One of the conversations that seems to be on repeat lately is the topic of working from home. I’ve been a home worker now for over four years and while it has perks, it absolutely has its downsides as well. After all, nothing is perfect! One of the things you look for and look forward to is collaborating with other like-minded individuals and people in similar career trajectories as you…Read More
Working from home in the wintertime has its perks. While everyone is digging through snow to get to their cars and their offices Monday morning, I don’t have to step foot out the door. However, it’s the season of chills up the spine and all the cozy things so why not embrace it? My “working” wardrobe might not consist of sweater dresses and dress slacks but it certainly reflects the season. There are a few tweaks I make to the kitchen and home office this time of year as well. I call them my “Winter Office Must-Haves.” They are the necessities to get me through the colder months which can stretch through April and even May sometimes in Chicago…Read More
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Tomorrow is my first official day back at a regular schedule and work after a two week vacation and I’m feeling refreshed and re-energized. Something that has been a long time coming. Every year, I like to start off or end with a post that reflects on the year past and looks toward goals and dreams for the new year. Have a seat and grab a cup of coffee because I have a bit to say this year. A lot has happened personally, professionally and emotionally. While I’m on board with everyone who complained about 2018 being a terrible year, I’m also grateful for it because it gave me the kick in the ass that I needed.Read More
Chicago is one of the best cities for self-employed individuals and entrepreneurs. Going off on my own almost four years ago now, I’ve had the chance to get to know the city in a different way. It became my office playground like many other people who are in similar career paths and work environments. I’ve explored different neighborhoods and found a few favorite spots to return to and a few spots that are better for casual coffees with friends. For a productive day “out of the office,” I learned quick that cafes and coffee shops with a strong internet connection are vital. It’s also a perk if they offer real food and not just snacks or pastries as well as plenty of outlets. To meet with colleagues or clients, it’s important to find spots with a lower noise level or at least moderate so you can have a conversation without screaming. Some of the best spots are tucked away in the neighborhoods of Chicago and others are right in the heart of downtown. All it takes is a little exploration to find the right ones!Read More
In honor of World Productivity Day, I thought it would be a fantastic time to share a few tips to stay productive while traveling. One of the reasons I have the fortune to travel often is because I can work anywhere as long as there’s an internet hook up. When you’re not bound by a corporate office structure, it affords a lot more flexibility to live your life rather than your job live life for you. With that said, while traveling is a perk of working from home, you still need to make time to meet deadlines while away. It’s not always easy and sometimes you might have to spend more time in the hotel room or coffee shop than you would have preferred, but it is doable. These are some of the tricks I’ve learned in the last few years.
#1 - Set Office Hours. This was the most important lesson I learned and I learned the hard way too. It’s great to plan and work while traveling but it doesn’t work well unless you set aside specific times dedicated to it. I schedule a few hours early in the morning from 7-9am (if not earlier), venture out until lunchtime and then get a few more hours in during the afternoon. Usually around 1-4pm. There are two reasons for this. One, not much is open before 9am so there’s not a ton to miss out on and the afternoon is a high tourist time, perfect to avoid crowds. The second reason is because I tend to get the most action on email in the afternoon so if there’s a time of day I need to be present, that’s it. If necessary, I’ll set aside an hour or two at night as well. The point is, that time is specifically set for working. Whether I grab my portable office and head to a coffee shop or make a spot for myself in the hotel lobby, that computer is open and I am focused. When you don’t set that time aside, it’s hard to gage how much time you need to get all your tasks done and the lack of organization could end up causing you to spend more hours at the computer than you’d prefer.
#2 - Make the most of the time you set. Along with setting the time to work, making the most of it should be just as important. Don’t waste the three hours you’ve set aside in the morning checking on your Facebook feed. Unless your tasks have to do with social media, sign off all your accounts and mute your phone. Avoid any and all distractions so that you are solely focused on getting work done and getting out to explore. But don’t forget, just because you’re working doesn’t mean you have to be holed up in a hotel room. I haven’t been to one town or city without a local coffee shop or bakery that offers internet. Take your computer out of the hotel and sit in a cafe like a local. It might give you a little extra motivation to get your to-do list done.
