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Change is hard. Even if you like change or the change is for the better, it’s just tricky. You may be very accustomed to change, you may not crave a routine the way I do – but I would venture to guess you still have your moments. I thrive within the confines of structure, familiar pacing and a consistent rhythm to my days, so for me change is not necessarily scary, but it is always an event.

I’m moving out of my apartment. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am beyond thrilled about this. I’ve been pestering my husband to move for years and we both finally arrived on the same page, a beautifully illustrated page depicting a gorgeous new apartment, in a beautiful building, in a desirable neighborhood, on a fabulous block. Amen right? Hallelujah even!! So the thing is … I’m kind of a wreck.

I love to pack (honestly I do), I love my new home and I’m sick of my old one and I actually have plenty of time to prep – so why such a disaster zone Stone?!

Because. Because the night I got married I came home to this apartment. Because I woke up one morning and decided I would start a business in this apartment. Because the dry cleaner across the street knows to get out the stain stickers when she sees me coming. And because the coffe shop on the corner knows that when I ask for Splenda I really mean sugar. I know I will have these moments in my new neighborhood, and that the new dry cleaner will know soon enough there will be at least one grand skim latte stain on everything I bring his way – but still, it’s a lot!

I didn’t think it would be hard for me to leave this apartment that has recently come to feel like a cage, but it is. And you know what – its ok. It’s ok to feel attached and to hold on to physical places tightly. The experiences I had here will always be with me though, and slowly I’m coming to accept I don’t need my fourth floor walk up to remember and keep those moments. They will always be with me.

So I’m taking lots of deep breaths, eating a slightly increased amount of ice cream, and carefully wrapping these moments in bubble wrap.

Change is hard, but as soon as I said that out loud, it got easier. Embracing change doesn’t have to mean ignoring or dismissing what came before. Sitting in a moment of transition is naturally a little uncomfortable. I’m telling myself to try to enjoy that feeling and laugh about the messiness of a good, timely transition. After all, soon enough the new routine will replace this moment of uncertainty and I’ll find myself longing for the freedom to not know what’s next all over again.

Post authored by Brooke Stone.

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A big part of the college experience is the good old summer internship. Internships are becoming more and more important for college students with the job market staying small and the competition becoming stiffer every day. An internship provides a student with the opportunity to lay the groundwork for potential future employment, learn more about the real life working situation in their field of study, be in a real live workplace and sometimes to live for the first time in a new place on their own. Internships are a great way for young adults to continue their learning. But they are also a great way for you to continue yours. When was the last time you stopped to think about what your interns can teach you?

I have the privilege of working with the Programming and Outreach interns at LitWorld, and after one short week, they have taught me a lot. I hope I returned the favor in a great session on time/task management and will continue to do so throughout the summer. So, in honor of the start of intern season here are my top fives. Full steam ahead are the top 5 things your interns can teach you, and the top 5 things I’m teaching interns this summer. Make the learning experience a two way street, as it always should be.

Top 5 Things Interns Can Teach You

Chill out.

Your interns work with you during the day, but have lives after work! Real, fun, young people lives! They go out to dinner, see movies, walk in the park, eat ice cream and have an extra cocktail. While your adult life may afford you less time, what you can take away is leaving your work at the office once in a while is not only ok, but awesome, refreshing and actually helpful to your continued passion for your work. Don’t worry, it will all still be there in the morning.

Get loud.

Sometimes your interns might laugh too loud, talk too loud or yell across the room. They get excited! Really excited! Imagine that?! They get so excited they momentarily forget all of the practical advice they have been given about how to be in the workplace. Get that excited once in a while.

Just do it.

Interns are often given errands and more grueling, routine tasks staff members either don’t have time to do or just don’t want to do. They don’t complain though – they just do it! They enter that info into the database, they go to that post office, they pick up that laundry list of office supplies – they just go and do it. No hemming, hawing or other thought need apply. So stop thinking and just do it.

Bring lunch.

Interns are economical. They bring lunch and go eat it in the park, or at their desks while they browse Facebook. It’s healthier and will save you like $100/week.

Ask questions.

Interns have been encouraged to ask questions in class and are really trying really hard to do well and to get things “right,” so they ask a lot of questions. If they are really lucky, no one has yet told them too many questions is annoying and makes you look or seem one way or another. Hopefully no one ever will – because questions are AWESOME! How many times have you not asked a question because you thought it was a stupid one, or because you were too lazy to pick up the phone or send an email? And how many times did that result in you doing something wrong based on your incorrect assumption? Interns asking questions teaches you about how you manage and the work at hand, you asking questions helps you do things right the first time – and maybe even learn something in the process.

