An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Voting

 

element5-digital-1126225-unsplash.jpgIt’s that time of year again! It’s voting time! As an awkward person, everything about voting in person is scary and stressful, but it’s such an important part of the democratic process. The system doesn’t work unless we all get involved… even the awkward people. It’s too late for early voting (which is probably the easiest solution for you awkward folks out there), but you still don’t have to be stressed or scare yourself out of participating.  Voting is an awesome responsibility but it isn’t as nerve wracking as it can seem. In fact it is one of the quietest, most introverted ways to make your voice heard. So get to it! Here are some last minute tips to make it as painless as possible.

Find your reason.

Find an issue or a race that matters to you and makes you feel like your vote matters. There are no shortage of issues facing our states and country as a whole. A couple of them probably matter to you, even if you haven’t thought much about how the vote you cast plays a part. If you’re a woman, remember that suffragettes fought for years and went to jail to get you the right to vote. Reminding yourself of the purpose and value in the difficult action makes it easier to go, at least for me.

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Declaration of Sentiments from Seneca Falls, NY, the location of the first Woman’s Rights Convention in the United States.

Do your research.

You can find your ballot online pretty easily. I usually use Vote411 but I’ve also used Ballotpedia. There are a lot of other personalized ballot tools online. If you’re in a more rural area, you might still end up with some local political races that you don’t know about, but you can find a lot of information about the statewide and national races you’ll be voting for. You can see, in many cases, overviews of the positions each candidate has.

From there you can also review their websites, interviews and social media interactions to try to get a sense of their positions. Understand that everyone is trying to say what they think you want to here, but you can get the basics to make an informed choice. Mark it on your ballot and print a copy to take with you. You don’t have to memorize your choices. Bring it with you and you can feel a little more confident in what you’ll have to do on voting day. It’s also a good idea to review your rights as a voter, just in case. Here’s a good resource from Rock the Vote

Make a plan.

Find your polling place and it’s hours. Again, a quick search will help you out. Figure out when you can fit voting into your schedule. Write it down. Block it off on your calendar. Don’t miss it. Factor in travel time and a bit of standing in line. Find a buddy to go with. Just have a solid plan that is feasibly built into your day. You can help yourself know what’s going to happen and hype yourself up for it. It will probably require a little more stress than your average day, but you can do it if you just think it through.

I also usually plan out other aspects of my day as well. I try to have an outfit planned (because a good outfit can make a good day better). If the outfit pays homage to suffragettes or matches my voting sticker- all the better! Having a lunch packed and a plan for the evening also helps because it helps me feel more in control of an out-of-the-ordinary day. Make sure you’ve located your voting card the night before as well!

Go at an unusual time.

Depending on where your live, certain time at a polling place can busy. Waiting in long lines of people talking about politics might seem like a nightmare for your poor awkward girl heart… at least it is for mine. If you can avoid peak voting times like the evening and during lunch, you might be better off. I try to go first thing in the morning. There are usually some people during that time, but I’ve always had luck getting through quickly.

Also be prepared to walk through a wall of people to to get in. Just put on a smile and let them know you’ve made your decision and keep walking. If anyone bothers you past that, please let someone know in the polling place. No one is supposed to harass you on your way to the poll. Also remember that your polling place is staffed by volunteers so offer them a smile too, if you can. Their might be some awkward interactions with them, but they also help the democratic process work.

Give yourself a reward.

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My husband once made me this sticker because I was mad I didn’t get an official one. He’s a good guy.

Ok, you did it! You voted. Now treat yourself to something a little bit special! I almost always go out for a coffee and a scone before work since I have to get up earlier than usual on voting day. But if you’re not into that sort of treat, treat yourself to some extra couch time after work or a special dinner. Anything that adds a little fun into a stressful day and allows you to look forward to a reward. Hopefully you’ll also get a sticker because there’s something magic about getting rewarded with a sticker (or is that just me?).

