Alyssa J Freitas

January 16, 2019

Ultimate Minimalist Email Organization

There are so many different theories on email organization. Should we be shooting for inbox zero? Should we use our inbox as a to-do list? Tags? Folders? The options go on and on. Today I want to share with you how I keep my inbox under control and give you some ideas for how to approach what is arguably the most important digital space in our professional lives.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Here's the ultimate guide to getting your inbox under control like a minimalist

Accounts, accounts, accounts

First thing first. How many email accounts are you currently dealing with? Hopefully not many! I would suggest that you do whatever you can to reduce and consolidate your accounts. For example, I have my work email, personal email, and freelancing email. Two of those are through Gmail where I use the one inbox feature on my phone, and the other is through IBM.

Be in charge of what comes into your inbox

There is nothing worse than wasting your time going through mountains of subscription emails from stores and restaurants and all manner of businesses. There is a great tool called unroll.me that helps you to view all of your current subscriptions, unsubscribe from those you no longer want, and "roll up" all of the subscriptions you do want to see into one daily email. I cannot recommend this service enough.

Email as a to-do list?

In a previous post I talked about my end of week routine. I explained that I use Trello as my to-do list manager and therefore, I try to avoid letting emails sit in my inbox as a reminder. I will star a few items throughout the day if I need to gather more information before responding or talk to someone else first. My thought process goes something like this:

  • Can I respond now? If so, reply immediately
  • Is this detailing a new task I need to take care of and doesn't require a response? If so, put it in Trello and file the email
  • Does this just not require a response? If so, file it
  • Will I be able to respond today with more information? If so, star it and leave it in the inbox

Folders

I mentioned that I "file" emails. I am a folder girl. I love to have folders and subfolders because it makes it easier for me to find emails quickly when I need to refer to them. I will say that if my email that I use for work had a better search function I wouldn't be as inclined to use so many folders. For my work I have a folder for each client, an administrative folder, a catch all folder, and a few other categories that are relevant and helpful.

Daily/weekly email goals

I make it a rule to respond to all client emails within 24 hours and all internal emails in no more than 48 hours. At the end of the week, I don't want to have to scroll more than 2-3 times to see all of the emails in my inbox. 

By keeping on top of my emails in this way I find that I am less likely to let anything fall through the cracks and can manage my communication professionally. 

While I would love to be an inbox zero person, that's not something I have found to be feasible. Are you able to do that?! Would love to hear what your best email tips and tricks are.

Side note: I know I detailed my blogging schedule and said that week three of each month would be a "back in time" post. January has five Wednesdays, so a back in time post will be coming your way next week, followed by a monthly recap post on the last Wednesday.

-AJF

January 9, 2019

Favorite Board Games

My family and I have always loved board games. When I say "my family," that really means my grandparents, mother, and brother. The only game my father will play is poker and that is serious business. Today I wanted to share a game I have been loving recently and playing every weekend with Joe, and classic games that my family pulls out again and again.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Here is a list of my favorite board games to inspire you to add to your collection

Forbidden Island

This is the game of the moment for me. What I love about it is that you work as a team, so you all win or you all lose. With sinking pieces, treasure to collect, and an ever rising water level, this is a fun game for two people or a group to play. Check it out here

Rummikub

An absolute classic in the Freitas household. Although it's a tile game with numbers, there's no math required (which is great for a girl who's terrible at mental math) and it's all about how you strategically get rid of the tiles in your hand. Check it out here

Clue

This is one of my favorite games, but it's sometimes hard to find three people willing to play. I like to think it's because I always win, but it's more likely because it can take a long time. Check it out here

Pente

This is a cut throat game where you have to decide if you're going to help out the team or continually put the brunt of the work on your fellow players. This is one of the more contentious games we play and can only stand a few rounds at a time. Check it out here.

Labryinth 

This is a game you can play solo or with a group. Again like Forbidden Island you have to collect treasure, but this time you're in an ever changing maze that requires you to visualize how all of the pieces can move to help you meet your objective. Check it out here

What are your favorite board games? Any recommendations are much appreciated!

-AJF

January 2, 2019

Interview Etiquette

A while back I asked on Instagram what etiquette topics you all were curious about, and interviews came up. Back in 2013 (as a senior in high school) I wrote a post on interview etiquette, and needless to say I have learned a lot more since then. While the basics certainly still hold true, today I'd like to give you some tactics to make the most of the interview opportunity.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Here are the top tips you need to know to have the proper etiquette before, during, and after an interview

Before the interview

Appearance: Modest is best, regardless of what style you're going for. Try to get a feel through your research of what the dress code of the office is, and always err on the side of caution. Minimize any potential distractions; for yourself it may be jewelry you'll play with, and for the interviewer it could be hair covering your face.

