Alyssa J Freitas

April 20, 2017

How To Read More This Year

At the start of the year I shared that I had a reading goal of 45 books for 2017. Since 2014 I have been increasing my yearly reading goal by 5 books and love keeping track on Goodreads (let's be friends over there!). Now that we're a little over a quarter of the way through the year I thought it would be fun to do a recap of the books that have stood out to me thus far and to offer advice for those of you looking to up your reading for the rest of the year.
Check out why you should recommit to reading more this year and how to do it
Photo Credit: Ally Marcino

New York by: Edward Rutherfurd

I. Love. Edward. Rutherfurd. He writes epic historical fiction novels that generally focus on one city and follow characters throughout time. His deep understanding of the time periods he covers and the captivating stories he tells absolutely blow me away. I cannot recommend his work highly enough and have The Princes of Ireland next on my Rutherfurd reading list.

The Accidental Empress by: Allison Pataki

Another historical fiction novel (I can never get enough), this time set in Europe. This novel follows Sisi, the woman who became the wife of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph in the second half of the 1800s. From Sisi's story the reader learns about royal expectations, the political landscape at the time, and how vastly relationships can change in even a short period. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found the characters to be quite compelling.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by: Mindy Kaling

This book was a disappointment. I had it on my "to-read" list for a while because I enjoy Kaling's work on The Office, but this did not live up to my expectations. While she does preface the book by saying it would be filled with her wandering thoughts and ramblings, I found it to be distractedly scattered and, dare I say, shallow. There were a few moments that made me laugh out loud (thank goodness those instances helped redeem it), but overall I would not suggest reading Kaling's book.

Einstein's Dreams by: Alan Lightman

This is my most recently finished book and I am a big fan! I started reading it on a whim (it wasn't sitting on my "to-read" list for months like most of my other picks) and am incredibly glad I did. It is a short novel that describes the dreams of Albert Einstein during the early 1900s when he is working on his theory of relativity. Each chapter depicts a different world where time functions uniquely. From a place where people live up in the mountains because time moves slower there, to a town where they know the exact date and time of the end of the world, to a place where there is no memory of the past, each world has its own benefits and drawbacks. It was concise, descriptive, and an interesting read.

Now, on to my promised tips to increase your reading for the remainder of the year (and some inspiration for myself because I need to keep on track with my goal too!):

  • Measure your goal: I've said it many times before and I will say it again: having quantifiable goals and actually tracking them makes it much more likely that you will achieve what you set out to. I'm an advocate for Goodreads because you can keep track of books you want to read, have already read, and are currently reading, plus you can set personalized goals. Do it. Trust me.   
  • Read what you actually want to: I respect Joe's opinion (you can see that from this recent post where one of our conversations prompted me to rethink how I structure the blog), however, that doesn't mean we'll have the same taste. He asked me to read Catch 22 and by the time I got a third of the way through, I just couldn't do it anymore. Getting caught up in reading what you think you "should" read or what's popular is a mistake because you will likely find any way you can to procrastinate and avoid it. If you're reading for pleasure, still challenge yourself, but pick something you will truly enjoy.
  • Build it into your routine: Whether it's a chapter in the morning or before bed, reading during breakfast, or on your commute, find a time that you designate as a reading time. In addition to reading before bed, I nearly always carry a book with me and pull it out whenever I have a spare moment. 
  • Make it easy (and inexpensive): Reading should not become a chore because it is a hassle to get books. There are SO MANY ways to access literature. My favorite methods are free: using the physical library and taking advantage of my library's access to e-books. Most libraries have a database of e-books for members so if you have an e-reader (I love my vintage Kindle) it is convenient to check out a book from the comfort of your home. If this level of ease doesn't inspire you to read, I don't know what will!

What books have you read this year? What's your yearly reading goal? How do you prioritize time to read?

