Monday, March 16, 2015

My top 3 Productivity Apps

Hello lovely readers! As you know, I love to write about getting things done, and I am constantly learning about how to do things efficiently and effectively. I do all of this in the spirit of fun. I really think it's important that whatever you do, you infuse a certain spirit into it... Mary Poppins style.

So why not be a little more like Mary Poppins in an age when technology is a type of magic? Why not get the aid of these three tools that can help you to be a little more superhuman. A little more magical.

In this post, I'm going to outline the three apps that have really helped me reshape the way I do business.

Trello: FREE

The first app that is made a big difference for me is called Trello. Trello is a really good app if you have teams that you work with, because it allows you to chat, and organized list, and assign tasks for people to do. At least that's how they market it.

I don't really have teams per se, I mean - I have some people that jump on a project with me, but mainly I am doing most everything myself in three or four different businesses. 

For a long time, it was really hard for me to manage all the things that I do in a healthy way. I would have one big nightmarish to do list-- and even if I made it into sections it still seemed totally overwhelming.  At one point, I actually developed an inversion to all lists. Talk about difficult! How can you possibly run a business without any lists? There really isn't an alternative. But, with the aid of the Trello app, lists have gotten smarter.

What I love about Trello is that it allows you to organize your lists and create lists with in the lists. I know that sounds a little crazy! Especially for someone like me that hates these lists. But I realize the reason I didn't like lists was that at the end of the day they really weren't very effective keeping me organized. It seemed like something was missing. 

The ability to drag and drop tasks into new list is pretty much the central reason that Trello is the great app that it is. That, and the fact that you can manage your dashboards from a desktop and a smart phone totally seamlessly. If only I could get everyone to use it! The new challenge is convincing your team. If your team members aren't willing to really use this with you becomes a one-sided game. And even though I use Trello alone, it really helps me to organize my multiple businesses and have them link into themselves manageably.

Sleep Cycle: $2

Sleep cycle is an app that I use occasionally. What I love about it and have to share is that it really changed the way I view wakefulness. Now, that sounds a little deep – so that's a statement that's important to unpack.

Before using sleep cycle, I had been involved in the 5 AM club – that is I was waking up every morning at 5 AM and doing a certain process that would help me really set up my day for success. And, I had slid a little bit. I just wasn't doing it... I wasn't keeping up with it.

Then sleep cycle came into my life. As I used its awesome features it was starting to wake me up at between 445 and 5 AM. I was so surprised! 

Here, I had gone through the 28 days to setting a new neural pathway to wake up at 5am, and thought it hadn't worked… But it HAD worked. What I had recognized or realized was that my body was still programmed for a 5 AM wake up time. It was my own tossing and turning, my own free will, holding me back from waking up at the time that my body and brain work physically set to wake up at.

Talk about a life-changing discovery! There is no doubt in my mind that finding this out really changed the way I view goalsetting, it changed the way I view my own free will, the power of my free will – I was just astounded.

That's just one of the million reasons why using sleep cycle heleped my productivity. 

It help you to wake up at the right time for you, and the right time and maybe doesn't go along with your free will, but is definitely the most beneficial time for your body. Waking up when your mind is ready can set you up for success, because you're not groggy. Getting up groggy can really mess up an entire day.

This awesome app which is only about two dollars can make it so you never up on the wrong side of the bed again. 

And really – there is no price you could put on that. 

If you care about productivity then you should know that the connection between your sleep and the performance during the day is sincerely huge! Sleep Cycle hacks into that for you it helps you discover the connections between what you do during the day and how will you sleep. I personally recommend setting one of the custom settings to show you a question before you go to sleep. That question should be what whether you use the phone in bed or not. So far from what I've measured, using the phone in bed right before going to sleep makes a big difference for my sleep quality. You guess for the better or worse!

Microphone Dictation

Okay, this next one isn't really an app. Think of it as a bonus! This tiny hack to my life has made a huge difference for how I feel in my day-to-day and (HINT) it frees up my hands. It is the microphone feature on my smart phone. By using this for things like this blog, I'm able to get things done inside around the house during the day and work at the same time. Let's face it, I do enough of that sitting down stuff during my full-time job. This may sound crazy but as I am "writing" this I am folding my laundry. I. Am. Folding. My. Laundry!

Life-changing? You bet it is. Freeing, yes! It is all of the above. I highly recommend it! Maybe someday I'll have a radio show and totally skip a step. 

Give it a shot, tell me what you think! 

Maybe not all of these things apply to you, or not all of them will necessarily make a big difference for you. But start looking at your phone with a little more intention. Think about what things you do during the day take most of your time. I'm sure you can find little ways to hack into your daily activities and discover how your smart phone apps and help you work smarter, not harder.

No any other great productivity apps? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear them.

Never stop learning, growing, and reaching.

~ Laura

Sunday, March 15, 2015

3 Steps to Banishing Burnout - Based on my personal experience!

Burnout. It's something that I've had to deal with a few more times than I'd care to admit. And when I searched the topic online, I was disappointed to find that few people are offering decent solutions to burnout.