#3 - Batch Tasks. One of the most efficient ways to work is by batching similar tasks together. My day typically blocks out by writing assignments, pitching assignments, and miscellaneous tasks. Schedule the hardest tasks or the ones that will take the longest amount of time at the beginning of your set work time. Getting them out of the way will help keep up momentum so you don’t get discouraged by the time you’ve reached your final to do. Getting discouraged could cause you to spend more time on it then necessary. The strategy of batching tasks is helpful because it forces you to concentrate on the same type of work rather than constantly shift your focus and mindset. It’s a more productive way to get things accomplished.
#4 - Prepare in advance. This is a big one and it will have a great impact on how much you’ll be on the computer while traveling. Regardless of your job, there are tasks that can be done in advance so that they’re off your plate at a later date. For me, these tasks might be writing and scheduling social media content or getting follow-ups out for a pitch that I sent recently. Two weeks before leaving, make a to-do list of all your regular tasks, all your deadlines and anything that you can think of that might come up during your time away. Figure out what can realistically be completed before you leave and execute them. By taking care of things that can be done in advance, you’re freeing up time to enjoy the destination rather than work on those tasks. It will also relieve some stress when you return.
#5 - Let your team know you’re traveling. Unless you want it to be a secret, be honest with your colleagues and your clients. Let them know you’re going to be traveling for a certain amount of time and that you won’t be as available as usual. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be there to handle emergencies if they come up or stay on top of your regular tasks. It lets them know that you might not be as quick to answer and that if there’s something that can wait to be addressed when you return, you’ll file it for later. This is helpful because it will keep clients and colleagues from piling on new responsibilities that aren’t urgent and they’ll most likely back off a bit on communications as well. And that’s great because you won’t be constantly digging out of emails. The bottom line - you’ll be returning soon and if you have a good relationship with the people you work with, they should be understanding and flexible to allow you to still handle things but keep it light
Working from home is something a lot of people are doing more often these days. Whether it’s because they’ve embarked on the adventure of self-employment or their company is allotting so many remote work days each month, it’s a trend that seems to be taking root. Since entering self-employment three years ago this past Thanksgiving, I’ve created a little nook for myself that serves as my place of work. I’ve learned what is necessary for a productive space to work from and what is not. It’s taken some trial and error, and lots of wasted money on my part, to figure out what works. To get 2018 started on the best note possible, I wanted to share eight non-negotiable things that are in my own personal space. Everyone is different thought so some of these might not apply to you as much but at least give them a shot. You never know if something out of the norm for you might actually work!
1 - A Good Planner. I’ve been in the planner business since 2015 when I bought my first high-end planner. Since then, I’ve found an option that costs half the price and works even better, the Happy Planner. I like seeing my schedule on a weekly basis and in a vertical view. Each row (as you see below) has a different purpose: top tier for personal appointments and dates, second tier for work-related things, and third tier for all things blog life. I like to include goals and top to-do’s in my planner and sometimes deadlines and notes. My planner is my life. I’ll use my Google calendar for appointments, meetings and events (anything that requires a commitment from me) as a backup but my planner is the Bible of Christine.
2 - A fully stocked working space. Just because the office is at home doesn’t mean it should be any less stocked with supplies than an office. You don’t need a supply room full of dozens of back-ups but it’s smart to have the essentials within your office. This includes a desk, chair, lamp/lighting, computer (obviously), notebooks/pads, pens and pencils, scissors, a printer with ink and paper, tape, white out...you know, the essentials. I’ve built up quite a collection of supplies since college thanks to an office supply obsession but I’m cautious of clutter. Working in a cluttered space is as detrimental to productivity as not having the tools you need to work efficiently. So keep what you need and store or toss the rest. The less you have on your desk the better.
3 - A killer internet connection. Luckily I split my time between a city and the suburb of a big city so internet speed is never something I had to fight for. I have friends who live in different states and in the country and internet speed is something they don’t have the luxury to invest in. If you work from home and need to be on the computer and on email, a good internet connection is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Visiting family in Washington DC that didn’t have good internet was one of the worst experiences of my life. I had to go to a Starbucks to get onto my email. Unless you have a job that doesn’t require being connected to the rest of the world, there’s no way around it. You need fast, capable internet or you need to find a space that's able to provide it for you.
