Alyssa J Freitas

August 8, 2018

How To Organize Your Laptop Like A Minimalist

I seriously love to get organized and feel refreshed - who doesn't? And while my physical life is consistently cleaned up, thanks to my minimalist lifestyle, my laptop is a bit tougher to keep in check. Today I am going to share with you how to clean up your technology to improve your workflow and make your mind feel clear.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Are you overwhelmed by a sea of files on your laptop? Here's how to get your laptop organized like a minimalist

Files

The first thing I decided to tackle when cleaning up my laptop were my files. Although I'd been pretty good about keeping my files separated into folders, I was dealing with duplicates, irrelevant files, and folder names that didn't match its content. Depending on the current state of affairs for your computer this may take longer, but after about 45 minutes I got myself organized and drastically improved how quickly I can locate what I need.

Here's the process I used:
  1. First I identified 3 main categories: work, personal, and currently working on (i.e. the clients I'm actively working with and files I grab on a daily basis) and created folders.
  2. Next, I broke down each of the main categories to subfolders. Work got: women's groups/volunteering, product portfolio, clients, territory files, and other. Of course this will vary based on your role, just try to keep it reasonable/to a minimum. Personal got: Yukon (a company I work for outside of IBM), blog, photos, financial planning, and medical.
  3. Then I decided to make use of tags. For example, if I work on a presentation for a client that is focused on two of my products, I would tag the file with both of the product names so I can easily find everything related to each of my offerings. Your purpose with tags may be different, but no matter what your categories are, they are so helpful!
  4. I moved all of the folders to the Documents section instead of Desktop where I had them before so I could create a clear opening screen.
  5. I also completely cleared my downloads folder (and am making that a practice ideally on a weekly, if not daily basis) and emptied my trash.

Tools/Applications

After getting my file life in order, I turned to the tools/applications. You can determine if you have any useless applications to delete and prioritize what you use on a daily basis to add to your dock.

For work, my most used applications are Slack, Evernote, Wunderlist, IBM Firefox, and the Microsoft Office suite. I also keep Launchpad, Spotify, Messenger, and Chrome on my dock. Then I made it as small as possible.

Updates

I don't know about you, but I always seem to ignore system updates. Not today! I updated my software and applications and it felt good to stop those notifications.

Background

I always love to change up my background - it makes me feel like I have a new computer each time. This is my current background and it looks great without any files or the dock getting in the way.
How do you keep your digital life in check? Make sure to check out all of my posts on digital minimalism here.


-AJF

August 1, 2018

Life Lately: History Edition

It's been a while since I've done a "life lately" post. My last one was professional themed and today I am excited to share a history focused post!
Click to read now or pin to save for later! This summer has been filled with learning about history and I am obsessed with everything I've seen. Take a look at the cool stuff you can see on the East Coast this summer

Independence Day

Let's go back to the start of July - Independence Day! This is my favorite holiday and I wrote a post explaining that "July 4th" might not be the best day to actually celebrate independence, but I won't get into that again, you can read the post.

Joe and I went down to FiDi to Federal Hall, where Washington was sworn into office. We got to see the actual stone slab he stood on and the bible used. I got my picture with him and Franklin, and I was so, so excited.



The NY Stock Exchange is right next store and it looked thoroughly patriotic.

We also checked off a summer bucket list item and took a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Historical Walking Tour

My lovely friend Chrystalla came up with a great birthday gift idea in January that I had to patiently wait for until the summer - a historical walking tour in the city. I was so excited to go through all of the options and ultimately selected the 3 hour Downtown Manhattan tour. The company is called Free Tours by Foot and they operate in cities around the world. You can take a look at their calendar and book your free (actually free, it's incredible) tour super easily.

After brunch, we made our way over to Federal Hall for the start of the tour. It was jam packed with interesting historical information, references to present day important figures, and was perfectly paced. I learned why Wall St. is called Wall St., some crazy stories about the gangs who used to rule NY, and a story about Alexander Hamilton/Aaron Burr that set me off on a reading/researching spree (and brought me to the revelation of my most recent blog post).
The Oculus
Trinity Church

The Oculus and One World Trade
Chinatown

We loved our tour guide, Eric, who we completely inadvertently ended up riding the subway with! We were on our way to Astoria (Joe and Chrystalla's boyfriend James both live in the neighborhood) and looked over to see Eric in the same car as us.

