowing what’s next. But right now, I have no idea what the future holds and am desperately trying to become comfortable with that.

I’m trying to manage this F.O.M.O by recognizing it’s normal not to know exactly what you want. I’ve also written professional goals to achieve at my current job. As far as keeping my public relations edge, I utilize Feedly to compile a great list of PR blogs and publications to check on my commute home. I’m also trying to network through social media to possibly set up informational interviews. Hopefully, all of this will help keep my F.O.M.O at bay!

Throughout this F.O.M.O journey, one thing is evident: comparing yourself to others will just drive you crazy. Everyone’s path is different and unique to them; it doesn’t make one way right and the other wrong. I need to figure out what I want and how to get there without worrying about what my friends are doing.

Have you experience professional F.O.M.O? How did you cope? Please please please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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