I know a lot of my readers are small business owners, or at least they're exceptionally driven to succeed. A lot of the topics I write about have to do with productivity, business leadership, marketing, and finding ways to hack into your daily life for efficiency and happiness. So, I wouldn't be too surprised if some of you have experienced a burnout as well. In fact if you have please leave me a comment in the comments below. I would love to know that this post has helped someone.

I've actually come to the conclusion that burnout may well be a cycle of mine. I go through cycles of extreme productivity, productivity that outpaces most people I know. And then, I go into a cycle of extreme UN-productivity. And talking about it with my husband or close friends doesn't help, probably because they've never experienced it and can't really understand! My Type A self isn't willing to let go of the idea that I could somehow improve. That eventually, I can lead a burnout-free life.

This most recent time I experienced burn out, I sensed its approach. In preparation, I asked for a vacation day off work in 2 weeks in advance. I finally gave myself the respect that I needed to do some introspective work that I think is going to make a big difference for the future. I really took a step back and analyzed what was really going on. Maybe it will help you too.

So, although I don't have it totally in control – I want to share with you some of the things that I have found have helped at least to mitigate the stress and anxiety that comes from the low productivity cycle. And I tried small little hacks to disrupt negative thought patterns, create novelty, and ultimately free myself of the burnout I was experiencing.

1) Go on a Low Information Diet

Respect your need to give your brain a little bit of breathing room, and give your emotional self a little more space. In a low-information state, I was able to learn a lot.

How can you ever identify and treat the root cause of an issue, if you have so many variables going on? Turn off the tv, get off your phone, and turn off the podcasts, radio, etc. I limited my interactions with anything that I thought could bring me down. That means - news, internet, and even conversation. When I was having conversations and it started go negative, I would bring the conversation back to something positive, or END that conversation with the person.

As I began to find calm and made peace with how I was feeling, I gradually reintroduced these variables. This space allowed me to identify the cause of the burnout and discover what type of burnout I'm experiencing so I could move forward with recovering.

2) Get Back Into Your Body

Recently, in one of my most extreme cases of burnout, my husband purchased me a spa day. He even found a great deal – which helped me feel even less stressed about it! It came just in time. 

I really needed refreshing, because he had been sick for a long stretch of days over four days of a fever. It was really emotionally hard for me to see him looking so bad, and knowing there was nothing I could really do to fix it immediately. I felt powerless. I even had anxiety on the drive there.

In this case, it was emotional burnout. And a good solution for emotional burnout is actually getting out of your brain and into the physical. Whether through a spa day like what I experienced, so some other form of calming physical activity, getting out for a walk and really taking in soft sounds of nature, get back in touch with your physical self through all your senses being awakened gently. 

Work it out!

For real anxiety relief, one of the things that I have found helps is not just getting into the physical by way of treatments, but actually moving. Doing physical movements such as tai chi, Zumba, or dancing help me to be rid myself of the negative energy that's weighing down my mind. In fact, working in daily morning stretches helps me feel more calm and balanced in  social situations throughout the day.

Spend time with an animal!

In states of overwhelm, I feel best when I spend time with animals. Any time where I been in the high stress situation I really enjoy spending time with my two guinea pigs. Now, guinea pigs deserve a little bit of an explanation. I live in a place where having a dog just isn't possible. But I know, I know that I know, that animals make a huge difference for me and my stress levels. Often when I'm totally inconsolable the only thing that can help is to have a cute fuzzy creature to pet for a couple of minutes. Totally worth the cost of hay! And there's science behind that too, you know that animal companionship is very effective for coping with feelings of loneliness, isolation... and those feelings do you come up when you're inconsolable from some kind of high emotional experience that you don't share with others.I really saw this in action recently at the airport. There he had a dog in the airport, and it wasn't a bomb sniffing dog! It was actually there just for the emotional well-being of people standing there waiting for after you get out of the security line. Going through security is extremely stressful! But the moment I will locked eyes with that dog, everything changed. And I was truly delighted to find out that we are allowed and encouraged to pet him.

Get your hands dirty

Emotional, physical, all types of feelings can be helped through art. If you really don't know what's gotten you down, making simple piece of art can really help. Even if it turns out ugly. Important thing is that you created something physical, that you get hanged up for yourself, and that you've actually completed on your own. By creating this art, you have done something for yourself. You have created something for yourself and no one else, and seeing it on the wall can inspire. Planting a garden I feel is art too!

3. Create Novelty and Experience Inspiration from Outside

As someone who is always producing material for my full-time job, a client, or even this blog... It pays to remember, but sometimes you can really start running low on inspiration. Without realizing it, your mind could shift into trying to force the inspiration.

 At the beginning of a high productivity cycle, you may find that you don't even have the time to get every idea that you have down on paper. You may feel so strongly inspired, that you feel it giving you even more energy, sometimes working into the wee hours of the night. Or, like me, being willing to get up as early as 5 AM just to be able to manage all of the ideas that you want to see through to completion.

So as you come out of the high inspiration and feel that residual energy you need to pour additional inspiration into yourself. That means a time of instead of producing inspiring things, you should be consuming inspiring things. By consuming inspiring things, I don't mean a simple throughout was on Pinterest for your next DIY idea. That just adds even more to your to-do list. 