4 - A great coffee maker. This one is a bit biased because I have a coffee addiction but if you need your cup o’joe in the morning, this is a necessity for you as well. My Keurig had serious issues last year which caused me to spend a lot of money on buying coffee and ultimately time as well since leaving my house to get coffee was out of the way and not part of my regular routine. Having a good coffee maker available to you that’s stocked with beans or cups or whatever it requires makes the mornings go smoother and the afternoons survivable on bad days. I’m now a Ninja Coffee Bar owner and so far so good. I’m loving it.
5 - Essential oils and a diffuser. Last year, I became a Young Living member and ever since, I’ve been building up my collection of essential oils. Some days I use them more than others but the days that I do use them, they help me just the way I need them to. My nighttime routine now includes me prepping the diffuser for the morning so that I can press start and get going with my day. With this dry, winter weather, the diffuser is great to add a touch of humidity to the office. I have go-to blends for when I’m not feeling well and certain oils that I’m still experimenting with which is always fun. I know that my life has changed for the better with essential oils and I wish I had them earlier in my self-employment career when anxiety and stress ruled my life. If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils, contact me! I’ll be sharing more about them and my personal story as we get farther into 2018.
6 - Inspirational quotes. This isn’t so much a necessity as it is a nice personal touch. I received this block of quote cards several years ago in a box swap that I still use today. Each card has a quote on front and back and each morning, I flip it to the next one. Some days, the quotes are eerily applicable to my life. Other days, they don’t relate but they do make me think for a minute. It’s a nice touch for inspiration and motivation.
7 - Wall Calendar. I love my planner but it's good to have a monthly view of dates sometimes. I don’t write anything on my wall calendar, it’s only there for a month’s view of the days. It puts time in perspective by showing you how many days or weeks remain until a deadline or event. It also acts as a reminder for how much time is left in the month. I don’t know about you but November and December managed to disappear in no time even with the calendar on the wall.
8 - Water. One of the perks about working in an office is a water station or a stocked fridge with beverages. Let’s be honest, most people do not have water coolers in their home for regular hydration. With that said, it’s important to have a source of hydration at home. For those of us who don’t have safe, drinkable water (I’m looking at you well water), that could be keeping a stock of bottled water or some kind of filtration system. For those who do have good drinking water, that could be using a fun and reusable water bottle. The truth is that I drank a ton more water working in an office than I do at home. It was an excuse for me to get up and walk around. Having a water routine at home is necessary to keep the body hydrated and give it something cleaner than the dozen cups of coffee I can down in a day.
Do you work from home? What are a few essentials you must have for a productive and efficient work life?
Our final Fearless Woman to Know for Women’s History Month is the incredible, Katie Carrico of Chicagogrammers and Dining at My Desk. I’ve known Katie for a few years thanks to the Chicago blogging community and I was pumped when she co-founded Chicagogrammers. It’s a fun community for Instagram influencers in the Chicago area that grows your Instagram skills while providing fun events to get to know local businesses and other members.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Chicagogrammers.
First of all, hello readers! If you’re reading this, you obviously have good taste, and thanks to Christine for letting me chime in! I’m Katie Carrico, Founder of Chicagogrammers. We’re a member-based organization for local Chicago Instagram users! Chicagogrammers organizes events and promotions with local bars, restaurants, businesses and brands to help them create a buzz on Instagram, which is far and away the BEST social platform for getting the word out there for businesses. The best part is that it’s free (and always will be) for members! We currently have 400 members, our hashtag #chicagogrammers has been used 37,000+ times, and we have 5,700+ followers on Instagram. We’re growing everyday, and we love new members! Our Instagram account is a regram account, and each day of the week we pick a different theme, and those themes rotate monthly. It’s just a fun account to follow, because you’re always going to get a good idea of what’s going on in this great city we live in, and some great Instagrammers to follow. A big goal of ours is to always remain member-centric, so we try to find fun ways to highlight our members as much as we can.
