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    Is It Possible to Be Too Productive at Work?

    I consider myself a human doing rather than a human being. I’m much better at constant movement and productivity than rest. Most of the time, this type of productive lifestyle is beneficial. The clothes are always clean, the work is always being worked on, and the to-do list is consistently managed. But, there comes a point when too much of a good thing is indeed too much. 
    This begs the question, “is it possible to be too productive?” And the answer is yes. It’s called toxic productivity. So, what is toxic productivity and what can you do about it? Let’s dig in.

    What is Toxic Productivity?
    First, let’s set one thing straight. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being productive. Productivity makes the world go round. It’s what allows us to get things done. But productivity becomes toxic when what once was healthy and helpful becomes hurtful. Let me explain.
    Toxic productivity is when the constant need to “do” negatively impacts your physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s the dark side of the mindset to always be doing something, and it can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and even burnout.

    Source: Color Joy Stock

    How to Identify Toxic Productivity
    If you’re wondering what this looks like in everyday life, picture this. You’re vying for a promotion at work. You’ve been diligently working to exceed expectations for the past six months. You’ve volunteered to take on extra projects and responsibilities to hone your skills and show your commitment to your career. 
    But, because you’ve been so focused on your work, you’ve let some things slide. You’ve started missing workouts so you can log on early. You work an extra hour or two and have to cancel your evening plans. You skip lunch breaks and catch up on work on weekends. At the moment, these seem like small sacrifices to help you achieve your goal of a promotion. But now, six months in, you’re exhausted, overwhelmed, and on the verge of burnout because your focus has been on being productive and being the best employee, not being a rested, healthy, and happy professional.
    This is an example of how toxic productivity can present itself at work. But toxic productivity doesn’t only apply in the workplace, it can show up in many facets of your life, like on your fitness journey, in your relationships, and even while you rest. 
    If you’re wondering how to identify toxic productivity, here are four signs of how it may present itself in your life.

    1. You constantly feel the need to be doing.
    If you feel the pull to be productive at all times, even when you don’t want to be, you may be experiencing toxic productivity. Say you’ve had a busy day and you’re finally starting to wind down for the night. You tell yourself you’re going to go to sleep in one hour, so you want to use that hour to decompress. Toxic productivity could look like choosing to read a professional development book to help learn skills to further your career or turning on the tv to watch your favorite show but only half paying attention and catching up on emails on your phone. In neither of those scenarios are you truly unwinding because you’re focused on still using your time productively. Doing this for one night may not be an issue, but if this becomes your norm and you never allow yourself time to rest, you’re going to be on the road to burnout.

    2. You feel guilty for not being productive.
    You’re out to dinner to celebrate your friend’s birthday, but you feel awful that you didn’t knock out your to-do list first. Or you finally book that vacation you’ve wanted to take but you can’t help but bring your laptop with you just in case something work-related pops up. That guilt you feel is toxic productivity. We all feel accomplished barreling through our to-do list and we may even be lucky enough to have a career that energizes us, but when you start to feel the negative emotion of guilt and feel like you’re doing something wrong by not being productive, it becomes a problem.

    Source: Vlada Karpovich | Pexels

    3. You’re deprioritizing your physical, mental, or emotional health.
    If you’re choosing work over workouts or meetings with your manager over meeting with your therapist, this is a huge red flag of toxic productivity. You’ve heard the expression, “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” right? Well, toxic productivity is known to drain your cup and then some, and when your cup is empty, everything else is impacted. When you schedule a workout or another form of self-care, you’re making a commitment to yourself. Missing one barre class or meditation session is completely normal. Deprioritizing your health over an extended period of time because of work commitments, that’s a recipe for disaster.

    4. You only focus on tasks with a clear objective
    When’s the last time you did something solely for enjoyment? Like taking a walk in silence without forcing yourself to listen to a career-related podcast or taking on a hobby just for fun without trying to monetize it. People who suffer from toxic productivity often have unrealistic expectations about what needs to be accomplished. Sometimes what needs to be done is nothing. It’s okay if not everything you do has a clear purpose. Rest and relaxation are productive because they allow you to come back refreshed and ready to tackle your next project.

    How to Avoid Toxic Productivity
    Now that you know what toxic productivity is and how to identify it, what can you do to avoid it? Like I said before, productivity is a good thing. But, everything in moderation. It’s more than possible to maintain healthy productivity levels, get everything important done, and also protect your health and rest along the way. Here are three ways to do just that.

    1. Set boundaries
    Setting boundaries can be easier said than done, but when it comes to avoiding toxic productivity, it’s critically important. Plan for zero productivity time during the week. Things will pop up during the day, so it’s OK to set the expectation that you may not have non-productive time every day. But a few times a week, plan for a non-productive activity. Take a walk with a friend or family member simply because you want to enjoy their company. Watch a movie and actually watch the movie instead of scrolling through your phone. Read a book for fun. You owe it to yourself to have sacred time where nothing needs to be accomplished.

    Source: Social Squares

    2. Commit to rest
    How many times have you planned to rest and relax only to begin making a mental list of everything you need to do and then you end up feeling more exhausted? The next time you plan to rest and take time to reset, actually do it. It’s simple in theory but more difficult in practice. It’s easy to think, “Oh, I’ll just do one more thing and then I’ll sit down.” But to maintain healthy productivity levels, you need to find a balance between doing and being. If you booked that day off of work to enjoy your time with friends and family, actually do it. Be present at the moment and relish the time when the only thing to be done is nothing at all.

