Are You Suffering From Decision Fatigue?

I recently wrote a piece for the New York Women in Communications Aloud blog about decision fatigue. You can read it there or right here!

Does this sound anything like your morning? Wake up, hit snooze, scramble to shower. Pick an outfit, check the weather to find that your outfit isn’t ideal for a 75-degree sunny day; pick a new one. Decide what to eat for breakfast (or maybe skip it?); ponder if you have time to stop for coffee.

By the time you’re on your way, you’ve expended a lot of mental energy in making a series of tiny decisions. In fact, the average adult makes 35,000 decisions each day. According to aCornell University study, 200 of those are just about food.

At work, you may not have the right mindset to tackle big projects and solve problems, leading to more stress. It is a vicious cycle, and it has a name: Decision Fatigue. The more decisions you make each day, their quality will deteriorate as the day goes on.

The author of a recent Fast Company article explains decision fatigue as “the mental equivalent of hanger, that dreaded combination of hunger and anger.” When we’re “hangry”, we’re more likely to act impulsively. When we’re low on mental energy, it’s more difficult to think critically and solve problems.

A few simple adjustments to planning your day can reduce decision fatigue and improve productivity. Here’s how you can save energy and creativity when it matters most.

  1. Consider a work uniform. If you dread picking an outfit every day, a “work uniform” might be the solution. Take it from Matilda Kahl, who wrote forHarper’s Bazaar about crafting her perfect work uniform. She realized how many hours she was spending on choosing an outfit, so she simplified the process by buying 15 silk white blouses and a few pairs of black pants. Not only is she saving time and making one less decision each morning, she’s also saving money on new clothes. Another successful person with a work uniform? Mark Zuckerberg. His famous gray t-shirt and jeans outfit was the subject of an April Fools’ Day joke this year.
  1. Embrace the magic of batch cooking. Cooking three meals a day can be time-consuming, and eating out gets expensive. Plus, none of us want to worry about cooking after getting home at 10 p.m. By that point, our decision-making skills are depleted, and all we want to do is order take-out. This is where batch cooking comes in handy. Planning and prepping meals each Sunday takes the guesswork out of what to eat for the week and consolidates your decision-making into one afternoon. If you want to give this a try, check out BuzzFeed’s guide for a week of healthy lunches and Pepperplate: a meal-planning tool, recipe book and shopping list all in one.
  1. Build a schedule at work. When we’re juggling projects, breaking up our day can help optimize our mental energy to the tasks that require it. That might mean powering through emails from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then focusing on a major task from 10 a.m. to noon. Planning to tackle difficult tasks early in the day when our minds are fresh is another strategy to consider.
  1. Treat your downtime and relaxation as a non-negotiable. To perform our best at work, we need time to refresh our minds and bodies. As Bridget Thoreson noted in her recent Aloud post, finding an anti-stressor and committing to it will help us reset. An easy way to avoid decision fatigue? Put your morning yoga class on your calendar, or schedule whatever other activity you need to reset.

By cutting down on the more basic decisions in our lives, like what to eat and what to wear, we can apply our mental energy in the smartest way. When we face the day with a clear mind, it shows in our work and attitude and increases our energy for what really matters.

“I need light in the dark as I search for the resolution.”

Title is from this song by Jack’s Mannequin.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes New Year’s Resolutions:

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 2.05.34 PM

Inspired by this, my New Year’s resolution list is:

  1. Open doors for people

Just kidding. But in an effort to hold myself accountable, I wanted to share a few resolutions/things I’d like to work on or continue in 2016.

  1. Drink more water. I generally squeeze in 8 glasses on weekdays but could use this reminder on weekends.
  2. Be thoughtful and gracious when accepting criticism or compliments. There’s no need to take criticism too personally, or to immediately deflect a compliment.
  3. Take the time to learn and hone a new skill.
  4. Be more mindful when grocery shopping to reduce food waste.
  5. Make time for hanging out with friends, but accept that it’s ok to respectfully decline  sometimes in favor of much-needed alone time.
  6. Sign up for TSA Pre-check.
  7. Go on at least two runs per week, even if they’re short.
  8. Talk less, listen more.
  9. Read more fiction. I’ve been on a non-fiction kick for a while and am craving a change.
  10. Actually finish an entire season of a TV show. This probably sounds trivial, but I am notoriously bad at making it through shows. Like, I only have one more episode of Master of None to watch and I finished episode 9 two months ago. I should probably just watch that single, 30-minute episode so I can say I’ve completed the season.
  11. No screen time 30 minutes before bed. (Which means I need to finish watching Master of None no later than 30 minutes before bed.)

Happy 2016!

