How to Get Into ‘Coffee Shop’ Work Flow (When You Just Feel Like Spending the Day at Home)

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Mondays are the days that I pack up everything in my life around 9 am to head to a local coffee shop (usually Panera). As many people know, there tends to be a bit of Sunday night anxiousness that’ll remind you about everything you need to take care of on Monday, and that feeling each week is what gives me the motivation to get out the door when I wake up.

I pack up my laptop, headphones, folders, snacks, waters, and gym clothes (for an evening kickboxing class nearby), and get out the door before the usual crowd of busy college students, families, and location independent workers typically show up.

It’s a solid routine, but that doesn’t always mean I make it out the door.

Today I lingered, got some household things taken care of, and ultimately decided that I would work from my kitchen table (which is easier said than done).

I procrastinated, checked my emails again for no reason after I’d already done my morning email check, did some laundry, started writing this blog post (everything that was in no way urgent or related to the papers that needed grading).

Eventually I got into some semblance of ‘work mode.’ I pulled up a comfy chair, poured a cup of tea, put on my usual jazz music, pulled out my planner, and faked the ‘coffee shop’ feel enough that I just simply got started (a few hours later, of course).

It may not have turned out to be the perfect work day, and I didn’t feel like the unstoppable force that I normally do when seated by my usual coffee shop window from 9 to 6, but I did get done what I needed to, and for today that’s okay.  

Happy living :).

College Classroom Technologies: A Look at Their Use in the Future

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In the article, Top 10 Education Technologies that Will Be Dead and Gone in the Next Decade, faculty members voiced their opinions about what classroom technology they believe will be gone within the next 10 years, which ones they hope might become obsolete, and what they believe their role as instructors will be versus the role that technology will play as the classroom continues to evolve.

Personally, I disagree with some aspects of the article, but it did make me think, so I appreciated many of the insights.

The way I see it, the use of technology will continue to grow, and the systems we all ‘hope’ will go away will just change to become more conducive to the classroom (any instructor knows that what we currently have is a far cry from perfect). 

I think technology is here to stay, will continue to play a bigger role, and will change the way instructors are used (I’m already well aware that my job in the classroom and my job as an online instructor are remarkably different from each other).

I do agree with the chart in the article, showing that our role as instructors will be minimal. Even now, online students can learn material, take quizzes, and see what grade they received in an online grade book, all without us lifting a finger.

I love the face-to-face college classroom. It’s where you feel the impact you’re making much more strongly, and teachers are a much bigger part of the inspiration and learning that happens. 

But technology is helping students learn more efficiently, on their own time, and without distractions, and as someone who appreciates progress, I kind of love that, too. 

Happy teaching, learning, and changing.

~

To read more about technology in the classroom, read the article Top 10 Education Technologies that Will Be Dead and Gone in the Next Decade.

The Best Mistakes

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The other day I was reflecting on some of the ‘mistakes’ I’d made in life that I no longer see in a negative light. Instead, I now feel pretty lucky that some of these things happened, and I’m sure if other people took a look back on the events that led them to where they are today, they might come to the same conclusion that I did. Odds are you can trace plenty of your mistakes and regrets to successes and opportunities later on.

What mistakes have you made that ended up resulting in something surprisingly positive a ways down the road?

The first person I thought of was my dad. He used to regret not working harder in high school, since this led to missing his shot at an impressive college education. However, the misstep also resulted in him being so frustrated with his subpar post-high school jobs that he started learning to think for himself and became a successful serial entrepreneur.

Here’s another example: My good friend’s parents could only afford to send her to community college. Although it was hard for her to accept at the time, she became determined to make the most of it, excelled in her classes, made connections with professors, got a huge scholarship, and then created a successful business around motivational speaking to community college students.

The bottom line is that most success stories(regardless of how you define success) start with regrets. Here are some from my own life:

  • Feeling like I didn’t fully take advantage of my time in high school led to a decade of taking chances and living outside my comfort zone- with dating, singing, music, writing, taking leadership positions, and making sure I didn’t regret a moment of my twenties.
  • As college was ending, I believed I had ‘missed my calling.’ I had always regretted not majoring in Education, since I had secretly wanted to teach since the days of ‘playing school’ with my little sister. Then once I started taking grad school classes, I learned that I still had opportunities to get teaching experience at the college level, so I jumped at the chance and ended up teaching at the level that probably suits me best.
  • My early twenties and a streak of bad boyfriends led to a love of writing music, and resulted in writing a number of songs that I’m proud of, and that have helped some good friends get through rough times.
  • I moved to Orlando, Florida to attend graduate school based on plans I had with my college boyfriend (and then, naturally, we broke up two months into the semester). However, I stayed in Orlando, and this is where I met my now husband.
  • The final ‘misstep’ I’ll share here is adjunct teaching. Instead of looking for more traditional jobs, I decided that I’d make teaching teaching work because I loved it so much, even if I wasn’t making much money. However, living on a budget as an adjunct led to learning more about saving money, enjoying the simple things, appreciating (free) outdoor activities, and teaching efficiently for multiple schools- leading to books, helping other instructors find jobs, and the Happy Professor brand.