    3. Be mindful
    There will always be tasks to do, people to see, and conversations to be had. But before you stress yourself out trying to power through everything at once, stop and think about what you actually need to get done. Will working through lunch help knock things off your plate or will you benefit more from taking a 30-minute break to clear your head so you can dive in refreshed in the afternoon? Do you really need to listen to a professional development podcast that you know will add more items to your career checklist or can you drive or walk in silence or listen to music instead? Be thoughtful about what’s actually productive for your stress levels and mental health. 
    No one is going to hand you a trophy for being the most productive person. There is no prize for checking everything off your to-do list. The only thing you earn from toxic productivity is stress, burnout, and overdue time off. Finding a healthy mix of productive and non-productive time will always be a balancing act. There will be ebbs and flows throughout your work day (and week) and your career. But being aware of when you need to be productive and when you can chill is an invaluable skill that will serve you well throughout your career.

    7 Ways To Actually Set Boundaries at Work More

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    8 Desk Essentials That Will Help You Actually Get Things Done

    Staying focused is a skill most of us have worked on our entire lives. We learn to read and write at a desk. We receive lectures and ponder new information at a desk. Yet, once it’s time for most of us to stay on track at our jobs, we often struggle. At my first out-of-college desk job, my excitement quickly turned sour when I realized I was in charge of keeping myself on track. I vividly remember thinking that there was no way I would ever be able to get through the day while staying focused. Since then, I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, and I’ve had a lot of trial-and-error experiences. Finally, I have a system that works for me, and I’m excited to share that system with you all. Let’s dive into the eight desk essentials that actually help me stay focused.

    1. Blank Notepad
    When inspiration strikes, you need a place to jot down your ideas. I often get distracted if I have to get up and search for a piece of paper. But the process of putting pen to paper and sketching out a concept, or listing out a to-do list, is essential for me. If you are not a pen-and-paper girl, then an iPad works wonders for note-taking. No matter your preference, having what you need on your desk is helpful in not disrupting your focus.

    2. Hourglass Timer
    Where are my ADHD girlies at? This one is for you. If you struggle with just “getting started,” then I cannot recommend this one enough. Grab an hourglass timer. Whenever I’m having trouble starting a daunting task, I simply flip this timer over. The sand gradually falling creates a sense of urgency. I often don’t need to flip it again because once I’ve started a task, there is no stopping: I will become completely invested in getting it done.

    3. Productivity Planner
    Productivity planners can be quite helpful if you work from home or work alone. I love being able to see what I have accomplished in real-time. They help set realistic expectations for yourself and help you better communicate your progress with your coworkers or managers. Another benefit to using a productivity planner is the ability to look back over old ideas to help spark creativity in new ones.

    Intelligent Change
    Productivity Planner
    An undated daily and weekly planner that helps you prioritize tasks and make the most of each day.

    Academic Planner
    Students: this academic planner will help you bring order to the chaos that is your school schedule.

    4. Candles
    Everyone loves a good candle. The flickering light and calming scents make us feel good. With fall right around the corner, a candle is essential for my desk. I love the environment it creates, which in turn, makes me want to stay at my desk for as long as possible. See where I’m going with this? Not wanting to leave my desk equals increased productivity!

    Capri Blue
    Volcano Candle
    A citrus and sugary candle to bring a calming, tropical feel to your desk.

    Homesick Store
    City Candle
    A candle based on the city of your choice to help you stay centered throughout your workday.

    Kobo Candles
    Himalayan Candle
    If your happy place is a cozy cabin, this earthy candle will bring you calm as you cross off your to-do list.

    5. Standing Desk
    My space doesn’t allow for a standing desk, but I’ve used one in a previous office, and my goodness, they are so helpful. When I feel myself getting antsy or losing concentration, I raise that desk to its standing height, and my brain starts to recenter immediately. There is something so refreshing about standing on your feet when working–it feels more natural. Standing also often reduces any back pain I get from sitting in one spot for too long.

    Source: Color Joy Stock

    6. Coffee Mug Warmer
    Coffee is essential for me, especially in the morning when I start my day. I am notorious for getting distracted and forgetting about my morning cup, which results in me pouring it out and getting more. This leads me to my point: Get a coffee mug warmer or an insulated coffee cup. Not only does my coffee mug warmer keep my coffee at the perfect temperature, but it also makes such a cute addition to my desk decor.

    7. Whiteboard
    I have always wanted a wall whiteboard to go behind my laptop, so I can quickly write small notes to keep me on track. I currently use sticky notes and have them everywhere around my desk, but a whiteboard will achieve the same function and clean up my workspace. Less clutter equals better focus. Plus, this will make my notes and reminders a lot more fun!

    8. Focus Apps
    I’ve found a few apps that have been helpful for my productivity. The first is Lifeline, which uses a technique—similar to the Pomodoro Technique—on your browser and schedule breaks for you to take to ensure you set healthy boundaries, which will result in increased productivity. The second app that I love to use is this Distraction Dimmer. This dimmer helps you stick to the task at hand and stay on track.