Top 5 Things I’m Teaching Interns

List Management

This is how I do it, which is a bastardized, combined version of techniques from David Allen and Tim Ferriss…and my brain.

Try this, make your big to do list, empty your brain of all of miscellania taking up valuable hard drive space and put it all in one place. This feels awesome by the way, almost like losing 10 pounds immediately. For all you crazy control freaks and type A organized types (no names please), go ahead, make one big list for each big area of your life – work, personal, errands – go nuts. Really, everything. Big, terrifying moster lists please. Write them on paper with a pen (radical, I know), use Word docs, TextEdit, awesome software like TaDa Lists, whatever.

Now, each night, as you wrap it up for the day, write, this time mandatory pen and paper (try Staples, they still sell this stuff), the top 3 things you want to accomplish the next day. These should be the 3 most urgent things, or if no deadline is organically imposed, the 3 things weighing on you most heavily.

Then, go to sleep.

When you wake up in the morning and get to your desk, do not, I repeat, do not look at your enormous brain dump to do list. Look only at the mini-list of the three things you decided to do the night before. Now do them. If you finish your list, and only if, go back to the monster and pick one more thing. Yes only one, you are not totally superhuman (sorry for the reminder), and will be much more successful long term if you remain encouraged rather than discouraged by your lack of progress.

Deadlines

Assigned a large, unwieldy, multi-faceted project with a deadline a month out? Know your habit is to write the term paper the night before it’s due? Try this, set internal deadlines for yourself. Chunk the project out into smaller projects. Put each of the smaller projects on your monster list, and incorporate them into the 3 priorities a day method described above. After all, Parkinson’s Law tells us “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Which basically means, if you give yourself a month – you will take that much time to finish your project. If you give yourself a day, you will simplify the task so as to make it happen in the allotted time frame.

Check your luggage

When you walk in the door to your office, check your luggage at the door. Check your roommate drama, hangover, miscellaneous stress at the door. Smile. This is not to say don’t have an authentic relationship with the people you are working with, or be fake in any way, but know your attitude and outlook effects the overall workplace environment. The same is true for staff members. Plus, when you decide to be in a good mood and smile, soon enough you will be.

Structure Your Time

In a lot of internships you have your set work hours and are given various projects to complete by certain looming dates, but no one is telling you where to be or what to do each day. This is a big adjustment from you college schedule, which requires you to be in certain places at certian times doing certain things. Structuring your own time is tricky for most adults. Here is a quick way to start.

Use your calendar, block off your lunch break. Now you have two big defined chunks of time on either side. Pick two half hour blocks, one before and one after lunch, to check and process your work email and add items to your lists, etc. Look at your 3 big priorities for the day, and block them right into your calendar. Tada – you daily schedule!

Identify a Mentor

Business books are always preaching the importance of finding a mentor. Do this in your internship. Ask a staff member to be your mentor, I promise they will be nothing but flattered, and use your mentor to keep track of how you are doing in the work you are given and as a sounding board for new ideas.

Post authored by Brooke Stone. 

It is hard to get a job in today’s world. Economy…blah, blah, blah….unemployment rate….recession…blah, blah, blah. It’s hard. I have friends who graduated in the top ten of their elite and prestigious law,  poly sci and every other graduate degree  programs who are currently working on doctorates at Kinkos in job application filling and resume photocopying. We all have friends, family and peers who are facing this struggle. It’s true, the job market is not an easy place to be. But, what I believe is also true – is candidates can do A LOT to stand out from the crowd, and don’t for whatever reason. I have learned so much from being on the opposite side of the hiring equation, but one thing I see people mess up over and over is the cover letter moment. And if you mess that up, you are done-zo. Here is some unsolicited advice, hope it helps you land that dream job! What does this have to do with productivity you ask? You will be more productive if you do good work, the right way. Duh.

A Bad Idea

I understand writing cover letters is irritating. What most people do is write one “really good one,” that has been vetted by parents and friends, copy it a million times and mail and email it like mad. This is actually a totally awful plan, so sorry to say. It is so obvious to me when I am reading the same cover letter everyone else is, and it turns me off in no time flat. When I read these letters, this is what my brain thinks they say:

Dear Brook, (name almost always misspelled, your email just got deleted)

I’m Clueless. I don’t know anything about your company beside the fact that you may be hiring, and employ people who have a similar skill set to the one I possess…I think. 