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Voting

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Attending a Professional Conference

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It’s been almost a year since I’ve been blogging here on An Awkward Girl’s Guide. I’ve found that it’s very difficult to produce content all day for work and then come home and do more. What a writer’s dilemma.

I just came back from Content Marketing World, and I’ve been feeling incredibly inspired.

When anything is your job and your passion, it’s easy to get a little cynical and burnt out. Good professional enrichment is essential, and a professional conference is one great way to get on fire for your work again!

As an awkward girl, a professional conference also come with stresses. I hadn’t been to a professional conference since becoming a real-deal professional, so there were some things that worried my awkward little heart. I have some ideas of how to overcome your fears and have a wonderfully productive professional conference experience.

Set Goals for the Conference

When you’re looking through the schedule before you leave, set yourself some goals for the conference. Are you looking to network, or wanting to focus on learning? Is there a resource or provider information you want to come home with? Are you going alone or with some collegues?

All these factors will affect how you proceed with your time at a professional conference. If you’re hoping to network, you’ll be sure to be at those events, but if learning is your main goal, you’ll prioritize the educational sessions. I found in order to get a good seat in a session, I didn’t have much time for the networking breaks. Since I was attending with my bosses and networking wasn’t my goal, that was ok! You can’t possibly do everything at a busy professional conference like Content Marketing World, but having goals made my decisions easy.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Plan a couple of things at a professional conference that are a little out of your comfort zone. One of my favorite sessions was one that I attended just because I thought it was a good “business choice.” After all that, a session about Return on Investment (which is typically a very math-heavy subject) ended up being wildly helpful and inspirational. I never would have guessed.

In the same line, any time I struck up a conversation with people around me, I was pretty nervous. My awkwardness is not always conducive to small talk. I didn’t ignore my introverted personality entirely at Content Marketing World, but I did find getting out of my comfort zone a little bit improved the experience.

Don’t Ignore a Refresher Session

As a professional writer, I tried not to take too many sessions that were just about the craft of writing. I didn’t want to sit in a lot of sessions where I knew all the concepts already. However, the writing sessions I did attend were incredibly instructional. I took a class about using journalism skills in content, even though I went to school for journalism, and I still found new concepts and ideas I hadn’t thought of before.

I would have missed out on some great learnings if I’d avoided all the sessions that seemed like they were about things I should already know. Not only that, but hearing fellow writers talk about how their careers have progressed and what drives them was incredibly inspiring. I left the conference itching to write and it had been a long time since I’d felt that sort of itch.

2018-09-07_23-55-35_000Gamify the Experience

When you’re nervous, making a professional conference into a game takes some of the pressure off. If you need to make up a point system, do it! There’s plenty of research that gamifying work helps you get it done. If the expo hall makes you nervous, try to get as much swag as possible by talking to and learning about providers.

For me, I gamified getting from session to session because I was nervous about being last in line or entering late. Strategizing my timing helped keep me confident and I always beat the majority of the lunch line (food is a powerful motivator, my friends).

Take Notes

Taking notes helps me feel professional and helps keep me focused. When you’re waking up early and rushing around, it’s easy to feel tired and distracted, especially towards the end of the day. Taking notes helps focus your brain. I find an old school notebook the best for that but plenty of people were typing. I find a computer or my phone just another avenue for distractions.

In the case of Content Marketing World, we had access to presentations after the fact, but I still liked to take my own notes. I also found it helpful to keep an idea list, because I was coming up with tangential ideas throughout the whole event that I’m excited to bring to the office next week.

2018-09-07_23-56-11_000.pngLeave Some Recovery Time in Your Schedule

Running yourself ragged at a professional conference will probably counteract all the learning and inspiration you’re experiencing, especially if you’re an awkward introvert like me. For me, having a quiet breakfast and dinner counteracted a day of running around. I also avoided some of the evening fun activities because resting and taking my introvert time was essential.

If you need some time during the day, you can always find a quiet corner or skip a session block that you find less interesting. Give yourself the time you need to keep the experience productive. This is extra important if you have to go straight from a conference back into a work day.