    I Waited 3 Years to Make This Work from Home Investment—Here’s Why I Wish I Made It Sooner More

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    3 Morning Rituals a Real Housewife Swears Set Up Her Day for Success

    Welcome to The Everygirl Podcast. Whether you’re looking for insider secrets from successful women that have your dream job, are interested in expert advice to transform your health and feel your best, or just want to be entertained and laugh along with us on your commute, we’ve got you covered.

    When Real Housewives of Dubai premiered at the beginning of June, Bravo fans discovered a new it-girl and fan-favorite in Lesa Milan Hall. On this week’s episode of The Everygirl Podcast, Josie sits down with Lesa to talk all things Real Housewives, but also to get insight on her inspiring career totally separate from reality TV. Spoiler alert: She has a lot of great tips, advice, and insight one everything from motherhood to fashion to starting a major brand. She is the founder of luxury maternity brand, Mina Roe, which counts stars like Beyoncé and Ciara as fans.
    Living in Dubai with her husband and three sons, running a fashion line, and being on reality TV all mean that Lesa has an extremely busy schedule, so you know we had to grill her on the rituals that set her day up for success. Read on for major morning routine inspo, and check out this week’s episode of The Everygirl Podcast for insight and advice from Lesa Milan Hall.

    1. Start the day with gratitude
    We’ve all heard about the importance of practicing gratitude, so it’s no surprise Lesa’s #1 morning ritual is to feel gratitude immediately after waking. “The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is I thank God for waking me up,” Lesa told us. Gratitude is not only important for putting yourself into a positive headspace and promotes an abundance mindset, but it can reframe your thinking to reflect on all that you do have instead of focusing energy on what you don’t. “When having a bad day, I remember where I’m coming from and where I am today,” Lesa said. “Whenever I’m like, ‘Oh, I don’t have something,’ I always ask myself, ‘Girl, do you remember when you had nothing?’”

    2. Take a shot of apple cider vinegar
    This Real Housewife swears by taking a shot of apple cider vinegar diluted in water every single morning to start her day. The benefits of apple cider vinegar are widely discussed in the wellness space (everything from improving gut health to managing blood sugar), but for Lesa, it’s all about the skin. Apple cider vinegar may have many beauty benefits, including helping to reduce inflammation in the skin (like breakouts or eczema), thanks to its antibacterial properties. Since she grew up with acne-prone skin, Lesa tells us she is committed to keeping her face clear, and prioritizes a daily shot of apple cider vinegar every morning. As she says, “What goes in shows up on the skin.” Whether a shot of ACV at 8 a.m. is your thing or not, prioritize food and drinks that are hydrating and balancing for the skin first thing in the morning. 

    3. Have a go-to skincare routine, but limit makeup
    Aside from her apple cider vinegar ritual, Lesa’s biggest skincare secret is that she never wears makeup during the week. “I used to struggle with really, really bad acne,” Lesa said. “It took me years to find products that work for me.” Now, she limits makeup as much as possible as a way to preserve her skin health, but also as a sense of pride for overcoming skin-related insecurities from her childhood.
    Currently, Lesa’s skincare routine is built around her cleanser, which she considers to be the most important part of taking care of her face. Her favorite is from Shiseido, and she makes a point of washing her face with exclusively cold water in order to keep her pores closed. Since she used to struggle with acne, Lesa rotates between using oil-free moisturizer or the Sunday Riley C.E.O. Vitamin C Serum after cleansing each morning. She finishes her routine with SPF, and heads out into Dubai makeup-free and full of gratitude. More

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    I Moved Across the Country for a New Job—Here’s How

    Since I was 14, I wanted to live in Boston. I spent a couple summers there at a young age and fell in love with everything about it. From then on, I dreamed of living in a brownstone on the cobblestone streets and drinking my Dunkin’ coffee on the T (if you know, you know).
    I grew up in the west. For the first 18 years of my life, Montana, and for the next eight years, Nevada. I remember working internship after internship saying to myself “Boston, Boston, Boston” over and over again to manifest this dream into reality. 
    After 12 years of wishing—I made the move.
    Making a change like this can be scary. Take it from me, not only did I uproot my life from Nevada to Massachusetts, I made a big career move too! Relocating for a job is terrifying because what if you fail? My question to you is, what if you don’t? If you’ve had a similar dream but are afraid of everything that comes with a big move, this article is for you. We’ll dive into how I got the job, prepped for the move, and finally took the leap.
    Here’s how I made my dream come true:

    I Wasn’t Afraid to Talk to People
    Prior to applying to jobs across the country, I reached out to anyone and everyone I knew in my current market that had moved to a new city for a job or had connections in Boston specifically. I reached out for coffee, drinks, and anything else I could do to chat with people that would be able to offer some guidance.
    I initially knew of a few people off the top of my head. To take it further, I reached out to past professors, classmates, and colleagues at different internships I had. I wasn’t afraid to tell people around me about my plans and dreams, and the more I talked about it, the more doors opened as people told me they knew someone that knew someone that lived in Boston or had followed a similar path.
    Tip: A great way to do this if you don’t know where to start is to get on LinkedIn and see if any of your connections work at companies you like or live in the market you are interested in!
    By doing this, I was able to fine-tune my resume, build relationships with people in my industry, and even talk to a few people who had worked in my dream market. The best part? Everyone was willing and excited to offer help, and while I didn’t land a job this way, the advice I received was invaluable to help get me there.
    Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for help, and make connections with people that may seem out of reach. Chances are, they’d love to assist someone with a similar dream.