Life is full of moments, opportunities, and the best mistakes you can make, so love every minute of it.
Happy learning and happy living :).

Revisiting an Old Post: “Getting Back to Basics in 2016”

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While I was trying to come up with ideas for a blog post today, I thought it would be interesting to re-read my New Year’s resolutions from 2016 that I had shared here on Happy Professor (copied below). So instead of coming up with and sharing new goals for 2017 (honestly, I really just want to continue with my 2016 goals since they’d led to such a good year!), I decided to just take a look at the progress I made with last year’s resolutions:

“1. Spend more time with friends and family on a weekly basis.
2. Workout and run consistently (consider doing another half marathon).
3. Take advantage of working from home by taking as many small and big trips as possible.”

The list might not look all that intimidating, but as someone who found herself buried in work for the last few years (which was fun and satisfying, but didn’t leave room for much else), it was hard to take a step back and start making the above changes, but here’s where I’m at today:

1. I spend quality time with one or two close girlfriends every week for a few hours without fail, and it is beyond amazing.
2. I lift weights at least 3 times a week at the gym or in my home office (I was running regularly, but a recurring foot injuring might be enough to keep me from running in the future- more weights and cycling, here I come!)
3. I work from Panera at least 2 focused days a week (meaning 8-10 hours each day), and deal with other minor work issues for a few hours from home during the rest of the week, which leaves my weekends uninterrupted so I can spend more time with my husband and friends.
3 (part 2!). I made the occasional day trip to see a good college friend who lives a couple of hours away, visited North Carolina (as usual), spent a month exploring Thailand, LA, San Diego, and Arizona, and I already have some upcoming vacations planned for the new year.

As I look at this list today, I can tell you that I once again have my priorities straight and I’ve learned that spending time with loved ones, taking care of yourself, scheduling in some free time, and going on the occasional adventure are good for one’s soul and great for maintaining a healthy balance in one’s life.

I’ve done everything I set out to do and I look forward to more of the same in 2017.

Happy living :).

~

Original Blog Post:

Getting Back to Basics in 2016

I know it’s not very original to write a blog post about one’s goals during the first week of the new year, but I’m okay with that. I’ve always been a huge fan of setting resolutions just hours before the ball drops on December 31st, mostly because I tend to set goals that I can accomplish and be proud of.

This year my goals involve getting back to basics, to the things that matter.

Somehow during the last year (and I’m not even sure when it happened), I cut out a significant chunk of my social life, sleep, every bit of working out, and any healthy foods that I used to eat because I started working more. What a terrible list of bad habits to accumulate right before someone turns 30. When I read (or, rather, listened to) the book Essentialism a few months ago and this list of my bad habits hit me, that’s when I started making small, positive changes to all of the above.

I’m happy to say I’ve already cut back my workload significantly (which is much harder than it sounds- it’s not the pay cut I mind, I just hate goodbyes to good schools and colleagues!), started spending more time with friends, working out again, eating better food, cutting out caffeine, and sleeping more (something I didn’t realize I’d missed so much).

There’s a semi-depressing list of ‘5 Regrets of the Dying’ that I keep in a box somewhere. I read it in an article years ago, and apparently so did a lot of other people. Every once in a while I’ll see that someone has posted it on social media again.

This year my goals are about not being able to relate to that list, and to be sure I fill my life with the things that will matter in the end. I do a pretty decent job at living without regrets and living life to the fullest, but I want to be sure that by the end of 2016 this list in no way resonates with me.

Without further adieu, the ‘5 Regrets of the Dying’:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so work.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

At this point, I’m very much on track. I already have monthly standing dates set aside to spend time with family, and friends, and a plan to be more honest with people who have expectations of me that don’t match up with my true self.

In our society, it’s not always easy to do what’s best for you, especially when it becomes increasingly harder to determine what that even is. It wasn’t easy realizing that I was working too much (my work is where I hide away- and it’s very cozy there, easier than facing thoughts and feelings that have somehow been buried and need to be dealt with). I wasn’t way off track, but to truly live without regrets and without feeling like time is slipping away from me, it was important to make changes and to vow to the following in 2016:

  1. Spend more time with friends and family on a weekly basis.
  2. Workout and run consistently (consider doing another half marathon).
  3. Take advantage of working from home by taking as many small and big trips as possible.

To most people, this list might not look like much, but it’s my 2016, and I’m excited to see what I can make of it.

Happy living, and Happy New Year!