What made you decide to organize Chicagogrammers?
Ah, the story of Chicagogrammers...well, it really started as a whim this past July, because as a blogger for the past seven years (Dining at my Desk), I’ve seen MANY of these blogging groups form throughout the years on Facebook. You know the ones that ask you to click to read everyone else’s blog post, or follow each other, or any other number of blogging boost requests? The idea behind these groups isn’t bad, but the real issue is that the group might have 10,000 followers, and all of a sudden, now you have to read 1,000 blog posts? Or maybe you just have to read 5 or 10 posts, but in a sea of 1,000 comments, is anyone REALLY going to find your post? I thought starting something LOCAL that takes the best part of blogging - that’s Instagram, of course - and making it a group where people could meet each other and hang out in real life sounded interesting. I flung an email out to a few blogging buds to see if they would be interested in helping me with this endeavor, and I was lucky enough to have Chrissy Barua of the wonderful blog, The Hungary Buddha Eats the World, partner with me. Since meeting at a blogging event a few years ago, we’ve kind of been inseparable, and we comment all the time how we’re the perfect business partners - the stuff I suck at, she does remarkably well, and vice versa. We started Chicagogrammers randomly via email on a weekday afternoon, and actually didn’t even think to see if the Instagram was available - we were much more concerned with the Facebook Group! Luckily, all the social media handles were available, and here we are!
Do you have any Instagram tips to share?
I do!! My personal favorite find of all-time is the app VSCO Cam, which I use to manually edit every single image I put on my own Instagram account. The app is a little tricky to maneuver at first, so look up an online tutorial, but it seriously makes your photos SO MUCH BETTER. My other big tip is make sure you’re using hashtags in every photo, preferably just one or two in your main caption, then up to 30 in your first comment. Might I recommend the #chicagogrammers tag?
What are your favorite spots in Chicago to visit for photos and Instagram posts?
Well, I’m a foodie, and I do tend to get invited to a lot of great events in that realm. I’d say my absolute favorite event of all time was a blogger event where we partnered with the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and had a foodie crawl. Basically anything that I can eat as much as I want (that’s always a lot) and explore this city is always right up my alley. I’ve never met a food I didn’t want to photograph.
If someone is interested in Chicagogrammers, how can they sign up for more information and is there anything you can share that Chicagogrammers has in the queue?
Yes, we LOVE new members. To join, visit our Facebook Group, and then we’ll have you sign up for our weekly newsletter, which is filled with fun and free (always Instagrammable) events for members to attend. We do an official Chicagogrammers monthly happy hour each month, which members can sign up for from the newsletter. Our newsletter comes out around noon on Wednesdays, and you want to get to your inbox quickly, because our events fill up fast! As far as events in the queue, we have quite a few things up our sleeve, including some awesome collaborations, but can’t tell you about them just yet. Stay tuned!
Thank you for being one of our fearless women to celebrate for Women’s History Month! Leave us with a little inspiration for the other fearless women who are reading.
First of all, it’s inspiring to see so many women in entrepreneurial roles within the blogging community. The ladies are killing it out there! My best advice is to follow your intuition. If you have an idea and it seems like a good one to you, no matter how small it is, you can make it happen! Make friends who are interested in the same things as you are, and before you know it, you’ll have the network you need to help turn an idea into something amazing. Thanks for having me!
Women’s History Month is coming to an end in a few days but before it’s over, we have to lovely ladies for you to get to know. Dannie from Stile.Foto.Cibo. is a style and lifestyle blogger who has become a quick friend of mine in the last year. She’s passionate, intelligent and kind-hearted. We share a love for our rescue babies and French macarons. Keep reading to meet Dannie and make sure to check out her blog!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and
I’m Dannie, a 20-something style and lifestyle blogger. Stile.Foto.Cibo is Italian for style, photo, and food. When I started the blog, it was exactly that. A place for me to share my style journey as well as all the awesome food I was making and photography I was doing. Since then, Stile.Foto.Cibo has evolved into a space for me to share my style as well as give face and voice to the femme lesbian community.