    Source: Color Joy Stock

    I Got Real With My Budget
    In order to make this move, I had to get real about how much I would need to have in savings in order to get an apartment and get myself and my belongings over there. I also had to look at my finances and expenses to decide how much I would need to make once I got off the plane.
    I sat down with all of my monthly expenses and created a budget that included my estimations for the city. From there, I was able to go into job interviews knowing exactly what I needed to make in order to live in my dream city.
    Here are a few things I did to get ready:

    I took a look at rent prices for apartments and talked to anyone I knew that had lived in a similar market to gauge how much it would cost. This was important because different cities have different protocols for securing apartments. For example, broker fees and deposits can vary.
    I outlined my “needs” such as my estimated rent, utilities, phone bill, and groceries.
    I researched gyms in the area to get an idea of what they would cost per month.
    I reviewed the subscriptions I had and canceled anything unnecessary (this was a big one).
    I outlined my “wants”—nails, hair—the fun stuff.
    I realized that my lifestyle might have to change for a bit, but I accepted that that was okay because I knew the sacrifice would be worth it in the end.

    Once I got there, I pivoted as needed based on true prices, and I pivoted fast. I cut back on things I couldn’t fit into my budget and set goals for myself for future income in order to get where I wanted to be.

    Source: @Calpak

    I Didn’t Give Up
    Once I felt good about my resume, had talked to others that had taken the same path, and felt confident enough to put myself out there—I started applying. And let me tell you, this part wasn’t easy.
    For over a year and a half, I worked. I took interviews at 5 a.m. to talk to companies on the east coast before my day job. I worked during the day to continue to build my experience and portfolio, and at night, I applied to more jobs. At times, and after being ghosted by company after company, I thought it would never happen.
    And while I will always recommend having another job lined up before making a move, I did get to a point where it was time to take the leap without a set “plan.” Before I was anywhere close to ready, with no future job set-up—I gave my current company notice (a full six months so they could find a replacement and I could get all my ducks in a row).
    As soon as I made my decision and decided I knew this would happen for me, the universe answered. What can I say? Manifestation works. Within a few weeks of giving my company notice, I landed a job in Boston.
    While I had told my current company one timeline (six months), the universe had another timeline in store for me. And while it certainly wasn’t ideal to have to change the timing of my resignation from my employer, I had luckily worked hard to establish a solid relationship (and had AMAZING bosses), so when I had to make the shift, I was able to discuss my new plan and was met with their support.
    I ended up negotiating with my new employer in Boston to give me six weeks prior to starting. Between wanting to give my current role ample time to transition (pro tip: new employers actually like to see your loyalty!) and needing to pack up my entire life, they were more than willing to work with me. And so, I gave my current company a one-month notice and started wrapping things up and planning for my future.

    I Took It All In
    I lived for nearly five years in Boston. I made friends, moved up in my career, and created relationships with colleagues and people on the east coast that I will never take for granted. But after all those years of city life, I decided it was time to move back west to spend time with my family and take advantage of the new remote working world many of us now live in. It wasn’t an easy decision, and there’s a chance I’ll even be back on the east coast someday, but after working my way up at my company and proving to myself that I could do it, I was ultimately ready for a change… again.
    Looking back on my time in Boston, I have little regret. I did the best I could, and I grew in both my professional and personal life more than I could have ever imagined. The only thing I wish is that I had realized I was living my dream while I was in it. The biggest lesson I learned is that we never truly realize how lucky we are in each stage of life until the stage is gone. So once you accomplish your dream, don’t forget to soak it up—don’t forget to breathe it in. 

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    7 Ways To Actually Set Boundaries at Work

    We hear the phrase “setting boundaries” often. There are podcasts on setting boundaries, books on steps to take, and even coaches on how to implement this in work, relationships, and life. There’s a reason this is so prevalent and people literally pay money to be taught how to do this—it’s hard. Not only is it hard, but with the integration of work and life, remote work, the influx of digital tools, and the ever-growing competitiveness that is the modern workplace—setting boundaries is a common problem.
    Think of setting boundaries as a fun exercise in removing excess from your work life, to make time and room for what you are good at, what needs to be done, and what you truly love to do. Just as you may spend time cleaning out your closet or your pantry—it’s time to do the same with your work habits and what you are letting into every minute (and sometimes every second, can you say instant message?!) of your daily life. 
    Let’s dive into seven simple steps to make this happen.

    1. Define Your Boundaries
    Before executing on setting boundaries, it is important to sit back and think about what those even are. We’ve heard the normal ways to set boundaries such as setting a consistent schedule, not checking emails after a certain time, or time blocking (though we’ll get to that again later on). While those are all great and important ways to set yourself up for success and hone your focus, it’s key to really take the time to think about how you truly want your day to look.
    Take 20 minutes one weekend morning. Grab your favorite cup of coffee or tea, and open up a blank page in a notebook or a new document on your screen. Write down how you’d want your day to look in a perfect world. Even though you may not be able to do everything on that list (we’re out here grinding, after all), there are always ways to build your life to more closely reflect your hopes and dreams. For example, want to go to a workout class in the morning or take a morning walk? Figure out what time you need to wake up to do so. Or, if a break at 10 a.m. would be a more realistic time to get your workout or walk in, see if there’s a way you can fit that in.
    Think about your life and your work. Do you think the best in the early morning? Do you work out best in the afternoon once you have had some fuel all day? What do you need to be completed prior to the work week to feel prepared? What do you need prior to a client call? Think about what you’d like to have in place so you can use your work day to your advantage.
    Figure out which of these wishes you can realistically integrate into your current routines and responsibilities. If you need to start one at a time, then great! That’s always better than nothing at all.