Good advice from Lorde

This interview with singer Lorde from Rookie is almost a year old, but I was recently thinking about some advice that she shared.

The whole interview is well worth a read (Lorde and Tavi Gevinson, her interviewer, are two of the coolest ladies out there) but this quote from Lorde really resonated:

“I’m actually a super non-confrontational person, and I hate having to assert myself. I find it difficult and really awkward. But the way I see it is, it’s 15 or 20 seconds of discomfort, and then a product that you are truly happy with. Which is a lot better than being like, “Dammit, why did I not speak up?” I just tell myself that the reward will be good, considering it’s usually just a small amount of stress.”

I have this quote saved to a folder on my laptop as a reminder to move past my nerves or discomfort and be assertive when it counts.

Thanks, Lorde.

Articles Club

dog-puppy-newspaper-flickr-steve-eng

One of my favorite bloggers, Joanna Goddard, recently posted about her monthly articles club on her popular Cup of Jo blog.

What’s an articles club? Think book club but swap in magazine/news articles for books.

I’ve always had a love for reading the Internets and hosting dinner parties (a tiny Manhattan apartment makes this especially fun, ha) so an articles club sounded like the perfect way to combine these things.

Inspired by Joanna’s post, I pitched the idea to some friends and they were on board. A Facebook event was created, articles were submitted to a Google Doc, and the club was born!

On a Monday evening a few weeks ago, we met up at my apartment for pizza, snacks, and an awesome discussion of the articles we all selected. The conversation flowed so easily from story to story and in just two hours, it felt like we’d covered a lot of ground.

Here’s what we covered:

The Princess Effect (Politico)

Did Tony die at the end of the Sopranos? (Vox)

Freezing eggs as part of employee benefits (The New York Times)

(Worth noting: we had a tiny group this time and not everyone submitted an article.)

Meeting #2 is already on the books. I’m excited to see how our little club evolves over the next few months.

What I’m reading, eating, & tweeting

Because I spend a good portion of my day on the Internet, whether it’s for work or for fun, it seemed silly to not keep this blog at least semi-regularly updated. So here’s a quick look at what I’ve been reading, the places around NYC I’ve been eating, and interesting things I’ve found around the Internets that have merited a Tweet. (Here’s hoping I can look back on all of these and either be proud or deeply embarrassed about my choices.)

Reading1

Eating1

Photos: Konstantin Sergeyev, Grub Street // Dylan Stilin, NYU Spoon University

More accurately, “read.” I just finished New York Times reporter Nick Bilton’s “Hatching Twitter,” which tells the story of the site’s inception and growth over the past eight years, while highlighting the co-founders’ stories and challenges along the way. Bilton describes everything from the power struggles among the founders to the celebration of major company milestones, making the ubiquitous site seem a bit more human. A fascinating read, and there’s already a TV series in the works.  

 

Tweeting1

Photo: IDEO

Last week, a few friends and I headed to Black Seed, a new bagel shop in Nolita. The bagels were being touted as a hybrid between Montreal and New York-style, but since I can’t really tell the difference, I was just excited to eat a delicious bagel. And they didn’t disappoint. I ordered an everything bagel with scallion spread and it was probably among the top five bagels I’ve ever had. For fans of Mile End and The Smile (Black Seed co-founders’ other ventures), this place is a must.

 I’m a big fan of IDEO’s design work and the at-home manicure, so this was a fun read. IDEO partnered with beauty company Julep to redesign the nail polish brush from the tiny, awkward one that’s in the cap of the polish to an elegant wand that’s much easier to handle. This piece on the company’s blog details the prototyping process and the design collaboration.

Learning about “the great equalizer”

I wrote this piece for nywiciNEXT, the New York Women in Communications, Inc. student blog. I had an awesome time organizing this panel for the 2013 Student Communications Career Conference. I was so impressed with the way the panelists wove their unique roles (editor, writer, community manager) into their responses to provide a truly valuable look at the blogging industry.  

Original post is here. 

SCCC ’13 Coverage: Blogging 101, Learning about “the great equalizer”

We always hear that a blog is a strategic extension of a personal brand. It’s an asset to a portfolio or website, and a great way to get our writing out in the wild.

