Alyssa J Freitas

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Seriously, You Don't Need To Instagram It

As I am writing this, I am sitting at a small table next to a window with soft morning sunlight streaming in. My view is of lovely trees and patio furniture and I am listing to the soothing sounds of breakfast being made and small groups of people enjoying their coffee. When I ordered my breakfast I found out I could get a free pastry (!) and am savoring the delectable pecan sticky bun right now. This is quite literally the most opportune Instagram moment, yet I am choosing not to pull out my phone.

Seriously, You Don't Need To Instagram It | http://www.alyssajfreitas.com/2015/08/seriously-you-dont-need-to-instagram-it.html

I love Instagram just as much as the next girl. I get excited when I see people liked my photo or commented and it brings me happiness to see the perfect images others capture. However, when I witness people living their lives and stopping to rearrange the table for the perfect shot or trying to make their children stand in just the right way and laugh at just the right time, I can't help but wonder if we really need to Instagram it all.

We are a culture obsessed with self documentation. We have an endless stream of photos capturing various events, day to day happenings, and the like. We keep each other informed up to the minute of what we are doing and who we are with, all for some validation that our lives are worthy and important (we shouldn't need the regard of others to feel this, but that's a post for another day). Some might consider it vanity and, frankly, I tend to agree. There is something inherently self centered about the frequency with which we photograph our lives.

Now, I definitely love taking pictures and creating photo books and recording my life, however the difference lies in that I do my best not to allow this documentation to take away from my enjoyment of events and the attention I give to those I am with. This is something which was put into perspective for me by my father. I remember on family vacations my mother would like to stop us and get a picture of us when there was beautiful scenery or we were at a noteworthy site. My father would always say, "No one had a picture of themselves before the early 1800s, and they all got through life just fine."

How true! Not only did no one have pictures of themselves, but when photography did start to become popular you had to go and sit for a portrait; there were no handheld cameras that you could use to document everything. To me, this proves that it is quite unnecessary to interrupt our lives to document it, just so we can share or perhaps look back on it later.

I challenge you, the next time a perfect Instagram moment comes your way, to resist whipping out your phone to capture it and instead making note of it in your mind. A few days later, let's see if you think to yourself "I should have Instagrammed that" or if you can simply enjoy the memory of the moment in your mind.

What do you think of how often we Instagram? Are you a fan? Do you find it adds to your life or takes away from your enjoyment?


-AJF

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Digital Minimalism: Email

I have seen countless posts about getting to "inbox zero." I can't help but stare in wonder and feel filled with awe as I look at the screen shots of the empty inboxes of these magical wizards who seem to deal with emails before they even arrive! I am not the type of person who can create an empty inbox, but I have found a method of organization which is simple and minimalistic which I'll share with you today. The goal is that when you open your email you feel ready and equipped to deal with it, rather than overwhelmed and ready to run away screaming.

Digital Minimalism: Email | http://www.alyssajfreitas.com/2015/08/digital-minimalism-email.html

Note: No matter what email service you use, it has the capability of organization by folders or labels or what have you. Since I'm a gmail user I'm going to refer to labels, but you can replace it with whatever method your email has.

Step 1: Unsubscribe.
You know how you signed up for a newsletter from that random company that one time so you could get a coupon? Or how you are still getting emails from that store you haven't stepped foot in in years? It's time to get that under control! Luckily there is an amazing, FREE service which makes this process incredibly easy: Unroll.Me. All you have to do is enter your email and Unroll.Me collects all of your subscriptions, making it easy to unsubscribe. Then, you'll get a daily email of your "Rollup" with all of the subscriptions you decide to keep. How awesome is it to get all of those out of control subscriptions down to ONE email a day!?!? This is really exciting and truly makes a world of difference.

Step 2: Categorize.
After you've tackled all of those pesky subscriptions, it's time to deal with the emails that really matter. I categorize the emails I get a couple of ways: Blogging, School, Professional, Health, and Organizations. I have both a school and personal email so I'll deal with my school email first.

I enjoy having labels and sub labels, so I first create a label for the year of school (i.e. Junior Year) and then under that includes financial, whichever sales competitions I'm going to that year, and any organization I'm involved in that year. Organizations which I've been in for multiple years gets their own main label. Each label is also color coded and the color coordinates with my calendar. For example, on my calendar all of my classes are purple so Junior Year is purple in my email, just as sales stuff is yellow in my calendar as well as my email.

For my personal/professional email I have a Blogging label with sub labels of Guest Posting, Interviews, Networks, and Partnerships. It's important to keep a record of your communication with companies in case you ever need to revisit expectations so this makes it easy for me to access that sort of information quickly. I also have a Professional label and then have sub labels for each company. Lastly, I have a Health label for anything related to doctors visits and the like. You may (and probably should) decide on different labels but the key is to make it specific enough that you know instantaneously where to file something but also keep it to a minimum so you don't have a full sidebar.