    2. Communicate Those Boundaries
    Once you’ve defined what you would like to implement into your work life, it’s time to execute. The first step? Communicate your needs (ugh, not always fun, I know!).
    Check-in with your colleagues, those you manage, and your bosses on what you’d like to adjust. Need to take a 20-minute break in the mornings? Add it to your calendar, let your boss or those you manage know that you may step out for less than a half hour each morning, and communicate when you’ll be back online after. 
    If you’d like to set a boundary a bit larger, like using your lunch break to workout without distraction, ensure this works for your boss and organization prior. Always consider others’ schedules and what they may need from you as well when thinking about what will work best for you and for them (especially now that many of us are in different time zones!).

    3. Set Up Guardrails
    Now that you’ve communicated and confirmed all are onboard with the boundaries you have set, it’s time to set up additional guardrails so that you yourself follow them. Sometimes, following and sticking to your own boundaries can be the hardest part. 
    Set up your calendar with your new schedule, whether that’s a solid start time of 8:30 a.m. (no, I won’t answer your Slack at 6:45 a.m.!) or adding an hour to your day at 1 p.m. for you to get your sweat on. Additionally, add time blocks for getting big projects done or going through your emails (batching email is still something I’m working on but is a great tool as well, guilty as charged). 
    Take it a step further and look into different features in any communication tools your organization may use. For example, Slack has a feature to connect your Google Calendar, making it seamless to show your colleagues when you’re in a meeting or unavailable. You can also set custom statuses to show you’re working on a specific report or project.

    Source: Color Joy Stock

    4. Discuss Your Work Styles and Schedule
    Another way I like to ensure myself and my teams are working in a way that is the most efficient and beneficial for us is to communicate to each other what works best.
    I make it a habit to ask colleagues to check my calendar prior to messaging me a question, in the case that I’m in a meeting. I try to lead by example here as well, checking their calendars prior to bombarding them (though I’m not perfect at this).
    Other small ways to set boundaries and improve your work day are to talk to your colleagues about the way you prefer to receive items, communicate internally, and perform tasks. For example, if someone messages you documents and you’d rather have them via email so they don’t get lost, just ask! 
    It’s true what they say—ask and you shall receive. If someone doesn’t know you prefer things a certain way, how will they know to change it?

    5. Review Deadlines, Tasks, and Projects in Advance
    Something that often helps teams to stay focused during the week and mitigates back and forth questions during the work day, therefore improving everyone’s boundaries, is to have weekly check-ins at the start or end of the week. 
    Use these quick check-ins to review what is on the radar for the week and who is doing what. Talk through specific deadlines. If you need a deadline, ask your manager or director when they will need something. This will decrease messages in your inbox and allow you the space to breathe knowing you’re on track during your work week. 
    Don’t forget, teamwork makes the dream work.

    6. Take Your Time Off (The Right Way)
    While it’s easy to get in the mindset of needing to always be “on” in order to be successful—it is not a sustainable way to continue through your career. We are in it for the long haul after all. So take your time off, that’s what it is there for. 
    The problem with time off is that we all know it can sometimes be stressful. I’ve learned that there is a way to take this time in order to enjoy the days you have and come back more ready to go than ever. 
    It’s simple: prepare. Review calls you have, tasks you normally do, and any other items needed. Talk to colleagues about coverage and prepare them in advance. When setting your weekly or monthly plan, consider when you’ll be out so that you don’t have as much on your plate during those times.
    Work a bit extra as needed prior to getting out of town or out of the office—it’s worth the relaxation on the other side!

    7. Understand When Boundaries Need to Be Broken
    All of these different ways to set boundaries are great in theory, right?
    There are times however when these need to be taken down or ignored completely. For example, if there is an urgent matter at work (that is actually urgent), I can take my morning walk perhaps in the afternoon. If I receive an email that needs to be addressed right away, I can take a break from the project I’m working on. 
    The key to a successful career is knowing when things are urgent, when they’re a priority, when they don’t matter at all, and how to juggle all the in-betweens in order to move the needle while being as efficient as possible.
    And I know, not all of these habits, tricks, or wishes for our boundaries are always possible depending on your workplace, so the most important thing is to pick one or two that may work well for you and go from there. A small step is still a step. And a small step will slowly allow you a work day that not only works for you, but works for your employer, your clients, your colleagues, and your life.