I graduated from this great place with this great degree, which means you should probably consider yourself lucky to have me.  

Big words, misspellings, misused commas more big words. 

Something, something, thanks for reading this. 

Sincerely, 

Clueless

That tells me you haven’t researched my company or me one iota. I’m not being egotistical, or not being totally egotistical, but if you don’t care where you work, why do I want you to work for me? This letter could have been personalized by adding a few sentences gleaned from a sensible Google search of me or my company, but you didn’t take the time to do even that – although you probably spent copious time the very same day googling things like “talking cats.”

Now, none of this may not be true of you, but this is what a cover letter like that says about you. And I don’t want to even talk to anyone who doesn’t have time to learn about a place they might consider working. I hire people who care about themselves and their lives and the lives of my clients. From this letter, I don’t think you do actually care about…anything. If you do care about stuff, are a passionate person and have an active desire to join one company or another – stop writing crappy letters lazy people write.

A Good Idea

In direct contrast to the mass mailed, generic, super yucko cover letter referenced above – is this one. I received possibly the best cover letter ever for BSLM a few weeks ago. This well crafted, perfectly targeted cover letter landed the candidate an appointment regardless of my lack of time  (I made time, as she did to write this thoughtful letter) and the fact that I was not expressly looking to hire someone at the moment her letter came in (told her that, she was lovely and I called her as soon as I had room on my team). Here are a few excerpts from her letter:
Greetings from a recession-movie-loving, chronological-list-making, pencil-sharpening college-compatriot of CURRENT BSLM EMPLOYEE! I recently met him for a lovely gelato and walk in Central Park where, after the requisite recounting of recent romantic rendezvous, we talked about you and your company – CURRENT BSLM EMPLOYEE had only the most incredible things to say!
           
Since graduating from Yale in 2009 (with a B.A. in Anthropology), I’ve been studying opera at Mannes Conservatory on the Upper West Side. I got a Master of Music degree there, and currently have a scholarship to be studying in a special diploma program that is aimed at being the intermediate step between the cocoon of the practice room and the emerging as a (Madame) butterfly. (Actually, I’m a mezzo-soprano, so I will most likely be emerging as her maid.) 
           
It’s such an honor to be working every day toward (the holy grail) of being a totally honest, generous performing artist (something I discussed at length with CURRENT BSLM EMPLOYEE as we were rounding back toward Columbus Circle) – but I think in order to fully spread my wings as a musician it’s necessary that I use more than just my musical muscles. And that I have a job which allows me to support my singing habit!   
    
I think your blog says it all. (I confess, I probably would’ve written to you sooner, but got caught up in reading all of the incredibly useful, fun and well-targeted posts – and being inspired to do things like book plane tickets…) In everything from posts about focusing on details in the context of the “big picture”, to letting go of the fidgeting in life, to feeding your passion by surrounding yourself with passionate people, it seems like your company operates through the idea that life and work benefit the most from a deliberate and holistic approach. For the past few years, I’ve practiced yoga myself, and I think it’s truly unique to find a company whose business model seems to operate within these powerfully useful principles – a company which keeps such a deep sense of the big picture in the background, while giving clients a leg-up on the details and practicalities of life. 

In that spirit, I give you, what it doesn’t say on my resume:  I am a laid-back organizer, a pun-making hard worker, a fun-loving natural-born designated driver. I don’t balk at doing any task, large or small, but instead find satisfaction in a task’s graceful and thorough execution. I like to get things done efficiently, but with a sense of humor and a sense of kindness. I am a great confidence booster and listener – while I deal nuts and bolts of editing a speech or a piece of correspondence, I can also coach the preparation to make the prospect of public speaking or participating in a big meeting seem less daunting. I can adeptly scale the internet to purchase a gift or plan a party, but I can do it with a great aesthetic sense that draws upon other information to make it specifically tailored to what would be most personally targeted for the occasion. I can assist on a stressful project – anything from college admissions, to a presentation at an important conference – while keeping a cool head and making the mood light. I know how to sew, knit, crochet and kickbox. If I’ve never done it before, I can probably figure it out. I rock at self-assembly. I have a “Spidey-sense” for bargains and budgeting. I am really good at research. I have torrential brainstorms, so I go through a lot of umbrellas.