What I mean is, getting out and doing something truly novel. I mean- going to a museum. Or, spending time with people that are greatly different from you. Be inspired by the people around you and how differently they live. Do something of real cultural interest. Go to a new city. And while you're there don't work, just take it all in. If you feel the need to write, do it differently, do it by dictation record your voice. Just do everything little bit differently. Dress differently! Do whatever you can to experience something really novel in a healthy way.

When novelty doesn't work- find new inspiration in the familiar

Sometimes, when you feel like you don't have any control over a situation, I have found it's very helpful to just spend an hour walking around a favorite store. My favorite place to go is target. I recently went to target with 30 bucks in hand and was able to spend an hour or an hour and a half just browsing. I really enjoyed looking in the seasonal section! You know, just being in a place that you recognize and that has an expected orderly appearance with staff that are helpful, but not intrusive, can really help.

Reap inspiration by sowing seeds of gratitude

Earlier I mentioned one thing that helps me ease out of my own emotion, and into being able to interact effectively, actually comes after having spent time with my pets. I like to do something special for them. Here's an example: Recently after spending some time with my guinea pigs, I created for them this special hay dispenser out of the box. It was a fun craft. Doing something for others, even if it's just an animal that you love. Not necessarily a person that you love, can you help. And the point at which it really helps, is displayed in this picture.

 When you can see the true joy and gratitude in action from the other creature! Witnessing excitement and gratitude from something that you've done feeds back into your self energy that gets sacked out over time. Often times, in our work especially if I work is online work. We really don't reap the fruits of gratitude. So get it elsewhere by giving.

Let your inspiration actually sink in with a good night of sleep

But here's the kicker. Here's what's difficult for me, but really works it's that you… Don't try to squeeze out the inspiration immediately, let it percolate - let your mind have a night of sleep where after that day of inspiration, allow your brain gets to assimilate that inspiration. Think of it as wine. If you open that barrel too soon, it's just not going to taste as good. Give it time. One night is all I ask. You'll see what I mean! Again, I'm not a professional, but this is just what has worked for me. I'd love to hear if it works for you too!

I'm not a professional...

Understanding the causes of burnout, as well as understanding that salute those solutions that really work for you, I really key piece of the puzzle. Everyone is different. I'm not a professional. But I have found that these things are the things I've discovered about myself the reflection after a few instances of feeling really run down and being able to get back up again. If you have any other suggestions, or if any of this has helped you, please let me know in the comments below.

Here's to striking that healthy balance! I know you can do it!

Never stop learning, growing, and reaching.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Myth of the Great Agency - a Marketing Lesson for Small Business Owners

I see so many bad ads that I've been taking to doing screenshots. This one is off a link from Facebook - a giggle for you.

I know a lot of my readers are small business owners. I want to start sharing some observations from my standpoint as a digital marketing professional, not necessarily negative. I hope this will help some of you who are planning big things!


Maybe not a big agency, but definitely an oil company. They could probably afford the best... and now they have the ghostly sand man named simply, "Russel".
Just because you partially cover a word, doesn't mean it changes the word... actually there are so many things wrong with this I wondered if it's a joke... but it's not.

Professional ad agencies charging top dollar also regularly produce trash... so I try to get as many people to look at an ad as possible before sending it out to the internet. High standards internally, and savvy employees who understand the intensity of the competition... these things, and not more $$$, are an antidote to bad ads.

Great agencies are known to make terrible blunders too, though. No matter how flashy the agency, no matter how smooth talking their sales team or what accolades they have, no matter the price tag, big, highly decorated agencies regularly misspend client dollars on poorly performing campaigns. Just speaking from experience! I think the most valuable thing you can have is a team on board with the guts to say "that sucks!"

Have you ever heard the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes? Here it is in a nutshell: A not-so ethical tailor convinces an Emperor that the rare thread in his garments is so fine and pure, only the wisest men in the world can see it. Of course, the Emperor looks as it and sees nothing, but plays along - his ego is at stake. So, the Emperor is swindled by the tailor into wearing "invisible clothes" - and parading in front of his entire kingdom naked. The story ends with a naked king and a very entertained town.

Don't let a flashy company or salesperson convince you that they have a secret key to whatever it is you desire. Sometimes, our own ego gets in the way. We think, "If only I had the money to take a certain class or work with a certain agency, I my business would double." - Don't be swindled. Your business success depends on something much more tangible than fancy advertising. A truly great product and customer service, a great idea, are all it takes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What's in My Purse? Digital Marketing Conference Edition

Hi there, women on the move! I'm writing you from a Trailways express bus on the way to NYC for the HSMAI Digital Marketing Strategy Conference! I am so pleased to be traveling to the city today to just be a sponge at this exciting conference. 

But- here's the thing. I found it so challenging to determine what to bring with me, and couldn't find by good advice online.

So, my friends, in this spare time I have on the bus I'd like to share with you the contents of my business day bag! I really hope this can help you plan what to bring for your first big business trip into any major city!

Before we even dig in, I need to tell you that the key thing is ALWAYS my iphone (which is practically surgically attached to me!) but there are a few apps that I rely on whenever I travel into the city that I would be remiss to omit!