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    How I Made the Leap From Full-Time to Freelancer Without Going Broke

    When I tell people I work as a freelance writer, the most common question I’m asked is about how I manage with an inconsistent income. The thing is, my income isn’t all that inconsistent. Yes, I make varying amounts of money each month, but generally, I know what range to expect and make consistently more than I would at a salaried job. This setup works well for me, but it took time to get here. 
    Making the leap to full-time freelancing is scary for anyone—no matter how much experience you have. I had a savings safety net in place, but I couldn’t help but worry about how fast those savings were going to dwindle. It’s very fair if you’re wondering how on Earth you’re going to pay for rent, food, and transportation. Not to mention the biggest money concern that all soon-to-be freelancers have—health insurance. 
    The good news is that with a lot of work and patience, I soon began to not only make as much as I did at my last full-time job but much more. The fears I had were reasonable, but I’m happy to report that I now know that my current income ceiling is so much higher than when I worked full-time. I’m not a big fan of gatekeeping career success—so here’s how I made the full-time to freelance transition without going broke.

    I Built A Freelance Resume
    While the experience you gain from having a full-time job does translate to being good at freelancing, many clients like to see that the freelancers they hire have experience working for themselves. This is understandable as the clients need to know that the freelancer they’re working with can manage to work with multiple clients at once, can work independently (for the most part), and can stay on top of deadlines without having a manager check in on them. 
    I freelanced consistently outside of my salaried jobs from 2015-2018 (the year I quit my last 9-5 job). Not only was I able to build up a portfolio that helps me sell my services to clients by doing freelance work on the side, but I built my network which made it easier to find more work when I was ready to freelance full-time. Starting from scratch with no salary or benefits on my side probably wouldn’t have worked out all that well for me. 
    I’d like to give a shout-out to The Everygirl for being one of my first freelance clients all the way back in 2016!

    I Found Clients Before Quitting
    Because I had a robust freelance network on my side, before I even put in my two-week notice, I arranged for freelance work. This led to a small amount of overlap between having a full-time job and working for myself, but it was worth working a few late nights on freelance projects to keep the transition from full-timer to solopreneur smooth. 
    I would highly recommend balancing a full-time role and freelance work for a few weeks before quitting your job. It takes a while to drum up work and get projects rolling—even after a client hires you, it can take weeks to get everything in order to start working together and even longer to get paid. By starting early while you still have a steady income coming in, you can really reduce your stress levels when you do start your first day as a full-time freelancer.

    Source: Color Joy Stock

    I Took on Part-Time Work
    Freelancing, side-hustling, consulting, call it whatever you want—work is work. Before I quit my job, I arranged a freelance job that was more like a part-time role as it required being available for 15-20 hours per week. Nowadays, I try to spread out my sources of income much more than this, but at the time, having much-guaranteed work was a game changer. I knew I could make enough money to pay my bills while I built out the rest of my freelance business, and I still had 20 or so hours a week to do that. Taking on a part-time role may feel like the opposite of freelancing, but doing so can make it a lot easier to focus on strategically building out other areas of your business. 
    If you’re always stressed about money, you’ll end up making desperate decisions when accepting new clients and rates. Having a steady stream of income until you have your feet firmly on the ground can be what stops you from having to return to a full-time job.

    I Had an Emergency Fund
    I can’t stress this enough—save and plan for freelancing. As I just mentioned, being stressed about money doesn’t do your freelancing business any favors. Having some money set aside in an emergency fund to help you fill in the gaps those first few months can buy you time, which is extremely valuable as a freelancer. It takes time to start a business—especially a thriving one. 
    An emergency fund can also be really helpful when waiting for your first paychecks to come in. I often don’t get paid for the work I do until 30 or more days after I submit an invoice for a project, so having money already waiting for me in the bank makes it so that I don’t have to sweat it if an invoice is a bit late.  
    If you’re unhappy at your job or are itching to start a new adventure, it’s hard to be patient. When my freelancing work started to pick up steam in 2015, I knew that’s what I wanted to do for a career, but I waited. It was a long and hard wait, but spending a few years building up my freelance business on the side, learning on the job at my full-time jobs, and building my savings are what made it possible to build a sustainable freelancing business that I get to enjoy today.

    I Work for Myself—These Are The Productivity Hacks That Actually Help Me Get Work Done More

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    The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Understanding Health Insurance

    You know all of those really important skills you should have learned in high school but never did? We’re talking about filing taxes, how to change a tire, and how to make a budget; actual life skills that most of us will use way more often than y=mx+b. Perhaps one of the most important topics that was left off of the curriculum was understanding a little thing called health insurance. If you feel like you’re way behind on this topic, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s your guide to understanding common health insurance phrases, where to get health insurance, and some important things to remember when it comes to using your benefits.

    Terms You Should Know

    What’s a deductible?
    Your deductible is the amount of money you will have to pay out of pocket in the year before the insurance benefits kick in. Think of your deductible as the points you have to rack up before you receive your next Abercrombie & Fitch reward. You spend x amount of dollars to get money off on your next purchase!
    Your deductible can be anywhere from $0-$8,000, but in many cases will be in the $1,500-$4,500 range. To meet your deductible, you will use your health insurance card at doctor’s visits, to fill prescriptions, etc. You will then receive a bill from your doctor and what’s known as an Explanation of Benefits (or EOB) from your insurance carrier. This will show you that the claim from your visit was processed through the insurance and your payment went toward your deductible. Not quite as exciting as receiving your A&F package but still a positive nonetheless!