Boston 

The last historical update is a weekend trip Joe and I took to Boston! Boston is small enough to see in a day and half, and we checked off most items on my list by noon on the first day.
Boston Tea Party Museum
Public Gardens
Acorn Street

A model I spotted

Public Library


Public Library

Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum

Fenway Park

I wasn't able to take a picture of the most exciting thing that happened on the trip. We went to the Massachusetts Historical Society on a whim and got to see the letter that John Adams wrote to Abigail when the vote for Independence went through that I quoted in my blog post!!!! Oh my goodness, I freaked out, and then I saw that they have the oldest known original portraits of John and Abigail and I can't believe what a hidden gem the museum portion of the society building is.

I am so happy to have had a month filled with learning about the history of our country and can't wait to see what else is discovered this summer.

What have you been up to? Anything blowing your socks off?

-AJF

July 25, 2018

On Changing Your Mind

I like to hold strong opinions, loosely. I don’t mean to suggest that I am flakey or that I am constantly vacillating. Instead, I am not afraid to change my mind and don’t feel embarrassed when I realize that what I originally thought wasn’t correct or what I think anymore.

As you know, I am obsessed with revolutionary history (be on the lookout for a post on how to see the history of Boston next week!), so you’d think I would have immediately loved the musical Hamilton when it came out. Instead, I listened to one song, decided that I didn’t like that the style of music didn’t fit the time period, and dismissed it.
Click to read or pin to save for later! Have you ever been hesitant to change your mind because you're afraid of what people may think? Here's why you shouldn't think twice about changing your mind
Things changed this week. Majorly. I finished reading the book My Dear Hamilton and learned about Hamilton’s wife Eliza and was immediately interested in hearing more of their story – so I turned to the Hamilton Broadway soundtrack and fell in love.

It. Is. So. Good. Why didn’t I give it a chance before!? Why did I close off my mind without giving it a real chance? Why can’t I stop listening to Helpless on repeat and definitely scaring my coworkers with my facial expressions as I try to suppress my urge to sing along?

I don’t think I am alone in finding that something I once thought doesn’t hold true today. What’s important (other than working on being more open minded in the first place, of course) is quickly and easily admitting that our initial impressions were wrong and embracing that there is nothing wrong with changing your mind.

The story I shared is a low stakes opinion change, but there are other subjects that feel like they carry more weight. Whether it’s religion, your career, politics, or something else equally as important, I’ve found that people tend to respect you more when you humbly change your mind instead of stubbornly holding on to opinions you no longer truly believe in. And holding yourself back from making a change because of what other people may think of you is just silly.

There aren’t clear steps that I can give you on how to be comfortable changing your mind. Instead, you’ll have to take it case by case and remember that the best people can understand and move between ideals. Moral of the story is to happily embrace the music, especially when you didn’t like it before.

-AJF
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July 18, 2018

How To Have A Great Informational Interview

We constantly hear that it is essential to network outside of our current company and to learn more about other industries and roles. Some refer to this type of networking as an "informational interview" and while it can certainly take on that formal tone, it doesn't have to. Just by having a curiosity to understand more about how others have built their careers and to build relationships, you can network externally in a more informal manner.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Do you want to expand your professional network and learn more about different industries and roles? Informational interviews are the perfect way to get a taste. Learn how to reach out to and conduct an informational interview with the right professionals
While this advice is shared often, we're not exactly told how to take the first step in connecting with others. Today, I'm going to share with you how to take that first step and tell you about the effective methods I've recently employed.

First, figure out what you hope to give and get

Are you looking to join a particular company? Transition to a specific role? Or broaden your network in general? Figuring out your purpose of connecting (and being able to express it clearly and succinctly) will help you to identify the right people and easily explain why you want to meet. Remember, while it may be a learning experience for you at the onset, it is important to figure out how you can add value for others and make the experience worth their while.

Identify the right people

I don't know what people did before LinkedIn (check out my three part series on LinkedIn here, here, and here). Asked around for recommendations and hoped to get lucky, I guess. Recommendations are a great way to meet others, but if you don't have a large pool, LinkedIn is perfect. With LinkedIn it is incredible how many people you can find and quickly determine if they are someone you'd like to hear more about. Based on what you hope to give and get, you can tailor your search. 

I like to try and find a commonality with the person I am reaching out to, so I start by looking at my 2nd degree connections (you have a mutual connection who can introduce you), people who I am in a LinkedIn group with, or people who went to my college. For example, if you're part of a professional club, join the LinkedIn group so you learn about members who you may have not met in person. 

When it comes to your school and connection degrees, you can used advanced search by clicking the search bar, clicking on "people," and then using filters.