#1: My iPhone and The Travel Apps I'm Counting On for my NYC Business Day Trip:

• UBER - this app has saved me more than a couple times. If you haven't heard about this app that lets you summon a taxi with your built in GPS, actually SEE the driver's picture in advance, read and leave ratings, and pay automatically... Then welcome to the future. 
�� Use PROMO CODE gm98w to get your first ride free (up to $20).

• Embark NYC - for a Hudson Valley lady such as myself, it can be downright exhausting to navigate NYC's extensive network of public transit and city streets, and this is one situation where Google Maps just doesn't do it for me. Try Embark for specific, GPS and Map driven directions. It even gives you a buzz when you're on the subway and your stop is next! TOTAL lifesaver.

If you're not planning a trip to NYC specifically, I will say that Uber works in most places, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were Embark apps for every metro area. Hey- it's NYC, and if you can make it there... You can make it anywhere! *winks*

So onto the juicy stuff.

#2: iPad

The second item in my bag is also a no-brainer for any digital marketer. I'm planning to use my iPad during the conference to look up websites mentioned, speakers, and instantly connect with any online concepts using my iPad. I'm also going to be tweeting though this. I don't know about you, but it just seems more professional to interact on an iPad device than a phone during a conference.

#3: Pen & Paper

The third item I'm bringing to the HSMAI meeting at the Marriott Marquis @MHMarquis is pretty low-tech. 

It's a different kind of pad, along with my favorite pen on earth - the uniball vision elite in bold black. Ever since I was about 18, I've been using this brand of pen for all the important stuff.

Wait, was that 2 items? Well I consider them 1 because neither is helpful on its own.

#4: The Conference Agenda

Although I'm sure they'll be handing this out at the event, it makes for good light reading on the way, and a chance to brainstorm questions -  and a reminder of why the ticket was so darn expensive! Also, can this bus please go any faster? 

#5: My Wallet

No, I'm not opening my wallet for you but I will say I have a little emergency cash, my return ticket, and a zippered section just for receipts from the trip so I can keep track of expenses.

#6: My work name badge

I have a special place in my heart for this badge, and no offense to lanyards but I have a feeling I'll prefer this. (I am keeping an open mind, though)

#7: Business Cards

Again, kind of obvious but I do have an interesting method to share- try tucking some in your iPhone case. Boom. Never without a business card, because, hey, I'm never without my iPhone.

#8: Heels

Oh did I mention that my bag is huge? These babies are in there, too. I'll change out of my semi-sensible Montana girl boots and into the heels when I'm arrived at the Marquis.

#9: A Protien Rich Snack

Just in case I can't grab food and my blood sugar takes a dive, a little snack goes a long long way! Here I have Justin's classic Almond Butter which I'll take straight just like I used to do Protien gel back in my long distance cross country running days (ah, high school, I was so fit then!) when no one is looking! Hopefully it won't come to that. I mean that in the most sincere way possible, because I have honestly always brought a bar or something never a packet of almond butter lol! But hey, #preparedness if we get stuck in an elevator I'll be the one with the 80 calories of negotiating power.

10: Makeup Bag

In the words of the great Stevie Wonder, makeup is a world within itself! Or something like that. And, fortunately for me we have almost arrived to Port Authority. I will say this though- travel light (lighter than me if you can - this trip was pre 7am so little time to makeup in advance. And for heaven's sake, bring an extra pair of panty hose. They'll fit.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my special trip to the city. Although it isn't my first (or last!) this one represents a challenge and an exciting opportunity I was happy to share with you.

Let me know if this blog post has helped you, or if you have any advice to share. Please add your voice in the comments below.

Never stop Learning, Growing, and Reaching.


Friday, February 13, 2015

What to Wear in a Family Photo - 4 styling services that are MUST tries!

It was the ultimate style challenge - a family portrait (my very first with my husband's family) and we were to wear coordinating outfits - grey tops for girls, and colored pants... Colored pants!

With all the amazing online styling services - I'm telling you, you can have one amazingly stylish family portrait, my friend. You just need to know where to look. Scroll on down to my top 4 pics for the BEST family photo look - for all the peeps in your family. Please note that this blog post contains affiliate links!

This is one of those times I was so, so grateful for Stitch Fix. If you haven't already heard about this FABULOUS company, Stitch Fix is an online personal styling service that ships boxes full of brand new clothes to you according to your size, preferences (which they get from your Pinterest page and other sites!) for a $20 fee. The best part? That $20 fee gets applied to anything you choose to buy. And trust me, you'll fall in love with something. There is also a men's equivalent of Stitch Fix , called Bespoke Pos which seems amazing. Also, if you need something for kiddos, there's FabKids 

Anyway, so there I was. Without time to shop over the very busy holiday season, I was left scrambling to find the perfect outfit for this really important photo. With a click, I was able to schedule a fix to arrive at my in-law's house in Las Vegas, where I would be visiting, packed full of options for the unique style challenge. Of course -Stitch Fix already had my sizing down to a T. With a few months of experience of styling me already under my belt, I knew I could count on them to come through, so I didn't even bring other options from home.

When the box arrived two days before the family portrait, I was excited to share my loot with my Mother in Law, Marilyn. I was so happy to get her feedback on each piece, narrow it down to just one outfit. Of course - I ended up finding the perfect thing, and while I feel it would be wrong to share my family photo right here on the blog, I will say I felt so confident and happy with how it turned out and am so grateful to Stitch Fix!