 

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Attending a Professional Conference

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Getting Mental Health Help in College

jeremy-bishop-131058.jpgWhen stressed by school, you might not have time to exercise or wait a little too long to go to the doctor about your cough. Similarly, sometimes it’s easy to ignore mental health concerns when you’re busy with school. Mental health issues are becoming a larger and larger issue on college campuses and students often don’t know how to begin addressing their concerns with their mental health. Some colleges are more supportive than others, but regardless, there are attainable ways for you to get any help you need. You’re not alone.

Self-harm is estimated to affect up to a third of college students. One in 12 college students admit to having had suicidal thoughts. My college friends and I had many encounters with mental health in school. Dealing with these situations was stressful and at times alienating. I also learned from these experiences that help is out there. Here are a couple of places you can start if you’re struggling with your mental health.

  1. SELF-EVALUATE. Think about the feelings and difficulties you are experiencing. Are you overwhelmed? Frequently and uncontrollably depressed? Having trouble sleeping? Write these feelings and any potential triggers down. This resource will make it much easier to talk with providers about your experience.  ULifeline provides a free, online quiz that allows you to get a general self evaluation of your mental health. This doesn’t replace a visit to a professional in any way, but it’s a good place to start. Psychology Today also has a mental health evaluation if you’d prefer not to enter any information about yourself.

  2. EXPLORE YOUR SCHOOL’S RESOURCES. You can start by searching online if you’re nervous about asking someone. Your R.A. or school wellness center will likely be able to help you learn more… in fact, that’s what they’re there for. ULifeline also allows you to search for services by school, although it’s not comprehensive. Starting with the services your school offers is the most convenient route since they are set up for students. If you don’t feel like these services are working for you, they can also refer you. Some schools offer counseling at a reduced price from grad students in their counselling programs. This is an affordable option to look into if it’s available in your area.

  3. LOOK FOR OUTSIDE HELP. If your school doesn’t offer sufficient services or you want to avoid them for any reason, you can look for help outside the school. Psychology Today has a great listing of therapists and psychologists depending on your needs. SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), provides 24/7 info to help you connect with treatment options. Checking what is covered by your insurance can also help. You can also try online/ text therapy if you’re in a pinch, such as Talkspace and Better Help. If you are in immediate need of help and feel like you want to end your life, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or you can text the Crisis Text Line by sending CONNECT to 741741. These are good numbers to have written down somewhere in case you need them or are with someone who needs them. Both are available 24/7,  free and confidential.

  4. GIVE IT TIME. Finding treatment that works can be difficult with mental illnesses. The process can be scary and it can feel so hard, especially as you’re also trying to keep up with your life at college. Take the time to invest in your health and you may help prevent a major, debilitating crisis.  It’s important that you give the process time. It may take a couple of trys to find the right therapist/provider. It’s common to take more than one try to get the right fit. Don’t be discouraged, your comfort is important and this is worth the time. Also, talk to your psychologist/psychiatrists about any issues you experience with medicines and treatments. This will involve going out of your comfort zone but it’s all part of the process of finding something that works for your needs.Many antidepressants and other mental health treatments take 4-6 weeks to reach full effect and some can have some temporary side effects when first starting that you’ll eventually adjust to.

  5. STAY HOPEFUL. You are not alone in this process. Hope is real and help is out there. It may help to read stories of others going through similar challenges. You can find such stories on the To Write Love On Her Arms Blog and The Mighty. You can find many supportive groups online and there might even be some in your area. But if you aren’t ready for a public support group, virtual options are out there too. Knowing you aren’t alone and that others have gotten through their darkest times can be just the seed of hope you need to get through another day.

 

 

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Getting Mental Health Help in College

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Creative Brainstorming

When I remembered that today was Wednesday and I needed to blog, I was very worried because I didn’t have any idea what to write about. As a person who has to do creative-ish things every day, it sometimes gets hard to avoid creative blocks. The part of my day that’s spent in an office, especially, is challenging because there is a lack of new stimuli and I feel trapped.