    What’s coinsurance?
    Once you meet your deductible, the insurance benefits begin. This is the percentage the insurance will pay toward a claim. This amount is generally between 50-100%. Let’s say your coinsurance is 70%. This means that, after you meet your deductible, the insurance plan will pay 70% of the claims that come in for covered services and you will pay 30%. For example, if you have a covered claim that is $100, the insurance will pay $70, and you will be responsible for $30. Isn’t it great having someone help out for a change?

    What’s a copay?
    A copay, or copayment, is a preselected amount that you will pay for certain benefits. Usually, you have a copay for prescription drugs, doctor’s office visits, and urgent care visits at the time of the visit.
    Prescription drugs generally fall under 3-4 tiers, ranging from generic (or tier 1) drugs to specialty (tier 3 or 4) drugs. You may see prescription drug tiers such as $10/$65/$95/$200 or some variation of that.
    Office and urgent care visits often also have set copayment amounts that you pay upfront. You may see $25 or $50 for office visits and $75 or $100 for urgent care. 
    Note: Not all health insurance plans utilize copayments. In this case, there will not necessarily be a set flat fee, and you will pay whatever the drug or office visit costs (bummer, we know).

    What’s an out-of-pocket maximum?
    Your out-of-pocket maximum (OOP)  is the highest amount of money you will pay for covered services under your health plan for the year. If you reach your OOP, you can think of the rest of your health insurance benefits as “free” for the rest of the year. 
    The out-of-pocket maximum will generally include the deductible you previously met as well as any copays, but this can vary depending on your plan. From the example above, if coinsurance pays the $70, the $30 that you paid would go toward your out-of-pocket maximum. Once you’ve reached your out-of-pocket maximum for the year, all covered services going forward should be covered by insurance—completely, this time.

    What are preventive benefits?
    A majority of health insurance plans are mandated by the Affordable Care Act, meaning they will follow ACA guidelines for preventive benefits. These are the coveted services you generally get once per year, free of charge. Common preventive benefits include routine vaccinations, blood pressure screenings, cholesterol screenings, and more. You know, everything you need to stay in tip-top shape. 
    Preventive benefits are often split up between demographic groups. There will be certain benefits specifically for women, children, or all adults. Some benefits, such as colonoscopies, require you to be a certain age in order for the benefit to be considered preventive. 
    For a full list of preventive benefits, click here.

    The Logistics

    Where can I get health insurance?
    Congratulations, you’re finally a true adult! Translation? You just turned 26 and are getting kicked off your parent’s health insurance plan. Now the real fun begins. 
    When this time comes, the most straightforward (and generally most affordable) way to obtain health insurance is through your employer. Many employers will pay a portion of your monthly premiums, contribute to a Health Savings Account for you, or (if you’re really lucky) offer free health insurance. 
    If you’re in the unlucky minority and can’t get insurance through an employer, you generally can enroll on a policy through the Marketplace/Exchange. All you have to do is meet all of the requirements, be able to afford it, sell your soul, and sign away your firstborn. Kidding! 
    As long as you meet all of the requirements, you can enroll in a marketplace plan on your own online, or you can reach out to an individual health insurance broker for assistance.

    When can I apply for health insurance?
    You’re going to want to get your insurance through an employer. When you begin a new job, you will generally have to go through a “waiting period” where you must work for the company for a set amount of time before you qualify to enroll on their insurance plan—this is typically anywhere from 0-90 days.
    If you don’t enroll as a “new hire,” meaning within your waiting period, there may be limitations to when you can. Typically, you will need a Qualifying Life Event to occur, aka a big life-changing event like losing coverage elsewhere (example: adulthood/turning 26), getting married, having a baby, and more. 
    Generally, the only other time to enroll on a company’s health insurance plan is during their open enrollment period. Most companies renew their health insurance plans on Jan. 1, making their open enrollment period the month of December. This is the time period when employees who previously waived (or did not elect) the group health insurance plan are once again eligible and can enroll for a Jan. 1 effective date. 
    There are some cases when the insurance policy renews at a different time, making the open enrollment period different. Do your due diligence and check with your employer before taking our word as gospel. 
    If you are not seeking insurance through an employer and are looking at an individual or marketplace policy, you will likely have to wait for the annual open enrollment period or have a qualifying life event as well.

    How much does health insurance cost?
    Great question! We’d love to tell you, but the only answer here is that there is no one answer. Usually, the most affordable option is enrolling in a plan through your employer. Generally, the employer will pay a portion of your monthly premium. Your “premium” is the price you pay, generally monthly, to be enrolled on an insurance plan and have insurance benefits. 
    Not to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re needing an individual health insurance plan, you’ll likely be responsible for paying the entire monthly premium yourself. Based on your demographics and the richness of the benefits you choose, this could range from $100-$400 monthly. Use those preventive benefits to stay as healthy as possible and keep costs down!