Start With ‘I Love You’

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It can be hard to be patient, compassionate, and loving, but these are all qualities I think we could use more of, especially during the holiday season.

I’ve set a goal (that I borrowed from comedian Whitney Cummings), that when dealing with anyone this week, I’ll say ‘I love you’ in my head before engaging in conversation with them. According to Cummings (and common sense), your interaction will go much better as a result.

We’ll see how it goes, and I encourage you to do the same.

Since it’s the holidays, and memes that say things like ‘It’s been lovely, but I have to scream now’ can be found on social media more than usual, I thought this tip might be helpful for surviving extra time with family members, and maybe this will even make it onto your list of goals for the new year.

Happy living, loving, and learning!


(Special Note: I actually look forward to spending my winter vacation with my family every year, otherwise I would pull a Four Christmases and come up with an excuse to opt out. However, I wrote the post above after reading about Whitney Cummings’ successes in Tools of Titans, and I agree that having love for family and those around you is generally a good rule of thumb!)

Holiday Quotes That Should Be Remembered Year-Round

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I love meaningful quotes, and for the first time I’ve stumbled upon some holiday quotes that are not only appropriate for the season, but should be remembered all year. Here’s your short and sweet reminder to live simply and be happy every single day.

Happy living!

Favorite Christmas quotes this season:

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale

Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living! ~Amanda Bradley

Love the giver more than the gift. ~Brigham Young

(*From Inspirational-Quotes-And-Quotations.com and Forbes.com)

3 Recently Released Books to Read During Winter Vacation

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When I went to check my jam-packed mailbox today, amidst all the bills and Christmas cards from friends, there were two thick bubble-wrapped packages that all book lovers recognize- yay for new books! Naturally, after opening them up, I realized my winter reading plan might make for a good blog post.

This winter as I unwind at my family’s North Carolina cabin, I plan to finally indulge in these two recently released books, plus another work of nonfiction from 2016 that I’ve had my eye on (warning: I haven’t actually read any of these yet, but they have great Amazon reviews and are written by trusted authors!):

Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything

by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

As a kid and through my teen years I wanted to be a sitcom writer; I grew up with Seinfeld, SNL (Tina Fey was my hero back when she was known for writing, not acting), and all the classic 90’s shows that made us millennials addicted to TV, but also heightened our curiosity about the action behind the scenes. That’s why I didn’t think twice about purchasing Seinfeldia. I’m not interested in hearing about the actors’ lives, but I’m told that this book focused on the writers and the unconventional approach that Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David took to creating a sitcom that broke all the rules. This winter, I hope to get a taste of the sitcom writing life that might have been.

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers
by Tim Ferriss

In this phase of life, I’m not interested in taking on new routines and challenges because a book tells me to (not at the moment, anyway). However, I enjoy Tim Ferriss’s books, and after flipping through Tools of Titans at Barnes and Noble recently, I realized that I’m interested in this book for reasons beyond the content it includes. It’s almost formatted like the best encyclopedia or textbook you could imagine, with bolded words and boxes of interesting text on each page, which is not how bestselling authors typically organize their work. Because of the unique formatting (maybe it’s something I’ll try in the future..), and also because it had some great ‘get to sleep faster’ tips, I’m pretty excited to take a highlighter to the pages of this new release.

From Student to Professional: An Essential Communication Soft Skills Guide for Aspiring STEM Professionals
by Gino Perrotte

This one might be best suited to professors, students, recent graduates, or those looking to advance their career, but it was a surprise in the mail from one of my instructor friends, and I was just thrilled to see it in print and hold it in my hands. For all you teachers out there, grab this paperback and help prepare your future students for the real world with the valuable insights from Perrotte’s easy read.

Happy reading, learning, and living.

5 Office Essentials Everyone Needs When Working from Home

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You can go online and look up lists of essential items you might need when working from home (like I’ve done in the past), but I can honestly tell you that different things work for different people.

Having said that, here are my general suggestions for anyone working from home, with some advice for making it fit your own distinct personality and situation:

  1. The best laptop that works for you

I’ve looked at a few different lists of ‘Best Laptops for Working from Home,’ only to realize that the number #1 choice was actually my husband’s current laptop (which I hate using). So instead taking someone else’s advice (and when it comes to computers, everyone has an opinion), consider your own personal style and preferences when deciding which laptop would be best for you.

  1.  Reliable smartphone

I chose to include the word ‘reliable’ here because I used my own iPhone 5 well past when I should have (including the last year of it’s life when it didn’t hold a charge, so I could only use it when plugged into my laptop or a portable battery); it probably wasn’t the best idea for someone whose business relies on being connected. If your career and livelihood depend on responding to texts, emails, and taking notes on your smartphone, splurge for the new model when you need one.