So I’ve come up with a couple of things to keep me going in the creative realm. Many of them make me more awkward, but they help so here we go.

1. RESEARCH. If I am starting a new project, I start with research. Whether it’s visual research (which I often use Pinterest for) or just research into what a client wants or has produced in the past, this part of the process can be really inspiring. It’s a great chance to get fired up by the work of others. You can do this step whether you are actively working on a project or not. The more you read and look, the more you store away in your inspiration bank.

Talking through ideas and/or interviewing clients counts as research too. Again, even if you don’t have a project, this can be fun. Just talk through ideas, what-ifs and what you like/don’t like. You never know when an idea might hit you.

2. GET IT OUT. Write things down while you are researching, while you’re walking down the street or when you can’t sleep. Maybe notes in your phone works for you. Maybe the inspiration flows more freely with a paper and pen. Sketch things out if it works better. Try free writing or bubble mapping. There are 101 ways to get whatever is in  your head out, and sometimes one will work better for you than others. Experiment.

The most important thing is to create something. Get in the habit of brainstorming in a physical way that you can see and come back to. If you don’t get it out, you might get stuck in your head and blank.

3. PLAY. Try something more playful while you are thinking through your problems. I am a tactile thinker so things like silly putty and playdoh help me work through my issues. Whether I am mindlessly rolling it in my hands or making little sculptures, play can distract you just enough to let your ideas flow.

In this way, you are being indirectly creative. Sure, you aren’t making anything productive per say, but you are in the process of creating something and it loosens up those ideas. A little bit of a break helps too, and play really takes the pressure off you and your brain for a moment.

4. MOVE. I know this is an old cliche, but moving helps. Change your position or take a walk. If you are trapped in a small office, you can go take a trip to get a drink or visit the restroom. There have been tons of research about how exercise and physical exertion can help with creativity and mood. I’m not much of an exerciser, but  sitting somewhere new or taking a brisk walk almost always helps me sort out my thoughts a bit better. It’s not a magical solution but every bit helps.

Here are some of the ways I brainstorm for creative projects when I feel like the well is all dried up. I even tried some of them while brainstorming for this post. What do you do when your brain seems stuck and you have to stay creative?

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Creative Brainstorming

An Awkward Girl’s Guide for Days When You Just Can’t

So. I had a day recently and I knew immediately that I should write about it, but I’ve been putting it off. I know that I frequently write about  how awkward and generally stupid I am in public, but this one was especially embarrassing and out of control.

Most awkward people know what it’s like to have a day when you feel like you just can’t function. Sometimes the awkward levels are too high and the anxiety is so strong that even the idea of something can make you freak out, only compounding the problem. I, personally, try to keep those days to a minimum. But sometimes, I get so inside my head that I actually can’t do the things I know I need to do. And it’s disappointing and rough on the psyche.

I was going to volunteer at an event last weekend. I was spending the weekend mostly alone, which is when my social anxiety kicks into full gear, so when the opportunity to volunteer for a cause I really cared about came up, I thought it would be good. I knew it would be a challenge for me, but I was pretty sure I could do it.

When they day of the event came, a prior commitment ran long and a series of unfortunate events lead to me standing in public crying because I couldn’t convince myself to ask around and figure out where I should be. I just couldn’t do it. I went home disappointed and upset.

Sometimes you can’t do something or you fail at it miserably and those days need some tips too. So here it is:

  1. CALM DOWN. It’s pretty easy to blow a situation out of proportion when you’re feeling awful about your awkwardness. Even if it’s a big deal, you have to be able to calm down enough to really assess the situation. For me, I had to cry it out and take a long hot shower before I could be anywhere near reasonable.
  2. CALL SOMEONE. Have someone you can call or text to help talk you down. Maybe they’ll be able to talk you into doing whatever you are stuck on, but if not, they can help convince you that you are really ok even if you feel really stupid.
  3. FORGIVE YOURSELF. Experiences where you honestly fight your nature and lose are exhausting. Give yourself a true chance to relax and rebuild after a “failure.” Do what you need to do to convince yourself that you are a good person and you will be ok.
  4. FIND A TRIGGER. Once you’ve calmed down, you can start considering what made this case of awkwardness so debilitating. If you can figure out, even just a little, what made you react the way you did, then you can possibly prevent these days from happening too often.
  5. GET BACK ON THE HORSE. You’re gonna have to keep challenging yourself, because that’s a fact of life for awkward folk. It’s tempting to hide away for a bit, but that makes it so much harder to get back to being able to try things. I’m especially prone to that; When I was a kid, I crashed my bike and I never rode again without extreme fear. So I definitely understand the temptation, but I think it’s so important to do whatever you have to do to get back to the business of living.
An Awkward Girl’s Guide for Days When You Just Can’t

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Living with Roommates

Whether you are moving in with a best friend, or you’ve just been randomly matched by a survey, living with someone who is not your family comes with a special kind of awkwardness. Luckily, I am the awkward expert.

Welcome to Awkward Girl’s Guides. Sometimes I feel unbearably awkward. I don’t hate people… I’m not even always bad with people. I do, however, have some pretty intense anxiety about new people and situations… like, for instance, getting new roommates. I’ve had three years of living with people experiences and I have a couple of tips that will hopefully help you navigate the awkwardness. Don’t stress. Living with people is a challenge, but you can do it, even if you are prone to awkwardness!

1. COMMUNICATE. This is my first step for a lot of awkward situations. The impulse to be really shy with the person you are living with is going to be pretty strong, especially if you don’t know them before coming to school. Maybe he or she will do some things that you find really annoying. Maybe you guys operate on different schedules. Maybe you’re both very compatible. You won’t know any of these things unless you talk with the person.

Here’s the thing, it only gets more awkward if you fail to communicate with your roommates. In the first few days, come up with some ground rules for the room and talk about how it’s best to communicate. If you’d rather leave notes or Facebook your roomie when you need to tell them something important, let them know. Sometimes there is no replacement for straight up face-to-face conversation. It’s going to be awkward, but it’s very necessary. Believe me, I’ve had many roomie fights that could have been avoided with a simple conversation months earlier.

2. ROOMIE TIME. This is going to sound cheesy, but plan some special bonding time with your roommate. Go to Walmart and pick out some fun accessories for your room or make your own together. Watch a movie together. Have a random dance party. In all likelihood, you’re going to be with this person all year. They are probably going to witness some of your best and worst moments, so make an effort to get to know them. Later, when you are both stressed, there is less likely to be a stupid blowout if you know each other a bit. You don’t have to be best friends with your roomie, but don’t ignore them.

My roommate freshman year, who I’m still very good friends with, walked in on me sobbing twice, once when I found out my grandma had cancer and the second time when a friend of mine died. College is tough emotionally as it is, and life happens. Knowing your roomie can make difficult situations much less awkward whether you end up having to comfort or be comforted by your roommate. Let’s be honest, your roommate can function as a built in friend and maybe they won’t. Before you decide that, find out more about them. You might be surprised.

It’s probably also wise to schedule some alone time as well. Find a place on campus to chill alone, whether it’s a porch, parlor, empty classroom or the library. This alone time gives you a chance to wind down and if you are feeling stress about something your roommate did or is doing, you can let it settle. It’ll keep you both calmer and more friendly if you don’t spend every minute of the day with them.

3. DON’T JUDGE. Your roommate might be a terrible person, but chances are she isn’t. You need to give her a chance and understand that her circumstances/life/belief systems are different than yours. It’s easy to walk in day one and think you know all about someone from their bedding and pictures, but you don’t know. Even later, when you know your roommates better, it’s still better to keep an open mind. You don’t have to like your roommates’ decisions, but unless they are directly affecting you, you might just have to accept them.

In the same respect, your roommate shouldn’t be judging you. If you feel judged, you might have to talk to her. We all do weird stuff. We have weird habits. Aside from that, mistakes happen, especially in college. Judgements and grudges based on them are just going to poison your living situation. Avoid this at all costs, because it’s hard to go back once the poison starts.

