Marisol Dahl

How to Make the Most of the Last Two Months of the Year

Career, ProductivityMarisol DahlComment

With the holidays upon us, it's easy to write off the next two months. Q4 is often considered a “lost quarter” in terms of work and productivity, especially if we have the promise of a shiny New Year just around the corner.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The key to successful quarterly planning is to not treat each quarter like all the others. It’s important to take into account the time of year, acknowledge where you are in your life/career/business, and gauge your productivity levels moving forward. You have to look at the big picture, and set realistic expectations for yourself.

3 Ways to Make the Most of the Last Two Months of the Year

Tie up loose ends: What one or two things have you been resolving to do forever but just can’t seem to finish? Now is a great time to clear the decks and wrap up all those projects and to-dos that always seem to get pushed to the back-burner. This is a great end of year goal especially if you are wary of taking on completely new projects at this time.

Focus on relationships: Instead of seeing the holidays as time and productivity-sucks, use them as an “excuse” to get in touch and open up opportunities for stronger connection and collaboration. This is a natural time to check in with your extended family, old classmates, former colleagues, and any other business contacts you’d like to keep in touch with—it won’t be awkward since this is one of the most social seasons of the year.

Do sprints: Use your schedule as an indicator of when it’s time to hustle, and when it’s time to let it flow. Instead of trying to evenly pace your work over the next two months, identify a few periods of time where you can do “sprints”—times where you can kick focused work into high gear and make a lot of progress in a short period of time. When you’re “off-sprint,” enjoy the time to celebrate what you achieved and get much-needed rest.

See my full post on Life After College. 



Book Reviews #1

BooksMarisol DahlComment

First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies

Kate Andersen Brower | 2016

"Brower offers new insights into this privileged group of remarkable women, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Patricia Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. The stories she shares range from the heartwarming to the shocking and tragic, exploring everything from the first ladies’ political crusades to their rivalries with Washington figures; from their friendships with other first ladies to their public and private relationships with their husbands." [Link

The Sociology major in me could not put this book down. It's a fascinating look at how such a diverse group of women—with their own histories, ambitions, ideals, and political views—are so uniquely bonded by their defining role as first lady. Kate Andersen Brower's research process is interesting to read about in itself. Though many other reviews note the author's bias, I found the book offered a refreshingly balanced look at the strengths and flaws of each first lady featured. 

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

Heidi Durrow | 2011

"Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on their Chicago rooftop. Forced to move to a new city, with her strict African American grandmother as her guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way. It’s there, as she grows up and tries to swallow her grief, that she comes to understand how the mystery and tragedy of her mother might be connected to her own uncertain identity." [Link]

Told from alternating points of view, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is a beautiful story of a young girl's awakening through tragedy—forced to confront her identity and how she fits in with her extended family and new community. Rachel's youth is portrayed through simple prose, drawing the reader to dissect the clashes of race, class, generations, and culture that lie just underneath. 

The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina Keegan | 2014

"Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at The New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash. She left behind a rich, deeply expansive trove of writing that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation." [Link]

It is important to understand the circumstances under which this book was published—that's what makes it particularly powerful and engaging. Marina Keegan was devoted to the art of writing and determined to make a living in what many would say is a dying industry. Her stories and essays are rich and demonstrate a wisdom I don't think very many people our age have yet. As someone who finished her freshman year at Yale just as Keegan was graduating, I felt particularly close to the themes and references within the book. 

What To Do When You're Second-Guessing Your Dream

Career, CreativityMarisol DahlComment

Take stock: We often stop enjoying things when there are toxic elements that are ruining it for us. Do the people you live/work with support you? Does your company culture help or keep you from doing great work? Sometimes it’s not your dream that’s the problem—it’s your environment.

Pivot: Sometimes you outgrow your dreams. As Jenny Blake notes in a recent Fast Company article, your plateau isn’t a problem, but a sign of success.*

For many, it's the experience of continually picking up new things and meeting fresh challenges that keeps us going, making the inevitable plateau of success uncomfortable. But that plateau isn't wrong or bad—it's not an indication that you've failed. It's a sign that you've succeeded, and now have to sort out what comes next.

Take a break: As Gala Darling so lovely puts it in When The Flame of Your Passion Starts to Flicker:

We’re taught to push push push, no matter what. The fear is real: ‘If I stop now, will I be forgotten in a week?!’ We think that doing nothing would be worse than burning out, and that only goes to show how desperate our addiction to “doing” is. (If you’re not constantly doing, then there’s time for… Gasp… THOUGHTS! Emotions! Dealing with your actual life! How terrible!)

*For more about this, read PIVOT: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One.


How to Simplify Your Decisions

Intelligence, HappinessMarisol DahlComment

According to the paradox of choice, the more options and choices we have, the more we are paralyzed with fear and anxiety of making the wrong decision. We are less happy with the choices we do make if we know there is potential for regret.

Deliberating on decisions for too long is also unproductive and a waste of time.

Embrace opportunities to get rid of "choice excess" and get on with your day. This may be harder to immediately implement, but it's about exposing yourself to less.