Congratulations on your recent wedding! The photos from your special day and honeymoon were amazing. How have you been able to balance these momentous life events, blogging and work?
Full disclosure, I’ve been having an incredibly difficult time balancing my day job, blog, and life. I have to keep the blog separate from work and I have to have times where I just power down and enjoy time with my wife and dogs. But finding the time can be incredibly difficult. It’s actually in my 5-year-plan [yes, I have a 5-year-plan] to move away from Chicago to the West Coast and just blog full time. I think it would be much better for my overall work/life balance and a change of scenery would be quite fun. In the meantime, assume I need coffee, a nap, and a puppy cuddle.
What’s your favorite part about being a blogger? What keeps you inspired and motivated?
I honestly love the community. I feed off of excitement and community and sharing and supporting other girl bosses. Working with and around other amazing women is what keeps me motivated and going. I love reading other blogs to get inspiration, help build my own style, and simply see what people are up to. The community can be so uplifting and empowering. It’s really what keeps me hustling every single day.
You are a huge supporter of rescue animals. Tell us a little bit about your furbabies and why you’re so passionate about this cause and these animals. We’re a family of rescues as well and they hold a special place for us.
Do I have a maximum word count? Because I can go on endlessly about dogs and the rescue community.
Zoe is my first dog. She’s a Boston Terrier/Jack Russell mix who is the laziest little nugget ever. She loves chewing on bones, licking the peanut butter jar clean, and running around at the dog beach. She’s my first dog love and the reason I started working with rescues. When she was rescued, she weighed 10 pounds, was severely emaciated, had a UTI, worms, and ear mites, and was scared of her own shadow. Now, after 2 months in a foster home and two years with us, she weighs 18 pounds and is so confident and playful that she will try to play with the vacuum cleaner.
I began volunteering at PAWS last summer because I had the time and love to give to many dogs but the space to only have one. So I went and volunteered to share my love and help dogs like Zoe find homes. Zoe has a very rough beginning and I needed to help other pups with difficult backgrounds find amazing homes so they could become as wonderful of dogs as she is.
Tonks is our second child. I found her kind of by accident while volunteering at PAWS. We’d recently moved somewhere that allowed two dogs and I thought “nah, I can wait.” I lasted 3 days. We moved on July 31 and we brought Tonks home on August 3rd. She has been a whole different kind of challenge to Zoe’s shy/fearful personality. Tonks has a lot to say, needs constant attention and stimulation, and exhibits signs of barrier aggression, meaning it’s really difficult for her to meet other dogs if she’s on leash. She’s still my sweet baby and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. I just wish she would shut up sometimes! Hah!
Overall, the work I do with dogs is about giving back to a community that welcomed me so openly and helped me find my Zoe. Everyone has at least one Heart Dog in their lifetime, the dog that they connect with on a deeper level than all others, and she is mine. I didn’t think it was possible [pawsible?] to love a dog so much but she astounds me every single day with how powerful our bond is. I work with rescues to help other people find their own Heart Dog.
You have a series coming up on your blog celebrating women in the LGBTQ community. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Fashionably Femme launched on International Women’s Day as a way to celebrate the femme in a community where we’re often erased. I don’t know how many times I’ve surprised people by being gay (“but you don’t look gay!”) or been told “you’re too pretty to be gay.” These are, quite possibly, the most idiotic and uneducated reactions I could possibly receive. As a femme-identifying lesbian, I love dressing up and being girly. But the general stereotype of a lesbian is the butch. And while I come with more power tools than the average dude, I also come with a LOT of lipstick. Fashionably Femme aims to give fellow femmes a chance to have a space to share their style and speak their peace. That being said, if any of your readers identify as femme, please reach out! I’d love to feature you!
Thank you for being one of our fearless women to celebrate for Women’s History Month! Leave us with a little inspiration for the other fearless women who are reading.
Remember that no matter what, you are wonderful. You are important, you matter, and you are loved. No matter what anyone says to you, you are important and you have a reason for being here with the rest of us. You may not have found it yet but I am confident that you will. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Don’t give it to them. Keep on rocking.