  1. Portable laptop speaker and/or headphones

You won’t always be able to control your environment, or the volume of YouTube tutorials or other videos you may need to watch (or in my case, student speech videos), so I recommend having a good, portable laptop speaker, and a few good pairs of headphones scattered around when you need them- in your home office, kitchen, purse, car, next to your bed, etc.

  1. A makeshift (or real) office

You’ll need some sort of quiet space (or a few) where you can take your work seriously. Over the past year I feel that I’ve turned a few random workspaces into offices- my kitchen, living room, actual office in my home, and some quiet corners of the local Panera and public library. If I didn’t feel that I could comfortably get some solid work done in these spots, the whole ‘work from home’ thing would be a disaster at this point.

  1. ‘Work’ clothes

Depending on your personality and situation, you might prefer to work in sweatpants and a big sweatshirt (like I do from time to time), or athleisure wear (which I upgraded to when I started feeling like a slob in my sweats), or maybe just a comfortable pair of jeans, a cardigan, and high end ballet flats (my trusty Michael Kors flats have never let me down) when working from the coffee shop.

Good luck to all you you location independent workers. Happy working!

How to Give Thanks Every Morning

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I used to write a list of between 3 and 10 things I was thankful for each morning, and it really made a difference in my day (sidenote: it seems like we all develop these really great habits and then abandon them at one point or another- why do we always do this when it’s so good for us?).

Since we just celebrated Thanksgiving, I thought it might be time to start this up again, but in a way that works a bit better for me- as a new component of my daily planner instead of as a completely new addition to my life.

There are calendars and planners out there (I found quite a few on Amazon) that include a blank list of ‘Things I’m Grateful For’ on each page, but I just went ahead and added a quick “Grateful For: 1. 2. 3.’ in a tiny sliver in the top margin of each page on my current planner.

To start things off I wrote:

Grateful For:

  1. Thai food dinners and great conversation with good friends
  2. A husband who makes me laugh hysterically
  3. An incredible job

It might not seems like much, but it’s a start.

This way, every time I get into work mode (aka the place where only my laptop matters and nothing else, unfortunately), I’ll see this small reminder in the corner of the page that life is not all work and no play.

And when I end up with that very serious ‘I’m working face’ on, maybe I’ll lighten up and finish grading those papers with a smile.

Happy living!

The 5 Friends You Need in Your Social Circle

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As life moves forward and we all strive for simplicity and satisfaction with the day-to-day, I think it’s natural (and necessary) that we also start considering who we spend our time with, and who brings out the best, happiest version of ourselves.

The other day I was thinking about the most meaningful friends or family members in my life, and I realize that they each fit into one of 5 pretty distinct categories (I also later realized that you could probably fit each of the 5 characters from Friends into each of these categories, but that’s not really the point..).

I’ve come to the conclusion that to have a happy, simple, feel-good, fulfilling social circle, these are the 5 friends you need to have:

  1. The Lifelong Friend. This is the loyal friend you may have met in college. This person will give you the shirt off their back, make visits whenever they can, be there for you in a jam, and never make anything of it. Maybe it’s selfish to want this kind of friend, but there’s something very comforting about knowing that this person will always be in your life.
  1. The Friend That Feels Like Family. This person is someone who may not have started out with best friend status, but you’ve been through a lot together, you still live surprisingly close, and you realize that a decade has gone by and they’ve been a solid pal. Maybe you don’t have everything in common, but you were roommates at some point, helped each other through breakups, and you can still text each other to run errands at a moment’s notice.
  1. The Friend That Makes You Grow. This person is always coming to you with new ideas that bring out a part of your personality you might need to explore more often. You engage in intelligent conversation for hours and feel inspired as you head back home. This friend may be the artist or entrepreneur in your life that isn’t necessarily your best friend, but the feats, work ethic, and interests they have that line up with a certain part of your personality (that many of your friends might not understand) makes this relationship one that’s filled with growth and common goals.
  1. The Friend You Can’t Stop Laughing With. This is the person you completely let your guard down around. This person doesn’t like you because you’re smart or ‘important’ by society’s standards, and they might even make fun of you when you act too ‘serious.’ You talk about inane things together, watch really lame/embarrassing TV shows and movies together, and have way too many inside jokes that lead to laughing uncontrollably over cartons of ice cream.
  1. The Colleague Friend. Everyone needs a good work buddy. This person might be the same time of worker you are, they’re lighthearted, have some similar interests, you can easily trade tips and suggestions for those projects you’re working on, and they’re totally normal (unlike some of your other colleagues) so you have a tendency to hang out after work and talk about life in general. You absolutely need this person to round out your solid social circle.

~

With the holidays upon us, and as we buy gifts and spend time with the ones we love, be sure to cherish these 5 special types of friends in your life. After all, life is short and time is precious, so surround yourself with those that make you smile and fill your heart with happiness and love.

Happy living!

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