Step 3: Process.
Some people purposely don't open their email until after a certain time while others look at it before even getting out of bed. I fall into latter category because I want to know if there is anything I need to attend to first thing and it energizes me rather than drains me. When I check my email if there is something I can respond to or take care of in less than 5 minutes I do it right away. This is a good rule to utilize when you want to stay on top of things and keep your inbox at a minimal number.

I only label emails after I've read them and taken the necessary action, so I treat my inbox as a sort of to-do list. This may or may not work for you; just experiment to see what's most effective. When looking at it through a minimalist's eyes the most important factor is to feel able to tackle your inbox at anytime because you stay on top of it. Remember that minimalism is all about having processes in place which allow you to live your life with the most joy and ease you can.

How do you organize your inbox? Do you have any advice?


-AJF

Check out other posts in the digital minimalism series here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

3 Essential Lessons From My First Job

"Tennis Attendant." That was my title at my first job (aside from babysitting). When I went in for the interview and got the position I was pretty proud of myself for having snagged such a glamorous title. I envisioned myself in cute little tennis skirts, showing people to their courts, collecting fees, and flirting with the hot tennis boys. Ummm, not so fast there honey.

Rather, the job entailed emptying the trash, chasing people to pay for court time, cold calling to sell lessons, and cleaning unspeakably dirty bathrooms. "Glamorous" was certainly not the appropriate word to use for this position. Despite the unpleasant tasks that made up the job, I learned some valuable lessons that are applicable in any personal or professional situation.

3 Essential Lessons From My First Job | http://www.alyssajfreitas.com/2015/08/3-essential-lessons-from-my-first-job.html

1. Always do the right thing, even when no one is watching.
I was the only person in the office at the courts most of the time so my boss was not there to see how I was performing. While this fact led my co-workers to skimp on the work they did and do a subpar job, I maintained my usual high standard simply because it is the right thing to do. Although I thought no one took notice, some customers commented to my boss and in return I got recognition from him. When you are working, or doing anything really, it is essential to always do your best so that you are doing right by your company, but most importantly by yourself.

2. You have to demand that people respect your time, because they won't automatically.
In an ideal world we would all respect each others' time, always be early, and generally get things accomplished a lot faster. As it turns out we don't live in a utopia so we must actively stand up for ourselves. Since each employee was normally alone at the courts we had to wait for the next person to arrive before we could leave. Once my co-workers got to know me and my good nature, they realized that I wouldn't say anything if they arrived late. Not only wasn't I paid for that time I was waiting and my after work plans were delayed, but it was also a demonstration of the lack of respect I was afforded due to my undervaluing of my own time.

I wish that I had learned and implemented this lesson sooner, but I suppose it's better late than never. I now respect my own time and guard it fiercely. I am vocal about my expectations and outline obligations so I am on the same page with those I work with. This can be applied in any aspect of life and makes a phenomenal difference when it comes to your productivity.

3. Talking on the phone really isn't that scary.
So, sort of like driving, I started out my job with a fear of talking on the phone with strangers. I'm not sure what exactly I expected to happen when I spoke with them or what they would do to me (they weren't actually in my presence after all...), but I had this feeling that something awful would happen. With being required to make countless calls a day I eventually got used to it purely by virtue of doing it so often. Now I'm pretty much a pro on the phone and have abolished that fear. There really wasn't anything to be worried about. If you have something that makes you apprehensive, just remember that experience will usually cure it.

No matter what your first job is, you are sure to learn something from the experience. Although it may not always be what you expect you can take pearls of wisdom from every position!

What did you learn from your first job?


-AJF

If you are searching for a job try out TheLadders! Thank you to TheLadders for partnering on this post.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Digital Minimalism: Calendar

I live by my calendar. I seriously would not know where in the world I am supposed to be without it. As I've mentioned before my memory is not the best so it is essential to have an organized calendar at all times.

I rely on a digital calendar for a few reasons: 1. I can access it anytime, anywhere and it syncs between my devices 2. It is one less thing to carry around (although I write my assignments down on a small pad, I don't carry an agenda) 3. It is easy to change and it still is clean. When I was using paper I hated erasing and crossing out. From a minimalist perspective (check out more minimalist posts in the digital series here), I wanted to share how I keep my appointments organized and create ease of use so you don't feel overwhelmed. With school starting up now is the perfect time to get yourself in order!

Digital Minimalism: Calendar | http://www.alyssajfreitas.com/2015/08/digital-minimalism-calendar.html

First we're going to discuss how to determine what you're dedicating your time to, see if we can cut anything out (this is where minimalism really comes in to play and I find this to be the hardest part), and then we'll get down to actually getting your calendar up and running!