But sometimes, we want to take our blogs to the next level. Whether we simply want to increase traffic and reach more people, or even turn our blogs into a full-time business, it takes strategic thinking and a commitment to consistently publish quality work. img_4282

At this year’s NYWICI Foundation Student Communications Career Conference, the panelists on the Blogging 101 panel, moderated by Lori Greene, discussed every facet of blogging, from the day-to-day writing to developing a revenue model. Here’s some of their inspiring and actionable advice:

  1. Be genuine. “The most effective posts have an authentic narrative,” said Liz Perle, Senior Editor at Huffington Post Teen. “If a post isn’t genuine, readers can smell it from a mile away.” She cited a post written by a HuffPost Teen contributor that simply expressed her admiration for Michelle Obama. It was honest and thoughtful, and caught the attention of the First Lady herself. This led to an opportunity for the young blogger to meet her idol at an event. The takeaway? Write openly and genuinely about things you actually care about and readers will notice and appreciate you for it.
  2. Find your people. Sure, you’ve got a lot to share on your blog. Who do you share it with? “The communities are already out there. You just have to go out and find them,” said social journalist and community manager Annemarie Dooling. She recommended strategically choosing a blogging platform based on your interest. For example, for photography bloggers, Tumblr lends itself well to posts focused on visuals. Chances are, other photographers have the same idea. Find them and reach out.
  3. Look at the numbers. Be sure that your blog has some form of analytics installed. It’s an easy way to see who you’re reaching and how they’re interacting with your site. “Spend some time with your analytics,” saidCarly Heitlinger, who founded TheCollegePrepster.com. “Follow the path of the user and see where and when they’re clicking.” She emphasized that making informed decisions about your site’s layout or user experience based on your analytics could have a tremendous impact on traffic.
  4. Become an expert in something. “When you have a blog, you become a source for other people in your industry,” said Jeannine Morris, Founder of BeautySweetSpot.com. How did Jeannine become an expert in her field? She worked on the beauty section of Cosmopolitan before launching her blog and learned everything she could about the beauty industry. She built credibility and quickly started seeing other blogs and publications linking to her site as a source. “When you brand your platform, you brand yourself,” she added.
  5. Take it to the next level. Focus on content first before turning your blog into a revenue stream and accepting sponsorships, partnerships, and running banner ads. Great content draws engaged readers, and once you build a following, you can consider turning your blog into a full-time job. “Consistency is more important than frequency,” Carly said. Be prepared to deliver on what you say you will, especially when it comes to sponsors.

The panelists all agreed that blogging should be fun and rewarding and when it becomes a chore, it’s okay to scale it back. To close out the panel, Annemarie shared a valuable piece of advice: “Blogging is the great equalizer.”

Everyone can have a voice online and a space to share their ideas; a blog is the perfect way to share yours.

SXSW in a nutshell.

I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas this year. It’s been on my bucket list for quite some time, and it’s basically Heaven for fans of tech, music, and film.

imgres

The event is a two-week whirlwind (I attended the Interactive portion from March 8-12), during which thousands of attendees descend upon Austin to learn, network, and soak up some of the unique, offbeat culture the city has to offer. The days are filled with panel sessions, with each narrowly focused on a particular area of the tech, music, or film industries. The nights are filled with parties and shows. (Shout-out to the Foursquare party! So epic.)

SXSW is much more of a festival than a conference; no one’s walking around in stuffy suits and ties. While there’s certainly a structure, the greatest value, in my opinion, comes from the conversations that happen between panels and during the parties. Networking opportunities are everywhere, and I was amazed at how willing people were to share their stories and advice.

A few key takeaways: (1) Talk to people. If you’re waiting in line for a session, hanging out at a party, or just spot someone you know from Twitter (trust me, it’s not that creepy here), just say hi. I promise you won’t regret it. (2) Accept the fact that you’ll be running on little sleep. You can sleep when you get home; go to that early panel or stay a bit later at that party. Essentially, YOLO. (3) See as much of Austin as you can. It’s an incredible city that’s quite an up-and-comer in the tech, music, and film worlds. It’s worth it to take some time to explore the area. Oh, and eat copious amounts of BBQ and Mexican food.

Here are a few slightly more tangible SXSW essentials:

SXSWEssentials

1. Backup phone battery. I bought a tiny Mophie Juice Pack Reserve specifically for SXSW. I knew I’d be using my phone all day (though I tried to keep the live-tweeting as non-obnoxious as possible) and I wouldn’t always have time to sit next to an outlet while my phone re-charged. This little guy did the trick and saved me from a dead phone multiple times throughout the trip. (Pro tip: Always be charging. If you’ve got your computer and your regular phone charger on you (recommended), you can charge your phone using your computer as well.)

2. Business cards. Get ’em printed ahead of time and keep them on you at all times. Even for parties at night; you never know who you’ll meet.

3. Power strip. This is something I actually forgot to bring, but definitely could have used on multiple occasions. It’s not uncommon to see SXSW-goers huddled around any electric outlet they can find. With thousands of people fighting for an outlet, you can be a hero by bringing a power strip and sharing the wealth. Plus, it’s a great way to make friends.