Send a message

The message you send should be short, to the point, and easy to respond to. If you're reaching out on LinkedIn, you can send a connection request with a line like:
Hi Jane, I'm a fellow Women's Finance Club member and am starting out my career in the banking industry. It would be great to connect and introduce ourselves!
 Once they connect with you, you can send a direct message with a more specific ask:
Hi Jane, thanks for connecting! Your profile caught my eye because of your work with xyz- it would be great to introduce ourselves and to ask you about the start of your career in the banking industry. Please let me know if you have time for a brief phone call this coming week. Thanks!
If they are in the same city as you, you can also ask for an in person meeting by offering to buy them a coffee.

The actual meeting/call

When you first sit down with the person, thank them for joining you and tell them the purpose of the meeting. For example:
Thank you for meeting with me today, I really appreciate it! I'd like to ask you about your career and learn what advice you have for someone who is starting. I know there are many different paths available, and I am looking forward to hearing your perspective. 
Then you can let the conversation flow and have some prepared questions to facilitate the discussion. I love these suggestions from Career Contessa. Having categories of questions will keep you on track (example: early career, best strategic decisions they made, day-in-the-life) and you won't feel like you're running through a list and drilling them.

A question I would make sure to ask is "Is there anyone else you would suggest I reach out to to continue learning more about what we discussed." This is a great way to get a referral and continue to expand your network. It's also good to have a clear follow up action for after the meeting.

After the meeting/call

Of course you'll thank them in person or on the phone at the end of your meeting, but the follow up after that is even more important. Send a message like:
Hi Jane, thanks for meeting with me today! It was great talking with you and I appreciate your advice. I look forward to keeping in touch and meeting with xyz as you suggested. Please feel free to use this email address to make the introduction. Have a great weekend! 
Then you can set a reminder to follow up with them a few months down the road to check in and keep the relationship going. Send them an article relevant to what you talked about, or invite them to an event your attending, or just say hello and ask them how the project is going that they told you about. 

What are your best methods for reaching out to others? How do you seek out mentoring conversations?

-AJF
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July 11, 2018

What To Read This Summer

As a kid I remember the library hosting reading challenges every summer. You'd fill out your list, win prizes, and hopefully not lose too much of your brain power over the school break. Working full time and being an adult means there isn't really a great amount of difference in free time each season, but there is something about summer that makes me want to read more books, faster. Here are the books I've read recently and what's on my list. Let's be friends on Goodreads so we can get recommendations from each other!
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Looking for some summer reading inspiration? Look no further. Here are the top books to pick up

What I've Read

London by Edward Rutherfurd
This was an epic book (all his books are sagas). All of Rutherfurd's stories follow families in a certain city/country for generations and it was interesting to learn more about how London has developed over the years. Now I am anxiously awaiting the publication of his next book, China.  

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty 
After I read a Rutherfurd book, I always need a quick, easy read to clean my palate - enter, What Alice Forgot. This book tells the story of a woman who gets a head injury and thinks it's a decade earlier, forgetting her divorce, change of friends, and even her children. It was the book I needed, when I needed it.

The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner
Nope. Not for me. I had high hopes because I love historical fiction and am interested in the life of Lucrezia Borgia. However, the book fell far short of expectations and actually inspired me to create a new rule for myself - I will not read any book that gets less than a 4 star rating on Goodreads. It's just not worth it, especially because I'm the type of person who has to finish a book once I start it. Can't afford to put myself in that position again!

Photo Credit: Ally Marcino


The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Ok, now we're talking. This was a beautifully written book (definitely could use some pacing work, and probably could have ended a hundred pages sooner) and it had been on my list for a while so I was glad to finally get to it. The story follows college students who find themselves in a series of issues, including murder, alcoholism, near death by freezing, you know, the usual college stuff, and is done in the best way possible.  

Originals by Adam Grant
Here comes the non-fiction. Grant presents ways to have creative, and original ideas, and how your environment and childhood influences you. If you want to harness your creativity and learn how best to present your ideas, this is a quick read that will give you great tips and make you think.

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray
I do not like Thomas Jefferson. Before reading this book I would have said I hated the man (there's far too many reasons to get into now). Even though you absolutely must take historical fiction at its word of being fiction, this book humanized Jefferson for me and I have a greater appreciation for the sacrifices of the founding fathers. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This is the first dystopian book I've picked up in a while. A great flu sweeps over the earth, killing more than 90% of the population. We follow those who survived and go back in time to learn more about the world and people who were left behind. With short chapters, I was able to fly through this book.
Photo Credit: Ally Marcino


What I want to read

Here are the goal books for the rest of the summer:
  • My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
What have you read recently? What's on your list for the summer? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

-AJF