-AJF
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April 18, 2017

Avoiding Decision Fatigue

My father taught me this trick for choosing what to order at a restaurant when you're torn: have someone else decide. When I have it narrowed down to two or three dishes I'll ask the waiter to pick for me and not tell me so I get a surprise when the plate arrives! I usually say something like,
"I am torn about what to order, so I'd love if you would choose for me. *Then I list the options out*. But don't tell me, I trust your judgement and I can't wait to be surprised!"
Take a look now or pin to save for later! When we have countless decisions to make in a day it's no wonder we get overwhelmed. Learn about decision fatigue and how to avoid it
For some I know this is a little odd and others can't imagine not knowing what they are going to eat, however I'm all about a good surprise. There is another reason that I take this sort of approach: decision fatigue. According to Wikipedia (my favorite source for reliable information...or at least semi-reliable information you can get with minimal effort), decision fatigue is the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making.

Every single day we make countless decisions: what are we going to wear, what music are we going to listen to, what app are we going to open first, what projects are we going to prioritize, who are we going to text for lunch? The list simply goes on and on.

Often, this leads to a feeling of overwhelm or a diminishing desire to do anything that will require more decisions. When this happens, you become less effective and less productive, and who wants that?!?! The question then becomes how can you avoid decision fatigue?

Minimize the amount of decisions you have to make on a daily basis.

You know how Steve Jobs always wore the same outfit, or how Warren Buffet follows a simple diet? These successful people save their mental energy to dedicate to work that has a great return. Why spend what collectively turns into hours figuring out what you're going to do next when you can institute a schedule and keep a calendar that prioritizes what you need to accomplish, instead turning your brain power to the activities that actually matter? This is not to say that you have to be completely regimented and live your life by a color-coded calendar (not that I know anyone who does that...), but rather that reducing the amount of decisions you are faced with can improve your performance.

As I discussed in my last post about avoiding anything that suggests quick fixes (i.e. "Follow these 3 steps to make your life unbelievably happy and fun forever"), I am not going to do my usual numbered process. However, I am going to give you some actionable advice that you can incorporate into your life as you work on your decision making skills - because what good is a post telling you to minimize something but not actually giving you information on how to do it?

Actionable ideas for avoiding decision fatigue:
  • Identify what decisions are most and least meaningful
    • Most = what homework assignment to prioritize
    • Least = what top to pair with that skirt
  • For those that are most meaningful, take the time to think through the impact each option has on the rest of your day and decide accordingly (and take a look at this guide to effective decision making)
  • For those that are least meaningful, brainstorm ways to make the decision less often or not at all
    • Ex: I will only open my social media apps during lunch (to avoid that internal debate with yourself about if you can handle a break right now and still be able to get back to your work)
When you are aware of the role decision fatigue plays in your life and you take steps such as these, you can begin to allocate your time to your highest value activities. This will take concentrated effort, but the benefits are worthwhile!

Have you experienced decision fatigue? What are some of the ways you combat this pest?

-AJF 
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April 13, 2017

Thoughts on All Girls Education

For those of you who don’t know, I attended a small, all girls Catholic high school. And when I say small, I mean SMALL. My graduating class size was 15. Yep, you read that right. 15. As college graduation is looming I’ve been reflecting on my education journey and am realizing how varied my experiences have been.
Check it out now or pin to save for later! As a student educated in an all girls high school I have a good understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of this sort of schooling. Here are my thoughts on this practice!
I started out at a public school in a diverse town for kindergarten to third grade. The school was “international” themed (all of the public schools had a different theme and parents would tour them, then choose their top picks for their child to attend) and we were always learning about different cultures and putting on performances. When I moved, I attended my new public school for a year and then my parents decided that the sports focus was too heavy.

My parents moved me to a co-ed Catholic school for fifth to eighth grade. All of the students in my class, except the few going to public high school, had to take standardized and school specific tests, and write essays, and attend open houses for competitive private high schools. Imagine it like a slightly less intense college application process. Although I was allowed to apply to a few different schools, my parents were adamant about me attending a single sex school. They wanted me to focus on my studies (I was already pretty distracted by cute guys at age 14 haha) and knew I would have an increased chance of getting much needed scholarship awards.