My mother in law's first fix, with her notes on what she kept!
After seeing what Stitch Fix could do for me, my Mother in Law Marilyn decided to give it a try. Yesterday, she received her very first fix, and she's so pleased that she's already scheduled her second one. 

She sent me her sheet with these notes (see left), showing us what she chose to keep and what she sent back- which is all part of the process. And one thing I've noticed is that over time, the stylists get more and more attuned to your style and sizing needs.

If you haven't tried Stitch Fix yet, I invite you to give it a shot and let me know what you think back here on the blog. Not only is it great for just a wardrobe refresh, they really do a great job at style challenges like my family photo.

Top 4 styling services I recommend:

  • Stitch Fix (for ladies sizes 0 to 14)- boxes of new clothes, keep what you like, $20 styling fee (affiliate link - thanks for your support!)
  • Gwynnie Bee (for plus size ladies)- new and gently worn TRULY STYLISH clothes at ridiculously low prices, delivered on time in cute boxes with free shipping & returns. See my Mom's Gwynnie Bee review here! (affiliate link - thanks for your support!)
  • Bespoke Post (for men) - I also highly recommend Bespoke Post which is for men (heard about this via Esquire magazine)(affiliate link - thanks for your support!)
  • FabKids (for kids) - super cute clothes for boys and girls sizes 2+ that I hear about eveerrry where (affiliate link - thanks for your support!)

This post contains affiliate links as noted. That means, when you click and buy through one of the links, you support the 3 Best Of Everything blog! Thank you so much for reading, please subscribe! See you real soon.

Never stop Learning, Growing and Reaching,


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Important notes on Self Discipline and the 5 am club

I am writing this for myself just as much as for anyone else's benefit. The concept of making our bodies our slaves is really interesting to me. Having joined the 5am club at the inspiration of success coach Robin Sharma, I have since slipped up more than a few times. I understand the need to view the body as just what it is.

Our bodies will ask for more and more sleep, more and more food, and any number of things that are simply better in moderation.

Our bodies will crave what isn't right.

Our minds know what is better. Did you know that the "real" you is the mental one, not the carnal or animal you? Did you know that heaven hears every thought? Nothing escapes the mind of God. As such, the ideas in your mind are to be cultivated for good, and the body to be put to use, to be put into action in support of the highest possible aim. 

Think about what race you're running. WHY do you desire success? What is success for you? For many, success is defined as a temporary gain like wealth or acknowledgement.  For me, it's a different playing field entirely. You see, when you have your eyes fixed on God, many hardships fall by the wayside in pursuit of God's goals. It is folly to be wrapped up in what feels right. It's a mistake to wake up late every morning, to pour everything into your children, to pursue power or getting your children power.

This is a wake up call! If you're after the crown that lasts, pursue the things of God with self discipline. Whip your carnal desires into shape. Don't be a slave to your body...

1 Corinthians 9:24-27New International Version (NIV)

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Gwynnie Bee Kicks Butt at Styling My Mom (Photos Inside!)

My Mom and I have created this Gwynnie Bee review together, and I really hope it helps you decide whether or not to try this awesome service for plus size women's clothing cheap!

It's so amazing that we've had to wait till the year 2015 to have a service like Gywnnie Bee, a box subscription tailored to "real" women's sizes. (Disclaimer: Being a petite woman myself, I understand women come in all sizes! There are plenty of fabulous petite women's options out there just like Gwynnie Bee: See them here!).
My Mom's first items from Gwynnie Bee!

I have been so proud of my Mom lately. She recently got back into the workforce after years of being a stay at home mom with a part-time job. But more than this, she came back with STYLE! Launching her own business specializing in NY small business tax services.

To celebrate, I went shopping with my Mom to find her a great outfit to wear in her updated headshot. Oh how naive I was to think that in a few hours I could find something at one of the largest Macy's in the world - in NYC. Nothing, friends. We. Found. Nothing.

My Mom explained that this was par for the course. Just a fact of life for women in her size range. The good news is, I have found an awesome solution.  There is a clothing subscription for plus sized women called Gwynnie Bee - and it has saved the day. Not only did Gwynnie deliver some great plus size head shot outfits, it also helped my Mom find the perfect outfit to wear to my Dad's 40th High School Reunion.
Mom is radiant in her Gwynnie Bee dress!

My Mom has been a subscriber for a little over 6 months now. She has told me she's consistently pleased with what she gets in the mail. It's rare something doesn't fit her or is unwearable because everything is sent according to her size specs, style, and taste.

I'm happy to see my Mom embracing fun patterns. You know, there is a lot of bad advice out there for what plus sized women should or should not wear. I personally think that my Mom is absolutely stunning in this dress with a patterned top. And she never would have known unless she were able to try it on. Not only was she able to try it on, she was able to wear it and wear it until she finally caved and bought it for a ridiculously low price.

The thing I want to point out in these pics is not really the clothes. It's the glow in my Mom's face, that feeling of confidence about what she's wearing and how she looks that is transformative. Do clothes matter? YES YES YES. Style has a big impact on how we feel about ourselves. Getting something in the mail that was picked out for you in your size, well- it just plain feels good. Pair that with a beautiful frock for your next occasion, and we have a formula for success!