4. GIVE AND TAKE. As important as it is to communicate (especially when you are having trouble), sometimes you have to accept that the other person you’re living with is not going to agree with you 100 percent. You might be complete opposites. You aren’t going to successfully train your roommate to be a neat person if she is not, just like she  probably won’t be able to train you to like silence if you function better in a noisy room. Compromise is essential.

I’ve lived with a lot of different people. In my suite last year, we were almost at blows between the more and less organized suitemates. In the end, we were all able to change some of our habits, but not all of them. I still left my backpack and all of my books in the common room even though it drove one of our roommates crazy, but I tried to keep it more tidy. She learned to consult us before moving our stuff, though she still went on cleaning binges. It ended up fine, but we both had to realize that there were things that we just couldn’t change even if we wanted to.

5. UTILIZE RES. LIFE. Your resident assistants (RAs) are trained to help you work out issues with your roommate, and help you find another one if you need it. Ask them for help! They are great at helping mediate conversations and compromise. You might feel like it’s invasive to get them involved in your personal living situation, but they might have some ideas you don’t have for solving the core issue if you’re having roommate troubles.

Maybe, you can’t live with your roommate anymore. It happens. If you’ve given it all you’ve got, and it’s still endlessly stressful, your RA can help you figure out your next step. Many of my friends are RAs including one of my roommates from last year. She helped with our conflict resolution so much that a member of the room who was thinking about moving out, decided not to. It’s their job to help you out, so don’t feel like you are causing trouble or being an inconvenience, they want to help make your living situation as un-awkward as possible.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE SETONIAN VOL. 95 ISSUE 1. 

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Living with Roommates

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to the Classic Undersell

Sometimes I feel unbearably awkward. I don’t hate people… I’m not even always bad with people. I do, however, have some pretty intense anxiety about new people and situations. Most of these anxieties seem to stem from a hefty dose of insecurity.

In the professional world, my insecurity is a problem. It not only makes me more awkward, but it also causes me to commit a professional world sin: the classic undersell.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Awkward Girl, I’m not a salesperson.” Oh Reader, you are definitely a salesperson… of YOURSELF! When I interviewed for my first summer of internships I definitely undersold myself. My employer told me as much when I finished my internship, I didn’t fairly sell myself in my interview/ application progress.

So I’ve decided to list some tips I’ve developed to be fair to myself and sell myself in professional situations. I’ll be the first to admit that I still don’t always succeed but the tips help.

1. LIST YOUR SKILLS. You have skills even though you don’t remember them in professional situations. Honestly list them out. What makes you a unique candidate? What are you really good at? What experiences have you had that were really beneficial?

Don’t worry about thing directly applying to any specific job at first, just list things. This can be hard, but it’s important to have an honest list of things you can do. Later you can specify this list towards specific things and remember them when you’re in professional settings.

2. REFLECT THOSE SKILLS. Do your professional materials reflect the skills you have listed? Every Resume/CV/Cover Letter that you write should highlight some, if not all, of the skills that you feel you have. Having pieces that make you look good can help your confidence.

But make sure you don’t go too far and stretch the truth of what you can do or have done. You need to be comfortable with your resume in order to be comfortable and confident in an interview.

3. ASK SOMEONE YOU TRUST FOR HELP. If you have a professor or colleague who has experience getting jobs in your field, ask if they will help you out. Whether you have them look at your resume or just talk over what you can expect, their experience is invaluable.

There are also great resources at most universities to help out with career stuff. Check out your Career Center and they will likely have tips for you. Try to be honest about where you struggle the most when you are underselling yourself, they will be able to tell you’re not confident and help you out.

4. DEFEND YOURSELF. Is there someone you know who seems to always get the job? Do you have anyone who you feel like you work harder than? I have some of those people and one of my close friends told me I should try this tip.Pretend that your person is going up for your dream job or internship and defend yourself! Why do you deserve it?