And that's how I ended up at Lacordaire Academy (you can spot me on the homepage)! The most charming, fun, inquisitive environment is created at the Academy and I am forever grateful for the instructors that I had. In my classes (my largest class was 7 and my smallest class was 2) I learned to listen to the opinions and ideas of others and to learn from more than just a book. My classmates came from a variety of backgrounds: monetarily, culturally, religiously (despite it being a Catholic school), etc. and their experiences all informed my education. There was something unique and special about being in the all girls environment where we didn't feel fear or embarrassment when speaking up about any issue. The teachers empowered us to explore and debate and I developed a confidence in my academic ability there that I doubt would have been as strong anywhere else.

While I did end up coming to a co-ed college, I miss the all girls element of the classroom and cannot reccommend such an experience enough. I recently found out about the Women's Contemporary Leadership Program over the summer at Wellesley College (the #1 women's college) up in Massachusetts. If you're a rising sophomore, junior, or senior you can attend this 5 week program and take 2 courses for credit. Additionally, you'll get to participate in roundtables with faculty and outside panel members, attend special seminars (learning to golf is one!), and live on Wellesley's campus (so picturesque, right?).

Even better is that HerCampus is awarding a scholarship towards the program! You can take a look at the application here.

My best friend Ally lived there last summer when she worked as a photographer for another program and I had the opportunity to visit her. We were so close to Boston that we got to explore the home where John Adams was born (see ecstatic me below)! Being on the campus feels like Hogwarts and I'm pretty sure you are instantly smarter the second you step foot through the gates haha


In all seriousness though, developing leadership and independent thinking skills is beyond important, and a program like this can prepare you to utilize such skills as you move through your education and beyond. There's a simple application process that you can check out here if you think this is a way you'd like to spend your summer!

What has your education been like? How do you think different genders in the classroom impacts learning?

-AJF
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This post is brought to you by Wellesley College and Her Campus Media

April 11, 2017

How To Go From Intern To Full-Time

If there's anything that I love discussing, it's professional development. Whether it's about developing your skill set, networking, or getting a job, I get beyond excited to talk about it. Today I'm partnering up with my friend Austen (you can read about the start of our friendship and reconnection years later here) of Keep Calm and Chiffon who interned at NYLON magazine and now works there full-time. We're going to answer a series of questions about transitioning your internship to a full-time job, just like we both did (you can take a look at my IBM internship experience here and I am thrilled to say I'll be starting full-time in June)!  
Check it out now or pin to save for later! Do you love your internship and want to work there full time? Learn how two bloggers, one in the fashion industry and one in the tech industry, did just that

How do you know if where you interned is also where you should look for a full-time position? 


Austen: I can usually get a good feeling about this based on the kind of relationships I’ve formed with supervisors and other interns. If you feel comfortable and think it’s a place where your ideas would be heard and where you could learn a lot, then it’s definitely worth looking into for a more permanent position.

Alyssa: Getting the opportunity to intern before making the more major decision of where you are going to work full time is phenomenal. Make the most of your time as an intern by talking to as many people in a variety of roles as you can to learn about all of the potential functions in the company. If you feel it is a place you were challenged and where people were willing to help, those are good indications that you should consider transitioning to full-time.

What was your first step when you knew you wanted to turn your internship into a full-time job? 


Austen: I think I knew I wanted something more the moment I walked into my first fashion internship! I just thought about how every little action could eventually help get me to my goal—that meant strategically planning every blog post, every networking email, and even every outfit posted to Instagram was somehow building to getting a job at a fashion magazine.

Alyssa: Step one was to let my managers and colleagues know that I was interested. Step two was to consistently demonstrate why I would be a valuable addition to their team. The more you can aid others in their roles by making their lives easier, the more inclined they will be to want you to continue with the company. By showing genuine and enthusiastic interest, with a strong desire to learn, you can develop advocates who will help you through the hiring process.

How can you take on more responsibility and not be viewed as an intern once you’re full-time?

 

Austen: If you’re working where you’ve previously interned, it may take a little while for the intern feeling to go away. A lot of physically different things will help to distinguish your new status as an employee—having your own computer, a business card, that sort of thing. If your boss is still hesitant to give you bigger tasks, offer your assistance, pitch ideas, and absorb everything that’s happening around you. Interns solve problems after they happen—employees anticipate problems and cut them off before they occur.