Where do you spend your time?
Let's figure out the "categories" of your life. I have both broad and specific areas that I identify in my head which carries over to my calendar. When I first started out I had sooooo many separate categories including my many clubs, projects, classes, etc. which I figured out by simply sitting down and writing out a list of all of my commitments and meetings. I really recommend laying it all out over the course of a few days to get the best idea of what you are actually doing each week.

Reduce, reduce, reduce.
Now here's where we can embrace minimalism and only allow the activities which bring us joy to remain. I have an incredibly hard time saying no to opportunities and activities, even when they don't exactly align with my goals; it's just who I am. I've found it so helpful to sit with someone whose opinion you respect, and who will give you tough love, to cull your commitments. I got together with my best friend Katie after she gave me the "homework" of writing down everything I do and telling me to be prepared for some change. Once I accepted that I was doing too much she helped me to get some perspective on what was actually beneficial for me and my aspirations and the rest I had to quit. It wasn't easy, but I feel much better going into this semester, excited to pour all of my energy into my top focuses

The questions she asked me included:
1. Are you passionate about this activity?
2. Would you gladly give up free time to do it?
3. How does it contribute to your main goal?
4. Does it energize you?

When you ask yourself these questions you will start to realize that narrowing your focus is going to contribute to you living a happier and more purposeful life. Getting your priorities in order can do wonders for you mentally and can allow you to do your best work.

Let's put it to paper (umm, to keyboard I suppose).
Now we can get to creating the perfect digital calendar which is nothing but helpful, no one is going to feel overwhelmed around here, and which makes you excited to get up each day and get started. I use iCalendar and am absolutely a fan, but it really comes down to which devices you use and what's easier for you. What really matters is the you can create multiple calendars and, at least for me, that you can color code them.

My categories are: Other, Class/School, CA (which is my job, it's commonly called an RA at other schools), PSE/Sales (my business organization and the sales competitions I go to), and Blog. "Other" encompasses lunch dates, non-school meetings, etc. "Class/School" is just what you'd imagine. I like to always have my class schedule on hand and know when important assignments are due or when exams are. "CA" has all of my duty nights and programs while "PSE/Sales" has meetings, practices, and the like. Finally, I use my "Blog" calendar to map out my editorial content.

As a side note, I get the best experience using my calendar when I put in as much information as I can. This includes the address, alerts or reminders before the event, and any other relevant information. Having it all in one place, as opposed to having information everywhere, just makes life easier.

Digital Minimalism: Calendar | http://www.alyssajfreitas.com/2015/08/digital-minimalism-calendar.html

As you can see there is quite a bit going on, but when you look at a week or even one day at a time you will see that this is a great way to keep yourself on track and organized. By keeping a digital calendar you reduce your physical possessions, take away the worry of having to remember your schedule, and are better able to plan out your days.

How do you keep yourself on track? Do you take a minimalist approach?

-AJF

Read more about digital minimalism here!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Move-In Day Etiquette

Oh my, move-in day is nearly upon us. It's hard to believe that another summer is over (I'm incredibly happy to be going back to school. I know, I'm strange) but get excited for the upcoming semester! As a CA (community advisor, or RA at other schools) I've now been through two freshmen move-in days and have seen how it all works from both sides of the table. Here is what you should remember when you move in to make the day go as smoothly as possible and to maintain your standards of etiquette in what can often be a stressful situation.

Move-In Day Etiquette | http://www.alyssajfreitas.com/2015/08/move-in-day-etiquette.html

Remember everything will get done.
When I first moved in it was utter madness (you can check out a guest post on my move-in day here) and I was completely overwhelmed. I went in with the expectation that I would be completely moved in, pictures hung, clothing organized, and ready to go in the course of one day. Having this expectation was a mistake; it is exceedingly difficult to have your room set up in the course of one day when you are meeting your roommate, saying goodbye to your family, and trying to do it all in the most miniature of rooms. Instead, opt for having the goal of physically getting everything into the room and remember that everything will get put away at some point.

Stay calm.
It can be easy to loose your cool when everyone is overheated, overtired, and downright cranky, but you don't want to do or say anything you will regret. When you cut that girl off in line for the elevator you may not be thinking about how you will share a class. Or when you snap at your parents you may not remember that this day of separation is hard for them too. As always with etiquette, aim to make the situation easy for all involved and put those you interact with at ease in order to make your life and experience better.

When all else fails, laugh.
You are living on the first day, on the precipice, of a fantastic four years. You will have so much fun, learn more than you imagined, and create unforgettable memories and friendships which means you should be happy! When things go awry (seriously, just read this guest post if you want to know all about how wrong things can go) take a breath and laugh. Not only will you release tension in yourself, but you'll already be building your reputation as the girl with a great attitude and a smile on her face.

Act with decorum, think first of others, and relax. This is the recipe for a smooth move-in day.

What are you most anxious about? What is your move-in advice?


-AJF

If you want to pack like a minimalist, check out my list of the essentials here.
You can peruse all of my college posts here