I don’t usually encourage you to compare yourself to others people. Most of the time that is a BAD IDEA. But it helps to get a little angry, because then you want to fight to present your skills, and you don’t undersell yourself. A little competition with a person you know you deserve to beat might boost your confidence.

5. DON’T PSYCH YOURSELF OUT. When you are waiting for an interview don’t psych yourself out. I tend to look around at my competition and think immediately that I’m woefully out of place. By the time I actually gotten to the interview, I consider my case already lost. All the other ones are so smart looking, pretty, tall, experienced, and professional,I think. DON’T DO THAT.

You most likely don’t know anything about your competition. You can’t do anything about them anyways. Focus on you and your list of skills. Remember your successes and take a deep breath.

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to the Classic Undersell

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Business Calls

Sometimes I feel unbearably awkward. I don’t hate people… I’m not even always bad with people. I do, however, have some pretty intense anxiety about new people and situations. Today when my coworker asked me if I was comfortable making so calls, I said yes. Inside I had a mini panic attack.

One of my least favorite things is to call people on the phone. This fear manifested when I was younger and I’ve never really gotten over it. I don’t call for take-out… I don’t answer my phone if I don’t recognize a number. It frequently takes me nearly 20 minutes to get myself sorted out a dial a number.

As a journalism and communications student, however, phone calls can be really beneficial. As much as I hate it, many times calls are way more efficient than email. After spending all morning calling nursing homes for information to populate a website I’m working on, I’ve come up with some tips to make phone calls more bearable.

These tips have to do with business calls, although they could be helpful for any sort of information-seeking call (inquiring about an internship or position etc). Phone interviews are a whole other ballgame and I’ll probably have another post about those sometime…

1. WRITE A SCRIPT. Writing out what you are going to say might sound dorky, but it helps me immensely. Not only is the act calming in itself, but it helps you avoid that awkward pause that so often happens when someone finally answers the phone.

Scripting out what you want to say also means you’ll probably sound more professional and older (if you’re a young sounding person like me, that’s helpful). It’s good to read your script out loud a couple of times before starting. When you read it, make sure that you don’t sound like a robot or a telemarketer. If it’s appropriate to pause and wait for some sort of response, do so.

2. BREATHE AND TAKE YOUR TIME. You want to make sure that you are speaking clearly and professionally. If you’re awkward like me, you’ll be really uncomfortable having to repeat yourself over and over.

You’re going to naturally speak quickly and maybe even quietly because you are nervous, so be conscious of that. Usually all  it takes is a mental reminder to make yourself sound natural, and you’re good to go. You’ll get better with practice, too, so keep calling people (but only when necessary… I’m not saying to just call business people for funsies… that’s silly).

3. THINK THROUGH POSSIBLE RESPONSES. If you have some sort of inquiry or request, chances are there are only a couple possible answers. One of the possibilities is voicemail too, so be prepared for that. In general, just think through what you will do or say in response to each possible response. Don’t make yourself crazy thinking through endless possibilities, though. That’s bad.

This also helps me put my call in perspective. I will either get a yes or no to my request. Someone will answer my question, transfer me, or say they can’t answer. None of these things will be the end of the world.

4. KNOW YOUR NUMBER. This seems silly, but if you get a voicemail or if someone says they’ll call you back, you might forget your number. Have it written down. This is really important if you are calling from a work phone or a phone that is not your usual. You’ll sound more professional if you can just rattle the number off and you’ll feel more confident as well.

5. DOUBLE CHECK THE NUMBER YOU’RE CALLING. I hate calling the wrong number and it makes me really nervous every time. I want to make sure I’m going to get the person I’m trying to call. I double, triple check the number I’m calling as a result. I look it up, write it down, double check it, type it in the phone, and check it again.

This might be a little more obsessive than you want/need personally, but the act of double checking a number can be really calming, especially if you are calling somewhere for the first time.

Phone calls are essential to many jobs/ careers. If they make you anxious, remember these tips. It’s really not that bad once you get going. The key is confidence, and if you’re not confident, find a way to fake it until you are.