Now, this is a person I want to meet. This is a person who has spent time and energy reading our website, blog, asking a current employee pertinent and thoughtful questions. This is a person who is writing in the tone and style of my company! She GETS it. She speaks kindly of our company, but is not gross and effusive. She tells me about all of the things I won’t find on her resume, and is proud of her strengths and quirks. She is funny. This cover letter says to me:

Hi, 

I know who I am, and it seems like you know who you are. I think we are similar. I think I would be a great fit for your company, also I’m funny. 

Talk soon, 

Awesome Person

Be the Awesome Person. Take the time. Do it right. Instead of spending your time photocopying 100 bad cover letters, take the time to write 2 well researched, targeted ones – chances are you will get both of those jobs and none of the 100 you didn’t care enough about to Google.

Post authored by Brooke Stone

There I things I just adore, but I don’t know what in the world they actually are. Tasti D-Lite for example, somehow “70 calories (or less), with fewer than 1.5 grams of fat and 14 grams of carbs per four-ounce serving,” but SOOOOOO good?! So what is in there? What IS it truly? If some flavors are also dairy free, gluten free, kosher and sugar free – what is left?! I don’t know and I don’t care – it is that good.

There are many similar items in my life. I don’t know what in the world they actually are, but they are  SOOOOOO good, I don’t care. The trick is, they are soooooo good at doing things completely other than what they say they do. Here are some of my favorites.

Blister Band-Aids

You may have used these for their proclaimed purpose and found in fact they do not work on blisters and will not stay on your feet even though they are about $5 for 6 “Ampoules.” Band-Aid likes to think of their Advance Healing product like this:

Cushioning gel pad relieves pain while protecting the blister. Waterproof, superior adhesive stays in place for multi-day use. Flexible form conforms to skin for greater fit and comfort. Seals out water, dirt, and germs that can cause infection.

I like to think of them as a one ampoule solution to just about everything, except dealing with a blister. Try this:

– Cut a blister Band-Aid in half and stick in on a huge zit, or on a huge zit you know is coming but has yet to sprout in it’s full glory. Take it off in the morning and be amazed. Spend your money here and ditch the coverup.

– Cut a few blister Band-Aids into strips and stick to the grout in your shower or around your sink that you can never manage to get completely soap scum or mildew free (CLR and Scrubbing Bubbles having already been tried). Leave them on overnight and peel off in the morning. Now try scrubbing with hot water and soap. Beautiful huh?!

– Wrap a blister Band-Aid around a pen or pencil tip, sticky side out. Now run it between the rows on your computer keyboard, in those impossible to clean crevices in your kitchen appliances where crumbs always get stuck, or just about anywhere you can’t seem to rid of crumbs, lint and other daily debris. Now all of that yuck is stuck to the Band Aid and not to your stuff. Blister Band-Aids are perfect because there is more sticky surface than on a regular Band Aid.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Now this handy little guy is rumored to:

Brighten up your home by helping to renew its surfaces. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Original will help your walls, baseboards, floors, switch plates, blinds and more look like new again by easily removing scuff marks and dirt.

It in fact does do all of those things, but oh so much more. Did you know Mr. Clean can also:

– safely clean your Apple computer products

Follow the instructions on the packet, wetting only a small corner and wringing out until it is essentially dry. Scrub your less than white computer keyboards, exteriors, palm rests and screens with Mr. Awesome Magic Thank God Someone Thought of This, and voila, your sweaty palms are now something only you know about. Warning: this is the only sponge like thing you should EVER use on a keyboard and be sure to squeeze out every drop of extra water – it will still work even though it feels dry.

– deal with your nasty feet

Using a serated kitchen knife cut off a corner of your Magic Eraser diagonally, leaving a jagged edge at an angle. Wet the jagged surface you have created, add some body scrub and have at those nasty boot heels (sandal heels for those of you not in the frigid Northeast). Make sure to rinse well with soap and water and do not do this on open wounds.

Efferdent

Not just for your grandmother. Efferdent is a denture cleaner – here is what they want you to believe:

Its powerful effervescence cleans even hard to reach places in between teeth and kills odor-causing bacteria. So you’re ready to go out and enjoy life knowing your dentures are sparkling clean. Go on: be your effervescent self with Efferdent® Denture Cleanser.