Talk about CONFIDENCE - She's got the Gwynnie Bee glow!
I really think every woman deserves to feel this radiant and confident. If you'd like to try Gwynnie Bee for yourself- get $10 off your first month through my special link: Gwynnie Bee Coupon and now through 3/12/15, your first month subscription is on me!

Thanks for reading. And...
Never stop Learning, Growing, and Reaching.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

3 Best Gifts for Women Who Inspire You

This year - if you're a newlywed or just landed a dream job, or if you're actively networking and building your connections, you may find yourself holiday shopping for several people you don't know well but are desperate to impress. It could be a boss (check!) if you're a newlywed it may be a sister in law or mother in law (yep I've got those too!) Maybe it's a mentor. A wonderful Grandma. The list goes on.  

A Woman Who Inspires...
There is one person on my Christmas list this year who I am especially challenged to buy for that inspired this search. It's my sister in law! It really could not be any more intimidating. In my case, my sister in law is a well-known blogger and a creative business powerhouse.  She's been featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine, This month, she even released a book: Materially Crafted: A DIY Primer for the Design-Obsessed which teaches the all-important groundwork for us to make every DIY Pinterest dream come true.

What to Do?
It's too tricky to buy clothes at this stage (and it's really never appropriate to buy clothes for a boss!) and the typical gifts for women just make me cringe. 

1) Something Standard but with a Creative Twist

In my online travels to solve this challenging gifting situation, I came across something amazing. So, I have aptly named Prize Candle one of the 3 Best Gifts You Can Buy For Women Who Inspire You! The other two gifts will be unveiled within the coming weeks. I'm looking forward to sharing an in depth Prize Candle review soon, but I wanted to share in this happy discovery as soon as possible.

Light a Candle...

I believe whole-heartedly in aroma therapy – and I just love the warmth and ambiance a candle brings to a room. Candles are a popular gift especially during the holidays, and honestly you never can have too many. But a plain candle can really fall flat- that's where the candles poured by this company make up the difference. As the name suggests, the Prize Candle has hidden within it something very special - taking your gift from "sweet" into the realm of "spectacular"... it is a ring within a candle, a gift within a gift, allowing you to pass through the minefield of challenges surrounding giving something of real value, or something to wear without coworkers noticing. This is such an inventive solution - and a gift that is completely unforgettable!

Your favorite inspiring sister will be kept in anticipation as the high grade soy candle slowly burns away the wax to reveal a vintage ring worth up to $5,000. I suggest you look at the Prize Candle gallery to get a better idea of the quality and different ring styles.

For Victoria, I've got my eye on the Cozy Cabin scent, which they've described as "the perfect medley of wood, fruit, florals, and musk that harkens times enjoyed at a secluded log cabin getaway. Notes: Bergamot, citrus, wood and musk with just a kiss of spice." Take me away!

This gift is one that cultivates and rewards meditative patience. It causes us to examine our fast-paced, get-it-now, instant gratification world in which we live. That in itself is a gift. And I can't wait to ask my sister in law in a couple months about her ring, and see a pic of it.

Once I receive my Prize Candle for my amazing Sister in Law (and one for myself!!) and my lovely ring (fingers crossed for a BIG appraisal!) I’ll post an update with a full review and let you know my thoughts.   

In the meantime, if you’d like to purchase a prize candle, you can use this Prize Candle promo code to save $10 off of your first purchase!

2. Give the Gift of Syle

I still don't think that clothes are necessarily a good gift for your boss. I did break this real though this Christmas and when I bought my boss a pair of awesome pajamas, but that's only because we have a fun relationship, and it's so rare to find good clothes for a small frame and both my boss and I have the same exact frame.

Styling service is a great gift because it doesn't necessarily say where this or your style is outdated – instead it says you deserve to have someone work directly with you to find things that fit your personal style. In the greeting card to your boss or mentor you could write something like:

 I've always admired your style – here's something that will help you magnify it even more! 

3. Give a gift based on something she taught you

You could say something to the effect of:

You always taught me to keep a journal. I found this one which made me think of you. You should have it!  I know you will fill it with wisdom.

4. (Bonus!) Give the gift of recognition

Maybe this person has touched many many lives. Ask people about her. Host a banquet or a party in her name,  and invite all the people whose lives she's touched. If she's not near retirement age, a simple glowing letter to her boss if she's a teacher, or a letter to her Association would be a good alternative. Look for any local awards that are giving being given out to mentors and be prepared to write an essay about her! 

Who is the most challenging person to shop for this year? Share in the comments below! Are you going to try a prize candle, styling service, or something else? I'd love to know! Thanks for reading :)

Never Stop Learning, Growing and Reaching,


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The 5 AM Club

It has been officially over one month of consistently waking up at 5 am, followed by a morning protocol that sets me up for success. If you're wondering why I'm doing this, I've written a blog post on my 3 Biggest Reasons to Wake up at 5am which I invite you to read.

Here is a picture I took on my sunrise walk with my husband. I send it to you, since you're starting this life changing journey of waking up at 5am. You get to see things like this! Don't miss the sunrise.