4. Cold medicine. I’d heard tales of the infamous SXSW Plague before I even arrived. By Day 4, I realized how painfully accurate they were. Sure, the gorgeous Texas weather helped to offset the grogginess, but the cold symptoms were tough to ignore by the end of my time at SXSW. I wasn’t surprised. Long days, long nights, minimal sleep, and shaking a lot of hands don’t make for optimal health. Bring some Alka-Seltzer and try to nip the impending cold in the bud. Power through, soldier.

5. Comfortable shoes. SXSW is uber-casual. There is absolutely no reason to  put yourself through the agony of wearing heels. I only brought three pairs of shoes: sandals (like the ones pictured), black flats, and Sperrys (which I only wore at the airport) and I was absolutely fine. Make sure the shoes you pack can handle a ton of walking without giving you blisters, especially because you might not have a chance to change shoes during the day before heading out for the night.

So those are a few tips. SXSW was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m already saving up and making plans to go again next year. If you can swing it, I encourage you to do the same; I promise it’s worth it.

Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day: A Few Thoughts

This Friday, February 1 was supposed to be “Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day,” as declared by gaming and social media journalist Leigh Alexander. 

In an effort to raise awareness about the objectification that female tech writers experience, supporters were encouraged to add in “compliments” about male tech writers to tweets featuring links to their work in an effort to objectify them. Tweets should be tagged with #Objectify to be part of the conversation.

The event was generating quite a bit of buzz around the Internets after Alexander announced it on Janaury 23.

But then, she cancelled it.

Alexander thoroughly outlined her rationale for creating–and later, cancelling–the event in her various blog posts and press coverage.

I wrote a post about the event, and shared some thoughts on whether or not it would have been successful, for Information Space at the iSchool, which you can read here.

But I’d like to elaborate a bit more candidly here.

I’ll admit, when I first read about this event, I was appalled. Why did someone think that an appropriate response to the objectification of female tech writers was to fight fire with fire, and demonstrate the same treatment toward their male counterparts?

Upon further research, it became clear that Alexander and other event supporters simply wanted to “start a conversation” about sexism that would eventually lead to a decrease in objectification, and hoped that #Objectify would be a light-hearted approach to doing so.

After discussing the event with some male and female family members and friends, it seems that Alexander’s big vision got slightly misconstrued. When you strip away the good intentions, you’re left with an attention-seeking blogger that didn’t quite think this whole thing through.

Alexander openly admitted to some lack of forethought, which contributed to the event’s cancellation. To her credit, I thought she did an excellent job of articulating her views and fundamental beliefs behind #Objectify through a thorough Q & A posted on her personal blog. (The post has since been removed.) Supporters of the event even drew up a guide: “How to participate in #Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day without being part of the problem” to further clarify how participants could best convey the initiative’s core ideals.

In a way, Alexander was successful. She garnered press and attention for her efforts, and got even more when she cancelled the event. And there’s no denying that the buzz surrounding the event shed some light on the topic at hand.

To be fair, I can’t think of another method that would accomplish the goal of eradicating sexism toward women in male-dominated fields, and I’m not usually one to offer criticism without suggesting a possible alternative.  Of course, there’s certainly no overnight solution to the issue. I’d be interested to see a similar event to #Objectify re-emerge–perhaps with a different title–to bring the topic to light and spark a conversation that focuses more on the issue at hand and less on the logistics or attitude surrounding the event.

Is there a possible solution? How would you have approached this differently? (Do you think I’m being too harsh on Leigh Alexander?)  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Holy Crepe!

This past Saturday, my friend Faith and I headed into New York City for some meetings and to catch up with friends.

After spending the summer in the city, my desire to live there after college only increased. One of my favorite aspects of the city is the plethora of incredible restaurants. (If you haven’t gone to Shake Shack, you haven’t lived. Trust me.)

On a related note, weekend brunch is “a thing” in NYC, which I love. It’s a tradition I embraced this summer, and made it my goal to hit up a new brunch spot every weekend. This trip, Faith and I made brunch plans with our good friends Megan and Rachel. Megan suggested that we go to Cafe D’Alsace on the Upper East Side. Image

The atmosphere, prices, and brunch offerings were fantastic. I ordered the pear and chestnut crepes and if I could eat them for breakfast every day forever, I wouldn’t hate it. So naturally, I decided to search for a recipe to help make that dream a reality.

I couldn’t find an exact match, but I found a decent recipe for pear crepes, and a separate one for chestnut spread. Get creative and throw the chestnut spread in the crepes, and I think a homemade attempt could rival the restaurant’s recipe.

Give ’em a shot!