What to bring: Updated copies of your resume, a notebook and pen, personal business cards, a phone on silent.

What questions to prepare for: You want to have answers ready for the basic questions, such as "why are you a good fit for this job," "what's your greatest strength and weakness," as well as being prepared to articulate why you are interested in this company and why you have chosen this particular career. 

You should also prepare some questions to ask the interviewer, such as the company's approach to training and development, how they progressed to their current role, etc. 

*Bonus, since we're getting off of the etiquette topic* Unless you're interviewing for a highly technical role, it's likely that you'll be asked behavioral questions; the type that start with "tell me about a time when..." and then you're prompted to tell a story about how you handled a particular experience in the past. I like to think of some overarching topics that I'll probably be asked about, like dealing with challenging clients, asking for the sale/closing business, and prospecting for new accounts, and then I have some relevant stories for each category. The STAR method is particularly helpful. 

Situation: what is the brief background of the situation you were facing
Task: what were you expected to accomplish
Action: what action did you take to accomplish your task in the situation you were in
Result: how did that work out for you

During the interview

Attitude: Be kind to everyone you interact with and demonstrate confidence with positive body language and a smile. A firm handshake and pleasant expression goes a long way.

Absolutely avoid speaking badly about your previous employer and make sure everything you share, even if it was a bad situation, has a learning experience to have made you a better potential employee.

What to avoid: Wait to ask about salary until you're far enough in the interview process to have created demand for your skills and talents and feel you've established your worth. This will allow you to be in the best position to negotiate as needed. 

Make sure you're allowing your interviewer to get across their whole point and questions without interrupting. It can be tempting to jump in when you have an answer to what they're asking, but don't risk stepping on their toes during the conversation. 

What to make sure you do: The question that really inspired this post was about how to know when to follow up after an interview. The best thing you can do during the interview is to ask what the expected timeline is on making an ultimate decision and the steps leading up to that point (how many more interviews? With who? Any presentations or other formats you'll need to prepare for?). By asking what the next step is and when you can expect to hear back, you'll know when to follow up. Be sure to get everyone's contact information that you interview with. Also, you can decide if you want to ask this one question I highly recommend

After the interview

Thank you note: Be sure to send a thank you note, whether via email or by mailing a note that same day. Reference something you discussed during the interview, reiterate your interest in the position, and let them know you are looking forward to hearing back on the timeline you discussed.

For example, if they said they were planning to conduct second round interviews next week and would get back to candidates by this Friday, you can say you're looking forward to hearing back by the end of the week. This allows you follow up on Friday if you haven't heard anything and then midway through the next week if they still haven't gotten back to you.

Those are my top etiquette tips for having a successful interview. I have another post on informational interviews here, and an entire section dedicated to career here.  

What tips do you have for a great interview? 

-AJF
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December 26, 2018

Goal Setting For 2019

For the past three years I've written a post about setting goals for the new year. In 2016 I encouraged you to set principles, not resolutions. The principles I outlined in that post ended up sticking and have become lifelong instead of year long. So then in 2017 I decided a mantra for the year would be the way to go. I added my principles in (and reading goal, of course) and was set. Then for 2018 we were on to making qualitative instead of quantitative resolutions.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Now that 2019 is nearly upon us, it's time to set some goals and get ready for the new year. Check out this post to help you figure out what to focus on
And now for 2019...I'm sort of at a loss. As each year goes by I realize that there are less and less "unique" ways to go after your goals and it mostly comes back to basics: working hard, staying consistent, and doing the best you can on any given day. That said, let's talk through how to identify what you want to work hard at and be consistent with. 

Yearly recap

I wrote about this in another one of my resolution posts and think it's pretty darn good, so I'm going to repeat it here. In order to figure out what you want to improve on, you need to reflect on the past year. Here are some questions to help get you started:
  1. When was I most proud of myself this past year?
  2. What is a moment I wish I could relive so I could respond in a different way? 
  3. When did I feel most excited and alive?
  4. When did I feel most frustrated and stuck?
Based on your answers to these questions you can start to brainstorm what you may want to do more and less of in 2019. 

For me, I know I was most proud of myself when I ran successful, useful client calls at work. When I was able to quickly determine what my clients needed and get the right resources I felt proud and happy with my work. 