Let me briefly share my morning ritual, which is based off the teaching of Robin Sharma, author of The Leader Who Had No Title and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and then explain how it's been changing my life.

In this post I share with you my best tips that I've learned from the month or so doing this, which should help propel you even more. By no means has my system been perfected, but this post is to help me celebrate and track my progress, and serve you at the same time.

My Weekday Morning Ritual
I have been constantly tweaking this to get the right balance and get the most out of my mornings. Here's my current schedule:

5AM: Get out of bed, do a little dance to release endorphins
5:00-5:20 Exercise (yoga or low-noise)
5:20-5:40 Review the day ahead and goals- using my planner and notes, what do I need to accomplish, what challenges face me? Write down some things I'm thankful for in my journal.
5:40-6:00 Read the Bible if you're looking for wisdom, I highly recommend the book of Proverbs... or a paper I've wanted to read (I print out articles that interest me throughout the day so I can dig in later)
(Image from Robin Sharma on

[At this point I am super charged for the next several hours and wired to make the most of my time]

6:00-6:30 Prepare a dinner and put in the crock pot
6:30-7:00 Early morning work, read email or news

7:00-7:35 Morning "sunrise" walk with my husband
7:40-8:00 Prepare a breakfast shake, coffee, bagel, day's snacks
8:00-8:30 Shower and dressed
8:40am leave for work

[I also have a morning office ritual that I'm working on establishing, which I look forward to sharing in coming posts]

How The 5 AM Club is Working Already
I repeat to people that the 5 am club is probably one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life, after following Christ and marrying my husband. Here are just some of the ways this habit hack has reshaped my life and is setting me on track for tremendous future success:
  • Establishing a new routine and mindset
  • Putting my own ambitions first, developing my own compass instead of letting the world and societal norms dictate what I will do
  • I'm eating better because I'm making time in the morning to cook
  • Improving my marriage by dedicating a morning walk for conversation (this is now totally sacred time to me)

I have a few tips and tricks that I've gathered in my first month that should help set first-timers up for success!

My first and biggest tip, which I won't even put in the lineup below is:


All you really need to do is put your feet on the ground, stand up, and walk away from your bed. Everything after this comes easier.

1) Get your loved one to do it with you - or make an online accountability buddy.
This is so powerful- if you're living with your husband or wife, or have a child, make this a team effort. On the days you feel weak, the other may feel strong and coax you out of bed. My husband has been awesome about this. After being convinced that we couldn't have the life we want unless we develop habits of the truly productive and successful, he has become determined to maintain the 5am club.

2) Don't be sleep deprived- adjust your sleep schedule too!
The 5am club isn't a sleep deprivation exercise! You'll notice a lot of little things you're going to have to change to support your new operation. You'll feel tired sooner. So, don't sabotage your next morning by staying up too late. Get your full 7 hours and you'll be more energized to wake up at 5am.

3) Have an iron-clad reason.
Why are you doing this? So that you can be rich one day? No - that isn't a good enough reason. Your reason needs to be totally intrinsic. I tried and failed to do the 5AM club last year because my reason wasn't good enough. At that time when I failed, my reason was "I want to be healthier".
Can you see why that didn't work? It didn't work because, most of the time I feel like I'm healthy enough. It's a weak reason. It's easy to wriggle my way out of it- "sleep is healthy too"..."A little more sleep, and I'll feel better than if I had taken a walk this morning" - Do you see why this was a road to failure? Do you see how easy it is to fail without a good enough reason?

There are no such thing as "morning people" and "night people" - that's just a myth. One thing I've learned from Tony Robbins and other great personal development coaches is that your IDENTITY is what matters. If you consciously identify yourself as "not a morning person" you have done yourself a huge disservice and totally blocked your growth in this area. So change your story. Change how you view yourself in your mind. If you can't get over the negative self talk, you will not have progress!

Here's what DID work. I totally changed my identity. I told myself, "I know there's no way that I could ever be the person I want to be, accomplish all I want to accomplish, and feel as good as I want to feel unless I get up at 5AM every day. I am the kind of person that gets up early. So getting up at 5AM is just me being more like myself. When I don't do this, I'm not myself. I need to get up at 5AM to get what I need to do done."

4) Set up things to look forward to: A healthy reward system.
Consider the rewards of getting up early. You will see the sunrise. You will finally get to read the article you printed out for yourself yesterday to read. You will get to try a new recipe in your crock pot. You will get to review your goals.
Basically- you need to have a plan for that time between 5am forward and a fully assimilated understanding that will be greatly beneficial to you. It must seem so beneficial that missing it would come at a huge loss. Just getting up at 5am isn't good enough- you need to have a plan for your time and establish in your mind the rewards it brings.

5) Set up an accountability exercise.
A Facebook group (or any sea of strangers) is NOT an accountability group. Tweeting the #The5AMClub hashtag isn't good enough either! Every morning, on my morning walk I take a picture during this peaceful time at send it to my mother (it's about 7:30am at this time). That is a real, live person, who is now used to receiving these messages and would be sad if I missed one. She is part of the reason I never miss a walk, even on top of the beautiful time it is with my husband. The image that I send to my mother has become a lovely accountability exercise that makes her feel loved and remembered, too.