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Business Calls

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Free Time (or general) Productivity

That’s kinda a pretentious title. I apologize.  Let me explain.

I’m not the kind of person who entertains a lot of free time. Free time makes me really anxious. I like to do lots of things, and at school, I fill up my schedule. Even if it’s not all “work,” I keep myself busy. Then, this big old summer thing came along. I just found out that I got an internship, but it doesn’t start til the middle of June. Even then, I’m not full time until JULY 22. So, I’ve been faced with a lot more unstructured time than usual and it’s kinda freaking me out.

I’ve been doing a lot of DIY crafts (including a super awesome book purse that I’ll probably post pictures of soon) and reading, but I keep getting this nagging feeling like I should be working. Though relaxation is valuable, I  don’t want to do nothing. So, I’ve come up with a plan to keep myself from going insane and hopefully induce mad productivity (one can hope). It looks a little bit like this:

1. FIGURE OUT SOME LONG TERM GOALS– By the end of the summer I’d like to: what? I’d like to have finished this novel I started ages ago. I’d like to be blogging several times a week. I’d like to have a healthy eating/ exercising routine that I can carry into the school year. You get what I mean. The long term goals can be even more general. What have you always wanted to do if you had more time? What have you been putting off? They don’t all have to be attainable goals at first either. Brainstorm a lot of goals. You never know when something might become attainable even though it didn’t seem like it a first.

I figure this is one of my last chances to have real “free” time for a while, and so I better put it to use. This works on smaller scale free time too, however. Last summer, I started out just working two days a week. Even when I got to the point where I only had one day a week off, I still used a similar strategy.

2. SCHEDULE YOUR DAYS– This might sound a little obsessive. I don’t think you need to have an hourly schedule (although if that works for you, go for it). Just start adding some consistency to your days. This is hard for me without school or work influencing my life, especially. Set a bed time and a awake time even if they are a little lax. Then set daily goals and think about when you will achieve them. For example, I’ve started getting up and doing a specific exercise routine. Then I shower and eat lunch. Then I work on my project for the day. It’s a pretty  chill schedule, but it is increasingly including goals.

3. STAY ACCOUNTABLE– Find someone who will call you out if you start being a lazy jerk (or just stop fulfilling your goals). Obviously free time has slip ups where you end up doing something worthless for way too long, but that just can’t be the norm. Tell a friend to bother you about your writing goal. Keep track of your eating/exercising habits somewhere relatively public. Post on social media about your goal. Do something so that you don’t give up on day two. This is a very important step for me. I think I’m going to keep a word count calendar on my fridge so my mom can bother me about it. I’ve already started telling my friends about my achievements, not to brag, but so I have someone to ask, “Hey have you worked on that lately?”

Though I like to mix it up every once in awhile, it’s important to finish things. Crossing things off of your long term goal list. Be proud of your accomplishments. All of these things help the whole motivation thing when there are no real deadlines breathing down your neck. I really miss deadlines.

4. PRIORITIZE– Sometimes your schedule’s going to go out the window completely. Don’t fret. Sometimes important things come up. Sometimes you have to go to the dentist (yuck) or clean your room. These things aren’t probably on your long term goal list, but they are pretty important. That’s ok.  STAY CALM.  If you spend a free day worrying about your future, stop it, take a step back, and work on goals. If your goals seem to big, break them up into smaller ones. If you miss your word count and eat crap all day and stop exercising for a whole week, its ok. You can jump back on the wagon. Deep breaths. The end is not nigh. You are not a failure. It is free time after all.

Maybe, unlike me, you don’t freak out when you have free time. Maybe you’re cool with wide expanses and nothing to do. Congratulations. Ignore my list. Maybe you never have free time and therefore thing my list is trivial and a result of my own laziness. I assure you that this is not true. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the same set of steps I go through when I’m unbearably and impossibly busy and stressed. It’s just a modification of the same steps. So there. That’s how I try to be productive in my own awkward way. Feel free to share your own tips in comments!

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Free Time (or general) Productivity