But did you know Efferdent is also….

– the 100%, hands down, completely and without a doubt BEST jewelry cleaner EVER? For everything that is not: silver, gemstones other than diamonds, anything you don’t want to put in a cup of water – like a watch.

Following the instructions on the box, dissolve one tablet into a glass of water, letting the tablet dissolve completely. Dump your rings, pendants, chains, bracelets in and let soak for 15 minutes. Put a stopper in your sink and remove your jewelry from the Efferdent solution, scrub gently with hot water using a vegetable brush or soft toothbrush and pat dry. Prepare yourself for strangers’ unsolicited comments about your fabulous jewelry.

– a great grease buster

Dissolve one tablet into a bowl of hot water, letting the tablet dissolve completely. Dip your sponge into the mixture and reclaim your stove. Also works on non-stick pans, but do not attempt on chef grade stainless cookware or cast iron.

What are some hidden uses for things lying around your house? Here is a great opportunity to offer great advice without being one of those people who offers unsolicited advice constantly…!

Post authored by Brooke Stone

I cannot stress enough the incredible power of having a daily (weekly, monthly, whatever) mantra to positively impact your capacity to make the most of your day and your life. The definition of a mantra, as defined by dictionary.com, is:

man·tra [man-truh, mahn-, muhn-] noun
1. Hinduism . a word or formula, as from the Veda, chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.
2. an often repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism

 

My definition of the word mantra is:
man·tra [man-truh, mahn-, muhn-] necessity
1. a little phrase I say to myself when I start to get overwhelmed, go crazy or feel extremely anything
2. something my yoga teacher chants in Sanksrit every morning that I still don’t know a word of even though I have heard it everyday for 3 years (don’t judge, it’s long)

 

So how can having a mantra help you be more productive? Simple. If you have a mantra for all of your frequent or occasional heightened states of mind you can talk yourself back down to earth very quickly, therefore getting back on the ground without wasting too much time in euphoria, depressed or heart attack mode. Here are a few of mine and their best uses. Can’t wait to hear about yours.

Extreme state of mind: Incredibly excited, adrenaline overloaded and ready to take on the world
Result if allowed to get out of hand: Exhausted, adrenaline headache and rude awakening when I realize taking on the world is a lofty goal I may not hit this week
Mantra to employ so result is avoided: Slow and steady, every race.

 

Extreme state of mind: Huge sense of urgency, feeling the world will end if this email, note, whatever doesn’t get finished RIGHT NOW (or five minutes ago)
Result if allowed to get out of hand: unsightly vein bulging, extreme bossiness resulting in silent treatment from peers, husband and cats, mistakes from rushing
Mantra to employ so result is different: Very little is TRULY urgent.

 

Do you have a mantra that works for you?

 

P.S. If anyone knows a good recording of the Ashtanga invocation I now feel as though I really should know it. Thanks.

Post authored by Brooke Stone

I learned to pay attention to fidgeting when I decided to commit to a daily yoga practice.

Early in my endeavor, I was inwardly cursing Pattabhi Jois in a sweat puddle on my mat pulling up a soggy pair of leggings, when my very wise teacher said to me: If you do not fidget with your clothes once during the entire practice you will have more energy to finish well. If you only use the energy you need for practice you will have lots left over. I, queen of the fidget, did not really believe him. But, trying to be an A student and a teacher’s pet, I can’t help it – I’m just that girl, I decided I would hereby fidget no longer.

I WOULD NOT pull up my pants – I just started standing in the back so as not to bring the plumber situation into my experience, or any else’s. I WOULD NOT pull down my shirt – again, standing in the back and pretending to have abs like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.  I WOULD NOT tame the mess of curls exploding out of my ponytail – embracing my inner (and outer) Cousin It. And lo and behold, my practice got stronger instantly. I had channeled all of my fidget energy into practice energy. It was like yoga equity! That was valuable chaturanga strength spent pulling up those pants! Valuable handstand strength trying to tame untamable locks! Channeling my energy and my focus, expending only what was required left me feeling energized and prepared for the rest of the day. Good one, Guru – 10 points for you.

This week, in the practice of my life, I will not fidget. I will not spend energy where it is not needed, I will channel my inner fidget to my daily life practice. I expect to find Friday with more peace of mind and some energy left over for the weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes. Happy Monday.

 

Post authored by Brooke Stone

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