How to Simplify Your Decisions

Adopt a signature style. Read Finding a Uniform and Why We Should Wear the Same Thing to Work Every Day for inspiration. And this doesn't just have to apply to clothes—commit to a signature dish for potlucks, a favorite perfume, a go-to hostess gift.

Set rules and boundaries that make sense to you. For instance, dine out only on weekends, or finish one book before starting another.

Hide things. Out of sight, out of mind—in the best way possible. I like to keep my living area (especially my desk) free of as much clutter as possible. I’ll consciously set things out—like a book I want to read, or a piece of mail I need to address—as a strong visual reminder of what my priorities are. You can also do this digitally, like putting your email inbox on snooze, or using an app like Self Control that blocks certain websites for a set period of time.

How to Trick Yourself Into Being Healthier

HealthMarisol DahlComment

Replace your "bad foods" with healthy alternatives that look (nearly) the same. I haven't had a milkshake in months since replacing them with delicious green/almond smoothies (which incidentally is the only way I will put kale in my body). Another favorite is veggie chips to replace potato chips. 

Carry a water bottle with you everywhere. When you have water near you, you'll start drinking it even if you don't think you're thirsty. I started doing this in college, and my water consumption went through the roof. It also helped me develop a stronger sense of my hydration levels. 

Wear workout clothes. It makes the decision to go to the gym that much easier. 

How to Ground Your Awesome

Happiness, Career, HealthMarisol DahlComment

Keep the emails that make you smile. Every time you get a note that boosts your spirits, drop it in an Evernote folder, an email folder/label, or Google Doc. It will be nice to look back on them whenever you’re feeling down.*

Don’t throw away your to-do lists. They remind you of what you’ve accomplished, and can help you accurately discuss your work and not accidentally downplay your role and impact.

Express gratitude for yourself. Routinely expressing gratitude at the beginning and end of the day is a highly recommended mindfulness practice. Recently I’ve been taking it one step further by making sure I always recognize my gratitude for some part of myself—a personality trait, something I did that day, or even a part of my body. Generosity can and should be channeled inward, not just outward.

*A salute to Jenny Blake for this tip (she calls it a “Keepers File”!). And Sarah von Bargen also recently wrote about her Smile File folder.

Travel Tips #1

Finances, Travel, SafetyMarisol DahlComment

How to travel safely: Keep a small notebook or note card on you, with important phone numbers and information written down. Include the numbers and addresses of your hotel and the embassy of your country, instructions on how make emergency phone calls, and photocopies of your travel documents. Keep both digital and print versions of this information—just in case you lose your phone.

How to travel cheaply: Hopper will let you know when to buy your plane tickets for the best prices. I recommend frequently checking the app for the ideal flight times that you want—even if the app is telling you to keep waiting.

How to travel lightly: Consider your photos your souvenirs. Bring a small journal to document your favorite little moments from each day. Your memories and experiences should be your most dear possessions.


Three Alternatives to the Morning Routine

Health, CreativityMarisol DahlComment

Morning routines have contributed to the success of some of the greatest minds in history. A solid morning routine helps you direct your day for productive work and healthy living.

I’ve spectacularly failed at establishing a morning routine (not for want of trying). But through the eternal quest to structure the most optimal day, I’ve learned that the key is consistent daily action—at around the same time each day. These actions set the tone and rhythm of your day. They are a mental cue that you are in the moment and doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.  And they don’t need to happen in the morning.

Three Alternatives to the Morning Routine

A reading routine: Set aside the same periods of time each day to sneak in some reading. Some ideas: the first half-hour at the beginning or end of the day, your commute to or from work, your afternoon creative siesta.

An inspiration routine: Have a go-to sequence for getting yourself in the right mood and mindset for whatever’s ahead. If you’re visually inspired, take time to browse your favorite Tumblr, flip through magazines, find an artist you love to follow. If you’re verbally inspired, keep a collection of writing you love. If you’re aurally inspired, create go-to Spotify playlists.

A clean-up routine: A set time (or times) during the day for quick clean-up and organization. Take the first five minutes of your work day to organize your desk, or do a rapid-round of pick-up while dinner is cooking in the oven.

What to read if you don't know where to start

Intelligence, Health, HappinessMarisol DahlComment

What to read if your feeling green: The Atlantic's Are Tote Bags Good for the Environment?

Whether they're delicately handled designer goods or a promotional product dirtied by daily wear, few totes are made to last long enough to obtain the number of uses required to reach resource-expenditure parity with the plastic bags they were meant to supplant.

... Ecologically speaking, the best practice for tote bags might be one of two extremes: use them all the time, or not at all.

What to read if you don't know where to start: Gala's On Making A "Fuck That" List

Without the flipside — the “negative” stuff — we can’t see our blessings, and we don’t know what we want.

It’s okay to start there. Looking at what terrifies you, your fears, and the things that keep you awake at night, is an excellent way to figure out what motivates you.

What to read if you're feeling existential: Darling Magazine's Why Talking About Death Should Be a Natural Part of Life

What if the result of grieving was to restore what has been lost? When someone has died, the pressure to let go can actually complicate grief and trigger depression. Rather than saying goodbye and shutting the door, what if we invited our memories along with us?