There are quite a few moments I wish I could relive, and most of them are when I reacted to a situation instead of responding after taking a moment to really figure out if the situation was a big deal or not.

I definitely felt most excited and alive when I was on stage or on the water. The stage was literally just being called on in a theme park show (small and unplanned, but so much fun) and the water was when I was in a crew race and when I visited San Diego and took a boat ride. 

I felt most frustrated and stuck when I was having difficulty getting engaged with the right clients and people at work. Whether it was an internal challenge or mapping out how to grow and progress in my role, I found the unknown particularly difficult. 

Figure out what to do more of and less of

It's clear that I get a lot of satisfaction from leading the charge. At work that means when I can understand and find solutions to client problems, and in my downtime/personal time it means I need to seek out activities where I can present and be a leader. With work, I can continue to take on more responsibility as I'll be doing in 2019, and in my personal life I am challenging myself to sign up for at least one class this year (acting, exercise/dancing, who knows what else, but I'll find something).

On the flip side, I need focus on putting things in perspective and ensuring that I am not reacting to a situation that ultimately isn't a big deal. The unknown can get most of us thrown off, but realizing that there are few situations that can't be worked through (and remembering that fact in the moment) can help to reduce these feelings of frustration.

As I mentioned before, there's little I can tell you that I haven't already said before with going after your goals (you can check out some more posts here, here and here) and figuring out what those should be in the first place. With this two step reminder you can reset for 2019 and continue to refine the way you are achieving your dreams.

What are your goals for 2019? How do you like to determine what to focus on?


-AJF
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December 19, 2018

2018: A Year End Review

Year 5 of doing year end reviews (and my last post marked 500 posts on the blog, that's crazy)! You can check out 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Each time I've thought about doing a year end review post I'm like, "Well, not much happened this year," and then I take a look through my photos and the past year's posts and realize that there's been more than I initially thought. Let's dive right in!

At the start of the year Joe took me to the Downton Abbey Exhibition to celebrate my birthday. I loved seeing the costumes and sets and feeling like I was transported to the show.


Joe and I also spent a lot of time at the start of the year museum hopping. I love that one of IBM's perks is free entry to multiple museums in the city.

This year I tried skiing for the first time. While I certainly wasn't a natural, I did love the challenge.

The biggest travel event of the year was heading off to Italy on my own. You may remember these posts (one, two) from the start of the year about my itinerary and experience. And of course I wasn't alone the whole time, I visited Ally and we got to experience Venice together too!


Another new place was Las Vegas. I went for IBM's annual conference and had a great time in the city!

Speaking of IBM, I got to bring Papa and Joe to the Watson Experience Center and share more of my work with them.

Another work related trip was going to San Diego for a conference. I got to go a few days earlier to explore and met up with a friend I made while I was in Italy. You can check out Hansel's photography here.

Casey came to visit the big city and it was a highlight of the spring to spend time with her.

A personal accomplishment was getting recognized on the IBM Summit homepage. I'm sure you remember my Summit blog series, and while that wrapped up at the end of 2017, I was glad that my work is living on by being featured on the homepage.

This year I joined Joe and his family again on their annual Busch Gardens trip. I made it a goal to get on stage during the dance show in Germany and was chosen to join in the fun!


Joe and I got to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway and it was phenomenal. We also got to go on stage because Joe knows the conductor, and it was awesome to get on (another) stage.


The summer fun in the city continued when we celebrated the 4th of July with a walk over the Brooklyn bridge and watching the fireworks over the East River.

Another highlight of the summer was taking a historical walking tour with my friend Chrystalla. She was so sweet and picked it out as my birthday gift back in January and it was perfect.

Towards the end of the summer Joe and I took a weekend trip to Boston and got to have even more historical fun.

I got to visit Ally in yet another location - her new home in Colorado!

The only sporting event I attended this year was a Yankee's game and naturally they won.

I relived my glory days of crew when I coxed an alumni boat at the head of the Schuylkill. You can spot me as that tiny yellow speck in the boat haha

This fall/winter was mostly spent dealing with my foot injury, so I didn't do any many other fun activities that were picture worthy. It was a lot of reading and writing and hanging out at home. Luckily I'm doing much better and hope to feel great starting the new year. I pray that 2019 is the year of health. Joe and I did have a fun time at his holiday party and I am looking forward to Christmas and New Year's celebrations.

What were the highlights of your year?


-AJF