There are even more tips that I will send you in the coming weeks. I hope to see you again. If you have any feedback or suggestions, or tips of your own, please add them in the comments on this blog.

Never stop learning, growing, and reaching!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

3 Best Reasons to Get up at 5AM, and More Insights on Building a Great Morning Ritual

Dear Bed - it's not you, it's me. You are comfy, cozy, and available any time. You are extra warm, and as the weather turns colder leading to crisp mornings, that toasty warmness means a lot to me. But it's just not working anymore. You, hands down, were the gateway drug to mediocrity that has nearly destroyed all my new years resolutions. I thought I knew how to handle our relationship, getting up at 7 or 7:30 am every day, but then I started snoozing, then finding myself rushing around just to get to work on time, leaving me frazzled instead of focused and prepared. But there's still 3 months left of this year. It's time for a change. I need a little more "me" time, and I think we should spend less time together.

5am club
So, what is the solution...

Maybe you, like me, are considering joining the "5am Club". Leadership and productivity expert, Robin Sharma (author of The Leader Who Had No Title and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari) touts membership in the 5'oclock club as a key feature of top achievers. I, for one, want to win the battle of the bed! Put mind over mattress! Starting first thing tomorrow morning (I like the idea of starting on Sunday, a day earlier than expected) I will be changing my habits and work to develop a better brain, and a better life.

I have tried it before, and failed. But I made it all about working out, and it wasn't a big enough motivator for me. What I've learned since then is that preparation for your day ahead gives you a psychological edge and a "primary win", mental confidence that sets you apart from the masses.

I'm currently waking up at 7:30am, but there are so many reasons why I want to wake up at 5. If you normally get up at 7, and now get up at 5 just Monday-Friday, you gain an extra 40 hours of self-improvement per month - approx 480 hours per year, or 20 days! A tiny adjustment for a massive reward.  Here are my top three, along with tips for how you can join the "club" too.

1. No-Excuses Time for what Really Matters - Finding time for what matters is a huge challenge, and usually by the end of a workday the best I can handle is cooking. By setting aside time for things thta matter first thing in the morning, I'm able to create a clear path for success. My favorite online workout is Blogilates wth Cassie Ho, which is totally free- so fun, intense and uplifting! Getting fit is so important for success - to get the energy and stamina you need to really be of use. Also, I love my slow-cooker, it's a great way to eat healthy and you come home to a delicious smelling home.

2. Establishing and Keeping a Holy Hour to Consciously Leave the Herd - Most of what we do in life is the result of our sub-conscious minds running on auto-pilot. To have true change, you need to interrupt and gain control of your thoughts. One hour in the morning to feed your mind and nourish your soul puts you in good company with great writers, thinkers, throughout the centuries and helps your behavior and thinking reach a new level of creativity and greatness.

3. Build Willpower and Grit - The #1 factor of success is GRIT. It means you have ridiculous levels of persistence. You may have a vision, but it will be diluted by challenge unless you develop grit. When you go to your limits, your limits expand. Change is hard in the beginning, messy in the middle, and gorgeous in the end. Being able to get up at 5am will make other (much harder) things easier, because you've overcome one of the #1 things that holds people back from greatness - getting out of bed.

Need more convincing or a boost? Here is a video by Robin Sharma that convinced me!

 Robin says that it takes 66 days for something to become a true habit. Not eating or using a digital device after 8pm will help you get better sleep. If your loved one doesn't share your desire to wake up at 5am, try using a vibrating alarm clock!

5:00 am Morning Ritual (20-20-20 Rule)

5:00 am - 5:20 am - Jump out of bed. Splash your face with cold water. Then- get exercise of some kind, even if it's just skipping in place with a jumping rope. This is just to jump-start the metabolic rate, and release endorphins.

5:20 am - 5:40 am - Review your goals and purpose, not just for your day but for your life! Make sure you are focused on service to others. Focus on excellence and mastery. Write down some things you're grateful for.

5:40 am - 6:00 am - As you learn more, you achieve more. So during this 20 min stretch, learn something new by reading, listen to an audio book, or watching a video. Here is a great quote from Robin on this: "Education is inoculation from disruption"

6:00 am - 8:30 am Morning Ritual

I am working on developing the rest of my morning ritual for something that really works. But here is what I know for sure! (PSST, I have been doing this for over a month now and have updated my schedule. Read my updated schedule and some wisdom I've attained from doing this consistently here: The 5 AM Club) At first, I thought "what am I going to do with all this extra time?" - then as I began to piece all the things I need to accomplish in the morning together I realized... maybe I need to get up at 4am!

6:00 am - 7:00 am - Full Blogilates Workout, according to the Blogilates calendar

7:00 am - 7:30 am - Prepare dinner with slow cooker, Prayer and Reading

7:30 am - 8:15 am - Shower, Dressed

8:15 am - 8:30 am - Make Healthy Breakfast, Coffee, and a Shake, hop in the car and go!

I will be up at 5am EST daily with my Twitter handle @NowItsLaura and the hashtag #5amclub and #66 day challenge if you'd like to join me. There are only 15 people worldwide doing this on Twitter right now from what I can see, so get to it! Follow me and hashtag, I'd love to see if you're taking on this challenge too.