    Things to Note
    For some more good news, it’s important to remember that insurance doesn’t cover all medical procedures, as there are exclusions. Exclusions will be things like dental services, cosmetic procedures, alternative medicine, etc. 
    There is also a fun little thing called “pre-authorization” that the insurance company will often require before a major procedure. This means that your doctor must pre-authorize, or prove to the insurance company that the procedure is “medically necessary,” before they agree to cover the claim. This is something your provider’s office should be aware of, but we recommend trusting no one and taking it upon yourself to make sure this gets taken care of in advance.
    Another thing to note is that deductibles, coinsurances, and out-of-pocket maximums are generally reset yearly. In many cases, this will happen on Jan. 1 each year, but there can be some variations. 
    Pro tip: If you are needing a service that will cause you to hit your deductible, schedule it toward the beginning of the year, or right after your plan resets, so your insurance benefits kick in and insurance pays a portion or all covered claims for the rest of the year. We DO NOT recommend taking this advice for anything that is life-threatening, of course.
    If you have any questions regarding your health insurance benefits, what’s covered, or what you owe for covered services, bite the bullet and contact your health insurance company. Yes, you will likely have to wait on hold for an hour, but most companies now at least have the option for you to leave a message and receive a callback. This is one of those times it will be worth it to put in a little extra work, we promise

    The Lazy Girl’s Guide To Tax Season

    * This is a summary only. Please contact your health insurance provider or an insurance professional for specific details.  More

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    I Waited 3 Years to Make This Work from Home Investment—Here’s Why I Wish I Made It Sooner

    As they like to say—hindsight is 20/20. In retrospect, it seems obvious that upon starting my work-from-home journey, I should have chosen a desktop computer over a laptop. I had just left startup life to launch my own freelance writing business, and for the past few years, all I’d worked off of was a laptop. Not to mention, I was very much living that pre-pandemic work-from-anywhere lifestyle that so many freelancers used to enjoy. A laptop was portable, less expensive, and looked much better on my desk—which annoyingly lives in my living room. It seemed the obvious choice.
    I am, however, capable of admitting when I’m wrong, and in fact, am perfectly happy to be wrong on this count. Last fall, I was working on a very data-intensive project and was struggling to weed through spreadsheet after spreadsheet on my tiny laptop. My husband gallantly offered up his desktop computer for the week to help me get my project done more efficiently (how’s that for 21st-century romance?) and immediately I became hooked. The next thing I knew, I was counting down the minutes until a new iMac 24-inch arrived on my doorstep. 
    Let’s dive into why this computer made my work life so much better and why I’ll never go back to my laptop ways unless I actually am working away from my home.

    My Desktop Computer

    24‑inch iMac
    The 24-inch iMac is certainly an investment, but for anyone who works from home, it’s an investment worth making for all Apple users.

    Why I’m Never Going Back to a Laptop

    I have less back and neck pain
    Keeping one’s chin up has a whole new meaning to me. We all know that craning our necks down at our laptops is bad, but many of us do nothing to correct this terrible posture from 9-5. Please tell me I’m not the only one who traded bad posture for a sleek design?
    Upgrading to a desktop computer immediately alleviates a lot of the back and neck pain I feel on workdays. I would say most days I don’t experience any pain at all anymore simply because I can keep my chin up for a change.

    I’m more focused
    When my neck, back, or shoulders would start to ache, my solution was to always run to my bed where I would prop up a ridiculous amount of pillows and heating devices until I felt some relief. I thought this arrangement worked fine, but I now realize I focus much better when I’m at my desk. I’m way less likely to surf the web or social media when I’m at my desk compared to when I’m a little too comfortable in bed.
    It provides eye relief
    At first, I thought a 24-inch computer screen was too big (remember my sad living room office combination?), but I discovered very quickly how much easier it is to work with a big screen. Not only is it easier to read the copy I’m working on, but the screen is so large that I can essentially treat it like a double monitor by splitting the screen in half. This makes it super easy for me to keep reference documents visible or research I’m digging through close by during the writing process.

    Source: Social Squares

    I’m more productive
    I like to start my work day anytime between 6-7 a.m., so in the winter it can be a bit hard to get moving. The compromise used to be working from bed for the first hour while I drank my tea. I continued this tradition even after my desktop computer arrived, but only for a week or so. I eventually found myself drifting over to my desk right away in the mornings because I wanted to use my new computer. As a result, the more productive part of my workday begins straight away and that strong workflow continues throughout the day.

    I’m more organized
    While I wouldn’t call myself an Apple devotee, I do like their products. Adding an Apple desktop computer to my rotation alongside my Apple laptop, iPad, and iPhone helps me stay super organized. I use all of those devices on a regular basis for work and have my favorite to-do list app (which I talk all about in this recent story), important notes, and other apps I use to run my business, all synced up. No matter where I am or what device is at hand, I can access the information or application I need.
    I’ve shared with The Everygirl readers before how I make more money the more productive I am. The increased focus and speed I gained from making this work-from-home investment have helped grow my income substantially. While I can’t entirely attribute the computer to my business growth, I am on track to expand my income by almost 60 percent just since switching to a desktop computer. Not to mention, my accountant was quite pleased with the tax write-off it provided. 
    This new upgrade is such a success that my husband is encouraging me to upgrade to the 27-inch version of my computer, but truth be told, I think he’s hoping I’ll pass my current computer along to him.

    Other Desktop Computers to Shop Now

    21.5-inch Desktop Screen
    At $399.99, this HP desktop that comes loaded with Windows 11 is a much easier to swallow investment than the iMac.

    24-inch FHD Display Computer
    This Lenovo computer packs a serious punch for about half the cost of the iMac ($749.99). It comes loaded with security features that protect your privacy and is an all-in-one system to minimize clutter.

    23.8-inch Touch Screen
    At $849.99, this desktop from Dell offers a touch screen and wireless technology, so your WFH space is sleek and clutter-free—helping maximize your productivity.

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