Alyssa: Not sure yet (because I haven’t started my full time role), but I’ll get back to you :) How do you recommend preparing to negotiate your offer?

How do you communicate your value and make sure that you are getting the best fit and compensation? 


Austen: This is tricky, because it’s awesome to get any offer upon graduation and I didn’t have to negotiate mine. If you’re not thrilled with your initial offer, but know the job is a great fit, ask to plan a check-in after six months to potentially re-evaluate and negotiate your salary. If you are a great fit and are doing exemplary work, the company should want to invest in you and want to keep you around.

Alyssa: Negotiations are tough, but can be necessary. Since you have already been demonstrating what you bring to the table as an intern, you have a leg up. Come to any discussion prepared with research on what other company entry-level salaries are for your role and practice articulating what you have and will contribute, especially what that means for the success of the company and the achievement of their goals. Be prepared to be creative. Maybe more money is not a possibility, but additional training and professional development opportunities can be made available if you ask, or you can secure a more advantageous relocation package. I love Austen’s suggestion of agreeing on another time to discuss it! Lastly, remember those great relationships you made through the course of your internship? Consult with them about the preferred method of negotiating in this company and get their feedback on what you should be asking for/how to ask for it.

Do you have any other questions about making the transition? Any ideas we didn't share?


-AJF
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April 6, 2017

The Trouble With Clickbait

The other day Joe and I were working side by side (he was grading papers and I was, surprise surprise, working on the blog) when he asked me "Why do you always use numbers on your blog?" He was referring to

01. This sort of thing where I use numbers to create lists as part of my posts.


At the time I answered with a variety of reasons (let's use some numbers to organize it, shall we?):
  1. I like the way they look
  2. It's a good way to organize the flow of a post
  3. It makes it easy for people to skim
  4. I read that you can get more people to click through to your site when you have post titles like "3 Ways To Prioritize Your Time" and "5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Blogging" and "3 Ways To Save When Shopping"
Check it out now or pin to save for later! Have you ever found yourself reading far too much "clickbait" or perhaps even writing it yourself? Here's why I'm making a commitment to reduce clickbait-y posts on my blog
This got us started on discussing the prevalence of "clickbait," which is content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page. This sort of content (think Buzzfeed) is great for driving traffic to your posts, but not so great for creating an online space that facilitates discussion and dives deep on issues. I also think that it presents the idea that there are quick fixes if you just follow steps 1, 2, and 3, when in actuality it takes concentrated effort and time to make significant changes.

Now, that's not to say that sites like Buzzfeed or posts like my most recent ones are not worthwhile or that they don't contain good information. However, it made me examine my reasoning for creating clickbait-y posts and I realized a few things.
  1. Liking the way something looks is a good reason to do it
  2. Organizing posts is helpful to the reader
  3. I work hard on maintaining the blog and continually generating and writing about new ideas, therefore I don't like the idea at all that people are simply skimming what I have to say 
  4. My priority is not traffic (although it's great to know that a lot of people are looking at my site) - my priority is firstly to write about what I am interested in, secondly to write in a way that is helpful for others and can be a resource for their self improvement, and thirdly for people to not just stop by, but to return again and again because I am creating something worthwhile.
As you can guess, this left me in a predicament. I had four reasons for structuring and titling posts this way, and ultimately it was divided between continuing or making an adjustment. Nothing earth shattering has been decided upon, but I am making a commitment to myself and to you to lay off the "# of ways to..." posts and instead coming back to my blogging roots of writing for myself and to create stimulating content for you.

I don't know if this will result in renewed community around the blog (remember when commenting on blogs instead of just on social media kinda sorta used to be a thing?), but I do know that it will be a good challenge for me and will provide some fresh perspectives for you to read. It will also allow me to better explore the habits and intentionality that is necessary for self improvement that cannot simply be achieved by following a series of quick steps.

Have you ever found yourself writing for views instead of writing for value? What are your thoughts on clickbait?


-AJF
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